Environment

Climate Change Warning for the World: Will the Tories Step Up?

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A breaking new report issued by the White House earlier this month, has left a bleak warning for human health if strong measures are not implemented to combat both the direct and indirect effects of climate change.

The culmination of three years’ research from almost 100 scientists has revealed increasingly dire warnings of the risks faced by the earth and its inhabitants.

Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Dr. John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology, unveiled the latest in a long line of confirmations that climate change will impact everyone. She stated:

“We’re looking at the fact that increases in CO2 can rob proteins and significant minerals that we’re now getting in our food supply. If that is lowering the nutritional value, then what does that mean overall?”

“This is the first time in history we’ve been able to really look at this and see that it’s not just about polar bears and melting ice caps, it’s about our kids, it’s about our families, it’s about our future. It’s about what our core value is and what we do to meet our moral responsibility to our kids and that future.

“While everybody will be impacted, you have some significant populations – kids, pregnant women, elderly, low income and some minorities, that really will be disproportionately impacted by these health consequences. It really reminds ourselves that we have a significant job to do to figure out how we adapt to a changing climate and what those adaptation strategies might be. But also, it’s a real wake-up call for innovating and investing in a low-carbon future today.”

The scale of world-wide foreboding from scientific communities about the urgent need for action on climate change has increased ten-fold, yet leaderships, with the UK government in particular, are failing to implement and act on this crisis. Here in the UK, a low-carbon future appears so far away, with the emphasis still being centred on dirty fossil fuels, and fracking in particular, with the ridiculously costly and marooned nuclear plant at Hinkley Point still being plugged as the way to “keep the lights on”. Although this too could face considerable public backlash, with an impending legal challenge being considered against EDF, the UK and the French government by Greenpeace and Ecotricity.

The Conservative Party seem dead-set to push their short-sighted plans for hydraulic fracturing on half of the country, despite mass opposition by the public. In their manifesto last year, they pledged: “We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets.” Yet they have gifted the fossil fuel industry substantial additional tax breaks to go “all out for shale”. This is arguably the most backwards move to preventing further climate change, with shale gas thought to have a higher greenhouse gas footprint than coal or oil.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne stated: “I want Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs and keep energy bills low for millions of people.”

George Osborne’s father-in-law, former Secretary of State for Energy, the controversial Lord Howell, is the President of lobbying company: British Institute of Energy Economics (BIEE). Their sponsors include the likes of Shell and BP (with former director Lord John Browne having a steer here, as well as fracking wannabes, Cuadrilla). The Oil and Gas Industry are also prominent members, so no conflict of interest there at all <insert dry laughter>.

John Ashton, former Special Representative for Climate Change at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:

“You can be in favour of fixing the climate. Or you can be in favour of exploiting shale gas. But you can’t be in favour of both at the same time.”

So which is it?

The additional weakening of the UK’s renewable energy industry was an initiative driven by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd. Once a poster girl for solar energy plans, Ms Rudd performed a volte-face just months later with brutal 65% cuts to solar incentives. With over 18,500 renewable job losses at stake, this is inconsequential to a government ostensibly less-than-interested in securing a stable climate for the future.

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Scrapping the Carbon Capture Storage plan is one of the latest defective schemes to emerge from Tory HQ. Cameron’s “get rid of all this green crap” PR fail seems to be a straight transference of power to the oil and gas industry, away from the mammoth potential of renewables. You’ve only to look at the infographic showing the incestuous and dirty interwoven web of the fossil fuel industry and UK government, created by environmental author and campaigner, Paul Mobbs, to understand how policies and favours get pushed through easily.

The Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) initiative, a competition contract worth £1b, was scrapped in November 2015, breaking the Tory manifesto to push forwards to a carbon-neutral society. It’s almost farcical to look back on such a failed projection that was only written last year: “We have been the greenest government ever…committing £1 billion for carbon capture and storage.”

The jettisoned CCS by the Tories provoked anger and astonishment from both industry and green campaigners, with only just six months until the contracts were awarded before the scheme was dumped. Strong reactions came from some of the most prominent authorities on science and carbon capture.

Miles Seaman, from the Sustainability Subject Group at the Institution of Chemical Engineers, who said:

“The audacity of this decision is breathtaking. It underscores the lie which has been put about by ministers and civil servants for the last several years that the UK is a world leader in CCS.”

Professor Geoffrey Maitland FREng FIChemE, Professor of Energy Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “As we try to stimulate manufacturing industry in the UK, CCS provides the only realistic way to decarbonise this very important sector for the UK economy. So overall today’s decision is very short-sighted and will cost the country far more in the long-term than the relatively small short-term savings. To cut this competition is a ludicrous decision!”

So what next? The Conservative Party’s strong ties to the oil and gas industry appear to be hindering a shift in thinking, favouring dated fossil fuels over clean energy. With the added irony that on the international Earth Day, the UK signed the Paris Agreement to take action against climate change (Energy Minister Lord Bourne provided the signature as the UK representative), it’s hard to see any positive progression taking place within the current government to tackle the ever more imminent threat of climate change. The damaging cuts to the UK’s renewable industry were ill-considered, ignorant of investor confidence and against any feasibility of transferring to a future low-carbon culture, especially with the abandoning of the Carbon Capture Storage scheme.

The White House’s latest report states that thousands of vulnerable society groups will die or become hospitalized (even more tragic if Jeremy Hunt manages to successfully abolish the NHS) from a rapidly changing climate. We should take urgent and strong action to push forward to a carbon-neutral society, as a global collective, to ensure we commit ourselves to adapting to a changing climate in as positive a way as we can.

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