Open Letter to Steve Baker

Dear Mr Baker,

I read with interest your recent op-ed in the Guardian, in which you make the case for a radically moderate society, a society where we are “radical in our care for one another”. You say that it is radically moderate to “show care, to be kind and to be respectful”.

I find it somewhat surprising, therefore, that you appear to be lobbying for fossil fuel extraction and attempting to derail Government efforts to decarbonise through the mechanism of your newly formed Net Zero Scrutiny Group (ref).

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is out (ref). It makes for grim reading. I will not belabour the points about the huge costs to human society and threat to human life on earth if climate action is further delayed. But I will draw your attention to the COP24 Special Report on how climate change will affect human health. The Report states that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for seven million premature deaths a year due to indoor and outdoor pollution. Fossil fuel-related air pollution is responsible for 26% of deaths from heart attacks, 24% of deaths from strokes, and 43% of deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

I speak as a concerned health care professional. Have you ever witnessed a person dying from COPD? I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Air pollution is already at levels that are harmful to human health in 90% of the world’s cities (ref). This is not just big cities like London, or in Birmingham or in Manchester, where I live. It also affects your constituents in Wycombe (ref: Buckinghamshire Free Press, July 2020).

Then, of course, there are the indirect impacts of climate change on human health. Climate change is driving up incidence of heart disease, lung disease, and direct injury and death from wildfires, floods, heatwaves, and super-storms (ref). Effects of climate change on food production and supply will lead to food insecurity and starvation (ref). How many of your constituents in Wycombe are already using food banks? Do you understand that lobbying for fossil fuel extraction is likely to exacerbate food insecurity for your constituents? Do you consider this “radical in our care for one another”?

The Special Report has called climate change “the greatest ever challenge to human health”. Your appeal to the Government to “go for gas with all the vigour of a national war effort” will further harm human and planetary health. It is the opposite of radical kind care for others.

I urge you to reconsider your position on fossil fuels and support Government efforts to decarbonise. By using your position of power to support the green agenda, you could display true radical kind care for your constituents, the rest of humanity, and our planet.