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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:42 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Liberal Democrat, Lewes 12:42 pm, 8th February 2005

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct, and I pay tribute to the work that he did in government in bringing this matter forward and to his subsequent contribution in opposition. It is welcome to have such a knowledgeable voice on the Conservative Benches. He is absolutely right that there is no doubt among the scientific community. That is not to deny that some individuals are advancing the theory that climate change is not occurring. Indeed, I shall consider some of those voices now.

One voice is that of Julian Morris of the International Policy Network, who claims that climate change is a myth. Apparently, sea levels are not rising and Britain's chief scientist is "an embarrassment" because he believes that catastrophe is inevitable. It is worth pointing to the close links between International Policy Network and Exxon Mobil, which gave the organisation $50,000. Exxon lists that donation as part of its climate change outreach programme. There are also close links with the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute. We may be able to deduce from the comments of Julian Morris that there is an ulterior motive behind his denial of climate change.

I have already mentioned the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Members may have heard the outrageous interview with Myron Ebell on the Radio 4 "Today" programme. He criticised Sir David King in hugely personal and outrageous terms and called climate change "a tissue of improbabilities", claiming that the objective was for Europe to "attack America's economic superiority". It is worth pointing out that the Competitive Enterprise Institute is also funded by Exxon Mobil—to the tune of $280,000 in 2001.

We could also mention Dr. Roger Bate of Tech Central Station. He also criticised Sir David King, who is fast becoming an object of derision for people associated with Exxon Mobil and others. He says that

"it is especially shameful for the British to attempt limiting debate"— apparently that is what we are doing—

"in a country that had science suppressed far too often in the past."

I do not think that many hon. Members will recognise that description of this country. The House may be interested to know that Tech Central Station received $95,000 from Exxon Mobil last year for climate change activities.

I am sure that some people are genuine and well meaning. David Bellamy, the former environmentalist, has denied climate change in the newspapers. I am not sure that we can give much credit to his views, but I think that he is genuine. Tech Central Station, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the International Policy Network are linked not by a belief that climate change is not happening, but by a need to advance an argument on behalf of those with a vested interest in action not being taken. A plethora of such articles has appeared in the press, supposedly from independent scientists. In fact, they are nothing of the sort: they are being paid by the oil industry to advance some very short-sighted arguments.

In the oil industry, Shell and BP have shown leadership. They embrace new technology and realise that we must change. There is a big difference between their activities and those of Exxon Mobil, which pretends that it can still keep its head in the sand.