Heard in Europe

A UK Independence Party MEP told the European Parliament in Strasbourg today (11 March) that decarbonising the EU would be “absolute madness” because crops need carbon dioxide to grow.

Stuart Agnew’s question to Gianni Pittella, leader of the Socialist & Democrats group, sparked incredulity on social media.

UKIP had circulated the video but, according to the reaction on Twitter, Agnew, the party’s agriculture spokesman, had his science very, very wrong.


Energy and Climate Action Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the Eurosceptic, after EurActiv brought the video to his attention.



The Commissioner’s Twitter trolling earned him online acclaim.

And is it just us, or is Pittella doing his best not to laugh at the question?












Satirical Twitter account @Berlaymonster pointed out what many people were thinking.



He (it?) was backed up by other members of the Twitteratti, including green MEP Bas Eickhout.





Jonathan Gaventa, of environmental think tank e3G, compared it to the infamous time a US senator claimed the existence of snowballs was proof climate change was not happening.



Even Cañete’s parody account got in on the action.



Pittella also drew some criticism for not picking Agnew up on his claims.




But not everyone was so hard on the Italian socialist…



Agnew, a farmer, represents the eastern counties of England. He is a climate change sceptic, describing some predictions as to its effects as “over dramatic”.

But campaigners pointed out that climate change was leading to water scarcity with severe consequences for crop yields globally.





The science bit

Apart from the fact that plants existed long before fossil fuels, decarbonisation means moving to an energy system that doesn’t increase concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

There will still be CO2, which plants do need to grow, in the air, but not at levels that cause global warming.

Carbon capture and storage technologies do capture and store carbon. But they capture CO2 emissions at the point of combustion, rather than removing CO2 already in the air. That would not affect plants, campaigners said.



The exchange happened as MEPs gave their reaction to the European Commission’s plans for Energy Union. One of the flagship project’s goals is to fight climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2. Moving to a low carbon economy is an important part of this goal.



And it’s not the first time UKIP politicians have run into trouble on Twitter over their energy and environmental policies.

Screenshot courtesy of UKIP. All rights reserved

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