Good heavens! You’re the Environment Minister..

To paraphrase Matthew Parris.. The DUP’s Sammy Wilson kicked off his new role as Environment Minister by making some provocative comments about climate change. Although it’s worth noting that no-one that I’m aware of seriously claims that “all of that climate change is due to CO2 emmissions.” But the scientific climate models do indicate and, in its 4th report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [official IPCC website here] – which bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature – concluded that, “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gas concentrations.” The new minister also makes an unfortunate slip in the interview when [approx 5mins in] he says that he wants to be judged on his actions as a minister and that he intends to take “decisions which are balanced, which balance development with protection of the economy..” I think you mean balanced with ‘protection of the environment‘, Environment Minister.. Then there’s the quadruple jobbing..

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  • Dewi

    Taking decisions with “All of the facts in mind” – Good – try and find them before spouting your nonsense.

  • Different Drummer

    Trust Slugger to point up Sammy as a CO2 skeptic – you wouldn’t trying to deflect one DUP row with a another potential one…

  • Peat Blog

    I’m a Sammy sceptic and with someone like him in charge we should be worrying more about methane than CO2.

  • Greener

    This man will be a disaster for northern irelands environment

  • The Raven

    Sammy blethered something about “grapes…Scotland…skating…Thames…”

    This would be before the world’s population was at 6.7 billion. Sure, there’s no WAY that that tiny number of people could be having an effect on climate change. NONE whatsoever.

    Sammy blethered something about “3% of UK CO2 emissions…”

    So, it’s not a case of every little helps? Great! Where’s my 4×4?

    Sammy blethered something about “protecting the economy…” and showed that Sammy has not tried to speak to his colleague over at DETI about the massive economic potential of tapping into the green economy, nor has he bothered to look into the massive savings that mixing the economy and environmental concerns have garnered for businesses who for example have participated in programmes like “Green Dragon”.

    Sammy held back from blethering about nuclear power. And thank goodness for that.

    Whither Seymour now…? It’s his big chance…

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Raven, what’s your problem with nuclear power ?

    Isn’t the environmental economy a case of paying people to replace broken windows ?

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    I’ve noticed things getting a bit uncivil around here recently. Can we try to concentrate on the issues rather than venting spleens?

  • The Raven

    In response, these are my opinions only, formed on the basis of the for and against arguments. The following is from Friends of the Earth, (I’m not a member), based on a Royal Commission from a few years ago. It *is* a few years old, but as a summary, I always find it useful.

    Feel free to argue any of the points. The “bullets” below are expanded on in the briefing paper which can be found at: http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/nuclear_power_answer_climate_change.pdf

    Doubling nuclear power in the UK would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by no more
    than 8%.

    Research, in a UK context, suggests nuclear power would produce about 50 per cent more global warming emissions than wind power.

    Nuclear power does not hold any financial benefits compared with the development of renewable energy.

    Nuclear facilities are uniquely vulnerable to terrorist attack.

    Nuclear power produces waste which remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

    Nuclear power leads to radioactive discharges into the seas and atmosphere.

    All the points are open to debate. By the way, I haven’t included anything on health risks associated with nuclear power. By way of explanation as to why, may I quote from this summary of a New Scientist piece from several years ago:

    Subsequent investigations confirmed an excess of leukaemia and other cancer among children living near Sellafield, the complex British Nuclear Fuel runs in northwest England. An excess of childhood leukaemias has also been reported around Dounreay, northern Scotland. Apart from Sellafield it is the only British site where irradiated nuclear fuel is being reprocessed.

    In areas near other nuclear sites in England and Wales, there is also a suggestion of an excess rate of leukaemia in young persons. The reported increase is much smaller: 15 per cent rather than tenfold. The raised rates seem to be limited to children and young people under 25. However, neither the age groups with the highest rates, nor the time trends involved, show a pattern.

    As to the “environmental economy” point…indeed it is. And pay we should. But in its purest form, it is merely another business opportunity.

  • The Raven

    Admin…I didn’t find Stalin’s question uncivil.

    I *did* however, find Sammy’s interview a blether. If “blether” is a problem, then please substitute “waffle”, “verbal meander”, or “oral vacilliation”.

    Cheers and apologies.

  • Eddie

    Wee Sammy gave a vintage performance and the reaction is probably as he expected, which should please him, and may have been the objective of the exercise. Once again, “don’t listen to what people say, just watch what they do.”

  • Intelligence Insider

    I’m certainly no DUP or Sammy Wilson fan, but fair play to him for getting the ministry and saying it as he sees it. I quite agree with his stance on many of the environmental issues. HMG and the government in the ROI, along with many other countries, are currently just using “green” issues as an excuse to increase taxation.

  • NP

    Sammy Wilson as environment minister ….. may as well have Jeremy Clarkson.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    World temperatures have actually fallen in the 21st century; we do NOT suffer from global warming we are suffering (or not as the case may be in Northern Ireland) from CLIMATE CHANGE. The cause of which is open to debate between natural and man made causes!

  • DC

    I think it is a bit of both in terms of raising taxation and environmental concerns to pressure a switch to more sustainable sources of energy because oil will run out one day sooner than later. So it’s about moving to adapt best.

    There can be no doubt though that CO2 emissions are dirty and environmentally damaging at a global level. Besides regardless of the extent to which warming is progressing because of it, isn’t it just unnatural for all those wee dirty car engines to be emitting fumes like that.

    People get hooked on fossil fuels to stop their legs from having to work, sure jump in the car here, round the block to the shops and then excuse themselves by saying ‘ah it saves time’ and then they sit down to watch the telly. We all do it. It’s like the argument ‘oh I only take my car to the shops and to work’, yea like the rest of the other 100s of millions!!!

    Most important of all is that it really is time to diversify into more sustainable sources to avert energy battles.

    I think Sammy is being cunning by re-asserting the DUP pro-business line by proving they have removed higher environmental standards from new house builds etc in order to keep the construction trade happy in terms of reducing costs on them. That is what I think he meant to mean by: balanced development / protecting the economy. Nod and wink to businesss, just like the in-house protection agency, a sort of ‘we got your backs covered’ in tough times ahead.

  • prolefodder

    Aggh. I didn’t realise it was wee Sammy Wilson who Robinson made our new Environment Minister – there I was thinking it was the other Wilson, the Green Party’s Brian Wilson! Now that wee nuclear Sammy looking after norn iron’s environment I’ve heard there are wild parties planned by local developers for this weekend in celebration.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Raven,

    A couple of points :

    – I wouldn’t double the level of nuclear power, I’d increase it to the level that France has if I had a chance, ie 80% of all electricity produced. This would significantly reduce dependency on imported fossil fuel as well as reduce emissions.

    – coal and oil plants don’t only produce CO2, they produce tonnes of other chemicals as well, including low-level nuclear waste as well as mercury and arsenic. I don’t believe the health-damaging effects of these have ever been properly studied. The issues of nuclear waste and discharge seem insignificant given that all of the waste produced by a nuclear plant is stored (it should not be discharged into the sea!), whereas all the waste produced by existing plants is pumped into the atmosphere for the rest of us to believe it.

    – nuclear stations do present a unique security problem but I don’t think such concerns should prevent us from considering it. The mention of an accident “20 times worse than chernobyl” sounds like bunk, where does he get the number 20 from ? The current Sellafield site has a small fraction of the total output power of the Chernobyl facility.

    Where’s the evidence for that claim about leukaemia ? The studies I have seen have found no evidence that cancer rates are any different around nuclear power stations.

    Nuclear power works in Canada, it works in France and has an excellent operational record there. I can’t see why we can’t do it here, and reap the benefits.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jesus, my last post reads terribly. Too late in the day.

  • observer

    The following is from Friends of the Earth, ………..

    Of course they`re not biased.

  • joeCanuck

    Nuclear Power stations are uniquely vulnerable to terrorist attack

    Bullshit (sorry Mick). I guess you haven’t been inside an oil fired Station where there was a “small” fire. Have you ever seen a 4 foot thick steel girder bent and twisted like a pretzel. I have. Not a pretty sight.

  • The Raven

    Observer, just to reiterate from my original post:

    “In response, these are my opinions only, formed on the basis of the for and against arguments. The following is from Friends of the Earth, (I’m not a member), based on a Royal Commission from a few years ago. It *is* a few years old, but as a summary, I always find it useful.”

    All the points are open to debate. The summary that I used is merely useful to me. My mind is made up. I didn’t have to join FOE. Also, I took the time to actually go to Sellafield and have a look for myself. I’ve seen geiger readings locally. It’s a mite scary.

    There’s no question that FOE is biased. I am too. But I took the time to research it, before reaching that point. Feel free to do likewise.

    Comrade Stalin, to come back to your points:

    I wouldn’t dare argue in favour of any fossil fuel at this point. I believe that we should only be developing a combination of renewables at this stage. Anything else only underlines the folly of the situation we’re in now. I have NO idea if the world’s energy needs can satisfied by renewables.

    But then, 20 years ago, we didn’t have cars that could feasibly do 100mpg. By way of illustration, my first home PC in 1993 had 16meg of RAM, and 300mB of ROM. IBM today announced a supercomputer that works in petaflop speeds, based on the technology used to develop the PS3. Anything is possible. Imagine if we spent as much on renewables development as we do on nuclear power research.

    Any accident or event involving any nuclear reactor isn’t like cleaning up an oil spill. I’d hate to ever find out just how big a bang a plant like Sellafield could have made…

    “Where’s the evidence for that claim about leukaemia ? The studies I have seen have found no evidence that cancer rates are any different around nuclear power stations.”

    You’re agreeing with what I wrote or rather quoted: “However, neither the age groups with the highest rates, nor the time trends involved, show a pattern.” Hence, why I don’t include it in my argument.

    With regard to “excellent operational records”, congrats to the French and the Canadians. I have no such faith in the private sector in the UK.

  • The Raven

    “Bullshit”?? Gosh gosh gosh…everyone is getting so tetchy on this site….

    Joe, the points above are all open to debate. I’m just saying that my mind won’t be changed on the nuclear issue. Bullshit or otherwise, go ahead and make your point – there are plenty of others whose minds aren’t made up.

    No indeed I haven’t been in that scenario. I have however, had a geiger counter demonstration near Sellafield.

  • Sammy may well have been thinking of the economy rather than the environment in a recent debate, Pete.

    PS His colleague, Conor, seems to be feeling the heat – but it has little to do with climate change.

  • “Imagine if we spent as much on renewables development as we do on nuclear power research.”

    That could be easily achieved, Raven. Just mention the phrase ‘renewable bomb’ ….

  • kensei

    Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t any plan to build a nuclear power station be immediately vetoed by SF?

  • Ken,

    “…any plan to build a nuclear power station”

    I have to say that I have not heard of any such plan. But yes, I would think there would be a blocking vote in the Executive.

    Again, I think people are missing the point. Pete’s post was not about a policy position (other than in the mind of the Minister the environment is entirely co-terminous with the interests of business); rather it picks up on a misleading statement from a Minister, whose grasp of his previous brief as Education chair was almost faultless.

    It seems NI Water are now getting to work on the Water Water problems that have been accruing since former Environment Minister, Dermot Nesbitt did a deal with former Minister for Regional Development Minister Peter Robinson that allowed continued development in more than 50 hotspot areas where the sewage system was already in severe distress.

    There is a difference. The interests of the economy and the environment are not always in conflict, but we might do better if the Minister was clearer about the difference between the two!

  • “Whither Seymour now…?”

    Seymour’s plight appears to have got sympathetic consideration in the Belfast Telegraph from Ed Curran.

    I understand that he has plans for an extensive shopping complex on the outskirts of Larne but these will be subjected to the forensic skills of Sammy ‘out of that DUP mould’ Wilson, Larne councillor, MP, MLA, Minister et al. [Danny O’C, are you there?]

    However, his miniature railway enterprise will be put under the HSE microscope this week at DRD’s request and, presumably, the new Minister of the Environment will be seeking an explanation for that hole in the ground, not at the Giant’s Causeway, but adjacent to Carrick-a-Rede and the use of razor wire in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    Perhaps the bold Sammy will deliver this quip from the Blackside on the floor of the house in his own inimitable style:

    We’ve all heard about old time farming where the pigs were kept in the parlour but who’d have expected to find a bathroom suite in the piggery!!

  • Harry Flashman

    “There can be no doubt though that CO2 emissions are dirty”

    There is nothing remotely “dirty” about CO2 it’s a perfectly natural element produced by most living beings.

    The myth of global warming will go the way of the myth of Malthusian world overpopulation, the new ice age, the exhausting of the world’s natural resources, universal AIDS, Y2K bug and all the rest of the mumbo jumbo apocalyptic visions that the secular left have adopted to replace the gaping void left by abandoning religion.

    Meanwhile the hard left reeling from their defeat in 1989 have found the perfect vehicle to continue their onslaught upon western capitalist democracy and once again the useful idiots line up to toe the party line.

  • Mick Fealty

    DD,

    Missed your aside.

    “…you wouldn’t trying to deflect one DUP row with a another potential one…”

    That would be the Iris problem, which I make having had about 5/6 threads since Saturday? Or did you have something else in mind?

  • joeCanuck

    Sorry Raven. Inappropriate, I agree.

  • The Raven

    Forget about it, Joe. After a day at work, I already have. 🙂

    Harry. It’s this simple. The earth has finite resources. We now number 6.7 billion.

    Sammy Wilson in his on-camera piece refers to the British Isles 400 years ago, if I recall correctly. The population then was estimated to be less than 6 million. Today’s population is around 64 million. If this is the sort of thinking that drives this particular ministerial portfolio, then we seriously are in trouble.

    Where does it stop? Harry is, of course, correct in stating that CO2 is not a dirty gas. Human activities pale into incomparison next to naturally occurring sources of CO2. Yet, the small human-made input is enough to disturb the balance.

    The “myth of global warming” may indeed go away over time. That remains to be seen. What cannot be ignored is the blatent waste of resources occuring on a monumental scale. Around 520kgs of municipal waste is dumped by every person, every year.

    No environment, regardless of the “animal” it supports can take that sort of annual kicking.

    Anyway, we’re way O/T here.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Raven,

    The world’s energy needs at the moment cannot be satisfied by renewables. I do agree that we need to be using more of them, and I’d certainly like to see combined heat and power devices, and solar water heating/power, see more widespread deployment in homes, something that could be assisted through tax benefits. However they’ll never be able to generate baseload power, and that’s why the short-to-medium term future lies in nuclear fission, with the longer term future (a generation away) in nuclear fusion. I fully expect that the new ITER fusion reactor presently under construction in Cadarache will generate more power than it consumes, in a manner which is even safer and much more clean than fission reactors, and that when this is demonstrated we’ll see a quick move towards fusion power stations, hopefully by 2050.

    It does annoy me that the environment lobby seems to see the future in small changes which, when added up, will improve things only marginally. For example, this mad obsession everyone has with the Toyota Prius. Sure, it’s a great idea and it’s well engineered, but what does it give you, an extra 10-20% fuel economy ? That’s not the sort of radical step that is needed. And even then, a lot of the benefits are wiped out by eejits trading in their perfectly-good existing cars for a Prius, in turn needlessly consuming energy and raw materials to make cars that are not actually needed. It’s cars like the Tesla Roadster which are the future; all-electric, lightweight machines that don’t have to cart around heavy engines and associated equipment. Don’t get me started on the “hydrogen economy” bullshit either.

    Imagine if we spent as much on renewables development as we do on nuclear power research.

    Doubt it. I would guess that more is being spent, right now, on renewables. Nuclear power is an established technology, and that’s why I’m so in favour of it – there’s no need for more research, it already works and is supporting economies around the world. Comparing it with the advancement in computing power is comparing apples and oranges. Moore’s Law hasn’t been demonstrated to apply to many other technologies, and even then the economics are somewhat different. Car engines waste approximately 75-80% of the energy that they consume (heat, noise, friction); the reason for that is because historically the cost of improving this hasn’t been justified relative to the cost of fuel. In fact, to top that, cars have gotten heavier. My current Honda Civic weighs about twice the kerb weight of it’s 1979 predecessor. Look at the size of even a Vauxhall Corsa or Renault Clio, compared with the original Mini. That, of course, is all changing.

    I have however, had a geiger counter demonstration near Sellafield.

    Have you had a geiger counter demonstration near Hiroshima or Nagasaki ? Two large cities inhabited by a couple of million people between them. Shouldn’t they theoretically be uninhabitable ?

    Any accident or event involving any nuclear reactor isn’t like cleaning up an oil spill.

    An oil spill on a large scale would devastate a town like Larne (most of them happen at sea, so we can all live in ignorant bliss while the marine environment is wiped out). A gas leak on a large scale at Ballylumford would leave a hole where Larne presently resides. You’d like to think, of course, that such a gas leak would be detected long before it reached that point. That’s the case with modern nuclear reactors; it’s very hard to make them accidentally go haywire. While it is certainly a lot more expensive to achieve, modern nuclear reactors have an operational risk profile something similar to that of fossil fuel power stations.

    I’d hate to ever find out just how big a bang a plant like Sellafield could have made…

    A plant manufacturing TNT or gelignite would make a considerably bigger bang. Remember that nuclear accidents are not nuclear explosions (it is very, very hard to actually create a nuclear explosion). Chernobyl was a steam explosion. Windscale was a graphite fire. What makes it dangerous is if the nuclear material catches fire and ends up in the environment suspended in smoke particles.

  • The Raven

    Well Stalin, as I said at the start of this, I’ve heard all the arguments. I can’t be swayed. Can I recommend the photography of Antonin Kratochvil in “Broken Dream” which may make you think again.

    I’ve nothing more to say other than:

    “Shouldn’t Hiroshima and Nagasaki be theoretically uninhabitable?”

    No. Those were “simple” fission bombs. Nowadays we have the real deal in nuclear. Google your question, and you’ll quite quickly find why those towns are habitable. Today’s munitions always come with that statement along the lines of “N times the power of the bomb released at Hiroshima” – and there’s where it gets uninhabitable.

    “I would guess that more is being spent, right now, on renewables.”

    In 2006, around 57% of government R&D;was spent on nuclear technologies. 22% went to renewables technologies. Just over three-quarters of government spend over the past 25 years has gone on nuclear. Germany and the US spend around 3 times the amount we do on renewables development.

    “What makes it dangerous is if the nuclear material catches fire and ends up in the environment suspended in smoke particles.”

    Indeed.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Raven,

    I’ve never heard of Kratochvil. Wikipedia says that that book is about war in Eastern Europe. What’s that got to do with it ?

    Today’s munitions..

    We’re not talking about munitions, so this seems moot. The reason I mentioned Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not to talk about the bomb, but about the question of how serious nuclear fallout actually is and how it effects human habitation.
    And yes, those bombs spread many particles of long-lived radioisotopes over a wide area, similarly to Windscale. Chernobyl was obviously a lot worse, but still there are only something like 30 deaths directly attributed to that accident.

    Other examples are available, such as those of the people who have moved back into the dead zone around the Chernobyl power plant.

    In 2006, around 57% of government R&D;was spent on nuclear technologies.

    Where are these numbers coming from ? I didn’t think it would be the UK, given that at that time it had a freeze on further development of nuclear power.

    Germany and the US spend around 3 times the amount we do on renewables development.

    What, in relative terms ?

  • DC

    “It seems NI Water are now getting to work on the Water Water problems that have been accruing since former Environment Minister, Dermot Nesbitt did a deal with former Minister for Regional Development Minister Peter Robinson that allowed continued development in more than 50 hotspot areas where the sewage system was already in severe distress.”

    I’ve think you’ve actually answered the economic question Mick, because why did that happen? Possibly because of the demand for houses and the crazy prices pressurised government to move over the environmental issues to track back later. And yes of course why is NI Water doing that now and not yesteryear because we will be paying for that infrastructure directly whereas before the fines from Europe were taken off regionally.

    I am not agreeing with what was done but understand why it happened and Sammy Wilson has agreed much more of the same if it helps business.

    The DUP have placed their bets and return to the assembly next election on the economy you need only look at the programme for government.

    The accummulation of all these recent moves, subtle winks and nods lead me, in my opinion, to believe, backwoods unionism is trying to move into big house territory.

    Besides, Sammy Wilson is a smart guy, I have thought about it and doubt he would let that slip without a correction. He said what he wanted certain people to hear. But then again, it might well be a slip up and I would be the first person to pounce on him for that as well as for his nonsense about the lack of global warming, which largely speaking is actually more subtle pro-corporate-business speak.

  • The Raven

    Stalin – briefly:

    Just check out the book. There are many images of the post-Chernobyl effects, as well as war in Eastern Europe. If that doesn’t sate your interest, then perhaps I can suggest http://www.pixelpress.org/chernobyl/. The full effects remain unknown, as your read of the wiki article will tell you, especially when it comes to conflicting reports from “agencies” and QUANGOs.

    But let’s put this simply. Are you confident enough to have two or three of these reactors on this small island? I don’t know where you live, but let’s say you live in, for example, East Belfast. Are you confident enough to have one built on some vacant shipyard land, a mile away? Will you have it in your backyard?

    On the issue of the munitions bit and the seriousness of nuclear fallout – it’s difficult to use your suggestion of H&N;as examples. They weren’t nuclear weapons. They weren’t detonated at ground level. They were not the “strength” of today’s bombs, which are designed to have a much bigger footprint. When they blew, they formed fireballs that rose with ascending air, cooled down and started to fall with rain. Because of the wind, the rain did not fall directly on the centre but rather in the northwest of Hiroshima and the eastern region of Nagasaki. H&N;are not comparable to either Chernobyl, or indeed any incident which may involve a modern nuclear weapon.

    Even if the effects of something like Chernobyl DO turn out to have less of an impact than first thought – do you still think it’s ok to have a Chernobyl type incident cos the effects only last 20 years…? Or even 10?

    A freeze on the development of actual stations, yes. But not on nuclear development. BNFL will provide you with the stats on the government grants. Figures can also be found comparing R&D;monies as far back as the Government’s White Paper in 2003. Drop me an email sometime – I will dig around for the full paper which I obtained that compared funding over the past ten years. Alas, I do NOT have figures for 2007/8 and 2008/9.

    And finally – on a per capita basis.

    Listen, Comrade, I have to-ed and fro-ed on this one to you several times now. As I mentioned above twice, my own position is made up, it won’t be changed.

    Feel free to reply again to this, but the above is pretty much my final word. I’ve seen enough both in terms of research and with my own two eyes to know that nuclear is not the way for me.

    I respect your opinion, all I would ask is that
    when a politician tells you it’s the way forward, that you approach nuclear power with the same scepticism you would approach anything else they say. Especially when they expect the private sector to lead it.

  • Different Drummer

    Mick Thanks for your reply.

    Yes there has been a lot of threads on Sammy and Iris and now you have a new one on No10 &….their new productive relationship with the DUP.

    No I jested about the Sammy thread(s) being a distraction – I’m just amazed how you and the others keep up.

    But it is indictive of a new phase in politics here which may actually be productive in ways that London and Dublin did not bank on.

    No one in No10 will be say things like:

    “Who do these people think they are!!”

    But there will be others who will – most of them will be high tories like Matt Paris and Max Hastings….

    Pip Pip

  • Different Drummer

    Some ones Global Warming is anothers Climate Change.

    Just finished on the other thread about the Real Lives documentray…..Real Global Warming anyone?

    There have been a few addition to the media interest in the problem – sorry alleged problem, of what is happening to our atmosphere.

    I don’t believe any of their pinko liberal propaganda for moment! If only President Bush had stuck to his guns and increased emissions form anti political correctness campaigners we would not be in the nuclear islamic state we are now.