Select Committee on Economic Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)

Sir John Houghton

18 JANUARY 2005

  Q40Lord Marsh: They are not only small; they are outside our control. I am trying to get some sort of handle, if there is any, on the things we are doing now, because there were all sorts of forecasts made in the 1800s of what might be happening in 100 years' time, a lot of which were completely wrong, and some of the things which are happening today are within the control of man, and it is those that I am seeking.

  Sir John Houghton: Well, if you come to the 20th century, you find that the increase in global average temperature is phenomenal compared with any variation over the whole millennium. It has been a steady rising trend during the 20th century. The early part of it was not due to greenhouse gases; it could not have been because they were not increasing very much during that period. We believe that the reason for that is largely because of slight warming of the sun, and also because of the lack of volcanoes during that period, and when you feed that information in you can actually recover that temperature rise quite well. Then, if you get to the middle of the century, you find the temperature rise stops somewhat from 1950-70; the reason for that, we believe, is because of the increasing sulphate particles in the atmosphere reflecting sunlight, hence losing energy from the system, and therefore any increase in temperature due to the start of the rise of greenhouse gases is swamped by the effect of the particles in the atmosphere. From 1970 to the present time there has been a very steady increase in tempreture; the rate of increase is larger than it has been for a very long time, probably for 10,000 years. The total increase during the 20th century is quite out of scale with any variations known to us other than the ones I have mentioned and the increase in greenhouse gases. We were saying this sort of thing ten years ago in the first IPCC report but since 1990 we have had a continuous increase in global average temperatures, a steady, consistent increase. The year 1998 happens to be the warmest year on record, and a more striking statistic than that is that each of the first eight months of 1998 was the warmest month on record of that kind. Now when you get eight "ducks" in a row it is trying to tell you something and there is no doubt we believe now, or very little doubt at all, that this rate of increase of temperature from 1970 onwards is because of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

  Q41Lord Lamont of Lerwick: But how do you have information relating to 10,000 years of temperature?

  Sir John Houghton: Well, there is information that comes from ice cores; you can drill cores from the ice in the Antarctic and Greenland laid down of hundreds of thousands of years. The ratio of the isotopes in oxygen within that ice tells you the temperature at which that ice was formed, so you get a handle on all the temperatures over the period in which the ice was laid down. You can drill cores from the mud or the sediment from the bottom of the ocean and this contains deposits from living creatures that die and so on, and again the ratio of isotopes will give you a handle on the temperature that existed in the oceans at that time. Also, you can get a handle on the amount of water there was in the oceans, how big the ice caps were and similar information and so on. There is a lot of information available there of a proxy kind which gives us substantial data—it does not give us detail because of course there are variations all over the surface but there is a great deal of information to work on.

  Q42Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: You mentioned the particles and the effect they have had on cooling. You may have seen the Horizon on global dimming last week which obviously posited quite a dramatic scenario, and one which presumably would unsettle most of the models, were it true?

  Sir John Houghton: We have known the effect of the particles, of course, for some time and we realise that the particles will disappear because of the legislation which prevents sulphur dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere. Certainly the law in America enforces that, which was not the case in the 70s and 80s. That legislation is also coming into China and India who are emitting a lot of sulphur gases at the moment. But they have acid rain problems too, so they are cutting sulphur emissions, so the number of sulphate particles will go down, and as they go down we will notice a further increase in global warming because they have been holding it back, and we are aware of that.

  Q43Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Horizon suggested that some of this information was relatively recent, connected to September 2001, and the conclusions that they came to through the scientist they interviewed seemed very alarming indeed, and quite short term.

  Sir John Houghton: Yes. Sulphates is not the only story, of course, they were presenting. They were also talking about aviation and the effect on cloudiness. They got some good measurements, of course, as a result of 2001 because aircraft were not flying, so they could try and discover the effect of aviation on cloudiness. The data is interesting, and it shows the sort of thing we expect, but of course it is not really certain because it is only one event. We do not want to repeat, of course, 2001, but we would like to get some further handle on that data to be absolutely sure about how big the effect will be. But it does look as if the effect is quite large, and if it is then it is worrying.

  Q44Lord Elder: Still sticking to predictions and models, we have had a pretty clear indication from you of your view as to the links between greenhouse gases and warming, but can I ask a little bit more about the models and the robustness of models, and particularly whether or not you think that the models we have are good retrospectively in predicting what has happened on past data, because that level of robustness would be some comfort in terms of looking to the future.

  Sir John Houghton: Yes. I have already mentioned models and the climate of the 20th century and they simulate that climate really rather well, the ups and downs and the variations of the 20th century as well as the average trend. I will give you two illustrations of how well models have done. In 1991 there was the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano which sent a lot of dust into the high atmosphere; that dust tends to keep the sunlight out and cool the earth and we are aware of that. The models put in the amount of dust that was measured, and they predicted that the global average temperature would go down by half a degree and the timescale under which it would reduce, the effect on the oceans and so on, and their prediction was very good. You may say "Well, that is the global average and not too clever" and that would be fair, but there was also some very unusual weather during that period. There were climate anomalies of a regional kind; there were very cold winters in the Middle East and some very wet and windy winters here in north west Europe. That anomaly also appeared in the models, so not only were they getting the global average right but they were getting one of the major anomalies that arose as a result of the volcano eruption, so that gave us some confidence that at least over that sort of timescale the models were not behaving too badly. The other illustration comes from people who have tried to reconstruct climates of the past. If you go back 6,000 years then the radiation regime arising from the different orbit of the earth was quite different in some regards, so you get quite a different climate. These radiation changes are similar to those deriving from the greenhouse effect because of carbon dioxide changes; they both influence the radiation at the top of the atmosphere. So if you can simulate the radiation changes in the past and get something like the right climate, then you are reasonably confident that what you are doing with carbon dioxide changes can also be done correctly. The simulations which have been carried out for that period 6,000 years ago have been reasonably satisfactory. However, there are problems of inadequate data—knowing just what the climate was like at that time. It is not perfect; all over the globe the regional changes are not all well known; but nevertheless the simulations show a significant proportion of the different character of the climate of that time compared with the present, so we have some confidence that models can simulate in the past. The successful 20th century simulation also is something that gives us a lot of confidence that we are about right so far as the future is concerned.

  Q45Lord Kingsdown: In your opening remarks I think you mentioned Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT as being typical, or one, of the notable doubters to the general scientific consensus on this. Would you tell us what you think of his or their arguments against supposing that there is much scientific basis for human induced warming, because I take it their stance is that there is not much scientific basis for it. Is that right?

  Sir John Houghton: I know Richard Lindzen quite well. He is not always consistent in what he says but he is a good scientist, he has done some good scientific work, and he would not say "There is no global warming." I do not think he would say that, and I have never heard him say that. What he says is that the amount of global warming is not large, that it is small, and his comments on that are twofold. One, he argues and has argued for a long time that the water vapour feedback is negative rather than positive; he is I think the only credible scientist in the world who argues that, but he has argued it for a long time. He joined the writing team for one of the chapters in the last IPCC report; we invited him to join us on the chapter that was most relevant to his interests. The team had a lot of arguments and he argued—or tried to argue—hard for his point of view, but unfortunately he is not a man who does his homework. He does not read the rest of the literature; he quotes his own papers. His arguments written in a paper over 10 years ago now have been very thoroughly gone through by lots of other people just because of who he is and because some of the arguments are quite interesting, but nobody has been able to substantiate the essentially hand-waving arguments that he uses for negative water vapour feedback, and hand-waving arguments are no good. They are useful to help you on your way but you cannot argue strongly on the basis of hand-waving arguments. You have to do very careful modelling so you can take into account all the non linear processes—

  Q46Lord Sheldon: What do you mean by "hand-waving arguments"?

  Sir John Houghton: Well, producing simple arguments. For instance, he argues there is more water vapour in the lower atmosphere but he says in many parts of the upper atmosphere there will be less water vapour because the air dries as it goes up, so you get dryer air in many parts of the world. Now, you can put forward that argument and say, therefore, that you have a negative feedback but you have to substantiate there is less water in the higher atmosphere, where it is, what the effect of that change in water vapour is, and what the effect of that feedback is compared with the positive feedback you get from the increased water vapour in the lower atmosphere, and he has done none of those. Lots of others have done it for him and they find his arguments are not convincing, and the chapter group—and there were seven or eight lead authors on that chapter, clever people—in fact, one of them was one of Lindzen's students—

  Q47Chairman: Just to show my ignorance, and as the Chairman I am allowed to do that, what do you mean by negative feedback and positive feedback?

  Sir John Houghton: As you increase the carbon dioxide, if nothing else changes in the atmosphere then you have increased the global average temperature at the surface by about just over 1 degree—if nothing else changes. But, of course, other things do change, in particular water vapour, because you have a warmer surface and you get more evaporation, so you have more water vapour in the atmosphere, and water vapour is a greenhouse gas so it acts the same as carbon dioxide, so you would expect it to have an effect. A simple calculation would lead you to believe that you get about double the effect that would be there in the absence of the increased water vapour; we call that a positive feedback because by doing what you have done another effect has come along that increases the effect you started with. Now Lindzen argues that, in fact, the feedback would be negative because he says it is drier in the upper atmosphere rather than wetter and therefore you have negative feedback and the effect is less. That is very important because if the effect of doubled carbon dioxide is only 1 degree, then that is serious but not as serious as 2 or 3 degrees, so we have to get it right. Now, the authors of the relevant chapter in the IPCC Report argued loudly and for very long and in the end they summarised in the chapter that the balance of evidence shows that the water vapour feedback is positive; they put that unequivocally in their summary despite having Lindzen as the chapter author, and he had to go along with it. He still does not go along with it in public but he lost the argument in private with his colleagues, largely because he does not do his homework.

  Q48Chairman: Is this chapter in the 1995 report?

  Sir John Houghton: The 2001 report. The other problem with Professor Lindzen's public presentations is that he does not talk at all about impact. He says "Well, what is 1 or 2 degrees? It is only an increase in temperature, and it is not large in terms of temperature change in a room", but in terms of global average temperature it is very large, and the impact on the world of that sort of increase, the impact in terms of climate extremes, in terms of heat waves and floods and droughts, is very large, and Lindzen does not know anything about that, does not talk about and does not appreciate what it is, because he likes talking in a negative way about global warming.

  Q49Lord Lamont of Lerwick: In your very first remarks you described the change in temperature, the global warming, as "very large" or some such phrase. You said he does not think that; he thinks it is a small change. Over what period of time is this difference between you and what is the basis of it, because you are not disputing facts but estimates of what happened in the past. This is a very fundamental disagreement about what the past was, and what is the basis of this? He says small; you say large.

  Sir John Houghton: He says small because he argues that the water vapour feedback is small. Now, the evidence for that is not good. The evidence from the observations of the past, the fact that we can construct the climate of the 20th century using models with positive feedback, and you cannot reproduce it with models of negative feedback, is a very strong reason for saying that positive feedback is about right. The more detailed studies that people have made of water vapour in the atmosphere and what effect it has in the atmosphere all tend to support a positive feedback. Lindzen is on his own in the world in supporting a negative point, and that is talking about thousands of scientists who are involved, and he is not believed by other people at all. Nevertheless, because he is a distinguished man, he comes from a distinguished institution, and because he is saying the sort of things that some people want to hear, he is used a great deal by the media as somebody who says that this is not happening. Well, one voice does not make it right. Of course, I know a thousand voices do not either, but the arguments have been gone through extremely thoroughly by scientists who are honest and who know what they are doing and who have been refereed by other scientists and so on. This problem has been gone over extremely thoroughly, and I am afraid Professor Lindzen is not speaking—

Chairman: You have made your point very clearly, and I think we have the point. Lord Sheppard, shall we move on?

  Q50Lord Sheppard of Didgemere: Sir John, given the uncertainty that still exists or arguments that still exist in the area of science, and certainly in the area of the economic impact of that science, are we paying too much attention and spending too much money on trying to find solutions and act on them, or should we be spending more money on the science, or both?

  Sir John Houghton: There are uncertainties but in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the people gathered there and all nations signed the Climate Convention, which said "Although there are uncertainties we believe that action is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to save damage of the kind that there is strong scientific evidence for". Now if that was true in 1992 it is much truer now because the science since then has, on the whole, tended to strengthen the story we were telling at that time and the concerns that we have about impacts. At the moment we feel really rather certain that the warming we are seeing in the atmosphere and the earth's surface is due to the increase in greenhouse gases; and if we extrapolate that for the next few decades the warming which that will cause or bring along with it will cause significant impact in terms of sea level rise and in terms of extremes. There was the heat wave in Europe in 2003 which you will remember was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people, and was very unusual indeed. It was five standard deviations, if that means anything to you, a very long way from the norm, extremely unusual and very damaging to Europe. The best estimates we have at the moment, if the trend in warming continues, are that that sort of summer will be the average summer in Europe in 2050. That is the sort of projection we are making with some confidence now as to what the impact of climate change is likely to be on human communities. Although in the developed world, of course, we can on the whole cope with whatever happens, because we have the infrastructure and the methods to cope with it, although it will still be damaging for us in terms of floods and droughts and heat waves. But for developing countries there will be some very severe impacts indeed, from sea level rise and from an increase in frequency and intensity of floods and droughts which cause the largest impacts. If you are going to have these, then we have to take some action, and if that action is going to be desperately expensive and extremely difficult to do and impossible for the world to face because it would cause damage of all kinds to the world's economies and so on, then you would have to look at it very hard, and I do not believe it is of that kind.

  Q51Chairman: You present to us a scenario of the scientific results and forecasts of it, but underlying that also must be some economic forecasts which you presumably just have to operate from. Are you satisfied with the economic basis which you have given as well as the scientific basis?

  Sir John Houghton: Well, costing in economic terms the damage of all the things that are likely to happen is very difficult. I am not an economist but I look at what economists say and write and the sort of damage they are talking about is substantial. In terms of per cent of gross national product, 1 or 2 per cent perhaps in developed countries but much more than that in developing countries. I also look at what economists say about the cost of mitigating action and what I think reliable economists are saying about the costs of mitigating action is that the cost is very modest. For instance, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution produced a report on energy recently and they argued that there should be a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 in order to meet the problems of climate change, the sort of impacts I have been talking about. Such a reduction will not prevent the impact but it will stop them getting far worse than they would otherwise. The Government's PIU, Policy Information Unit, in Downing Street also did a study on energy and they asked for advice from a group of economists in the Treasury who were presumably not "green" people, or people who would take a particularly "green" line or would want to argue very strongly that it was going to cost very little or anything like that. They came up with an estimate that for the United Kingdom to cut its emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 would cost no more than six months' loss of GDP growth over that period. They were assuming two and a quarter per cent per year of economic growth and they said you might lose six months of that in 50 years. But they also said there is the possibility of innovation and of industry doing well out of innovation and the like and we might be overestimating what the cost might be. That is not a lot of money compared with the damage we are talking about to the world if we allow climate change to go unrestrained.

  Q52Lord Skidelsky: Could I rephrase the Chairman's question a little bit? Forecasts of the rate of emissions depend crucially on forecasts of the rates of economic growth. They do not only depend on that but they depend to a large extent on that. Are you satisfied with those forecasts? Do you have any independent judgment of them or do you simply take what, let's say, a consensus of IPCC economists tell you about that?

  Sir John Houghton: The IPCC for its 2001 report had an independent report of its own on the emission scenarios. There was a knowledgeable group based in Vienna which produced these and I am not an expert on this or anything like it, but the range of scenarios they came up with was very wide. At the top end you had them assuming very high rates of economic growth in developing countries—in fact, convergence—and that led to very high emissions. Global emissions at the moment are about 7 billion tons of carbon per year, and the result of that sort of scenario would give you 20 plus billion tons of carbon by the year 2100. But at the other end of the scale they had various families of scenarios, and if you took another scenario you might see that they were assuming, or saying, "Well, let's assume very different sort of futures. Let's assume a future in which the world population drops over this period. Let's assume a period over which economic growth does not occur too much. Let's assume also that there will be green arguments for going to renewable energies and less fossil fuel rich resources and so on". So there was a very wide range of scenarios but none of them was adequate for the purposes of mitigating climate change. They were told "Don't assume that there are strong drivers or there is legislation or international agreements about cutting emissions, but just assume a range of scenarios". . . That is why we have in 2100 in the IPCC projections a range from one and a half to nearly 6 degrees in terms of the likely global average temperature rise over that period. The 6 degrees is associated with the very high economic growth scenario which you may think is quite unrealistic, but at the bottom end of one and a half degrees you have the scenario with lower populations and so on which again seem unrealistic. Even the 1.5 degrees, which is one and a half degrees from now, if you add that to what has occurred already, you are already warming the earth in that scenario by about 2.5 degrees by 2100, which is a big increase in temperature.

  Q53Lord Sheppard of Didgemere: Am I right in saying that the latest estimates of climate increases reflect the latest scientific knowledge on global dimming? They may have distorted the historicals but in the statistical estimates in the future they would be taken into account, would they?

  Sir John Houghton: The estimates in the 2001 report, where global average increased between 1.5 and 5.8 in 2100, assumed less sulphate particles, so they had some of the global dimming arguments within it. Not all the arguments that were presented last Thursday night were within the 2001 report. There were other arguments too which have come up since 2001, to do with the global carbon cycle and things of that kind, which suggest there might be more carbon emitted through the respiration of soils. Infact there are number of bits of science that have come up since 2001, which we knew a bit about in 2001 but did not feel confident enough to spell out too much, which on the whole make the figures bigger rather than smaller. The science is getting stronger in terms of the things we were not certain about and therefore did not want to talk about too much in 2001 because we did not want to overstate the situation. So the situation is actually worse than we might have expected before then.

  Q54Lord Sheldon: Is it not a bit ridiculous talking about 2100? One hundred years ago we thought we would be running out of coal and the whole of the country would have to deal with this major problem of civilisation. In a hundred years all sorts of things can happen and I am a bit uneasy about that. But what makes me feel a bit uneasy too is we are not talking about offsetting the advantages of global warming, or only in certain areas, for example, Siberia, temperate countries, where there could be some advantages in global warming. I know there are disadvantages elsewhere, but you have to offset the one against the other, and I do not hear any arguments about the way in which certain countries could benefit from global warming. When you talk about flooding of 20,000 people, think of the advantages that could come from the enormous increase in certain countries. The whole of Siberia, for example, could become a great grain producing area. There are all sorts of things where we look ahead so far, there are so many uncertainties and unknowables that we have to be really cautious about how strongly you present the arguments in these matters.

  Sir John Houghton: I agree with you, 2100 is a long way off. My grandchildren will probably not be alive in 2100 but they will be alive in 2030, 40 and 50, by which time we will see many of these things occurring. 2100 happens to be the end of the period that the IPCC studied and that is why I talked about it, but it does not mean you are going to have to wait until 2100 for these things to appear. We are going to be seeing much more of events of the kind presumably that we had in 2003 which was this enormous heatwave in Europe which, as I say, was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people. That is a big event and we will see more of that occurring. You are quite right to point out that we talk more about the negative impacts rather than the positive impacts, and there will be positive impacts. Siberia is a good place to mention. It will get warmer, it is getting warmer now, and providing your house is not built on the permafrost in which case it will fall down—but then you can rebuild it so that is not a big problem—and also, of course, carbon dioxide is a fertiliser and some crops grow better with increased carbon dioxide, everything else being equal, and providing you have got water as well you can get bigger yields out of a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere, so there are positive things that occur. These have been thoroughly looked at by the IPCC and if you want to know more, go to the second volume of the IPCC report where they spell these positive impacts out as honestly as the negative ones, but the negative ones certainly seem to be dominant so far as most of the impacts on human communities are concerned. Sea level rise is the first negative impact for almost everybody; it does not do anybody any good and that is very bad news for places like Bangladesh. We are likely to get big droughts, actually, and Siberia is likely to get much more droughts than before, and you cannot grow crops if you cannot get water and the impact on water worldwide will be very considerable. So when you look in detail at the impact on human communities as they are at the moment, yes, you can say communities can adapt, the cost of adaptation will be substantial, but some people may be better off. There may be some parts of North America that can grow more grain, and parts of Europe may have the same impact, or parts of Russia, so there are some positive things but by and large most of the impacts, especially when you get above one or two degrees of warming, are adverse and that is a serious problem, but these have been looked at very hard.

  Q55Lord Layard: It seems to me that, if you look at these forecasts, whatever we do about energy use in the next 50 years, there is going to be a big increase in temperature. That is true of all these forecasts. So is not the key issue how we produce energy, and ought we not to be taking much more seriously the issue of producing energy without carbon? What would be the major ameliorative action that could be taken? Would it not be to try and treat the issue of non-carbon-producing energy with the same approach that we did the moon landing, or the world did the moon landing? Should we not be throwing massive billions at the issue of how to produce a new non-carbon-producing source of energy rather than focusing on energy use exclusively, as we do?

  Sir John Houghton: I think we have to concentrate on both. I think there is a lot we can do to cut our use of energy beneficially without increase of cost, of course, but we just have to learn to do that and persuade people that is a good thing to do. But I am sure also, as you say, we will not be able to solve the problem without changing the way in which we get our energy from non-fossil-fuel sources. Now, we should have a big drive at that and the United Kingdom, for instance, is well placed to exploit certain sorts of renewable energy—

  Q56Lord Layard: I was meaning in particular hydrogen or whatever. Some completely new, non-existent technology that would change the situation.

  Sir John Houghton: The existing technology would make a big change, actually. We are generating a certain amount of wind energy and that is one way towards doing it. But we have some of the biggest tides in the world in the United Kingdom. Tidal energy is a great possibility for producing non-carbon energy, and with tidal energy you know exactly when it is coming because you know when the tides occur; it is not intermittent in the way wind energy is; and there are plenty of places around the United Kingdom where we could build lagoons and build turbines and generate very substantial amounts of energy. A substantial proportion of the United Kingdom's energy could be produced that way. Now, there are also local ways in which we can generate energy using waste materials. There is a project in Wales not far from my home where they are building a boiler which will burn forest residue which will heat the whole village. Now, there are many projects of that kind that could be generated but we need incentives for people to do this sort of thing, incentives and drive and encouragement of a kind which is not being produced at the moment.

  Q57Lord Layard: But could you tell us anything about the possibilities of a major scientific breakthrough on some new way of producing energy?

  Sir John Houghton: Many people feel that in the end solar cells which will be able to produce hydrogen from hydrolysis of water will be the fuel of the future, and that could well be. The solar cell technology is developing all the time, and both BP and Shell have projects doing that sort of thing with big industry. We still have to get the economies of scale to bring the price down, and economies of scale could do that. The Germans are doing well at it. They have plans for 100,000 roofs with PV solar cells on within a few years. I am just about to put a solar cell roof on my home in Wales facing the sun. There are tens of domestic roofs with these cells in the United Kingdom, that is all, and compared with what the Germans are doing we are doing very little. Now, that is a technology which is bound to break through in the future quite a lot and we should be pushing it, because when the economies of scale arrive then we will be doing it. We need a way of storing hydrogen, we need a way of storing hydrogen in motorcars in a satisfactory manner, and there are various possibilities for that; we need R&D to go into that and a certain amount is going in, but we have not solved those problems yet. The possibility of solving them is around the corner. We should be having a big drive in that, as you say. Rather than saying "are we going to do this?" we just need to do it. The United Kingdom is a technological country with a lot of scientific and technical skill and we have the resources to work with others on some of these issues to the benefit of our own industry and to the benefit of developing countries, too, and help them with technology. There is a great deal that can be done.

  Q58Lord Skidelsky: I think you have already answered some of the points in question seven but could I concentrate on just one sentence in that, and again go over it? Is it not reasonable to assume that technical change will come about and solve some of these problems irrespective of and without requiring a global policy? I am thinking, for example, of predictions by people like Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s of mass starvation, and then you had a revolution in crop fertilisers and so on, and that has happened time and time again. Once a problem is identified, forces are set in motion and there tends to be a challenge to overcome it—forces of demand and forces of science. Secondly, what do you think the relationship is between science and the media at this particular point? Are the media helpful in displaying this problem? Do they distract people from the serious issue, or do they simply create hysteria?

  Sir John Houghton: Dealing with the media, first I think the media act in a variety of ways. Some of their programmes are good and some of their education is quite good. On the other hand, they do confuse the public a great deal because they produce all sorts of messages without giving clear answers, and we need badly to inform the public rather thoroughly about what the issue is about. We need to have a really good awareness education campaign for the public to explain to them what global warming is and what the problems are, why we believe what we do. Some of the material in some of our reports should be packaged in a way that the general public can understand, and you can get them on board to feel that they are part of the solution as well as eyeing the problem. Government would be a lot more confident to act if they felt the public were behind them and if there was a really good information campaign which the media could help with, and some of us are working at that issue.

  Q59Lord Skidelsky: But do we need Kyoto? Do we need global policy, rather than allowing science and technology to work on it?

  Sir John Houghton: The global policy cannot be too prescriptive, clearly, because there are many possible solutions to the problem. On the other hand, it is a global problem and we do need all countries to address it. There is a fear, of course, that some countries are addressing this with a lot of cost while other countries are free riders on it. Just to talk about Kyoto, it is small in terms of what it will achieve but it is very big in terms of getting countries together, because countries have agreed to get together over the issue. They have developed mechanisms for trading in carbon which are very exciting, particularly for people who like trading, and for people who enjoy the market, and for people who feel they are going to make money out of it and also get some real benefit, and trading is beginning to work now so that you can reduce carbon emission in the cheapest possible way and in places where it is cheap to do so. So Kyoto is a great step forward. I just wish America would join in. American industry may well begin to join in. California and New York, for instance, are beginning to trade in carbon emission, and there is no reason why they cannot join the Kyoto agreement and try to join its trading scheme.

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