Energy secretary Ed Davey has said the renewables debate has moved on from whether we should cut emissions to how, labelling sceptics “crackpots and conspiracy theorists”.
In an outspoken attack on climate change sceptics, the energy secretary warned that there are people who are seeking “to create doubt where there is certainty”.
‘Sceptics and crackpots’
Speaking in Brussels, he commented: “Of course there will always be those with a vested interest in the status quo.
“And you will always get crackpots and conspiracy theorists who will deny they have a nose on their face if it suits them.
“But the truth is this: while forecasts of the future rate at which the world will warm differ, and while many accept we will see periods when warming temporarily plateaus, all the scientific evidence is in one direction.”
The politician emphasised the importance of working to reduce emissions rather than arguing over the extent of human impact on climate change, saying that the debate had “long moved on”.
He underlined that what is now vital is thinking about how emissions can be cut, rather than whether they should be.
Climate change and the economy
In his speech to businessmen in Europe, the Liberal Democrat minister also covered the long-term impact of climate change on the economy, warning that it would make today’s economic troubles “look mild in comparison”.
He continued that people in boardrooms who still doubt the evidence should think about how they normally assess risk, and how they usually act on the evidence and presence of risk.
“On the basis of any normal risk assessment where probability is weighed against impact, and the cost of action against the cost of inaction, taking a gamble would be “incredibly stupid” and “have you locked up in jail for corporate negligence”, Mr Davey added.
Coalition support for EU emissions goals
The government supports the EU’s efforts to cut its emissions 50% by 2030, he commented, if a global deal on tackling climate change is agreed. If no such agreement is struck, the coalition supports the goal of a reduction of 40%.
However, the UK does oppose any new renewables targets for 2030, according to Mr Davey. He dismissed these schemes “inflexible and unnecessary”, however commented that the coalition does remain “very pro-renewables”.
“I see renewable energy having a long and prosperous future in the UK and across Europe way beyond 2020, and in fact well beyond 2030.”
Renewables ‘not the only way to decarbonise energy’
However, Mr Davey also highlighted that renewables are not the only way to decarbonise energy, nodding towards new nuclear, carbon capture and storage, and renewable heat. Renewables are certainly “part of the solution”, he said, but there is “strength and sense” in a diverse, mixed energy strategy.
“Countries should be free to pick the energy mix they prefer, and not be penalised for the choices they make – including on whether they choose nuclear to deliver their emissions reductions,” he said.
Mr Davey’s comments come after a speech in London earlier this month in which he attacked “destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism” surrounding climate change and criticised sections of the press for the way they report on the issue.
He accused a number of media outlets of giving “dangerous” sceptics an uncritical platform, and said the scepticism was born of “vested interest, nimbyism, publicity-seeking controversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.