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Debate the climate policies, but leave the science alone

David Metz Centre for Transport Studies University College London www.drivingchange.org.uk
12 June 2020

Alan Wenban-Smith and John Whitelegg took issue with your coverage of climate change (LTT 29 May). I agree with them that the evidence for the reality of global warming is entirely convincing. There is, though, continuing discussion of the future magnitude and timing of changes in temperature, weather phenomena, sea level rises and the like, which involves consideration of the climate models used to project the future. But no useful contribution to debate on these aspects will be delivered by a magazine for transport professionals.

The Paris Agreement of 2015, which has been ratified by 189 countries persuaded by the evidence, aims to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The UK Government has accordingly legislated to set a target of at least a 100 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (compared to 1990 levels) in the UK by 2050.

The columns of LTT would be a natural place for the practical aspects of transport decarbonisation to be reported and debated. You appropriately covered the report entitled Electrifying the UK by Professor Michael Kelly, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organisation that is sceptical of much analysis of climate change (“Country’s battery electric car strategy is ‘doomed to failure’” 29 May). The topic is relevant to the deployment of electric vehicles. Regrettably, Professor Kelly’s four-page report fails to consider analyses made by others with expertise, while dismissing the Committee on Climate Change.

When preparing the chapter on electric vehicles for my recent book, Driving Change, I reviewed the available analysis of electricity demand and supply, including studies by the National Grid, which is responsible for planning future supplies. The conclusion I reached was that if smart charging were employed to avoid the early evening peak, then the overall increase in demand would be manageable. Subsequently, the Committee on Climate Change published a 79-page study, which concluded that accelerated electrification of heating and transport would be feasible to meet the net zero emissions target.

There will be continuing debate about both the modelling and the practicalities of the transition to a zero carbon transport system, which I hope you will cover fully. This would be of practical interest to readers of LTT, in a way that debate about climate models would not.

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