To set the scene, here is a quote from Professor Garel Rhys of Cardiff Business School, commenting on Tony Blair's anti-car policies:
"plans to tax and penalise car use are leading Britain into a former Soviet-style regime"Below, the ABD sets out its response to Tony Blair's recent speech in more detail.
|Tony Blair said||The ABD says|
|It is time to re-awaken the environmental challenge as part of the core of British and international politics. One of the Apollo 15 astronauts recently told me about his experience looking down at the Earth from the Moon in 1971. He described seeing a fragile blue ball suspended in space, the only colour in the universe, and the only place where the human species can survive; and of how conscious he and his fellow astronauts became about our stewardship in caring for our world, and the responsibility that brings.||Another astronaut who had the privilege of visiting our planet's natural satellite, courtesy of NASA, visited a college at a time when the ABD's Environment Spokesman was a science educator there. The astronaut left a signed photograph with an inscription that said 'God walking on the Earth is more important than Man walking on the Moon'. Yet Tony Blair is not arguing for increased theological debate and conversions to the religious life; instead he is arguing for higher taxes under a phoney 'save the planet' banner, and asking for environmentalism to be accorded the status of a religion. Images of our beautiful planet in a black void did cause a review of perceptions about Earth in space. But the message is more profound and goes beyond the pictorial and sentimental. It reflects our vulnerability to external forces in the Solar System, particularly regarding the origin of all our heat and light: a distant but powerful nuclear furnace called 'the Sun'.|
|Much has happened since 1971. In particular, the late 1980s saw a marked resurgence in the green movement. It was a fresh political presence. There was an energy behind it. It appealed to the young. But the environment also became the focus for new doubts about the capitalist order. Unconstrained growth, unregulated business, modern levels of consumption would, some argued, end in destruction of the world around us.||Describing the evolution of the green movement in the 1980's as a resurgence is ironic and to be taken literally conjures up a picture of Blair spinning more rapidly than a pulsar as he wrote the words. Dr Patrick Moore, one of the founders of the environmental pressure group Greenpeace, now laments what happened to his organisation at that time in its history. Here are his words: "Of course, there were always extreme, irrational and mystical elements within our movement, but they tended to be kept in their place during the early years. Then in the mid-Eighties the ultraleftists and extremists took over. After Greenham Common closed and the Berlin Wall came down these extremists were searching for a new cause and found it in environmentalism. The old agendas of class struggle and anti-corporatism are still there but now they are dressed up in environmental terminology." Moore also points out that figures for deforestation quoted by greens include the cyclical cutting down of renewable forests.|
|Evidence of global environmental damage did indeed increase with time. And the burgeoning movement sought to convey a sense of urgency, searching for global solutions for global problems. It was successful at raising awareness, alerting people to the environmental damage going on around them. But whilst many governments became greener, dialogue between them and the green movement did not always conclude with a meeting of minds. And slowly, as the message became less novel, as the publicity machine moved on environmental issues slid back down the political agenda. Today I want to invite you, environmentalists and business, to join me in changing that. I want to push green issues back up the political agenda. Reawaken the challenge. And I want to do it in constructive partnership — government, business, the green movement and the public. A partnership not where we always agree — that would be an impossible demand, but where we have at least some common aims and understanding of each other's necessary contribution to them.||Evidence of environmental damage has not increased with time, but CLAIMS of environmental damage have indeed increased. These claims have been proved to be inaccurate and misleading in many cases. Fifty years ago sparrows proliferated for no known reason. Now the numbers are declining, again for no known reason, the green movement claims it is due to pollution, an easy point to score but an unsustainable claim as made here (see below) by Tony Blair. John Prescott has claimed that coral was being destroyed by global warming when sea temperatures have not risen. Similarly when a now infamous oil platform was about to be decommissioned, we had the fiasco of 'green' pressure leading to an environmentally inferior 'solution'. While the environmental lobby, aided and abetted by the Government, paint a picture (as here) of worsening environmental conditions to prop up their fiscal policies, the truth is different. Air quality across the UK has been improving for ten years and is forecast to go on increasing for the next ten, and on a global note Dr Moore (Greenpeace co-founder) has this to say:
"Greenpeace says that in the past four years an area [of rainforest] the size of France has been destroyed. William Shatner — Star Trek's Captain Kirk — came down to earth to narrate a National Geographic video, saying 'Rainforest is being cleared at the rate of 20 football fields per minute'. They portray the forests as the 'lungs of the earth', absorbing carbon dioxide and pumping out oxygen without which we would all suffocate on a mess of polluting hydrocarbons. But it is all nonsense. You could burn every forest in the world, never mind the Amazon, and it would have an insignificant effect on oxygen levels in the atmosphere. It amazes me to see the movement behaving in the same way over forestry — our most sustainable industry — as it did about nuclear war. And into this heady brew came pop singers and actors, anxious to create a caring impression."
Mark Lamarr, take note.
We might begin by agreeing a set of core principles:
||We might begin by exposing Tony Blair's suggested core principles as chicanery:
We know the damage carbon dioxide emissions do to our environment. Individual families experience air pollution. We also know many of those same families depend on their car, especially in rural areas, to work, to take children to school, for leisure. We need to find a way through this for them, not simply pose two extremes, one of which is environmentally dangerous, the other of which is unrealistic. Take housing. We are balancing the huge pressure to build in the south east, with the necessity to protect the countryside. We have rightly increased the proportion of new housing built on brownfield sites to 60 per cent. But I am acutely aware that for many that is not enough. But even attaining that, will be full of real political risks.
|Take petrol, but also take petrol duty, buildings, and their true environmental impact. Carbon dioxide from cars amounts to 0.6% of total global emissions each year, according to Dr D S Schimmel in 'Global Change Biology'. Not much more than one half of one percent. This means that, if all the cars on the planet were to be parked up for good in an instant, there would be no detectable change in the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide, not least because the cycles and equilibria in nature would shift to counteract the minuscule, infinitesimally and immeasurably small impact such a drastic step would produce. There is also no convincing scientific evidence that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels CAUSE climate change, but there is plenty of convincing evidence that carbon dioxide levels change AS A RESULT of climate change driven by another source.
Global warming happened between 450BC and 350 AD, while global cooling occurred between 1645 and 1715 (when the River Thames repeatedly froze over and Frost Festivals were held on it). Before and within this mini Ice Age, astronomers had begun to observe the Sun using the recently invented telescope, and had discovered sunspots and their cycle of activity. Before the 1645 cooling, no seventeenth century Tony Blair banned cars and shut factories — there weren't any cars or factories. The Sun's face remained inactive (spotless) and the cycle slowed. This is associated with cooler climates on Earth, while a spotty and active Sun with shorter cycles — as we have had during the latter part of the last century — conditions on our planet warm up. Climate change is a natural phenomenon, and environmentalists are confusing cause and effect in the role they allocate to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. As to buildings, there are two aspects of relevance to 'the environment' which the prime Minister conveniently ignores. Buildings emit approximately twice the annual volume of carbon dioxide (an irrelevancy but we will continue within the carbon dioxide myth) as transport, yet fuel to heat buildings is taxed at 5% while fuel to move vehicles is taxed at 300%. Governments are supposed to prioritise, so on this basis we should be seeking ways to heat, light and operate our buildings which reduce emissions before we even start to look at cars. Then in terms of indoor air quality, Dr Jeff Llewellyn of the Government Buildings Research Establishment has found that the air in the average UK home is ten times more polluted than city smog. As there are no indirect taxes available from this source (unless Tony Blair is considering reviving a Window Tax) and as no opportunity for exerting social control exists there either (so far) this is ignored. In terms of buildings themselves, an EU directive outlaws subsidies for cleaning up brownfield sites, without which they would be uneconomic. Attempts to socially engineer car-free communities on either brown- or greenfield sites have proved to be a disaster outside central London, with rock-bottom demand and reports that home buyers continue to place a high premium on the availablility of secure parking when buying a house.
We have made a lot of progress over this Parliament. Through John Prescott's leadership, and the hard work of Michael here on the platform with me, we can point to measurable achievements. We are on track to meet our Kyoto targets. Air quality is improving. London now has the cleanest river of any major city. But we have to face a stark fact. Neither we here in Britain, nor our partners abroad, have succeeded in reversing the overall destructive trend. The environmental challenge continues to grow and become more urgent:
Here Tony Blair discusses a catalogue of symptoms without one attempt at diagnosis. Climate change is real, it has been happening throughout the Earth's 4.7 billion year history, but it is a natural process and its consequences are merely symptoms which prove nothing about mankind's (lack of) involvement.
It is then seemly to pass quickly over the risible claim for leadership as a quality of John Prescott, the most unpopular man in the Government; a Government which confuses the unpopularity associated with some leadership decisions with a desire to be continuously unpopular by reducing parliamentary democracy, pandering to (minority) green pressure groups possibly because (rather than in spite of) the fact that they are now driven by leftists, insulting the intelligence of the countryside with specious comments from Towny Tony, railroading the media and decision making bodies with preferment for Tony's Cronies, demeaning the UK electorate with spin, and ignoring the pressing needs of large sections of the community (farmers, hauliers, small businesses) essential to UK plc.
We will not ignore the contradictions — the Thames is now clean but water is being polluted, extinction is a natural endpoint of evolution that has happened to well over 90% of all species that ever existed but is now a crime and the human race (we haven't been here long, remember) is guilty, wetlands are being lost but sea levels are rising (they're not, they are falling).
The importance of the environmental challenge to Tony Blair rests with its ability to act as a flag of convenience, in providing a — hopefully — bombproof excuse to justify extortionate levels of indirect stealth taxation.
|First, the greatest threat to our environment today is climate change. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has said that the UK will have to cut the carbon dioxide we produce by 60% by 2050 if we are to slow down the pace of change. If there is one immediate issue that threatens global disaster, it is the changes in our atmosphere.||
First, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution may hold this particular view; any consensus which includes pronouncements against the available scientific evidence may be a consensus but it is still wrong. For example, NASA announced — promulgated by Reuters in April 2000 — that planet Earth had entered a period of significant global cooling in March 1999, such that 15% of the claimed warming of the last century had been wiped out in just 12 months. Needless to say, no preceding or contemporaneous drop in carbon dioxide emissions or atmospheric levels had occurred to 'explain' this. Few environmentalists, no matter how academically qualified, have knowledge of stellar astrophysics plus geology, as these are the disciplines needed to understand climate change which is in reality driven by these factors:
|New Labour's Green Agenda
I make no apology for the priority we have given education, health and crime. Yet no other British Government has had a Deputy Prime Minister in charge of environment policy. And no other British Government has put the environment at the heart of its policy-making across the board — from foreign affairs to the national curriculum — in the way this Government has.
Since 1997, we have:
|No other UK Government has:
|Any environmental policy has to address the implications of the car. Transport produces around 25% of global carbon dioxide and rising. Making public transport more attractive will take us only so far. The long-term solution is to make vehicles cleaner and more fuel efficient. That is why we have used the tax system to roll out cleaner fuels. Lead in petrol is now a thing of the past, and we are now using tax incentives to promote ultra-low sulphur petrol. Through the EU, we have persuaded manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency by 25%. Vehicle Excise Duty is now linked to vehicle emissions for the first time. Toyota and Honda are now selling "hybrid" cars which are twice as efficient as conventional models. Honda's Insight does 80 mpg. Fuel cell powered electric cars will offer even more — truly pollution-free motoring. Both Mercedes and Ford plan to have them in the showrooms by 2004.||Here we have what is suspiciously close to bare-faced deception. Just under 98% of total global carbon dioxide emissions are from natural sources. This fact is scandalously absent from the above statement. Of the remaining two-plus percent, about one-quarter (this is the 0.6% the ABD refers to above) does come from cars. As pointed out above, removing all cars from the world's roads instantly will NOT lead to a 25% drop in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as implied by this above misleading statement. In fact the change will be immeasurably small for reasons already outlined. However, the ABD agrees with Tony Blair that the role of emissions technology is vital, but only in a psychological sense as modern car emissions are already over 99.9% colourless, odourless, naturally occurring gases which pose NO THREAT to air quality or climate change, which is driven by the Sun. Some cars actually clean the air they drive through, as it is polluted more by buses, buildings and foreign industry (trans-boundary pollution, a most unwelcome import).|
In conclusion, there is a great deal resting on the Government's ability to continue to spin their way through the environment issue — a great deal of taxpayers' money and levies on business.
The ABD's catalogue of evidence presented here is a testimony to the shamefully duplicitous nature of green information pollution.