The Supply-Side of Climate Mitigation is Toothless

To eliminate global greenhouse gas emissions requires a two-pronged policy approach. Much is made of reducing demand for greenhouse gases through the switch to renewables, regulations and carbon taxes. But, with respect to fossil fuels, the supply needs to be reduced and eventually ceased. Climate activists like valve-turner Micheal Foster recognize that to achieve the climate mitigation targets much of the potential supply of fossil fuels must be left in the ground. With respect to the valve-turners actions of October 16th 2016, whilst it is possible to look at the minuscule impact that on global oil supply and proven reserves of oil, it is more difficult to estimate the marginal impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions of their broader objective of permanently shutting down Canadian oil production. That requires estimates of CO2 emissions per unit of oil, coal and gas. In searching for figures to make my own estimates I came across a letter to Nature. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions.

There is no breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. This should be put into the context of the policy objectives. From the abstract.

It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).

This is similar to the IPCC’s central estimate of 1000 Gt CO2e from 2012 onwards. With just over 50 GtCO2e of GHG emissions per annum, from the beginning of 2018, the figure is around 700-800 GtCO2e. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any non-reserve sources or future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven reserves lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning.

These are very rough estimates, based upon the assuming that the emissions per unit of each fossil fuel are the same as the McGlade and Ekins averages. This is clearly not the case. A better estimate for oil, for instance, would likely have higher potential emissions from Venezuela and Canada, and lower potential emissions from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, it is clear that if global emissions constraints are to be achieved, the UN must get binding agreements from USA, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Qatar – plus many other countries – to abandon these vital resources within a few years. This would need to be done fairly and equitably in the eyes of all parties. But in such matters, there are widely different perspectives on what is fair, with a lack of ability by the UN to impose a settlement. There are also considerable economic costs to those nations whose economies rely on the producing fossil fuels, with the compensation the that they might demand unimaginably high. Further, like any cartel, there are considerable economic advantages in reneging on such deals, whilst ensuring that rival countries are held to their part of the agreement.

The problem is even greater. McGlade and Ekins 2015 is likely to have underestimated the unproven reserves of fossil fuels, even though the 8000 GtCO2e is truly staggering. The short 2013 GWPF paper THE ABUNDANCE OF FOSSIL FUELS by Phillip Mueller estimates that unproven, but potential recoverable reserves of tar sands in Canada and Green River Basin Wyoming, heavy oil in Venezuela and shale oil in Saudi Arabia could each be similar to or exceed, the global proven reserves of oil. Combined these could produce the around the same CO2 emissions of all the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal combined.

Then there are methane hydrates, which could contain 500 to 5000+ GtCO2e of emissions if burnt. The very nature of the hydrates could mean that large amounts of methane being released directly into the atmosphere.  This US Geological survey graphic (from a 2014 BBC article) shows the very wide distribution of the hydrates, meaning many countries could have large deposits within their territorial waters. This is especially significant for African nations, most of whom have very low, or nil, proven fossil fuel resources.

Mueller does not explore the potential reserves of coal. Under the North Sea alone there are estimates of 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of the stuff. (Searches reveal a number of other sources.) This compares to the BP estimate of 800 million tonnes of global proven reserves. 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of hard coal if burnt would represent 7000 to 55000 GtCO2e of emissions, compared to less than 1000 GtCO2e the IPCC claims sufficient to reach the 2C warming limit.

How many other vast fossil fuel reserves are out there? It may be just economic factors that stop fossil fuels reserves being proven and then exploited. What is clear is that whilst activists might be able to curtail or stop production of fossil fuels in Western countries, they are powerless to stop vast reserves being exploited in much of the rest of the World. The only significant consequence is to harm the economic futures of any country in which they gain successes and inadvertently work to benefit some pretty intolerant and oppressive regimes.

However, this does not leave climate activists impotent. They can work on better identifying when and where the catastrophic impacts of climate change will occur. But that would mean recognizing that previous prophesies of impending doom have been either totally false or massively exaggerated.

Kevin Marshall

Scotland now to impose Minimum Pricing for Alcohol

This week the British Supreme Court cleared the way for the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 to be enacted. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) had mounted a legal challenge to try to halt the price hike, which it said was disproportionate’ and illegal under European law. (Daily Mail) The Act will mandate that retailers have to charge a minimum of 50p per unit of alcohol. This will only affect the price of alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets. In the pub, the price of a pint with 5% ABV is already much higher than the implied price of £1.42. I went round three supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s and Aldi – to see the biggest price hikes implied in the rise.

The extra profit is kept by the retailer, though gross profits may fall as sales volume falls. Premium brands only fall below the minimum price in promotions. With the exception of discounter Aldi, the vast majority of shelf space is occupied by alcohol above the minimum price. Further, there is no escalator. The minimum price will stay the same for the six years that the legislation is in place. However, the Scottish Government claims that 51% of alcohol sold in off-trade is less than 50 pence per unit. The promotions have a big impact. The Scottish people will be deprived of these offers. Many will travel across the border to places like Carlisle and Berwick, to acquire their cheap booze. Or enterprising folks will break the law by illegal sales. This could make booze more accessible to underage drinkers and bring them into regular contact with petty criminals. However, will it reduce the demand for booze? The Scottish Government website quotes Health Secretary Shona Robison.

“This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol.

“In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy.

“This has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.

Is minimum pricing effective? Clearly, it will make some alcohol more expensive. But it must be remembered that the tax on alcohol is already very high. The cheapest booze on my list, per unit of alcohol, is the 3 litre box of Perry (Pear Cider) at £4.29. The excise duty is £40.38 per hectolitre. With VAT at 20%, tax is £1.92, or 45% of the retail price. The £16 bottles of spirits (including two well-known brands of Scottish Whisky) are at 40% alcohol. With excise duty at £28.74 per litre of pure alcohol, tax is £13.33 or 83% of the retail price. It has been well-known that alcohol is highly inelastic with respect to price so very large increases in price will make very little difference to demand. This is born out by a graphic from a 2004 report Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England of the UK alcohol consumption in the last century.

In the early part of the twentieth century, there was sharp fall in alcohol consumption from 1900 to the 1930s. There was a sharp drop in the First World War, but after the war the decline continued the pre-war trend. This coincided with a religious revival and the temperance movement. It was started in the nineteenth century by organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Methodists, but taken up by other Christian denominations. In other words, it was a massive cultural change from the bottom, where it became socially unacceptable for many even to touch alcohol. Conversely, the steep decline in religion in the post-war period was accompanied by the rise in alcohol consumption.

The minimum price for alcohol is a fiscal solution being proposed for cultural problems. The outcome of a minimum price will be monopoly profits for the supermarkets and the manufacturers of alcoholic drinks.

It is true that a lot of crime is committed by those intoxicated, other social problems are caused and there are health issues. But the solution is not to increase the price of alcohol. The solution is to change people. The Revival of the early twentieth century, (begun before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914) saw both a fall in alcohol consumption and a fall in crime levels, that continued through the Great Depression. But it was not lacking of alcohol that reduced crime on the early twentieth. Instead, both reductions had a common root in the Christian Faith.

The Scottish Government will no doubt see a fall in sales of alcohol. But this will not represent the reduction in consumption, as cheaper booze will be imported from England, including Scottish Whisky. All that they are doing is treating people as statistics to be dictated to, and manipulated by, their shallow moralistic notions.

Kevin Marshall


Macron calls for Climate Tariffs against most of the World

From the Independent (via Eric Worrall at WUWT)

In his speech, Mr Macron also called for an EU tariff on goods imported from countries or companies that do not share its climate goals, and pledged to work to raise the cost of carbon within the EU to €30 a tonne.

The EU INDC submission to COP21 Paris states

The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at
least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
compared to 1990,

Most INDC submissions do not state they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, even if the proposals are fully met (and the EU is unlikely to meet its target) then emissions are forecast to be higher in 2030 than they are today. This graphic from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report published at the end of October demonstrates the situation quite nicely.

So President Macron is wanting sanctions not just against the USA, but most of the world as well? This includes China, India, nearly every African country,  most countries in SE Asia, the Middle East nations and some other nations besides. Or is it just those who stand up to the useless European climate policies, that are benefiting large businesses with subsidies financed disproportionately by the poor? The rhetoric includes “companies”, on whom sanctions cannot be applied. Further, the €30 carbon price is equivalent to €0.10 on the price of petrol (gasoline). How is a small rise in the cost of fossil fuel energy from a group of countries with less than 10% of GHG emissions going to save the world? As economics Professor Richard Tol has estimated, to achieve the targets would require a global carbon tax from 2020 of $210 and then escalated by 4-6% a year until fossil fuels were unaffordable. Chancellor Angela Merkel claims “Climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our time.” (Independent again). The falsity of this claim is shown by political newcomer President Macron’s trying to marginalize and silence opponents with empty and ineffectual threats.

Climate Necessity Defense for Minnesotan Valve Turners

Unlike the Michael Foster and other co-defendants is North Dakota, the Minnesotan Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein get their chance to present the Climate Necessity Defense. From (Hat tip Science Matters)

Klapstein, a retired lawyer, said they know of one case in which a judge allowed evidence about climate change but then told the jury to disregard it.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to bring in all our experts and present our evidence of how dire climate change is, so we’re pretty excited about that,” she said.

As a retired attorney, she perhaps should have read the criteria before responding.

In an order Friday, Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany said the four defendants must clear a high legal bar.

In Minnesota, Tiffany wrote, a defendant asserting a necessity defense “must show that the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually caused by breaking the law, there was no legal alternative to breaking the law, the defendant was in danger of imminent physical harm, and there was a direct causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.

The judge said it applies “only in emergency situations where the peril is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

This appears fairly clear. The Judge lays down four criteria to be met within an overriding one of emergency situations with no alternative. It is the legal equivalent of demanding that the positive impacts of an action greatly exceed the harms in very specific, very short-term, circumstances. Further, it is up to the defense to demonstrate that the circumstances apply, convincing the court in the face of cross-examinations.

There are a number of areas where I believe climate activists actions not only fails to meet these criteria, but does not even get anywhere close.

The timing issue

The emergency situations criteria are pretty immediate. An example is a police officer shooting dead a rampaging terrorist rather than maiming and performing an arrest. Another example might be destroying the car keys of someone who is drunk and intent on driving. The very short time scales of seconds or minutes exclude options that would take months or years to implement.  There are examples of where such an emergency situation does not apply to climate change policies.

If prominent climate activist Prince Charles was correct in saying in October 2009 that we have less than 100 months to save the planet, it would not have been considered an instant peril. With three months to go until the deadline, even that appears to be somewhat alarmist in the context of a lack of increase of signals of impending catastrophic consequences.

Another source is from the pinnacle of the climate establishment. 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 about 1000 GtCO2e. This flowing is part of a presentation to summarize the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report of 2014. Slide 33 of 35.

A more recent source is Miller et al 2017 Nature GeoScience. They estimate that 240 GtC (880 GtCO2e) from now will be needed to reach 1.5°C of warming. On the IPCC’s estimate then with slightly over 50GtCO2e of emissions per annum, the 2°C of warming would be reached sometime before 2032, when the climate experts are now saying the lower 1.5°C barrier will be reached sometime before 2035. Whichever you use as the barrier for breaching of dangerous climate change, that level will not be reached anytime soon according to the climate experts. There is plenty of time for a few more, tense, annual meetings with representatives of 195 nations to pontificate about mitigation policies.

So even if extreme climate alarmism is true, the expert opinion on policy strongly implies that the defendants were not “in danger of imminent physical harm”.

Finally, in 2008 the climate necessity defense was supported by James Hansen in a couple of British court cases. The detailed document prepared as written testimony for the Ratcliffe Nottingham trial is here and a 2011 commentary on the two cases by Hansen is here. As the supposed emergency in global emissions have not appeared in eight years between the testimony and the felony why should it be still considered a pressing problem? James Hansen, sometimes referred to as the Father of Climate Change after his 1988 Congressional Testimony pushed Global Warming to the fore of the political agenda, is likely to be the key witness in the necessity defence. He would have been the key witness at the trial of Micheal Foster in North Dakota last month if the necessity defense had been allowed. After the Foster Trial, Hansen wrote a long article, including arguments that will likely be presented at the Johnston and Klapstein Trail.

Indivisibility Issues

Many people in the United States believe that abortion is murder. Suppose a group managed to close down a busy abortion clinic by constant blockades and intimidation, throwing a number of people of work. An argument could be made that some of the women will not get abortions elsewhere, but will instead give birth to a child. The necessity defense criteria could, therefore, be operable. But with respect to global warming the evidence shows (and the science agrees) that it does not matter where in the world fossil fuels are burnt, the generated CO2 will be dispersed affecting the whole atmosphere. Otherwise, Eastern USA and Eastern China would have much higher concentrations of CO2 than in Africa, Antarctica or over the oceans that cover 70% of the earth’s surface.  Neither does that CO2 leave the atmosphere quickly but could remain in the atmosphere for many decades or even centuries. Therefore, the marginal impact delaying the transportation of one type of fossil fuel in one country for a few hours will have no significant impact on generations of people yet to come. As a rough estimate, the combined actions of the valve-turners (of which Micheal Foster on the Keystone Pipeline was by far the biggest contribution), was to delay the transportation of less than a million barrels of oil. That is to delay the transportation of around 1% of the daily global output of about 92 million barrels. A million barrels (140,000 tonnes) will produce around 400,000 tonnes of CO2. That is 0.4 million tonnes or 0.0004 billion tonnes. This 0.0004 GtCO2 is 0.00004% of the 1000 GtCO2e (million million) of emissions by the IPCC to breach the dangerous 2°C of warming barrier. The impact of Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein is somewhat less than this. The difference between “the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law” and “the harm actually caused by breaking the law” is infinitesimally small.

Local Harms, Wider Benefits

There is another set of harms to be considered.  That is the immediate costs of property damage and business disruption from the activists’ actions, along with the time and expense of law enforcement. Even if the action could be shown to have benefits exceeding the costs, for the actual persons or entities targeted that position will be reversed. So, hypothetically, if the benefits of stopping a few hundred thousand tonnes of emissions are even $100,000,000, and the immediate costs are just $1,000,000, the benefits are across the planet decades or centuries in the future and shared by tens of billions of people, whilst the costs are immediate and disproportionately borne by very few victims that the activists select. In reality, the benefits are likely far less, and the full costs somewhat more.

The catalyst effect of the action

As this was an act of climate activism, there was probably no intention that this act would stop climate change. Rather, that the act could serve as a catalyst for action to constrain emissions. It could serve as a wake-up call to policy-makers. A year later it is possible to see any impacts.

In the United States, less than a month after the valve turners did their deeds Donald Trump was elected President and subsequently has begun to rescind climate change policies. There appears to have been no impact on the Presidential elections. If it had, then criminal acts would have influenced the election, something that would have undermined the democratic process.

Another justification could be one of a catalyst for many more criminal actions. Again, there seems to be no surge in climate activism, whether through legal or illegal means does not seem to have happened. Further, lawyers might caution against using the catalyst argument in court to defend criminal acts.

So the catalyst defense (which may not be admissible under Judge Tiffany’s criteria) doesn’t seem to have worked out.

Non-exhaustion of legal policy initiatives

Judge Tiffany’s final specification was

leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

Was there no alternative? There are two basic criteria necessary, but not sufficient, for the necessity defense to justify an otherwise illegal activity. First, that legal alternatives have been exhausted and second, that the illegal alternative has at least an expectation of being remotely effective. As already stated, the consensus believes that to prevent catastrophic climate change means permanently eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions. With respect to the burning of fossil fuels (about two-thirds of global GHG emissions), this is on the twin fronts of reducing global emissions to near zero and ensuring permanently leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Possibilities for closing the policy gap

The global efforts to reduce global GHG emissions culminated in the Paris Agreement, written at the end of December 2015 and signed by most countries. The Adoption of the Paris Agreement proposal; Section II, Point 17 notes gives an indication of the gap between the aggregate impact of all the vague policy initiatives and the desired policy goal.

17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;

In a post last month I adapted a graphic produced by the UNFCCC in the run-up to Paris COP21 to show the gap between actual policy proposals and the Millar et al 2017 estimates to prevent 1.5˚C of warming being breached.

The aggregate impact of all policy ambitions if fully implemented fall a long way short of the targets. The majority is not due to the United States, or other Western Countries, failing to reduce emissions at a fast enough rate, but the developing countries increasing their emissions, rather than cutting emissions. When compared with  protests against President Trump’s policies (in a country with less than one-eighth of global emissions and a falling share of the total) there are no mass protests outside the embassies of Asian, Middle Eastern, African or South American countries, with over 80% if the global population and which collectively account for 100% of the growth in emissions between 1990 and 2012. Yet these countries have no expressed intention of reducing their emissions commensurate with the policy pathways. Criminal acts in the USA will do nothing to change this.

Leaving Fossil Fuels in the Ground

Arguments for targeting the output of Canadian tar sands include

(a) per unit of energy, it creates higher emissions than oil from say, Saudi Arabia.

(b) there are vast unproven reserves of oil in Canada that may exceed the current global proven reserves.

These aspects I will deal with in depth in a follow-up post. However, the two statements above are true. There are, however, wider policy aspects. Shutting down some of the global production of oil (and raising the price of oil) could increase the usage of coal instead. Push the price high enough and there will generate economic incentives to convert coal to liquids, a process that involves the generation of a number of times the CO2 emissions as from generating energy direct from oil alone.

The wider aspect is whether shutting down some proven reserves make available much less than the 1000 GtCO2e of emissions that would supposedly cause dangerous climate change. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves around 2900 GtCO2e. There is no clear breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven resources lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning for energy.

McGlade and Ekins further estimate there are unproven but likely reserves of oil, gas and coal represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. Shutting down the Tar Sands permanently will not stop production of fossil fuels elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Middle East, Russia and other Asian countries.


There are a number of reasons that on their own ought to fail the necessity defense criteria laid down by Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany last month. 

First, the climate experts at the UNIPCC, and the policy-promotors at the UNFCCC do not believe there is an imminent emergency. They estimate the threshold to dangerous climate change will not be crossed for over a decade.

Second, the cause of dangerous climate change is meant to the rise in global greenhouse levels, caused by global human greenhouse gas emissions. Shutting down fossil fuel emissions will not stop the harms in that area.

Third, the harms inflicted on the victims of the action are local, whereas any benefits in reduced emissions are global. But there is no evidence of the activists realizing this by campaigning for policy changes in other countries on anything like the level in the USA. The activist’s actions single out a particular source and are thus discriminatory.

Fourth, although the various actions on the same day stopped a vast amount of oil being moved, it was tiny in relation to oil the fossil being produced. Further, oil is only a minority source of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Fifth, there is a large recognized global policy gap between forecast emissions if current policy proposals are fully enacted and the desired emissions pathways commensurate with 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. To meet these global pathways all countries must participate, but the evidence is that countries with over 80% of the global population have no expressed intention to get anywhere close to these policy criteria. Further, meeting the policy criteria would mean that the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels are left in the group, along with any unproven reserves. Given the geographical dispersion of the proven reserves, this is not going to happen.

The principal theme that undermines the climate necessity defense is that the marginal impact of the action of shutting down a pipeline (or even a number of pipelines) is infinitesimally small compared to the required solution. For this reason, the necessity defense is still not valid even if (contrary to all the research to date) it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that catastrophic climate changes will happen without rapid reductions in global emissions.

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

The Policy Gap in Achieving the Emissions Goals

The Millar et al. 2017 has severe problems with the numbers, as my previous post suggested. But there is a more fundamental problem in achieving emissions goals. It is contained in the introductory paragraphs to an article lead author Richard Millar posted at Carbon Brief

The Paris Agreement set a long-term goal of limiting global warming to “well-below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to restrict it to 1.5C.

A key question for the upcoming rounds of the international climate negotiations, particularly when countries review their climate commitments next year, is exactly how fast would we have to cut emissions to reach these goals?

In a new paper, published in Nature Geoscience, we provide updated estimates of the remaining “carbon budget” for 1.5C. This is the total amount of CO2 emissions that we can still emit whilst limiting global average warming to 1.5C.

Our estimates suggest that we would have a remaining carbon budget equivalent to around 20 years at current emissions rates for a 2-in-3 chance of restricting end-of-century warming to below 1.5C.

This suggests that we have a little more breathing space than previously thought to achieve the 1.5C limit. However, although 1.5C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, it remains a very difficult policy challenge.

The problem is with the mixing of singular and plural statements. The third paragraph shows the problem.

In a new paper, published in Nature Geoscience, we provide updated estimates of the remaining “carbon budget” for 1.5C. This is the total amount of CO2 emissions that we can still emit whilst limiting global average warming to 1.5C.

In the first sentence, the collective “we” refers to the ten authors of the paper. That is Richard J. Millar, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Pierre Friedlingstein, Joeri Rogelj, Michael J. Grubb, H. Damon Matthews, Ragnhild B. Skeie, Piers M. Forster, David J. Frame & Myles R. Allen.  In the second sentence, the collective “we” refers to approximately 7500 million people on the planet, who live about 195 countries. Do they speak for all the people in Russia, India, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, China, Taiwan, North and South Korea, the United States and Australia for instance? What I would suggest is they are speaking figuratively about what they believe the world ought to be doing.

Yet the political realities are that even though most countries have signed the Paris Agreement, it does not commit them to a particular emissions pathway, nor to eliminate their emissions by a particular date. It only commits them to produce further INDC submissions every five years, along with attending meetings and making the right noises. Their INDC submissions are not scrutinized, still less sent back for “improved ambition” if they are inadequate in contributing to the aggregate global plan.

Looking at the substance of the Adoption proposal of the Paris Agreement, section II, point 17 notes gives an indication of the policy gap.

17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;

But the actual scale of the gap is best seen from the centerpiece graphic of the UNFCCC Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs, prepared in the run-up to COP21 Paris. Note that this website also has all the INDC submissions in three large Pdf files.

The graphic I have updated with estimates of the policy gap with my take on revised Millar et. al 2017 policy gaps shown by red arrows.

The extent of the arrows could be debated, but will not alter the fact that Millar et. al 2017 are assuming that by adjusting the figures and assuming that they are thinking for the whole world, that the emissions objectives will be achieved. The reality is that very few countries have committed to reducing their emissions by anything like an amount consistent with even a 2°C pathway. Further, that commitment is just until 2030, not for the 70 years beyond that. There is no legally-binding commitment in the Paris Agreement for a country to reduce emissions to zero sometime before the end of the century. Further, a number of countries (including Nigeria, Togo, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Iraq and Syria) have not signed the Paris Agreement – and the United States has given notification of coming out of the Agreement. Barring huge amounts of funding or some technological miracle most developing countries, with a majority of the world population, will go on increasing their emissions for decades. This includes most of the countries who were Non-Annex Developing Countries to the 1992 Rio Declaration. Collectively they accounted for just over 100% of the global GHG emissions growth between 1990 and  2012.

As some of these Countries’ INDC Submissions clearly state, most will not sacrifice economic growth and the expectations of their people’s for the unproven dogma of politicalized academic activists in completely different cultures say that the world ought to cut emissions. They will attend climate conferences and be seen to be on a world stage, then sign meaningless agreements afterward that commit them to nothing.

As a consequence, if catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is true (like the fairies at the bottom of the garden) and climate mitigation reduction targets are achieved, the catastrophic climate change will be only slightly less catastrophic and the most extreme climate mitigation countries will be a good deal poorer. The non-policy countries will the ones better off. It is the classic free-rider problem, which results in an underprovision of those goods or services. If AGW is somewhat milder, then even these countries will be no worse off.

This is what really irritates me. I live in Britain, where the Climate Change Act 2008 has probably the most ludicrous targets in the world. That Act was meant to lead the world on climate change. The then Environment Secretary David Miliband introduced the bill with this message in March 2007.

From the graphic above COP21 Paris showed that most of the world is not following Britain’s lead. But the “climate scientists” are so stuck in their manipulated models, they forget that their models and beliefs of their peers are not the realities of the wider world. The political realities mean that reduction of CO2 emissions are net harmful to the people of Britain, both now and for future generations of Britains. The activists are just as wilfully negligent in shutting down any independent review of policy as a pharmaceutical company who would push one of its products onto the consumers without an independent evaluation of both the benefits and potential side effects.

Kevin Marshall

Nature tacitly admits the IPCC AR5 was wrong on Global Warming

There has been a lot of comment on a recent paper at nature geoscience “Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C” (hereafter Millar et. al 2017)

When making a case for public policy I believe that something akin to a process of due diligence should be carried out on the claims. That is the justifications ought to be scrutinized to validate the claims. With Millar et. al 2017, there are a number of issues with the make-up of the claims that (a) warming of 1.5C or greater will be achieved without policy (b) constraining the emissions  

The baseline warming

The introduction states
Average temperatures for the 2010s are currently 0.87°C above 1861–80,

A similar quote from UNIPCC AR5 WG1 SPM page 5

The total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C, based on the single longest dataset available.

These figures are all from the HADCRUT4 dataset. There are three areas to account for the difference of 0.09°C. Mostly it is the shorter baseline period. Also, the last three years have been influenced by a powerful and natural El-Nino, along with the IPCC using an average of the last 10 years.

The warming in the pipeline

There are valid reasons for the authors differing from the IPCC’s methodology. They start with the emissions from 1870 (even though emissions estimates go back to 1850). Also, if there is no definite finish date, it is very difficult to calculate the warming impact to date. Consider first the full sentence quoted above.

Average temperatures for the 2010s are currently 0.87°C above 1861–80, which would rise to 0.93°C should they remain at 2015 levels for the remainder of the decade.

This implies that there is some warming to come through from the impact of the higher greenhouse gas levels. This seems to be a remarkably low and over a very short time period. Of course, not all the warming since the mid-nineteenth century is from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The anthropogenic element is just guesstimated. This is show in AR5 WG1 Ch10 Page 869

More than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature (GMST) from 1951 to 2010 is very likely due to the observed anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations.

It was after 1950 when the rate largest increase in CO2 levels was experienced. From 1870 to 1950, CO2 levels rose from around 290ppm to 310ppm or 7%. From 1950 to 2010, CO2 levels rose from around 310ppm to 387ppm or 25%. Add in other GHG gases and there the human-caused warming should be 3-4 times greater in the later period than the earlier one, whereas the warming in the later period was just over twice the amount. Therefore if there is just over a 90% chance (very likely in IPCC speak) of over 50% of the warming post-1950 was human-caused, a statistical test relating to a period more than twice as long would have a lower human-caused element of the warming as being statistically significant. Even then, I view the greater than 50% statistic as being deeply flawed. Especially when post-2000, when the rate of rise in CO2 levels accelerated, whilst the rise in average temperatures dramatically slowed. There are two things that this suggests. First, the impact could be explained by rising GHG emissions being a minor element in temperature rise, with natural factors both causing some of the warming in the 1976-1998 period, then reversing, causing cooling, in the last few years. Second is that there is a darn funny lagged response of rising GHGs (especially CO2) to rises in temperature. That is the amount of warming in the pipeline has increased dramatically. If either idea has any traction then the implied warming to come of just 0.06°is a false estimate. This needs to be elaborated.

Climate Sensitivity

If a doubling of CO2 leads to 3.00°C of warming (the assumption of the IPCC in their emissions calculations), then a rise in CO2 levels from 290ppm to 398 ppm (1870 to 2014) eventually gives 1.37°C of warming. With other GHGs this figure should be around 1.80°C. Half that warming has actually occurred, and some of that is natural. So there is well over 1.0°C still to emerge. It is too late to talk about constraining warming to 1.5°C as the cause of that warming has already occurred.

The implication from the paper in claiming that 0.94°C will result from human emissions in the period 1870-2014 is to reduce the climate sensitivity estimate to around 2.0°C for a doubling of CO2, if only CO2 is considered, or around 1.5°C for a doubling of CO2, if all GHGs are taken into account. (See below) Compare this to AR5 WG1 section D.2 Quantification of Climate System Responses

The equilibrium climate sensitivity quantifies the response of the climate system to constant radiative forcing on multicentury time scales. It is defined as the change in global mean surface temperature at equilibrium that is caused by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence).

The equilibrium climate sensitivity ECS is at the very bottom of the IPCC’s range and equilibrium climate response is reached in 5-6 years instead of mutlicentury time scales. This on top of the implied assumption that there is no net natural warming between 1870 and 2015.

How much GHG emissions?

With respect to policy, as global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, to prevent further human-caused warming requires reducing, and possibly eliminating global greenhouse emissions. In conjunction with the publication of the AR5 Synthesis report, the IPCC produced a slide show of the policy case laid out in the three vast reports. It was effectively a short summary of a summary of the synthesis report. Approaching the policy climax at slide 30 of 35:-

Apart from the policy objective in AR5 was to limit warming from 2°C, not 1.5°C, it also mentions the need to constrain GHG emissions, not CO2 emissions. Then slide 33 gives the simple policy simplified position to achieve 2°C of warming.

To the end of 2011 1900 GTCO2e of GHGs was estimated to have been emitted, whilst the estimate is around 1000 GTCO2e could be emitted until the 2°C warming was reached.

The is the highly simplified version. At the other end of the scale, AR5 WG3 Ch6 p431 has a very large table in a very small font to consider a lot of the policy options. It is reproduced below, though the resolution is much poorer than the original.

Note 3 states

For comparison of the cumulative CO2 emissions estimates assessed here with those presented in WGI AR5, an amount of 515 [445 to 585] GtC (1890 [1630 to 2150] GtCO2), was already emitted by 2011 since 1870

The top line is for the 1.5°C of warming – the most ambitious policy aim. Of note:-

  • The CO2 equivalent concentration in 2100 (ppm CO2eq ) is 430-480ppm.
  • Cumulative CO2 emissions (GtCO2) from 2011 to 2100 is 630 to 1180.
  • CO2 concentration in 2100 is 390-435ppm.
  • Peak CO2 equivalent concentration is 465-530ppm. This is higher than the 2100 concentration and if for CO2 alone with ECS = 3 would eventually produce 2.0°C to 2.6°C of warming.
  • The Probability of Exceeding 1.5 °C in 2100 is 49-86%. They had to squeeze really hard to say that 1.5°C was more than 50% likely.

Compare the above to this from the abstract of Millar et. al 2017.

If COemissions are continuously adjusted over time to limit 2100 warming to 1.5C, with ambitious non-COmitigation, net future cumulativCOemissions are unlikely to prove less than 250 GtC and unlikely greater than 540 GtC. Hence, limiting warming to 1.5C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation.

They use tonnes of carbon as the unit of measure as against CO2 equivalent. The conversion factor is 3.664, so cumulative CO2 emissions need to be 870-1010 GtCO2 range. As this is to the end of 2015, not 2011 as in the IPCC report, it will be different. Subtracting 150 from the IPCC reports figures would give a range of 480 to 1030. That is, Millar et. al 2017 have reduced the emissions range by 75% to the top end of the IPCC’s range. Given the IPCC considered a range of 1.5-1.7°C of warming, this seems somewhat odd to then say it related to the lower end of the warming band, until you take into account that ECS has been reduced. But then why curtail the range of emissions instead calculating your own? It appears that again the authors are trying to squeeze a result within existing constraints.

However, this does not take into account the much higher levels of peak CO2 equivalent concentrations in table 6.3. Peak CO2 concentrations are around 75-95ppm higher than in 2100. Compare this to the green line in the central graph in Millar et. al 2017. 

 This is less than 50ppm higher than in 2100. Further in 2100 Millar et. al 2017 has CO2 levels of around 500ppm as against a mid-point of 410 in AR5. CO2 rising from 290 to 410ppm with ECS = 3.0 produced 1.50°C of warming. CO2 rising from 290 to 410ppm with ECS = 2.0 produced 1.51°C of warming. Further, this does not include the warming impact of other GHGs. To squeeze into the 1.5°C band, the mid-century overshoot in Millar et. al 2017 is much less than in AR5. This might be required in the modeling assumptions due to the very short time assumed in reaching full equilibrium climate response.

Are the authors playing games?

The figures do not appear to stack up. But then they appear to be playing around with figures, indicated by a statement in the explanation of Figure 2

Like other simple climate models, this lacks an explicit physical link between oceanic heat and carbon uptake. It allows a global feedback between temperature and carbon uptake from the atmosphere, but no direct link with net deforestation. It also treats all forcing agents equally, in the sense that a single set of climate response parameters is used in for all forcing components, despite some evidence of component-specific responses. We do not, however, attempt to calibrate the model directly against observations, using it instead to explore the implications of ranges of uncertainty in emissions, and forcing and response derived directly from the IPCC-AR5, which are derived from multiple lines of evidence and, importantly, do not depend directly on the anomalously cool temperatures observed around 2010.

That is:-

  • The model does not consider an “explicit physical link between oceanic heat and carbon uptake.” The IPCC estimated that over 90% of heat accumulation since 1970 was in the oceans. If the oceans were to belch out some of this heat at a random point in the future the 1.5°C limit will be exceeded.
  • No attempt has been made to “calibrate the model directly against observations”. Therefore there is no attempt to properly reconcile beliefs to the real world.
  • The “multiple lines of evidence” in IPCC-AR5 does not include a glaring anomaly that potentially falsifies the theory and therefore any “need” for policy at all. That is the divergence in actual temperatures trends from theory in this century.


The authors of Millar et. al 2017 have pushed out the boundaries to continue to support climate mitigation policies. To justify constraining emissions sufficient stop 1.5°C of warming the authors would appear to have

  • Assumed that all the warming since 1870 is caused by anthropogenic GHG emissions when there is not even a valid statistical test that confirms even half the warming was from this source.
  • Largely ignored any hidden heat or other long-term response to rises in GHGs.
  • Ignored the divergence between model predictions and actual temperature anomalies since around the turn of the century. This has two consequences. First, the evidence appears to strongly contradict the belief that humans are a major source of global warming and by implication dangerous climate change. Second, if it does not contradict the theory, suggests the amount of warming in the pipeline consequential on human GHG emissions has massively increased. Thus the 1.5°C warming could be breached anyway.
  • Made ECS as low as possible in the long-standing 1.5°C to 4.5°C range. Even assuming ECS is at the mid-point of the range for policy (as the IPCC has done in all its reports) means that warming will breach the 1.5°C level without any further emissions. 

The authors live in their closed academic world of models and shared beliefs. Yet the paper is being used for the continued support of mitigation policy that is both failing to get anywhere close to achieving the objectives and is massively net harmful in any countries that apply it, whether financially or politically.

Kevin Marshall

Commentary at Cliscep, Jo Nova, Daily Caller, Independent, The GWPF

Update 25/09/17 to improve formatting.

The Inferior Methods in Supran and Oreskes 2017

In the previous post I looked at one aspect of the article Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes. I concluded the basis for evaluation of ExxonMobil’s sponsored climate papers – “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” –  is a mantra held by people who fail to distinguish between empirical and verifiable statements, tautologies, opinions and public policy that requires some fanciful global political implementation. In this post I look at how the application of that mantra in analyzing journal articles can lead to grossly misleading interpretations.

Under Section 2. Method, in Table 2 the authors lay out their criteria evaluation in terms of how the wording supports (endorses) or doubts elements of the mantra. For AGW is real & human-caused there are quite complex criteria. But for whether it is “serious” and “solvable” they are much more straightforward, and I have reproduced them below.

The acknowledgment or doubt of “AGW as serious” or “AGW as solvable” are in relation to the mantra. That is the only criteria used. Supran and Oreskes would claim that this does not matter. What they are looking at is the positions communicated in the papers relative to the positions expressed by ExxonMobil externally. But there are problems with this methodology in terms of alternative perspectives that are missing.

First is that the underlying quality and clarity of results and relevancy of each paper is ignored. What matters to Supran and Oreskes is the language used.

Second is that ExxonMobil’s papers are not the only research on whether “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable”. The authors could also take into account the much wider body of papers out there within the broad areas covered by the mantra.

Third, if the totality of the research – whether ExxonMobil’s or the totality of climate research – does not amount to a strong case for anthropogenic global warming being a serious global problem, and nor having a workable solution, why should they promote politicized delusions?

Put this into the context of ExxonMobil – one of the World’s most successful businesses over decades – by applying some of the likely that it would use in assessing a major project or major strategic investment. For instance

  • How good is the evidence that there is a serious problem on a global scale emerging from human GHG emissions?
  • How strong is the evidence that humans have caused the recent warming?
  • Given many years of research, what is the track record of improving the quality and refinement of the output in the climate area?
  • What quality controls and KPIs are in place to enable both internal and external auditors to validate the work?
  • Where projections are made, what checks on the robustness of those projections have been done?
  • Where economic projections are produced, have they been done by competent mainstream economists, what are the assumptions made, and what sensitivity analyses have been done on those assumptions?
  • Does the project potentially harm investors, employees, customers and other stakeholders in the business? Where are the risk assessments of such potential harms, along with the procedures for the reporting and investigation of non-compliances?
  • Does a proposed project risk contravening laws and internal procedures relating to bribery and corruption?
  • Once a project is started, is it possible to amend that project over time or even abandon it should it fail to deliver? What are the contractual clauses that enable project amendment or abandonment and the potential costs of doing so?

Conclusions and further thoughts

Supran and Oreskes evaluate the ExxonMobil articles for AGW and policy in terms of a belief mantra applied to a small subset of the literature on the subject. Each article is looked at independently of all other articles; all other available information; and all other contexts in evaluating the information. This includes ignoring how a successful business evaluates and challenges information in strategic decision-making. Further any legitimate argument or evidence that undermines the mantra is evidence of doubt. It is all about throwing the onus on ExxonMobil to disprove the allegations, but never for Supran and Oreskes justify their mantra or their method of analysis is valid.

There are some questions arising from this, that I hope to pursue in later posts.

1. Is the method of analysis just a means of exposing ExxonMobil’s supposed hypocrisy by statistical means, or does it stem from a deeply flawed and ideological way of perceiving the world, that includes trying to shut out the wider realities of the real world, basic logic and other competing (and possibly superior) perspectives?

2. Whatever spread of misinformation and general hypocrisy might be shown on the part of ExxonMobil from more objective and professional perspectives, is there not greater misinformation sown by the promoters of the “climate consensus“?

3. Can any part of the mantra “AGW is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” be shown to be false in the real world, beyond reasonable doubt?

Kevin Marshall


Supran and Oreskes on ExxonMobils Communication of Climate Change

Over at Cliscep, Geoff Chambers gave a rather bitter review (with foul language) about a new paper, Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications (1977–2014) by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes.
One point that I would like to explore is part of a quote Geoff uses:-

The issue at stake is whether the corporation misled consumers, shareholders and/or the general public by making public statements that cast doubt on climate science and its implications, and which were at odds with available scientific information and with what the company knew. We stress that the question is not whether ExxonMobil ‘suppressed climate change research,’ but rather how they communicated about it.

It is the communication of climate science by a very powerful oil company, that the paper concentrates upon. The approach reveals a lot about the Climate Change movement as well. In particular, this statement in the introduction:-

Research has shown that four key points of understanding about AGW—that it is real, human-caused, serious, and solvable—are important predictors of the public’s perceived issue seriousness, affective issue involvement, support for climate policies, and political activism [62–66].

The references are as follows

[62] Krosnick J A, Holbrook A L, Lowe L and Visser P S 2006 The origins and consequences of democratic citizens’ policy agendas: a study of popular concern about global warming Clim. Change 77 7–43
[63] Ding D, Maibach E W, Zhao X, Roser-Renouf C and Leiserowitz A 2011 Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement Nat. Clim. Change 1 462–6
[64] Roser-Renouf C, Maibach E W, Leiserowitz A and Zhao X 2014 The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action Clim. Change 125 163–78
[65] Roser-Renouf C, Atkinson L, Maibach E and Leiserowitz A 2016 The consumer as climate activist Int. J. Commun. 10 4759–83
[66] van der Linden S L, Leiserowitz A A, Feinberg G D and Maibach E W 2015 The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: experimental evidence PLoS One 10 e0118489

For the purposes of Supran and Oreskes study, the understanding that people have of any issue does not require any substance at all beyond their beliefs. For instance, the Jehovah Witness Sect developing an “understanding” that Armageddon would occur in 1975. This certainly affected their activities in the lead up to the momentous history-ending event. Non-believers or members of the Christian Church may have been a little worried, shrugged their shoulders, or even thought the whole idea ridiculous. If similar studies to those on climate activism had been conducted on the prophecy of Armageddon 1975, similar results could have been found to those quoted for AGW beliefs in references 62-66. That is, the stronger the belief in the cause, whether religious evangelism in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses or ideological environmentalism in the case of AGW, is a predictor of activism in support of the cause. They cannot go further because of an issue with scholarly articles. Claims made must be substantiated, something that cannot be done with respect to the prophecies of climate catastrophism, except in a highly nuanced form.
But the statement that AGW is “real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” – repeated five times in the article – indicates something about the activists understanding of complex issues.
AGW is real” is not a proper scientific statement, as it is not quantified. Given that the impacts on surface temperatures can muffled and delayed nearly indefinitely by natural factors, or swallowed by the oceans, the belief can be independent of any contrary evidence for decades to come.
AGW is human-caused”, is saying “Human-caused global warming is human-caused”. It is a tautology that tells us nothing about the real world.
AGW is serious” is an opinion. It may be a very widely-held opinion, with many articles written with confirming evidence, and many concerned people attending massive conferences where it is discussed. But without clear evidence for emerging net adverse consequences, the opinion is largely unsubstantiated.
AGW is solvable” could be whether it is theoretically solvable, given the technology and policies being implemented. But the statement also includes whether it is politically solvable, getting actual policies to reduce emissions fully implemented. If the “solution” is the reduction of global emissions to a level commensurate with 2C of warming (hence a partial solution), then COP21 in Paris shows that AGW is a long way from being solvable, with no actual solution in sight. Whereas the 2C limit requires global emissions to be lower in 2030 than in 2015, and falling rapidly, fully implemented policies would still see emissions higher in 2030 than in 2015 and still increasing.

The statement AGW is “real, human-caused, serious, and solvable” is, therefore, nothing more than a mantra held by people who fail to distinguish between empirical and verifiable statements, tautologies, opinions and public policy that requires some fanciful global political implementation. 

Kevin Marshall

The Morning Star’s denial of the Venezuelan Dictatorship

Guido Fawkes has an excellent example of the hard left’s denial of realities that conflict with their beliefs. From the Daily Politics, this is Morning Star editor Ben Chacko saying that the UN Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela was one-sided.

The Human Rights report can be found here.

The recent demonstrations need to be put into context. There are two contexts that can be drawn upon. The Socialist Side (with which many Socialists will disagree) is from Morning Star’s piece of 25th August The Bolivarian Revolution hangs in the balance.

They say

One of the world’s largest producers of oil, on which 95 per cent of its economy depends, the Bolivarian socialist government of Venezuela has, over the last 17 years, used its oil revenues to cut poverty by half and reduce extreme poverty to 5.4 per cent.

The government has built social housing; boosted literacy; provided free healthcare and free education from primary school to universities and introduced arts, music and cultural analysis programmes and many others targeting specific problems at the local level.

This is sentance emphasises the hard-left bias.

The mainly middle-class protesters, most without jobs and income, accused President Nicolas Maduro of dictatorship and continued with their daily demonstrations and demands for a change of government. 

Folks without “jobs or income” are hardly middle-class, but might be former middle-class. They have been laid low by circumstances. Should they be blaming the Government or forces outside the Government’s control?


From on 16th August – Socialism – not oil prices – is to blame for Venezuela’s woes. Also from on 17th February – Venezuela: 75% of the population lost 19 pounds amid crisis. This is the classic tale of socialism’s failure.

  • Government control of food supplies leads to shortages, which leads to rationing, which leads to more shortages and black market profiteering. This started in 2007 when oil prices were high, but not yet at the record high.
  • Inflation is rampant, potentially rising from 720% in 2016 to 1600% this year. This is one of the highest rates in the world.
  • The weight loss is due to food shortages. It is the poorest who suffer the most, though most of the population are in extreme poverty.
  • An oil-based economy needs to diversify. Venezuela has not. It needs to use high oil prices to invest in infrastructure. Instead, the Chavez regime expropriated the oil production from successful private companies and handed to Government Cronies. A graphic from Forbes illustrates the problem.

About a decade ago at the height of the oil price boom, Venezuela’s known oil reserves more than tripled, yet production fell. It now has the highest oil reserves of any country in the world.

  • Crime has soared, whilst people are going hungry.
  • Maybe a million children are missing school through hunger and lack of resources to run schools. Short-run “successes” based on expropriating the wealth of others have reversed to create a situation far worse than before Chavez came to power.
  • Oil prices are in real terms above the level they were from 1986 to 2003 (with the exception of a peak for the first Gulf War) and comparable to the peak reached in 1973 with the setting up of the OPEC Cartel and oil embargo.

The reality is that Socialism always fails. But there is always a hardcore always in denial, always coming up with empty excuses for failure, often blaming it on others. With the rise of Jeremy Corbyn (who receives a copy of the Morning Star daily), this hardcore has have taken over the Labour Party. The example of Venezuela indicates the long-term consequences of their attaining power.

Kevin Marshall