Climate protesters are not complacent or ‘self-indulgent’
WITH reference to the article by Lord Digby Jones on Wednesday 24 April, the reason why so many young people are protesting with Extinction Rebellion is because they do not share Lord Digby Jones’ complacency over the future impacts of climate change. They listen to the unanimous predictions of the world’s climate scientists that, unless radical action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030, the world will suffer calamitous consequences in future decades (see the 2018 Report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and its earlier reports).
They will live to see these consequences unfold, unlike those of my generation and Lord Digby Jones’, who may well not. Hence the vehemence of their protests. Lord Digby Jones’ complacency is evident right from the start of his article, where he says he has always believed that climate change is the result of natural changes in the planet’s environment and atmosphere exacerbated by man’s behaviour. This is highly misleading. The average global temperature has risen some one degree centigrade since pre-industrial times and much of this increase has occurred since the 1950s and 1960s.
The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that the increase over the past 60 years is almost entirely due to the increase in GHG concentrations caused by human activity, not to any significant degree due to natural phenomena.
He then says that if there is one major country in Europe doing more than any other to reduce GHG emissions it’s the UK. ‘Going at a fair lick in the right direction.’ This assertion is contradicted by the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change. By 2017, UK GHG emissions had fallen by 43% with respect to 1990 levels, meeting the national target, but this reduction was 75% due to shifting from coal to natural gas for power generation, now nearly complete, and much of the remaining reduction due to some polluting industry moving abroad. As the committee says in its 2018 report to Parliament, to meet future targets a range of more challenging initiatives is required. The committee points out that in the past few years the government has actually cancelled a number of important policies to reduce emissions, including efficiency measures in buildings, feed-in tariffs for renewables, carbon capture and storage initiatives and zero carbon emission regulations for new homes.
In other words, if the UK is going at a fair lick, then it’s a fair lick in the wrong direction.
Lord Digby Jones says he agrees with a Sky News reporter who describes the Extinction Rebellion protesters as ‘a load of incompetent, middle-class, self-indulgent people who want to tell us how to lead our lives’. Rather than being at the receiving end of gratuitous insults, the protesters should be lauded for being the voice of their generation.
Rather than aiming at the wrong target as Lord Digby Jones suggests, they are drawing attention very effectively to what Sir David Attenborough has described as by far the greatest challenge humans have faced for many thousands of years.
PROFESSOR NICHOLAS DAY