Climate change in the chamber

Baroness Deech

The extreme weather conditions of last week did not deter peers from turning up on Monday for a question about the Olympics and on Thursday for a debate on the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.  There is a connection between the two topics. In the climate debate Lord Patel and a few others made the point that has been my opinion for a while, namely, that population growth is the biggest contributor to carbon emission.  Oddly, proponents of action to save the planet shy away from this topic and prefer expensive and technical steps that will affect our lifestyles adversely and are unlikely to be adopted in China and India.  Lord Patel pointed out that world population stood at 6 billion in 2000 and is predicted to rise to 10 billion by 2050.  A yearly increase of 80 million in population adds 90 million tonnes of emissions.  The topic was scarcely touched on at Copenhagen.  A maximum of two children per family should be urged as strongly as possible, with more education for women all over the world, and access to contraception and abortion.  The Vatican is campaigning on the dangers of climate change – but not through population control. The controversial nature of these issues is a block to sensible action.

Not long ago I heard two items following each other on the radio news.  One was about the dangers of carbon emission and the need to limit air travel; the other was about the fall in tourism to the UK  and calls on the government to support the industry financially.  Noone seemed to notice the contradiction.  If we are serious about carbon emissions, then of course we should refrain from encouraging the tourist industry for the great majority of tourists will arrive here by air, and all of those trips, just like our own to foreign vacations, are “unnecessary”. 

The other inconsistency in the climate debate is the Olympics.  Not only is this something we can ill afford, but the whole project, from the choice of venue by a committee flying around the world, to the preparations, the buildings, the officials’, tourists’ and athletes’ flights, produces so much carbon emission that I have been unable to get an answer when I have asked for the figures.  Sir Roger Bannister had the solution when he suggested in an article in the Times in 2008 that the Games should take place at a permanent site. Greece was the historic home of the Olympics and it would make much more sense from a climate change point of view to keep it there permanently and use the facilities that already exist instead of building them afresh every few years.

28 comments for “Climate change in the chamber

  1. Carl.H
    18/01/2010 at 12:16 am

    Can I just ask, why isn`t Baroness Deech running this country ? Spot on yet again as far as I`m concerned.

    I find myself again aligned with much common sense from the Noble Baroness.

    • Croft
      18/01/2010 at 12:47 pm


      Crossbenchers have the luxury of saying some of those things that are ‘banned’ in regular political discourse. Of course population is the key issue and makes more difference than any conceivable environmental mitigation.

      Jonathan: My understanding on carbon footprints is that the construction of the five sites (and their periodic maintenance and repair) would massively outweigh the amount produced by air travel to a single site. The problem with the latter or indeed even the five site solution is that it would convey a home advantage (historically clear in terms of medals) to the site(s). A location at a climatic extreme (height/temperature/humidity) would skew this even further.

  2. 18/01/2010 at 12:26 am

    I’ve heard the idea of a permanent Olympic site before, and it certainly has its merits. It’s incredibly wasteful to keep building a whole new one ever four years, particularly as the legacy of some of them has not been a success.

    However, the downside is that this may disadvantage people in certain regions of the world, who would always have to travel further to attend the games – often people in the poorest regions. Also, where are the greatest population centres? Which location would result in the lowest emissions from travel? Perhaps a fairer solution would be to have five venues on different continents, one for each of the Olympic rings. That way, everyone has their turn of a local games, but only five permanent sites are needed.

    • 18/01/2010 at 3:24 pm

      Though wouldn’t there need to be ten sites, to include the Winter Olympics? I suppose some locations could possibly host both. Or could it be split up so that three locations are for the summer games and two are for the winter games, or vice versa?

  3. Sam
    18/01/2010 at 3:50 am

    Please, CO2 is good for life. CO2 increases with temperature lagging behind it by 800 years on average.

    Dutch growers using greenhouses and polytunnels increase CO2 levels to double or triple atmospheric levels to facilitate faster crop growth and increased yields.

    This information isn’t hard to find.

    Climate change is a natural cyclical process and it appears the only significant “green house gas” is water vapour in clouds.

    The baroness would do well to watch the lecture recently given at CERN on how cosmic rays and sun spot activity are the primary drivers of cloud formation and hence the climate:

    You don’t have to be a scientist to understand it but I guarantee it’s fascinating.

  4. 18/01/2010 at 11:30 am

    It would be good to see the need to cut down on emissions linked to the reducing reserves of oil and the need to cut down on pollutants rather than to the increasingly discredited man made global warming.

    Many scientists are at last feeling brave enough to talk about the huge effects of sun spots, ocean temperatures and currents on climate and admit that CO2 emissions have a miniscule effect. Sadly, it is becoming more and more obvious that we’ve been taken for a ride on this global warming bandwagon by those with other agendas and by just plain greed.

    So let’s look at things sensibly. Investigate things like solar, tide and wind power and try and make them work where appropriate, but let’s not get driven by an industrial agenda to cover the country with wind turbines whose total output will make up such a tiny percentage of our generating needs, or by a trading agenda such as carbon credits where VAT fraud is already rocketing skyward, or by a Global Governance agenda as raised by Lord Maclennan in thursday’s debate.

  5. Troika21
    18/01/2010 at 11:45 am

    A decrease in population would be a good thing, but the truth is that this is simply an impossible goal.

    Measures designed to control population could be circumvented or ignored, and a tax would be regressive. Other problems are immigration and preceptions about government control. I don’t see a way such a policy could be implemented.

    And in any case, I see nothing wrong with technology-based solutions.

    On the olympics, I think you’re missing the value of a moving site. A new stadium is generally constructed where there was none before, providing some cities with not only a new sports venue, but an internationally recognised landmark.

    • 19/01/2010 at 5:16 pm

      Unfortunately, the legacy of many Olympic stadiums is not so great. I believe many of the Athens venues are unused and crumbling. And have they actually paid for the Montreal ’76 stadium yet? The main stadium is only ever full for the opening and closing stadiums. There is never a need for such a large athletics venue anywhere. In London they are going to try to get around those problems by building temporary or adaptable venues, but it’s hardly an efficient way to build things! I simply don’t believe the “sporting legacy” the 2012 organisers have promised will come to much.

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    18/01/2010 at 12:51 pm

    “that population growth is the biggest contributor to carbon emission”

    Thanks to B Deech for the topic.

    It is not so much the number of people who cause the problem but the way the people themselves misuse fossil fuels.

    One person using a car every day which is large enough for six people….. if everybody does that, and the Chinese seems intent on it, and in a limited sense there are not 6,000m people in the world at the moment but 36,000m ie one person using fossil fuels for six!

    That is very much over simplified but I do so to make the point.

    Mr Carl Esq.;It is not because the noble baroness is NOT a lawyer, that she is NOT running the country. She is!

  7. Gareth Howell
    18/01/2010 at 12:59 pm

    One right wing Baron claimed in the early 90s that the idea of global warming and climate change had been invented by socialists, to fill the gap between totalitarian communism and the modern world, that it is a myth designed to persuade people that communists can be as reactionary as Conservationist green party tories, that a return to PRIMITIVIST nature(ie the next worst thing to anarchy) is the ideal to search for in the modern world.

    My own view is that if we can recognize water on Mars, we are also well capable of
    causing climate change on this planet, whatever the local politics of planet earth may be.

    It may also take a long time to establish
    Imperial style colonies on that planet, or any other Patrick Moore location, so long that wars and other world society divisions
    will be fought on a polarisation of political opinion of the two questions…. climate change and global warming.

    Whether the sun went round the earth or the Earth round the sun has always been of great import and wars have indeed been fought on the strength or weakness of the opinion.

  8. Bedd Gelert
    18/01/2010 at 8:14 pm

    Dearie me, More Malthusian nonsense. It isn’t the number of people which is the problem, it is the number of rich people. Perhaps we should try exterminating some of them ? The idea that African families haven’t thought about having fewer children, but actually do have large families as an insurance against the famines and plagues we do so little to help them prevent, is hilarious.

    Though I do share your concern about a lack of joined-up thinking on the environment. The idea that people are already complaining that we aren’t doing enough to subsidise the fuel bills of a wide range of poorer people, while at the same time complaining that we aren’t biting the bullet on carbon cuts is just silly. When will people start to invest in energy efficiency properly ?

    You don’t need to worry about population growth. Gaia will sort that out one way or another. Events like Haiti are just her clearing her throat… She hasn’t even begun to sing yet.

    • 19/01/2010 at 4:01 pm

      Ta, Bedd, that’s cheered me up no end. How fitting that you write this on Blue Monday.

  9. Chris K
    18/01/2010 at 9:12 pm

    I don’t know which peer you’re referring to, but he has a good point. The climate change campaign is dominated largely by people of a leftish disposition, which is part of the reason why, as Baroness Deech said, “proponents of action to save the planet shy away from this topic and prefer expensive and technical steps that will affect our lifestyles adversely”.

    Some of my friends went on a climate change march in London and uploaded the pictures onto facebook. Many of the banners in the background had hammers and sickles, “capitalism = world doom” and all that.

    Then there was a greenpeace chap who spoke at a local debate on climate change recently, who said that “all planes should be banned from flying – tomorrow”. Clearly people in developing countries who need planes to sell us their produce/bring in tourists don’t matter, oh no. All that matters is stopping those evil lower-middle class types who save up to go on a family holiday once a year. He also gave out leaflets directing us to his personal website because the “mainstream media tell you lies”.

    Is it really any surprise many people don’t have time for climate change? Only when the science can be shown to be completely apolitical and with no hidden agendas will people start to take it seriously.

    • Chris K
      18/01/2010 at 9:13 pm

      Whoops! That’s a reply to Gareth Howell.

    • Gareth Howell
      21/01/2010 at 7:14 pm

      “all planes should be banned from flying – tomorrow”. Clearly people in developing countries who need planes to sell us their produce/bring in tourists don’t matter,”

      Thank you Mr Chris K. It is not the people who don’t matter; it is the non-ecological non-sound
      non-self sufficiency of bringing the planes in, that is objectionable.

      Whilst Mormons and Cooperatives endeavor to create sound local practices in African countries, bring-ing people in for tourism only makes local people yearn to go back with the tourists to the Megopolises that they come from.

      My own view is that gigantic farming techniques which have been developed in the corn belt and more recently in the demolished forests of Brazil,will take precedence over ALL subsistence farming in Africa, which is why so many millions have gone to shanty towns in Mombasa(isit?).

      Somebody must be doing reaping and sowing big time somewhere, for all that crowd of people to have moved, to live in squalor, in shanty cities with pavements not made of gold.

  10. Twm O'r Nant
    19/01/2010 at 9:08 am

    I hope my fellow Welsh man, Bedd ,is refering to Gareth Howell’s post as Malthusian nonsense.
    Yes of course it is.

    If we did out accounting using Gaia methods how much would a gallon of heating or car fuel cost? £20?

    Put on an extra jersey instead and walk!

  11. 19/01/2010 at 4:17 pm

    The CO2 line has been a boon to us childless people, previously banned by medal-wearing mothers from saying anything remotedly to do with kids.

    The next logical stage would be to set up
    carbon emissions trading at the personal level. Given that I don’t have children, or fly, I demand my winter fuel bill be paid by Tony Blair.

  12. Carl.H
    19/01/2010 at 4:21 pm

    “Put on an extra jersey instead and walk!”

    Amount of fuel used to make & transport = 5 gallons.

    Amount of energy used to produce food enough to walk = 5 gallons.

    Oh my we`re in deficit again !

    • Gareth Howell
      20/01/2010 at 8:22 pm

      Round here we generally use soil for food production, and reliable farmers use organic methods.

      Seeing the huge harvesting methods of Brazil and Oz on TV programs does make one wonder though. 50 harvesters at a time.

      • Twm O'r Nant
        20/01/2010 at 8:24 pm

        3 potatoes will get you five miles.
        Cost? 22p

  13. Carl.H
    20/01/2010 at 9:37 pm

    “3 potatoes will get you five miles.
    Cost? 22p”

    Walking five miles to get the fuel to cook the potatoes….:-)
    Getting the wife to cook the three potatoes ~ £20 toward a new dress.

    Merely humour BUT this is often what appears to be happening, as we look at different methods of food and production it gets found that cost`s in terms of fuel can be more when taken in holistic terms.

    • 21/01/2010 at 10:13 pm

      Getting the wife to cook the three potatoes ~ £20 toward a new dress.

      Where to start?

      • Carl.H
        22/01/2010 at 12:06 am

        Oh please Ladytizzy….I get the kids to do the washing up for her honest 😉

        We`re old fashioned it works for us and I alway`s mend that fence, fix that car etc. Horses for courses.

  14. Nick
    20/01/2010 at 10:39 pm

    Current cost of offsetting 1 tonne of CO2 is 19 USD, for a unit of 1. For larger quantities the cost drops.

    1. Why are we forced to pay excessive taxes, when we could be carbon neutral for relative peanuts?

    The conclusion is that its nothing about the CO2, its a sop. It’s just an attractive way of taxing the population.

    That doesn’t take into account the lies pushed by the alarmists. Just today we’ve had the IPCC admit to one of them. Namely no glaciers in 25 years time.

    • Carl.H
      21/01/2010 at 10:35 am

      “1. Why are we forced to pay excessive taxes, when we could be carbon neutral for relative peanuts?”

      Nick please elaborate how we could be carbon neutral ?

      • Wolfgang
        21/01/2010 at 8:18 pm

        You can offset a tonne of CO2 for 7 quid (plus VAT).

        Now factor in economies of scale and the price drops.

        Flying to New York and back 0.1770 kg CO2 per mile, 7000 miles round trip, 1.2 tonnes. Say 10 quid to offset.

        Why is the government taxing the flight at 40/80 pounds?

        ie. It’s all about taxation and not about CO2

        Where is the hypothecation for the tax? Nope. It’s in the pool.


  15. Carl.H
    21/01/2010 at 6:59 pm

    On a note concerning Air Travel, and perhaps I take a liberty here, Stobart and Southend Airport plan an extension to the runway in a highly populated area and most locals are against it. It was turned down before but since Stobart have become involved and more money it has just today past the Development Control Committee. We the public and SAEN

    would like the planning application called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for examination at a public inquiry.

    Any help by a concerned politician would be gratefully receieved.

  16. Gareth Howell
    21/01/2010 at 7:19 pm

    Climates and micro-climates are things which are very well worth studying even in our own gardens, and most certainly with regard to planting techniques for the giant equipment used today.

    Cultivation of hot peppers, in the back garden, is a skill that I should like to refine, and that takes a micro climate, and one that I might need to change! They go for fancy prices in the supermarkets.

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