“YOU’VE GOT SIX YEARS LEFT – GET ON WITH IT!” That was the message from climate expert Sir John Houghton at Church Stretton School last night (13 October 2009). Sir John certainly pulled no punches as he told it like it is: the developed countries have generated a global warming process that is already going to result in two degrees of warming, and the government ‘needs to get a move on’ if it is to prevent climate change getting out of control.
As a former Chair of the International Panel on Climate Change Sir John brought a personal insight into the scientific consensus that backed up his call for urgent action. “We’re not a bunch of greenie activists pursuing our own agenda” he said, “we’re scientists who have spent decades doing the research and we have collectively come to this conclusion in probably the most rigorously tested process ever.”
In the course of a lengthy question and answer session before a packed audience, he refuted suggestions that global warming was due to sunspot activity or other natural factors, but was non-committal about some of the more extreme theories being put forward.
“Tipping points and so-called positive feedback -these things may be true”, he said, “they need more research and we don’t know yet – but the things we do know are quite serious enough for us to need to take action now.We have six years in which to take the necessary steps to halt our dependence on fossil fuels – and then to reduce our use to almost zero.There are many ways in which we can do this without destroying our way of life or our economy, in fact many of them would enhance our economic position; but we have got to start doing it now.”
Sir John was pretty rude about politicians who, he said, had so far done very little to implement a programme of non-carbon energy production. He put up a heat-sensitive photograph of the Houses of Parliament, showing that the seat of government was very poorly insulated. “This shows the extent to which hot air is being wasted!” he said, to general merriment.
He called for a programme of combined tidal, solar and wind energy to be initiated in the UK, and for the developed countries to support the third world develop similar technologies.
“The technology is there; they just need to get a move on” he said. One of the first things ordinary people could do was phone their electricity company and ask to be put on a green energy tariff. “ If you do that, the energy companies must provide the equivalent of your energy consumption from non-carbon resources” he explained. “If everyone just did that, the energy companies would have no choice but to invest in renewable energy production.”