Saturday, May 15, 2010


To Oxford, starting with Underground to Stanmore where Lyulph picked me up in his car. In the morning, I chaired the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund at Balliol, then after lunch to the Department of Engineering Science for their Open Day - an exhibition of projects undertaken by students, followed by two excellent half-hour lectures: Dr Constantin Coussios on Killing tumors with sound: engineering the next generation of cancer therapies, and Dr Ian Reid on Robust visual tracking for visual survellance. Then tea, followed at 16.45 by the 36th Maurice Lubbock Memorial Lecture by Professor David Mackay FRS, the Chief Scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, on Sustainable Energy - without the hot air. He is in the middle in the photograph, and on his right as you look at the picture is Professor Guy Houlsby, who came to Oxford exactly 30 years ago as the Lubbock Junior Research Fellow at Balliol.

This was a sell-out, with 180 in the main lecture theatre, 150 in the overflow, and a further 40 who logged in to watch it live online (including people from Heidelburg, Toronto, Paris and the USA!)., and it was a brilliant analysis of what could be expected from each of the renewable sources and from nuclear. It turns out that a stupendous programme is needed to achieve the reductions in CO2 emissions that are calculated as necessary to meet the 2050 target of cutting the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 to at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. In my brief thanks to Professor Mackay at the end of a vigorous quetion and answer session, I said that in the title of the lecture, he should perhaps have substituted 'with a dollop of cold water' for 'without the hot air'.

Every thinking person who's concerned about the future of the planet should read Professor Mackay's book, which is available as a free download at One who I am sure is studying it intensely is my LibDem colleague Chris Huhne, who faces an immediate challenge of meeting the Government's target to reduce central Government emissions by 10% over the next 12 months. Will they all be putting on long johns and turning down the thermostats next winter?

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