The Cost of Net Zero

Following on from Tony’s post about the cost of the Net-Zero-by-2050 pledge in Australia, the GWPF has today released several reports looking into the “astronomical” costs for the UK.

Andrew Montford has written Three trillion and counting: Net zero and the national ruin. Andrew discusses a report from the Committee on Climate Change, chaired by the notorious Lord Deben, published last May, which was astonishing in its lack of any detail or costings estimates. Furthermore, the response to an FOI request was that they didn’t have any information on costs. So Andrew set out to do the work that Deben and his cronies at the CCC couldn’t be bothered to do for themselves. Andrew’s report focuses just on two aspects of the transition, the decarbonisation of electricity, and the transformation of homes, and comes up with the headline figure of £3 trillion.

The three trillion report is partly based on figures from The Future of GB Electricity Supply, by Colin Gibson and Capell Aris, who have many years experience working for the National Grid and in nuclear and pumped storage power systems. They report that the approach proposed by the CCC, depending primarily on wind and solar, simply wouldn’t work, because of the intermittency problem. Although it is good to hear experts in the field confirm this, it seems mind-bogglingly obvious, and I’m amazed that anyone would be so scientifically illiterate as to suggest such a scheme. Gibson and Aris put forward a plan based on nuclear power, plus gas with carbon capture.

Thirdly and fourthly, there’s Decarbonising housing: the net zero fantasy by Michael Kelly, and Reducing emissions without breaking the bank, also by Andrew M.

All of this has had a lot of publicity in the media today. There’s an article at the Spectator by Andrew,  a discussion at Guido, (“The Net Zero project was rushed through with no proper discussion or costings having been carried out. After the obscene spectacle of HS2 costs more than tripling over the last decade, Guido would have thought the Government would take more care over this enormously expensive decarbonising project that is pushing ahead with next to no scrutiny…”) and James Delingpole’s headline is Eco-Loon Boris’s £3 Trillion Net Zero Scheme will Bankrupt Britain.


  1. “One of the tools used to mitigate intermittency is residential flexibility of demand. This requires time of use tariffs (TOUTs), installation of smart domestic appliances, ubiquitous smart metering and half-hourly tariffs, and more electrically heated hot water tanks in homes. In 2016 National Grid provided predictions of demand reductions due to TOUTs of 1.5 GW by 2040; in 2019 no TOUTs predictions were given, presumably because of the slow rollout ofsmart metering (the latest scheme cost £12 billion – or £444 per household – and GCHQ are now raising security objections). Given the trivial demand reductions that follow from the use of TOUTs this project hardly seems to offer value for money, but National Grid state that smart metering will deliver cheaper and less carbon-intensive electricity. On present evidence this is difficult to believe.”

    I’ve been saying this on social media for a while now and the usual response is scoffing. Smart Energy GB consistently denied on Facebook that anything like this scenario would occur – smart meters, they said, were just an energy saving device. The truth is that smart meters will become compulsory, they will be used primarily as a demand control device, linked to smart appliances and they will vary the tariffs to households on a half hourly basis. Your personal energy use will be recorded in detail by such devices and this information will be stored on a database. They are spies in the home.


  2. I judge that we are a nest of postericides*, according to Catriona McKinnon, a professor of political theory at the University of Exeter, in a UNESCO publication.

    Our deliberations, especially those placing monetary concerns before those of our planet will be considered both offensive and criminal.

    *This proposed new crime is not, as a I first believed, the wilful and deliberate destruction of informative wall art, or perhaps even of the twitterati en masse, but of posterity itself. Proof, I suspect might be difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The most damning sentence appears in the summary for policymakers.
    “In the view of the present authors, National Grid’s scenarios are inadequate to form the basis of a rigorous and responsible engineering discussion.” Indeed they are. National Grid’s scenarios rely extensively on the ability to import vast amounts of electricity from the continent at the flick of a switch and disconnect industrial and domestic customers as often as required to prevent system collapse.
    That’s no way to run a network.
    Buy candles.


  4. There is another interesting report on ‘Climate News Network’ website with a report that ‘All UK Airports must close by 2050’. It is a report done by several Universities for the Government and it sets out very well what life will be like in the UK from 2050 to achieve Zero Emissions. The following are highlights:

    1) All UK Airports to close by 2050 because there will be no electric aeroplanes.
    2) All shipping into and out of UK will have to cease as there are no electric ships
    3) All building will have to cease as cement is high in CO2 and it is unlikely there will be no alternative.
    4) Only electric cars will be allowed and they will have to be small, and then only about 60% of current number of cars can be allowed. All trains, buses and trucks will also have to be electric.
    5) All gas heating to be stopped and replaced by electric heating.
    6) Electricity production from renewable sources will have to increased 3 fold. But this is likely to only meet 60% of electricity requirements, so presumably there will have to be power rationing, say allowing power to people and businesses for 4 days a week.
    7) The UK will have to rely on only home produced food as there will be no shipping or aircraft imports. There will have be a drastic reduction in processed and frozen food. All cows and sheep will have to be slaughtered as they fart methane. As there is no way the UK can be food sufficient this must mean rationing to something worst than war time rationing as the UK population is a lot higher now.

    The whole report provides a very dismal picture. So I imagine there will be rioting in the streets.

    What is particularly bad about the whole issue is that the media is not printing any of this stuff including costs except for a few blogs and minor publications. The population is being kept totally in the dark over this issue..

    Liked by 2 people

  5. aTTP at 10.14 am. I’m afraid I don’t know, though I am interested. Is this your source of information?:

    “Just five percent of houses in the United Kingdom (UK) were not heated using a central heating system, as of 2018. The share of houses using a central heating system climbed steadily until 2005, rising from 90 percent in the year 2000. 86 percent of properties use gas as the fuel for their central heating system.”


  6. @Paul Matthews says:
    26 Feb 20 at 11:03 pm
    “Their website is Yes, really.”

    OHH you are naughty, but I like your links –

    “The Use Less Group is based in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and is led by Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering”

    the usual intro “Climate change is real and it’s happening now”
    usual b/s below that, then from Prof Allwood (I think) –

    “For example, we have good evidence that half of all the sheet metal made each year globally is scrapped along the supply chain of production”

    B/S – what Professor of Engineering would state that without a source!!!
    all Engineering has waste metal but it was/is always recycled/reused, unless things have changed from 40yrs ago?


  7. I see that Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B, is saying that the Heathrow ruling is ‘a game changer’. I cannot help but agree — in much the same way as kicking the board over before stropping away is a game changer.


  8. As far as I can tell, a UK judge just ruled that a non legally binding international agreement to cut GHG emissions is legally binding in the UK. If that’s not crazy I don’t know what is. Trump was so right to withdraw. The UK must now do the same if it does not want every major development which Greens don’t like to be challenged in the courts and stopped because it contravenes the Paris Agreement. The Climate Change Act 2008 and net zero now urgently needs to be repealed. Will this government do it?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. @Jaime & John

    I’m also disturbed by this ruling (and it’s implications going forward), I thought the Paris Agreement was/is non legally binding.

    looking at –

    “Q: What is the difference between ratification, acceptance and approval?
    After signing of the Paris Agreement, countries then formally join the Paris Agreement. This can be done by depositing one of the three types of instruments—ratification, acceptance or approval—with the UN Secretary-General.
    The nature of domestic approval system depends on each country’s national constitution and regulatory framework. When a country fulfills its required domestic legal procedures, it can deposit its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval to the Secretary-General, indicating its consent to be bound by the Paris Agreement.”

    then on –

    they have a handy table headed – Participant-Signature-Ratification, Acceptance(A),Approval(AA),Accession(a)
    with UK as
    “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland-22 Apr 2016-18 Nov 2016”

    so my dim-witted understanding (may be out off date info by the way) we are not in the “Approval(AA)”

    UK Is in the “Ratification” stance (google) – “the action of signing or giving formal consent to a treaty, contract, or agreement, making it officially valid.”

    so agreed to consented to the treaty,said it was legal & didn’t sign up.

    need others to correct my fuzzy logic,


  10. DFHunter,

    I have not looked into the legal ramifications of the treaty and so I cannot help you there. However, I too was under the impression that it had nothing whatsoever to say regarding what would or would not become legal under domestic law. The judges’ ruling seems to rest on a procedural technicality, i.e. the government could not demonstrate that it had considered the treaty as part of its deliberations. That may or may not mean that they are non-compliant against the obligations placed upon them by the treaty, but I’m not sure how this bears upon matters of domestic legality.

    As for the implications going forward, I suspect the government will seek to make it up as they go along. On those occasions where they are minded to abandon a project, it will suit them to roll over in front of the courts, especially when to do so will score them plenty of eco-warrior brownie points. However, when it suits them to press ahead (as in HS2) you will find that suddenly they will be able to put forward a cogent defence. I don’t expect the courts to remain consistent either. I think enough has happened in the recent past to dispel the idea of an independent judiciary that keeps its nose out of the politics. Meanwhile, XR must be wondering why everything they try turns out to be so easy.


  11. “Road schemes may face Heathrow-style court action
    By Roger Harrabin
    BBC environment analyst”

    “Plans for a £28.8bn roads programme could be challenged in the courts for breaching the UK’s laws on climate change.

    The plans, due to be published next month, don’t take into account commitments on reducing emissions, the BBC has learned.

    They are likely to face legal challenges from environmentalists.”

    It’s time to repeal the CCA, disband the CCC, and exit the Paris Climate Treaty. If we don’t, the climate hysterics will clog up the Courts and the country will grind to a halt. That’s probably what they want, but I strongly suspect it isn’t what most of the country wants.

    The campaigners will have a relatively easy ride regarding Heathrow expansion, and their litigation to stop it, because it’s far from universally popular. However, when their litigation has the effect of preventing schemes that most people regard as desirable, and when the reality of what “net zero” involves starts to dawn on the population at large, I’m hopeful there will be a major backlash.


  12. Mark H, this is an example of what I’ve previously called Fabricated News.

    There’s no actual news story, it’s just the opinion and politics of Roger Harrabin, yet it’s elevated to near the top of the Radio 4 News
    bulletin. Notice that the quote comes from one of Harrabin’s chums from a Green Blob lobby group, Transport Action Network.


  13. Isn’t the real issue here UK law (i.e. the CCA augmented for Net zero) not the Paris Treaty? Because the former is binding and the latter is not. The former was also created long before Paris, and even before augmentation would have implied very similar actions (was it 80% reduction by 2050, instead of 100%?)


  14. The Heathrow judgement had very little to do with the Paris Accords an everything to do with UK law.

    This is how Melanie Phillips described the judgement yesterday:

    As ever, it’s worth reading what the judges actually said; which you can do at this link to the full judgment, and at this one to the summary.

    The ruling was made solely on the grounds that, in approving a third runway through the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), the government had broken its own legal commitments:

    “…in particular, the provision in section 5(8) of the Planning Act, which requires that the reasons for the policy set out in the ANPS ‘must… include an explanation of how the policy set out in the statement takes account of Government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change’. We have concluded, in particular, that the designation of the ANPS was unlawful by reason of a failure to take into account the Government’s commitment to the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change, concluded in December 2015 and ratified by theUnited Kingdom in November 2016”.

    What is noticeable is the extreme care the court has taken to emphasise the narrow legal grounds for its decision. The judges said:

    “We have made it clear that we are not concerned in these proceedings with the political debate and controversy to which the prospect of a third runway being constructed at Heathrow has given rise. That is none of the court’s business. We have emphasized that the basic question before us in these claims is an entirely legal question. We are required – and only required – to determine whether the Divisional Court was wrong to conclude that the ANPS was produced lawfully.

    “Our task therefore – and our decision – does not touch the substance of the policy embodied in the ANPS. In particular, our decision is not concerned with the merits of expanding Heathrow by adding a third runway, or of any alternative project, or of doing nothing at all to increase the United Kingdom’s aviation capacity. Those matters are the Government’s responsibility and the Government’s alone”.

    The judges also stated that their ruling did not stop the government from proceeding with a third runway plan. It just had to bring it into line with its own legal obligations under the Planning Act and the Paris agreement. The court said:

    “Our decision should be properly understood. We have not decided, and could not decide, that there will be no third runway at Heathrow. We have not found that a national policy statement supporting this project is necessarily incompatible with the United Kingdom’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change under the Paris Agreement, or with any other policy the Government may adopt or international obligation it may undertake. The consequence of our decision is that the Government will now have the opportunity to reconsider the ANPS in accordance with the clear statutory requirements that Parliament has imposed”.

    In other words, the court didn’t even say the runway decision must conform to climate change policy — merely that the government must explain just how it is taking that policy into account.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Bill Bedford – many thanks for the quotes and the clarification. Please could I trouble you to provide the links, as I’d like to read the full judgment, if possible.

    Paul – no doubt you’re correct, but we know that “green” pressure groups and activists aren’t short of funds, and are very litigious. So long as the UK is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreements, and so long as the CCA (as amended by the brought forward “net zero” date) remains the law, I am struggling to see how the Government can take any action which, prima facie, increases GHG emissions, and still comply with the law.

    Notwithstanding the very careful wording of the Court of Appeal Judges, I nevertheless suspect that this will prove to be a fruitful area of litigation, and that “Business as Usual” could grind to a halt. The only way out of this potential impasse, IMO, is either to repeal the CCA (or amend it so substantially as to emasculate it) and also to withdraw from the Paris Agreements.


  16. Mark/Hunter, my interpretation of what Bill/Melanie are saying is that the ruling is on a narrow technical point and that the Government can get away with anything they like in the future as long as they say that they’ve considered the climate implications and it’s all consistent with their Cunning Plan for net zero by 2050!

    (See paragraphs 9 and 13 of the summary ruling linked by Bill.)


  17. Thanks Bill, I’ll go away and read and digest, and then add my further thoughts.


  18. By the way, I just posted this at Bishop Hill Unthreaded, and I repeat it here, as it seems vaguely linked to this thread:

    Regarding coronavirus and large gatherings:

    “Coronavirus: What are UK health officials saying?”

    “Planning for hundreds of cases in the UK was advanced, Prof Whitty said, but it was no more than a possibility.

    “If there was a major epidemic, there would be substantial pressure on the service,” he said.

    “But it is actually something we are already planning for, so if this happens we are in a position to get the NHS working as efficiently as possible.”

    A range of policy responses would be considered, Prof Whitty said, which might include asking whole families to stay at home if one of them tested positive.

    The next step, he said, would be to think about closing schools and parts of the public transport network and cancelling events with large crowds

    But the cost to the economy and society would have to be weighed up against the health benefits.

    “The expectation is not that we will do all these things, the expectation is we will be looking systematically, using the science, at all the building blocks and balancing the effects against costs to society,” he said.

    Prof Whitty and other system leaders are clearly prepared – but nobody can be sure how resilient the UK’s health defences will be if an epidemic develops here.”

    I think there will be a (perhaps understandable) reluctance to ban gatherings, whether it be sports-related, music festivals, or whatever. There is a lot of money at stake, and people don’t want to see their lives disrupted without good reason.

    Having said that, I think the coronavirus is a real and present danger, and climate change isn’t; so it’s curious to see the powers that be insisting on massive disruption to our lives to achieve “net zero”, whilst simultaneously being reluctant to do something so relatively minor as (short-term) banning large gatherings and perhaps banning flights from countries where the coronavirus is known to have infected very many people.

    Double standards? Perhaps they’re right about the lack of action to deal with the coronavirus and wrong about the massive action demanded to “deal with” “climate chaos”? We can take drastic steps now that will make our citizens and residents less at risk from coronavirus, regardless of what the rest of the world does. Anything we try to do about “climate chaos” is pointless and irrelevant and expensive and disruptive virtue-signalling if the whole of the rest of the world doesn’t join us.

    Where’s the logic? Why aren’t we “… looking systematically, using the science, at all the building blocks and balancing the effects against costs to society…” when it comes to how we react with regard to climate change?


  19. You make a good point Mark. Tail end risks seem to be most important when considering climate mitigation policy, but not so much when presented with a real threat like coronavirus. What we know so far is that Covid-19 is contagious, perhaps highly contagious, that it is very serious in 20% of cases, that it is 100 times as fatal as ‘flu and that you are far more likley to die or suffer serious complications if you already have underlying health problems or if you are over 60. Call me a cynic, but I do think that the government might be slightly less chilled about this virus if, like Spanish ‘flu, it was culling healthy people in their 20s and 30s – taxpayers in other words, not those in receipt of pensions and benefits who are already a ‘drain’ on the health and social care services.


  20. Jaime: “What we know so far is that Covid-19 is … very serious in 20% of cases”

    I don’t think we *know* that. Do we? Mind you, I haven’t read this yet:

    I was under the impression the fatality rate was worse than the flu but around 1%. 50 million UK people getting it and 500,000 dying being the government’s plausible worst case scenario leaked to the Sun four days ago. Certainly not nothing. I’d already bought the argument You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus from an articulate doctor around the same time. At which point I stopped being anxious about it.


  21. Ben Pile’s latest in Spiked The Heathrow decision is an assault on democracy is depressingly excellent. What a truly great MP Peter Lilley was. Ben then deals with some of the objections that have been raised in this Twitter thread.

    He may be wrong about how easy it would be for the government to get round this if they wanted. I know that I don’t know. We’ve not been this way before. (Such a large infrastructure project being canned by the courts for climate reasons, with Paris playing into the CCA made nastier by May’s last-minute net-zero kludge.) Precedent is lacking.


  22. Well, Boris has a problem with the Heathrow extension, something to do with promising to lie down in front of the bulldozers. So this judgement looks like the courts have been manipulated to get him off the hook without any of the blame coming back to haunt him.


  23. Some of the hallmarks of progress are attributes like
    Decreasing cost
    Do any of the climate consensus plans have even one of these attributes?


  24. Maybe slightly o/t, but nevertheless vaguely relevant.

    Greta, the BBC, the Guardian, and many politicians tell us we need to listen to the children. And yet, and yet….:

    “NHS gender clinic ‘should have challenged me more’ over transition”

    A 23-year-old woman who is taking legal action against an NHS gender clinic says she should have been challenged more by medical staff over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.

    A judge gave the go-ahead this week for a full hearing of the case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

    Lawyers will argue children cannot give informed consent to treatment delaying puberty or helping them to transition….

    She was referred to the Tavistock GIDS clinic at the age of age 16. She said after three one-hour-long appointments she was prescribed puberty blockers, which delay the development of signs of puberty, like periods or facial hair.

    She felt there wasn’t enough investigation or therapy before she reached that stage.

    “I should have been challenged on the proposals or the claims that I was making for myself,” she said. “And I think that would have made a big difference as well. If I was just challenged on the things I was saying.”

    …She decided to stop taking cross-sex hormones last year and said she was now accepting of her sex as a female. But she was also angry about what had happened to her in the last decade.

    “I was allowed to run with this idea that I had, almost like a fantasy, as a teenager…. and it has affected me in the long run as an adult.

    “I’m very young. I’ve only just stepped into adulthood and I have to deal with this kind of burden or radical difference – in comparison to others at least.”

    Keira’s lawyers will argue that children cannot weigh up the impact such a treatment might have on their future life, including for instance, on their fertility….”

    But they’re old enough to direct climate and energy policy, apparently.


  25. The Court of Appeal judgments are multi-faceted, dealing with several appeals by different parties on different grounds. The decision in the appeal brought on environmental grounds can be found here:

    Click to access Heathrow-judgment-on-planning-issues-27-February-2020.pdf

    Early on the Court said that the appeals “do not face us with the task of deciding whether and how Heathrow should be expanded. That is not the kind of decision that courts can make, and is ultimately
    a political question for the Government of the day. Rather, we are required to consider whether the Divisional Court was wrong to conclude that the Government’s policy in favour of the development of a third runway at Heathrow was produced lawfully. That is the question here. It is an entirely legal question.”

    A little further on:

    “The main issues for us to decide, as agreed by the parties, fall into four groups: first, issues on the operation of EC Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (“the Habitats Directive”); second, issues on the operation of EC Council Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effect of certain plans and programmes on the environment (“the SEA Directive”); third, issues relating to the United Kingdom’s commitments on climate change; and fourth, relief”.


    “The issues relating to the United Kingdom’s commitments on climate change, in addition to issue (4) on the operation of the SEA Directive, are:
    (1) whether the designation of the ANPS was unlawful because the Secretary of State, in breach of section 10(3)(a) of the Planning Act, failed to have regard to the desirability of mitigating, and adapting to, climate change in the light of the United Kingdom’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, the non-carbon dioxide (“non-CO2”) climate impacts of aviation, the effect of emissions beyond 2050, and to the ability of future generations to meet their needs;
    (2) whether the Divisional Court erred by failing to give reasons for rejecting Friends of the Earth’s argument on the non-CO2 climate impacts of aviation and the effect of emissions beyond 2050, having regard to the ability of future generations to meet their needs;
    (3) whether the Divisional Court erred in treating the then extant 2050 target of a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 80% (against the 1990 baseline) as precluding any consideration of government policies and commitments, implying a more stringent level of protection;
    (4) whether the Divisional Court erred in holding that neither the “Paris Temperature Limit” nor “the Government’s policy commitment to introducing a net zero target” formed any part of relevant government policy within section 5(8) of the Planning Act, and that both were otherwise irrelevant;
    (5) whether the Divisional Court erred in holding that the 2°C temperature limit was a relevant consideration; and
    (6) whether the Divisional Court erred in treating as irrelevant the Secretary of State’s “failure to explain to Parliament the basis of his decision”.”


    “Climate change issue (1) – whether the designation of the ANPS was unlawful because the Secretary of State acted in breach of section 10(3) of the Planning Act

    234. The grounds advanced on behalf of Friends of the Earth by Mr Wolfe focused in particular on the requirements of section 10 of the Planning Act. Mr Wolfe submitted:
    (1) There was an error of law in the approach taken by the Secretary of State because he never asked himself the question whether he could take into account the Paris Agreement pursuant to his obligations under section 10.
    (2) If he had asked himself that question, and insofar as he did, the only answer that would reasonably have been open to him is that the Paris Agreement was so obviously material to the decision he had to make in deciding whether to designate the ANPS that it was irrational not to take it into account.

    235. We accept those submissions in essence.

    236. First, it is clear to us from the material that was before the Divisional Court that the Secretary of State was advised that he was not permitted as a matter of law to take into account the Paris Agreement because he should for relevant purposes confine himself to the obligations set out in the Climate Change Act (see paragraphs 218 and 220 above). He therefore did not ever consider whether to take the Paris Agreement into account as a matter of discretion.

    237. Secondly, and in any event, if he had appreciated he had any discretion in the matter, we agree that the only reasonable view open to him was that the Paris Agreement was so obviously material that it had to be taken into account. It is well established in public law that there are some considerations that must be taken into account, some considerations that must not be taken into account and a third category, considerations that may be taken into account in the discretion of the decision-maker (see, for example, the opinion of Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood in Hurst, at paragraphs 57 to 59). As Lord Brown
    observed of that third category (in paragraph 58 of his opinion), there can be some unincorporated international obligations that are “so obviously material” that they must be taken into account. The Paris Agreement fell into this category.

    238. Again we would emphasize that it does not follow from this that the Secretary of State was obliged to act in accordance with the Paris Agreement or to reach any particular outcome. The only legal obligation, in our view, was to take the Paris Agreement into account when arriving at his decision.”

    This strikes me as highly problematic. First it is clear (and this is fairly obvious) that the CCA had to be taken into account. It’s difficult to see how any project that goes ahead and has the effect of increasing CO2 emissions can be lawful under the CCA, unless perhaps there is first passed an Act of Parliament expressly exempting said project from the provisions of the CCA.

    Secondly, whilst as a lawyer I can follow the logic of saying that the Secretary of State should have taken an international obligation of the UK government into account when making his decision but that he didn’t necessarily have to abide by it, I suspect that many members of the public will inevitably find this to be a very confusing position. And, perhaps more to the point, I fully expect the “green” lobby to challenge any decision which, while ostensibly taking the Paris Agreement into account, decides that obligations entered into in it by the UK government can safely and freely be ignored because national considerations override it (as an example, perhaps, of the type of justification that might be offered up). They will, I strongly suspect, challenge any decision made in that way as being irrational (one of the standard grounds on which Judicial Review is often sought), and I can certainly see this issue heading to the Supreme Court, if not in this case then in another one, and fairly soon.

    I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this, by any means.


  26. A couple more thoughts on Covid-19 and its relationship to climate. We are, I suggest, in the invidious position as a society of having been tutored by false fear and this now has consequences:

    The positive side for us rational sceptics, resisting false fear – in other words, having a working bullshit-meter, even if we get some of the details wrong – is that we also know who we can trust to tell us the truth, as best they themselves understand it. Thus I found Matt Ridley’s reflections in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday helpful:

    The Covid-19 coronavirus must change the way we behave – whether it kills millions or not. The vulnerability to pandemic-panic of world stock markets, the tourism industry, international sport and global trade, even before there is an actual pandemic, tells us that global society, for all its medical know-how, is vulnerable.

    Pandemics are frankly more likely to kill millions or disrupt the world economy than climate change. But if we learn the lesson that we must be more authoritarian, we’ll have got it wrong. Culture and practice can change without putting Big Brother in charge.

    Flu kills thousands a year, yet we treat respiratory infections fatalistically as an inevitable risk, the way our ancestors thought of consumption or smallpox. It should not be like this: we can do much more to stop these viruses spreading.

    Society is already reacting: conferences and rugby matches are being cancelled and people are self-isolating voluntarily. For those who refuse to go along (a doctor friend mentioned a patient who ignored advice not to board a connecting flight after falling ill on a flight from China), shame will be a powerful weapon.

    I hope that what emerges from this episode is a cultural shift to change our habits so as to defeat not just future lethal diseases, but also ones as harmless as the common cold. It’s outrageous that we treat viruses as acts of God to be borne with patience, and mock as wimps those who stay at home.

    It’s mad that we send our children to nurseries with runny noses where they amplify infections. It’s idiotic that many persist in believing you only get a cold because you’re “run down”, as if Louis Pasteur had never lived and the germ theory of disease was still up for discussion. It’s silly that people with colds go to parties and not only shake hands with but – increasingly, if they are under 30 – kiss strangers on first meeting.

    A few weeks ago I had a bad cold so I delayed a trip to London, then refused to shake hands with anybody for 10 days. It was hard. People kept saying things like “Oh, I don’t get colds, I take vitamins”, or “I’ve had it already”, when there are 200 kinds of virus that cause the common cold and immunity is often temporary anyway.

    Wearing a face mask when you have a cold or flu should become the norm as it is in Japan.

    Let’s use this epidemic, however bad it gets, to change our habits not just temporarily but for good.

    It will be interesting indeed to see how this encounter with real peril, albeit of unknown size, will affect our societies. All the best to all Cliscep readers as we do face up to it.


  27. Mark:

    Maybe slightly o/t, but nevertheless vaguely relevant.

    Greta, the BBC, the Guardian, and many politicians tell us we need to listen to the children. And yet, and yet….:

    “NHS gender clinic ‘should have challenged me more’ over transition” …

    Highly relevant. With the false fear of climate crisis has come infantilisation but the bad effects are in many ways hidden. With the false fear of “being born in the wrong body” has come lasting physical and emotional damage to those we as a society should have been protecting. The first legal case of many and another wake-up call.


  28. On the theme of cynicism about the government, in the two areas, we had Jaime:

    Call me a cynic, but I do think that the government might be slightly less chilled about this virus if, like Spanish ‘flu, it was culling healthy people in their 20s and 30s – taxpayers in other words, not those in receipt of pensions and benefits who are already a ‘drain’ on the health and social care services.

    and Bill:

    Well, Boris has a problem with the Heathrow extension, something to do with promising to lie down in front of the bulldozers. So this judgement looks like the courts have been manipulated to get him off the hook without any of the blame coming back to haunt him.

    I readily accept the second as perfectly possible – though impossible to prove. It would I suppose militate against drawing too many negative conclusions about the power of the net-zero lobby in other infrastructure situations. Though I still agree with Ben Pile:

    The mess that we now see is not accidental. It is design. The design was obvious in Friends of the Earth’s original authorship of the Climate Change Act. It was explicit in David Miliband’s and other ministers’ statements on climate-change policy. It was transparent in the formulation of the cross-party consensus on climate change. And it was clear in the framing of any criticism of these policies as ‘denialism’. The design has been to bring about a transformation of the relationship between individuals and the state; to take power away from democratic political institutions.

    It is design, yes, but it is, we can still hope, flawed design. The jury’s out, as they say. If only there was a jury in such cases.

    On Coronavirus the factor Jaime didn’t mention is that this government relied substantially on older voters for its 80 seat majority. So a cynic can see them now staring down the barrel of a gun they couldn’t have anticipated. Again, all the best to our more senior readers.


  29. “The positive side for us rational sceptics, resisting false fear – in other words, having a working bullshit-meter, even if we get some of the details wrong – is that we also know who we can trust to tell us the truth…”

    This is not so and you should never believe that it is. Keep up your guard always! Our main ‘BS meter’ is instinctive not rational, and works relative to our existing value-sets. In short, it’s topic dependent! As is the potential rationality of whom we’re assessing. Someone you consider perfectly rational on climate change, can be an odd religious cultist that who is completely irrational on another topic, for instance the belief in evolution or need to take ‘nasty’ vaccines (very appropriate when a pandemic is the topic). Or indeed a rational pandemic expert you consider fantastic in their domain, is a fervid catastrophist of the most devout irrational type when it comes to CC. Even where you have built up a rational understanding of someone’s position over years to take over from your initial BS meter reading (and hopefully over some breadth of issues), this will not necessarily cover all topics and the difference between biased and rational positions in a single individual can be stark and major.

    None of this is to detract from Ridley’s article, which seems good overall, but… there’s a fundamental issue at the bottom of this which needs to be addressed regarding social norms on infections. Which is that if you try and build a fence around a whole society to keep out the evolving nasties that frequently infect us, you will have to make the fence taller and taller and denser and denser constantly in time. And that’s forever even with endless new technology, because nothing stops evolution and the things that can also infect technology or immune-systems of any kind. The nasties will keep evolving whether we like it or not, and zero exposure for ages means that when something does break in, we’ll be wiped out even if it would otherwise have been mild. Millions of kids with runny noses exchanging in nurseries help keep the toll of such parasites low via widespread stimulation of defence, notwithstanding that a small few are badly affected as the social cost of this defence. It’s a balance; we need to target and manage the bad stuff while accepting that in the long-term we are always going to have a relationship with infectors, and that rather like trade an over-protectionist mode can be counter-productive overall. The problems with antibiotics running out of steam and having been drastically cut back at GPs and hospitals lately, in order to preserve what effectiveness remains, is an example of the necessity of balance.


  30. P.P.S. physical contact of various kinds, of which a handshake or kiss are just 2 examples, is pretty much universal among all human communities when bonding is very regularly being expressed or initiated. While this system evolved when there was no medical discrimination to warn about incoming serious rather than mild pathogens, and indeed is typically suspended temporarily when the heavy stuff is very obviously visiting (e.g. the Black Death), one has to at least consider the possibility that evolution arranged things this way, because it has the highest *net* benefit. Any benefits would include social factors not just biological ones, and neither did we evolve to cope with herd diseases until about 10,000 years ago when we started farming. Nevertheless, embraces are still ubiquitous and 10,000 years is plenty enough time for bio-cultural evolution (e.g. the milk-drinking gene); so what we should ‘obviously’ do may not be as straightforward to fathom as one thinks…


  31. Andy, in order to disagree with me as much as you did you had to truncate what I’d written.

    This time with emphasis:

    The positive side for us rational sceptics, resisting false fear – in other words, having a working bullshit-meter, even if we get some of the details wrong – is that we also know who we can trust to tell us the truth, as best they themselves understand it.

    That allowed for all the possibilities of error or at least difference that you were keen to highlight. And it should also have made clear that I was primarily talking about courage – something that consensus enforcement in the climate area, and in other woke disputes, is I think very much against.

    So I don’t read Matt or anyone else uncritically but I thought this piece was particularly helpful. And that didn’t surprise me, because it’s the kind of guy I’ve learned that he is.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Richard,

    apologies, but I didn’t think the extra words were critical, and still don’t. One assumes people are always writing ‘as best they understand it’, and this doesn’t make any difference to my generic case that the understanding of an individual may be deeply biased on one topic, and perfectly objective on another. Plus all the rest re BS meters etc.


    “So I don’t read Matt or anyone else uncritically but I thought this piece was particularly helpful. And that didn’t surprise me, because it’s the kind of guy I’ve learned that he is.”

    …with which I largely agree and figured this was the case. However my warning, albeit perhaps over-dramatic, remains true for the generic case and, very unfortunately, no special knowledge or ability or trust can be assumed via skepticism of a topic (which skepticism for the sake of argument we’ll assume future history proves correct), regarding the veracity or otherwise of a (largely) unrelated topic.


  33. Andy

    One assumes people are always writing ‘as best they understand it’ …

    Maybe you do but I don’t and that’s the whole point. Some people lack the courage to do so.

    Same applies with climate. As does this important qualification:

    And of course, the climate case is also different in detail from that controversy. But this is what I was talking about: courage. Of course, someone who speaks perfect sense on climate may have got the health dangers of indoor cigarette smoke wrong. (Know which sceptic I’m thinking of there?) But one would be pretty sure they weren’t simply bending the knee to woke convenience as they did so.

    Here meanwhile is a guy with the requisite courage on climate:

    Good question.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Richard: Well writing as best as one understands, and not having the courage to write, aren’t the same thing. Sadly, little will be heard of those in the latter category. Courage is laudable, critical, often comes at personal cost. Even pointing to it is laudable, for inspiration, although even this action sometimes has a cost. But per your example of SHS / CC, courage provides no guarantee whatsoever of any transfer of correctness between (largely dissimilar) domains.


  35. P.S. albeit much smaller in scale than the CC domain, I was surprised to find on a brief dip into SHS, how vicious it is in there 0:


  36. Andy: For “any transfer of correctness” – whatever that means – I’d substitute judgment, which requires courage. Which reminds me of two of my favourite tweets of 2020 so far.

    My comments on this thread began with a quibble on the correctness of what Jaime had said: that we *knew* that “Covid-19 is … very serious in 20% of cases”. I didn’t think we knew that – especially the *very*. Matt’s article was better on the uncertainties than that. I am concerned with correctness, in other words. But good judgment is far more important than mere correctness – both for climate and for coronavirus. (Note again “having a working bullshit-meter, even if we get some of the details wrong” in praise of sceptics – that’s having good judgment without total correctness.) And in latching on to a comment of mine which you misunderstood I don’t think you’ve shown your normal good judgment!


  37. Richard:

    Jonathan does not define what wisdom is separately to knowledge and expertise. This is your comment…

    “The positive side for us rational sceptics, resisting false fear – in other words, having a working bullshit-meter, even if we get some of the details wrong – is that we also know who we can trust to tell us the truth, as best they themselves understand it.”

    Skepticism within one domain (which for the sake of argument future history proves correct) grants no ability to recognise who we can trust in a different (largely unrelated) domain. Following the actual same individual for years across several domains will mitigate that (especially with direct personal knowledge), but *generically*, which I emphasised , there is no special ability to recognise false fear in domain2 by virtue of (apt) scepticism in domain1. Which in turn means courage cannot be applied, because it perforce must come *after* recognition (and indeed per above is *then* necessary, critical, laudable).

    You haven’t demonstrated that I did misunderstand your comment. So far, nothing you’ve added impacts my point 0: Believers in climate catastrophism sometimes relate a similar flawed assumption but from the opposite angle. I.e. that because trust in the scientific consensus must be ‘the right thing’ in this domain, it’s also necessarily right in all of them. And historic cases where a consensus was wrong, are so rare and ‘justifiable’ because of such unusual circumstances which we’ve now moved beyond, then we can discount the possibility. So, we should just lay back and trust. This too can pick out individuals, who may be dissed for an opinion in domain2 only because they are ‘anti-science’ in domain1. In this case it is doubly wrong, because even legitimate trust of domain1 consensus grants no insight or trust for domain2, and of course climate catastrophism is in opposition to the mainstream consensus anyhow.

    We should of course celebrate and aspire to the courage you showcase above.


  38. My comment re. 20% ‘very serious’ was qualified as ‘what we know so far’. The best info we have so far comes from China where the vast majority of cases have occurred, therefore, if Chinese statistics can be trusted, they are the most representative to date. I quote:

    “Most cases of coronavirus infection are not severe, but some people do become quite sick. Data from the largest study of patients to date, conducted in China, suggests that of coronavirus patients receiving medical attention, 80 percent had mild infections, about 15 percent had severe illnesses, and 5 percent were critical.”

    Statistics are always subject to change as a virus spreads around the globe. I am basing my precautionary stance upon actual data, the only data we have so far. Climate alarmists, on the other hand, base their (extremely costly and disruptive) precautionary measures upon worst case scenario projections, not actual data, most of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. RICHARD DRAKE says:
    02 Mar 20 at 1:20 pm

    “and Bill:

    Well, Boris has a problem with the Heathrow extension, something to do with promising to lie down in front of the bulldozers. So this judgement looks like the courts have been manipulated to get him off the hook without any of the blame coming back to haunt him.

    I readily accept the second as perfectly possible – though impossible to prove. It would I suppose militate against drawing too many negative conclusions about the power of the net-zero lobby in other infrastructure situations.”

    The alternative would question the competency of the minister and his department in understanding the laws that his government has enacted. And that, seems to me, to be an even scarier prospect.


  40. If we hadn’t been spending $1.5 trillion a year on climate change and its so-called mitigation, and making out this is the biggest global risk around, would the systems to help those in real need today be better than this lady discovered?

    That’s the question I wanted to get to on this thread. If millions do die (Matt Ridley’s article – now open source – simply said that it’s possible) it will I think be worth asking the question some more.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Following on from the alternative suggested by Bill Bedford, I suppose another possibility (which I’m not necessarily predicting will happen) would be that the only way the government thinks it can reduce the emissions reduction target figure in the Climate Change Act, which is currently 100%, is by an external actor being involved, such as the judiciary causing a rumpus over the feasibility of the 100% figure.

    When the Climate Change Act was first introduced in 2008, the reduction figure to be achieved by 2050 (relative to 1990) was 60%, devised by an advisory body that no longer exists, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. As I remember it, the Lib Dems immediately tabled an amendment to increase the 60% figure to 80%, and this amendment was accepted I suspect with little resistance (the two main parties didn’t want to appear to be less committed to climate change than the Lib Dems). Then more recently in 2019 Theresa May, as part of a pattern of weird decision-making, decided to amend the figure upwards again to 100%, and I don’t remember much resistance to that either.

    In theory, the emissions reduction figure could be reduced below 100% by another amendment, maybe even go back to the original 60% figure suggested by the ‘expert’ advisory body. But it seems evident that British politicians don’t want to be seen to go in a less ambitious direction on climate change emission reduction targets unless possibly the lower ambition is forced upon them.

    If the government proposed to reduce the figure below 100% on the basis that it is the only way for major infrastructure projects to go ahead, then the opposition parties might be placed in a very awkward position where they appeared to oppose future infrastructure development.


  42. Richard I have been asking myself similar questions. I have had an interesting and eventful life that has well exceeded my allotted three score and ten. I am prone to coughs and sneezes, despite religiously getting the annual flu jab, so will probably be high risk. If I develop symptoms I shall become as a hermit, eat from paper plates (which can be burnt after use) and refuse all contact with my nearest and dearest. Most weeks I only meet others when I shop at Waitrose (and surely patrons of Waitrose wouldn’t be so unrefined as to pass on a Chinese infection,would they?)

    Liked by 2 people

  43. “That’s the question I wanted to get to on this thread. If millions do die (Matt Ridley’s article – now open source – simply said that it’s possible) it will I think be worth asking the question some more”

    Well indeed this is a most excellent question!

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Yes, ‘The Cost of Net Zero’ (and all the hype that’s gone with it) could be bigger than even we thought. The opportunity cost for us that became an opportunity bonanza for Covid-19. All the very best, Alan, and to those with whom you rub shoulders in Waitrose.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Re: built-in BS detector. PK Dick said every writer needed one, though he wrote some crazy stuff as well as some great stuff.

    I remember as a green undergrad the Pons & Fleischmann announcement and believing it utterly. I had an almost religious faith that science was infallible I think. Free energy! Think of the possibilities! And then… nothing. Gone. Taken away, a phantasm of utopia vanishing in the light of the sun…

    Then as a postgrad, our floor’s coffee room had a subscription to New Scientist. Wiser now, and knowing quite a bit of ecology (most of which I’ve since forgotten), I recognised that many of the New Scientist articles about my sphere of expertise were wrong. It occurred to me that if I could recognise that the ecology stories were wrong because I had knowledge of that field – then if I had similarly good knowledge of other fields, I would find that the stories about them were often wrong too. I therefore distrusted everything I read. In a couple of years I had switched from an idealist to a sceptic and indeed almost a cynic because I began to question people’s motives (still perhaps clinging to a notion that science itself, done right, was golden. It had to be).

    I don’t question people’s motives any more. Now I think it is easy to get things wrong without any nefarious intent to mislead (although Retraction Watch’s output certainly encourages cynicism). Nevertheless, it is unwise to trust ideas, especially appealing ones.


    Re: opportunity costs of Covid-19 vs climate action. I just don’t think that if we had saved all that dosh spent on climate that it would have gone to pandemic preparedness.


  46. JIT, I agree. However, if you take a look at the WHO’s website, and see the extent of its focus on climate change, you can’t help thinking that they’ve been fiddling while Rome burns.


  47. > “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died.”

    But a lot of mild cases don’t get reported – on the radio this morning someone said it was probably about 1%.


  48. Jit. When you critically evaluated New Scientist articles in your area of specialist knowledge, how were you able to deduce that some were wrong? Short discussions of the scientific method make it seem so very easy -seek out some evidence that doesn’t fit the hypothesis and if you find some the hypothesis is a goner. In reality, determining the validity of the (apparently) contrary evidence is just as difficult. It is
    not uncommon for hypotheses to have both believers and opponents, each group supporting different parts of the evidence available.

    Towards the end of my academic life I became fascinated in solving puzzles posed by shelly sands in East Anglia. Some puzzles I solved (at least to my and my reviewers’ satisfaction) but after a decade of reviewing apparently contrary evidence I gave up and wrote up what I knew about another puzzle that I hadn’t solved and submitted that for publication. I then learned my last lesson about science. Most editors are not interested in publishing unsolved problems; they want an interpretation where all the loose ends are tidied away. I was ultimately successful in finding an editor who relished in my sort of paper – strong on evidence but still posing an unresolved problem, and my last paper was published.

    Why am I telling you about my swansong? Well, I believe it illustrates two problems about much of present-day science. A desire to produce “tidy” science and a desire of editors to only accept this type of product. As a result contrary evidence is swept under a carpet, and alternative interpretations are not sought or are suppressed. Most readers are unaware of such defects.

    Liked by 2 people

  49. It’s a double-edged sword Paul. If the number of reported cases does not reflect the actual number of cases, then this implies that the virus is less lethal than assumed but more contagious. We know for sure it is lethal, much more lethal than ‘flu, so if it is a lot more contagious than presumed, then it will still end up killing lots of people. In fact, it’s probably a preferable scenario that the lethality is 3.4%, but the transmissibility remains a lot lower than ‘flu. This would make it much easier to contain.


  50. Jit:

    Re: opportunity costs of Covid-19 vs climate action. I just don’t think that if we had saved all that dosh spent on climate that it would have gone to pandemic preparedness.

    Just 0.1% of that dosh per year would have made a significant difference since the SARS and bird flu scares. But grant- and subsidy-givers were obsessed with a non-problem or, at most, a time-distant and minor problem. And grant- and subsidy-takers of course bigged up the non-problem all the more and were called experts. And thus 0.1% of the dosh did not go to the something that would have really made a difference right now.

    The other thing worth thinking about is what this episode says about experts. We are told ad nauseam to listen to experts in the area of potential climate doom. But given their known expertise on the future, why weren’t these experts, or some other easily identifiable set of experts, able to predict the coming of Covid-19 and advise us to put that 0.1% of climate dosh per year aside in preparation? What does this strange lacuna in their expertise say about the rationality of our trust in experts as a whole?


  51. @Alan sadly I can’t remember specific examples. It’s likely that stories violated the ecology rule of thumb, “it has to be adaptive or it would not exist.” [via the “new synthesis” of Darwin & Mendel.] Either that or changes were ascribed to obviously wrong causes – there is a lot of that about at the moment in ecology, where everything is blamed on climate change, but even where climate change does have a role, it’s always acting in synergy with far more direct problems. Typical example these days: a certain kind of tuatara is threatened with extinction by climate change via temperature-dependent sex determination (the hotter, the more males if I remember correctly, although reptiles do it both ways). A good story, and perhaps true. But the population in question is limited to an island the size of Wembley stadium – driven to extinction in all its former haunts by humans via the agency of introduced rats.

    I think there was at the time a demand for “stories” in the literature. I don’t know about now, but my observations seem to tell me that the quality of the literature is declining by the decade. That papers fifty years ago were actually more solid than papers that came out last week, which is a sad thought.

    @Richard I’m not really sure what the money could have been spent on, apart from anything else. Stockpiling antivirals? Repurposing and mothballing buildings to act as quarantine sites? (I guess holiday camps work quite well in February and March.) Maybe air filtration units? I’ve often wondered whether it would be possible to pass air through a wall filter to effectively kill all floating bugs – not sure how – thermally perhaps.

    I see the European Parliament invited Greta along to endorse their net zero plan. Instead of endorsing it, she called it a “surrender.” The usual way to deal with activist groups is to throw them a few token gestures until they get bored and go away. With Greta, you give her an arm and a leg, and she says: “what about the other arm and the other leg?”


  52. Jit: The system problems seem to be worse in the USA and that also happens to be the fount of climate spending. As a systems person, as I read the abysmal difficulties of the lady whose tweet I originally cited, I was sure a) they could have done better and b) having the CAGW-as-biggest-risk blinkers on would not have helped. But we obviously do have to learn more as we go. This guy seems something of a global expert and is highly, and I think rightly critical of what’s been said by VP Pence and team. But he gets some useful feedback too:

    I think the UK has been doing better. But how many are we going to be able to save?


  53. Is it ironic that all the competitors for the next president are all firmly in the demographic for this virus, and spend their lives hugging everyone they meet…?


  54. “@Richard I’m not really sure what the money could have been spent on…”

    Even a small fraction of such large sums could seriously help. Far more testing facilities and equipment, much more intensive assessment / watch on the wild things brewing out there and what / where the most probable next emergences may be, more gene-sequencing around same. The biggest program in this area was I think the US ‘Predict’ program, which ran out of money and closed last October after a 5 year funding grant ended. Afaik had maintained teams in multiple countries. The fight needs to be proactive and attempting to stay ahead of emergence; when that sometimes at least inevitably fails, there needs to be much better robustness and preparedness of all our systems, including those not directly related to health. E.g. emergency funds / aid to businesses, the very survival of which in some cases is threatened, e.g. some airlines. Considering the vast sums expended in the name of climate catatrophism, and the highly inappropriate shift of health focus from potential pandemic damage to supposedly global climate catastrophe impact on health, for sure there would be benefit if this hadn’t happened. Most health issues purported to be an issue under the CC banner are in any case all those which already occur, so a new frontier as it were, is not required anyhow. And given the glacial speed of even purported ‘faster than we thought’ catastrophe compared to a pandemic, reaction can occur if and when impacts start to rise. I agree with Richard, the sheer size and breadth of climate catastrophism and its severe warping of rational threat assessments, cannot but have caused a robbing of various domains where the expenditure would be far more productive.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Exactly, Andy. Even now, from a bad start, we need good systems thinkers. This is the doctor who first persuaded me most of us would probably get the virus, through his well-argued piece in the Atlantic. But now is not a time for fatalism but for fighting those odds …

    Liked by 1 person

  56. And now I notice this response to Dr Hamblin:

    Some people of course have been preparing – good for them. But have the priorities and levels of funding been in any sense rational given the scarifying green blob consuming so much?

    Or does even asking that make me a DENIER?

    Liked by 1 person

  57. Regarding preparatory measures for a potential pandemic, there is certainly the fact that the emergence of a new zoonosis was predictable, having already happened a few times. Perhaps the fizzle of the earlier coronaviruses – and maybe a perception that Ebola was an African problem not a Western problem – has led to complacency. But there was always the chance that one of the box of fireworks would actually go off with a serious bang.

    (Covid-19 also means my crap dad joke will never get wheeled out again: “After Ebola, you know what scientists say is coming next?”
    “No, what?”

    Returning to the original subject for a mo, Andrew Neil yesterday interviewed two of the would-be Labour leaders. Quizzing R L-B on the cost of her plan for net zero by 2030 revealed a lot, even though she refused to give a figure. Viewers will have been left with the impression that the cost is so high that it could not be spoken. A sort of Voldemort bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. The UK Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, was very impressive answering MPs’ questions in the Thatcher Room of Portcullis House yesterday morning. (I’ve been there for some climate-related select committee hearing, I feel sure.) I’m going to leave the subject here – I’m sure we can come back to it after the country has weathered this storm. We seem to be in very good hands.


  59. I see that Starbucks has now stopped using re-usable cups. Apparently a hygiene expert has said that containing the virus should be greater priority than environmental concerns. The coffee chain’s Europe spokesman, Robert Lynch, has also said: “Out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the use of personal cups or tumblers in our stores across the UK.”

    Who would have thought? The precautionary principle invoked to obstruct environmental action! Surely not.

    Liked by 2 people

  60. Finally, finally … I should have said Dr Whitty is CMO for *England*, not the UK.

    And now to compare two recent tweets in the two areas of concern. Both are jokes but I fear that one of the tweeters doesn’t realise he is. Thus he only has 19 likes and the other guy 1 million.

    Yep, one senses that Sherelle Jacobs has hit the ground running in our chief area of concern. A very valuable addition to the mainstream media team.


  61. The Sherelle Jacobs article is good, relevant, and seems to be un-paywalled:

    With its drive to “green” the economy at any cost, the Tory party has seemingly decided to celebrate its populist landslide by bogging down the country in zero-carbon paternalism. And so we career towards another People vs Establishment conflict that could be more explosive even than that sparked by the referendum.

    I particularly like the penultimate paragraph:

    Naturally, a new managerial language to mask the tiresome insanity of all this is delightfully burgeoning. Reports flatulate about “spatially just transitions to zero carbon” and “harnessing environmental assets”. Meanwhile, policy decisions that punish the poor are wrapped in doublespeak worthy of Ursula von der Leyen. The idea that onshore wind is now so competitive it should be able to apply for subsidies again being a most glorious example.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. “Don’t take this the wrong way but if you were a young, hardline environmentalist looking for the ultimate weapon against climate change, you could hardly design anything better than coronavirus.

    Unlike most other such diseases, it kills mostly the old who, let’s face it, are more likely to be climate sceptics. It spares the young. Most of all, it stymies the forces that have been generating greenhouse gases for decades.”

    Ed Conway in The Times. I can hardly believe they actually printed that, but they did and it illustrates perfectly the sociopathic mindset of climate cultists.


  63. I think we should take exactly it as he means it: he is actually celebrating the fact that the demographic most at risk of dying from Covid-19 includes a high percentage of climate change sceptics and ‘climate action blockers’. That is really quite shocking, if it was published in any national magazine or newspaper, but even more so that’s it’s in The Times.


  64. ‘pologies for the second time for mentioning Covid-19 after I said I wouldn’t but, as I was searching for something else, I came across this extraordinary thread from Extinction Rebellion of Richmond-under-Thames, as they style themselves. At least the first tweet has a factual element, about the impact of the virus on COP26. What a pity, as Windsor Davies would say. Other than that it’s more like the Far Side from Gary Larson.

    In an unrelated thread Patrick Moore asks ‘Is Extinction Rebellion a “Sunset Effect”?’ I think that’s a very good question. But I won’t editorialise further.


  65. Now Matt Ridley comments on this – The Government’s energy policy could cripple global Britain.

    In the past few weeks, the government has made a string of announcements relating to energy, all attempting to appease the green lobby. Every single one will raise costs to consumers but reward special-interest lobbies of crony capitalists: building HS2 at public expense, complete with its own trackside wind farms; backing off Heathrow’s privately funded third runway; bringing forward the date of banning diesel and electric cars; banning coal and wet-wood stoves used by the less well off in rural areas; mandating the use of subsidised ethanol from wheat; reopening subsidy schemes to wind and solar power. In that last case, ministers argue that onshore wind power is now cheaper than fossil-fuel power and no longer needs subsidies, so they have reopened the subsidies for it. Eh?



    Hold a referendum to scrap the UK’s policy of Net Zero CO2 by 2050
    We need a referendum – The Net Zero CO2 policy was waved through parliament without any meaningful debate, proper costings or cost benefit analysis. There was no party in the 2019 general election standing in all 650 seats that was against net zero to give voters the choice to vote against it.

    Liked by 2 people

  67. Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with it now. It looks like this virus is highly contagious. The government is doing next to nothing to contain its spread, unlike in China. They might personally regret that decision. Lack of containment will mean that it moves quickly through the country and my guess is that many people are already unknowingly infected. The crucial issue is the lethality and the hospital admission rate. If – as appears to be the case – the mortality rate is an order of magnitude greater than ‘flu and likewise cases requiring admission to hospital are very much greater, then the country is in for a very nasty shock. Health services will be quickly overwhelmed and even more people will die as a result of lack of available medical care.


  68. Jaime: two things I find ridiculous there, one because it’s so obviously true and one because it’s so obviously untrue.

    my guess is that many people are already unknowingly infected

    That’s obviously true. Surely any of us that have read anything about Covid-19 know that this is one of the big problems with the virus, on its first appearance on the world stage, sans vaccine, presumably now as a pandemic. The governments of the world are – the shock horror is real this time – unable to do anything about the five days during which anyone who is infected (or almost everyone?) is asymptomatic. Though they’re not necessarily infecting others. See Coronavirus: How is the UK planning for an outbreak? from our revered state broadcaster yesterday.

    The government is doing next to nothing to contain its spread, unlike in China.

    I believe that to be bunk. Where’s your proof? See once again Coronavirus: How is the UK planning for an outbreak? from our revered state broadcaster, including this paragraph:

    The most drastic measures therefore look likely to be reserved for just before the peak, which could be two months away.

    I find the explanation from the experts convincing in this case, unlike those forthcoming from many so-called climate experts.

    I only found Worldometers’ fascinating Confirmed Cases and Deaths by Country, Territory, or Conveyance yesterday. I tend to order by the last column, from maximum to minimum. Italy is top with 168 cases per million, the UK is 27th on 5.6. (Many of course will be under-reporting but it’s all we have.)

    I do trust our guys to be modelling this like crazy and having valid reasons not to overreact and do things either too early or too disruptive or ineffectual.

    The point about how well China has done, from the very start, is highly contentious. I doubt we’ll know much till a long time later.

    Matt Ridley wrote earlier that maybe millions would die worldwide as a result of Covid-19. In yesterday’s piece he makes it hundreds of thousands as a putative worst case. Good news of a sort I guess.


  69. On how the government and the NHS should prepare for the peak, with Tony’s post on Freeman Dyson and his war by numbers fresh in mind, I’d listen hard to Richard North:

    Richard then filled out this idea in a blog post entitled Coronavirus: a question of responsibility. He doesn’t think Boris has the necessary leadership skills to be this radical. I’m willing to wait and see – what else is there? But to save the maximum UK lives this approach looks dead right, if people will forgive the phrase.


  70. Richard, I think your ‘bunk’ comment is a bit unfair, unless I’m misinterpreting it. Jaime said “The government is doing next to nothing”. The BBC page lists a whole load of things that could be done, but haven’t been done.


  71. Thanks Paul. I don’t wish to get into an argument about this but it seems pretty obvious to me that the government’s ‘containment’ process was almost non-existent. If anybody can point out any real, practical, significant and effective measures that they employed to contain the spread of Covid-19 – besides ‘wash your hands’ – then I shall stand corrected. I must have blinked and missed it.

    I’m not necessarily arguing that containment measures employed by China and South Korea for instance would have been effective or even possible in the UK, but Johnson’s idiotic mixed messaging and insistence that UK has a plan, the first stage of which is containment, belies the fact that the government is pretty helpless and therefore incompetent in the face of a possible pandemic outbreak. An outbreak which threatens to overwhelm the health service, but they will do anything to disguise that fact and therefore this government’s (and previous governments) culpability for lack of preparedness and not having an effective planned response. They should just be honest, but that is not a trait that comes naturally to our governing classes, in particular to Boris.


  72. “If anybody can point out any real, practical, significant and effective measures that they employed to contain the spread of Covid-19 – besides ‘wash your hands’ – then I shall stand corrected. I must have blinked and missed it.”

    Full contact tracing and monitoring has been in place since the first case in the UK I believe, and is a very useful standard technique for slowing / containment. The high risk contacts are monitored daily, I believe. I saw on the TV only a couple of days ago that much spare capacity (computer stations / staff) for this has been prepared (presumably across the country, it showed 1 centre) such that the service can continue even while the wave is much bigger. Also said something like ‘…and those stations over there will be for the medical experts that will be needed in the next phase…’ implying something more than the contact process interview, but I wasn’t watching closely and it wasn’t very specific anyhow.

    Typically, the genetics of every sample would be checked while numbers are still low (thousands?), from which some info about spread patterns and evolving characteristics can be gleaned. Genetic testing in Washington state allowed them to belatedly realise that the virus must have been circulating for weeks locally without being detected, largely due to the initial under-testing. One presumes that via the same methodology they could understand that each UK case coming in isn’t or is a similar indicator of a wild reservoir, and hence have confidence in the former case, or act to shut down the area faster should should such a reservoir get discovered despite a (hopefully!) high level of testing.

    Liked by 1 person

  73. Well, I don’t think the Green Blob is going to like the budget.

    Lots of cash for infrastructure including road building.

    Freeze on fuel duty.

    Farmers to keep tax relief on ‘red diesel’.


    Liked by 2 people

  74. Andy, yes, there has been this but against the backdrop of doing little else to stop the spread of the virus by stopping flights from infected areas, mandating social distancing etc., it can have little effect other than to delay the inevitable for a week or two. Have you seen the pictures of Cheltenham? Packed in like sardines they are. CV is transmissable by symptomless carriers. The government is playing Russian Roulette. ICU beds are only a quarter of Germany’s, a tenth of Korea’s.


  75. Jaime, “If anybody can point out any real… …then I shall stand corrected”

    I made no comment on any other issues or lack thereof, I merely answered the request 😉 It is absolutely a real and indeed essential measure.


  76. Ah, that explains it, the government is just following the science, even though the role of a government is to decide policy not just on scientific advice but on a whole host of other factors. Hence net zero, I guess; they’re just following the science regardless of any consideration of social, environmental or economic impact, let alone the impossibility of achieving said target. The ‘experts’ have “brilliant modellers” who know exactly what this novel virus which the world has never seen before is going to do and the brilliant modellers (we know all about brilliant modellers don’t we) predict that banning large social gatherings will have little effect upon containment or delay. Thank heavens for the experts.


  77. Forget coronavirus says the UN; the ‘climate crisis’ is the deadliest threat we face.

    From that Guardian article:

    Prof Brian Hoskins, of Imperial College London, said: “The report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it.

    The WMO said its report provided authoritative information for policymakers on the need for climate action and showed the impacts of extreme weather.

    A heatwave in Europe was made five times more likely by global heating . . . .

    That would be the heatwave which was attributed to climate change even though the models could not be used to do the attribution, i.e. they just guessed. The UN and WMO are engaging in outright scientific fraud to promote global action on a non-existent ‘climate emergency’.


  78. ‘Climate scientists say “deadly heatwaves, floods and rising hunger far greater threat to world than coronavirus” ‘

    They’re jealous something else has stolen their attention.

    Liked by 3 people

  79. I think that’s it Andy. A real global crisis comes along and they don’t like it. Toys get thrown out of prams and little feetsies start to get stomped. Greta is a bit miffed too, but she’s carrying on with a #digitalstrike:

    Liked by 1 person

  80. This reaction to Ryan Maue’s twitter quotes from the Guardian piece on the scary UN report struck me as both fair and indicative of what many others are going to be thinking before long:

    This is the reason, I think, the Chancellor snubbed the Green Blob, as Paul pointed out. A very good day.

    And I think the government has been doing a very good job on the coronavirus. 95% of Boris’s contribution for me was appointing Chris Whitty as Chief Medical Officer for England in October. Maybe the PM (or those underneath him who made the decision) got lucky there. But wasn’t that exactly what Napolean looked for in a general?

    I think there are three reasons not to lay into the government, with all our normal contempt, when they are doing very well in a new area of critical concern:

    1. It’s not true
    2. It can make people disregard the government’s good advice when it really matters
    3. It can make the government listen less to our well-founded criticisms of things like Net Zero.

    Mocking the washing of hands emphasis is particularly inappropriate for climate sceptics in my view. Who is going to get crony-capitalist rich out of soap? Unlike windmills etc. And the science really is striking:

    Plus it’s the same simplicity of message that won Vote Leave the referendum. The stubborn, independent-minded people of the UK could just about latch on to this, to the benefit of all.


  81. The following is from the WHO China Joint Mission on Covid-19 report

    Click to access who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf

    It may help to put minds at rest.

    Individuals at highest risk for severe disease and death include people aged over 60 years and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer. Disease in children appears to be relatively rare and mild with approximately 2.4% of the total reported cases reported amongst individuals aged under 19 years. A very small proportion of those aged under 19 years have developed severe (2.5%) or critical disease (0.2%).

    As of 20 February, 2114 of the 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases have died (crude fatality ratio [CFR2] 3.8%) (note: at least some of whom were identified using a case definition that included pulmonary disease). The overall CFR varies by location and intensity of transmission (i.e. 5.8% in Wuhan vs. 0.7% in other areas in China). In China, the overall CFR was higher in the early stages of the outbreak (17.3% for cases with symptom onset from 1- 10 January) and has reduced over time to 0.7% for patients with symptom onset after 1 February (Figure 4). The Joint Mission noted that the standard of care has evolved over the course of the outbreak.

    Mortality increases with age, with the highest mortality among people over 80 years of age (CFR 21.9%). The CFR is higher among males compared to females (4.7% vs. 2.8%). By occupation, patients who reported being retirees had the highest CFR at 8.9%. While patients who reported no comorbid conditions had a CFR of 1.4%, patients with comorbid conditions had much higher rates: 13.2% for those with cardiovascular disease, 9.2% for diabetes, 8.4% for hypertension, 8.0% for chronic respiratory disease, and 7.6% for cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

  82. Sunak’s budget response to Coronavirus was excellent and very pro-active and had the added bonus of pissing off the Greens who wre expecting – as we were – a ‘climate change budget’. Shame No10’s policy response is a knee jerk behind the curve reaction to events, even though just yesterday (when Britain was supposedly still in the containment phase), their ‘expert’ modellers were insisting that they would know exactly when to act. This morning, we’re in the delay phase apparently. I guess they ran the algorithm through the supercomputer overnight. Meanwhile, it’s confirmed that CV is highly contagious in those people showing mild or no symptoms.


  83. I strongly recommend people watch this afternoon’s press conference. What I believe is confirmed, from what Chris Whitty says, is that, if you have the virus, the moment you show symptoms – and for the next 2-3 days afterwards – is when you’re by far the most infectious. Hence the advice to stay at home for seven days the moment you show symptoms (even though it won’t be certain that you have Covid-19 rather than some type of flu).

    I do find it interesting that I instinctively trust the software modellers in this area but not in the climate one. And that’s because with Covid-19 there’s masses of immediate feedback showing where you’re getting it wrong. Pretty basic application of agile development ideas there.


  84. DH: That page says there were 1,770 reported road deaths in 2018.

    With CV we could be looking at 80% or 50m being infected and ~1% of those dying = 500,000 deaths.

    The aim of the government measures is to seriously reduce those numbers.

    Another perspective.


  85. In 2017/8 the total number of deaths from influenza in the UK was 26,406, and suggest that a similar total would the likely number of deaths from Covid-19.

    In 2018/9 the influenza deaths went down to 1692 due to a vaccination program.


  86. Douglas. I can reduce my chances of being a road kill statistic by being careful (and I no longer drive). I have improved the odds of my not dying from influenza by religiously having a vaccination each year. But I can do very little to nothing to avoid dying from this new viral gift to the world from Wuhan. I am well within the “at most risk” cohort, but for various reasons would find it impossible to self isolate. I am concerned, but not fearful for myself, having developed a reasonable degree of stoicism from quite a few dodgy aeroplane landings in my past. But what I do fear is for my loved ones, and living on without them. My innings nears its end anyway, but that of my family hasn’t (or shouldn’t). There must be many thousands in the UK in similar boats.
    How can you distinguish a Wuhan cough from one caused by concern?
    My best to all here whom I come to appreciate and admire.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. @Bill R5 had a consultant come on the radio and mention “a couple of hundred” deaths per year from ‘flu. For some reason I had just looked the figure up (an average of 20K per year), so was shouting at the radio. I sent in a text to correct them and explained how they could verify the real number.

    Needless to say, they didn’t.

    However, there is a reason that Wuhan is worse than ‘flu, which is that no-one has any immunity to it, nor even any partial immunity from exposure to similar beasts.

    @Alan I think you’ve got a pretty good shout. Personally I am convinced that breathing in respiratory viruses is overrated. For years I have banged on to anyone who will listen that the key route of viral infection is by touching your eyes. I have become rather OCD on hand washing, sorry to say. I’m also hopeful that the behavioural changes we see happening before our eyes will reduce transmission rate, maybe even to below 1, and this all might fizzle. There’s also a natural decrease in transmission rate as the weather warms: we have a flu season after all, quite tightly tied to the winter.

    @Richard you had me worried for a minute. Following your link, this is really just a levelling of the playing field. It removes the possibility of duty evasion, an obvious consequence of two tiers of taxation for two different sections of society (you can argue that the general level is too high, and I would agree, but for sure we should all be paying the same).

    Liked by 1 person

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