Will the Paris agreement side with the angels?

IMG_4904One of the most beautiful things I saw on my facebook feed last week were some angels at Republique, the scene of the attacks last month. Those same angels appeared at the entrance to the UN zone at the climate talks out at Le Bourget the other day as we walked into the centre. Today it was the Greenpeace polar bear, Aurora, roaring at everyone.  But whatever is set up to amuse us  on the way in, there’s no getting around it:  we’re heading to the pointy end of the Paris agreement, and it’s no longer really about pictures. It’s all about words. The text.

I’ve been here a few times now: these last 48 hours at a climate talks where nobody gets any sleep, and everybody’s obsessed with the regular new rounds of the draft agreement.

We’ve been waiting all day:  governments battled over words all night last night, and the French Environment Minister Fabius’s team started drafting a new version of the draft agreement early this morning.

Continue reading “Will the Paris agreement side with the angels?”

1.5 to stay alive: big issues for small countries as Paris climate talks get down to nitty gritty

EiffelchairsI’ve been in Paris for over a week now, and the speed at which everything goes past, including time, is frightening.   I think the 40,000 expected have now all arrived.  I’m getting worried the only Eiffel Tower I’ll see is the one made of red folding chairs at the end of the “Champs Elysee” at the meeting.

We began last week with the Heads of State arriving and making grand statements about grandchildren, climate impacts, the importance of the issue, etc..

Arnold Schwarzenegger was here today, Richard Branson was here yesterday.  We’ve had Leo Dicaprio, Sean Penn, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle: a veritable feast of celebrity and wisdom.  Ben & Jerry’s are giving out free ice cream.

There’s been major announcements on progress from climate finance, to cities taking action, and absolutely everything and anything to do with climate change and workers, and indigenous peoples, and everything else under the sun. There’s a lot of noise, everyone trying to get their message heard.  My quote of the day today was a journalist saying “my inbox is my enemy.”

Now we’re into the second week and the French Presidency is doing its best to keep this show on the road.  After a week of officials fighting over the text, we saw the Draft Paris Outcome (note: not “agreement” but “outcome”) posted on the UNFCCC website on Saturday, and government ministers took over from officials on Sunday. Continue reading “1.5 to stay alive: big issues for small countries as Paris climate talks get down to nitty gritty”

TVNZ pushes Leyland’s climate lies

In an appalling lapse of editorial judgement, TVNZ has given notorious Climate “Science” Coalition propagandist Bryan Leyland four minutes of airtime this morning [TVNZ page removed: but available here.] to rubbish the work of the IPCC. Yes, that’s right, the nation’s public broadcaster presented a man way out on the crank fringe who has made a late-life career out climate denial, against one of the largest scientific undertakings of all time — the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. The IPCC, lest we forget, warned yesterday that world faces “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage from climate change unless we cut emissions steeply.

Leyland was allowed to lie about about computer models and modellers, present a shonky graph, claim that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was a “huge benefit” to agriculture, and completely misrepresent the scientific consensus on the reality of warming. The presenter, Rawdon Christie, did try a little scripted pushback early in the piece, but was woefully underprepared to deal with a Leyland obviously gleeful at his opportunity to spout nonsense to the nation.

Here a list of Leyland’s lies, roughly transcribed from the video:

“Everything’s based on computer models – they’re programmed to show warming”

No they’re not. One of the oldest climate lies on the block, and Leyland uses it shamelessly. Worse, he’s allowed to get away with it by a woefully underprepared presenter.

Models predicted warming and it hasn’t happened [with graphic1]

Warming continues: ice melts, sea levels rise and oceans warm

No indications of rate increase in sea level rise

Sea level rise has accelerated, and is expected to accelerate further as warming continues and ice sheets disintegrate.

Computer modellers are a small group — everyone else just goes along with them.

Absolute nonsense. This is a childish and overtly conspiracist misrepresentation of reality.

We’re entering a cooling period.

Another piece of wild nonsense from Leyland, betraying his parlous relationship with reality, and allowed to pass unchallenged by the presenter.

Increasing CO2 has been a huge benefit to plant growth — “not doing us any harm”

More completely made-up nonsense, allowed to pass unchallenged by Christie.

None of this is unexpected from Leyland. He has a long track record of persuading the more gullible NZ media to give him a platform to mislead, misrepresent and play fast and loose with the facts. TVNZ must have been aware of his notoriety, which makes their decision to present him on screen as “a renewable energy expert” grossly misleading and very likely a breach of broadcasting standards2.

But the biggest editorial lapse of all was the decision to put him on the show at all. Leyland is a lonely man out on the crank fringes of climate denial. To suggest that he has any sort of valid view on the reality of climate change — to set him up against the work of thousands of scientists around the world and the entire NZ scientific community — was outrageous. Climate change is far too serious an issue for the planet for a responsible broadcaster to play silly false balance games. They must broadcast an immediate correction and apology, and in future treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

[Update 5pm: It appears TVNZ have pulled the video of Leyland’s interview and the accompanying news story from their site in response to the many formal and informal complaints they have received. However the full interview can be seen (for the time being, at least) on Youtube. And the TVNZ News Facebook post about Leyland’s interview is still there.]

  1. Leyland’s shonky graph:

    TVNZLeyland

    It appears to be a thinly-disguised and uncredited reworking of a graph that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal in February of this year, accompanying an op-ed piece by John Christy — itself a tidying up of a long-debunked graph created by Roy Spencer. []

  2. Should you wish to make a complaint against the programme, you may do so here. []

IPCC AR5 completed: science has spoken – cut deep, cut soon

The IPCC’s Fifth Report process reached its climax in Copenhagen yesterday with the release of the final “synthesis” report (download here), which pulls together all the strands from the three working group reports on the physical science (Working Group 1), climate impacts (WG2) and how to go about dealing with the problem (WG3). Launching the report, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon was blunt:

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

Given that it’s based entirely on the work done for the underlying reports, there are no surprises the synthesis report for anyone who has been following climate news over the last year, but what is striking is the emphasis on the need for rapid and deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions – and a corresponding steep increase in investment in renewable energy sources. Ban Ki-Moon emphasised the point in a comment aimed at investors:

“Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”

Writing in the Guardian, Bill McKibben notes an increase in the urgency of the language being used:

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, [scientists] are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

The Guardian’s coverage is – as always – exemplary. In addition to Damian Carrington’s news report, they also give good graph. See also the BBC, and Stuff – who take the AP coverage.

New Zealand’s climate change minister Tim Groser issued a press release to welcome the report:

It is the best scientific assessment of climate issues available. I’m delighted that New Zealand scientists have contributed to this body of knowledge.

If that’s really the case, why is Groser enacting policies which are currently pointing NZ towards a 50% increase in emissions instead of deep cuts? Perhaps he should be listening to Ban Ki-moon when he says “”There is a myth that climate action will cost heavily, but inaction will cost much more.”

IPCC WG3: it does not cost the world to save the planet

The IPCC has just released the summary for policymakers of the Working Group 3 report on mitigating climate change. It makes clear that the world has to act quickly to restrict carbon emissions to have a reasonable chance of restricting warming to 2ºC by the end of the century, but establishes that the costs of action are affordable.

A few key points:

  • Annual greenhouse gas emissions have risen 10 GtCO2eq between 2000 and 2010, and half of all emissions since 1750 have occurred in the last 40 years
  • If no further actions are taken to reduce emissions global mean surface temperature in 2100 will increase by 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels
  • To have a reasonable chance of staying under 2ºC of warming in 2100 means restricting greenhouse gases to 450 ppm CO2eq
  • Hitting 450 ppm CO2eq will mean “substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use”
  • Typical 450 ppm CO2eq scenarios include overshooting the target and then removal of CO2 by bionenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), though “carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees, associated with challenges and risks”
  • The Cancun pledges are not consistent with cost-effective efforts to hit 2ºC, and are more likely to commit the world to 3ºC of warming
  • The sooner we act, the cheaper overall mitigation will be – as little as 0.06% of annual GDP growth to hit 450 ppm CO2eq

Commenting on the report for the Science Media Centre, VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick said:

The WGIII report charts many possible futures where we cap the warming at 2 degrees. Action, such as moving to 100% renewable electricity generation, needs to start immediately. New Zealand is as well-placed as any nation to lead the world on this, provided we have the political will. That appears to be lacking right now – there’s plenty of talk about emissions reductions targets, while at the same time we’re opening the country up to more oil drilling and coal mining. The latest MfE report shows New Zealand’s emissions have gone up 25% since 1990, and they are on track to keep rising.

Per head of population, we are some of the biggest emitters on the planet. Clean and green? 100% pure? Right now – I don’t think so.

Read more at The Guardian and BBC. I’ll have a post with more NZ reaction in due course.

Summary for policymakers (pdf)

Full report (available from April 15th)