The River Mole bursting its banks

UKIP’s climate change policy is dangerous and cynical

UKIP’s climate change policy is extremely dangerous, and their attempts to justify it don’t just misunderstand the evidence, but blatantly, cynically distort it. I know that I have already blogged about the climate change policies of the political parties. But I really need to get this off my chest.

Last week I attended a hustings, where the audience got to grill potential parliamentary candidates from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and UKIP. It was interesting, but nobody said anything very unexpected. But one point really raised my hackles: UKIP’s response to a question on climate change. I already knew they planned to do nothing to tackle climate change. It was their justification for this that astounded me:

  1. Climate change isn’t happening
  2. And it’s not down to humans anyway (it’s all the sun’s fault)
  3. The 97% of scientists who say otherwise are all in the pay of the Green lobby
  4. The 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report supports UKIP’s views on this

When challenged on this latter point the UKIP candidate proceeded to quote parts of the report which discuss the areas where the existing models are not yet perfect. Someone from UKIP has clearly been through the report, looking for any minor caveats that, when quoted out of context, may make it sound like the report is saying climate change isn’t really happening.

My day job is about making sure the results of scientific research influence policy and practice. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how evidence should be used to inform policy (see my blog post on the evidence around the badger cull if you’re interested in science and policy). Science is often messier than it is portrayed in the media: we don’t always understand everything about an issue perfectly. That’s why there are caveats about the limitations of the evidence in every scientific paper. Science is very good at quantifying the level of uncertainty in results – scientists use confidence intervals to show the range in which they can be confident the true value sits. Acknowledging uncertainty and limitations doesn’t make science useless: you bear the limitations and uncertainty  in mind when interpreting the results, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore the body of evidence completely.

The IPCC report was written by hundreds of scientists, and reviewed by more than a thousand experts, and governments, from around the world. When writing the report, the IPCC will have considered all the evidence, uncertainty and limitations. Taking that all into account, here’s their summary shortest summary of all that evidence (I’ve added the emphasis in bold to help you pick out the bits that relate to UKIP’s claims) :

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have 
warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the 
concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

"Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. 
The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750

"Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse 
gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and 
understanding of the climate system. 

"Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all 
components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and 
sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions." 

Don’t take my word for it – you can read the IPCC report online, in varying levels of details, from a 28 page summary for policymakers, an 84 page technical summary, or the full report.

UKIP’s attempt to justify their climate change policy by misrepresenting the scientific evidence is cynical. It’s not that they don’t understand. They are attempting to deceive the British public. I pray they get nowhere near power – whatever you think of their other policies (beyond the scope of this blog), their climate change and energy policies will be disastrous.

OK. Rant over. For a more dispassionate look at the climate change policies of UKIP and the other parties, read the Election Focus.

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