Memorandum submitted by Dr Rupert Read
I am delighted that you are coming to my University
to "take public evidence", on 31 January.
I am a Senior Lecturer teaching environmental
philosophy at UEA. As such I have naturally a number of concerns,
interests and expertises that I would love to discuss with you...
but few that could fit into five minutes... The one that I would
like to focus on, detailed below, is something which COULD however
be very briefly presented.
This item is essentially my concern that the
British Government is lulling the populace into a false sense
of security over dangerous climate change, by misleadingly claiming
that the fact that it is perhaps going to meet the Kyoto target
in narrow technical terms implies that it is actually reducing
GHG emissionswhich is not the case.
Let us take the central example of the recent
written [eg in his Independent article of a few weeks back]
and verbal pronouncements of David Miliband.
I was very concerned to hear David Miliband
painting a rosy picture of Britain's record on carbon emissions
on the Today programme, towards the end of his 8.10 interview
on Wednesday 20 December. His claims are in my view plain false.
At the very least, they are highly tendentious and deeply misleading
(I explain why, below). They went by without demur from Mr James
Naughtie, the interviewer; this is seemingly the normal pattern,
on these occasions. I hope that the 31 January event might help
the media to understand better what is actually happening to our
atmosphere, at present, courtesy of the UK etc.
David Miliband claimed that the UK had achieved
major cuts in greenhouse gases since 1990 (incredibly, he quoted
alleged figures of Britain being on course to achieve 16-17% reductions
in CO2 emissions by 2010, and even more incredibly, 24-5% greenhouse
gas emissions reductions by 2012! You can verify that this is
what he said, by checking the "Listen Again" facility
on Radio 4's website). In these claims, Miliband was not challenged
by James Naughtie, over the leaving out from the figures of embodied
energy, the quite proper inclusion of which would make a complete
nonsense of any such notions (Britain is "exporting"
its carbon emissions to China etc). In fact, as I say, he was
not challenged in any way.
Even on the most generous figures available
to the Government (in particular excluding international aviationwhich
was the very topic of the interviewsee below) CO2 has more
or less flat-lined since Labour came to power, rising in recent
years, and thus showing an overall small rise and is only slightly
(a few percentage points) below 1990 (Kyoto baseline) levels.
The greenhouse gas "basket", which Mr Miliband is probably
referring to is down more significantly on 1990 but, again, excludes
aviation and shipping. Some newspapers and researchers suggest
when those are included there has been little or no reduction
even since 1990.
In fact, the New Statesman suggested
just this week [  http://www.newstatesman.com/200612180008]
that there has been and remains a systematic massive under-estimate
of Britain's contribution to CO2 emissions from air travel, because
only aircraft taking off from Britain are counted. That sounds
reasonable, until one notices that 70% of the passengers taking
off and landing in Britain are Britons. Ie The DFT and Defra ought
to be attributing 70% of the emissions of planes taking off from
and landing in Britain to the UK. This makes a huge difference.
Between 1990 and 2003, estimated CO2 emissions from aviation rose
by 90%, a staggering increase, but even then the government stats
do not take into account the multiplication factor of the impact
of emissions at high altitude, nor the full effects of "radiative
forcing" [these are discussed also in the NS piecethey
were made clear by Caroline Lucas, Green MEP, in her interview
on Today just an hour before Mr Miliband spoke, and again the
interview was conducted by Mr Naughtieagain, "Listen
Again" will verify this], let alone the crucial point made
in this week's NS!
So Mr Milliband's claims are at best partial
and very deeply misleading. If the full effects of the increase
in aviation, avidly promoted by this government, are included,
then it is quite possible that there has been an increase in global
warming gas emissions due to Britain since 1990, and there certainly
has since 1997. A long long way from what Mr Miliband claimed,
on Today, and has claimed recently in several other speeches,
press releases, etc.! For how can Britain possibly be "on
course" to achieve the substantial reductions he claims,
in just a few years from now, if in fact there has been no reduction
at all, since New Labour came to power?!
As I say, the key proof of Mr Miliband's deception
is already available in the government's ownin fact, in
his own department'sfigures: Please would you take a look
at the DEFRA CO2 emissions inventory figures which are available
at  www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics/globatmos/download/xls/gatb05.xls.
This shows that UK CO2 emissions have increased from 149.6 million
tonnes of carbon (MTC) to 152.5 MTC between 1997 and 2004 (from
which the latest figures are available). These figures, deeply-problematically,
don't include international shipping and aviation (which are outside
the Kyoto protocol), but those can be found at the bottom of the
spreadsheet expressed as "bunker fuels"aviation
bunker fuels have of course increased very significantly since
1997 reflecting the growth of the aviation industry [whereas the
reported figures on shipping (expressed as "Navigation")
have decreased but this is problematic as it is difficult to pin
down the use of bunker fuels for shipping down to an individual
country's activities (as it is cost-effective for ships to "shop
around" for fuels from country to country whereas this isn't
the case for planes)]. In other words, CO2 emissions (and even
more so, effective ghg emissions) have actually gone up since
1997, since the start of this Government's term of office; and
when aviation is fully and properly included, along the lines
set out by Caroline Lucas MEP an hour before Mr Miliband came
on air on the morning I am discussing here, they have gone up
I have tried to engage Mr Miliband into discussion
of the points I am making here. "Surprisingly", he is
not replying to my emails. I would be most grateful if I could
make these points clear to you, and ask for your help in getting
the Government to get more honest over this most crucial of questions,
in defining the parameters of the problem we are confronting,
vis a" vis Britain's contribution to dangerous climate
change and its mitigation.
The question I would like posed to Mr Miliband,
which I hope that members of the Committee may take forward, after
my appearance before the Committee, is "Would you please
explain why you have tried to mislead the British populace as
to your Government's record on CO2 emissions? Would you accept
that you are plainly NOT "on course" to achieve the
large reductions in CO2 emissions, let alone effective ghg emissions
in total, because (for example) the figures you have been using,
incredibly, exclude aviation, and in any case your methodology
for calculating the warming effect of aviation emissions is flawed?
Would you please apologise publicly for your deceptions, and make
clear to the media that your previous statements are wrong, and
that the full picture shows that carbon emissions, let alone GHG
emissions measured in full including the "radiative forcing"
effect etc, have very clearly risen under New Labour, such that
as of now we are not "on course" to make any significant
reductions in GHG emissions relative to 1990, let alone to 1997,
by 2010 or 2012? Ie That the rosy picture you have been painting,
over the last couple of months, of Britain's alleged positive
contribution to the struggle to present climate change, is wrong,
and that actually Britain's ongoing "contribution'"continues
to be: a continuing contribution to dangerous climate change
itself, a contribution continuing at roughly the same level
of net impact upon ongoing global over-heating, each year, without
any clear pattern of improvement at all...
[Further information here is borrowed from FoE research/national-websites.]
Dr Rupert Read (UEA)