Yet again the Ministers and civil servants in charge of Britain’s climate and energy policy have shown their abject failure to show any concept of climate leadership or even joined up thinking.
It would not have taken much for a Minister or civil servant to look out of the window over the last few weeks, to realise it is hot out there.
Even papers not known for their coverage of climate issues and who are normally supportive of the Conservative Government, have taken notice: The tabloid Sun newspaper has called today “Furnace Friday,” as the UK could experience its hottest day ever. The paper remarked how “Wildfires ravage UK in Furnace Friday heat as homes set ablaze as 50,000 lightning bolts strike country.”
The paper added in typical tabloid fashion: “Bake to the Future: Britain is braced for an epidemic of summer heatwaves lasting DECADES as temperatures set to hit a July record of 37C (99F) today”
The paper quoted: Professor Peter Stott, of the Met Office, said: “Since 1976, global temperatures have increased significantly. The risk of extreme heatwaves is increasing rapidly worldwide due to greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Daily Telegraph, a paper renowned for its climate sceptic editorial line even took up the “Furnace Friday” theme and noted that “Britain is hottest place in Europe as heatwave nearing all-time record of 38.5C”
It is not just Britain that is baking. This week has seen at least 80 die in Greece in wild-fires. This month the Arctic has been alight too with wildfires raging in northern Sweden.
The future climate scientists have warned us about is here. Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, argues Professor Rowan Sutton, Director of Climate Research at the University of Reading. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heatwaves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”
This is climate change in action. The global media is waking up. The Canadian Globe and Mail states: “Climate change is here, and the world is burning”
Back in the UK, today news outlets have reported new scientific research revealing that the heatwave in Europe has been made more than twice as likely by climate change.
One of the scientists involved in the work, Dr Friederike Otto, Deputy Director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common.” She added: “What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace – in some cases, it already has.”
The Oxford Professor added that “there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible.”
So what has the Minister known officially as the “Energy and Clean Growth” Minister done in response? They might as well be called the Minister for Silly Walks as they have just allowed more fossil fuels to be exploited at a time when the earth is on fire.
You would have thought a rational move for the so-called “Clean Growth” Minister to do in response to the heatwave would be to actually invest in clean growth, rather than dirty fossil fuels. But no, that would make too much common-sense.
Instead the Silly Walks Minister, Claire Perry said: “Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy.”
The myth of gas somehow being a “low carbon” fuel has long been shown to be a false narrative and deeply dangerous for numerous years, predominetly due to methane leakage.
Even five years ago, Robert W. Howarth, from Cornell University in the US said:
“We believe the preponderance of evidence indicates shale gas has a larger greenhouse gas footprint than conventional gas, considered over any time scale. The greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas also exceeds that of oil or coal when considered at decadal time scales, no matter how the gas is used. We stand by the conclusion of our 2011 research: ‘The large [greenhouse gas] footprint of shale gas undercuts the logic of its use as a bridging fuel over coming decades, if the goal is to reduce global warming.’”
If the greenhouse gas footprint of shale exceeds oil or coal, then it cannot be labelled a “low carbon” fuel. The Minister of Silly Walks is talking with a forked tongue.
In the paper, Howarth added: “Should society invest massive capital in such improvements for a bridge fuel that is to be used for only 20 to 30 years, or would the capital be better spent on constructing a smart electric grid and other technologies that move towards a truly green energy future?”
The shale industry is hoping that now the first fracking licence has been approved, many more will follow. It is hoping that massive fossil fuel infrastructure will follow and we will keep on fracking for decades.
But the scientists are telling us that this is a fundamental strategic mistake. If we want a green, clean future, why not start building now? Listen to the scientists. Listen to the weather.
But the British Government are only listening to the fossil fuel industry friends. The Government – one that for years pushed local control for local people agenda – has now launched two consultations to see if it can fast-track fracking, removing it from any type of local democratic oversight.
The Government could also listen to fellow members of Parliament. This week one parliamentary committee, the Environmental Audit Committee said that more people will die due to climate change and heatwaves.
It argued: “The average number of heat-related deaths in the UK is expected to more than triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s. Older people are particularly vulnerable and suffer increased fatalities from cardiac and respiratory disease during heatwaves”.
The committee concluded that “We are concerned there is a lack of oversight of heat-health risks, and health risks from climate change more broadly” and called on the “government to ensure there is a holistic and coordinated approach to adapting to the health risks of climate change.”
One simple way to adapt to climate change is to not make it worse by investing in shale gas, which scientists argue is dirtier than coal. But Britain’s Minister of Silly Walks in charge of energy policy is determined to jump off the climate cliff.
As the Green MP Caroline Lucas noted: “Disgraceful that the Govt has quietly signed off fracking on a busy last day before recess. They’ve ignored local people, overruled local councillors and torn up our commitments to tackle climate change.” But, she warned: “This isn’t over: we will keep fighting for clean, safe, renewable energy.”
Disgraceful that the Govt has quietly signed off fracking on a busy last day before recess. They've ignored local people, overruled local councillors and torn up our commitments to tackle climate change.
This isn't over: we will keep fighting for clean, safe, renewable energy. https://t.co/kpqI4GHI99
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) July 24, 2018