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Delingpole: Cambridge Prof – UK’s Green Energy Targets Require ‘Herds of Unicorns’

November 13, 2019

By Paul Homewood


From Breitbart:


The green energy targets being pursued by Britain’s main political parties are so impossibly deluded, fantastical and overambitious that they could only be achievable with the intervention of herds of magical unicorns.

So says Cambridge engineering professor Michael Kelly in a stinging rebuke to the Net Zero policies currently being championed by Boris Johnson and his rivals in their desperate race to the green bottom. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are all committed to carbon emissions reduction targets which they cannot hope to attain and which will be hugely damaging both to Britain’s prosperity and freedoms.

Professor Kelly has said:

“For the world to reverse two centuries of industrial development in a few decades would require the efforts of herds of unicorns.”

Kelly was speaking in London at the annual lecture of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

His speech – Energy Utopias and Engineering Reality – is a much needed corrective to the view, shockingly prevalent among the groupthink-afflicted political class not just in Britain but throughout most Western economies, that dramatic decarbonisation is both desirable and possible.

According to Kelly, one of the few serious thinkers to have considered the practical implications of taking an economy ‘Net Zero’, decarbonisation is neither desirable nor possible – at least not outside a 400-year time frame.

Green evangelists often talk about decarbonisation being the next Moon landing – one of those massive projects which the weight of government can get behind to create a better future.

But in fact, Kelly argues, the better analogy is President Nixon’s 1971 State of the Nation address in which he promised to throw whatever funds were necessary to finding a cure for cancer. Five decades on the cure remains elusive.

Kelly says:

So the recent academic plea for mass leave of absence to ‘save the planet’ was quite misleading in appealing to the moon-shot as an exemplar – climate is more akin to the cancer example.

The target of decarbonising the world economy by 2050, he argues, is unrealistically ambitious.

In order to keep global temperatures to within 1.5◦C of pre-industrial levels, we intend to eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) by replacing all the energy developments since about 1880 with zero-carbon alternatives. This is to be achieved by 2050. Even reaching the old target of an 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions would be miraculous; this is a level of emissions not seen since 1880. I assert that a herd of unicorns will be needed to deliver this target, let alone full decarbonisation. I also point out the utter nonsense of Extinction Rebellion’s demands to complete the task by 2025.

Whatever paltry efforts Western economies make to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels are being dwarfed by a developing world which is hungry for real, reliable energy.

One notes that we have not had an ‘energy transition’: fossil fuels have continued to grow steadily at a rate about 7–8 times that of renewable technologies over the last 20 years. The energy demand of the major developed countries has been static or in small decline over that period. Most of the increase has come from growth in the global middle class, which increased by 1.5 billion people in the 20 years to 2015. The World Bank is anticipating a further increase of 2.5 billion by 2035, much of it the result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and BP estimate a further 40% growth in global energy demand by then.

In the UK there has been a steady fall in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990. But in the international context, this is entirely pointless.

However, UK decreases are dwarfed by global increases. After no-growth years in 2016 and 2017, global carbon dioxide emissions grew by 3% in 2018. European emissions fell but the growth in all the other parts of the world was 17 times greater.

Worse, Britain’s – and Europe’s – decarbonisation has been achieved only at great cost to the economy, particularly with regards to balance of payments. UK manufacture has simply been offshored to China.

Figure 9 shows the increasing deficit of the UK balance of payments with respect to manufactures since then. In other words, a significant proportion of our emissions have been exported to China and elsewhere. Indeed, over the period 1991– 2007, the emissions associated with rising imports almost exactly cancelled the UK emissions reduction!

He adds:

Some of the measures introduced by the Climate Change Committee have actually made global emissions worse. Where we once smelted aluminium using electricity generated from a mixture of nuclear, gas and coal, we now import our aluminium from China where electricity is nearly all made from coal. What is worse, the smelter in Anglesey had a contract to use more electricity when the local demand was low (at night and on weekends); costs were kept lower for everyone. Now the smelter has gone, local consumers have to pay more for their electricity as the generators are less efficiently used.

This is not – it hardly needs stating – a good look for all those political parties claiming to want to help workers and revive business in the regions: on energy and the environment, they are all pushing the very policies guaranteed to make British regional workers suffer.

Even were decarbonising Western economies practicable – which it is not – its putative benefits would be more than offset by the much more dramatic increase in carbon emissions from economies like India and China.

Kelly likens this to one group of people (the Western economies) digging tiny holes only to have another group (India, China etc) appearing with relays of wheelbarrows to fill them up again – and more.

I now have a simple pragmatic question to ask. Suppose I agree to pay you £100 to dig a two-metre-deep hole for me to bury family treasure. You set about digging, but find your progress thwarted by a hundred people with wheelbarrows full of earth coming to fill in your hole. What would you do? Keep on digging regardless or stop and try to find out what is going on? To your protest that you are being paid to dig a hole, you are told that the others are being paid much more to fill in any holes that appear!

At this time there are people in several countries, including both the United Kingdom and New Zealand, both of whose passports I hold, who are straining to turn off the last coal-fired power stations in the cause of climate change mitigation. But the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, the largest civil engineering project in the world, will help over 2 billion people in West Asia and Africa out of poverty and hunger over the next 30 years, just as earlier projects took 600 million people in China from rural squalor to middle-class comfort over the last 20 years. The initiative will include 700 new coal-fired power stations, over a third of which are currently being built. I do not support the neo-colonialist tendencies associated with the initiative, but it will go further than any other project to deliver the first and second of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: the elimination of world poverty and hunger. The climatic Sustainable Development Goal is number 13 on this list.

Professor Kelly’s speech ought to be required reading for the Britain’s political class and its attendant Civil Service, mired as they are in green groupthink. Exposure to the facts confounding their uncosted, ill-considered green virtue-signalling might well cause their heads collectively to explode. But given how badly their pie-in-the-sky policies have betrayed the people they’re supposed to serve perhaps that would be no bad thing.

  1. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    November 13, 2019 2:22 pm

    “……Exposure to the facts confounding their uncosted, ill-considered green virtue-signalling might well cause their heads collectively to explode………”

    They have HAD ‘exposure to the facts’ for more than 20 years now. Their response has been:

    1 – to ignore them.
    2 – to commission a paper from a ‘supporter’ to ‘debunk’ any disagreements with lies – and then claim that they are debunked, so they need not be addressed.
    3 – to alter base data which they collect and control to paint a propaganda picture of how THEIR approach is ‘just about to have a breakthrough’, or is working well.
    4 – to sack any internal dissenter and then put a secrecy clamp on the release of any damaging information.
    5 – to divert blame for the failures of their damaging policies onto other reasons.
    6 – to close down all communication into the Whitehall bubble and emit a stream of mindless propaganda justifying any action they care to undertake….

    I think that we are well past the point where ‘exposure to the facts’ will have any effect…

  2. Ajax Ornis permalink
    November 13, 2019 2:29 pm

    Bloody brilliantly put, but how do we get the morons to read, mark, learn & inwardly digest it ?

    • Robert Jones permalink
      November 13, 2019 9:26 pm

      We need a positive counterpoint to the one being hawked by Greta Thunberg and ‘Extortion Revolution’. Greta has the advantage of being very young, female, possibly ‘special’ and a fearlessly confident speaker (but this might stem from being ‘special’). She therefore ticks all the boxes and has become the poster-girl for all those making money or progress out of the ‘Climate Catastrophe’ which shows no signs of ever happening.

      The spokesperson putting the case for reality probably also needs to be young and female but without Greta’s privileges, so definitely someone from the third world whose personal expectations are stunted because of poverty, lack of electricity, heating, food, education, healthcare and any obvious way of clawing her way out of a dismal future.

      In the interim Governments need to start penalising those earning power, influence and money out of the World’s Greatest Scam.

  3. Malcolm Bell permalink
    November 13, 2019 3:10 pm

    For someone who pretends to know all about weather Ms. Thunberg clearly has given no thought to the North Atlantic in winter. Clearly she knows nothing about real weather.

    They will have to sail back along the north route to get the wind and current. It could be very nasty indeed.

    Surely some one should tell them not to be so foolish. I wish them well but I wish they wouldn’t try, but you cannot explain things to the ignorant,

    • Gerry, England permalink
      November 14, 2019 1:44 pm

      Your post has cheered me up today. I hope they endure biting cold winds of up to at least force 7 and huge seas.

  4. Jackington permalink
    November 13, 2019 3:21 pm

    Thank you Dellers and Paul for giving this excellent paper the coverage it deserves. But,there’s none so deaf than those who will not hear.

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 13, 2019 4:11 pm

    I keep meaning to find time to watch Jo Nova’s ‘How to ruin an electricity grid’ talk, I suspect that should be required research for all politicians too.

  6. Stuart Brown permalink
    November 13, 2019 4:26 pm

    ‘At this time there are people in several countries, including both the United Kingdom and New Zealand, both of whose passports I hold, who are straining to turn off the last coal-fired power stations in the cause of climate change mitigation.’

    Good job we haven’t yet managed in the UK. Right now (16:20 13th Nov) we are getting more electricity from coal than wind and solar combined.

    It’s cold and the sun just went down!

    • Dibnah permalink
      November 13, 2019 6:05 pm

      The idiots will almost certainly have switched off the last coal-fired power station in the UK by the end of 2020.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        November 14, 2019 1:47 pm

        There will be a convoy of demolition vehicles waiting at the gate for the moment it ceases working so they can blow it up for good.

  7. David permalink
    November 13, 2019 4:45 pm

    The comparison of de-carbonising with achieving a moon landing is apt seeing the Americans never even landed on the moon

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      November 13, 2019 9:55 pm

      I thought about this reply – for all of a nanosecond: Idiot!

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        November 13, 2019 9:56 pm

        But then, your irony could have been very subtle……

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        November 14, 2019 12:14 pm

        Join the club, I couldn’t work out if it was serious. If it was intended as ironic, it’s a silly thing to post here for alarmists to misconstrue.

        Rational logical scientific skeptics don’t need people tarring us with the conspiracy/flat earth ideation nonsense.

        The weight of evidence that the moon landings occurred is overwhelming, and no serious evidence of an attempted cover up has ever emerged – unlike the weak evidence supporting doomsday climate theory with it’s numerous examples of whistle blowers, incompetence, deception, corruption, etc.

  8. bobn permalink
    November 13, 2019 7:15 pm

    Cambridge Prof Kelly’s speech should be compulsory viewing for Cambridge professors, since cambridg has one of the most deluded and stupid Professors on the planet. Their Prof of climate fraud – Wadhams i think his name is. The one who said the north Pole ice would have all disappeared some years ago.

  9. Tonyb permalink
    November 13, 2019 8:47 pm

    Prof David mackay chief scientist of DECC said all this a decade ago. He remarked that it only took trivial back of the envelope calculations to demonstrate the impossibility of using renewable energy to power our economy.

    They didn’t listen to him despite his official exalted position and credibility so the chances of our woke politicians listening to prof Kelly are zero, they would rather listen to the naive wishful thinking of a 16 year old child who knows nothing of the science


    • Michael Adams permalink
      November 13, 2019 10:27 pm

      Its a small point but isn’t she 17 by now. I feel sorry for, not now but in the future when she wakes up to what her abusive parents have done to her. Aren’t parents supposed to protect their children?

      • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
        November 14, 2019 1:44 am

        Date of Birth: 3 Jan 2003

  10. Michael Adams permalink
    November 13, 2019 10:41 pm

    On a slightly different point, mining the sea bed for cobalt is on the cards. Its not true mining but gathering nodules which contain cobalt, essential for EVs. Imagine hundreds of these tractors trampling over the seabed. What the effects on the ecosystem will be is unknown but can hardly be positive can it. Its going to be a conundrum for environmentalists. Perhaps Greta knows the answer.

    Since we don’t have nearly enough of the metals needed for the green revolution it will be amusing to watch how our politicians confront this inconvenient truth.

    Good luck Boris et al.

    • dennisambler permalink
      November 15, 2019 12:36 pm

      “…meeting UK electric car targets for 2050 would require production of just under two times the current total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and at least half of the world’s copper production.”

  11. yonason permalink
    November 14, 2019 7:49 am

    …and tons and tons of pixie dust. Don’t forget the pixie dust.

  12. yonason permalink
    November 14, 2019 8:00 am

    ”Green evangelists often talk about decarbonisation being the next Moon landing – one of those massive projects which the weight of government can get behind to create a better future.”

    How about we just go back to the moon? …and maybe Mars? Seems like money better spent. And it wouldn’t destroy the earth, unlike mandating stupid energy policies, that cost more than we’ll ever have and produce far less than we need.

  13. john cooknell permalink
    November 14, 2019 9:46 am

    Its raining heavily again my thoughts are “will I get out of the village today” my fault for living in somewhere with Bourne in its name. However on reflection.

    In early spring 2012 the favoured climate change scenario by the climate experts, was increasing drought for the UK. Pressure from environmental campaign groups and the media forced the Governments hand

    Water companies and the EA were required to spend billions on emergency measures. My drought resistant plants all drowned.

    The drought of 2012 turned into a flood, and if you want my forecast this winter will be dry and cold. How do i know this, well every time the experts forecast long term the opposite invariably happens.

    • john cooknell permalink
      November 14, 2019 12:36 pm

      Update, the brook is over at rear of house, fields are flooding fast.

    • November 14, 2019 4:38 pm


      Hope everything is Ok. I was on the Flood defence committee of the EA for some years. They were firmly of the opinion that we were into permanent drought so refused to do any river dredging.

      We would point out the rainfall records showed nothing of the sort and that rain tended to go in cycles. Anything with Bourne in its name will, sooner or later, reassert itself.

      Brooks often get diverted and filled in through lack of attention but then years later find their natural route again once water levels rise . Sounds as if you have a flood plain behind you, The EA were always annoyed they could do nothing about developers building on flood plains.


      • john cooknell permalink
        November 14, 2019 5:38 pm

        Our brook “problems” go back to Capability Brown who diverted the brook up the hill a bit to make sure his nice lake was always full. So when it breaches it can be spectacular!

        Then the EA and the LLFA start having an argument over whose responsibility it is for the un-named watercourse and every 10-12 years it floods all over the place.

        Very picturesque though, Capability would be proud, and of course the Manor remains untouched.

      • Tonyb permalink
        November 14, 2019 6:40 pm


        Sounds as if you have a COW behind you, that is to say a critical ordinary watercourse.

        They do have a legal status If your local concil has either identified it or passed over responsibility to the EA who then have a duty to maintain it


  14. November 14, 2019 11:23 am

    Twitter thread
    XR’s “scientist” claims the BBC debunked the 500 Skeptic experts
    It’s a World Service interview with Oreskes

    • mikewaite permalink
      November 14, 2019 2:10 pm

      According to our TV guide there is a BBC programme tonight about Climategate. Given that the BBC forbid any contribution from sceptics it promises to be a complete whitewash of the alleged unscientific activities of Jones, Mann et al. There is another climate summit coming up of course and the BBC would almost certainly like to make climate an over – riding and one-sided election topic. So the tenth anniversary of Climategate is too good a chance to miss for the chance of heaping abuse on the “deniers”. Meanwhile it is snowing in Shropshire (a bit) I think I heard.

      • November 14, 2019 4:32 pm


        I understand a number of sceptics were interviewed but a couple of prominent ones ended up on the cutting room floor. I believe Steve Mcintyre still has a slot.

        The TV guide description seemed to imply the makers believe it was much ado about nothing but let’s wait and see for ourselves. Keep popcorn handy.

        Your snow is of course only weather. This afternoon I recorded a temperature of 3.2C mid afternoon in Torquay which is by far the lowest I have logged here in November. Last year it was a balmy 13C but of course that again is only weather.


  15. tom0mason permalink
    November 14, 2019 1:46 pm

    OT but …
    Yet more BS from the Daily Mirror
    The polar bears are just clinging on to life!

  16. November 14, 2019 2:42 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

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