Should we increase investment in renewable energy?

The Politics editors debate whether the UK should increase its investment in green technology in light of the recent floods

CHRISTY (YES)
Data suggests that the incidence of extreme weather events (of which the recent UK floods are a feeble example) will increase with greenhouse gas concentrations.

Some of the world’s least developed countries are also in the areas most vulnerable to climate change (Central Africa and the Indian subcontinent). Yet 72% of global CO2 emissions from 1950-2000 came from developed economies, and we have a responsibility to try and mitigate their impact.

Research suggests the annual cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change can be limited to one per cent of global GDP. In contrast, the annual cost of inaction could reach five to twenty per cent of global GDP for years to come.

Accelerating spending in renewable and nuclear energy now, and pressuring other countries to do the same, would make our energy consumption sustainable and our economy stronger.


DAN (NO)

Back in 2007, Al Gore went around the world on his fuel-guzzling private jet preaching the apocalyptic message that by 2013, the Arctic would be “completely ice-free” in the summer months.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gore however, not only was there still plenty of arctic ice in summer 2013, but in fact the polar ice cap expanded by 29% from the previous year. On a global scale, temperatures have not risen since 1997.

China and India are building four new coal-fired power stations every single week. Any reduction in CO2 emissions by the UK would be massively outweighed by the huge increases in emissions in Asia.

At a time when the UK desperately needs to compete in the global race to avoid being left behind, it is highly questionable whether it would be sensible to make our nation economically less competitive, just in order to make a symbolic statement about how ‘green’ we are.


CHRISTY (YES)

1998 was a global spike in surface temperatures. Analysis of Earth’s total heat content (surface and oceans) shows a near continuous temperature increase since at least 1950.

Of the 4,000 peer-reviewed climate science articles published from 1991-2011 expressing a view on climate change, 97% endorsed manmade global warming. But a survey of the US public recently found most people thought the consensus was 30-70 per cent; with grain yields in the tropics expected to fall by five per cent over the next 60 years, that public misconception is dangerous.

Of all emissions from the developing world in 2010, 27% came from the manufacturing industry, which consists largely of production outsourced from the developed world.

But say none of the above was true. Domestic investment in green energy means less pollution, self-sufficiency, and sustainability. Why are climate change deniers so concerned that the data might be wrong and we’ll end up creating a better world for nothing?


DAN (NO)

Of course there have been changes in the global climate. But are the solutions offered by the green movement actually helpful in tackling the environmental problems our planet faces? One of the most prominent alternative sources of energy proposed are biofuels.

But widespread adoption of biofuels will be disastrous. Not only will their cultivation require taking up land which could otherwise be used to feed a rapidly growing world population, but also it is highly likely that vast swathes of forest will have to be felled to gain more land for cultivation to grow these fuels. Since trees absorb CO2, this notion is madness.

Nuclear power would massively reduce our emissions and increase self-sufficiency, as would an increased use of natural gases, extracted through means such as fracking. Yet sadly progress on this front is often blocked by the exact same people who claim to care for our environment.


CHRISTY (YES)

Biofuels are one of tens of alternative energy sources – wind, solar, tidal, hydroelectric, nuclear, geothermal, hydrogen fuel – which, used in conjunction with one another, would help us power a cleaner and more environmentally friendly economy.

Sure, each of these has its own issues with cost, practicality, capacity, and so on. Some might even have additive as well as reductive effects on CO2 levels. But the impact on CO2 levels of continuing to emit 9.7bn tonnes of carbon every year is likely to be very much unidirectional.

I agree with you about nuclear energy, and think much of the opposition to it is reactionary panic. But methods like fracking are objected to because, unlike global warming, their impact on the environment is not fully established.

Global temperatures are not just ‘changing’. They are and will continue rising. Our government, with others, has to start taking that threat seriously and exercising its influence within and without the UK before floods like this winter’s become the norm.


DAN (NO)

It’s all well and good stating the government needs to take action regarding this issue, but what would that action entail?

The construction of thousands of fairly useless wind turbines will inevitably lead to higher energy costs. Such higher energy bills will inevitably lead to the poorest in society disproportionately suffering as it will shrink their already slim disposable income.

A high proportion of wind turbines are on land owned by extremely wealthy individuals such as David Cameron’s father-in-law, who are given huge subsidies by the state for having the turbines on their land. Thus, green policies are inherently regressive. They are effectively the opposite of a Robin Hood tax. They take from the poor to give to the rich.

Sadly, the main impact of Britain’s green movement is most likely not going to be a reduction in temperatures, but instead the creation of a more unequal and unjust society.

One comment

  1. intricate and insightful, but my money is on the fabulous Mr C

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