Advertisement

Climate expert gets death threats after post about pub's log fire goes viral

Dr Thomas Smith received abuse after accusing a pub of illegally burning wood on an open fire in west London.

Dr Thomas Smith accused the West London pub of illegally burning wood on an open fire(Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Thomas Smith accused the West London pub of illegally burning wood on an open fire. (Dr Thomas Smith)

A climate expert has described his shock at being subjected to death threats after he criticised a pub’s 'unhealthy' log fire on social media.

Dr Thomas Smith, from west London, received abuse after accusing a pub of illegally burning wood on an open fire and emitting smoke from a chimney.

On Sunday, Dr Smith posted to his 12,000 followers on X, formerly Twitter, that the previous night he had noticed a smell of smoke in his flat while having "a quiet night in" and decided to investigate.

He said he discovered a local pub had an open log fire with smoke billowing out of the roof, in a designated 'smoke control area'.

Dr Smith, a wildfire scientist with expertise in smoke, measured the emission levels, which he said were "unhealthy" at PM2.5 at 70 µg/m3.

Dr Thomas Smith posted about his nearby pub using an open log fire and has since received abuse online. (Pic: Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Thomas Smith posted about his nearby pub using an open log fire and has since received abuse online. (Dr Thomas Smith)

He wrote: “I know it's the festive season & I don't want to be a Grinch, but the height of the chimney is below that of the housing opposite.

“In the flat above me is a toddler with asthma, & the people working in the pub will have chronic exposure to a known carcinogen.”

More London stories - click above
More London stories - click above

In response, some X users accused Dr Smith of being “miserable” and a wannabe “traffic warden”.

But the abuse continued to get worse, with others then issuing death threats.

He took a picture of the pub seemingly emitting smoke from a chimney (Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Thomas Smith took a picture of the pub seemingly emitting smoke from a chimney. (Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Smith's sensor measured PM2.5 at 72 µg/m3 near the pub. (Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Thomas Smith's sensor measured PM2.5 at 72 µg/m3 near the pub. (Dr Thomas Smith)

Dr Smith, associate professor at LSE geography and environment, told Yahoo News UK: “It’s shocked me, I’ve never received death threats. It’s been a difficult week.

“The language used has been misogynistic and homophobic.

“The worst ones are the comments telling me to kill myself.

“Many of my colleagues in climate science and air pollution and quality research who are female or from minority backgrounds face this more than I do.”

He added he was determined to report the more serious posts that broke X’s rules but had muted responses to his thread as he was still receiving a lot of abuse.

Dr Smith revealed he previously complained to Hammersmith and Fulham council in February about the pub, and they said they would send an air quality control team, but he hadn’t heard anything back.

He added he had also entered the unnamed pub and asked to speak to the manager, but they weren’t there.

Dr Smith lives near council flats and a student accommodation. (Dr Thomas Smith)
Dr Thomas Smith lives near council flats and a student accommodation. (Dr Thomas Smith)

Recommended reading

Dr Smith said he would again complain to the council, his local councillors and MP.

He said there had been thousands of similar complaints across for country for similar issues and admitted enforcement of the rules was hard.

He added he was well aware of the devastating effects wood burning after recently returning from a work trip to Indonesia.

He said he witnessed first-hand the birth defects caused by it and helped to distribute sensors to households in Borneo to help them combat the effects.

Official figures showed in 2020 domestic wood burning was responsible for 25% of the PM2.5 emissions in the UK, marking a 35% increase from 2010 to 2020.

This has made it the country's leading cause of small particle air pollution, surpassing that of road traffic.

Yahoo News UK has contacted Hammersmith and Fulham Council for comment.

What are smoke control areas and what are the rules?

Smoke control areas are designated areas in the UK where certain fuels cannot be burnt unless they are in an exempt appliance or have been authorised by the local authority.

These areas were introduced under the Clean Air Act 1956 to reduce air pollution caused by burning fuels in domestic and industrial settings.

There are hundreds smoke control areas in the UK, which are mainly located in urban areas where air pollution is a major concern.

Local councils determine the boundaries of these areas, and they can be found on the council's website or by contacting them directly.

Burning unauthorised fuels such as coal, wood, and petroleum can result in a fine of up to £1,000 for each offence.

Outdoor barbecues, chimeneas, fireplaces or pizza ovens are allowed, but garden bonfires must follow the rules.

In England, you may have to pay a penalty of up to £300 if your chimney releases smoke in a smoke control area.