The BBC now assert daily the climate change orthodoxy, using many of their news and documentary style programmes to press home their view of climate change. I find the more they do this, the more many members of the public take a different view. There is a danger of climate change fatigue setting in, given the endless repitition of the litany.
There are 3 central precepts in the orthodoxy:
1. The world is warming up
2. This is caused by the human element in CO2 production, which is increasing.
3. There has to be a substantial reduction in human CO2 production to save the planet.
As the BBC now tell us, 1 and 2 are facts established by the scientific community. All that remains is for debate and action to ensure 3 happens.
The public tends to take a different view. Many people tell me
1. They accept the world is now warming up.
2. They think governments and political parties go on about climate change because they see it as a good way to raise taxes, in order to spend the money on other things
3. They do not feel they can have any impact on the problem, given the huge increases in CO2 likely from China and India in the years ahead.
Ministers also seem to take a different view in practise from the view they express. The government would say it agreed with the BBC orthodoxy, yet they show by their own actions they do not really believe it is a serious problem. If they did they would stop jetting around the world so much themselves. They would get out of the Ministerial car more often. They would change the heating, lighting and control systems on public buildings and get on with the task of making large cuts in the huge energy bill the government itself pays. Daily I see evidence of enormous energy waste throughout Whitehall, and am one of the few people who ever bothers to highlight it, or to turn a light off where there is a switch that allows me to do so when leaving a room.
In practise there are several more possible view points than the 3 set out for us by the BBC and the political elite.
1. The world is warming up. Yes, but it was cooling down between 1940 and 1975 – so much so that many of the climate change experts then were predicting a new mini ice age from continued global cooling. There needs to be more explanation of what was going on in this earlier period.
2. This is caused by human CO2. Some people think it may be caused by the much more voluminous natural CO2 and other greenhouse gases, some by changing patterns in the sun’s output.
3. We must curb our carbon output to save the planet. Some think it would be easier and cheaper to adapt the planet to the possible harmful consequences. It would be possible to build flood barriers to protect main settlements, and to install proper water supplies in areas subject to drought or shortage.
There are also a number of other important disagreements about how to green the world.
1. Multilateralism or unilateralism. Should the UK anyway raise green taxes and impose green regulations, even if others are not? Unilateralists say we should, as a rich country we should give a lead. Multilateralists say that one country action will simply export energy intensive actions elsewhere, losing us jobs but not curbing total carbon output worldwide.
2. Curbing the car and plane, or taking action against the whole range or carbon generators? Some left wing politicians are just the old haters of flexible private transport and international travel who have repackaged their dislikes. They think carbon (and dirty diesel fumes) coming out of a train is fine, but out of a car is evil. They wish to target around 15% of carbon output, ignoring the bulk of it which comes from residential central heating, domestic appliances, commercial space heating, power generation and industrial process. They do not look at the full carbon account. With a train journey they ignore the carbon component of the journey getting to and from the station, and when recommending cleaner vehicles they ignore the carbon production from making the new vehicle.
3. Doing it by incentives or by taxes and controls? Many seem to think it is best to try to change human behaviour by taxing and regulating people more. Others think it better to offer incentives.
So come on BBC – there are some good debates to be had here. Not everyone who fails to agree with your 3 "facts" is foolish or immoral.
I myself do believe we need to curb our energy use, by adopting new technologies to save fuel and to generate electricity in greener ways. The biggest impact the UK could have would be to build a new generation of power stations urgently that produced less carbon and wastee less fossil fuel, and to export these technologies to the developing world. I also favour incentives to people and busiensses to curb energy use and be more fuel efficient. I do want the government to take a lead, and make significant reductions in the energy use of the public sector. I also want urgent action to strengthen our flood defences and to improve our water supply.