Just for a brief moment we thought “maybe, just maybe, he does get it after all”. At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 8th January, David Cameron, talking about the flooding that has affected large parts of the country, said he did believe that Britain was experiencing more abnormal weather events that could be linked to climate change.
He was hardly effusive on the subject but, all of a sudden, with the words: “Colleagues across the house can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not. I very much suspect that it is” we were back to Hug-a-Husky-Greenest-Government-Ever Dave rather than the “Get rid of the green crap” PM playing to his climate change denying gallery of backbenchers. Oh, and the climate change denying Secretary of the State for the Environment of course.
However ,it turned out to be but a monentary blip and by yesterday the green crap had been well and truly jettisoned once again as the Prime Minister vowed to “go all out for shale” as he announced increased bribes, sorry incentives, for local councils to accept shale gas exploration in their areas.
Much has been said and written about the local environmental impacts of fracking – the possible earth tremors, pollution of groundwater and the effects of the industrialisation of rural areas. Ministers preach the economic benefits of newly created jobs, cheaper heating bills and energy security. Both sides of the arguments seem to overlook the elephant in the room; shale gas is a fossil fuel. It may be less carbon intensive than coal as a fuel for power stations but it still emits half a tonne of CO2 for every Mega Watt-hour of electricity generation. With the Climate Change Act 2008 introducing a commitment to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, this is not the time to be opting for the ‘slightly less bad’ option.
When the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report says that we can be 95% confident that human actvity is affecting the world’s climate, it is a disgrace that even the very guarded acknowledgement by the PM that climate change may be affecting our weather was met with groans from the Government benches in the House of Commons.
It is also disgraceful that the man in charge of the Department for Environment is a climate sceptic, that the Minister for Energy appeared on the Today Programme on Radio 4 on 13th January referring to shale gas as a renewable source of energy and that the Conservative politician who aspires to be the next Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee is a Director of a petrochemical company who was one of only 3 MPs to vote against the Climate Change Bill. I refer of course, in that order, to Owen Paterson, Michael Fallon and Peter Lilley.
The wilful ignorance of the science behind climate change by Government Ministers and their decitful and irresponsible enthusiasm for fracking whilst painting all those who oppose it as scaremongering Luddites who want to deny the country the chance of prosperity would be comical if it were not so insidious. The next thing you know, the Education Secretary will say that World War One was a just war competently fought and that anyone who says otherwise is an unpatriotic leftie. Oh wait…