Chair Of Governments Climate Advisory Council Challenged Over Scientific Competence

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TD says Fitzgerald and council members are “economists not scientists”

Bríd Smith TD challenged the chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council’s (CCAC) competence to advise the Government on climate issues following his recent advice that it was okay to keep exploring for fossil fuels.

The challenge was issued at yesterday’s Committee on Climate Action.

The advice from John Fitzgerald stated that the global proven reserves of gas, if burnt, would not in itself lead to a global temperature rise above 1.5 degree. This was used to justify support for continued exploration and use of gas as a transitional fuel.

Deputy Smith quoted the London based research group, Oil Change international, who had described this advice as having “no scientific basis”.

Oil Change International’s advice is directly in line with the expert testimony offered to the Climate Action Committee last week when Professor Robert Howarth (Cornell University), stated that he did “not buy the idea of natural gas as a bridge or transitional fuel at all.” Professor Barry McMullin (DCU) and Professor Kevin Anderson (University of Upsalla and Tyndale Centre for Climate Change Research) are amongst other experts who have similarly strongly refuted the idea that natural gas is “essential for Ireland’s future energy security.”

The People Before Profit TD pointed out to Prof. Fitzgerald that he was not a climate scientist and that, in fact, the bulk of the Council’s members were economists with no background in the field of climate science.

The scientists, she said, like “Michael Mann, Kevin Anderson and countless others are screaming at governments across the world that 80% of all fossil fuels must remain in the ground. They do not support the views of this Council who have given the Government a fig leaf to hide behind in order to support continued exploration for fuels.”

In the wake of yesterday’s exchange with John Fitzgerald, Bríd Smith TD warned that this is a major issue as the Government has stated its intent to confer significant additional powers on the Climate Change Advisory Council. The Climate Action Council (its successor organisation) will be charged with providing ‘policy evaluation advice to the Government, based on best available science’ and Deputy Smith said that “it is imperative that the citizens of this country can have absolute confidence in the Council’s scientific competency and independence in providing advice on such politically-sensitive issues.”