Climate expert accuses PM of cowardice


The UK’s most eminent climate scientist is accusing Tony Blair of failing to stand up to George Bush on the issue of climate change and putting mankind in jeopardy. He says global warming is as great a threat to the world as weapons of mass destruction.

In a blistering attack on George Bush for “an abdication of leadership of epic proportions” and Tony Blair for taking no action for fear of offending him, Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, writing in today’s Guardian, says that global warming is real and here now, killing people through heatwaves and storms.

He says: “If political leaders have one duty above all others, it is to protect the security of their peoples. “Yet our long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change. “The parallels between global climate change and global terrorism are becoming increasingly obvious”, yet no action is taken by either leader, he says.

Sir John, who also served as co-chairman of scientific assessment for the
1,000-strong group of scientists on the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, said he had no hestitation in calling global warming “a weapon of mass destruction”.

He details the record number of 562 tornadoes in the US in May and the
1,500 people who died in a 49C heatwave in India six weeks ago, saying that these events are claiming as many lives as terrorism. Although Tony Blair has said there can be no genuine security if the planet is ravaged by climate change, Sir John said words were not enough. They had to be matched with adequate action.

He says everyone now knows that the US is the world’s biggest polluter, and that with only a 20th of the world’s population it produces a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions. “But the US government, in an abdication of leadership of epic proportions, is utterly refusing to take the problem seriously, and Britain, presumably because Blair wishes not to offend George Bush, is beginning to fall behind too”.

Sir John says it is also vital that Russia ratify the Kyoto protocol, the international treaty designed to begin reducing greenhouse gases, so that it can at last come into force. But while the US refused to cooperate, it was difficult to see how the rest of the world can make much progress on the much tougher longer-term problem.”So Tony Blair has a challenge ahead. The world needs leadership, and the British prime minister is well placed to stand at the head of a new ‘coalition of the willing’ to tackle this urgent problem. “He is also uniquely placed to persuade President George W Bush to join in this effort, given their commitment to making the world safe from ‘weapons of mass destruction’ “.

Sir John adds: “But even if he fails to persuade

George W, there are other allies who would still respond to his leadership – even if this means opposing the United States until such time as it no longer has an oilman for president. “If Tony Blair were to assume this mantle, history might not only ‘forgive’ him, but also endorse Britain’s contribution to long-term global security”.

(Monday July 28, 2003 The Guardian UK)