Four years ago, in January 2004, what was then a startling claim was made by the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser. Climate change was a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism, according to Sir David King.
He went on to single out the US for failing to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. Given King’s role as Tony Blair’s right hand man, you can see how this story rattled the wires. This, remember, was just a couple of years after 9/11 and only months after US tanks had rolled into Bagdhad in search of those non-existent WMDs.
Now Sir David, who has stepped down from his goverment role, has turned his fire on what he sees as Green Luddites who he believes risk actually hampering the fight against global warming.
Now Sir David King says any approach that does not focus on technological solutions to climate change – including nuclear power – is one of “utter hopelessness”.
In a Guardian interview he says: “There is a suspicion, and I have that suspicion myself, that a large number of people who label themselves ‘green’ are actually keen to take us back to the 18th or even the 17th century.”
In his new book, A Hot Topic, King warns climate activists: “Don’t be ‘greener-than-thou’: the evidence suggests that making people feel guilty makes them less likely to act, not more.”
Nuclear power, he adds, “is not necessarily an ideal way to make energy, but the dangers of climate change are certainly far worse”. King’s contribution to the nuclear debate is very timely, given that the British Government yesterday gave the green light to a new generation of up to 10 new nuclear power stations, the first in decades.
Closer to home, Energy Minister, Eamon Ryan, speaking on RTE yesterday morning, said the time has come for a public debate. Ryan argues that based on a recent study commissioned by the Government, “Ireland can go beyond any other country so far, in terms of how much renewables you can get on the system”.
Ireland can, Ryan argues, “go an incredible distance with renewables, and that’s before you even start looking at energy efficiency”. Wind power in Ireland is actually our cheapest form of energy right now, argues Ryan, who says it is in fact subsidising the market.
The era of the hundred dollar barrel of oil has turned the economics of renewables on its head, especially when the cost of carbon emissions are also factored into various energy options. Ryan claims that around €100 bn will be invested worldwide in renewables, and that this flood of money is tilting the balance in this direction.
A new Ireland-UK power interconnector is currently being examined, according to Ryan, who believes that instead of us in Ireland being propped up in our energy needs by UK-generated nuclear power across the interconnector, “the likelihood is that we will be exporting cheaper green power to the UK and elsewhere.
Last month, Sir David King again made the headlines when he suggested that women who want to join the fight against global warming might start by not admiring men who drive sports cars. He suggested instead that women should find men who are environmentally aware more of a turn-on.
“I was asked at a lecture by a young woman about what she could do and I told her to stop admiring young men in Ferraris. What I was saying is that you have got to admire people who are conserving energy and not those wilfully using it.”
Men will buy gas-guzzling Ferraris, not because they are cheap to run or have low carbon dioxide emissions, “but because young women think it is sexy to see men driving Ferraris. That is the area where a culture change is needed”.
King has managed to offend both the Greens and the boy racer lobby. He must be on the right track.