Patrick Vallance

Fly Less and Eat Less Meat to Save Planet, Government Science Chief Tells Brits

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said Brits should fly less and eat less meat as part of the “behaviour change” required to achieve Net Zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. The Telegraph has more.

Sir Patrick Vallance has warned against Net Zero fear mongering and said he has not stopped eating meat or flying.

“It’s important that the messaging [on climate change] isn’t designed to cause fear or upset, it should be about making sure people understand what the situation is,” the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser told a House of Lords committee on Tuesday.  

“We should not aim to frighten people because that’s not helpful, but we should aim to enable people to understand what actions they can take.”

Sir Patrick said that people need “clear and specific guidance” about what they can do to help tackle climate change.

Policies to reach Net Zero by 2050 have so far stopped short of encouraging behaviour change such as flying less or changing diets, but the Government has established an environmental ‘nudge unit’ to work out how to persuade people into green behaviours.

Sir Patrick said it was “unarguable” that getting to the Government’s target of Net Zero carbon [dioxide] emissions by 2050 would require behaviour change, and said he had already changed some of his own habits.

“I’m eating less meat, I cycle to work and I fly less than I used to. I haven’t said I stopped flying or I don’t eat meat; I do. I think it’s about reduction, and appropriate reduction across society,” he said.

“Individuals need to know what is expected of them, as well as making that easy for them.”

Funny how Government policy these days seems to come down to the population stopping doing things they enjoy for the sake of some urgent collectivist goal identified by the experts with their models.

Worth reading in full.

Emails Cast Further Light on the Plot to Re-educate Boris About Climate Change

Thirty-eight emails released after a recent FOI request provide an interesting insight into the way Government science advisers plotted to change Boris Johnson’s mind over the causes of climate change ahead of a Cabinet Office presentation.

The event on January 28th 2020 was led by the Government’s Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance and presented, using 11 slides, by the Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Professor Stephen Belcher. According to Belcher, the stated goal of the presentation was to persuade Boris that to “stabilise climate” we need “net zero emissions”.

On the day of the meeting, one of the attendees, Richard Barker, the Head of Energy and Environment at the National Physical Laboratory, circulated an email noting that a picture was to be painted about the current climate situation and some of the challenges “we” face, adding: “However, my assumption is that we want this meeting to establish the big opportunity for us to take a big step forward.”

The big step forward probably referred to surgically removing any scepticism that the Prime Minister had shown in the past about the role humans have played in causing the climate to change. Since then, Johnson has said that the briefings he received around this time provided a “road to Damascus” style conversion in him. At COP26 last year, he told delegates it was “one minute to midnight” on the doomsday clock. At the UN a month before, he told humanity to “grow up“. Any doubts he might have had about what he was told by selected scientists about climate change during his premiership seem to have disappeared since he intriguingly added: “It is time for us to listen to the warnings of the scientists – and look at Covid, if you want an example of gloomy scientists being proved right.”

Patrick Vallance’s Defence of SAGE Modelling Fails to Convince

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has come to the defence of SAGE and its modelling after some torrid headlines this week following a Twitter exchange between lead modeller Professor Graham Medley and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson in which Professor Medley revealed that SAGE had not been asked to model less disastrous scenarios.

Writing in the Times, Dr. Vallance appeared directly to contradict some of the statements made by Prof. Medley, leaving observers baffled as to which of the two is correct as it is unclear how both can be. Dr. Vallance claimed that modelling of other, less severe scenarios, had been done and presented to Government, while Prof. Medley said it had not, at least by his team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Dr. Vallance writes:

The modellers always have to make assumptions and do so across a wide range of possibilities, some optimistic and some pessimistic. They do not, contrary to what you might have heard, only model the worst outcomes. They will make assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, they will model different levels of viral transmission, mixing patterns and different levels of disease severity. The range of assumptions modelled can be very broad; for disease severity for Omicron one model explored a range from 10% of Delta severity through to 100%. For immunity a range of assumptions on vaccine efficacy, speed of vaccine rollout and vaccine coverage in different parts of the population were explored.

This claim is backed up by the minutes of the most recent SAGE meeting, published yesterday, although it doesn’t square with what Prof. Medley told Fraser Nelson. Prof. Medley, who chairs the SAGE modelling committee, said that lower virulence scenarios don’t “add any further information” and implied his committee – SPI-M – had not been asked to provide them.

Fraser asked Prof. Medley: “I guess the question is why LSHTM did not (like JP Morgan) include a scenario of lower virulence – given that this is a very-plausible option that changes outlook massively.”

Prof. Medley replied:

What would be the point of that? Not a snarky question – genuine to know what you think decision makers would learn from that scenario… If somebody draws a line on a graph it doesn’t add any further information. Decision-makers are generally only interested in situations where decisions have to be made… That scenario doesn’t inform anything. Decision-makers don’t have to decide if nothing happens… We generally model what we are asked to model. There is a dialogue in which policy teams discuss with the modellers what they need to inform their policy.

Has Boris Finally Placed His Trust in the Common Sense of the British People Rather than the Cassandras in Lab Coats?

I’ve written a piece for Mail+ praising Boris for deciding not to impose further restrictions at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. This could be a turning point, I argue.

It was the first time a decision about whether to lock down had been made based on real-world data, as opposed to the gloomy predictions of the Sage modellers.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency – the successor agency to Public Health England – said the number of new daily Covid infections from the Omicron variant had reached 200,000 a day. These figures just hadn’t shown up yet in the Government’s coronavirus dashboard because of reporting delays.

In fact, that number was an estimate based on Sage modelling which, as usual, turned out to be overly pessimistic. In the past seven days, the number of daily Covid cases by specimen date peaked at 102,297 on December 15th, and yesterday, the number of newly reported cases was 91,743. Meanwhile, the UKHSA has quietly withdrawn the 200,000 figure.

We cannot say for certain that daily cases won’t tick up again over Christmas, which is why Boris Johnson has been careful not to rule out any further restrictions. But the data from Gauteng province in South Africa, the centre of the Omicron outbreak, shows cases falling sharply in the past week. That suggests the new variant burns out quite quickly as it runs out of new people to infect.

On Sunday, this prompted South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid, which is similar to Sage, to recommend that the quarantining of contacts and all contact tracing be halted with immediate effect.

One of the reasons our Government’s scientific advisers have been so gloomy is because the Sage modelling teams have assumed that Omicron is as deadly as the Delta variant, but the data from other countries, including South Africa, implies it’s less likely to result in severe disease or death.

For instance, new data from Denmark suggest Omicron is 60 per cent less likely to result in hospital admission than infections from previous variants.

That might explain why Covid hospitalisations have not been significantly increasing in the UK, in spite of the rise in case numbers, and why they’re falling in South Africa.

Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have warned of 3,000 new hospital admissions a day if further restrictions aren’t introduced – a figure Sajid Javid quoted in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting when arguing for more severe measures. But on Saturday, just 900 people were admitted to hospital with Covid, not much higher than the 865 daily average for the previous seven days.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Boris has confirmed that no new Covid restrictions will be brought in before Christmas, although he hasn’t ruled out some changes to the rules immediately after Christmas. BBC News has more.

In a video clip released on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “What I can say tonight, is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.

We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Philip Thomas, a Professor at Bristol University, writes in the Daily Mail his Covid model has consistently got it right and it’s telling him there’s no need for another lockdown.

Stop Press 3: Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph says we should be able to get through the Omicron outbreak without any further restrictions.