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.