HL Deb 30 January 1990 vol 515 cc224-84

7.8 p.m.

Lord Carver rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on the Greenhouse Effect [6th Report, 1988–89, HL Paper 88].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in introducing the Select Committee's Report on the Greenhouse Effect, and as Chairman of the sub-committee which produced it, I wish to express my thanks to the noble Lords who contributed so much as members of the sub-committee. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our specialist advisers: Mr. Andrew Gilchrist, former director of research at the Meteorological Office; Professor Henry Charnock, who is Professor of Oceanography at the University of Southampton; and Professor Michael Unsworth, Professor of Environmental Physics at the University of Nottingham. We are also most grateful to all those people who gave evidence to the sub-committee.

One must always remember that the greenhouse effect is in essence a good thing. Indeed, without it temperatures at the earth's surface would be 30 degrees centigrade lower than they are —too low to support life as we know it. The problem is the increase in the effect which there is reason to believe is being brought about by an increase in the concentrations of certain gases, caused directly or indirectly by human activity.

In discussing that important subject it is not easy to find the right balance between panic and complacency. The apocalypse is not now or imminent, but there are good reasons why we cannot be complacent. The first is that we are not merely concerned about what the situation will be at a fixed date in the future —2030 being the year upon which eyes are now fixed —because the increase in the greenhouse effect will continue to become worse at a greater rate unless the increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases is reversed. The second reason is what is called the thermal inertial of the oceans. There is a time-lag in their warming-up process so that they act as a sort of reservoir of warmth inherited from the past.

Our aim was to consider the state of the science upon which a policy should be based and what action this country should take. We began by looking at the evidence of how the climate had changed and the link between that change and greenhouse gases. We concluded that the global mean temperature of the atmosphere had increased by about half a degree Centigrade since 1900, although not regularly. There was a cooling between 1940 and 1960, but in the 1980s there was a marked increase, and, although it cannot yet be scientifically proved that higher concentrations of greenhouse gases have caused that warming, the scientific evidence is that the increase in concentrations of gases that have been recorded in the period would have been expected to produce an increase of temperature of about that amount.

Next we looked at the greenhouse gases themselves. They are, in order of their contribution to the greenhouse effect: water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, ozone and nitrous oxide. Water vapour is by far the most important, but there is nothing we can do about it. An important factor is that the warmer the atmosphere the greater the volumn of water vapour. It therefore enhances the effect caused by the other gases, the concentrations of which are enhanced by human activity.

Next in importance is carbon dioxide. Its contribution to the greenhouse effect, excluding that of water vapour, is 50 per cent. of the total, and it is increasing at the rate of 0.4 per cent. per annum. That is due primarily to the burning of fossil fuels, but the reduction of the earth's biomass, expecially the burning of tropical forests, has also contributed. Of the carbon released in that way, about half remains in the atmosphere, the rest being absorbed by the oceans. In our report we have given details of the sources of carbon dioxide emissions. At present, the developed countries are the main culprits, but that situation will change as the standard of living of the less developed countries with large populations, such as China, India and South-East Asia, rise. Their consumption of energy and emission of all greenhouse gases looks like increasing dramatically and poses one of the greatest problems.

Methane is next on the list. Its main sources are decaying vegetable matter and the output —to put it politely —of the digestive process of herbivorous animals. It is not easy therefore to do much about it without drastic effects on agriculture. Chlorofluorocarbons come next. They are especially serious apart from their effect on the ozone layer in the stratosphere as they persist in the troposphere for such a long time.

Fortunately the action already taken under the Montreal Protocol should check the increase in the concentration of chlorofluorocarbons and eventually reduce it. However, that is dependent upon the less developed countries with large populations observing the protocol, and their potential demand for refrigeration and air conditioning poses a major problem. Surface ozone is next. Concentration in the troposphere has been increasing, due largely to motor vehicle exhaust gases. Nitrous oxide is also increasing, caused partly by agricultural practices and partly by high temperature combustion.

That is the easy part of the science lesson. It is much more difficult to predict the future. First, the future concentration of the gases depends upon what action governments and industries all over the world take in reaction to knowledge as it develops; to public opinion, well or ill informed; and to vested interests. There are also great gaps in our scientific knowledge about the effects of gases on one another and what goes on within the atmosphere itself; on the part that the oceans play as sinks to absorb the gases; and of the interaction between the atmosphere and the oceans. Our report lists the international efforts that are being made to remedy some of those gaps in our understanding.

We concluded that greater emphasis should be placed on scientific observations in all those areas; on research into atmospheric chemistry at our universities; and on the relevant chemical and biological skills which have not been fully used in that field. We hope that the new Atmospheric Directorate which has been set up within the Natural Environment Research Council will help.

Uncertainty about future concentrations of gases means that there is an uncertain premise for predicting what effect they will have on the climate. That just adds to the great uncertainties inherent in the methods employed for that purpose. Climatology as a science is in its infancy. For historical and practical reasons its observations from satellites and other sources and its calculations by computer-based mathematical models are primarily oriented to short-term forecasts. They have been adapted to attempt to produce long-term predictions, but there are only five models doing that (four in the United States and the one at our Meteorological Office). The grid that they use is large and the data about many important inputs are crude or sparse. They have been trying to predict further changes in climate on the reasonable assumption that by 2030 the concentrations of greenhouse gases expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents will have doubled since 1900. They come up with generally similar answers although the degree they estimate varies between 1.5 degrees and 4.5 degrees Centigrade.

They estimate that the warming will be greater nearer the poles and less nearer the equator; that global rainfall will be higher, especially in high latitudes, and along the tracks which depressions tend to follow in the middle latitudes; but that there may be droughts leading to a reduction in soil moisture in summer in middle latitude continental areas, such as in the United States and the Soviet Union where the corn belts lie; and that there will be a marked cooling of the stratosphere. Other than those, they are at present unable to make any reliable forecasts of regional changes, and localised forecasting is virtually impossible.

That degree of uncertainty as to the magnitude of the change and of the timescale over which it may take place is clearly an unsatisfactory basis for making major policy decisions which could have far-reaching political, economic and social consequences. The committee therefore considers it essential that the models be developed so as to increase their resolution and to improve the methods by which they calculate the effect of one feature of climate, such as clouds, on another, and particularly the interaction between the atmosphere and the surface of the oceans and the land, and with ice on both. They should also be able to represent a dynamic rather than a static situation. That will demand much greater computer power than is used at present. We therefore welcome the Government's decision to set up a national climate modelling centre by expansion of the facilities at the Meteorological Office.

Computers are no better than the data one feeds into them. There are enormous gaps to be filled in the field of scientific observation. Those observations are also of vital importance as indicators of whether the prognostications of the models are in fact being fulfilled. That data must be collected and disseminated on a global basis. We must make certain that the current standard meteorological global network is maintained at least at its present level; and it is urgent to improve observations of the oceans, both from within them and from satellites. In that field, the increased allocation in the science budget recently announced by the Secretary of State for Education and Science for the Natural Environment Research Council for marine scientific research vessels and for support of the European Space Agency's earth reconnaissance satellite programme is welcome. All that is in aid of improving our knowledge of what may bring about global warming and consequent climate change.

We next examined the possible impacts of those changes. In general we concluded that one impact would be a greater frequency of climatic extremes —hot and cold, wet and dry —and that their occurrence could be an indicator of increased greenhouse effects. That could mean stronger winds and more hurricanes which would aggravate the results of an increase in sea level. The latter would arise partly by expansion, as the seas warmed up, and partly as a result of the melting of ice and snow on land. Melting sea ice would not make any difference as it already displaces its weight in water. There have been various attempts to estimate the rise, and we accepted a figure of 15 centimetres by expansion and another 15 centimetres from ice melt by the year 2030. This is markedly less than the 80 plus or minus 70 centimetres which was accepted by the 1980 Villach conference, which we were persuaded by the Royal Society was not soundly based. Some estimates that have been made are even lower than the one which we accepted. Further research is clearly needed.

However, most important of all is the maintenance of an extensive worldwide monitoring of sea level. If the rise by 2030 is no more than we estimated, the existing measures of coast defence should suffice for this country. But, given the uncertainty and the possible increase in surges due to the combination of high winds with high tides, we recommended that the Department of the Environment should initiate a long-term research programme into possible impacts and responses of a rise in sea level.

In the fields of agriculture and forestry, one has to consider not only the possible effects of climate change, but also that of increased concentration of carbon dioxide on plant life. As regards agriculture, adaptation to climatic change in comparatively short timescales by breeding techniques is a well-established science for both animals and plants and is well supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Council. It should produce no great problem for this country, but we recognised that in other parts of the world agriculture may be much less adaptable, and this would have substantial consequences for us.

Forestry poses a more difficult problem, both because less is known about the likely effects on trees and also because of the long periods trees, particularly hardwoods, take to reach maturity. Forestry research on an international basis should be accelerated and new planting should be composed of species that are resilient to possible climate change.

The effect on natural ecosystems is even more difficult to predict and is an important area where more research is needed. In this general field we concluded that the preparation of response strategies would be best served by ensuring that a broad research base should be maintained in this country in the full range of biological and molecular skills. A central chapter of our report deals with the counter-measures needed to control greenhouse gas emissions. I have not time to go into them in detail. I have no doubt that other members of the sub-committee will draw attention to them.

In summary, we stressed the importance of and the difficulties in implementing the 1987 Montreal Protocol about CFCs. We endorsed the conclusion of the report by the Select Committee on Energy in another place, that energy efficiency and conservation measures are the economically most advantageous and the quickest way of curbing carbon dioxide emissions. We repeated the opinion of our previous report on civil nuclear power, that nuclear power is the only proven large-scale alternative to fossil fuel energy generation. We thought that the future role of renewable sources of energy would be limited and local, and that in the case of wind, wave and barrage generation they posed environmental problems of their own.

We recommended that decisions on fuel use and emissions control in road transport should be taken in the light of full research into their effect on greenhouse gases, and that methane from landfill sites and oilfields should be collected whenever possible, or flared. We commended the work of the Overseas Development Administration and the forestry organisations in promoting sustainable forestry overseas. The contribution that additional planting in Europe could make is very limited.

In the course of taking evidence, we became keenly aware of the problem of the availability of scientific manpower. Not only is the number of scientists currently working in this field small, but expansion to meet the needs of the research that we have recommended seems likely to be restricted more by difficulty in recruiting new entrants than by finance. I expect that members of the sub-committee who are more closely linked with academic life than I will expand on this theme.

Finally, we looked at the problem of co-ordination of the research effort needed and its financial support. After considerable discussion we did not recommend the establishment of any elaborate new government machinery specifically for co-ordinating climate research. We recommended that the Department of the Environment should continue to be responsible for research into impacts; but that, in the wider field of climate and climate-related research, the Advisory Board of the Research Councils should set up a review group, including representation of the Met. Office, to co-ordinate research activity and review it periodically.

We considered that the ministerial committee which the Prime Minister has established to review the whole of this field annually would be of central importance. We hope that it will lead to effective decisions in the allocation of government resources in the research field. We recommended that its findings should be published.

In the international field, we concluded that co-operation had already been established on a sound basis, with the World Climate Research Programme, supported by the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Council of Scientific Unions, dealing with climate research; and the UN Environment Programme dealing with impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which they have both established, is of great importance. Its three working groups are due to report towards the end of this year and they should form the basis of international action, both in the research field and in developing responses. We recommended that such reviews should take place every four or five years.

The additional government expenditure arising from our recommendations is only of the order of 180 million over 10 years, and largely consists of support for proposals which the research councils have made, but which at the time we finalised our report the Government had not yet accepted. Although it would double what the Government spent on climate and climate-related research last year, which was £15.5 million, in the light of the seriousness of the problem it surely cannot be regarded as a large sum. However, it covers only research and does not include the cost of counter measures designed to control gas emissions. That could be very large, although the Government appear to believe that energy efficiency and conservation can be encouraged by the market itself. Their response to the report of the Energy Committee in another place stated in paragraph 5.2: Current and future energy prices are likely to continue to encourage the efficient use of energy". To me that would appear to mean that the cost of energy is now high and likely to become higher, which is not what I, at least, thought was the case or was the object of privatisation. The same paragraph stated that the Department of Energy was taking steps to provide a methodology which would make it possible for market mechanisms to recognise the external costs associated with energy consumption. It stated that when that was done, it is expected that market mechanisms would provide the most efficient means through which a response to global warming can be made". I hope that the noble Lord who is replying for the Government will throw more light on how that is to be achieved, especially in the single European market, after 1992. I personally am not convinced.

In our report we judged that it would be impracticable to meet the 1988 Toronto Conference target of a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. within the next 15 years. But we recommended that the Government should begin to assess the policy implications of targets which might be set under a United Nations convention. We support the Government in the view that such a convention, to which protocols would be negotiated, is the best method of organising international co-operation in this field.

Since we reported, the Secretary of State for the Environment, at the Conference of World Environment Ministers held at Noordwijk, has signed the Noordwijk Declaration on Atmospheric Pollution and Climate Change. It is an admirable document. We must hope that the good intentions it declares will result in action after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported.

The Royal Institute of International Affairs has published a detailed and very interesting study of the subject of targets which casts doubt on the possibility of achieving targets specific to each country. The institute proposes instead a system based on leasable permits for fossil carbon emissions allocated on an adult per capita basis. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government will say whether the Government have studied the report, and what view they take about the feasibility of agreement on targets, of actually achieving the targets agreed and then verifying that nations have done so.

My Lords, I apologise, particularly at this time of night, for taking so long to introduce the report. However, your Lordships will understand what a complex matter this is. It contains many facets, all of which are important. I can only conclude by reminding the House of what I said in the debate on 20th December on the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I emphasised that the effort to improve our knowledge of all aspects of this subject must be organised internationally and that our own effort must make a major contribution, as it does now. I also emphasised that the most difficult problem would be how to avoid the development of the less developed countries leading to a great increase in greenhouse gases. Those countries must therefore be brought into participation in the international effort from the start.

However, governments cannot, before they act, wait until they can be more certain that science is giving the right answers. They must begin now to adopt insurance or what are called "no regrets" policies, particularly to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Those policies can be put into effect without causing drastic economic or social difficulties. They could also have advantages of their own. If governments fail to act in that way it may be too late as, with the thermal inertia of the oceans, the warming will be under way and it will be impossible to counteract it. The committee hopes that its report will help your Lordships to influence the Government in that direction. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on the Greenhouse Effect (6th Report, 1988–89, HL Paper 88). —(Lord Carver.)

7.32 p.m.

The Archbishop of York

My Lords, I am a little alarmed to find myself in such a prominent position on the list of speakers in this debate as my intention is to concentrate on only one small part of the report. I shall start by congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and his committee on an excellent and timely piece of work. I also wish to congratulate him on his lucid handling in his speech of this complex subject.

The report is sober, factual, well balanced and properly agnostic where it is not possible to be certain. I hope it will raise the level of discussion of the greenhouse effect well outside the confines of this House because there is no doubt about popular concern with the subject. However, there is also no doubt about the level of popular misinformation. I myself had to protest recently to the authors of a draft report on environmental matters about their remarkable claim that the sea level would rise by several metres in the next 30 years.

The Select Committee's report is certainly needed. I am sure I express the views of many when I say how grateful we are for it and for the Select Committee which so effectively mastered such a huge and at times conflicting body of evidence.

The report focuses quite properly on the need for more research in a complex field. That is essential. Nevertheless, I share the hope which the noble and gallant Lord expressed towards the end of his speech, that concentration on research will not be used as an excuse for delaying action in suitable instances, even if the research is incomplete and we sometimes have to rely on reasonable guesses. As the noble and gallant Lord said, the difficulty is that we are confronting a phenomenon which has a long lead time, so that by the time we are ready to do something with full scientific backing it may already be too late to do anything effective.

Over the past few years I have been involved through the World Council of Churches in setting up local research and educational projects in Central America and Indonesia on the subject of the rain forests. The groups that we have set up have co-operated closely with local people who understand some of the complex social, financial and political pressures which lead to deforestation. We have tried to help people in different parts of the world to face the issues more knowledgeably and to share their experiences across half the world.

Against that background I turned with particular interest to paragraphs 10.32 and 10.39 of the report which consider the international dimension of emissions control. That part of the report deals with the matter of forests. I have also followed up the extremely interesting references in the evidence on which these paragraphs are based.

It is clear from the evidence that the effects of deforestation or reforestation on carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are not nearly so straightforward as some of us might like to think. That is a valuable piece of information. I was frankly surprised to learn that established forests seem to be in equilibrium with their environment and are unlikely to be net absorbers of carbon dioxide, although as long as they are allowed to survive they remain an important means of fixing carbon, which might otherwise be turned into carbon dioxide, where it is. All the same, I must confess to some disappointment that the only recommendation of the committee on this theme is that contained in paragraph 13.49, which simply commends the work of the Overseas Development Administration and the forestry organisations. I should have thought we could go further than that. I believe that in trying to consider our use and abuse of forests as a world problem it is not enough simply to think in terms of overseas aid and the work of voluntary organisations.

Serious concentration on forestry on a world level could achieve three things. First, it could help to preserve the existing rain forests with all the carbon locked up in them and with all their other enormous ecological advantages. Secondly, it could encourage, as the report says, new planting on a cyclical basis in other parts of the world, thus locking up more carbon in toto while at the same time providing a renewable source of fuel. Thirdly, it could take some of the pressure off the use of fossil fuels, bearing in mind, as the noble and gallant Lord has said, the huge energy increases that will be required in many developing nations.

It seems to me that, no matter what detailed refinements more research is likely to provide, those three matters are desirable objectives. Therefore I come back to my question: is it enough to try to attain those objectives on a world scale simply through aid and voluntary effort? I do not think it is. I believe we need to move in the direction of thinking of forests as a world resource for which the world pays, not just by paying for the wood when it is cut down but also by paying to keep the land afforested.

Let us suppose that Brazil, for instance, were to be paid a handsome sum on an annual basis for the amount of Amazonian forest that it retained. We would not be interfering politically as Brazil would still be free to do what it wanted with the forests, but the internal financial pressures towards destruction would be relieved. That would also be the case in many other parts of the world. It would not be hard on a macro-scale to estimate the forested area of each country and to pay each country accordingly from a common fund. Where would that money come from? It would come from the users of fossil fuels.

I know that there are groans at that point and that the idea of a fossil fuel tax is unpopular because no nation wants to put itself at an economic disadvantage. Everybody would like to find an answer to environmental problems which does not have too obvious a price tag on it. However, suppose that we take the Government seriously and adopt the principle of the polluter pays. We are talking about pollution, because the essence of greenhouse pollution regarding CO2 is the release of carbon dioxide from carbon which has been safely stored away underground for millions of years. If the polluter is to pay for that pollution of the atmosphere then some form of tax on the burning of fossil fuels seems to me to follow logically. To use the revenue to help those countries which provide a service to the rest of the world through their forests seems to me to follow equally logically. I believe that at least some countries which are heavy burners of fossil fuels could be persuaded to see the sense of that.

The other obvious advantages of such a tax, in helping to promote the efficient use of fossil fuels, are too obvious to dwell on.

It is not my intention to put forward some utopian scheme. The report rightly concentrates on hard and basic facts. In particular, it concentrates on what Britain can do. One thing we can also do is help to shift world thinking in the direction of greater co-operation, a more global vision of the problems and a more comprehensive view of our dependence on each other's resources. I hope that a little imaginative thinking about the world's forests will he part of our future agenda.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Clitheroe

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for introducing the debate this evening. I should also like to thank him very warmly for the way in which he chaired our sub-committee which studied the greenhouse effect. I should like to join him in thanking those who helped with our deliberations on the subject.

The debate this evening will certainly be wide ranging. Although there are many points that one would like to make, time does not permit it. Therefore I shall restrict myself to comments on three issues which are interrelated.

The first issue is the quality of the science behind the problem. I do not wish in any way to denigrate the efforts that have been made by many working in the field, but the quality of that work has been deeply handicapped by inadequate and inaccurate data. No scientific work is worthy of the name unless it is supported by reliable experimentation. It has been said, and with some truth, that the quality of the science concerning global warming is inversely proportional to the amount of hot air generated on the subject by the media.

In 1896 in Sweden Arrhenius hypothesised that the consumption of fossil fuel would in due course double the CO2 content of the atmosphere and hence raise the global temperature by five degrees Centigrade. Sixty years later, in 1949, my tutor at Oxford speculated on the subject with me. Forty-one years later the speculation has grown from a murmur to a roar. However, it is still speculation. The facts, the measurements and the experimentation are largely missing. The scientific base has not yet been developed, and science fiction can easily reign supreme. Therefore, I submit that the first issue is how to improve the data to provide a reasonably accurate basis for true scientific evaluation.

The Select Committee's report summarises a great deal of the work that is needed. It also emphasises the need to improve modelling techniques related to global warming. That raises another point of mine. Although I heartily endorse the need for improved modelling techniques, particularly in relation to improvement of the understanding of the atmospheric chemistry and the physics and biology which affect the world, I have some concern about the value of modeling for climate change without much more realistic and accurate input than we have today.

I have a healthy scepticism about modelling to predict the future and particularly if the input data are suspect. Memories of Malthus, of the Group of Rome, and, closer to my experience, of economic attempts to forecast the price of metals tend to show that the future is unpredictable. The trouble with models that attempt to predict the future is that, while it may be possible to devise one that fits a curve very snugly to any number of points in the past, its extrapolation can produce some wildly wrong forecasts.

It is a curious fact that human beings like to frighten themselves. Predictions of disasters —particularly global disasters —sell newspapers and television space almost as well as violence and pornography. It is of course arguable that unless one puts the fear of God into people one cannot obtain support for political action or to appropriate funds for necessary scientific work. The downside to that approach is that more emotion than logic can very readily be induced and foolish decisions can be taken in a hurry because of political expediency.

My concern is that some modelling on inadequate data and inadequate understanding of the enormously complicated processes involved in the interaction of atmosphere, oceans and land, chemistry, physics and biology may well lead to scenarios of disaster which are quite spurious. That could occur despite the qualities and abilities of the scientists performing the work. Spurious conclusions will lead to bad decisions. Therefore I suggest that all models must come with the appropriate health warning that they must not be used in the wrong context.

My third point is to endorse the policies recently recommended by the president of the US Academy of Engineers, referred to in the Select Committee's report, namely: policies that address causes and predicted consequences in such a way that future options are not foreclosed if projections turn out to be incorrect, and which may be desirable for other environmental and economic reasons. Insurance policies if you wish". However, when one analyses it, even that statement has its snags. Political intervention in many fields is inevitably simplistic. What appears at first sight to be an obvious decision to take for the general benefit of all —a simple insurance policy —can have very serious and unexpected side effects.

Even such an obvious initiative as has been taken in another context to clean up the atmosphere —the promotion of green non-leaded petrol —may have induced its own health and safety problems and its own environmental risks which need very careful scientific analysis. The same may apply to CFCs and their substitutes. There is a great deal more work that needs to be done in that area.

Emotion may stimulate action, but only careful analysis can determine whether that action is beneficial or otherwise. Because of the public interest that has been generated in the debate on global warming reasonably rapid decisions and actions are called for. Insurance policies are a good answer. However, most insurance policies also need proper scientific evaluation.

I have two favourite insurance policies. One, which seems to me to be self-evident, is that work should be done to improve the total efficiency of energy production and use. That means energy conservation and many other things. But even that may need some economic analysis to back it up. My second insurance policy, which may not be so totally without contention, is to increase rather than reduce work on ensuring that nuclear energy can be economically and safely produced. That is clearly a subject for another debate, but it must be an issue central to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide in the long run.

Above all, I come back to the urgent need to improve the quality of the scientific base related to the field of atmospheric chemistry and the knowledge of the mechanism of the world's environment if we are to have any insurance policies. Without greatly increasing scientific effort in those fields, we shall surely take the wrong decisions. Improvement of the quality of the scientific base itself is the primary, essential insurance policy that is needed.

7.50 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I should like to thank most warmly the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and his committee for an important contribution to what is now a global debate and for the lucid way in which he introduced this complex subject. I share with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York his agnosticism in so far as the scientific world is not monolithic and its views vary tremendously on each of those important subjects. If I have any criticisms to make of the report, it is not that I profess to know better than members of the committee but that there are certain areas of the report which seem to me not to have taken into account the full weight of scientific opinion from all sides.

However, before I make any criticisms, I should like most warmly and wholeheartedly to support paragraph 13.5, which states: Action, by way of insurance or 'no regrets' policies" — about which the noble and gallant Lord spoke— is therefore needed in advance of obtaining clear proof that a global warming due to enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations is occurring. Such policies —whether aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions or mitigating the possible consequences of global warming —will involve difficult political decisions and will require a firm base of scientific knowledge". In addition, paragraph 13.39 emphasises once again the importance of action in advance of scientific certainty. That is the most important conclusion reached in the report. Paragraph 13.39 recommends the United Nations Climate Convention, but goes on to state: [every country] must plan to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases in advance of such a Convention". I could not agree more with that. The paragraph concludes with a point to which I wish to refer briefly later; namely: Developed countries should assist less developed countries to do the same, especially where more advanced technology is required". Having said that, I must take issue with the way in which certain issues in the report are dealt with. The first concerns the Toronto target, referred to in paragraph 13.4. It is printed as paragraph 3.40, but I think it should read paragraph 13.40; it is no doubt a misprint. Here the committee states that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. by the year 2005 is impracticable. However, looking through the report and the evidence, there does not seem to be any argument behind that conclusion. It is simply put down to testimony from certain witnesses.

We are dealing with an argument, not a dogmatic statement and I challenge the way in which that conclusion has been reached. It ignores a number of published scenarios which have established that Canada, the United States, Poland, the USSR, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands could each reduce CO2 by 20 per cent. by the year 2005, usually without cost. The Canadian study, funded by the Canadian Ministry of Energy, established that Canada could reduce CO2 emissions by 20 per cent. by 2005 and save over 100 billion Canadian dollars. That conclusion appears to me to be under-researched.

My second and central point is to be found in paragraph 13.44 and concerns nuclear energy. I have spoken about that subject many times and noble Lords know my views. However, I am puzzled by the apparent anomaly, if not contradiction, in paragraphs 13.43 and 13.44. Paragraph 13.43 states: Energy efficiency and conservation measures are the economically most advantageous and quickest way of curbing emissions of carbon dioxide". Paragraph 13.44 states: Nuclear power is the only proven adequate alternative to fossil fuel energy generation". That is not necessarily a direct contradiction —that is not what I am saying —but there is an anomaly. If one accepts the conclusion of paragraph 13.43, surely the correct, sensible and imaginative policy would be to put in the maximum resources available for energy efficiency and conservation.

It is not established that nuclear power is the only proven adequate alternative to fossil fuel energy generation. We now know, although this fact perhaps emerged after the committee had met, that nuclear power is expensive. We have always known that it is dangerous, wasteful and environmentally destructive technology which nevertheless appears to be recommended in the report. Numerous scientific treatises have catalogued the dangers of nuclear energy and have consistently shown, as paragraph 13.43 states, that Energy efficiency and conservation measures are the economically most advantageous and quickest way of curbing emissions of carbon dioxide". The committee appears to have ignored that part of the evidence given by Friends of the Earth —I refer to paragraph 5.8 on page 220 of the written evidence —where Friends of the Earth quotes the World Commission on Environment and Development as declaring that, the generation of nuclear power is only justifiable if there are solid solutions to the presently unsolved problems to which it gives rise". I could go on quoting, as I have done previously, along the same lines. Dr. Mike Kelly, a colleague of mine in the university which has adopted me —the University of East Anglia —writes as a scientist and a member of the School of Environmental Sciences. He has repeatedly pointed out that nuclear energy is not the answer to the greenhouse effect, and I would refer to his article "Meltdown" in the BBC Wildlife booklet last year.

Again, he writes: A recent authoritative study by the Rocky Mountain Institute compares the efficiency strategy and the nuclear strategy for reducing emission of carbon dioxide in the US. It finds that one dollar buys 50 kilowatt hours (kWh) of saved electricity if invested in efficiency measures and 7.4 kWh if invested in generating nuclear electricity. If that 7.4 kWh is used to replace coal burning, the efficiency measures prove almost seven times more cost effective in doing the same job". He goes on to say that in the United Kingdom a similar study found that, each £ invested in nuclear power can remove the need for between 5.5 and 7.2 kg of carbon in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants, whereas one £ invested in compact fluorescent lighting instead of incandescent lighting displaces 27.4 kg of carbon. Hence, investment in this particular form of energy efficiency is four to five times more cost-effective than investment in nuclear power". One could continue. I suggest only that the committee's conclusion is not supported by an exhaustive examination of the scientific evidence which has been presented.

I should like to make two more points. Paragraph 13.47 refers to, Decisions on fuel use and emissions control in road transport [which] should be taken in the light of full research into their effect on greenhouse gases". I believe that the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate should tell us the policy of the Government on this issue. It seems to be a divided policy. The Secretary of State for Transport is trying to devise a road system in London to allow more automobiles to use the roads. I understand that he has estimated that the use of cars will increase by 142 per cent. over 20 years into the next century. The Secretary of State for the Environment says that that is unacceptable.

Which is the Government's policy? One cannot have it both ways; there will be either a restriction on the increase in the use of cars or an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

I have already mentioned the developing countries. I think that they are very important indeed. I wish that the committee had found time to go into the question more thoroughly. Paragraph 13.51 speaks of developed countries being, assisted to build up a source of expertise to advise the governments of those countries in the science of climate change". That is surely a crusade for Britain and the developing world for at least the rest of this century and into the next. Unless the developed world can find a means of exporting that technology which is environmentally benign to the third world, then, as the noble and gallant Lord said in introducing his report, disaster faces us as the developing world seeks to advance its standard of living.

I can sum up the subject of this report by saying that the scientific opinions quoted in it establish that global mean temperatures will increase some 3 degrees Celsius by the year 2030. That is a higher temperature than has been experienced since humanity arrived on the earth. It is some three times greater an increase in world temperature than has occurred in civilised history. This is all to take place within the next 40 years—within the lifetime of the majority of the people already on the planet. If the scientists cannot find a way out of this mess, it appears that science and technology may not and cannot be the only way or even the best way of solving the problem.

Our responsibility, if we are to face the menace of the greenhouse effect, is to use every means we have to shift the perception of the industrialised world which has contributed 90 per cent. of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions. We have to reform our profligate, energy wasteful, short-sighted lifestyle. And we have to help that half of the world which is underdeveloped not to follow our bad example but to find its better standard of living by means that do not damage the environment.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, the report on the greenhouse effect so ably introduced by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, is one of the most balanced that has appeared in recent times amid a welter of documentation on this subject. It enables us to form a clear view of the state of knowledge on the subject, the gaps that need to be filled and action that should be taken pending the achievement of certainty in this somewhat uncertain science.

The fact seems to be that since about 1850, as the report says in paragraph 2.14, there has been a degree of global warming and that it has appeared to accelerate in recent years, in the 1970s and 1980s. If current trends continue, there could be further acceleration. The year 2030 has been taken as the year by which a fairly marked increase could take place.

It seems clear that the warming is associated with the emission of what are known as greenhouse gases and that on the basis of present trends those emissions could continue to increase not only in the developed countries but, what is more important, in the less developed countries. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, were absolutely right to emphasise that the first step is to obtain a better knowledge of the subject and to collect more data. But, as the most reverend Primate indicated, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, we cannot wait for that evidence to be provided before action is taken.

For that reason at the Toronto Conference in 1988 the objective of cutting these emissions by some 20 per cent. by the year 2005 was promulgated. The report that we have before us throws some doubt on whether that can be achieved. That is the aspect that I should like to deal with. If we consider what is happening in Britain today, on the basis of estimates of future energy trends both in the sector of consumption of energy for heating and for transport, the impression emerges that, regrettably, far from emissions being cut by 20 per cent. they are likely to increase by about that figure. In fact, the latest estimates suggest that the increase may be as much as 30 per cent. Therefore, on what has been described as the business as usual scenario, this country, which is aiming to be in the van of how to deal with the problem, in the practical measures —unless there are major changes introduced —may be doing precisely the opposite of what was recommended at Toronto in 1988.

So the first question that we must pose to the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, who is to reply, is: what targets are there to be and when are the Government going to say that they should be achieved in order that we may get near what was proposed at Toronto, if we cannot achieve what was stated there? There are ways in which action can certainly be taken. As the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, indicated, there are many options open. The most effective option available, as all noble Lords who have spoken so far have indicated, is in the field of energy efficiency and conservation. Here is an area of action which, even if the estimates of what global warming can do to change the earth's climate turn out to be exaggerated, would be worth while of itself because it would lead to cost saving and a cleaner atmosphere.

I wish to deal particularly with three areas where I feel that we should now be taking much more energetic action than we are. I feel that there is here a new role for the Energy Efficiency Office. In this House we have many times drawn attention to our concern at the Government's reduction in the funding of this office. Even though no further reduction is contemplated, the level at which it is being funded at the moment is nowhere near enough to do the things that need to be done. There has to be some co-ordination and stimulus if we are to change the trend in these emissions and to bring about a more effective achievement in energy saving.

I wish to identify three sectors, though there are many others. The first concerns electricity generation and the use of electricity. Your Lordships recently had before you the report of the sub-committee that dealt with the efficient use of electricity. A number of recommendations were made. At the generating end there is no doubt that combined cycle gas can help to improve substantially the efficiency with which electricity is generated. I am glad to note that the coal industry, with which I have had some association in the past, is experimenting vigorously with what is known as the "topping cycle" which will enable coal to achieve similar improvements when used for electricity generation.

Perhaps the most important and effective way of improving the efficiency with which energy is generated is by developing combined heat and power. We spoke about this at great length during the passage of the Electricity Bill. It is much to my regret that the Government were not prepared to take a more positive attitude towards this solution. We know from the experience in Scandinavia and most other European countries where this method has been developed that the efficient conversion of primary energy in power stations into energy that is acutally usable can be virtually doubled by that system. It is the most effective way of increasing energy efficiency and diminishing the greenhouse effect because all we are talking about here is the conveyance of hot water in pipes underground. It has no deleterious effect whatsoever on the atmosphere.

There is also the question of the efficient use of electricity. In our report on this subject we strongly recommended that there should be clearer information than is at present available on the relative efficiency of electrical applicances and that some system of labelling, which I believe is under consideration by the European Commission, should be widely adopted. So there is much to be done in the electricity sector.

Equally, as regards the building sector, we have as a country lagged far behind the rest of Europe in the way in which we build our houses. We have fallen behind in insulation and in the efficient use of heating in houses. In Scandinavia and on the Continent of Europe they do these things (and have done them) far better over the years. Even now, with the new building standards about to be brought into operation, they do not bring about the kinds of improvements we should have.

That is proved by what has been done at Milton Keynes. Many of your Lordships may be aware of what is happening there. Far greater levels of energy efficiency in house construction are being achieved at very little extra cost, leading to savings of 40 per cent. in energy through greater attention being paid to the problem and to the setting of higher standards than those which are likely to be promulgated by the Government in, I believe, April this year. So there is a great deal to be done in the home which we have not yet begun to tackle. What we can do in the home can be done in all other buildings.

The third area to which I wish to refer is transport. In this area we are still very wasteful of energy. There are undoubtedly two ways in which energy can be saved in this regard without in any way diminishing the means of transport. One way which involves the motor vehicle is to make their engines more efficient. Experiments have been carried out which have almost doubled the efficiency of the most efficient vehicles on the road. I am talking about 50 to 100 miles per gallon as being attainable. These are developments which need to be very seriously encouraged.

An even better means of improving the situation is through improved methods of public transport because it enables more people to be carried in the same vehicle. Therefore in terms of persons per mile, public transport is much more effective than any other way of reducing emissions in the transport sector.

I have just indicated three ways in which I believe that by effective action co-ordinated by a government agency, which I feel should be the Energy Efficiency Office, we can counteract the trend in greenhouse gas emissions. It is not just a question of improving on what we are doing but of doing the opposite of what we are doing. That will counteract the trend which is taking place at the moment. In order to do that we need to spend more on research into these matters and more on information and promotional campaigns, and we should work out financial incentives. We should also devise taxes which direct people in the right way.

I believe that in these areas we have a great opportunity not only of improving developments in our own country, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said in reiterating what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, said before him, of setting an example to others and particularly to those in the less developed countries who will be moving up to a higher level of industrialisation and growth in the years ahead.

8.20 p.m.

Lord Flowers

My Lords, I apologise to the House, and especially to the Minister, for the fact that a long-standing speaking engagement later this evening means that I must leave the debate before it has ended. I hope that I shall be forgiven. On behalf of the Select Committee I also wish to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for leading our study of the greenhouse effect. He did so with characteristic persistence and charm.

I had the privilege of accompanying him to Washington, where we compared our findings with those of a number of American studies. Therefore, it is of no surprise to me that his impressive report has already been greeted with acclaim by Dr. Bromley who advises the president of the United States on scientific matters. The visit was extremely valuable because in almost every respect it confirmed our analysis.

However, we gained two new perspectives. The first can best be described by the American expression, "no regrets policies". The second perspective concerns the need for independent evidence. I wish to say a few words about both and also to touch briefly on the subject of scientific manpower.

As the noble and gallant Lord explained in his masterly introduction of this complex subject, we know that the greenhouse effect is real. Without it the earth would be uninhabitably cold. The question is whether man's activities are enhancing it to the detriment of the environment and over what timescale. The temperature changes that have been observed are small; about half a degree celsius this century, perhaps speeding up a little during the past decade. However, they accord reasonably with what can be calculated in the present uncertain state of knowledge. If the uncertain calculations are extended to the future they suggest a continuing and worrying rise in temperature of a few degrees over a few decades. It is enough to entail climatic changes with environmental consequences, some of which could be severe.

All that is quite different from saying that we can be sure about the matter. Although I am not as sceptical as the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, I still say, "Do not be misled". Only one thing is sure; it is that the so-called "experts", who claim that the unusual weather conditions during the past few years provide overwhelming evidence of enhanced climate change, will be the first to forget about the greenhouse effect if a few normal years should follow.

Of course we must refine the calculations and extend the range of observations on which they are based. But given that any real rise in average global temperature will be small compared with the larger annual fluctuations which we commonly associate with good and bad weather for summer or winter holidays according to preference, it will take several decades before we can confirm the magnitude of the effect and, therefore, be clear about the scale of the consequences.

Why can we not simply wait until we have more certain knowledge? I make no apology for repeating what has already been said in the debate. The answer is that the effect cannot simply be put into reverse whenever we like. The thermal inertia of the oceans spreads all changes, desired and otherwise, over many decades. It is like a giant oil tanker which does not appreciably change course until long after the rudder has been applied. In those circumstances, good helmsmen behave with foresight.

The particular foresight recommended by the Americans is to adopt policies for limiting the consequences of an enhanced greenhouse effect. They would also be desirable policies for other reasons, even if it turned out that the climate change was not so serious after all. Chief among those is energy conservation, which is desirable for many reasons well known to your Lordships. It also reduces the rate at which greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has given that subject particular emphasis tonight, and I support what he has said about combined heat and power. Another measure is to stop the burning of tropical forests which are the home of so much desirable biological diversity. I was deeply impressed by the words of the most reverend Primate.

That is what the Americans mean by "no regrets policies". Just because we are not quite sure how far ahead are the rocks does not mean that we should not apply the rudder in good time. We should try to choose a new direction that is in any event to our advantage. Of course, we must carry out more research so that we can be more certain. But we do not have to wait for the results of that research before taking our earliest counter-measures. In that respect I happily agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby.

Like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, I am doubtful about whether market forces operating on fuel prices can alone provide effective mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps by taxation or otherwise, it is the Government's intention to add to the price of fuel a substantial sum representing the damage done to the environment. But it is a long-term, and uncertain damage not readily allowed for within a normal price mechanism. I hope that the Minister will enlighten the House about that matter, and I shall read his comments tomorrow in Hansard.

My second point concerns the need for independent evidence. The Americans were insistent that the British effort was vital. In certain fields, especially the modelling of climate for which the Meteorological Office is renowned, in addition to its intrinsic merit our work provides the only really independent check on their efforts.

I understand very well and share the desire to eliminate waste in public expenditure. I understand, but do not entirely share, the common belief that duplication is waste. Of course, mere slavish repetition may well be little more than wasteful, unless it produces different results, when one knows that someone has made a mistake. After all, it may be important to know that. Usually, however, one does not slavishly repeat. One uses a different technique, or different data, or one tests against a different hypothesis. Let us call that "constructive repetition" as distinct from mere slavish repetition. Science proceeds by constructive repetition, learning from its apparent inconsistencies. Every experiment must be constructively repeated; every calculation must be constructively reworked. Otherwise we should never know what to believe and we should be in a state of continual "cold fusion", so to speak.

Therefore, the British effort in these fields is as important to the Americans as it is to us. To be sure, we collaborate with them and with other countries. But it is, as it must be if it is to be useful, a collaboration between partners working independently. In particular, we must pursue our modelling programme at the Meteorological Office on a grand scale and in the universities (where new ideas can most readily be explored) on a smaller scale.

We also need to contribute to the acquisition of data at sea-level and by satellite. That is expensive but essential. For example, in order to have the grid size one must collect data at eight times as may points. However, in order to predict regional variations in climate change, it would be necessary to reduce the grid size substantially. Therefore, I am also pleased to hear that the Government have committed themselves in principle to the European satellite programme, ERS2.

However, it is not merely a matter of increasing the volume of data. As I have already explained, it is important in science that there should always be independent sources of data and independent analysis. I only hope that the European and American programmes will never be too closely co-ordinated. However, there are other relevant fields where there could be a more substantial British effort and where the essential skills are at present underused. We possess considerable expertise in the physical chemistry of gaseous reactions which could readily be applied to study the fate of the greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Dainton, will say something about that because that is his field.

We possess the skills required to understand how biological processes taking place in the ocean surface both affect and are affected by the heat and carbon balance between atmosphere and ocean. Both require basic research on a relatively small scale of the kind commonly supported by research councils at universities. I hope that the research councils may be persuaded to adjust their priorities in favour of such work, because it is needed in order to remove some of the present uncertainties in the modelling of the climate.

I doubt whether those two examples require much increase in scientific manpower or cost; more a temporary redirection of effort.

To increase the magnitude of our modelling effort there will undoubtedly be new demands on scientific manpower for the modelling itself and also for data acquisition. There will be the cost of new equipment, super computers, ships and satellites. To evaluate the consequences of climate change will require, for coastline erosion, the attention of engineering geology, and for agriculture the tools of molecular genetics and so on.

All told, that amounts to perhaps another £200 million over 10 years. However, as the noble and gallant Lord said in his opening speech, these costs are modest compared with those which we are trying to learn how, first, to predict and, secondly, to avoid.

8.32 p.m.

Baroness Stedman

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble and gallant Lord not only for the report which his committee has presented but also for the very clear way in which he introduced it to the House. It was completed very soon after the report of the House of Commons Energy Select Committee on the same subject and is extremely complimentary to that report.

Our Select Committee says quite early in its report that it hopes that, while the report cannot be a definitive account of the phenomenon of global warming, it will at least serve as an intelligible and timely account of the state of scientific understanding. I believe that the report is certainly that. It is a clear-headed and intelligent survey of the state of scientific knowledge.

A variety of organisations have produced reports on the greenhouse effect. But, however thoughtful and well argued those were, there has often been a slight suspicion that there have been some ulterior motives. For example, it can be no surprise that of the 25 memoranda printed in the report, the two which were most sceptical about the greenhouse effect were those from British Coal and British Gas. On the other hand, it is likely that some of the groups have exaggerated the probability of the more dire of the possible outcomes out of their commendable desire to try to galvanise public opinion.

The committee's report is therefore particularly valuable as an objective and impartial survey and a summary of our present day knowledge. Being a science and technology Select Committee, it is very scientific and technological. Much of the report concentrates on the state of knowledge and the need for more research. I am no expert on the science of the issue but the conclusions and recommendations of the committee in that area appear to me to be sound and I could personally accept them all.

Rather than entering into the detailed scientific argument, I believe it better to concentrate on what action is necessary by individuals, companies and governments to help to combat the greenhouse effect and to help to cope with the global warming which will occur in the next 50 years. Other noble Lords have referred to the comment in the report that action by way of insurance or "no regrets" policies are therefore needed in advance of obtaining clear proof that a global warming due to enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations is occurring.

We cannot afford to wait until the seas flood and our crops begin to fail before we take any action. It was once said that it is better to be an optimist than a pessimist because it makes no difference to the final outcome but the optimist has a better time of it. That may be so. However, I believe on this issue that we must act as pessimists in designing policies in this area because, while preparing for the worst may be expensive, not preparing for it may be disastrous to us and to the world.

In the short term, the emphasis must be on energy efficiency. Research published last July by the Association for the Conservation of Energy and the Worldwide Fund for Nature shows how the United Kingdom, mainly by installing existing energy efficiency technology, could cut its CO2 emissions by 23 per cent. by the year 2005. At the same time, it could enjoy an annual gross domestic product growth of something like 2.5 per cent.

The energy committee's report from another place criticised the Government's lack of investment in energy efficiency and especially the Department of Energy's spending on promotion of energy efficiency. Indeed, it pointed out that the Energy Efficiency Office has been cut drastically and that further cuts are planned. There seems to be a misplaced complacency that consumers are now well aware of the case for energy efficiency.

This Govenment should not need to be reminded that markets only function properly if consumers have information about the range of choices available to them. They should increase their grants to the Energy Efficiency Office and promote efficiency through a mixture of regulations, penalties and incentives.

In the medium or long term greenhouse gas emissions will be best reduced by applying principles set out in the recent report by Professor David Pearce and his colleagues entitled Blueprint For a Green Economy. The publicity which the Secretary of State for the Environment gave to that report was commendable. The report proposes the use of economic techniques to take into account the value of our environment and the costs of pollution by imposing social taxes where they prove to be necessary. That is a radical approach but I believe that that is right. It is hoped that many of its principles will be turned into policies when the Government's new environment White Paper is published in the autumn.

We shall need a broad all-party consensus if we are to be able to take the tough decisions which will soon face us. I believe that the hardest of those will be the need to impose a carbon tax. Such a tax to help to cut back on the carbon dioxide emissions by increasing the cost of coal, gas and petrol is undoubtedly necessary. However, I believe that it will also be unwelcome. Hastily to impose such a "green tax" in Britain alone would simply export jobs to our competitors. Environmental policy is one area where it is absolutely clear that international co-operation is necessary and EC attempts to come up with a workable carbon tax should be supported by our Government.

Even if there were simultaneous cuts in other taxes, the imposition of a carbon tax would be highly inflationary in the short term and reports last week suggest that the Chancellor has ruled out a "green budget" in March for that reason. He is right to do so. It is important that we achieve low and falling inflation before "green taxes" are able to be introduced. A green tax which only encouraged double digit inflation and increased unemployment would be very unpopular and would not last very long.

We live in a time of unprecedented concern about our environment. Last year's 14 per cent. support for the Green Party in the European elections was a warning to all politicians of whatever party that they ignore these issues at their peril. The opinion polls now very clearly show that the public rate the damage to the environment as the greatest threat now facing mankind. Nevertheless, there are also signs that people are not yet willing to pay the price for change. For example, an independent NOP survey last year showed that most people thought it was a bad idea to make it more expensive to travel by road and air and cheaper to travel by rail and water.

Saving the environment may mean that we shall be poorer and everyone will have to accept that, but we need to work now to build a cross-party consensus on a programme to tackle the global warming so that governments will be able to act even when harsh measures prove necessary. I believe that the report of our Select Committee under the chairmanship of the noble and gallant Lord is the foundation stone for that process.

8.41 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for the admirable way he started this debate. I was not a member of the sub-committee of which he was chairman and I found the report most helpful. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, took part in the debate in the House on 20th December which was initiated by me. He was good enough to give an outline then of the report's conclusions. That was a day's debate on the wider subject of the need for international co-operation to protect the world's environment. Within that subject global warming is a significant factor.

I suggest there are two general main conclusions in the sub-committee's report which should guide policies in the future. First, there is no certainty yet about the causes and effects which contribute to global warming. Urgent research, with nations working together, is still needed. Secondly, certain courses of action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases can nonetheless be adopted soon. It is clear that such action can be beneficial, though much will remain unknown until more research is completed; and that action is urgent, as the noble and gallant Lord told us in his opening speech.

It seems that our Government have the same view about an international convention as that expressed in the sub-committee's report. The expression, "an international framework agreement" is the same kind of convention as that suggested, probably to be negotiated through the United Nations. This kind of agreement can be built upon by protocols as knowledge increases and remedies emerge. Almost any action will mean higher costs for producers and users of energy. These may, at some time in the future, be regarded as sacrifices in some respects.

Developing countries —for example, China and India —are preparing for industrialisation on a major scale which would release large volumes of greenhouse gases. The developed countries are already sounding alarm bells and preparing for action. I am glad that the United Kingdom is playing a leading part in this. I remind your Lordships of the Prime Minister's speech at the United Nations in New York in November and the increased contribution to the United Nations Environment Programme; I understand the United Kingdom is now the second largest contributor in the world. In addition, there is British support for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

However, we must take with us the less developed countries if there is to be effective action on a worldwide basis. Developing countries could justifiably complain that the Western world has already industrialised, with pollution from which we are now suffering, yet it is now making that process more expensive and inconvenient for them.

I strongly support the following more detailed recommendations in the report. First, I support the recommendation on energy efficiency and especially research into improved efficiency in generation from fossil fuels. Secondly, there are the conservation aspects of building design. I shall not pursue the point because noble Lords will have heard me at Question Time on that subject. Thirdly, I believe that nuclear energy will be needed. How much and when are decisions which will have to be taken carefully by this country in the future. I, along with the Select Committee, regret that the Government have for the moment abandoned research into the fast reactor technology. Having myself observed the work at Dounreay over the past 20 years, I hope that the Government will look at the recommendation in the report that the future of the prototype fast reactor be reconsidered. It seems a pity to lose the results of valuable work at a time when other forms of generation are becoming less favoured because they pollute the atmosphere.

8.47 p.m.

Lord Chorley

My Lords, today we are discussing a huge subject. I should like to begin by adding my congratulations to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, not only for the masterly way in which he introduced the subject tonight but also for the way he handled our committee. I should add that much credit must go to our clerk and our technical advisers for their considerable help in this complex field. If a member of the sub-committee may be permitted to say so, I believe the end product of our report is fully up to the high standard set by previous Select Committee reports.

There is a tendency to think of the greenhouse gas problem, of controlling global warming, as a problem or the fault of the industrialised world. While that may be true of the past, or until today, it is the future which matters. In the future it is more a problem of the developing world. It is the problem of the developing world and our relationship with it on which I wish to concentate this evening.

A few figures indicate the size of the problem. Since the late 1970s the industrialised world CO2 emissions have been growing at the rate of 0.7 per cent. per annum. On the other hand, the developing world's emissions have been growing at 5 per cent. per annum, which is no less than seven times as fast; this in a decade when economic growth in the developing world has been relatively poor.

It is true that the developing world starts from a much lower base —about one-fifth that of the industrialised world —but, as I have said, the growth is seven times as fast. On present trends in 30 years it will be the biggest generator of CO2 emissions. Indeed, the likelihood is that it will occur in less the 30 years because in all probability the difference in the rates of emission —industrialised versus developing —will be greater than they have been in the past decade.

There are simple and exceedingly powerful reasons for this state of affairs and they are reasons which hitherto we have regarded as benign. The process of development, of moving towards industrialisation and higher standards of living, is pre-eminently powered by the use of energy: energy for domestic light, heat, transport, for factories, and so on. Energy is indeed the engine of economic growth. Invariably —and this point has not yet been made —with higher standards of living to begin with go rising populations. It is generally agreed that the best we can hope for is that the world population will stabilise at double today's figure some time towards the end of the next century. There will be another 5 billion people. Each of them will be consuming energy. There is nothing that we can do about that situation.

If the industrialised world managed to halve CO2 emissions, economic development in the third world is likely to double their per capita emissions by the year 2030. With the population growth added to that figure, the global total of CO2 emissions would be two or two and half times what it is today. That is the size of the problem.

The largest single component of that problem is China. On the latest figures, more up to date than those contained in the report, China matches the whole of the European Community in the size of its emissions. It has plans for hugely increasing its output of coal to no less than 1,400 million tonnes per year by the year 2000.

It is neither right in equity nor is it a practical solution to attempt to shut off the economic development of China or of any other third world country. In some way we must accommodate their needs. In a very true sense this is a global problem because every tonne of emission by China is as much a problem for us as it is for them. In that sense, any attempt to deal with that problem must be founded on international agreement, as is stated in the report. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, proposed in Nairobi last May that the right approach is along the lines of a framework convention to which scientific protocols can be attached as issues arise and as science justifies.

We must avoid at all costs approaches based on simple percentage reductions across the board. That route would lead only to failure. The considerations of individual countries are so different and the economic considerations and differences are so great that such an approach would be utterly unrealistic and ultimately counterproductive. It is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, is not in his place because I believe that that is the answer to the point that he was making about not following a single global reduction. There should be individual volunteer targets but not a single percentage target. That would be a failure, and there would be tears.

More importantly, it detracts attention from the more serious issue. How do we accommodate the energy needs of the third world countries in their justifiable pursuit of economic development? This circle can only be squared, if squared it can be (for it is a hugely difficult task) by assisting those countries in avoiding the inefficiencies normally associated with the early steps of industrialisation.

There are two issues involved. The first is to ensure the proper economic pricing of primary fuels and of electricity in third world countries. A great deal of hard and difficult work needs to be done in that area. The second issue concerns the application of technology and other measures in order to achieve energy conservation. That subject has been touched on by almost every speaker this evening. It is a well recognised point and common ground in the industrialised world.

There is even greater potential for conservation in the third world. China is enormously profligate in its use of fuel. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, stated that we were profligate in our use of fuel, but in relation to GDP, China uses eight times as much fuel per unit of GDP as the European Community countries. I say that in no way as a criticism; it is a natural state of affairs for a young industrialising country. It is a point that we must tackle. Time does not permit me to go into the pros and cons of alternative measures that we should seek to promote or alternatively discourage, either unilaterally in the United Kingdom or internationally. I should like to make two brief observations. Firstly, given the uncertainty for at least a decade or two of scientific answers to the questions of how much warming there is going to be and when, and given the importance of energy to economic development, the right strategy is a no regrets policy where one works with the grain of economic forces rather than against it. Hence the emphasis which has emerged so frequently this evening on energy conservation. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, drew attention to the illuminating discussion of the entire issue in a recent Chatham House report by Dr. Michael Grubb.

I should have liked to mention the work being carried out by the Natural Environment Research Council, a body on which I sit. It is very exciting work and it is an important science in its own right. I should have liked to talk about the problems of energy conservation and to take issue with a number of noble Lords on that matter. I should like to have mentioned the rain forests and the work of the Royal Geographical Society in Amazonia concerning rain forest regeneration and alternative uses of rain forests. All of those matters are important but I have confined my remarks to the problem of third world economic development. I have done so because I believe that unless we tackle and solve that problem, then, irrespective of what we manage to do at home, we are merely whistling in the wind.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I should like to join previous speakers in expressing appreciation to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for initiating this debate and for the lucid manner in which he introduced it. This is a very important subject which ranges far wider than the United Kingdom. It concerns what is taking place in the world today.

Although the noble and gallant Lord tended to calm the situation by saying that there was no dangerous problem at present, it is true to say, whichever way one looks at the problem, that unless we begin to take action now, time is not on our side. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that that should be done on an international basis. Some kind of agreement must be reached, bearing in mind the imblance in the developed world as against the undeveloped world.

I shall restrict my remarks to the question of the power resources of the world, how they are being used and what is the foreseeable future. Without doubt the biggest culprits so far identified in regard to the greenhouse effect and CO2 emissions are the international power stations which burn fossil fuels. The figures are variable but the mean works out at about 40 per cent. of all the emissions that are damaging to us on an international or universal basis.

I should like to put forward a balanced view in regard to future sources of power. I fully support the view taken by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, concerning district heating and combined power. That type of energy is absolutely desirable, but it is not a complete answer. It is a worthwhile bonus that we ought to look into. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, drew attention to the fact that we must be careful in our deliberations not to lobby for particular sectors. The noble Baroness referred to the fact that the coal lobby and the gas lobby are in some respects less than frank in what they state.

I should like to quote some figures in order to indicate the dimension of the problem as I see it. That is the only facet of the problem that I intend to mention. According to the Energy Statistics Yearbook, total world energy production in 1986 was roughly 2.5 billion kilowatts. Of that total, nuclear power production amounted to 11.16 per cent. and energy produced from fossil fuel to 65.6 per cent. In 1985 the world population was 4,837,500,000. That number was predicted to grow to 5.067 billion by 1988; to 5.69 billion by 1995; to 6.07 billion by the year 2000; and to 6.5 billion by the year 2005. Those figures give an idea of how much energy will be needed in the future. As previous speakers in the debate have forcefully pointed out, those population explosions are mostly taking place in areas which cannot produce enough energy.

At the same time predictions were made of world energy trends. It was predicted that by 1995 3,558 gigawatts would be required, of which the nuclear element would be 383 gigawatts. By the year 2000 it was predicted that 4,285 gigawatts would be required, of which the nuclear element would be 467 gigawatts. By the year 2005 it was predicted that 4,040 gigawatts would be required, of which the nuclear element would be 569 gigawatts. The CEGB did not have a percentage figure for the contribution of fossil fuels to CO2 emissions. However, it provided figures on the global contribution to CO2 emissions. In 1983, the total contribution through fossil fuel burning was 5,054 million tonnes; in 1984 it was 5,330 million tonnes; and in 1985 it was 5,300 million tonnes. Those are dramatic figures. No one has been able accurately to calculate what that increase will mean. The United Kingdom, with only 1 per cent. of the world's population, produces 3 per cent. of the world's CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Western Europe as a whole produces some 15 per cent. and therefore has a primary responsibility for what is taking place. It is calculated that the main source of CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom is electricity generation and that coal accounts for roughly 45 per cent. of CO2 emissions.

I should like to try to stop this apparent attack by the coal lobby on nuclear energy. If we are to provide the world with energy we need various sources. An increase in nuclear energy production would protect finite resources such as fossil fuels. Coal and oil can be used for more profitable purposes than burning in power stations. Paragraph 13.44 of the Select Committee report says: Nuclear power is the only proven adequate alternative to fossil fuel energy generation. Abandonment of research into the fast reactor technology is short sighted. Under section 3 of the Electricity Act the Secretary of State should exercise his duty to promote R & D into new techniques for generation and reconsider the future of the Dounreay PFR". I spoke recently in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, has not been able to stay. He likes to debunk the view that nuclear generation is the only available alternative. Wind power and barrage power may make a contribution but in a global sense an increase in nuclear generation is the only answer. One noble Lord spoke about the tremendous programme of power station building in China. I am told that the Chinese will not only dramatically increase their production of power from coal but that they plan to increase dramatically their output of power from nuclear generation.

Great Britain is surprisingly well down the international league in terms of nuclear energy generation. At present the French produce more than 60 per cent. of their power by nuclear generation. The Germans produce more energy in this way than we do. We should play our part in promoting a power that does not pollute the atmosphere. The materials used in the production of nuclear power can be recycled, and so in this way we can protect finite resources. It may well be that those finite resources have not yet been adequately assessed. They may be difficult to recover. However, if one then starts to talk in terms of bringing that sort of coal and oil into being, the argument between nuclear power and coal —and I think that this has damaged the country —may well be blown sky high. I say that because it is only a few years ago that oil was so cheap that we were still making locos and burning coal. It was only because oil was so cheap at that time that the steam locomotive went out of operation in some areas of the world. Of course oil has become so dear these days that the situation may well be reversed. Indeed, it is a difficult situation.

In my view we should now be looking at future energy needs. In 1986 world primary energy conservation consumption was the equivalent of 7.5 billion tonnes; that is, 1.5 tonnes oil equivalent (toe) per capita. This figure ranged from 7 toe per capita in North America and Scandinavia down to 0.6 in China and 10 kilograms for a peasant in Ethiopia. In the report I have with me, it says that the major cause of an increasing world energy demand is not demographic growth but the movement from an agricultural economy to an industrial one demonstrated by countries such as Korea. In that country the population has grown by 80 per cent. since 1955, while energy consumption has increased more than 10 times to supply its new shipbuilding and car manufacturing plants. The report asks why —and indications of this were given by a previous speaker —should China, for example, not attempt to follow the same model?

I think that I have taken my share of the time available to us this evening. However, I hope that this debate in your Lordships' House will reach more people than just those in this country. In my view, what we are talking about is an international responsibility. The source of energy which is accepted in the Select Committee's report as being the major answer to providing the increased power which will be needed in future is nuclear power. This may need to be done by way of an international convention.

I am saddened that because of privatisation our own particular energy programme appears to have been damaged. I hope that the Minister on the Front Bench will be able to bring to the attention of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy the need to try to shorten what I think is almost a four-year moratorium on what is to happen. We must ensure that research and development in the nuclear industry continue. If we do not do so, we shall fall far behind, and perhaps never catch up.

Finally, I should like again to express my thanks to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for initiating this debate on a subject which I think is of tremendous importance to the world at large.

9.12 p.m.

Lord Sherfield

My Lords, as a member of the sub-committee which drew up the report, I fully support its conclusions and recommendations. Nonetheless, I venture to inflict a few brief personal comments on the evidence as it strikes a non-scientist. It was one of the most complicated and intricate inquiries that the Select Committee has undertaken, because of the myriad of uncertainties involved. Further, the hypothetical effect of one uncertainty on the others serves to multiply their total and makes judgment extremely difficult.

What do we know for certain? First, we know that the global mean temperature is higher now than it was in 1850 and that there has been an acceleration in warming during the past two decades. We also know what are the gases that warm the earth and that their concentration is increasing, and why. It is also certain that the problem is a global one and can therefore only be effectively tackled by international action; but, further, we know that the scientifically advanced countries should give a strong lead.

In one particular case we know about the damage caused by the emission of chlorofluorocarbons and so international action is already in hand to deal with the problem, although care will have to be taken to ensure that the substitutes being developed do not have deleterious effects in other directions. After that, judgments are necessarily subjective and to some extent opinions involve an element of belief. There is virtual unanimity in scientific circles on the effects which increased concentrations should, in theory, have over time; but there is no certainty about the length of that time. Global warming to date is within the historic variations in world climate and could be due to natural causes. There is among the professionals a range of views —from scepticism to a belief that the greenhouse effect is already in operation.

It was the public statement by Dr. Hansen, an eminent American expert, before a congressional committee, that the greenhouse effect was already with us, four of the past 10 years having been the warmest on record, which struck home to the American public during one of their hottest summers.

It seems as though many recent climatic phenomena have at least been consistent with an intensification of the greenhouse effect. But there is no proof of it. As a cynic has observed, it needs only a succession of two or three cold summers to cool the American public's concern.

As the committee recommends, it is of the first importance that the uncertainties should be reduced as soon as possible. The preferred and possibly the only approach is through climate models. There are differences of view about the value of such models. Their imperfections are set out at length in our report, and the noble Lord, Lord Clitheroe, emphasised some of them. For example, their resolution is low; the information fed into them about the oceans, about clouds and about polar conditions is limited; and they cannot differentiate between regions. Even the introduction of a single new factor —for example, ice crystals in clouds —can have a radical effect upon predictions. The Royal Society told us that the introduction of the ice crystals reduced the computer temperature analysis of a doubling of carbon dioxide from 5.2 degrees to 2.6 degrees. However, when all is said, the models are the best instrument that we have and rather than denigrate them every effort should be made to improve the information fed into them and the modelling methods themselves.

It is on those grounds that the committee recommends substantial United Kingdom participation in a number of international experiments. I welcome the fact that the Government have made a commitment to participate in the satellite ERS2 and to make funds available to re-equip the research ship "Discovery" to take a full part in the world ocean circulation experiment, as well as setting up enhanced data collection and computer facilities under the Meteorological Office. I hope that the Government will also accept the other recommendations made by the committee for these purposes.

I turn for a moment to the possible impact of global warming. The wide publicity given to the greenhouse effect has led to some fairly horrendous predictions. I think that these should be taken calmly. I believe that global warming is a real threat, but like so many natural processes it may take much longer to come about than is predicted. That has been true of predictions made in the past; for example, about energy resources. Indeed, excluding catastrophes such as major earthquakes, the process may well be slow enough to enable vegetation, crops, animals, and indeed humans, to adapt to it to a great extent. However that may be, I strongly support the so-called no regrets policies to which so many noble Lords have referred.

In view of my past, I cannot refrain from referring to the Committee's recommendations on nuclear power. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby —I am sorry that he is not in his place —spoke at length about it. His views are well known to your Lordships. He will not be surprised to learn that I differ from him. I follow much more closely the views of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick. I make only one comment on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby. It relates to what lie called the contradiction between the two recommendations of the report: 13.43 and 13.44. I suggest that these two recommendations are not contradictory but complementary.

Since the report was published, the Government have announced the suspension of the nuclear power programme. In sharp contradiction to the successful fuel cycle programme, this has been dogged almost from the beginning by bad judgment, sharp changes of course, poor industrial organisation and often bad management. When I look back at this sad story, it almost brings tears to my eyes. The Government have taken a decision to suspend the construction of the three remaining pressurised water reactors in the programme. But that does not mean that research and development on the PWR system should not be continued. Indeed, this is surely essential if a viable option is to be kept open, particularly as the PWRs in the programme were not of the most advanced design.

The Government repeatedly declare that it is essential to keep the nuclear option open. What better opportunity is there for doing this than by fully supporting the European fast reactor programme and keeping the Dounreay prototype fast reactor —an invaluable, indeed a unique test-bed for fuel research —going for longer than at present planned? Incidentally, this would cost a minute fraction of the capital costs forgone by the abandonment of the PWR programme. Together with the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Dean of Beswick, I beg the Government to reconsider the recommendations on the matter which the Select Committee has now reiterated with even greater emphasis.

An important element in the no regrets policy is forestry practice and research. Here the picture on the United Kingdom side is brighter. On the national scene, the Forestry Commission told us that existing forestry policy is very positive but that the research needed to ensure the continued adjustment of our forests to the potentially damaging effects of global warming has not begun in earnest.

The committee concluded that we know very little about how our native and acclimatised species would be likely to thrive or suffer as a result of climatic change. We considered —and so recommend —that research on this aspect should be pressed ahead. Because of the long rotation of forest trees, especially hardwoods, this is an area where adaptation to global warming could be most difficult. Both research and planting programmes ought to take the risk of global warming into account.

On the international front, the Forestry Commission, the Forestry Research Co-ordinating Committee and the Overseas Development Administration are making an excellent contribution to the tropical forest programme, drawing upon the fund of expertise on tropical forests which happily still exists in this country. They support the Food and Agriculture Organisation's tropical forest action programme and are also operating through bilateral action, notably with Brazil, and through non-governmental organisations and charities. The most reverend Primate made some interesting comments on this subject. He said that we should go further. I am sure the Government will consider carefully what he said. But noble Lords had a good tour through the rain forests at Question Time last week so I need say no more tonight except that the committee commends the ODA work and hopes that it will be sustained.

Finally, there is one field outside the terms of reference of the committee in which vigorous action would have a greater impact on the onset of the greenhouse effect than any other. I am referring to population control. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, also referred to this. It is obvious that the increase in the world population at a rate recently mentioned in the press, if I remember correctly, of 25 million births a week will put an intolerable strain on natural resources and will cause a major increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. That is a subject for another debate, but I can think of no stronger candidate for a no regrets policy.

While the Minister will not be expected this evening to give more than a general response to the report, I hope he will be able to confirm the steps which the Government are already taking and to indicate that further measures of the kind recommended by the committee are in contemplation. Your Lordships will await with interest the Government's detailed reply to the committee's recommendations.

6 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I wish to thank the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for introducing this report, which, even if it does not provide all the answers, certainly provides most of the questions that we should be asking ourselves at this time on this truly global problem whose ramifications are ones which we cannot avoid or dodge for any great length of time. If the greenhouse effect is to have a deleterious effect on us, it will already have started to do so. We shall not be able to do anything about those effects for some considerable time due to the problem of the oceans' slow rate of warm-up and slow rate of cooling.

Much of what I wanted to say today has already been covered by other speakers far more eloquently and in far greater depth than I could achieve. However, there is a point which constantly drives itself home to me and that is that those of us in Western Europe, and particularly in North America, must accept a great deal of responsibility for the greenhouse problem for the simple reason that we were the first to go through the process of industrialisation. We started the whole thing. We are also currently the richest sectors in the world. We have the most strongly developed scientific backgrounds, and thus we must take full responsibility for trying to find solutions to the greenhouse problem and for initiating action on those solutions.

The report calls for greater research and a greater level of questioning on the part of the Western world than any other part of the world for the simple reason that the West is the only sector which can at present carry out such questioning. We have effectively created a situation where those in the developing world must follow us if they are to keep up and be able to provide a reasonable standard of living for their own populations. As has already been pointed out, not least by the previous speaker, world population is growing at a phenomenal rate. Historically speaking, population growth rate is only reduced by higher standards of living. However, if higher standards of living can only be attained through the process of industrialisation, a vicious spiral is created which has unpleasant environmental effects completely outside the geenhouse effect. However, the greenhouse problem will be the first to reach us in the West and will probably have the most total effect on us.

We thus find ourselves in a situation where we must export what knowledge we have. That knowledge must be increased so that we can offer, to China and India for example —two countries where major problems appear on the horizon —the capacity to jump over the technological hurdles that we had to overcome. They cannot afford, and we cannot afford to allow them, to go through the process of having to clean up their environment, of making sure that their rivers no longer smell, as we did with the Thames in the 19th century, or that rolling smog no longer descends on them, as we had to clean our own air in the 1950s. We cannot afford that because the effects on us would be far too severe. The cost of not taking action will be far too great in the long term.

If the estimate of the rise in the level of the oceans is only a few centimetres out, what might that cost us in terms of additional expenditure on coastal defences? It is a hideous prospect. Our own economy would be affected detrimentally if we had to divert so much of our national resources to keep our shorelines intact. Other Western nations such as Holland will face that problem on an even greater scale.

We must share our knowledge with the developing world. We cannot expect them to buy it because that will only increase their need to create wealth. It will mean that they have to go faster down the road to cheap industrialisation, which is environmentally so extremely damaging.

An example of the technology which is already available to us, and an item which people in the developing world would be keen to acquire in their households, is the domestic refrigerator. In Europe the average domestic refrigerator uses 270 kilowatts of electricity per annum. An EC proposal would reduce that to 170 kilowatts per annum. The best available machines use only 80 kilowatts per annum. Those are figures which I have quoted before, in the debate which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, initiated on 20th December. They provide an excellent example of the type of knowledge which we can give to the developing world to enable countries to produce goods that will require less energy so that they will be able to slow the spiral of increased energy demand and increased industrialisation.

The provision of technology such as the heat exchange system and more efficient power production which my noble friend Lord Ezra described could be combined with that approach, providing both more efficient electrical goods and more efficient energy production. One could thus begin to reverse the present cycle.

That approach calls for a greater exchange of information. It places a heavy onus on the Government to provide the conditions which will enable present research to continue and further research to be undertaken. The Government must make sure that funding is available for the necessary projects and also that there is a career structure within the larger research establishments: it is extremely unlikely that this will be funded by industry. It is worth remembering that industry exists to succeed in business and not to carry out such environmental and technical research. The two are not necessarily incompatible but nor do they necessarily go hand in glove. The Government must make sure that the research takes place, that people are encouraged to enter the industry and to stay there and that the projects will provide the necessary knowledge.

Once we have achieved that, we can begin to solve our own problems. By solving them we shall solve the problems of the developing countries which will ultimately become our problems.

9.34 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I sympathise very much with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, but I have a slight reservation; namely, that in doing what I think he suggests, it is important for us not to appear too bossy and know-all. Otherwise, we shall be resented and the proposals will not work. The noble Lord will forgive me if I do not pursue that line. I have another that I want to follow. We must all be most grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and his sub-committee for producing such a thorough and carefully argued report on a subject which is of profound importance to the future of all peoples.

I have the good fortune to have two scientist friends who have taken a special interest in what is called the greenhouse problem. The first is Dr. Bruce Denness who has developed a computer model which I believe answers many of the more important questions that the report in paragraphs 13.4 and 13.14 considers still to be outstanding, notwithstanding the sceptical view about forecasting of my noble friend Lord Clitheroe. My second friend is Mr. Peter Grantham, who has devised a means of sufficiently economically reflecting the sun's rays by very large but lightweight reflectors in space and in deserts.

Most unfortunately, I did not become aware of the work of the sub-committee last year until much too late for it to be arranged for either of my friends to give evidence to it. I apologise most deeply to the committee and to noble Lords for failing to spot what is probably the most important study that any of your Lordships' Select Committees has ever undertaken.

I trust that noble Lords will allow me to outline briefly the contributions of my two friends. As members of the sub-committee will be aware because he has sent copies to them, Dr. Denness has prepared a paper commenting in detail on the report. I propose to send a copy of it to my noble friend the Minister who will wind up the debate. I have copies available for any other noble Lords who might care for one.

With his model, Dr. Denness forecast in 1980 that 1989 would be the second hottest year on record and 1988 would be the hottest. In fact, he got the two years the wrong way round, but that is not bad as conventional modelling could not do it at all in 1980 or even now. His model has been the subject of many learned papers by Dr. Denness in the past decade, as shown in appendix 2 to his comment on the Select Committee's report. It may be of interest to noble Lords even at this late hour to hear briefly how he came to construct it.

Bruce Denness was a professor at Newcastle University in the 1970s when he was asked by the companies putting oil rigs into the North Sea whether he could tell them, about two years ahead, precisely when the weather would be suitable for positioning and securing the rigs. Accurate knowledge of that kind could lead to much saving of the considerable expense involved. That remarkable request, to which he undertook to respond —no regular climatologist at the time, I suspect, would have contemplated such an undertaking—led to Dr. Denness taking advantage of a concurrent ocean bed drilling programme being conducted by Americans near the Azores. That programme produced cores which enabled Dr. Denness to analyse world weather patterns going back 4 billion years. A further study of that kind might perhaps always be worth while, but I wonder whether the Select Committee's recommendation in paragraph 13.26 is necessary.

From his analysis, Bruce Denness has been able to develop a computer model which shows that there is a natural cyclical —certainly not random —temperature movement over centuries which can be analysed in detail down to years and even months, as was necessary for the oil rig exercise.

The greenhouse effect has always existed but has noticeably increased during the past 50 years or so. However, the natural temperature movement is of much greater significance in determining whether, for example, there will in the next 30 years be a marked rise in the worldwide water level and whether the tendency towards desert conditions in North America will continue and, if so, for how long. Dr. Denness believes that he can answer those sorts of questions with reasonable accuracy and, so far as he can tell, his is the only current model for which such a claim can be made. Perhaps that can be the independent source of information which, in his important speech, the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, told us was so necessary.

I have introduced Dr. Denness to Ministers in the Department of Energy and the Department of the Environment. He has met scientists from those departments and the Meteorological Office as well as other government sponsored bodies. His views are widely respected by leading climatologists in the United States and in NATO, which held a conference on the subject in April 1989. However, there seems to be a strong flavour of "not invented here" among UK scientists with whom my friend has discussed his model. Certainly he deserves a better hearing than he is getting and if only I had not been so dilatory I suspect that he would have received it from your Lordships' Select Committee.

I turn now to the suggestions of Mr. Peter Grantham, whom I first met as a senior Admiralty scientist in the 1950s and 1960s. His contribution is somewhat different. He believes that if—I emphasise the word "if"—the global mean temperature change is going to be of the order shown in Figure 26 on page 43 of Volume II of the Select Committee's report, it will be necessary for us in the next 10 years to take temporary physical protective measures while the world as a whole gets round to reducing significantly the underlying causes of the greenhouse effect.

A way of doing that, which is well within the state of the art for such projects and within the order of cost of many very large industrial projects, is to place large reflectors in space and in desert areas on earth. I sent Peter Grantham's preliminary ideas on the subject to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in the DTI last autumn. That led to a very helpful reply from my honourable friend Mr. Eric Forth, the responsible Minister in that department, for whom Mr. Grantham is preparing a fuller paper on his proposals.

It certainly seems to me that temporary protective measures may turn out to be necessary because the action to contain the greenhouse gases looks as if it will be too slow. Thus it is worth evaluating now a possible means of providing such protective measures. In space terms the project is relatively simple and could be effected reasonably quickly if shown to be necessary. In the meantime I hope that Dr. Denness's model is also soon validated by others so that action on what it reveals with regard to climate changes can be taken with confidence by governments.

To conclude, I believe that this is probably the most important subject confronting the nations of the world today. The Select Committee is to be congratulated on producing a most valuable report. However, action to deal with the problems should not be long delayed.

9.44 p.m.

Lord Dainton

My Lords, I suspect that by now noble Lords are beginning to feel that the number of words spoken and written about the so-called greenhouse effect is likely soon to exceed the number of molecules of man-made greenhouse gases which are added daily to our atmosphere. Such torrents of verbiage can be self-defeating. I shall therefore be brief. I shall not bother your Lordships with physics and chemistry, despite the invitation from the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, for me to indulge in my own subject. Instead, I want to emphasise just a few salient points.

First, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made abundantly clear in his very lucid speech, it has long been known that, without the presence of the earth's own greenhouse gases, the temperature of our earth would be 30 degrees Centigrade lower than it now is. We should not survive. Secondly, what we mean therefore when we talk about the greenhouse effect is in fact the enhancement of this natural phenomenon in consequence of man's economic activities which add to the normal concentration of greenhouse gases other gases which have similar properties and which will therefore tend to raise the temperature of the earth.

What we need to know is how much a given increment of man-made greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere will cause the temperature of the earth to rise; what climatic changes that rise will induce and what impacts those changes will have on our own activities. As the report of the committee describes, we have to admit that, while remarkable progress has been and is still being made by scientists in understanding the effects, and while we can be sure of the direction of the changes I have mentioned, nevertheless as yet we cannot be adequately precise as to the magnitude of the temperature rise nor the time-scale of this warming process. I mean by that the fraction of a degree per decade that the temperature will rise. Nor can we be more sure of what that temperature rise will do to the climate in land areas as small as the United Kingdom, though we can be reasonably sure that such small temperature changes may nevertheless produce perturbations in local weather which could have dramatic effects on the inhabitants.

What we also know is that the impacts could be major in, say, 50 to 100 years' time and that resources will have to be mobilised in good time if we are adequately to mitigate any adverse impacts. Two other considerations should be mentioned here. The first is that the oceans and the land masses which are warmed are so large that they constitute a great reservoir of heat. Therefore, contrary to what many would like to believe, even if the concentrations of greenhouse gases could be miraculously restored to their natural values in an instant, the temperature would not recover simultaneously. Its fall would be very slow.

This statement must not be misconstrued and used as an argument for fatalistic acceptance of what is thought to be inevitable. Nor must it inhibit us from taking what remedial action we can take now without too great a dislocation of the economy. The no regrets policy which has been referred to by so many and which is described in the report must be implemented as rapidly as possible. Prominent in that are energy efficiency measures, the emission of gases being reduced and likewise the promotion of afforestation, which was mentioned by the most reverend Primate.

At this point I should mention the second consideration. There are people (and I have met several) who argue that we humans are very clever and that increased knowledge will enable us to find some quick scientific trick by which we could maintain economic activities without adding to the greenhouse gas concentration. They believe this because they want to believe it; and they buttress their arguments with examples of man's past conquests of plague and pestilence by such things as the magic bullets of the chemists.

These examples are of course wholly irrelevant to the issue in front of your Lordships today. Some others who are more thoughtful point with some understanding to the so-called hydrogen economy as the solution. By this they mean the complete avoidance of the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. Instead water, of which in these past few days no one would deny that we have an abundance, is to be broken up by electricity or sunlight into hydrogen and oxygen. Those two gases are then recombined by combustion either in power stations to generate electricity or in smaller units for motive power and driving machinery.

That proposal has an obvious appeal but the snags are clear and severe. In the first place, the direct sensitised decomposition by sunlight of water into hydrogen and oxygen alone is today nothing more than a gleam in the eye of some scientists. Secondly, to generate enough electricity from the sun's rays to electrolyse water —for example, by the use of photo-voltaic cells —poses many scientific and technical problems as yet unsolved.

So what, in those circumstances, should the United Kingdom do? Your committee is quite clear about that. We should do all that is reasonably practicable to diminish our contribution to greenhouse gases and by example, precept and discussion encourage other nations to take what actions they can in that direction. Many of the problems have already been referred to by other noble Lords and many aspects of them have been discussed in detail. In particular, as I have mentioned, the no regrets policies should be implemented now.

At the same time, one must recognise the fact that that policy can be soundly based only if the present imprecision and uncertainties in the predictions of the temperature rise, climate changes and probable impacts are markedly reduced. Therefore, the United Kingdom in concert with other nations —because it is a transnational problem —must engage in the necessary scientific and technological research and development in a purposeful way and on a time-scale which is not leisurely but has some urgency.

Fortunately, the United Kingdom is reasonably well placed to make a very significant contribution to that international work, though I am bound to say that in some areas it is limited by a lack of suitably trained and equipped scientific manpower. In the report we have listed particular scientific areas to which attention should be directed. Those have already been referred to by many speakers.

The committee has seen the scope and the need for government laboratories and universities to be involved in this work. Much of it is of an interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary character and therefore some co-ordination will be necessary. But it must not be of the overarching, heavy-handed, top-down nature which stifles initiative and originality. Instead, it should be of a more flexible kind. It is there that the committee sees a role and important function which could be performed by the advisory board for the research councils.

One could go on. I was tempted by the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, to expatiate on the physical chemistry of the upper atmosphere. However, the hour is late and I shall content myself by saying that some of us who served on the committee under the able chairmanship of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, earnestly hope that your Lordships will find convincing its opinions, conclusions and recommendations, with which I wholly concur. I hope that your Lordships will give them your strong support and thus enhance their chance of acceptance by the Government.

9.53 p.m.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, as a non-scientist it is a privilege to take part in a debate based on the brilliant report produced by distinguished noble Lords under the guidance of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I do not wish to take any advantage of my amateur status but I must be at odds with the conclusions of the report on the grounds of what was intimated by the noble Lord, Lord Dainton. I am a fatalist and I believe that whatever we may try to do it will not be enough to prevent some of the physical processes that we have discussed this evening.

I felt that when I first raised the matter of greenhouse gases in an Unstarred Question on 30th November 1978. During the course of the debate it became quite clear that the greenhouse effect had not then been identified as a problem by Her Majesty's Government or by noble Lords in Opposition; therefore, it was not a matter for serious concern, despite the fact that figures available at that time were slightly higher than those produced in the noble and gallant Lord's report.

Therefore, while I felt that the second part of my Question which I wanted to ask at that time could not be relevant, I shall ask it now. It is, is the increase in global warming attributable mainly to industrial man's activities over the past century and therefore to some extent controllable or is it an inevitable part of the natural history of our planet over which mankind has little or no control one way or another?

The Sixth Report of the Select Commitee on Science and Technology seems to imply that the former might be the case. Therefore, the conclusions indicate that by a global change in energy production methods and energy consumption habits, coupled with other social changes involving the production and use of CFCs, it is thought, and has been thought by many noble Lords who have spoken, that industrial man might avoid some of the more drastic consequences created by a global warming due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere.

It is for that purpose that the noble and gallant Lord's report and organisations like the Association for the Conservation of Energy recommend energy policies which might require some of the following direction by governments all over the world: global restrictions on the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation, which has been mentioned; development of new types of refrigerators and air conditioners; a major reduction in the populations of flatulent cattle, as mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord; ban logging and slash and burn activities and firewood extraction of the rain forests; create emission controls on motor cars and industrial plants and so on. I fully support all those no regret policies. I suggest, and I am sure that noble Lords would agree, that those are part of good planetary housekeeping. However, will they not prove politically impossible to apply to developing nations, the reason being, as the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and others have mentioned, the unacceptable costs and psychology involved in such policies?

For example, such restrictions could seriously affect industrial development, in particular, in countries like China which have easy access to immense coal reserves. How can they be expected to institute energy generation policies which will deny their own citizens the use of their own coal in order to benefit environmentally those who appear industrially better off and who live far beyond the confines of the Middle Kingdom?

It was announced today by the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate —and I wonder whether he even felt guilty for a moment —that 13.3 billion is to be spent by the Government on a road-building programme. I am sure that he does not feel guilty about that being announced on the day on which we are having this debate in the noble Lord's House. There will be an increase in motor car production and use, and that is forecast not only in this country but in all other European countries. That will not stop because of this debate or because of the suggestions made about the increase in greenhouse gases. I cannot see how those programmes can be changed or altered in the industrial world. Therefore I think it is rather unlikely that they will be changed in the non-industrial world. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply can confirm that the Government will go ahead with their programmes despite what has been said.

What are those non-industrial countries to do which might hope to share the industrial world's affluence in motor transport but which are at the moment reliant on animal power? Should they make the transition and add yet more ozone in the troposphere, or should they stay where they are without the internal combustion engine? The report says that that is also undesirable because of the extra volume of harmful methane created by cattle production in agricultural economies.

What hope of improvement for the future therefore can, say, an Indian politician offer his Hindu constituents in the villages of the sub-continent? How can he say that there must be a reduction in the cow and buffalo population while at the same time saying that there can be no replacement with tractors or motor transport? Likewise, how can an East African politician deliver the same message to his Masai constituents, and so on? Surely the only way that such policies can become politically and financially acceptable is if the planetary scientists can prove conclusively that all mankind's activities have an adverse effect on the global warming process. A collective solution must therefore be made available, perhaps through the World Bank or some other international financial organisation, which can suit the rich and poor alike for the same costs. Such a solution may be a very long way off and politically and financially unattainable.

That brings me to my main question. Is the greenhouse effect a natural process with man's influence only acting on the periphery? In Volume I of the Sixth Report, page 18, figure 4, we find the famous graph which originally identified the greenhouse effect. This was achieved with a measurement at Mauna Loa in Hawaii of all natural and industrial carbon dioxide emissions around the world since 1958. It is a formidable looking graph, with an obvious and upward curve which has no real variations except those which reflect winter and summer growth of vegetation in the northern hemisphere.

Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord who will reply to the debate one or two questions relating to what I consider to be a very important graph. What percentage of these emissions are man-made and therefore controllable? Is it 2 per cent, or 20 per cent? I have been given both figures by NERC. Is the higher percentage identifiable in the graph? If so, why was there not a dip in the upward curve of emissions during the oil crisis of the 1970s and the subsequent cutbacks in energy production and consumption throughout the industrial world at that time? Could this graph of CO2 emissions reflect an atmospheric process which is primarily a natural rather than an industrial one?

I feel that the report of the noble and gallant Lord does not go into this last question either because it is so obvious and I should know about it —we should all know about it —or it was somehow avoided. It is a pity because it is, to me at any rate, of fundamental importance for the future to know what the answer to this question may be. Perhaps the noble Lord, in his wind-up speech, can put my mind at rest by giving a definitive answer to a non-scientist.

Let us suppose for a moment —as one of the later speakers in the debate I believe we are allowed to suppose at this time of night but I will not take long —that this graph reflects a natural phenomenon of global warming: what has taken place in the distant past, is taking place now and will return again at some time in the future. The Sixth Report reminds us that this is indeed the pattern, so what would it mean? It would surely mean that completely different policies and entirely new philosophies have to be evolved as a matter of some urgency once it is recognised that the phenomenon of global warming is a natural one whose direction is largely unaffected by mankind's agricultural or industrial activities. The changing climate might even mark the end of the present inter-glacial season as the procession of equinoxes moves from Pisces into the age of Aquarius, the water carrier.

In referring to the water carrier, there is another paragraph in the report which mentions that the increase in precipitation in Antarctica could lead to an increase in the weight of Antarctica —I used weight in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy —of between 400 billion and 600 billion tonnes of water a year. Where does that water come from? There will be a yearly transfer of atmospheric water of hundreds of billions of tonnes perhaps from the centre and the mid-latitudes of the globe to one of the top latitudes of the globe.

I do not know what that means. Will the rotation of the planet slow down? Will there be a variation in polar wander? Could it be a trigger for the start of a new ice age, which is, I understand, somewhat overdue? The consequences of a natural greenhouse effect would become inevitable regardless of the efforts that industrial man might make to postpone them. According to the Sixth Report, no one knows whether or not that is the case. I am sure that it is a very unlikely situation, but it must be wrong totally to exclude such a scenario until scientific evidence proves otherwise. Homo sapiens over the past million years has had to adapt to dramatic changes in his environment. Many have failed to survive those changes because of the violence of nature or because they were unprepared for them.

The gales which have recently swept down trees and telephone and power lines throughout Northern Europe give an indication of what nature can do to bring an industrial and urban society to a standstill, apart from causing tragic loss of life. The disruption to transport, power and communications that was experienced in the South of England last week as a result of bad weather makes one wonder whether, in a period of major climatic change, urban man would become as extinct as the dinosaur.

In conclusion I should like to see the threat of a natural greenhouse effect cause homo sapiens to implement a global policy of de-urbanisation as a survival policy for the future. I believe that that would be a common sense and realistic objective, even assuming that fears about climatic change prove to be unfounded. That route is preferable, in my view, to suggesting rather arrogantly, as the Sixth Report is inclined to do on occasions, that mankind might be able to alter the course of nature by symbolically switching its refrigerator from an "on" to an "off" position.

10.6 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the committee for producing such an excellent report, covering almost any subject that the intelligent layman wants to know about in a generally understandable way.

We can now say that unless the scientists have left out some quite unforeseen factor in their analysis, we know that we are facing a serious situation which could become a world disaster in the not very distant future. A moderate estimate that has been mentioned is a rise in the sea level of a third of a metre by the year 2030. There is a climatic change that goes with that rise in sea level. It is thought by some that once under way the greenhouse effect will increase more and more rapidly. For that and other reasons it may be quite impossible to reverse or halt the effect if we do not do something about it now.

The need to appreciate and take action provides a situation which, to a greater or lesser degree, is quite common. So often a government will not face a problem until it becomes extreme, largely because the public will not accept drastic measures until the need for them is obvious. One could draw the conclusion that although one might turn to some expensive kind of generation of electricity, how much extra would the public be prepared to pay in order to avoid CO2? The same kind of situation could apply to the problem of traffic in London. The Government will not do anything drastic without public support, and the public will not give its support until the situation is drastic.

It is easy for the Government to say that a reduction in Britain's carbon dioxide emissions would only produce a small effect in the total emissions worldwide, and that therefore they may await European and international agreement before doing anything useful. What has happened to the concept of leadership if that is the view that the Government take? Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are approximately 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. However, they are present in very small amounts. Nevertheless, they produce an effective 14 per cent. towards global warming. They are better known for their effect on the ozone layer. I am sure that in a subsequent debate we shall be told that government establishments are major users of CFCs for refrigeration and air conditioning. Already there is at least one commercial firm concerned with the recovery or neutralisation of CFCs from air conditioning and refrigeration plants. Instead of actively encouraging this, the Government do precisely nothing to help.

I turn now to CO2 emissions, which represent 50 per cent. of the problem. The first and obvious course is to reduce the need for power stations by improving energy efficiency and conservation. Almost every noble Lord has made that point. Friends of the Earth claims that a 65 per cent. reduction is possible, but even at the very least, 25 per cent. is easily achievable on commercial terms with a three-year or four-year pay-back time. But what do we find? The Government have cut the Energy Efficiency Organisation's modest budget, largely on its publicity. Yet this is just where more money is needed.

People are apt to think that energy savings are simply a matter of better insulation of houses and buildings. Yes, they are very important, and it would be useful if the Government could provide a scheme for better insulation of existing housing stock. Some 20 per cent. of our energy is spent in heating needs. But there are many other areas where substantial savings are possible; the latest types of fluorescent lighting, for example, can give large savings on existing installation in industry, and in the domestic field a greater use of now quite attractive fluorescent fittings would help, as would more efficient domestic appliances. Television sets, refrigerators and freezers are now so widespread and in such constant use that even a small increase in their efficiency could be important. In the industrial field there are great opportunities in energy-saving processes, even, for example, in the efficiency of electric motors. The list is endless.

Much is always said about alternative renewable energy sources. I support all efforts in this direction, but they simply do not, and will not in the foreseeable future, provide more than a small proportion of our total energy requirement. Geothermal power, at the very best, if successful, would give a tiny fraction. The same applies to waste incineration and gas from waste tips, though the latter does mean that methane, one of the greenhouse gases, can be collected and put to good use.

I am afraid that wave energy in bulk still looks vastly expensive, and I am reminded that to provide all the energy we need would call for roughly 900 miles of wave generators. Wind power could provide a useful contribution, perhaps up to 10 per cent. of our needs, if the public will accept what they would see on the tops of our hills. Putting wind generators out to sea might be more acceptable but the cost of electricity so generated is likely to be too expensive.

There are two other quite important ways of producing non-polluting generation. They are the Severn barrage and combined heat and power. The Severn barrage could provide about 6 per cent. of our energy needs, as could large combined heat and power city schemes. For either of these to become practical some degree of Government support is needed. However, that is not yet forthcoming to any effective degree.

From the point of view of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we must try to lessen our energy requirements and promote, so far as we can, the non-polluting alternative sources of energy, even if each one of them were to contribute only a small proportion of the whole.

10.15 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, in congratulating my noble and gallant friend and his colleagues on a most admirable report delivered in the most elegant fashion to your Lordships' House, I feel that I have very little to add beyond a certain amount of personal perspective on the subject with which I have been engaged for many years.

I take first paragraph 1.3 of the report. It reads: to the extent that man failed to adapt, the social and political consequences could be very serious indeed". Man will fail to adapt; he always does until it is too late. Then it will be a story of too little, too late. I turn next to paragraph 2.1 of the report. It says: Climate fluctuates on many timescales and the warming so far measured could, as far as the observational evidence is concerned, be part of a fluctuation which could in time change to cooling". Some 40 years ago when Sir Vivian Fuchs was crossing the Antarctic, I was interesting myself in the thickness of the ice over the North Pole. I had two figures upon which to work: one was the measurement made by Nansen in 1900; the other was the measurement made by the Soviet expedition in 1936. In extrapolating these forward, it was obvious that the Polar ice cap was going to break up quite soon —that is, if the figures were to be relied upon. I could not gain access to Nansen's sampling techniques or to those of the Soviet expedition. Therefore, I was unable to work out what the standard deviation was statistically. Of course, an average quoted without its measure of dispersion is the most misleading thing from which one can try to learn.

However, just as I was warming to my subject, the clerk of the weather started cooling down and the trend that I thought I had detected —which was a genuine warming up, since the glaciers were retreating all over Switzerland —reversed itself and the earth started cooling down again. But in the past 20 years it has started warming up again. Such fluctuations do occur. In terms of communication engineering, we are operating in an area with a very unfavourable signal to noise ratio.

Let us allow the years to pass. In 1970 I was appointed chairman of one of the three meteorological committees in this country; namely, the Meteorological Committee. The others were the Meteorological Research Committee and the Meteorological Committee for Scotland. Of course meteorology has no frontiers and all three committees were eventually consolidated under my chairmanship.

When I retired in 1982 I could not help looking backwards to see whether my efforts had been in any way beneficial. When I took on the job we had six weather ships working in the Atlantic; when I retired we had only one. Why was that? It was because America did not think that, as part of the partnership, it was receiving value for money and since the contributions were in proportion to the gross national product, it meant that when the Americans retired from the project five-sixths of it disappeared.

I learnt then, as I had learnt before and have learnt since, that we shall never understand the oceans until we understand the atmosphere. And we shall never understand the atmosphere until we understand the oceans. Further, understanding the oceans is much more expensive than understanding the atmosphere because people live at meteorological stations on land, but they do not live on ships in mid-Atlantic. Therefore, maintaining them and the ships, and alternating the crews so that they have some sort of home life, is a very expensive business. As I said, our cousins across the duckpond did not think that they were getting value for money.

I turn again to the report and read that Britain accounts for only 3 per cent. of the global warming. Therefore, whether we do something or whether we can do nothing, the net result at the end of the road will be exactly the same. There is only one thing we can do: it is the only way that you can ever influence other people. We must set them a good example.

We can set the world a good example by doing something in terms of money from which we may not get an immediate return. If our lead is not followed, there is nothing we can do: only Brazilians can stop other Brazilians burning down their forests. If they persist in their ways, what are we to do? Are we going to apply economic sanctions? That will not have much effect: they are already bankrupt.

Various remarks have been made about nuclear power. I entirely endorse the conclusions contained in paragraph 13.44 which tilt a lance against the Government's decision to threaten Dounreay with shut-down in the not-too-distant future. We should never shut down Dounreay until the European fast reactor has started up. There should be a period of overlap between the two because, apart from the Superfenix in France, which is not an entirely satisfactory power station, or has not been so far, Dounreay is the major materials testing laboratory for the whole of the nuclear power of the future. One cannot do accelerated ageing tests. One has to go on with one's components, submitting them to irradiation, finding out how density changes, how cracks develop and so on. One cannot accelerate that process. We should therefore keep Dounreay going until the European fast reactor project, in which we are partners, gets going.

It can never be sufficiently emphasised that we have in stock, at no pounds sterling in the books, 400 years' supply of power at our present rate of consumption, represented by depleted uranium and plutonium, all waiting until the engineering of the fast reactor is complete, and the atomic energy situation can become part of a balanced system which goes forward into an indefinite future.

There is one further matter to which I wish to refer; that is, the rise in sea level to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, referred. When I last talked to Sir John Mason, the former director general of the Meteorological Office while I was its chairman, about this matter, I said, 'What do you really think it is?" He said, "Over the next 50 years or so, perhaps 25 centimetres". Twenty-five centimetres is 10 inches. It is a little less than one-third of a metre, which the noble Viscount quoted. The greater part of Holland operates below sea level. The Dutch learnt the trick of beating back the tides with dykes. Most of our early dykes were built by the equivalent of civil engineers from Holland who were engaged on the task.

I have one last thing to say about our relative ignorance of climatic processes. We do not know the origins of the little ice age which stretched from Elizabethan to Jacobean times. All knowledge of our past climate is purely anecdotal —"The Thames froze this year", "A storm wrecks 30 ships", "Primroses blossomed in February", and so on. That is all we know. Why? Because Galileo invented the first thermometer operating with alcohol in 1612. He was followed by Fahrenheit in 1714 and then by Celsius in 1742. Celsius invented the 100 degree thermometer which we called centigrade because the ice point is nought and the boiling point of water is one. Divided into 100 equal divisions it was known as Celsius all over Europe and centigrade only in Britain. We changed the nomenclature from centigrade to Celsius quite recently. Until those dates which I have quoted, we had no knowledge of temperatures because we had no thermometers. The history was all anecdotal; nevertheless, there was a little ice age from Elizabethan to Jacobean times, and no one knows why.

10.24 p.m.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and his committee on the most excellent report that they have produced. It has caused us to listen to an outstanding debate. I am only sad that a debate of this importance and interest to a majority of the population of this country should have taken place so late in the evening. With all due respect to the Scottish lawyers, I should have preferred it to be the first business.

I am not a scientist or an expert but I have read the report with great care. There is no doubt that the evidence given to the committee points to the fact that due to increased greenhouse gases the global temperature is higher now than in 1850. That is not wholly due to the greenhouse gases, because none of the witnesses was able to say for certain that the rise in temperature could be attributed largely to an increase in those gases. However one must assume, and the report assumes, that the gases are responsible for some of the rise in temperature. I am therefore wholly in agreement with the policy advocated that we must adopt an insurance or a "no regrets" policy to deal with the problem of emissions so far as possible.

It has also been pointed out that international co-operation involving an enormous amount of research is necessary to achieve a real impact. One hopes that the United Kingdom Government will commit themselves to international co-operation and also devote substantial amounts of money to research, both nationally and internationally.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, referred to the Third World and the problems that we in the developed countries will have in order to convince these people that they should not go the way that we have gone and create economic riches for themselves at the risk of further spoiling the environment for us all. It will be extremely difficult to put this across.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that the best way is to do it by example. Actions are much more telling than words. There is an enormous amount that we ourselves can do in this country to reduce our input into the problem. First, nationally, as suggested by many noble Lords, the Government should provide funds to promote the efficient use of energy. My noble friend Lord Ezra referred to combined heat and power and better insulation for buildings, where the Government's input is essential. That is an action that we can take for which research I is no longer necessary. My noble friend Lord Ezra pointed out that these actions are taken in Scandinavian countries and have been proved to be efficient. That is something which we could do immediately to reduce the problem within our own nation and show by example that we are prepared to do the right thing.

Secondly, the aim for a reduction of carbon dioxide by the year 2005 in line with the Toronto target should be fulfilled. Much can be done in this country by way of a change in transport policy. That was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, and by my noble friend Lord Ezra. Instead of following what one would hope would be a policy of reduction, the Government plan £ 12 billion road programme which will cause an increase of 142 per cent. in car emissions by the year 2025. In this country emissions went up by just over 2.6 per cent. last year, and the car business subsidy is five times the rail subsidy, which is the lowest in Europe. Countries like France and Germany have a different road and rail policy and they have managed to reduce their CO2 emissions during the past year. Britain should return to a greater use of rail travel and produce a properly co-ordinated road/rail policy.

Many noble Lords have mentioned the need for increased research into renewable sources of power such as wave and tidal power. I am conscious that they will not solve the problem and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out that they could have an adverse environmental impact. However, we must balance their impact on the natural environment with the impact of the greenhouse gases. Much more research should be put into this effort in order to avoid what I believe is a wrong course of action, although it is recommended in the report, and that is a return to a greater increase in the use of nuclear power.

In order to achieve those objectives we must set an example by creating a coherent policy. To create a coherent policy, much closer co-operation between the Department of the Environment, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Agriculture must be created. Those departments must work together to produce an environmental policy that is acceptable to this country.

The report suggests an annual review by Ministers to be chaired by the Prime Minister with an appropriate back-up from the Cabinet Office secretariat. An annual review is fine. I agree that it should take place and that its findings should be published, but what is more important than anything else is the political will in the Government to make the departments I have mentioned work together and jointly produce an acceptable policy.

10.32 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I join with all noble Lords who have taken part in this very interesting debate in congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and his noble friends for a first-class and extremely important report. When I have to deal with Select Committee reports I like to read the evidence first and then look to the report. However, I must confess that a large part of the evidence and a considerable part of the report defeated me. As a non-scientist I was not able to keep up with the language and I am afraid that in many ways I was not able to keep up with the thinking. Therefore, I was particularly grateful to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for the clarity of his exposition in introducing the report. The fact that the noble and gallant Lord was able to bring together the fundamental assumptions and conclusions of the report in the clear way that he did made life much easier for me.

I am not a scientist but I have been a user of statistics for most of my working life. I hope that I understand, if not the nature of the scientific evidence which is adduced for the conclusions of the report, something of the difference between the accumulation of observation and the statistical inferences which may be drawn from patently inadequate observations for scientific proof.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred to his attempts to calculate the depth of the polar ice cap from two observations, one in 1900 and the other in 1936. To a statistician that means he had one degree of freedom, which will not take him very far. I think the evidence is rather better than that in this case, but certainly as we seek to place ourselves properly in the balance between complacency and panic, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, said, we are entitled to say that the fundamental evidence has been produced and is stated clearly in the evidence from the Meteorological Office.

The greenhouse effect is real and the increase in the number of greenhouse gases causes global warming. That may not have happened yet. It may not happen significantly in our lifetime. It may not happen dangerously in our children's lifetime. However, even if we do not know enough about the observations, and even if our modelling of the climate is not good enough for us fully to predict what will happen, nevertheless, we understand enough about the processes involved to be confident —confident in despair rather than in joy —that certain things will happen if present trends in the emission of greenhouse gases continue.

As Sherwood Rowland said (and he is quoted in the evidence of the Friends of the Earth to the committee): What's the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions, if in the end all we're willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true? In the most valuable conclusion that this committee or any committee reaches, the committee says that we cannot wait for scientific proof; we have to take action now. That action must not be experimental but real action.

I am certainly not qualified to comment on the very important conclusions which the committee reaches on scientific policy and manpower. I was impressed by the evidence of the Natural Environment Research Council that the budgets available in this country for the research that is necessary are not adequate. I have no doubt that in replying the Minister will have some rabbits to produce out of the hat in that respect. I am sure that he will be able to introduce some exciting new initiative which will convince the House that the Government are taking the matter as seriously as they should. Therefore I shall pass over that very large and valuable part of the report which is concerned with the implications for scientific policy.

I want to talk about social policy. This is a problem for humanity and it will be social policies which will make the necessary difference. The noble Baroness, Lady Robson, put the matter very effectively when she spoke of the need for co-ordination between the different government departments. She echoed the point that has been made over and over again in the course of the debate, about the need for energy conservation in particular. The Association for Energy Conservation calculates that the difference between continuing with existing policies and adopting what we know to be possible in terms of energy conservation is an increase of 20 per cent. in carbon dioxide emissions and a decrease of 20 per cent. in carbon dioxide emissions in a reasonable period of time.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and other noble Lords referred to the need for combined heat and power. A number of noble Lords, notably the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, referred to the paradox of energy prices. It is not so much that energy prices will go up, although, as the noble and gallant Lord said, that was not one of the attractions of privatisation that was debated when the Electricity Bill was discussed last year. Energy prices will go up irrationally and in a way which is not calculated to improve energy conservation. The balance between fossil fuels and other fuel sources is a matter which appears not to be a conscious element of government policy. The Government appear to be closing down the nuclear industry not because of any well-founded fears of the dangers of the industry, but because it is inconvenient to include the nuclear industry in the privatisation proposals.

On the issue of nuclear energy, fossil fuels and conservation, I find myself on the side of my noble friend Lord Dean and the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield. I do not think that there is a conflict between energy conservation policies and the continuation of the use of nuclear energy. They are complementary; they are not in contradiction. We must spend as much as we possibly can. We must be as efficient as we can in energy conservation, but it does not follow from that that we must rely for all time on fossil fuels. As my noble friend Lord Dean said, fossil fuels will run out anyway. The proven resources of all types of fossil fuels will certainly last less than a century and an alternative must be found.

Thus, in energy conservation, in terms of energy generation, there is a vast amount for government to do. There has been a great lack of coherence in the Government's policies ever since, at the outset of their term of office, they abolished the Energy Commission and the Commission on Energy and the Environment.

There is a great deal to be done in the field of transport. A number of noble Lords referred to that aspect. I was disappointed to find that the report referred to transport policy in terms of decisions to be made on the basis of full research. When it referred to improvement, it mentioned the use of catalytic converters which, as we know, increases the emission of nitrous oxide, rather than the much more fundamental issue to which the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, referred; namely, the balance between efficient road and rail and, above all, the balance between energy-efficient public transport and less energy-efficient private cars.

I am bound to repeat the question that has already been put to the Government: who is in charge? Is the Department of Transport, which is apparently prepared to accept a 142 per cent. increase in private cars by 2025, or the Department of the Environment in charge? Someone in government must be in charge. If the Department of Transport is in charge, God help us.

A number of noble Lords have spoken on the subject of energy conservation in buildings. It is clear that, if we were even to approach the conscious policies which have been adopted in Scandinavia for many years, the possibilities for improving energy conservation in the way in which our buildings are designed and constructed, and even in the way in which existing buildings might be converted, are great.

However, dwarfing all those issues are the international issues. The most reverend Primate referred very effectively to the problem of the rain forests. He made some imaginative suggestions about the way in which that problem might be tackled. It is certainly a problem. Evidence produced to the committee showed that a 1 per cent. decrease in the area of tropical rain forests was equivalent in damage to the atmosphere of a 3 per cent. increase in fossil fuel consumption. If the solutions of the most reverend Primate do not find favour with the Government, they will certainly have to come up with a meaningful alternative.

Dwarfing all those issues, as Sir John Mason of the Royal Society said in evidence to the committee, is the problem of conservation and of the increasing energy demands of the third world. In his evidence, Sir John said that, in comparison with the problems of increasing population, all the other issues which we are discussing are secondary issues. I should add that it is not just a matter of arithmetical increase in the population, but of what becomes a geometrical increase when one considers the increase in energy demand that it will make. Many noble Lords, notably the noble Lords, Lord Chorley and Lord Sherfield, referred to that problem. It so dwarfs our other considerations about energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases that we cannot think about our national issues without taking proper account of the international dimension.

The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, hoped that the Government's response to the committee's report would be positive. I am bound to say that if we look at the Government's response to the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Energy, there is not much hope that that will be the case. Their response was what can only be politely described as minimalist. They do not even seem to have got their act together so far as the organisation of energy conservation is concerned.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, quite rightly referred to the necessity to make the Energy Efficiency Office a lead agency in that respect. It is simply not enough to have what is glibly called the Department of the Environment as the lead agency unless someone gets together the act of all government departments, notably, as the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, said, transport, agriculture and the energy department itself. As many noble Lords have said, time is not on our side.

The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, put forward the familiar analogy of trying to turn a large tanker on the sea. Nothing will happen until a very long time after the change of direction has been planned. The noble Lord, Lord Dainton, when he talked about the warming of the seas referred to the most extreme case of the time-lag which is found. The fact is that in the first instance the seas will take longer to warm up and, if and when anything is done about it, they will take very much longer to cool down. So the problem will be with us for a very long time indeed.

In terms of the ability of people in the world as a whole to react to what we know to be a worldwide and desperately serious problem, the omens are not good. It took at least 10 years to reach any real understanding of the implications of the 1979 world climate conference, and even now I am not convinced that we are taking adequately into consideration the need for us to participate actively in the United Nations climate convention.

I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that for our own part locally we must set a good example to other countires and developing nations. However, I think he would agree that that is not enough. We have to participate in international action along the lines that have been suggested, if we are to get anywhere.

I started by quoting a scientist about the need to do something instead of just making predictions. I finish with the words of a poet, Robert Graves, who said: Come, live in now and occupy it well. Prediction is no alternative to forethought.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord. Before he sits down perhaps he will confirm that, although he has the total right to his own opinion, it is the official policy of the Labour Party to phase out nuclear energy.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, this matter is still the subject of a great deal of debate. The noble Lord is entitled to his opinion, as I am to mine.

10.47 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)

My Lords, I must begin by paying tribute to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and the members of the sub-committee for producing such a comprehensive and well-researched report. Those of us who have seen the written and oral evidence that the committee received know that its final report represents the outcome of an enormous body of work. I am sorry that we have not yet been able to respond to the committee. The report covers a great deal of ground on which the department needs to consult widely. But I can assure the noble and gallant Lord and members of the committee that we shall respond very shortly. I can, however, say that we welcome the contribution that the report makes to the debate on this vital subject. We shall be responding positively.

Tonight has seen an extremely informative debate without rancour and with no politics. If I may say so, in a sense it is a great pleasure to look to the spokesman on the Benches opposite, who is a man whose career outside your Lordship's House has been one of interest in statistics. I probably wasted 20 years of my career in researching the internal combustion engine before coming to your Lordships' House. On all sides of the House there is an interest in the debate tonight. It has been a fascinating and, I hope, an informed debate.

We have heard today many informed and informative speeches from noble Lords. Their concern about the greenhouse effect is shared by the Government as it is undoubtedly shared by an increasing number of people in this country and throughout the world. Change to the world's climate is an issue which must concern every person, and one about which no one should remain ignorant.

It is a particularly important fact that we all play a part in educating young people to have a full appreciation of the importance of the environment, and I am delighted to say that copies of the Department of the Environment's recent publication, the booklet Global Climate Change, were sent to every secondary school and college.

In fact, such is the quality of this booklet and the timeliness of its production that the department has been somewhat overwhelmed with requests from schools for further copies. An additional 100,000 copies of the booklet are now being printed and sent out to schools across the country. This will complement the series of leaflets already produced by the Department called Environment in Trust which have proved informative and popular. There is a continuing need to maintain and enhance awareness and understanding of environmental issues and we shall continue to play our part in fulfilling this important objective.

The concern which we all feel for this issue is not always matched by understanding of the complex science involved in climate change. Perhaps I may take a moment of your Lordships' time to stress a few of the most important points. First —a fact not always recognised by the public—climate change and the greenhouse effect are inherently natural phenomena. The history of the earth shows clearly that changes have occurred in the past and will inevitably occur again. These may be caused by small natural changes in our orbit around the sun and influenced by changes within the sun itself. Scientists have predicted that in perhaps 5,000 years the planet will enter another ice age which would not reach its furthest extent for another 10,000 or 20,000 years. In fact, the average rise or fall in the global temperature underlying these momentous changes may be very small. Equally natural is the greenhouse effect itself. Without this process which retains some of the sun's heat within the atmosphere of the earth the planet would be some 30 degrees cooler and so unable to sustain life.

It is central to the great complexity of the problem of the greenhouse effect that we as yet find it difficult to disentangle these natural changes from any additional man-made effects. What we know is that, certainly since the start of the industrial revolution, man's activities on the planet have led us to generate certain gases at an unprecedented rate and perhaps to severely deplete the means of reabsorbing them from the atmosphere.

Crucially, we have been producing and emitting carbon dioxide, CFCs, nitrous oxide and methane while at the same time depleting the earth's forests and releasing the carbon they otherwise lock up from the atmosphere. The clearest evidence for man's impact on the atmosphere is the well-established and inexorable rise in the concentration of these so-called greenhouse gases since the commencement of the industrial revolution.

Dealing with the problems of climate change is hampered at present by our poor understanding of many of the scientific questions associated with it. The need to improve this understanding was, I think, well recognised by the committee's report. Taking forward the research we need has become a major theme of the work of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, which was established jointly with the United Nations environment programme and the World Meteorological Organisation. This body, which is recognised as the principal focus for international work on climate change, has three working groups. The first is charged with drawing together an international consensus on the science of climate change. That is an undertaking almost unparalleled in its scope and complexity. The second will examine the possible impacts of climatic change, and the third will look at possible response strategies. If noble Lords prefer, they have set themselves three questions: what is happening? How will it affect us? And what might we do to avert or to adapt to the effects?

Not all noble Lords may be aware of the important role the United Kingdom is undertaking in chairing the IPCC's working group on the scientific assessment of climate change, a role that reflects the high regard in which our expertise in this field is held internationally. That is something which the Select Committee rightly highlighted in its report. However, we are also actively contributing to the work of all the IPCC's groups. The report of the IPCC will be completed in August and will be considered at the second world climate conference in November this year.

Even before the IPCC's report we hope to have taken another significant step. In June we shall be hosting the second meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol. And we shall continue at that important meeting to press for the strengthening of the protocol to speed up the phasing out of CFCs. As well as their detrimental effect on the ozone layer, CFCs are, molecule for molecule, the most potent greenhouse gas, as has been pointed out by many noble Lords. Eliminating their production and consumption will be an essential part of our reponse to the greenhouse effect, as, without this vital action, the relative contribution of CFCs to the greenhouse effect would continue to rise in the future.

The success of the international agreements to control the production and consumption of CFCs is, in the Government's view, a model lesson for the way forward on climate change and the greenhouse effect. We have on many occasions emphasised our support for an international framework convention on climate change. That has been endorsed in many international meetings; for example, the Commonwealth Conference and the Conference of Environment Ministers in the Netherlands last November; and its importance was reiterated in the Prime Minister's speech at the United Nations. We firmly believe that concerted international action is an essential part of an effective response to climate change. Within the IPCC the UK is playing an important role, together with Canada and Malta, in co-ordinating the first attempts to reach a consensus on the elements which a framework convention should contain.

We have also recognised that we need to play our part in assisting developing countries to deal with climate change through technical and financial assistance, as many noble Lords pointed out. We have already doubled our contribution to the United Nations Environment Programme, and substantially increased our support for projects to help conserve the world's tropical forests. The Overseas Development Administration's programme in this field is built on a wealth of experience and expertise on the ground, and projects are always pursued in co-operation with the host country. In this regard, the Memorandum of Agreement on environmental co-operation which we have signed with the Brazilian Government will, I hope, set an important precedent.

The attention focused on the greenhouse effect has I think brought into better definition the issues surrounding nuclear power. I believe that it will increasingly question the views in the policies of the opponents of nuclear energy. It is hardly credible to suggest that nuclear power can have little or no contribution to make to our need for clean forms of energy. Yet, in advocating a reduction in the contribution which nuclear power makes, its opponents suggest that it is both the most polluting and the most expensive form of energy.

It is now clear that, far from being the most polluting, nuclear power emits almost no carbon dioxide and so, unlike fossil fuels and especially coal, makes no contribution to the greenhouse effect. Perhaps its opponents would favour burning more coal and oil with the increase in emissions that that would cause?

As for costs, we already take account of the decommissioning costs of nuclear stations and the need to avoid damage to the environment, but we make no such adjustment to the costs of cleaning up after fossil fuels. Proper costing of energy production should take account of these costs and, in doing so, the balance between nuclear power and fossil fuels may well be significantly altered. That point was made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, and my noble friend Lord Clitheroe.

Your Lordships' attention was drawn to a fact concerning energy consumption in China and it is absolutely correct. It is that, if one takes European energy consumption, multiplies it by eight and divides it by gross national product, one realises that we are facing a serious problem in the long term for the future of the greenhouse effect and the world in which we live.

In its report the committee took time to explore in detail the areas where further research into climate change is needed; and to look at the particular research projects where it felt that the United Kingdom should play a part. When he wrote to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, at the time when the report was published, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment stressed the positive view that the Government take of the need for continued research into aspects of the greenhouse effect and climate change. We shall need of course to concentrate our effort in those fields where we have undoubted experience and expertise, which includes the very important area of climate modelling which the committee quite properly highlighted.

Noble Lords will be aware that in her speech at the United Nations last November the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a new centre for climate prediction which will strengthen our contribution to international research on climate change and enhance our considerable standing in climate modelling. It will also, I am pleased to say, reflect another of the committee's recommendations in that it will be an international centre open to scientists from around the world, including developing countries, who will be able to work with and learn from British scientists.

So far as specific research projects are concerned, our formal response to the committee's report will of course discuss these in detail. But I should emphasise that we have already announced a significant increase in the funding available for climate change related research. For 1990–91, our funding for this research will represent almost a doubling of this year's expenditure to some £28 million.

I hope that your Lordships will agree that in demonstrating our commitment in this way we have responded positively to the thrust of the committee's report.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York referred to his interest and knowledge because with his vocation he is also a pharmacologist. It is a great addition to your Lordships' House to have two great experiences and knowledge at the same time. He referred to the rain forest and carbon depletion from its hidden base in the ground and its release into the atmosphere.

I assure your Lordships that only last evening I had the privilege and honour of discussing with the environment Minister of Mexico the very points made by the most reverend Primate. He said two things which I believe are of great interest. I asked him whether there was any contribution which this country or Europe could make to the problem of afforestation in Latin America. He said that Europe did have knowledge and rightly pointed out my lack of education by reminding me why a certain current was called the Humboldt current. That was named after a man who had gone to Latin America, discovered, learned and contributed.

He felt that the world should understand that it is a simple fact that you have to reconcile the economic ambitions of those who live beside the forest and the economy which depends upon the forest with the preservation of the forest. That is not an exciting statement, but it is a statement about practicality. It is also a statement about hard work and communication. I am sure that that is the message which I understood from the most reverend Primate. I was very pleased to learn it from him for he knows far more about it than I do.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, mentioned the need to integrate a research programme on climate impact. I am sure that the noble and gallant Lord will be glad to know that the Department of the Environment has established a climate change impact review group under the chairmanship of Professor Parry of Birmingham University. That group will bring to us balanced advice on our own research.

The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, asked whether it was possible to reduce CO2s by 20 per cent. by the year 2005 under the Toronto target. The fact is that the assumptions, made in the figures agreed to, accepted an increase in nuclear power within the United Kingdom with regard to the United Kingdom's contribution to that reduction. I must sadly inform the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, that as I understand it, Canada's Ministers feel that they are unable to achieve the Toronto target as it was outlined.

The noble Lords, Lord Hatch and Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred to the forecasts and differences between the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, as they saw it. The responsibility of the Department of Transport is not to encourage road transport but to be responsible for and to assess the possible level of road transport. The figure of 142 per cent. is an assumption about responsibility and not about encouragement.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, referred to public transport. I must again remind them of what I said in the debate in your Lordships' House just before Christmas. The sad fact about public transport in Europe at present is that the highest level of per capita expenditure exists in the Federal Republic of Germany and the actual use of transport there is falling.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, referred to the saving of energy and, in particular, drew attention to Milton Keynes. For some reason, whenever I am at the Dispatch Box, both the saving of energy and Milton Keynes seem to arise. I had the privilege of being at the opening of Energy World in 1986. It is an example for all authorities throughout the country, and planners in particular, to see the potential which is available. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, that there were two buildings around which there was a certain amount of controversy: one, which managed to be built without planning permission because, being built underground, it did not require planning permission; the other was the rotating aeroplane propellor in the sky which at the time also caused a certain amount of disquiet in conservation quarters.

The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, also referred to combined cycle heat and gas-powered stations. I know that certain noble Lords earlier this evening referred —slightly dismissively in the case of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey —to the privatisation of electricity. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, that so far as I am aware the only proposed power station, designed for the North-West, is a private undertaking to supply to a new generator. I believe it is supplied by ASCA Brown-Boveri using natural gas coming from the Morecambe field.

The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, referred to the possibility of a carbon tax. We discussed this point during the debate we had before Christmas. The fact is that we have a difficult balance to achieve. It would, on the one hand, be very easy to say that no car should be built in this country exceeding 500 cc. At the same time, it would be difficult to explain to the employees of the British car industry why they have been put out of work. We have to consider —the Government have said this; I have said it previously and it was discussed before the Recess last year —the fact that, while the carbon tax is now on the political agenda, it has to be achieved with equanimity throughout Europe and the developed world.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, rightly pointed out that many of the developing countries will ask whether they are to be the victims of dual standards. We are in a world in which we are a developed nation and have had the benefits of all that has come through developing our own resources and using them. The question they will ask is, why should they be deprived of the aspirations and material equality? This is in the context of another matter, which is the 5 billion people who, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, rightly pointed out, have not yet arrived on the planet and who will also expect equal treatment.

The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, referred to the limitations of models and their use. That is absolutely right. I would, however, say that the department is committed to funding various organisations in order to improve modelling. However, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, will take the view that modelling will not be improvement enough.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in a very modest way referred to his amateur status. It is important to remember that the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, was the first to bring the matter of greenhouse gases to the attention of this House. When you produce something which is unfashionable, though you may not be agreed with, it is inevitable that that will be remembered long after I have faded away and gone from this Dispatch Box.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred to the need to assist in the transfer of technology. He is absolutely correct for the future and the difficulty, for example, in the abolition of CFCs is how to remove the requirement without providing financial assistance. That is part of the object of the Montreal protocol.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, also referred to the CO2 increase which had been observed in Hawaii and inquired whether it was due to industrialisation. I am advised that the great majority of this increase is due to fossil fuel power. However, there is some uncertainty concerning the figure which he pointed out to the House, of why there was a fall and then a rise again in the use of fossil fuel against the predictions which should have existed in the chart.

My noble friend Lord Mottistone stated that he felt that the proposals of his friend Dr. Grantham had not been attended to. I am pleased to hear that the DTI are now considering them.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, referred to the importance of understanding the oceans. I agree that, in order to understand the climate, we need to know more about the oceans. That is why the United Kingdom is strongly involved with various international research programmes.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, in his usual inquisitive and charming way, asked whether the Government had any commitment at all to the environment. This Government have taken more initiatives, committed more money, shown more concern and have done more than any other government in regard to improving the environment.

There can be no easy answers to the problems of climate and climatic change, whether we are looking at ways to adapt to the changes or at the measures to limit the changes, or whether it is through measured ecological fiscal balance between fossil and nuclear power. It is interesting to note that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, endorsed the possibility —I go no further than that —of a future nuclear energy policy.

In the United Kingdom we may not have to deal with the more extreme impacts of significant changes in the world's climate. The Government will ensure that we continue to contribute our expertise towards the work of scientists in their attempts to understand climate change, our experience of the work of diplomats in their attempts to frame an international response, and our commitment to the work of the politicians as the world looks to them for a lead. Without universality, there is no answer to the problem that we face.

11.11 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this extremely interesting debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, for his reply. I regret that he did not answer either of the specific questions that I put to him. One of those questions concerned the Government response to the House of Commons Energy Committee concerning how market mechanisms will cure the problem. The other question concerned whether or not the Government had studied the Chatham House report on targets.

I am not sure whether the Government are moving from a period when we are all discussing this subject, meeting about it and having conferences, to a period where action is being taken. The report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change —three working groups —and the climate conference that will follow it, must be the spur to taking action on all of these difficult problems.

There is no single solution to the problem. People are inclined to say that we can try nuclear power or energy conservation or forestry. The problem is so great that we have to explore every avenue and act on all those avenues and not waste time in discussing which is the best. All of them are necessary.

On Question, Motion agreed to.