Yesterday the state broadcaster once again gave over a huge swathe of its airtime to the eco-hippies.
Coverage of Lord Turner's report recommending further swingeing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions was focused almost exclusively on why it doesn't go far enough. Proceedings culminated in another wildly unbalanced Newsnight, where Turner was lambasted by Jeremy and his friend George (Moonbat to you and me) for bring such a wimp. Surely they said, unless we get on the case and ban everything, we're all going to die!
Yet when you read the 511 page report (OK, when you skim-read it), you find Turner has already gone a very long way to satisfy the hippies.
To start with, he accepts the doomsday global warming scenario itself. Clearly he had to, because otherwise he wouldn't have been given the job. But with Surrey having just experienced its first October snow in living memory, another Arctic blast on the way, early snow in the Alps, and the increasing evidence that global warming may have stopped, there are at the very least, serious doubts over the supposed timetabling of doomsday. Plus of course, the doom only actually exists in models, and as we all surely understand, models are never more than schmodels - especially when they have 50-200 year horizons.
Second, he accepts the traditional lefty argument in favour of unilateralism. Just like the old CND argument on nuclear weapons, we're supposed to believe that if we give up our power stations, cars, and foreign holidays, then a dangerous communist superstate will be so impressed by our moral authority, it will follow suit.
Third, he accepts a huge dose of hippy thinking on the feasibility of eco-friendly energy. For example, everything we've read suggests there are serious drawbacks with windpower, including the need for massively expensive back-up systems. And making our future use of coal-fired power stations conditional on somehow cracking the unfathomable practicalities of carbon capture and storage by 2020 is fantastically heroic/ludicrous.
Finally, there's the issue of cost. According to Turner, we could achieve his recommended 21% cut in emissions by 2020 at a cost of less than 1% in annual GDP. But that is highly uncertain, depending not just on technical feasibility, but also more mundane issues such as the capacity of the wind turbine industry to step up production and installation. In fact, when you wade into the report's small print, you soon find other estimates suggesting costs could easily be double Turner's figure.
And just for future reference, here is the report's comparison of current and assumed future electricity generating costs for different technologies:
As we can see, the much puffed wind power option is up to five times the cost of coal fired generation. Which puts Turner's assertion that under his proposals electricity bills would only rise by 25% into their proper context.
But the Turner report does at least point towards rationality, as opposed to literally a new dark age. Because Turner is talking the language of cost-benefit, rather than the absolutist drivel spouted by Monbiot.
In truth, nobody has the faintest idea what's happening to the climate. Sure, it's changing, but then, it always has been. And sure, burning fossil fuel sounds like it might be A Really Really Bad Idea, but then again, sailing off the edge of the known world once sounded similarly ill-advised. We just don't know enough to tell what's happening, and as far as I'm concerned, sacrificing our way of life on that basis is simply not a runner.
The sensible way of thinking about this is surely as an insurance policy. We don't actually know what's going to happen, but if the worst came to the worst, it would be a catastrophe. So how much are we prepared to pay to insure against a possible catastrophe?
Now if the cost genuinely was only 1% of GDP, then - rather to my own surprise - I for one might be prepared to pay it. I could compare it to the cost of home insurance, which currently costs the average household around 1-2 per cent of annual income.
But given all the uncertainties, and his own cost analyses, I'm not at all convinced we could deliver anything like Turner's huge emissions cuts for a mere 1%. In fact, just as with any sales pitch, the strong suspicion is that the costs have been massaged down so as to sucker us in.
I'd much rather turn it round the other way. Instead of starting from an entirely arbitary emissions cuts target and asking someone to work out how to deliver it, I'd like to know how much insurance cover we could get for say 1% of GDP. What could that buy us? What's the best bang for the buck?
With our economy crumbling, and the public finances destroyed, the last thing we need right now is to write yet another blank cheque. It would be nice if the BBC could temporarily pause its eco-propaganda campaign and bring us some real discussion on the cost of insurance.
*Footnote - Roger Harrabin's BBC report on the Turner Report has an alarming picture of planet destroying smoke billowing from one of Britain's disgraceful coal-fired power stations. If only we could be more like the green wind-powered Germans. Except... well, blow me down... the pic actually shows the Frimmersdorf power station in... er, Germany.