Viscount Ridley, a prominent climate change sceptic, is to dig two giant open-cast mines on his national park family estate in Northumberland that will produce an estimated £20m of coal – increasing criticism that his championing of fossil fuels is tainted by self-interest.
The Ridley family have been mining coal on their 18th century Blagdon Estate since the 1940s. The present Viscount Ridley – the Conservative peer, science writer and former banker Matt Ridley – was granted permission for two new mines in 2014.
The Shotton Triangle mine is forecast to produce about 290,000 tons of coal while the Shotton South West site has a target of about 250,000 tons. The mines, first reported by the website DeSmogBlog.Com, could generate £21.5m at the current coal price.
The Ridley family will receive only a fraction of this sum in the form of a “wayleave” payment for allowing access to the coal, because mining royalties go to the government.
Lord Ridley, a brother-in-law to the climate change sceptic former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, has frequently dismissed concerns about global warming and advocated fossil fuels in his newspaper columns.
In an article entitled Fossil Fuels will Save the World (Really) in The Wall Street Journal this month he wrote: “The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels…These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy.
“A more realistic assessment of our energy and environment situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress.”
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
Viscount Ridley disclosed his involvement in the coal industry in the article.
Climate change campaigners said Lord Ridley’s commercial interests raised questions about his global-warming views. Dr Robin Russell-Jones, an environmental scientist, described him as: “A prominent climate change sceptic with a vested interest in climate change denial. His views are largely self-serving.”
Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr said: “Viscount Ridley’s long-standing financial interest in coal, and similarly long-standing relaxed attitude to global warming would appear to be conveniently aligned. As Upton Sinclair observed, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends upon his not understanding it.”
Speaking on behalf of Lord Ridley, Blagdon Estate chief executive Robert Downer said: “The mining operations on Estate land are owned and operated by long-established regional employer The Banks Group, rather than by the Estate, and the coal that is mined is owned by The Crown, with the Estate receiving a small wayleave for enabling access to it and as compensation for lack of agricultural access to the land.”
He added: “Matt Ridley has always been clear and open about his mining interests, having declared them both in the House of Lords and in his numerous writings, and that his views on climate and energy policy would be the same regardless of the amount of mining revenue that the Estate was receiving.”
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