Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Providing billions of pounds of cash to fund climate projects in poor countries is still a priority for the British Government, despite distracting local problems like dangerous failures in Britain’s broken healthcare system, or the urgent need to recruit more police to try to contain Britain’s wildly escalating violent crime epidemic.
Michael Gove Speech on UK Climate Change Projections
Secretary of State, Michael Gove, gives speech on UK Climate Change Projections
NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH INFORMATION – THE SCIENCE AND POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
WHAT WE OWE TO SCIENTISTS
I want to begin on a personal note. I am fortunate as Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to work alongside some of the most gifted, dedicated and impressive public servants in the country.
THE EVIDENCE ALL AROUND US
Today, as we launch the fourth generation of our UK Climate Projections, it is clear that the planet and its weather patterns are changing before our eyes.
Sea levels, for example – which we are becoming more accurate at measuring, thanks to advances in instruments and monitoring systems. In the 20th century the oceans rose around 15cm and the rate of increase has since quickened. Just since 2000, levels have risen around six centimetres, based on a global-average rise of 3.2mm a year. Our seas are storing increasing amounts of heat: around half of all ocean warming has occurred since 1997. Even as we take action to slow carbon dioxide pollution now, physics dictates that the climate will keep heating up for decades to come.
Peer-reviewed scientific research states that the rapid warming is substantially due to the methane, nitrous oxide, and fossil fuel emissions we produce.
The great ice sheets of Greenland and some parts of Antarctica are increasingly unstable. Rising seas are rendering the storm surges not only of hurricanes but also regular high tides more of a threat.
Science is clear that there will be changes in ecosystems caused by the climate. WWF’s recent Living Planet report revealed a 60% fall in global wildlife populations in just over 40 years. One of the main causes of this devastating decline is climate change.
We cannot predict the net effects to ecosystems, but the likelihood is that many will be negative. Some native flora and fauna will struggle. Marine ecosystems will experience warmer and more acidic seas. New pests and diseases could thrive. Deteriorating soil quality and moisture, coupled with less reliable water supply, will reduce agricultural yields, as we have already seen this summer.
And while climate change cannot be blamed for growing wealth inequality, it is the case that it disproportionately affects nations with the least resources to cope – nations which have also contributed least to emissions in the first place. In the coming years, they will expect the developed world to deliver what Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and environmental campaigner, calls ‘climate justice’ – sharing fairly the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts.
The government has committed nearly £6 billion of funding between 2016 and 2020 to help developing countries both reduce emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Defra is spending part of this and my department, working with DFID, BEIS and the FCO, is prioritising projects and activities that can deliver benefits for sustainable development, poverty alleviation, and biodiversity, as well as climate mitigation and climate adaptation.
An example of this is mangrove conservation and restoration. Mangroves are important habitats for a variety of important species. They are vital nurseries for many key commercial fisheries thereby supporting livelihoods. They sequester carbon emissions contributing to climate mitigation and do so up to six times as much as some tropical forests. And they reduce the impacts of climate change, by absorbing the energy of storms, hurricanes, and typhoons that will increase in frequency and severity as a result of climate change. This is essential for managing climate impacts facing coastal communities across the tropics.
Many of these mangroves have been degraded and do not provide the full range of potential benefits. That is why I am today announcing an additional £13 million to fund mangroves restoration. This will support projects in small island developing states like Jamaica and those with high rates of deforestation like Colombia. We plan to scale funding to mangrove and other win-win nature-based solutions in the future.
I guess the speech provides reassurance for anyone who was worried Brexit might reduce Britain’s focus on flinging money at climate causes.