Climate change – the Brexit threat


The Observer, 9 September 2018:

There is a tacky interface between industry and government when it comes to public health or the environment, and it is abundantly clear that Brexit is fatally shifting the balance towards deregulation (“Green watchdog will lack bite after Brexit”, News).

It is no coincidence that the most prominent Brexiters are also climate change deniers because they perceive climate change legislation as a major threat to industrial profit. This is the reason that the Department of Energy and Climate Change was dissolved, the reason that climate change has been omitted from the remit of the government’s new green watchdog, and the reason that Brexiters fulminate against the Climate Change Act.

The ruinous aspect of their delusion is that climate change offers huge opportunities to UK businesses that invest in energy efficiency, clean energy or ultra-low emission transport, as these new technologies can then be exported, something that Brexiters are apparently keen to promote. Instead, the government has scrapped zero-carbon buildings, abandoned the tidal barrage in Swansea Bay and frozen the fuel escalator, thus encouraging the rapid growth of diesel vehicles.

The chancellor boasted that this had saved motorists £47bn over the past seven years. Unfortunately, air pollution has cost the NHS £140bn over the same period and 280,000 premature deaths. How tragic that Brexit generates politicians of such limited vision who can only look backwards.

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


It’s not rocket science


The Observer, 5 August 2018:

Global warming is not that complex and many of the solutions are readily available (“Our scorched Earth needs voters to put more heat on their politicians”, Andrew Rawnsley, Comment). The problem is scientifically illiterate politicians who assume that decisions can be postponed indefinitely.

They are now engaged in a deadly folie à deux with car manufacturers or energy company executives who argue that they cannot make the necessary investments in green technology without the right signals from government, while politicians argue that matters can be left to the free market, a position that is formulated after intensive lobbying by those same companies.

The media are guilty of the same self-defeating logic. Little attention is devoted to air pollution or climate change on the grounds that the public appears uninterested in environmental issues.

Journalists should recall that the Greens achieved 15% of the vote in the EU elections of 1989 when ozone depletion hit the headlines. The dangers from climate change are immeasurably worse and it is time the media got their act together.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones, chair, Help Rescue the Planet
Marlow, Bucks

Silence on climate change




The Observer, 27 November 2016:

The key element missing from Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the emotional force of Trump’s campaign, plus any hope for the future of the planet (“The shock lessons for liberals from Brexit and the Trumpquake”, Comment). Thanks to TV programmes about the natural world, of which Planet Earth II is a shining example, the public is well aware of the dangers of global warming, even if David Attenborough is prohibited by the BBC from uttering the words “climate change”.

In the same vein, global warming did not feature in the Brexit debate or the US presidential election, even though Trump’s position – that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese – is absurd. Although Trump is a major climate change denier, most politicians, like much of the media, are in the minor denial camp. They take the view that it is happening, but now is not the time to deal with it as it is going to upset voters or persuade viewers to switch off.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Help Rescue the Planet
Stoke Poges


Gagging scientists isn’t new

The Observer, 28 February 2016:

I am not the least surprised to learn that the Cabinet Office is seeking to censor scientists who unearth findings that might prove inconvenient or embarrassing to  Government Ministers (Scientists alarmed at bid to “muzzle” their findings.Feb 21). These same strictures have applied to members of the medical profession for at least 10 years. Hospital doctors are not permitted to comment on NHS policy as a representative of the Trust by whom they are employed; instead they are obliged to write in a private capacity and even then they may not be immune from censure, which is why many letters from consultants are anonymous.

In 2003 I wrote an op-ed piece for the Times which stated “The NHS is the last refuge of Stalinist practices in the West. It has a central command and control structure whereby politically inspired initiatives filter to front-line medical staff through layers of managers and bureaucrats, most of whom have no medical qualifications”.  The Times put my hospital, St Thomas’, at the end of the article and it wasn’t long before I was called in by management and told in no uncertain terms that any repeat of this episode would lead to  disciplinary action. Scientists can express their views. They just need to be careful about their affiliation.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire



Stop Making diesel cars and pedestrianise town centres

The Observer, 24 January 2016 (text in bold not published):

Your headline about  air quality illustrates the abject failure of the Government to control pollution levels nationally (Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution Jan 17)).

Last March the Supreme Court required the Government to produce an action plan, but nothing much has been forthcoming apart from extending low emission zones. Laboratory measurements of NOx pollution from cars bears so little relationship to emissions on the road that some cars emit more pollution than lorries, so it is hardly surprising that banning lorries from city centres has proven ineffective Furthermore studies on children’s lung function published in the Lancet recently has  demonstrated that the government’s low emission strategy is of no benefit to children’s health, so why does it insist on pursuing a failed policy?

The only rational response is to stop producing diesel cars and to limit access to city centres for all diesel-powered vehicles. Instead London’s mayor Boris Johnson capitulated over  emissions from old  diesel taxis under pressure from London cabbies.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire

The planet will lose every time that business calls the shots

The Observer, 10 Jan 16:

Surprisingly, your article on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) fails to mention the environment. (A deal for freer trade or corporate greed? Here’s the truth about TTIP Jan 3) The independent UK committee on climate change supports fracking in the UK, but its Chair, Lord Deben has also stated that his committee would not hesitate to ban fracking if the UK was unable to meet its climate change commitments.

So imagine a scenario in 2030 whereby several US or European-based companies are extracting shale gas and/or shale oil in the UK, and Lord Deben’s committee announced that further extraction was incompatible with the UK’s Climate Change Act which requires an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. I have no doubt that those same companies would sue the British Government under the terms of TTIP, and the result would either be massive compensation or repeal of the Climate Change Act.

It needs to be remembered that the World Trade Organisation has the power to impose punitive fines on governments  as well as other public institutions. By contrast all the climate change agreements reached post-Paris are voluntary, and there  is no equivalent body to enforce environmental standards. Disputes will be held in secret without any environmental representation, so the planet will lose out every time.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire


Governments woo the motor industry with dire results

The Observer, 4 Oct 2015:

The scandal over rigged tests by car manufacturers is entirely consistent with their past record (“Corporate cheating kills. It must be stopped”, leading article). In the 1980s, the battle to remove lead from petrol and to fit catalytic converters was vigorously opposed by the motor industry, which raised all sorts of technical problems that turned out to be groundless. Even so, both measures were passed by a Tory government under Margaret Thatcher. Nowadays, the Department for Transport emerges as a complicit partner in the rigging of tests, while Defra and the Department of Health seem to have abandoned completely their role as guardians of public health. Margaret Thatcher had a science degree from Oxford University. I’m not sure that this cabinet has a scientific qualification between them.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Australia’s rogue leader

The Observer, 19 April 2015

You state that there is “only a limited amount that Australia can do on its own” to save the Great Barrier Reef (Destruction of the great coral reefs is a problem for us all, April 12) Well, it could start by changing the policies of its own prime minister.

Tony Abbott, who  describes climate change as “absolute crap”, abolished the  Climate Change Commission and the following year scrapped Australia’carbon tax. Already  Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal, but Abbott has sanctioned the construction of new ports near to the Great Barrier Reef to supply China.  Undoubtedly he will be one of the main obstacles to progress at the  climate change summit in Paris later this year. When the Great Barrier Reef has been destroyed, Tony Abbott will be remembered as the rogue Prime Minister who finished it off.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

The government must not renege on its green pledges

The Observer, 10 June 2012:

The attempt by George Osborne to cut the subsidy to onshore windfarms indicates that the government’s energy policy is in disarray. Although Osborne is bowing to pressure from rightwing Tories, a recent poll shows that seven out of 10 people in the UK support the development of windfarms. It is unfortunate that governments try to interfere with the renewable market by subsidising some forms of renewable more than others, whereas the sensible approach would be to provide an equal feed-in tariff for all sources and leave the market to decide whether it wishes to pursue wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro etc.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones
Chair, Planetary SOS
Stoke Poges, Bucks



Letter to the Observer

This letter was sent to the Observer on Sunday 25 September, 2011 in response to two articles that appeared in the newspaper on the same day. One was on Everest’s melting glaciers and one on the bizarre claim that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. The letter posed the question as to which was the more important issue. The letter was not published.


Pages 28-30 of  the Observer (25 September) contained some vital scientific observations. Suzanne Goldenberg reported on Everest’s melting glaciers whilst the reverse side of the page contained a brilliant analysis by Professor Frank Close of the claim by Cern scientists that neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light. You can relax Professor Einstein.  E still equals mc2. Probably…  The question arises: which is the more important observation? Continue reading