Climate scientist criticizes Boris Johnson over new coal mine

Climate scientist criticizes Boris Johnson over new coal mine
Image Source

Climate scientist James Hansen has said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson risks “humiliation“ over plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Dr. Hansen, a former leading global warming researcher at NASA, wants the PM to halt plans for a new Cumbria coal mine. The government effectively allowed the mine to proceed after it decided not to overrule a local council decision.

Cumbria coal mine

The coal mine was approved by Cumbria County Council and the government said approval was a matter for the council, justifying the decision by the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick not to exercise his powers to overrule the local authority.

The proposed coal mine will produce coking coal, a grade used for manufacturing steel. Wile 85% of its production will be exported to Europe, government sources say that another reason for not opposing the mine was the need for continuing domestic steel production.

Letter to the PM

Hansen mentioned in his letter that the UK is hosting a climate summit this year.

He wrote: “In leading the [climate conference], you have a chance to change the course of our climate trajectory, earning the UK and yourself historic accolades. Or you can stick with business-almost-as-usual and be vilified around the world.”

“It would be easy to achieve this latter ignominy and humiliation – just continue with the plan to open a new coal mine in Cumbria in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature. The contrary path is not so easy, but, with your leadership, it is realistic,” Dr. Hansen argued.

The aforementioned climate summit refers to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which will be held in Glasgow this November. US climate envoy John Kerry said last week that the COP26 will be the “last best chance“ the world has for tackling the climate crisis.

Hansen’s letter, which has been copied to Kerry, continued: “Prime Minister Johnson, young people are fed up – and for good reason. They demand that political leaders follow the science and take the actions needed to preserve and restore a healthy climate.”

“If this [conference] is like the prior ones – with soothing words and worthless ambitions – they will be justifiably outraged,” he said.

Despite his criticisms, Dr. Hansen did acknowledge the UK’s previous climate leadership and its success in emission reduction.

“Your progress reflects well on your parliamentary democracy. My wife and I were fortunate to witness the efforts of UK citizens and political leaders during the past two decades as that progress was achieved,” he mentioned.

Dr. Hansen continued: “It is our fervent hope that the UK will continue to provide leadership and affect the entire planet.”

Aside from Dr. Hansen, the government’s advisory body on global warming, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), has also expressed disapproval of the Cumbria mine. It said the mine will increase global emissions and compromise the government’s legally binding carbon budgets.

The CCC said: “The decision to award planning permission [for the mine] to 2049 will commit the UK to emissions from coking coal.” The advisory body said coking coal will have to be halted by 2035 if the UK wants to achieve its climate change targets.