The great global warming scare has long been dying on its feet, but that sad fiasco of a conference in Rio last week saw it finally dead and buried. “It’s pathetic, it’s appalling,” wailed a spokesman for WWF, one of the thousands of green activists who flew to Rio, many at taxpayers’ expense, to see the last rites read over their lost dream. Their cause has even been abandoned by one of its most outspoken champions, the green guru James Lovelock of “Gaia” fame, who now admits that the warming scare was all a tragic mistake, and that talk of “sustainable development” is just “meaningless drivel”.
But the “epic failure” of Rio, as Friends of the Earth called it, is an apt cue to recall how this leaves Britain as the only country in the world committed by law to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent in less than 40 years. The Climate Change Act, on the Government’s own figures, faces us with a bill of up to £18 billion every year until 2050, making it by far the most costly law ever passed by Parliament.
More important still, however, this raises the question: how do all those MPs who voted almost unanimously for this target (only three voted against it) think we can meet this obligation without closing down virtually our entire economy?
This is the question which, in April, I invited readers to put to their MPs, and I am very grateful to all those who have now sent me the replies they received, from nearly 50 MPs. These, I fear, are even more depressing than I anticipated.
The question put to the MPs was simple. Since we depend on CO2-emitting fossil fuels for 75 per cent of our electricity and almost all of our transport system, how in practical terms can we reduce those emissions by four-fifths? It is no good pretending that we can rely on “renewables” such as wind and solar to fill the gap, since these are so intermittent that they would require up to 100 per cent backup from fossil fuels to keep our now largely computer-dependent economy functioning.
Not one of the 47 MPs who answered showed the faintest understanding of the question. Many simply relied on a form letter supplied by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, starting with the sentence: “Decarbonisation does not mean de-industrialisation.” The more honest MPs sent on DECC’s letter, others used cut-and-paste to pretend that this reply was all their own work.
Some, such as our climate change minister Greg Barker, chirped about “the Green Deal, Renewables Incentives and Smart Meters”. Fiona Bruce (Con, Congleton) was “assured that onshore wind is by far the cheapest large-scale renewable energy source”. Roberta Blackman-Woods (Lab, Durham) claimed “nearly a million people now work in the low-carbon economy, with the potential to create 400,000 green jobs by 2020”.
The silliest response came from Oliver Letwin, who said that the quoted costs of the Climate Change Act had been greatly exaggerated (not realising that the figures come from DECC’s own website), and predicted that solar, wind and carbon capture (as yet non-existent) will soon be so cheap that, in a few years, they “will be able to operate without subsidies”.
As reader after reader observed, not a single MP addressed the question. Not one had done any serious homework or showed the slightest practical grasp of how electricity is made and how our transport system is powered. They merely regurgitated irrelevant, jargon-ridden propaganda passed on to them by others. As one reader put it: “What is infinitely depressing is that all these idiots believe the nonsense they are fed.”
They live in a bubble of make-believe which doesn’t touch reality at any point. Yet these are the people who passed the most potentially damaging law in our history – in the name of a delusion which, in Rio last week, died the death.
Somewhere along the way, if our country is to survive, that Climate Change Act will have be thrown into the dustbin of history. But judging by their letters, these MPs will be the very last people to realise it. As the man from WWF said, “It’s pathetic, it’s appalling.” One couldn’t put it better.