So, climate change is real – what next?

Danny Bonnett and I are meeting David Gauke, the UK minister for tax, on Friday.  In the context of recent affirmations on the reality of climate change from the leadership of the Conservative party, we will discuss with him the policy implications, particularly for shale gas or fracking.  The following is what we intend to say:

David Cameron and George Osbourne have recently stated that climate change is man-made and that we should do what we can to prevent it.  We are faced with a choice between either leaving shale gas in the ground or with missing international pledges to limit temperature increases to 2° Celsius.  What will the government choose?

David Cameron, UK Prime Minister “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”.

“I’m someone who believes climate change is happening, that it’s caused by human beings. We should do what we can to prevent it” George Osbourne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.

According to the science, current climate change targets in the EU would lead to a 30-50% chance of keeping temperature rises below 2° Celsius.

To me, “doing what we can to prevent it” does not equate to aiming for a 40% chance of success.

Put simply, if we are to back up these words and commitments with action, shale gas production cannot happen in the UK, even with carbon capture and storage.  At the point when shale gas production in the UK would be becoming large scale, we would have to stop, leaving wells only partly tapped.  Investment in shale gas would also delay investment in very low or zero carbon sources, leaving a huge legacy for future generations.

Achim Steiner, head of UN Environmental Programme “We sometimes have to take a step back and ask ourselves: for the sake of having another 20 years of dirt cheap energy are we really going to put millions of years of evolution, of ecosystems, of ecosystem services at risk?”.

I agree with George Osbourne when he states “Let’s try and do this in as cheap a possible way as we can”.  The cheapest way to tackle climate change is to invest now in zero or very low carbon energy.  The sooner we make this move, the lower the overall costs, as Lord Stern described in his report in 2007.  If we want to continue to revitalise the economy, let’s do it in a way that creates skills and jobs that are relevant for the future.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke


“Climate change” flooding out

After years of avoiding the subject, our illustrious political leaders are now starting to talk about climate change.  Here are their recent quotes, in light of the incessant floods in the UK:

David Cameron (Prime Minister, Conservatives): “Colleagues across the House can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not. I very much suspect that it is”

“We can’t attribute any one event to climate change, but we know climate change is going to mean we have more events like this – more extreme weather events, more flooding, more storms.  If there’s one thing we know about the effects of extreme weather, it’s that the costs – financial, human and other costs – of not acting are much greater than the costs of acting. It’s a totally false economy to say ‘Don’t act’. The Government’s got to realise this and it’s got to take the problem seriously.” Ed Milliband (Leader of the Opposition, Labour)

Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrats) – on the prospect of leaving Europe “We will not have the clout to lead in Europe and the world in the fight against climate change as we do right now”

“David Cameron hasn’t committed to serious, sustained action on climate change, which the Met Office tells us all the evidence points to as contributing to these extraordinary floods. It isn’t too late for the sadly laughably self-titled ‘greenest government ever’ to start to live up to its name Natalie Bennett (Leader, Green Party)

Nigel Farage (Leader, UKIP) dismissed climate change as the cause of the Somerset floods and said it was “just the weather”.

The most famous quote from recent days from this bunch was David Cameron saying the “money is no object” in dealing with the floods.  Of course, he meant in conjunction with the immediate relief effort, but he wasn’t specific, and left himself open to questions as to whether he meant longer term measures for flood defences.

It would be cheaper long-term to reduce our carbon emissions rather than spend billions on making the country more resilient.  Unfortunately, it’s probably too late for that.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke