A critique of Ruth Davidson

Ruth Davidson has garnered a great deal of support for Scottish Conservatives but on Climate she seems to lack critical thinking and an ability to see beyond the political village. Cognitive dissonance allied to group think infects most of the political classes. More and more we see their pet projects, such as Drax, exposed as disasters. Offshore wind ruins fishing grounds and local tourism and creates a future headache of redundant blades for which there is no disposal policy. Will they just jettison them to the deep? Doug Brodie makes an interesting critique and we hope that at some time in the not so distant future Ms Davidson will wake up and smell the coffee. In the meantime you may like to consider Doug’s views.

The climate change Emperor’s new clothes

Ruth Davidson recently posted an article in the Scotsman newspaper under the headline Real Conservatives fight climate change. She tried to make the case that man-made climate change is a “devastating” problem which needs urgent, world leading action. Her views were poorly received by the Scotsman’s online discussion community with most commenters opposed to her stance and those who supported her given short shrift.

Every time I read an article like Ruth Davidson’s I feel like the little boy in the fairy-tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. I wonder in amazement at how not just Ruth Davidson but the entire Western establishment (USA now excepted) could have lost the plot so badly over “climate change”.

There are four particularly glaring problems with the climate change Emperor’s new clothes, i.e. the government’s climate and energy policies, yet “the powers that be” including Ruth Davidson ignore them completely, their heads stuck firmly in the sand.

The first glaring problem is that the government has chosen to use wholly inappropriate, hopelessly ineffectual technologies to supposedly “tackle climate change”, to use Ruth Davidson’s naively unrealistic phrase. The result is that although it has been straining to decarbonise the economy since the 2008 Climate Change Act with its legally binding 80% decarbonisation target, the government has so far barely scratched the surface. All our so-called renewables together supplied just 5.1% of UK final energy consumption in 2016. The government even tries to fool the electorate (perhaps itself as well) on the actual emissions savings achieved by these renewables by the subterfuge of not taking into account all their negative system-wide impacts and equipment lifecycle energy costs. Wind and solar renewables are more aptly described as weather dependent unreliables, they are energy sparse, they pollute the environment and they are totally unsustainable without 100% duplication backup from conventional power stations. Even more tellingly and contrary to establishment propaganda, wind and PV solar are going nowhere globally: according to the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends they supplied less than 1% of global energy demand.

Why is the government so blind to the simple maths (5% versus 80%) which show that what they are trying to achieve is impossible? They have only managed to get to where they are now by allowing the UK’s once comfortable electricity capacity margin to shrink to a knife edge. Since the closure of Longannet coal power station Scotland has had zero margin and is dependent on backup electricity from England to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow. Looking at allegedly “green” or genuinely low-carbon options, a massive deployment of very expensive, energy hungry, unproven at scale carbon capture and storage looks to be a non-starter and a massive expansion of emissions-free nuclear also looks very unlikely. The government hopes for a big increase in international interconnectors but this could severely endanger our security of supply. They are probably attracted to this as it allows them the subterfuge of not counting the emissions of the imported foreign electricity. Barring these options, the government is left with trying to scale up their unreliable renewables by a fantastical factor of about fifteen but it is obvious to anyone with any engineering awareness that any such scaling up is totally infeasible and unworkable. All our solar and wind power falls to zero when there is no sun and no wind (UK-wide becalmings lasting for several days are not uncommon) and electricity storage is technically and financially infeasible by orders of magnitude. As the late government chief scientific advisor Professor Sir David Mackay told our politicians years ago (they ignored him), it is an “appalling delusion” to think that renewables could ever power the UK economy. It is surely only a matter of time before the government has to admit that he was right. Their naively wished-for low carbon economy is unattainable.

The second glaring problem with government climate and energy policy is that our ineffectual renewables are also ruinously expensive which means that our lemming-like, self-flagellating UK decarbonisation will simply further reduce the competitiveness of UK businesses and worsen fuel poverty which here in high latitude Scotland once reached a shocking 39% of households, since massaged down slightly. Energy price increases will become intolerable if these misguided policies continue given that we have so far barely scratched the surface of the 80% decarbonisation target and the cost of green subsidies (“Environmental levies”) has already risen to £11.4 billion per year, nearly all of it loaded onto our electricity bills. This folly seems to allow our politicians an undeserved feeling of self-righteousness but one wonders how many of them realise that their economy damaging efforts will have negligible impact on the global climate as the UK accounts for just 1% of global emissions.

Contrary to recent industry and government misinformation, offshore wind is particularly expensive. For example the new Beatrice wind farm being built in the outer Moray Firth will cost consumers three times the market price for its unreliable electricity and that’s not counting the cost of building and running a duplicate conventional power station to take over when there is not enough wind, nor the high interconnection and transmission costs for this remote offshore site. The cost of rebuilding when it reaches its early end of life after 25 years at best also needs to be factored in, with recent adverse offshore experience suggesting that the service life could be much shorter. Madness on stilts! Our “clutching at straws” Climate Change minister recently boasted of a year of modest emissions reductions while still achieving economic growth. The real headline should be that economic growth was achieved despite her irresponsible, self-harming climate and energy policies.

The third glaring problem is that contrary to the establishment hype it is obvious that the Paris Agreement will have negligible effect on global emissions and hence on the global climate as the vast bulk of the world’s countries are exempt from having to reduce their emissions, including China and India who plan to double and triple their respective emissions by 2030. Despite these well documented INDC facts the government is in such denial on this issue that it insists our irrelevant decarbonisation efforts are essential in order to set an example to the rest of the world when it is obvious that our ruinous example is being ignored. The reality is that most developing countries only pay lip service to the UN IPCC’s climate alarmism and have been stringing us in the West along in the hope of a share of the UN’s $100 billion a year global climate fund recklessly agreed by Gordon “50 days to save the planet” Brown and Barack “back of the queue” Obama – a forlorn hope now that the USA will no longer be contributing although the UK is unfortunately still committed. Yet we in the West (USA now excepted) continue to spend untold billions to no useful purpose, nothing more than pointless, self-harming virtue signalling given that it has been calculated from the UN’s own figures that all the painful emissions reductions pledged by 2030 will have only a 0.05ºC impact on global temperatures by the year 2100.

The fourth glaring problem with climate and energy policy is that contrary to the establishment claims that “the science is settled” (Ruth Davidson claims it is “unequivocal”), this is clearly not the case. In fact it is looking less and less settled with each passing year as global temperatures inconveniently refuse to conform to the establishment’s “Project Fear” man-made global warming narrative. It needs to be remembered that the mandate of the politicised UN IPCC is restricted to the study of man-made climate risks, not climate in the round. The problem is that the predictions of the UN IPCC’s dubiously simplified computer climate models of steadily increasing man-made global warming at a slow but steady rate of 0.2ºC or more per decade are clearly seriously flawed. They run far too “hot” relative to real world temperature measurements, a clear case of GIGO computer programming – Garbage In, Garbage Out. The fact is that despite steadily increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 (which is helping to green the planet), man-made global warming remains indiscernible. Incredibly, this indiscernible man-made global warming is the sole and shockingly unquestioned basis of all our climate and energy policies and all the alleged “climate change” scares which hysterical politicians keep postulating without any scientific justification, such as Ruth Davidson’s unfounded and unbelievable claim that “[man-made] climate change is continuing to wreak devastating damage to the way we live”. Excluding the obviously natural short-term global warming which started around 2015, global temperatures have flatlined for the last 20 years, with no (or indiscernible) trace of any signature slow but steady alleged man-made global warming. The sudden warming from 2015 was caused by the natural solar/oceanic effects of a huge and prolonged El Nino which has now fallen back under a weak La Nina to the levels at which the propagandist Met Office reluctantly conceded in 2014 there had been no global warming since the turn of the century – the so-called “pause”.

In fact there have been only about 20 years of sustained global warming in the last 70 years, the brief warming spell of the 1980s and 90s. The temperature record for that period also shows no sign of any slow but steady warming, just rapid, apparently random fluctuations between warming and cooling which are clearly natural in origin as they match the ENSO Multivariate Index. The net global warming over that period appears to have been due to the ratcheting effect of a series of strong, natural, sunlight-fuelled El Ninos. If so, that would mean there has been no man-made global warming in the last 70 years and therefore that there has never been any man-made global warming as atmospheric CO2 levels before 1950 were too low. The politicians in charge of the UN IPCC reject this compelling alternative explanation but to paraphrase the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies, they would, wouldn’t they. Climate alarmists are also unable to give a credible explanation for the significant global cooling which took place from the 1940s to the mid 1970s in the midst of the exponential post-war boom in fossil fuel consumption, a cooling trend which suddenly and unexpectedly switched to global warming within the space of just a year or so. That sudden switch shows that despite high and steeply rising levels of atmospheric CO2, the cooling was due to natural climate variability, e.g. a preponderance of La Ninas, rather than due to the alleged negation of supposedly inevitable CO2 global warming by pollution or aerosols as climate alarmists unconvincingly claim to try to prop up their unconvincing man-made CO2 global warming hypothesis. A further rebuttal of that unconvincing CO2 hypothesis is that there was a period of global warming in the early decades of the 20th century which closely matched the global warming which occurred during the 1980s and 90s yet according to the UN IPCC atmospheric CO2 only started to influence the climate from around 1950. Therefore if the warming at the start of the century was entirely natural, why shouldn’t the almost identical warming at the end of the century have been entirely natural as well, as appears to have been the case? The politicians of the UN IPCC are unable to admit to this very likely possibility because to do so would leave their entire argument in ruins, given that global temperatures have remained flat ever since that previous century global warming. The consensus climate science scare story of the mid 1970s was that the planet was heading into a new Ice Age but it didn’t take them long to junk that and switch to the man-made global warming scare. Now, some thirty years later and in contrast to the obviously flawed UN IPCC climate models, real world global climate indicators such as the progression of natural solar and oceanic cycles suggest that the planet could experience global cooling over coming decades. The unproven hypothesis of dangerous global warming caused by man-made CO2 is altogether too flimsy and politically driven to be taken seriously.

Those four glaring problems show that the “climate change” Emperor is not dressed in a suit of fine clothes but is actually stark naked. I have challenged many different politicians on these points over the years but not one of them has ever come back with a credible rebuttal (just as Ruth Davidson has no credible justification for the unbelievable “Project Fear” climate assertions in her Scotsman article), stuck as they all are in their indefensible establishment climate change bubble. There are politician exceptions of course (pejoratively labelled “deniers”), individuals who have applied independent thought and study to the subject rather than just parroting the propagandist mantras of the climate establishment. My own MP toes the party line on this issue in both senses – establishment and SNP – i.e. he is firmly in the climate alarmist camp, which incidentally illustrates how climate policy is mostly dictated by the emotional prejudices and positioning of party politics rather than by objective rationality. My MP has said publicly he “dares to dream” that he could reverse global warming, although he didn’t explain how or by how much. Would he take us back to the damp and dreary 1960s or even to the storms, famines and River Thames ice fairs of the Little Ice Age? Even supposing we could control it, what is the optimal global temperature? Glaciers have been melting and sea levels rising since natural global warming started to lift us out of the Little Ice Age over 170 years ago, in fact ever since the much warmer Holocene Climate Optimum of about 8,000 years ago. Even the politicised UN IPCC say in their Fifth Assessment Report there is no evidence that current global temperatures are causing more extreme weather events.

I used to accuse climate alarmist politicians like Ruth Davidson of taking the electorate for fools over their climate change policies which have always been so obviously unworkable and pointlessly self-harming that I assumed they had some ulterior motive, e.g. to further the global redistribution of wealth. I have belatedly realised that there is a simpler explanation: these politicians and their establishment backers are taking themselves for fools. They have all succumbed to a severe case of “groupthink” delusional thinking, mentally blocking out all the contrarian delusion-shattering facts which are staring them in the face. The fairy-tale of the Emperor’s new clothes is the perfect analogy.

Unfortunately they are so set in their dogma and the establishment propaganda is so insistent that many of the electorate (and many politicians) have been brainwashed into going along with it. I fear the only thing that will make these alarmist politicians see sense is the onset of electricity power cuts in cold, dark, windless midwinter. This past winter Britain reportedly suffered its worst winter death toll in 42 years yet this could have been even worse as we narrowly managed to avoid power cuts thanks to the heroic electricity supply contribution from our still remaining coal power stations (gas was in short supply) which in the near future are all due to be shut down by our irresponsible government without providing any functionally equivalent replacements. Unbelievably, they are planning to run down our fleet of gas power stations as well. An estimated 20,000 more Brits than average died between December and March, at least partly because our regressive energy policies forced fuel impoverished pensioners to choose between heating and eating. Getting free of the climate-obsessed EU should allow us to set more rational climate and energy policies, if we seize the opportunity. In the meantime, climate realists can only try to shame our climate alarmist politicians like Ruth Davidson out of their denial of reality and encourage them to switch to a more realistic climate policy of adaption as and when necessary. They should concentrate on emissions-free nuclear and moderate-emissions gas from our remaining North Sea supplies, hopefully to be superseded by natural gas fracked in the UK to maintain our energy security and save on imports. That approach might even achieve just as good if not better emissions reductions than our current shambolic, virtue signalling approach, undoubtedly at much lower cost.

In her Scotsman article Ruth Davidson confuses the issue by conflating environmentalism with climate change and by failing to distinguish between natural climate change and alleged man-made climate change, as in her incoherent phrase “Climate change is real”. She also misrepresents Margaret Thatcher who in her later years disparaged the climate change movement as “a marvellous excuse for worldwide supranational socialism”. Thatcher argued for good stewardship of the environment but it is very unlikely that she would have felt the need to make any futile, ruinously expensive “climate justice” gesture to atone for the opportunistic single issue of atmospheric CO2 given that the industrialisation we started has degraded the planet in so many other ways, e.g. resource depletion, littered oceans, littered outer space, environmental pollution, asphalted countryside, urban sprawl and so on.

Ruth Davidson needs to be reined in on her madcap Scottish energy policy ideas as energy is not even a devolved matter. Her proposal that by 2030 she could supply 50% of Scotland’s energy from renewables is as delusional as Labour’s 2017 manifesto policy that by 2030 they could supply 60% of the UK’s energy from low-carbon or renewable sources, dismantled in this open email to politicians. (It also analyses how the climate change scare has been blown up out of all proportion.) That open email links to this main paper which analyses the infeasibility of the UK government’s plans for 80% decarbonisations by 2050. Finally, if Ruth Davidson has to resort to claiming that the glaring policy problems listed above are “lies”, as her Scotsman article suggests, just because they go against her precious establishment consensus, then she has already lost the argument. Her dogmatic, belligerent attitude on climate change could quite possibly lose her the vote as well.

Douglas S Brodie

Nairn, April 2018


About Dougal Quixote

Slightly mad. Always believes a cup is half full so continues to tilt at Wind Turbines and the politicians that seem to believe it is their god given right to ruin Scotland for a pot of fool's gold.
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2 Responses to A critique of Ruth Davidson

  1. Pingback: ‘Must read’ letters (with links)to BEIS, Prime Minister & MPs. MSPs. | UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM

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