Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’
Whilst I am aware of – and have previously quoted – Lord Deben (i.e. leader of of the Committee on Climate Change – the advisory group David Cameron and George Osborne are ignoring so studiously), I was not aware of the campaign he is heading on Twitter. Thanks must therefore go to John Havery Samuel for alerting me to James Murray’s Are the Green Tories preparing a fight back? article on the BusinessGreen website.
As a child, just about everyone in the UK will probably remember learning about the story of Elijah humiliating the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel (i.e. as recounted in 1 Kings 18 in the Old Testament). However, not all may recall the crisis of faith that followed this tremendous victory (see 1 Kings 19). Although I have never really had the moment of victory, I often feel that I have sure spent a long time having a crisis of faith. However, once you appreciate that I am a socially-conservative environmental realist (see links below if you don’t believe me), I think my persistent feeling that I am in an extreme minority becomes entirely understandable.
I would very much recommend that you read the entire story (i.e. of Green Conservatives preparing a fight back) on James’ blog. Hopefully these opening paragraphs will encourage you to do so:
One of the bright spots in an otherwise pretty dispiriting summer for the UK environmental movement has been the unlikely emergence of Tory grandee John Gummer as Twitter’s latest eco-warrior. Now known as Lord Deben, the former Environment Secretary and current chair of the independent Committee on Climate Change has provided a beacon of centre-right common sense on matters environmental – and all in 140 characters.
He has argued that fracking may be useful, but will never provide a silver bullet for the UK’s energy crisis; repeatedly challenged “climate deniers and dismissers” to provide one example of a credible institution that supports their crackpot theories; and taken numerous pot shots at ill-informed anti-green commentators and several of his climate denying colleagues in the Lords. All because, in his own words, “no reasonable person would ignore expert opinion and wager his children’s future on the contrarian views of people who are not peer reviewed”.
It has been a breath of fresh air and a useful reminder that not all Conservatives have signed up to the reckless vision being relentlessly promoted by Lord Lawson and the Murdoch press – a vision whereby fracking miraculously saves the economy and climate change is either not really happening or left to look after itself. They may not have access to the media foghorm enjoyed by their less progressive colleagues, but there are some Tories who still understand the existential threat posed by climate change, the value of the green economy, and the relationship between conservation and Conservatism. The big question for the UK’s green political scene is whether or not there are enough of them and whether they can wrestle back control of a narrative that Lord Lawson and his friends have recently steered in their own direction.
For those that would challenge my assertion that I am (or can be) ‘socially conservative’, I can only refer you to things I have written on this blog previously:
Similarly, for those that would challenge my assertion that I am an environmental realist, I can only refer you to the following:
Dear George Osborne, Chancellor Merkel, EU Commission, Citizens of Cyprus, and people everywhere,
Please accept my condolences for your loss(es) and my sincerest wish that you will now stop lying to yourselves; and face-up to the nature of reality.
Further to the comment by Lionel Smith (below), this is what page 159 of Stephen Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell looks like:
This is the problem that we have with exponential growth.
I was looking for something else in the Letters to the Editor section of the Geological Society website, when I came across this very short but massively powerful letter. I knew instantly that I must draw it to the attention of the widest-possible audience. The “letter” is from someone I have known since 1998 – Chris King, Professor of Earth Science Education at Keele University – and it is, in fact, almost entirely composed of a quotation from a peer-reviewed article published over 100 years ago.
‘Our interest in the evolution of the atmosphere and of climate is of more than theoretical interest… Van Hise, on what he regards as a moderate estimate of the coal the human race will burn per annum during the present Century, estimates that in 812 years the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be doubled. According to the view of Arrhenius such a change would greatly ameliorate [see Update appended below] the climate of the world. This view of the heat-holding effects of an increase of CO2 is not undisputed, but so large a change in the constitution of the atmosphere, by the hand of man himself, may well cause him to investigate, with serious persistence, the terrestrial consequences of his own deeds…’ From: ‘Scenery, Soil and the Atmosphere’, by A P Banham: Popular Science Monthly, June 1910, pp.570-580.
I feel that absolutely no comment is necessary.
With the greatest of respect to Chris, however, for the benefit of a non-expert audience, I feel that further comment is necessary:
This letter demonstrates that there was scientific concern over the potential consequences of doubling atmospheric CO2 concentrations over 100 years ago. However, what many may not realise is that, when account is taken of all anthropogenic gasses in our atmosphere, we have doubled the effective CO2 content of our atmosphere in 100 years. Indeed, we have done this so fast that the Earth has yet to catch up: Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels today, the Earth would continue to warm for decades.
There is also the problem of positive feedback mechanisms and tipping points. That is to say, self-reinforcing change and the possibility that we have now triggered irreversible change. Even if it is reversible, it is unlikely to be so in any timescale relevant to an individual human lifetime: Glaciers that have been stable for decades will probably all be gone within 100 years. How long do you think it took them to form in the first place? The answer is almost certainly at least two orders of magnitude longer (i.e. 10 thousand years).
In the face of risks such as these, does it not also seem unreasonable to you that, here in the UK, our Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. Finance Minister), George Osborne, should be trying so hard to ignore the warnings of the Government’s own scientific advisors and, instead, listen to climate change scpetics who say “there is no cause for alarm” and that we can indeed “have our cake and eat it”…?
This story is not over by a long way yet…
UPDATE: 18 Feb 2013 2130hrs – After much semantic discussion about the appearance of the word “ameliorate” in the above quotation, it has been confirmed that this is correct: Being a Scandinavian, Svante Arrhenius considered that it would be a good thing for the climate to warm up a bit. This adds yet another layer of irony to the waywardness of the 1910 prediction about time required to double the CO2 content of our atmospherere.
I would hereby like to draw together two separate pieces of research published last week:
Need I say more? Sadly, yes, because – with people like Lord Lawson and Benny Peiser influencing the policy of the current Chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne – reality seems no nearer to dawning on the people with the power to change the way things are done.
Following on from previous items I have posted regarding the potentially-illegal Energy Bill drafted by the Conservative Party, such as:
- A very unsustainable Energy Bill (24 May 2012)
- Is the UK government on a flight from reality? (19 September 2012)
- Greenest government ever – Fail (8 October 2012)
- A plea from the Executive Director of Greenpeace UK (16 November 2012)
… this is the latest email I have received from Greenpeace:
A black smog is hanging over Parliament.
Following the ‘Energygate’ scandal, the reputation of the Conservative Party on climate change lies in tatters on the steps of Westminster. The hardline anti-renewable energy faction in the Conservatives has cowed the Lib Dems into submission.
The draft Energy Bill leaked last Friday was a major blow to progress on tackling climate change. The Bill is a key opportunity to drastically cut our carbon emissions.
These politicians have raised the stakes, now it’s time we do the same.
If the Energy Bill passes unchanged, it will pave the way for more fossil fuels, unstable household bills and increasing fuel poverty.
It will fire the starting gun for George Osborne’s dash for gas. But there’s a long way to go before the finish line. It has to make it over a number of hurdles before it is enshrined in law so it’s not over yet.
Together we’ve changed the political landscape on energy, helping to make this climate change scandal front page news. We are a movement of over 40,000 – and growing – people telling David Cameron to get his priorities straight.
As the global climate negotiations offer little hope, our responsibility in the UK to cut carbon emissions has never been more important. Securing a strong Energy Bill could see virtually carbon-free electricity by 2030.
We know the Arctic is melting faster than ever before – this year was the lowest ice on record. If that’s not an urgent call for us to up our game, I don’t know what is.
Our local groups are the beating heart of Greenpeace. Find one near you and join us.
See you soon,
Pete & the energy team
The UK government should not be allowed to ignore the fundamental purpose of the Climate Change Act 2008 or the agreement reached at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh PA in 2009. It cannot be right to burden consumers with the cost of investing in renewable energy and simultaneously guaranteeing a subsidised future for fossil fuel combustion. I therefore hope all readers in the UK will take action to stop this Bill being passed into Law.
I received this email today and feel compelled to publish it.
For the benefit of new readers (thank you – and welcome – to you all), when you read the email appended below, please bear in mind that I am (or at least have been) a supporter of the Conservative Party. However, I am very upset by the way in which the Coalition government’s position regarding the Climate Change Act (and our commitments to invest in renewable power generation technologies of all kinds) is being undermined by climate change sceptics who have been encouraging people like John Hayes (Energy Minister) and George Osborne (Chancellor) to question the sense of investing in the Green Economy.
It is also worth pointing out that I do not agree with Greenpeace’s attitude to GMOs or Nuclear Power but, that does not prevent me from supporting them in their attempts to publicise the failure of our politicians to take a strategic long-term decision (to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels) and stick to it. I therefore hope you will consider adding your name to the online petition to the Prime Minister to get him to face-down the sceptics in his own party; and stick to his election manifesto pledge to lead “the greenest ever government”.
I don’t normally email you, but this campaign you’re part of is making headlines.
It’s been front page of the newspapers for two days now and over 35,000 of us have told David Cameron to weed out the climate saboteurs in his party.
But we need many more in our movement if we are to overcome this new anti-climate ‘Tea Party’ trend infecting UK politics.
Please forward the email below to one person you know who will join us. If we all do that, we’ll be 70,000 strong by tomorrow.
Right now we have the opportunity to define our future. If the government does the right thing, we could be getting our energy from renewable sources which would create new jobs, stabilise our bills and help protect the rapidly melting Arctic.
But all that is in danger now as highlighted by our undercover investigation.
If we want a green and a peaceful world the most important thing we can do is source our energy in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Our only choice is clean energy – let’s demand it from the government.
Please forward the email below to at least one person who will join us.
We’re only getting started,
Over 20,000 people have already told David Cameron to stop Osborne sabotaging progress on climate change.
If these Conservatives have their way, we’ll have more dirty, expensive gas power stations written into the Energy Bill. The bill is crucial in shaping the way our electricity is generated for the next 30 years.
Osborne wants to hand the Energy Bill – and our future – to the gas companies, allowing them to build dozens of new gas power stations. This dash for gas could lead to decades of unrestricted carbon emissions and increasingly volatile household bills, plunging more people into fuel poverty.
A clean Energy Bill would mean almost zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2030, a new wave of clean energy and a thriving green economy with tens of thousands of new jobs.
A majority of us – 64% of the British public – want renewable energy powering our lives.
Osborne knows he’s in the minority, and recent investigations shows he’s positioning climate sceptics and anti-wind MPs in key government roles – like pieces on a chessboard – to undermine the progress we’ve made.
But Osborne still answers to the prime minister.
It now falls to David Cameron to respond to the scandal we’ve uncovered and decide where his party – and our country – is going.
At the last election when looking for our votes, Cameron rebranded the Conservative party with the environment at its heart. Our undercover investigation shows he has a fundamental question to answer: will he side with the majority of the British public, or the dirty energy faction led by George Osborne?
Pete and the Energy Team
I am sorry but, being positive is very hard work; especially when you find out that your government is being incredibly hypocritical. This happened to me last week, when I finally caught up with what the UK Coalition government did to our planning policy guidelines six months ago. First, however, here is a quick re-cap of the relevant issues:
With regard to carbon capture and storage (CCS or “clean coal”) and extracting methane from strata that do not release it naturally (by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”), I have been on a bit of a personal odyssey in the last 6 months. With a background in geology and hydrogeology – and an MA in Environmental Politics – I would like to think I have a better-than-average appreciation of the issues. Therefore, although I think I have reached a destination, I still feel deeply troubled by both CCS and fracking.
I think humanity has proven itself to be so stupid – and so willing to allow worship of the god of economics to subvert sensible acknowledgement of the reality of science – that we will now have to rely upon making CCS work. This is because, if we don’t make it work, modern civilisation is probably history. Fracking on the other hand, remains – as David Roberts called it – an insane piece of collective hypnosis. Fracking is definitely not the answer. Fossil fuels are like heroin; they are a self-destructive habit we need to get off ASAP.
In the UK, we are now being told we are less than 3 years from blackouts (because sensible EU regulations will force the closure of our worst-polluting coal-fired power stations). That being the case, the solution should not be to do more of the same. The answer should be to move away from fossil fuels. The UK government is now preparing to spend billions of pounds supporting a new generation of fossil fuel based power generation infrastructure – power stations and distribution networks. However, the priority of our politicians should not be to preserve the profitability of fossil fuel business set up in the 19th Century; it should be to preserve the habitability of planet Earth into the 21st Century.
OK, so what of planning policy, etc.? Well, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference this week, here is the email I sent my MP last Friday:
Presuming you are attending, I hope you enjoy it. However, I am hoping you will read this brief email before Monday.
In light of the way in which our“greenest government ever” has removed Feed-in Tariff incentives for people to invest in Solar PV; overturned the presumption against opencast coal mining in planning policy; is forcing opencast developments on communities and county councils that had rejected them; and is ignoring its own scientific advisors to pursue decades of unabated gas-fired power generation… I am inclined to feel that my friendship (as opposed to membership) of the Conservative Party may be under threat.
If this is what happens while in a Coalition with the LibDems, goodness knows what will happen if we ever get a Conservative majority! Don’t get me wrong though; I am not about to vote LibDem or Labour. I cannot do so because I am not a Liberal; and Labour is still not living in the real world: Consequently, Ed Milliband’s speech to his own conference was memorable for only one thing – hypocrisy. Neither am I a fan of protest groups such as UKIP (because they are climate change deniers)… So I am basically very tempted to waste my vote on the ultimate protest group – the Green Party – at least I will have a clear conscience if I do that. However, the Conservative Party has 32 months in which it could yet decide to embrace reality and stop pretending that economics can invalidate science: I think economists are very unwise to pick a fight with either history or science. However… I hope you will watch this 1 minute and 47 second video…
With regard to the claims made in this email, the Coalition Government…
– Has failed to level the playing field with regard to early pioneers who decided to invest in domestic solar PV installations and has removed the incentives for large-scale Solar Farms. It has therefore made life very difficult for firms to predict where the market is heading. Wikipedia has a good summary here.
– Has removed the presumption against opencast coal mining in the National Planning Policy Framework, which now allows economic need to trump any concern over the environmental sustainability of burning coal.
– Is overturning decisions made my County Councils like Northumberland (Halton Lea Gate site) and is forcing opencast coal mining on communities that don’t want them.
– Has ignored the views of its own scientific advisors and is about to commit the UK to at least another 20 years of burning natural gas, which will be obtained predominantly from fracking (in order to limit our dependence on imported gas) using new power stations with no CCS technology (even if and when it becomes available).
Although I have some sympathy with local residents who don’t want opencast coal mining in their neighbourhood, restoration techniques are now much better than they used to be. Therefore, the reason these developments should be opposed is not because of their temporary effects on local communities (as unpleasant as they may be). These developments should be opposed because they are perpetuating the environmentally unsustainable use of the Earth’s resources; and increasing the financial burden that will fall on future generations trying to preserve a reasonably-hospitable environment here on planet Earth.
Therefore, although I am (or have been) a Conservative voter, I find this position hard to justify because David Cameron and George Osborne have proven themselves to be entirely in the pocket of big business and – even when confronted with the folly and/or illegality of what they are doing – they refuse to change course.
In short, I think they are in denial about the nature, scale and urgency of the need for us to decarbonise our energy generation systems as fast as possible and, as a consequence, I think power cuts will be only the beginning…
This week, I was very pleased to discover that some of my recent output has been listed on a Weekly round-up of blogosphere posts related to anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) on the Science blogs website. However, I was even more grateful when I saw mention, within that round-up, of a very significant event in British politics last week.
Over recent months, I have posted quite a lot of stuff about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and carbon capture and storage (CCS); culminating in the items I posted last week (discussed below). It is therefore ironic that I did not notice the row that erupted last week as a result of a public letter to the Secretary of State for the Energy and Climate Change (Ed Davey) from the Chairman of the government’s relevant independent advisory body (the Committee on Climate Change [CCC]) – former Conservative Environment Minister John Selwyn Gummer (now Lord Deben) – as publicised in The Guardian last Thursday.
The UK government published a draft Energy Bill in May this year, on which I commented at the time – in ‘A very unsustainable Energy Bill’. At that time, I was concerned about the stated aim of the UK government to become less reliant upon imported gas. More specifically, I was (and am) concerned that it is planning to replace this with oil shale gas (from fracking); rather than encouraging people to get off the grid altogether by investing in micro-generation (such as solar panels).
It seems, therefore, that anticipation had been growing that an announcement would soon be made that the UK is likely to remain reliant upon new gas-fired power generation (without CCS) well beyond 2030. If the UK pursues this strategy it will do so despite the following:
– 1. The widespread international agreement – of organisations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA); numerous scientists such as James Hansen; and even influential (and formerly sceptical) economists such as William Nordhaus – that humanity can no longer afford to delay decarbonising its energy generation systems.
– 2. The agreement reached at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 that – in energy generation a least – fossil fuel subsidies and fossil fuel use both need to be phased out.
– 3. The fact that the Earth has five times more conventional fossil fuel than is now considered safe to burn; and therefore now is not the time to be finding a whole load more unconventional fossil fuels to burn as well.
This all makes me wonder if George Osborne has been paying too much attention to what libertarian ideologues like Richard Lindzen are probably telling him. Wherever this transparently intellectually incoherent policy is coming from, it was clearly this refusal to phase out fossil fuel use (now that we know it is causing ACD) that drove Lord Deben to publish the CCC’s letter last Thursday. In it, he began by stating:
Extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity (i.e. without [CCS] in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets. These are, of course, designed to balance the costs and risks of meeting long-term objectives and they require significant investment in low-carbon power generation over the next two decades…
What is even more surprising is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer decided to respond so promptly – quite possibly due to the CCC’s suggestion that pursuing gas (from fracking) instead of equivalent investment in renewable energy could be illegal because (as the CCC letter continues):
Unabated gas-fired generation could therefore not form the basis for Government policy, given the need under the Climate Change Act to set policies to meet carbon budgets and the 2050 [emissions reduction] target.
As I made clear on my blog last week, having benefited from an exchange of emails with Professor Robert Mair (on fracking) and with Dr Bryan Lovell (on CCS), I remain convinced that pursuing fracking as a panacea to all our energy problems is insane; but have reluctantly come to accept that we may have to rely upon CCS if we are to avoid significant ACD. However, this is no excuse for doing as George Osborne has done – effectively telling his own independent advisors that, once again, the non-scientist knows what the best course of action is.
Indeed, apart from putting your hands over your ears and shouting “La la la, I can’t hear you!”, there can only one possible reasons for doing as George Osborne has done – he must believe we can continue to burn fossil fuels with impunity and/or doubt the reality of catastrophic ACD if we do not use CCS to prevent it.
I therefore think it is crunch time for the UK’s Coalition government. Prime Minister David Cameron, whom I support on many issues, famously said he wanted to make it “the greenest government ever”. Sadly, it seems to be failing significantly in many ways: In addition to crippling the green revolution at birth – by removing most of the incentives to get individual households to invest in Solar PV panels on their roofs (etc) – it now seems set to pursue energy independence in the form of fracking. As The Guardian concludes:
The argument over the [decarbonisation] target is now likely to reach the top of the government with pressure mounting on Cameron to face down critics of the government’s green policies and adopt the CCC recommendations in full.