HL Deb 02 July 2004 vol 663 cc53-4WA
Lord Howell of Guildford

asked Her Majesty's Government: What effect they estimate the increase in (a) world oil consumption; (b) world natural gas consumption (outside the United States of America); and (c) world coal consumption has had on climate change within and around the United Kingdom. [HL3410]

Lord Whitty:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) published data showing that world consumption of oil, natural gas and coal for energy use increased substantially between 1973 and 2001, by 29, 117 and 56 per cent respectively. Over the same period, world carbon dioxide emissions increased by 51 per cent. It is not possible to identify the effects of emissions from different regions as carbon dioxide is well mixed in the atmosphere.

Since 1958 carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere increased from 318 parts per million to 379 parts per million. Over the past century global average temperatures increased by about 0.6 Celsius and since the 1970s the temperatures have risen by 0.4 degrees Celsius.

The third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted in 2001 that: "most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations." Furthermore recent work by the Met Office's Hadley Centre has shown that the temperature increase over Europe, observed in the past few decades, is also attributable to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases.

The UK climate has also changed over the past century, with central England temperature rising by almost 1 degree Celsius, consistent with global trends. The 1990s was the warmest decade in central England since records began in the 1660s. Average sea level is rising by about 1 millimetre per year and winters across the UK have been getting wetter. There is evidence that the warming which has been observed has affected natural cycles such as leaf emergence dates and egg laying dates of birds but effects on human activities is much less clear. Such changes are compiled for Defra in a report of climate change indicators which can be found at the following website: http://www.nbu.ac.uk/iccuk/.