Monday, April 05, 2010

Unreal reality

The day before Booker's column was published, in which he railed against the £18.3 billion annual cost of the Climate Change Act, Time magazine ran an article on "melting ice caps" suggesting that the ice melt over the next 40 years Arctic ice melt will take an economic toll of $2.4 - $24 trillion.

The latter figure is such a huge sum that, were it believable, the cost of tackling climate change would appear to be a bargain. But appearances can be deceptive. Paying £18.3 billion for 40 years is in fact the best part of a trillion dollars, and that would be the UK alone. Thus is compared with the lower end of the scale of $2.4 trillion, which is a global cost, and if you want to play the warmist games, the total global cost of mitigation must be much more.

In fact, probably, both the UK and "ice-melt" figures are funny money – meaningless amounts plucked out of the air to make a point. And that is the trouble with so much of the climate change argument. You are dealing with such astronomic figures, in such hypothetical circumstances, that most people have difficulty relating to them.

More real, however, was Booker's detail of the government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme, which I highlighted in early February. That is to cost real money, in the here and now, abstracting an estimated at £1.4 billion a year from 6,000 businesses, in payments for carbon credits that will enable them to carry on their businesses.

In addition, there is the £9.75 million that 25,000 other businesses will have to pay to the Environment Agency in order to register as "non-participants" in the scheme. That is a concept so bizarre that one wonders why we are not hearing howls of rage, and seeing storms of protest in the media – except that everyone is possibly so punch-drunk that again it simply does not register.

Even Booker's second story hardly registers, even if it follows up on our tale about the WWF's attempts to "milk" the Amazon forest for $60 billion in what Booker suggests would amount to the most lucrative set-aside scheme that human ingenuity has ever devised.

Once again, this is "funny money" – it has no value because people cannot relate to it, giving it an unreal aspect. And just as unreal is the third story about the MPs' "Climategate whitewash".

There is no money involved here – not directly at any rate – but the fact that most of the Commons committee seemed unable even to understand the evidence gives the whole affair its own niche in the annals of unreality. Only the extra special nerds were in the least bit interested in the outcome, the real surprise being that anyone expected the committee report to be anything other than a whitewash.

As we enter a period of political hyperventilation, though, with the date of the general election expected to be declared tomorrow, what is truly terrifying is that even the reality is unreal.