University College London has started a Fantasy Frontbench to debate major current issues. The first in their series was “Should Climate Change be UK’s Top Policy Priority?”. The guest speakers were Natalie Bennett (previous leader of the Green party), Ahir Shah (a comedian), Professor Mark Maslin (Geography professor at UCL) and Dr. Emily Shuckburgh (climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey). About 120 people attended including children from local schools.
Before the discussion started, the audience was asked the question, and the result was 52% for Yes and 48% for No (to which Ahir commented that this was considered an overwhelming majority these days).
Each member of the panel had two minutes to put their case: for or against the motion. Interestingly Natalie started with “Climate change should not be the dominant policy priority but be one in a combination of high priority policies” – after a gasp, the indicator went to 43% for Yes and 57% for No.
During the discussion (It was less of debate as they all seem to agree on the main issues) the key points made were: –
- Dr. Shuckburgh stated that Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was at an unprecedented level and as a result global temperature had increased by 1 degree from 150 years ago;
- She highlighted that this was particularly bad for the elderly as the temperature fluctuations are bad for their health;
- Dr. Shuckburgh also talked about the acidity of the oceans and the adverse effect of that on the coral reef;
- Mark Maslin stated that this was one of the four main issues that the world faced today (he mentioned two others, and they were hunger and war);
On the question of the impact on the UK of climate change, the main points raised were:
- The significant flooding from rising sea levels;
- More internal flooding from rain;
- Disruption of the food we import;
- Natalie made a good point that “We can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet”;
- Mark Maslin (when the discussion moved on to the Paris Agreement) stated that from 2020 we need to reduce our emissions by 2% until 2070 to get to zero emissions and then continue if we are to achieve negative CO2 reductions in the atmosphere;
- The panel agreed that another threat, to the UK, was the lack of investment in research and development and green innovation.
As for the future – Mark Maslin quoted Al Gore (whom he met at a conference) who told him “We have to fix democracy before we can fix climate change”. The panel all agreed with this. The point is that some countries and local politicians are resisting progress on climate issues and if peoples voices were heard in a more representative democratic system, the focus on climate change would be more favorable.
To find out more about the Fantasy Frontbench look at the UCL site. The URL is shown below:
The panel finished with a message of hope, they were confident that as a human race we will find a solution to climate change. The final result of the question was 57% for and 43% against the motion.
* Tahir Maher is a member of the LDV editorial team