Looking after the environment for future generations is an important responsibility and one that we must get right. However it has become very difficult to make the right decisions due to the activities of high pressure environmental lobbying groups, some of whom would appear to have distorted scientific facts to suit their own agenda. Politicians have already been pressurised into making a number of suspect decisions with the result that not only is the global environment suffering but millions of people are being denied the chance of a better life, perhaps even life itself.
There are many causes of environmental confusion and we do not need to look far for the biggest example, the Kyoto Treaty. Kyoto was supposed to deal with the problem of man made CO2 emissions, alleged to be causing the current episode of global warming, even though mankind only accounts for a small percentage of total emissions.
- Kyoto will not, even in the treaty’s own terms, cut back on CO2 emissions sufficiently to have any significant effect.
- Much of the scientific evidence underpinning the human effect on global warming is based on unreliable computer predictions.
- The cost of Kyoto is massive and could easily fund many projects which actually would produce humanitarian and environmental benefits.
Another big issue at the moment is renewable energy. The world as we know it today has been formed by the use of fossil fuels and we owe the oil industry in particular a massive vote of thanks. The oil industry is of course not just about fuel for cars and trucks it also allows us to manufacture a wide range of other products. However carbon reserves are finite and we must conserve what remains and develop new technologies for the future. So far so good. However here again environmental extremists have been in action and not only have they launched bitter campaigns against the oil companies but they have demanded that we return to technologies which were abandoned many years ago. One of the most visible examples of this modern day “Luddism” is the current obsession with wind farms. (Luddite - 1 a member of any of the bands of English workers who opposed mechanisation and destroyed machinery in the early 19th century. 2 a person opposed to industrialisation or new technology.)
Wind energy is now the biggest component of the UK government’s renewable energy programme and many new wind farms are being built solely because of the large subsidies available. On the face of it wind turbines would appear to make sense as the wind is free, it is everlasting and the turbines themselves do not emit greenhouse gasses - but it is not that simple.
- To generate just 1,000MW of electricity by wind power would require turbines covering an area the size of Dartmoor (368 square miles) and we would need at least 55 “Dartmoors” to power the UK.
- Wind turbines cannot operate when the wind level is too high or too low and only generate electricity for about 25% of the time. This means that conventional power stations need to kept running on variable loadings, as a back up, this is highly inefficient.
- The amount of power consumed by manufacturing, transporting and erecting the giant turbines is said to be more than the machines are capable of generating throughout their entire lifespan.
- A great deal of environmental damage is caused by bulldozing roads onto hilltops, transporting the raw materials and components from all around the world and using high volumes of concrete.
- There are also problems with noise, bird strikes, visual intrusion and adjoining property values.
These examples show clearly the damage that occurs when scientific rationale is overcome by pressure groups and vested interests. The New Party believes that proper environmental progress will only be achieved by the application of sound science and even some of the most opinionated Greens have now accepted that although renewable energy is desirable modern nuclear plants are the best way to reduce carbon emissions.
Unfortunately the same contradictory and flawed logic prevalent throughout the climate change argument is also hindering progress in addressing more urgent global problems.
In all walks of life it is essential to prioritise our actions and to deal with the biggest problems first. Consider what happens in the accident and emergency department of a busy hospital. Incoming patients are treated according to need with the most urgent cases going to the top of the queue, this is referred to as triage. Imagine what would happen if hospitals did not prioritise in this manner and only dealt with casualties as they arrived, fast-tracking those whose families were making the most fuss.
We have the means to address most of the world’s problems such as civil war, hunger, disease, poor education and the lack of clean drinking water and proper sanitation. However, we now spend a smaller percentage of our wealth on overseas aid than we did in 1970. Of course we cannot expect to sort out all our global problems at once any more than we can treat all the sick people at the same time, therefore we must prioritise.
One of the best ways to establish priorities is to apply a cost benefit analysis to determine how effectively, at what cost and with what benefit we might treat individual problems. At the Copenhagen Consensus last year thirty specialist economists joined forces with eight of the world's top financial gurus - including three Nobel laureates - to decide how best to spend $50 billion on global problems.
- Their number one priority was to prevent HIV infection with a comprehensive programme costing $27 billion. The social benefits would be immense avoiding more than 28 million new cases of HIV infection by 2010 and the fiscal benefit was equally impressive outweighing the costs by 40 to 1.
- Number two, providing the micronutrients missing from more than half the world's diet, would reduce diseases caused by deficiencies of iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A. This also delivered an exceptionally high ratio of benefits to cost.
- Number three was establishing free global trade. This could be achieved at a very low cost, with benefits of up to $2400 billion a year, about half of which would accrue to developing countries.
- Number four, mosquito nets and effective medication for malaria could halve the incidence of the disease. It would cost $13 billion but create benefits of at least five times that.
- Next on the economists’ list were agricultural technologies to handle food production and water technologies to address the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation.
The Copenhagen Consensus therefore showed us what we should be doing, first and foremost, as well as highlighting issues that we should not be treating as a priority. The experts not only rated responses to climate change extremely low on their list, they called these ventures - including Kyoto - "bad projects" because they cost far more than any benefits they would bring about. This does not of course mean that we should ignore climate change but that we should be looking at the right mix of incentives and regulations to encourage investment in promising new renewable energy technologies.
The New Party believes that we can do much more for the environment and the developing world. Despite what some of the green groups tell us, the most serious environmental damage is not in fact caused in the developed countries but in those countries where there is little if any environmental protection or regulation. Furthermore, the most urgent problem of the desperately poor, is not climate change but a whole range of basic necessities which the developed world, that’s us, have in their power to deliver. We can prevent HIV by handing out condoms and improving health education and we can prevent millions dying by giving them clean water and simple vitamin supplements. The New Party believes that this is not only a moral necessity but that it would also be a wise investment in our own long term security.
- A comprehensive list of products made from carbons
- Take the car and save the planet! - a light-hearted look at the use and misuse of statistics
- The truth about wind turbines told by Danes, the world leaders in making them
- The Copenhagen Consensus