Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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We haven’t the materials, money or skill to achieve Net Zero this century


I RECEIVED a number of comments on my article in TCW on May 3, ‘CO2 is a blessing, not a curse’, many of them complimentary. For example Professor Emeritus Gerald Ratzer of McGill University, Montreal, said that his recent research supports my position.

However some readers contested the extent to which CO2 impacts favourably on crop growth and others suggested that much of the improved agricultural productivity was down to the advent of machinery such as tractors.  We will see just how much of that productivity is sustained, after Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) have been phased out.

The potential impact of CO2 on vegetation growth should be obvious from this survey by Nasa, which concludes that ‘carbon dioxide fertilisation explains 70 per cent of the global greening effect’ which has occurred over many years.

Putting that to one side for the moment, the key questions are:

i)                   How much have rising CO2 levels been responsible for global temperature changes and how much have the sun and humans contributed?

ii)                Do we have the money, materials and skills needed to deliver net zero by 2050 and how much might we influence global temperature?

iii)              Are there any clues from history of a link, between the relative impacts of the sun’s activity, CO2 levels and extreme weather events?

Taking the last question first. The worst UK drought was in 1540 when CO2 levels were around 30 per cent lower than today. Around 500,000 people died, as the region suffered perhaps the worst warming event in recorded history.

The intensity of the sun’s activity must clearly be taken into account, as evidenced between 1645 and 1715 (Maunder Minimum) when that activity was exceptionally low – as were global temperatures – and the Thames froze.

More recently, the aggregate mortality attributed to extreme weather events has declined by more than 90 per cent since the 1920s, in spite of a four-fold rise in population and much more complete reporting of such events.

What is rising is the number of deaths due to fuel poverty and the cold – exacerbated by the premature penalisation of fossil fuels. Extreme heat is not killing anywhere near as many, as more and more have to choose between heating and eating.

Next: How will UK Net Zero be funded? Well, the average UK green levy is around £120 per household per year, or £97billion over 27 years. But decarbonising the grid alone is to cost £3trillion, which will take more than 800 years to raise at that rate. Then add the cost of decarbonisation of transport, industry and agriculture, plus the cost of heat pumps and home insulation. Even if achievable, imposing such an enormous burden on the people, without their consent, would be akin to taxation without representation. Of course, giving the people a say might not give vested interests the answer that they want. No doubt they would prefer to avoid the risk.

Also to be considered is that at the current rate of mining it will take several hundred years to obtain the materials, including copper, needed to achieve Net Zero. Add to that the obvious lack of the skilled resources needed. Thus we have neither the materials, the money nor the skilled resources to achieve Net Zero this century, never mind by 2050.

Penalising fossil fuels before affordable alternatives were available was the height of stupidity. We will have to keep burning fossil fuels for a long time yet and we should stop pretending otherwise. Aggravating fuel poverty and hitting towns with the likes of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) on the back of Net Zero was most unwise.

As Lord Monkton of the Science and Public Policy Institute said when addressing the question ‘Is CO2 mitigation cost-effective?’: ‘Mitigation policies cheap enough to be affordable will be ineffective, while policies effective enough to be effective, will be unaffordable.’ 

What will happen if we fail to cut human emissions? To recap: natural emissions, driven largely by the sun, contribute around 97 per cent of the annual rise in COlevels, which averaged around 1.6ppm pa between 1960 and 2020 (the increase was higher in 2020, despite lockdowns). At an annual contribution of around 0.00048ppm, it would take the UK around 3,000 years to add 1.6ppm to the current level. (Recall that China emits as much CO2 in 12 days as the UK does in a year.)

The American atmospheric physicist Professor Richard Lindzen has said that ‘the influence of mankind on climate is trivially true and numerically insignificant’, while the American physicist Professor William Happer has said that increasing CO2 levels from 400ppm by two or three times will cause no observable warming. 

Anyone who knows better and does not stand to lose their funding by agreeing with these professors should explain why they disagree. (Reference to Professor Don Easterbrook’s work may also help.) 

So regardless of how much COcontributes to vegetation and crops, why also not address the other factors:

i)                   that the sun is the primary driver of climate;

ii)                that natural CO2 levels follow global temperature;

iii)              the greenhouse gas impact of CO2 falls away exponentially;

iv)               that IPCC predictions have been flawed;

v)                that there is no global warming model which factors in all drivers and feedback loops;

vi)              variations in the impact of solar activity are not factored in, content;

vii)           water vapour and clouds have a bigger greenhouse impact than CO2.

Perhaps someone can also explain how we are going to find the money and resources needed to deliver Net Zero by 2050 and when we might stop exploiting children in the mines of countries such as the Congo for such negligible benefit.

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Roger J Arthur
Roger J Arthur
Roger Arthur, CEng, MIEE, MIET, held senior positions in large international companies, at home and abroad, leading large projects and teams. He has over 30 years of experience in the electrical supply industry.

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