Friday 22 September 2023

A useless trip to New York


Humza Yousaf has gone to something called the Climate Ambition Summit in New York. Given that Yousaf lacks the ability of walking on water, we can assume that he flew there. It may also be that he is having a pleasant time on the Staten Island Ferry learning about how ferries work and not having to think about any other type of ferry including Broughty Ferry which likewise lacks a ferry in just the same way as many Scottish islands. New York in the early autumn will be still warm and Yousaf will be able to enjoy roaming in the gloaming with whoever he has to roam with.

But is there any point in Yousaf being in New York? No. Regional leaders of places like Bavaria, Burgundy and Bohemia will doubtless have reflected that their best contribution to limiting carbon emissions was to follow events in New York online. But it is crucial for the SNP to pretend that Scotland is a nation state just like every other UN member state despite Scotland never having been a member, because it is eh not independent.

But there is a more important reason why it is pointless for Yousaf to be in New York. It matters not one little bit what Scotland does about carbon emissions.

Rishi Sunak has decided to delay the ban on petrol cars and gas boilers from 2030 to 2035. There is an enormous fuss. But the truth is that it will not affect global warming in any measurable way. It would be impossible even to try to measure how this delay will change global temperatures 50 or 100 years from now.

It's nice for Humza Yousaf to feel involved and to think that the decisions he makes in Scotland will make a difference to climate change, but the truth is they won’t. A brief look at some figures shows this.

Carbon emissions in million tonnes

Scotland                 41.6

China                    11680.42
United States         4535.30
India                       2411.73
Russia                    1674.23
Japan                      1061.77

Even if Scotland had no electricity. Even if Scots drove no cars. Even if we lit no fires. Even indeed if we went back to the Stone age, it would make no measurable difference to global warming or climate change. Our 41 million tonnes will be well within the margin of error of China’s 11000 million tonnes.

People say the problem is not the amount of carbon emissions each country produces but the amount each person produces. But this is obviously false. The country in the world with the highest per capita emissions is Palau an archipelago of 500 islands in the South Pacific. Palau had 1.24 million tonnes of emissions in 2020, but it only has a population of 18,000. Perhaps they use a lot of petrol travelling between these islands. Palau though has done well in 2017 it emitted 1.41 million tonnes. But the idea that the actions of Palau will make a difference to climate change is clearly preposterous. It’s too small. The saving of 0.17 million tonnes changes nothing globally.

It would simply be a waste of aviation fuel for the President of Palau to travel to New York, but at least he would be a leader of nation state rather than a region of one.

But the most important reason why Yousaf’s trip is pointless is that the UK has already massively reduced carbon emissions, while other countries have increased theirs.

Change in carbon dioxide emission from 1990-2022


China                     +426.5%
India                      +348.3%
South Korea           +133.5%

United Kingdom    −41.4%


So, while we have been cutting carbon emissions since 1990 the savings we have made have been and are continuing to be made pointless by countries like China and India. It’s as if one member of a family is buying the cheapest Tesco tins of beans while another is buying caviar and vintage champagne. The savings of the one are made pointless by the extravagance of the other.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens want everyone in Scotland to be forced to buy an electric car by 2030. They want us to be unable to sell our house if we don’t have a heat pump. They want us to pay a deposit on every container we buy so that we have the pleasure of queuing to get our money back.

But Scotland already has the carbon emissions of Laos and if China continues to increase its carbon emissions at the rate it is doing, our decrease won’t make any difference at all. Whatever savings we make will be outstripped thousands of times over by China and India.

I think it is a good thing in itself to emit as little carbon as possible. There are better more efficient ways to get the energy we need.

There is no way to stop developing countries using ever more fossil fuels unless technology provides them with a cheaper more convenient alternative. China and India can reasonably point out that the alternative to burning fossil fuels is to remain poor. The same goes for every other developing country that wants the standard of living we have.

This is why it is pointless for Yousaf to go to New York. It ends with him virtue signalling about cutting emissions when we already are cutting, while the developing world burns as much coal oil and gas as it can buy and will continue to increase its rate of burning still further while we keep cutting.

It will be an advanced economy like the UK or the USA which will discover the technological solution to global warming, but we will only remain advanced economies if we ignore the SNP and the Scottish Greens who would prefer, we had no economic growth at all and went back to driving horse drawn carriages.

Net zero is a con and the con is created precisely by the kind of meeting Yousaf is attending in New York. It’s only a few Western countries that are even attempting to cut carbon emissions, because our leaders like Yousaf love to feel important at international meetings, enjoy making grand gestures and pretend that we set others and example, which in fact they ignore. 

But it is us that suffer from their virtue signalling when our houses are too cold, or we get stuck in Sutherland with an electric car and the nearest charging point is Inverness. We miss out when we can’t afford to fly somewhere warmer on holiday. Soon it will only be Humza Yousaf who can afford to travel anywhere.

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