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Climate Scepticism in Parliament


Climate change scepticism is experienced by those who remain unconvinced by the current evidence that emissions of man-made CO2 notably enhance the natural atmospheric greenhouse effect.

In a general sense scepticism is healthy. Scientists and researchers should always feel challenged to improve their understandings and how they introduce it to the rest of the population. But it is not the case when it comes to climate change denial, as sceptics tend to criticise any evidence that supports the phenomenon without necessarily justifying it.

In the past decade there has been a dramatic decline in the public support in tackling climate change. The rise in scepticism is such that in 2000 43% of the British population was willing to pay much higher prices for the sake of the environment, whereas in 2010 it declined to 26% (Ramesh, 2011, The Guardian).

What are the reasons for such a change?

One of the main reasons for the rise in climate scepticism both in Parliament and within the British population could be due to the University of East Anglia (UEA) e-mail hacking that happened in 2009 several weeks before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change. This heightened suspicion about climate change and global warming as sceptics came to the conclusion that documents showed evidence that it was a scientific conspiracy. Regardless of the fact that all these accusations have been denied by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of UEA and that six different committees which investigated the allegations demonstrated that there was no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct, the number of sceptics has grown.

According to an environmental blogger of The Guardian, climate sceptics could be divided into 5 groups:

  • Trend Sceptics: those who deny the global warming trend.
  • Attribution Sceptics: those who accept the trend but attribute it to natural causes.
  • Impact Sceptics: those who accept man-made causes but claim the impact will be benificial or benign.
  • Policy Sceptics: those who disagree with the policies that are promoted to tackle climate change, very often for political or ideological reasons.
  • Science Sceptics: those who believe that climate science should not be trusted.

A number of members of Parliament are increasingly sceptical and questioning of the scientific consensus about climate change and global warming. Three Conservative MPs stand out in this category: Peter Lilley, Christopher Chope and Andrew Tyrie, as they all voted against the Climate Change Act 2008. However, they are not the only sceptics in Parliament. Other Conservative members include John Redwood, Douglas Carswell, David Davis and previously Roger Helmer (now UKIP, as of March 2012). From the Labour Party, the key name that arises is Graham Stringer.

 

Peter Lilley - Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden

       voted “moderately against” laws to stop climate change.

Peter Lilley claims he is not a sceptic, he does not dispute the basic science of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming), but does not seem reluctant to rely upon sceptical arguments either; such as saying that temperature reconstructions “are flawed” (if not faked); and that “climate models are unreliable”.

On the 24th of November 2011 when the House of Commons met regarding the House of Business Peter Lilley said “Will the Leader of the House grant us a debate as soon as possible on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the light of its recent report suggesting that the extreme weather events we were previously promised may not occur for another two or three decades and the release of several thousand more e-mails from the East Anglia university climate research unit showing that many scientists are privately lukewarmists rather than alarmists about the climate but are afraid to say so in public? Secondly, the IPCC system is being systematically abused and Government officials have been urging scientists to come out with evidence biased in the direction of alarmism lest the Government appear foolish.”. (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-11-24a.453.0&s=speaker%3A...)

The Stern Report has been greatly criticised by Lilley:

On the 24th of March 2011 when the House of Commons met concerning topical questions on Energy and Climate Change, Lilley stated “Earlier, the Secretary of State said that in the long term, the costs of unrestrained climate change will exceed the costs of doing something about it. Surely he is aware that the Stern report states that over the whole of this century, the costs of the programme that he is advocating exceed any benefits from reducing climate change, so that¡ª[ Interruption. ] That is in the Stern report on page 167. Surely the Minister is aware of it.” (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-03-24b.1083.6&s=speaker%3...)

Most recently, on the 23rd of November 2011 when the Annual Energy Statement was discussed at the House of Commons the Conservative MP from Hitchin and Harpenden declared “My right hon. Friend made the breathtaking claim that he intended to keep energy prices as low as possible. How does he square that with the Stern review, on which his policy to combat climate change is based, and which makes clear that that policy can work only if energy prices are raised to include the external cost of global heating, and if the cost of hydrocarbon-based energy is also raised to make it more expensive than other forms of sustainable energy? In short, if his policy is not hurting, it is not working.” (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-11-23b.299.0&s=speaker%3A...)

 

Christopher Chope - Conservative MP for Christchurch

        voted “strongly against” laws to stop climate change.                           

Christopher is the second of the three Tory rebels on the Climate Change Bill, in 2008 during a debate on the Bill he called for some "context" on the issue citing a PricewaterhouseCoopers report which projects that the United Kingdom will produce only 1.2 per cent of global emissions in 2050. "Even if we eliminated that 1.2 per cent," he argued, "would it make any difference to the world? I do not think that it would."

Just like Peter Lilley, Christopher Chope does not agree with the Stern Report. On the 19th of November 2008 when the House of Commons met regarding the Stern Report the MP for Christchurch declared “Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the big flaws in the Stern report is that it does not engage with reality? On 23 October, in an article in The Guardian, Professor Stern wrote: "we must...halt deforestation - the source of 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions", but he did not say how that would be possible. Does not that same flaw run through the whole report?” (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?gid=2008-11-19b.75.0)

 

Andrew Tyrie - Conservative MP for Chichester

        voted “moderately against” laws to stop climate change.             

Andrew Tyrie is the third of the three MPs to have voted against the Climate Change Bill, on primarily economic grounds; and is known for having constantly spoken out against it. Before the Bill was implemented he declared that "This Bill combines some of the characteristics of both the poll tax and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, except on a much grander scale. Either it will be implemented, in which case, like the poll tax, it could be as economically unworkable as it would be politically suicidal, or it will not, in which case, like the Dangerous Dogs Act, it will turn out to be yet another exercise in gesture politics." (http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/james-blog/1810260/businessgreencom-name...)

 

The opinion of the Conservative MP on climate change is that he supports “the view that mankind might be contributing to global warming, but there is little evidence to support the view that the correct response at this time should be rapidly to decarbonise the economies of the world.” (http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/james-blog/1810260/businessgreencom-name...)

Furthermore, like Lilley and Chope, Tyrie does not agree with the Stern Report to such an extent that he declared the conclusions of the report to be “completely absurd”. He also dismisses concern over AGW as having “an air of unreality” about it; and on top of that he tends to doubt whether the projected consequences and impacts will ever happen.

 

John Redwood - Conservative MP for Wokingham

       voted “a mixture of for and against” laws to stop climate change.

 

In order to justify his scepticism about climate change John Redwood used the 2007 documentary “Great Global Warming Swindle” by Martin Durkin, and suggested that the warming of the planet might have some benefits. Along with that he stated that we should “stop pretending mankind is in control of the natural world, or understands everything that lies behind changes in average temperatures". (http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/why-are-euro-sceptics-...)

More recently, in 2010, due to isolated extremely cold weather events, he was happy to ridicule scientific projections and question the whole AGW hypothesis.

It has been popular among those sceptical about the scientific consensus regarding climate change, including MP Redwood, to describe the whole phenomenon as a “myth”.

 

  Douglas Carswell - Conservative MP for Clacton

         voted “a mixture of for and against” laws to stop climate change.

Douglas Carswell described, in one of his bloc entries of October 2009, the scientific consensus on climate change and global warming as “the lunatic 'consensus'”.  

 

In November 2009 as a response to a comment by Bob Ward (Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute) saying that though the UK public may be confused about the causes of climate change, scientists on the other are not. Douglas Carswell answered “When I was a member of Friends of the Earth, I did believe human CO2 emissions were responsible for global warming. It's just that the facts seem to have changed. And so I've changed my mind.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/nov/30/douglas-carswell-...)

 

David Davis  Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden

       voted “a mixture of for and against” laws to stop climate change.

David Davis claimed on an edition of the BBC Question Time broadcast in November 2009 that hat he is "agnostic" on whether man-made climate change is a reality, saying he is "80%" sure that it is. He also declared that the "debate is still on-going", or words to that effect.

The Conservatice MP for Haltemprice and Howden declared in 2009 that evidence that the earth was cooling and not warming unlike what scientists want the public to believe. He continued his statement by adding that the leaked e-mails from East Anglia University had shown leading scientists "conspiring to rig the figures to support their theories". Concluding that it was unsurprising that the British population believed less and less in global warming. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8390260.stm) 

 

Davis' opinion on climate targets is that it is pointless as it will “send energy prices skywards unless the rest of the world follows suit. The result is predictable; manufacturers will leave these shores, taking jobs and investment with them. The emissions will not be eliminated, but simply relocated. That is why, for reasons both economic and environmental, we should not sacrifice Britain’s economic recovery on the altar of climate change.” (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/11/david-davis-mp-the-go...)

  

Roger Helmer - ex-Conservative, now UKIP, MEP for East Midlands region

 

Roger Helmer is known to have repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus regarding global climate change. On 4th February, 2009 he made a speech at the European Parliament quoting Christopher Booker (an English climate sceptic journalist and author) when he declared “global warming alarmism is the greatest collective flight from reality in human history”.

 

When the European Union came up with climate tackling proposals in 2009, the resigned Conservative MEP described the situation as “planning to spend unimaginable sums of money on mitigation measures which will simply not work, [that will] deny us the funds we need to address real environmental problems”. (http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/why-are-euro-sceptics-...)

Roger Helmer went as far as claiming in 2010 that "the credibility of the IPCC has been shot to pieces" and he accused the Church of England of having "abandoned religious faith entirely and taken up the new religion of climate change alarmism instead". (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cameron-hit-by-tory-backla...)

 

Graham Stringer - Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton

voted “moderately against” laws to stop climate change.

Graham Stringer has mostly questioned issues linked to climate change after the hacking of email accounts at the University of East Anglia. He declared that “the UEA scientists at the Tyndall Centre and the CRU (Climatic Research Unit) acted more like campaigners than academics”.

Furthermore, in July 2011 in the Parliament's Enquiries into the Climategate Affair, the Labour MP of Blackley and Broughton was surprised to know that the CRU team was unable to reproduce the same result twice. He declared that “When I asked Oxburgh if [Keith] Briffa [CRU academic] could reproduce his own results, he said in lots of cases he couldn’t”.

He then added “That just isn’t science. It’s literature. If somebody can’t reproduce their own results, and nobody else can, then what is that work doing in the scientific journals?”.(http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/07/07/quote-of-the-week-cru-is-now-a-can...)

 

 
 

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