Pointless rebellion

It’s hard to know where to start with Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) proposals for ultra rapid transition to net carbon zero in the UK by 2025. However, merely browsing the links and references on their web site eases the need to spend much time reviewing it because it is patently not feasible – at least not without martial law, societal upheaval and unrest not seen for centuries. There is not the space here to provide an assessment of the claims and proposals made in any detail, but a flavour of the concepts are presented here.

The first issue, watching people with too much time in their hands disrupting the very economic activity to pay for the countless billions of government borrowing to fund their dreams, is that it is simply utterly pointless. Unless and until the USA, China and India make the same sort of commitments, if the UK didn’t emit a gram of CO2 from now on, the needle wouldn’t move on the global heat-o-meter. If you want to make changes, then you have to start with the most significant causes – and that means getting a President of the USA who has declared Climate Change to be a ‘Chinese Hoax’ to have a conversion which would make St Paul’s look insignificant. The simple and unavoidable truth is that it cannot happen by 2025, period.

The second issue is that the numbers quoted by XR just don’t add up. The web site points to the document “One Million Climate Jobs” published by the Campaign for Climate Change, and endorsed by the usual suspect list of Unions. Climate Change for them is a gift from above to propose measures which, in the absence thereof, would be consigned to the ‘nutters’ end of the political spectrum, or had them locked up for insurrection. Most of the arguments are old and tired, but have been regurgitated after a wash and brush up. They include ideas such as (on taxing the ‘rich’) “If they paid 50% of their income in taxes we could raise £12 billion a year … We can think of it not as a punishment, but as an honour, and an opportunity for the privileged and affluent to help the planet. ” Of course, there are not enough ‘rich’ to raise the amounts required, and really they mean ‘middle class’. The problem is that the middle class have a vote (as Mrs Thatcher reminded us), and they may be reluctant to see as an honour guaranteeing £30k jobs to anyone made redundant by the green policies. The reader can get the general gist from the above, but it involves wealth taxes, robbing corporate (but not public sector) pensions, removal of saving incentives such as ISA’s, etc etc.

The third, and most unrealistic issue, is the time frame. The document mentioned in the prior paragraph acknowledges the size of the challenge, but at least gives a time frame of 20 years to effect (but which again doesn’t add up with the resources described). XR’s proposal implies (with a credibility testing 4 times rapidity) installing of the order of 150,000 new wind turbines, converting more than 30m homes from gas firing to electricity (at no cost to the home owner), insulating (including double glazing) up to 40m homes where needed, mammoth transportation infrastructure changes and so on – in 60 months. For comparison, it will have taken Crossrail almost 3 times as long to build). It omits to deal with the issue that electricity is 3-4 times more expensive than gas per KWH, and would still be so with the plan envisaged. Home bills would rocket, and the consequent social impact would be enormous.

16 year old Greta Thunberg, is fresh from lecturing Eurocrats and in particular British politicians on these goals. They (including, one hopes , Gove, who attended) will no doubt give it lip service to brighten their green credentials. But they know, and the Civil Servants behind them know, that it is a formula for hyperinflation, substantial, if not catastrophic, reduction in living standards, toxic for all but a portion of industry, and most of all, inherently dangerous to the stability and balance in civil society. It is a whimsical fantasy, and one which must be named for what it is, if our masters have the political courage.

Footnote 1 : To paraphrase Mrs Thatcher (“all hail Margaret”), such policies are fine “until other people’s money runs out”

Footnote 2: In December 2018, TfL reported that 140 tube drivers earned more than £80k per annum (some getting £100k), and the average pay was circa. £70k. Of course, they can retire at 60 on an inflation proofed, RPI (not CPI) linked, pension. The fact is that it’s no good taxing the few bankers that get £x million per year because there are not enough of them, and it’s likely the drivers would fall into the ambit of these plans. One has to wonder if the late Bob Crow would be honoured to see up to 50% of that go in tax.