Category Archives: Climate Change

People’s Assembly Against Austerity

PA CropThe Tories have unleashed the biggest assault on ordinary people for generations. It needs to be met head-on. The People’s Assembly Against Austerity is a key opportunity to bring together all those who want to stop the cuts and the ­devastation they are bringing to millions of people in the UK, and to launch the next steps in the fightback.

The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian on February 28th 2012.  Two of the initial signatories were Caroline Lucas MP and Natalie Bennett. 

The Green Party had voted at their conference in February to support the event and agreed to send a delegation to the People’s Assembly and to  encourage local parties, regional federations and other GP bodies to also send delegations and to support future local People’s Assemblies.

People’s Assembly Against Austerity – Saturday June 22nd 

GeneralThis gathering is going to be a huge expression of opposition to “austerity” and privatisation involving all the main Trade Unions, local Trades Union Councils, local and national anti-cuts groups, campaign groups focused on NHS, Education, Housing, the People’s Charter, Coalition of Resistance and the Green Party.  Most of the policies that the People’s Assembly are advancing are Green Party policies

Derby People’s Assembly – A new local “networking” group has been formed in Derby made up of individuals and people representing local groups concerned with issues such as Climate Change, Taxation, NHS etc.  Two Green Party Members attended the initial meeting.  The aim of the meeting was twofold: to publicise the national gathering in London on 22nd June and to arrange a follow up event in Derby in the Autumn. 

Transport has been arranged for those who would like to attend the London event.  See our events page for details.  A Facebook page has been established (https://www.facebook.com/groups/143367235856170/?fref=ts ) and a blog and website will also be set up 

The time has come for us, the People, to make our voice heard. We are a democracy.  We must demand that the Government uses the power and money we give it to serve our interests, and not just those of the wealthy vested interests that are controlling politics.  Austerity will never succeed because the economic crisis was not caused by public spending. We must demand that the government we elected adopts policies that address the causes of the financial crisis.  We must demand that they invest in our future to build a sustainable economy.  We must make it clear that if this Government will not listen to us, we will elect one that will.

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Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

Cloud_over_Sellafield_(non_radioactive)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_335287I am very concerned about the problem of the storage of nuclear waste.  The government wants to build new nuclear power stations. If their plan succeeds, it will be at the cost of blocking the real solutions to climate change and a reliable future energy supply. It will also result in the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste and an increased risk from terrorism, radioactive accident and nuclear proliferation.

Some environmentalists, faced with the urgent need to combat climate change, have reluctantly decided that nuclear power will have to be part of the energy mix.  However, climate change itself also threatens the safety of nuclear power stations; many reactors are built on coastal sites vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, including flooding and erosion.

I am pleased that Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet decided on 30th January 2013 that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository. However, the problem of what to do with radioactive waste already in storage will not go away.

One of the fundamental problems of nuclear power is the hazard posed by the radioactive materials it produces. No one can guarantee that this highly radioactive waste won’t leak back into the environment, contaminating water supplies and the food chain.

To me, the government’s plans to allow ten new reactors to be built are shortsighted to say the least.  This would add threefold to the amount of highly radioactive waste we already have to deal with.

The nuclear industry is hugely expensive. The construction and generating costs of nuclear power are greater than most renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Added to these are the costs associated with dismantling nuclear stations and waste disposal.

Green Party policy is that nuclear power should be phased out and we should not consider building new plants.

This quote from Clean Technica sums up my view:  “Essentially, renewable clean energy technologies are a better choice than nuclear in every way. They are cheaper, faster to build, don’t create radioactive waste, aren’t as susceptible to environmental disasters, don’t require the same level of safety measures, and have far more public support. At current rates of growth, renewables are predicted to generate more electricity in the UK than nuclear by 2018, and expected to power 1 in every 10 homes in the UK by 2015.”

This is a much more encouraging picture than we are led to believe by the government.  They want us to believe that we cannot do without nuclear power.  It is ironic that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has the responsibility for the legacy of decommissioning nuclear reactors, roughly £1billion per reactor (averaged international figures). The expenditure on decommissioning in 2012-13 is £1.5 billion which is 42% of DECC’s budget.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is, of course, having its budget cut by Chancellor George Osborne, and it, in turn, has cut funding to a range of energy conservation and renewable energy schemes.  This is the legacy of nuclear power; every year from now to eternity, the government of these islands, whether Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Purple or Pink, will have to find funds to safeguard the legacy of the long-ago nuclear power programmes.  This is why I believe the Green Party’s policy to phase out the use of nuclear energy makes sense.

© Jean Macdonald

Information taken from: 

Green Party Policy         http://greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

Greenpeace                   http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/nuclear/problems

Clean Technica                  http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/14/new-nuclear-power-in-the-uk-looking-increasingly-unlikely/#GXJY9Zi7HREGT86c.99

 

 

Wind Farms – Adam Smith gets wind wrong, say Greens

Fornybar_energiA concerted campaign against wind energy is being conducted in some sections of the press, orchestrated by those with links to fossil fuel interests. It should be of concern to all consumers of energy. The claims made against wind energy are typically distorted or plain wrong. However as a result, potential investors are put off the UK because of what they perceive as a hostile public coupled with a lack of Government support.

The public at large are not hostile, as evidenced by polls.

An example of this campaign has just appeared in the form of a report published here by the right wing Adam Smith Institute and written by the oil financed Reason Foundation in America. This report, “The Limits of Wind Power”, tries to warn off investment in wind as a poor option. It claims that the practical upper limit for wind generation is 10% of electricity supply. Yet Germany, Europe’s most successful industrial economy, already generates 15% of its electricity from wind and is aiming for 20% by 2020.

The report says that supporters of wind claim that wind can power the entire grid. No such claim has ever been made – except by the anti-wind lobby, so that they can knock it down.

Their argument that the wind doesn’t always blow only stands up within a limited geographic area. Across the UK the wind almost always blows somewhere. If proper investment was put into a European wide grid, then wind-generated electricity would continually feed in.

The report also says that storage is an ‘expensive problem’.  It isn’t, it’s an issue. CEGB invested heavily in pumped power storage – originally for nuclear back up! (Dinorwig, N. Wales, now a commercial unit).  The impressive “Pumped Storage” system at Dinorwig and a smaller one at Ffestiniog  are still working well; see their website:  http://www.fhc.co.uk/index.asp  There are many possible solutions for storage, including millions of vehicle batteries when we go electric; pumped air; hydrogen from water; and night storage heaters.

Supporters of renewables do not want any one technology to dominate supply. They want to minimise the risk of interruptions of supply due to technical failure in one system, or some disruption to a fuel supply – as we have witnessed in recent history with both coal and oil.

If the vast waste of money on nuclear power, which is swallowing up billions of pounds in waste treatment and disposal, had been invested in renewable energy systems, Britain would now be a world leader in this much sought after technology. It is essential that the Government resists the lobbying of the fossil fuel and nuclear vested interests and puts its full support behind renewables that can deliver to us all a secure and sustainable energy supply.

Based on a letter to the press by John Youatt Hon Sec Derbyshire Green Party http://www.derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk

Renewables in Derbyshire

600px-Community_turbine_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1234697

This article is based mainly on Sustainable Youlgrave (SY) in the Peak Park www.sustainableyoulgrave.org

Summary: main points arising from Sustainable Youlgrave research and practice

  • All property owners or managers (homes, schools, factories, farms) with a suitable south roof or ground space should consider solar panels for electricity or hot water – paybacks are around 8%: or rent the space
  • Many properties especially farms should consider a wind turbine from 5 to 50 KW
  • Many properties should consider air source or ground source heat pumps: government is about to pay for renewable heat
  • After the Christmas rush, it’s a good time to consider a log, chip or pellet burner for room heat / back boiler

Government   There is a constant struggle within the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and between it and the Treasury and the far right. Climate doubters occupy senior posts in DECC (Ed Milliband’s creation). The Energy Bill is good in parts. The new Green Bank is investing for example in anaerobic digestion (AD), but it seems is only interested so far in big projects. Green loans are on the property not the person, so there is uncertainty regarding the risk, making house moves more difficult, coupled with fear that the repayments might evaporate. The renewables industry and the CBI are seriously unhappy at the deliberate discouragement of renewables (eg the FITS and insulation fiascos). ‘The Carbon Bubble’ explains why renewables are discouraged in many ways, blatantly and surreptitiously.

Peak Park –  Recent cases suggest that its policies and practice continue to give more weight to short term landscape protection than saving the planet. It’s still resisting modest wind turbines and anything but on-farm waste processing for energy by anaerobic digestion (AD). Development plan policies are being reviewed, but so far there is no sign of relaxation. Without that, there is no point in encouraging medium sized wind turbines or mixed waste AD

Biomass – anaerobic digestion (AD)   Sustainable Youlgrave’s £50k study majored on a 20 farm AD plant at Friden that is in limbo, because of the Park’s intransigence.  We note that Derbyshire County Council (DCC) has recorded the need to treat biomass as a resource, not a waste. Taking our lead from the authorities, the best prospects are a farm-based AD plant and a small plant for the village, currently being researched.

Biomass – wood   Sustainable Youlgrave didn’t have the resources to develop a sustainable wood chain and the use of wood in small combined heat and power plants (CHP). A CHP plant would qualify for the recently announced heat incentive – see below. Sales of wood burning room heaters and boilers are still rising. A CHP plant could be appropriate for the eight new social houses at Conksbury, but the capital funding doesn’t allow for renewables. They have to be self funding, with the help of feed-in tariffs and renewables certificates. Deliberately over complicated?

Air and ground source heat pumping (ASHP & GSHP) – Both qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Installations after July 2009 can qualify. RHI will (later this year) pay a few pence for each kW generated. A two-unit  ASHP plant is being installed at a large house in Middleton, making it the 4th in our valley.

Solar – feed in tariffs (FITs) – Some in the industry insist that all is well, but the FIT has been reduced more than the costs have fallen. The infant industry has survived the earlier fiasco, but the earlier enthusiasm has taken a knock. Any house with a suitable roof or garden space should seriously consider up to 16 panels = 4kW.  All public buildings should be economically viable – perhaps on the rent-a-roof basis, in which no capital is needed. On my travels I see a few bigger installations on farm roofs and in fields. Perhaps the 40 farms on our database should be canvassed, and public building owners reminded? Any farm or factory with big modern buildings should seriously consider investing.

Wind  – There’s a test case for 2 no. 50 kW (60ft, tree height) windmills at the Peak’s biggest dairy farm, at Parwich, to meet the farm’s needs only. The Park’s CEO spoke in favour of machines up to 50kW on radio. Many influential members didn’t agree, but the excellent news is that the turbines were approved – on the chairman’s casting vote! There are a dozen farms in Sustainable Youlgrave’s area that would justify smaller machines (5 to 20 kW). Any farm with wind above 4m per second should seriously consider investing.

Conclusion – I suppose the political message is that the Lib Dems have failed dismally to deliver the renewables commitment in the Coalition Agreement. It will all continue to be kicked around in the shrubbery until the next election. Our best hopes for change are a Green MEP for our region and, probably, a Lab/Lib coalition, with room in its hearts and minds for advice from Green and green-minded MPs.

© John Youatt for SY December 2012: for DGP February 2013

Please add any local experience or national insights and send to john@youatt.co.uk

and to www.voteforpolicies.org.uk      count @ 3rd feb ….282

Or go to SY’s preferred contractor www.therenewableshop.com or other suppliers

Uncivilisation anyone?

Last weekend curiosity took me to a festival called “Uncivilisation” held at the beautiful Hampshire Sustainability Centre. It was organised by a group of writers and artists under the banner “The Dark Mountain Project”.

All very mysterious, but they turned out to be wonderful people with an interesting perspective on our world. You can read their manifesto and look at their writings here http://dark-mountain.net/ . Their “usp” (that’s the wrong term I know) is their sober conclusion that climate change will not be solved by technical or even political processes (though these are not irrelevant) but is a product of a failed narrative – to change as a society we need to tell ourselves better stories. They then explore some of our older, wilderness inspired stories which we have neglected, they like their sagas and tales. As they say it is storied not facts that change people.

Many of the group, such as writers like Paul Kingsnorth and the wonderful Jay Griffiths, were activised by the road protests in the 1980s which were probably the high water mark of national effective protest. Although many battles were lost road building itself simply became uneconomic and there was a dramatic cut in the programme even before Labour came to office in the 1990s. The interesting thing here was how powerful humour can be. Back then the police learnt how to deal with anger and protest and they have got better since, but when a pantomime cow burst through the police ranks and mounted a digger it was a little harder to respond. As a lovely aside the person at the back of the cow could not be charged as s/he simply claimed they did not know where they were going!

So I’ve come away what man new friend and a passion to mix a bit of “mythos” that is art, stories, fables and humour into the inevitable “logos” or canvassing, attending Council meetings and writing emails. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Duncan Kerr (Green Party Councillor)

It hasn't gone away you know

I occasionally wonder what future generations will think of the values and choices of our daily lives when they are coping with the world we will leave them. Whilst we’ve shut our eyes and ears, global carbon emissions have kept of rising as you can see in the latest report from the International Energy Agency http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/co2-iea-idUKL5E8GO6B520120524

Not widely reported in our papers, but like the rat caught in the trap we haven’t even noticed the door limiting increases to 2 percent slamming shut. A 6 degree rise seems unimaginable, it is unimaginable, but that is the trajectory we are all now on.

However radical action on cutting carbon no longer seems to be trendy for international, national or even local governments it impairs growth we are told. So the answer to our grandchildren seems to be sorry we knew what we were doing but saving you from the full force of unchecked climate change catastrophe just seemed a little dull so we went shopping instead.

Cllr Duncan Kerr

It hasn’t gone away you know

I occasionally wonder what future generations will think of the values and choices of our daily lives when they are coping with the world we will leave them. Whilst we’ve shut our eyes and ears, global carbon emissions have kept of rising as you can see in the latest report from the International Energy Agency http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/co2-iea-idUKL5E8GO6B520120524

Not widely reported in our papers, but like the rat caught in the trap we haven’t even noticed the door limiting increases to 2 percent slamming shut. A 6 degree rise seems unimaginable, it is unimaginable, but that is the trajectory we are all now on.

However radical action on cutting carbon no longer seems to be trendy for international, national or even local governments it impairs growth we are told. So the answer to our grandchildren seems to be sorry we knew what we were doing but saving you from the full force of unchecked climate change catastrophe just seemed a little dull so we went shopping instead.

Cllr Duncan Kerr

Waking the Giant

In his book ‘Waking the Giant’ Professor Bill McGuire says, ‘Human interference in the natural world has consequences that are usually surprising and often unpleasant.’  As we consider the future scenarios of climate change that he spells out in his book, we might think this something of an understatement.  The unpleasant surprise that he has in store for us is the link between climate change and geophysical responses – earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, some tried to label this tragedy as a climate change event, wanting to use the shock of the destruction to wake people up to the potentials dangers ahead. This was probably misplaced, and it enabled sceptics to dismiss such warnings as alarmists.  Since then, geologists have looked seriously at whether climate change can affect the earth’s crust, what they have discovered, as summarised in Professor McGuire’s book, does not make comfortable reading.

First, to remind ourselves of the context: heat trapped in the atmosphere by increasing levels of carbon dioxide causes changes in the behaviour of the atmosphere, which in turn will cause changes to the water cycle.  In other words, the climate will change.  As James Lovelock has shown, all events, biological, chemical and physical are interlinked, so it is reasonable to ask whether a change in the climate, can have an effect on the solid Earth.  While such a link seems at first glance unlikely, Professor Bill McGuire has shown convincingly that there is a link.  His conclusion is clear, in a warming world there is a greater risk of seismic and volcanic activity, even small changes in climate can trigger significant geological events.

Through studying the geological record we now know that CO² levels in the atmosphere are as high as they have been for 15 million years and they have risen within the last 200 years.  Global average temperature is now within 1°C of its highest for 1 million years.  2010 was the hottest year on record.  Climate scientists are generally accepting that the likely rise in the global average by 2100 will be 4-6°C.  In the high latitudes, this may be as much as 10-14°C.  With this temperature rise, the ice caps and many of the world’s glaciers can’t survive.  As a result there will be a significant transfer of water from the arctic and antarctic, where it mostly sits on land to the worlds ocean basins. This represents a transfer of weight from the ice-covered land to the oceanic crust.  This weight transfer is how climate can affect the solid crust and the semi-solid mantle below.

At the end of the last ice age, 52 million cubic kilometres of ice melted, transferring the weight of this water to the oceans.  This amount of ice exerted great pressure on the land and pushed it down into the earth’s mantle.  It also suppressed movement in fault lines and volcanic activity.  Free of this great pressure the land began to recoil, rising up and releasing the tension that had built up in geological faults causing earthquakes.  Some of these earthquakes triggered huge landslips into the sea, causing tsunamis.  This recoil effect will happen where ice is retreating leading to the heightened possibility of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Melt-water entering the oceans will put added pressure on the oceanic crust forcing it down.  Between rising land and sinking seabed there will be a zone of tension where fault-lines will be subject to increased pressure, one such fault running parallel the coast is the San Andreas.  Many of the world’s volcanoes are in coastal regions.  Sitting under them are pockets of magma.  Rising land and/or falling seabed squeeze these pockets up towards the surface, making it more likely that the volcanoes will blow.

One of the most rapidly warming areas of the earth is Alaska, and here the level of seismic activity is rising.  The Bagley ice field has lost 1 km of ice over the last 20 years, the land is recoiling, triggering earthquakes.  As the permafrost melts, landslips become more frequent and glacial lakes drain rapidly as the natural earth dams give way.  In 2005 50 million cubic metres of rock and ice broke off mount Steller in southern Alaska travelling 9km at speeds of up to 100 metres per second.  Fortunately, there were no communities along this path.  Others have not been and will not be so lucky.

If the retreat of ice in the Arctic continues, it will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity across the whole region. In 2010 the eruption of just one volcano, Eyjafjallajökull caused major disruption to international flights with a knock-on effect on the economy.  As the ice retreats, more such events are likely.  With ice and permafrost melting, sediments around the coast could become unstable, vulnerable to earthquakes.  A major slippage of this sediment could trigger a massive tsunami, as happened at the end of the ice age, 8,500 years ago, sending a major tsunami crashing into the east coast of Scotland.

These changing conditions raise a further concern that the so-called gas hydrates that lie in deep cold water and under permafrost, could be disturbed and start to break down.  Gas hydrates form when some gases, mostly methane join with water to condense as a solid under cold high-pressure conditions. If the conditions that keep them stable begin to change, through warming for example, they will break down, releasing their methane to the atmosphere.  Methane remember, is about twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Submarine landslides, triggered by earthquakes and melting permafrost, could also disturb the hydrates, resulting is a sudden explosive release of methane. Such sudden releases have been implicated in rapid climate change events in geological history.

There are between 10 to 30 years to save the arctic from irreversible melting that will trigger increased seismic and volcanic activity, with unknown impacts.  In 2010, CO² emissions rose 6%, despite the global recession.  The global economy is now going bust for growth and there is no significant or coordinated action to limit carbon emissions.  As a result of big oil lobbying of the Durban Climate Change meeting in January 2012, no international action is planned until 2020.  Climate change will happen because we are doing nothing to stop it.  We can now add geological havoc to climate chaos.  As Professor McGuire said ‘Things are going to be bad, if we do nothing they will be worse.’  Take your choice.

[based on a talk by Professor Bill McGuire Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, UCL, given at the Peak Climate Festival 5th May 2012.]

Waking the Giant – How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes, by Bill McGuire, Oxford University Press,                               ISBN13: 9780199592265

 

The Queens Speech, a ‘Squandered Opportunity’.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, Caroline Lucas MP said that the Coalition Government had squandered a vital opportunity to put action to tackle climate change and the growing environmental crisis at the top of its legislative agenda.  ‘Listening to the Queen’s Speech today, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the climate crisis has simply gone away. In the face of mounting scientific concern about the urgency of the threat we face from climate change, the deafening silence from this Government is unforgivable.’

We know why there is no action.  This government is protecting the investment in the carbon sector made by those who keep it in power – read the article on the Carbon Bubble, posted here earlier this year.  This Government is incapable of showing leadership – that is not its purpose.  Its purpose is to dismantle the State and sell it off to the private sector.  It is using what it calls the ‘economic mess’ as the smoke screen to do this.  It will only address the climate crisis when its backers in the financial sector are ready to make money out of it.  By then it will be a very costly task for us all.

Others see things differently.  Writing in the Financial Times, Nicholas Stern called for a ‘Queen’s Speech for Growth’, looking to the renewable energy sector to kick-start the shrinking economy.  He said ‘Policies to encourage low-carbon investment would provide new business opportunities, would generate income for investors, and would have credibility in the long term, both because they address growing global resource challenges, while tapping into a fast-growing global market for resource-efficient activities.’

In 2010, the Green Party manifesto called for a ‘Green New Deal,’ borrowing US President Roosevelt’s concept for an economic plan to end the great 1930’s depression by investing in public works.  The Green’s fully costed economic strategy would have seen the deficit cut by 2015 through investment in the green economy, increasing employment, cutting energy costs and boosting tax revenue. Corporate media empires chose to ignore this alternative strategy since they wanted to promote privatization and protect their interests in the carbon sector.  They hood-winked the electorate into voting for a range of ‘conservative’ economic strategies that, as we warned – have led to a double dip recession and rising unemployment.

The Green programme set out clear targets to cut carbon emissions to avoid warming exceeding 2°C, we called for cuts to annual carbon dioxide emissions of 10% – starting now, with the aim of reducing emissions by 65% by 2020 and 90% from 1990 levels by 2030.  The key to doing this is to decarbonise the energy sector.  To achieve this we proposed:

  • Reducing energy demand through insulation and energy efficiency measures, creating new local businesses and thousands of jobs
  • Investing in genuinely renewable energy sources, aiming to obtain half of our energy from renewables by 2020, backing this with direct government investment with strong and clear policy support, creating genuine energy security, boosting business and employment
  • Switching the investment planned for new coal, nuclear power and nuclear weapons to research into renewable energy technologies and their commercialisation, creating a major export potential
  • Supporting renewable heat with a levy on waste heat from power stations, supporting sustainable energy crops and combined heat and power, helping councils develop heat distribution networks, boosting local employment and the rural economy
  • Supporting the adoption of bio-gas from sustainable organic sources, but opposing the large scale cultivation of bio-fuels, especially in poor countries
  • Bringing the electricity network and gas mains into the public sector to develop them to suit renewable energy schemes and introduce smart meters and appliances
  • Support Europe-wide renewable energy initiatives, including the building of highly efficient Long Distance High Voltage DC power lines.

In addition, Greens proposed a range of other policies to encourage low carbon living.

  • Develop public transport as an acceptable and reliable alternative to car travel.
  • Change planning guidelines to ensure that facilities are within reasonable walking distance of residential areas, cutting the need for travel
  • Support to small and local business, including local supply networks.
  • Decarbonise food production by supporting small-scale organic farms supplying local markets.

Had Greens been in government, we would now be creating jobs, boosting tax revenue and securing long-term energy supply.  These policies will have to be adopted as some time, in some form.  As Nicholas Stern understates in his Financial Times article, ‘there is a recognition that actions [on low carbon investment] cannot be delayed indefinitely’.  However, the longer action is delayed, the costlier it will be for all of us.  We are hearing may calls at present to ‘make the switch’ – to seek out cheaper energy suppliers.  If consumers are really serious about making long term savings on their bills there is only one switch that will be effective, the switch to Green policies.

Mike Shipley

 

The Carbon Bubble

In 2010, the Climate Change conference in Cancun adopted an agreement that carbon emissions should be limited so that the rise in global mean temperature should not exceed 2°C.  In addition, it was recognised that this rise might need to be reduced to 1·5°C.  Although the sceptics didn’t notice, that conference accepted the science of Climate Change.  What it didn’t do was to understand the economic implications of restricting temperature rise.  It’s not simply calculating the cost, Nicholas Stern did that, it’s around 2% of global GDP and rising.  We now have to understand the grip carbon assets have on the global economy and find ways of loosening it.

If we are to limit temperature rise to 2°C, the Potsdam Institute has calculated that global carbon emissions in the period 2000 to 2050 will need to be limited to 884Gt CO². In the first eleven years of this century, thanks to the inaction of political, economic and business leaders, the world has emitted 321 GtCO², leaving a carbon budget of 565 GtCO² up to 2050.  At present, despite the global recession, emissions are rising and the 2°C carbon budget will have been ‘spent’ by 2027.  After then, we leave the 2° world and enter 3°+.  At the last Climate Change conference in Durban in January, there was a behind the scenes acceptance that we will have to adapt to 3°C of warming.  That is not a comfortable prospect and millions of people will suffer as a consequence.

The reason why global leaders find it so difficult to implement the policies that will limit temperature rise to less than 2°C is not due to scepticism but because the global economic structure is built on unsustainable practices and resources, notably carbon based fuels.  Limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less requires a switch to sustainable practice, and a switch away from fossil fuels.  We know this, so why isn’t this happening?

A report called Unburnable Carbon, by the Carbon Tracker Initiative showed that the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies have reserves that will emit 745 GtCO², these reserves represent their market value, and the market naturally assumes that these fuels will be burned.  In addition, these companies continue to prospect aggressively, needing to replace reserves that underpin share price.  Around 50% of the valuation of a fossil fuel company lies in its declared reserves.  When Shell announced a 20% reduction in its reserves its market value fell by £3 billion in a week.  Naturally, these companies try to secure new finds as a buffer to maintain their value, profits and dividends.  In the oil and gas sector, this now means ‘unconventional’ sources like tar sands and shale gas.  To finance these explorations, investors continue to pour money in to the carbon sector, assuming that this investment will yield burnable reserves that will secure a return on their investments.

Exactly how much carbon, and therefore warming potential, private companies have on their books is difficult to estimate because of confidentiality.  Further, the private sector accounts for only about one third of global carbon stocks, add in state enterprises and total reserves would yield 2,795 gigatonnes. Steve Waygood of Aviva Investors has estimated that if all proven and probable oil and gas reserves are burned, CO² levels will rise beyond 700ppm, leading to 3.5°C to 5°C of warming.  Add in the proven coal stocks and the planet becomes uninhabitable.

The problem lies not with science but with economics, and all the human failings that are associated with it. The world economic system is built on carbon.  This is not simply our reliance on carbon fuels to drive economic activity; global assets are built on the value of fossil fuel companies.  Between 20% and 30% of the value of the London Stock Exchange is based on fossil fuel.  Fund managers invest heavily in fossil fuel companies, seeing them as a safe haven for investment with above average returns in the short term.  The funds invested in fossil fuel assets include pensions, life assurance schemes, and personal savings plans.  A majority of people in the western world have their future security tied to the fortunes of these carbon rich companies.  We are indeed all in this together.

If we are to restrict the rise in average global temperature to less than 2°C, the rate of burning of fossil fuel will have to be restricted.  Sequestration technology is not going to be ready in time.  To achieve this target, only 20% of known reserves can be burned over the next 40 years, and this might have to be reduced further if feedback loops begin to kick in.  That means that 80% of the assets of fossil fuel companies are un-burnable.  None of the unproven and unconventional reserves that are now being prospected for at great expanse can be burned.  There can be no return on the investment in 80% of reserves and in all new prospecting. This is the carbon bubble.  Depletion of fossil reserves isn’t the issue, it’s the fact that they can not be used.  The wealth of some of the worlds biggest and most powerful companies, and therefore of stock exchanges, is based on an unusable asset.  If these companies had to devalue their reserves by 80% the carbon bubble would burst – remember what happened to Shell with a mere 20% downgrade.

The heavy investment in carbon assets also explains the reluctance of governments to back renewable energy.  Renewables coupled with efficiency measures can replace fossil fuels, and without nuclear power.  With a range of technologies like wave power waiting in the wings, existing technologies can more than cope with efficient demand.  But if governments promoted these technologies, the value of carbon rich companies would decline.  It isn’t just scepticism that stops the deployment of renewables, or that stops agreements to limit temperature rise, it’s vested interests and their control over the political process.  We can suppose that those who profess scepticism, like many MP’s of the ruling Coalition, have heavy investments in carbon rich assets.

Denial of climate change is a smokescreen that hides the real denial that lies at the heart of global economics: the denial of long-term consequences.  Economics does not think in the long term, profit today is the mantra, tomorrow is somebody else’s problem.  Greens keep focusing on the scientific argument, refining their arguments with ever more facts, trying to convince the so-called sceptics with the sheer weight of the evidence.  Apart from the lunatic fringe, most of these sceptics may well accept the science, however, they are not interested in science and statistics, what they are interested in is how they maintain their position of wealth and privilege in a warming world.

There are ways to break out of this carbon strangle hold.  To do so we need:

  • political action to require long-term accounting.
  • investors to take the decision to begin the switch to low carbon assets.
  • everyone who can afford it, to accept lower returns in order to secure the only long-term investment that matters: the future health of our planet and all who live on her.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King has responded to the concern expressed by Carbon Tracker and others and is considering whether over exposure to carbon assets represents a risk to market stability.  A small step and it remains to be seen whether investors will similarly take note.  However, a globalised economy needs international agreement to require climate change to be factored into market valuation.  The markets will not do this until it is too late.  A strong political lead is required.  We can help this process by being informed about the dangers of another asset bubble bursting, by being aware of our own exposure to this danger, and by demanding effective preventative action.  We can also work to help the Greens promote a new, low carbon and sustainable economy.

Mike Shipley

The Judgement of History.

As one year changes to another, we reflect on what has passed, the highs and lows, and on what might be to come, the hopes and fears. What will history make of 2011, what will it know about 2012, and what will be its judgement? Which events will the historians of the future pick out as important, which will they consign to the footnotes, which events deemed not worthy of comment? This last category will include nearly the entire output of the popular media, just about everything that has occupied the pubic mind in 2011 and again in 2012. The footnotes will pick up most of the rest. The wheeler-dealing over the global economy; the posturing politicians who thought that they were cementing their place in history; the antics of media personalities. All of this will be seen as transient when people of the mid twenty-first century try to understand the origins of the situation that they will find them selves in and try to understand why nothing effective was done to prevent it. What, they will wonder, were the people of our time doing?

The one event that will interest them from 2011 hardly made the press let alone the headlines: the Durban Conference of the Parties number 17. They will then turn straight to number 18 in Qatar, having read with incredulity about COP16 in Copenhagen. How could the world leaders so callously ignore the clear evidence of science and willingly accept a temperature rise of 3°C, in the full knowledge that this would surely trigger a further rise to 4°C with a strong possibility of a resetting of the global thermostat at 6°C above the long term Holocene average. The people of 2050 will be living with the reality that CO2 levels will not have been stabilised at 550ppm and they will know then that that level was far too high, as a majority of scientists in 2011 warned.

What will not be hitting the headlines in 2012 is the end of the first accounting period of the Kyoto protocol, which started in 2005. This period should have seen the developed nations cutting their emissions by 5% of 1990 levels. It should have seen emissions beginning to stabilise and a new accounting period launched in 2013 to see emissions brought to a level consistent with no more than a 2°C rise in average global temperatures.

What has in fact happened is that global emissions have grown by 49% since 1990. Last year, despite the global recession and 20 years of so called ‘climate negotiations’, they grew by 5.9%. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are now higher than they have been for 800,000 years and the climate is responding.

Even if all the pledges that have been made at the plethora of international conferences were kept, the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’ found that emissions would continue to rise at about 3% per year. These ‘pledges’ – including America’s ‘pledge of a 2-3% cut’ – are totally inadequate, and our leaders know it. Ahead of the Durban talks, the International Energy Agency, by no means a green organization, said this: ‘The world has only five years to seriously start replacing fossil fuels by low carbon energy and energy efficiency. Failure to make the required investment by 2017 would ‘lock in’ high future emissions to such an extent that the 2°C goal would become unattainable

Those politicians and lobbyists who set out to frustrate negotiations and block the required action, have closed the door on stabilisation at or below 2°C. They have also closed the door on the second accounting period from 2013, the corporate capitalists did not want it and they rule the planet. Even though they didn’t actually manage to kill off the Kyoto treaty in Durban, which is what they wanted, it is as good as dead and there will be no binding agreements until at least 2020. Nothing will happen by 2017, 2°C is unattainable. Our leaders have failed us, they have rolled over in front of the corporate capitalists and their lobbyists, preferring self interest instead of the welfare of humanity. They may be feeling pleased with them selves, living their lives of sumptuous luxury, but history will not be kind to them.

And our response, the response of the people whose lives will be most affected by the failure to curb carbon emissions? That is something that those who read history in 2050 will also be interested to understand.

Consider our own judgement of people who lived amid the gathering clouds of crisis, in 1930’s Europe for example. Why, we might wonder, did most people of the time do nothing? Why did they turn away as neighbours were dragged from their homes, why didn’t they ask about those who disappeared? How could they voice agreement with the lies and deceit of their governments, or merely sit silent, witnessing the manifest wrongs, but doing nothing. What, we might ask, would we do among the gathering clouds of crisis? What are we doing amid the lies and deceit of the climate denialists who control most of popular media? What are we doing when given the clear information that contemporary political policy is flawed and risks serious conflict in the future. What happens when we are given the choice at elections, the choice of business as usual or the choice of a clear programme that would head off the danger? What happened in 2010 in the UK, in 2011 in Spain, Italy and Greece? The electorate turned to the right and ignored the warnings, voted to hold on desperately to their own comforts and conveniences, choosing to ignore or deny the crisis that the next generation will have to face.

The ordinary people of Europe in the mid 1930’s possibly thought that they were acting in the best interests of their children, how could they have thought otherwise? But through their inaction and denial, they condemned their children to the bloodiest war ever fought over the face of the Earth. People today make similar claims, we must protect jobs, we must protect the economy, cutting emissions is just too costly, holds too many risks with jobs to be able to address at this time. So they condemn their children to face the frightening possibility of escalating temperatures, to the spread of uninhabitable regions, and to the unknown experience of ecological collapse.

This is one version of future history – it is the outcome of ‘business as usual’. But there is another version of history, a version that must be written by the actions of ordinary people. We must not sit passively by and let this global catastrophe unfold, we have to challenge the deceit of the denialists and take action to counter the ineptitude of our leaders. The sheer courage of ordinary people across the Middle East gives us an inspirational lead. Throughout history small groups have similarly acted with courage to confront the wrongs of entrenched and powerful interests. From Tolpuddle and Peterloo to Occupy Wall Street, those self-serving interests have been, and will be forced to concede ground to the demands of ordinary people. But they will give nothing willingly.

Time is running out, the storm clouds are gathering. Our false political leaders and their commercial puppet masters have made it abundantly clear over the last 20 years that they are not going to do anything other than continue to con us into believing that they are acting in our best interests. It is up to us now to fight the battle to prevent dangerous climate change, to close the ever widening gap between the super rich and those in poverty, and to bring about the necessary political and economic change.

Green minded and fair minded people know that there is a better way forward, together, but only together, we can, we must, take that path. Our actions can and must determine history.

[Mike Shipley January 2012]

 

GREENS CONDEMN GOVERNMENT’S SHORT SIGHTEDNESS

Derbyshire Green Party Chair urges people to install solar panels before Government slashes Feed-In Tariff payment

David Foster, Chair of Derbyshire Green Party, has urged householders to install solar panels as soon as they can. Following newspaper reports and mistakenly leaked documents, it has become clear that the Government has plans to halve the Feed-In Tariffs for solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently people can claim 43 pence for every kilowatt of electricity they generate off their roof but the government now plans to cut this to around 21p from the beginning of December, with the possibility of even deeper cuts to follow.  The feed-in tariff scheme was introduced in April 2010 and has seen over 80,000 solar installations, the creation of more than 22,000 jobs and almost 4,000 new businesses.

David Foster  said,

“If people install solar panels now before the cut is due to take place in December then they will get the 43p rate for the next 25 years if they were to install them after that they would get less than half that.”

The Green Party claims that this cut will jeopardise currently planned free solar schemes for people unable to afford the upfront costs of solar panels as well as planned schemes for council properties. These are set up to be self-funding under current Feed-In Tariff arrangements but, the Greens say, they may no longer be so after the proposed cut.

Mr. Foster went on to say, “These cuts by the government are nonsensical. Over 25,000 people are employed in the solar industry and these cuts are a threat to these jobs.  The cost of the Feed-In Tariff is very small, less than 50p/year on the average fuel bill and a fraction of the cost of government subsidies of nuclear power stations.   As always, it is those on the lowest incomes who will suffer the most since they will be unable to participate in low-cost solar schemes.  As a result of this cut, it is now almost certain that the Coalition Government will miss the legally binding carbon reduction target for the UK set in the 2008 Climate Change Act.  This government’s claim to be the Greenest Government ever is looking increasingly hollow and lacking in substance.”

John Youatt, the Greens convener in Derbyshire Dales and a founder member of Sustainable Youlgrave said,

“No matter how many Ministers try to justify this cut to the renewable energy programme, it makes no sense either financially or environmentally. The Green Party is unable to understand the logic of this decision. By investing in renewable technologies, not only does the Coalition Government help combat climate change and create jobs, but also it gives Councils a further incentive to help the fuel poor as well as increasing local authority revenue. In my locality, we held a forum and people signed up for panels, but only because the rate was right at under 10 years pay back. At over 15years, people will not invest. “

Drought hits the Amazon – again.

In 2005, the Amazon basin experienced what at the time was called a ‘once in 100 year’ drought.  Changes in normal rainfall patterns were at the time attributed to unusually warm seas in the South Atlantic.  As a result of the drought, large areas of rainforest began to die back and as they did so, began to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  The Amazon basin, one of the worlds great carbon sinks, became a carbon emitter.  In all it was calculated that five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were released.

In 2010, it all happened again.  Two ‘once in 100-year’ events within 5 years prove nothing, yet it is cause for concern.  The 2010 event was more intense than the 2005 drought with rivers dropping to record low levels disrupting the life and economy of Amazonia.  Preliminary calculations indicate that the resultant dieback will release even more carbon dioxide than the 2005 drought – an amount equivalent to the annual release by the USA.  Some tree deaths will be a long-term result of the 2005 drought that left many weakened and unable to tolerate further drying.  By the same argument, the final impact of the 2010 drought will not be felt for several years, the climate over the next decade will determine the fate of trees weakened but not killed last year.

A joint team from Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute and the University of Leeds, which has just produced a report on the drought, is carrying out research into the impact of these droughts.  Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, who co-authored the report with Dr Paulo Brando of AERI, said, “Having two events of this magnitude in such close succession is extremely unusual, but is unfortunately consistent with those climate models that project a grim future for Amazonia.”

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world’s great carbon sinks covering an area approximately 25 times the size of the UK.  Scientists at Leeds have previously shown that in a normal year the forests absorb approximately 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2.  However, for 2010 – 11, they predict that Amazon forests will switch from a carbon sink to a net emitter, releasing more than 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the coming years.  In addition to this figure, there will be the release from the continuing logging operations and forest fires that may well be more frequent following the drought.  Suddenly the world has been joined by another USA.

Over the last three years the Southern hemispheres has seen a succession of extreme events.  The Brazilian droughts, the fires in Victoria, record floods in Queensland and the biggest tropical cyclone ever recorded in Australia.  The monsoons that caused the flooding in Pakistan were under the influence of the southern oceans.  None of this should surprise us.  The southern hemisphere is the blue hemisphere, dominated by its oceans and these extreme events are attributed to ‘abnormal’ warming of the oceans.  Climate is intimately tied to oceanic conditions; oceans are the heat store, exchanging energy with the atmosphere, so driving weather patterns.  In a warming world, it is the southern hemisphere that will experiences climatic changes first.  However, the world has one integrated climatic system – where the south leads, the north will follow.

[Mike Shipley.]

The Least Green Government Ever?

At a time when the effects of climate change are beginning to hit home around the globe, and even the US Government is beginning to acknowledge its seriousness, it is unfortunate to say the least that the British public has elected such a climate sceptic Parliament. This is what the corporate owned popular media intended when they focused public attention on the economic crisis which, they lead people to believe, was caused by the Labour Government’s wasteful social and welfare policies and not on the irresponsible behaviour of the financial institutions. Corporate finance and big business is not interested in climate change, it does not see enough profit in it, it thinks that it can weather the storm and come out of the crisis in total control of the planet, its governments, and its remaining assets.

David Cameron has tried to mask the climate scepticism of his party by labeling his government ‘the greenest ever.’ Empty words we might suspect. The early actions of this ‘greenest government’ show the influence of scepticism and denial.  On taking office, it abolished the Sustainable Development Commission, even though this body was able to save government more than it cost. The Environment Agency is at risk, the Environmental Transformation Fund, which supports the development of low carbon technologies, has had its budget cut by 22% to £120 million. The Low Carbon Building Programme, which provided grants for renewable energy instalations, has been scrapped. A pledge to incorporate pioneer installers of solar power into the new Feed In Tarrifs [FIT’s] has been dumped. Energy Minister Charles Hendry has even hinted that the FIT payments will be slashed.

Not looking so green, but here’s todays victory for the deniers. The idea of scrapping the Department of Energy and Climate Change [Decc] is now being floated as a ‘cost saving’ measure. Decc provides the strategic overview of the UK’s commitments to both Climate Change and to renewable energy policy, ensuring that our international obligations are met. Already Decc has had its modest budget of £3.2 billion cut by £85 million. The irony is that half of its funding, £1.7 billion, goes to the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, a subsidy to the nuclear industry of which Chris Hune, LD Minister incharge, must be unaware, since he proclaims that a new generation of nuclear power stations can be built without subsidy.

So, the fledgling dedicated Department charged with preparing and implementing our countries response to the biggest crisis the world has faced since the ice sheets started advancing, must get by on £1.5 billion per year; and its very existence together with the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust, is under threat.

In response to this threat, Caroline Lucas said, “nobody who undestands the urgency and seriousness of the climate crisis could even contemplate decimating the department that leads the effort to deal with it.”  John Sauven, head of Greenpeace described the proposal as “sheer insanity.”

Just to put this £1.5 billion budget for implementing energy and climate policy into context, total Government spending for 2010 will be £661 billion. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is planning to write off £1.5 billion of tax revenue owed over the last 2 years. Reward the tax evaders, penalise the planet.

Gives some idea of the priorities of this ‘greenest government ever.’

Changing Global Weather Patterns – by David Foster

Further to the posting on the Derbyshire Green Party website ‘global warming increases and so does scepticism’. I believe we are now seeing the first of the damaging effects of global warming. (The severe damage caused to New Orleans caused by hurricane Katrina in 2005 excepted).

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

England had a very severe winter in 2009/10 which caused comments to be made in the House of Commons. “If global warming is taking place why is it so cold outside?”  The answer is that we don’t just get a pleasant 2°c warming we get drastically altered weather patterns and storms. While we were enjoying the cold snap Canada who hosted the Winter Olympic game had to import/create snow for the games to take place!

The spring and early summer of 2010 has brought Britain the driest beginning to the summer season for almost 50 years (Figures from the Met Office show rainfall across the UK for the first five months of 2010 averaged 318.99mm, compared to the long-term average of 424.1mm.) Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287008/Drought-warning-UK-country-suffers-driest-start-year-50-years.html#ixzz0w2S2N4d4

But we are fortunate that Britain is likely to be much less affected than other poorer regions when the storms really kick in. This year Pakistan and China have suffered some of the worst flooding on record.

At the same time Russia is going to lose much of this year’s wheat production to drought and fires. Over 580 fires are now raging in Russia’s tinder dry countryside. To add to the problems there is now a danger that the forests that have been cordoned off since the time of the Chernobyl because of high radiation will ignite sending a new toxic cloud into the air.

People can debate whether global warming is happening or whether its causes are man-made but one thing is for certain: Mother Nature won’t be joining the debate, she will just get on with it. If we are going to invest in new power generation technology and carbon reduction now’s the time to do it, the changes to our weather patterns are bad enough already. I don’t believe we can afford any further increase in our C02 levels; once the storms begin they won’t be easy to stop.

Global Warming Increases, And So Does Scepticism

Greenland Kangerlussuaq icesheet

The US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] has released data showing June 2010 to have been globally the warmest June sine its records began in 1880. NOAA has combined data from land and oceanic records to produce a global mean temperature. This was 16.2°C [61.1°F], 4% higher than the twentieth century average of 15.5°C. This June data follows the warmest January to June period on record and sets up 2010 to be the warmest year since records began.

Reflecting this warming trend, Arctic sea ice was 10% below the 1979-2000 average with the lowest recorded June coverage. Conversely, the Antarctic showed an 8% increase in ice cover, a point that will be seized on by sceptics who will ignore the Arctic data. This growth in Antarctic ice is a reflection of the switch from El Nino to La Nina conditions in the Pacific resulting in cold-water conditions in the southern oceans.

The June data conforms to a warming trend stretching back to the 1940’s with a decreasing number of years recording mean temperatures below the long-term average. Since 1985, there have been 304 consecutive months in which the global land-sea temperature has been above the twentieth century average. This trend is highlighted by the fact that the ten warmest years have occurred in the last 15 years.

During the last decade, solar output has been unusually low, with periods when there has been no sunspot activity. During a solar minimum, global temperatures should cool because of increased cloud cover, triggered by an increase in non-solar cosmic particles hitting the high atmosphere, [the cloud-chamber effect]. The steady rise in temperatures during a solar minimum blows another hole in the arguments of the sceptics.

So why is it that, at the same time as the scientific evidence for man-made change becomes ever stronger, we are witnessing an increase in climate change scepticism? In the New York Times on May 24, Elisabeth Rosenthal observed:

“Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here [in Britain] to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?” (Rosenthal, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons,’ New York Times, May 24, 2010; (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/ science/earth/25climate.html)

The change in public opinion, Rosenthal noted, has been most striking in Britain, which has become “a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated”.

A BBC survey in February found that only 26 per cent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 per cent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 per cent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 per cent four years earlier. A Gallup poll in March found that 48 per cent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 per cent a year ago. (Ibid.) Rosenthal cited newly sceptical members of the public:

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. ‘But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.'”

Up to this point, Rosenthal’s analysis was reasonable enough. But this was her explanation of the change in public opinion:

“Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.”

Rosenthal’s account is deceptive because it portrays climate scepticism, and media enthusiasm for climate scepticism, as naturally occurring phenomena, as if they simply are. But this is a lie. In fact, the public debate on climate is massively tilted in favour of the corporate interests that have long fought environmental responsibility tooth and nail. Environmental journalist Andy Rowell – author of Green Backlash and co-founder of Spinwatch (www.spinwatch.org) – offers a brief summary of the corporate stance on climate change:

“In the late 1960s, the leading PR company Hill and Knowlton, advising the tobacco industry on how to confront its critics over health, argued that doubt was the product they should use: ‘The most important type of story is that which casts doubt in the cause and effect theory of disease and smoking.’ Eye-grabbing headlines were needed and ‘should strongly call out the point – Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns!’

“Since the Sixties, the tobacco industry have continued their attempts to maintain the controversy. Their documents are peppered with statements such as ‘no clinical evidence’, ‘no substantial evidence’, ‘no laboratory proof’, ‘and unresolved’. Nothing has been ‘statistically proven’, there is no ‘scientific proof’.

The techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry in the 1960’s have now been successfully adopted by the climate sceptics. To quote Andy Rowell again:

“‘Creating controversy’ is precisely what the fossil fuel industry and its spin-doctors have done on climate change. The longer they can throw doubt on the issue, the more we carry on burning fossil fuels and the more money they make. Simple. So a small number of fossil fuel-funded think tanks and scientists have managed to create doubt over the scientific consensus of climate change for nearly two decades. They have been joined by a small group of right-wing ideologues, who are opposed to climate change on political grounds.

“The mainstream media continue to give these sceptics air-time in the name of balance, but do not tell an unsuspecting public that many are fossil-fuel funded, politically opposed, or even have no scientific credentials. So no wonder the public are confused. Like the corporate media, (which take significant money off the fossil fuel industry) many people do not want to change their behaviour, so it is reassuring for everyone when a sceptic throws doubt on climate change. This is compounded by parts of the right-wing media which are running what is effectively a misinformation campaign on climate.” (Rowell, email to David Edwards of MediaLens.org, May 27, 2010)

The website Campaign Against Climate Change reports:

“It has recently been revealed that Koch Industries, a little-known, privately owned US oil company, paid nearly US$50 million to climate denial groups and individuals between 1997 and 2008. In a similar period Exxon Mobil paid out around $17 to $23 million.” (http://www.campaigncc.org/sceptics)

As the website notes, the manufactured ‘Climategate’ ‘scandal’ of autumn 2009, mentioned by Rosenthal – in which emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were illegally hacked and published – was a nonsense. Sir Muir Russell, a senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said recently:

“Ultimately this has to be about what they did, not what they said. The honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt… We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/08/muir-russell-climategate-climate-science)

Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, commented:

“What everyone has lost sight of is the spectacular failure of mainstream journalism to keep the whole affair in perspective. Again and again, stories are sexed up with arch hints that these ‘revelations’ might somehow impact on the evidence for human impact on climate. Yet the only error in actual data used for climate change detection to have emerged from this whole affair amounted to a few hundredths of a degree in the estimated global temperature of a couple of years in the 1870s.” (Ibid.)

Rosenthal’s article was titled, ‘Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons.’ Even if we accept this ‘turn’ at face value, honest analysis of why these fears have turned to doubt, demands that we consider the deepest forces empowering climate scepticism. It is public opinion that is being manipulated, not the scientific data. Sceptics now have the upper hand in Parliament with a majority of Conservative MP’s leaning towards this viewpoint. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/07/climate-scepticism-grows-tories)

The message is clear: be sceptical of climate scepticism, and act now on climate change. The longer we wait to take effective action, the more the planet will warm. A 2°C rise will be uncomfortable and will strain the global economy, but we are online for a rise of over twice this, resulting in conditions that human beings have never experienced in their history, conditions in which we will struggle to survive. We can avert this, but only if we act now, together. Please consider joining the Green Party.

Thanks to MediaLens.org for the sections on scepticism

Caroline Lucas' Maiden Speech To Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I am most grateful to you for calling me during today’s debate.

The environment is a subject dear to my heart, as I’m sure you know, and I’ll return to it in a moment.

I think anyone would find their first speech in this chamber daunting, given its history and traditions, and the many momentous events it has witnessed.

But I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but also as the first representative of the Green Party to be elected to Westminster.

You have to go back several decades, to the election of the first Nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to find the last maiden speech from a new national political party.

And perhaps a better comparison would be those first Socialist and Independent Labour MPs, over a century ago, whose arrival was seen as a sign of coming revolution.

When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech to this House, after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry.

Because instead of frock coat and top hat, he wore a tweed suit and deerstalker.  It’s hard to decide which of these choices would seem more inappropriate today.

But what Keir Hardie stood for now seems much more mainstream.

Progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions and abolition of the House of Lords.

Though the last of these is an urgent task still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society.

What was once radical, even revolutionary, becomes understood, accepted and even cherished.

In speaking today, I am helped by an admirable tradition – that in your first speech to this House, you should refer to your constituency and to your predecessor.

David Lepper, who stood down at this election after thirteen years service as Member for Brighton Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly-respected Member whose qualities transcend any differences of Party.  I am delighted to have this chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself. It is, I am sure, well-known to many Members, if only from Party conferences.

My own Party has not yet grown to a size to justify the use of the Brighton Centre, although I hope that will change before long.

But I can say to honourable members who are not familiar with it,  that it is one of the UK’s premier conference venues; and there are proposals to invest in it further to help ensure that Brighton retains its status as the UK’s leading conference and tourism resort.

There are also the attractions of the shops and cafes of the Lanes and North Laine, the Pier and of course the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency.

And beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city, there is the quietly beautiful countryside of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence – of doing things differently.   It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve.

We see this in the numbers of small businesses and freelancers within the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated, or respected, but positively welcomed and valued.

You have to work quite hard to be a “local character” in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in Brighton. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural, as well as financial, contribution to the city.

There are also a large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies, all of which I will work to support in my time in this place.

I would like also to pay tribute to those wonderful Brighton organisations that work with women. In particular I’d like to mention Rise, who do amazing work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always have the same level of attention or support from the media, or indeed from politicians.

But whatever the role – social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or border agency staff – we depend upon them.

I’m sure that members on all sides would agree that all those who work for the State should be respected and their contribution valued. In a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes yet more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to honourable members. The very popularity of the City puts pressure on transport and housing and on the quality of life.

Though there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton, but they believe that it can be a better and fairer place to live and work.

I pledge to everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable, more sustainable housing.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett who, despite his blindness, was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the suffragists, a movement he himself had supported and encouraged.

So he lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women’s representation in politics.

The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people that it represents remains work in progress – and as the first woman elected in Brighton Pavilion, this is work that I will do all that I can do advance.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting.

Perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made – that is, to elect the first Green MP to Parliament.

It has been a long journey.

The Green Party traces its origins back to 1973, and the issues highlighted in its first Manifesto for a Sustainable Society – including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics – are even more urgent today.

If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need,  than we currently are today.

We fielded fifty candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology Party, and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed.

Now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers which I am sure honourable members are all too familiar, we have more candidates and more members, and now our first MP.

A long journey.

Too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself, and allow new ideas and visions to emerge.

Otherwise debate is the poorer, and more and more people will feel that they are not represented.

So I hope that if, and when, other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long-overdue.

The chance must not be squandered.   Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected.

And in my view, that means more than a referendum on the Alternative Vote – it means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question.

And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.

A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation, to scrutiny. Work that is valuable, if not always appreciated on the outside.

A single MP can speak up for their constituents.

A single MP can challenge the executive.  I am pleased that the government is to bring forward legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people’s freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards.

But many restrictions remain. For example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected and for the principle that people should not be held without charge, even if it is their own homes?

House arrest is something we deplore in other countries. I hope through debate we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be aired elsewhere.

Last year Honourable Members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly.

This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts, and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of today’s debate.

I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam – for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world – and then for ten years in the European Parliament.

But if we are to overcome this threat, then it is we in this chamber who must take the lead.

We must act so that the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing our climate, and encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 Campaign – 10% emissions reductions in 2010.  That’s very good news.  But the truth is that we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero carbon economy.

And time is running short.  If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, then it is this Parliament that must meet this historic task.

That gives us an extraordinary responsibility – and an extraordinary opportunity.

Because the good news is that the action that we need to tackle the climate crisis is action which can improve the quality of life for all of us – better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

I look forward to working with Members from all sides of the House on advancing these issues.

Caroline Lucas’ Maiden Speech To Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I am most grateful to you for calling me during today’s debate.

The environment is a subject dear to my heart, as I’m sure you know, and I’ll return to it in a moment.

I think anyone would find their first speech in this chamber daunting, given its history and traditions, and the many momentous events it has witnessed.

But I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but also as the first representative of the Green Party to be elected to Westminster.

You have to go back several decades, to the election of the first Nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to find the last maiden speech from a new national political party.

And perhaps a better comparison would be those first Socialist and Independent Labour MPs, over a century ago, whose arrival was seen as a sign of coming revolution.

When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech to this House, after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry.

Because instead of frock coat and top hat, he wore a tweed suit and deerstalker.  It’s hard to decide which of these choices would seem more inappropriate today.

But what Keir Hardie stood for now seems much more mainstream.

Progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions and abolition of the House of Lords.

Though the last of these is an urgent task still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society.

What was once radical, even revolutionary, becomes understood, accepted and even cherished.

In speaking today, I am helped by an admirable tradition – that in your first speech to this House, you should refer to your constituency and to your predecessor.

David Lepper, who stood down at this election after thirteen years service as Member for Brighton Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly-respected Member whose qualities transcend any differences of Party.  I am delighted to have this chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself. It is, I am sure, well-known to many Members, if only from Party conferences.

My own Party has not yet grown to a size to justify the use of the Brighton Centre, although I hope that will change before long.

But I can say to honourable members who are not familiar with it,  that it is one of the UK’s premier conference venues; and there are proposals to invest in it further to help ensure that Brighton retains its status as the UK’s leading conference and tourism resort.

There are also the attractions of the shops and cafes of the Lanes and North Laine, the Pier and of course the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency.

And beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city, there is the quietly beautiful countryside of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence – of doing things differently.   It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve.

We see this in the numbers of small businesses and freelancers within the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated, or respected, but positively welcomed and valued.

You have to work quite hard to be a “local character” in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in Brighton. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural, as well as financial, contribution to the city.

There are also a large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies, all of which I will work to support in my time in this place.

I would like also to pay tribute to those wonderful Brighton organisations that work with women. In particular I’d like to mention Rise, who do amazing work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always have the same level of attention or support from the media, or indeed from politicians.

But whatever the role – social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or border agency staff – we depend upon them.

I’m sure that members on all sides would agree that all those who work for the State should be respected and their contribution valued. In a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes yet more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to honourable members. The very popularity of the City puts pressure on transport and housing and on the quality of life.

Though there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton, but they believe that it can be a better and fairer place to live and work.

I pledge to everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable, more sustainable housing.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett who, despite his blindness, was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the suffragists, a movement he himself had supported and encouraged.

So he lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women’s representation in politics.

The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people that it represents remains work in progress – and as the first woman elected in Brighton Pavilion, this is work that I will do all that I can do advance.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting.

Perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made – that is, to elect the first Green MP to Parliament.

It has been a long journey.

The Green Party traces its origins back to 1973, and the issues highlighted in its first Manifesto for a Sustainable Society – including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics – are even more urgent today.

If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need,  than we currently are today.

We fielded fifty candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology Party, and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed.

Now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers which I am sure honourable members are all too familiar, we have more candidates and more members, and now our first MP.

A long journey.

Too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself, and allow new ideas and visions to emerge.

Otherwise debate is the poorer, and more and more people will feel that they are not represented.

So I hope that if, and when, other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long-overdue.

The chance must not be squandered.   Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected.

And in my view, that means more than a referendum on the Alternative Vote – it means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question.

And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.

A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation, to scrutiny. Work that is valuable, if not always appreciated on the outside.

A single MP can speak up for their constituents.

A single MP can challenge the executive.  I am pleased that the government is to bring forward legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people’s freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards.

But many restrictions remain. For example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected and for the principle that people should not be held without charge, even if it is their own homes?

House arrest is something we deplore in other countries. I hope through debate we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be aired elsewhere.

Last year Honourable Members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly.

This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts, and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of today’s debate.

I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam – for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world – and then for ten years in the European Parliament.

But if we are to overcome this threat, then it is we in this chamber who must take the lead.

We must act so that the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing our climate, and encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 Campaign – 10% emissions reductions in 2010.  That’s very good news.  But the truth is that we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero carbon economy.

And time is running short.  If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, then it is this Parliament that must meet this historic task.

That gives us an extraordinary responsibility – and an extraordinary opportunity.

Because the good news is that the action that we need to tackle the climate crisis is action which can improve the quality of life for all of us – better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

I look forward to working with Members from all sides of the House on advancing these issues.

Caroline Lucas’ Maiden Speech To Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I am most grateful to you for calling me during today’s debate.

The environment is a subject dear to my heart, as I’m sure you know, and I’ll return to it in a moment.

I think anyone would find their first speech in this chamber daunting, given its history and traditions, and the many momentous events it has witnessed.

But I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but also as the first representative of the Green Party to be elected to Westminster.

You have to go back several decades, to the election of the first Nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to find the last maiden speech from a new national political party.

And perhaps a better comparison would be those first Socialist and Independent Labour MPs, over a century ago, whose arrival was seen as a sign of coming revolution.

When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech to this House, after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry.

Because instead of frock coat and top hat, he wore a tweed suit and deerstalker.  It’s hard to decide which of these choices would seem more inappropriate today.

But what Keir Hardie stood for now seems much more mainstream.

Progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions and abolition of the House of Lords.

Though the last of these is an urgent task still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society.

What was once radical, even revolutionary, becomes understood, accepted and even cherished.

In speaking today, I am helped by an admirable tradition – that in your first speech to this House, you should refer to your constituency and to your predecessor.

David Lepper, who stood down at this election after thirteen years service as Member for Brighton Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly-respected Member whose qualities transcend any differences of Party.  I am delighted to have this chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself. It is, I am sure, well-known to many Members, if only from Party conferences.

My own Party has not yet grown to a size to justify the use of the Brighton Centre, although I hope that will change before long.

But I can say to honourable members who are not familiar with it,  that it is one of the UK’s premier conference venues; and there are proposals to invest in it further to help ensure that Brighton retains its status as the UK’s leading conference and tourism resort.

There are also the attractions of the shops and cafes of the Lanes and North Laine, the Pier and of course the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency.

And beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city, there is the quietly beautiful countryside of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence – of doing things differently.   It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve.

We see this in the numbers of small businesses and freelancers within the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated, or respected, but positively welcomed and valued.

You have to work quite hard to be a “local character” in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in Brighton. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural, as well as financial, contribution to the city.

There are also a large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies, all of which I will work to support in my time in this place.

I would like also to pay tribute to those wonderful Brighton organisations that work with women. In particular I’d like to mention Rise, who do amazing work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always have the same level of attention or support from the media, or indeed from politicians.

But whatever the role – social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or border agency staff – we depend upon them.

I’m sure that members on all sides would agree that all those who work for the State should be respected and their contribution valued. In a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes yet more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to honourable members. The very popularity of the City puts pressure on transport and housing and on the quality of life.

Though there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton, but they believe that it can be a better and fairer place to live and work.

I pledge to everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable, more sustainable housing.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett who, despite his blindness, was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the suffragists, a movement he himself had supported and encouraged.

So he lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women’s representation in politics.

The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people that it represents remains work in progress – and as the first woman elected in Brighton Pavilion, this is work that I will do all that I can do advance.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting.

Perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made – that is, to elect the first Green MP to Parliament.

It has been a long journey.

The Green Party traces its origins back to 1973, and the issues highlighted in its first Manifesto for a Sustainable Society – including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics – are even more urgent today.

If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need,  than we currently are today.

We fielded fifty candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology Party, and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed.

Now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers which I am sure honourable members are all too familiar, we have more candidates and more members, and now our first MP.

A long journey.

Too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself, and allow new ideas and visions to emerge.

Otherwise debate is the poorer, and more and more people will feel that they are not represented.

So I hope that if, and when, other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long-overdue.

The chance must not be squandered.   Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected.

And in my view, that means more than a referendum on the Alternative Vote – it means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question.

And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.

A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation, to scrutiny. Work that is valuable, if not always appreciated on the outside.

A single MP can speak up for their constituents.

A single MP can challenge the executive.  I am pleased that the government is to bring forward legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people’s freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards.

But many restrictions remain. For example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected and for the principle that people should not be held without charge, even if it is their own homes?

House arrest is something we deplore in other countries. I hope through debate we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be aired elsewhere.

Last year Honourable Members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly.

This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts, and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of today’s debate.

I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam – for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world – and then for ten years in the European Parliament.

But if we are to overcome this threat, then it is we in this chamber who must take the lead.

We must act so that the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing our climate, and encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 Campaign – 10% emissions reductions in 2010.  That’s very good news.  But the truth is that we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero carbon economy.

And time is running short.  If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, then it is this Parliament that must meet this historic task.

That gives us an extraordinary responsibility – and an extraordinary opportunity.

Because the good news is that the action that we need to tackle the climate crisis is action which can improve the quality of life for all of us – better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

I look forward to working with Members from all sides of the House on advancing these issues.

Vote Strategically, Vote Green

Voting for the Green Party is a powerful statement and the best way to make your vote really count this election. Although the other parties talk about change, only the Green Party offers true change by providing a real alternative to the stale, ‘grey’ politics that have got us into such a mess. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a one-party state because there is so little difference between the three main parties, but the Green Party offers a breath of fresh air. This election we are hoping to send our first Green MPs to Westminster, who could make a real difference in a hung Parliament, especially if they can count on the support of hundreds of thousands of national voters. The Green Party offers constructive policies to combat climate change, and transition to a sustainable economy. We also offer a unique vision and analysis.

The big political story over the last 30 years is the domination of so-called ‘free market’ economics. Some commentators even foolishly talk about the “end of history” because there seem to be no competing views. The media carry the free market agenda, encouraging debate over nuances within this dominant ideology, represented by the three mainstream parties, and excluding those who have big things to say, such as the Green Party.

The pillars of free market economics include privatisation, deregulation, and attacks on unions and the “nanny state”, all of which can be traced back to Mrs Thatcher, who pioneered this ideology of selfishness, even claiming that “there is no such thing as society”. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown happily picked up the Thatcherite baton and ran with it, continuing to privatise public services such as hospitals and the London Tube, while trying to hide behind complicated schemes like PFI and PPP. Instead of imposing effective regulation on big business, Labour has given carte blanche to corporations to regulate themselves, resulting in the near bankruptcy of the UK due to the banking and financial crisis. Attacking unions is part of the problem, because there is a clear link between the weakened bargaining position of workers, resulting in low wages, and the massive expansion of consumer credit required to maintain people’s standards of living – a bubble still in serious danger of exploding.

More than half a century has passed since World War Two and the end of Empire, yet Britain has still not found a positive role in the world. We are a poodle to American foreign policy, obediently following their military adventures (irrespective of how ill-conceived or immoral these may be), constantly needing reassuring pats on the back from Uncle Sam in response to our pleading “Tell us we still have a special relationship”.

There are two competing visions of wealth and value in the world, and the British establishment is besotted with the wrong one. The first vision sees the natural world as beautiful and valuable in itself, to be studied and cherished. It seeks to promote and enhance those aspects of human culture which emphasise harmonious relationships with nature and with other humans. The second view assigns no intrinsic value to nature, believing it valuable only for its instrumental use to humans, violently extracting minerals and industrially cultivating a few crops as ‘mono-cultures’, thereby inflicting massive, unsustainable damage on the environment. This second view also fails to recognise the intrinsic value of human beings themselves, only valuing us to the extent we serve money and power.

This is the real reason we have a “broken society”. Under current conditions we are alienated from nature and from each other – in other words we do not value our relatedness. Our lack of relatedness manifests in the extreme inequalities which now blight our society, destroying our collective well-being, increasing our fears, and making us ill.

Even if we don’t believe that nature has intrinsic value, we can surely see that the massive destruction being inflicted on the oceans, soil, forests and atmosphere will inevitably cripple the environment’s usefulness. For example, most of our medicines originate from the plant and animal kingdoms, but how are we going to extract and synthesise new medicines if we extinguish huge numbers of species? Impoverishing and stripping variety from nature is extremely short-sighted, as each species and ecosystem embodies millions of years of evolution and experience which can never be repeated. Eventually this environmental destruction will lead to the demise of humanity itself.

Apparently people are sceptical about the scientific evidence for climate change, but whether we agree that climate change is man-made or not, does anyone seriously think it is a good idea for a few human generations to extract from the earth’s crust the entire carbon deposits from millions of years of compressed rainforests and inject them into the atmosphere as smoke? We know how sensitive modern systems are to any disruption (e.g. volcanic ash), so put your hand up if you think this massive chemical pollution of the atmosphere is a sensible idea. Yet it seems that we will stoop to anything to keep pumping oil, whether this means invading other countries on false pretexts or pandering to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

Your vote on May 6th can make a difference. Do any of the main parties have a coherent analysis or vision which will really improve our world and our society? Do they have the committment or policies to address these challenges? Please vote with both your head and heart. Vote strategically, vote Green.