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Friday, September 07, 2007

Further E-mails with Lib Dem Councillors on thier position on airport expansions

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Dear Mr Taylor,

I would like to thank you again for so promptly replying to my previous email. I am delighted that you are equally unimpressed by the opening paragraphs of the airports report and that you accept global warming is a serious issue.

I would however like to challenge your position on wanting to "see sensible discussion and rational decision making." It is clear from your response that you are aware of the magnitude of the problem of global warming and you must recognise that we are not faced with a minor and manageable temperature increase, but a cataclysmic step change in average temperatures that our already environmentally stressed society will be totally unable to cope with. The science community has already spent over 20 years having sensible and rational discussions which are backed up by computer simulation and extensive peer review. The consensus opinion of the science community is that we need 90% cuts in CO2 if we are to avoid runaway global warming. So, unfortunately the 20% target that Gloucester is trying to achieve is far too small and merely guarantees runaway global warming. Arguing for a policy of “sensible discussion and rational decision making” whilst not opposing airport expansions is simply procrastination and avoidance of decision making.

More worryingly, no country or city has achieved significant and sustainable overall reductions in CO2 emissions. I would suggest that an element of naivety is creeping in if you believe that Gloucester will somehow buck the trend, especially as its population and economy is continuing to grow, and still be able to make sufficient reductions to enable the offsetting of extra emissions from the airport. Without a draconian plan of carbon rationing or some other similar approach, it is impossible to envisage how the city could reliably make the CO2 cuts necessary to achieve the current targets whilst simultaneously accommodating the additional emissions from the airport.

It is also worth considering that the emissions from Staverton Airport will be emitted at high altitude where their global warming impact is increased by a factor between 4 and 6. This implies that Gloucester would need to make even larger cuts in its CO2 to accommodate Staverton.

You have said in your response that “However, I don't wish to join in the game of claim and counter-claim.” Not wanting to “join the game of claim and counter-claim” is equivalent to sitting on the fence and not having the courage to decide either way. During the rise of fascism in Germany before the war, people did not want to challenge what was being done to the Jews and they were silent whilst terrible crimes were allowed to build up into what became the biggest catastrophe that mankind experienced. The situation today is the same, but far more serious. Airport expansions are a crime against the next geration who have no voice, in the same way as crimes were committed against the Jews who had no voice. You cannot afford to avoid “joining the game.” You are part of the game.

It is finally worth pointing out that the Lib Dems have had a public policy of opposing airport expansion. However, they have almost consistently failed to have the courage to support this policy every time it has been put to the test, such as at Exeter, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool . This duplicity is what makes the public cynical about the politicians at a time when we can least afford this.

I would urge you to fully consider the science and your responsibility to your voters’ long term interests and unequivocally oppose this expansion in line with your parties policies.

Kevin Lister Taylor wrote:
Dear Mr Lister,

I don't believe that it is to anybody's credit to doubt that the climate is changing partially as a result of increasing and massive consumption of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution began over 200 years ago. I happen to believe the weight of scientific evidence, not because I am any sort of expert in the subject but rather more because of the application of common sense. Never in this planet's history has so much heat and pollution been created unnaturally ie by human beings rather than natural forces. So, I find myself unconvinced by the opening comments in the report. However, I don't wish to join in the game of claim and counter-claim. Nor do I wish to insinuate that others are barking mad. What I would like to see is sensible discussion and rational decision-making. I am not sure if Cheltenham Borough Council has signed up to the Nottingham Declaration - I hope it has - but I do know that Gloucestershire County Council has done so. This obliges the County Council, inter alia, to contribute at local level to the delivery of the UK Climate Change Programme. Gloucester City Council has a Climate Change Strategy that lists as one of its objectives in its action plan the following: "To reduce greenhouse gas emissions across Gloucester by 20% by 2010." You can find this document on the Gloucester City Council web site. The County Council has a similar document and aims (rather more modest) that can be viewed on its web site.

I won't go on at length, just suffice it to say that I would expect the various councils involved to accept that a decision that might lead to increased pollution eg increased air traffic, must be counter-balanced by decisions and actions that lead to a net reduction in fossil fuel consumption and consequent pollution. I can understand why you might want to target the possible expansion of the airport. However, if councils meet their targets, with or without airport expansion, they will have done what is necessary to provide a lead for others to follow and to play their part in reducing fossil fuel consumption. I'm not sure, in that case, what more could reasonably be expected. I do accept, however, that you and others have every right to expect the relevant councils to meet their targets.

Yours sincerely,

Phil Taylor

Liberal Democrat
Gloucester City Councillor
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