Nick Herbert: "global warming is no myth"

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has challenged climate change sceptics, warning that global warming is “no myth”.

 

The MP was speaking at a Public Forum on Climate Change in Storrington on Friday evening (15 February).

The event, organised by local conservation group the Wiggonholt Association, attracted more than 130 people who heard contributions from a panel of politicians and experts.  Members of the audience were also invited to speak and ask questions.

During a lively public debate, Mr Herbert responded to a member of the audience who questioned the evidence for global warming and claimed that "political correctness" was driving the debate.  The MP countered that the evidence that the planet was warming up was "indisputable", and there was a consensus in the scientific community that the temperature rise was caused by man.

The MP argued that, if tough action was not taken, the world would experience a significant increase in global temperature.  He highlighted figures produced by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which suggest that there will probably be a rise in global temperature of between 1.8 and 4°c by the end of the 21st century.  The planet is likely to see a 2°c rise by 2050, with the current rate of carbon emissions.

Quoting from the Stern review, published in October 2006 and commissioned by the Treasury, the MP warned that the potential consequences of such rises in temperature were severe:

  • a 1°C rise in temperature would irreversibly damage coral reef ecosystems and lead to the disappearance of small mountain glaciers posing a potential threat to water supplies in some areas;

  • a 2° to 3°C rise would melt the Greenland ice sheet;
  • a 4°C rise would seriously affect global food production, and
  • a 5°C rise would threaten large world cities including London, Shanghai, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong through rising sea levels

Mr Herbert pointed out that local people had a direct and personal interest in the issue of global warming.  The Environment Agency had recently warned that climate change would increase the risk of flooding in the Adur valley.  The MP argued that concern about local environmental issues such as landfill and development was strong, and he questioned: "Why should concern about the environment stop at the county boundary, or our national border?  Why should we be concerned about the welfare of generations today, but not about generations tomorrow?"

Commenting on the growing contribution of developing countries such as India and China to global carbon emissions, Mr Herbert acknowledged that emerging economies also needed to act, but this was not a reason for the UK to do nothing.  He said: "Britain is a major country and we must take a lead to secure international co-operation on climate change.  We cannot expect other countries to take action if we are not willing to do so ourselves."

Mr Herbert welcomed the Climate Change Bill which will set a statutory target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but questioned whether the target of 60 per cent would be high enough.

Meeting the target would require tough decisions, but wherever possible, people should be encouraged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through incentives, such as the tax differential which had encouraged the take up of unleaded petrol.

Mr Herbert said that nuclear power should be a key part of the ‘energy mix' in our efforts to generate power and tackle climate change, but not to the exclusion of a focus on generating energy from renewable sources.  He acknowledged the challenges posed by nuclear energy, including the disposal of waste, but argued that it produced much lower levels of carbon dioxide than the burning of fossil fuels and was a more sustainable way to generate power.

The MP said he hoped that new technologies would provide some of the solutions to the challenge of climate change.  He highlighted the possibilities presented by ‘micro-generation', which would enable households to generate their own energy, and ‘sell' it back to the National Grid.

In his concluding remarks, Mr Herbert reminded the audience of the Stern review's conclusions, which estimated that climate change could shrink the global economy by 20 per cent, but that action now to reverse the effects would only cost 1 per cent of global gross domestic product.

He said: "Taking action won't be cost free.  But the risk is that, if we don't deal with carbon dioxide emissions now, a fifth of the world's income could be lost.  That would mean the entire global population becoming significantly poorer, not to mention the environmental price.  In the face of all the scientific evidence, is that really a risk we can afford to take?"

He told the audience about a speech made by Al Gore to political leaders in London, when he quoted Mark Twain, who said: "Do the right thing.  It will gratify your friends and astonish your enemies."

The MP summed up by saying: "We need to do the right thing."

Nick Herbert was joined on the panel by the Archbishop of Canterbury's climate change advisor, Paula Clifford, the County Council's Senior Natural Resources Officer, Mark Elliott and the West Sussex Cabinet Member for the Environment and Economy, Louise Goldsmith.

The Forum, chaired by West Sussex County Times Editor Gary Shipton, was held at Rydon Community College in Rock Road, Storrington.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the website of The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), visit http://www.ipcc.ch/

2. The Royal Society has said that "few scientists dispute that the global average temperature has been rising for at least a century." The 1990s were very likely (a 90-99 per cent chance) to have been the warmest decade since records began in 1861. Furthermore, the increase in surface temperature during the 20th century in the Northern Hemisphere was likely to have been greater than for any other century for the last 1,000 years. For the Royal Society's "guide to facts and fiction about climate change", visit http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/News_and_Issues/Science_Issues/Climate_change/climate_facts_and_fictions.pdf

3. For the Stern Report, visit http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_report.cfm

4. For the website of The Wiggonholt Association, visit http://www.wiggonholt.org/

Joe Coombes