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We’re heading for Net Zero ruin because our politicians are science dunces


LIZ Truss has inherited a raft of problems as she takes over in Downing Street. One website lists 16. Of these, at least five need scientific understanding – cyber crime, Covid, global warming, energy, plus how to deal with the growing clamour from climate protest groups.  

The only Prime Minister in the last 200 years to have had a science degree was Margaret Thatcher. The last five, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May and Johnson, respectively held degrees in Law, History, PPE (philosophy, politics and economics), Geography and Classics. Liz Truss has the standard PPE qualification.   

It is therefore not surprising that the Government needs scientific support and – to focus more specifically on one particular problem – practical advice about its current Net Zero by 2050 policy. 

The Home Office’s Chief Scientific Adviser is Professor Jennifer Rubin. But, rather curiously, she holds a PhD in Social and Political Sciences and a BA in European Politics. 

The chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee for the Environment and Climate Change is Baroness Parminter, who studied Theology at Oxford. 

The Climate Coalition is ‘the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change’. But its secretariat is made up of ‘experts from across the fields of politics, communications and campaigning’. 

We have a Climate Change Committee whose purpose is ‘to advise the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets and … progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’ Its chairman is Lord Deben (John Selwyn Gummer), who read History at Cambridge. 

This committee produces reports telling the Government what it should be doing to achieve its climate goals, in great detail and at such length that it is doubtful whether any Cabinet members have ever read them.  

But there is no link to reality. Does the committee not ask whether every country is as dedicated to Net Zero as the UK? Do its members not notice that China and India, together responsible for around 45 per cent of the world’s total emissions, are continuing to build coal-fired power stations? Do they really think, as reported in a Sunday newspaper recently, that Britain will not hit Net Zero without a plan to rewild the countryside?  

UK efforts to reduce our one per cent contribution to emissions are not only crippling our economy and increasing our reliance on imported energy, but are utterly meaningless when set against the ever-rising emissions from countries desperately needing cheap power. 

There is an almost complete absence of scientific understanding in both Houses of Parliament. More worrying is a failure to realise that we are in an age where scientific knowledge is vital. There is sound and well-argued advice available, but not from any government source. 

Net Zero Watch, for example, is ‘highlighting and discussing the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies … (and) will scrutinise policies, establish what they really cost, determine who will have to pay, and explore affordable alternatives’.  

Its reports and papers follow that policy summary precisely, and are much more tied in to the real-world situation than the blinkered output from the Climate Change Committee.  

The websites of both Anthony Watts and Paul Homewood (who also contributes to TCW) provide two more welcome doses of reality, each trying to calm the growing media hysteria over what is being headlined as ‘catastrophic climate change’.   

The energy crisis has been made worse by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but is largely due to the UK government’s decision in 2019 to commit to the 2050 Net Zero target. The plan was to go for low-carbon power generation (wind turbines and solar panels), along with battery-electric cars, heat pumps (electrically powered), and (eventually) nuclear energy. 

If the Cabinet in 2019 had consulted experts from the National Grid, it might have heard grave doubts expressed about the extreme variability of output from both wind or sun. Wind strength is never constant and solar input changes with season, time of day and cloud thickness. The Grid people might also have had doubts about adding battery-electric cars and heat pumps to the system before its total capacity had been assured. 

If that same Cabinet had then consulted meteorologists, it might firstly have agreed with the energy people about relying too much on wind. Then the ministers would have been warned about the Scandinavian anticyclone.  

This high-pressure weather system frequently appears in the middle of winter, resulting in a light easterly wind originating somewhere over the bitterly cold eastern fringe of Europe. For several weeks there could be frost, a layer of cloud, and very little wind. 

The energy people may have added another comment here. Peak power demand is usually around 6pm on a weekday. In that weather situation, there will probably be just a trickle of electricity coming from some turbines in the far north-west of Scotland, but nothing from the banks of North Sea devices or the solar panel system.  

The country would need maximum power at a time when the renewable content is at its lowest. Without emergency back-up from a constant and reliable source, the experts might have explained, the country would close down. 

All our worries about energy costs go back to the lack of scientific knowledge in our government and in its advisory committees.  

No one thought to ask the right people the right questions because they didn’t know what the right questions were. 

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Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams
Ivor Williams is a freelance writer and has been a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1984.

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