Climate change is as serious a threat as nuclear war - so why has the Government broken its green promises?

The signs are unmistakable – last year was the hottest on record and the ten warmest years have all occurred since 1998

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Climate change is as serious a threat to humanity as nuclear war, according to a report on climate change commissioned by the Foreign Office. Which begs the obvious question – why isn’t the Government listening?

The report, led by the UK’s climate change envoy Professor Sir David King, spelled out some of the indirect threats posed by global warming such as a tripling of food prices, unmanageable levels of migration and an increased risk of terrorism caused by failing states.

This is on top of the direct risks normally associated with climate change such as floods, lethal heat and extreme weather events. The report also stated that current efforts to cut carbon emissions would go no way towards stopping the climate passing crucial tipping points that could send global warming spiralling out of control.

It’s nice to have all this in a shiny new official government report but of course none of this is news. The scientific community have been warning about the existential threat posed by climate change for years. Professor King stated last year, when he was the Government’s chief scientific advisor, that climate change was a more serious threat to the world than terrorism.

But George Osborne has just issued a budget in which climate change was brushed under the carpet and in which the only environmental measures were negative – removing subsidies to renewable energy and going ahead with planned tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same chancellor who in March’s budget brazenly just came out and said it: “We back oil and gas.”

So much for George Osborne. Maybe David Cameron is listening? After all he is the man who promised that this would be the “greenest government ever”. Actually Cameron did mention an existential threat to the West recently. Sadly he was referring to Isis – a typical, but unfortunately misplaced, piece of scaremongering. Of course Isis are despicable, but several thousand people with guns and some military hardware do not constitute an existential threat. The entire eco-system of the planet going haywire does.

If ever we needed this kind of rhetoric from our prime minister about the real threat to humankind, that time is now. The UN climate change conference is in Paris this December. It could constitute our last chance to do something meaningful to halt the terrible trajectory we are on. The signs are unmistakable – last year was the hottest on record and the ten warmest years have all occurred since 1998.

Even more worryingly, some of the tipping points mentioned in the report may already be upon us. Researchers in the Arctic Ocean have found dozens of plumes of methane gas, some of them a kilometre wide, bubbling up from the ocean floor. Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 and this massive release could hugely accelerate climate change, perhaps even send it spiralling beyond our control.

The evidence is overwhelming – from the statistics, from the scientists, from the climate itself, and from the government’s own report. Now is the time to do something. Perhaps the only time and perhaps the last chance. We just need the Government to fulfil its own broken promise, to actually be the greenest government ever and do something about climate change before it’s too late.

Sadly, there is equally strong evidence to suggest they won’t.