My MP’s thoughts on climate change

Theyworkforyou.com email me whenever my MP – John Maples – says anything. He’s in the Conservative Party, and not the most active of MPs:

  • Has spoken in 12 debates in the last year — below average amongst MPs.
  • Has received answers to 9 written questions in the last year — below average amongst MPs.
  • Replied within 2 or 3 weeks to a high number of messages sent via WriteToThem.com during 2007, according to constituents. [Andrew’s note: not mine, though]
  • Has voted in 60% of votes in parliament — well below average amongst MPs. (From Public Whip)

He didn’t turn up for the smoking-ban votes, and seems to be against gay rights when he’s there, which isn’t often1. He was present for all the hunting ban votes – you know, the important stuff – and was strongly against.

It seems a bit odd not to be around for such things. Maybe he’s been ill. But when he’s there, he does things I don’t like. I wouldn’t (and didn’t) vote for him, but I still like to follow what’s going on, and today I had an email to say he’d been fairly active in a recent debate.

Turns out he’s a climate-change denying n00b. Here’s his first contribution to the debate on the Draft Climate Change Bill:

After the Bill abolishing slavery was passed by the House, the British Navy patrolled the Atlantic, stopping other countries indulging in the slave trade. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we do the same with global warming?

Helpful, I think you’ll agree. Then comes:

I do not believe that the science is anything like as settled as the proponents of the Bill are making out. In fact, the scientists hedge their predictions with an awful lot of qualifications and maybes that those who invoke them often omit. The science is a bit like medicine in the 1850s. The scientists are scratching the surface of something that they do not really understand, but no doubt will. They are probably on to something, but nothing like the whole story. What they say does not justify any of the apocalyptic visions that we have heard set out.

This is called the language of science. You have to put in all the qualifications, or you’re not doing proper science. Full debunking. Medicine in the 1850s? There was no medicine in the 1850s! This is supposed to be an accurate comparison with the thousands of climate scientists who’ve been collecting data and making confirmed predictions for decades? And then he accuses other people of making statements with no basis?

The record shows that the climate warmed from 1920 to 1940, cooled from 1940 to 1975, rose again from 1975 to 2000, and since 2000, according to the Hadley centre, has not risen at all. In the past seven years, global temperatures have not increased. All the predictions that we work from, whether from the IPCC or anybody else, are based on models, none of which can account for the cooling between 1940 and 1975.

Here’s a graph of global temperature over the last century, and explanations of why it varies. Things are always more complicated than you’d think. I’ve no idea whether climate models take into account the supposed cooling – it seems to be understood fairly well, from what I can tell – but here’s why not-perfect models are still useful and make confirmed predictions.

There’s lots more – he’s been reading books by climate change skeptics – but I want to skip to this:

Over the past 150 years, sea levels have risen by about 30 cm, which is the predicted rise for the next 100 years. Okay, it will happen slightly quicker, but we coped with that rise perfectly easily over the past 150 years so we can cope with it over the next 100 years.

Wtf. I lost electricity this evening, and the freezer’s been warming up. All the ice cubes have been fine for the last hour, though, so I’m sure they can cope for the next. No worries. What’s that, you say? Everyone else’s freezers have broken down too? What do I care about them?

Secondly, we have urban heat islands. In cities, temperatures have risen considerably. The temperature in London has risen between 4 and 6° C since 1950, as it has in Los Angeles, Tokyo and other places. It is a fact of urbanisation called the global heat island effect. We know how to deal with that. If we are richer, we can have air conditioning. We know that if we put in more parks, water and trees in cities, we can cool them considerably. We know how to do that. We can adapt to that very successfully.

Brilliant! Air conditioning is the solution! You’ll be kept cool, and there are no ironic disadvantages. Only if you’re rich, of course – if you’re poor, screw you. And what an idea to build lots of parks in, you know, the world! If only someone had thought that planting trees might help. Ooh, could cost a bit, though – best watch that.

Did I mention he’s a Conservative? Can you tell? It’s almost like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

To be fair, he abruptly comes back down to Earth a bit later:

Some man-made warming is going on. It is worth taking action now: a price mechanism through carbon tax, energy efficiency and nuclear power are worth pursuing, especially nuclear power. Research into alternative power sources—fusion, carbon capture and adaptive strategies—is also worth conducting.

I agree about nuclear power, but I’m not sure about fusion – that’s a way off, I think. Hardly makes up for the earlier comments, though.

I’m far from knowledgeable about climate change, but I see no reason to doubt the conclusions of massive, independent studies by the UN and countless governments. Whenever I investigate any claim that supposedly casts the whole thing into doubt – usually by non-scientists, and usually with a great deal of paranoid conspiracy thrown in for good measure – there’s a comprehensible annihilation of it by people who know what they’re talking about.

So this is all a bit depressing, but at least he’s showing an interest.

  1. to be fair, the train service from Stratford to London isn’t the best []