Another letter from Dame Lucy

letter from Dame Lucy Doolittle to all departments

Dear Colleague,

            I am writing to urge all departments to stress in all their output the importance of tackling climate change vigorously. I have been disappointed to see the lacklustre response of some in the media and amongst the commentariat to the bold and comprehensive proposals of the Climate Change Secretary and feel we should do more to help Ministers.

           The background to this is most important. The Thatcher government  energy  privatisations were sold on economic grounds. It is true  they did  deliver a 20% reduction in electricity prices along with  profits on shares acquired by public subscription, but this was not sustainable. We need to stress that this was at the expense of the externalities, as you should not let the free market loose in such a sensitive area. It has been well said that climate change highlights a most glaring market imperfection, as the market does not seek to limit carbon emissions when producing power. You need government intervention to achieve that. It means we  need to regulate comprehensively, and ensure more of the money is directed to good purposes which we can specify.

               Fortunately we can say this in public, as this is not in party political dispute.  All three main political parties agree on the science, and agree that tackling carbon dioxide emissions is a priority. The Greens wish them to go further, faster.  We do however need to deal comprehensively and strongly with three canards in the public debate.

               The first is to reply to those who point out that the Uk has now had three cool and wet summers and two cold winters in a row, seeking  to undermine the idea that the climate is warming. Climate is different from weather, as we keep saying. Howver, if the weather is persistently colder, we need to stress the argument that the UK is a small part of the planet and what is true here is not necessarily true elsewhere. We should also always use the phrase “climate change” rather than “global warming”, so it covers shifts in weather patterns to the colder as well as to the warmer. It would be helpful if those of you who have visited warmer countries and cities like Cancun could furnish us with the relevant reports on weather there to underline the point about variability.

                 The second is to deal with those who say UK human output of carbon dioxide is such a small element in the total world supply of the gas that we cannot make any difference to the overall rise. It is mainly for Ministers to deal with this, but we should brief them to say that the Uk is a leader in the field, that it isa  moral imperative, and that the poorer countries will suffer most from unabated climate change.

                  The third is to combat those who argue that the UK’s policies will put up industrial costs in a way which will harm British manufacturers and lose us jobs. There is scope for disagreement about how much the carbon levy and the guaranteed electricity price will involve higher bills. I would advise that we decline to give complete forecasts, on the grounds that much still remains to be settled before we can work out what it might all cost. We should continue to stress to Ministers the opportunities from low and no carbon technologies and turn attention to the green jobs revolution away from detailed arguments about the prices and costs of power and the impact on the costs of production of other items.

                This is an important issue. Our critics do not like to admit that government has an important role in areas like energy. Without government power would be so much cheaper, which would mean so much more carbon would be expelled into the atmosphere. I know you will want to help us deal with this problem, and ensure we meet our EU targets for renewables and emission controls. The revenues from the carbon tax are also an important part of our deficit reduction strategy.

Yours

Lucy Doolittle.

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30 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Obviously this is how they do actually think – complete and utter madness even if you do believe in the CO2 evil gas religion, their solutions still do not work or make sense.

    High energy prices means the jobs go to China and the CO2 is emitted there instead and then the goods are shipped round the world.

    Predicting the weather or “climate” (average weather) with any accuracy for 100 years is simply not possible. They cannot even do it for a week on Wednesday. Do they know which volcanoes are going to erupt and when, what new technology is going to be invented, what the population growth (or decline) will be, what sun activity will be for the next 100 years, what wars/diseases are coming and the thousands of other things they would need to know?

    Most who espouse this policy do not even seem to have an understanding of basic physics or engineering. Are they yet more Oxford PPE graduates perhaps? That course certainly has a lot to answer for.

    Please can they start building some new nuclear plants now.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      “We don’t have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.” James Watt Secretary of the Interior in the Reagan Admin. Responsible for National Policy regarding the Environment. Evil gas religion?
      How much does electricity cost per kilowatt including building running and decommissioning? Who will pay for the building and decommissioning? Who will pick up the tab for leaks 0r accidents? The taxpayer? Like banking they will be to important to fail and like railways, funded by the taxpayer under the guise of being private whilst the top executive in the case of the railways lives like a lord. Until you can come up with an answer to these basic questions nuclear power is a non starter. That’s before we even begin to look at the carbon chain involved in the life cycle of the plant.
      The answers probably lie more in the areas of conservation and carbon capture.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 21, 2010 at 3:26 am | Permalink

        You cannot really have a cost per Kilo Watt as this is not a measure of energy but of power – rather typical of the engineering understanding of the pro green supporters. I assume you mean cost per Kilo Watt Hour/Day or Year. Anyway existing nuclear is far far cheaper than wind, wave, tidal, PV or carbon capture. With new plants it could be cheaper and safer still. The main cost of nuclear is the absurdly protracted planning process and the irrational objections of many who do not understand the engineering.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          How much will nuclear electricity cost to produce per kilowatt/ hour over a 30-40 year time scale what would the emissions be? How do you calculate decommission costs and add them to the overall cost. How will safety costs be predicted?
          I do not need a degree in finance or engineering or futurology for that matter, to see that there are to many unknowns to accurately predict this. Is that irrational?
          If nuclear power is that safe and cheap, let’s have a privately funded nuclear power station from birth to death in London. Never happen.

  2. norman
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Instead of the government giving out winter fuel payments would it not be of more practical use to issue every pensioner with a woolly blanket, warm hat, gloves and a pair of bed socks?

    If we’re determined that the poorest and most vulnerable in society should sit shivering this winter, afraid to turn up the thermostat or turn on the second bar, then we should at least make sure they have ample clothing.

    Maybe we could have a clothing drive as part of the Big Society…(historic parallel left out ed)We’ve been told for a long time that non-payroll MP’s have already seen through this but the ridiculousness of the global warming cant must be permeating even the thick skulls of Ministers by now.

  3. Mark Baker
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    She is right about the need to restrict carbon dioxide emissions but not to say that the way to get the Market to take care of externalities is heavy regulation. All that is needed is a carbon tax, charging a fixed amount per kilo of fossil carbon sold for fuel. With the externality properly reflected like this, the Market will sort it out. Heavy Regulation will result in vast waste of money, the wrong things being done and a long delay in meeting Carbon Dioxide reduction targets.

    • Mick Anderson
      Posted December 17, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Ignoring the detail that I dispute the whole carbon scam, I would point out that the tax you call for is merely regulation by another name and also has costs of implementation. The two best ways to reduce any sort of emission is either to make the process more efficient, or to reduce the basic requirement.

      People react better when given encouragement rather than when being threatened, and both tax and regulation are effectively about implementing threats.

      Fuel is already heavily taxed. The UK Government already takes >65% of the cost of every litre of petrol or diesel you buy for your car, and that doesn’t stop people from commuting daft distances to work by car every day. Subsidising battery cars won’t really help, partly because battery technology is not very good for this application, but also because of the expensive and environmentally unfriendly nature of the chemicals used in battery manufacture. Better to support the development of fuel cells, allowing an practical hydrogen powered electric car. That would be something that would encourage take-up of a really “green” vehicle.

      Wind turbines take as much energy to manufacture and install as they generate over their life. The over-all effect is that the environment as a whole would be better off without them. Go nuclear – no fossil fuels required, and (in spite of the claims of the opposition) it’s safe.

      In short, don’t listen to the clarion calls of the environmental pressure groups. They only offer fake solutions.

      • lifelogic
        Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        I agree – Electric cars are currently pointless and very expensive, power is lost at the power station, in transmission, in the battery charging converter, losses in the battery while energy is stored, and in the motor drive circuits. Overall worse than an efficient diesel. The only advantage is little tax on fuel and cheap London parking (for the moment) and emissions are at the power station not on the road.

        The range means the car has to be light and less safe and if you get stuck in snow you will freeze when the battery runs out too. And you will need a proper car anyway for long journeys. The expensive batteries do not last long either. Why do the government want people to buy things that do not work?

    • Barbara
      Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      You do know that carbon (the element) is not CO2 (the gas), don’t you?
      Just checking.

    • Mark
      Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I look forward to the Chinese implementing a carbon tax, and then donating a share of the revenues to us so we can afford to buy their manufacturing production.

      China is the world’s largest producer of GHGs. Their production of them is still growing as they open a new coal fired power station every week. If you believe this stuff, please go to China and convince them to stop their economic development. By 2020, China will on present trends have a higher energy consumption per head than the EU. They will also account for half global GHG emissions. What happens in the UK is utterly irrelevant in that context. I’d like to be able to afford my energy bill, and to see the country in a position to compete economically, rather than retreat into the stone age.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Dear Dame Lucy

    Many thanks for your memo of 17th inst.

    It would seem to me we are missing a trick here with no tax as yet on some foodstuffs, which could be ripe for plundering.

    Given the serious nature of the subject of greehouse gas emissions, why not put a windfall tax on beans and sprouts, these new tax funds will then allow us to finance an even larger public awareness campaign on climate change, and could go some way to financing even more overseas meetings, to discuss ever more ways of extracting money from all concerned.

    I do not think that the reduction in consumption of said foodstuffs due to tax being applied will effect the performance of any windmills, although of course we would need to set up a working party to investigate such a possibility.

  5. Mark
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I do hope that it is made transparently clear that Mr. Huhne wants to see us double our electricity bills quite needlessly. We should be seeking a balance between gas, coal and nuclear production that would give us sufficient diversity of supply sources and a balance of capacity suited to base load and peaking demand patterns. Subsidies to windmills etc. should be withdrawn. We can’t afford them.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      Much more than triple for most “green” electricity – spot on otherwise but it won’t happen with Cameron and Clegg. The Liberal’s are are party of the green religion and unthinking emotion not logic (Dave too I think).

  6. Stuart Fairney
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    This is one of those areas that is quite untouchable to our political class as a whole (save for a few brave souls). I do believe some of them know the truth but are afraid to say it. Others find the idea of a bogey-man useful for more regulation and taxes and one or two seem in all honesty, to believe it because they really, really want to.

    Other areas include local government finance (the received wisdom is that it did for Thatcher so it’s a no-go area); drugs policy, you may note Mr Ainsworth did nothing serious when he had his hands on the levers of power and is only now speaking from obscurity; Afghanistan, surely no-one believes everything will be fine after just a few more months or years and a few hundred more dead soldiers; the NHS, does the entire tory party really believe that a nationalised industry is the best way to provide healthcare when it has failed everywhere else?

    We are goverened by prgamatists and I mean that in the uber-pejorative sense.

  7. BobE
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    We are led by these, and I quote..
    “Political parties, too, almost always have the original purpose of attaining exclusive despotic domination; a slight impulse toward a philosophy is almost always inherent in them. Yet the very narrowness of their program robs them of the heroism which a philosophy demands. The conciliatory nature of their will attracts small and weakly spirits with which no crusades can be fought. And so, for the most part, they soon bog down in their own pitiful pettiness: They abandon the struggle for a philosophy and attempt instead, by so-called ‘positive collaboration,’ to conquer as quickly as possible a little place at the feeding trough of existing institutions and to keep it as long as possible. That is their entire endeavor. And if they should be pushed away from the general feeding crib by a somewhat brutal competing boarder, their thoughts and actions are directed solely, whether by force or trickery, toward pushing their way back to the front of the hungry herd and finally, even at the cost of their holy conviction, toward refreshing themselves at the beloved swill pail. Jackals of politics!”

  8. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    As it happens there were some record low temperatures during the Cancun conference:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/08/gore-effect-strikes-cancun-climate-conference-3-days-in-a-row/

  9. oldtimer
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dame Lucy

    It is time to get real.

    Have you not read the Roger Helmer MEP blog, handily linked by Conservative Home? Or, if you want the well informed view of a real scientist, have you not seen Professor Lindzen`s evidence to the US Congressional Committee, handily linked by the WattsUpWithThat blog? Ther you will discover that you have got quite the wrong end of the stick. What you really should be concentrating on is how to dig the PM and his Ministers out of the very big hole they are digging for the reat of us.

    Anon

  10. steveredfern
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    If the Dame really wished to cut energy production, she might like to consider the sheer waste that our Building Inspectors are causing. I have been overseeing a small project for a friend. It consists of a one bedroom extension built over an extension built in 1975. The original extension has large foundations a metre deep on gravel soil, which is not shrinkable and a Civil Engineer told me that a nearby tree should pose no problem. There is no sign of settlement or heave to date, with the extension or the original house, which has foundations 0.45m deep.

    However, in order to build this small lightweight structure, we have to employ a Structural Engineer who will provide calculations and details of reinforced concrete, trail holes will have to be dug along the footing, the Inspector will have to satisfy himself that there is no clay under the gravel or possibility of settlement, and the footing may have to be 3m deep in order to comply with the tree/soil type/distance/depth guide. (misinterpreted)

    The total cost inluding fees is likely to be around £3500. As a comparison,the cost of all the structural materials for the superstructure is likely to be under £2000. The energy needed to dig the hole, transport the soil to tip, fill with concrete and reinforcement, plus travel for engineer, inspectors and builders to site is probably over 30kilowatt hours and all the CO2 that follows.

    As an architect with 40 years experience, I know that none of the above is necessary. The risk of a building fault is negligible. The waste is certain.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      steveredfern

      I agree completely with your thoughts

      All that should be needed is a small trial hole to expose the foundations of the existing extension (and perhaps house) to prove the existing foundation depths and ground make up.
      This work usually needed because although past drawings may have requested such depths, work may not have been completed to drawings, although a previous buildings inspector should have completed a site inspection during construction, of correct foundation depth at the time, before concrete was poured.

      Most of these solutions to so called possible foundation problems go back to 1976 when we had a lot of subsidence due to clay shinkage.

      By Law now you do not have to use a Council Building inspector, you can choose your own private one, usually cheaper and perhaps more sensible, but make sure they have proper proffessional indemnity insurance.

      Best of luck.

  11. edgeplate
    Posted December 17, 2010 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think she would be quite so blatant about pushing the AGW religion and I certainly don’t think that she’d go into specific arguments as to why the recent cold winters are supposed evidence of global warming, etc. I think she’d refer to Met Office pronouncements, or maybe IPCC summary reports, as they’re supposed to be handling the propaganda.

    I have no doubt that her mind would run along the lines set out in the letter, but she would be less definite and far less giving the impression that she was personally very keen on this policy and was partisan.

  12. Andy Wilson
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I have just heard Phillip Hammond, on the Today Programme, saying that he’s commissioned a report from a/the ‘Chief Scientific Advisor’ as to the question, ‘Is the Current Winter Cold a One Off or a Presage of Things to Come?’. Can I urge you to lobby him with the request that information is gleaned from others than just the usual suspects, such as the Met. Office? The Long Range predictions i.e. 6 Months, of this organisation have been so poor that they no longer make them, in anything other than the blandest terms. ‘Quite Frankly’ (to quote a Huhne-ism), I’d ask that Piers Corbyn, of WeatherAction be included.

    Piers was my Tutor when I was a Physics Undergraduate at Imperial College, 40-odd years ago. Before others trash him with Wikipedia entries, let me say that my plea for his inclusion comes from the strength of his Predictions. The fact that he looks like a cross between Heinz Wolf and Magnus Pike (both of whom are/were excellent Scientists) or that his politics, being brother of Jeremy (with whom, I hear, you once shared a Demo) are way to the Left of Yours or Mine, is irrelevant.

    Independently audited (University of Sunderland and others) show an accuracy of around 85%. Like You (I think?), I used to work for Robert Fleming, the Merchant Bank. If any of our Fund Managers achieved anything like that success rate for Investment Decisions, they’d be lauded in the City and a permanent fixture on our TV, if not in Government.

    ‘The Science is Settled’ goes the mantra. The BBC uses this to go against its Charter and declare that in ‘Global Warming/ Climate Change/ AGW/ Whatever it is this Week’ , this need not be treated even handedly. Bizarre!! No Real Scientist would ever say anything so crass. From Newton’s Clockwork Universe (superceded by Relativity) to Continental Drift (pre-1960) to Stomach Ulcers (Solution pre-1980:Cut Vagus Nerve/Remove part of Stomach. Now Anti-Biotics), science is littered with the results of ‘Group-Think’ or, in more Modern parlance, ‘Peer Review’. You don’t see much of Piers on the Beeb, even though at least one of their Environmental Correspondents (neither of whom are Scientists) thinks that there ‘may be something in it’.

    But you office says that you’re more interested in the Economics of this. Very well. Recently, we had a ‘Climate Fools Day’ meeting at the House of Commons, sponsored by Sammy Wilson. Both yourself and David Davis were billed as, at least interested parties. It’s a pity that you couldn’t attend, for you’d have heard Chrisopher Booker deliver a chilling assessment of the cost of all this. In a recent Daily Telegraph article, Chris Huhne (French Language and Civilisation, Sorbonne and PPE, Oxford and latterly of Ratings Agency Fitch – US sub-primes anyone?) spelled out something similar i.e. we’ll soon be spending as much on ‘Green’ infrastructure as we’ll be paying for Energy itself. This is madness.

    If we take just the ‘Off-Shore Windfarm Project’, I hear that Denmark has just outsource the building of these ‘prayer-wheels’, as Piers puts it, to China. I don’t know for certain, but I’d bet that the grid to take up this intermittent power will have to be Direct Current; Alternating Current will incur huge losses in water since it will interact with the latter’s dipole moment. As part of my extensive IC Education, I did some Heavy Electrical Engineering (and helped build a CO2 Laser – no easy task). Ask an Engineer how easy it is to switch off, or even vary, a fully charged, high inductance network of that sort. I’m not sure it’s ever been done!

    We need a proper review of what we’re about to do, openly, and including all sides. It must be Peopled by those who are Numerate, Knowledgeable and with some Track Record of Success. Please ask a Question or two to that end. Otherwise, I fear that Tuition Fee Protests will be nothing compared to those paying for ………. What? To echo a quote by Queen Mary about the First World War – ‘….and for such a stupid reason too…….’

  13. Mark
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    When will the BBC announce that it has been biassed in its presentation of the Climate Change Agenda (as it now admits in relation to the EU and immigration)?

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 18, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      Mark

      Yes an interesting admission, which I have only seen reported in rather small print so far.

    • Andy Wilson
      Posted December 18, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Mark, they’ve done it already! Neil Midgely in the Telegraph refers to it in his piece of October 2010 – ‘In 2007, a BBC Trust report called ‘Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century’ said: “Climate change is another subject where dissenters can be unpopular … The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus. But these dissenters (or even sceptics) will still be heard, as they should, because it is not the BBC’s role to close down this debate.’ This comes from a paper entitled, ‘From Seesaws to Wagon Wheels’. To be fair, this caused some stirr amongst the BBC Trust and may nolonger be current thinking.

  14. Tom
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Surely Dame Lucy is aware that the Institute for Public Policy Research, Labour’s favourite think tank, had this advice for public agencies dealing with the public, (Warm Words, 2006)

    “Treating climate change as beyond argument….it is our recommendation that, at least for popular communications, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken. The certainty of the Government’s new climate-change slogan – ‘Together this generation will tackle climate change’ (Defra 2006) – gives an example of this approach. It constructs, rather than claims, its own factuality.”

  15. steveredfern
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Alan Jutson- Thanks.

    Perhaps someone in politics could instruct the Ministry to investigate all this waste and instruct these Building Inspectors to act sensibly. The problem is that, unlike professional Engineers, they follow any rule they can find, without using judgement. The French have a word which sums up the situation- Functionaires.

    The Builders tendering for my little job have been telling me about their own experiences with Inspectors. One had to do £6000 worth of work and remove a whole screen of trees in order to build a garage, only to be told that it was actually jusy below the area that needed inspecting.- Not that it is right to remove trees anyway, as this can cause heave by making the ground wetter. His client went bananas.

    Re. Climate Change.
    The increased CO2 levels are such that any outcome could be disastrous, so it would be wise do reduce emissions as fast as possible. Chaos theory is well understood.

    For the details about the problems with wind and wave generation, energy storage, hydrogen cars etc everyone interested should read Prof JC MacKay’s book Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air. Available free on the net.

    Note that, although keen on them, he admits that electric cars in the UK are less effective that a modern diesel. Changing fuel tax to favour diesel over petrol would save far more CO2 than building electricity charging points.

  16. Bazman
    Posted December 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Just shut all the power stations down and import all the electricity from France. Likewise with gas. A deal could be signed with Russia. I mean look how the clothing industry has made clothes so cheap, by making sure that all the problems have been exported. Worked for coal.
    The building of aircraft carriers done by America and we could just lease them. The list of problems that could be and has been solved in this way is endless. Work camps for foreigners. Even parliament could be based in India with political arguments put out for tender. Britain could become a modern day Rome.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 20, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Bazman

      Import electricity from France would be a sensible short term option whilst we construct our own power stations, providing of course that our own to be constructed power stations are not going to be put at a disadvantage (long term) with new emmission rules, when the French may ignor such for their own power plants thus giving themselves a price advantage.

      The problem with long term supply agreements is that you put the Country at risk of the supply being turned off.

      Whilst I believe in a free trade society I do think that the basic services of life. Water, heat, light and power should be provided by our own Government at a sensible cost to all of the population. We certainly should not be putting our citizens and businesses at a disadvantage by charging uncompetitive rates for such services, or be at risk of being held to ransom by a foreign Government.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 20, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        you’re right! Where would the banking system be if this way of thinking was allowed to prevail? The customers of the bank, business, bank workers and the taxpayers would be plundered at the expense of a few foreign elite. Maybe airports and railways as well as a whole host of other companies ran for the benefit of the few. Where would it end?
        Like it is today probably.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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