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Saturday 17 February 2018
17 February 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Climate Change

Irrefutable climate science screams out from decades of research - Davey

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said today that irrefutable climate science 'screams out from decades of research.' He said the basic physics of climate change is irrefutable with two hundred years of good science - teasing out uncertainties, considering risk - laying the foundation of what we now understand.


Irrefutable evidence: Ed Davey

"When I am confronted by some of the most dogmatic and blinkered people who deny that climate change is happening, I am reminded of the sentiment of the famous USA Today cartoon. If we really are wrong about climate change, we will have created a better world for nothing," he said.

"In reality, those who deny climate change and demand a halt to emissions reduction and mitigation work, want us to take a huge gamble with the future of every human being on the planet, every future human being, our children and grand children, and every other living species."

Mr Davey declared: "We will not take that risk."

The Energy Secretary was speaking at the AVOID symposium at the Royal Society on climate change and science.

The AVOID programme is a four-year DECC/Defra-funded research programme which provides scientific and technical analysis to inform UK strategies for avoiding dangerous climate change.

It is a collaboration of leading UK research institutes, including the Met Office Hadley Centre, the Walker Institute, Grantham Institute (Imperial), and the Tyndall Centre.

The Government's outgoing Chief Scientific Advisor Sir John Beddington also gave a speech outlining the importance of science and the role it plays to inform government policy in particular on climate change.

Mr Davey told delegates: "It is fair to say that trust in politicians is not something the public has in abundance. That is why, when it comes to climate change, it is so important that all the rigours of the scientific method are applied. That it is the science that drives policy.

"When the scientists tell us that the evidence proves that smoking is addictive and can cause a whole host of deadly medical conditions from emphysema to heart disease, we believe them. We try to give up; we hope our children never start.

"When scientists tell us to that prolonged exposure to the sun's ultra-violet rays can lead to cancer, we believe them, because their views are based on strong evidence. We take precautions, we avoid sunburn, and we cover up, use sun cream.

"So if we have this trust in scientific evidence, why would we make an exception when it comes to the science of climate change?

"When it comes to assessing the health of our planet's eco-system – we should listen to the scientists – and we should believe them.

"The basic physics of climate change is irrefutable. Greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and cause changes to the climate. Human activity is significantly contributing to the warming of our planet.

"While we would not want to attribute every extreme weather event to climate change – the pattern is building and the costs are rising – the human costs and the financial costs.

"The costs of the 2012 floods here in the UK could easily top £1bn. And last month the US Congress passed a $50bn bill for relief for those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

"As President Obama said last month: 'Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.'"

"And Sir John also talked about how our hope must be to limit climate change – preventing us passing a potentially catastrophic tipping point - a great threat to life.

"Because the stark fact is this – climate change is happening. We can't reverse it, but we can limit it.

"AVOID highlights the importance of keeping temperature increases below 2C. To do so global emissions need to be reduced urgently and sustained deep cuts are required long term.

Mr Davey said the research points to the importance of a comprehensive global deal in 2015.

He continued: "It may be as I mentioned earlier that the art of politics is not greatly revered. But we will need every piece of political artistry we can bring to bear to make sure that we translate this scientific understanding into concrete and effective action to keep climate change within manageable levels.

"Over the last decade in the United Kingdom, there has grown and solidified, a political consensus for domestic action to curb our emissions, and for seeking a legally binding international treaty to provide for the same at a global level."

The latest estimates for the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 show a 7% fall compared to 2010 - a reduction of more than 25% since 1990 – the base year measure for the Kyoto Treaty.

Mr Davey said: "The real prize, the real prize, is to design in long-term emissions reduction through systemic change - designing out carbon.

"The real danger we face is being outpaced by other countries that are investing in clean, low-carbon economies. This is a boom market of £3.3 trillion, growing at 3.7% a year, with investment in renewables outpacing that in fossil fuels.

"For our businesses this means opportunities, for our governments tax revenues, for our people jobs, for our societies insulation from the volatility of fossil fuel prices.

"So this drive for low-carbon energy is a real engine of growth for hard-pressed economies around the world."

AVOID has shown that to achieve a 50% chance of limiting warming to 2°C, global emissions need to peak in the next few years and be followed by rapid long-term reductions.

Mr Davey said: I am given hope: The Doha conference in December 2012 has re-affirmed the international commitment to reaching a 2015 agreement.

"I am given hope, by the actions taking place all around the world in developed and developing economies, that we can agree a global, binding treaty, because it will be the next obvious, natural step to consolidate the actions we're already taking

"And I am given hope by our human ingenuity – to find a way through problems and develop solutions."

He said we now have three critical years leading to the end of 2015 to get the international politics aligned.

To bring into agreement those representing the huge mega economies of Europe, America, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan – those representing developed countries and developing countries, those representing the most threatened by climate change, and those who believe, quite wrongly, they are cushioned from the impact.

He added: "So my message is this. We can't leave this to the politicians to save the planet. This has to be a whole of society effort, and no contribution will be more crucial than that of the scientific community.

"Conceiving solutions, engineering new efficiencies, bringing new energy sources to the market. We share a positive vision of a green, clean energy and transport – and a better, healthier way of life. And the progress of science will help us get there."

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