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I am happy that we should seek ways of insuring against the costs that might result from climate change arising from increased greenhouse gases, provided the cost of insurance is not disproportionate to the benefits of mitigating climate change. I also welcome moves to more secure and diverse sources of energy for this country, but I believe that the claims that the scientific evidence is overwhelming and that the debate is ended are incorrect and exaggerated, that the damages supposed to result from rises in the global average temperature
are exaggerated and that the cost of mitigating that rise in temperature is almost certainly understated.
I wish to say a bit about the science, and the argument that it is settled and that there is no dissent. As far as I know, only one comprehensive study has been undertaken on the views of climate scientists and it was carried out by Professor von Storch. He received replies from 570 climate scientists-members of the international bodies of climate science across the world-to his asking them whether they agreed or disagreed that climate change is mostly the result of man-made causes. More than half of those scientists-56 per cent.-said that they agreed, but 14 per cent. were unsure and 30 per cent. disagreed. So if the Government were to say that a majority of scientists agree with them, that would be correct, but to suggest that none disagrees is simply factually incorrect. In any case, it is absurd to suggest that science is carried out by majority opinion. When Einstein was told that 100 German physicists had-probably as a result of Herr Goebbels getting them together-signed a statement saying that his theory of relativity was wrong, he said that if it were wrong it would require only one scientist to prove that. The fact that uncertainty remains means that the science is still unsettled. Yesterday-I think that was when this was-the Prime Minister said that the science is irrefutable. If a theory is irrefutable it is not scientific. Scientific theories must be capable of refutation. If a theory is not capable of refutation, we are dealing with metaphysics rather than science.
Over the past decade, despite the predictions of the climate models and the fact that the amount of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere has exceeded expectations, no global warming has taken place-indeed a slight global cooling has occurred. I accept that one decade of the absence of global warming and of a slight decline is not sufficient to refute the notion that CO2 is having a substantial impact. However, I must ask the Government a question: how many decades will be required before they are prepared at least to consider the fact that their climate models may be somewhat exaggerated? Clearly there must be other factors that they are not taking into account, which are at least masking and suppressing the global warming over the past decade. Of course, those factors might have been operating in the opposite direction in the previous three decades, when we did observe global heating.
The second issue is that of damaging climate change. I believe that the Secretary of State-although it might have been the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-proudly told us that it was an historic moment when the G8 agreed to define a 2° C rise in average global temperature as "damaging climate change", that that would be caused by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increasing from the current 380 parts per million to 450 parts per million and that we were to prevent that from happening. The idea that we have got our fingers on a global dimmer switch and we can determine the average temperature is an example of human hubris that has rarely been matched in this Chamber.
It is also rarely stated that when the Government talk about a 2° C increase, they are not talking about an increase from now; they are talking about an increase of that order from the early 18th century-from before the
industrial revolution. We have already had about two thirds of that increase in CO2 since then. [Interruption.] Well, the increase has been from 280 parts per million to 380 parts per million, which is an increase of 100 parts per million out of a rise of 170 parts per million. The impact is logarithmic, so that should account for about 64 per cent., or about two thirds, of the global heating that would be expected to be induced by a rise to 450 parts per million. Thus, a rise of 1.3 ° C ought already to have appeared, whereas in fact only a rise of 0.8° C has done so. That leaves us with a rise of about a further 1.2 ° C to occur.
The Government are saying that a further one and a bit degrees centigrade rise in the average temperature of the world would be hugely damaging and that we must be prepared to sacrifice billions of pounds to avoid it. I pointed out the other day that the average temperature in Cornwall is more than 2° C higher than the average temperature in the north-east of England. Is it really dangerous for someone to move from Newcastle to Cornwall? Would it be dangerous if the north-east of England became as warm as Cornwall? Would it be dangerous if Cornwall became as warm as the Loire valley? That is what a 2° C increase-let alone a 1° C increase-would involve. It is not such a big deal. I accept that for poor and tropical countries a rise of that order is more serious, whoever causes it, and we ought to be prepared to help them. However, we ought not to kid ourselves that we are really facing Armageddon if this happens.
Finally, the Secretary of State said in his statement the other day that the impact of these measures on household budgets would be 6 per cent. In his White Paper, he says that the cost of renewables would put electricity budgets up by 15 per cent., on top of the 15 per cent. increase already, and that gas prices and household budgets would increase by 23 per cent. I cannot find the quantification of the measures that he suggests will reduce the impact on households-
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): I do not accept that the issue is whether we should do something about global warming. We are on the way towards the most important international agreement at Copenhagen and we should give every ounce of support to the Secretary of State, who is taking such a leadership role. Parliament should back all the work that he is doing now and will do at the international negotiating table at Copenhagen. I ask him to use the various reports that the Environmental Audit Committee has produced to highlight the detailed areas where we need to make progress quickly.
I was pleased that the Secretary of State referred to deforestation, the importance of stopping the illegal logging of timber, and how the deforestation agenda can be incorporated into the talks and agreements on climate change.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) said, the science is really important. The important question on some of the modelling that has been done is whether it is coupled or
uncoupled. The detail on that point is in some of the evidence that the Committee has received, and I ask my right hon. Friend to look at it urgently, so that we go to Copenhagen with the best and most reliable science.
Despite what we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), evidence given to the Committee suggests that we have only a 50:50 chance of not exceeding a temperature increase of 2° C. Anything over that increase would be catastrophic. We therefore have a higher chance of exceeding 3°, which is why it is so important that we get the science right.
It is no good doing everything that we can at Copenhagen to get the right policies if we then come back and do not do as we say. I commend the Government on the series of statements this week, including those on renewables and the low-carbon economy. We especially need to make progress towards the latter, given the state of the recession and the urgent need to restore the economy to the best position that we can.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn) said, the nuclear issue is important. The Government need to back winners and put their money on the renewable agenda, so that we can harness all the wind and water power that we have in huge quantities all around the British Isles. It is vital that this agenda is mainstreamed into everything that the Treasury and other Departments do. The Treasury should have a scientific adviser at the heart of its policy making, to influence the green book so that infrastructure expenditure provides not stranded assets, but assets that help us to deliver on the international agreement that I hope we will reach in Copenhagen.
It is also important that we stress the education agenda. All too often, only the initiated take part in these debates. We should be on a war footing on climate change and, so that everybody-including my constituents and those of every hon. Member-understands what they need to do in their industry or Department, we need to make information widely available. Last night, I visited St. Mary's school, which-like Burnwood school and other schools in Stoke-on-Trent-is attempting to become an eco-school. It is the young people who will show us how we can turn this agenda around and come forward with solutions for our future.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) for keeping her comments brief, and I shall do likewise to enable other hon. Members to speak. However, I have to tell the hon. Lady that I am more in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) than I am with her.
First, I wish to thank my researchers Alex and Andrew for providing the background detail for my comments this afternoon. The Copenhagen climate change conference is an update on Kyoto, so that the world can unite and make a greener planet. However, there is much contradictory evidence about what is causing global warming. It is like rolling a set of dice-the outcome is uncertain. Some 1,000 years ago, for instance, Greenland was
warm enough for the Vikings to have vineyards there, but today it is covered with ice. That contradicts the idea that global warming has been going on for ever and a day-
Research has just been published by NASA's Goddard space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland that argues strongly that the sun is causing global warming on a cyclic, 11-year pattern. It does not claim that man-made global warming has no effect, but the vast majority is caused by the sun. It also makes the point that the temperature is changing on Jupiter and Mars, and clearly that cannot be due to man-made effects. The Secretary of State did not address that point. It seems to be almost a religious belief that man is creating global warming, and that nothing else is responsible. However, I am not convinced that the science is there, and certainly the new research from such an august body as NASA needs to be taken on board.
I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has done. He has shaken the Conservative party up and put environmental issues at the top of the party's agenda. He has also installed as our spokesman my hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) who, very cleverly, has translated the ambitions and policies of my right hon. Friend into practical measures.
I agree with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) about the importance of the youngsters and their role in this issue. A week ago, I visited Brabins endowed school in Chipping to see the school presented with its fifth environmental flag. The children, supported by their teachers, parents and the community generally, have their own garden to grow their own food. They also make promises about what they will do at home to achieve a more sustainable future. That is the crux of the matter, because whether people agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) that the science does not support the argument-so why do anything about it-or are totally convinced that something is happening and we need to do something about it now, no one can argue with the need for sustainability.
Fossil fuels will run out in the foreseeable future, whatever happens, and therefore it is only common sense to move towards a sustainable future. That means that there must be more research into and development of renewables. Some of us went to see that lovely electric sports car the "Lightning" in the House of Commons a few weeks ago. It can now do 198 miles before it needs recharging, and I hope that it will be developed and manufactured in the UK. Fortunately, President Obama wants a lot more research and development in battery technology. That is long overdue, and we need to encourage more to be done in that regard in the UK as well, in liaison with a number of other countries.
The hybrid vehicles now in production are far better than they were a few years ago. In the one that I tried the other day braking recharges the battery, and the car also has an indicator about how environmentally friendly one's driving is. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden asked whether it was advisable to move from the north down to Cornwall because of the 2° difference in temperature, but the only danger would arise if one were to travel in the vehicle that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone) owns. It is a biofuel car, but it is powered by the wrong biofuel.
We know that more research and development need to be done in biofuels, which in the future may well be an answer to the depletion of fossil fuels. For instance, there is an algae-based biofuel that is both much more productive and less damaging to the environment. Taken together, those two properties are superb, but what we do not want is the deforestation that the Secretary of State talked about. That deforestation is done to grow the crops to provide the fuels that people burn in their vehicles, so in some cases the environment is damaged more than it is aided. We therefore need to get the right balance on biofuels.
Conservation is also important in respect of travel. I know that Al Gore flies around the world telling the rest of us not to, but we have to recognise that many young people are going to want to travel. We cannot deny them the opportunity to discover what the rest of the world has to offer, but travel can be done in a more environmentally friendly way. Again, we need to encourage more research and development, and investment, in planes-such as the mixed-fuel one that Virgin revealed the other day-that use environmentally friendly fuels.
The Airbus A380-and the Boeing 787, when it eventually leaves the ground-will be far more environmentally friendly aircraft, but we must also ensure that aeroplanes have more people on them when they take off. That will mean that there will be no phantom take-offs just to maintain the slots at airports. We must make it absolutely certain that aviation is environmentally friendly.
I want to end with a plea. We mentioned China, and we know that India is developing as well. As they grow, both countries must play a full part in doing their bit in
ensuring that theirs are low-carbon environments. There is a lot of poverty in both countries, so they have to grow: we do not want to deny them the opportunity to develop as we did in the past, but they must learn the lessons of our experience when it comes to destroying the planet.
To that end, and where we can, we must share technology with countries such as China and India so that they can benefit from the investments that we have already made. However, as China in particular adopts renewable sources to power the energy that it needs, we must encourage it to let some of the contracts to companies in Europe. Renewable sources include wind farms, hydro technology and other approaches, but we in Europe have the expertise that developing countries need. We need to have an opportunity to share that knowledge with them.
When it comes to nuclear power, again it is clear that we are talking about a mix. Such power generation must be part of the mix, although we must ensure that it is produced in an environmentally friendly and safe manner. We have dragged our feet for far too long on nuclear power, but nothing would be a greater disaster to industry in this country than if we were forced to turn the lights off in two or three years' time simply because we got it wrong.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): First, if my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) is right, we will do no harm trying to clear up global warming because that is necessary anyway to meet the needs caused by the shortage of resources and so on. If he is wrong, he will lead the country and the world into dire disaster. So we must ignore him-as I have had to do for the past 12 years!
Secondly, we need nuclear power because we cannot leave anything aside in this battle. Thirdly, the Secretary of State must be pressed constantly on these issues. If he is going to be believed in Copenhagen, the first thing that he has to do is to introduce measures at home. That is why I press him yet again on hydrofluorocarbons, and why I demand that he does the things-
That this House has considered the matter of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The military operation in Afghanistan has now lasted for nearly eight years and has claimed more lives than the conflict in Iraq. It is important that we regularly discuss the situation there, and that is why the Government have scheduled this debate today.
Whatever the divisions in the debate, I know that in one regard the House is as united as the people of Wootton Bassett were on Tuesday. We are united in the belief that each and every one of our military personnel is a credit to the country, that each and every one represents a personal story of courage and bravery beyond the call of duty and, as we saw on Tuesday, that each and every loss is a source of raw grief that should never be forgotten.
Today sees the funeral of Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, who was well known to a number of right hon. and hon. Members in this House. I pay tribute today to all of our soldiers, to the diplomats and aid workers who work alongside them, to our allies and partners who also operate in such difficult and dangerous circumstances, and to the many Afghan and Pakistani soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives in the defence of their country.
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