Why Windmills Won’t Wash

April 30, 2011

Consider the Oldbury wind turbine, which WattsUpWithThat.com  reveals was installed a couple of years ago at a primary school in the Midlands at a cost of £5000 sterling plus Vicious Additional Taxation at 17.5% (US $9694 in all).

by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

In the first full year of the Oldbury White Elephant’s 20-year life it generated a gratifying 209 kilowatt-hours of electricity – enough to power a single 100-Watt reading-lamp for less than three months. The rest of the year you’ll have to find something else to do in bed.

Gross revenue for the year, at 11p (18 cents) a kilowatt-hour, was, um, almost £23 ($40). Assuming that there are no costs of finance, insurance or maintenance, and after subtracting 20 years’ revenue at last year’s rate, the net unamortized capital cost is £5,415.20 ($8,900).

Even this figure understates the true cost. The UK has hidden much of the cost of its climate measures behind a calculatedly complex web of levies, taxes, charges, and subsidies, and – above all – behind a furtive near-doubling of the true cost of electricity to pay vast subsidies (“yacht money”, as we landowners call it) to anyone connected with windmills. The website of the King Canute Department amusingly calls this obscurantist mish-mash “transparency”.

How much “global warming” will Jumbo the Albino forestall? While it is in operation, it will generate 209,000/365/24 or almost 24 Watt-hours per hour on average: just about enough to drive an electric toothbrush.

Mean UK electricity consumption, according to the Ministry of Transparency, is 43.2 GW. Electricity contributes one-third of UK carbon emissions, and the UK contributes 1.5% of world emissions. So the proportion p of global carbon dioxide emissions that the Worthless Windmill will forestall is 24 / 43,200,000,000 / 3 x 0.015, or 2.76 x 10–12, or, as Admiral Hill-Norton used to call it, “two-thirds of three-fifths of b*gger all”. Skip the next few paragraphs if mathematics makes your head hurt.

Today’s CO2 concentration is 390 parts per million by volume (less than 0.04%, though most people think it’s more like 20-30%). Instead of the 438 ppmv CO2 concentration that the IPCC predicts for 2030 on its A2 scenario, thanks to the Wonder Whirligig it will be 438 – p(438 – 390), or seven-eighths of a Hill-Norton below 438 ppmv.

IPeCaC, the UN’s climate panel says 8 Watts (no relation) per square meter of radiative forcing from CO2 and other bad things (p. 803 of its 2007 climate assessment) will cause 3.4 Celsius of “global warming” (p. 13, table SPM.3) from 2000-2100 (progress from 2000-2010: 0.0 Celsius).

That gives the “centennial-scale transient climate-sensitivity parameter”, which is 3.4/8 or 0.425 C/W/m2. Multiply this by 5.35, the coefficient in the CO2 forcing equation, to give the “centennial-scale transient global-warming coefficient” n = 2.274 C°. We don’t need to worry about warming beyond 2100 because, according to Solomon et al. (2009) it will take 1000-3000 years to come through, far too slow to cause unavoidable harm.

Multiply the logarithm of any proportionate change in CO2 concentration by the global-warming coefficient n and you get a central estimate of the warming that will occur (or be prevented) between now and 2100.

The Sandwell Sparrow-Slicer will only run for 20 years, not 100, so our value for n is going to be too big, overstating the warming the thing will actually forestall. But it’s Be-Nice-To-Bedwetters Week, so we’ll use the centennial-scale value for n anyway.

Let’s do it: 2.274 ln[438/(smidgen x tad <438)] is – well, put it this way, even my 12-digit-readout scientific calculator couldn’t do it, so I turned to Microsoft Excess. According to Bill Gates, the warming the Birmingham Bat-Batterer will forestall over the next 20 years will be rather less than 0.0000000000007 Celsius.

As the shopping channels say, “But wait! There’s more!!!” Well, there could hardly be less. How much would it cost, I wondered, to forestall 1 Celsius degree of warming, if all measures to make “global warming” go away were as hilariously cost-ineffective as this silly windmill?

You get the “mitigation cost-effectiveness” by dividing the total warming forestalled by the total lifetime cost of the project. And the answer? Well, it’s a very affordable £8 quadrillion ($13 quadrillion) per Celsius degree of warming forestalled. Remember, this is an underestimate, because our method tends to overstate the warming forestalled.

And that’s before we politicians ask any questions about whether IPeCaC’s estimates of climate sensitivity are wanton, flagrant exaggerations [cries of “No!” “Shame!” “Resign!” “I beg to move that the Noble Lord be no longer heard!” “What did I do with my expenses claim form?”].

Suppose it was just as cost-ineffective to make “global warming” from other causes go away as it is to make “global warming” from CO2 go away. In that event, assuming – as the World Bank does – that global annual GDP is £36.5 trillion ($60 trillion), what percentage of this century’s global output of all that we make and do and sell would be gobbled up in climate mitigation? The answer is an entirely reasonable 736%, or, to put it another way, 736 years’-worth of worldwide income.

This is an inhumanly large sum. So how much would each of the seven billion people on the planet have to cough up over the next century to forestall the 3.4 C global warming that IPeCaC hopes will happen by 2100? It will cost each of us more than £3.8 million ($6.3 milllion), and that’s probably a large underestimate. I’m going to have to sell the Lear ad go commercial. No – wait – what did I do with that glossy brochure about how many tens of millions I could make from the 30 250ft windmills I could put on the South Beat? Ah, here it is, under my expenses claim form.

“The Noble Lord,” the Canutists might say, “is deliberately taking a small, absurd and untypical example. Shame! Resign! Expenses!” etc. So here are the equivalent figures for the £60m ($100 million) annual 20-year subsidy to the world’s largest wind-farm, the Thanet Wind Array off the Kent Coast – that’s £1.2 billion ($2 billion) for just one wind-farm. KaChing! I think I’ll have another Lear. And a yacht, and a Lambo, and a bimbo.

The “global warming” that the Thanet wind-farm will forestall in its 20-year lifetime is 0.000002 Celsius, or two millionths of a degree, or 1/25,000 of the minimum global temperature change that modern methods can detect. The mitigation cost-effectiveness, per Celsius degree of warming forestalled, is £578 trillion ($954 trillion), or almost 6000 times the entire 296 years’-worth of UK peacetime and wartime national debt as it stood when Margaret Thatcher took office. That’s more than 1.7 million years’ British national debt, just to prevent 1 degree of warming.

Making IPeCaC’s predicted 3.4 C° of 21st-century warming go away, if all measures were as cost-ineffective as Thanet, would take more than half of the world’s gross domestic product this century, at a cost of more than £280,000 ($463,000) from every man, woman and child on the planet.

“The Noble Lord is still cherry-picking. Resign! Moat! Duck-island!” etc. So look at it this way. All of Scotland’s wind farms, which can in theory generate 10% of Britain’s electricity (actual output in that cold December when we needed them most: 0.0%), will forestall just 0.00002 degrees of warming in their 20-year lifetime – about the same as all of China’s windmills.

So there you have it. After the biggest and most expensive propaganda campaign in human history, leading to the biggest tax increase in human history, trying to stop “global warming” that isn’t happening anyway and won’t happen at anything like the predicted rate is the least cost-effective use of taxpayers’ money in human history, bar none – and that’s saying something.

The thing about gesture politics is that the politicians (that’s us) get to make the gestures and the proles (that’ll be you) get to get the bill. I think I’ll have another moat. Torquil, don’t you dare put that expenses claim form on the fire. Think of the carbon footprint!

Lord Christopher Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, was Special Advisor to Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister from 1982 to 1986 and is currently the Chief Policy Advisor of the Science and Public Policy Institute where he posted Al Gore’s 35 errors.

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