Far out in the North Sea, where new reports point to a massive reduction in Polar sea ice, deep oil drilling will benefit today from a new £100m annual subsidy announced by the Chancellor. Rising Polar temperatures are accelerating the loss of sea ice, impacting on the path of the jet stream, the high-altitude wind that guides Continental weather systems, including storms. In the UK, summer 2012 was the wettest in 100 years. Only governments working together can address global warming. But an apparent climate sceptic has just been appointed to the key public office of environment secretary. Yet for his part, President Obama, speaking at the Democratic Convention in North Carolina yesterday, made his position on climate change clear: “Yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax….More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.”
Similar clarity would be welcome from the Government.
For the past three days the website BusinessGreen has been asking Defra to respond to reports that environment Minister is a climate change sceptic. Such a view was unhelpfully reinforced by the fulsome welcome he received by the doubting Lord Lawson . Defra’s holding reply to BusinessGreen explains that Defra covers a range of issues affecting the environment and the rural economy. “One of these issues is the impact of climate change and the Secretary of State is committed to exploring and developing the response required by government, business and communities.”
The Treasury’s £100m a year boost for “brown field” North Sea oil and gas fields follows hard on the new £3bn “field allowance” for deep oil & gas fields with sizeable reserves, announced in Budget 2012. That was worth £155m in tax reliefs to the industry in the first two years (2012-2014). We make that a £355m subsidy for big oil in the next two years. The aim is to encourage developers to extract as much fuel as possible from existing projects. The new allowance will “shield some income” from the 32% supplementary charge on oil company profits. The Chancellor said: “This government has signalled its absolute determination to get more investment in the North Sea.”
According to new research from the Norwegian Polar Institute, fast melting Polar is likely to have an impact on the path of the jet stream, the high-altitude wind that guides weather systems, including storms. The course and speed of the jet stream is governed by the difference in temperature between the Tropics and the Arctic. A change on the scale now being observed could be felt across Europe and beyond.
Global warming can lead to changes in the systems that transport water to the Arctic. When the current of Atlantic Ocean water flowing northward grows stronger and warmer, this contributes towards a warmer Arctic Ocean. Another important factor in the warming trend is that when the white sea ice melts, the dark seawater takes up more heat from the sun and the water temperature increases. Such reinforcing feedback mechanisms contribute global climate change.
The President’s remarks are the most emphatic commitment to tackling climate change in years. They stand in stark contrast with many in the Republican Party, including Romney and Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who have in the past questioned whether manmade climate change exists.