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We need a Green New Deal to combat climate change

Dear Editor

Mr Oxley argued that the planet is cooling and that “tipping points” don’t exist. This is completely contradictory to the scientific evidence. Nature published evidence this month showing the Antarctic, the only region about which there was still some scientific debate, is warming as fast as the rest of the planet. (1)

Climate scientists agree that the world’s average temperature has already increased by three quarters of a degree. This may not sound very much, but it is enough to start to destabilise many of the earth’s natural systems. When something else goes wrong as a result of this warming, it may have the effect of producing far more greenhouse gases, so dramatically increasing global warming.

Lets look at some examples. Researchers from the University College London and the Met Office (2) reported in 2005 that the Amazon forest is in great danger. With just a small increase in temperature, the forest could become desert. This is because the trees create most of the rainfall. They start to die as the temperature rises, so less water is released into the air by the forest. There is then less rainfall to sustain the remaining trees, more sunlight reaches the forest floor, drying it out and making the forest more susceptible to fire, and less heat is lost through evaporation. A “tipping point” is created, more trees die and the chain reaction continues. As the forest dies, either by rotting or fire, more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere, further increasing global warming.

As the perma-frost near the Artic melts, it starts to release the methane frozen beneath the ice. The West Siberian bog began melting in 2005. It is believed that this contains 70 billion tonnes of methane. This, according to George Monbiot (3), would have the same effect as 73 years of current man made CO2 emissions.

The sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to the smallest area ever recorded. One function of the ice caps is to reflect the suns energy back into space. But as the ice melts it is replaced by dark sea, which absorbs the suns energy and therefore begins to warm, causing another chain reaction. Warmer seas melt the ice faster. Warmer water expands, leading to more flooding. Sea levels throughout the world have been rising at a rate of 2mm a year, and this is bound to increase.

In 2007 Sheffield suffered a dramatic flood. Extreme weather like this is being experienced more regularly throughout the world.

Mr Oxley claims that Green policies would reduce our standard of living. On the contrary, Green policies are designed to meet the challenges of climate change so that we don’t end up fighting for dwindling resources. Affordable, well insulated housing, locally grown food, reliable public transport, local jobs, schools and shops would mean we could all live comfortable lives in a low-carbon economy. By contrast, the three major parties are intent on supporting private profit at all costs, which is leading poor people into hunger and homelessness, here and abroad.

Mr Oxley claims that we are enjoying economic success under New Labour! Perhaps he hasn’t noticed the bank bail-outs, the growing dole queues, the loss of jobs at Corus and the fall of High Street giants like Woolies. What we need is a New Green Deal, with massive investment that will create jobs in energy saving industry. We could ensure all our homes are well insulated, produce our power with renewable energy, have public transport that is so good people want to leave their cars at home and local food production to reduce unnecessary use of oil. President Obama has pledged massive investment in renewables. We must follow suit. Then we would be simultaneously combating the triple crisis of the credit crunch, oil scarcity and climate chaos, giving us real hope for the future. Green policies will lead to a much better quality of life for us all.


(1) Nature. January 2009
(2) Monbiot, George Heat. How to stop the planet burning. P9, quoting Sharon A Cowling et al, “Contrasting Simulatted Past and Future Responsesof the Amazonian Forest to Atmospheric change”,Philosophiocal transactions of the Royal Society, Vol 359 (29 March 2004)pp539-47
(3) Monbiot, George Heat. How to stop the planet burning. P11

Topics: Climate Change, Graham Wroe, Letters to the press