26 April 2010

Heathrow in Context

One of the issues being debated in the UK election is the potential expansion of Heathrow airport, and air travel in general in the UK as a part of "green" policies. On this issue Labor seems to have it right, as they argue that economic growth requires expanding air travel capacity. Looking at the graph above, it is easy to see why the debate over Heathrow (and air travel in the UK generally) is entirely of symbolic importance. Of course, the other parties have their own problems, the Lib Dems are adamantly opposed to nuclear power, the Conservatives are populated by "climate skeptics," while none of the three seems to understand the simple math of emissions reductions targets and timetables (while the Green party explains that good climate policy means being unpopular, enough said).

The UK election won't be decided on environmental issues. However, whatever government emerges from this most interesting of elections will face some real challenges related to climate policy. I suppose that the good news for the new government is that nobody else around the world has it figured out either.


  1. Roger

    Could you name a Conservative Party climate sceptic ?

    I don't think the environment is even a minor election issue.

  2. -1-Eric

    Nigel Lawson comes right to mind, This Guardian article has some info:


    As you know, climate-skeptic tribalism is not really my schtick, but it is interesting to see it bandied about in the debates. I agree that the environment is not really an issue in the election.

  3. Very few publicly sceptical Conservative MPs, and not being facetious, promise, but that would be the Guardian line on this question, although the article is in fact quite balanced.

    On Heathrow, Conservatives will BLOCK the 3rd runway.


  4. -3-Roddy

    Yes, I'd guess that the Conservative position on Heathrow is an effort to create a little distinction from Labor, recognizing the real-world practical obstacles to Heathrow expansion. I think Miliband is right when he alludes to conservative support for other airport expansion.

  5. Roger,

    That was a pre electioneering wind up from the Guardian, which is sponsored to promote global warming by advertising, and supports the liberal wing of British politics.

    Nigel Lawson is not a Conservative MP, he retired 20 years ago. He must be around 80 now. He is a forgotten man.

    The article did not name one single active Conservative climate sceptic. That's because there are none. Whatever they believe in private, they are all 100% warmers in the public arena. That's all that matters in politics.

    There are no climate sceptics amomgst representatives or would be representatives in any major British political party I am aware of (including the Scottish National Party).

    Boris Johnson wants an new airport for London. You can bet the Conservatives will certainly expand airport capacity somewhere.

  6. Roger, I've not got the parliamentary marginal seat list in front of me, but maybe there are a few under the LHR flight-paths.

    The Conservatives have to have the odd policy that distances them from 'business', makes them more 'human', and I think this is one of them.

    Certainly none of them seem to understand the maths of emission targets, but if I were an MP I'm afraid I would take the same attitude, for the same reasons as your China graphic, and fight some battles on things where I can make a difference.

  7. "As you know, climate-skeptic tribalism is not really my schtick"

    You are more of a decorbonisation man, we know.

    I was a 5th column anarchist in the British Labour party in the early 1980s until two of my colleagues were (gently) put out of business by MI5, so I can't really complain about Janus faced politics.

    I am not an anarchist now. Not really.

  8. eric144 said...

    "There are no climate sceptics amomgst representatives or would be representatives in any major British political party"

    The UK is currently importing 70% of its coal.
    I do believe a fair number of your politicians would be what Roger describes as 'energy security free-riders'.

    I seriously doubt there are many conservatives in the UK who are comfortable with the amount of Russian Coal the UK is buying.

    AGW/Energy Security - Same end result

  9. Harrywr2

    Yes, Russia is the big security bogey man, along with Venezuala (oil).

    Mrs Thatcher shut the coal mines. She was elected leader of the incredibly traditional Conservative Party in 1975, about ten years before I was first aware of seeing a woman driving a car with a man as a passenger.

    She also believed that Co2 was a threat to the human race.

    Her husband was a director of Burmah Oil at the time. Pure coincidence. North Sea oil and gas, end of coal.

  10. About 75% of Conservative party members are sceptical about climate change being man-made. MP David Davis has spoken out recently, and MEP Roger Helmer is the most overt sceptic. There are other MPs, such as Peter Lilley and the retiring Ann Widdecombe who opposed the climate act (2008) but most won't risk saying so in public.

  11. Paul Biggs

    Thanks, I didn't know about David Davis. Davis jumped over the fence of mainstream politics some time ago, and is now a free agent. He dramatically resigned from the shadow cabinet on the issue of terrorism / civil liberties. I thought it was a stunt at the time. Apparently not.

    Of course, the vast majority of Tory MPs are sceptics, almost no one believes in AGW. Yet they stand up and lie for carbon trading.

  12. Doesn't matter. There are only a few guilt ridden democracies in Europe and TROTW that care a whit about carbon dioxide, global warming and are riddled with eco-guilt. When any other nation of the world expands its output of CO2, it is called progress, social advancement, economic achievement, jobs, better living standards, poverty reduction . . . I could go on.

    The environmental industry is in a political minefield of its own making. They hitched their credibility on a tissue thin but easily marketed scientific theory that is no longer able to stand the test of reality.

    As long as the planet was in a regular warming phase the wannbe do-gooders, the Jor-Els in our science community craving their "I can be the one to save humanity" moment, the fund raising hucksters and eco-grifters at Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund had an easy time. Standing against the prevailing current of global warming was like disapproving of motherhood & apple pie and realists feared being smeared with the epithet "Denier" . . . such a vile slur.

    Now that the natural climate cycles have turned against the established eco-narrative, there will be a huge backlash, especially among the younger crowd who really, really hate being conned. History will not be kind to the likes of Al Gore, David Suzuki, George Monbiot. At least the slipperiest politicians can pivot and blame the scientists for hoping on this version of the eco-bandwagon.

    The eco industry has been riding the "very, very scary" environmental scenario for 40+ years. From Silent Spring through Population Bombs and the Club of Rome, Globull Warming was the most successful political and fund raising scheme they ever invented.

    Will they be able to invent a Next Big Hairy A*s Scary Thingy campaign?

    Oxygen poising, water discombooberation ? There is no doubt they'll try.

    I doubt they'll find it as easy to be successful next time . . . people don't like being conned and memories will be fresh.

  13. eric144 said... 9

    "Mrs Thatcher shut the coal mines"

    I'm not sure Mrs's Thatcher wasn't trying to avoid the political trap the Germans have gotten themselves into. The German coal mining subsidy works out to be something like 60,000 Euro's per coal miner. I can think of cheaper, healthier make work projects.

    At some point the number of man hours to produce a ton of coal starts rising as the coal seams get thinner and thinner.

    In the US the Central Appalachian mines have gotten to that point. Coal production has dropped about 20% in the last 10 years in Central Appalachia. They've gone from 9,000 tons per year/miner to about 6,000 tons/year per miner.

  14. Harrywr2

    You are probably correct.

    I was implying that Thatcher was the ideal person to brutally close a whole industry with more or less 100% union membership. It took mass battles between police and the miners, road blocks, special forces soldiers dressed as policeman, MI5 interference and a lack of support from other trade unions to achieve it. The Germans obviously couldn't do it.

    UK miners' strike (1984–1985)


    Not only do we not have mines, we don't have much manufacturing industry either. What we do have is banks, and we own them !!