Who now will fight for Planet Earth?

The Independent, 30 March 2013:

Having been involved in environmental issues for over 30 years, I share Michael McCarthy’s pessimism about the prognosis for planet Earth (“Man is fallen and will destroy the Earth”, 30 March). However his own profession must carry part of the blame.

In 1988 I organised a three-day international conference at the Royal Institute of British Architects on ozone depletion, and we included a session on climate change chaired by Sir John Maddox FRS, the late editor of Nature. The conference received extensive coverage from both press and television.

Last year I organised a five-day conference on climate change at RIBA. The line-up of speakers was no less impressive, but not a single journalist turned up and the conference received no coverage.

I have struggled to understand why a process that threatens the integrity of our planet has been relegated to a fringe issue. Partly it is because scientifically illiterate newspapers such as the Daily Mail and The Sunday Telegraph have been persistent and influential in promoting climate change denial. Other newspapers such as The Times and FT accept the reality of climate change but promote shale gas as the solution. A sane approach seems limited to The Independent and The Guardian, but this transforms climate change from a global problem into a political issue.

In 1988 John Maddox foresaw clearly that the failure of mankind to control climate change would lead to the melting of the ice-caps and sea-level rises that would destroy human civilisation as we know it. Nothing has changed except that annual emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have increased by over 50 per cent.

Dr Robin Russell-Jones FRCP FRCPath
Chair, Friends of the Earth Pollution Advisory Committee 1984-89
Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire