Resisting climate change scepticism

By Pascale Palmer
June 24, 2011

It is a pretty sad day when the Polish European Union (EU) Commissioner says he isn’t sure whether human-made climate change actually exists.

In an interview with Polish media, Janusz Lewandowski said, "The thesis that coal energy is the main cause of global warming is highly questionable. Moreover, more and more, there is a question mark put over the whole 'global warming' as such."

This is 2011. It’s nearly 200 years after French physicist Joseph Fourier first described the Earth's natural "greenhouse effect" and more than a century after Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius concluded that industrial-age coal burning would enhance that effect.

If politicians want to play to a particular gallery by standing up for domestic industries, that is one thing. But to dress up their position with some phony science casting doubt on the reality of climate change takes us all for fools.

So, get with the programme Lewandowski. This is not the time to stick your head in the (tar) sand just because Polish heavy industry spews out CO2 like there’s no tomorrow (funny that – because there won’t be much of a tomorrow if nay-sayers like him keep throwing a spanner in the works).

Except the problem is, it isn’t just environmentally Luddite politicians that are kicking efforts to halt catastrophic climate change in the cojones.

On Thursday the European Parliament was set to vote on whether to up the current unilateral EU emissions cut target from 20 to 30 per cent by 2020. The UK has been pushing for bigger cuts and it is part of the coalition agreement. Yet The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that many Tory MEPs intended to rebel and vote against the increase.

Apparently North of England MEP and Tory leader in the European Parliament Martin Callanan had been lobbying against the raise, telling folk it would be bad for business and consumer fuel prices. This, despite the scientific consensus that a cut of at least 40 per cent from 1990 levels is needed to protect us.

These machinations of course left David “this’ll-be-the-greenest-government-ever” Cameron in a bit of a pickle and, according to Greenpeace, with just hours to go, he quite rightly indicated his displeasure to the Callanan cabal, threatening to withdraw party support.

And so, without a clear victory in the offing for those in the European Parliament who prefer hard profit to keeping people and the environment alive and flourishing, the vote has been postponed for two weeks and will now be decided on 4 July. This is certainly not the worst outcome by any means and allows us more time to press the EU to vote for a shift to a cleaner economy. (Writing to your MEP right now would help a lot.)

But what really scares me is that in the sweepings of this sorry tale, climate scepticism is becoming an increasingly popular way for right-wing politicians to court their base - from Michelle Bachman and Janusz Lewandowski to Martin Callanan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP. It’s 2011 and we are not fools. Get with the programme.


© Pascale Palmer is Senior Media Officer (Policy & Campaigns) for CAFOD.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.