Anyone for 10/10/tennis?

his is a guest post by the team at 350.org Aotearoa, describing some of the events planned in New Zealand for the 350 Aotearoa Global Climate Working Bee on 10/10/10 — part of the international 10/10/10 campaign.

350 Aotearoa is part of an international campaign and aims to mobilise New Zealanders to initiate actions to address climate change. The flagship day on 10th October 2010, the Global Climate Working Bee, will see thousands of volunteers planting trees, organising bike rides and insulating homes in a bid to get to work on climate change and do something positive for the environment.

350 Aotearoa supports the goal of reducing carbon dioxide from its current level of 390 parts per million (ppm) to below 350 ppm, the safe upper limit according to the latest science. Over 5,100 events are already registered in over 170 countries for 10/10/10, including 90 in New Zealand.

Some of the inspirational actions include:

 

  • In Auckland, staff from the White Roofs Project will paint many high-visibility rooftops white to reflect sunlight and help cool the planet.
  • Cyclists are getting to work by running free bike skills workshops and fix ups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. They are aiming to get as many bikes as possible out of storage and road-ready for summer.
  • Volunteers will be planting native species in Earthwise Valley, on the Coromandel Peninsula, throughout October to convert degraded farmland back to native rainforest.
  • 350 locally sourced natives will be planted in Carterton, Wairarapa, to regenerate wetlands and clean up the polluted Kokotau swimming spot.
  • The 10/10/10 Wellington Wander will showcase the best walking shortcuts in Wellington to encourage swapping the car for your feet.
  • An environmental awareness and education festival aims to bring all Marlborough has to offer in terms of sustainable practices together.
  • At Scarborough beach, south of Timaru, volunteers will clean rubbish from along the shoreline and plant native trees in the nearby wetland.
  • Frocks on Bikes will take a tour around Christchurch city.
  • In Christchurch, volunteers will have an afternoon of planting native plants to the soothing sounds of trance music with live DJ performances.
  • ‘Swap it’ encourages Dunedin locals to spring clean their closets in a sustainable fashion.
  • In Dunedin, locals are invited to a low-carbon picnic event with live music and face painting. The picnic will showcase seasonal and locally sourced food.

Action in the community not only has the potential to minimise the effects of climate change directly, but also has the power to influence and inspire change in other sectors such as business and government.

After the events, all eyes turn to Cancun, where world leaders are meeting in December to build an international treaty to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. The failure of world leaders to reach a binding agreement in Copenhagen last year makes the negotiations especially critical.

Interested groups are encouraged to register by visiting www.350.org.nz.

[Cream]

Wegman Report’s “abysmal scholarship” revealed

A detailed investigation into the genesis of the 2006 Wegman Report — much beloved of climate sceptics because it was critical of the “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstructions of Michael Mann (et al) — has shown it to be deeply flawed, stuffed with poorly-executed plagiarism, and very far from the “independent, impartial, expert” effort it was presented as to Congress. The new 250 page study, Strange scholarship in the Wegman Report (exec summary, full report) by John Mashey (with considerable assistance from Canadian blogger Deep Climate) finds that:

  • a third of the Wegman Report was plagiarised from other sources, without attribution
  • half of the references in the bibliography are not cited in the main text, and one reference is to “a fringe technology publication by a writer of pseudoscience”
  • a graph of central England temperatures from the first IPCC report was distorted and misrepresented
  • the supposedly impartial Wegman team were fed papers and references by a member of Republican Congressman Joe Barton’s staff
  • Wegman’s social network analysis of the authorship of “hockey team” papers was poor, and did not support the claims made of problems with peer-review in the field

Mashey points out that Wegman “claimed two missions: to evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph, and to assess potential peer review issues in climate science”. Instead, its real purpose was to:

#1 claim the hockey stick broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “thinktanks” and allies, under way for years.

If you’ve ever attempted to follow the “hockey stick” controversy, Mashey’s study is an incredibly thorough and detailed dissection of the extent to which the whole effort has been underpinned by the usual suspects — the network of well-funded think tanks and their political allies. His conclusion is telling:

I think this was a well-organized effort, involving many people, to mislead the American public and Congress. The former happens often, but the latter can be a felony, as is conspiracy to do it, and not telling about it. […] The Wegman Report misleads by avoidance of good scholarship, good science and even good statistics.

More on the Wegman scandal at Deep Climate, Not Spaghetti, and Scott Mandia’s Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Walking back to happiness

This is a guest post by Tom Bennion of stopflying.org, the first in a series in which he explores why he believes giving up flying is not only possible, but essential.

I am a 46 year old lawyer, running a small practice specialising in environment law. I also teach. I am married, with three small children. Eighteen months ago, I decided to give up flying. Here’s why.
I believe that the idea of voluntary drastic reductions in personal air travel is a fault line issue in the climate change debate. By this I mean that when I suggest to friends who are concerned about climate change that they limit their air travel to essential trips only, because that is easily the greatest source of personal carbon emissions, I am invariably met with arguments that would not look out of place on Anthony Watts’ blog or at www.lomborg.com. These include:
  • globally, flying accounts for only a few percent of emissions, so why bother
  • per kilometre, emissions are about the same as a family car
  • offsets are possible
  • biofuels are coming
  • I am taking other (invariably much less effective) measures such as changing lightbulbs
  • I am (now) very worried about the impact on tourism of x country if I do not fly
  • you are making me feel guilty – stop it
  • you want to take us back to the middle ages – stop it
  • China and coal are the big problems. What we do as individuals doesnt really count.
The arguments are all deeply flawed. I will provide my thoughts to those matters in a subsequent post. In this post I want to focus on what I think are the underlying reasons for these responses.
Flying is far and away the highest source of personal emissions. Yet they are some of the most easily reduced emissions. Flying to a holiday in Fiji or Europe, at 30,000 feet while sipping drinks, comes well down in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Consider the impact of the Icelandic volcano earlier this year. The closure of Europe’s airspace badly affected some businesses, but in the main it stranded a lot of holiday makers.
It stands to reason then, that this would be the first place concerned individuals would cut their emissions. Cutting out all non-essential flights is a no-brainer. But generally, they don’t. A number of commentators have pointed this out. George Marshall has written about climate scientists taking high carbon holidays.
To give a personal example. A colleague who does important work in the climate area and tells me “we are stuffed”, just returned from what he happily told me was a ‘high carbon’ holiday. Why this odd disjunction between thinking and action when to comes to flying?
I believe that the central problem is the fact that flying is bound up with our current identity – the feeling of freedom to go and be anywhere on the globe at short notice. That knowledge shapes how we view the world and our place in it. And it is tough changing your world view in such a dramatic way. In deciding to strictly limit flying, you have to radically alter your view of the future. There is some personal hardship. But the main impact is psychological. You have to change how you see yourself, and your future, and the future you might have imagined for your children.
That is why it is embarrassing to tell people you no longer fly because of concern about climate change. And that is also why the people you tell often get embarrassed. Some feel personally affronted, viewing it as a challenge to their world view (as compared to, for example, the mild response you get when you tell someone you are vegetarian). In the face of that sort of social pressure, science and logic don’t stand a chance.
My reasons for stopping flying have been two-fold:
  • finally appreciating at a gut level that the future will be quite difficult for my children;
  • finding out that CO2 emissions are persistent in the atmosphere and warm over an extraordinarily long time (around 1000 years) — so every emission saved today counts.
I also realised that there are worse things than social embarrassment. And that fear of embarrassment and upsetting others would be a silly reason for refraining from taking action for my children and seeing the planet warm by 4 degrees. I liken it to the reaction any parent would have if they saw an unsafe pedestrian crossing near their child’s school. You don’t wait for others to act, and you don’t keep quiet about the danger.
Making this change means you start to look at very practical schemes for reducing emissions. Top of my wish list is a revived overnight sleeper train service between Auckland and Wellington. Easily achieved, it would allow business trips to be made within workday timeframes not too different from flying (currently I use the overnight bus — but you have to be good at cat-napping).
There are unexpected benefits, dinner with my elderly parents in Hamilton while I wait for the 10pm bus, better quality meetings with clients – since there is no rush to catch that 3pm flight to Wellington.
Why couldn’t I have my brother, who lives in Dublin, sitting virtually on my sofa, enjoying a live test match?
Making this change also means that you ask for technologies that go beyond crude retrofitting of existing systems. It seems to me that we could do a lot more in the area of videoconferencing, perhaps with some holograms thrown in. Gaming technology is moving in this direction. Why couldn’t I have my brother, who lives in Dublin, sitting virtually on my sofa, enjoying a live test match? And if I really need to travel to Dublin, is the Chinese idea of a 2-3 days journey by fast train (powered by renewable energy) the way to go? When you start those discussions, transporting large numbers of people around the world at 30,000 feet in jet aircraft burning kerosene starts to look like old technology.
One argument often made to me is that this idea puts people offside. It scares them. It splits the climate change message. I reject that. People are canny. If climate scientists, politicians and the like don’t appear to be taking a relatively easy and fairly obvious measure to reduce emissions, people figure that there is no reason why they should act. People want to know, are those shouting loudest about climate change putting any real skin in the game?
George Marshall puts it well:
Imagine that we focus our efforts on generating a socially held belief. What would change in the way we present climate science?
Well, for one thing we would become far more concerned about the communicators and their perceived trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is an elusive and complex bundle of qualities: authority and expertise are among them. But so too are less tangible qualities: honesty, confidence, charm, humour, outspokenness. The tiny network of maverick self-promoting skeptics play this game well – which is one of the reasons why they exercise such disproportionate influence over public opinion.
I have been surprised how many of my peers and even strangers who have heard about my initiative want to know more. “You really think its that serious?”, is a common question. My intention is that people, on their next flight, at the back of their minds, will remember that some people they know aren’t flying anymore because of climate change. The seeds for change are planted.
My intuition is that, because this is a fault line issue, it really wouldn’t take more than a few high profile institutions (climate institutes at universities?) and individuals (academics, politicians, film/pop stars) to declare that their flying days are over, and we would have a whole new debate about urgency, and what the government needs to do about reducing emissions.
The last reason why I think it makes good sense to have a stop flying movement is because our government suspects that we all want to talk climate change, but will vote them out if they institute the CO2 reduction measures which are now urgently required. But people who have stopped flying are sending the message “we have the understanding, independence and resilience to deal with this. What shall we do next?”
Tom Bennion
www.stopflying.org

[Helen Shapiro]

Climate action: the moral dimension

Joseph Romm sounded the theme of moral obligation in a post on Climate Progress this morning as he directed readers’ attention to an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosophy professor at Princeton University. Appiah was reflecting on what future generations might condemn us for. He instances practices in the past which are now regarded with abhorrence. Men dutifully beating their wives and children, the execution of homosexuals, the practice of slavery, denying women the vote, lynch mobs, are among his examples. We look back and ask: What were people thinking?

What in our own time are our descendants likely to look back on and ask what we were thinking? Appiah identifies four contenders, some which go beyond the scope of Hot Topic’s focus, but before he does so he suggests three signs that a particular present practice may be destined for future condemnation. What especially attracted my attention was his use of the institution of slavery to illustrate the signs.

“First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice. The case against slavery didn’t emerge in a blinding moment of moral clarity, for instance; it had been around for centuries.

“Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity. (As in, “We’ve always had slaves, and how could we grow cotton without them?”)

“And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they’re complicit. Those who ate the sugar or wore the cotton that the slaves grew simply didn’t think about what made those goods possible. That’s why abolitionists sought to direct attention toward the conditions of the Middle Passage, through detailed illustrations of slave ships and horrifying stories of the suffering below decks.”

I have often detected parallels between the struggle to get action on climate change and the past struggle to have slavery abolished, but have tended to draw back from pointing to them because the content of the struggles is different and the comparison may seem rather harsh on the opponents of climate change action. However the three signs Appiah nominates seem to me apposite to climate change inaction, and I hope I can point this out in sufficiently general terms to avoid appearing to accuse anyone of gross inhumanity.

First, we have been aware of the dangers of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, not for centuries admittedly, but for long enough for governments to be apprised of the information.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has been in force since 1994 and enjoys near universal membership.

Second, many of the arguments against effective action invoke economic necessity ahead of environmental responsibility.  In the case of the slave trade and slavery the argument was strongly urged that economic ruin and decay would result. Somehow that trumped any humanitarian issues. In the case of climate change the issues are not presented so starkly. We are assured that the environmental questions are not overlooked, just pushed down the list. But the obstinate fact remains that the economy comes first, and moreover the economy as it is presently conducted and understood, not as it might become when greened.

Thirdly, strategic ignorance is deeply involved in the continuance of many of our present climate unfriendly activities. It relates to those in poorer countries already suffering the effects of climate change as well as to our grandchildren and their children who will be struggling with the massive problems we are bequeathing them.  If anyone tries to make a connect between the floods of Pakistan or the wildfires of Russia and our greenhouse gas emissions they are accused of falsely attributing natural phenomena to human causation. If they point to the storms ahead for our grandchildren they are dismissed as alarmist.

The Quakers had an honourable part to play in the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery. I was interested a year ago to read a book by a group of modern Quakers, academics and entrepreneurs, on the kind of changes needed to produce an ecologically sustainable and socially just economy. Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy was its title and I reviewed it on Celsias. Why I mention it here is because the authors deliberately place themselves in the tradition of the 18th century Quakers who engaged in the campaign to end British participation in the slave trade and abolish slavery throughout the British Empire. They see their book as a moral challenge to today’s growth-driven economy, and take inspiration from their Quaker predecessors who “eventually won the day and brought down the economic interests that argued for the ‘natural law’ of profit over all”.

To return to Appiah and the Washington Post. Unsurprisingly, the environment is one of the areas in which he foresees future generations asking what we were thinking.

“It’s not as though we’re unaware of what we’re doing to the planet: We know the harm done by deforestation, wetland destruction, pollution, overfishing, greenhouse gas emissions — the whole litany. Our descendants, who will inherit this devastated Earth, are unlikely to have the luxury of such recklessness. Chances are, they won’t be able to avert their eyes, even if they want to.”

Joe Romm’s complementary comment on that paragraph is just right:

“Also, unlike most other condemnable immoral activities in history, by the time this is obvious to all, there will be no undoing it by passing a law or establishing new social norms. And that’s why we all have a moral obligation to condemn what’s happening now in the strongest possible terms.”

It’s the moral dimension which makes it not unreasonable to see parallels between the obstinate refusal or delay to face up to the consequences of our climate inaction and the stubborn persistence of those in the 18th and 19th century who staved off action on slavery for so long.

Hide’s Aussie holiday: warming up for Carterist science’s new consensus

Rodney The Hood Hide is taking an Aussie break during the current Parliamentary recess — popping over to Melbourne and Sydney to act as warm-up man for Bob Carter at the launch of Carter’s magnum opus, Climate: The Counter-consensus – a Scientist Speaks. And it appears Hide is as happy to allow his hosts to misrepresent his qualifications as he is to mislead Parliament. The flier for the “Quadrant dinner” in Sydney says:

Rodney has a degree in environmental science, and is a powerful and well-informed public speaker.

He may be a powerful speaker, but Hide does not have a degree in environmental science, and he is woefully ill-informed on climate matters. Hide has Masters degrees in economics and resource management (Wikipedia, NZ Parliament bio), and as this comment at Hot Topic two years ago suggests, he could have completed the latter without encountering any science at all. But he’s good for a bit of rabble-rousing, and I expect his “ditch the ETS” rhetoric, liberally laced with attacks on NIWA’s stewardship of the NZ temperature record and chanted lines from the climate crank catechism will make the Quadrant dinner worth every cent of the A$74 being charged…

Meanwhile, Carterist science is finally getting the recognition it deserves, and the Heartland climate con is on its way to Sydney. Carter’s been appointed Chief Science Advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition.

 

Here’s Carter welcoming his appointment:

“Working with ICSC as Chief Science Advisor is a welcome opportunity to counter the widespread but erroneous belief that dangerous global warming is occurring, and that it has human causation”. Professor Carter continued:  “Science has yet to provide unambiguous evidence that problematic, or even measurable, human-caused global warming is occurring.

So, do we have ambiguous evidence of problems caused by that unmeasurable warming, or is Carter just repeating standard climate crank nonsense? I think we know the answer to that one…

In one sense, however, Carter is breaking new ground in crank thinking. The title of his book (Climate: The Counter-consensus – a Scientist Speaks) suggest that a “counter-consensus” is assembling. For there to be a counter-consensus there first has to be a consensus in mainstream climate science to counter, but for years sceptics, deniers and cranks have been claiming loudly that there is “no consensus“. Indeed, point 5 of the “core principles” of the organisation that has just appointed Carter its chief science advisor says:

Claims that ‘consensus’ exists among climate experts regarding the causes of the modest warming of the past century are contradicted by thousands of independent scientists.

But if there is no consensus, how can a counter-consensus assemble? Does Carter support the ICSC’s core principles? And what about that modest warming? According to Carter it’s not measurable, or not happening. At this point, dear reader, you will forgive me if I pour another glass of wine and ponder the many contradictory things you have to believe at the same time if you are to be a true climate septic…

Finally, the Heartland Institute is holding a one-day climate sceptic conference in Sydney next Friday, October 1st. Carter’s talking, of course, and Chris de Freitas is popping over to talk about Developments in Climate Science: Potential Drivers of Emissions Policy Beyond 2012 (at a guess, wishful thinking will be involved). Interestingly, the climate day follows on from two days of “workshops and brainstorming with free market advocates from the Pacific Rim” at the Pacific Rim Policy Exchange: chief sponsors Heartland, Americans for Tax Reform (a Koch & Scaife funded lobby group), the Property Rights Alliance (an ATR spin-off), and Australia’s free market Institute of Public Affairs. And NZ’s pulling its weight on the agenda, with the Business Roundtable’s Roger Kerr on a panel considering free trade, and (somewhat more surprising, to me at least) Kiwiblogger and National party stalwart David Farrar taking part in a “working lunch” on “getting the message out”. Interesting to see he’s happy to take the Heartland shilling…