The words “Corbyn” and “catastrophe” have been so often linked that it seems a bit of a mistake for Jeremy to open his article about Labour’s new Environment and Energy policy document with the sentence: “We are on course for a climate catastrophe.” And he continues in the same vein:
… heatwaves like that in 2003, which killed tens of thousands of people in Europe, will become the norm … rising sea levels and desertification … will sink cities, and kill and displace millions … The task for politicians is to propose real solutions to the single most important issue facing humanity. Too often, the environment is considered a matter for scientists, enthusiasts and activists… we need more than facts – we need a programme that resonates with people’s everyday experiences… . When energy is driven by the needs of people, it will be greener … a bold new set of policies … a new generation of community energy co-operatives… we will end the misery of cold rented accommodation… we need to keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground. This can and must be done. Scotland is already on course to generate 100% of its electricity from renewables, and Britain has an ample supply of wind and water…
Sorry to bore you with that. I know you’ve heard it a million times before. It could have been the programme of Cameron or Lucas or almost any mainstream politician in the Western world. There is absolutely nothing new in the article. What is new is what it, and the policy document it summarises, leaves out: science, logic, reason, or any attempt to even pretend to propose a rational energy policy.
Jeremy’s article is illustrated with a picture of a bloke on a roof (“300,000 high-quality new jobs”? Tell that to the Romanians) and embroidered with seven links, all to articles in the Guardian. Unfortunately, it forgets to link to the policy document itself which is oddly entitled “Jeremy Corbyn Environment and Energy.”
(Did the USSR entitle its policy documents “Joseph Stalin: A Five Year Plan?” I don’t think so. They probably thought it would smack too much of a personality cult.)
The policy document is interesting, not so much for what it promises (a ban on fracking, thousands of not-for-profit local energy companies, 300,000 renewable energy jobs, a low-carbon house-building programme…) as for its utter lack of any scientific references to back it up. There’s no mention of nuclear energy at all. No mention of the Stern Report or the IPCC. The words “science”, scientific” and “scientist” do not appear. Scientific literature quoted in the bibliography is limited to Dieter Helm on cost scenarios and reports by the Committee on Climate Change and Greenpeace.
The one table in the report is an attempt at quantifying renewable energy capacity, prices and jobs created by 2030 in order to meet the target of 65% renewables. Two thirds (200,000) of the jobs created are in offshore wind. What happens to those 200,000 highly skilled deep sea concrete mixers and pylon erectors once they’ve mixed and erected is not discussed.
The document detailing how we are to power the world’s fourth largest economy does contain one scientific “fact”, however, which is repeated lovingly:
“80% of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to keep global temperatures safe”
“… research published in Nature shows that as much as 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if the world is to keep global temperature rises to 2 degrees.”
“We need to keep 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to have a chance of keeping global temperatures to 2 degrees, let alone safe levels of 1.5 degrees as agreed at the UN Paris Climate talks last year.”
“Fracking is not compatible with climate change, as research shows that as much as 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned if the world is to keep global temperature rises to 2 degrees.”
The source for this is a letter to journal.
OK, it’s Nature, not Labour Weekly, but still, basing energy policy for the next hundred years or so on a letter by two guys seems a bit—unscientific.
It’s McGlade and Ekins on “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C”. I’m sure there’s lots to be said about the piling the Pelion of estimates of reserves (which vary by a factor of—what?—5 to 1?) on the Ossa of estimates of climate sensitivity (which vary by a factor of 3:1 according to the IPCC) and multiplying and dividing the results by all the other variables of economic growth, pricing etc. you can think of. Feel free to do so.
Jeremy Corbyn ends his appeal to reason and the undecided voter with this odd thought:
“Too often environmental catastrophe is explained in the same terms as an asteroid hitting the earth.”
Really? I hadn’t heard that one. So environmental catastrophe is something that only happens dangerously once in a million years?
“But the problems and the solutions are political … By democratising our energy supply, and giving people power over their own destinies, we can rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and no community is left behind.”
So what’s it about then? Preventing catastrophe or ensuring that no-one is left behind? Or a bit of both?