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Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : The hon. Gentleman has not touched on the problem of catalytic converters. I understand that the Government have been told by scientific advisers that catalytic converters will increase the output of carbon dioxide from motor vehicles by 10 per cent. One of the difficulties that we face is that as we try to cure one problem we increase another.
Dr. Bray : My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) will deal with road transport and road vehicle standards and regulations. The hon. Gentleman is right that we must look at all the effects of specific measures, whether regulatory, fiscal or other.
On predictability, the Minister implied that variations beyond 10 to 20-day weather forecasts must be due to external causes. Some of those that he mentioned have been dismissed by scientists but others are significant. Long-term variations, whether due to the annual cycle of solar radiation, year-to-year changes in sea-surface temperature or others, do not necessarily explain the variations in the atmosphere. In Nature on 2 November,I. N. James and P. M. James of Reading university reported that with the non-linear dynamics of the atmosphere, long and slow variations can occur from purely internally-generated dynamics within the atmosphere-- not from interaction with the oceans--over periods of 10 to 40 years. When the oceans are included, the internally-generated variations could spread over hundreds of years. At present, no one has the computing capacity to treat that problem. Indeed, even for the 40 years suggested by James and James as the minimum time over which purely atmospheric models should be run, it will take weeks for even the fastest computers to do just one run. The increase in capacity to analyse what is happening in the oceans and atmosphere may disclose a new uncertainty about long-term variations which no amount of computing could overcome. In that case, we may need enhanced capacity to respond to changing trends, accepting that how long they will continue is uncertain.
The pace of production of important new research will continue. I have given only three samples of such research. The results could go either way. New results will continue to flow from all over the world. Certainly, much more research is needed but, equally, we must act now in the light of the best information that we have. The alternative of waiting to react will make life nastier, more brutish and shorter.
The Minister looks puzzled--
Mr. Trippier : I should be happy to do that, but it is more important to talk to Dr. John Houghton who has been selected to lead the scientific research as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The trouble with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is that it conflicts with what he was saying five minutes ago. He accepted that a tremendous amount of work remained to be done, and certainly some of the evidence that is coming forward is conflicting. I have an assurance not only from Dr. John Houghton but from the chairman of IPCC that more and accurate information will be forthcoming in February next year.
Dr. Bray : I discussed the matter with John Houghton on Tuesday. I also met those present at the first meeting of the research committee of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was held near Oxford. The Minister should talk to those who have been drafting the IPCC report. He will discover that their view is that, with increased research, the uncertainties might increase rather than diminish. We shall certainly get more information, but the Minister should ask the chaps what they think. The Minister seems to think that scientists can be detached and give the best views and answers, which politicians can then mull over. That is not the nature of the problem that we face. We need a much closer dialogue between scientists and politicians.
Let me continue on the question of how we handle the research. We welcome the new centre for the prediction of climatic change which the Prime Minister announced in her speech to the United Nations on Wednesday. We also welcome the fact that it will be located at the Met Office. It will clearly represent an expansion of the work that I saw there on Tuesday.
The Met Office is, by international standards, an outstanding environmental observation, forecasting and research organisation. The researchers there tell me that they gain both from their own experience as forecasters and from the flow of data and methods of handling it. As a visitor, I thought that they also gained--by contrast with some other research institutions-- from the tightness and discipline of an organisation that has to work in real time and gets constant feedback from the accuracy or otherwise of its forecasts. No comparable feedback is possible in predicting climatic change but the benefits will spill over because the forecasters have learned what to look out for.
One problem that needs to be overcome is the isolation of the Met Office. It is nonsensical for it to be located in the Ministry of Defence. The disciplined nature of the work of meeting defence operational requirements is congenial and stimulating to those forecasting. But in defence terms, it is curious, to say the least, that the weather forecasting requirements for a modest number of British and NATO flying hours are greater than those for the greater number
Column 1312of civil flying hours. That matter must surely be due for review. The Met Office is moving to agency status, but surely more is needed.
The Met Office should become the core of a wider environmental monitoring, forecasting and research organisation. For example, its scientists had an essential role in tracing and monitoring the Chernobyl fallout. If they are to deal with climatic change, they will have to examine changing land use, changing salinity and ocean circulation and much else besides. They will have to deal with the research community generally. The Met Office will have to become an open and accessible research and communication centre whose methods are available to the scientific community generally.
Within their own central area the scientists now accept--they did not a year ago--that computing power is the limiting factor. But because they have lived in the in-bred world of weather forecasters who, the world over, have demanded and been given the biggest supercomputers, they have neglected the really powerful developments in computing, which are coming with massively parallel computers. Ask any parallel computing buff what is the leading application of parallelism and he will say, "Weather forecasting." Ask him whether he has talked to the weather forecasters, and he will say no. I have asked the Met Office about this matter. First, it took on a PhD student. Now it has agreed to talk to the algorithm group of the national transputer programme. I bet that in two years' time the Met Office will be running its climate model faster on a parallel processing Meiko computing surface than they can on their Cray YMP, which is to be installed in January. In that form--running the general circulation model on parallel processing--the model can be made available to other scientists to run for themselves. There is a tendency on the part of some in the Met Office to argue that their model is so complex that no one else can run it. Foreigners may come in and run it at Bracknell but they cannot take it off and run it in Norwich or Reading, let alone Japan or Ottawa.
That is how economic modellers argued 10 years ago. The London Business School and the National Institute of Economic and Scientific Research said that their models were so complex that no one else could run them. However, there is the serious scientific counter-argument that if others cannot reproduce the results, those results must be questionable. Nowadays economic models are handed round on floppy discs and run on personal computers. For the economic models in the United Kingdom, it has been useful to have a centre at Warwick university which tests and compares the Treasury, Bank of England, London Business School, NIESR and other models. Similar testing and comparison would be useful for the global general circulation models. I have asked Professor Geraldine Kenney-Wallace, the chairman of the Science Council of Canada, the Government's chief scientific adviser, whether Canada and Japan would like to take on that role. Of the five general circulation models, four are American and one is British. If the Government think that by expanding Bracknell they will somehow pre-empt the world scene in general circulation models, they are up a gum tree. The whole point is that the models--four of which are in the United States--must be available to the scientific community throughout the world. That requires a more imaginative approach to the computing facility organisation and dissemination.
Column 1313It is much easier to work in that kind of environment than it is with the supercomputer, common computing service arrangements that the Met Office has been used to. The need though for a wider approach extends beyond computing. Fuller participation in the research community is needed across the board. I am not criticising the fine scientists in the Met Office, who have their hands full and are best left to get on with their job. I am saying that their organisation is wrongly related to other research and other researchers do not gain the full benefit of the unique resources and experience of the Met Ofice. Met Office staff may be better paid than the research community because of the decline of academic salaries in the past 10 years. I hope that they are. The answer to that is that research salaries must be increased. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) says that he thought I would say that. Is it really sensible for our most brilliant graduates to be paid £6,000 a year while they are doing research when young, grossly underqualified merchant bankers can pick up twice or three times that amount in the City on leaving college? Does he really think that that is the way in which to treat scientists? He ought to be ashamed of himself, as, indeed, should the whole Government.
The thinness of research cover shows not only in the Met Office's limited approach to computing developments. For example, the Natural Environment Research Council in its recent experiments in the North Sea on the absorption of gasses by the oceans, could not find a scientist to count the white horses in different sea states to estimate the effect of spray and bubbles directly in increasing the effective air-sea surface area. The same story can be told across the board. We cannot carry out research in isolation. It must be done in the whole research community. If we starve the research community, the research will be second rate.
The right place for the Met Office and climate research is surely alongside the research councils. There should be a joint research directorate on the global environment. It could then carry out a coherent programme of research on the global and more local environment. The Met Office cannot track down the cycles of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases from the land, in the oceans and in the atmosphere.
The Prime Minister cannot co-ordinate all this herself. No Minister at a lower level has that responsibility. The Secretary of State for the Environment is not allowed to do it and the Minister responsible for the research councils would not accept that anyway. It is all a bit of a muddle.
The Prime Minister proposed in her United Nations speech that the role of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should be prolonged after it submits its report next year so that : "It can provide an authoritative scientific base for the negotiation"
of a protocol on carbon dioxide emission.
The Prime Minister seems to be under a misapprehension. The panel was asked to write a report, not to direct research. It has not and will not carry out, plan or commission research. The report for the second world climate conference is being put together by 29 lead authors from 13 countries using 200 contributors to produce a 200-page report. I have been told that the material really needs a 20,000-page report. However, that 200-page report
Column 1314will be distilled into a 20-page policy summary and no doubt into a two-page press release. That will be all that most people will see. New research results will be fed into sections of the report on climate observations and predictions.
The report of the intergovernmental panel will be subject to peer review. But that is not the way in which research is carried out. The world climate programme and the international geosphere-biosphere programmes plan research. The Prime Minister said that we do not need more institutions. I am sure that the intergovernmental panel will produce an admirable report, but perhaps we should wait and see whether the scientists who draft the report and the politicians who read it feel that that is the best way of interacting and whether they even want to repeat that particular exercise.
Certainly the intergovernmental panel would be placed under great pressure if it had to pronounce the last word or even the best available word on global climate policies next November. That would place it in an impossible position. We should make it clear in this House that we accept that it is an unfolding story. The achievements of British scientists and their contribution to our understanding of the global climate have been despite rather than because of the appalling and abysmally incompetent way in which they have been organised by the Government.
In the much more difficult phase of application to policy on which we are now entering, the organisation as a whole must be put into better shape. There is a disjunction on policy between what the Prime Minister says and what Britain and Ministers do.
Britain emits more carbon dioxide per dollar of gross domestic product than any other industrial country. It emits 327 tonnes per million dollars of GDP compared with 307 tonnes in Canada, 299 tonnes in the United States, 293 tonnes in Germany, 216 tonnes in Italy, 204 tonnes in France and 184 tonnes in Japan. On carbon dioxide, Britain is not just the dirty man of Europe, but of the world. In that we are in a class of our own. I am sure that hon. Members will want to know that those figures come from estimates made in the journal "World Resources" 1988-89 with sources from the university of New Orleans and the Woods Hole research centre in the United States. The GDP figures that I have used are the latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and relate to 1985.
Sir Hugh Rossi : I am always troubled by figures like that, particularly when they give percentages of emissions and activities in other countries. We know the methodology and the basis of figures produced in this country and we know the great care that is taken over them. However, some of the countries which the hon. Gentleman listed are perhaps not so methodical. The basis of those figures is not as accurate as ours. We have noted that not in that sphere, but in many others. Very often there is a basis of guestimate in the figures produced by other countries. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the researchers to whom he has referred carried out the work themselves using a uniform methodology, or did they rely on figures supplied by other countries which may use different bases altogether?
Column 1315under this Government. There are great uncertainties and they must be more carefully examined. The figures for carbon dioxide emissions are by no means the least accurate. The greater uncertainties relate to other stocks and flows of carbon dioxide within the oceans, on land and in the atmosphere. It is easy to point to the general problems which lie with the fuel inefficiencies of British industry, lack of insulation standards--
Dr. Bray : The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) has referred to coal. What about Germany? It is as dependent on coal as we are. However, we need more vigorous energy efficiency and conservation and insulation measures to get our figures anywhere near comparable to the levels in other countries.
It is generally agreed that easily the quickest and most effective way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is through increasing energy efficiency. On information and promotional campaigns for homes and industry, regulations and standards for appliances and buildings, financial and tax incentives for homes and industry, the Government have a long and wide record of retreat and veto. On international protocols on chlorofluorocarbons, carbon dioxide, vehicle emission standards and water standards it has been the same story, with Britain trying time and again to set a slower and less definite pace.
The Secretary of State for the Environment tried to set a new direction when he moved into the Department. He gave a fanfare--or at least a peep or two--for Professor Pearce's "Blueprint for a Green Economy" which I thought was an interesting document. It was all about bending markets in an environmentally favourable direction and anticipatory rather than reactive environmental policies--anticipatory of highly uncertain measures of probability which the Minister seems to think that scientists will be able to brush away for him, which they certainly will not.
Since the Pearce report was published, we have heard nothing more. At the United Nations this week the Prime Minister was back on the same old theme. She said that free markets
"would defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution, than the well-being they achieve by the production of goods and services."
So what? Free markets often defeat their objective. Professor Pearce and the Secretary of State for the Environment would bend the market. The Prime Minister would re-define the benefit or the quality of life to make the market queen.
The general nature of environmental degradation is that the effect of damaging factors such as CFCs can grow rapidly, with the environment recovering only slowly when the factor is cut out. Every year's delay in acting on CFCs means four years longer before effects fall to half today's levels. There is an urgency.
At the United Nations the Prime Minister urged the adoption of binding protocols on the different aspects of climate change at the 1992 world conference on environment and development. She said that none will be more contentious than the need to control emissions of carbon dioxide. She can say that again. But why wait until 1992? Why not use the world climate conference in November 1990 to adopt initial protocols on all the
Column 1316obvious measures to conserve resources which should be undertaken any way, and which the Government have been steadily resisting. Why not set targets and dates, which can then be reviewed and tightened up in 1992? Why delay and risk diplomatic breakdown in 1992? There is no inconsistency between such early and firm action, and the most demanding research. They reinforce each other. I am confident that we can hand on this lovely world to our children and grandchildren in a better state than we found it, if we take thought and act now.
Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant) : The hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) and I would probably be regarded by many of our colleagues--I say this without offence to him, even if it disparages myself--as members of that small group of political eccentrics who browse around in the dustbins of policy, hoping occasionally to come across the word "science". The hon. Gentleman and I have attended many debates on this and similar subjects over the past 25 years. Therefore, I wholly understand his reaction to the suggestion that our most brilliant graduates should be paid only £6,000 a year. I have heard that point made almost every year for the past 25 years, irrespective of which side of the House I was on.
I make a more general criticism. It is not so much a failure of one or other particular party, it is a failure of our culture to recognise the significance and importance of science and to elevate it within the nation more continuously and more substantially than Governments of either party have chosen to do during the past 25 years. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would accept that comment. Obviously, he must make his political points, and I understand that.
I followed with great interest what the hon. Gentleman said about the importance of computing, not least because it is one of the subjects that we discussed in Washington a few weeks ago. I welcome and support much of what my hon. Friend the Minister said, although I disagree with one or two minor points. I particularly like his emphasis on the solution that will come from human ingenuity. There are vast problems, but human ingenuity is a vast resource. In this context, the primary resource lies within science and nowhere else. No one should ever forget that.
Here we are again on a Friday, discussing probably the most momentous issue facing the human race. I suppose we should be grateful for the crumbs of comfort which fall from the power man's table. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House would probably validly reply that, if he were to grant us a two-day debate, the Chamber would probably be much fuller than it is now. Hon. Members who are concerned about these matters would probably find it difficult to keep the debate going. When the cameras are operating in the next few months, the country will begin to assess our judgments about the importance of our affairs, and that will be a constructive and positive influence on us.
The Select Committee on the Environment, which I chair, had the honour to present to the House a report on the energy policy implications of the greenhouse effect. The Government's response reached me yesterday. I will not weary the House by repeating many of the recommendations and conclusions in the report, which I hope most hon. Members present will probably have read for themselves, but the principal points were the urgency,
Column 1317scale and complexity of the issue. I am pleased to say that, in their reply, the Government accepted virtually all of what we said, but I shall draw attention to one or two points of residual disagreement.
One issue is research and development. We emphasised as strongly as we could the need for a dramatic increase in research and development. The Government replied that they do not believe that they should
"arbitrarily specify a proportion of gross domestic product" into global warming R and D
"because effective research requires a bottom up pressure of sensible ideas and cannot simply be called into existence by allocating large R and D funds."
I accept the generality of that conclusion, but we are now possibly looking at the necessary worldwide measures to defend the future of the human race. If one measures the R and D now being spent principally by the great industrial countries on this subject, and take that as a percentage of what they are still spending to defend themselves as nation states, one notes that it is a minuscule sum. In Committee, I argued--I am afraid, unsuccessfully--that we should form this as a percentage of defence R and D so that the willingness of Governments to face up to this issue can clearly be perceived by those who support them. In Committee, my friends supported me to the extent of making it a percentage not of defence R and D but of gross domestic product. I am sorry that the Government have not seen fit to go at least a little way down that road.
Dr. Bray : On the relationship with defence, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is absurd for the Ministry of Defence to be in charge of the Met Office? Would it not be much better for it to be in its original position under the Board of Trade? There is absolutely no reason why it should not move from where it is now.
Sir Ian Lloyd : That is as may be. I do not disagree profoundly, but the importance of the subject requires our conclusion that its work should be thoroughly and well done and fully funded, under whichever Ministry it falls. From evidence given to the House of Lords Selection Subcommittee on this subject, I understand that those concerned are not greatly worried about their relationship with the Ministry of Defence. It is a somewhat esoteric point.
Mr. Dalyell : I have respected the hon. Gentleman's knowledge of these matters for 20 years. Has he seen page 28 of the copy of "New Scientist" of 4 November in which a table shows how Britain compares with other European countries in the distribution of Government funds for R and D? The figure for Britain is 48.4 per cent.--easily higher than any other European country's expenditure on defence--West Germany 12.7 per cent., Italy 7 per cent., and the Netherlands 2.8 per cent. It is a tell-tale table.
Sir Ian Lloyd : I agree that it is a telling table, and many conclusions can be drawn from it. We could incidentally draw a beneficial conclusion from it. If our defence R and D is high, so must our global warming R and D be high. The incentive would be to increase one and reduce the other if we are to keep both as a given percentage of R and D.
My Committee carefully considered many policies, recommendations and proposals on alternative energy and
Column 1318new systems which would be carbon dioxide benign. There is no doubt that immense interest has been shown in the use of hydrogen as a possible fuel, and even as a substitute for petrol and fuels of that kind. The OECD conference in April, which looked at alternative technologies for the reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases, produced some extraordinarily interesting papers on the subject of hydrogen.
I refer first to the Government's reply on the question of hydrogen. They say that they accept our recommendation that the potential benefits should be reviewed and that they are undertaking such a review with the energy technology support unit. They state : "However, for any impact on CO emissions to acrue from the use of hydrogen, it must be produced, usually using electricity, from a non-fossil source."
That is grotesquely inaccurate.
If those who drafted the paper had read the papers that were presented at the OECD conference in Paris, they would have seen that one of the most exciting new technologies now being considered is the use of nuclear heat to upgrade natural gas to hydrogen.
In the context of this paper, there is the suggestion that, if the industrialised world moves, as the authors think it will--and rapidly-- during the next two decades, to a natural gas-based economy, yielding a hydrogen economy, the power requirement to convert natural gas into hydrogen would be about 3,000 GW of nuclear electricity. Worldwide, the figure would be about 7,000. The world energy economy would then be based completely on hydrogen and, to all intents and purposes, CO would be eliminated.
The Government must think again and think carefully about their commitment to hydrogen research. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Energy has followed through what we told him about the work being done in co-operation by West Germany, Canada and the United States.
I now turn to the Prime Minister's speech at the United Nations, which I personally consider to be a fine speech. The lead must come from right at the top and my right hon. Friend has given that lead in her characteristically vigorous and effective manner. Much of that speech will stand careful and critical examination. My right hon. Friend emphasised the scale of the threat--and I agree with what she said. She emphasised the possible runaway or irreversible quality of the greenhouse effect. I entirely agree. She also emphasised the need for a vast international co- operative effort. I have some views on what she meant by that and on what I see as being necessary. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that science is an indispensable contributor to the solution, a welcome conclusion. She said that different nations may have to consider programmes differing in quality, scale and complexity. Those are my words, not hers, but I believe that I summarise what she said. I add simply that the main thing is that those programmes should respond to the same criteria. My right hon. Friend said that nuclear power is the most environmentally safe form of energy. I wholly concur with that view. I shall return in a few moments to the questions about nuclear power that were raised yesterday.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we must expand our model building capacity. The hon. Member for Motherwell, South fully endorsed that point
Column 1319and I shall return to it. My right hon. Friend also said that we will not succeed without the full co-operation of the research and development capacity and capabilities of the multinationals--a sound point. She reaffirmed the initiative taken by the Government and said that we need a framework convention, filled out with specific undertakings.
Sir Ian Lloyd : I shall come on to the question of when, because it relates to the problem of scientific uncertainty. The hon. Gentleman must not assume that I do not understand the importance of this or the policies that are now required. If he will exercise a little patience, he may approve of what I am about to say.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we had to increase our research and development. I agree and wholly endorse that view. Finally, she said that we must help the poorer countries. That point raises one of the biggest policy and political issues that has ever been before the House.
My endorsement so far of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said is thus enthusiastic and whole-hearted. However, in fairness to the House and to my own position, I must enter a few caveats. My first is purely scientific and technical. The Prime Minister said, in effect, that we had to place great emphasis on the planting and replanting of forests, and that this process contributes to the CO position. That is not quite accurate. As the evidence presented to the House of Lords Select Committee that considered the science base of this question pointed out a few weeks ago, stable forests--whether tropical or temperate--do not remove carbon dioxide, whatever their other merits. That is an important point.
The evidence pointed out that the most that one can expect from forest replanting on a massive scale as a contribution to the greenhouse problem, in relation to the massive scale of our present pollution of the environment, is about 10 per cent. Of course, 10 per cent. is not insignificant ; it is of the greatest importance, but it is produced only by new trees growing to maturity. The moment those trees reach maturity, the natural ecosystem goes into balance as far as carbon dioxide is concerned. It is important that that fact is known, because it could exercise an important and significant effect on policy.
The International Institute of Applied Systems Research recently produced a profoundly interesting analysis of carbon 14, a radioactive component of carbon, from which it reliably deduced the proportion of carbon dioxide contributed by various activities. Its analysis is relevant to this debate, because that which has come from land clearance over the centuries, including in the Brazilian forests, is the major contributor and accounts for 265 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide, whereas that which has come from fossil fuels--although also very large--is less,
Column 1320at 170 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide. When we are considering the relative contributions from different sources, we must therefore pay close attention to land clearance.
Although this is perhaps understandable in any Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend seems from time to time to exhibit a certain antipathy towards new institutions. In her words, we need to strengthen those which already exist. However, I ask the House to consider whether that will be enough. I believe that it will be enough to produce the science and to organise great international conferences at which great and important resolutions are passed. It may be enough to organise the necessary exchanges of data. I do not need to remind the House--and certainly not the hon. Member for Motherwell--that exchanges of data between supercomputers are a necessary component of the research, but can be an expensive business.
What about the specific undertakings and protocols to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred? She referred to "effective regimes" to supervise and monitor their application. I agree, but do such effective regimes exist? What could the United Nations do as an organisation to enforce such regimes and how could it enforce them? Even the light protocols cause the most profound reactions. I remind the House that the 20 per cent. protocol agreed at the Toronto conference could be described as a light protocol in the context of the threat. When the policy makers returned home to say, "We may have to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 20 per cent. within a decade," the reactions were profound and far-reaching. Therefore, I repeat the question that has already been asked--what are we going to do about it?
I turn now to the vital point, which is where I disagree to some extent with my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), who believes that the political will exists to execute imminent change on the scale that is contemplated. Logically, he may therefore have to agree that the institutions exist through which we can exercise that political will. Although the political will has been expressed in vigorous, interesting and dramatic terms at international conferences, in my judgment the political will to follow through that policy right across the globe to a degree that will be effective does not exist. That political will does not exist because public opinion has not yet begun to be aware of the scale of possible change that Governments will ask their publics to accept. When the public do not understand that, there is no political will because Governments do not have public support.
Do the institutions necessary to carry out policy exist? Our international institutions are frail, fragile and tend to be powerless. We may be moving into an era when frailty, fragility and powerlessness are simply not enough. The proper institutions must be created. At the Paris conference, a distinguished Japanese contributor, Mr. Akira Kinashinta, said :
"There seem to be no adequate policy sciences capable of handling this issue."
I believe that that is accurate.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is optimistic--that optimism has been qualified to some extent by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South-- about the eminence of scientific proof. That scientific proof is necessary to underpin the political decisions and policies that must be followed if it is correct that we are already suffering from the greenhouse effect. The circumstantial evidence to support that theory is powerful.
Column 1321I am not optimistic about the eminence of scientific proof. The consensus of the advice given to my Committee and to the House of Lords Committee--unfortunately that Committee will not report until next week, but I have read all seven volumes of the evidence given to it--by responsible scientists is that we shall not have the answers in under 10 years. Both Committees visited Washington a few weeks ago. We had a fascinating week which started with a meeting with the scientific adviser to the President, Dr. Bromley. We talked to the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Environment, and we had discussions with the advisers to some of the relevant committees in the Senate and Congress. The judgment given to us in evidence was wholly reinforced in the United States. No one there is expecting demonstrable proof from their scientists within the next 10 years.
In the United States, we were given a remarkable example of what is involved. At the moment, the vast global climate models that have been created are limited by the number of grid points from which information can be received and processed. Dr. Bromley told us that they would like to reduce the grid size from 100 square miles per grid to about 20 square miles per grid. To process that information so that policy makers can obtain the answers means that the supercomputers would have to be 500 times more powerful. The hon. Member for Motherwell, South will understand precisely what that means. Although the rate of increase in computer power has been staggering, we are asking for another staggering increase before we can achieve the grid size necessary to enable us to make reasonable predictions about regional variations, never mind about other matters.
Dr. Bray : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is now suggested that further research might disclose that we are up against a barrier of ignorance that will be with us for ever, whatever the amount of computing. We shall always be faced with the problem of having to act against the background of great uncertainty.
Sir Ian Lloyd : I accept that and I am reminded of Albert Einstein, who said that the tree of scientific knowledge would continue to grow, but that the space between the branches would always be far greater than that which they occupied.
The global climate models are of immense sophistication and brilliance. They demand ever vaster computer power, but they remain primitive, incomplete, partial and tentative.
One of the vital areas areas of contribution to the interchange of carbon dioxide between the oceans and the climate is the Southern ocean. The key area of the Southern ocean is off South Africa, but that country has been excluded from the world meteorological conference. It is no longer supplying information on the scale required by various organisations. How stupid can we get? The conclusion that must be drawn by policy makers is that we shall have no scientific proof or certainty for 10 to 20 years. The evidence that appears within that period is likely to be circumstantial or anecdotal. Within that time, we cannot separate the signal from the noise-- an interesting term used by communication engineers. In this case, the noise is that of the natural environment and refers
Column 1322to such immense forces as the movement of the El Nino current, about 400 miles north of the Pacific. We do not know whether the droughts in the mid-west of the United States last year were the direct result of El Nino or the direct consequence of the imminence of the greenhouse effect.
For the next 10 to 20 years we are on our own, and there will be an unavoidable and tremendous dependence on judgment. We must start examining the political requirements presented to us by that situation. We must start examining now the consequences of what can only be described as "worst case" scenarios. We were shown one curve in the United States relating to an assessment of the economic cost to the United States if sea levels rose successively. That curve traced the effect of a probable rise of a few centimetres through to the possible rise should the Antarctic ice cap melt.
If that happens, sea levels would rise by between 10 and 15 m. Under the worst case scenario, nearly the entire gross national product of the United States would be absorbed in defending its coastal regions. An equal analysis would apply to the rest of the world. In the United Kingdom we must start looking at worst case, medium threat and low-threat scenarios. We must start to publish the results and prepare public opinion for what might be necessary. Neither the political will nor the political mechanisms exist to deal with any worst case scenario. Even medium-threat scenarios would challenge the incomplete, spasmodic and largely powerless instruments that have been created by the nation states. Faced by the problem, the nation states will not set environmental policy examples that are industrially damaging to their own economies. The internal political pressure against such policies would be overpowering. They will not make great sacrifices by restricting greenhouse emissions when logic shows that their marginal contribution brings no national benefit and is offset by massive increases elsewhere.
Even allowing for the figures produced by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South, the United Kingdom contributes 3 per cent. to the greenhouse effect- -the contribution from our industrial power stations is less than that. Any decision taken by policy makers will be queried if, for example, next year, the Chinese increase their coal burn emissions more than the total reduction of emissions achieved in western Europe. That is the key point. Will the Chinese react to an extreme event? They will do so only if it occurs within their area of political and economic interest.
I attended a conference in London a couple of weeks ago when I said :
"By adopting the most rigorous and sensible greenhouse effect policies, individual nations can conceivably mitigate the consequences for everyone. They cannot mitigate the consequences proportionately to their own efforts for themselves and this is a completely new state of affairs. The implications are very far reaching. In increasingly large areas of life and policy and in all the areas covered by energy, there is no longer such a thing as a coherent national policy."
Such a policy can be said to have coherence only if it forms part of a global energy policy which, as a whole, has relevance to the problems for the global environment caused by the global energy system and fuel mix.
What questions should we ask, and are we doing the right sums? Will enough answers arrive in the right timescale? We do not know. If not, will more money achieve that objective? Money is a necessary, if not
Column 1323sufficient, condition for success and it is one necessary condition which we can and must fulfil. Are we beginning to prepare public opinion and institutions for the possibility of having to face severe short-term energy-related dislocations?
Putting man on the moon demanded new tools and technology, and a massive commitment of resources on a scale unprecedented for the human race. Keeping man's tenancy of the earth may well require a worldwide programme by comparison with which all previous resource allocation records--even in war and when putting man on the moon--will pale into insignificance.
I shall refer to the reaction in this morning's national press to yesterday's announcement about nuclear energy. Those opposed to, and hostile to, nuclear power claim the announcement as a great victory. They said that the British Government had recognised the folly of their ways and are going to slow down and then retreat from nuclear power. That is not a conclusion of which anyone need be proud. Anyone who is fully aware of the range of complexities involved in this issue will realise that no solution is available to the United Kingdom, Western Europe or the industrial developed world which neglects or sets on one side the vital contribution now made by nuclear power and which--as I implied earlier in relation to hydrogen--could have to increase dramatically.
Alternatives are all very well. The latest estimate by the International Energy Agency is that, at the most, it could make a 1 per cent. contribution.