Two wrongs only go so far

“What the Green Movement got wrong” and where they still think they are right…

Source: (on the nail again)

Channel 4’s promo blurb for the controversial documentary said

“A group of environmentalists across the world believe that, in order to save the planet, humanity must embrace the very science and technology they once so stridently opposed.

In this film, these life-long diehard greens advocate radical solutions to climate change, which include GM crops and nuclear energy. They argue that by clinging to an ideology formed more than 40 years ago, the traditional green lobby has failed in its aims and is ultimately harming its own environmental cause.”

I was rather looking forward to watching it, but had missed those crucial words “in order to save the planet”.  Yup, it was a case of ‘well we’ve got to compromise on some things to adapt to climate change’.  Activists who have changed their opinions of technology – Adam Werbach (former President of the Sierra Club), Tim Flannery, Mark LynasStewart Brand, and Patrick Moore (one of the founders of Greenpeace) –  said some very surprising things (surprising for environmental activists that is):

  • We have got time to do something
  • Expecting people in western society to reduce their lifestyles to the ecological footprint of a subsistence farmer in Africa is “just nuts”
  • To adapt we must put aside much of the environmentalist ideology (for a while)
  • We can’t restrict growth and demand for energy in the Third World; we shouldn’t deny them their aspiration to increased wealth and technological improvement
  • Nuclear energy is nowhere near as risky as we’ve made it out to be in the past, and now we need the energy (and we consider it ‘clean’ because it doesn’t spew CO2)
  • GM foods have a role in improving nutrition in the developing world
  • DDT is a valuable weapon in the control of malaria

Verdict? Some of what was said was sound and it was refreshing to hear it from such sources, but it still pushed a clear global warming agenda. The biggest impression I came away with was that a lot of it was about compromise because their current stance is not getting enough support.  It is a clear case of ‘we changed because we realised most people are not willing to go as far as we want and they are getting fed up with listening to us, so we have to find other ways to get them on our side’.  Friends commented they switched off after about 20 minutes; I stayed with it but could stand no more than five minutes of the subsequent debate.

Mark Lynas’ associated article in The Telegraph sums it up, with the ending:

“In this age of rising global temperatures, declining biodiversity, accumulating toxins, fractured ecosystems and rapidly-increasing economic growth and global population, we need a strong and successful environmental movement more than ever.”

Embedding for the film on YouTube is disabled, but it can be watched here, with the subsequent studio debate here.

This entry was posted in News, Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Two wrongs only go so far

  1. tonyb says:

    I think I mentally switched off when they admitted they had got it all so wrong but that global warming was obviously the one they had got right No proof watsoever on that of course but still the line taken by a bunch of sanctimonious prigs-of which George Monbiot has to be the worst.

    A little humility would seem to be in order together with an admittance that they might even be wrong about Global warming, although I suspect that if you pull that one away and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

    This bunch have got form of course “5000 days to save the planet” was printed in 1990 by the editors of the Ecologist magazine.

    Wonder if they have ever heard the story of the boy who cried wolf?


    • Verity Jones says:

      Hi Tony,
      Yeah, I think was forcing myself to watch it after the first few minutes (knowing it would be a talking point for some). I think I was expecting something as monumental as “The Great Global Warming Swindle” but it was pure wishful thinking. Mark Lynas did actually mention about crying wolf, but obviously didn’t see the irony.

  2. Ed says:

    Now for the real argument !!!

    The FUTILITY of Man-made Climate Control by limiting CO2 emissions

    Just running the numbers: watch

    On average world temperature is ~+15 deg C. This is sustained by the atmospheric Greenhouse Effect ~33 deg C. Without the Greenhouse Effect the planet would be un-inhabitable at ~-18 deg C. The Biosphere and Mankind need the Greenhouse Effect.

    Just running the numbers by translating the agents causing the Greenhouse Effect into degrees centigrade:
    • Greenhouse Effect = ~33.00 deg C
    • Water Vapour accounts for about 95% of the Greenhouse Effect = ~ 31.35 deg C
    • Other Greenhouse Gases GHGs account for 5% = ~1.65 deg C
    • CO2 is 75% of the effect of all accounting for the enhanced effects of Methane, Nitrous Oxide and other GHGs = ~1.24 deg C
    • Most CO2 in the atmosphere is natural, more than ~93%
    • Man-made CO2 is less than 7% of total atmospheric CO2 = ~0.087 deg C
    • the UK contribution to CO2 is 2% equals = 1.74 thousandths deg C
    • the USA contribution to CO2 is ~20% equals = 17.6 thousandths deg C

    So closing all the carbon economies of the Whole World could only ever achieve a virtually undetectable less than -0.09 deg C. How can the Green movement and their supporting politicians think that their remedial actions and draconian taxes are able to limit warming to only + 2.00 deg C?

    So the probability is that any current global warming is not man-made and in any case such warming could be not be influenced by any remedial action taken by mankind however drastic.

    So if the numbers above are even close to the right ballpark, the prospect should be greeted with Unmitigated Joy:
    • concern over CO2 as a man-made pollutant can be discounted.
    • it is not necessary to damage the world’s economy to no purpose.
    • if warming were happening, it would lead to a more benign and healthy climate for all mankind.
    • any extra CO2 is already increasing the fertility and reducing water needs of all plant life and thus enhancing world food production.
    • a warmer climate, within natural variation, would provide a future of greater opportunity and prosperity for human development and much more food for the growing world population. This has been well proven in the past and would now especially benefit the third world.

    Nonetheless, this is not to say that the world should not be seeking more efficient ways of generating its energy, conserving its energy use and stopping damaging its environments. It remains absolutely clear that our planet is vastly damaged by many human activities such as:
    • environmental pollution.
    • over fishing.
    • forest clearance.
    • industrial farming.
    • farming for bio-fuels .
    • and other habitat destruction.

    And there is a real need to wean the world off the continued use of fossil fuels simply on the grounds of:
    • security of supply
    • increasing scarcity
    • rising costs
    • their use as the feedstock for industry rather than simply burning them.

    The French long-term energy strategy with its massive commitment to nuclear power is impressive, (85% of electricity generation). Even if one is concerned about CO2, Nuclear Energy pays off, French electricity prices and CO2 emissions / head are the lowest in the developed world.

    However in the light of the state of the current solar cycle, it seems that there is a real prospect of damaging cooling occurring in the near future for several decades. And as power stations face closure the lights may well go out in the winter 2016 if not before.

    All because CO2 based Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming has become a state sponsored religion.
    And now after “Splattergate” thanks to the 10:10 organisation everyone now knows exactly how they think.

    Splattergate is classic NOBLE CAUSE CORRUPTION. It is probably the most egregious piece of publicity ever produced in the Man-made Global Warming cause. This short film shows doubting schoolchildren being blown up and having their entrails spread over their classmates because they may have been less than enthusiastic about the CAUSE.
    So any misrepresentation is valid in the Cause and any opposition however cogent or well qualified is routinely denigrated, publically ridiculed and as we now see literally terminated.

  3. tonyb says:

    Verity and Ed

    Yes I have seen those figures as well but always quoted as part of a post.

    Does anyone have a reference to the paper this was based on-preferably peer reviewed because if true the numbers are compelling that we would spend trillions for no noticeable effect. We have far better things to spend our money on.


  4. Ed says:

    to Tonyb

    It was all laid out in about 2003 at

    All that has been done is to translate those figures into deg C with a generous uplift from 3.5 % to 7.0% as being man-made attributable
    And then to attribute the amount of warming to different emitting Nations resulting in the really marginal effects measured in thousandths of a degree
    The numbers were first passed by a very reputable Warmist* pro AGW oriented fellow of the Royal Society and he did not dispute them.

    see the last slides of

    *Altered 02Oct2011 in line with new policy: VJ.

  5. Verity Jones says:

    Ed, Tonyb,

    I was very taken yesterday with Matt Ridley’s reply to a letter from David McCay (the Chief Scientist at the UK Dept of Energy and Climate Change), both links posted by Bishop Hill: (the reply)

    Both are comprehensive and well argued.

  6. tonyb says:


    Thanks for that link. I have filed it for future reference. (All I need now is a full time archivist to retrieve all my saved information and I can rebut any arguements 🙂


  7. tonyb says:


    Thanks for those two links which can be usefully read in conjunction with the reply from Ed..

    Interesting that we would get such a detailed response from David-perhaps ‘they’ realise there is still a lot of dissent?

    I thought was a very good response from Matt too. If you put all the information together- which is highly inconclusive that anything much is happening- and then balance that against the huge cost and disruption to very slightly mitigate something that might (or might not) be happening, then a dispassionate observer from another planet might think that Earts inhabitants had lost all common sense and reasoning.


  8. Ed says:

    Am away for a few days but I will post my review of prof mackays book next week.

  9. Ed says:


    By EDMH
    I have been reading a book which is crucially interesting and which sadly bode ill for the future, particularly for our children and our children’s children.
    “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” by Professor David J C Mackay, see:, the entire book or subchapters can be downloaded free on the internet. And, also see a recent review in the Economist at
    Look at this diagram from the economist and be very worried particularly for the UK. Much of Europe will have similar profile except for France with 85% nuclear electricity generation and still building:

    This graphic is also reproduced here
    Professor Mackay does believe in Man-made Global Warming and considers that reduction of CO2 emissions are essential to control possible future global warming. He clearly supports the IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and other institutional party lines.
    Sustainable energy to address the problem is a vast subject, much pontificated over, but what is interesting about Professor Mackay’s book is that it dispels the many myths that have grown up particularly from within the Green movements and as such it is truly fascinating.
    “Sustainable energy without the hot air”, applies the numerical mind of a physicist to the problems, the solutions and the policies that are being promoted to combat global warming, carbon dioxide emissions and avoiding the burning of valuable fossil fuels, which will continue to be needed as the feed-stocks for industry.
    Mackay makes things straightforward, using round numbers and the concept of personal daily energy requirements, taken in the context of the UK and Western Europe. To maintain current lifestyle the 60 million people in the UK needs about 170 Gigawatts (GW) of energy supply, (ie the equivalent to about 170 nuclear power stations).
    Right across Western Europe people are currently using about 125 Kilowatt hours per person per day. By comparison energy usage in the USA is at double this rate, whereas China is now about 1/3 of the European level and India is half of that level again.
    At long last Professor MacKay has done the maths and presented the figures in an understandable form. As he says, “with numbers not adjectives”. This is what appeals to me so much about his approach. He weighs in on both sides of the equation, both energy consumption and energy production

    Energy Consumption
    Mackay envisages that the current levels of consumption could be significantly reduced, perhaps by as much as 45% in the following ways. They are radical.
    • Improved efficiency, can reduce heating and cooling costs by at least 25%. This means much improved insulation in new build, which can virtually eliminate heating costs, but which is not often an option in older building stock.
    • Turning down thermostats, and putting on an extra sweater, 10% of the average heating bill can be saved by a 1Cº reduction in the internal thermostat.
    • Of course cooling in summer to below winter temperatures, (very common in the US), with air conditioning is a real waste of energy.
    • The use of air source and ground source heat pumps is a choice for change made by individuals and can be very effective. Currently the equipment is costly but with enhanced take-up they could become much more economic.
    • Lighting Energy usage, is only about 3% of current overall consumption, nonetheless energy saving bulbs make a difference, mini fluorescent bulbs are at least five times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and the LED bulbs coming on stream promise even greater efficiency and reliability.
    • Using electricity for transport, MacKay’s calculations show that electric cars are about 4 times more efficient than using any hydrocarbon fuel. But to give an idea of the scale of alternatives, if we were to convert all road transport in the UK to bio-fuels it would require a cultivated land area about the same size as Wales. MacKay regards hybrid cars as an insignificant possible stop gap. He sees the use of hydrogen as a fuel to be worthless and particularly misleading, (in spite of its clean emissions on the road), because of the energy requirements needed to generate and distribute hydrogen, give an actual energy consumption of some 2.5 times as much as an ordinary petrol car.
    • Incidentally keeping head lights on in the daytime increases fuel consumption by about 2%.
    • Thus providing well-loaded high-speed electric trains are really efficient ways to get around.
    • Not flying: David MacKay’s calculations show that a single long haul flight, (for example London – Johannesburg – London), in a year uses as much energy per person as motoring an average of 50km every day. So when we Europeans gaily commute 5 or 6 times across Europe on airlines that charge us next to nothing, we are really contributing massively to the energy usage problem. Some time soon cheap flying will have to be a thing of the past.
    • MacKay also notes the laws of physics simply make it unlikely that there can be any significant efficiency improvement in flying as a means of transport. Whatever money is spent on research and development, the new materials, the new engines etc. all improvements will be marginal whatever the manufacturers may say.
    So only radically changing habits could make a real difference in energy consumption.
    But such a change will also require a greatly increased scale of electricity generation, doubling UK electrical generating capacity to about 90 Gigawatts from the current 45 Gigawatts.
    The question then is where can this increased electricity generation come from and what the likely alternate sources are going to cost in terms of finance, use of land and security of supply. David Mackay draws a scaled map of the UK showing the vast land areas that would be taken up even by a rational combination of various alternative energy generation schemes.
    He makes a further crucial point that some alternative energy sources only generate heat energy rather than the higher grade more valuable and transportable electrical energy. However probably his most important point is that whatever is done, it will only ever be effective if it is on the grand scale. Turning off battery chargers and not leaving equipment on standby or other minor gestures are not going to dent the problem or save the planet. As David MacKay says only “every BIG helps”.

    Energy Generation
    So what are the main alternatives for sustainable power generation. These can be compared by their likely cost / Gigawatt and by their land area requirements.
    Wind power: the wind is intermittent and thus can only ever be about 20% effective.
    • Wind power requires equivalent back-up standby generating power or storage capacity for the times when the wind does not blow or blows too much. The investment and massive subsidies for wind power seems to be utterly misguided. The energy companies are beginning to realise this and are cancelling projects.
    • On-shore wind farms: in average generating capacity these are reasonably cost effective (rather the less than the total equivalent cost of nuclear power, but this does not count the essential “spinning” back-up generating, grid or storage resources). Wind farms take very large areas of land and are environmentally obnoxious. To provide the 90 Gigawatts, (without the essential backup) would mean covering 2/3 of the of the land area of the UK with wind farms. Incidentally they don’t kill that many birds, domestic cats are 1000 times as effective.
    • Off-shore wind farms: are at least twice as expensive as those built on land, but they are probably a somewhat more consistent source of power. However they require massive engineering, and they still need backup generating or storage capacity. Offshore wind farms have very considerable maintenance problems and are subject to much heavier wear and tear and corrosion difficulties.
    Using water power: water is a 1000 times denser than air, the tides and their associated currents are therefore much more powerful and more importantly entirely predictable when compared with the power from wind. Better still the tides around the UK are out of phase so tidal power has potential to provide continuous power day and night. The use of waterpower for electricity storage by pumped storage on demand schemes is well understood and effective:
    • Tidal lagoons could be used in a similar manner. Estuarine barrages and tide lagoons use the outgoing and incoming tides released through turbines to generate electricity.
    • These projects have the potential to be of sufficient scale to make worthwhile contributions. It has been estimated that the Severn barrage alone could well contribute 5% of UK power needs: then there are the Wash, Morecombe Bay, Strangford Loch, etc. However the schemes would not be cheap, at their average output estimated at as much as 5 times the cost of nuclear generation. Such schemes will also run into massive environmental protest.
    • Tidal stream: there are many locations around the UK where tidal currents are powerful and predictable. These could be exploited by submerged fields of free-standing turbines but a great deal of research and investment in development still needs to be undertaken. They are likely to be costly, at about twice the price of nuclear power and are also likely to be subject to maintenance problems.
    • Wave power: the technology has been developed on a small scale. One established form operates with long snakes of jointed floating caissons, which generate power as they flex in the waves. The scale necessary to generate worthwhile power would be enormous about 70 kms / Gigawatt. They are also entirely dependent on the weather and sea-state and so can only ever give irregular output and like wind energy would require back-up generation. Current costs for average output are about 5 times cost of nuclear power. They will also have all the maintenance problems of off-shore wind power.
    • Hydroelectricity: is well established, but in the UK the uplands sites for generation are comparatively limited in comparison to the generating capacity needed. However they can be controlled to provide backup energy on demand.
    Heat pumps: extracting heat from the air or the soil is a very effective way of using electric power for heating and possibly the reverse for cooling. The technique only produces lower grade heat energy but the costs are comparatively low, a quarter of nuclear energy. The use of such equipment is an individual decision and pumps are integrated into new or existing housing and thus make no demands on land use.

    Solar energy: the sun is intermittent day by day and not particularly effective as far North as the UK. The value of solar input potential in Southern Spain, the Southern USA or the Sahara is more than twice the UK level.
    • Solar hot water: individual domestic and industrial water heating systems can make a contribution even in the UK. They would absorb a lot of urban roof space, which objectors would find unsightly. In cost terms although they would be individual purchases, they are expensive for their relatively small productive capacity of low-grade thermal energy.
    • Photovoltaic farms: with high technology it is possible to convert sunlight directly into electricity and there are some small scale examples. Of course these systems work better the further south you go and returns in the UK would be comparatively small. They would take up significant but not enormous land area. The estimated cost is about 3 times that of nuclear power generation.
    • Solar power in deserts: a serious proposal is that solar power could be collected and imported from other peoples deserts and transmitted north to Europe, (the long distance transmission technology does work). Also technology is available to ensure local overnight local storage to improve the consistency of supply.
    • The scale would have to be enormous, (a plant area of plant the size of Wales would be needed to provide the UK with its power needs), and the costs also are very high, about six times that of nuclear energy. Of course having such plants on other peoples’ territory would raise security of supply problems.
    Waste incinerators: incineration of household and agricultural waste has real potential for a limited amount of power generation. It costs about twice as much as the equivalent nuclear generation. So far the UK has some limited success but is lagging far behind the best. In Denmark for example, where waste incineration is already 11 times more effective than the UK. Incineration of collected waste seems much more effective than attempts to gather gas from rotting landfill sites. Incinerators may not be thought to be the best of neighbours but they need only take up a limited amount of urban land.
    Clean coal: there are very substantial fossil fuel coal reserves in the UK and around the world, but the normal way coal is burnt results in significant CO2 release. It is conceivable that the waste gasses could be collected and sequestered underground. It is not easy and it will be expensive. The cost is estimated to be about twice current generating costs and at least half as much again when compared with nuclear energy. However the land take would be modest. As the CO2 produced is a plant fertiliser, sequestration of CO2 would seem to be a particularly pointless exercise unless it can be conclusively proven to be the cause of climate change.
    Energy Storage
    Storage of electricity is notoriously difficult, sources of standby capacity are essential for most renewable energy sources, (wind, solar etc.).
    • Pumped storage: There are a few operational UK schemes where pumped storage is achieved very effectively. These are essentially two water reservoirs one above the other with reversible generators / pumps. When there is excess, “cheap” power in the grid, it is used to fill the upper reservoir and later the water is released to recover the power via the turbines. The largest UK installation at Dinorwig in North Wales has an output greater than 1GW. The technology is reasonably priced, needs suitable upland sites, but is replicable and does not use much land.
    • Other storage: the most promising of these is the future use of battery storage in a large fleet of privately owned electric vehicles as mentioned earlier using intelligent charging and control technology.

    Growing plants for fuel, biomass: photosynthesis, though effective in nature on a world scale, is a very poor way of converting solar energy and atmospheric CO2 into fuels useable for electricity generation or transport, (about 0.2 watts / sqm as opposed to almost 20 watts / sqm for photovoltaics in Southern California).
    The fossil fuels we burn now are the result of many billions of years of photosynthesis. When burnt, the biomass probably increases CO2 levels even though to arrive as a fuel carbon capture has taken place so the process is essentially carbon neutral:
    • Wood: growing wood for fuel requires about 2500 sq km to produce a Gigawatt of energy in other words 8 times current UK area of forestry for the 90 Gigawatts required.
    • Biofuels: growing crops to generate liquid fuels diesel or ethanol for example is possible and proven but is even more space consuming at about 6000 sq km per Gigawatt. This would mean about 12 times the UK arable land area for the 90 Gigawatts required.
    But we also need arable land to grow food. The devastating effects of replacing food crops are already being seen and their replacement for biofuels is leading to rapid food price rises especially in the developing world: biofuels are not a solution but a real disaster in the making.

    Nuclear fission: in spite of all the adverse publicity and protest, it seems that nuclear fission:
    • is about a million times more effective at energy production than any fuel chemical reaction
    • is effective and capable of constant continuous production
    • is comparatively cheap compared with more “environmentally acceptable” alternatives
    • absorbs very little land
    • produces a small amount of waste that can be handled comparatively easily in spite of the propaganda
    • produces no CO2 from its production
    • has a virtually unlimited fuel supply
    • is immediately available
    • has potential for greatly increased efficiency (up to 60 times current output levels) in the future even enhancing current known technologies using fast breeder reactors and / or thorium technology
    • does not pose security of supply problems.
    David MacKay does not say he is a supporter of nuclear energy but his arithmetic shows that it is likely to be the only real and currently available answer of sufficient scale to tackle the impending energy problem facing the UK and the world.
    As the former director of Greenpeace International Patrick More, (now much vilified by his old movement), has said “we made the mistake of lumping nuclear energy with nuclear weapons, as if all things nuclear were evil. I think that is as big a mistake as if you lumped nuclear medicine with nuclear weapons”.
    At last David MacKay has done the world a great favour in clearly laying out the numbers involved in sustainable energy.
    His book does not make for comfortable reading. It clearly explodes many of the myths promoted by Green campaigners in the past years and negates many of the policies that governments are now pursuing, (particularly, for example the subsidising of wind energy). I sincerely hope that the world’s policy makers will sit up and take notice. Fat chance ???

    In Conclusion
    The greatest tragedy is that the Green Movements have so effectively negated the nuclear energy option in much of the Western world for so long. If, (and this is a very big if), the production of CO2 from fossil fuels is in fact posing a major the problem and inducing climate change, nuclear energy seems to be the only viable alternative for mankind. Without the malign influence of the “well-meaning” green movements, something might have been done to ameliorate the planet’s position as far as its CO2 emissions were concerned.
    Indeed, if CO2 emissions are the real problem, Green objections to Nuclear Energy will bear a very heavy responsibility for the damage they have done to the future of our planet.
    There is even, a not unreasonable, conspiracy theory that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered using the very exotic radioactive element Polonium, simply to make sure that the West remained fearful and antagonistic towards anything nuclear and thus help maintain the full dependence of Western Europe on Russian energy supplies.
    France is one of the few countries that has wisely resisted pressures from the environmental lobbies, as a result 85% of all their electricity generation is nuclear. Thus it is the most enlightened in the world. Their nuclear industries now hold the most advanced technologies in the field, (a position once held by the UK, but which was sold off for a pittance by the last Labour government). The French are also fully involved in the next round of fusion power generation at Cadarache, which is a great hope for clean energy generation for the future.
    There is already a transmission line from France to the UK capable of carrying the output of two French nuclear power stations, but of course, the French will be able to set the price when the brown-outs start and the lights go out in the UK in only a few years time, (that is likely to start in about 2015, see the earlier diagram).
    The French have even embraced high-speed electrically powered trains as an acceptable alternative to medium distance flying within Europe.

    • Verity Jones says:

      Thank you Ed. This is well written and certainly food for thought. I think it deserves to be elevated to a full guest post. Um, the link to the Economist doesn’t seem to be correct.

  10. Ed says:

    I have the graph from the economist but need some help in how to get it into a post . It can be an ordinary JPG file. The second reference I inserted contains the same graph
    as its third diagram. I cannot understand how a responsible governments could have ignored what is staring them in the face.

    That is where I started from about 2 years ago. I would like to promote it more

    I attach also the introductory personal note of a commentary that I have been writing over the past six months. It is about 50 pages long with some 70 selected references and many illustrations. It just grows like topsy as more events occur. I would like to find a way of publishing it including the illustrations more widely.

    The intro to my commentary follows:

    Some Questions about Man-made Climate Change: where is the DUE DILIGENCE ?

    A Layman’s View
    On a personal note: I well recall voicing the opinion in a well-researched paper more than a decade ago that information about pollution levels in London was being exaggerated by green activists. That published opinion elicited threats of personal violence and death. Green “Believers”, although many at heart are well-meaning, are not necessarily nice people and are certainly rarely tolerant and open to debate.

    When I first saw the “hockey stick” I was convinced that there was a real problem that should be addressed. I began some exploration starting with the Professor David MacKay’s book Sustainable energy without the hot air. This book, using as he says “numbers not adjectives”, debunks all the common assertions about the efficacy of renewable energy. Although he believes that CO2 is contributing significantly to “Global Warming / Climate Change”, he has at long last produced a great deal of quantified common sense on the subject of the efficacy of renewable energy.
    This lead me on to a wider exploration of the question of Man-made Climate Change / Anthropogenic Global Warming / Catastrophic Climate Change, etc.

    As my exploration has progressed my views have become increasingly sceptical about the promotion of probably dubious science, the evasion of proper “scientific methods” and the political agendas that have invested so much into confirming the assertion. So from a credulous Believer I have become a Sceptic and thus a “Denier”.

    This commentary contains several hopefully relevant web references. Unsurprisingly they often come from sceptical sources, so many people of the Warmist * pro-AGW persuasion would reject them outright.

    In the commentary I ask and give some answers to the following questions:
    • Is “Climate Change” the same as “Global Warming” ? – YES and NO
    • Is Climate Change happening ? – YES
    • Is the “Greenhouse Effect” important to our planet ? – YES VITAL
    • Are published data on Global Temperature accurate and can they be trusted ? NO
    • Has the world been hotter than at present during mankind’s period of civilisation? – YES
    • Would some warming within natural limits be altogether bad ? – NO
    • Is CO2 a pollutant ? – ABSOLUTELY NOT
    • Is current Global Warming mainly caused by Man-made CO2 ? – NO ONLY SLIGHTLY
    • Could controlling the production of Man-made CO2 make any significant difference ? – NO
    • Are the Icons of the Man-made Global Warming Movement well vindicated ? – NO
    • Have the reports from the UN IPCC been verified and / or corrected? – NO
    • Is the science of Man-made Global Warming really “Settled”? – NO

    I have had a couple of useful interactions about the econonics of wind energy and the significance of Man-made CO2 with Professor MacKay and they have always been treated very politely I will publish them later on this blog.

    Although I do not agree with his stance on CO2 I believe he is genuine and stuck between a rock and a hard place by his present position. Legend has it that when asked by the UK government whether they should permit the building of 4 Nuclear power stations he is said to have replied build 40 now. He cant be all bad.

    *Altered 02Oct2011 in line with new policy: VJ.

  11. Ed says:

    Interaction with David MacKay on his website at:

    In capital cost terms alone, and using a load factor as high as 35%, it seems, using Professor D MacKay’s figures for the cost of nuclear power at ~£1.4 billion/gigawatt, that the new offshore array just commissioned in the Thames estuary rated at 300 megawatt but producing only 0.105 gigawatt for a cost of £780 million is about £7.4 billion / gigawatt. It is thus appears to be about 5.3 times more expensive than the equivalent nuclear capacity.
    This of course does not include:
    the costs of essential back up generation
    the further feed in subsidies that will accrue to the owners over the lifetime of the array.

    Are these sums in error or are they roughly correct ?

    Yes, your sums are roughly correct, and they depend on the assumptions, of course. It is possible that the cost of nuclear will be 3 billion per GW, which would mean it’s not such a bargain, but still cheaper than today’s offshore wind. [We don’t really know nuclear’s costs any more because Europe has built no reactors for a while.]

    Further important things to note are:
    1) that’s just capital costs; operating costs of nuclear and wind may be different, though they are probably smaller;
    2) nuclear also requires upstream and downstream facilities, which increase its cost a little;
    3) nuclear is available at steady output more than 90% of the time, whereas wind delivers its energy in lumps as it comes and goes;
    4) wind’s turbine lifetime is probably less than the nuke’s lifetime;
    5) wind farms don’t need policemen at the gate.
    So, it’s a rough approximation, but when I am in a hurry I am happy to say “today’s offshore wind costs roughly twice nuclear”.

  12. Ed says:

    I said earlier that I would publish my other exchange with Professor David MacKay. See below:

    Dear Ed,
    In response to your correspondence.

    Where is the flaw in this logic ?

    Greenhouse Effect = +33.00⁰C Water Vapour causes 95% of the effect = 31.35⁰C Other Greenhouse gasses cause 5% of the Effect = 1.65⁰C CO2 is about 75% of the Effect of all GHGs = 1.24⁰C. Total worldwide Man-made CO2 is about 7% of atmospheric CO2 = 0.086⁰C. So closure of the world carbon economy could only result reducing the Greenhouse Effect by 86 thousandths ⁰C. The UK contribution to Man-made CO2 is ~2% = 0.00174⁰C .So closure of the total UK carbon economy could only result reducing the Greenhouse effect by 1740 millionths ⁰C.

    The following response has been made:

    flaws are marked (*)

    Greenhouse Effect = +33.00⁰C Water Vapour causes 95% of the effect = 31.35⁰C Other Greenhouse gases cause 5% of the Effect = 1.65⁰C CO2 is about 75% of the Effect of all GHGs = 1.24⁰C
    Total worldwide Man-made CO2 is about 7% of atmospheric CO2 = 0.086⁰C

    * Nope, steady emissions lead to CO2 concentration rising.
    So closure of the world carbon economy could only result reducing the Greenhouse Effect by 86 thousandths ⁰C. The UK contribution to Man-made CO2 is ~2% = 0.00174⁰C. So closure of the total UK carbon economy could only result reducing the Greenhouse effect by 1740 millionths ⁰C.
    * Well, that’s “the tragedy of the commons”. You can always argue that it is fine for you to be antisocial because you are just one person. But there are other views of ethics, leadership, pollution. London doesn’t have smog any more, and that’s thanks to all 7 million people all following the lead of whoever went first.
    Yours sincerely,
    David MacKay, Cavendish Laboratory

    Dear Professor Mackay
    Thank you very much for responding to my question.

    I had expected you to find some flaw in my apparently trivial sums. However I sense that you view the figures to be in the right ballpark.

    I agree that continuing emissions are progressively adding to atmospheric CO2. Nonetheless current CO2 concentrations are still at and will remain close to historical record lows even with the addition of Man-made emissions.

    However I do not think that your argument about the Clean Air Act and London Pea Soupers, (I remember them well as a schoolboy), can in any way be analogous to the supposed “pollution” of CO2 and Water Vapour as greenhouse gasses. The SO2 and particulate matter that coal-burning in London produced then were qualitatively different: they were not natural and essential constituents of the biosphere. They truly were pollutants.

    When you argue the greater good of the “commons” I sincerely believe that there are many more pressing Green priorities for the common good of mankind than reduction of CO2 emissions. Bjorn Lomborg has made this point very clearly.

    This is especially so when one accepts that any actions, however damaging to the economies of individual countries and/or the world and to the well-being of the world population, are unable to influence global temperature to any degree at all.

    This is because the total elimination of all Man-made carbon dioxide production worldwide could only ever reduce the Greenhouse effect by less than 0.1°C. That is why I do not understand the idea that by drastic action worldwide many politicians think it is possible to limit any temperature rise, if it is occurring, to +2.0°C.

    So the probability is that any current global warming is not man-made and in any case such warming could be not be influenced by any remedial action taken by mankind. If this is really so, then the prospect should be greeted with Unmitigated Joy:
    • concern over CO2 as a man-made pollutant can be discounted.
    • it is not necessary to damage the world’s economy to no purpose.
    • if warming were happening, it would lead to a more benign and healthy climate for all mankind.
    • any extra CO2 is already increasing the fertility of all plant life and thus enhancing world food production.
    • a warmer climate, within natural variation, would provide a future of greater opportunity and prosperity for human development. This has been well proven in the past and would now especially benefit the third world.
    However in the light of the state of the current solar cycle it seems that there is a real prospect of hugely damaging cooling occurring in the near future for several decades.
    Nonetheless, this is not to say that the world should not be seeking more efficient ways of generating its energy, conserving its energy use and stopping damaging its environments. And there is a real need to wean the world off the continued use of fossil fuels simply on the grounds of:
    • security of supply
    • increasing scarcity
    • rising costs
    • their use as the feedstock for industry rather than simply burning them.
    In France and the results of the French long-term energy strategy with its massive commitment to nuclear power is impressive, (85% of all electricity generation is nuclear).
    Even if one is concerned about CO2 it seems to pay off, in as much as French CO2 emissions / head are the lowest in the developed world. So a wholehearted commitment to nuclear power, if only for the reasons above, would make very good common sense.
    But perhaps it is already too late to stop the failure of UK power supplies in the winter of 2016.

    I have not had any response to my reply.

  13. tonyb says:

    Good stuff Ed. You have done several posts on this subject now. Are they in effect all gathered on this thread or are there others I need to see so that I have the complete set?


  14. Ed says:

    Hi Tonyb

    That is about it for short documents but I have a 70 page commentary which would be good to publish more widely. I have passed it onto Verity but will send it to you if I have an e-mail address

    Best regards ED

  15. tonyb says:


    Tony at

Comments are closed.