Heaven help the Cabinet

if this is the scientific advice it gets

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Adviser

The government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport has been invited to give the government his thoughts on the latest IPCC report.  My adviser on energy policy, Ben Pile, has given me the following commentary on Walport’s presentation, which I thought was worth sharing with you (with minor additions of my own). 

Walport’s report makes the usual claims which have zero basis in fact to urge policy: “Climate change is already affecting the UK” (page 4). However, the interesting thing is the energy scenarios offered by Walport on PAGE 5.

“Three electricity sources are key to meeting the UK’s legislated emissions reduction targets: renewables, nuclear power, and clean fossil fuels”

Different proportions of these three sources are then shown across four scenarios, under each of which is shown the way energy will be produced/consumed in various sectors: electricity generation, buildings, transport and industry. Under each scenario energy use is reduced by between 31 and 54 per cent. Most notably, under three scenarios (the exception is nuclear) more than 48% of emissions are prevented by Carbon Capture and Storage — a technology which doesn’t exist. In one scenario, 100 percent of transport is powered by ‘ultra-low emissions vehicles’, yet the electric car as a form of mass transport remains a distant possibility at best.

There are two observations worth making here. First is the extent to which policy now seems to encompass the entire up and downstream.  Whereas in the past the rôle of government might have been simply to make sure that the needs of the population (i.e. demand) were met, now policy increasingly attempts to determine the way in which energy is to be produced and  consumed, how much and by whom.

Second, policy-makers and their advisers seem to imagine that innovation of new energy technology begins with policy. Rather than working from what is possible now, (i.e. technology-up) official thinking is dominated by fanciful ideas about CCS and 82GW of wind, and the entire UK population ditching petrol cars for EVs. The only thing more far-fetched than this science fiction is the idea that anyone will pay for it.

Walport’s briefing demonstrates that what’s really going on here is not ‘evidence-based policy-making’ informed by scientists, but fantasy policy making, enabled by scientific advisers. Both scientists and politicians are seeking an expanding role for themselves based on nothing more than bed-time stories and playground technologies. Hopefully, there is at least enough residual common sense left in the Cabinet for it to be understood that Walport’s scheme is unworkable, not least in terms of cost.

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6 Responses to Heaven help the Cabinet

  1. Sorry – can’t stop. I am just rushing out to buy my new electric (EV) Beema. I really really want to save the planet and every little bit helps. And it is is a snip at just over £30,000!

    You know it makes sense!

  2. Richard111 says:

    Aren’t there any scientists out there with the guts to point out the complete lack of science in the term ‘back radiation’? Look up black body science. It explains quite clearly that when two bodies are radiating at each other with a common frequency, the body with the highest intensity of radiation, read highest temperature, dominates! The HOTTER BODY CANNOT ABSORB RADIATION IT IS ALREADY EMITTING PROPORTIONAL TO ITS CURRENT TEMPERATURE.
    Only when the air temperature, along with its cargo of CO2, is warmer than the surface below, will there be a small possibility of radiation from the CO2 being absorbed by the surface. Since the surface is radiating 90% of its heat energy in radiation bands CO2 cannot respond to, this is a no win situation. Air warmer than the surface is a most uncommon event on this planet. Think mistrals and foehn winds.
    The science is quite straight forward and easily understandable. Why is this being ignored by the people qualified to speak out???

  3. What’s wrong with a comprehensive policy based on a cautious consensus? Ben Pile is a pundit for climate-resistance.org and has been paid £2k a month by UKIP. Use your favourite search engine for a check on his credentials. E.g. http://c3iq.eu/nj http://c3iq.eu/nk

    Ben has a humanities degree in Politics and Philosophy. Mark Walport here http://c3iq.eu/nl includes Fellow of the Royal Society and is head of Government Office for Science. While that, today, follows a Tory agenda (largely inline with UKIP) it is scientific data they are spinning and not, as Ben does, UKIP instinct.

  4. I have done a detailed analysis of the “high renewable” option, which raises the questions:

    1) There would need to be twice as much gas back up as that suggested – about 51GW. (This amount of capacity would virtually be enough to supply ALL our current electricity).

    2) When the wind blows, pretty much all of the rest of the non-wind capacity would not be required. So what would happen to all this surplus?
    For instance, nuclear plants are not going to want to switch on and off. We would no doubt end up with paying wind farms to switch off just as we do now, but there would 10 times as many of them by then.

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/walports-energy-fantasy-does-not-add-up/

    Surely the job of the Chief Scientist is to offer independent scientific advice to ministers. I was told by David Mackay, DECC’s Chief Scientist, that this was not Walport’s work, but came direct from DECC (which I had already assumed anyway!).
    But surely Walport, instead of regurgitating govt figures, should have looked at them critically and asked the same questions we have.
    I raised this with Mackay, but he has remained silent!

    (BTW Roger – I would appreciate it if you could get Ben to give my figures the once over, and let me know if they make sense.

    Thanks Paul)

  5. neilfutureboy says:

    Chief Science Advisors are not appointed for their competence but for their willingness to say what is wanted.

    This is Scotland’s Chief Science Advisor saying that global warming will increase day length http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/scottish-governments-chief-science.html

    Since then this scientific illiterate woman has been appointed the EU’s Chief Science Advisor.

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