Huhne says growth is not the planet’s enemy

August 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Former UK Energy Secretary and ardent environmentalist Chris Huhne writes at The Guardian:

Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point.

Technology is a solution to many environmental issues. Fibre for example will allow more people to work from home.

From the middle ages, living standards just edged up at a snail’s pace, and we did little damage to the planet, because growing forests absorbed carbon from wood burning. The population was small. We led lives that were, in Hobbes’ phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”. Then we started burning coal on a large scale in the 18th century, and the industrial revolution made the graph look like a hockey stick: suddenly incomes were doubling in decades, following centuries of stability. After allowing for inflation, real GDP in England and Wales doubled from 1830 to 1864, again by 1898, and again by 1951, despite two world wars.

Gross domestic product is a measure of activity, not welfare. But there is plenty of evidence of real progress. If life is better than death, this surge of growth was more good news. Male life expectancy at birth in England and Wales in 1841 was just 40 years. By 1950, it was 66. On the latest figures for 2012, it is now 79 for men and 83 for women.

This unprecedented prosperity and welfare was inextricably linked to the burning of fossil fuels, and therefore to the beginning of carbon emissions and global warming. And we are paying with the steady rise in carbon and temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels.

This is why so many green thinkers have rightly been suspicious of economic growth: the curve of rising living standards has been tracked by the curve of rising energy use from coal, oil and gas. The simple answer was green puritanism: change our lifestyle. Don the hair-shirt. Stop consuming more. Stop growth – and therefore stop pollution.

Precisely, what many have argued.

The good news is that we can increasingly see a future where technology does most of the change for us. Readers of the Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics will find an extraordinary table in the new edition: the two-century link between growth and energy has broken. The UK economy has doubled in real terms since 1985, but total energy consumption is exactly the same as it was in that year. Indeed, energy consumption has fallen since 1970 while the economy has nearly trebled in size.

I wonder what the figures for NZ are?

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34 Responses to “Huhne says growth is not the planet’s enemy”

  1. Redbaiter (9,122 comments) says:

    “we are paying with the steady rise in carbon and temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels”

    That phrase is just unmitigated garbage.

    There are no rising temperatures.

    There are no rising sea levels.

    There are no differences in climate that can be sheeted home to man’s activities.

    The whole concept is just semi-religious bullshit promoted to advantage the left wing political sector.

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  2. metcalph (1,430 comments) says:

    You are quoting Huhne really? The narcissist who made his wife (falsely) claim a spending offence so he wouldn’t lose his license but ended up going to prison as a result? Who writes in the Guardian how he should not have been sent to prison?
    The most positive thing that anybody can say about Nick Clegg’s reign as leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister was that at least he wasn’t Chris Huhne. The second most positive thing that anybody can say was that at least he wasn’t Mark Oaten.

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  3. Ross12 (1,432 comments) says:

    In the mean , in the real world, the electricity authorities in the UK are planning for potential black outs during the winter due to lack of electricity supply.

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  4. Viking2 (11,491 comments) says:

    metcalph (1,402 comments) says:
    August 29th, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    You are quoting Huhne really? The narcissist who made his wife (falsely) claim a spending offence so he wouldn’t lose his license but ended up going to prison as a result? Who writes in the Guardian how he should not have been sent to prison?
    The most positive thing that anybody can say about Nick Clegg’s reign as leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister was that at least he wasn’t Chris Huhne. The second most positive thing that anybody can say was that at least he wasn’t Mark Oaten.

    -=====================
    So you are saying that his analysis is wrong?

    Or are you just venting your spleen.

    Try answering his analysis with better facts.
    You can’t of course because any simpleton can tell you energy use is much more efficient in 2014 than it was in 1814 or 1914.

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  5. Odakyu-sen (679 comments) says:

    Technology may come to the rescue. Or it may not.

    I’d say hope that it does, but best have a contingency plan ready in case it doesn’t.

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  6. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    We are only one Einstein crossed with a Tesla for the 21st century away from cracking ‘free’ energy. But unlike those dudes, i’d wager she’s an asian woman.

    Solve the energy problem and we solve everything. The trick is to not let the energy barons and their bankster mates get hold of any blueprints before it can be made open source.

    Meanwhile lets just keep building new weapons, biological, chemical and otherwise to fuel the stagnant world economy and find more excuses to make war like there’s no tomorrow.

    as you were…

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  7. Redbaiter (9,122 comments) says:

    Viking, of course he makes a case for energy efficiency but the reasoning is deeply flawed. Once you accept the statement I have disagreed with above you are forced to accept every argument the leftists posing as environmentalists are promoting.

    This is how they work. They smokescreen the substance with a thousand words that cover the real intent. The article above for all its distractions has as its core the acceptance of the rubbish that man’s activities are seriously affecting climate.

    Every left winger uses the same methods. From Russell Brown at Public Address to Nick Smith in National’s Bluegreens, to the IPCC and onwards and upwards and outwards. Its all the same rubbish full of unending detail but really designed just to get you to accept the basic false premise.

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  8. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Come now all of you. We, humans, are so important and so intelligent that of course it us effecting the climate. If we weren’t we couldn’t say we “own” this planet !

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  9. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    …man’s activities are seriously affecting climate.

    Do you think if man didn’t exist, the climate would be different Redbaiter ?

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  10. Distilled essence of NZ (85 comments) says:

    Energy consumption is still linked to economic growth in developing countries, because they aren’t at the point of the service-based economy. Also, the fact that the west has moved much of its manufacturing sector off-shore has dampened energy consumption. But that’s the folly of this article – we need to be thinking in terms of global energy consumption, not national.

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  11. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    BWIV, no, they real key is not to let governments get hold of it and politic with it and arrange to do away with the “enemies” with it. A far more likely scenario. Not that there’s a huge gap between the two, crony capitalism is becoming the norm with left wing governments especially becoming enamoured of cronyism as a recipe to gain wealth for themselves.

    And sadly, the “Tesla free energy” idea is fairy tale stuff, there just ain’t no “free” energy to be tapped. Tesla was a great showman, as much P T Barnum as a scientist in some ways.

    However Huhne is half right, Distilled above has signaled one of the reasons, in fact what has happened is that relatively energy efficient manufacturing has been off-shored to inefficient places (in “carbon” terms) because of politics, not science. So the overall impact is to (if you care) increase carbon dioxide emissions in the name of reducing it in one place.

    Ross12 has another salient point, all the projections I’ve seen make it quite clear, in 2015 assuming the still current government plans to close extant coal fired power stations are carried out, the UK will have serious and long lasting power cuts in the winter of 2015. There is not sufficient generation capacity plus imports available to meet the projected demand given even the most optimistic projections. Of course for many “environmentalists”, that’s not a bug, that’s a feature, the resulting deaths from cold will be the fault of everyone else though…

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  12. Albert_Ross (298 comments) says:

    Once you accept [that fossil fuel use is causing global warming] you are forced to accept every argument the leftists posing as environmentalists are promoting.

    No, you’re not. That’s precisely the point. You /don’t/ have to accept that economic growth has to stop and we must all accept reductions in our standard of living in order to reduce fossil fuel use and so address climate change. The whole point of the article is that we can address climate change in ways that don’t require the wholesale adoption of leftist economics.

    The right really has been spectacularly stupid here in choosing to argue with the environmentalist left on the basis of whether climate change is happening at all. That’s alienated the scientific community and made the right look reactionary and anti-science. It would have been so much more winnable to argue on the basis that the environmentalists’ prescriptions are economically illiterate, environmentally counterproductive and socially regressive.

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  13. Redbaiter (9,122 comments) says:

    Albert you are wrong. I stand by my thesis above. The whole idea of every lengthy discourse on this issue is to push widespread acceptance of the basic Gobellian lie that mankind is causing climate variations and therefore we must do things.

    We should just sweep this garbage into the dustbin of history and get on FULL TILT with building global prosperity.

    I will acknowledge the chances of this occurring are slim when our education systems from primary through to tertiary have been converted into brainwashing camps.

    However as truth always prevails in the end, the time will come when this circumstance is seen for the evil it is/ was and all who passed through this perverted system will be discredited as misguided victims of the political corruption of our education.

    Sad for them, but anyone with a real education can see it coming.

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  14. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    Not really talking about Tesla’s free energy guff, Ed Snack, more about how he could practically apply theories into real world applications. Like Einstein, it’s more about what they thought and how they thought that inspired others to follow in their footsteps…im talking refinement.

    As for left wing crony capitalism, thats more human nature rather than holding to any strict sense of political ideology. Monkey see, monkey do. And yeah, the banksters are the real governments. Same difference. Just ask any Rothschild.

    I do think we are due an intellectual evolutionary leap. This whole caveman with laptops thing has about run it’s course.

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  15. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    Jeez Redbaiter…it’s like someone doused you in wrong and set you alight.

    I blame your teachers or lack of them.

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  16. Urban_Redneck (93 comments) says:

    when our education systems from primary through to tertiary have been converted into brainwashing camps

    Coincidentally, I happened to stumble across a Level 1 NCEA English paper the other week, from 2009. The first part of the exam was to write an essay on one of 10 listed topics. Three of the topics were :

    1 – The car is killing our planet.
    2 – The rights of animals are often forgotten.
    3 – The landscape of New Zealand/Aotearoa is under threat.

    No wonder the Greens are constantly polling in double figures with such widespread indoctrination going on.

    http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/ncea-resource/exams/2009/90053-exm-09.pdf

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  17. Redbaiter (9,122 comments) says:

    “No wonder the Greens are constantly polling in double figures with such widespread indoctrination going on.”

    Another of the stark evils that exist in this country and that the National Party seems inexplicably unable to acknowledge.

    We’ve got a nation of braindead thuggish little Brownshirts, the latest manifestation of the Hitler Jugend, who write essays at school dobbing their parents in for not turning the lights off when they should.

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  18. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    BWAV, I’d say that the “banksters” are not the “real” government, but a coalition of like interests form a self defined elite who act as the government. That includes career politicians and senior business and academic figures. As long as these political figures are of an apparent leftist slant they are significantly supported by the mainstream media and usually most major union groups.

    For example, it deserves to be better known that Wall St gives significantly more money to the Democrats than the Republicans. That’s lately, they used to give the other way, but they follow power not ideology because the government has enormous powers to ensure that they don’t have significant competition to spoil their profiteering. And the government is entirely complicit in this.

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  19. Albert_Ross (298 comments) says:

    The whole idea of every lengthy discourse on this issue is to push widespread acceptance of the basic Gobellian lie that mankind is causing climate variations and therefore we must do things.

    Yes, that is what the leftist environmentalists are trying to do. And you are helping them by conceding that if the global warming theory were true, then we would need to adopt the policies they propose.

    If you argue instead that “if global warming were true, then there are better ways of addressing it than the policies they propose”, then your arguments will still be valid if global warming is proven to be true.

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  20. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    A rose by any other name Ed ;)

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  21. Redbaiter (9,122 comments) says:

    “Yes, that is what the leftist environmentalists are trying to do. And you are helping them by conceding that if the global warming theory were true, then we would need to adopt the policies they propose.”

    Wrong again. I oppose them by speaking the truth plainly and without prevarication which is something that many more people need to do. I don’t play games. Mankind has no effect on climate EOS.

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  22. Gulag1917 (930 comments) says:

    “we did little damage to the planet, because growing forests absorbed carbon from wood burning”.
    England wiped out forests of oak building warships and in the colonisation of New England 100,000 square miles of forests were wiped out. What the planet needs is integrated development; preservation and cultivation of the environment with economic development. To a certain extent technology is developing along these lines.

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  23. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    BWAV, not really, you’re focussed on one group of a coalition, removing or affecting them would make no difference because the key factor is the politicians. It’s government that enables all of the exploitation.

    That’s where I’d say we diverge radically, unless I’m mistaken you think more government is the solution; I say that government is the key part of the problem and less government is a far superior solution. More government and the elimination of the “bank” part of bankster would simply substitute another group for the same function with no change in the exploitation. It is one of life’s mysteries why the “left” as it currently functions can’t see it. The broad left that is, the elite leadership part of the left knows it very well and enjoys the perks immensely. I suppose the functionaries of the left accept it as they all aspire to join that elite, which if they kowtow sufficiently, a small number may be allowed to do.

    I do see the “right” as more split on this. There is one faction that is basically in the same place (like RINO’s in the US) with variations in details only, they see the gravy train and are primarily interested in joining it. There is however a significant faction, call it libertarianism (of the less fanatic type), the archetype Tea Party, and general “small government” conservatives who are opposed to this cronyism and exploitation. That is why the Tea Party types were so vigorously attacked (and continue to be attacked) by both sides, they threaten the status-quo gravy train that enriches the governing elite. Sure, the TP were exploited by various pretenders and cranks, nascent parties often suffer that, but the heart of TP was always anti-big government and anti-cronyism. As such they represented genuine danger, far more dangerous than the juvenile loons of “Occupy” and so were attacked by every means available: The media, the IRS, false flag operations, allegations of racism…all faked and all in the service of the cronies who run government.

    /rant off

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  24. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    Can’t say im a fan of more government nor big government and don’t see it as a solution to anything, Ed.

    I’m all for less, smaller and smarter government.

    Governments come and go but the banksters are the real power and the new/old world order.

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  25. Gulag1917 (930 comments) says:

    Not much for any progress in NZ until NZ starts giving international bodies like the WTO an indecent gesture.

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  26. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    As long as you stay a grumpy old internet windbag, red, you’re pretty much harmless.

    Dont ever change!!!

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  27. Forrest (15 comments) says:

    Good to know that ‘bad’ environmental impacts of growth are potentially being more than offset by improved technology and efficiencies.
    However, is the elephant in the room not the fact that as life expectancies and the world’s population increases, surely there will come a point when we reach an optimum ‘total planet population’?
    I would have thought that certain countries if not continents have reached that point already.

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  28. Black with a Vengeance (1,865 comments) says:

    The endgame, Forrest, is to solve the energy problem and get off planet.

    We arent even close to unsustainable overpopulation if we redirected existing resources into more productive areas other than warmongering and planet raping.

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  29. Albert_Ross (298 comments) says:

    I oppose them by speaking the truth plainly and without prevarication which is something that many more people need to do. I don’t play games. Mankind has no effect on climate EOS.

    So the reason that we don’t need to accept the leftist environmentalist policy proposals is, that they can only be justified by conclusive scientific proof that human activity is affecting the climate; and no scientific discovery is possible, no evidence can ever be found, no argument can ever be made (no matter how authoritative and expert the speaker) that could provide that proof.

    Do you really not see how weak this argument is? How closed-minded and ignorant of scientific methodology it makes you seem?

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  30. Floyd60 (92 comments) says:

    Perhaps John could be encouraged to mention this during the next leaders debate.

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  31. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    This must be the first time, but we’re not that far apart BWAV. I believe however that the “banksters” are just a convenient scapegoat, almost the same as but luckily not identical to “the Jews” as bogeymen superior. And the best control is genuine competition, there’s a real job for government, making sure that there aren’t cartels that circumvent true competition. Not perfect, that’s probably by definition unreachable, but good, serious competition. Governments though get captured, cartels and oligopolian offer them personally far more tangible rewards, and do. These rewards are usually dressed up in pretty words and legalisms, but they’re inducements to perpetuate a money generating advantage, money coming from the general public.

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  32. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    Blast, edit/correct not working on iPad. Please read …cartels and oligopolists can offer them… In the above comment.

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  33. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    It would have been so much more winnable to argue on the basis that the environmentalists’ prescriptions are economically illiterate, environmentally counterproductive and socially regressive.
    ……
    Lets see:

    Take four blocks in upper Riccarton – the 133 hectares bounded by the university campus to the north, Peer St and Ilam Rd to the sides, and Blenheim Rd to the south – and bulldoze the existing homes.

    Rebuild the entire area as a pedestrianised, post-car suburb of medium density, high efficiency, eco-housing.

    Lay on some trams, revamp Church Corner and Bush Inn as a new metro hub, move in 20,000 people where 4000 people used to live, and by relocating red-zoners within the existing city limits, there is your sprawl issue solved.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/8575174/Expert-Suburban-sprawl-a-short-term-solution

    When someone suggests a good idea like this you are all saying “let the market take care of it”.

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  34. hj (7,033 comments) says:

    In practices greater efficiency means more energy available (and it is used up).

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