Chris Davies MEP writes: Conservatives and climate change – Tuesday’s revealing vote in Strasbourg

While Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is at the fore of efforts in the European Council to raise EU ambitions for reducing CO2 emissions, Conservative MEPs are refusing to back the Government’s position, and look set this week instead to demonstrate their real views about efforts to curb global warming.

At issue is a vote due to take place in Strasbourg on Tuesday that will determine the Parliament’s stance on the European Commission’s strategy to promote a low carbon economy. The result is on a knife edge. Liberal Democrat MEPs will reflect government policy by backing a call to raise the EU’s 2020 CO2 reduction target to 25% by internal measures, and to clarify that this will mean a 30% reduction when offsets from overseas investments are included. To be sure of success they need Conservative support.

All indications are that they will not get it. Tory MEPs appear determined to resist attempts to set a more ambitious target. They want no mention of a 30% reduction goal. They want a 25% target only if it can be achieved by energy efficiency improvements alone (it can’t). And they don’t accept that the EU should adopt a stance that tries to move the agenda forward, insisting that no new measures should be adopted until an international agreement is secured.

Amongst the ranks of Conservative MEPs are those like Roger Helmer (East Midlands) who have long been strident critics of efforts to combat global warming. Under the new leadership of Martin Callanan (North East) the eurosceptics and global warming deniers within the Conservative delegation seem to have gained the upper hand, linked perhaps by a shared hatred of any initiatives that may be taken at EU level.

A victory for them will be bad for Britain and bad for Europe. Current levels of investment needed to stimulate innovation and drive forward the low carbon economy are inadequate. Either we raise our game or we are certain to lose the competition with the China and the Far East to develop green technology.

Martin Callanan has a track record of heeding the wishes of industry lobbyists even when a more environmentally-friendly approach would be better for business. Recently, as rapporteur for legislation intended to reduce CO2 emissions from vans and light commercial vehicles, he refused to accept assessments from both the European Commission and the UK’s Department for Transport that the setting of tough targets would lead to improvements in fuel efficiency and reduce operating costs. Instead he bowed to claims by manufacturers that such measures would increase the price of new vehicles, despite similar claims made earlier by car makers having been comprehensively disproved by experience.

The European Parliament is a coalition-free zone so far as British politics are concerned. There is no agreement or working arrangement between Liberal Democrat and Conservative MEPs. But if David Cameron is as committed to his government’s policy as his Energy Secretary he will pick up the phone to Martin Callanan and pull him back into line.

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21 Comments

  • @jedibeeftrix

    There is a general consensus among climate scientists (not just in the IPCC) that climate change is occurring and is anthropogenic. This means that unless you happen to have an appropriate scientific background to be able to argue academically against the concept of anthropogenic climate change that you really should sit back and just follow the line of the scientists. This is science, there is a right and there is even more certainly a wrong, if you want to paint all of those with the good sense to actually listen to the people who actually properly understand this topic as being faithful little sheep then feel free, but unless you happen to have a background in climatology then your objections to their conclusions are based off sheer ignorance and are worthless.

    Science is not politics. It is not philosophy. It is not opinion. Argue with science, or not at all. Simply attacking your opponents isn’t good enough. It’s all very well and good to talk about scepticism but that is the job of other scientists. If you want to be a sceptic on this issue then train in climatology, if you’re still a sceptic by the end of this process then do some experiments and publish some papers. If you don’t want to train in climatology then you will never have the basis for arguing about what is a factual issue and you should keep quiet.

    Then again, perhaps arguing with someone who seems to think that the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas is somehow contentious and a matter of faith is a waste of time. There is some basis which is needed to be able to debate rationally and I think whenever you don’t trust physicists to be able to figure out what the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide is I don’t think that basis is there. That’s not so much scepticism as just ignoring the world around you.

    There is a LOT to criticise line by line in your post but I’ll end my reply here, as any reply I will have to any part of your lengthy post would effectively be boiling down to saying that if you can’t argue on a scientific basis on this scientific issue that your argument is worth nothing. Scepticism is only scepticism if you are informed enough to be genuinely critical.

    THE SHORT VERSION: Are you a climatologist? If you are then please make some scientific arguments, preferably in a peer-reviewed scientific journal rather than a political blog. If you are not then please either train to be one and then make scientific arguments once you know what the hell you’re talking about.

  • Simon McGrath 4th Jul '11 - 6:51pm

    Chris , before the vote was there any anlaysis of the effects of increasing energy prices on fuel poverty across Europe?

  • Richard Marbrow 4th Jul '11 - 10:23pm

    Hi Simon, How do you mean exactly? An advantage of a higher target to reduce carbon emissions is that energy efficiency leads to the use of less energy and therefore a reduced energy cost for peopel compared to what it would be. A good example is that fact that there has been a 20% increase in fuel efficiency of cars. Imagine the effects of petrol prices on people if we were using 20% more in domestic cars!

  • libertarian 5th Jul '11 - 9:19am

    @DunKhan,

    No there isn’t ! The consensus amongst real, qualified climate scientists isn’t remotely clear cut, with some nobel prize winning senior climatologists such as Prof Richard Lindzen being firmly in sceptic camp. Don’t trot out rubbish to support your religion.

    I guess once again the LibDems are behind the curve and out of touch, why do you think the Tories have had an about face on this? Why haven’t you heard from Zac and his Green crusade? That’s right because the whole scam is coming unravelled as more and more real scientists produce evidence to show it isn’t happening. As more and more analysis on IPCC reports finds glaring “untruths” and propaganda from Greenpeace embedded in almost every report and set of statistics they produce.

    You’ve killed a few million people, spent trillions of dollars on nothing and have made zero difference to levels of Co2 whilst actually damaging the ecology of the planet.

    Greens are evil

    GAME OVER

  • Richard Marbrow 5th Jul '11 - 10:11am

    @Simon, not at all. I am making the point that without the efficiency gains then prices would be even higher as demand would be higher and supply would be about the same.

    I put your question to Chris and he has made the point that fuel pverty is a national issue, not an EU one for the simple reason that it affects countries in the EU very differently.

  • Martyn Williams 5th Jul '11 - 10:30am

    @Libertarian

    Errrmmm … I have heard from Zac and he hadn’t changed his mind.

    http://www.zacgoldsmith.com/default.asp?contentID=22

    And pretty much all the rest of what you said is just as misleading.

  • @libertarian

    I think you need to have a good long hard look at yourself before accusing anyone of being “religious” with their politics, anyone describing a political position as “evil” is quite clearly not being completely rational.

    The consensus is very clear, despite what you say, I spent a few minutes looking on PubMed and Google Scholar for any scientific papers going against the consensus position. I couldn’t find one but amongst a lot of other things I saw a literature review in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/306/5702/1686.full):

    ‘The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change” (9).

    The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

    Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.’

    Conclusion, there is general consensus that climate change is happening and that Man is causing it. There is not a huge debate about this in the scientific community, that already happened, decades ago.

    PS As a side point, which isn’t really in the main thrust of my argument – Richard Lindzen has never won a Nobel prize. He was involved in writing some IPCC reports and the IPCC collectively gained a Nobel Peace Prize. He has never won a Nobel Prize in his own name, however. He’s also on record stating that he doesn’t think the link between lung cancer and cigarettes is strong, so maybe he’s just a bit contrary.

    @jedibeeftrix

    My apologies for misunderstanding, however, I’m not too sure that describing anyone’s scientific views, even if they are your own as “articles of faith” sets a good tone for discussing scientific matters.

    Moreover, your positions aren’t really scientific in nature and some comments seem to imply a very anti-science tone: ‘…climate scientists have been proven not to be peerless and disinterested Gods labouring ceaselessly for the salvation of humanity, they are just as venal and flawed as the rest of us, and that trust is something to be earned not given.’ The first sentence is stating the obvious in that scientists are people and the second seems to be saying that you shouldn’t trust science by stating that you should distrust science even if you have no background with which to make a sound rational judgement on the issues. It also seems to imply that “they” (climate scientists) aren’t trustworthy, which is not the most rational position to argue from.

    I don’t know what your background actually is, I had assumed from your blog that it was in computer science. If you do have a background in climatology then I would suggest that perhaps you should make your argument a bit more scientific (and preferably direct it at other people with a climatology background).

    After all, only your point b) really deals with the science (a) is more an opinion in my view). Even then, it’s really just a criticism of the limitations of a series of papers rather than actually arguing scientifically against their case. The other papers published on this topic are just ignored as if there are no climate scientists who do not work at the IPCC.

    The long and short of the matter is that aside from a brief aside your argument was not scientific at all, and even that aside was more of a criticism at a single piece of evidence for a theory which is overwhelmingly accepted in its field. Hardly a compelling case. The majority of your post was just criticising those who follow the scientific consensus (and it is a scientific consensus) as being like religious sheep. That is neither the tone nor the content of scientific criticism, which is ultimately the only criticism that matters.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Jul '11 - 8:29pm

    @Simon

    Presumably then it was the interests of the UK Chirs had in mind when voting for this.

    MEPs legislate for the EU as a whole, and they sit in party blocs, not national blocs. There is already an EU body representing national interests: the European Council. So our MEPs should not be thinking solely of the interests of the UK, but of the EU, and perhaps, liberal-minded voters specifically throughout the EU.

  • jedibeeftrix Posted 4th July 2011 at 3:23 pm

    “To put this another way; the IPCC solution will cost 12.9% of global GDP by 2100 (the equivalent of €27 trillion a year), at a time when tens of millions die unnecessarily each year from disease and poor infrastructure ….”

    To play devils advocate, perhaps that is the whole point of the solutions – except none of the “believers” have the courage to say “I have become Death”.

  • Emsworthian 6th Jul '11 - 8:16am

    Climate science is certainly not good politics as the green lobby moves from triumphalism following the Climate Change Act to despondency and contradiction within its own ranks. The fear factor-we will all die if we don’t do something-no longer works for Joe Public if it ever did. This an ideal moment for the Lib Dems to develop new thinking around how to achieve a more balanced society that recognises need and ways of achieving it that don’t burn up the planet’s irreplaceable resources

  • Alex Macfie 7th Jul '11 - 7:33am

    SMcG: if MEPs “are there to support the intersts of our country” then why do they sit and (mostly) vote in transnational ideological blocs (EPP, ALDE etc) and not as national delegations? The sort of things that MEPs vote on tend to be the ones that divide people of whatever country along broadly ideological lines. Centre-right voters and politicians in the UK will have a broadly similar idea of how they want the EU to look, to centre-right voters and politicians in Greece. The same is true for centre-left, liberal, Green and Eurosceptic voters. The European Parliament is strongest when it votes along ideological rather than national lines, i.e. independently of national govenments and party machines.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Jul '11 - 9:41pm

    What the English football team has as its logo is up to the English football team alone.

  • Alex Macfie 7th Jul '11 - 10:08pm

    If MEPs were supposed to act in national delegations then there’s be practically no point in the European Parliament existing at all. How could MEPs scrutinize the European Council if they were briefed to support the very national governments that were represented in it? It would neuter the only part of the european Union that is actually democratic. If you support EU democracy, you must accept that MEPs be allowed to act independently of their national political bubbles.

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