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“You couldn’t make it up” …. No. #1433 November 30, 2007

Posted by smiffy in climate change, Environment, European Politics, Fianna Fáil, Uncategorized.

George Clemenceau, the former French Prime Minister, is reported to have coined the phrase “War is too important a matter to be left to the military”. One might equally say today that climate change is too important a matter to be left to the politicians, particularly politicians like Liam Aylward.

Aylward, a Fianna Fáil MEP, writes in a letter to today’s Irish Times (sub req’d)

Madam, – I fully support the objective of the European Union to guarantee that C02 emissions in Europe will be reduced by 20 per cent by 2020.

But we need international action at a global level if we are to arrest climate change.

I would like to see the forthcoming UN Conference on Climate Change, which begins in Bali on December 9th next, securing a commitment from other international partners, most notably from the United States, China and India, to match this EU commitment.

All noble enough sentiment so far, even if our chums over at Spiked might disagree. However, Aylward really gives the game away with his next line.

Unless all key players are actively involved in reducing C02 emissions, we will lose this battle and the ozone layer will deplete.

When I read this earlier today, I had to go back and check it again, to make sure I wasn’t missing something. No, “the ozone layer” is still there. Whichever way you look at it, it seems that Liam Aylward’s understanding of climate change is less than that the average Junior Cert Geography student (or, indeed, anyone who’s taken an hour and a half to sit through An Inconvenient Truth). Rather it appears that he’s picked up a few vaguely “environmental” concepts over the last twenty years – climate change, ozone layer, pollution – and conflated them all into some progressive-sounding, but ultimately meaningless platitudes.

Ozone depletion, remains, of course an important issue, but it is a separate one to the issue of climate change to be addressed at the Bali summit. It’s not caused by CO2 emissions, but (as any fule kno) by the release of of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. It’s also an area where, unlike climate change, substantial progress has been made (but also one which is much easier to address than climate change).

It’s possible, of course, that Aylward is referring to the theory that does exist that man-made climate change will, through the cooling of the stratosphere, will increase ozone depletion and prevent the current, slow, recovery of ozone levels. However, given that the link isn’t strong, and the evidence is far from conclusive, as well the fact that if climate change isn’t properly addressed, the impacts of ozone depletion will be far less significant than the wider effects of an increasing mean global temperature it would seem an odd issue to focus on. So I doubt it.

We’ve been here before. Back in 2003, Martin Cullen said

“All of the experts are saying all of this is the greenhouse gases having an effect on the ozone layer and it’s causing major changes in weather.”

and was subject to a scathing attack from Fintan O’Toole a couple of days later. O’Toole concluded that piece by stating:

Major changes in attitude don’t come about without passionate leadership. Who’s going to believe that someone who hasn’t bothered to get even a basic grasp of the subject actually gives a damn about it?

But this is what we’re stuck with. Some politicians have deep moral and ideological convictions. Some have the technocratic appeal of being able to understand problems and work out pragmatic solutions.

We’re governed, to a very large extent, by people who have neither. We get all the brisk cynicism of professionals but little of the basic competence.

Given that Aylward reminds us of his position at Vice-President of the Climate Change Committee of the European Parliament, those words seem as apt now as they did five years ago.


1. WorldbyStorm - November 30, 2007

Sort of worrying that on foot of yesterdays speech by one B. Ahern on this very topic that no-one sent Aylward the talking points… Not clever… not clever at all… And your last para just indicates… well… nothing good.


2. green - December 4, 2007

See today’s Times for Pidge’s public order act of the day: a letter informing the populace of the unreconstructed gobdaw that is Aylward.


3. smiffy - December 4, 2007

Good old Pidge.


4. WorldbyStorm - December 4, 2007

He should though, in all truth, referenced your pioneering work in this field… 😉


5. Pidge - December 5, 2007

It’s good to find that there are other people who notice these things.


6. soubresauts - December 5, 2007

Wow! Greens criticizing Fianna Fáil. What a breath of fresh air! Suddenly I have renewed faith that the Greens will save the world.

Did anyone notice Monbiot bringing us back to reality yesterday?

Unfortunately, the Irish Greens have to “honour” the Programme for Government, which means, as Brian Cowen would gladly remind anyone, economic growth, which means more environmental destruction.

If the Greens know better than Monbiot, I’d like to see their figures.


7. Pidge - December 6, 2007

Indeed, soubresauts, we really missed the boat on going into government. We were faced with a straight choice between two options:
1) Enter government and sell out on everything
2) Stay out of government and achieve everything we want

Damn! With hindsight, option two does look a little bit better…


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