So, we met with the UK Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Tax), MP David Gauke. As promised, we talked to him about shale gas and how its exploitation is incompatible with keeping global warming to less than 2º Celsius. My conclusion after the meeting is that the current UK government will not back up its rhetoric with equivalent action – climate change will not be addressed.
The surgery was running late, so Danny Bonnett and I had a chance to practise our arguments beforehand, while sitting outside the Berkhamsted Town Council offices. We would also mention the risk to our pensions that continued investment in fossil fuel exploration and extraction brings, as raised by the UK Environment Audit Committee recently. We’d also discuss how the UK renewable energy sector is stagnating due to government planning policy.
We then went in, got through the formalities and the conversation stated. I read the recent quotes from David Cameron and George Osbourne that climate change is serious, man-made and something we should do what we can to address. I stated the evidence that current targets gave us a less than 50% chance of avoiding the 2 º Celsius rise in temperatures.
David started by saying how the US has reduced its carbon emissions by more than anywhere else by moving over to shale gas. He backed down from that argument after I pointed out that the US had a coal-based electricity generation network before they switched to gas, whereas we already have a gas-based system, so we won’t get the same benefits. Plus we are starting 10-20 years later than the US – the remaining carbon budget is much lower now than it was then.
He did seem very interested in Danny’s first-hand accounts of how the UK renewable energy sector is on its knees at present due to uncertainty.
But his main argument for continuing with government policy was the need to keep energy bills down, particularly for businesses, and to do so in a way that was politically acceptable. I.e in a way that would help them get re-elected. Whereas shale gas is controversial, they think it is low-carbon (it’s not) and they think it is less controversial than onshore wind-farms.
They are evidently not going to take a strong stance to persuade the population that it is worth paying to replace our dirty power stations with renewable energy.
So, where does that leave us? For meaningful action on climate change, at least a couple of Business, Government, Media and the Public need to make seismic changes to change our attitudes and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I know some think that they are within their moral rights to live as they please, and there should be incentives in place to make sure that our actions are acceptable to society. Or that there is no point in making changes in their lives if the majority do not do similar.
Well, the Government is not going to bring in those incentives. The media continues to serve all opinions on climate change, whether scientifically valid or not, so the public will be able to find a way to justify denying the problem or that they can be part of the solution. Business will aim for profit, and the Government will not be incentivising sustainable practices to a large enough extent.
So, the only way through is a revolution. Society as it stands cannot cope with climate change.
Or get those kids trained in survival skills.
Or maybe we all need to take responsibility for our actions, and reduce our own emissions.