Fraser Nelson

Keeping climate change in perspective

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Richard Littlejohn is perhaps the funniest journalist in Britain today, but it’s a mistake to be distracted by the brilliance of his jokes. He regularly unearths the social and political trends making a direct impact on people’s lives. Today its the “global warming racket” – how councils are hiring “carbon advisers” on £30k a year. Hull Council has 30 staff working on “environmental issues”, he says, none of whom proved any help when its flood defences succumbed.

This is my problem with the global warming “debate” – it skews priorities, and allows councils to assemble a highly-paid green Gestapo while losing track of their basic duties (like keeping council tax bills down). On a national level, too, it’s all the rage.  I’ve lost count of the number of Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet members who proudly tell me they’re holidaying in France and taking the train. If anyone is thinking of cancelling a trip to a developing country where livelihoods depend on tourism, can I put into perspective the impact of air travel with some other polluters identified on page 199 of the Stern Review.

World Greenhouse Gas Emissions (from World Resources Institute)

Road transport 9.9%.

Agriculture soils 6.0%

Livestock (ie, bovine flatulence or farting and burping cows) & manure 5.1%

Cement 3.8%

Rail and ship and “other” transport 2.3%

Landfills 2.0%

Air transport 1.6%

Rice cultivation 1.5%

Food & tobacco 1.0%


In 20 years time, when the science is clearer, I suspect will look back on these years as time when rational debate was replaced by a form of pre-Enlightenment hysteria. How global warming was seen as a black and white issue, how you were either with Al Gore or you were a Evil Climate Change Denier. How intelligent people hugely distorted their lifestyles, without any idea of how much good they were doing – and whether the planet (and, here’s a thought, those living on it) may better benefit if their efforts were diverted elsewhere.

For the record, I accept the planet is warming and manmade activity exacerbates it. I'm just arguing for a sense of perspective in what we can and can’t do about this. I have yet to see a credible study saying man’s response can make a serious impact to this largely natural process. I’m open to persuasion – if any CofeeHousers know of such research, please say! At least 20,000 British pensioners will probably die from the cold this winter: a deeply unfashionable cause. But it’s just one example of a problem we can solve.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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