British Antarctic Survey

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th January 2012.

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Photo of Oliver Colvile Oliver Colvile Conservative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport 10:30 am, 26th January 2012

What assessment he has made of British Antarctic Survey research on the effects of historic industrialisation on global carbon dioxide levels.

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Ice core measurements by the British Antarctic Survey reveal that over the last 800,000 years, global carbon dioxide levels varied between 180 and 300 parts per million. Those peer-reviewed results provide crucial data on past natural levels for climate science research. Observations show that global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are currently increasing at about two parts per million per year, and are now at 391 parts per million, as a result of emissions from industrial and other human sources.

Photo of Oliver Colvile Oliver Colvile Conservative, Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport

May I thank the Minister of State, my hon. Friend Gregory Barker for going to Bristol recently to launch the marine energy strategy? How does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State perceive it working in delivering fewer CO2 emissions and helping with the energy strategy?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

Marine energy parks are an important part of developing a tremendously good natural resource for us in this country. We may not have quite as much sunshine as in southern Spain or Arizona, but we have an awful lot of wind, an awful lot of waves and an awful lot of tidal resource. Within the ministerial team, my hon. Friend the Minister of State has been leading the charge on marine energy parks precisely to make sure that we do not let those enormous opportunities slip through our fingers.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Education)

Does the Secretary of State have three points he would like to share with us on the main conclusions of the research?

Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Liberal Democrat, Eastleigh

I can certainly point to one conclusion of the research that I think is absolutely crucial: measurements of current carbon dioxide levels show that they have increased by nearly 40% since pre-industrial times, and carbon isotope information shows that this has largely been caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Drilling down into ice cores is a fascinating way of finding out what was happening in prehistory, and it thoroughly underlines the importance in the science of our addressing those issues. One thing that as politicians we cannot do is negotiate with scientific conclusions as robustly supported as these.