February 2024
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The disastrous stupidity of badly measuring the wrong thing

Friday/weekend blog

What you measure is what you get

I’ll start with a story from my boring little life. Many years ago I had a summer job working on a large hydro-electric scheme. The aim was to let water flow down through a several mile tunnel during the day to generate electricity and then pump the water back up at night when electricity was cheaper so it could be used to generate electricity the next day. My job was driving a small diesel train delivering concrete to the crews building the tunnel. The original tunnelers had two jobs – tunnelling and then laying railway track along the tunnel. But they had been paid bonuses only on how far they tunneled each day. So they concentrated on tunnelling and were somewhat haphazard to put it mildly about laying the railway track. This meant that my little train would derail at least once every trip and with diesel fumes belching out from my locomotive, I had to unload some jacks, jack the locomotive up, then jack it back onto the track. I couldn’t switch the locomotive off as it wouldn’t start again (each morning we had to roll it down the hill towards the tunnel to start it).

The moral of the story is ‘what you measure is what you get’ and ‘what you measure is probably all you’ll get’. In any organisation, if you measure the wrong things, then you’ll get the wrong result.

Cutting off your legs to lose weight?

Here are the UK’s CO2 emissions:

Hooray – Britain’s CO2 emissions been falling. We smart Brits have obviously been doing our bit to save the world from what the world’s greatest climatologist, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, calls ‘global boiling’.

How have we achieved this remarkable feat of environmental leadership? I gave two examples in my previous blog which featured an article I had published on the brilliant Daily Sceptic website.

  • At a steel works in Wales our government gave £500m to the Chinese owners to demolish the CO2-emitting blast furnaces and replace them with supposedly environmentally-friendly electric arc furnaces which would produce less steel and lower quality steel with the loss of about 2,000 jobs. The shortfall in steel and the higher quality steel would now be produced in blast furnaces in China. But as our governmnet only measures CO2 emissions produced in Britain and doesn’t include CO2 emissions in China from steel made for the UK market, then the government can claim that this economically-damaging loss of steel-making capacity and the devastation of 2,000 job losses is a benefit for Britain as it helps Britain reach its 2050 Net Zero targets
  • A petrol refinery in Scotland is closing and being adapted to just be a fuel import terminal. This will result in the loss of 400 of the 500 jobs on the site. The fuel will still be refined. But that will happen in another country, so it won’t count towards Britain’s CO2 emissions. Another economic disaster for our country which our rulers have pronounced as a masive success helping Britain reach its 2050 Net Zero targets.

While our rulers are keen to measure Britain’s declining CO2 emissions, here a couple of charts measuring things our rulers aren’t so keen on measuring. First is the share of manufacturing as a percent of the UK’s GDP:

It’s falling.

Next is the number of workers employed in manufacturing in the UK:

That’s falling too.

The UK is wrecking its own economy in order to meet the one thing our elites are focused on measuring – the country’s CO2 emissions. This is a bit like cutting off your own legs in order to lose weight. That’s not a particularly smart thing to do.

We need a ‘Balanced Scorecard’

What is happening in Britain is a complete perversion of economic policy because of the obsessive focus on just one measure – CO2 emissions. Many business try to avoid such a perverse outcome by using what’s called a Balanced Scorecard to manage their operations. A Balanced Scorecard, as the name suggests, tries to balance the various things which the organisation measures in order to ensure sensible and logical policies:

I haven’t bothered working out what a British government Balanced Scorecard might look like. But it’s obvious that if Guterres’s ‘global boiling’ was real then, instead of just measuring CO2 emissions, were our rulers intelligent and/or honest (and they are neither), then they would report a series of balanced measures to us each year. If you actually believe the nonsense of man-made climate change, then these could include supposedly ‘green’ issues such as:

  • CO2 emissions
  • renewables as a percentage of total energy production

But they should also balance ‘greenie’ indicators with economic indicators such as:

  • gdp per capita
  • value of manufacturing output
  • energy costs as a percentage of the world average
  • number of company bankruptcies
  • and so on

Then we could see how well the UK was performing on reducing CO2 emissions balanced against economic performance and energy prices. Such a balanced approach would prevent the economic catastrophe our ruling elites are causing by their misguided focus on just one over-riding number – CO2 emissions.

Though, given that the climate catastrophists’ whole cult is utter hogwash, measuring CO2 emissions and basing most government policies – banning petrol and disel cars, banning gas central heating, a blitz on farmers to reduce meat consumption etc etc – on them is beyond the realms of lunacy.

3 comments to The disastrous stupidity of badly measuring the wrong thing

  • A Thorpe

    The problems go back much further in my view to two pointless wars which we should have not got involved with and which bankrupted us (and the involvement in wars since). We recovered because of US loans. We lost the empire and the pound’s status as reserve currency as a result. Then we had a socialist government that was obsessed with creating an unaffordable welfare state when it should have done the same as Germany and re-established a viable industry, but it also nationalised essential industries and effectively eliminated competition and market forces in the UK economy. Unions rather than the market then determined the pay structure and we became and still are a high wage economy which cannot compete in a world market. The ridiculous net zero policies just add to problems. It would be interesting to see the manufacturing job decline over a longer period and in relation to the expanding population.

    In my opinion the NHS has also created a huge problem by extending life but with people in conditions that cannot be cared for at home by families. When I was born the elderly and the young were always looked after by the family. Now because of increasing costs one salary is not enough to support a family and the state has taken over family duties of looking after the elderly and child care, with the resultant increasing taxation. Apparently, only immigrants are willing to do this work and so another problem has been created.

    We are to blame for accepting this. Only Thatcher tried to reverse this and look how she is vilified. Everything she did has been reversed and made worse by the regulation industry. We have changed from manufacturing to mass consumption and waste, which is essential to keep the production going. It is not only the UK where this is happening. Overall it has become a huge money transfer system from the poor to the rich.

  • Carolyn

    Doesn’t take the brains of rocking horse to see that offloading our co2 producing industries to the other side of the world is just exacerbating the (non-existent) problem.
    The co2 output remains the same but now you can add the co2 output involved in shipping the products back to us.

    Such a pity that our politicians and the likes of Just stop oil don’t even have the brains of a rocking horse.

  • A Thorpe

    There is an interesting article on Mises Wire relating to the point you make about the UK decline in manufacturing but about Germany and giving a very detailed analysis of its declining exports:

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