As the UK recovers from the recent floods, a phenomenon that climate scientists widely agree will become more common with global warming, the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has announced further cuts to the climate change initiatives budget.
The budget covers spending to monitor and manage UK emissions, and to develop infrastructure to cope with the effects of global warming. This financial year, only £17.2m will be spent on climate change initiatives, 41% less than in the previous year. How is this possible under what was supposed to be the “greenest government ever”?
Perhaps this is not so surprising when we take into account that Paterson is a climate sceptic. He does not believe that human emissions are the cause of the observed warming, despite current consensus within the scientific community that this is the case. He has even gone so far as to say that he thinks global warming could have positive implications for the UK and the globe. Perhaps his short sightedness does not enable him to see that reflecting this scepticism and complacency in environmental policy could have dangerous consequences.
Current evidence suggests that even if we do manage to reduce our emissions, Earth will likely warm by over two degrees, enough to result in significant changes in climate, more extreme weather events and sea level rise. The implications for both the global economy and food security will be huge, affecting all corners of society.
In fact, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has recently referred to global warming as “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”. Scarily, he may not be far off the truth.
We need to act now in order to reduce our emissions and curb the effects of global warming. Simultaneously, we need to develop the infrastructure required to deal with whatever impacts climate change does have. If anything we should be increasing, not reducing, the climate change budget.
Our current environment secretary, with a degree in history and a time in office already laced with mistakes has proved himself less than qualified to do the job. Let’s hope we get someone more qualified next time to guide the UK through this critical period in the fight against the world’s most fearful weapon of mass destruction.