Saturday, July 27, 2013

A costly public exercise in futility

Paul Wheelhouse - a difficult job
The current Scottish Government consultation on its programme for adapting for climate change over the next 87 years is an exercise in public sector futility.

It is not that there are not sensible things to do to adapt to climate change in the coming years (and some of them are included in the proposals).  The problem is that the project is based on information which is either uncertain, out of date or just plain wrong.

There are over 130 impacts identified for Scotland.  There are three themes each of which are allocated three policy objectives and around 145 policy proposals in the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme document.

These impose burdens:
"Everyone in Scotland must accept responsibility for their share of action and working collaboratively. . . " Foreword by Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP. 
Costly burdens:
". . . requires that a public body. . . must, in exercising its functions, act in the way best calculated to deliver the Programme." From the Introduction.

As I leafed through the document I wondered about the assumptions behind all these policies and proposals.  I found the Evidence Report on which the Programme is based.  It is 488 pages long but I found some key caveats near the beginning under the heading 'How confident are we about future climate risks in the UK?':
"The overall confidence (in the risks) is generally 'low' to 'medium', with only risks that are already experienced and those related to increased temperatures classified with 'high' confidence.'

On other words there are only two areas where we can have high confidence that the risks are real.  One of those is in the risks relating to increasing temperatures.   Yet it is now widely admitted that there has been a significant reduction in the rate of increase of temperatures over the last 15-17 years.  (Actually there has been no statistically significant increase in global mean temperatures in the last 15-17 years - depending on which data set is used. The Met Office and some other climate scientists are very reluctant to admit this publicly.  We can now go back 15-17 years with no increase in temperatures.)

So on the basis of this lack of confidene and evidence the Scottish Government are bringing forward 145 policy proposals (with legislation to enforce them), and spending quite a lot of our money in the process.

Alice in Wonderland stuff.