On Wednesday November 20th, I was speaking in the Plenary debate in Strasbourg on the EU’s Horizon 2020 research plan. This is a seven year plan to spend €70 billion on support for scientific research, with the objective of achieving “excellent science, industrial leadership and dealing with societal challenges, like climate change”. I personally don’t believe that the way to achieve these objectives is to have a multi-billion €uro programme administered by politicians and bureaucrats, all competing for their favourite projects, and weighed down by massive layers of EU bureaucracy.
But rather than address that general point of the inefficient process, I thought I’d rather use my 90 seconds to deal with the climate question – they plan to spend 20% of that massive budget on climate matters. I characterised EU climate policy as “Doomed and Disastrous”. Doomed, because whatever we do in Europe, there are twelve hundred new coal-fired plants in the global pipeline, and emissions will rise for decades, like it or not. Disastrous, because high energy prices are creating what Commissioner Tajani called “an industrial massacre” in Europe.
At the end of my short speech, a prominent Green MEP Claude Turmes, used the “Blue Card” procedure to put a question to me. I was happy to accept his request – anything to get another thirty seconds! In fact Turmes had not so much a question as a rant, saying that by arguing against climate orthodoxy (now increasingly in question) I was somehow responsible for the recent flood disaster in Sardinia, in which 16 people sadly died, and thousands were displaced. And of course for the Philippine hurricane..
In reply, I asked him if I (and climate change) were responsible also for the Galveston hurricane in 1900, in which more than 6000 people died. Or perhaps he was thinking in UK terms of the Lynton/Lynmouth flood disaster of 1952. As a child, I was staying on holiday not far away, and the event is etched in my mind. Thirty-four people died.
Of course there have always been natural disasters, ever since Noah’s flood. These days with global media and rolling 24 hour news, we hear more about them. And they do more damage, because we have more buildings, more densely packed. And we will insist on building on flood plains. But hurricane activity in recent years has been no greater than the average over the last century. There is simply no signal of climate change in the weather patterns – which is not surprising, as there has been no increase in mean global temperatures for nearly twenty years.
At the end, I criticised Claude for making a cheap political point at the expense of the drowned citizens of Olbia in Sadinia.
I was even more right than I thought. Immediately I sat down, I was approached by an Italian MEP, Susy De Martini, who has been following the Sardinian disaster. She told me that the flood problem in Olbia had been caused not by Climate Change – but by the EU’s Stability Pact. I took a moment to grasp this idea. But what she meant was this: that the Stability Pact and the associated austerity and budget cuts had meant that the Sardinia Region had not had the necessary funding to enable it to dredge the river, and the flood was the direct result of that failure. She was advised of this by the Mayor of Olbia, who ought to know. And she was so concerned that she has already tabled a Written Question to Italy’s EU Commissioner Antonio Tajani. So there you have it. The Greens are completely choked by the failure of the real world to follow their alarmist predictions, so they are seeking to blame CO2 emissions for anything and everything.
There was a remarkable apotheosis to this story. After speaking to Susy De Martini, I walked across to Claude (the Chamber was poorly attended) to tell him that EU policy, not Climate Change, was the cause of those tragic deaths. He immediately resumed his rant, and insisted that “I was lying, and I knew that I was lying”.
Now Claude is perfectly entitled to disagree with me. He is entitled to tell me I’m wrong. He can tell me that I know less about the science that he does (although I should disagree with him). But what he can’t do is call me a liar, to my face, in public. I’m afraid I lost my temper, and we had quite a little confrontation. This is not the kind of thing I normally do, and I shall be happy to apologise to Claude for losing my temper, just as soon as he apologises for calling me a liar.