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Northern Ireland Minister for the Environment, Sammy Wilson, DUP MLA
For the first time, Environment Minister Sammy Wilson spells out his scepticism about man-made climate change, in an exclusive article for the News Letter
At the height of the floods recently, when those whose homes had been destroyed were trying to clean up the mess, the councils were trying to get emergency payments processed and departments were assessing what lessons could be learned from the events, all the Green Party could do was prattle on about climate change.
It seems that there is a branch of the environmental movement which almost rejoices in every environmental disaster be it local or international. The bigger the disaster the better because it helps reinforce their demands for more government regulation, restrictions on individual economic freedom and their anti-business agenda.
Their ire has been particularly directed at me because I refuse to blindly accept the new pseudo-religion that we must dramatically change our economy in order to stop climate change. The tactic used by the "green gang" is to label anyone who dares disagree with their view of climate change as some kind of nutcase who denies scientific fact.
First of all can I make it clear I accept that we are experiencing climate change. Indeed climate change has been a feature of the history of our planet. The most modern history of the earth shows that these changes occur in regular cycles. From 200BC to 600AD we had what was known as the Roman warming when grapes grew in the open as far north as Scotland. The Dark Ages between 600 and 900AD was a cold period. Then came the Mediaeval warming period from 900 to 1300AD followed by the Little Ice Age between 1300 to 1850 AD when the Thames regularly froze over and fairs were held on the ice. From 1850 to 1940 we had another period of warming followed by a period of cooling from 1940 to 1975. When I was at school, scientists were confidently predicting that we were entering another ice age. From 1976 we have experienced gradual warming again. Significantly the most progressive and prosperous periods in world history were during the periods of global warming.
We have never clearly understood the causes of these changes and despite what some environmentalists say there is no scientific consensus around the causes. Some claim that recent climate change is due to CO2 production from industrialisation, our energy use, our love affair with the car and foreign holidays by jet airplane. The difficulty with this explanation is that climate change occurred even when we did not have the increase on CO2 emissions experience in the last 200 years. Another difficulty they have is that the increase in CO2 occurs after the increase in temperatures.
Other scientists have produced research based on analysis of ice cores, and study of changes in the sun’s radiance which they claim proves that the changes in Earth’s climate are primarily caused by solar activity. Readers may ask what the relevance of such a scientific debate is to them and given the esoteric nature of the subject may dismiss it as nothing to do with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the reason why environmentalists have a fit of apoplexy when their claim that the scientific jury is still out on the cause of climate change is that there are massive implications for policy depending on which view you take.
To date governments across the world seem to have caved in to the demands of well-placed environmental lobby groups and the political hysteria they have generated and have introduced a wide range of measures to reduce CO2 emissions in an attempt to stop climate change. These measures are already impacting on our pockets every day through the imposition of so-called green taxes, price increases and regulations. We pay more for petrol because the Greens have persuaded the government to make it dearer so we buy less. Road tax on cars over seven years old is set to soar to £450 per year and my department estimates that over 100,000 drivers in Northern Ireland will be affected. The reason for the tax is that these cars produce too much CO2. We pay more for electricity for the same reason. Already the climate change levy and the demand that more power is generated from wind have sent electricity bills soaring.
We are already losing jobs to China and India as the government seeks to chase away industries which produce CO2 in order to achieve our Kyoto target on CO2 reductions. The irony is that the CO2 is simply produced in a different part of the world where the governments have decided not to sign up to the international agreement on emissions. So our adherence to the green political correctness damages our economy while doing nothing to deal with the perceived problem.
These are the consequences of a policy which ascribes to the view that climate change is man-made. If climate change is indeed caused by changes in solar activity then clearly the billions of pounds currently spent on reducing CO2 is being wasted because they will have no impact on what happens to the world’s climate. The changes are beyond our control and resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change rather than King Canute style vainly trying to stop it.
This would require resources to be used to improve flood defences, develop GM crops which can enable the production of food in changed climatic conditions and of course putting money into technological research to help us deal with changing climatic conditions. This would make more sense than the massive financial burdens we are placing on our economy and individuals in the vain hope that these burdens might have an affect in 50 to 100 years’ time, when conveniently those who imposed the policies will no longer be around to be accountable if the measures either prove unnecessary or fail to achieve their ends.
The climate change debate is relevant to us all. It is something politicians should be dealing with and talking about.
Reasoned debate must replace the scaremongering of the green climate alarmists.