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Lockdown is showing us the misery that Net Zero 2050 will demand-Charles Moore

May 16, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


Oh for more Charles Moores!



Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s evangelically green environment analyst, recently wrote this on his employer’s website:

“I’ve just had a light bulb moment. The feisty little wren chirping loudly in the matted ivy outside my back door is telling us something important about global climate change. That’s because, intertwined with the melodious notes of a robin, I can actually hear its song clearly. Normally, both birds are muffled by the insistent rumble of traffic, but the din has been all but extinguished in the peace of lockdown.”

Ah, the peace of lockdown. It is, for us lucky ones, very real. It is two months to the day since I last left my rural county. Never before have I experienced so much quiet here, or brighter stars. My long daily walks are almost mystically beautiful in their combination of light and air, the sound of nature and the silence of machines. If I were Wordsworth, I would give thanks in verse. Like Harrabin, I love hearing more wrens and robins and less traffic, and want it to continue. 

What might that involve, though? The light-bulb over Harrabin’s head – powered, of course, by green energy – is telling him that we must, in the new eco-buzz phrase, “Build Back Better”. Governments, in their Covid recovery packages, should support only companies and projects “which decouple economic growth from GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions”. Otherwise, we shall not achieve Net Zero. I am quoting from a recent working paper of the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment with the snappy title, “Will Covid-19 fiscal recovery accelerate or retard progress on climate change?” Its authors include the grandest of global greens such as Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Stern.

Their opening paragraph says: “The Covid-19 crisis could mark a turning point in progress on climate change. This year, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will fall by more than in any other year on record. The percentage declines likely in 2020, however, would need to be repeated, year after year, to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Instead, emissions will rebound once mobility restrictions are lifted and economies recover, unless governments intervene.”

The authors are in a bind. They half-recognise that Covid-19 – not just medically, but socio-economically – is a disaster from which societies will wish to recover. Yet it has brought about what they want. Emissions have fallen unprecedentedly because of the extreme economic contraction it has produced. Focus on their point that such a decline “would need to be repeated, year after year” to save the planet. They want the Covid effect – without, of course, the illness bit – to go on forever.

That effect means two related things. The first is an enormous increase in government control. To fight the disease, we have had to surrender large parts of our freedom to work, trade, associate, travel, worship, even vote (local government elections being postponed) and in many cases our right to a family life.

The second effect is greater poverty. This is caused by the compulsory stoppage of so many businesses, with consequent insolvencies, wage cuts and job losses. The poverty has been mitigated and delayed by government measures. This may not directly damage Harrabin or me as, on full pay, we enjoy the intertwining of chirpy wrens and melodious robins (though we shall surely notice it later in our taxes); but it was shockingly unexpected and is becoming shockingly real. It has also made billions anxious, lonely and gloomy.

Stiglitz, Stern and Co are right that “emissions will rebound once mobility restrictions are lifted and economies recover, unless governments intervene”, but they do not seem to understand what they are saying. Why will emissions rebound? Because people will travel more – especially in cars (which are much safer than public transport against the virus). And why will economies recover? Because growth is a function of activity, and activity is made possible by energy, and globally energy remains about 85 per cent dependent on fossil fuels.

(This applies, by the way, even to eco-activity. Part of the blessed peace of lockdown has been the absence of Extinction Rebellion street protests which cannot be organised without modern transport. The same applies to the planet-saving conferences to which rich and powerful people fly from all over the world. This year, because of Covid-19, Glasgow has been spared the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in which 196 countries would have met to talk yet again about limiting warming to 1.5C.)

As Lord Lilley, the former Cabinet minister, put it in a Global Warming Policy Foundation webinar this week, the coming Covid recession is caused “by a suppression of supply, not by a failure of demand”. In other words, it is not what people wanted. It has been imposed upon them. In a democracy, people rarely vote for what they do not want. After the Covid lockdown, voters will want to get back to work unimpeded and take the full benefits of the collapse of the oil price in falling costs for transport and heating. They will not, you would think, be in the mood to go on paying ever-higher electricity prices for renewables.

Even in goody-goody Germany, this thought is dawning on politicians. This week, Angela Merkel had to give in to her party’s MPs who protested that Germany should not contribute its bit to the European “Green Deal” – agreed shortly before the virus struck – for still faster climate reductions by 2030, unless all other EU member states do the same. It is an insoluble problem for green politics that they succeed only among voters who feel guilty for being rich. Greenery depends on the consumerism it hates for its very existence. Most voters will now be angry about getting poorer, not guilty about being rich. 

How can green policies survive, then? The clue is in that phrase “unless government intervenes”. Only governments can suppress the economic spirits of their people. And the only way they can do so is by exploiting the language of emergency.

That is why the Covid-19 experience appeals to the Net Zero mind-set. Even before the disease came along, the phrase “climate emergency” had been deliberately deployed by activists and accepted by MPs. It was invented to persuade government to coerce public opinion. The remedy, you see, is “led by the science”, which is allegedly “settled”.  The message to the people is: lose your rights or lose the planet.  

The Covid experience ought to have shown us the difference between a real emergency – a fell plague besetting the world – and a speculative one. Even in the Covid crisis, there is fierce debate about whether such action was necessary. Those doubts should be infinitely stronger in relation to Net Zero. Its entire edifice is based on models – we keep seeing how models can mislead – which make worst-case assumptions about the distant future. Problem, perhaps; emergency, no.

Surely we should have some faith that our developing technology can continue to grow cleaner and quieter. Surely the resources of civilisation can make it easier for Harrabin and me to hear wrens and robins without beggaring humanity in the process. “Our house is on fire!” shouted Greta Thunberg last year. It isn’t, but it has been locked down. Once is enough.

  1. May 16, 2020 1:34 pm

    Charles Moore also writes excellent articles in the Spectator. One might think that there would be some ministers in this so-called Conservative Government who would read this and understand the message. But that would be wishful thinking – they have all fallen for the Greenblob propaganda of Harrabin etc.

    None of them can put two and two together and work out that Covid 19 models and climate change models are both completely wrong and should be consigned to the dustbin (together with the so-called scientists who use them).

    • May 18, 2020 10:00 am

      So right in what you say. The whole of the political system in this country appears to have fallen hook, line & sinker for the green bollo cks. When The Donald is escaping to excessive fuel wealth, we are being dragged into fuel poverty.

  2. May 16, 2020 1:47 pm

    It’s ONLY human population pressures that cause over-loaded, unpopular space difficulties. These net zero IDIOTS should go quietly abroad to a land with lower population density, USA for one, there are VAST areas with almost no-one living there, -they could listen to wrens all day long, Or there are areas of Africa, China, Russia, even the sodding highlands in Scotland where solitude is certain. WE, the remaining millions, will be vastly better off without these winging, whining greenies.

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    May 16, 2020 1:52 pm

    Paul, when I read this in the DT this morning I had a feeling you might pick up on it. That said, I think CM went a little easy on this not-so Conservative government (the C is for Carrie!)
    What I would like to say is how much I appreciate your continued slog to keep us informed; I like to think that while we are locked down your Blog is getting out and and about. I hope some of our (cough) leaders take the time to read it.
    Thank you!

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    May 16, 2020 1:54 pm

    Talking about the DT, there’s another takedown of Fergysonmodel code in today’s edition.

    • AndyP permalink
      May 16, 2020 2:20 pm

      Th DT Editorial Comment on Friday, when discussing the pandemic, stated: “But the government says it is being guided by the science and this needs to be real-time data, not modelling. Now that we can see what is actually happening, not what was predicted, ministers should act accordingly.”
      Perhaps they should stick to this method when dealing with CC as well – wishful thinking?

  5. Broadlands permalink
    May 16, 2020 1:56 pm

    These ‘green’ protestors (and many politicians) seem unable to see and don’t understand that a ‘lockdown’ in world-wide transportation lowers the carbon fuel emissions that they desire, but creates social and economic devastation. Why they think it would be different if this lockdown was to continue after the viral heath crisis in contained is remarkable shortsightedness. It would obviously get worse.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      May 16, 2020 10:38 pm

      I think you miss the point, Broadlands. Cling hard to this thought.

      When the “green protestors” talk about “emissions” they are referring specifically to emissions of CO2. (NOx occasionally gets a look-in but only incidentally.) On the face of it they aim for the world CO2 emissions by 2050 to be zero. Difficult while you have 10 billion people breathing but let’s not quibble. A major emitter of CO2 in their view is fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation which is the reason for all those windmills and solar panels.

      But the quicker, easier, more reliable way to reduce CO2 emissions is by replacing fuels which emit CO2 in reliable, on-demand, affordable electricity generation with a fuel that does that without emitting CO2, ie nuclear power.

      But they are as adamantly opposed to that as they are to gas or coal. Which is proof positive that their claimed aims, that the objective is to limit global warming by eliminating CO2 emissions is a lie. Yes, there will be social and economic devastation but that is the general idea. It is the objective. Global warming, climate change, climate weirding, whatever it’s called this week, is merely the vehicle. The aim is totalitarianism and the current emergency is only a minor foretaste of what they intend.

      I thought most of us on here had sussed that already.

  6. Stonyground permalink
    May 16, 2020 2:16 pm

    I wonder how long the climate will have to go on not changing for all of these fools to catch on. I’m in my sixties and in my lifetime the winters have become a little milder, that’s about it. We still get the same indifferent summers, punctuated by the occasional decent hot one. I think that people in other parts of the world have similar experiences. There have always been droughts, storms and floods and always will be. There really isn’t a crisis to tackle.

  7. Douglas Brodie permalink
    May 16, 2020 2:51 pm

    The politicians and environmentalists who unquestioningly support the impossible target of “net zero CO2 emissions” by 2050 should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

    Why do they ignore the reality that the world is currently 85% dependent on fossil fuels for its energy supply while wind and solar contribute just 1% globally?

    Why do they ignore the reality that on technical, financial, logistical and political grounds their net zero target is totally infeasible?

    Why do they never debate the issue but simply lock out dissenting voices with unfounded, intelligence-insulting assertions and soundbites?

    • CheshireRed permalink
      May 16, 2020 3:39 pm

      Because if they actually had a debate they would lose it! Honestly, it’s that simple.

      Net Zero is already guaranteed to fail on all 3 main objectives.

      Global emissions – UK’s 1-2% of global total is dwarfed by the other 98%, with India, China, Germany and Japan (to name a few) all going heavily for new coal power.
      Global emission cuts – net zero.

      Atmospheric concentrations – if the above is true then atmospheric concentrations of CO2 cannot fall.
      Atmospheric concentrations reduction – net zero.

      If the above two points are correct (and for the sakes of following policy we assume AGW theory as ‘understood’ by gov’t) then it also must follow that the amount of ‘man made global warming’ temperature increases that will be abated is also net zero.

      Emissions, concentrations and temperature reductions are therefore already guaranteed to be reduced or abated by a figure of net zero, all for the bargain price of at least £1 trillion.

      Certifiably, criminally insane.

  8. CheshireRed permalink
    May 16, 2020 3:16 pm

    Charles Moore is a rare conservative voice of reason on ‘climate change’, talking sense and logic all day long. That’s far more than can be said for most of his so-called ‘Conservative’ friends, most of whom have gone full Libtard loonbuckets, with exhibit A being Boris Johnson himself.

  9. Devoncamel permalink
    May 16, 2020 3:36 pm

    I had already cut and pasted this excellent piece by CM, hoping to refer to it. Alas Paul you have got there first, as ever. The UK is already bearing considerable cost in its quest for net zero but reaping none of the benefits. The only winners are those in receipt of a share of the billions of pounds in subsidy. The rest of us are losing big time and we are crying out for somebody with influence to put a stop to the madness.

  10. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 16, 2020 4:40 pm

    There are still people believing lockdowns work (quarantine of a large self-contained area when you have no/very few infections is a different matter), and yet one by one countries are easing/cancelling the lockdowns, for the sake of the economy, with the number of infections higher than when they were imposed. That is the admission that the policy has failed.

    Oh yes lockdowns can slow the spread a bit, but the delay of the inevitable is not a solution to the problem – it is just protracted misery and expense.

    Most areas of the UK now have a flat curve – to the point it is a straight line almost, that means the R is about 1 and stuck there, which means it will possibly take years to die out. Ironically, the only place where it looks like it might almost die out is London – because the virus was able to go wild before the lockdown could take effect. Of course if the lockdown did stunt the peak, there will be a resurgence sooner or later there too.

    There is credible opinion that the herd immunity threshold could be well under 20%, in which case lockdowns are even more pointless. There is not a corona virus in history that has not died out or become manageable all by its self, why on earth would this one be any different?

    See figure 2 – shocker – all deaths (not just CV19) had dropped below the 5 year average by the end of April. Really hasn’t been as bad as the BBC would have you believe has it.

    The only choice lockdown offers you is that between a short sharp shock, or eternal pain.
    The mistake/lie that NHS ICUs would be overwhelmed was the only reason to consider a lockdown, and that was based on obviously junk science/models/expert egos.

    • Douglas Brodie permalink
      May 16, 2020 6:39 pm

      Very good researching. The MSM have lost all perspective in the way they hysterically report Covid death tolls but who knew that ONS data shows that E&W deaths from all causes over March and April were below the 5-year average, despite Covid.

      • Phil permalink
        May 17, 2020 3:41 am

        “ONS data shows that E&W deaths from all causes over March and April were below the 5-year average, despite Covid”?

        According to the ONS data available from the link above, the 5-year average death total for March and April is 89,527 – whereas the total from all causes for March and April this year is 125,306. That is 35,779 more deaths.

        Which is not to say that the reporting has not been hysterical, and the government response (in the UK and elsewhere) equally so.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        May 17, 2020 10:32 am

        I went by their graphic Phil, is it at fault?

        Anyway as you say, hysterical.

    • Matt Dalby permalink
      May 16, 2020 10:13 pm

      If you combine the fact that all deaths are now below the 5 year average with the fact that the average age of people dying from Covid is so high then it seems that the only explanation is that most people who die from Covid would only have lived for a few more months anyway. This will be proven if the total number of deaths remains below average over the summer (and possibly for the rest of the year). This is yet another aspect of this largely imagined/government made crisis that the MSM aren’t telling us.
      The first victim of Covid was the independence of the media, they have simply become the government’s propaganda mouthpiece.

      • May 16, 2020 11:09 pm

        My worry is that it is the other way round, Matt

        It is the media which has forced the govt’s hand.

        And it is exactly the same with climate change. Give the hysterical media coverage, it is difficult to see how any political party could go against it. We even saw that with the Brexit Party last year

      • Bertie permalink
        May 17, 2020 6:53 am

        And not just the mainstream media – press and radio/tv. It’s the chatosphere of anti-social media, twitter and such, that seems to now be the main driver of policy decisions – that and false science. It wouldn’t be so bad if the general standard of journalism had not descended to mere ‘cut and paste’.

  11. martinbrumby permalink
    May 16, 2020 4:54 pm

    One, admittedly obvious point, needs to be underlined.

    The reduction in emissions thanks to the Chinese Politburo Virus (although Moana Loa didn’t seem to get the memo so far as levels in the atmosphere are concerned) may make Horrorbin, Stern and the rest of the GangGreen Cult feel big in the trouser area.

    But to reach “Zero Carbon”, they don’t just need the Lockdown effect to carry on. They need Xi Jinping to come up with another new pandemic next year and the year after and the year after that. Or something else equally destructive.

    Until the West is either eliminated or reduced to serfdom

    Apart, they hope, for Horrorbin, Stern and all their GangGreen Cult chums.

    Unfortunately, as the history of all communist revolutions demonstrates, as soon as the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is in place, the old Bolsheviks and useful idiots are the first group into the death pits or the gulags.

    Whilst this will serve the gormless, venal barstewards right, it is scant compensation to the rest of us.

  12. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 16, 2020 6:03 pm

    Why the dishonest calculated propaganda about improved air quality? Here we go, as predicted, rigged consultation to confirm the ‘correct’ answer, then stuff the car drivers.

    “….but many local authorities say that – following consultation with local communities – they would like to make them permanent…”

    This is delusional thinking – whilst we have the current problem, 80% of people aren’t travelling any distance at all, and they have oodles of spare time to potter around locally by foot/cycle.

    Once reality resumes people won’t have time to waste pottering, they will have proper journeys/commutes that can only be practically and safely made by car.

    The politicians really do want to destroy the economy for good, whilst pandering to a hardcore of extreme eco fruit loops.

  13. dennisambler permalink
    May 16, 2020 6:54 pm

    Worth checking out Lockdown Sceptics on a daily basis, (Toby Young), some good links and lots of info:

  14. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 16, 2020 7:38 pm

    If you need a lockdown to stop exponential growth – why did it stop in 1951 (and every other epidemic) – see first page.

  15. May 16, 2020 9:09 pm

    entire BBC story has a video also
    Meet the people who could change the way we live
    15 May 2020
    Involving more than 100 members of the public, representing all parts of the UK, the assembly members have been asked to look at how the UK can cut greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050.
    The first meetings took place in Birmingham
    – but were then moved online after the coronavirus lockdown.
    Our science correspondent Rebecca Morelle has been following four of the assembly members throughout the process.

    • Devoncamel permalink
      May 16, 2020 11:18 pm

      Cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero? Better say goodbye to that methane generator next to you…and all livestock farming. Not forgetting water vapour, the most abundant greenhouse gas.

  16. May 16, 2020 9:12 pm

    Her teeet

  17. May 17, 2020 3:36 am

    Interesting that climate action is making the rest of us poor but making the chinese rich.
    and the Maldivians too.
    Here is the Maldives story

    • StephenP permalink
      May 17, 2020 8:52 am

      How long will it take to get to the Maldives by boat, as we won’t be allowed to fly there in the future?

      • May 17, 2020 9:12 am

        No flights in the future? Can you give me more info on that. As of today we still have daily flights from bangkok. But if you can’t get a flight to male, fly to colombo, sri lanka and take the overnight ferry. About 12 hours.

  18. May 17, 2020 9:40 am

    Sorry. it’s not a ferry but a private speedboat that you hire at the harbor.

    • StephenP permalink
      May 17, 2020 12:56 pm

      I was thinking more about holiday flights from the UK, if the activists have their way.

  19. Coeur de Lion permalink
    May 17, 2020 9:45 am

    Harrabin has never been abroad and seen a zero electricity community or a really odiferous slum. A couple of months unpaid charity work in sub Saharan Africa would be advised.

  20. Mad Mike permalink
    May 17, 2020 10:49 am

    I need help. No, its not what my wife thinks about my obsessive behaviour nor is it because of the lockdown. Its with my decimal point.

    I’m trying to make the CO2 density in the atmosphere more understandable. If I were to represent a molecule of CO2 as a 1 cm circle on a sheet of paper, how far away would I need to put the neighbouring molecule given that CO2 makes up 0.043% of our atmosphere or 430 parts per million. So far I’ve come up with 10 metres over 430 and 100 metres over 430.

    I’d be very grateful for someone with a better grasp of maths than me to put me straight.

  21. Mad Mike permalink
    May 17, 2020 11:07 am

    Off Topic.

    I really don’t know what to make of this. Its the first time I have come across either of these 2 characters.

    Its very conspiratorial and centres on the Chinese war with the West especially America, no surprise there.

    Its quite long and more or less centres on Chinese misinformation and how they use their power and reach to influence MSM, politicians and opinion generally.

    I got think how it relates to CC and of course it fits perfectly. We know that the some of the heads of the UN, IPCC etc. are sympathetic to Marxist ideology so the stuff coming from that direction should be suspect.

    If you had the Chinese agenda and wanted to destroy your perceived enemies what better way than to make them believe it was in their interest to reduce their CO2 output so a level that is catastrophic for their economies.Enter Mr Strong and the IPCC to start the ball rolling. Didn’t Strong flee to China when he was exposed as a fraud?

    We also note that the Chinese are not falling for this CO2 scam, they wouldn’t if they started it would they, and continue to build infrastructure that releases plenty of CO2.

    Its a bit of stretch this one but also a bit scary.

  22. May 17, 2020 1:13 pm

    It wouldn’t prove anything. These molecules are not sitting somewhere in the atmosphere. They are in violent random motion. Also the argument that the concentration of co2 is too small to have a warming effect is not a good one and not worth your time.

  23. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 17, 2020 2:24 pm

    Noticeable increase in traffic yesterday and today, doesn’t see to have altered the air in Brighton at all, I won’t bother doing the graph, you know it won’t show re-poisoned air.

    And the day-trippers have set fire to Ashdown (not really a) Forest yet again, 2nd time this year already…….. but must be climate change, can’t possibly be more human morons.

    • mikewaite permalink
      May 17, 2020 6:11 pm

      When we lived in Tunbridge Wells more than 30 years ago Ashdown forest was a major attraction for teenage arsonists after just a couple of weeks of dry weather . The soil is so thin, dry and sandy that bracken, easily converted to a dry fuel,, is abot the only thing that grows readily there. No one ever suggested climate change – just hooliganism.

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