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Former Civil Service chief calls for climate shakeup

What do our mandarins really think of global warming?

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What do civil servants really think?

What about the civil service itself, we wondered. How deeply wedded is it to an increasingly unpopular position?

"It's almost totally embedded. Ministers don't get a range of views presented to them.

"The public is under pressure. If you take a family or small business, they're facing ten rather austere years. But they're also being asked to incur major costs and make significant changes to your lifestyle. So people ask 'do I really have to?'

"So three things happen. They begin to worry about the science. They see that the scientific consensus isn't as solid as they were led to believe. And they don't see other countries doing the same things - the prospects for another Kyoto are worse than ever.

"So if we decarbonise by 2050 there's a risk we'll suffer double jeopardy. We'll incur a cost to moving to higher-priced energy and others won't follow."

Turnbull adds that decarbonisation policies are now hugely unpopular with electorates, and led to the collapse of the Rudd government in Australia.

What's going to give, then? Not a lot, he thinks.

"Initially I would predict there won't be very much change in attitudes. The scepticism isn't there. Ministers and civil servants still believe what the scientists tell them.

"We'll still pay lip service to all these obligations but the urgency will fade. It will be like the [Minimum Development Goals] commitment to devote 0.7 per cent of GDP to overseas aid - it will rest there. We will just fall further behind the schedule. Then, eventually, there'll be the dawning that we're doing this when nobody else is."

Turnbull makes his call for new enquiries in the foreword to analysis of the Climategate enquires published today. The review of the two internal University enquires - Sir Muir Russell's Climate Change Emails Review and Lord Oxburgh's Scientific Assessment Panel was conducted for the Global Warming Policy Foundation think-tank by Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey-Stick Illusion. More from the Foundation website later today. ®

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