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Scotland first to ban environmentally harmful anaesthetic

March 3, 2023

By Paul Homewood

h/t George Heraghty/Wilson Flood


It’s hard to describe just how appalling and irresponsible this decision is:




Scotland has become the first country in the world to stop its hospitals using the anaesthetic desflurane because of the threat it poses to the environment.

NHS data suggests the gas, used to keep people unconscious during surgery, has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Banning it in Scotland – from its peak use in 2017 – would cut emissions equal to powering 1,700 homes a year.

UK hospitals have already cut down.

In the last few years, more than 40 hospital trusts in England and a number of hospitals in Wales have stopped using it.

NHS England will introduce a similar ban from 2024, which – like Scotland – prohibits its use for anything but exceptional circumstances.

Banning it across NHS hospitals in England would cut harmful emissions equivalent to those caused by powering 11,000 homes every year, according to NHS analysis of desflurane use in 2020.

Other countries, including many in Europe, are likely to make similar moves in the next few years.

Dr Kenneth Barker, anaesthetist and clinical lead for Scotland’s national green theatres programme, said he was shocked to find the anaesthetic drug he had used for more than a decade for many major and routine operations was so harmful to the environment.

"I realised in 2017 that the amount of desflurane we used in a typical day’s work as an anaesthetist resulted in emissions equivalent to me driving 670 miles that day," he said.

"I decided to stop using it straight away and many fellow anaesthetists have got on board.

"When you are faced with something as obvious as this and with the significance it has to the environment – I am very glad we have got to this stage."

Many hospitals have switched to safe and effective anaesthetic gases with less warming potential such as sevoflurane, which has a global warming potential 130 times that of carbon dioxide, or to using alternative non-gaseous anaesthetics and more efficient equipment.

Scottish Health and Social Care Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said: "Programmes like this are key to our transition to become a net-zero health service, whilst ensuring patient safety remains at the heart of every clinical decision.


Anaesthetics should only be picked on purely medical grounds, and no other. There was obviously a good reason for picking desflurane in the first place, whether effectiveness, safety or simply cost. Thosze good reasons should not simply be passed over for political reasons.

In any event, its contribution to GHGs is infinitesimal, if it is only equivalent to 11,000 homes. That is 0.04% of all UK homes, and around 0.01% of total UK emissions.

Personally I would find it frightening if I heard the guy about to operate on me spouting the nonsense of Dr Kenneth Barker.

  1. Tim Leeney permalink
    March 3, 2023 4:29 pm

    NHS data??? What can they possibly know about it?

  2. Bob Schweizer permalink
    March 3, 2023 4:30 pm

    That doctor must be barking mad!

  3. Hamish McDougall permalink
    March 3, 2023 4:46 pm

    Perhaps it would greener to allow all his patients to die? He could become a ice-cream salesman instead, but using a bicycle, not a van because it is greener.

  4. Gamecock permalink
    March 3, 2023 4:51 pm

    ‘Banning it in Scotland – from its peak use in 2017 – would cut emissions equal to powering 1,700 homes a year.’

    What is that in Davos private flights?

    Elites fly; you die.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 3, 2023 6:42 pm

      It is estimated that there are 23.7 million homes in the UK. So the equivalent of reducing emissions by 1,700 homes is 0.007%.
      Well done Scottish Health. We shall all feel safer in our beds.
      There’s virtue-signalling – and there is out-and-out falsehoods. (AKA feather-bedding.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        March 3, 2023 7:06 pm

        …and, of course, that reduction of 0.007% is of the <1% of UK emissions.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        March 4, 2023 9:00 am

        They are complete morons.

    • Gamecock permalink
      March 3, 2023 7:11 pm

      Your pets are next . . . .

  5. GeoffB permalink
    March 3, 2023 4:51 pm

    It is a very insignificant amount, clearly virtue green signalling…..I had better start trapping my farts, that makes me feel really great…..what a load of idiots

  6. Realist permalink
    March 3, 2023 5:09 pm

    Disgraceful. “environmentally harmful” seems to be a catch-all excuse for anything that the fanatics don’t like personally.

  7. Charles Walker permalink
    March 3, 2023 6:07 pm

    Since petrochemicals are used in medicine for everything from synthesising penicillin to making bandages I see a dim future for humanity if this catches on. But then, isn’t that the point these people are pursuing?

  8. March 3, 2023 6:23 pm

    didn’t need this – going for major operation next Thursday – added stress

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      March 3, 2023 9:03 pm

      Alec think of the planet !!
      All you need is a bottle of rum & a leather strap to bite on (:-))

      BTW … All the best for next Thursday.

  9. March 3, 2023 6:42 pm

    “Global warming potential (GWP)” 2,500 times greater than CO2. Is the reality like that of methane’s GWP? That is since methane’s radiatively active bandwidth is fully saturated by H2O its GWP is essentially zippo?

  10. John Brown permalink
    March 3, 2023 7:04 pm

    Mission Zero, the review of the Net Zero Strategy, is looking for a region to go carbon neutral by 2030. I would propose Scotland to be that region as they are very keen to implement Net Zero and have already made 2045 as their legal net zero date.

  11. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 3, 2023 7:13 pm

    If people are counting GHG emissions in terms of households, why let 1.1 million people immigrate in 2022. Say 250K more houses required to be built from scratch as well as supplied with energy.

  12. dearieme permalink
    March 3, 2023 7:19 pm

    If the NHS wants to cut down on Global Warming gas emissions it could reduce the temperatures in its hospitals by two or three degrees. I’ve never been in an NHS hospital that wasn’t grossly overheated.

    Mind you they also tend to be under ventilated, presumably partly explaining their rotten standard of infection control. Improving the ventilation would be cheaper if only they’d turn the bloody heating down.

    Anyway, the Covid pandemic showed that the medical trades can’t be trusted to understand information in their own sphere. What possesses them to think they understand the climate?

    • tomo permalink
      March 3, 2023 9:40 pm

      Two or three ?

      I went to get a medical at Great Yarmouth hospital some months ago – everybody outside was bobble hats and puffer jackets – inside it was just insanely hot – I’d say the temperature was in the high 20s Celsius.

      • dearieme permalink
        March 4, 2023 1:34 pm

        My underestimate was perhaps influenced by my experience of opening a window in a waiting room. In walked an Essex Girl and screeched “It’s fuckin’ freezin’ in ‘ere.”

      • March 4, 2023 3:26 pm

        While I do not know the specifics of the medical offices mentioned, I know central heating is the bane of many landlords in the U.S. where they see the widows open in the buildings they own, and still receive “insufficient heat complaint” calls at their offices. You will never please everyone, all the time.

  13. Mark Hodgson permalink
    March 3, 2023 7:27 pm

    Paul, net zero is an NHS obsession and mission. I suspect that people generally have no idea about the NHS’ misplaced priorities. I wrote about it here:

    An Unhealthy Obsession

  14. George Herraghty permalink
    March 3, 2023 7:53 pm

    So, it’s stuff the patient to save the planet.
    How utterly, utterly perverse!

  15. Not Buying It permalink
    March 3, 2023 9:11 pm

    Every time they touch something the put on a new pair of silicon gloves and then throw them out. Every needle, bandage, pill, etc. comes in a package that gets thrown out. They threw away tens of millions of masks over covid. But, you know, some *gas* that “has the potential” to change the atmosphere by incomprehensibly small amounts is the biggest concern.

    It boggles the mind.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      March 7, 2023 3:55 pm

      Ever had a ‘procedure’ while conscious? The pile of ‘stuff’ that’s thrown away makes a noticeable stack on one’s bedside cabinet!

  16. tomo permalink
    March 3, 2023 9:34 pm

    Opiates are addictive – let’s stop giving them to hospice patients.

    Quite honestly I hope some of the perps of this idiocy should have a tattoo that says “no painkillers or sedatives under any circumstances” and it should be in bold caps at the top of the front page on their medical records.

  17. March 3, 2023 9:42 pm

    Are these climate alarmists huffing their own anesthesia? With knuckle heads like these, it is hard to believe Scotland produced scientists like Lord Kelvin, James Clerk Maxwell, James Watt and the Noble Prize winning physician, James Black. What happened to scholarship in the Highlands? They are doomed with climate clowns running the government.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      March 4, 2023 12:31 pm

      The problem today is scientific research by committee – and governmnet funded – as opposed to the great advances created by a single person being curious and often funded by a wealthy benefactor. Today for example, the evil Bill Gates funds people looking into ways to reduce the population including killing people not taking human knowledge further.

  18. liardetg permalink
    March 3, 2023 10:16 pm

    I must do my bit. I won’t refill the coal scuttle until tomorrow.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      March 4, 2023 12:32 pm

      Got that covered – I will open a new sack of coal today!

  19. Gerard permalink
    March 4, 2023 1:11 am

    The calculations of global warming potential of these gasses is scientifically flawed. See papers by Happer and van Wijngarden.

  20. Gamecock permalink
    March 4, 2023 2:02 am

    ‘has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide.’

    What’s 2,500 times zero?

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      March 4, 2023 12:56 pm

      Yes. It’s putting the word, ‘potential’ in the same box as, ‘could’. Something that people need to understand. I could be great pianist – if I had the potential for learning.

  21. Colín permalink
    March 4, 2023 5:53 am

    Housing contributes 13% of Scotlands greenhouse emissions, do the math, this measure will reduce that by 0.01%. So even if the entire world did this it’s note even noise in the signal.

    • Dr Bruce Powell permalink
      March 4, 2023 9:46 am

      By those arguments, there’s no point any of us doing anything since our individual contributions are negligible.

      I think leadership is an issue perhaps?

      Someone has to go first and desflurane is no loss to medicine

      • Gamecock permalink
        March 4, 2023 5:44 pm

        “By those arguments, there’s no point any of us doing anything”


        “desflurane is no loss to medicine”

        Apply Chesterton’s Fence.

  22. March 4, 2023 6:08 am

    Desflurane is one of a wide range of inhalational agent options for anaesthetists. It is not superior to others in patient outcome terms and stopping its use will not affect patient care. While I am a retired anaesthetist, I am not a climate expert so I can not comment on the ground-shaking impact this will have upon global warming.

    • March 4, 2023 11:06 am

      Do not be so hard on yourself, Dr. Powell–none of these “We must BAN IT” fools are climate experts either.

    • Gamecock permalink
      March 4, 2023 9:35 pm

      “Desflurane is one of a wide range of inhalational agent options for anaesthetists.”

      Anaesthetists are selecting it now. For reasons.

      “It is not superior to others in patient outcome terms and stopping its use will not affect patient care.”

      That’s hardly the point. Once the cry bullies get desflurane, THEY AREN’T GOING TO STOP. They’ll go after the next. Their success will embolden them, not stop them. They must be fought NOW, or they’ll kill you incrementally.

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