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COLLAPSE OF CLIMATE CONSENSUS by Professor Will Alexander May 6, 2009

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COLLAPSE OF CLIMATE CONSENSUS

By Professor Will Alexander

Received via email, Friday 1 May 2009

Following this climate change issue is like watching one of those crime thrillers on TV. They all have a surprise ending.

This whole climate change issue has three distinct components. They are scientific, economic and political. It started with the science. After Gleneagles it shifted gear. The economists under the leadership of Nicholas Stern took over. Then the politicians under the influence of Al Gore saw huge opportunities. It became like a ballet performance. All three parties danced to the same tune.

The climax is rapidly approaching. All the nations of the world (there are about 190 of them) have to agree to adopt very costly emissions control measures by December this year. It is like expecting a crowd of people, rich and poor, to cut off their little fingers in unison.

True to those crime thrillers, the plot thickens. Read the attached memo for details. Now I challenge you to identify the surprise ending.

Let me give you a clue. About 10 years ago I appeared as an expert witness before the 16 judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. I often imagine a repeat performance. It would have to be on behalf of the EU. I would have no difficulty in proving beyond reasonable doubt, that their emissions could not possibly have caused droughts, floods and environmental damage in Africa.

On the other hand, if I succeeded, it would deprive Africa of billions of dollars of compensation from the EU and the USA.

Of course none of this will happen. So how will it all end?

Watch this space.

Memo 19/09

Collapse of climate consensus

Will Alexander

Friday 1 May 2009

This is their school bus. Photo Richard Alexander, Windhoek.

The glue that held this whole climate change alarmism together was one word – ‘consensus’. Whenever anybody objected, they were told that there was an overwhelming consensus that supported climate change science.

In 2005 the academies of science of the world’s leading nations addressed an appeal to the G8 nations ahead of a meeting at Gleneagles, in the UK. They urged the G8 nations to take measures to reduce their dangerous greenhouse gas emissions (principally carbon dioxide). Appreciating that this would cost a lot of money, the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed a British economist Nicholas Stern to review the whole issue. He duly warned the world that while these emissions reduction measures would affect world economies, failure to do so would result in the end of civilisation on this planet. We had no option.

There was one issue that this renowned economist failed to predict. It was the collapse of the world’s economy. The world is now experiencing its most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. But he failed to predict it. How then can we trust his prediction relating to the economic consequences of climate change by the end of the century?

Incidentally, at Gleneagles, the world’s most wealthy nations also promised to provide financial assistance to Africa’s struggling economies. But this was not forthcoming. Africa has not forgotten these failed promises. It has repeatedly stated that Africa requires trade not aid. This has also not been forthcoming.

Bali roadmap

With the proclaimed overwhelming scientific consensus and failed promises of economic aid in mind, let us skip to the UNFCCC conference held in Bali in December 2007. The negotiations failed to reach a financial consensus. Instead a roadmap was negotiated that would lead to a unanimous agreement by all nations. It had a deadline of December 2009. This was required because the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Bali target was a 20% reduction in global emissions by 2020 with further reductions thereafter. It was also agreed that the developing nations, including South Africa, would receive financial assistance from the wealthy nations.

Consensus consequences

The global economic recession/depression upset the apple cart. There were also other factors. On the scientific front the globe stopped warming several years ago despite worldwide increases in undesirable emissions. The climate alarmists were compelled to increase their rhetoric or face losing their research funding. They now predict that the consequences will be larger and will occur sooner than previously predicted.

What the alarmists failed to appreciate is the consequence of their consensus conclusion that these emissions have already caused serious increases in floods, droughts, environmental and health damage in Africa. Africa is just across the Mediterranean from the source of these emissions.

Clearly, African nations now have a legally incontestable claim for damages from the EU nations. Who would win if the AU took the EU before the International Court of Justice in The Hague and demanded astronomical compensation for past damage and annual future damages until such time that the EU reduces its damaging emissions?

Now the long-suffering African nations are on the war path.

National submissions

The United Nations has just published the submissions by the parties ahead of the next round of discussions to be held in June. This is yet another attempt to break the growing deadlock. These submissions can be downloaded via the Reuters website

http://www.reuters.com/articlePrint?articleId=USLS544223 which leads you to the United Nations website.

On 14 April Algeria produced a submission on behalf of the African group. South Africa expanded on this in its negotiating text dated 24 April. It consists of six pages. The short quotes below are directly from the submissions. Comments in square brackets are mine.

Submission by Algeria on behalf of the African group.

The shared vision must unite the countries of the world in further building an inclusive, fair and effective climate regime, recognizing that solving the climate problem will only be possible if it is undertaken in the context of developing countries need for development space.

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, with major development and poverty eradication challenges and limited capacity for adaptation. International co-operation of implementation of adaptation action in Africa is urgent and must be accorded the same level of priority and emphasis is that given to mitigation.

By 2020 the scale of financial flows to support adaptation in developing countries must be at least $67 billion/year.

A firewall must be maintained between mitigation commitments by all developed countries and mitigation actions by developing countries. [Emphasis in the original.]

In numerical terms: Annex 1 Parties [i.e. developed countries] reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% below the 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050, to make a meaningful and fair contribution to choosing the lowest level of stabilisation assisted by the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. At lower stabilisation levels, the additional climate impacts are unacceptable to Africa. [My emphasis. Note these two very stringent requirements.]

A 2020 target for the scale of financial flows to support  mitigation in developing countries is set at $200 million by 2020 (0.5% of GDP of Annex II parties). [This is in addition to the $67 billion for adaptation.]

Provision of finance, technology and capacity-building must be legally binding, with consequences for non-compliance. Action by developing countries is dependent on the level of support by developed countries.

Submission by South Africa.

South Africa supports the submission by Algeria on behalf of the African Group, on 14 April 2009, on key elements of the negotiation text under the Bali Action Plan.

A comprehensive and action-oriented international programme and adaptation implementation is established, aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience of developed countries to impacts that are already occurring [My emphasis.]

In numerical terms Annex I parties shall, individually or jointly, ensure that the aggregate anthropogenic carbon dioxide equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gases are reduced by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and at least 80% to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050, to make a meaningful contribution to achieving the lowest level of stabilisation assisted by the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. At less ambitious stabilisation levels, the additional climate impacts are unacceptable to Africa.  [My emphasis.]

The register is a mechanism to enhance the implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention related to mitigation action to be taken by developing countries, in the context of their overriding poverty alleviation and sustainable development priorities. [My emphasis. This is a convenient escape mechanism.]

The level of mitigation efforts by developing countries shall be commensurate with the level of support received. South Africa would expect the level of support for mitigation actions by developing countries to reach $200 billion annually by 2020. [i.e shared by all developing countries.]

As shared vision for an inclusive, fair and effective climate regime must be based on sound science, a balance between climate and development imperatives, and a balance between adaptation and mitigation. As shared vision combines all the above of its in order to achieve the full, effective and sustained implementation of a convention is through a long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012. [Sound science?]

Joint submission by Australia, Belarus, Canada, the European Community and its member states, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and Ukraine.

This is the list of achievable reductions by 2020 with the reference year in parentheses.

Australia: -5% up to -15% (2000).

Canada: -20% (2006).

European Union: -20% to -30% (1990).

Compare these with the African demands of -40% (1990). This is in an unbridgeable gap. There is no way whatsoever that any nation in the world can reduce its emissions by 40% during a 10-year period.

Submission by India.

No mention is made of specific targets or specific financial requirements.

Adaptation needs to receive the same level of attention as that given to mitigation for reasons that the adverse effects of climate change can pose a serious risk to a sustainable economic and social development.

The financial resources for enhanced adaptation action should be adequate, agreed for costs, predictable, timely and stable with provisions of direct, simplified and expeditious access to developing country parties.

Submission by China.

China welcomes the opportunity to submit additional views paragraph 1 of the Bali action plan and submits the following as elements to be included in the negotiating text.

The most urgent requirement at present is to set the mid-term emission reduction targets for developed country parties, rather than a general and long-term global goal. Only with such mid-term target being clearly determined, is meaningful to talk about any long-term goals for missions reductions. All developed country parties to the convention shall commit to reduce their GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. [Note the reference to 40% reduction by 2020 insisted by the African group.]

The right to development is a basic human right that is undeprivable. Economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing countries. [This is exactly my view. See photo above.]

Developed country parties shall have deeper cuts in their GHG emissions so as to ensure adequate spaces for developing countries to achieve their goals of substantive development and eradication of poverty.

Given historical responsibility, equity and development stage, the Annex I parties as a group shall reduce the GHG emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020.

No submissions by the USA were included in the United Nations’ news release. This must be causing a lot of headaches.

My interpretations

These are political negotiating positions. The question is whether it will be possible to reach a consensus agreement by December. However, there are further complications.

The following are extracts from a report in our morning newspaper Business Day on 28 April.

IMF warns of ‘human calamity’. Call on member nations to speed up aid and give even more to the most vulnerable

How to help the developing world cope with the worst global slump since the Great Depression was top of the agenda for the bank’s steering committee meeting that wrapped up the sibling institutions’ two day talks.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned the global economic crisis is turning into a “human calamity”, and called on members to speed up pledged aid and give even more to help the most vulnerable. At the end of meetings in Washington on Sunday, the two multilateral lending institutions told their 185 member countries that the worst global slump in generations had already driven more than 50-million people into extreme poverty.

“The global economy has deteri­orated dramatically…. Developing countries face especially serious con­sequences as the financial and eco­nomic crisis turns into a human and development calamity,” the IMF and World Bank joint development committee said.

“No one knows how long this crisis will last,” World. Bank president Robert Zoellick said. While the bank’s finances were “in a strong position to heIp our partner countries”, the crisis put the United Nations’ Millennium Deve]opment Goals to reduce poverty by 2015 increasingly at risk.

The World Bank launched a $55bn infrastructure investment pro­gramme on Saturday. It is designed specifically to help developing countries weather the global slump.

“The Bank and IMF said all the right things, but the true test is whether their rich-country sharehold­ers will turn words into action,” said Marita Hutjes of Oxfam International.

Meanwhile, China called for reform of the global currency system, dominated by the dollar, which it said was the root cause of the crisis. Chi­nese Finance Vice-Minister Li Yong said the “flawed” international mon­etary system was “a major defect in the current international economic governance structure”. Sapa-AFP

Collapse of scientific consensus

The following are some pertinent reports published in recent issues of CCNet.

As a result of promoting environmental alarmism, Western governments find themselves trapped in a perilous, yet largely self-constructed catch. As long as climate change is elevated as the principal liability of industrial countries, as long as Western CO2 emissions are blamed for exacerbating natural disasters, death and destruction around the globe, green pressure groups and officials from the developing world will continue to insist that the West is liable to recompense its exorbitant carbon debt by way of wealth transfer and financial compensation. Ultimately, there is now a growing risk that the whole global-warming scare is creating more anti-Western hostility and further loss of influence on the international stage.
–Benny Peiser, Financial Post, 8 April 2008

Gradually the world of science has evolved to the dangerous point where model-building has precedence over observation and measurement, especially in Earth and life sciences. In certain ways, modelling by scientists has become a threat to the foundation on which science has stood: the acceptance that nature is always the final arbiter and that a hypothesis must always be tested by experiment and observation in the real world.
–James Lovelock, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

Can we solve climate change? No we can’t, according to a leading climate change professor.  Mike Hulme, professor of Climate Change at East Anglia University, reckons we are heading up a “dead end” by putting climate change science at the top of the political agenda. In fact he thinks we are pretty arrogant to think we can control the climate.
–Mike Swain, The Mirror, 27 April 2009

The international battle over global warming and how to deal with it will not be decided over scientific issues. It is being determined by governments and law-makers on the basis of national interests – that is on the basis of hard-nosed economic, political and geo-political considerations. Nowhere can the veracity of this realpolitik be better observed than in Europe and the United States, where costly climate policies face mounting opposition and gridlock amid deepening economic turmoil.
–Benny Peiser, Post-Kyoto and the Impasse of International Climate Negotiations
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