The scare over man-made global warming is not only the scientific scandal of our generation, but a suicidal flight from reality.
© Press AssociationThe plant at Dounreay, built when Britain was at the cutting edge of nuclear technology
To grasp the almost suicidal state of unreality our Government has been driven into by the obsession with global warming, it is necessary to put together the two sides to an overall picture - each vividly highlighted by events of recent days.
On one hand there is the utterly lamentable state of the science which underpins it all, illuminated yet again by "Climategate 2.0", the latest release of emails between the leading scientists who for years have been at the heart of the warming scare (which I return to below). On the other hand, we see the damage done by the political consequences of this scare, which will directly impinge, in various ways, on all our lives.
It is hard to know where to begin, after a week which opened with The Sunday Telegraph
's exclusive on a blast of realism from Prince Philip over the folly of our Government's infatuation with useless windmills. Then came an excoriatory report from the House of Lords on how we have so run down our nuclear expertise that it is doubtful whether we can hope to run a new generation of nuclear power stations. Next, there was a report from a leading Swiss bank finding that the EU's "emissions trading scheme" has wasted $287 billion (£186billion) over six years - paid by all of us, to achieve nothing in terms of reducing "carbon emissions". There was also a front page story in another newspaper, warning that (as readers of this column have long been aware) within nine years we could all be paying nearly £300 a year to subsidise solar panels and those same useless windmills.
Let's start, however, with a form of insanity which has so far made few headlines - a Government policy which, in the next few years, will inflate the cost of a new home in Britain by as much as 66 per cent.
Last week, David Cameron and Nick Clegg were lamenting that house-building is at its lowest level since the 1920s, just when we desperately need millions of new homes (not least to accommodate the 250,000 immigrants flooding into Britain each year, as a result of policies they both support). Neither mentioned, though, that one major obstacle to any improvement in the figures is their own Government's building regulations, already being phased in. These decree that, by 2016, all new homes must be "zero carbon" in terms of energy-use and emissions. According to official estimates in the Code for Sustainable Homes, this will increase the cost of building a house by up to £37,793.
In rural areas, where there is already a serious housing crisis, this will be made still worse by the Government's wish by 2013 to abolish the "Fuel Factor", a relaxation of the rules for new homes in places without access to the natural gas grid. New houses built in outlying areas will no longer be allowed to install oil or gas cylinder-fired heating but will have to rely on wood pellet boilers or "heat pumps". A paper submitted to the Government by Calor points out that a polluting wood-fired boiler costs £11,000, while "air-source heat pumps" (£15,000) and "ground-source pumps" (£18,000) have both been shown to be seriously inefficient.
But the Government, with its "carbon" obsession, seems determined to ignore such practical matters, even though they will push the cost of new housing through the roof and make nonsense of their stated wish for a dramatic increase in the provision of new homes.Our disappearing nuclear capability
In his Annual Energy Review for Parliament last week, Chris Huhne announced, through gritted teeth, that he is still hoping to see a new fleet of nuclear power stations to plug Britain's fast-looming energy gap, as older power stations are closed down by age or EU anti-pollution laws. His review coincided with a devastating report from the Lords Science and Technology Committee on Nuclear Research and Development, dismally depicting how Britain, which led the world in this field 50 years ago, has allowed its pool of expertise to run down so far that we no longer have the know-how even to run a new generation of nuclear plants.
The authors begin their report, damningly, by saying that they were "struck by the extraordinary discrepancy between the view, on the one hand, of some senior Government officials and the Secretary of State (Mr Huhne) and on the other, those of independent experts from academia, industry, nuclear agencies, the regulator and the Government's own advisers. A fundamental change in the Government's approach to nuclear R&D is needed now to address the complacency which permeates their vision of how the UK's energy needs will be met in the future."
The fact is that we would be wholly reliant on foreign-owned companies to build new nuclear power stations. Britain's last world-class nuclear company, Westinghouse, was sold by Gordon Brown to the Japanese in 2006, at a knock-down price of £3.4 billion. So if new "carbon-free" nuclear reactors are built here, it will most likely be by a German consortium of RWE and E.On - using a design from Toshiba's Westinghouse. And as the Lords point out, thanks to Government policy, we would not even be able to provide engineers to run them.Inside the climate cabal
While our Government remains trapped in its green dreamworld, similar horror stories pile up on every side, from that UBS report on the astronomically costly fiasco of the EU's carbon-trading scheme, to our own Government's "carbon floor price", in effect a tax on CO2 emissions rising yearly from 2013. This alone will eventually be enough to double the cost of our electricity, and drive a further swathe of what remains of UK industry abroad, because we are the only country in the world to have devised something so idiotic.
All this madness ultimately rests on a blind faith in the threat of man-made global warming, which no one has done more to promote than the scientists whose private emails were again last week leaked onto the internet.
It is still not generally appreciated that the significance of these Climategate emails is that their authors, such as Michael Mann, are no ordinary scientists: they are a little group of fanatical insiders who have, for years, done more than anyone else to drive the warming scare, through their influence at the heart of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And what is most striking about the picture that emerges from these emails is just how questionable the work of these men appears.
We see how they torture the evidence to support their theory - even to the point where some of them seem to lose faith in the story they are trying to tell. And we also see how rattled they were as soon as their work was challenged by expert outsiders such as Steve McIntyre, the mathematician who exposed the methods used to create Mann's "hockey stick" temperature graph, which the IPCC had made Exhibit A for their theory.
Again and again we see them trying to defend the indefensible, giving vent to wild personal abuse of the enemies of what they call their "cause", and stopping at nothing to keep their critics' evidence out of IPCC reports and scientific journals, and prevent dissenting views from getting media atention.This is no longer science worthy of the name.
As I wrote when the first Climategate emails appeared in 2009, the global warming scare is far and away the greatest scientific scandal of our generation. When we then contemplate the insanity of the measures the politicians have imposed on us in consequence, we know we are looking at a collective flight from reality which has no precedent in the history of the world.