Memorandum submitted by John Thring
I note that your enquiry is also required to
consider relevant aspects of climate change.
As a result of my wide reading on this issue
I have, of course, come to some tentative conclusions and I must
share these with you by way of preamble.
To be as brief as possible, my conclusions so
far are that:
1. It seems inescapable that climate change
is occurring, and that it will cause global warming with far-reaching
2. It may be true that the pace of such climate
change is being accelerated by the actions of humankind, but it
may also not be true. In the former case, there is a considerable
number of encouraging initiatives under way and we must hope that
they come to full fruition in time. In the latter case, all our
efforts will be in vain.
3. There seem to be only four possible outcomes:
(a) Our efforts will halt climate change
for the foreseeable future. (This seems most unlikely, if not
impossible. Geology indicates that the climate has always been
changing, long before humankind had any influence.)
(b) Our efforts will slow down the rate
of change. However, all this does is delay the process by a number
of years. (This may be the best that we can hope for).
(c) Our global efforts at slowing the
rate of change will be too small, and/or implemented too late,
to make any significant difference. (My money would go on this
(d) If climate change is not being accelerated
by the actions of humankind, then our efforts will have no effect
upon the rate of such change. (However, we do not know this and
therefore need to make the attempt).
My readings elsewhere inform me that there have
been some analyses of the effects of rising seawater levels, disappearance
or reversal of the Gulf Stream, annual rainfall etc in the UK
as a result of climate change. However, I have not been able to
find any consequent proposals about how we might mitigate these
effects. New Orleans has recently brought to the forefront questions
about allowing low-lying areas to return to the sea, for example.
My major concern is that I can find no description
of a UK strategy or policy concerning the "adaptation strategy"
for dealing with the effects of climate change. I feel that it
would be wise for such a strategy to consider, for example, the
removal of our oil refineries to high ground (I believe all of
them lie next to ports on low-lying marshland).
Similarly, I suspect that many, if not all,
of our existing nuclear and carbon-fuelled power stations might
be a great risk if we saw a rise in mean sea level of, say, one
metre. I feel that constraints as to the siting of any new-build
nuclear stations should be a consideration of your Committee,
and should consider a probable, and possibly large, rise in sea
levels as well as the more usual considerations of accessibility
22 September 2005