Climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity.
Margaret Thatcher was one of the first major political leaders to recognise the seriousness of climate change. She’d had a scientific education, saw the science and tried to act on it. That was a long time ago.
Since then CO2 levels have gone up, we’ve had a succession of “hottest summers on record”, “unprecedented flooding” and major forest fires.
Urgent action is needed.
We’re dangerously close to “runaway climate change”, when global warming causes more global warming. Part of that is about the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps — the ice reflects sunlight, but as it shrinks, ground or water are exposed and absorb sunlight. Lots of methane is locked up in permafrost, and starts to escape as the permafrost melts — methane is a much more serious greenhouse gas than CO2. This summer saw huge forest fires in Siberia, on top of ones in California, Spain and Australia. Those were all much worse because the ground was drier than usual. As they burned, they destroyed the trees that trap CO2, and released vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. Turning this around is urgent.
There are predictions that the Indian subcontinent will become uninhabitable by the end of the century. If we don’t get on top of climate change soon, large numbers of people will be forced to move, creating very serious problems worldwide.
It’s not too late. But we need to act quickly to cut CO2 emissions. That means international co-operation, but it also means a commitment to renewable energy, to nuclear power, to electric vehicles, to greatly-improved public transport, to improved broadband so that more people can work from home, to improved energy efficiency and to zero-carbon housing.
If we get it right, being at the forefront of green energy boosts the economy by making us market leaders. Getting it right is vital for the future of the planet.
In coalition we were proud to establish the Green Investment Bank. We’re looking to build on that, moving as as quickly as we can to a zero carbon economy, and using carbon capture and storage to undo the damage that’s already been done.
Closer to home
Closer to home, when Liberal Democrats took control of South Cambs District Council they declared a climate emergency, and are now being and are now being praised as one of the councils doing most to address climate change. The Conservatives seem to be in a different place. Liberal Democrat Councillor Lorna Duprereported that “the [Conservative] Mayor of [Cambridgeshire and Peterborough] told the Combined Authority Overview & Scrutiny Committee, in response to a question from me, that the Authority will NOT be declaring a Climate Emergency as he ‘hasn't seen the evidence for it’!”
Climate emergency and Brexit
The 2019 General Election is very much about Brexit. The very real anxieties about Brexit have gone some way to push climate change into the background. I've heard people argue that we will be fine outside the EU and can ignore climate change. Both of these comments are ignoring reality. There's a dangerous extremism in British politics at the moment feeding this. Voting Liberal Democrat is to stop the chaos around Brexit and to get on with addressing the real issues of climate change. The problem can be faced, but the longer we leave it, the greater the risk, and the more costly the action that has to be taken.