Fracking Flaws


The Times, 24 October 2019:

Sir, The National Audit Office should be congratulated for its timely report examining the financial and environmental costs of fracking (News, Oct 23). The rationale for developing yet another fossil fuel is based on the erroneous belief that gas is better than coal from a climate perspective. But this is only true if fugitive emissions of methane are ignored. The high global warming potential of methane (85 times greater than CO2 over 20 years) means that releases amounting to 2 per cent of production are sufficient to cancel out the benefits of burning gas instead of coal. Satellite measurements over shale fields in North America have indicated losses in excess of 5 per cent.

Even conventional gas production incurs losses of about 1.5 per cent. If that gas is then liquefied, which is itself a very energy intensive process, then gas still has no advantage over coal. The government should abandon its misguided support of fracking.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Help Rescue the Planet

Air pollution target


The Times, 18 October 2019:

Sir, The Queen’s Speech promised air quality targets that would be “among the most ambitious in the world”. Unfortunately we have not been told what those targets will be, or the date by which they will be implemented. The Clean Air Bill, published as a private member’s bill last week, includes a commitment to achieve WHO standards by 2030 at the latest.

The most dangerous type of air pollution is small particulates, and the annual WHO limit for PM2.5 is 10 microgrammes per cubic metre of air, which is significantly lower than the average level in central London of 15. The EU limit is 25; in the US it is 12 and in Australia 8.

The government needs to announce a phased reduction in the legal limit for PM2.5 that should stipulate 15 mcg/m3 for 2020, 12 mcg/m3 by 2025 and 10 mcg/m3 by 2030. This would provide the necessary incentive for the government and councils to promote public transport and reduce car usage, particularly in urban areas. In addition it would require the government to speed up the introduction of electric vehicles, and to bring forward the phase-out date for diesel and petrol-driven vehicles to 2030. This date would align with several other European countries, including Denmark and Sweden. Moreover, it would help the UK to meet its climate change commitments which, as things stand, are almost certain to be missed.

Geraint Davies MP,
Chairman, all party parliamentary group on air pollution;
Dr Robin Russell-Jones,
Scientific adviser, air pollution APPG


Climate change


The Times, 16 September 2019:

Sir, It is highly abnormal for bush fires to run out of control in springtime (“Drought-ravaged Australia braced for worst fires ever”, Sep 13). Last autumn temperatures in the Arctic reached 30C above the historic average, and this summer we have witnessed a new phenomenon: wildfires in the Arctic. Melting of the Greenland ice cap has reached 8,500 tonnes per second, four times faster than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Temperatures worldwide are rising faster than expected and may well reach 1.5C of warming by 2030 rather than the IPCC forecast of 2040.

Another new phenomenon is that these events are being widely reported by the media. The only thing that remains unaltered is the total lack of any meaningful response from our politicians. During Boris Johnson’s time as foreign secretary, British embassies lost 60 per cent of their climate attachés. The real danger of populist politicians is their ability to ignore existential threats to our survival.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chairman of Help Rescue the Planet
Marlow, Bucks