Letters: Minister for climate ignorance

These letters appear in the Thursday 3rd October edition of the Independent

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What planet does our environment minister live on?  This week the United Nations published the most comprehensive and conclusive report yet on global warming. It’s happening and we are causing it. 

But our environment minister is not worried. Warm is better than cold, he argues; agriculture will thrive and fewer people will freeze.

Well, at least in this country. Forget about the consequences of rising sea levels, greater unpredictability in weather patterns, and more widespread flooding. Forget about the scientific evidence that wildlife in the UK will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. Forget, for that matter, about the rest of the world. 

When Owen Paterson seeks to reassure us by saying “We are very good as a race at adapting” just who or what is the “race” he has in mind?  Did he perhaps mean “species”? Perhaps it is time for someone who can speak the language of science to take over government responsibility for helping to address the biggest problem we as a race, species or life form have ever faced.

René Olivieri, Chair, The Wildlife Trusts, Newark, Nottinghamshire


You report on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s dismissive views on the science of climate change, and then you report in his CV that Paterson studied history at university. This is yet another example of an arts graduate meddling in things that he does not understand.

Paterson is no more qualified to comment on science than I am on history, and he should keep his half-baked ideas to himself. It is horrifying to think that this clueless amateur is in charge of a major and critically important area of British science. We should have many more experienced professionals such as scientists, technologists and engineers in government, and it is high time that the cult of the amateur was kept out of public affairs.

Sam Boote, Nottingham

I read your brief profile of Owen Paterson (1 October) and thought: what kind of fool would hire this man as Environment Secretary?

David Ridge, London  N19


We need to move beyond stale debates about climate change. What is irrefutable is that we need to reduce our impact on the planet. The Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change report outlines a clear roadmap on the key steps we need to take.

Whilst businesses have signed up in increasing numbers to tackle climate change, there is a clear lack of commitment from the UK Government, as illustrated by the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson.

Green businesses not only work more efficiently and increase productivity but also improve their bottom line. The Government needs to recommit itself to the climate change agenda, sending a clear signal that there is an opportunity for growth and new jobs if we can create a genuine green economy. 

Trewin Restorick, CEO Global Action Plan, London WC2

So sceptic Professor Judith Curry reckons the IPCC “is toast” (“Financial markets ‘our only hope’ to tackle climate change”, 28 September). Isn’t that all the proof needed for global warming?

Bruce Ross-Smith, Oxford


Keep those  profits clean,  Mr Cameron

The Prime Minister says “profit” is not a dirty word. Surely the point about profit is how it is made, and what is done with it thereafter.

Is the profit made honestly and fairly, or is it derived from paying poverty-level wages to employees (who then have to claim top-up welfare benefits to survive) and charging rip-off prices to customers?

Is the profit then shared among the workforce which actually created the wealth through their labour, or does it merely line the already bulging pockets of the bosses and CEOs?

And is the correct amount of corporation tax paid, or are the profits siphoned off into bogus offshore accounts and tax havens?

These are what determine whether or not profits are “dirty”, Mr Cameron.

Professor Pete Dorey, Bath


It’s no surprise Mr Cameron believes “profit” isn’t a dirty word. What does he feel about these words: “immigrant”, “asylum seeker”, “refugee”, “unemployed”, “disabled”, “poor”, “benefit claimant”, “single parent”, “public service”, “NHS” “library”, “public ownership” and “society”?  

Sasha Simic, London N16


The politics  of tobacco

It will come as no surprise to the public health world to find that tobacco companies exhibit at the Labour Party conference (“How Labour’s coffers are primed to go up in smoke”, 23 September). After all, tobacco firms have a legal obligation to their shareholders, and lobbying political parties of all persuasions is one way of fulfilling that obligation.

However, it is disappointing that the Labour Party should be benefiting from tobacco. Unlike other threats to our health, such as alcohol or saturated fat, tobacco is the only product that we can buy legally that, when it is used as intended, can kill half of its customers.

We know that most smokers start when they are children, which is why the Faculty of Public Health wants to see the introduction of standardised packs. When it comes to health policy, the public need to have faith in the independence of politicians who may be making life-or-death decisions on our behalf. That’s why we believe no political party should be benefiting from the profits of tobacco companies.

Professor John Ashton, President, Faculty of Public Health, London NW1


The man who ‘hated Britain’

The Daily Mail has hit an all-time low in accusing a dead man, Ed Miliband’s father, of hating Britain, when all he did was advocate (correctly in my view) that we should not support the USA in bombing Vietnam.

I have written to the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership that I will no longer shop in Waitrose for as long as they promote this awful newspaper through their “my Waitrose” promotion. I hope others of like mind will boycott Waitrose until they get the message.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey


Obviously Paul Dacre and Jon Steafel, the editor and deputy editor of the Mail, love the Queen and the Church, as they are so offended by Ralph Miliband’s hatred of those institutions. Yet Miliband served in the Royal Navy to defend them. In what branch of the armed services did those two chancers risk their lives for Queen and country?

Fabian Acker, London SE22


The post-war generation of Marxists worked for a revolution in Great Britain; they did so knowing that other revolutions elsewhere in Europe that they supported did involve the liquidation of “class enemies”, often in large numbers.

They did not necessarily “hate Britain” but some of them certainly hated many of their fellow-countrymen, and there is no reason to doubt their willingness to deal with them in a very brutal way had they succeeded in their political endeavours. The fact that they lost is no good reason not to question the morality underpinning their plans.

R S Foster, Sheffield


Funny how commentators, both young and old, love to mock the “Old Labour” Seventies, which were pretty much like the Sixties. I grew up then and enjoyed free education; there were plentiful job opportunities and housing, and I paid £15 a week for a rent-controlled three-bed flat in Notting Hill with secure tenancy. Utilities took up a small part of my income and train travel was cheap, with uncrowded trains that ran on time.

In its most basic elements, life was good. And many people are starting to remember this. Hence, if it were not for the influence of right-wing media many more people would back renationalisation, which many already favour for the railways. They are starting to realise just how much has been lost since Thatcher and privatisation.

M McIntyre, Hove


Rise up and save Chartist mural

I have been writing about the Chartists for thirty years and, unsurprisingly, deplore the plan to destroy the mural telling the story of the  Newport Rising of 1839 (“Insurrection brewing in Wales over Chartist mural’s destruction”, 2 October). Leaving aside the contribution this mural makes to Newport’s own identity, it has a national significance. 

There are precious few physical reminders of Chartism, a movement which, in the second quarter of the 19th century, conscripted the support of millions of working people. If the Newport mural is destroyed, there will be left only the National Trust’s Chartist cottage in Worcestershire as a physical commemoration of the struggle of ordinary people to have a say in law-making. The Newport mural must be saved.

Stephen Roberts, Visiting Research Fellow, Newman University, Birmingham


Let’s all pay a  living wage

It is disgraceful that the minimum wage, which has just been increased to £6.31, is miles below the recommended minimum living wage of £7.45, which some responsible employers have recognised.

I would be happy to support companies and businesses that are paying the living wage and would have no problems with a small surcharge on the services provided, in the sure knowledge that the employees are being paid a fair rate for the job.

Dennis Grattan, Aberdeen


Keynes is back

It has been clear for at least the past year that George Osborne has been running a Keynesian budget deficit, whilst claiming exactly the opposite. Now, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, he has indicated that in future he will run a budget surplus in the good times to pay for a deficit in the bad times. Is that Keynesian or is that Keynesian?

David Pollard, Salen,  Isle of Mull



George Osborne must be increasingly envious of events in Washington. For over three years he has tried to shut down the British state and failed. Yet in America they have managed to do it overnight.

Keith Flett, London N17