Northern Ireland minister bars climate change "propaganda"

BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland’s environment minister said Monday he had blocked a television advertisement warning of climate change because he did not agree with its message it was a man-made problem.

The advertisement made by the government in London urges people to reduce energy use in the household to help save money and cut emissions of carbon dioxide, which scientists widely believe causes global warming.

Minister Sammy Wilson said the rules setting out the powers of Northern Ireland’s devolved provincial executive meant London should have asked him whether he wanted to broadcast the ad there. He said he agreed households should try to cut down on energy use, but not because this would help prevent environmental disasters.

“I don’t think that it needs to be associated as well with the propaganda message that climate change is man-made and that somehow by not having the standby light on your TV you’ll stop the glaciers melting, the world being submerged, ... a deluge and all kinds of environmental catastrophes,” he said.

Wilson has repeatedly argued that climate change had already been occurring before the spike in CO2 emissions associated with industrialisation, the advent of cars and air travel.

“We have never clearly understood the causes of these changes,” he earlier wrote in an article posted on his website.

Wilson, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party which leads Northern Ireland’s power sharing executive, said the ad’s reference to man-made climate change was “insidious New Labour propaganda,” a reference to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s party.

Some scientists say global warming may have contributed to a heatwave that fuelled Australia’s devastating wildfires, in which more than 170 people have died, and that it will produce more extreme weather events in the future.

Northern Ireland’s Green Party said Wilson should step down.

“While the minister is entitled to his own views, he is not entitled to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence that man-made climate change exists,” Northern Ireland Assembly Member Brian Wilson said.

Writing by Andras Gergely, editing by Mark Trevelyan