Manifestos & Climate Change Facts

Bill Dowling,
45 Longdown Road, Sandhurst
GU47 8QG

26 November 2019
Tel. 01344 772130

Dear Prime Minister,

I much admire your spirit, fortitude and common sense, and wish you well in the Election.

But, please may I ask, has anyone in your party or among your advisors actually worked out some realistic numbers for anything like the scale of the UK Climate change action that is required?

Your party says it is aiming for the UK being net-zero on emissions by 2050 and does at least realistically accept the need for some emissions requiring Carbon Capture & Storage, e.g. steel and cement production, in order to maintain any semblance of our modern industrial society.

However, just to maintain our present rate of total energy consumption, which was 143Mtoe (Million tonnes of oil equivalent) in 2018, and assuming no further growth in our economy and no further increases in our population due to immigration over the next 30 years, after making an allowance for CCS and our existing renewable energy capacity, I have calculated that will require us to be able to increase our renewable energy capacity to least 110Mtoe or 1279TWhr of electricity a year from renewables by 2050.

All of this could be generated by about 20 times as much nuclear power as we have now; but since that is most unlikely to be built in time, let alone afforded or tolerated, I have ignored this option.

The best “green” alternative works out at about 18 times as many wind turbines, both on land and offshore; as well as about 18 times as many solar panels on roofs and solar farms as we have now. Based on our current numbers, that would mean putting up about 144,000 more turbines on land at the rate of about 13 a day, and 36,000 more offshore at the rate of about 3 a day, every day, 7 days a week, for 30 years. It also would mean fitting solar panels to around 18 million more homes at the rate of about 1600 a day and building about 5500 more large solar farms at the rate of about 1 every two days, 7 days a week until 2050.

While we are doing all this, we will also have to gradually “electrify” over 30 million cars and about the same number of gas boilers and gas cookers, as well as everything else we use that runs on a fossil fuel.  I seriously doubt all of this can even be done, let alone afforded, by 2050.

So, I really don’t see how it can possibly be done by 2030 as the Green Party propose! But at least they are being honest when they say we must hugely reduce our energy consumption – to make this energy transition even humanly possible in time to meet the 2018 IPCC Special Report requirements.

Clearly this cannot be done while at the same time your party is still striving for ever more economic growth and encouraging more immigration to help fuel it. Both will continue to increase our total energy consumption, thereby forcing us to put up ever more wind turbines and solar panels.

Where is all the additional energy coming from that is needed to build all this new renewable energy generation capacity anyway? Wont that mean that, at least initially and for many years yet, the UK will be consuming a lot more fossil fuel energy to build it, and wont that further add to climate change? We are a long way off being able to power heavy construction plant by electricity, and do you have any idea how many tonnes of steel and concrete goes into putting up a wind turbine?

As an Engineer by profession I like to deal in hard facts. So, I would much appreciate receiving your comments and, hopefully, some better numbers to work on before I cast my vote on Dec12th.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Dowling C.Eng MI Mech E (Retired)

Boris Letter 26.11.19, click here for download, wordDoc.

6 Replies to “Manifestos & Climate Change Facts: Letter to Our Prime Minister”

  1. Mr Dowling’s inquiry to the Prime Minister could equally be written to all leaders of the world, and Like many others, I would be no less dismayed than I am now. Mr Dowling’s calculations leave no room for doubt that our global civilization will not even begin to approach the necessary investment in renewal technology required to save us. We are therefore doomed to descend into a dystopian future featuring a severely degraded biosphere, and an extreme reduction in the quality of human life. Without doubt civilisation in its present form cannot continue to exist except for a fortunate wealthy few who will have the means to purchase what they need, albeit at a further cost to the environment within which we ordinary folk will struggle to stay alive – and most of us won’t succeed.

  2. I’m no engineer, but what Mr. Dowling suggests is NOT possible seems rationally and factually correct. Continuing economic growth and adding population only exacerbates the challenges going forward, not only in Britain, but worldwide, especially in the U.S., where I live. The sane, practical path forward will ultimately include developing humane measures for reducing population, which will automatically affect the growth of consumption. However, it’s highly unlikely that neoliberal adherents will be swayed to adopt de-growth measures. What an awful predicament humanity is facing.

    1. Sorry for my delayed reply Clifton. Many thanks for your input. Your observations about economic growth and additional population growth are spot on. I agree degrowth is going to be very hard to implement. That requires asking nearly everyone on the planet other than the porest people to reduce their consumption of almost everything other than the necessities for a reasonable standard of living. Unfortunately, far too many people in rich countries now think that what used to be luxuries for so many of us are now absolute essentials!
      On the plus side, I would like to point out that there are well established, proven, kind, helpful and humane ways of reducing the population; although they are usually very slow acting.
      As you probably know they involve (a) the education of women and girls (but most men badly need educating about this too!), (b) widely available family planning advice, and (c) easy access to contraceptive measures.
      Most poor countries need a lot of help and money to implement all this, but sadly they just dont seem to get it.
      To reduce the population more quickly only requires a voluntary international agreement and the financial and practical assistance that is required; to reduce the current global average birth rate from the 2.4 per woman it is at now down to two, and preferably down towards one. A two child average would take several centures to get the population back down to where it is now, a one child average could get it below 4 billion by 2100 if implemented quickly enough, as you can see clearly illustrated by the 3 graphs that you will find on this website:
      Since climate change is on everyone’s mind now, I think a great deal depends on how fast the UN and the IPCC decide that the whole world needs to do this. Naturally, that outcome involves deciding how much money rich countries like ours are prepared to spend on this additional, but clearly sensible and necessary, way of helping to mitigate against climate change. It will mitigate against biodiversity loss, species extinctions and many other environmental and social ills we are all suffering from at the same time.
      On a finite planet, no human needs more than half a brain to work this out – as usual it just needs sufficient political and great leadership to intill the will in enough members of the human race to implement it, much the smae aplies to consumtion reduction and degrowth. Think of the situation like us humans all being in WW3 against the huge environmentalmess we have caused ourselves . I suspect that is the only way we are going to get out of it.

  3. I completely agree with Mr Dowling’s analysis and figures, and therefore agree that there is no way that we can possibly achieve the methane emission reductions needed to reach climate goals. We are therefore forced to devote our attention and (massive) resources entirely to the improvement and deployment of direct air capture systems to physically take CO2 out of the atmosphere. After a little more research we will be able to see which method is best and how much it will cost. But we have to do that research and there is no sign of funding for it at the moment.

  4. Many thanks for this feedback Peter, I think you must mean “carbon dioxide” emissions not “methane ” emissions in line 2? And, not meaning to nit pick, but you must really mean “significantly towards” rather than “entirely” in line 3, dont you.? There is so much more that needs doing to reach climate goals all at once that we cannot possibly devote all our resources to any one of them..

  5. Bill, Here in the US I also don’t see any sign we will get to where we need to be. I track the monthly electrical generation and energy consumption numbers in the US with little encouraging signs. Electricity generation represents 38.5 Quads of our 100+ Quads consumed. In the last year (through November) renewable generation has grown from 17.46% to 18.12% (124+ years to 100.00%) with 28.99% renewable (wind, solar, and geothermal) and 71.01% non-renewable (mostly natural gas) providing generation growth to offset decliners (mostly coal). Renewable consumption (through October) grew from 11.31% to 11.38% (1266 years to 100.00%) with 21.09% renewable and 78.91% non-renewable providing for consumption growth to offset decliners. Consumption by transportation sector remains mostly FF based. A lot more than the current 38.5 Quads will be needed to electrify transportation. The day when renewables will be the only growth in generation or energy consumed is a long way off (if the world survives that long) with current BAU. Bill Wade

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