I wonder how many readers responded to DCC’s recent consultation on climate change? Here are the points I made, which readers may wish to consider in making their electoral choices:
1 Climate changes over time and it always has done. The reasons for climate change are extremely complex and even the most learned experts do not know the precise reasons for climate change, and nobody really knows what will happen in the future. Some experts think we are on the verge of another ice age, but most think it will get warmer before it gets cooler, and that greenhouse gas emissions are exacerbating this warming cycle.
2 Greenhouse gases include CO2, which is widely referred to as a concern, but there are other greenhouse gases which are far more potent, notably methane, nitrous oxide, aerosols and refrigerants.
3 The developed world has developed by exploiting natural resources which generate greenhouse gases, but in the UK and other parts of the developed world we have moved away from the more polluting raw materials, eg from coal to coking coal to natural gas for heating, and from leaded to unleaded petrol to diesel (before realising diesel emits nitrous oxide, which is more harmful than CO2, but there are now devices which have been developed for this – filters, I believe). New cars now have very low emissions indeed compared to in the recent past.
4 A few years ago we were worried we would run out of petroleum and natural gas, but there are vast resources still in the ground, especially in remote and relatively undeveloped areas.
5 County Durham is a small part of the UK, which is a small part of the world. Acting in isolation is essentially futile, Nevertheless, the UK has already done as much or more than any other nation to address greenhouse gas emissions
6 I accept there is a climate emergency in some sizeable parts of the world (and in many cases this is nothing new – there has been a climate emergency in much of Africa, linked to drought and famine, for as long as I can remember – note Live Aid was in 1984). I totally fail to see that there is a climate emergency in County Durham.
7 I think the questions asked in the consultation fail to grasp the key points and are the wrong questions, and unfortunately there are no good answers to the right questions.
Here are some of the right questions:
1 How do you envisage preventing countries like Brazil from destroying rain forests for economic gain, and is is fair to do so? Rain forests are the earth’s main store of CO2?
2 How do you stop Canada, Saudi Arabia etc from extracting vast amounts of oil and gas, and is it fair to do so?
3 How do you stop 2nd and 3rd world countries from using fossil fuels to develop (eg oil from Saudi Arabia, on which its entire economy is based)?
4 How do you stop the off the scale damage to the earth by bombs and weapons of war?
5 How do you replace existing use of refrigerants and aerosols?
6 What’s the carbon and financial cost of building zero carbon infrastructure? (eg A wind power generator requires coking coal to make the steel to make the blade, which has to be transported and installed by people who need to travel there etc etc).
7 What’s the point in building electric cars if the electric is obtained from fossil fuels? What’s the fuelling infrastructure going to cost and what how are manufacturers going to make money if the only country with that infrastructure is the UK?
8 Is retrofitting perfectly good low carbon heating systems for zero carbon alternatives really a sensible option? Surely it would cost more in carbon as well as financially to put in a new system and scrap the old one. In reality there is no such thing as a zero carbon system, and surely it would be far more sensible not to spend billions in taxpayers’ money on this and to focus on putting in new systems only at the time that the old ones fail.
9 Is replacing a low emission car with a zero emission car really worthwhile, bearing in mind the carbon cost of building the new car and the scrappage? Surely the throwaway culture is part of the issue here.
10 If there really is going to be increased temperatures in the UK, is it sensible to install heating only systems? Surely cooling is going to be an issue, and there is a big issue with refrigerants.
11 If we really are concerned about carbon emissions, why are we still building more and more houses and commercial buildings, especially on green space, and should we not be aiming to stunt population growth and focus on productivity and per capita economic growth rather than economic growth linked to more jobs?
12 Is it realistic to expect residents walk, cycle or take public transport for most everyday activities, such as shopping or going to work? (No!)
13 Is there sufficient scientific research into how to capture carbon and other harmful air pollutants to take them out of the atmosphere and, ideally, use them for something productive?
A few points on the narrower local points raised at meetings so far:
1 I totally disagree with the idea of reducing free parking. In fact I think there should be more free parking, and attempts to improve flow of traffic, not to take steps to annoy drivers off the road. Why? Because this would be better for high street businesses, save people time and stress (reduce lateness for work etc), and arguably be better for emissions, as people driving around looking for free spaces causes jams.
2 The relief roads could reduce emissions by having a smoother flow of traffic, but there would be an environmental cost in their construction and loss of green space. Ultimately it’s a judgement on whether the net cost is outweighed by the benefit of faster communications, saving a lot of people a lot of time and stress and taking the pollution away from where it is now. On balance, probably worthwhile.
3 I agree that the preservation and development of marshland is particularly important for storing polluting gases and preventing or limiting bush fires (which are a real concern). I agree that preservation of the rural environment in general is very important.
4 Fracking is clearly undesirable if it causes serious earthquakes, but it is not necessarily negative in terms of the environment. Surely it is better to dig out home coal than import it from abroad, all other things (eg calorific value) being equal.
5 Plastic pollution is a real issue locally as well as worldwide, because enough people aren’t sufficiently responsible enough to recycle their waste properly. Alternatives need to be promoted, where reasonably available.
I could go on, but I fear I have already wasted my time on a fait accompli, so I will stop there, other than to recommend the use of some common sense and realism in these considerations.