My response to the government consultation on “De-carbonizing Transport”

Last Friday, I sent in a just-in-time response to the UK government’s “consultation” on how to “de-carbonize transport.” Or, more simply put, to ban our cars – as quickly as they possibly can.

My response is a 56-page PDF. There’s a lot of detail in there, and some quite strong ideas. So I thought the best way would be simply to put it up on the Internet, and link to it. WordPress, though, had other ideas. It wouldn’t let me link to it, without actually embedding it. So, here it is:

Click to access respcon-200731.pdf


On Externalities, Integrated Assessment Models, and UK climate policies

On Externalities, Integrated Assessment Models, and UK climate policies

By Neil Lock

This is a follow-up to my recent essay, “On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment.” As I said there about the economic impacts of global warming: “I’d expect that some probing by independent experts into the economic calculations, and the assumptions on which they are built, might bear fruit.” But where are these calculations, and who are the unbiased experts who have quality controlled them? I couldn’t find any such calculations, or the names of any such experts. Perhaps, I thought, I’d better take a look at this myself.

So, I set out to learn as much as I could about the economic calculations which – so we’re supposed to believe – justify the extreme measures proposed, all the way up to total de-carbonization of the UK economy, to avoid alleged catastrophic damage from global warming. This essay is the result of that exercise. If it reads like a cross between a layman’s guide to the economics of global warming and a political rant, that’s because it’s both!


Here are the main points of what I found out:

  1. In 2009, the UK government ceased to value carbon dioxide emissions according to their social cost [1], in favour of using numbers based on political commitments they had previously made. In effect, they abandoned doing cost versus benefit assessments on policies that are expected to increase or decrease CO2 emissions.
  2. Recent empirical estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), when run through assessment models like those used by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), suggest a considerably lower social cost of CO2 emissions than earlier estimates, such as the UK government’s Stern Review.
  3. When the beneficial side-effects of CO2 emissions, such as increased plant growth, are taken into account, it’s possible that the social cost of these emissions may even become negative. That is, CO2 emissions become a nett benefit not a nett cost.
  4. Calculations based on a 2017 paper by Dayaratna, McKitrick and Kreutzer suggest a social cost for all UK CO2 emissions as at 2020 of 0.05% of GDP (optimistic) or 0.31% of GDP (pessimistic). Using the social cost numbers for 2050 from the same paper, the figures are 0.08% and 0.52% respectively. All these numbers are substantially lower than the 1-2% of GDP put forward as the cost of “net zero” policies.
  5. There is a need for urgent action to prevent the imposition of costly, draconian and lifestyle-destroying policies on people in the UK in the name of a problem, which is far less serious (if it is a problem at all) than is claimed by the promoters of those policies.

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The Classics and the Culture War: A Response to Sean Gabb

Dear Sean,

I usually read your emailed newsletters because, for the most part, I find your observations thought-provoking.

I’m writing to tell you that you continue to fail to convince me of the benefits of studying classics, particularly the learning of Latin – my own experience of which (I concede) is entirely vicarious. Both my two sons were fortunate in winning music scholarships to Eton College, where Latin still looms large on the timetable. Both sons dropped the subject at the earliest opportunity, which they considered nowhere near early enough. Similarly, time spent enduring Latin lessons as choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral was time ill-used – the boys were hard-pressed enough as it was, what with singing in the cathedral for three hours a day, six days a week – and with three instrumental skills to practise. Now in their mid-twenties, neither of them know any more Latin than I do (i.e. semper fidelis, per adua per astra, quid pro quo, illegitimi non carborundum, i.e., e.g. and etcetera). Continue reading

On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment

On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment

By Neil Lock

In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.

Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
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Homer, Vergil and the Culture War (2020), by Sean Gabb

Homer, Vergil and the Culture War
Sean Gabb
22nd February 2020

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The Classics Faculty at the University of Oxford is considering whether to remove from its undergraduate courses the compulsory study in their original languages of Homer and Vergil. The reasons given are that students from independent schools, where some classical teaching is kept up, tend at the moment to do better in examinations than students from state schools, and that men do better than women. I regard this as the most important news of the week. I do so partly because I make some of my living from these languages, and so have a financial interest in their survival. I do so mainly because I see the proposal as a further enemy advance in the Culture War through which we have been living for at least the past two generations. Continue reading

The War on Cars – Video

Last month, I gave a talk to the Libertarian Alliance in London about the “war on cars” that successive UK governments have been conducting against us for decades now. The talk was very wide-ranging, covering:

  1. The green movement in general, and the involvement of the United Nations and the UK government in it.
  2. The “global warming” scare, and the (long and rather sordid) backstory to it.
  3. The “air pollution” scare that is now being used as an excuse to intensify the war on our cars, and the (just as long, and almost as sordid) backstory to it.

This is one of my very rare appearances on video (a good thing they’re rare! I hear some of you saying). The link is here:

The talk is quite long (55 minutes) and rather detailed, but I think I got over many important points, and made people chuckle a few times on the way!

On the Copernicus Moment

This is the last of a set of seven essays, in which I have been trying to understand and to diagnose the political, economic and ethical ills of our times. Today, I’ll try to pull together all the strands I have explored, and to sum up where we are today. And I’ll seek to “turn the corner” towards the not so small matter of how to cure these ills.
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