Skip navigation
Contact No's - ROI 048 3755 1260  NI   028 3755 1260

Scientific Alliance Newsletter

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...
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...

The Tesla bubble

07.04.2017
Markets are prone to bubbles as the herd instinct takes over from cool common sense. This is not a new phenomenon – witness the South Sea bubble in the early 18th Century, and the even earlier Tulip Mania in the Netherlands – but markets seem to be as prone to these as ever. The dot-com bubble of 1995-2001 saw money pouring in to internet start-ups, most of which have since disappeared. IT may have transformed our lives, but for every Amazon or Google, there are hundreds of companies that never made a profit. There are of course always commentators who will point out the...
Most people said that Donald Trump could not get the Republican nomination for President. He did. Most people thought he would never be elected President. He was. Most people expected him to tone down his rhetoric and become more like a conventional politician after he was elected. Apart maybe from his acceptance speech, he has shown little sign of doing this. President Trump will try to do many of the things candidate Trump promised. Not everything: he is no longer encouraging people to lock Hillary Clinton up, now that she no longer poses a threat to his plans, for example. His attacks...
‘Transports of delight’ will remind those UK readers of mature years of the London buses lauded in the Flanders and Swann song (others may find it meaningless, for which I apologise). In the 1950s, when the song was written, public transport was king and car ownership much lower than today. Since then, things have moved on considerably. Car ownership in developed countries is almost universal and has essentially peaked as more people in an increasingly urban population choose not to buy one. The private car is the default mode of transport for very many people, and global...

Undue influence

17.03.2017
Last week’s newsletter – Carbon dioxide, pollution and energy policy– quoted from a recent article posted on the Carbon Brief website: Analysis: UK carbon emissions fell 6% in 2016 after record drop in coal use. Carbon Brief (tag line ‘Clear on climate’) nails its colours to the mast quite clearly by featuring stories reinforcing the still-dominant narrative of impending dangerous, anthropogenic climate change and the need to take urgent action. Their stated purpose suggests a degree of objectivity. On the ‘about us’ page of the website, we read...
A report this week from Carbon Brief website gives a very rosy view of the UK’s emissions reduction policy. On the BBC website we see that coal collapse drives down UK carbon emissions, while in the Times, the identical message is presented under the headline ditching coal helps Britain beat climate change target. The FT emphasises that UK carbon emissions fall to late-19th century levels. There are more serious aspects to consider, but I can’t avoid noting the increasingly common use of the term ‘carbon emissions’, giving a somewhat inaccurate picture of clouds of...

An imperfect world

03.03.2017
Despite the dizzying rate of progress in the modern world – fuelled by human ingenuity – it often seems that people would prefer to see no change. Not only that, but we have a seemingly inbuilt perception that certain things – our local environment, the weather etc – should conform to an established pattern we are familiar with and that any change is automatically for the worse. The language of discourse on environmental matters reflects this; any change to the environment is normally presented in terms of damage and any potential influence is assessed by its level...
…as the song goes. Ideally, of course, we should try to be as objective as possible and understand the negatives as well. In reality, all too often we accentuate them instead. Despite life becoming better in so many ways, there seems to be an innate tendency to think that things are going downhill. Every civilization seems to look back to its golden days and worry about the downhill slide since then. Today, this is particularly true for environmental issues. Just as we categorise people as left- or right-leaning in their politics, or classify by class or income band, so we can...
In view of the apparent commitment by the world’s major economies to slash emissions of carbon dioxide in a bid to tune the climate to our liking, seeing a future for coal may sound perverse. Many commentators are warning of shareholders in fossil fuel companies taking a hit as the ‘stranded assets’ of coal and oil reserves plunge in value as demand dries up. Maybe that will happen at some future date, but there seems no danger of it coming to pass in the foreseeable future. Renewable energy – mainly wind and solar – is supposed to supplant fossil fuels over...

Current Issues


Future costs of UK energy supply

The Scientific Alliance recently published part 1 of an examination of National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios, dealing with security of supply. We are now pleased to publish part 2 - cost of supply. The authors - Dr Capell Aris and Colin Gibson - conclude that building more gas and nuclear stations would be considerably less expensive than any of the NG scenarios, as well as offering better energy security.

What's New

14 October 2016: Read the new report by Dr Capell Aris, published jointly with the Adam Smith Institute - Solar power in Britain: the Impossible Dream