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Net zero – a grim fairy tale


Dear Prime Minister

What would convince you that your ‘net zero carbon’ strategy is a fairy tale? 

Let’s go back to basics. Carbon dioxide (CO2) (not ‘carbon’) is not a pollutant. It’s a trace gas and essential for life.  Only 5 per cent of CO2 is man-made and largely through burning fossil fuels; the other 95 per cent is natural from sources such as oceans or volcanoes. More than 450million years ago (long before mankind arrived) it was 5,000 parts per million (ppm). It’s currently about 420 ppm with the anthropogenic share at 20 ppm, in other words minuscule! There is no known harm from CO2. Consequently, there is no enemy to fight to attain ‘net zero’; no need for expensive offset schemes to mitigate its purportedly harmful effects; no need to cover the land in environmentally damaging and unsightly solar farms or wind turbines (your ‘white Satanic mills’). Neither of these alternative energy sources has recyclable parts. Birds mistake solar farms for lakes and fry as they land. Offshore windfarms kill birds and the incessant hum is believed to disorient cetaceans. Onshore, where the hum drives sane people to distraction, they kill birds, bats and insects. Discounted energy bills will not compensate for this destruction. 

Restricting CO2 increase to pursue <2oC temperature rise by 2050 has no evidential basis. Even its inventor (Germany’s Chief Scientific Adviser Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, climatologist and member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits that the aspirational constraint is a ‘political goal’. The IPCC is the body ‘polishing’ the UN’s climate reports to ensure they continue the drama of ‘climate emergency’ (or some such doomsday title). Actually, temperature increases precede CO2 rises by 800 years and the residence time for CO2 is unknown – any time from four to 1,000 years. The outcome of any economic pain you inflict now will not be visible for almost a millennium (when it will be too late to say ‘I told you so’).

Your baffling hyperbole that ‘we were the first to knit the deadly tea cosy of CO2 that is now driving climate change’ is unevidenced. Anthropogenic atmospheric gases are not analogous to a ‘tea cosy’.  Similarly, the belief that increased CO2 will be detrimental to Planet Earth is baseless when gardeners pump extra CO2 into greenhouses to encourage growth. In fact, a slight warming accompanying increased CO2 should deliver a positive impact improving agricultural output. (This will be desirable given the inevitable failure of Ukraine’s 2022 crops.) Increased warming should also reduce winter heating costs (something you favour).  

Governments want populations to reduce energy consumption to match restricted supply. However, demand is increasing because of the expansion of innovative, energy-hungry technologies (including the electric vehicles of which you are so supportive). This foretells a worsening supply squeeze which will increase energy prices (yes, be prepared).

In contrast, the much-derided fossil fuels currently blamed for increased CO2 have many environmental benefits. These include saving whales from extinction (blubber no longer needed as candle fuel), improved hygiene (hot water!) and streets freed from dung-borne diseases resulting from equine transport. We don’t want to return to the 18th century. Fossil fuels have delivered us to the life we have today and until we have sufficient substitutes, should continue to do so. However, fossil-fuel energy companies are now apologists for their products. They are hobbled by governments in thrall to increasingly vocal lobbies which cannot distinguish between anthropogenic and natural CO2.

Irrespective, finance houses pushing the concept of a purportedly ‘warming planet’ are using ‘green’ anti-CO2 criteria in their corporate lending risk and planning. Their endgame is to avoid investment in fossil-fuelled industries as their contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. Choking energy investment is detrimental to economic growth. As commercial enterprises they are usurping the role of democratically-elected governments and deciding suicidal energy policies at a distance (follow the money).  

CO2 is not our enemy. With no enemy, we have no need to fight. The pursuit of distant ‘net zero’ resembles fraud on a massive, taxpayer-subsidised scale. So, given that it has no evidential basis, how can you justify your strategy?

Next time you meet Greta Thunberg, ask her two questions: ‘What percentage of CO2 is anthropogenic?’ and ‘How do we tame Mother Nature’s 95 per cent?’ This should finish the fairy tale.


Deborah Ancell

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Dr Deborah Ancell
Dr Deborah Ancell
Dr Deborah Ancell is the author of Clipped Wings, which examines the mixed economic effects of social and environmental sustainability on the airline industry.

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