Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

Climate Change Too Hot To Handle?

with 4 comments

It’s official, we’re in trouble again. Or still. You’d be forgiven for thinking the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more of the same old same old. It is. The Synthesis Report of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is effectively a summary of three papers published earlier this year, and is intended to lay the foundations for worldwide agreement on emissions. You’ll have heard much of this before:

Snow and ice melting, sea levels rising by up to 0.59m by 2100, Arctic sea ice shrinking by 2.7% a decade, heatwaves and hurricanes increasing, human greenhouse emissions up by 70% between 1970 and 2004 and set to double by 2030, atmospheric CO2 at its highest level for 650,000 years, up to 30% of species at risk of extinction.

Despite all the doom and gloom, there’s still a surprising degree of confidence that if decisive action is taken now we can mitigate the worst of the projected impacts. In particular, not only do we have current or imminent technologies that will enable us to do this, but prompt action will be cost-effective and will have a minimal economic downside. In other words, it’s possible and it’s affordable.

It seems the UK government is having trouble balancing the books to make this happen. On Saturday the Guardian reported that DEFRA, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is planning reductions in key environmental services to generate savings of at least £300 million. The cuts are driven by the huge costs of a series of recent disasters such as foot and mouth disease, severe flooding, and mismanagement of agricultural subsidy reforms. All fifty DEFRA agencies are expected to be affected, hitting areas such as National Parks, sustainable development, forestry, fisheries, energy saving, waste management, environmental protection and, last but not least, the fight against climate change.

Coinciding with the publication of the Climate Change Bill and constant re-affirmation of emissions commitments, the conclusion must be that the government is struggling to meet its targets. Concentrating efforts on climate change and neglecting wider environmental obligations is bad news for nature conservation, with Natural England facing budget cuts of 30% for new conservation projects. Spending cuts are under consideration for some of the country’s most valuable wildlife sites.

It’s time that someone realised that it’s not just about carbon, stupid. Making environmental policy around a single issue is short-sighted and short-term thinking. We must continue to support our natural resources, our habitats and wildlife, to keep them robust and resilient against the effects of climate change. Without a holistic view of the environment , we may win the battle to reduce carbon emissions, but we will lose our natural heritage. A landscape consisting of nothing but windmills set in fields of biofuel source crops is not somewhere I would want to call home.

Summary for Policymakers of the AR4 Synthesis Report

“Climate change department faces £300 million cuts” (Guardian)

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4 Responses

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  1. Well said in your last paragraph Pete. You’re absolutely right.

    On the economic front however the UK is in trouble with a record trade gap, record oil prices threatening inflation and house prices no longer a guaranteed money spinner. Guess the chancellor has to slash and burn all budgets to try and stem the flow of economic meltdown. Plugging the hole in The Rock to the tune of £24b hasn’t exactly helped.

    Maybe it’s time for an election. 🙂

    matt

    November 19, 2007 at 6:59 am

  2. I’ve asked a question about climate change being the only game in town, on Mr Benn’s “web chat” over at Number 10.

    Pete Smith

    November 19, 2007 at 3:56 pm

  3. Good. Hope you get an answer Pete.

    matt

    November 19, 2007 at 6:00 pm

  4. Sadly not. More here.

    Pete Smith

    November 20, 2007 at 11:39 am


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