Tag Archives: UK Independence Party

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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Election focus: The Hunting Act

Hunting deer, foxes and hares with dogs was outlawed 10 years ago. A poll by Ipsos Mori, conducted at the end of last year, found that 80% of people in Great Britain think that fox hunting should remain illegal, 86% for deer hunting and 88% for hare hunting/coursing. These figures are about the same in both rural and urban areas (despite claims from the Countryside Alliance that only urbanites support the ban).

So why do an election focus on this issue? There can’t be much legislation that is so popular with the general public. But hunting has become an election issue, with pro-hunt campaigners  actively supporting (campaigning for and financing) candidates for parties who promise to repeal the legislation.

Opponents of the Hunting Act claim that it doesn’t work, has done nothing to protect animals’ welfare, and restricts a countryside tradition. Supporters of the Act claim that it’s a highly effective piece of legislation, pointing to successful prosecutions of hunts breaking the law. Some anti-hunt groups argue that the law needs strengthening, or enforcement improving, as illegal fox hunting still continues in some areas.

So where do the parties stand on this issue? I’ve been looking into it, checking parties’ websites, emailing party head offices, and emailing the candidates standing in my constituency. I’ve only included parties standing in England, as there is different legislation in Scotland. Here’s what I’ve found.

Conservatives

Writing in the Countryside Alliance magazine (a pro-hunting lobby group), David Cameron said:

“The Hunting Act has done nothing for animal welfare. A Conservative government will give parliament the opportunity to repeal the Hunting Act on a free vote, with a government bill in government time.”

So a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a return to hunting foxes, deer and hares with dogs.

Labour

Labour has said it would not repeal the ban. Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, has already stated:

“Only Labour will protect the Hunting Act. Ten years ago the Labour party ended the cruel practice of hunting with dogs, because we believe that causing defenceless animals to suffer in the name of sport has no place in a civilised society. But just as we celebrate the Hunting Act, the Tories plan to repeal it. Only Labour can protect the Hunting Act because Labour is the only major party committed to defending it. The hunting ban is a testament to the progress made since the days of bear baiting and other such barbaric blood sports.”

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats haven’t responded to my emails yet, and I haven’t been able to find any policy statements about this on their website. However, it’s widely recognised that lack of support from the Liberal Democrats is the main reason why the current Coalition Government haven’t repealed the Hunting Act already.

If I hear anything from the Liberal Democrats I will update this post. In the meantime, you could ask the candidates standing in your constituency what their views on it are. The League Against Cruel Sport have an easy way to do this with their General Election Survey.

UKIP

I couldn’t find anything on the UKIP website about this issue, so I emailed them. Here’s the response I received from Alan Bigwood of UKIP Headoffice:

“UKIP has absolutely no policy on Hunting, and the reason is simple.   Those in favour of hunting and those opposed to it, are separated by a gulf that is in reality a chasm.  There is no point in UKIP having an official policy on Hunting because it has nothing to do with pulling out of the EU, and even within UKIP itself some of the members are pro hunting and others are vehemently opposed, a mirror of wider society.

UKIP does not intend to bring hunting back even if Nigel Farage may take a different personal stance, which he has every right to do.

It is party policy to offer referendums to the public, and if enough petitioners were to demand a referendum on Hunting then a UKIP government would, of course, accede to that request…  In such instances we feel that it is best to let the people decide, not an out of touch clique in Westminster, many of whom have never done a proper job in their lives.”

The Greens

My Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate replied to my email, saying:

“The Green Party is committed to maintaining and strengthening the ban on hunting with dogs, and would extend this ban to all hunting of all animals for sport or pleasure.”

There’s lots more information about the Green Party’s position on other animal welfare issues, including snaring, shooting, dog fighting and greyhound racing on their website.

More information

Watch the disturbing video below, then visit the League Against Cruel Sports website for more information, and to take action.

Election focus: the badger cull

If you live in the UK you’ll have noticed the political parties have started jostling for position, ready for the general election in May. As much as it would be nice to avoid the murky world of politics, who we vote (or don’t vote) for will have a big impact on our environment, as well as society and the economy. So, over the coming months, I will examine the main parties’ policies on various issues that I think are important for nature.

Since it’s something that I’ve covered a bit here before, I thought I’d start with the badger cull. (As the badger cull is only being done in England, I’m only going to look at English parties for this issue). Both the Conservatives and Labour have announced the line they will take on the badger cull in their manifestos. But since other parties are likely to play an important role in the outcome, I’ve also contacted the Lib Dems, UKIP and Green Party for their position on this issue.

The Conservatives

Speaking to the National Farmers Union, Conservative Environment Secretary Liz Truss has announced that the Tories will roll out the cull to other areas of the country, if they are elected. “We will not let up, whatever complaints we get from protesters groups. We are in it for the long haul and we will not walk away.”

The Tories see the cull as a central part of their 25 year strategy to end bovine TB. They have promised farmers to roll the cull out to other areas with high levels of TB. This is despite the pilot culls failing to reach their targets for number of badgers killed, being expensive and being found to be inhumane. When the independent committee set up to monitor the cull reported unfavourably last year, the Tory-led government disbanded the committee and carried on the cull without independent scientific oversight.

The strategy does say that any culls should (eventually) be funded privately, although the government will consider providing transitional financial support. The strategy is decidedly luke-warm on badger vaccinations, which it says should be developed, implemented and financed privately.

Labour

On the other side of the House of Commons, Labour have announced that they will scrap the “ineffective and inhumane” culls, if they are elected. Instead, they will bring in stricter measures to limit transmission between cattle, and increase both badger and cattle vaccination.

Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, said this week: “Labour has consistently said that to get bovine TB under control we need to bring in stricter cattle measures and prioritise badger and cattle vaccinations, but these culls are not the answer. It’s time the Tory-led government stopped ignoring the overwhelming evidence and got together with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an alternative strategy to get the problem of bovine TB under control.”

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have been quieter on the issue in public. When I asked them for their position, a Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We need to maintain a consistent government strategy including developing science-led ways to control this terrible disease. Badger cull trials in Gloucestershire and Somerset will continue, alongside investment in a vaccine. But we would only support further culls if they are shown to be effective, humane and safe. The TB Eradication Strategy will be fully implemented, to make England TB free within 25 years, while maintaining a viable cattle sector.”

So, it seems like, regardless of whether they are effective, humane and safe, the pilots will continue. Further culls will have to pass this test.

Perhaps their quietness on the issue is because their policy is unlikely to please the National Farmers Union, who are keen for the culls to be rolled out more widely, and also unlikely to appease the campaigners who think the cull has been a costly failure.

The commitment to implement the TB Eradication Strategy is important to note, as this document says: “The Government considers that licensed badger culling, delivered effectively, is an important bTB control measure in areas with high and persistent levels of bTB in cattle epidemiologically linked to endemic TB infection in badgers.”

UKIP

When I asked UKIP for their position on the badger cull, their press office replied: “UKIP supports the trial culling of badgers for the control of Bovine TB, if veterinary opinion substantiates it.”

This is rather more nuanced than the Tory approach (which seems to be to continue the cull regardless of what anyone else thinks). The crucial “if veterinary opinion substantiates it” is interesting. So far the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have supported the culls. However, when data from the second year of the pilot culls was released back in December, the BVA expressed some reservations “The headline data continues to raise some concerns on humaneness and reveals a mixed a picture in terms of effectiveness”, and said that they needed more time to consider the data. Presumably, if the BVA came out against the pilot culls UKIP would also oppose them…

The Green Party

Like Labour, the Green Party have come out strongly against badger culling. They have repeatedly condemned the badger cull as cruel and unnecessary, and called for an immediate end to the killing. They say it is unethical and unscientific, pointing to the Independent Expert Panel report as evidence for this.

Caroline Allen, Green Party Animals Spokesperson and vet, said:  “It is unbelievable that this Government is continuing to fund animal suffering after the shambles of last year’s pilot culls and the news so far suggests that this year is just as bad. In the meantime Wales has been doing what we suggested: concentrating on cattle. The results in Wales are impressive, the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as a result of TB testing having fallen by more than 50% since 2009 without a single badger being killed.”

Conclusion

If you’re really keen on culling as many badgers as possible then the Tories are the party for you. If, on the other hand, you’d like to see an end to the pilot culls immediately, and no further roll-out, then vote for Labour or the Greens. The Lib Dems and UKIP both sit somewhere in the middle, although UKIP are probably slightly closer to the Labour and Greens on this issue than the Lib Dems are.

Of course, few people will vote based solely on a single issue. Over the coming weeks I’ll explore where the parties stand on other key environmental issues. Let me know if there’s any particular topic you’d like me to investigate.