Capitalism and climate change

Issue: 107

Paul McGarr

Two terrible threats define the 21st century. One is imperialist war and all that follows in its bloody train. The other is the accelerating threat of catastrophic climate change.

Few people today doubt the scale of the climate change threat – though some of the tiny minority of deniers happen to head the world’s most powerful government and the world’s biggest oil corporation.1 George W Bush and global oil giant Exxon notwithstanding, there is a remarkable consensus, at least in words, that stretches from political and environmental activists to heads of government, and even heads of (some) of the very corporations most responsible for global warming.

A useful summary of this consensus came in a speech made in September 2004:

The emission of greenhouse gases [principally carbon dioxide]…is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long term. And by long term I do not mean centuries ahead. I mean within the lifetime of my children certainly; and possibly within my own. And by unsustainable, I do not mean a phenomenon causing problems of adjustment. I mean a challenge so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence…
Let me summarise the evidence: the ten warmest years on record have all been since 1990. Over the last century average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius: the most drastic temperature rise for over 1,000 years in the northern hemisphere.
Extreme events are becoming more frequent. Glaciers are melting. Sea ice and snow cover is declining. Animals and plants are responding to an earlier spring. Sea levels are rising and are forecast to rise another 88cm by 2100 threatening 100 million people globally who currently live below this level.
The number of people affected by floods worldwide has already risen from 7 million in the 1960s to 150 million today… By the middle of this century, temperatures could have risen enough to trigger irreversible melting of the Greenland icecap – eventually increasing sea levels by around 7 metres.

The man delivering the speech was Britain’s New Labour prime minister Tony Blair.2 He is unquestionably right on the immense threat we face.

News headlines about severe storms, cold snaps, heatwaves, floods or hurricanes certainly focus debate and attention on climate change. It is impossible to link individual short term weather events with global warming. The earth’s climate system is far too complicated for such a simple mode of causation and prediction. But when such events coalesce into a general pattern, as seems to be happening today, the causal link with global warming is much clearer.

Global warming is caused by the growing concentration in the atmosphere of a series of gases which act as a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat. By far the most important of these greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide, and the main source of the extra carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas in power stations and in internal combustion engines.

The concentration of greenhouse gas in the earth’s atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, has increased at an unprecedented rate as measured by air samples taken year on year in Hawaii over recent decades, and further back from ice core samples taken in polar regions.3 This growing concentration of carbon dioxide is directly correlated with a systematic rise in global mean surface temperatures over the last century, and especially over the last few decades. Beyond question the general effect of heating up a system like the earth’s climate will be an increase in extreme weather events across the globe.

Some global warming has already taken place and more is inevitable in the coming decades as the result of already emitted carbon dioxide. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted tomorrow global temperatures are likely to rise by at least another half a degree Celsius and sea levels rise another 11 centimetres by the end of this century. As Gerald Meeh, a lead scientist on the definitive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, argues, ‘Many people don’t realise that we are committed right now to a significant amount of global warming and sea level rise because of the greenhouse gases we have already put into the atmosphere’.4 The result will be a major increase in storms, heatwaves, droughts, floods and hurricanes across the globe, with all the human and social consequences that brings. Dealing with this will be among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

But far from halting all carbon dioxide emissions, the world’s major states and corporations are pumping out ever-increasing amounts with little sign of any meaningful cuts. The potential consequences are almost unthinkable – but all too real. Extra heat in the earth’s atmosphere will melt glaciers and polar ice caps at some point (possibly rapidly, on a timescale of years and decades). Significantly raised sea levels could submerge whole areas that are now land, wiping out whole states from Bangladesh to the Netherlands, and destroying major world cities, including New York and London. One can only imagine the social and human impact of this kind of catastrophe.

Continued global warming will at some point have large-scale, relatively sudden and unpredictable impacts on global rainfall, wind and temperature patterns and on the related ocean water and heat circulation patterns. The details of these shifts are inherently unpredictable, but that they will occur with dramatic impact on global and local climate, agriculture and much else is beyond doubt. Changing climate will also see shifts in the global distribution of disease-carrying insects, with potentially huge impacts on human health. All of these effects would cause untold misery and immense social upheaval.

In a world already riven with imperialist war, and by economic and military tensions, the potential for such upheaval to spark armed conflict, including the ultimate spectre of nuclear annihilation, is not a morbid fantasy, but all too likely.

The history of human society shows that when environmental and climatic changes have meshed with social tension to produce immense upheaval the results have been often bloody, and sometimes even led to the utter collapse of the society involved.5 Global warming has the ultimate potential to cause such a social collapse on a world scale, and to throw into question anything deserving the name human civilisation.

The Hollywood film The Day After Tomorrow had many, many faults, but its basic premise is entirely plausible – global warming could lead to the interruption of a key circulation of ocean waters and thereby plunge the world into huge and relatively sudden (if not quite as quick as Hollywood producers demanded) climatic shifts which no society could withstand. Such sudden and large-scale shifts in climate are built into the kind of physical system the earth’s climate is. One way to picture it is to see the earth’s current climate as a ball in a mountain valley which is being pushed up the sides of the surrounding hills by global warming. The valley represents the general type of global climate the earth has had in the recent past. If it is pushed too far, to the top of one of the surrounding hills, it may not come back to the valley at all, ever, but instead roll off down the other side of the hill into entirely different terrain, a new and very different global climate.

New Labour’s record of failure

I quoted Tony Blair on the scale of the threat we face. He has not been shy of spelling out the action needed to tackle the threat. He concluded, ‘The UK needs to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050. This implies a massive change in the way this country produces and uses energy. We are committed to this change.’ He has repeatedly stressed making the war on global warming ‘our top priority’ and putting it to the top of the agenda at the G8. Never one to let his neighbour make all the running, New Labour chancellor, Gordon Brown, also weighed in with his own major climate change speech in March 2005.6

But what is the reality behind New Labour’s rhetoric?

Quite incredibly, Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions are actually rising – by 1.5 percent in 2004 and 2.2 percent in 2003. Overall emissions are 3 percent higher than when New Labour first came to office in 1997.7

The reality was that the Tories’ massive onslaught on the coal industry in the 1980s and 1990s had led to a switch to gas-generated electricity. The Tories were not motivated by curbing climate change, but the policy had the unintended consequence of slashing carbon dioxide emissions. Blair seized on the fall to spin his way to the moral high ground on climate change, arguing that Britain was leading the world with carbon dioxide emissions 14 percent lower in 2002 than they had been in 1990. Blair, carried away by his own rhetoric, even pledged that Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions would be 20 percent down on 1990 levels by 2010, and embraced the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s call for a 60 percent cut by 2050.8

But Blair’s spin and rhetoric have evaporated in the face of today’s growing carbon dioxide emissions. Why? The problem is that all New Labour’s initiatives on climate change (and there have been many) share one fundamental characteristic – a reliance on business and market mechanisms.

New Labour ruled out renationalising the power generation industry and simply assumed that the energy market would continue more or less in its then current state of relatively low gas prices and higher coal prices. It did not even consider what could happen if gas prices for power generation rose and coal prices on the international market fell. Yet that is exactly what has now happened as North Sea gas supplies have started to dwindle while large sources of relatively cheap imported coal have become available. The British power generation energy market has done what any such market was bound to do faced with this new situation, and moved back to coal as the fuel for power generation over recent years. Between 2003 and 2004 this shift pushed Britain’s overall emissions back on an upward course, and there is little sign as yet of anything which will change that upward trend.9 As Friends of the Earth’s detailed analysis concludes, ‘The conditions that led to the carbon reductions in the 1990s are unlikely ever to be repeated’.10

Other government initiatives on climate change include the Climate Change Levy, introduced in April 2001.11 This sounds like a good idea, a tax on the firms pumping out carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But it has a series of fundamentally disabling flaws built into it, ones which prevent it having significant impact. Firstly, it is currently set at a very, very low level, following New Labour’s general view that gentle persuasion of business is all that is now allowed from the state. Secondly, the levy is also what New Labour calls ‘revenue neutral’, in that any money it raises is given back to business through reduced employer national insurance contributions, so it is hardly a tax that is clobbering business at all.

More seriously, there are huge exemptions from paying the levy, exemptions which leave key areas involved in pumping out carbon dioxide outside its reach. So, for example, the Climate Change Levy does not apply at all to transport or electricity generation, yet these are the two largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions! It does not apply to oils at all (and so rules out a fossil fuel that is, to put it mildly, at the heart of the climate change crisis), nor does it apply to the important aluminium smelting industry. On top of all this some energy-intensive industries are also eligible for a discount of up to 80 percent on the levy as long as they sign an agreement which contains some ten-year energy use reduction targets. In short, what started as probably a good idea has been so watered down as a result of concessions to business as to become almost useless.12

The same picture is true of the government’s ‘renewables obligation’, under which it hopes to gently cajole electricity suppliers to use a greater proportion of renewable energy sources, such as wind, wave, tidal and solar power. The government targets are for 5 percent of electricity to come from renewables by this year, 10 percent by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. Even such modest targets are not being met, with the figure for renewables this year only 3.86 percent. The government this year also looked to be reneging on a commitment to help fund the development of solar energy, with the Department of Trade and Industry claiming ‘the climate we have does not lend itself to solar energy’.13 This claim is straightforward scientific nonsense: solar power is perfectly viable in Britain. Germany (not noted for its hot climate) has a significant 300 megawatts of solar-generated electricity capacity already, around 50 times more than Britain. New Labour has often talked up its commitment to wind power. So Blair announced £6 billion of investment in offshore wind farms. But this is not £6 billion of public investment (which would be an excellent first step). Instead it is money the government hopes to attract from private firms, making the expansion of renewables dependent on a dressed-up form of the Private Finance Initiative which has been such a resounding disaster throughout Britain’s public services. It is hard to disagree with the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s seminal report14 which argued that, ‘Considering the enormous potential of UK renewable energy sources it has been slow to make progress.’

One of the biggest holes in New Labour’s rhetoric on climate change centres on transport. No serious attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions can work without a serious reduction in the amount of road traffic. Transport now accounts for around 26 percent of all Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions, and between 1980 and 2002 carbon dioxide emissions from transport rose by 39 percent. Yet New Labour has performed a massive U-turn on transport that will make things worse, not better. As Transport 2000 points out, ‘When Labour came to power in 1997 it promised a new direction on roads. It cancelled 42 road schemes [but]…in July 2000 £30 billion of road building was announced’.15

Instead of a move away from ever more cars and lorries towards public transport (by far the surest way of slashing carbon dioxide emissions from transport) New Labour is presiding over a drift in precisely the wrong direction. Since 1997 bus fares in Britain have risen by an average 16 percent, rail fares by 7 percent, while the cost of motoring has actually fallen by around 6 percent. On current plans heavy goods vehicle traffic on Britain’s roads is predicted to rise by 25 percent in the next decade and van traffic by 44 percent. No wonder Transport 2000 concludes, ‘The government leads the world in rhetoric on climate change, but cannot claim to be serious about tackling it’.16

One of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions is aviation, which now accounts for around 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions globally and will on current trends account for about 25 percent of all Britain’s emissions by the year 2030.17 Yet the government seems obsessively committed to an insane expansion of airports and air travel. Incredibly, airlines currently pay no VAT or duty at all on aviation fuel, which in Britain amounts to a £9 billion a year tax break.18 The plain fact is that any climate change policy that does not aim to curb air travel is simply not serious.

There was an international conference involving European governments and airlines earlier this year, but it ended with no agreement on doing anything to tackle rising emissions due to air travel.19 Former British Airways boss Rod Eddington put the conference outcome, of doing nothing to limit the expansion of air traffic, down to a simple fact: ‘Many European policy makers share business concerns that we will be put at a commercial disadvantage’.20 Whatever the rhetoric on climate change nothing can be allowed to touch the profits of the airlines. Eddington has been appointed by New Labour’s Gordon Brown as a government transport adviser.

We should not be conned by the fake populist argument that the explosion of budget air travel is a boon for ordinary people and that its continued expansion is something we should champion. Most air travel could and should be replaced by high-speed rail. In Europe for example half of all flights are for journeys of less than 500 kilometres. All could be done as quickly by rail as by air (allowing for city centre rail stations as opposed to out of town airports), if the investment was directed into building high-speed lines, and without the damaging effect on climate.

Whichever aspect of New Labour’s climate change policy you look at, a picture emerges of a government habitually bowing to the demands of business. Under industry pressure the government has, for example, refused to tighten energy efficiency requirements for new buildings.21 In opposition prior to 1997 Labour favoured statutory targets to cut domestic energy usage by 30 percent over ten years through better insulation and many other measures which would help the poor as well as curb greenhouse gas emissions. A Labour MP sponsored a private member’s bill on this in 2002, backed by Age Concern, Friends of the Earth, Shelter and hundreds of MPs. But the government used a series of parliamentary wrecking amendments to destroy the bill.22

Many of those who had campaigned over climate change used to take New Labour rhetoric seriously. Greenpeace, hardly noted for being soft-headed on such issues, supported the government’s climate change policy right up until last November. It now says, ‘Recent retreats on emissions trading, fuel duty and domestic energy efficiency compound a record of failure which has seen carbon dioxide emissions actually rise since Labour came to power’.23 And even the staid Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons has concluded that the government’s whole climate change strategy is ‘seriously off course’.24

No doubt in the run-up to the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland Blair and Brown will indulge in more rhetoric on climate change. But whatever their words, the record has shattered all of New Labour’s claims to be champions of action on climate change.

Kyoto’s false promise

Are things any better internationally than in Britain? After all, the keynote international deal on climate change, the Kyoto agreement (first reached in 1997), finally came into effect in February this year, becoming legally binding on all 141 signatory states.25

Kyoto is a complex deal, but its centrepiece is a general commitment by signatories to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012. As already noted some countries went further, with Britain for example pledging a 12.5 percent cut by 2012.

A major problem is that the state responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions than any other, the US, with a quarter of all global emissions, refuses to sign the Kyoto agreement or any other international agreement on climate change.

But that is not the only thing wrong with Kyoto. All the fanfare around the deal is reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It is utterly worthless. The cuts in carbon dioxide emissions envisaged under Kyoto will do nothing significant to halt global warming and climate change even if fully implemented. And there are no international plans whatever to set post-Kyoto targets for further cuts in carbon dioxide emissions after 2012. The European Union claims to be leading the rest of the world on climate change, yet when its governments met in February this year they too refused to set any post-2012 targets for emissions cuts at all.26

Business and many governments argue that there is nevertheless a key feature of Kyoto which will deliver real emissions cuts – ‘emissions trading’, a market where companies and countries buy and sell the right to pump out quotas of carbon dioxide. And some NGOs which have a good record of campaigning on climate change have accepted this as part of the solution. It is not.

One of the most important emissions trading schemes was formally launched by the European Union in January of this year. The theory is that the market will set a price on the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide (or the equivalent amount of five other greenhouse gases). Companies will then have to buy a permit for the amount they pump out. The idea is that if the price is high enough market pressure will cause companies to find ways to cut emissions.

The idea at first glance can have an easy appeal, as is often the case with theories based on the market. You could imagine things working like that. A reality check, as usual with the market, quickly dispels such illusions. When the scheme was piloted in January 2004 the price of the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide was around 12 euros. By the time the scheme came into full operation in January 2005 it had fallen to around 7 euros. At this level there will be little market pressure to change behaviour at all. Even enthusiasts for the scheme acknowledge that the price needed to rise, not fall, to force any switch. The Green Alliance think-tank, in a study of the scheme, concludes bluntly, ‘The first phase of emissions trading from 2005 to 2007 is not going to deliver emissions reduction’.27

The scheme only applies to a limited number of establishments. Some 12,000 are included in the scheme, accounting for less than half of the European Union’s emissions.

It is also open to crude manipulation. For example, Britain’s government this year tried to simply increase by 3 percent the baseline emissions for the 1,000 establishments big enough to be included in the trading scheme. It then claimed that under Kyoto targets its own quota should be set 5.2 percent below this increased baseline, in effect watering down the Kyoto cut from 5.2 percent to just 2.4 percent. Even the European Union thought this New Labour scam a little too blatant and blocked it. The British government, a supposed global champion of action on climate change, has now launched legal action against the European Union to win the right to fiddle its emissions figures.28

The global emissions trading scheme linked to the Kyoto protocol is similar to the European scheme, but with additional features which have generated a whole series of fancy-sounding names which pepper and confuse discussions. The most important go under the grand titles of the Clean Development Mechanism and the Joint Implementation Mechanism. In essence they are much the same, and amount to a multinational company earning credits by sponsoring in some country a scheme which supposedly reduces the amount of greenhouse gases. These credits can then be used to increase its own emissions elsewhere without facing a penalty.

So a transnational company could sponsor a plantation in a poor country, and claim that if this hadn’t been done more carbon dioxide would have gone into the atmosphere, on the grounds that trees lock up carbon. (In passing it is worth noting that, however laudable the idea of planting trees may be for all sorts of reasons, the notion that trees are a solution to climate change is silly, as the carbon is released when the trees die. They are at best a temporary help in locking up some carbon and not a substitute for slashing carbon dioxide emissions.) Another example could be a corporation investing in some electricity generation project involving, say, hydroelectric power and dams, and claiming that otherwise fossil fuels would have been burned and put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In such cases a carbon credit can be earned based on a calculation of the supposed difference between what has happened and what might otherwise have happened.

The whole scheme is open to abuse over who decides what would otherwise have happened, and who does the resulting calculation. Things get worse still when you find out that an absolutely central role in the emissions trading process will be played by an entity called the Prototype Carbon Fund – an arm of the World Bank. The Transnational Institute and Carbon Trade Watch argue in a definitive report on emissions trading:

Trading programmes in effect privatise the problem of air-pollution. Government and communities lose control over environmental protections, placing it in the hands of the polluters. When the incentive to reduce emissions is profit and cost-effectiveness, there is incredible pressure to cheat by overestimating reductions, while underestimating emissions.29

The report is a devastating critique of emissions trading, based on schemes that are already under way. It concludes with justice that emissions trading schemes remove any credibility at all from the Kyoto protocol:

A country will be able to meet 100 percent of its Kyoto reduction commitments through purchasing credits in the market rather than reducing climate change emissions at source… Unfortunately the protocol’s market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading allow countries and companies to escape their responsibilities to reduce their own emissions. With the inclusion of these ‘flexible mechanisms’ this hard-fought agreement may actually be a first step backwards.

A scandal that erupted in April 2005 around one of the first schemes backed by the Prototype Carbon Fund shows how rotten the whole process is. A supposedly model project involved the Plantar corporation setting up a massive eucalyptus plantation in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil to produce wood for making charcoal to be used in pig iron production. The corporation argues that otherwise it would have used coal, producing even more carbon dioxide, and is claiming a carbon credit under the Kyoto scheme with the backing of the World Bank. A whole series of Brazilian and international NGOs and social movement groups have united to slam the fraudulent scheme, which involves the forcible eviction of people from land in the area to establish a huge monocultural plantation. These organisations have signed an open letter calling for the Prototype Carbon Fund to be shut down. They draw out more general arguments about emissions trading which those climate change campaigners who have accepted emissions trading as part of the solution would do well to heed:

The Prototype Carbon Fund was born out of the World Bank’s efforts to promote neoliberalism. It is an instrument to commodify the atmosphere, promote privatisation and concentrate resources in the hands of a few, taking away the rights of the many to live with dignity. The PCF is not a mechanism for mitigating climate change.
Having followed the PCF’s activities and projects to date, we have learned by its doings that it does not avert dangerous climate change but instead increases hardship for local communities. This exposes inherent flaws not only in its own projects, but in project-based ‘carbon trading’ as a whole and the offset culture underpinning it. Any other similar fund or trading regime will systematically replicate these flaws.
The PCF extends the World Bank’s unacceptable political activities into a new sphere with its own special technical impossibilities. The PCF accordingly must be closed down as a first step in the right direction. It is neither ‘carbon’ nor pollution that is being traded, but people’s lives and paper certificates claiming to be carbon credits. Offset culture and pollution trading must be rejected as false solutions to climate change.30

Emissions trading is not the only fashionable but false proposed mechanism for tackling climate change. In recent years many businesses and governments have latched on to what is dubbed ‘carbon sequestration’ as the answer. Oil companies, in particular Norway’s Statoil and Britain’s BP, have been particularly keen to push this idea, and both have major projects under way. In essence the idea is to capture some of the carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels and store or ‘sequestrate’ it in secure deep rock formations or in exhausted undersea oil reservoirs. Ron Gueterbock, one of Greenpeace’s climate change experts, rightly argues, ‘This whole approach is the wrong way to tackle climate change’.31 It diverts resources away from measures to cut emissions and is an attempt by the giant fossil fuel corporations to say we can have business as usual while they come up with a technical fix which will get us off the hook of climate change.

Carbon sequestration is also inherently risky. Nick Riley of the British Geological Survey points out, ‘If we put this stuff away for thousands of years then what happens if it leaks? Nobody understands fully what the implication would be of leakage into the marine environment’.32 Roger Higman of Friends of the Earth says, ‘We need to guarantee that this won’t happen not just for ten years, not just for 100 years and not just for 1,000 years but for tens of thousands of years. It’s an inherently risky project… Meanwhile it distracts from the fundamental issue which is that we need to cut back on our emissions’.33 The reputable US Union of Concerned Scientists puts similar arguments.34 A glimpse of some of the dangers sequestration could involve was given by an entirely natural disaster, when in 1986 a huge bubble of carbon dioxide escaped from rocks under the bed of Lake Nyos in Cameroon. As the gas is denser than air it hugged the ground as it emerged from the lake, killing 1,700 people living around the shores.

Stoking up the heat in the US

The US is responsible for the largest share of global greenhouse gas emissions and refuses to sign any international agreement on climate change. For many years US president George Bush and the oil companies behind him, especially the world’s largest, Exxon, have denied the reality of climate change, with Exxon using its financial muscle to ensure US politicians echo its message and funding scores of ‘scientists’ prepared to play its tune.35 Bush has changed tack a little in the last couple of years. His administration still questions the evidence of climate change. But they do now talk of greenhouse gas emissions probably leading to global warming and of the need for some action. The official 2002 US Climate Action Report concluded, ‘Continuing growth in greenhouse gas emissions is likely to lead to annual average warming over the US,’ and it lists a string of potentially dire consequences. As a result of this, Bush’s 2002 Energy Plan claimed it would ‘set America on a path to slow the growth of our greenhouse gas emissions’.36

But Bush’s Energy Plan is in fact a giant con, and if fully implemented would allow the US to emit even more greenhouse gases than now. The whole plan is couched in terms of reducing not greenhouse gas emissions, but rather what it terms greenhouse gas ‘intensity’. This is the amount of greenhouse gas emitted relative to the size of the economy. So if the economy grows and the amount of greenhouse gas emitted also grows, but at a slightly slower rate than the economy, Bush’s plan would call this a ‘cut’. This nonsense translates into a target which could allow the US to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by a huge 13 percent over the next ten years (a faster rate than the already worryingly large 4.9 percent rise in US emissions from 1997 to 2002).

As a devastating report by the US national wildlife federation argues, ‘President Bush’s global warming response is simply a smokescreen of accounting schemes that hide the increased pollution from the president’s energy plan… The president’s energy priorities such as promoting more coal fired power plants will increase the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels’.37 Another detailed analysis reveals that Bush’s plan involves an increase in the burning of coal, oil and gas, alongside cuts of around one third in government funding for renewable energy and fuel efficency measures.38

Yet there are some within the US state who are worried at where global warming could lead. The US Defense Department commissioned an October 2003 report on climate change which the US government first unsuccessfully tried to suppress. It concluded that there was now ‘substantial evidence to indicate that…global warming will occur during the 21st century’, and (in an echo of The Day After Tomorrow) argued, ‘There is a possibility that this could lead to relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor… [The] result could be a systematic drop in the human carrying capacity of the earth’s environment’.39 Translated out of Pentagon-speak the report is arguing that climate change will lead to famine and death on a huge scale. It worries that this will cause immense global instability, with enormous refugee movements and political upheaval. Unfortunately while the analysis is refreshingly accurate, if grim, remember this is the Pentagon, which only knows one answer to all the world’s problems-prepare to build the military capacity to deal with the resulting ‘security threats’. Wage war against climate change. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The only conclusion possible is that those at the head of the US state have no serious intention to take action to tackle climate change.

What are the solutions?

I have so far painted a bleak picture of the prospects for effective action to curb carbon dioxide emissions. What makes this dismal picture all the more frustrating is that the solutions to climate change, action which could dramatically slash carbon dioxide emissions, are simple and in principle relatively easy to achieve.

Power generation and renewable energy

The biggest single source of global carbon dioxide emissions is power stations. In the US around 33.2 percent of carbon dioxide emissions comes directly from power plants.40 Similar figures apply to most other industrialised countries. One rare exception is Britain, where transport now accounts for a greater proportion of carbon dioxide than power generation-25 percent compared to 16 percent.41

The only realistic way to cut emissions from power generation is to stop burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and use modes of generating power that do not contribute to global warming. We need a major shift to what is called renewable energy-electricity generation driven by wind, wave, tidal and solar power. All of these technologies are already reasonably well developed, and could quickly (within a few decades) become the dominant form of electricity generation if the political will was there. Those who say we cannot quickly shift to renewable energy often argue that it is unproven technology and that it is too expensive compared to fossil fuel electricity generation. This is false on both counts. As one important study argues, ‘According to the G8 Renewables Trade Forum the barriers to the deployment of renewable energy are not technological but financial and political’.42 There is more development work needed on methods of storing electricity generated from intermittent energy sources. But these problems are already solved in principle. To give one example, you can use part of the energy when the wind is blowing to pump water up to a storage site, and then when the wind is slack, letting the water fall again so driving a turbine to generate electricity.

And the price differences with fossil fuel generated electricity are not that great now. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution looked in detail at the alternatives to fossil fuels in the British situation using a detailed technical assessment carried out by the Department for Trade and Industry’s own Energy Technology Support Unit.43 It found that wind-generated electricity cost between 2.9p for offshore wind and 3.5p for onshore wind farms per kilowatt hour (kWh) compared at that time with around 2p for gas-generated electricity and around 2.5p for coal. Wave power came in at around 4p per kWh and solar power at around 7p per kWh. Yes, renewables are currently a little more expensive, but only a little, and in the case of wind only a very little.

Yet fossil fuels have had decades of enormous subsidy, and investment on a vast scale. This is why they have appeared ‘cheaper’. One serious study puts the subsidy figure at $235 billion a year globally,44 another, more conservative one at around $244 billion between 1995 and 1998 for example;45 in Britain one estimate puts it at £4.5 billion between 1990 and 1995.46 If this money was switched instead to investment and subsidy for renewable energy very dramatic shifts in patterns of power generation would happen within just a few years. Even accepting the need for renewables to be ‘competitive’ with fossil fuels (which I do not-the future of the planet and the people who inhabit it ought to take priority), this could be achieved relatively rapidly. Even the minimal level of investment in renewable energy that has taken place in recent years has already had a dramatic impact, cutting the cost of US wind-generated electricity from around 40 cents per kWh in 1980 to between 3 and 6 cents, and solar-generated power cost from 100 cents to around 10 cents now.47 The British government’s own review by its Performance and Innovation Unit in 2001 concluded that wind power would be significantly cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives by 2020 even without any radical step change in investment.48 BP admits that ‘within the next five to ten years PV [solar electricity] will become cost competitive with traditional power sources in countries with extensive electrical infrastructure’.49 There is not some limit on how much these renewable energies could be utilised, condemning them to a marginal role. A Department of Trade and Industry study found that offshore wind turbines alone could provide at least double, and possibly much, much, more, Britain’s current peak electricity use.50 A European Union report came to the conclusion that wind power and wave power could between them generate all Britain’s current energy needs three times over.51

There has been a spate of recent cases of campaigns against wind power, with people arguing against building wind farms (groups of turbines) on the grounds that they visually ruin local environments and cause noise pollution.52 We must robustly reject such arguments. Wind turbines are no more an eyesore than windmills were in the past, and certainly a lot more elegant than many other pieces of infrastructure-from railway lines to pylons and motorways. If the options are between having windmills around the countryside and continuing to burn fossil fuels leading to catastrophic climate change then there is no real choice at all. And by far the best sites for large-scale wind farms are not on land at all, but instead in shallow offshore waters-where winds are stronger and more constant. The key to making this offshore wind power generation possible is large-scale investment in providing the infrastructure to connect up the wind farms to local and national electricity grids (and with the necessary electricity storage schemes built into the plans).53 The same arguments apply in principle to other forms of renewable energy. Wave power technology is well developed; all that is needed is massive investment to make it more efficient and provide the infrastructure to build it into local and national grids. In the slightly longer run one of the best and biggest sources of energy is tides. Around Britain for example this includes both tidal bores, such as the one which runs up the Severn Estuary, but also tidal streams, such as that which flows through the Pentland Firth off the north coast of Scotland. These are truly enormous potential sources of power, and on a global scale the proper utilisation of tidal power could be key to a sustainable future. But once the initial capital investment has been made tidal power is probably the cheapest of all power sources. Though it is intermittent (with four tidal streams a day, as the tide comes in and out twice a day) it has the great advantage that it is absolutely predictable on a daily basis, which makes planning for and using storage technologies relatively simple. The DTI Energy Unit found that once the initial capital cost has been paid off tidal barrages were by far the cheapest of all forms of electricity generation it studied. A barrage across the Severn Estuary could generate up to one fifth of all UK current electricity demand at a running cost of just 0.05p per kWh.54 The technology for such barrages is well established and proven. There are none in Britain, but just across the Channel between St Malo and Dinard a tidal barrage across the mouth of the River Rance has been running for decades and generating a huge amount of electricity. Only political will prevents such examples being rapidly multiplied in a matter of years. Solar power is another renewable technology with a vast potential. Often people think it is only usable in hot sunny climates. This is simply false. In most climates, and certainly those prevailing in major industrialised countries from the US to Britain, from Germany to Japan, solar power is perfectly viable, especially in the form of water heating panels in buildings. But even the more complex photovoltaic cell (PV) generation of solar power will work in most climates.55 Underinvestment means that at present solar-generated power is often more expensive than fossil fuels, but even here major investment could quickly slash costs. In short, there are no fundamental technical or serious cost barriers which prevent a radical and quick shift in electricity generation, whether in Britain or on a global scale, away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The only barrier is a lack of determination by governments to insist that this shift will happen, and compel it to happen through massive investment. Investment could be financed through, firstly, diverting the enormous subsidies that fossil fuels now get into renewables, secondly, through diverting the billions that goes into military spending and war into renewable energy and, thirdly, through a serious taxation of the profits of fossil fuel companies to fund expansion of renewables.

Nuclear power-no thanks

There is one form of energy that is no solution to global warming-nuclear power. Until recently it looked as though in many countries, including Britain, the argument about the utter insanity of nuclear power had been won and it was being phased out. Now it seems some in the industry who would benefit from the huge profits to be made in building new nuclear power stations have managed to convince at least some politicians that nuclear power could be sold as an answer to climate change.

Key figures within New Labour have been arguing for the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations. Their logic starts from Britain’s failure to meet its international commitments on cutting carbon dioxide emissions on current trends. They argue that nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide (true) and that therefore it is a form of energy which can save us from environmental disaster (totally false). Unfortunately some who call themselves environmentalists have fallen for this argument, for example James Lovelock, best known for his Gaia theory.56 Nuclear power is the most insane way to generate electricity ever invented. It amounts to basically using a controlled nuclear reaction to boil water so that the steam can then drive an electricity generating turbine. It is inherently dangerous and prone to huge disaster, as witnessed by the string of catastrophes from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl. The evidence that it creates immediate health problems, such as radioactive seas and clusters of cases of leukaemia, is well documented, for instance around Britain’s Sellafield plant. Nuclear power is fundamentally linked to nuclear weapons. In an age when western governments tell us we should oppose any new country wanting to acquire such weapons it seems a bit strange to then push nuclear power as a force for good. And in an age when those same governments constantly warn of the dangers of ‘terrorists’ getting hold of enough nuclear material to build a ‘dirty bomb’ it would by that logic be an act of wilful insanity to go on producing more and more such material in nuclear power stations.

Added to all these arguments is the simple fact that nuclear power is more expensive than any of the renewable energies even at current prices. A hugely detailed study by Greenpeace International ignored all the extra costs of decommissioning and dealing with waste and concluded, ‘regardless of these additional costs and considering only the generating costs nuclear power remains uncompetitive’, costing around double coal-generated power.57 The ‘additional costs’ cannot be ignored. There is the enormous and insoluble problem of the massive amounts of deadly radioactive waste generated by nuclear power stations, waste which will remain deadly for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years and which no one has any safe way to deal with. And the costs of dealing with this in Britain are put by most commentators at around £60 billion, and that is only from existing nuclear power stations-not any new ones that may be built. Nuclear power could not exist without enormous subsidies. In Britain the industry had to be bailed out from going bust by a £1 billion handout from New Labour, and that is on top of a £7.8 billion subsidy the industry got from taxpayers’ money in the 1990s.58 There is not a single argument for nuclear power except the desire to produce material for use in a nuclear weapons programme, and the idea that it is part of the solution to environmental disaster is almost laughably insane-so mad you just couldn’t make it up. Anyone serious about fighting to tackle the climate change crisis should reject the move to rehabilitate nuclear power and do everything in their power to mobilise to prevent New Labour covering up its failure to take real action on climate change with a new drive to nuclear power. We must say loud and clear, in the words of the old but still valid international slogan, ‘Nuclear power-no thanks.’

A new direction on transport

After power stations, the second largest single source of global carbon dioxide emissions is transport (road and air in particular). A coalition of some of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations-the oil companies, the car corporations, the tyre and rubber multinationals, the airlines and aviation firms-are all committed by their very nature to the single aim of selling more of what they depend on for their profits. They want to sell more cars, more petrol, more rubber for tyres, more tarmac for roads, they want more planes flying from more airports. They bend governments to policies which favour this.

The result has been the transport disaster we see in cities in the richer countries, one which has now been replicated in far worse form in the giant cities of the third world. And now the same coalition of profit chasers want this disaster to spread even further, with a relentless drive to recreate all its worst features right across hugely populated countries like India, China and Indonesia. This nightmarish prospect is one that if not tackled will plunge the climate more and more rapidly down the road to disaster. This is not any kind of argument against people in all these countries having the right to access the best in modern transport and the fruits of modern production, only that ‘development’ in these countries need not and should not replicate the worst features of what has happened elsewhere. Tinkering with marginal adjustments to policies, messing about with small-scale schemes (however beneficial such schemes may be in other ways), or individuals exercising any degree of personal choice, is not going to wrench either British or global transport policy onto a new course. Nor are schemes like road pricing or congestion charges going to solve the problem. Such schemes may cut traffic levels on some roads and in some city centres, but do little to curb overall traffic levels and therefore are of little importance in an assault on global warming. They also depend on pricing the poorer off the charged roads or out of the charging zones while the rich can afford to pay. A much more serious assault on the issue is needed, one that inevitably means challenging head-on the logic of the network of fossil fuel corporations at the heart of the disaster.

There needs to be an end to the entire £30 billion road building programme, a total halt to all new airport schemes and an immediate ending of the £9 billion a year tax subsidy to the airlines.

Along with this has to go a huge investment in massively expanding rail and bus travel, and in the cities tram, light rail and underground networks. The aim should be to create public transport of sufficient quality, regularity, reach and reliability that in most circumstances no rational person would want to travel any other way. This requires the renationalisation, without compensation, of the rail and bus industries and of the airports (along with air traffic control). Subsidies should also be poured in to slash fares on public transport in the cities, with the aim of moving as rapidly as possible to a free network. If you could travel free around London on a massively improved and expanded bus, tube and rail network, the impact on the city and traffic would be immense-and make the city a far better place for all.

Within cities too a major expansion of safe cycle routes (properly separated from traffic as they are in many European countries and not the death traps painted in green in many British cities today) is needed-along with measures to establish widespread and safe cycle storage facilities in city centres, workplaces and at tube and bus connections. While pushing policies to curb the number of cars, some measures could also be taken to limit the damage cars do. Banning all cars which do not meet minimum fuel consumption requirements would be a good start-and in this way also getting rid of the gas-guzzling and dangerous SUVs would be a good thing on lots of other grounds too. Road freight must also be slashed, and driven back to rail and water. Simply banning all lorries above a certain size from the roads would be a good start (governments can do these kind of things, whatever New Labour may claim). Putting in place a system which punitively taxed firms which did not shift the majority of their freight to rail or water would be another great help. The vast bulk of goods could and should be moved between major centres this way, with lorries only used for local deliveries at the end of the chain.

While rail is clearly the key to such a strategy, water should not be forgotten especially for non-perishable bulk goods. Britain in particular has the potential for many goods to be moved by coastal freight ships, and also has a vast canal network which could and should be used to move goods. It is only the drive to cut costs by just-in-time production systems which puts pressure for quick deliveries that acts as a block to this form of transport. Then why not put a tax system in place which made it more expensive for firms to move goods by road than to accept a slightly slower movement by water-borne freight? A systematic drive to replace flights in Britain and Europe with high-speed rail connections (with cheap fares) should also be planned and implemented. The widespread use of decent sleepercar facilities on trains could also make rail a far more attractive option for journeys that were slightly longer by rail than they might be by air. Strict overall limits on the number of flights should also be put in place, starting with slashing the number of quite unnecessary business flights, which are largely an excuse for rich men, and a few women, to jet around the world wining and dining in fancy restaurants and staying in fancy hotels, plotting how better to rob each other-and us.

Any jobs lost in the falling number of cars, planes and roads being built under such a radical shift in transport policy could be more than compensated for by these workers using their skills to build the new rail lines, trains, buses, tram and underground networks needed-and if that is not enough many could also be employed in building the wind turbines, or tidal barrages needed in the drive to shift power generation to renewable energy.

In the long run a further shift is needed in the way society is organised to demand ever more travelling in the course of daily life, to and from work and school-a trend which contributes massively to car journeys and so fuels global warming.

To take one example of what could be done, New Labour’s sham of parental choice in schools should simply be abolished at a stroke. It is a sham, a right exercised by a privileged few and under which it is schools in a competitive market, not parents, who make the choices. All pupils should go to their local primary and secondary school, with all religious and suchlike schools abolished too. This would not only quickly improve education for all, but linked to the development of safe local walking and cycling routes and the use of walking trains for collecting younger pupils to take them to school, would make a significant contribution to curbing traffic.

Similarly, using planning and other government powers to insist jobs and other social facilities are sited where people live, or that affordable public homes are built where there are jobs, could both curb traffic, help end the housing crisis, and make people’s daily lives more stress-free with more free time.

I do not pretend this is any kind of worked-out and costed programme, but I hope it gives at least an indication of the kind of measures that need to be driven through, and driven with speed and determination.

Energy efficiency

A third key area which could make a major contribution to tackling climate change is very simple-energy efficiency. Governments insisting (not persuading, or cajoling, or relying on some market mechanism, but insisting, backed up with severe penalties for those firms which do not comply) on proper insulation and better energy efficiency in every area of society could make a significant contribution to tackling climate change. Among these measures are obvious things like proper insulation on all new buildings and bringing older buildings up to that standard too. As someone who lives in a 1960s tower block which was recently refurbished in this manner I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of such straightforward measures, with electricity and heating bills down by over 50 percent. Insisting on much more widespread use of fluorescent light bulbs might seem an unglamorous measure-but they use a quarter of the energy of the incandescent light bulbs which account for 80 percent of all lighting energy used in Britain. A shift would have an impact. Putting in solar water heating panels on all new, and over time older, buildings would also make a major contribution.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that if good design and insulation were extended globally greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by up to 40 percent. Britain’s Royal Commission found that elementary energy efficiency measures such as high quality insulation of new buildings could cut energy use in the service sector by 18 percent within a few years, and that proper insulation, good design and using combined heat and power plants to provide local hot water and electricity could together slash energy use in homes by between 25 and 34 percent in a few years.59

Can the solutions be implemented?

If, as I argue, the solutions to the climate change crisis are relatively straightforward in principle, the real question is, can we ensure such measures are implemented before it is too late? The evidence so far is that, left to their own devices, those who dominate society today, in government or at the head of the world’s giant corporations, will not push through such changes. This is true even when they recognise the danger that faces the whole world. All the major oil companies, with the exception of Exxon, may now talk of the need to take action on climate change, as do the car, tyre, power and other corporations responsible for pumping out greenhouse gases,60 and Shell and BP may have moved into renewable energy. But no one should be fooled into thinking this is a strategic shift away from fossil fuels. Behind the greenwash it is business as usual. Whatever the views of those at the top, and however genuine their concern over climate change, they are prisoners of the remorseless logic of profit by which corporations live or die. On average all the oil companies still depend on fossil fuels for 95 percent of their revenues and profit. So renewables account for just 0.8 percent of Shell’s global investment, and for just 1 percent of the $8 billion BP spends a year on fossil fuel exploration and production. It is the same story with the car firms. Ford, for example, makes lots of green noises about climate change. But it is utterly committed to selling more and more cars, expanding into newer markets like India and China, and so contributing even more to global warming. It may be argued that the measures needed to tackle climate change are not somehow fundamentally incompatible with capitalist society. And it is quite easy to imagine a capitalism that lived off the profits based on the production and sale of renewable energy. There is indeed no reason in abstract why capitalism has to be dependent on fossil fuels and industries linked to them. Capitalism can profit from anything it can turn into a commodity-and the history of capitalism is one of showing a remarkable facility for turning just about anything imaginable into commodities.

The problem is not one of principle or logic, but rather, as someone once remarked, that we are where we are. For historical reasons we have a capitalist society where the fossil fuel corporations lie at the heart of the production for profit on which the whole system depends. This fact has shaped everything about the world we live in, including the very ideologies and policies of the political parties and politicians who run most of the world’s governments and global institutions.

Capitalism has an immense inertia at its heart. Once patterns of production become established and with them great concentrations of wealth and power established, they are hugely resistant to change. The people who head the giant corporations, and who embody the logic they must follow to survive and expand as profit-seeking beasts, will resist with all their power anything which fundamentally threatens their current basis of profit and power-the fossil fuel based economy.

The record of human history is that those who control societies have often been prepared see the whole of society plunge into disastrous chaos and collapse rather than accept change which undermined their power. I see no reason to suppose the most powerful ruling class in human history, those who today head the giant global corporations at whose centre stand the fossil fuel corporations, will behave any differently to their predecessors whose societies’ fate is witnessed only by ruined monuments. It is just about imaginable that faced with an immense global crisis due to climate change, one which threatened upheaval and instability on a scale that questioned the very survival of key sections of global capitalism, some dramatic shift could happen. In such circumstances I can imagine a section of the global ruling class, and perhaps some governments linked to them, seeking a way out of the crisis by shifting away from fossil fuels in dramatic fashion, even if that involved serious conflict with other sections of the global ruling class who wanted to resist change. But I think it would be foolish to gamble the future of human civilisation on such imaginings or potentialities becoming realities. A surer path to change is needed. A strategy to win real action on climate change starts with maintaining and intensifying popular mobilisation and pressure. A large part of the reason governments, business and most world leaders have today to at least talk about doing something over climate change is a result of such pressure. The rich tapestry of coalitions against climate change that have begun to emerge in Britain and elsewhere also need to be developed and broadened. The kind of alliances we have seen in recent years in the global anti-capitalist movement and anti-war movements need to be replicated within a real and growing movement over climate change. We need once more the trade unionists and environmental campaigners in the industrialised countries marching side by side with the small farmers and the social movements of the poorest countries.

The international day of protests called for 3 December this year provides an important focus for all this. In Britain, we need pressure and protest to tell the New Labour regime loud and clear that any attempt to build new nuclear power stations is unacceptable and will be met by determined and militant opposition. That opposition must instead demand real action from the government to meet the public commitments Blair has made on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Without such mobilisation and campaigning we have no hope of winning any effective action on climate change.

However, for such pressure to be really effective it needs to go further. The movements need a perspective of overturning governments whose commitment to the capitalist system means bowing down to the corporations that pump out greenhouse gases. Only state action can fully implement a programme of changes such as I have sketched. But any government that tries to do so will face determined opposition from those with real power today-the corporations linked into the fossil fuel economy and from business and the rich more generally. They would fight with all means at their disposal to block the assault on their wealth and privilege which is needed to finance the necessary transformation of society. They could only be beaten by mobilising the power of millions of ordinary people, above all those workers who produce the wealth and profit on which the whole edifice of today’s capitalist society sits. But that means connecting the struggle against those who create the greenhouse effect with struggles against poverty, poor housing, unemployment, war, racism and all the other issues that afflict the great mass of people and will get worse as the climatic changes take place.

In short, the struggle over climate change raises the question of wresting power and wealth out of the hands of those who have it now. It points to the desperate need for a society run in a fundamentally different and democratic way, one in which not profit but the needs of ordinary people and the future of the planet we live on are at the heart of all action and policy. Such a transformation is what I mean by a revolution, and is an aim I call socialism.

Of course such action needs to be international in scope, and ultimately involve the US, if it is to be successful in heading off climate disaster. But to wait on international agreement would be a recipe for no effective action at all. What is needed is for one or a group of countries to begin taking radical action and use that to mobilise social forces in other countries to demand, or enforce, similar action there. Not everyone who wants to resist the threat to the world’s climate sees the need to transform society from top to bottom. It would be absolutely mistaken to restrict mobilisations and campaigns to those who do. We have to mobilise as widely as possible for protest and action. But we also have to see that the fight to halt climate change also has an inherent logic that goes beyond mere reforms within the existing structures of economic and political power.


1: I do not propose in this article to devote space to a detailed rebuttal of the arguments advanced by various ‘climate change sceptics’. Most are the paid hirelings of the fossil fuel corporations or their front organisations. Others, including the media-lionised Danish ‘sceptical environmentalist’ Bjorn Ljumberg have been unmasked as scientifically ‘dishonest’ by scientific peers. Of course there are huge uncertainties in predicting how the earth’s climate will be affected by rising greenhouse gas concentrations. But making the atmosphere warmer will undoubtedly lead to more severe weather conditions of all kinds, simply because it will put more energy into the overall climatic system. The overwhelming scientific consensus across the world is that climate change is happening, and is set to get rapidly worse. In the face of this consensus it is simply wrong-headed to the point of insanity to do anything other than base political policy on the need for immediate and large-scale action to slash greenhouse gas emissions. For full and detailed discussion of the science of global warming see the authoritative series of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at and the (invariably excellent on all aspects of the debate on climate change) US-based Union of Concerned Scientists website For specific details of the dodgy credentials of some of the most prominent ‘climate change sceptics’ see New Internationalist 357 (June 2003) at
2: Full text of Blair’s speech on 15 September 2004 available at The demand for a British cut of 60 percent in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 was the centrepiece of the generally useful and detailed report by the Royal Commission, Environmental Pollution Energy: The Changing Climate 2001, available at
3: For details on the evidence of global warming see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s definitive reports at and the Union of Concerned Scientists, as above. For a useful directory with descriptions of the content of many global warming related websites also see the portal
4: Quoted on Environmental News Service website, 18 March 2005,
5: P McGarr, ‘Why Green is Red’, in International Socialism 88 (Autumn 2000).
6: The Guardian, 15 March 2005.
7: Figures from the Department for Trade and Industry’s official energy statistics published 31 March 2005 on
8: See Royal Commission report at
9: For a full and detailed report on Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions see the informative and well researched ‘What Should the Government Do to Tackle Climate Change?’, Friends of the Earth’s response to the Climate Change Programme Review (March 2005), available at
10: As above.
11: For details of the climate change levy see the government’s own
12: For useful discussion of the Climate Change Levy and other government policies see
13: The Guardian, 8 April 2005.
14: 15: See the transport campaign group Transport 2000, and the climate change campaign group Rising Tide, for details and all figures quoted on transport.
17: The Independent, 21 March 2005.
19: International Herald Tribune, 19 March 2005.
20: As above.
21: The Observer, 6 March 2005.
22: See an account of this at
24: Quoted on
25: Global carbon dioxide emissions fell by around 5.6 percent between 1990 and 2000, but this was nothing to do with Kyoto or government action-it was entirely down to the economic collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe, and emissions have started rising again now. See the UN’s official Framework Convention on Climate Change website for figures
26: The Guardian, 10 February 2005.
27: Quoted on BBC news report, 16 February 2005. See
28: The Guardian, 12 March 2005.
29: See ‘The Sky is Not the Limit’ on
30: Letter published in full on
31: The Guardian, 5 September 2003.
32: As above.
33: As above.
35: See the excellent for details of these links.
36: See the devastating report on Bush’s Energy Plan and climate change, ‘Beneath Hot Air’, by the US National Wildlife Federation on
37: As above.
39: See reports on (Environmental Media Services) and The Observer, 22 April 2004.
41: See and The Times, 24 October 2004.
42: ‘Catalysing Commitment on Climate Change’ by Simon Retallack and Tony Grayling on Grayling used to be the environmental policy officer for the Labour Party.
44: BBC report, 21 June 2004 and New Economics Foundation, The Price of Power, at
45: S Retallack and T Grayling, as above.
46: The Guardian, 10 November 1999.
48: Quoted in a Reuters report on the portal
50: ETSU, New and Renewable Energy: Prospects for the 21st Century (DTI, 1999).
51: European Commission report ‘Study of Offshore Wind Energy in the European Community’ (EC, 1998).
52: See The Guardian, 19 April 2005, for the start of the inquiry into the Whinash wind farm in Cumbria, for example.
53: See ‘Blowing Away the Myths’, report by the British Wind Energy Association at
54: ETSU, as above.
55: See
56: The Times, 24 October 2004.
57: See ‘The Real Costs of Nuclear Electricity Production’ by Greenpeace International (March 2005), at
58: See W Cavendish and R Gross, ‘Nuclear Power: A Price Worth Paying for a Stable Climate?’,
60: See summary, for example, in The Observer, 20 February 2005.