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Climate change

Plenary Speech - Thursday, 4th December 2008

Mr. President

I have no doubt that we are facing the greatest threat we have seen in my lifetime. That threat is posed not by global warming, but our policy responses to it.

The world has certainly been warming, slightly and intermittently, for the last 150 years. But that warming is entirely consistent with well established, natural, long-term climate cycles established over thousands of years.

We have seen the Holocene Maxima, the Roman Optimum, the Mediaeval Warm Period. We now seem to be entering a new 21st Century Climate Optimum.

Mr. President: The fact is that sea level is rising no faster than it has done for centuries. The fact is that total global ice mass is broadly constant. The fact is that extreme weather events are no more common now than they were a century ago.

The Polar Bear, far from facing extinction, has seen a massive population increase in recent decades.

It is true that CO2 is a greenhouse gas -- but a less important greenhouse gas than water vapour.

The climate forcing effect of CO2 is not linear. It is a law of diminishing returns. From current level of around 380 ppm, further CO2 increases will have a trivial effect.

Meantime our emissions policies are having a devastating effect. They are doing vast economic damage. Our unachievable renewables targets, especially with regard to wind power, threaten widespread black-outs and power shortages.

These measures will fail, just as Kyoto has failed. Even if the West cuts emissions, China and India will not. CO2 levels will keep rising for at least half a century.

Mr. President, the fact is that 1998 was the hottest year in living memory. Since then, we have seen ten years of global cooling. In that context, the climate policies we are debating today represent an unprecedented collective flight from reality.