PJ Media

CO2 Mitigation: It’s Dopey

Consider the Oldbury wind turbine, installed a couple of years ago by the local authorities of Sandwell in the English Midlands at a cost of £5000 sterling plus Vicious Additional Taxation (a hideously complicated and thus easily evaded EU version of Danegeld, as we historians call it) at the then 17.5% rate (it’s now a bargain-basement 20%, so you get more in return for your missing-trader fraud than you did before).

As WattsUpWithThat.com has recently revealed, in the first full year of the Oldbury White Elephant’s 20-year life it generated a gratifying 209 KWh of electricity — enough to power a single 100W reading lamp for less than three months. The rest of the year you’ll have to find something else to do in bed.

Gross revenue for the year, at 11p/KWh, was, um … almost £23. Assuming that there are no costs of finance, installation, insurance, or maintenance, and after subtracting 20 years’ revenue at last year’s rate, the net undiscounted and unamortized capital cost of the project, as we financiers call it, is U.S. $8935.

Even this figure understates the true cost, because the UK has hidden much of the cost of its climate measures behind a calculatedly complex web of levies, taxes, charges, subsidies, and — above all — behind a furtive near-doubling of the true cost of electricity to pay vast subsidies (“yacht money,” as we landowners call it) to anyone connected with windmills. The website of the King Canute Department amusingly calls this “transparency.”

How much “global warming” will Jumbo the Albino forestall? While it is in operation, it will generate 209,000/365/24, or almost 24 W on average: just about enough to drive an electric toothbrush, which we doctors recommend. Mean UK electricity consumption, according to the Ministry of Transparency, is 43.2 GW. Electricity contributes one-third of UK carbon emissions, and the UK contributes 1.5% of world emissions. So the proportion p of global carbon dioxide emissions that the Witless Windmill will forestall is 24 / 43,200,000,000 / 3 x 0.015, or 2.76 x 10–12, or, as we mathematicians call it, a quantity vanishingly different from zero.

Today’s CO2 concentration is 390 ppmv. Instead of the 438 ppmv CO2 concentration that the IPCC predicts for 2030 on its A2 scenario, thanks to the Wonder Whirligig it will be 438 – p(438 – 390), or, well, as we statisticians call it, a smidgen of a tad below 438 ppmv.

Bear with me, as we call-center operatives say. IPeCaC (2007, p. 803, table 10.26) says 8 Watts per square meter of radiative forcing from CO2 and other bad, bad things will cause 3.4 Celsius (p. 13, table SPM.3) of “global warming” between 2000 and 2100 (progress to date: 0.0 Celsius).

That gives us what we climate scientists call the “centennial-scale transient climate-sensitivity parameter,” which is 3.4/8, or 0.425 C/W/m2. We multiply this by 5.35, the coefficient in what we radiative-transfer modelers call the CO2 forcing equation (Myhre et al., 1998), to give the “centennial-scale transient global-warming coefficient” n = 2.27375.

Multiply the logarithm of any proportionate change in CO2 concentration by this coefficient and you get a central estimate of the warming that will occur (or be prevented) between now and 2100.

Of course, the Great White Panjandrum will only run for 20 years, so our value for n is going to be too big, overstating the warming the thing will actually forestall. But it’s Be-Nice-To-Bedwetters Week, as we psychiatrists call it, so we’ll use the centennial-scale value for n anyway.

So: 2.27375 ln[438/(smidgen x tad <438)] is … well, my 12-digit-readout scientific calculator couldn’t do it, so I turned to Microsoft Excess. According to Bill Gates, or “my friend,” as we social climbers call him, the warming forestalled over the next 20 years by the Midlands Bat-Batterer will be rather less than 0.0000000000007 Celsius degrees.

As we say on the shopping channels, “But wait. There’s more.” How much would it cost, I wondered, to forestall 1 Celsius degree of warming, if all measures to make “global warming” go away were as hilariously cost-ineffective as the Sandwell Sparrow-Slicer?

We economists call this the “mitigation cost-effectiveness.” You get the mitigation cost-effectiveness by dividing the total warming forestalled by the total lifetime cost of the project. And the answer? Well, it’s a very affordable $13 quadrillion per Celsius degree of warming forestalled.

And remember, this is an underestimate, because our methodology will have tended to overstate the warming forestalled — and that’s before we politicians ask any questions about whether IPeCaC’s estimates of climate sensitivity are wanton, flagrant exaggerations. (Cries of “No!” “Shame!” “Resign!” “What did I do with my expenses claim form?”)

Suppose it was just as cost-ineffective to make “global warming” from other causes go away as it is to make “global warming” from CO2 go away. In that event, assuming — as the World Bank does — that global annual GDP is $60 trillion, what percentage of this century’s global output of all that we make and do and sell would be gobbled up in climate mitigation? The answer is an entirely reasonable 736%, or, to put it another way, 736 years’ global GDP.

This is so large a sum that we need to humanize it a bit. So we work out how much each of the seven billion people on the planet would have to cough up over the next century to forestall the 3.4 C global warming that IPeCaC hopes will happen. Get your checkbook out now. It will cost each of us $6.3 million.

And that’s probably a large underestimate. I’m going to have to sell the Lear and go commercial. No — wait — what did I do with that glossy brochure about how many tens of millions of yacht money and Lear money I could make from the 30 250ft windmills I could put up on the South Beat? Ah, here it is, under my expenses claim form, as we Peers of the Realm call it.

So there you have it. After the biggest and most expensive propaganda campaign in human history, leading to the biggest tax increase in human history, it turns out that trying to stop “global warming” is the least cost-effective use of taxpayers’ money in human history — and that’s saying something.

The moral, as we philosophers put it, is this: the thing about gesture politics is that the politicians (that’s us) get to make the gestures and the proles (that’s you) get to get the check.