The “apocalyptic visions” of environmentalists are not justified by the evidence about global warming, according to a Midland MP.
John Maples (Con Stratford) told the House of Commons he did not believe scientists really understood what was happening to the earth’s climate.
He sounded a note of scepticism in a debate which highlighted the lack of consensus among Britain’s politicians about the environment.
Black Country MP Rob Marris (Lab Wolverhampton South West) told colleagues to “wake up and smell the coffee” and accept the world was not going to stop creating the pollution believed to cause global warming.
Most MPs and staff failed even to turn the lights off in the Commons toilets, he said. Britain should focus on how it was going to cope with global warming, instead of hoping it could avoid the problem by cutting back on carbon emissions, he said.
They were speaking during a debate on the Climate Change Bill, which will set a legally binding target for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020.
Mr Maples said: “Until a couple of months ago, I was happily riding this consensus and accepted the received wisdom. I thought it was probably being exaggerated a bit, but then people usually do that. However, I then made the mistake of reading a few books and quite a lot of analysis ... that has led me to a couple of conclusions that trouble me a lot.
“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.”
He said none of the models scientists had developed to predict how carbon emissions might affect the environment could account for the climate change that had actually taken place.
“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 ... has not risen at all. In the past seven years, global temperatures have not increased.”
Mr Marris was also sceptical about plans to reduce carbon emissions, but for different reasons. He said: “I welcome the Bill and I accept that human activity is affecting the climate adversely. I am not a flat-earther.”
But he did not accept the “cosy consensus” that everything would be fine if plans were made to cut carbon dioxide emissions, he said. Emissions were currently going up rather than down, he added.
Some MPs were calling for an 80 per cent cut, he said. “I say to honourable members, ‘wake up and smell the coffee’. We are not going to achieve 80 per cent – it will be hard to reach 60 per cent, if we consider the number of air trips our constituents make.”
Global warming would affect Britain’s plans, wildlife and food production, he said.
“They will affect issues such as building design and planning regulations; roads and railways, with rails buckling in the heat; water supply, with a need for new reservoirs; what we have to do about coastal defences with rising sea levels; inland flooding, which we saw dramatically last year and which will only get worse; possible civil unrest and its security implications, which other countries and, potentially, we will face; and international development.”