A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Blair's climate-change policy becoming clearer by the day.....

Yesterday, as ever, Mr. Blair gave a consummate political performance before the liaison committee, which comprises a group of senior MPs who are themselves all committee chairs. Two of his replies, in particular, throw intriguing light on his thinking about the politics of climate change.

First, he resolutely resisted, on political grounds, any idea of new taxes on cheap airline flights (remember airlines are currently exempt from duty on fuel and from VAT on the planes they buy), a Green shibboleth. Instead, he argued that it was important to opt to support scientific advances that might improve fuel efficiency. Yet again, therefore, Mr. Blair focused on technological improvements rather than on economic or political curbs. This re-inforces the increasing evidence that his agenda is quite different from that of the Kyoto Protocol and of many Greens. Above all, he wishes to employ the threat of 'global warming' primarily as a tool for technological 'forcing' and engineering solutions.

Secondly, and perhaps even more tellingly, Mr. Blair made it abundantly clear that, despite 'global warming' being a key theme of Britain's leadership of the G8, he will allow nothing that might: "... do unnecessary damage to our business." Indeed, he had no qualms at all about defending the recent decision to try to raise Britain's agreed EU limit on CO2 emissions.

In both these responses, we see Mr. Blair as ever the New Labour politician. It is increasingly obvious that he is using the threat of 'global warming' to achieve three goals:-

(a) create the impression that he is leading the world on the issue of climate change by building an independent bridge with the Bush administration. This requires the by-passing of the Kyoto Protocol and replacing it with more practical and positive economic and technological options;

(b) force technological change with respect to both energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy; and,

(c) soften up the British public for the inevitable, namely, a mid-term return to nuclear power (this is necessary on purely energy grounds, never mind anything else). Blair is well aware that so-called 'renewables' are unlikely to deliver in the mid-term, but he has a big problem in the UK with the politics of nuclear power. Frightening the public over 'global warming' will help enormously with this, while, at the same time, splitting the Greens, pitting Lovelock against FoE.

Never underestimate Mr. Blair. He is a politician first and last, right down to his fingertips. In Mr. Blair's case, don't bother watching the science; just observe the politics.

Philip, actually feeling a tad sorry for the more naif Greens. Coffee?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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