Ukip’s energy spokesman Roger Helmer has claimed that the link between rising carbon dioxide levels and human activity is still “open to question”, in an outspoken attack on mainstream climate change science.
In an interview with The Independent, Mr Helmer dismissed “climate alarmism”, suggested that predicted rises in global temperatures were “grossly exaggerated” by many scientists, and pledged that a Ukip government would scrap legally binding targets to curb carbon emissions.
Mr Helmer, Ukip MEP for the East Midlands and a former businessman, also defended the Big Six energy firms saying they had been scapegoated for high gas prices, and urged the country to get a move on with fracking.
Outlining Ukip’s position on global warming, Mr Helmer said: “We think the relation between human activity and Co2 levels is open to question, while the relationship between global temperature and atmospheric Co2 levels is hugely open to question, especially as there hasn’t been any global warming for the last 18 years according to satellite data.
“And we know that although we’re constantly told by the media that there is a scientific consensus, that nobody disagrees with, in fact there are a great number of scientists who actually think that the sensitivity figures that the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is using – of 3 degrees for a doubling of Co2 – is grossly exaggerated,” he said.
The sensitivity figures relate to the amount the atmosphere is forecast to warm if the volume of greenhouse gases in it doubles. Although estimates vary, the figures from the IPCC, the UN’s official global warming research group, are generally regarded as being quite conservative.
Mr Helmer, a Cambridge maths graduate who is also Ukip’s industry spokesman, said the planet has experienced a consistent pattern of warming and cooling over the past 10,000 years that is unconnected to human influence. “But there you are, I’m not a scientist, I’m speculating.”
Mr Helmer’s opinions do not chime with the scientific consensus. The latest IPCC report, compiled by hundreds of climate scientists working from thousands of scientific papers, found that 97 per cent of leading scientists are extremely confident that the atmosphere is warming and that humans are the main cause of the temperature increase.
“As Roger Helmer is honest enough to admit, he is not a scientist – and frankly, it shows. There’s been a slowdown rather than a pause in global warming. Such slowdowns (and accelerations) have happened before and are explicable,” said Joanna Haigh, professor of atmospheric physics at Imperial College London. “Nobody credible believes climate sensitivity is likely to be below 1C and the extra Co2 in the atmosphere is indisputably from fossil fuel combustion.”
In his interview with The Independent, Mr Helmer also attacked subsidies for green energy as an expensive waste of money that increased the cost of electricity production. “If we were to have a Ukip government elected in May, one of the first things we’d do would be to repeal the Climate Change Act,” he said, referring to the legally binding target to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.
Asked if David Cameron has lived up to his pledge to be the “greenest government ever”, Mr Helmer replies: “They clearly haven’t been the greenest ever government. But they have been sufficiently green to do huge damage.”
While the main parties compete to take the hardest line on the Big Six, Mr Helmer said he was sympathetic to their plight. “Politicians from the old parties are desperately looking for a scapegoat for the high energy prices. But we’ve imposed a whole series of obligations, subsidies and allowances, which is extraordinarily complex and vastly anticompetitive and it loads very heavy costs on to the industry,” he said.
Mr Helmer is also very much in favour of fracking – as long as there is oil and gas to frack. “The truth is we really don’t know how much is there – the general feeling is that estimates we’ve seen so far are on the low side. But of course we don’t know until we start drilling, so let’s start drilling.”
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