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Heated debate

Does it really take a TV presenter to bring some common sense to the pages of an IET magazine? [Johnny Ball’s argument that there is no conclusive body of evidence to support the existence of manmade climate change in December’s ‘For & Against’ debate.] The For argument is made by a climate change researcher - well he would wouldn’t he, as his livelihood depends on it. The amount of lying and cheating that has issued from the lobby should make us all very suspicious of further insistence on change. Of course we should reduce the dependence on burning fossil fuels, scrap the wasteful wind farms and get on with a sensible nuclear programme. It works for the French!

Alan Morris MIET
By email

This whole debate is outdated - all the arguments that climate change is not due to human activity have long been disproven. Global warming is dangerous. Already thousands are dying as a result, and this will become millions and possibly billions. The debatable questions are how fast it is happening, and whether we still have time to prevent total catastrophe.

We will not ‘get used to it’ as suggested on your cover. We can get used to situations that are stable. The climate is predicted to get progressively worse for the next hundred years or more. We may adapt to superstorms that are happening at barely 1°C of warming, but then along will come super-superstorms, and so on. Wake up!

Dr Rob Basto
Reigate, Surrey

Climatologists like to call their model projections ‘evidence’; they are, of course, no such thing. Sadly, politicians, the press and the public move on to treat the ‘evidence’ as fact. Ultimately, computer modelling of future climates is not scientific because it is impossible to validate the results experimentally. Moreover, the application of the models to projected data beyond the data set that defines them is arguably invalid. Such projections, however, are of great value for scaremongering.

In the current academic climate, disagreement with the current ‘consensus’ puts an individual climate scientist’s career at risk via the peer-review inquisition. Consensus within the climatology community is not a substitute for valid science, nor is portentious talk of bringing the USA and China on board. Thank goodness for Johnny Ball.

Patrick Tanner CEng MIET
By email

Any country serious about reducing its carbon usage in a fair way will have to introduce carbon rationing. Everyone would have an annual carbon allowance that they could use on heating, transport, goods, food, services etc. Control could be by a mixture of paper coupons, an electronic card and automatic registration when making electronic payments.

The scheme could start with electricity, gas, heating oil, air travel and fuel, which are easiest to administer. A business would have no ration, and so would need to add up all the carbon it gets with goods and services, and pass this on to its customers.

Martin Mann MIET

By 2020 a rational assessment of the science suggests that to avoid dangerous levels of global warming the burning of fossil fuels needs to be proscribed, and mankind should be directing maximum effort towards creating renewable energy power systems.

A concerted ‘dash for renewables’ is required. To be viable, renewable energy delivery systems will have to be pitched at the continental level. In Europe a viable DC super-grid would connect geothermal power stations in central Europe, solar power stations in southern Europe, wind farms in western Europe, wave/tidal systems off Scotland, Norway and Portugal, hydroelectric stations in northern Europe, and nuclear power stations in France.

This would be backed up by smart national grids and massive storage facilities. These are likely to be based on compressed gas and hot water thermal storage using underground caverns, on massive chemical-battery farms, and on pumped storage employing artificial lagoons constructed in shallow sheltered bays as planned for the coastal waters off Denmark.

Alan J Sangster CEng FIET
By email

The online discussion around last month’s For & Against debate on climate change has been one of our busiest ever, with hundreds of contributions from E&T readers. Have your say at

Who can raise engineers’ status?

Correspondents in recent issues of E&T have favoured allowing chartered engineers to use the title ‘Doctor’. This might go down well at home, but  many European countries have strict laws protecting academic titles and occupational descriptions. In Germany and Austria the misuse of titles such as Doctor is, in theory, an offence punishable with up to a year in prison. This law seems to be ignored by Austrian waiters who, if the tip is big enough, will always call the customer ‘Herr Doktor’.

Alec Clelland CEng FIET
Höhenkirchen, Germany

Ian Waite (Letters, December 2012) is spot on in demanding action from our engineering institutions to defend our titles and to stand up for the profession in a more public and active way. The skills shortage is directly linked to lack of status and lack of awareness of engineering among the general public.

The IET administers four registered titles, holders of two of which cannot call themselves ‘professional engineer’, but somehow a large company can use the words freely in a national advertisement. The IET’s defence of inaction is to claim that the word engineer is embedded in common use. This may be true but how far can things go and remain unchallenged?

Tony Wallbank CEng MIET
By email

Ian Waite’s call to restrict the use of the word ‘engineer’ to an elite few is about as practical and reasonable as trying to limit the word ‘athlete’ to those at Olympic standard. Engineering is like a diamond with many facets, some large and some small but all contributing to the overall value of the jewel. Hands-on skills have always been a vital part of this, and many will continue to remain so in the future. I believe the great diversity of our profession is something to be celebrated and we should have done with the continual elitist attempts of those like Mr Waite who wish to impose limits on it.

Roy W Sach CEng MIET
Maldon, Essex

David Hill says that the title ‘Dr’ is available to medics through their standard education, but not to engineers. A number of UK universities now offer an EngD, an employment-based professional engineering doctorate, lasting four years and examined by portfolio. Student research engineers work with their employers on a topic and attend university for about 25 per cent of the time. The scheme has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and is designed for engineers in industry or commerce to offer a structured higher education alternative to the more academic, traditional PhD.

Dr Benjamin Jones MIET
By email

I am past the age when status will affect my career as an engineer. However, I do have strong views on the subject. We should not mind if those who repair fallen telephone lines under appalling conditions or repair our domestic appliances call themselves engineers. Surely they provide human needs and add to quality of life? It is we who persist in claiming the word for ourselves.

We could, follow the German model by adopting the salutation of EngD. Or we could abandon the word engineer altogether. Perhaps applied scientist is nearer the truth. Whatever the difficulty, we must take a radical approach.

Geoffrey Evans CEng FIET
By email

As a recently retired engineer I remember similar correspondence about status over 40 years ago. Unfortunately, I feel it is the apathy of engineers and inactivity of the professional institutions that allowed this situation to prevail. It is not just a matter of status, it is the rightful recognition by the public of the contribution of engineers to society.

I am as much to blame as anybody else, having done nothing to change the status quo over 40 years. It therefore never comes as a surprise to me that we continually hear about the dearth of young engineers in this country.

Michael Martin CEng MIET
Ferndown, Dorset

Tech toilet

The nano-membrane toilet being developed at Cranfield University (‘Thinking outside the thunderbox’, December 2012) is a prime example of technology gone crazy. There is an alternative already widely used in rural African communities - the composting toilet. It doesn’t need “nano-membranes made from polymeric material with a structure that gives it its very fine pore network” or “super hydrophilic nano-beads”. Its end product is safe and easy to use in a nearby flower or vegetable garden.

Mike Young MIET
Sedgefield, South Africa


Annotations to the cutaway illustration of a Northrop Grumman RQ-4B on pages 72-73 of our December 2012 issue should have indicated that the aircraft has an empty weight of 6781kg, and that part 48 was a pitot tube.

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