Two false claims on climate change by the IPPR

An IPPR report  This is a crisis: Facing up to the age of environmental breakdown published yesterday, withing a few hours received criticism from Paul Homewood at notalotofpeopleknowthat, Paul Matthews at cliscep and Andrew Montford at The GWPF.  has is based on an April 2018 paper by billionaire Jeremy Grantham. Two major issues, that I want cover in this post are contained in a passage on page 13.

Climate Change : Average global surface temperature increases have accelerated, from an average of 0.007 °C per year from 1900–1950 to 0.025 °C from 1998–2016 (Grantham 2018). ……. Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold (GMO analysis of EM-DAT 2018).

These two items are lifted from an April 2018 paper The Race of Our Lives Revisited by British investor Jeremy Grantham CBE. I will deal with each in turn.

Warming acceleration

The claim concerning how warming has accelerated comes from Exhibit 2 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The claimed Gistemp trends are as follows

1900 to 1958  – 0.007 °C/year

1958 to 2016  – 0.015 °C/year

1998 to 2016  – 0.025 °C/year

Using the Skeptical Science trend calculator for Gistemp I get the following figures.

1900 to 1958  – 0.066 ±0.024 °C/decade

1958 to 2016  – 0.150 ±0.022 °C/decade

1998 to 2016  – 0.139 ±0.112 °C/decade

That is odd. Warming rates seem to be slightly lower for 1998-2016 compared to 1958-2016, not higher. This is how Grantham may have derived the incorrect 1998-2016 figure.

For 1998-2016 the range of uncertainty is 0.003 to 0.025 °C/year.

It would appear that the 1900 to 1958 & 1958 to 2016 warming rates are as from the trend calculator, whilst the 1998 to 2016 warming rate of 0.025 °C/year is at the top end of the 2σ uncertainty range.

Credit for spotting this plausible explanation should go to Mike Jackson.

Increase in climate-related disasters since 1950

The IPPR report states

Since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires sevenfold

Exhibit 7 of The Race of Our Lives Revisited.

The 15 times “Floods” increase is for 2001-2017 compared to 1950-1966.
The 20 times “Extreme Temperature Events” increase is for 1996-2017 compared to 1950-1972.
The 7 times “Wildfires” increase is for 1984-2017 compared to 1950-1983.

Am I alone in thinking there is something a bit odd in the statement about being from 1950? Grantham is comparing different time periods, yet IPPR make it appear the starting point is from a single year?

But is the increase in the data replicated in reality?

Last year I downloaded all the EM-DAT – The International Disasters Database – from 1900 to the present day. Their disaster types I have classified into four categories.

Over 40% are the “climate”-related disaster types from Grantham’s analysis. Note that this lists the number of “occurrences” in a year. If, within a country in a year there is more than one occurrence of a disaster type, they are lumped together.

I have split the number of occurrences by the four categories by decade. The 2010s is only for 8.5 years.

Climate” disasters have increased in the database. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disasters are 65 times more frequent. Similarly epidemics are 47 times more frequent, geological events 16 times and “other” disasters 34 times.

Is this based on reality, or just vastly improved reporting of disasters from the 1980s? The real impacts are indicated by the numbers of reports deaths. 

The number of reported disaster deaths has decreased massively compared to the early twentieth century in all four categories, despite the number of reported disasters increasing many times. Allowing for 8.5 years in the current decade, compared to 1900-1949, “Climate” disaster deaths are down 84%. Similarly epidemic deaths are down by 98% and”other” disasters down by 97%. Geological disaster deaths are, however, up by 27%. The reported 272,431 deaths in the 2010s that I have classified under “Geology” includes the estimated 222,570 estimated deaths in the 2010 Haitian Earthquake.

If one looks at the death rate per reported occurrence, “Climate” disaster death rates have declined by 97.7% between 1900-1949 and the 2010s. Due to the increase in reporting, and the more than doubling of the world population, this decline is most likely understated. 

The Rôle of Progressives in Climate Mitigation

The IPPR describes itself as The Progressive Policy Think Tank. From the evidence of the two issues above they have not actually thought about what they are saying. Rather they have just copied the highly misleading data from Jeremy Grantham. There appears to be no real climate crisis emerging when one examines the available data properly. The death rate from extreme weather related events has declined by at least 97.7% between the first half of the twentieth century  and the current decade. This is a very important point for policy. Humans have adapted to the current climate conditions, just have they have reduced the impact of infectious diseases and are increasingly adapting to the impacts of earthquakes and tsunamis. If the climate becomes more extreme, or sea level rise accelerates significantly humans will adapt as well.

There is a curious symmetry here between the perceived catastrophic problem and the perceived efficacy of the solution. That for governments to reduce global emissions to zero. The theory is that rising human emissions, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels, are going to cause dangerous climate change. Global emissions involve 7600 million people in nearly 200 countries. Whatever the UK does, with less than 1% of the global population and less than 1% of global emissions makes no difference to global emissions.

Globally, there are two major reasons that reducing global emissions will fail.

First is that developing countries, with 80%+ of the global population and 65% of emissions, are specifically exempted from any obligation to reduce their emissions. (see Paris Agreement Articles 2.1(a), 2.2 and 4.1) Based on the evidence of the UNEP Emissions GAP Report 2018, and from the COP24 Katowizce meeting in December, there is no change of heart in prospect.

Second is that the reserves of fossil fuels, both proven and estimated, are both considerable and spread over many countries. Reducing global emissions to zero in a generation would mean leaving in the ground fossil fuels that provide a significant part of government revenue in countries such as Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. Keeping some fossil fuels in the ground in the UK, Canada, Australia or the United States will increase the global prices and thus the production elsewhere.

The IPPR is promoting is costly and ideological policies in the UK, that will have virtually zero benefits for future generations in terms of climate catastrophes averted. In my book such policies are both regressive and authoritarian, based on failing to understand to the distinction between the real very marginal impacts of policy and the theoretical total impacts.

If IPPR, or even the climate academics, gave proper thought to the issue, then they would conclude the correct response will be to more accurately predict the type, timing, magnitude and location of future climate catastrophes. This information will help people on the ground adapt to those circumstances. In the absence of that information, the best way of adapting to changing climate is the same way as people have been able to adapt to extreme events, whether weather or geological. That is through sustained long-term economic growth, in the initial stages promoted by cheap and reliable energy sources. If there is a real environmental breakdown on its way, the Progressives, with their false claims and exaggerations, will be best kept well away from the scene. Their ideological beliefs render them incapable of getting a rounded perspective on the issues and the damage their policies will cause.

Kevin Marshall

Was time running out for tackling CO2 pollution in 1965?

In a recent Amicus Brief it was stated that the Petroleum Industry was told

– CO2 would cause significant warming by the year 2000.
– Time was running out to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution.

The Amicus Brief does not mention

– The Presentation covered legislative impacts on the petroleum industry in the coming year, with a recommendation to prioritize according to the “thermometer of legislative activity”.
– The underlying report was on pollution in general.
– The report concluded CO2 emissions were not controllable at local or even the national level.
– The report put off taking action on climate change to around 2000, when it hoped “countervailing changes by deliberately modifying other processess” would be possible.

The Claim

In the previous post I looked at a recent Amicus Brief that is in the public domain

In this post I look at the following statement. 

Then in 1965, API President Frank Ikard delivered a presentation at the organization’s annual meeting. Ikard informed API’s membership that President Johnson’s Science Advisory Committee had predicted that fossil fuels would cause significant global warming by the end of the century. He issued the following warning about the consequences of CO2 pollution to industry leaders:

This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.

The Ikard Presentation

Note 6 contains a link to the presentation 

6. Frank Ikard, Meeting the challenges of 1966, Proceedings of the American Petroleum Institute 12-15 (1965),

The warning should be looked at in context of the presentation.
– Starts with the massive increase in Bills introduced in the current Congress – more than the previous two Congresses combined.
– Government fact gathering
– Land Law Review
– Oil and Gas Taxation
– Air and Water Conservation where the alleged statement was made above.
– Conclusion

The thrust of the presentation is about how new legislation impacts on the industry. I have transcribed a long quotation from Air and Water Conservation section, where the “time is running out” statement was made.

Air and Water Conservation
The fact that our industry will continue to be confronted with problems of air and water conservation for many years to come is demonstrated by the massive report of the Environment Pollution Panel of the President’s Science Advisory Committee, which was presented to President Johnson over the weekend.
This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.
One of the most important predictions of the report is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere at such a rate that by the year 2000 the heat balance will be so modified as possibly to cause marked changes in climate beyond local or even national efforts. The report further states, and I quote: “… the pollution from internal combustion engines is so serious, and is growing so fast, that an alternative nonpollution means of powering automobiles, buses and trucks is likely to become a national necessity.”
The report, however, does conclude that urban air pollution, while having some unfavourable effects, has not reached the stage where the damage is as great as that associated with cigarette smoking. Furthermore, it does not find that present levels of pollution in air, water, soils and living organisms are such as to be a demonstrated cause of disease or death in people: but it is fearful of the future. As a safeguard it would attempt to assert the right of man to freedom from pollution and to deny the right of anyone to pollute air, land or water.
There are more than 100 recommendations in this sweeping report, and I commend it to your study. Implementation of even some of them will keep local, state and federal legislative bodies, as well as the petroleum and other industries, at work for generations.
The scope of our involvement is suggested, once again, by the thermometer of legislative activity this past year. On the federal level, hearings and committee meetings relating to air and water conservation were held almost continuously. The results, of course, are the Water Quality Act of 1965 and an important amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1963.

My reading is that Ikard is referring to a large report on pollution as a whole, with more 100 recommendations, when saying “time is running out”. However, whether the following paragraph on atmospheric CO2 is related to the urgency claim will depend whether the report treats tackling pollution from atmospheric CO2 with great urgency. Ikard commends the report for study, prioritizing by the “thermometer of legislative activity”.
Further. this Amicus Brief was submitted by a group of academics, namely Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Dr. Geoffrey Supran, Dr. Robert Brulle, Dr. Justin Farrell, Dr. Benjamin Franta and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. When I was at University, I was taught to read the original sources. In his presentation Frank Ikard also commends listeners to study the original document. Yet the Amicus Brief contains no reference to the original document. Instead, they make an opinion based on an initial opinion voiced just after publication.

1965 Report of the Environmental Pollution Panel 

Nowadays, mighty internet search engines can deliver now-obscure documents more quickly than a professional researcher would think where to find the catalogues with a reference in a major library.
I found two sources.
First, from the same website that had the Ikard presentation –
As the filename indicates, it is not a copy of the full report. The contents include a letter from President Johnson; Contents; Acknowledgements; Introduction; and Appendix Y4 – Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Interestingly, it does not include “Climatic Effects of Pollution” on page 9.
Fortunately a full copy of the report is available at;view=1up;seq=5

I have screen-printed President Johnson’s letter and an extract of Page 9, with some comments.

President Johnson made a general reference to air pollution in general, but nothing about the specific impacts of carbon dioxide on climate. Page 9 is more forthcoming.


Carbon dioxide is being added to the earth’s atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas at the rate of 6 billion tons a year. By the year 2000 there will be about 25% more CO2 in our atmosphere than at present. This will modify the heat balance of the atmosphere to such an extent that marked changes in the climate, not controllable though local or even national efforts, could occur. Possibilities of bringing about countervailing changes by deliberately modifying other processes that affect climate may then be very important.

The page 9 paragraph is very short. It makes the prediction that Ikard referred to in his presentation. By 2000, there could be “marked changes in climate not controllable though local or even national efforts”. I assume that there is a typo here, as “not controllable through local or even national efforts” makes more sense.
I interpret the conclusion, in more modern language, is as follows:-
The earth is going to warm significantly due to fossil fuel emissions, which might cause very noticeable changes in the climate by 2000. But the United States, the world’s largest source of those emissions, cannot control those emissions. Around 2000 there might be ways of controlling the climate that will counteract the impact of the higher CO2 levels.

Concluding Comments

Based on my reading of API President Frank Ikard’s presentation, he was not warning about the consequences of CO2 emissions when he stated

This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demands for action. The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.

This initial interpretation is validated by the lack of urgency given in the report to rising tackling possible impacts of rising CO2 levels. Given that Ikard very clearly recommends reading the report, one would have expected over fifty years later for a group of scholars to follow that lead before formulating an opinion.
The report is not of the opinion that “time is running out” for combating the climatic effects of carbon dioxide. It further pushes taking action to beyond 2000, with action on climate seeming to be of a geo-engineering type, rather than adaptation. Insofar as Izard may have implied urgency with respect to CO2, the report flatly contradicts this.
The bigger question is why the report chose not to recommend taking urgent action at the time. This might inform why people of the time did not see rising CO2 as something for which they needed to take action. It is the Appendix Y4 (authored by the leading American climatologists at that time) that makes the case for the impact of CO2 and courses of action to tackle those impacts. In another post I aim to look at the report through the lens of those needing to be convinced. 

Kevin Marshall

Climate Alarmism from Edward Teller in 1959


What caught my interest was the following comment

Researchers Naomi Oreskes and Geoffrey Supran were among those propping up the litigation, which seeks to hold Chevron responsible for the damage climate change has played on city infrastructure.

The link is to an Amicus Brief submitted by Dr. Naomi Oreskes, Dr. Geoffrey Supran, Dr. Robert Brulle, Dr. Justin Farrell, Dr. Benjamin Franta and Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. I looked at the Supran and Oreskes paper Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) in a couple of posts back in September 2017. Professor Lewandowsky on probably gets more mentions on this blog than any other.

The Introduction starts with the following allegation against Chevron

At least fifty years ago, Defendants-Appellants (hereinafter, “Defendants”) had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information or take steps to protect the public. They also acted affirmatively to conceal their knowledge and discredit climate science, running misleading nationwide marketing campaigns and funding junk science to manufacture uncertainty, in direct contradiction to their own research and the actions they themselves took to protect their assets from climate change impacts such as sea level rise.

This are pretty serious allegations to make against a major corporation, so I have been reading with great interest the Amicus Brief and started making notes. As an ardent climate sceptic, I started reading with trepidation. Maybe there would be starkly revealed to me the real truth of climate denial. Instead, it has made very entertaining reading. After a three thousand words of notes and having only got up to 1972 in the story, I have decided to break up the story into a few separate posts.

Edward Teller 1959

The Amicus Brief states

In 1959, physicist Edward Teller delivered the first warning of the dangers of global warming to the petroleum industry, at a symposium held at Columbia University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the industry. Teller described the need to find energy sources other than fossil fuels to mitigate these dangers, stating, “a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

Edward Teller was at the height of his fame, beingcredited with developing the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, and he became known in the United States as “the father of the H-bomb.” At the height of the cold war it must have been quite a coup to have one of the world’s leading physicists and noted anti-communist to give an address. As top executives from all the major oil companies would have been there, I would not sure they would have greeted the claims with rapturous applause. More likely thought the Professor has caught some new religion. They might have afterwards made some inquiries. Although climatology was in its infancy, the oil majors would have teams of geologists, who could make enquiries. The geologists  may have turned up the Revelle and Suess 1957 paper Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 during the Past Decades, 9 Tellus 18 (1957) that is mentioned in the previous paragraph of the Amicus Brief.

Revelle and Suess state in the Introduction

(A) few percent increase in the CO2 content of the air, even if it has occurred, might not produce an observable increase in average air temperature near the ground in the face of fluctuations due to other causes. So little is known about the thermodynamics of the atmosphere that it is not certain whether or how a change in infrared back radiation from the upper air would affect the temperature near the surface. Calculations by PLASS (1956) indicate that a 10% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would increase the average temperature by 0.36oC. But amplifying or feed-back processes may exist such that a slight change in the character of the back radiation might have a more pronounced effect.

So some experts in the field report that it is uncertain how much warming could occur from a small rise in CO2 levels. The only actual estimate is 0.36oC from a 10% rise. So how could that melt the icecap and flood New York? If this was first introduction that oil executives had to the concept of CO2-induced global warming might they have become a little on their guard about any future, more moderate, claims?

They would have been right to be uneasy. 1959 was the first full year CO2 levels were monitored at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The mean CO2 Level for that year was 315.97 ppm. The 10% increase was passed in 1987, and for 2018 the figure was 408.52 ppm, 29.3% higher. The polar icecaps are still in place. From Sea Level Info, tide gauges show linear sea level rises over the last 59 years of  7.6 inches for Washington DC; 6.9 inches for Philadelphia 6.9 inches, and 6.6 inches for Battery at the tip of Lower Manhattan . This assumes a linear rise over 60 years.

The chart for The Battery, NY shows no discernible acceleration in the last 60 years, despite the acceleration in the rate of CO2 rise shown in green. It is the same for the other tide gauges.

The big question here is that 60 years later, what were the authors of the Amicus Brief thinking when they quoted such a ridiculous claim?

Kevin Marshall

Two Contrasting Protests on Climate Change

Yesterday marked two protests related to climate change. One in central London by a group of climate extremists baying for more stringent climate policies. The other right across France demanding the removal of a small additional tax on fuel.

The Climate Extremists

Yesterday a group calling themselves !EXTINCTION REBELLION! had a series of protests around London, including blocking off five major bridges. They have a long history, having been founded almost three weeks ago on Halloween. Their aims are quite clear from a mercifully short video.

It is based on “science“.

The Crux

Even without the other ecological drivers of mass species extinction, natural resource exhaustion and growing human population pressure, human-caused (anthropogenic) climate breakdown alone is enough to wipe out the human species by the end of this century, if governments do not immediately begin to reverse their extractivismand ‘growth’ -based economic policies.

This is why the Extinction Rebellion campaign has at its core a group of activists who are prepared to go to prison for peaceful civil disobedience, to get the necessary media coverage for long enough to leverage the government and the public into war-level mobilisation mode.

When you repeatedly come across the figure of 2 degrees i.e. limiting global warming to 2 degrees, think of what happens to a human body when it experiences a temperature increase of more than 2 degrees.

The recent IPCC SR1.5 was the product of two and a half years trying to come up with scary stories to frighten governments into action. Two examples of the scary headlines from the SPM.

Temperature extremes on land are projected to warm more than GMST (high confidence): extreme hot days in mid-latitudes warm by up to about 3°C at global warming of 1.5°C and about 4°C at 2°C, and extreme cold nights in high latitudes warm by up to about 4.5°C at 1.5°C and about 6°C at 2°C (high confidence). The number of hot days is projected to increase in
most land regions, with highest increases in the tropics (high confidence).

By 2100, global mean sea level rise is projected to be around 0.1 metre lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared to 2°C (medium confidence).

In Britain we will be wiped out by a few 20°C+ hot nights and extra sea level rise of four inches. Maybe we could listen to the 40% of the global population that lives in the tropics.

The “science” section includes this quote from Bill McKibben.

What those numbers mean is quite simple. This industry has announced…in promises to shareholders, that they are determined to burn five times more fossil fuel than the planet’s atmosphere can begin to absorb.

This is not science, but blinkered ideology. Why blinkered? Try going to the CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 Appendix 1 – Cumulative emissions 1988-2015 %. Below are the top 10.

If the !XR! really believe in the climate apocalypse, shouldn’t they be protesting outside the Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Indian Embassies, and inciting rebellion in those countries? Or are they just climate totalitarians trying to wreck the well-being of the British people?

The Carbon Tax Revolt

On the same day in France there were massive nationwide protests after the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol. This lead to the formation of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement that have organised at least 630 protests nationwide. From the website I grabbed the a screenshot map of the protest locations.

These protests became far from peaceful, as frustrated drivers tried to push their way through the protesters. The BBC reports one person killed and 227 killed. The BBC also reports that the 200,000+ protesters are backed by about 75% of the French public.

Yet !EXTINCTION REBELLION! should be supporting the Macron

Lessons for the Climate Extremists

Protests in a single country will not work. Protests in many countries will not work either, as people have other priorities. Further, it is too late to convince countries to sign up to massive cuts in emissions. That opportunity was missed in 1992, when “developing” countries were exempted from any obligation to constrain there emissions. Those countries, with at least 80% of the global population and up to two-thirds of global emissions have shown no inclination to change course. The protests in France show how even very small changes can lead to massive protests. In the UK fuel prices are not raised due to political unpopularity.

If such extremists still believe they are correct in their prophesies, and I am in denial, there are a number of strategies that they can legitimately use to evangelize.

  • Let contrary ideas to their own be evaluated on same unemotive level playing field as their own. In the past on hearing reports of court cases of heinous crimes, I have been convinced more by the daft excuses of the defendant than the prosecution’s evidence.  Alternatively, the overturned terrorist convictions in the 1970s of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six undermined belief in the Rule of Law.  So too with the false climate alarmism undermines my belief in scientific evidence.
  • Rather than accept whatever “science” that the supports alarmism is put out, seek to clarify the likelihood, type, extent, location and timing of coming catastrophes. That way, people can better adapt to changing conditions. The problem here is that predictions of doom are most likely false prophesies.
  • Supporting and encouraging Governments where they are encountering popular opposition. Why were !XR! not in France supporting President Macron? He not only supports the ban on fracking (with maybe 80% of Europe’s frackable gas reserves), but also have banned any fossil fuel extraction on French soil. After all !XR! believe this is a WW2 type emergency. Winston Churchill swallowed his loathing of the Bolsheviks to extinguish the Nazi Empire. Is climate not important enough to seek allies and give them some encouragement in time of need?

Climate alarmists will not accept what I say, as this would threaten their world views. They have plenty of others to fall back on for reassurance, but in reality they are just supporting policies that are net harmful.

Kevin Marshall

Plan B Environmental Activists deservedly lose High Court battle over Carbon Target

Breaking News

From Belfast Telegraph & and Science Matters (my bold)

Lawyers for the charity previously argued the Government should have, in light of the current scientific consensus, gone further than its original target of reducing carbon levels by 2050 to 80% of those present in 1990.

They said the decision not to amend the 2050 target put the UK in breach of its international obligations under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and was influenced by the Government’s belief that a “more ambitious target was not feasible”.

At a hearing on July 4, Jonathan Crow QC told the court: “The Secretary of State’s belief that he needs to have regard to what is feasible, rather than what is necessary, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the scheme of the 2008 Act and must be quashed.

“All of the individual claimants are deeply concerned about climate change.”

The barrister argued the Secretary of State’s “continuing refusal” to amend the 2050 target means the UK is playing “Russian roulette with two bullets, instead of one”.

But, refusing permission for a full hearing, Mr Justice Supperstone said Plan B Earth’s arguments were based on an “incorrect interpretation” of the Paris Agreement.

He said: “In my view the Secretary of State was plainly entitled … to refuse to change the 2050 target at the present time.

In a previous post I wrote that

Taking court action to compel Governments to enforce the Paris Climate Agreement is against the real spirit of that Agreement. Controlling global GHG emissions consistent with 2°C, or 1.5°C is only an aspiration, made unachievable by allowing developing countries to decide for themselves when to start reducing their emissions. ……. Governments wanting to both be players on the world stage and serve their countries give the appearance of taking action of controlling emissions, whilst in substance doing very little. This is the real spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. To take court action to compel a change of policy action in the name of that Agreement should be struck off on that basis.

Now I would not claim Mr Justice Supperstone supports my particular interpretation of the Paris Agreement as an exercise in political maneuvering allowing Governments to appear to be one thing, whilst doing another. But we are both agreed that “Plan B Earth’s arguments were based on an “incorrect interpretation” of the Paris Agreement.

The UNFCCC PDF of the Paris Agreement is here to check. Then check against my previous post, which argues that if the Government acted in the true spirit of the Paris Agreement, it would suspend the costly Climate Change Act 2008 and put efforts into being seen to be doing something about climate change. Why

  • China was praised for joining the emissions party by proposing to stop increasing emissions by 2030.
  • Very few of the INDC emissions will make real large cuts in emissions.
  • The aggregate forecast impact of all the INDC submissions, if fully enacted, will see global  emissions slightly higher than today in 2030, when according to the UNEP emissions GAP report 2017 for 1.5°C warming target they need to be 30% lower in just 12 years time. Paris Agreement Article 4.1 states something that is empirically incompatible with that aim.

In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties,

  • The Paris Agreement allows “developing” countries to keep on increasing their emissions. With about two-thirds of global emissions (and over 80% of the global population), 30% emissions cuts may not be achieved even if all the developed countries cut emissions to zero in 12 years.
  • Nowhere does the Paris Agreement recognize the many countries who rely on fossil fuels for a large part of their national income, for instance in the Middle East and Russia. Cutting emissions to near zero by mid-century would impoverish them within a generation. Yet, with the developing countries also relying on cheap fossil fuels to promote high levels of economic growth for political stability and to meeting the expectations of their people (e.g. Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Turkey) most of the world can carry on for decades whilst some enlightened Governments in the West damage the economic futures of their countries for appearances sake. Activists trying to dictate Government policy through the Courts in a supposedly democratic country ain’t going to change their minds.

Plan B have responded to the judgement. I find this statement interesting.

Tim Crosland, Director of Plan B and former government lawyer, said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed by this ruling and will be lodging an appeal.

‘We consider it clear and widely accepted that the current carbon target is not compatible with the Paris Agreement. Neither the government nor the Committee on Climate Change suggested during our correspondence with them prior to the claim that the target was compatible.

Indeed, it was only in January of this year that the Committee published a report accepting that the Paris Agreement was ‘likely to require’ a more ambitious 2050 target

What I find interesting is that only point that a lawyer has for contradicting Mr Justice Supperstone’s statement that “Plan B Earth’s arguments were based on an “incorrect interpretation” of the Paris Agreement” is with reference to a report by the Committee on Climate Change. From the CCC website

The Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Our purpose is to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.

The Committee is set up for partisan aims and, from its’s latest report, appears to be quite zealous in fulfilling those aims. Even as a secondary source (to a document which is easy to read) it should be tainted. But, I would suggest that to really understand the aims of the Paris Agreement you need to read the original and put it in the context of the global empirical and political realities. From my experience, the climate enlightened will keep on arguing for ever, and get pretty affronted when anyone tries to confront their blinkered perspectives.

Kevin Marshall

Why Plan B’s Climate Court Action should be dismissed


Taking court action to compel Governments to enforce the Paris Climate Agreement is against the real spirit of that Agreement. Controlling global GHG emissions consistent with 2°C, or 1.5°C is only an aspiration, made unachievable by allowing developing countries to decide for themselves when to start reducing their emissions. In the foreseeable future, the aggregate impact of emissions reduction policies will fail to even reduce global emissions. Therefore, costly emissions reductions policies will always end up being net harmful to the countries where they are imposed. Governments wanting to both be players on the world stage and serve their countries give the appearance of taking action of controlling emissions, whilst in substance doing very little. This is the real spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. To take court action to compel a change of policy action in the name of that Agreement should be struck off on that basis. I use activist group Plan B’s case before the British Court to get the British Government to make even deeper emissions cuts than those under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Plan B’s Case at the High court

Last week BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin reported Court action to save young from climate bill.

The campaigners – known collectively as Plan B – argue that if the UK postpones emissions cuts, the next generation will be left to pick up the bill.

It is seeking permission from a judge to launch formal legal action.

The government has promised to review its climate commitments.

A spokesperson said it was committed to tackling emissions.

But Plan B believes ministers may breach the law if they don’t cut emissions deeper – in line with an international agreement made in Paris at the end of 2015 to restrict global temperature rise to as close to 1.5C as possible.

From an obscure website crowdjustice

Plan B claim that the government is discriminating against the young by failing to cut emissions fast enough. During the hearing, they argued that the UK government’s current target of limiting global temperature rises to 2°C was not ambitious enough, and that the target ought to be lowered to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement that the UK ratified in 2015. Justice Supperstone postponed the decision until a later date.

Plan B on their own website state

Plan B is supporting the growing global movement of climate litigation, holding governments and corporations to account for climate harms, fighting for the future for all people, all animals and all life on earth.

What is the basis of discrimination?

The widely-accepted hypothesis is that unless global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reduced to near zero in little more than a generation, global average temperature rise will rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A further hypothesis is that this in turn will cause catastrophic climate change. Consequent on both hypotheses being true gives the case for policy action. Therefore, failure to reduce global GHG emissions will imperil the young.

A further conjecture is that if all signatories to the Paris Agreement fulfil their commitments it is sufficient to prevent 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. There are a number of documents to consider.

First is the INDC submissions (i.e. Nation States communications of their intended nationally determined contributions), collected together at the UNFCCC website. Most are in English.  To find a country submission I suggest clicking on the relevant letter of the alphabet.

Second, to prevent my readers being send on a wild goose chase through small country submissions, some perspective is needed on relative magnitude of emissions. A clear secondary source (but only based on CO2 emissions) BP Data Analysis Global CO2 Emissions 1965-2017. More data on GHG emissions are from the EU Commissions EDGAR Emissions data and the World Resources Institute CAIT Climate Data Explorer.

Third is the empirical scale of the policy issue. The UNEP emissions Gap Report 2017 (pdf), published in October last year is the latest attempt to estimate the scale of the policy issue. The key is the diagram reproduced below.

The total of all commitments will still see aggregate emissions rising into the future. That is, the aggregate impact of all the nationally determined contributions is to see emissions rising well into the future. So the response it to somehow persuade Nations States to change their vague commitments to such an extent that aggregate emissions pathways sufficient to prevent 1.5°C or 2°C of warming?

The relevant way to do this ought to be through the Paris Agreement.

Fourth is the Adoption Paris Agreement itself, as held on the UNFCCC website (pdf).


Paris Agreement key points

I would draw readers to Article 2.1(a)

  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

Article 2.2

  • This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

My interpretation is that the cumulative aggregate reduction will be only achieved by if those countries that (in the light of their national circumstances) fail to follow the aggregate pathways, are offset by other countries cutting their emissions by a greater amount. It is a numbers game. It is not just a case of compelling some countries to meet the 1.5°C pathway but to compel them to exceed it by some margin.

I would also draw readers to Article 4.1

In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

My reading is that any country defined as “developing” has only an aim of reducing emissions after peaking of their emissions. When they choose to do so depends on a number of criteria. There is not clear mechanism for deciding this, and no surrender of decision-making by countries to external bodies.

Implications of the Paris Agreement

Many developing countries emissions are increasing their emissions. They agreement does not compel them to change course in the near future. Empirically that means to achieve the goals the aggregate emission reductions of countries reducing their emissions must be such that they cancel out the emissions increases in the developing countries. Using EDGAR figures for GHG emissions, and the Rio Declaration 1992 for developing countries (called Non-Annex countries) I estimate they accounted for 64% of global GHG emissions in 2012, the latest year available.


All other sources sum to 19 GtCO2e, the same as the emissions gap between the unconditional INDC case and the 1.5°C case. This presents a stark picture. Even if emissions from all other sources are eliminated by 2030, AND the developing countries do not increase their emissions to 2030, cumulative global emissions are very likely to exceed the 1.5°C and the 2°C warming targets unless the developing countries reduce their emissions rapidly after 2030. That is close down fairly new fossil fuel power stations; remove from the road millions of cars, lorries and buses; and reduce the aspirations of the emerging middle classes to improving life styles. The reality is quite the opposite. No new policies are on the horizon that would significantly reduce global GHG emissions, either from the developed countries in the next couple of years, or the developing countries to start in just over a decade from now. Reading the comments in the INDC emissions (e.g. Indonesia, Pakistan, India), a major reason is that these governments are not willing to sacrifice the futures of their young through risking economic growth and political stability to cut their emissions. So rather than Plan B take the UK Government  to a UK Court, they should be persuading those Governments who do not share their views (most of them) of the greater importance of their case. After all, unlike proper pollution (such as smoke), it does not matter where the emissions are generated in relation to the people affected.

It gets worse. It could be argued that the countries that most affected by mitigation policies are not the poorest seeing economic growth and political stability smashed. It is the fossil fuel dependent countries. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimated, said to achieve even 2°C target 75% of proven reserves and 100% of new discoveries must be left in the ground. Using these global estimates and the BP estimated proven reserves of fossil fuels I created the following apportionment by major countries.


The United States has the greatest proven fossil fuel reserves in terms of potential emissions. But if one looks at fossil fuel revenues relative to GDP, it is well down the league table. To achieve emission targets countries such like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkmenistan, Iraq, and Iran must all be persuaded to shut down their down sales of fossil fuels long before the reserves are exhausted, or markets from developing countries dry up. To do this in a generation would decimate their economies. However, given the increase in fossil fuel usage from developing countries, and the failure of developed countries to significantly reduce emissions through policy this hardly seems a large risk.

However, this misses the point. The spirit of the Paris Agreement is not to cut emissions, but to be seen to be doing something about climate change. For instance, China were held up by the likes of President Obama for aiming to both top out its emissions by 2030, and reduce emissions per unit of GDP. The USA and the EU did this decades ago, so China’s commitments are little more than a Business-as-usual scenario. Many other countries emissions reduction “targets” are attainable without much actual policy. For example, Brazil’s commitment is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below 2005 levels in 2030.” It sounds impressive, until one reads this comment under “Fairness and Ambition

Brazil’s current actions in the global effort against climate change represent one of the largest undertakings by any single country to date, having reduced its emissions by 41% (GWP-100; IPCC SAR) in 2012 in relation to 2005 levels.

Brazil intends to reduce emissions by a further 2% compared to 2005 levels. Very few targets are more than soft targets relative to current or projected trends. Yet the outcome of COP21 Paris enabled headlines throughout the world to proclaim a deal had been reached “to limit global warming to “well below” 2C, aiming for 1.5C”. It enables most Governments to juggle being key players on a world stage, have alarmists congratulating them on doing their bit on saving the planet, whilst making sure that serving the real needs of their countries is not greatly impeded. It is mostly win-win as long as countries do not really believe that targets are achievable. This is where Britain has failed. Under Tony Blair, when the fever of climate alarmism at its height, backed up by the political spin of New Labour and a Conservative opposition wanting to ditch its unelectable image, Green activists wrote the Climate Change Act 2008 with the strict targets to be passed. Britain swallowed climate alarmism whole, and now as a country that keep its promises is implementing useless and costly policies. But they have kept some form of moderation in policies until now. This is illustrated by a graphic from a Committee on Climate Change report last week “Reducing UK emissions 2018 – Progress Report to Parliament” (pdf) (and referenced at cliscep)

Whilst emissions have come down in the power sector they are flat in transport, industry and in buildings. Pushing real and deep reductions in these sectors means for young people pushing up the costs of motoring (placing driving a car out of the reach of many), of industry (raising costs relative to the countries – especially the non-policy developing countries) and buildings in a country where planning laws make home-owning unaffordable for many and where costs of renting is very high. This on top of further savings in the power industry will be ever more costly as the law of diminishing returns sets in. Forcing more urgent policy actions will increase the financial and other burdens on the young people of today, but do virtually nothing to reach the climate aspirations of the Paris Agreement due to Britain now having less than 1% of global emissions. The Government could be forced out of political fudging to impose policies that will be net harmful to the young and future generations.

Plan B are using an extreme activist interpretation. As reported in Climate Home News after the postponement.

“The UK is not doing enough,” Tim Crosland, director of Plan B told Climate Home News. “The benchmark target is now out of place. We are arguing that it is a breach of human rights.”

The UK has committed to cut emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, with an aim to limit global temperature rise to 2C.

Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the secretary can revise the target to reflect significant developments in climate change science or in international law or policy.

Plan B want to see the target lowered to be in line with 1.5C, the lower target of the Paris Agreement, which the UK ratified in 2016.

As stated, insofar as the Paris Climate Agreement is a major development of policy, it is one of appearing to do a lot whilst doing very little. By these terms, the stronger case is for repealing the Act, not strengthening its clauses. 

But what if I am wrong on this Paris Agreement being just an exercise in appearances? This then it should be recognized that developing countries will only start to reduce their emissions at some time in the future. By implication, for the world to meet the 1.5°C warming limit, developing countries should be pursuing and emissions reduction pathway much steeper than the 25% reduction between 2015 and 2030 implied in the Emissions GAP Report graphic. It should be at least 50% and nearer 100% in the next decade. Given that the Climate Change Act was brought in so that Britain could lead the world on climate change, Plan B should be looking for a 100% reduction by the end of the year. 

Kevin Marshall


Climate Alarmist Bob Ward’s poor analysis of Research Data

After Christopher Booker’s excellent new Report for the GWPF “Global Warming: A Case Study In Groupthink” was published on 20th February, Bob Ward (Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the LSE) typed a rebuttal article “Do male climate change ‘sceptics’ have a problem with women?“. Ward commenced the article with a highly misleading statement.

On 20 February, the Global Warming Policy Foundation launched a new pamphlet at the House of Lords, attacking the mainstream media for not giving more coverage to climate change ‘sceptics’.

I will lead it to the reader to judge for themselves how misleading the statement is by reading the report or alternatively reading his summary at

At Cliscep (reproduced at WUWT), Jaime Jessop has looked into Ward’s distractive claims about the GWPF gender bias. This comment by Ward particularly caught my eye.

A tracking survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that, in March 2017, 7.6% answered “I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change” or “Climate change is caused entirely caused by natural processes”, when asked for their views. Among men the figure was 8.1%, while for women it was 7.1%.

I looked at the Tracking Survey. It is interesting that the Summary of Key Findings contains no mention of gender bias, nor of beliefs on climate change. It is only in the Wave 21 full dataset spreadsheet that you find the results of the question 22.

Q22. Thinking about the causes of climate change, which, if any, of the following best describes your opinion?
1. Climate change is entirely caused by natural processes
2. Climate change is mainly caused by natural processes
3. Climate change is partly caused by natural processes and partly caused by human activity
4. Climate change is mainly caused by human activity
5. Climate change is entirely caused by human activity
6. I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change.
7. Don’t know
8. No opinion

Note that the first option presented to the questionee is 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1. There may, therefore, be an inbuilt bias in overstating the support for Climate Change being attributed to human activity. But the data is clearly presented, so a quick pivot table was able to check Ward’s results.

The sample was of 2180 – 1090 females and 1090 males. Adding the responses  to “I don’t think there is such a thing as climate change” or “Climate change is caused entirely caused by natural processes” I get 7.16% for females – (37+41)/1090 – and 8.17% for males – (46+43)/1090. Clearly, Bob Ward has failed to remember what he was taught in high school about roundings.

Another problem is that this is raw data. The opinion pollsters have taken time and care to adjust for various demographic factors by adding a weighting to each line. On this basis, Ward should have reported 6.7% for females, 7.6% for males and 7.1% overall.

More importantly, if males tend to be more sceptical of climate change than females, then they will be less alarmist than females. But the data says something different. Of the weighted responses, to those who opted for the most extreme “Climate change is entirely caused by natural processes“, 12.5% were female and 14.5% were male. Very fractionally at the extreme, men are proportionality more alarmist than females than they are sceptical. More importantly, men are slightly more extreme in their opinions on climate change (for or against) than women.

The middle ground is the response to “Climate change is partly caused by natural processes and partly caused by human activity“. The weighted response was 44.5% female and 40.7% male, confirming that men are more extreme in their views than women.

There is a further finding that can be drawn. The projections by the IPCC for future unmitigated global warming assume that all, or the vast majority of, global warming since 1850 is human-caused. Less than 41.6% of British women and 43.2% of British men agree with this assumption that justifies climate mitigation policies.

Below are my summaries. My results are easily replicated for those with an intermediate level of proficiency in Excel.

Learning Note

The most important lesson for understanding data is to analyse that data from different perspectives, against different hypotheses. Bob Ward’s claim of a male gender bias towards climate scepticism in an opinion survey, upon a slightly broader analysis, becomes one where British males are slightly more extreme and forthright in their views than British females whether for or against. This has parallels to my conclusion when looking at the 2013 US study The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science – Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles E. Gignac, Klaus Oberauer. Here I found that rather than the paper’s finding that conspiracist ideation being “associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested”, the data strongly indicated that people with strong opinions on one subject, whether for or against, tend to have strong opinions on other subjects, whether for or against. Like with any bias of perspective, (ideological, religious, gender, race, social class, national, football team affiliation etc.) the way to counter bias is to concentrate on the data. Opinion polls are a poor starting point, but at least they may report on perspectives outside of one’s own immediate belief systems. 

Kevin Marshall

Thomas Fuller on polar-bear-gate at Cliscep

This is an extended version of a comment made at Thomas Fuller’s cliscep article Okay, just one more post on polar-bear-gate… I promise…

There are three things highlighted in the post and the comments that illustrate the Polar Bear smear paper as being a rich resource towards understanding the worst of climate alarmism.

First is from Alan Kendall @ 28 Dec 17 at 9:35 am

But what Harvey et al. ignores is that Susan Crockford meticulously quotes from the “approved canon of polar bear research” and exhorts her readers to read it (making an offer to provide copies of papers difficult to obtain). She provides an entree into that canon- an entree obviously used by many and probably to the fury of polar bear “experts”.

This is spot on about Susan Crockford, and, in my opinion, what proper academics should be aiming at. To assess an area where widely different perspectives are possible, I was taught that it is necessary to read and evaluate the original documents. Climate alarmists in general, and this paper in particular, evaluate in relation collective opinion as opposed to more objective criteria. In the paper, “science” is about support for a partly fictional consensus, “denial” is seeking to undermine that fiction. On polar bears this is clearly stated in relation to the two groups of blogs.

We found a clear separation between the 45 science-based blogs and the 45 science-denier blogs. The two groups took diametrically opposite positions on the “scientific uncertainty” frame—specifically regarding the threats posed by AGW to polar bears and their Arctic-ice habitat. Scientific blogs provided convincing evidence that AGW poses a threat to both, whereas most denier blogs did not.

A key element is to frame statements in terms of polar extremes.

Second, is the extremely selective use of the data (or selective analysis methods) to enable the desired conclusion to be reached. Thomas Fuller has clearly pointed out in the article and restated in the comments with respect to WUWT, the following.

Harvey and his 13 co-authors state that WUWT overwhelmingly links to Crockford. I have shown that this is not the case.

Selective use of data (or selective analysis methods) is common on climate alarmism. For instance

  • The original MBH 98 Hockey-Stick graph used out-of-date temperature series, or tree-ring proxies such as at Gaspe in Canada, that were not replicated by later samples.
  • Other temperature reconstructions. Remember Keith Briffa’s Yamal reconstruction, which relied on one tree for the post-1990 reconstructions? (see here and here)
  • Lewandowsky et al “Moon Hoax” paper. Just 10 out of 1145 survey respondents supported the “NASA faked the Moon Landings” conspiracy theory. Of these just 2 dogmatically rejected “climate”. These two faked/scam/rogue respondents 860 & 889 supported every conspiracy theory, underpinning many of the correlations.
  • Smoothing out the pause in warming in Risbey, Lewandowsky et al 2014 “Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase”. In The Lewandowsky Smooth, I replicated the key features of the temperature graph in Excel, showing how no warming for a decade in Hadcrut4 was made to appear as if there was hardly a cessation of warming.

Third, is to frame the argument in terms of polar extremes. Richard S J Tol @ 28 Dec 17 at 7:13 am

And somehow the information in those 83 posts was turned into a short sequence of zeros and ones.

Not only one many issues is there a vast number of intermediate positions possible (the middle ground), there are other dimensions. One is the strength of evidential support for a particular perspective. There could be little or no persuasive evidence. Another is whether there is support for alternative perspectives. For instance, although sea ice data is lacking for the early twentieth-century warming, average temperature data is available for the Arctic. NASA Gistemp (despite its clear biases) has estimates for 64N-90N.

The temperature data seems to clearly indicate that all of the decline in Arctic sea ice from 1979 is unlikely to be attributed to AGW. From the 1880s to 1940 there was a similar magnitude of Arctic warming as from 1979 t0 2010 with cooling in between. Yet the rate of increase in GHG levels was greater from greater in 1975-2010 than 1945-1975, which was in turn greater than the period decades before.

Kevin Marshall


Valve Turner Micheal Foster’s Climate Necessity Defense

The Climate Necessity Defence for criminal acts to impede the lawful business of the fossil fuel industry cannot be justified. The acts will never of themselves have a significant impact in constraining global greenhouse emissions. In any event, there will always be more than sufficient proven fossil fuel reserves in countries out of the reach of any activist action, or even Government-backed action, to constrain aggregate cumulative fossil fuel emissions to anywhere near the levels commensurate with constraining temperature to 2°C of warming. What it does do is impose immediate harms on the actual victims of the crimes, and harms on the countries in which the crimes are committed. Some of the harms are from benefitting non-policy countries who produce fossil fuels. The conviction last week of climate activist Michael Foster is a clear case study.


The New York Times reports (hattip GWPF) on the conviction by the North Dakota Supreme Court of Seattle resident Michael Foster.

Foster took part in effort on Oct. 11, 2016, to draw attention to climate change by turning off valves on five pipelines that bring Canadian oil south. Foster targeted the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota. Other activists targeted pipelines in Minnesota, Montana and Washington state.

A jury in North Dakota’s Pembina County on Friday convicted Foster after a weeklong trial of criminal mischief, criminal trespass and conspiracy. He faces up to 21 years in prison when he’s sentenced Jan. 18. The man who filmed his protest action, Samuel Jessup of Winooski, Vermont, was convicted of conspiracy and faces up to 11 years.

What I found interesting was the next sentence.

Foster had hoped to use a legal tactic known as the climate necessity defense — justifying a crime by arguing that it prevented a greater harm from happening.

The Climate Disobedience Center in its article for activists on the climate necessity defense says

The basic idea behind the defense — also known as a “choice of evils,” “competing harms,” or “justification” defense — is that the impacts of climate change are so serious that breaking the law is necessary to avert them.

Foster had his action filmed, shown from 2.07 here.

Keystone Pipeline. North Dakota. I’m Michael Foster. In order to preserve life as we know it and civilization, give us a fair chance and our kids a fair chance, I’m taking this action as a citizen. I am duty bound.

This was a significant action. The video quotes Reuters news agency.

Was this action “preserving life as we know it“? In shutting down the pipeline, (along with four pipelines others in the coordinated action) 590,000 barrels of oil failed to be transported from Canada to the USA that morning. It was merely delayed. If the pipelines are working at full capacity it would maybe have been transported by rail instead. Or more produced in the USA. Or more imported from the Middle East. But suppose that those 590,000 barrels (83000 tonnes) had been left in the ground, never to be extracted, rather than delaying production. What is the marginal difference that it would make climate change?

From the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016 (full report), I find that global oil production in 2015 was around 92 million barrels per day, or 4362 million tonnes in the full year. Global production would have been 0.6% lower on Oct. 11, 2016 or 0.002% lower in the full year. Yet there is plenty of the stuff in the ground. Proven global reserves are around 50.7 years of global production. Leaving 590,000 barrels in the ground will reduce proven reserves by around 0.000038%. That is less than one part in a million of proven oil reserves. Yet in the last few years, proven reserves have been increasing, as extraction techniques keep improving. This despite production climbing as well. 2015 production was 21% higher than in 2000 and 56% higher than in 1985. Proven reserves in 2015 were 30% higher than in 2000 and 112% higher than in 1985.

I have divided up those 50.7 years of reserves by major areas.

The effect of turning off the oil pipeline is posturing unless it shuts down oil production in Canada and the USA. But that would still leave over 40 years of proven reserves elsewhere. Are Russia and Middle Eastern countries going to shut down their production because of the criminal acts of a few climate activists in the USA?

But oil is not the only major fossil fuel. Production of coal in 2015 was 3830 Million tonnes of oil equivalent, 88% of oil production. Proven coal reserves are 123 years of current production. Further, if oil prices rise to the levels seen over the last few years, it will become economic to convert more coal to liquids, a process which consumes four to five times the CO2 of burning oil.

Are China, Russia, India, Australia, Ukraine, Indonesia, South Africa and many other countries going to shut down their production because of the criminal acts of a few climate activists in the USA?

The third major fossil fuel is gas. Production in 2015 was 3200 million tonnes of oil equivalent, 73% of oil production. Proven reserves are equivalent to 52.8 years of current production levels.

The reserves are slightly more centralized than for oil or coal. Like with oil, a large part of available reserves are concentrated in Russia and the Middle East.

Leaving 590,000 barrels in the ground would reduce proven reserves of fossil fuels by around one part in ten million.

The 50+ years of proven reserves of oil and gas, and 120+ years of proven reserves of coal needs to be put into a policy context. The IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report gave a very rough guide to how much CO2 (or equivalent greenhouse gases) could be emitted to limit warming to less than 2°C. From 2012 it was 1000 GtCO2e.

With emissions in 2011 at around 50 GtCO2e, that gave 20 years. From next year that will be less than 15 years. The recent paper “Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C” (hereafter Millar et. al 2017) reevaluated the figures, with the 1.5°C not being breached for a further 20 years. Whatever way you look at the figures, most of the proven fossil fuels in the world will have to be left in the ground. That requires the agreement of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkmenistan, China, India, Venezuela, alongside USA, Canada, Australia and a large number of other countries.

Further, there can be no more extractions of fossil fuels from unproven reserves, which will likely exceed the proven reserves.

The efforts of Micheal Foster and his mates could incite further criminal acts. But massive lawbreaking throughout the United States, it would still be insufficient in the USA to significantly dent the production and distribution of fossil fuels in the USA. Even if that happened, there are plenty of other countries who would willingly meet the existing demand. All that the action is likely to do is push up the costs of production and distribution in the USA, harming the US economy and the futures of people involved in the fossil fuel industries and energy-intensive industries.

It is the aspect of failing to make a significant marginal difference through the action – that is in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions – than renders the climate necessity defense void. Even if large numbers of other actions are inspired by Foster and others, it would still be insufficient to get anywhere close to the constraint in emissions to constrain warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. On a larger scale, even if all major Western economies shut down all fossil fuel production and consumption immediately, it would merely delay by a few years the cumulative aggregate emissions from 2012 onwards exceeding 1000 GtCO2e.

It gets worse. A particular case must be decided on the damage caused to the victims of the crime. In this case the owners of the pipeline, the employees of the business, the customers who do not get their oil, etc. If there are beneficiaries, it is the billions of people in generations to come. The marginal difference to the victims of the action is tangible and has happened. The marginal difference to the beneficiaries is imperceptible and even then based on belief in what amount to nothing more than pseudo-scientific prophecies. But given that a shut-down of production in the USA is likely to be met by increased production elsewhere even these future dispersed and speculated benefits are unlikely to accrue.

More broadly, if specific people need to have their immediate interests sacrificed for the greater good, surely that is the function of Government, not some wayward activists? In that way the harms could be more equitably distributed. With random acts of criminality, the harms are more likely to be based on the prejudices on the activists.


The Climate Necessity Defence is an invalid justification for the criminal actions of Michael Foster and others in shutting down the oil pipelines from Canada into the USA. The marginal impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the action, if they were not made up by increased production elsewhere, is about one part in ten million. But given that most of the global proven fossil fuel reserves are concentrated in a small number of countries – many of whom have no commitment to reduce emissions, let alone leave the source of major revenues in the ground – the opportunity of producing more is likely to be taken up. Further, the harms the activist’s action is immediate, very definite and concentrated, whilst the benefits of reduced climate change impacts from reduced emissions are speculative and dispersed over tens of billions of people. 

Kevin Marshall

Larson C ice-shelf break-away is not human-caused but Guardian tries hard to imply otherwise

A couple of days ago the BBC had an article Giant iceberg splits from Antarctic.

The giant block is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 sq km; that’s about a quarter the size of Wales.

A US satellite observed the berg on Wednesday while passing over a region known as the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

Scientists were expecting it. They’d been following the development of a large crack in Larsen’s ice for more than a decade.

The rift’s propagation had accelerated since 2014, making an imminent calving ever more likely.

After looking at various evidence the BBC concludes

“Most glaciologists are not particularly alarmed by what’s going on at Larsen C, yet. It’s business as usual.”

Researchers will be looking to see how the shelf responds in the coming years, to see how well it maintains a stable configuration, and if its calving rate changes.

There was some keen interest a while back when the crack, which spread across the shelf from a pinning point known as the Gipps Ice Rise, looked as though it might sweep around behind another such anchor called the Bawden Ice Rise. Had that happened, it could have prompted a significant speed-up in the shelf’s seaward movement once the berg came off.

As it is, scientists are not now expecting a big change in the speed of the ice.

That is the theory about a link with accelerating global warming is no longer held due to lack of evidence. But the Guardian sees things differently.

Unlike thin layers of sea ice, ice shelves are floating masses of ice, hundreds of metres thick, which are attached to huge, grounded ice sheets. These ice shelves act like buttresses, holding back and slowing down the movement into the sea of the glaciers that feed them.

“There is enough ice in Antarctica that if it all melted, or even just flowed into the ocean, sea levels [would] rise by 60 metres,” said Martin Siegert, professor of geosciences at Imperial College London and co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change & Environment. 

Despite the lack of evidence for the hypothesis about accelerating ice loss due to glaciers slipping into the sea the Guardian still quotes the unsupported hypothesis. Then the article has a quote from someone who seems to extend the hypothesis to the entire continent. Inspection of their useful map of the location of Larson C might have been helpful.

Larsen C is located mid-way up the Antarctic Peninsula, which comprises around 2% of the area of Antarctica. The Peninsula has seen some rapid warming, quite unlike East Antarctica where very little warming has been detected. That is the Antarctic Peninsula is climatically different from the vast majority of the continent, where nearly all of the ice mass is located.

The article the goes on to contradict the implication with climate change, so the quote is out of context.

Andrew Shepherd, professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, agreed. “Everyone loves a good iceberg, and this one is a corker,” he said. “But despite keeping us waiting for so long, I’m pretty sure that Antarctica won’t be shedding a tear when it’s gone because the continent loses plenty of its ice this way each year, and so it’s really just business as usual!”

However, the Guardian then slips in another out of context quote at the end of the article.

The news of the giant iceberg comes after US president Donald Trump announced that the US will be withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate accord – an agreement signed by more than 190 countries to tackle global warming. 

Another quote from the BBC article helps give more perspective.

How does it compare with past bergs?

The new Larsen berg is probably in the top 10 biggest ever recorded.

The largest observed in the satellite era was an object called B-15. It came away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 and measured some 11,000 sq km. Six years later, fragments of this super-berg still persisted and passed by New Zealand.

In 1956, it was reported that a US Navy icebreaker had encountered an object of roughly 32,000 sq km. That is bigger than Belgium. Unfortunately, there were no satellites at the time to follow up and verify the observation.

It has been known also for the Larsen C Ice Shelf itself to spawn bigger bergs. An object measuring some 9,000 sq km came away in 1986. Many of Larsen’s progeny can get wound up in a gyre in the Weddell sea or can be despatched north on currents into the Southern Ocean, and even into the South Atlantic.

A good number of bergs from this sector can end up being caught on the shallow continental shelf around the British overseas territory of South Georgia where they gradually wither away.

Bigger events have happened in the past. It is only due to recent technologies that we are able to measure the break-up of ice shelves, or even to observe icebergs the size of small countries.

Note that the Guardian graphic is sourced from Swansea University. Bloomberg has a quote that puts the record straight.

Although this is a natural event, and we’re not aware of any link to human-induced climate change,” said Martin O’Leary, a glaciologist at Swansea University, in a statement.

Kevin Marshall