Skip to content

Scientific Alliance Newsletter

23.06.2017
If news reports are to be believed, renewable energy is the future, alongside electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage. The government-mediated transition to this new economy (with the help of taxpayers’ money, of course) will provide energy security and create jobs in addition to meeting the primary objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and thereby keeping the rise in average global temperatures from pre-industrial levels to less than 2°C. Well, sorry to rain on the parade, but there is a lot of wishful thinking associated with this view and, whether you are committed to or...
16.06.2017
Food plays a unique part in our lives. At minimum, it is essential for life, but it also has great cultural significance. For those of us lucky enough to live in peaceful, prosperous societies, eating can be an important source of pleasure rather than simply a means to keep us alive. But eating is not entirely risk-free. The present-day surge in rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes is strongly related to the ubiquity of affordable food, and food poisoning of varying severity can still be an unpleasant fact of life. But, alongside these very real risks, many people choose to minimise other...
09.06.2017
The United States is an exceptional country in so many ways, as visitors can attest. For Brits, a common language at first masks the vast cultural divide between the Old and New Worlds. Americans themselves though are keenly aware of the sense of difference. This uniqueness is not just about culture, but about the country’s position in the world. Having been the world’s largest economy since the 1920s, the willingness to engage more fully in global affairs led to the superpower status that has dominated world politics since the middle of last century, albeit in competition with the Soviet...
02.06.2017
Governments are elected for a whole variety of reasons, but a key one is that we hope they will spend taxpayers’ money wisely. Bill Clinton’s famous phrase – “it’s the economy, stupid” – really sums up politics in a nutshell. For sure, voters may be tempted to vote for the party that promises the most goodies, but ultimately all the good things in life have to be paid for. The money may all come directly from taxes or it may be supplemented by borrowing. Many major economies have run large deficits for years, but we as individuals still pay the price of this because some of our tax pounds,...
26.05.2017
In recent weeks, I have been very critical of both the costs and feasibility of relying on renewable energy, particularly when it comes to the enormous task of converting effectively all land-based energy use to electricity. Normally, such a change would be driven by a quantum leap in technology (the distribution of first gas then electricity direct to individual homes) or economics (in a more limited way, the ‘dash for gas’ in the 1990s). The ‘rush for renewables’ on the other hand, is driven entirely by government policy on reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Targets have been set for...
19.05.2017
In last week’s newsletter (The Energy Conundrum) I covered some of the problems with a growing reliance on renewable energy sources. I touched on the enormous difficulties involved in a comprehensive move away from fossil fuels and hinted at the scale of the costs. Not that it’s simply a question of cost – something very expensive can bring benefits worth many times the investment – but policymakers do need to consider value for money. Costs are always important, but even more so when a government supposedly imposing ‘austerity’ on the country sees the date for the books to be balanced...
12.05.2017
It seems that more people are now beginning to realise that, to be a real game-changer rather than just an expensive and unreliable contributor to energy needs, solar, wind and other sources of renewable, ‘free’ energy have to be used in conjunction with energy storage on a massive scale. Not only that, but this scale is far greater than anything we can currently conceive of. Even pumped storage, the best we currently have, could make only a very modest contribution in most geographies. Batteries, including the Tesla Powerwall, are touted as an enabler of a true renewables revolution, but...
05.05.2017
The coming UK national election will inevitably be dominated by Brexit, at least for most voters. But this is not the only concern and in itself will have a knock-on effect on other issues for which policy currently emanates from Brussels. Not least among these is the environment in its broadest sense, with policy on air and water pollution, farming (including pesticides), wildlife conservation etc all being made at EU level. With the UK’s relationship with other EU member states inevitably changing, the Westminster parliament may once more be able to introduce policies designed with the...
27.04.2017
With the double shock (to most) of the UK vote for Brexit and the election of President Trump across the pond, many people predicted a further series of political upsets this year. That’s the way people’s minds work – we tend to expect a continuation of a trend – and it’s one reason why predictions are so difficult to make about almost anything. In fact, the political ground across Europe has shifted comparatively little, with the notable exception of the UK, where the Labour Party leadership apparently has a death wish, believing that the country is ready to accept its hard left agenda....
21.04.2017
The extent of the human race’s impact on climate is not known with any degree of certainty, although the prevailing message in much of the media is that, to all intents and purposes, it is. Along with this message often goes the view that there is a relatively small clique of people who, for whatever nefarious motive, continue to oppose this apparent consensus. The Trump presidency takes a far more sceptical view of this consensus than its predecessor, and the scientific establishment is seriously concerned about what may happen between now and the next election. However, at least one of the...

Pages