Top climate scientist warns PM over ‘contemptuous’ Cumbria coal mine plan

Boris Johnson’s determination to press ahead with a new coalmine in Cumbria reveals “contemptuous disregard for the future of young people” and can result in “ignominy and humiliation”, one of many world’s foremost climate voices has warned, in a stark message to the prime minister forward of the UN Cop26 climate summit later this 12 months in Glasgow.

former Nasa scientist who has been referred to as the “godfather of climate change”, has written to the UK prime minister calling on him to cease all assist for fossil fuels and “earn a special place in history” for tackling the climate disaster.

Professor James Hansen. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

He wrote: “In leading the UK, as host to the Cop, you have a chance to change the course of our climate trajectory – or you can stick with business-almost-as-usual and be vilified in the streets of Glasgow, London and around the world.”

Pointing to the latest determination to permit the UK’s first new deep coalmine for 3 many years, Hansen went on: “It would be easy to achieve this latter ignominy and humiliation. Just continue with the plan to open a new coalmine in Cumbria and continue to invest funds of the British public in fossil fuel projects overseas, in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature.”

Hansen is one of the most respected figures in global climate science. As an skilled at Nasa, he testified to the US Congress in 1988 – together with then-senators Joe Biden and John Kerry – of the hazards of climate change. That landmark warning helped pave the best way to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, mum or dad treaty to the 2015 Paris accord.

Hansen’s letter to Johnson is copied to Kerry, now special climate envoy to Biden, who has made climate motion a top priority for his presidency, and who will maintain a global climate summit on 22 April as a precursor to Cop26, scheduled for November.

Tim Crosland, director of the climate litigation charity Plan B, mentioned: “Since the US election, there’s a new dynamic in play. Boris Johnson can no longer get away with his climate hypocrisy, talking the talk of climate leadership while opening a new coalmine and permitting ongoing financial support for fossil fuel interests in the UK and around the world. If he does, it’s clear there will be no way back for him with the new US administration. We must trust he has the political pragmatism to act on Dr Hansen’s warning.”

Artist's impression of UK’s first deep mine in 30 years despite objections from climate change activists in West Cumbria near Whitehaven.

Artist’s impression of UK’s first deep mine in 30 years regardless of objections from climate change activists in West Cumbria close to Whitehaven. Photograph: West Cumbria Mining Company

Hansen is worried that going forward with the Cumbrian mine will likely be seized on by supporters of fossil fuels world wide, because the UK prepares to host the Cop26 summit in Glasgow this November.

“It shows they [the government] are really not serious,” Hansen advised the Guardian in an interview. “We don’t need new mines. This shows that leaders will say the right words but in fact fossil fuels are still winning.”

Young individuals specifically would really feel betrayed, he warned. “That’s why I’m trying to encourage Johnson to think this through – he is going to really get hammered. But he could be heroic, if he would just point the way to a path that would work.”

Companies taking advantage of fossil fuels should be confronted down, in keeping with Hansen. “The great obstacle you must overcome – where others have failed – is that posed by the special financial interests that have bribed our governments and trashed our planet,” he wrote, within the letter despatched to Johnson on Wednesday and seen by the Guardian.

He mentioned that creating international locations would see the UK’s actions in opening a brand new coalmine as an encouragement to proceed utilizing coal. “Developed countries have to work with emerging economies to help them – otherwise, they are going to use coal,” he mentioned.

The Committee on Climate Change, the federal government’s statutory advisers on attaining the UK’s objective of internet zero emissions by 2050, has additionally warned ministers on the Cumbrian mine. In a letter printed final Friday, the chairman of the committee, Lord Deben, urged the planning secretary Robert Jenrick to contemplate the impacts, because the mine – permission for which has been granted as much as 2049, the 12 months earlier than the federal government should obtain internet zero emissions – would enhance international greenhouse fuel emissions.

Deben wrote: “it is also important to note that this decision gives a negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities in the year of Cop26.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, enterprise secretary, told MPs who questioned the Cumbrian decision that the mine needs to be allowed as a result of it could present coking coal, which was wanted for industrial processes, reminiscent of making metal, slightly than coal for energy era.

Hansen rejected this argument. “We have to replace the old ways of doing things – there are alternatives,” he mentioned. “This is possible and we have to do it, because science tells us we can’t continue business as usual.”

Johnson pledged late final 12 months to halt UK authorities investments in fossil gasoline abroad. However, campaigners are involved at loopholes in these plans.

A No 10 spokesperson mentioned: “The UK continues to guide the struggle in opposition to climate change, chopping emissions by greater than any main economic system to this point – on the quickest charge – and placing the prime minister’s daring 10 level plan for a inexperienced Industrial Revolution by 2030 into motion.

“We have already dedicated to ending the usage of coal for electrical energy by 2025 and ending direct authorities assist for the fossil gasoline vitality sector abroad.

“As we go further and faster to build back greener this year, we will continue to urge countries to drive clean economic recoveries too, as hosts of Cop26 and president of the G7. The UK co-hosted Climate Ambition Summit helped see 75 leaders set out new commitments to climate action.”

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