October was a month that creaked and cracked. The insurance industry, already deeply implicated in the international financial crash, was battered by the fall-out from hurricanes Ike and Gustav. A bill in wreckage was left on their doorsteps estimated to be around $30bn (£18.2bn), far higher than predicted according to Lloyd’s of London. To show that God has a dark – you could call it “carbon black” – sense of humour, in the same month the oil giant BP’s quarterly profits of £6.4bn cracked another record high, representing a 148%, while Shell’s profits rose to £6.6bn.
The sky creaked in another way too. Relentless coverage of global warming, a deluge of green corporate claims, legislative flurries and a redesign of government departments should suggest progress on climate change. But the figures tell another, worrying tale. Far from going down, the global growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions is spiking upwards. Findings from the Global Carbon Project this month showed that the global average percentage rise since the year 2000 is now over three times higher than the previous decade, rising again significantly in the last year. These growth rates are now worse than the worse case scenario used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to model potential global warming. Levels of carbon in the energy mix for both rich and poor countries are also going up.
Government confusion here in Britain was captured by two stories reported literally side-by-side in the national press. In one, Ed Miliband, new minister at the shiny new Department for Energy and Climate Change, announced the government’s commitment to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050. In the other, the Evening Standard reported that “ministers are planning to water down EU pollution curbs in order to allow Heathrow airport to expand”. Attempts at satire prove redundant. And the heat on the government over Heathrow is rising.