/ Home & Energy

Farewell to 60 watt bulbs – are you sad to see them go?

Exploding light bulb

This time last year, I was writing about the demise of the 75W traditional light bulb, banned under EU rules. Now it’s the turn of 60 watt bulbs, which will also soon be disappearing from shop shelves.

The move is part of an EU initiative to phase out less efficient light bulbs by 2012 in favour of energy-savers.

Shops will no longer be able to buy new stocks of traditional clear 60W incandescent light bulbs from 1st September – following a similar ban on 75 watt bulbs last year, and 100 watt bulbs the September before that.

For shoppers, it means swapping over to energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), or newer LED or halogen bulbs instead – or alternatively stocking up on old-style bulbs before they’re gone for good.

Your light bulb leanings

So how will you be lighting up your home in the near future?

Love, hate – or hoard – them, the little light bulb has been a real talking point over the past year here on Which? Conversation, and lots of Convo commenters have been telling us how they’ve been dealing with the switchover in their homes:

  • CFL convert: ‘I now use Osram Duluxstar Mini Twist 23W spirals which give out light equivalent to somewhere between 100W and 150W tungsten, quite quickly. And I bought a Varilight Dimmable EnergySaver+ just a couple of weeks ago. Yes – DIMMABLE!’ said EMCman.
  • The stockpiler: ‘I really object to being forced into wasting money and time replacing these wall lights because of a totally unecessary ban on traditional bulbs. So I am doing what loads of others are doing – stockpiling old lamps to delay changing the lights – hopefully until either small golfball LEDS are available (and cheap) or the government sees sense,’ fumed John.
  • Hopeful about halogens: ‘We’ve just started using halogen bulbs. They use more power and aren’t so long lasting but are very bright and come on instantly. Not too expensive,’ Rosemary Nimmo commented.
  •  Liking LEDs: ‘I have replaced 12 x 50 watt halogens with these 3 LED, 3 watt, soft white bulbs which give out 300 lumens… I like the resulting light and I can use all of them at the same time and use less energy than one of the originals,’ said Daiverse.

Lighting up your home

Our lab-based tests suggest that the technology is improving, but the reputation of energy-saving light bulbs continues to be far from glowing, with various issues making the idea of change offputting to many of us.

So what are people’s main complaints? The ‘truly awful’ or ‘very dim’ light emitted, compatibility problems with specific lights, the aesthetics (‘ugly’), a dislike of the way the phase-out has been conducted (‘big brother banning’), and concerns about reports of a recent jump in the cost of CFLs.

So how are you dealing with the changeover in your household? Are you a grudging or enthusiastic energy-saving bulb user, an early adopter of LED lighting or have you got a supply of traditional bulbs large enough to keep you going for years to come?


In answer to David 2JF’s comment, as I mentioned previously, there is an alternative to the old flourescent bulbs, readily available in Homebase – to name only the one supplier that I tried. That is the quartz halogen bulb, which looks and performs in exactly the same way as does an incandescent bulb – which not surprising since that is what it is! The difference is simply that the filament runs at a far higher temperature (which is why it is more efficient) but does not burn out because of the halogen filling.

QH bulbs can go straight into an existing fitting (although care is needed with ventilation as they run hotter than old incandescents) and they start up and reach full brightness as quickly as do the older type. Furthermore, they can be dimmed using normal dimmer switches.

And, insofar as the saving is concerned, I am significantly older than David is and I reckon I saved the costs of lighting electricity in less that a year. A 100 watt bub uses a unit every ten hours. Ten bulbs use a unit an hour and, don’t forget, they are on for long periods in thw winter months. If we say an average of 5 hours a day, summer and winter, that’s 5 units every day, which, in 2009 was costing me around 15p/unit. That was £262.50, assuming a 350 day occupancy. A 100 watt equivalent CFL uses 18 watts – only just over a fifth of the power. Which means that my lighting bill went down from £262.50 to £47.50 – a saving of just over £214 in a year. How many cfls can you get for that money? Far more than you need in your house, I suspect, David.

And of course, my savings were based on the price of electricity in 2009 and CFLs in 2009; the price of the former has gone up massively and the price of the latter has dropped. I would guess that you would cover the costs of your new CFLs in less than six months (and you’ll still be younger then than I am now!).

David 2JF says:
2 December 2011

Well, thanks for this further feedback, Richard – but having just had a quick look at the Homebase web site, I can’t find any quartz halogen bulbs that will fit my bathroom ceiling fitting. Most are spotlight bulbs, and I’ve found only one with an ES screw cap – and that’s the wrong wattage, and won’t fit in my side-on ceiling fixture. So, at best I’ll need to replace the ceiling light fitting – another inconvenience and a further expense (unless I’m missing something here?)

As for energy savings, using your figures vis-a-vis the price of electricity, days of occupation per year etc, I’ve calculated that I’d save appx £2.10 per year using an 18-watt CFL instead of a 100-watt tungsten bulb in my bathroom for 30 minutes a day. As the quartz halogen bulbs (assuming I can find one that will fit) seem to cost around £7 each, that suggests it would take around three and a half years before I’d actually be SAVING money. OK – hopefully that’s less than the rest of my lifetime, but it’s still a considerable payback time – and that’s assuming I can get a bulb for that price. Many of the current Which? Best Buy low-energy bulbs are more like £10, £12 or more.

As I say, it really all depends on the specific application. In many instances, low-energy bulbs are a good option – but I’m still not convinced they’re the best solution in EVERY household application. That’s why I think consumers still deserve a choice, rather than being bullied down only one route.

My QH bulb is an ES, from Homebase, and it’s rated at 70W. It’s made by Phillips and looks almost identical to an old incandescant clear bulb – but slightly smaller. I do not now recall its tungsten output equivalent but I would guess at about 150W. As I don’t know the specifications of your fitment I don’t know whether or not it would fit.

Obviously the energy-saving figures I cited don’t make sense if you’re only using a single lamp for 30 minutes a day – but I very much doubt that this is your only electric light bulb.

Don’t forget, if you can only find a bulb in ES when you want bayonet or vice versa, adaptors are readily available.

I was going to make the same suggestion as Richard, but did not know whether halogen lamps equivalent to anything as big as 100W bulbs. I had a look in B&Q this afternoon and found 70W lamps equivalent to the light output of a 91W incandescent bulb (if such a thing existed), and they are available with E27 screw or bayonet caps.

David is absolutely right about the savings to be made with CFLs, as long as they last a respectable time. Some people report early failures, but I’m one of the lucky ones.

David 2JF says:
2 December 2011

Of course this isn’t the only electric light bulb in my house, Richard. I use many low-energy bulbs around the house already, and appreciate the energy savings where possible and practical. My point is that there are still SOME applications where being able to continue fitting 100W or 60W tungsten bulbs is more practical and not particularly wasteful – hence they should still be available for such uses. Thanks for your comment about ES to bayonet adaptors, though – I’ve never seen one, so will look out for these (although they’re unlikely to be of help in fittings like mine, where space for the bulb is already an issue, I suppose.)

David 2JF says:
2 December 2011

Thanks, Wavechange – I’ve just found the bulb you referred to on the B&Q web site. Should I presume, though, that the 70W rating means it uses the same amount of power as a 70W tungsten bulb would? If so, the energy saving over its 91W tungsten equivalent is pretty marginal, isn’t it? At a price of £3.48 per bulb, four of these for my living room ceiling fittings are going to take a VERY long time to pay back, aren’t they? (And can I assume that any/all halogen bulbs like this one will work with dimmer switches, or does that still vary from bulb to bulb? In all too typical fashion, the B&Q web site entry makes no reference to this.)

You are right David. Halogen bulbs don’t save much energy, and some of them are quite expensive. People should think about that before putting a dozen 50W downlighters in their kitchen or installing some elaborate light fixture with lots of halogen bulbs.

The bulb I referred to uses 70W and creates the same light output as a 91W old fashioned bulb.

Halogen lamps can be dimmed, though dimming any form of incandescent bulb cuts down the light output far more than the use of electricity. The most efficient way of creating subdued lighting is to use smaller lamps at full brightness, for example in a standard lamps or table lamps. CFLs are great for this and are likely to last a long time because ventilation is good, which means the electronic circuitry they contain does not get overheated.

I agree that the QH electricity saving isn’t too much, but I bought the things because a wanted a dimmable lamp and couldn’t find a CFL for my fitting. CFLs would be better but I wrote about QH bulbs primarily because they are a direct replacement for tungsten flourescents and will thus solve the problems of those who still want a bulb with similar characteristics to their old 100W tungsten bulbs. I didn’t mean to imply that QH offer the same kinds of savings as CFLs; maybe I shouldn’t have made the point about my electricity savings in the same posting.

ES/BC and BC/ES adaptors are available from proper electrical shops – I bought mine from Horsham Lighting. Homebase did not sell them.

The EU plans to phase out halogen bulbs next, though I would not be surprised if this is delayed. I still have a Philips HalogenA 100W, the first example I had seen of a halogen capsule in a glass envelope. These seem to have been withdrawn.

This wouldn’t surprise me. QH lamps are better in many ways than ordinary incandescents, but they are still relatively inefficient; lighting through heat created by resistance is never going to be especially efficient, due to to simple physics.

CFLs are much better but the way things are going seems to be towards Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which produce light quite differently and use most of their electricity in making light, not heat. Most of us will know how efficient these are in low-voltage applications such as torches and they are certainly on their way for house lighting. As with all such things, their price will rapidly drop as production increases.

Wavechange, the QH bulbs I have are Phillips of the construction you cite – albeit rated at only 70W. I bought them from Homebase about a year ago. I don’t know whether they are still on sale as I have had no need to replaces any of them ( believe they are supposed to last 10,000 hours).

According to the Philips UK website, Philips EcoClassic lamps (halogen capsule with a glass envelope) are available in 70W screw and bayonet fitting. There is also a 105W version, only available with a bayonet cap. These are rated at 2000 hours, which is better than the 1500 hours life stated for many halogen reflector bulbs, the only ones I’m familiar with. If used with a dimmer, the lifetime is likely to be much longer, but bear in mind that this will not save a lot of electricity because all incandescent bulbs are much more efficient when bright.

Little story for you – the light from energy-saving lightbulbs has been said to not produce enough sleep-inducing melatonin, compared to traditional bulbs. This means it’s apparently harder to sleep when using them: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24020419-new-green-light-bulbs-may-ruin-your-sleep.do

Obviously a problem (assuming it to be true) for those who habitually sleep with all their lights on. Me? I prefer to turn them off and sleep in the dark – as do all others of my acquaintance with whom I have discussed this matter.

@ Richard English.

I openly admit that I have not made any attempt to read the article to which Patrick refers but I assumed, perhaps very foolishly, that since it refers to “sleep inducing melatonin” the issue was not with light produced whilst we are asleep, but with whether the light produced in waking hours prompted our bodies into being ready and able to sleep?

That’s right Dave

Someone has commented on this newspaper article to the effect that it is another attempt to discredit CFLs. There is no reference to any research paper or a scientific report, so I reserve judgement. What I will say is that there is plenty of yellow in the light from a 2700K CFL (the most common colour temperature). This is obvious if you look at the light through a simple handheld spectroscope. It’s fair to say that a 6000K or greater CFL will not produce much yellow light.

I usually fall asleep reading by the light of a small CFL reflector lamp, usually very quickly. I’m not going to lose any sleep over this. 🙂

I have looked through the paper by the research group at the University of Surrey and there is no mention of incandescent bulbs or CFLs. The study used light boxes containing three fluorescent tubes. The work was funded by Philips and was done to investigate whether artificial lighting is a factor in sleep disorders.

The authors of the paper are keen to encourage development of lighting that optimises sleep-wake cycles without affecting its visual efficacy.

Unfortunately the paper is not currently available to the general public. 🙁

james browne says:
24 January 2012

cfls the compact florescent lamps can’t be disposed of with domestic waste but what about ordinary floresent tubes?they contain mercury also and don’t seem to have been a problem in the past.

Disposal has never been a problem with the older style flourescent tubes – because nobody has been trying to find bad things to say about them. If you are against a particular concept then you will seek to find data to prove how right your belief is. I call this the “religious system” of proof – as beloved by those who support eccentric concepts such as creationism, flat-earthism or the 5000 year old Earth.

Just seek and promote facts to support your own beliefs and reject any that don’t.

Fluorescent tubes do contain mercury, and I have seen older ones containing a little ball of mercury that would run back and forth along the tube when it was tilted. The amount of mercury has been decreased now that we are trying to decrease the use of potentially harmful materials in manufactured products. Manufacture of mercury thermometers and barometers has been phased out in the EU and mercury-containing calomel dust (used by gardeners to treat club root) was banned some years ago.

My local recycling facility has a container with one section for fluorescent tubes and another for CFLs. Hopefully both types of lamps will survive and the tiny amount of mercury will be recovered.

Greenpeace support use of fluorescent lighting (CFLs and tubes) and suggest that using incandescent bulbs with zero mercury content could actually put more mercury into the atmosphere: From their website:
All CFLs and fluorescent tubes contain a small amount of mercury, which is key in producing the light. It’s not ideal but incandescents are probably responsible for more mercury emissions than CFLs; burning coal for electricity emits mercury, and incandescents use much, much more energy.

Richard is right about people trying to find fault with anything they don’t like.

I agree with both Richard and Wavechange. It is easy to do so because it is self-evidently so. The list of alarmist predictions is long, of course, but I am surprised that neither Richard nor Wavechange has mentioned the ruinously expensive renewable energy schemes that the Global Warming zealots, invoking the so-called precautionary principle, promote and thereby threaten to make the light-bulb debate very small beer indeed. Richard calls it the “religious system” of proof and it is hard to disagree with that view.
It must be very uncomfortable to be a cleric these days!

I don’t know about Richard, but I’m guilty of taking a lot of Which? Conversations off-topic. Maybe we will have the opportunity to discuss the bigger picture on this forum. I believe in global warming but remain to be convinced that we can do a lot about it, and I’m not impressed by some of the renewable energy schemes.

One way that we could decrease human impact on our planet is to have fewer children, but not many people seem interested. If we did that we could all have as many 60 watt bulbs as we want (but leave me with my trusty CFLs).

Like Wavechange I’m often guilty of going off topic.

I’m interested in today’s postings on this convo.

As someone who USED to be impressed by CFL’s but is now sitting on the proverbial fence, I’m far less concerned about the likely impact on the environment from the mercury (and plastics and so on) contained within the CFL’s and traditional tubes than I am about the environmental impact of the fly-tipping of CFL’s (and likely tubes too) now that local authorities are being so picky about taking them in the domestic waste and in many cases dire in terms of providing any other way to get rid of them. Couple this with the diabolical shortage of collection points in stores that sell them and the outright refusal of some retailers to take them back under any circumstances and we have a significant refuse / fly tipping issue. And that’s before we consider the dreadful failure rate of a good many CFLs which means that we appear to have at least as many cfl’s to dispose of as we used to have traditional lamps.

Although quite a few of us challenged Richard Dilks (of Which?) to take up this (disposal) issue after his rather flippant remark that disposal was just a matter of getting into the habit, I don’t think there has been any news from Which? on this yet. Mind you, it’s not really Which?’s problem, but I’m not sure who else might run a campaign to get it sorted.

Well I suppose mentioning the dreaded smart meters at every opportunity could be regarded as going off-topic. 🙂

It would be good if Which? would report on which councils do NOT provide free disposal of CFLs so that they can be named and shamed, and hopefully get their act together. Compared with some of the things we collectively ask Which? to get involved with, this is not an onerous or expensive task.

Perhaps dead CFLs could go in pink bags mentioned on another Conversation:
though the spiral versions are so fragile that they would have to be protected in some way.

I take your point, Wavechange, but wouldn’t it be a bit boring to stick to talking about bloody light-bulbs all the time. I don’t like your “trusty CFLs” but to each his own! You like ’em, you use ’em! What I do strenuously object to is the notion that it is all right to legislate to impose “right-on” views and to prevent others from indulging their own preferences – and generally while loudly proclaiming that it’s being done in their own best interest.
As to belief (there’s that word again) in Global Warming, one takes a view and either moderates it, sticks with it, changes it, or hardens it. Only the dead never change their minds. Personally I take the view that the earth is constantly warming or cooling and has always done so with little or no help from 4X4s, methane-emitting cows, or population reducing measures. But if you want to holiday at home, ride a bicycle, and have a windmill stuck to your chimney, why shouldn’t you? It is still a free country, isn’t it . . . or . . . or . . .?

Well I think we should be trying to save energy and I’ve been happily using compact fluorescent lamps before they were compact, simply to save money, save changing bulbs regularly and avoid the need to replace lamp holders that have been damaged by heat. Others save energy by not driving or wearing wooly jumpers.

I do not believe (sorry I’ve used that word) that we should always have free choice. If it had not been for the Clean Air Act I would either have been gasping or dead by now. Similarly I believe that the requirement to install catalytic converters on new vehicles and to check their efficiency is sensible. The phase out of incandescent bulbs could have been improved by pushing manufacturers to redesign fixtures fifteen years ago, but I am glad that it has happened.

When I said I believe in global warming, I actually mean I accept that temperatures are rising. I am not sure that I accept the reasons given and climate change would happen even if we all departed the planet.

I am keen that we become more frugal with energy and natural resources. It seems clear to me that we are using fossil fuels faster than we create them and it would be nice to consider the needs of future generations.

I am no saint when it comes to use of energy or resources, but I think I do better than average. If you look through what I have posted on this site you will see that I have changed my view on several things.

If you would like a Which? Conversation about a particular topic and it has some relevance to Which?, just ask. I’m getting fed-up with light bulbs too.

Whether the Earth is warming, cooling or staying the same is a matter of debate. But the one thing that is quite certain is that fossil fuels are running out. How fast they are running out and how long they will last is again a matter of debate – but, sooner or later, they will run out.

Much of the present work on alternative energy souces is experimental and not all the experiments will lead to successful solutions – but it was ever thus with technology. If humankind does not try to find alternative energy sources now, when fossil fuels eventually run out it might be too late.

For what it’s worth I think the solution will eventually be found by using solar electrical generation. There is sufficient sunlight falling on the Sahara desert to meet all humankind’s present energy needs; all that is needed is an effective way of collecting it.

Absolutely agree, Richard. I’m not sure about the practicality of using solar panels in the Sahara, though.

I am planning to move house and would like a south-facing roof, so that I can install solar PV panels, even if the subsidy has disappeared. I have been impressed by how effective they are (something I’ve changed my mind about wildberry) and hope that they will become standard on new houses, where practical.

Thank God to have a debating forum where no one finds it necessary to insult the opposition – even when they say silly things! Talking of which . . .
Richard seems convinced that we are running out of fossil fuels. Not so, Richard. In fact, counter-intuitive though it may seem, we have more than we have ever had. We don’t create them, wavechange, we find them – and in ever larger quantities. Any objective expert will corroborate this. We are, in fact, on the threshold of having more fossil fuel deposits at our disposal than we could use up in a hundred years, even if the world population keeps on increasing.

Frugality is clearly better than wastefulness; I believe that’s called these days a ‘no-brainer’, and by all means fit solar panels if the mood takes you. The hype is on your side (witness the constant refrain about all that sun in the Sahara) but the cold facts are not and I think you may eventually regret your investment. But I wish you joy of it. And I wish I had a south-facing roof too – although for slightly different reasons.

As for future generations. I fear that I shall be not popular when I say that this is simply not ‘in nature’. It is certainly in every politician’s speech-writer’s handbook and is piously declaimed from pulpit to bar parlour. But people are not like that and it is unreasonable to suppose they are. The next generation will have to account for itself, and will be just as scornful about us as we are about our predecessors. Crystal-ball gazing, naval-gazing and trying to be popular with the unborn generations are all of a piece. I don’t expect you to agree and I respect your feelings. But I think you are concentrating on the wrong objectives. Humankind is good at looking after itself in the short term and, as a result, in the long run too. although rarely as a defined objective. It is its genius for adaptation that guarantees its survival.

Compulsion is a tricky concept, especially when it collides with freedom of choice. There are, of course, areas where freedom becomes licence and where private impulses have to be restrained for the general good. That is the rationale for law and order. But telling people that it is punishable to sell bananas by the pound, or to take photographs of your children in a school play, or to wear a crucifix, or to sell certain light bulbs is beyond reason. You stress the Clean Air Act; I have chosen daft examples, of course, but there are many very ‘serious offences’ that only a few years ago would have been seen as ludicrous. As a libertarian I uphold the right of someone to smoke himself to death if he insists on ignoring advice. But as a realist, I agree that a drug addict high on ‘speed’ should be prevented from driving along the M25.

It is all; a matter of where one draws the line; I probably draw it further down the page than you lot! No offence.

Welcome to a forum where most of us enjoy learning about different perspectives, or manage to insult each other without activating the profanity filter or being told by the moderators that others are entitled to have a different opinion. Obsessive behaviour is acceptable, though you will be alerted to the fact that you are trying to post the same message twice in rapid succession.

It is not possible to edit a message after posting, but regular contributors will assume that a contributor who mentions naval-gazing intended some comment on omphaloskepsis. Crystal-balls may be the subject of a future Which? report.

The Terms & Conditions declare that contributions can be a genuinely held belief or opinion that is based on facts, rather than having anything to do with factual accuracy, hence allowing for a great diversity of input on any and every topic.

You are more than welcome to complain about our over-regulated country and will invariably get lots of people agreeing with your view by clicking a little blue thumbs-up symbol, even though nothing will ever happen.

Enjoy, as they say these days.

We are running out of fossil fuels. That we are now discovering more of them does not alter this plain and simple fact. We are not making any more fossil fuels and so, in the end, they will run out. It’s like having several bank accounts in your name and happening to discover some dormant ones. So fine; your capital will last longer and the more frugal you are the longer it will last. But if you do not replace that capital it will, sooner or later, run out.

The Sahara statistic is accurate and overall, far more solar energy arrives on the earth every day than is used by all humankind (around 10,000 times as much) – http://www.inforse.dk/europe/dieret/Solar/solar.html.

This site – http://www.worldometers.info/ – gives a realtime readout of many statistics, including energy use, fossil fuel reserves and solar energy arrival.

We might argue about such things as government compulsion and solutions that presently seem ineffective but as I wrote earlier, we are presently in the experimental stages of finding alternatives to fossil fuels – and alternatives must be found. The industrial revolution happened because of the discovery of the potential of fossil fuels; once fossil fuels run out our present lifestyle will end – unless an alternative energy source is discovered.

Before the easy potentail of fossil fuels was harnessed, humankind’s ingenuity had been discovering ways of using renewable energy sources – since these were the only ones known. Now we need to go back to the experimental stage again and rediscover the potential of renewable sources. Fortunately fossil fuels have given us a breathing space – but it will not be an everlasting breathing space.

Whether it will be our children, our grandchildren or our great grandchildren who are faced with the challenge of doing without fossil fuels I cannot guess – but we owe it to them to leave them the best energy legacy we can – and that does not mean an empty “energy bank account”.

Wow – this topic rears it’s head once again!

On Topic, I have a success story to share: Some may remember my trying to get rid of the damn Halogen GU10/MR16s out of our kitchen. I have Very Compact Fluorescents in 4 of the 6 fittings; good even and wide beam light, take an age to get to brightness. I also have some 2.3W Alpha LEDs; instant light, but narrow 25° beam.

Well, one of the LEDs blew after 4 years. It covered it’s cost in terms of the Halogens, these needed replacing every 12 to 18 months, and saved tons (?!) in terms of Electric, so didn’t owe me anything.

So, off to B&Q I go. They no longer stock the Alpha’s, but have a much better selection of Osrams. There are £13 GU10 and MR16 direct replacement LEDs, but I went for the £16 GU10. This was because the £13 version were only 25° and the £16 version are 35°, which is as good as any of the Halogens I’ve seen.

Although they are 5.5W (nearly as much as the 7W VCFLs), I am struggling to see a difference in the light it produces to the 50W Halogen I put in there temporarily (brightness, beamwidth, colour).

Not only that, it’s Dimmable! Now I don’t use a dimmer in the Kitchen, but the circuitry means that it is a solid light without any flicker. It’s also guaranteed for 4 years, so will cover it’s costs in Halogens alone. It states 25 years of life on the box, so may cover it’s costs several times over, but you can take that with a pinch of salt, I think.

Off OP topic:
– Fossil Fuels will run out; it’s just a matter of when.
– Is there a CO2 issue?; if you use the ‘the planet has always gone through cycles’ argument based on science, you have to accept the same source of that science that shows that the current cycle is happening much faster and has already gone further than previously shown, you can’t cherry pick the science of convienice and ignore the rest.
– And how could we be responsible?; if the planet has been producing CO2 for milions of years, it’s been Carbon-Capturing it for just as long, right up to the point we started chopping it up, digging it up and pumping it out: millions of years of carbon capture; released in a few hundred years. How can we not have an effect? Look out your window, that was likely forrest a few thousand years ago (if you’re in the UK) and Man changed it.

Can I prove any of it? Of course not. But then again I can’t prove which cigarette would kill you, but I can show you wards at Christies Hospital full of people dying because of them.

You say, tytalus, “fossil fuels will run out; it’s just a matter of when”. This may be an academically satisfying conclusion and theoretically accurate. But we, being concerned only with our own survival, tailor our concepts according to our projected needs. That being so, I repeat that fossil fuels will not “run out” – ever. One may airily declare, without fear of contradiction, that the earth we now inhabit will not last for ever. But we do not allow that to influence our day to day policies. To inflict hideously expensive so-called renewable energy policies on a world where huge numbers of people are starving and unable to access power and clean water is wrong. I wonder if you, like me, have ever been present when well-fed people declaim, often while drinking expensive artificially carbonated (!) water from pretty little ‘designer’ bottles, and with total sincerity how we must make sacrifices to help our fellow man.

As to cherry-picking the facts that suit our case, we must all plead guilty – even you, Old Man! Of course man has changed the face of the nature. And a jolly good thing too. But we must exhibit a little humility from time to time. Our effect on the earth’s climate is paltry compared to the vast effects of forces we barely understand and cannot even begin to control. The arrogance of silly politicians who glibly assert that they will change huge climatic forces that no scientist alive properly understands is breathtaking. In fact, it brings to mind that haunting passage where Shakespeare berates “proud man”, who, “dress’d in a little brief authority, most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d . . . plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as makes the angels weep’. The problem for us, is that these fantastic tricks, whether played by corrupt politicians, arrogant IPCC worthies, or dodgy grant-obsessed professors in East Anglia, cost us vast amounts of money that could be better spent – albeit with less kudos in front of the cameras – on curing ills over which we can exercise control.

Wildberry writes, “…But we, being concerned only with our own survival, tailor our concepts according to our projected needs. That being so, I repeat that fossil fuels will not “run out” – ever….”

We owe it to our descendents to leave a habitable planet for them; it is not only our own personal survival that matters.

It may well be that the worldmaster statistics are wildly pessimistic – but they claim that there are 15288 days left to the end of oil (that’s 41 years) and 60715 to the end of gas (that’s 170 years). Coal is in rather better supply – there’s 151885 days (416 years) left. So yes, we have 627 years of all fossil fuels left – quite enough for all of us who contribute to this debate. It will be our 23 times great grandchildren who will have the problem.

627 years goes back to 1385 and who cares about that. Well, beer drinkers to start with as it was just a couple of year s before then that Lowenbrau was first brewed!

627 years might be a long time but it isn’t “ever”. And to compare it with the expected age of the Earth is not really fair – it is expected that the Earth will last around 7.5 billion years and it would be nice to think that is will remain habitable for rather more than a very small percentage of that time.

An interesting contribution and one made by a very caring person. I do not fit that description, I fear – at least, not in Richard’s terms. We do not “owe it to our descendants to leave a habitable planet for them”. It sounds nice and caring but we never have operated in that fashion and, I fear, we never will. This may sound callous but it is simply the truth and to deny our essential ruthlessness as human beings may make us feel self-righteous but is pointless.

The catalogue of “they claim”statistics is impressive – but only if you are impressed by ones that no one is going to be around to check. I prefer to stick with what is demonstrable and probable. We have a pretty good idea of what fossil fuel we can access at the moment and how much there is waiting to be accessed. And it is vast, almost beyond comprehension. A reasonable person, therefore, considering what our exploitive predictions have yielded thus far would have no hesitation in projecting our finds further, indeed, considering what incredibly little we have explored of the earth thus far, effectively to infinity.

It is interesting to reflect that at no time in the past have we ever calculated in excess what we have eventually found. Quite the reverse. Which is why I do not subscribe to the ‘green’ renewable agenda which will put at least £280 on everyone’s energy bill within a very short time.

And that, Richard, is not a prognosis that will require 7.5 billion years to confirm or disconfirm. I don’t think this is the place to make wagers but I should be very comfortable in placing a bet on it!

There are fine lines between humility and pride, ignorance and arrogance. We would be arrogant to state that we could control nature, but it would be equally ignorant to state that we could not affect it. I am but one humble homeowner, what can I do? But I had pride that when I put the ‘bins’ out this morning, 2/3 of it shouldn’t (and after assessment, usually doesn’t) go to landfil anymore as I had bothered to put the recyling out as well.

I used the de-forestation of the UK as an example of what Man could do within anyones horizon; this was no natural event, but Man changing the natural world around him.

The climate around cities is un-natural; Man has changed it.

Man has made land from sea (ask a Dutchman), and sea from land (ask a Frenchman).

But how can weedy man affect this vast planet? Well, if the Earth was the size of a bowling ball, then the liveable atmosphere would be the thickness of the varnish. You really think we wouldn’t be able to mess it up?

For example, just outside of the varnish is the Ozone Layer. It’s no longer big news. Was it really down to us? We would need a fairly big set of blinkers to ignore the timing of the banning of CFCs and the sharp slowdown in depletion of the layer after so many years of the depletion accellerating.

I also try and not take everything at face value, there is always a backstory and context. You advise that I cherry-pick scientific evidence and quote Professors from East Anglia. It doesn’t take long before you get through the media hype; it’s a foot-note about how to remain scientificly robust, not a dodgy fix to make a flimsy point. Yet it was used to try and unravel peer reviewed and tested research and conclusions, through opinion and doubt.

We saw the same with MMR: blame the government, ignore the research, believe in the opinionated press and the dodgy geezer at a kids party with an agenda. (Crikey, best not use that sentence out of context!). I remember my German friend sending me a copy of their single news article about the UK doubts. Lets just say that the term ‘hysteria’ was used…

We had gangs of mothers shouting about how we were all irradiating our children into oblivion with Mobile Phone masts, while standing outside a school with a plaquard in one hand and a fag in the other…

I’ve been ‘lucky’ to see many issues from both sides, and seen the truth become worse than a lie when used out of context. Even with our family car: a Hybrid Prius. Believe me when I say I’ve been presented with some real, err, rubbish, packaged as ‘fact’. Or how quickly people become disinterested when you tell them that the Sunday Mail had to withdraw the article that started it all as it had been ‘miss-interpreted’. Doesn’t stop Clarkson going on about, though ;).

I never did read Shakespeare, but I did like Ben Elton: Little Weedy can’t decide what tie to wear to work, but when he gets there he’ll make decisions even God would think twice about. We can, and do, affect our planet; look out of the window.

I have some sympathy with your general approach and admire your tenacity but I think your are in danger of overdoing it a bit. If the earth were the size of a bowling ball, for example, have you calculated what size you would be? Such analogies are easy to make – and occasionally an effective way of making a point. But not in as many cases as people suppose.

Since man started setting fire to the savannah lands at the dawn of history he has made a difference. No one doubts it; that’s what man does. And the countryside that we all love, and need to protect from ghastly useless wind-farms, is totally unnatural. The urban heat island effect that you mention has had little or no effect on the climate. But it has had an enormous effect on the long-term situated temperature measuring instruments that have been quoted endlessly by the alarmist tendency to ‘prove’ that the earth is warming up.

I suppose the threat you and others are thinking of in this context is the CO2 scare. It has progressed so far that large numbers of people who should know better consider it a ‘pollutant’ instead of being essential to life on earth. They also ignore the fact that although we produce the stuff in increasing quantities it is impossible to state conclusively that its effect is having any meaningful effect on the climate. Well, hardly impossible; a certain failed politician who rebranded himself as an expert on such matters does it all the time. And why shouldn’t he. After all it’s made him a Nobel Prize winning carbon-trading multimillionaire who, when taking time off from attacking nasty oil companies, flies around the world in a private jet scolding people for, ahem, flying around the world in jet aircraft. But even the dodgy AGW enthusiast, Prof. Jones of CRU admits that the climate has not warmed up for the past 12 years despite the large increases in CO2. And no one wonders out loud why Mars has been warming up in tandem with the earth with no 4x4s having been spotted there through our super powerful telescopes.

I wish I could be as sanguine as you about seeing through the media hype. Newspapers and the BBC love hyperbole and can influence opinion significantly by playing up to the fears and anxieties of their readers and listeners. You mention the depleted ozone layer – and so did the media. Endlessly. Until it moved on to the next fashionable danger. Curiously, no one mentioned that car exhausts play a significant role in repairing the damage. The hole is still there, by the way.

But the fear-spreading machine moves on and needs new alarms to frighten us. The ‘Acid Rain Scare’, the ‘Chernobyl Scare’, the ‘Volcanic Ash Scare’, the ‘Bird Flu Scare’, the ‘AIDS Scare’, etc, etc. You yourself mention the ‘Mobile Phone Scare’. I would recommend to anyone a fascinating book called “Scared to Death’. Simon Jenkins is another voice of sanity for those not hooked on being be frightened.

I find it saddening that you appear so easily swayed by “peer reviewed and tested research and conclusions” and seem to believe that they are the product of objective, incorruptible, and disinterested perfectionists. They are not. They are the work of people whose jobs, research grants, reputations, and freebies to international conferences are of enormous importance to them and their families. As for peer reviews, they are notoriously easy to skew. The IPCC does it by simply allowing their authors to write the ‘peer reviews’ themselves. Others are more subtle. Not long ago there was a BBC programme which revealed the tricks some scientists routinely employ to ensure that their peer reviews are supportive and complimentary. The “research and conclusions” also need to be examined very carefully indeed. A enormous amount is dependant on computer models that duly churn out what the user enters in. The Hockey Stick fraud is a beautiful case in point. It certainly would fit your description of being peer reviewed, and tested and we all know what the conclusions were. Unfortunately for the man who, even now, refuses to divulge his data (in contravention of what every true scientist knows to be the basis of scientific enquiry), feeding the telephone directory into his computer programme also produces the desired hockey stick effect!

I enjoyed your mention of ties, by the way. It put me in mind of the reply of a distinguished professor on an edition of the BBC Moral Maze programme. He was invited to comment, à propos the notorious hacked CRU e-mails, on whether he would trust the attitudes, reliability, and word of some of his colleagues. “No” he answered caustically, adding “I wouldn’t even let them choose a tie for me”.

You know, I like this converstion (even if off topic). Others would have ‘gone off on one’, but that rarely gets anybody anywhere.

Funny you should mention ‘me’ in the aspect of the Bowling Ball: there are some quite hauntingly beautiful pictures of the earth at night (I think I first saw them on Christmas Cards). Looking at the world in ‘landscape’ made me realise just how much of the earths surface we already affect. That’s me, there, just up from that cluster of lights… oh that’s us doing that…

If over the vast surfaces of the available land we can have such an impact, I can see the possibilties of our impact on that thin layer covering it…

As for the Ozone, yes; the holes still there, I never said it wasn’t, only that it’s decline has dramatically slowed. Unless you have ideas as to another dramatic event about a decade an a half ago that may have reduced the rate of depletion of the layer (I can only work with the information I can get), I’ll stick the ‘imperical’ evidence that:
(a) Man affected the planet, globally, and that
(b) Man did something about it and it worked, mostly.

Are the possible affects of CO2 so different? Will we have a second chance to find out? What’s the price of a few CFLs to try and make that image of the earth at night less haunting and edge our bets?

IanF says:
25 January 2012


The climate is not well understood. The scientists know that they don’t understand it well.

The scientists also know that correlation is not causation.

So where does that leave Climate Change?

The skeptics are happy to continue to pump ever increasing levels of CO2 into the atmosphere in the hope that the climate copes using one of its yet to be discovered modes of adapting.

The advocates look at the historical data for CO2 and earth temperature and based upon the obvious correlation and understood features of the atmosphere draw the not unreasonable conclusion that we are pushing the climate in ways that it has not experienced before – at least not since it has been supporting life.

So will the climate cope? Of course it will, but that is the wrong question. Will it become a less hospitable place for us if we continue to push ever increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is the right question to ask?

It is possible to read past the scare storied in the media. A media that is not renowned for its understanding of science.

IanF makes a valid point, viz. that “correlation is not causation”, and this is important. It is also important to recognise that even the correlation itself poses difficulties. In dear old Al Gore’s mischievous (and very misleading) film, the graph he uses shows quite incontrovertibly that, according to the ice cores, each increase in CO2 follows, not precedes, an increase in temperature.

Awkward that!

Another problem is that the statistics relied upon to project increases/decreases in future temperatures are very questionable themselves. The same computer programmes have been tested using past statistics and have failed miserably to forecast what has in fact occurred. So much for computer models! But their projections are still trotted out to bolster very dubious claims.

IanF then asks “Will the climate cope?” and answers his own question. Curiously, in view of his stated lack of certainty, he then assumes that the CO2 effect is, indeed, responsible for warming the earth. How to be an impartial seeker after the truth and a firm believer at the same time? Well, IanF, I think you’ve cracked it.

IanF says:
25 January 2012

the CO2 lagging temperature “debunk” is an example of lay misunderstanding of how oscillators and feedback systems work. It is quite simple to construct a model where increase in CO2 causes an increase in temperature and increase in solar radiation also causing an increase in CO2. The lag is both predicted and unsurprising.

My belief is that we are carrying out an experiment with the climate at a scale and speed that is both unprecedented and upridictable. That we absolutely do not know what will happen with any certainty. That current understanding suggests that it is unwise to continue increasing the CO2 load on the atmosphere.

Personally I’m much more concerned about the acidification of the oceans that is currently taking place than changes in temperature. Unfortunately for the skeptics that acidification is also produced when temperature and CO2 levels rise.

The CO2 in the atmosphere is a contributor to warming. Its not the only one so please don’t try to suggest that I think CO2 is the only factor at work. But equally have no doubt that it is a factor.

I’ll leave Al’s film to the judge that found that there were several ‘unproven’ points stated as fact, but that the vast majority was in-line and presented the best scientific information we have to hand. Or does 9 exaggerations mean that the whole thing should have been canned? The judge didn’t think so and cleared it for viewing in schools, with an appropriate health warning.

Sounds a bit like a recent BBC documentary…

As for the East Anglian Profs; I’m starting to get the impression that the Industrial Revolution messed up more than their figures. Carbon Dating has 1950 as ‘zero’ (apparantly as this was the year after a significant C14 paper was written, and not because of nuclear testing, as suggested by a recent scientific game-show stated). However, the wood used as a reference is from 1890 as it was considered that it wouldn’t have been too long after that before the Industrial Revolution and its carbon output would have messed things up.

These are only minor points, though. We still await a clincher either way.

As for me: I’ll keep my cheap low energy bulbs, a cleaner Petrol car with the economy of a Diesel and walk to the corner shop to try and shift the Christmas excesses.

I will, occasionaly, take the 2.8 V6 93 Turbo for a spin, though. You can’t be boring all the time :).