CLIMATE CONFERENCE SUMMARY – Final Day, 11 May

CONFERENCE SUMMARY – Day 5

FOOD, CLIMATE  CHANGE AND THE MEDIA

John Beveridge, QC chairs today’s session.

Mr Patrick Holden (CBE), Director of Sustainable Food Trust spoke on Climate Change and the Soil. 

Farmers, stock and their impacts on the land

Jonathan Scheele, Head of the EU Commission, UK asked What is Europe Doing?

Kyoto Protocol continues.  Outcome from Durban 2011.  Implementation and Negotatian Phases to see through.  eg negotiatons for a new legally binding international agreement are still not quite tight enough and must be continued.  Perhaps the goals are too soft.  Durban tried to make what was agreed in Cancun in 2010 implementable.  China in particular is trying really hard despite the huge number of power stations they have, to implement new measures.  Sources of funding need to be ensured up to 2020.  It is all quite long-term.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Help Rescue the Planet, presented: Climate Change and Newscorps.

Counter disinformation by repeating effective facts.  So many to choose from, where would you start?  Cliamte change deniers do have an effect on the public as they have very little to draw on so they repeat the little they have.  Corruption, greed and power are a powerful combination to overcome.   Dr Russell-Jones spoke of incorrect references to reporting in the media.  He referred to Lord Lawson, Matt Ridley and Christopher Booker and their roles in swaying public opinion.  He mentioned that a group of 6 doctors had written to the British Medical Journal and Lancet to state that as the links have inevitably been found between most diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer etc and their obvious causes over many years, now “transparency around climate change sceptics is essential”.

Discussion: How to get the word out?  Engage a well-known public figure to assist….

THE POLITICAL AGENDA

Walt Patterson of Chatham House spoke on Smart Energy.

Removing fuel from our supplies removes our flexibility in the short-term.   He mentioned an insurance company that offers insurance against a “flat home” as well as all of the usual contingencies.  The Green Deal is coming.  Customer and company both benefit.  The investment is tied to the property for existing and future owners.  Provision for of decentralised source for each household would be an option – eg heatpumps.  Governments should stop telling us what to do and start showing us.  If the energy transfoer is to happen all the key players need to see opportunities rather than threats.  The vision of a smart energy system must work for all.  if you have bought a house that is cheaply made but poorly-insulated, the only outcome is expensive long-term running costs.

Kent Walwin, Film Director “We’re Going to Make a Film”

Could the issue be turned into something the general public could respond and react to?  Visual media is a primary method to learn about the world.  Many movies have depicted global tragedy (Outbreak, The Day After Tomorrow, 28 Days Later and Nostradamus – one of Kent’s films).  There are usually 2 reasons the world might end.

These are bad luck such as the deep impact of a meteor or the spread of a virus, or due to humanity’s own egocentric overuse of the planet (global warming, pollution, overpopulation, genetic engineering) such as Waterworld, An Inconvenient Truth.

The common factor is that all movies suffer from our belief in our own salvation.  The heroes of the film usually survive.  What kind of film could we make to Help Rescue The Planet?

John Mills, Environmental Health Officer, Why I Joined Help Rescue the Planet.

He outlined the role of Environmental Health Officers from dealing with noise pollution to infectious diseases to other public health issues.  Climate change is closely linked to our health and well-being.  Here is a list of issues faced: houses, air-quality, regulating industrial facilities, assessing carbon emissions, infectious diseases, food and water shortages (eg predicted that global warming will mena that 10,000 extra cases of food poisioning may occur a year from food prepared within private homes),  water-associated diseases, Legionnaire’s from air-conditioning, water contaminated by sewage/animals, increase in soil disturbance, increase in breeding grounds for disease, rodent-borne disease increases, Australia predicts that 80 million people will be living in malarial areas by 2080, increase in tick diseases, plagues of fleas etc, allergies will increase (eg house dust mite), melanoma rates have significantly increased within the last decade.  There is a Saving Our Skins campaign in place to help Environmental Health Officers deal with Sun Protection.

Phoebe Mousley-Jones, A-Level Student and HRTP trustee, “What Does the Future Hold?”

Phoebe stated that young people are the catalysts of change as they are already inheriting the devastating consequences of choices by their parents and grandparents.  Problem – some young people are worried whilst others do not realise the impacts of climate change and that they are overdependent on the current resources.  She presented a cross-section of information from around the world noting that Africa and other third-world areas will likely be the first to suffer the effects and also outlined direct impacts locally.  She also mentioned a report in a UK paper that criticised initiatives encouraging people to insulate their homes and asked “how does that help?”.

Richard Gillies, of Marks and Spencer, Director of  “Plan A”

Plan A because there is no Plan B.  As carbon emission reductions will not be enough to counter the rising effects of increased population for food and water, Marks and Spencer has responded by implementing their own environmental measures.  In 2007, the world’s population used one-third more resources than the plant can renew.  M & S has taken the initiative to ensure that what the customer sees in the shops (marketing & retail, consumers) is a reflection of what the customer doesn’t see (environmental responsibility in manufacturing, and use of raw materials).  Campaign to donate clothes back to the shop in exchange for vouchers.  The use of Joanna Lumley, Mylene Klass and a few others in their promo to encourage this.  The need for re-sorting of donated clothes has created new jobs and a relationship with Oxfam has resulted.  M&S has also successfully cut carbon emissions, reduced their plastic carrier bags by 80% (by introducing a charge to customers as a dis-incentive) and have green-sourced their electricity supplies.   All of this has happened in just 5 years.

Gary McKeone of St George’s House, Windsor Castle.  How To Organise a Climate Change Consultation.

CLOSING REMARKS

John Beveridge, Friday’s Chair stated that science will ultimately yield evidence and reason.  In the meantime a herd instinct will apply to people.  Climate change involves emotions and value judgements.  Media reports include extreme assertions on each side.  We must rely on truth of cause or confusion will hold sway over debate.  More education is needed.  He also noted that the success of the week was owed to the determination and commitment of Dr Robin Russell-Jones.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones presented his closing remarks: Methane is locked in the tundra of the Arctic and is at lethal levels.  The straitjacket that is the combusion engine.  Two-thirds of energy is lost from a nuclear power station before it leaves the plant.  Challenges involve finding storage for power that is not in batteries eg air compression,  solar panels on churches, biomimicking, capturing carbon effectively, taxing energy rather than income, finding incentives for people to insulate their homes.  The most promising presentation of the week was the carbon capture process from Finland.

HRTP Chairman, Mike Clink presented his overview:

There is no more oil – is it good news or bad news?  The demand from developing countries lifestyles like ours.  Our families are a reflection of where things are at.  His 10 yr-old grandson is doing global warming project at school.  The desire to own a fast car is not realistic anymore. What have we learnt this week? He thanked all of the wonderful speakers for their contributions and noted that some are in a great position to join forces with Help Rescue the Planet.

The week concluded with a reception and Concert.  The performance by the Taplow Girls’ Choir was absolutely lovely.   One soloist in particular promises to be heading for great things in the future.

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