Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Sustainable Situation?

Following recent comments by the Environment Minister in Northern Ireland, Sammy Wilson MLA, it has become apparent that the environmental lobby still has a lot of work to do before some people are convinced that anthropogenic activity has any effect on the global climate.

Although it is faintly ludicrous to have an environment minister that has no scientific background there is another reason to make all reasonable efforts to conserve energy.

The fact is that the vast majority of energy consumed globally is derived from fossil fuels. No-one can deny that they are a finite resource. The rate of extraction vastly outweighs the rate of oil generation in sedimentary basins globally. Oil, ultimately, is not a sustainable resource.

The uses of hydrocarbons are many and varied. From the mundane filling the car petrol tank and electricity generation through to the obvious uses in plastics manufacture. From the clothes most of us wear to the medically vital production of surgical instruments, medicinal drugs and equipment, hydrocarbons are an essential part of modern life.

Surely in this case it makes sense to conserve a diminishing resource?

Can it not be argued to the likes of Sammy Wilson that whether or not he believes that climate change is an anthropogenic issue it makes sense to save energy? Or when he is 70 years old and in need of a hip replacement would he rather be told that because he enjoyed the “personal freedom” of leaving his TV on standby for the last 30 years the procedure will have to be performed without pain killers?


  1. This is a great example of individual and national power games being played out at the expense of a global issue. I do not think though that the answer is more work by the environmental lobby. A more effective strategy would be for Sammy Wilson to have an understanding of what underlying need has prompted him to make such a response, which, I suspect is a lot more deep-seated than, and possibly completely unrelated to, his statement that he does not believe that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change.

  2. I have to confess that this is an angle that I had not considered.

    However, I have to say that I do not know which situation says the most about Politics. 1. Ministers do not fully understand/disagree with their departments and government policy. 2. Misiters are happy to seek a political advantage at the expense of the global climate. 3. A Minister can be manipulated by others (private citizens or elected people) in order to get them a political/financial advantage at the expense of global climate or 4. Ministers are willing to say anything to get their time on TV.

    I am sure that there are other possible scenarios as described above. I am sure, though, that my (already low) opinion of politicians is not enhanced by this whole episode.

  3. Arguing about science is a relatively risk free business [for politicians] ... But talking openly about values is much more dangerous, because it reveals what is truly at stake’
    - Sarewitz 2000

    The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.
    - Machiavelli

  4. I think Ruth made a very good point that governmental policy has taken priority over a much more pressing issue here. It is undeniable by even the most paranoid conspiracy theorist that the energy sources we currently employ are running out and we will be in dire straits before too long. Mr. Wilson's real problem seems to be that it was a Labour advertising scheme and the message he saw was possibly different to the one that was sent.

    It is a sad state of affairs that Mr. Wilson feels so threatened by Labour's influence that he sacrifices a much bigger problem on the altar of his own desire for control.