As you can see, there are Climate Change sceptic-deniers everywhere, even in the most knowledgeable and respectable circles.
Countering Climate Change denial from so-called “sceptics” takes a lot of time and energy, and is a bump-in-the-road nuisance/irritation distraction from the main priority for human civilisation, which is how to stop being addicted to Fossil Fuels.
People won’t be moved. There’s no use hoping for an outpouring of charitable giving and energetic aid organisation – the world is suffering too many ongoing parallel disasters to be able to scramble effectively for this – the biggest ever (probably).
A similar situation exists with Climate Change policy, or rather the incredible inertia against taking the obvious first steps towards meaningful Carbon Dioxide emissions reductions.
People are too busy with their Facebook, their Twitter, their own personal financial nemeses (is that the plural of “nemesis”, really ?) to be able to form a coherent “movement”, as Bill McKibben, Al Gore and others wish us to mobilise into :-
[ UPDATE FROM JOABBESS.COM : ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND, EDINBURGH, CLIMATE CAMP SITE HAS BEEN TAKEN. ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION FROM firstname.lastname@example.org, Wed, Aug 18, 2010 at 9:59 PM : “Site taken! People needed NOW! At 9.15PM tonight Climate Camp took the site on RBS HQ. Get on site as fast as you can! Defence help urgently needed. Come to RBS Gogarburn Gardens, off Gogar Station Rd. More info later. x” ]
Al Gore has been telling all the young people, and well, all of us, really, to protest, in public, to make a downright law-unabiding nuisance of ourselves :-
“Gore calls for major protests on government’s climate change inaction…In a post on his personal blog headlined “The Movement We Need”…”
Well, it won’t work to call people out onto the street. Most people are too busy credit-crunching, wage-slaving or favour-scraping to be able to commit to a short-term, potentially self-defeating public display of annoyance, frustration and shrill demands.
And if people do come out to the big protests, it won’t achieve much. News reports can be swept into the trash. Activists can be swept into holding facilities. Politicians can conveniently ignore anything that isn’t violent.
Drop the loud-hailers and home-made placards, I say, and do something more…focussed.
The Climate Camp want to target the Royal Bank of Scotland for financing Coal power plants and Tar Sands oil projects, which are very bad things to be doing, and smacks of huge corporate irresponsibility, considering the bank is largely owned by the British taxpayer, and I say, if you can’t make the camp (and I can’t for reasons which I shall not go into just now), do something about money in other ways instead.
What’s your money doing ? Which oppressive regimes in oil-rich countries is it supporting ? Which Fossil Fuel companies trashing your Environment do your bank support ? Why not switch your money to an ethical financial organisation ? Why don’t we all try to do this at the same time ? “Crowd-banking” could have an impact, you never know until you try.
Let’s pick, say, Monday 23rd August 2010. And let’s all spend our way out of Climageddon together on that day. Transfer your money to an ethical bank, or pledge to do so. Phone your bank and tell them you’re leaving for a sustainable bank.
Other actions possibly useful :-
1. Refuse to buy Fossil Fuels for a day.
2. Refuse to use any hot water for one day (most hot water is produced by burning Fossil Fuels). It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere – come on – a cool shower won’t hurt you.
3. Don’t spend any money on anything that had Petroleum-based plastic or Natural Gas-based chemicals in its production – which would rule out 85% of non-food purchases, I reckon.
4. If you’re working for a company or an organisation who have anything to do with the Energy industry, make a point of asking your boss, or their boss, or the Chief Executive or something what the company/organisation intends to do about moving the whole business to Renewable Energy.
5. One short telephone call could have you moving from burning Coal for your home electricity to a Green Energy account.
This is not a riot – but it is an emergency, and the response should match the scale of the problem.
Dr Judith Curry insists, quite correctly, that we should take uncertainties into account when deciding Climate Change policy.
Yet I think our respective positions probably strongly differ on which way we weight the uncertainties.
I strongly favour the Precautionary Principle, implemented Early, making it the “Early Precautionary Principle”.
One of the reasons I come down on this end of the spectrum of possible responses to uncertainties is that there are quite a spectrum of unknowns that form the pillars of those uncertainties.
After all, if we don’t know a term in an equation, how can we possibly calculate anything meaningful with any kind of confidence ?
How can anybody feel safe and secure not knowing for certain what the actual equilibrium Climate Sensitivity amounts to ? The response of the Earth’s Climate system to extra airborne Carbon Dioxide-forced temperature rise is a number that is becoming firmer, but there are error bars. Surely this points to conservatism in emissions ?
Moreover, we could be well advised to cut back on Fossil Fuel burning not just to protect the Climate, but to save the Economy. How can we pursue our normal everyday Carbon-emitting lives not knowing how much Fossil Fuel there is left in the ground that can be inexpensively mined ?
How can we know the order of magnitude of Fossil Fuels left to extract ? And how can we know what kind of impact this will have on the Climate ?
Of course, Pat Michaels is “right-wing”, but that’s not what I meant.
Some folk will be surprised that I agree with anything that Patrick Michaels says, as he is consistently inaccurate about the Science of Global Warming.
However, he is right that a Carbon Tax is the wrong way to proceed.
Carbon pricing, whether by direct taxation or by a trading scheme, effectively creates a double disincentive for change.
We have a large number of companies and organisations that are highly dependent on the use of Fossil Fuels. Carbon pricing will make these companies and organisations less financially efficient, and they will try anything they can to pass on the costs of Carbon to their consumers and clients, in order to remain profitable.
Carbon Taxation will therefore stimulate cost offsetting, but not Carbon reductions.
Moreover, if companies that make and sell energy are forced to pay for Carbon, they will have less funds available to deCarbonise their businesses; less capital to invest in new lower Carbon technologies.
Carbon Pricing will not alter the patterns of emissions significantly, if at all.
We have to face facts : the economists are largely wrong about environmental taxation. Record fines and levies demanded of Fossil Fuel companies in the last ten years have not stopped the spills, the leaks, the poisonings of waterways; nor have they helped the companies change course and start to develop Renewable Energies.
The pricing of large scale environmental pollution is a failed disincentive.
Jaw-droppingly, the BBC have apologised for the contents of a Today Programme. Not the one that caused poor, deceased Dr David Kelly so much embarrassment, God rest his soul. No, the one that featured the breaking of the “Climategate” e-mail scandal :-
The BBC picked the wrong scandal story to run with, it appears.
The real scandal of Climategate is how the scientists’ e-mails were “liberated” from the University of East Anglia, and then annotated to give heavily biased interpretation, then released to the general public via the Internet, and how the Media were taken in.
Certain people at the BBC chose to go with the fake scandal, it seems – the narrative fabricated and dictated to them by Climate Change deniers.
Anyway, now the BBC have made an apology, of sorts. Better late than never, but all the same, it would have been better earlier rather than later.
Thankfully, despite the late apologies, this particular alleged witch-hunt didn’t end with a suspected suicide. Although it did include reports that Professor Phil Jones had, in fact, contemplated suicide; the reporting of which just added to his completely groundless public humiliation at the hands of the Press. Which they should apologise for, in my humble opinion. Just as good (old) George Monbiot had the good grace to offer some regret for :-
“BBC apologises to University of East Anglia for “incorrect” remark”
“The BBC has apologised for an “incorrect” remark made by John Humphrys that UEA researchers had “distorted the debate about global warming to make the threat seem even more serious than they believed it to be”.”
During the first few years of my childhood education, I used to walk to and from the school alongside the road that was originally the main highway between London and Cambridge, England.
At that time, the density of cars in that part of town rose dramatically, as did the number of vehicles idling in long traffic jams, and I remember just how much of an impact it had on the air quality, particularly in summer.
This was despite the fact that the road was flanked by a large number of trees, areas of grass and bushes, and even ponds.
My recollection is that what had originally been a pleasant walking route became unbearable and toxic.
One day, I hope that the internal combustion engine is virtually outlawed, so that urban people can start to get some clean air.
At a recent UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) conference, the Claverton Energy Research Group invited Dr Mark A. Delucchi of the University of California at Davis to speak on the “Transportation in a World Based 100% on Wind, Water and Solar Power”, a piece of work that he did in collaboration with Professor Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University :-
This chart from the presentation gives a comparison between BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) with the electricity coming from a variety of sources; against internal combustion engine vehicles, either running on two kinds of BioEthanol (E85) or standard Gasoline.
Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway recommend that grassroots Internet writers focus on Climate Change Policy, in this Climate Science Watch interview shot at Netroots Nation 2010.
The subject of government policies to deal with Climate Change borders on the excessively dull – which is why most Internet web loggers (or “bloggers”) don’t want to touch Policy even with a full HazMat suit on.
It’s the kiss-of-interest-death to try to open up discussions on Carbon Taxation, Cap-and-Trade, Cap-and-Share, Cap-and-Dividend, Cap-and-Giveaway, Contraction & Convergence, Kyoto2, Border Tax Adjustments, Clean Development credits, Carbon Intensity and the like.
Only really seriously geeky, mildly obsessive people really want to think about the Big Picture. And many of us get stuck in a corner of unworkable aspiration, where we know something has to change, we fix on just a snippet of the giant problem, and then we find we cannot communicate it well enough for others to understand.
For example – very public insistence that the Coal-burning power generation industry has got to cease trading doesn’t make it happen, despite excellent reasoning and even entire Climate Camps of resistance and protest amongst the activist community.
This is probably because (a) most people don’t understand how banning Coal fits into the bigger Carbon picture, (b) most people don’t know how to go about asking the right people to ban Coal and (c) most of the Coal-burning industry don’t want people to look into their business too deeply so they have invested lots of money in public attitude smokescreens. No, it’s not a “conspiracy”. It’s a documented public relations exercise. Just ask Naomi and Erik.
Linking Climate Change to other Environmental Problems
The Greenhouse Gas Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s activities is accumulating very rapidly in the Atmosphere, and this is why the international Climate Change negotiations and Climate Change Science focus on it so heavily.
The warming response of the Earth’s surface correlates strongly with the rise in Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere, so Global Warming can be treated almost entirely as the Earth system’s reaction to rising levels of this one gas.
Other Greenhouse Gases, such as Methane (CH4) and high level water vapour (H2O), are increasing in line with the rise in Carbon Dioxide.
Logic and experiment dictates that they are doing this in response to the rise in Carbon Dioxide, so their rise is a feedback effect in the Earth system – a reaction to rising temperatures – caused by the warming due to increasing airborne Carbon Dioxide.
However, Carbon Dioxide is not the only Greenhouse Gas that humankind is pumping into the Atmosphere in excess of natural levels – a rather famous example being that growing numbers of livestock are belching Methane that is adding to the up-tick on concentrations of Methane in the Atmosphere.
There are still high levels of various gaseous industrial pollution, some of which is in the form of Greenhouse Gases.
In addition, Global Warming is not the only environmental problem, although it is exacerbating other environmental problems.
Climate Change is an added stressor on natural habitats that are being degraded by pollution, bad land management and deforestation.
It seems obvious to take a step back to the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and mesh together once more the environmental threads of the United Nations conventions : on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification.
We shouldn’t have to keep restating the very obvious, but it appears that public understanding is very poor in some cases.
We could simply say, “Ah well. The general public doesn’t need to be convinced of the truth of the matter. We can just present the data to the decision-making authorities and they will do the right thing, so it won’t matter what the people in general think.”
Trouble is, there appears to be continuing interference in the patterns of thought of the decision-makers, from a range of sources, notably the mainstream media.
Tune in to the facts. Banish the pacifying voices. We are at war with ourselves, and if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels, there will be an end to vast swathes of life on Earth.
Reflecting further on a PNAS paper by a group of authors that includes Professors Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow leads me to suspect that elements of its proposed policy framework are unworkable and may have unintended unethical consequences :-
It also leads me to conclude that research partly financed by Oil and Gas companies may be part of the Climate Change policy problem – how to reach global agreement on a way forward.
“Sharing global CO2 emission reductions among one billion high emitters”, by Shoibal Chakravarty, Ananth Chikkatur, Heleen de Coninck, Stephen Pacala, Robert Socolow and Massimo Tavoni, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Volume 106, Number 29, 21st July 2009.
Now, I’ve met Fiona Harvey, and she gives the general impression of being a reasonable woman, with her own mind, smart, knowledgeable and pragmatic.
What she writes about is Environment in general, but she takes in Policy, Politics, Economics and Science, and her output is normally balanced, accurate, and free from interference from propaganda and propagandists. Well-rounded, I’d say. Informative and straight.
So how come she’s writing a Financial Times article with quotations from extreme Climate Change sceptics and deniers ?
The Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom spent almost an entire week crafting a political framework for power-sharing after the “hung” General Election.
Those considered the most appropriate people were appointed to positions in the central Cabinet, people from both political parties, with the aim and ambition of working together closely and fraternally.
Back room agreements were painstakingly forged, deals were clearly made, and explained publicly in a transparent fashion. In the day-to-day operation of Government, it is made clear who is speaking on behalf of themselves, their party or the Coalition.
This is probably the best example of cooperative, progressive politics since…I don’t know when. But all Christopher Booker seems to want to do is snipe, moan and smear, and appears to throw in as many factually incorrect allegations and fake statistics about wind power as he possibly can.
I certainly wouldn’t pay him to write such divisive, unreferenced, unverified stuff. What’s he trying to do ? Split public opinion ? :-
File under : “That’s never going to ever happen if the United States of America have anything at all to do with it”.
The illustrious German Advisory Council on Global Change, the WBGU, or “Wissenschaftliche Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveraenderungen” in longhand, have done some excellent work on proposals for a global Carbon framework.
As part of their 2009 paper entitled in English “Solving the climate dilemma: The budget approach” they came to some useful conclusions, but also some startlingly unworkable recommendations :-
So, now we know what part of the United Kingdom public spending cuts will consist of : quit funding the Sustainable Development Commission.
The SDC guys and gals have been such vocal, radical thinkers. They have contributed so much to public discourse and the politics of Climate Change. The country needs their services.
Ironically, their take-no-prisoners approach to the facts could have made them a natural target for the chop. Perhaps the political establishment can see no need for a hotbed of academic “dissent” (otherwise known as “truthtelling”).
In a sense, the SDC have been so convincing and effective, they’ve worked themselves out of a job :-
Really groovy global policy on Climate Change would be more clever and more accurate than assumptions on averages that were foundational to the hep cats who wrote the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Kyoto Protocol.
Why keep up the narrative that there are “developing” nations and “developed” nations ? Some formerly “developing” nations have emissions profiles quite like some “developed” nations today.
Also, why are we taking national averages ? There is stratification of society : the urban and merchant classes in many countries have a much higher Carbon Dioxide emissions count than the poorest in society, even if the countries are wealthy on average.
The wealthy are high emitters, no matter what region of the world they come from.
Much as, in principle, progress could be made in having an 80% majority push through commitments on Global Warming, as part of the United Nations Climate Change negotiations process, some commentators feel highly uneasy that important voices from the international community, based around the emerging Science, could be drowned out by these “big hitters” :-
“July 19-20 2010 : The first-ever Clean Energy Ministerial will bring together ministers and stakeholders from more than 20 countries to collaborate on policies and programs that accelerate the world’s transition to clean energy technologies.”
“UN in fresh bid to salvage international deal on climate change : Campaigners welcome plans to amend the way Kyoto protocol resolutions are passed : The Guardian, Thursday 22 July 2010…If the UN’s [United Nations] suggestions are adopted, decisions will be forced through if four-fifths of the protocol vote in favour, after all efforts to reach agreement by consensus have been exhausted. The amendments would come into force after six months…”It is surprising and a big, big deal that the UN is suggesting such considerable reforms as a change in the consensus rules,” said [Mark] Lynas…In a further attempt to galvanise the climate change body into motion, the UN also suggested that countries could be forced to opt out of any amendments, as opposed to the current arrangement whereby they must explicitly agree to any decisions tabled…The amendment, which will be presented in Bonn in August, reads: “An amendment would enter into force after a certain period has elapsed following its adoption, except for those parties that have notified the depositary that they cannot accept the amendment.”…But Lynas warned that any changes to the current consensus situation would cause “fury, angst and consternation”. It could, he said, exacerbate the deep mistrust between rich and poor countries that has already bedevilled the global climate talks.”…
“Environmentalists have had a disappointing year. The Copenhagen talks fizzled and the economic crisis has overshadowed all other considerations. But the need for countries to repair towering fiscal deficits is an opening for the movement. As treasuries look for ways to raise more revenues, climate change activists should make the case for green taxes.”
So, environmental campaigners should be campaigning for green taxes to plug holes in public deficits caused by crashing banks ?
I think not.
Tax revenue that is collected on the basis of environmental pollution should always be hypothecated, committed to remediation and removal of environmental pollution.
The majority of the populations of the deficit-stricken economies (OK, then, the whole world) are quite right in resisting being locked down into extra taxation at present. Green taxes would be a financial tie too tight for most of the world’s economically stressed.
Green taxes spent on things other than green energy and energy efficiency would be a mockery.
Besides which, only very high levels of green taxation would have any impact on pollution behaviour – the “signal” from green taxes would be lost amongst general economic “instability” (that is, price rises due to other factors).
It’s great to see David Mitchell tucking into a big bite of the “Voluntary Behaviour Change” posse’s pie.
Let’s be honest : nobody wants to stop consuming and burning, but we’re going to have to if the Big Energy companies don’t change the way they provide us with power and fuel.
Yes, guilt is so old-fashioned. You can’t tell the public to change their consumption behaviour, trying to make them feel personally responsible for Climate Change, whilst still providing them with environmentally damaging products.
All electricity should be Renewable, all heating systems Carbon-neutral, all manufactured products Low Carbon.
Until that day, governments will continue to hire Public Relations consultants to convince the public to make different choices, and continue to fail to make any converts.
Image Credit : Gilbert & George, “Nettle Dance”, White Cube
I’m in the Climate Union. Are You ?
Soon we could all be, if the expansionist plans of a group of social campaigners come to fruition.
Taking in the unions, faith communities and the usual rag-tag bunch of issues activists, the Climate Union aims to establish itself as a political force for Low Carbon.
First of all, however, it has to tackle the uneasy and prickly problem of the exact name of the movement, and the principles under which it will operate.
The flag has been flown : a set of principles has been circulated for discussion amongst the “Climate Forum”. I cannot show you the finalised document yet, but I can offer you my comments (see below).
If you want to comment on the development of this emerging entity, please contact : Peter Robinson, Campaign against Climate Change, mobile/cell telephone in the UK : 07876595993.
Comments on the Climate Forum Principles
28 June 2010
I am aware that my comments are going to be a little challenging. I made similar comments during the review of the ClimateSafety briefing, which were highly criticised.
I expect you to be negative in response to what I say, but I think it is necessary to make sure the Climate Forum does not become watered-down, sectorally imprisoned and politically neutered, like so many other campaigns.
America and China are both “Carbon Intensity” first-movers – competing to make commitments that their economic production has falling associated Carbon Dioxide Emissions. The United States, China and Canada all continue to claim that their commitments on Climate Change amount to reductions in “carbon intensity”, rather than actual reductions in levels of emissions. This is a piece of policy propaganda, as proposed by linguistic strategists. A reduced carbon intensity of production would still allow countries to follow a path of economic growth, and increase carbon emissions overall. What is clear is that lower carbon intensities is not enough.
Behavioural economists, who look at both individual behaviour and collective social responses, have concluded a number of useful facts about humankind and its uses of resources. A good summary of what we know is provided by John Gowdy, writing in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 68 in 2008, “Behavioral economics and climate change policy” :-
The international community, in the form of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997, a treaty that was ratified only as late as 2005 after compromises from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for Russia. Global Climate Change negotiations, even before the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 have been beset by recurring problems.
The governments of the world are, by and large, well-informed about Climate Change by their trusted scientific advisers and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, there is a disconnect between this knowledge and concrete policy action. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has not been successful in achieving control of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions through the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Plus, annual negotiations have not reached a form of an agreement to succeed Kyoto, as evidenced by the inconclusive round of talks in December 2009 in Copenhagen. Suggestions of a way forward include a radical re-think about the formulation of the Kyoto Protocol, and the connection of Climate Change to other global concerns.
Kyoto Isn’t Working
For a period during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the world economy appeared to reach a stable point, whereby Carbon Dioxide emissions per person (per capita) levelled off. Many of the world’s major economies were switching fuels – from coal to Natural Gas. And some heavily industrialised countries were going through revolutionary change, and reducing their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions as a result of the ensuing loss of industrial output.