Jeremy Corbyn needs to do the Maths on Boundary Commission Proposals

In my previous post I noted how some Labour MPs were falsely claiming that the Boundary Commission’s recommendations for England and Wales were party-political gerrymandering. Labour Party Leader, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP makes a quite different claim to some of his more desperate MPs.

Corbyn claims that since last December (which the Boundary Commission used as a basis of the boundary changes) the electorate has grown by two million people. That is nearly 5% of the electorate. As a result of the wrong figures “you cannot deliver a fair and democratic result on the basis of information that is a year out of date.
Actually it is possible for it to be fair and democratic if the growth in the electorate is evenly spread across the country. That should be a default position that Corbyn needs to disprove. The question is, how much would the imbalance have to be to wipe out the disadvantage Labour gets from the boundary review – a disadvantage due to current 231 Labour seats in England and Wales having on average 3515 fewer constituents than the 329 Conservative seats in May 2015. Let us do the maths, ignoring the 13 seats held by other parties and the Speaker. To even up average constituency size Labour constituencies would need about 812,000 extra voters (231 x 3515), and for the rest of the two million to be evenly spread between the other 560 constituencies. That is about 2120 extra voters. It is not impossible that the average Labour constituency has added 5635 to the electoral roll (>8% extra) and the average Conservative constituency has added 2120 to the electoral roll (<3% extra). Winning the millions on Lotto is not impossible either. But both are highly unlikely, as the reason for the Boundary Review is that Constituency sizes have diverged, with greater growth in the South of England than in the North of England and Wales. So like other Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyns’ opposition to the Boundary Commission’s proposals seem to be opposition to greater equality and fairness in the British democratic processes.
Two graphs to illustrate this point. Figure 1 from the previous post shows the average constituency size by party and region.

Figure 4 from the previous post shows that average constituency size per region is made much closer to the average constituency size for England and Wales in the proposed changes.


Kevin Marshall

Are the Proposed Boundary Changes Designed to hurt the Labour Party?

Yesterday the proposed new boundaries for England and Wales were published by the Boundary Commission. Nationally the total number of constituencies will be reduced from 650 to 600, still leaving Britain with one of the largest number of representatives of any democratic parliament. In England the reduction is from 533 to 501 and in Wales from 40 to 29. The UK Polling Report website reports

The changes in England and Wales result in the Conservatives losing 10 seats, Labour losing 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats losing 4 and the Greens losing Brighton Pavilion (though notional calculations like these risk underestimating the performance of parties with isolated pockets of support like the Greens and Lib Dems, so it may not hit them as hard as these suggest).

The Guardian Reports under the banner Boundary changes are designed to hurt us at next election, says Labour MP

Jon Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister leading the process for Labour, said the party was convinced the proposals were motivated by party politics.

The Manchester Evening News carries this comment

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, accused the Conservatives of ‘old-fashioned gerrymandering’.
I will contest these proposals, because I believe they are a naked attempt to increase the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party at the expense of coherent parliamentary representation,” he said.

This are quite a serious claim to make, particularly as the Boundary Commission clearly states

The Boundary Commission for England is the independent and impartial body that is considering where the boundaries of the new constituencies should be. We must report to Parliament in September 2018.
In doing so, we have to ensure that every new constituency has roughly the same number of electors: no fewer than 71,031 and no more than 78,507. While proposing a set of boundaries which are fairer and more equal, the Commission will also try to reflect geographic factors and local ties. The Commission will also look at the boundaries of existing constituencies and local government patterns in redrawing the map of parliamentary constituency boundaries across England.
In undertaking the 2018 Review, we rely heavily on evidence from the public about their local area. Though we have to work within the tight electorate thresholds outlined above, we seek to recommend constituency boundaries that reflect local areas as much as we can. You can find more detailed guidance in our Guide to the 2018 Review.

I thought I would look at the figures myself to see whether the Boundary Commission has done a fair job overall, or has basically lied, providing a deliberately partisan result, that the UK Polling Report has been complicit in supporting.
For previous posts I downloaded the results of the May 2015 General Election by constituency. I then spilt the results into the regions of England and Wales.
Figure 1 shows the average size of constituency by Region and Party. Spk is the Speaker of the House of Commons.

On average the Conservative held constituencies had 3815 more voters in than Labour held ones. But there are large regional differences. Figure 2 shows the number of constituencies by region and political party.

In the South East and South West, where Labour have larger average constituency sizes they have very few seats. In these regions, the regional average seat size is greater than the England and Wales average, so there will be proportionately less seat reductions. The Conservatives, with the vast majority of seats in these regions do not lose from a reduction in the national total and a more equitable distribution. In the East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humber, Labour are well represented, but have smaller average seat sizes than the Conservatives. In the North West and in Wales Labour are well represented, the average seat sizes in Labour seats are similar to Conservative seats, but the regional average seat sizes are smaller than the England and Wales average. Smaller average seat sizes in these regions will hit Labour harder than the Conservatives due to Labour’s higher representation.
The only exception to the England and Wales picture is London. The region has larger than average constituencies at present, the average constituency size of Labour constituencies is bigger than Conservative constituencies and over 60% of the 73 constituencies are Labour held. But still the region and Labour lose seats, though proportionately less than elsewhere.
The effect of the revisions in shown in the average seat size. In Figure 3 with less seats the average seat size increases, but in some regions by far more than others, resulting in much less regional variation from the proposed boundary changes.

Figure 4 emphasizes the more even distribution of seat size. Currently, the variation of average constituency by region from England and Wales average is between -14740 (Wales) and +4517 (South East). Under the proposals, the variation is between -1160 (East Midlands) and + 2135 (London).

In London’s case it could be argued for another two constituencies, but this is hardly significant. Also, given that London MPs spend their week far nearer to their constituents than any other region, an extra 2-3% of people to represent is hardly a burden.
Finally I have done my own estimated impact on Labour, Conservative and Green seats based on changes in regional seat average sizes in Figure 5. If though I do not include the Lib-Dems, the results are very similar to UK Polling Report. The much more even (and therefore fairer) distribution of seats, along with a modest reduction in the total, disadvantages the Labour Party far more than the Conservatives, despite having two-thirds of the seats.

The Labour Party MPs who are doubting the independence of the Boundary Commission should apologize. The evidence is clearly against them.

Kevin Marshall

Going for Brexit or denying the EU Referendum

The Rt Hon David Davies MP and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU gave an update to the House of Commons today. He made quite clear what Brexit means

Naturally, people want to know what Brexit will mean.
Simply, it means the UK leaving the European Union. We will decide on our borders, our laws, and taxpayers’ money.
It means getting the best deal for Britain – one that is unique to Britain and not an ‘off the shelf’ solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe – but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services.

He went on to lay out the principles on which Britain would proceed.

…as we proceed, we will be guided by some clear principles. First, as I said, we wish to build a national consensus around our position. Second, while always putting the national interest first, we will always act in good faith towards our European partners. Third, wherever possible we will try to minimise any uncertainty that change can inevitably bring. And, fourth, crucially, we will – by the end of this process – have left the European Union, and put the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.

On other words Britain will Brexit is in a very British fashion.

– It will be from principles, not from specific objectives or adhering to specific rules.
– Britain will act honourably, something that the British have long been known for commercial dealings.
– It will recognize that other EU members have interests as well. The outcome being aimed for is where Britain’s relationship to the EU is based on co-operation and trade where both sides are net winners.
– At the end of the process Britain will have a more sovereign Parliament. That is, the democratically elected Government will be able to decide the future course of country, for better or worse.

Text is at ConservativeHome
Emily Thornberry MP, speaking for the Labour Party, gave a somewhat different perspective from about 13:10

– Strategy consists of clearly laid out and concrete plan.
– There are areas of policy that should placed outside of the scope of a sovereign Parliament, such “workers rights” and guarantees for EU Nationals currently resident in the UK.
– A “positive vision” consists of definite objectives.
– You listen to outside gloomy prophesies that support your perspective.
– The Government are now rushing to start negotiation, without a well-thought plan. Given that the Government is delaying triggering Article 50 until 2017, the means she is wanting a slower pace. But on 24th June when the referendum result was announced, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was all for triggering Article 50 straight away. Is this another open split with the Labour Leader, or an about-face in Labour policy?
– Article 50 should not be triggered without a parliamentary vote to authorize.

On triggering Article 50 David Davies pointed out 20.35 there was a referendum bill that went through the House of Commons, and was voted for 6 to 1. Emily Thornberry voted in favour. It was made perfectly clear by the then Foreign Secretary at the time that the EU referendum was not a consultation, or an advice to parliament, but a decision by the electorate. The words of the Act do not state that, but people were lead to believe that in the campaign. Most importantly Will Straw, leader of Britain Stronger in Europe (the official Remain campaign) said the decision was for the voters.

On 23rd June you will get to vote on the EU Referendum and decide whether Britain remains in or leaves Europe.

Apart from the inaccuracy of naming the decision as whether to leave the geographical continent rather than the political organisation, the statement could not be clearer. Yet the losers in the Referendum want to re-interpret the meaning of the result.

Kevin Marshall

Guardian Images of Global Warming Part 2 – A Starved Dead Polar Bear

In the Part 2 of my look at Ashley Cooper’s photographs of global warming published in The Guardian on June 3rd I concentrate on the single image of a dead, emaciated, polar bear.
The caption reads

A male polar bear that starved to death as a consequence of climate change. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt their main prey, seals. Western fjords of Svalbard which normally freeze in winter, remained ice free all season during the winter of 2012/13, one of the worst on record for sea ice around the island archipelago. This bear headed hundreds of miles north, looking for suitable sea ice to hunt on before it finally collapsed and died.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has monthly maps of sea ice extent. The Western Fjords were indeed ice free during the winter of 2012/13, even in March 2013 when the sea ice reaches a maximum. In March 2012 Western Fjords were also ice free, along with most of the North Coast was as well.  The maps are also available for March of 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. It is the earliest available year that seems to have the minimum extent. Screen shots of Svarlbard are shown below.

As the sea ice extent has been diminishing for years, maybe this had impacted on the polar bear population? This is not the case. A survey published late last year, showed that polar bear numbers has increased by 42% between 2004 and 2015 for Svarlbard and neighbouring archipelagos of Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya.

Even more relevantly, studies have shown that the biggest threat to polar bear is not low sea ice levels but unusually thick spring sea ice. This affects the seal population, the main polar bear food source, at the time of year when the polar bears are rebuilding fat after the long winter.
Even if diminishing sea ice is a major cause of some starvation then it may have been a greater cause in the past. There was no satellite data prior to the late 1970s when the sea ice levels started diminishing. The best proxies are the average temperatures. Last year I looked at the two major temperature data sets for Svarlbard, both located on the West Coast where the dead polar bear was found. It would appear that there was a more dramatic rise in temperatures in Svarlbard in the period 1910-1925 than in period since the late 1970s. But in the earlier warming period polar bear numbers were likely decreasing, continuing into later cooling period. Recovery in numbers corresponds to the warming period. These changes have nothing to do with average temperatures or sea ice levels. It is because until recent decades polar bears were being hunted, a practice that has largely stopped.

The starvation of this pictured polar bear may have a more mundane cause. Polar bears are at the top of the food chain, relying on killing fast-moving seals for food. As a polar bear gets older it slows down, due to arthritis and muscles not working as well. As speed and agility are key factors in catching food, along with a bit of luck, starvation might be the most common cause of death in polar bears.

Kevin Marshall

Guardian Images of Global Warming Part 1 – Australian Droughts

On Friday June 3rd the Guardian presented some high quality images with the headline

Droughts, floods, forest fires and melting poles – climate change is impacting Earth like never before. From the Australia to Greenland, Ashley Cooper’s work spans 13 years and over 30 countries. This selection, taken from his new book, shows a changing landscape, scarred by pollution and natural disasters – but there is hope too, with the steady rise of renewable energy.

The purpose is to convince people that human-caused climate change is happening now, to bolster support for climate mitigation policies. But the real stories of what the pictures show is quite different.  I will start with three images relating to drought in Australia.

Image 5

Forest ghosts: Lake Eildon in Victoria, Australia was built in the 1950’s to provide irrigation water, but the last time it was full was in 1995. The day the shot was taken it was at 29% capacity with levels down around 75ft.

Data from Lake Eildon (which is accessible with a simple search of Lake Eildon capacity) links to a graph where up to 7 years of data can be compared.

In 1995 the dam was not at full capacity, but it was full, for a short period, in the following year. However, more recently after the recent drought broke, in 2011 the reservoir was pretty much full for all the year.

But were the low levels due to more extreme drought brought on by climate change? That is very difficult to determine, as Lake Eildon is an artificial lake, constructed to provide water for irrigation occasional hydro-electric power as well as recreational facilities. The near empty levels at the end of the biggest drought in many decades could be just due a failure to predict the duration of the drought, or simply a policy of supplying irrigation water for the maximum length of time. The fact that water levels never reached full capacity for many years is indicated by a 2003 article in The Age

The dam wall at Lake Eildon, Victoria’s biggest state-run water storage, has been declared unsafe and will need a $30 million upgrade if the lake is to be refilled.

The dam, which is at its lowest level since being completed in 1956, will be restricted to just 65 per cent capacity because it no longer meets safety standards for earthquakes and extreme floods.

Image 6

Forest destroyed by bush fires near Michelago, New South Wales, Australia.

The inference is that this is caused by global warming.

According to Munich Re

The majority of bushfires in southeast Australia are caused by human activity

Bushfire is the only natural hazard in which humans have a direct influence on the hazard situation. The majority of bushfires near populated areas are the consequence of human activity. Lightning causes the smaller portion naturally. Sometimes, a carelessly discarded cigarette or a glass shard, which can focus the sun’s rays is all it takes to start a fire. Heat from motors or engines, or electric sparks from power lines and machines can ignite dry grass. Besides this accidental causes, a significant share of wildfires are started deliberately.

Humans also change the natural fire frequency and intensity. They decrease the natural fire frequency due to deliberate fire suppression near populated areas. If there is no fuel-reduction burning in forests for the purposes of fire prevention, large quantities of combustible material can accumulate at ground level.

Surface fires in these areas can become so intense due to the large amounts of fuel that they spread to the crowns of the trees and rapidly grow into a major fire. If humans had not intervened in the natural bushfire regime, more frequent low-intensity fires would have consumed the forest undergrowth and ensured that woodland grasses and scrubs do not proliferate excessively.

David Evans expands on the issue of fuel load in a 2013 article.

Like with the water levels in an artificial lake, forest fires are strongly influenced by the management of those forests. Extinguishing forest fires before they have run their natural course results in bigger and more intense fires at a later date. More frequent or intense droughts would not change this primary cause of many horrific forest fire disasters seen in recent years.

Image 7

Where has all the water gone?: Lake Hume is the largest reservoir in Australia and was set up to provide irrigation water for farms further down the Murray Basin and drinking water for Adelaide. On the day this photograph was taken it was at 19.6% capacity. By the end of the summer of 2009 it dropped to 2.1 % capacity. Such impacts of the drought are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. The last time the water was anywhere near this road bridge was 10 years ago, rendering this no fishing sign, somewhat redundant.

Again this is old data. Like for Lake Eildon, it is easy to construct graphs.

Following the end of the drought, the reservoir came back to full capacity. Worsening drought is only apparent to those who look over a short time range.

When looking at drought in Australia, Dorothea Mackellar’s 1908 poem “My Country” provides some context. Written for a British audience, the poem begins

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains

To understand the difference that human-caused climate change is having on the climate first requires an understanding of natural climatic variation over multiple time-scales. It then requires an understanding of how other human factors are influencing the environment, both intended and unintended.

Kevin Marshall

Britain Stronger in Europe Letter

I received a campaign letter from Britain Stronger in Europe today headed


Putting the “RE:” in front is a bit presumptuous. It is not a reply to my request. However, I believe in looking at both sides of the argument, so here is my analysis. First the main points in the body of the letter:-

  1. JOBS – Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our exports to the EU.
  2. BUSINESSES – Over 200,000 UK Businesses trade with the EU, helping them create jobs in the UK.
  3. FAMILY FINANCES – Leaving the EU will cost the average UK household at least £850 a year, and potentially as much as £1,700, according to research released by the London School of Economics.
  4. PRICES – Being in Europe means lower prices in UK shops, saving the average UK household over £350 a year. If we left Europe, your weekly shop would cost more.
  5. BENEFITS vs COSTS – For every £1 we put into the EU, we get almost £10 back through increased trade, investment, jobs, growth and lower prices.
  6. INVESTMENT – The UK gets £66 million of investment every day from EU countries – that’s more than we pay to be a member of the EU.

The first two points are facts, but only show part of the picture. The UK not only exports to the EU, but also imports. Indeed there is a net deficit with the EU, and a large deficit in goods. It is only due to a net surplus in services – mostly in financial services based in the City of London – that the trade deficit is not larger. The ONS provides a useful graphic illustrating both the declining share of exports to the EU, and the increasing deficit, reproduced below.

No one in the UK is suggesting that Brexit would mean a decline in trade, and it would be counter-productive for the EU not to reach a trade agreement with an independent UK when the EU has this large surplus.

The impact on FAMILY FINANCES is based upon the Centre for Economic Performance, an LSE affiliated organisation. There is both a general paper and a technical paper to back up the claims. They are modelled estimates of the future, not facts. The modelled costs assume Britain exits the European Union without any trade agreements, despite this being in the economic interests of both the UK and the EU. The report also does a slight of hand in estimating the contributions the UK will make post Brexit. From page 18 the technical paper

We assume that the UK would keep contributing 83% of the current per capita contribution as Norway does in order to remain in the single market (House of Commons, 2013). This leads to a fiscal saving of about 0.09%.

The table at the foot of report page 22 (pdf page 28) gives the breakdown of the estimate from 2011 figures. The Norway figures are gross and have a fixed cost element. The UK economy is about six times that of Norway, so would not end up spending nearly as much per capita even on the same basis. The UK figures are also a net figure. The UK pays into the EU twice as much as it gets out. Ever since joining the Common Market in 1973 Britain has been the biggest loser in terms of net contributions, despite the rebates that Mrs Thatcher secured with much effort in the 1980s.

The source of the PRICES information is again from the Centre for Economic Performance, but again with no direct reference. I assume it is from the same report, and forms part of the modelled forecast costs.

The BENEFITS vs COSTS statement is not comparing like with like. The alleged benefits to the UK are not all due to being a member of a club, but as a consequence of being an open economy trading with its neighbours. A true BENEFITS vs COSTS comparison would be future scenarios of Brexit vs Remain. Leading economist Patrick Minford has published a paper for the Institute of Economic Affairs, who finds there is a net benefit in leaving, particularly when likely future economic growth is taken into account.

The INVESTMENT issue is just part of the BENEFITS vs COSTS statement. So, like with the PRICES statement it is making one point into two.

 In summary, Britain Stronger in Europe claims I need to know six facts relevant to the referendum decision, but actually fails to provide a one. The actual facts are not solely due to the UK being a member of the European Union, whilst the relevant statements are opinions on modelled future scenarios that are unlikely to happen. The choice is between a various possible future scenarios in the European Union and possible future scenarios outside. The case for remain should be proclaiming the achievements of the European Union in making a positive difference to the lives of the 500 million people in the 28 States, along with future pathways where it will build on these achievements. The utter lack of these arguments, in my opinion, is the strongest argument for voting to leave.

Kevin Marshall


Copy of letter from Britain Stronger in Europe

Climate Interactive’s Bogus INDC Forecast


Joe Romm wrote a post in early November claiming UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres had misled the public in claiming that the “INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100”. Using Climate Interactive’s figures Romm claims the correct figure is 3.5°C. That Romm had one of two sources of the 2.7°C staring at him is a side issue. The major question is how Climate Interactive can achieve a full 1.0°C reduction in expected temperature rise in 2100 and a reduction of 40% in 2100 GHG emissions from pledges covering the period 2015, when the UNFCCC estimates will have a much smaller impact in 2030? Looking at the CO2 emissions, which account for 75-80% of GHG emissions, I have found the majority answer. For OECD countries where emissions per capita have been stable or falling for decades, the “No Action” scenario forecasts that they will rise for decades. For Russia and China, where per capita emissions are likely to peak before 2030 without any policy action, the “No Action” scenario forecasts that they will rise for decades. This is largely offset by Climate Interactive assuming that both emissions and economic growth in India and Africa (where there are no real attempts to control emissions) will stagnate in the coming decades. Just by making more reasonable CO2 emissions forecasts for the OECD, Russia and China can account for half of the claimed 2100 reduction in GHG emissions from the INDC. Climate Interactive’s “No Action” scenario is bogus.


Joe Romm’s use of the Climate Interactive projection

A couple of months ago, prior to the COP21 Paris climate talks, Joe Romm at Climate Progress criticized the claim made in a press release by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres:

The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs

Romm’s note to the media is

If countries go no further than their current global climate pledges, the earth will warm a total of 3.5°C by 2100.

At a basic level Romm should have done some proper research. As I found out, there are two sources of the claim that are tucked away at the end of a technical appendix to the UNFCCC Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs. One of these is Climate Action Tracker. On their home page they have a little thermometer which shows the 2.7°C figure. Romm would have seen this, as he refers in the text to CAT’s page on China. The significance may not have registered.

However, the purpose of this post is not to criticize Romm, but the Climate Interactive analysis that Romm uses as the basis of his analysis. Is the Climate Interactive Graph (reproduced in Figure 1) a reasonable estimate of the impact of the INDC submissions (policy pledges) on global emissions?1

Figure 1. Climate Interactive’s graph of impact of the INDC submissions to 2100

What struck me as odd when I first saw this graph was how the INDCs could make such a large impact beyond the 2015-2030 timeframe that they covered when the overall impact was fairly marginal within that timeframe. This initial impression is confirmed by the UNFCCC’s estimate of the INDCs

Figure 2. UNFCCC’s estimate of emissions impact of the INDCs, with the impact shown by the yellow bars. Original here.

There are two things that do not stack up. First is that the “No Action” scenario appears to be a fairly reasonable extrapolation of future emissions without policy. Second, and contrary to that is the first, is that the “Current INDCs” scenario does not make sense in terms of what I have read in the INDCs and is confirmed by the INDCs. To resolve this requires looking at the makeup of the “No Action” scenario. Climate Interactive usefully provide the model for others to do their own estimates,2 With the “User Reference Scenario” giving the “no action” data3, split by type of greenhouse gas and into twenty regions or countries. As about 75-80% of emissions with the model are CO2 Fossil Fuel emissions, I will just look at this area. For simplicity I have also reduced the twenty regions or countries into just seven. That is USA, Other OECD, Russia, China, India, Africa and Rest of the World. There are also lots of ways to look at the data, but some give better understanding of the data than others. Climate Interactive also have population estimates. Population changes over a long period can themselves result in changed emissions, so looking at emissions per capita gives a better sense of the reasonableness of the forecast. I have graphed the areas in figure 3 for the historical period 1970-2010 and the forecast period 2020-2100.

Figure 3 : Fossil Fuel Emissions per capita for six regions from the Climate Interactive “No Action” Scenario.

Understanding the CO2 emissions forecasts

In the USA, emissions per capita peaked at the time of 1973 oil embargo. Since then they have declined slightly. There are a number of reasons for this.

First, higher oil prices gave the economic incentives to be more efficient in usage of oil. In cars there have been massive improvements in fuel efficiency since that time. Industry has also used energy more efficiently. Second, there has been a growth in the use of nuclear power for strategic reasons more than economic. Third is that some of the most energy intensive industries have shifted to other countries, particularly steel and chemicals. Fourth, is that growth in developed countries is mostly in the service sector, whereas growth in developing countries is mostly in manufacturing. Manufacturing tends to have much higher energy usage per unit of output than services. Fifth, is that domestic energy usage is from cars and power for the home. In an emerging economy energy usage will rise rapidly as a larger proportion of the population acquire cars and full heating and lighting systems in the home. Growth is much slower once most households have these luxuries. Sixth is that in the near future emissions might continue to fall with the development of shale gas, with its lower emissions per unit of power than from coal.

I therefore cannot understand why anyone would forecast increasing emissions per capita in the near future, when they have been stable or falling in for decades. Will everyone start to switch to less efficient cars? When these forecasts were made oil was at $100 a barrel levels, and many thought peak oil was upon us. Would private sector companies abandon more efficient energy usage for less efficient and higher cost usage? The USA may abandon nuclear power and shift back to coal for political reasons. But in all forms of energy, production and distribution is likely to continue to become more efficient in all forms.

In the rest of the OECD, there are similar patterns. In Europe energy usage was never as high. In some countries without policy CO2 emissions may rise slightly. In Germany they are replacing nuclear power stations with coal for instance. But market incentives will increase energy efficiency and manufacturing will continue to shift to emerging nations. Again, there appears no reason for a steady increase in emissions per capita to increase in the future.

Russia has a slightly different recent past. Communist central planning was highly inefficient and lead to hugely inefficient energy usage. With the collapse of communism, energy usage fell dramatically. Since then emissions have been increasing, but more slowly than the economy as a whole. Emissions will peak again in a couple of decades. This will likely be at a lower level than in the USA in 1970, despite the harsher climate, as Russia will benefit from technological advances in the intervening period. There is no reason for emissions to go on increasing at such a rapid rate.4

China has recently had phenomenal growth rates. According to UN data, from 1990 to 2012, economic growth averaged 10.3% per annum and CO2 emissions 6.1%. In the not too distant future economic growth will slow as per capita income approaches rich country levels, and emissions growth will slow or peak. But the Climate Interactive forecast has total emissions only peaking in 2090. The reason for China’s and Russia’s forecast per capita emissions exceeding those of the USA is likely due to a failure to allow for population changes. In USA population is forecast to grow, whilst in China and Russia population is forecast to fall.

India has the opposite picture. In recently years economic and CO2 emissions growth has taken off. Current policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are to accelerate these growth rates. But in the Climate Interactive forecast growth, economic growth and CO2 emissions growth plummet in the near future. Economic growth is already wrong. I am writing on 30/12/15. To meet the growth forecast for 2010-2015, India’s GDP will need to drop by 20% in the next 24 hours.5

For the continent of Africa, there have been encouraging growth signs in the last few years, after decades when many countries saw stagnation or even shrinking economies. Climate Interative forecasts similar growth to India, but with a forecasts of rapid population growth, the emissions per capita will hardly move.

Revised CO2 emissions forecasts

It is extremely difficult and time consuming to make more accurate CO2 emissions forecasts. As a shortcut, I will look at the impact of revisions on 2100, then at the impact on the effect of the INDCs. This is laid out in Figure 4

Figure 4 : Revised Forecast CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels

The first three columns in pale lilac are for CO2 emissions per capita calculated, from the Climate Interactive data. In the 2100 Revised column are more realistic estimates for reasons discussed in the text. In the orange part of the table are the total forecast 2100 Climate Interactive figures for population and CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. In darker orange is the revised emissions forecast (emissions per capita multiplied by forecast population) and the impact of the revision. Overall the forecast is 10.2GtCO2e lower, as no calculation has been made for the rest of the world. To balance back requires emissions of 11.89 tonnes per capita for 2.9 billion people. As ROW includes such countries as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, Vietnam, Brazil and Argentina this figure might be unreasonable 85 years from now.

The revised impact on the INDC submissions

The INDC submissions can be broken down.

The USA, EU, Japan and Australia all have varying levels of cuts to total emissions. So for the OECD as a whole I estimate Climate Interactive over estimates the impact of the INDCs by 8.4GtCO2e

The Russian INDC pledge it is unclear, but it seems to be saying that emissions will peak before 2030 at below 1990 levels6. As my revised forecast is above this level, I estimate Climate Interactive over estimates the impact of the INDCs by 3.2GtCO2e

The Chinese INDC claims pledges that its emissions will have peaked by 2030. This will have happened anyway and at around 10-12 tonnes per capita. I have therefore assumed that emissions will stay constant from 2030 to 2100 whilst the population is falling. Therefore I estimate that Climate Interactive over estimates the impact of the INDCs by 19.5GtCO2e

Overall for these areas the overestimation is around 31 GtCO2e. Instead of 63.5GtCO2e forecast for these countries for 2100 it should be nearer 32.5GtCO2e. This is about half the total 2100 reduction that Climate Interactive claims that the INDC submission will make from all types of greenhouse gases. A more rigorous forecast may have lower per capita emissions in the OECD and China. There may be other countries where similar forecast issues of CO2 emissions might apply. In addition, in note 7 I briefly look at the “No Action” CH4 emissions, the second largest greenhouse gas. There appear to be similar forecast issued there.

In summary, the make-up of the CO2 emissions “No Action” forecast is bogus. It deviates from an objective and professional forecast in a way that grossly exaggerates the impact of any actions to control GHG emissions, or even pledges that constitute nothing more than saying what would happen anyway.


  1. The conversion of a given quantity of emissions into average surface temperature changes is outside the scope of this article. Also we will assume that all policy pledges will be fully implemented.
  2. On the Home page use the menu for Tools/C-ROADS. Then on the right hand side select “Download C-ROADS”. Install the software. Run the software. Click on “Create New Run” in the centre of the screen.

    This will generate a spreadsheet “User Scenario v3 026.xls”. The figures I use are in the User Reference Scenario tab. The software version I am working from is v4.026v.071.

  3. The “User Reference Scenario” is claimed to be RCP 8.5. I may post at another time on my reconciliation between the original and the Climate Interactive versions.
  4. The forecast estimates for economic growth and emissions for Russia look quite bizarre when the 5 year percentage changes are graphed.

    I cannot see any reason for growth rates to fall to 1% p.a in the long term. But this is the situation with most others areas as well. Nor can I think of a reason for emissions growth rates to increase from 2030 to 2055, or after 2075 expect as a contrivance for consistency purposes.

  5. The forecast estimates for economic growth and emissions for India look even more bizarre than for Russia when the 5 year percentage changes are graphed.

    I am writing on 30/12/15. To meet the growth forecast for 2010-2015, India’s GDP will need to drop by 20% in the next 24 hours. From 2015 to 2030, the period of the INDC submissions, CO2 emissions are forecast to grow by 8.4%. India’s INDC submission implies GHG emissions growth from 2014 to 2030 of 90% to 100%. Beyond that India is forecast to stagnate to EU growth rates, despite being a lower to middle income country. Also, quite contrary to Russia, emissions growth rates are always lower than economic growth rates.

  6. The Russian Federation INDC states

    Limiting anthropogenic greenhouse gases in Russia to 70-75% of 1990 levels by the year 2030 might be a long-term indicator, subject to the maximum possible account of absorbing capacity of forests.

    This appears as ambiguous, but could be taken as meaning a long term maximum.

  7. CH4 (Methane) emissions per Capita

    I have quickly done a similar analysis of methane emissions per capita as in Figure 2 for CO2 emissions. The scale this time is in kilos, not tonnes.

    There are similarities

  • OECD emissions had been falling but are forecast to rise. The rise is not as great as for CO2.
  • In Russia and China emissions are forecast to rise. In Russia this is by a greater amount than for CO2, in China by a lesser amount.
  • In Africa, per capita emissions are forecast to fall slightly. Between 2010, CH4 emissions are forecast to rise 3.1 times and population by 4.3 times.
  • In both the USA and Other OECD (a composite of CI’s categories) total CH4 emissions are forecast in 2100 to be 2.778 times higher than in 2010. In both China and India total CH4 emissions are forecast in 2100 to be 2.420 times higher than in 2010.

Shotton Open Cast Coal Mine Protest as an example of Environmental Totalitarianism

Yesterday, in the Greens and the Fascists, Bishop Hill commented on Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascists. In summing up, BH stated:-

Goldberg is keen to point out that the liberal and progressive left of today do not share the violent tendencies of their fascist forebears: theirs is a gentler totalitarianism (again in the original sense of the word). The same case can be made for the greens. At least for now; it is hard to avoid observing that their rhetoric is becoming steadily more violent and the calls for unmistakably fascist policy measures are ever more common.

The link is to an article in the Ecologist (reprinted from Open Democracy blog) – “Coal protesters must be Matt Ridley’s guilty consience

The coal profits that fill Matt Ridley’s bank account come wet with the blood of those killed and displaced by the climate disaster his mines contribute to, writes T. If hgis consicence is no longer functioning, then others must step into that role to confront him with the evil that he is doing. (Spelling as in the original)

The protest consisted of blocking the road for eight hours to Shotton open cast coal mine. The reasoning was

This was an effective piece of direct action against a mine that is a major contributor to climate disaster, and a powerful statement against the climate-denying Times columnist, Viscount Matt Ridley, that owns the site. In his honour, we carried out the action as ‘Matt Ridley’s Conscience’.

The mine produces about one million tonnes of coal a year out of 8,000 million tonnes globally. The blocking may have reduced annual output by 0.3%. This will be made up from the mine, or from other sources. Coal is not the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, so the coal resulting in less than 0.004% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the alleged impact of GHG emissions on the climate is cumulative. The recoverable coal at Shotton is estimated at 6 million tonnes or 0.0007% of the estimated global reserves of 861 billion tonnes (Page 5). These global reserves could increase as new deposits are found, as has happened in the recent past for coal, gas and oil. So far from being “a major contributor to climate disaster”, Shotton Open Cast Coal Mine is a drop in the ocean.

But is there a climate disaster of which Matt Ridley is in denial? Anonymous author and convicted criminal T does not offer any evidence of current climate disasters. He is not talking about modelled projections, but currently available evidence. So where are all the dead bodies, or the displaced persons? Where are the increased deaths through drought-caused famines? Where are the increased deaths from malaria or other diseases from warmer and worsening conditions? Where is the evidence of increased deaths from extreme weather, such as hurricanes? Where are the refugees from drought-stricken areas, or from low-lying areas now submerged beneath the waves?

The inability to evaluate the evidence is shown by the comment.

Ridley was ( … again) offered a platform on BBC Radio 4 just a week before our hearing, despite his views being roundly debunked by climate scientists.

The link leads to a script of the Radio 4 interview with annotated comments. I am not sure that all the collective brains do debunk (that is expose the falseness or hollowness of (an idea or belief)) Matt Ridley’s comments. Mostly it is based on nit-picking or pointing out the contradictions with their own views and values. There are two extreme examples among 75 comments I would like to highlight two.

First is that Matt Ridley mentioned the Hockey Stick graphs and the work of Steve McIntyre in exposing the underlying poor data. The lack of a medieval warm period would provide circumstantial (or indirect) evidence that the warming of the last 200 years is unprecedented. Gavin Schmidt, responded with comments (5) and (6) shown below.

Schmidt is fully aware that Steve McIntyre also examined the Wahl and Amman paper and thoroughly discredited it. In 2008 Andrew Montford wrote a long paper of the shenanigans that went into the publication of the paper, and its lack of statistical significance. Following from this Montford wrote the Hockey Stick Illusion in 2010, which was reviewed by Tamino of RealClimate. Steve McIntyre was able to refute the core arguments in Tamino’s polemic by reposting Tamino and the Magic Flute, which was written in 2008 and covered all the substantial arguments that Tamino made. Montford’s book further shows a number of instances where peer review in academic climatology journals is not a quality control mechanism, but more a device of discrimination between those that support the current research paradigm and those that would undermine that consensus.

Comment 6 concludes

The best updates since then – which include both methodology improvements and expanded data sources – do not show anything dramatically different to the basic picture shown in MBH.

The link is to Chapter 5 on the IPCC AR5 WG1 assessment report. The paleoclimate discussion is a small subsection, a distinct reversal from the prominent place given to the original hockey stick in the third assessment report of 2001. I would contend the picture is dramatically different. Compare the original hockey stick of the past 1,000 years with Figure 5.7 on page 409 of AR5 WG1 Chapter 5.

In 2001, the MBH reconstruction was clear. From 1900 to 2000 average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have risen by over 1C, far more than the change in any of century. But from at least two of the reconstructions – Ma08eivl and Lj10cps – there have been similarly sized fluctuations in other periods. The evidence now seems to back up Matt Ridley’s position of some human influence on temperatures, but does not support the contention of unprecedented temperature change. Gavin Schmidt’s opinions are not those of an expert witness, but of a blinkered activist.

Schmidt’s comments on hockey stick graphs are nothing compared to comment 35

The Carbon Brief (not the climate scientists) rejects evidence that contradicts their views based on nothing more than ideological prejudice. A search for Indur Goklany will find his own website, where he has copies of his papers. Under the “Climate Change” tab is not only the 2009 paper, but a 2011 update – Wealth and Safety: The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900–2010. Of interest are two tables.

Table 2 is a reproduction of World Health Organisation data from 2002. It clearly shows that global warming is well down the list of causes of deaths. Goklany states in the article why these figures are based on dubious assumptions. Anonymous T falsely believes that global warming is curr

Figure 6 for the period 1990-2010 shows

  • the Global Death and Death Rates per million Due to Extreme Weather Events
  • CO2 Emissions
  • Global average GDP Per Capita

Figure 6 provides strong empirical evidence that increasing CO2 emissions (about 70-80% of total GHG emissions) have not caused increased deaths. They are a consequence of increasing GDP per capita, which as Goklany argues, have resulted in fewer deaths from extreme weather. More importantly, increasing GDP has resulted in increased life expectancy and reductions in malnutrition and deaths that be averted by access to rudimentary health care. Anonymous T would not know this even if he had read all the comments, yet it completely undermines the beliefs that caused him to single out Matt Ridley.

The worst part of Anonymous T’s article

Anonymous T concludes the article as follows (Bold mine)

The legal process efficiently served its function of bureaucratising our struggle, making us attempt to justify our actions in terms of the state’s narrow, violent logic. The ethics of our action are so clear, and declaring myself guilty felt like folding to that.

We found ourselves depressed and demoralised, swamped in legal paperwork. Pleading guilty frees us from the stress of a court case, allowing us to focus on more effective arenas of struggle.

I faced this case from a position of relative privilege – with the sort of appearance, education and lawyers that the courts favour. Even then I found it crushing. Today my thoughts are with those who experience the racism, classism and ableism of the state and its laws in a way that I did not.

That reflection makes me even more convinced of the rightness of our actions. Climate violence strikes along imperialist lines, with those least responsible, those already most disadvantaged by colonial capitalism, feeling the worst impacts.

Those are the people that lead our struggle, but are often also the most vulnerable to repression in the struggle. When fighting alongside those who find themselves at many more intersections of the law’s oppression than I do, I have a responsibility to volunteer first when we need to face up to the police and the state.

Faced with structural injustice and laws that defend it, Matt Ridley’s Conscience had no choice but to disobey. Matt Ridley has no conscience and neither does the state nor its system of laws. Join in. Be the Conscience you want to see in the world.

The writer rejects the rule of law, and is determined to carry out more acts of defiance against it. He intends to commit more acts of violence, with “climate” as a cover for revolutionary Marxism. Further the writer is trying to incite others to follow his lead. He claims to know Matt Ridley’s Conscience better than Ridley himself, but in the next sentence claims that “Matt Ridley has no conscience“. Further this statement would seem to contradict a justification for the criminal acts allegedly made in Bedlington Magistrates Court on December 16th
that the protesters were frustrated by the lack of UK Government action to combat climate change.

It is not clear who is the author of this article, but he/she is one of the following:-

Roger Geffen, 49, of Southwark Bridge Road, London.

Ellen Gibson, 21, of Elm Grove, London;

Philip MacDonald, 28, of Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London;

Beth Louise Parkin, 29, of Dodgson House, Bidborough Street, London;

Pekka Piirainen, 23, of Elm Grove, London;

Thomas Youngman, 22, of Hermitage Road, London.

Laurence Watson, 27, of Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London;

Guy Shrubsole, 30, of Bavent Road, London;

Lewis McNeill, 34, of no fixed address.

Kevin Marshall

aTTP falsely attacks Bjorn Lomborg’s “Impact of Current Climate Proposals” Paper

The following is a comment to be posted at Bishop Hill, responding to another attempt by blogger ….andThenThere’sPhysics to undermine the work of Bjorn Lomborg. The previous attempt was discussed here. This post includes a number of links, as well as a couple of illustrative screen captures at the foot of the table.

aTTP’s comment is

In fact, you should read Joe Romm’s post about this. He’s showing that the INDCs are likely to lead to around 3.5C which I think is relative to something like the 1860-1880 mean. This is very similar to the MIT’s 3.7, and quite a bit lower than the RCP8.5 of around 4.5C. So, yes, we all know that the INDCs are not going to do as much as some might like, but the impact is likely to be a good deal greater than that implied by Lomborg who has essentially assumed that we get to 2030 and then simply give up.

Nov 11, 2015 at 9:31 AM | …and Then There’s Physics

My Comment

aTTP at 9.31 refers to Joe Romm’s blog post of Nov 3 “Misleading U.N. Report Confuses Media On Paris Climate Talks“. Romm uses Climate Interactive’s Climate Scoreboard Tool to show the INDC submissions (if fully implemented) will result in 3.5°C as against the 4.5°C in the non-policy “No Action” Scenario. This is six times the claimed maximum impact of 0.17°C claimed in Lomberg’s new paper. Who is right? What struck me first was that Romm’s first graph, copied straight from the Climate Interactive’s seem to have a very large estimate for emissions in the “No Action” Scenario producing. Downloading the underlying data, I find the “No Action” global emissions in 2100 are 139.3 GtCO2e, compared with about 110 GtCO2e in Figure SPM5(a) of the AR5 Synthesis Report for the RCP8.5 scenario high emissions scenario. But it is the breakdown per country or region that matters.

For the USA, without action emissions are forecast to rise from 2010 to 2030 by 40%, in contrast to a rise of just 9% in the period 1990 to 2010. It is likely that emissions will fall without policy and will be no higher in 2100 than in 2010. The “no action” scenario overestimates 2030 emissions by 2-3 GtCO2e in 2030 and about 7-8 GtCO2e in 2100.

For the China the overestimation is even greater. Emissions will peak during the next decade as China fully industrializes, just as emissions peaked in most European countries in the 1970s and 1980s. Climate Interactive assumes that emissions will peak at 43 GtCO2e in 2090, whereas other estimates that the emissions peak will be around 16-17 GtCO2e before 2030.

Together, overestimations of the US and China’s “No Action” scenarios account for over half 55-60 GtCO2e 2100 emissions difference between the “No Action” and “Current INDC” scenarios. A very old IT term applies here – GIGO. If aTTP had actually checked the underlying assumptions he would realise that Romm’s rebuttal of Lomborg based on China’s emission assumptions (and repeated on his own blog) are as false as claiming that the availability of free condoms is why population peaks.

Links posted at

Kevin Marshall


Figures referred to (but not referenced) in the comment above

Figure 1: Climate Interactive’s graph, referenced by Joe Romm.

Figure 2: Reproduction of Figure SPM5(a) from Page 9 of the AR5 Synthesis Report.


Update – posted the following to ATTP’s blog


John Cook undermining democracy through misinformation

It seems that John Cook was posting comments in 2011 under the pseudonym Lubos Motl. The year before physicist and blogger Luboš Motl had posted a rebuttal of Cook’s then 104 Global Warming & Climate Change Myths. When someone counters your beliefs point for point, then most people would naturally feel some anger. Taking the online identity of Motl is potentially more than identity theft. It can be viewed as an attempt to damage the reputation of someone you oppose.

However, there is a wider issue here. In 2011 John Cook co-authored with Stephan Lewandowsky The Debunking Handbook, that is still featured prominently on the This short tract starts with the following paragraphs:-

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

A common misconception about myths is the notion that removing its influence is as simple as packing more information into people’s heads. This approach assumes that public misperceptions are due to a lack of knowledge and that the solution is more information – in science communication, it’s known as the “information deficit model”. But that model is wrong: people don’t process information as simply as a hard drive downloading data.

If Cook was indeed using the pseudonym Lubos Motl then he was knowingly putting out into the public arena misinformation in a malicious form. If he misrepresented Motl’s beliefs, then the public may not know who to trust. Targeted against one effective critic, it could trash their reputation. At a wider scale it could allow morally and scientifically inferior views to gain prominence over superior viewpoints. If the alarmist beliefs were superior it what be necessary to misrepresent alternative opinions. Open debate would soon reveal which side had the better views. But in debating and disputing, all sides would sharpen their arguments. What would quickly disappear is the reliance on opinion surveys and rewriting of dictionaries. Instead, proper academics would be distinguishing between quality, relevant evidence from dogmatic statements based on junk sociology and psychology. They would start defining the boundaries of expertise between the basic physics, computer modelling, results analysis, public policy-making, policy-implementation, economics, ethics and the philosophy of science. They may then start to draw on the understanding that has been achieved in these subject areas.

Kevin Marshall