Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Green tax on fossil fuels 'unwarranted': Right-wingers attack 'greenhouse' view

SCEPTICS of the greenhouse effect, who want the Government to ignore advice on limiting carbon dioxide emissions, fire another shot at the scientific consensus today.

A carbon tax to limit man- made emissions of greenhouse gases is unwarranted and unnecessary and will only damage the economy, says Roger Bate, director of the environment unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing think tank.

Writing in the journal Chemistry and Industry, Mr Bate says: 'All climatologists agree that the greenhouse effect is real, whereas the enhanced greenhouse effect, or global warming, is a contestable theory which has yet to be proved. The two are often confused so that the public assume that disaster is imminent and only immediate action can save us.'

He adds: 'Given the very large uncertainties involved in making forecasts (climatic or economic), we should be sceptical of any theory that leads to restructuring the way we live our lives.'

At the Rio summit in 1992, government officials decided to limit emissions of carbon dioxide to 1990 levels by 2000. A tax on fossil fuel - a carbon tax - has been suggested as one way to meet targets. Mr Bate writes: 'Clearly, the science is far from conclusive, but in the name of global warming, we are being threatened with carbon taxes. In the UK, value- added tax on fuel was, at least partially, proposed as a carbon- decreasing measure.'

The Institute of Economic Affairs recently published a report - co-authored by Mr Bate - questioning the scientific predictions about the enhanced greenhouse effect. The authors argued that governments should do nothing to tackle climate change.

Scientists such as Sir John Hougton, who co-chairs a scientific working party of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, condemned the institute's report as 'uninformed' and said its conclusions did nothing to change the consensus among 300 leading climate researchers.

John Woods, director of marine and atmospheric sciences at the Natural Environment Research Council and a contributor to the IPCC report on the greenhouse effect, said although it was difficult to predict the outcome of the enhanced greenhouse effect, it was clear that man-made greenhouse gases would trap more solar heat.

'What remains uncertain is the detailed climate consequences of that. One would be very foolhardy to dismiss the possibility of change in the climate due to the greenhouse effect. To say 'do nothing' would be bad advice to policymakers.'

Leading article, page 13