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.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Homecoming for 'Global Warming' policy in the UK, or the Death of a Salesman.....

While Sir David King is going walkabout in Australia rabbiting on about 'global warming', back here in the UK, the Government is quietly, and with Blairite cleverness, sidelining the Kyoto Protocol, refocusing the whole debate on the contentious economics of climate-change policy. The process has been a slow boil, but things are now clearing through the steam, and I suspect that poor Sir David may, like Celia Johnson, be getting a bit of soot in the eye before his Brief Encounter with the rough world of politics comes to an end. The 'global warming' train is leaving Platform 9.75 on the track for Azkaban. Oh dear! Are we about to witness the Death of a Salesman? For...

First we had this: The House of Parliament, 6 July 2005, The Lords on the economics of climate change policy:
"The UK Government should review its climate change policy, including the roles of renewable energy and energy efficiency...

Lord Wakeham, the Chairman of the Committee, said:

'We call on the Government to give the Treasury a more extensive and more rigorous role in examining the costs and benefits of climate change policy and presenting them to the UK public.'

'We are also concerned about aspects of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) and want to see the Treasury more involved in this.'

The Committee concluded that:

The science of climate change leaves considerable uncertainty about the future.

The balance between mitigation and adaptation needs to be re-examined. The costs of mitigation are uncertain, as are the benefits which are also more distant. Adaptation - including for instance flood defences and water conservation - has recognisable costs and calculable benefits.

Because the Kyoto Protocol will make little difference to rates of warming and because a continuation of the same approach focusing excessively on emission reductions is likely to fail, the UK should take a lead in exploring alternative approaches based on agreements on carbon-free technology and its diffusion.

There are concerns about the objectivity of the IPCC process and about the IPCC's crucial emissions scenario exercise.

Positive aspects of global warming appear to have been downplayed in IPCC reports. The Government should press the IPCC to reflect the costs and benefits of climate change in a more balanced way.

The Government should review its energy and climate policy which includes some dubious assumptions about the roles of renewable energy sources and of energy efficiency.

The Government should review and substantiate the estimated costs of achieving its objectives, and present these estimates transparently to the public.

UK nuclear power capacity should be maintained at least at its present level, even after existing plants have been decommissioned..." ["Couldn't have put it better myself, Your Lordships!"]

And this week we have this: HM Treasury, 12 October 2005, Press Release:
"Sir Nicholas Stern FBA, currently Second Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury, has been appointed by the Prime Minister as Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development. In this role Sir Nicholas will report to the Prime Minister. This appointment will strengthen still further the work on the Gleneagles agenda on climate change and development.

Sir Nicholas is already closely involved with both issues. He is presently leading a major review of the economics of climate change, reporting to the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. This review was announced by the Chancellor on 19 July and both the terms of reference and a call for evidence have been announced today. He was also Director of Policy and Research for the Commission for Africa which reported in March 2005. Before joining HM Treasury, he served as Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank from 2000 to 2003.

He will remain the Head of the Government Economic Service, the professional body for economists within the civil service, and will continue to serve on the Treasury Management Board as a non-executive member."

Now you really know that the Kyoto Protocol is dead and buried in the UK when it is handed over to... The Treasury, and to a leading proponent of economic growth, globalisation, and free trade to boot. That's it!

And, meanwhile... back in the Old Europe of Merkel's Germany, the Greens are just fading away: 'Has the Green dream wilted?' (BBC World News Online, October 13):
"Only half a decade ago the future of Europe looked greener than ever before.

Green parties were part of the governments of five European countries, pushing the environment closer to the forefront of policy-making.

'Some had the impression that a luminous sunflower was hanging in the grey sky,' wrote Juan Behrend, the former secretary general of the Green federation in the European parliament.

But that era is now over.

With the cementing of a grand coalition in Germany this week, Greens have lost their last toehold in western European government, and their most recognisable figure, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, is out of office..."

The post-materialist dreamers are about to experience the harsh light of a hard economic and political day.

Philip, feeling rather Pinteresque as he has been predicting all this darkness under the babble for some time. Lunches and Nobels all round. Hm! The smell of butternut squash soup. Yummie!

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

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