Where’s the Evidence? Labour Puts Climate Change at Heart of Manifesto

Reuters/Russell Cheyne

Labour has put tackling climate change at the centre of its election manifesto, promising one million new green jobs, setting targets for Britain to have carbon free energy by 2030 and pushing for global net zero carbon emissions by the latter half of the century. But claims that climate change is causing adverse weather made in the manifesto contradict the findings of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

With just over three weeks to go until polling day in the general election, Labour has taken to the set of Coronation Street, a soap opera set in the north of England to launch its manifesto. Central to the document is tackling climate change, which Labour says is “an economic necessity and the most important thing we must do for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.”

In particular, climate change is “at the heart” of Labour’s foreign policy. The party pledged to seek “an ambitious agreement on climate change at the UNFCCC conference in Paris, in December,” where they will “make the case for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the below two degree goal.

“And we will push for a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, for transparent and universal rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions, and for an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in combatting climate change.”

They believe that this is crucial, as climate change is already having an impact on the world’s weather, delivering floods in Britain, droughts in California and typhoons in the Philippines. “The world is already seeing the effects we once thought only future generations would experience,” they say.

Their justification for the policy comes from work done by the IPCC in presenting the possible threats of climate change.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear that if the world is going to hold warming below two degrees (the internationally agreed goal), global emissions need to peak in around 2020, and then decline rapidly to reach net zero emissions by the second half of this century. The weaker the action now, the more rapid and costly the reductions will need to be later,” Labour says.

But the IPCC has also admitted that there is no evidence to suggest that climate change is driving more extreme weather. Back in 2013, Roger Pielke Jr, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, compiled a list of key statements from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change.

He found that, in their report, the IPCC states: “There is limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with climate variables [other than heat] since the mid-20th century. …

“… Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. …

” … there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale. …

“… there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms …

“… the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century. …

“… confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”

Pielke Jr. noted at the time “There is really not much more to be said here — the data says what it says, and what it says is so unavoidably obvious that the IPCC has recognized it in its consensus. Of course, I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change.”


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