Former Conservative Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood MP has made the astonishing claim that changes in sea temperature due to climate change have severely limited Britain’s effectiveness as a naval power. Last week he told Talk TV that “our Type-45 destroyers can now not operate in parts of the world because the water is now too warm now because the engines can’t stay cool”. Did Ellwood let slip a major defence secret in that British warships shut down when local temperatures rise a degree or two, or did he just don a sandwich board and mangle a story to promote a dystopian Net Zero collectivist project? In other words, is he a knave, or just a bit of a berk?
Ellwood was being interviewed on Talk TV’s lunchtime CrossTalk programme following the fiasco at COP28. Your own correspondent was also invited to appear, and the segment can be viewed below starting at around 1hr 52 mins. Time was short and the Conservative MP used it to repeat the rarely challenged mantras that the climate was in crisis, and humanity faced an existential threat. And, it seems, state-of-the-art warships costing hundreds of millions of pounds are apparently immobilised by local weather.
So can the British navy only rule the waves if the sea temperature remains more or less constant? In fact, Ellwood could be referencing a story back to 2016 when it was discovered that Type-45 destroyers stopped working in waters much warmer than Portsmouth harbour. At the time, this was seen as a major design fault. Far from being connected to climate change, it was simply a matter of the installation of the wrong kit, notably a vital turbine intercooler. At the time, the Daily Mail explained that the design fault meant two Rolls Royce turbines slowed down in warmer waters such as the Persian Gulf, and they could not generate sufficient power to run the ship. As a short term fix, all six Type-45 vessels were fitted with extra back-up diesel generators.
Perhaps Ellwood, who was chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Select Committee from 2020-2023, did not get the memo from the Department of Defence in September 2022, noting that HMS Dauntless was back at base after three months testing her new engines “to the limit”. The trials were said to have “gone well”, and delivered a ship “which is now faster, more reliable, greener and ready to embark future weapons”. Again, the question must be asked: Is Ellwood simply making up climate scare stories on a congested TV slot knowing there is no time for him to be pressed on the matter, or does he know something about these trials that is not public knowledge?