Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bishopthorpe Farm Wind Farm Inquiry

The Planning Inquiry into the Bishopthorpe Farm (Newton Marsh Extension) Windfarm in Lincolnshire was having its public session today.  Most people speaking were concerned about the view, some quite passionately. This is what I told the Inspector:

People will be worried about the appearance of the windfarm and its effect on landscape but the overriding issue is global warming. People of my generation may be lucky to avoid the worst effects of climate change but our grandchildren’s lives will be made impossible by our reckless burning of coal, gas and oil. We have already burnt too much, enough to ensure the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets. Mitigation of some of the further damage is still possible if we stop our greenhouse gas emissions quickly. That requires the rapid decarbonisation of our electricity generation. Onshore windfarms are currently the fastest and cheapest tool for the task.

No matter what one’s feelings of aesthetics or passion for a particular landscape, to object to this windfarm proposal is a denial of climate science, an abrogation of our responsibility to future generations who cannot yet speak for themselves, who are not given a say in this Inquiry.

We have to stop burning fossil carbon. If we want to use electricity it must be generated without burning fossil carbon. Once electricity demand has reduced enough and renewable generation capacity increased enough to allow us to close all the gas and coal power-stations, we will then have the luxury of choosing where the best location for windfarms might be. Until then the overriding consideration has to be to increase capacity as fast as possible. If a developer is willing to build a windfarm, reducing our need to burn fossil carbon, we should encourage them by all means at our disposal. To do otherwise is to demonstrate denial of the urgency and seriousness of the global warming problem.

We currently have a government in confusion, with some ministers openly denying the science and others unclear about the urgency of the issue. Our democratic system produces politicians who have to please their electors rather than do what is right. Sadly, many people just do not have the required grasp of climate science to be able to form rational opinions and so rely on their prejudices and personal perceptions of aesthetics.

Absurdly, the planning system ignores global environmental effects. The failure to replace fossil fuel burning with renewables will lead to catastrophic climate change. A local impact is that the site of Bishopthorpe Windfarm will become flooded as sea level rises and becomes part of the Greater North Sea as the ice caps melt, but that is not considered in the planning process.

From this inquiry we should send a clear signal to government that we want planning decisions to maximise climate change mitigation. This is the existential issue of our time and the responsibility we bear for the sake of future generations. This windfarm should be built with all possible speed.


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