Climate change: The British are for turning

Great Britain has been the world’s biggest booster of man-made climate change since the 1980s, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided climate change would be a convenient club with which to beat back the coal unions while promoting nuclear power. Her Labour Party successors, Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown, have pursued climate change policies with even greater zeal: It was the Treasury Department under Labour that produced the Stern Review, the first official analysis to predict economic Armageddon from climate change.

No country, in fact, has more earnestly turned climate change dreams into deliverables: Climate change taxes have been proudly imbedded in energy rates, climate change education has permeated the British school system, climate change theories have been presented as undeniable truths by the British media.

But now, the country is for turning. Polls show that the public no longer buys the decades of unrelenting warnings of catastrophe, both official and unofficial, that it has grown up with. According to a surprising survey released yesterday by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, most Britons do not fear harm from climate change.

Why would the UK government release data showing the ineffectiveness of its climate change policies? The answer comes from Joan Ruddock, the Energy and Climate Change Minister: "The survey results show that people don’t realize that climate change is already under way and could have severe consequences," she explained, in justifying an aggressive new climate change campaign designed to turn public opinion around in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate change meetings in December.

The £6-million ad campaign, launched in desperation on prime-time TV this week on the family show, Coronation Street, is being touted as the government’s first ever advertising campaign "confirming the existence of climate change and its man-made origin."

In one ad, presented as a bedtime story between a father and daughter, the father describes "a very very strange" world that has "horrible consequences." Animals and humans drown in a British town engulfed in water. The culprit is carbon dioxide, shown to rise as black soot above British homes before congealing in the shape of a vile jagged-toothed monster.

"Is there a happy ending?" the daughter asks her dad at the conclusion of the ad. "It’s up to us how the story ends," a voiceover intones, directing viewers to the government’s "Act on CO2" website.

The story is likely to end well for the public but poorly for the government. On the same day that its campaign began, it lost the allegiance of the politically correct BBC, until recently the government’s staunchest climate change ally. In an article yesterday entitled "What happened to global warming," the BBC’s climate correspondent, Paul Hudson, astounded Brits by stating "it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise."

Hudson concludes his piece, which treats arguments from both sides of the debate with equal respect, by saying: "One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up."

The battle for Britain, once thought decided in favour of the global warming orthodoxy, in fact rages on, with the skeptics now holding the high ground.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe. 

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