A Celtic New Year: lilt or lament?

Mr Morrison invites us all to come on home, and have a Celtic new year — which is always a good thing, as I can testify, being a Celt of many generations standing. While I wait for the ham to subside and the cabernet merlot to wash out of the system1, I’ll point you to the thoughts of George Monbiot, who is less than impressed with the old year:

It was the year of living dangerously. In 2012 governments turned their backs on the living planet, demonstrating that no chronic problem, however grave, will take priority over an immediate concern, however trivial. I believe there has been no worse year for the natural world in the past half-century.

Nor do the efforts of the British government bring him much cheer:

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  1. Tomorrow, of course. []

Realism and risk: waiting for the bus

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser gave a substantial and intelligently argued speech recently to an informal meeting in Auckland of international climate negotiators met to discuss the  way forward to a new agreement in 2020. Groser makes the case for political realism in climate negotiation. He records his sense after attending a COP conference at Poznam a year before Copenhagen that the negotiation was not on track and that if more reality did not prevail Copenhagen might be a train wreck. It was, and he says that it was only some superb political leadership by the Mexican hosts at Cancun which got the UNFCCC process back on the tracks. “My conclusion is simple: negotiating scenarios which are developed without any political realism behind them cause great and unhelpful friction.”

The claim to political realism is always difficult to argue against, particularly with someone who has spent literally decades in difficult international trade negotiations, as Groser has. But those of us who aren’t negotiators or politicians can’t allow the question to be arbitrated only by those who are.

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(Not So Simple) Twist Of Fate

Something I didn’t expect: Peter Gleick, the director of the Pacific Institute, a vocal opponent of climate denial and a highly respected scientist, turns out to have been behind the leak of the Heartland Institute board meeting documents that have been creating waves for the last week. Gleick made the admission in an article at Huffington Post earlier today (NZ). He reports that he received:

…an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

In order to attempt to verify that document’s contents, he:

…solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget.

Gleick goes on to apologise for what he calls “a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics”.

As you might expect, the usual suspects are all over Gleick’s admission like a rash, but it’s important to retain some perspective here. The people so ready to decry Gleick’s actions were notably silent about the theft and release of private emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The Heartland Institute was central to promoting discussion of those emails, and continues to paint their contents as a scandal. Their hypocrisy, and that of Watts, McIntyre and the rest of the Heartland fellow travellers, is breathtaking.

Nevertheless, Gleick should not have done what he did. However valuable the public service he performed in exposing the reality of Heartland’s climate lobbying and the roots of its funding — and that information is hugely important to any “rational discussion” of why, more than 20 years after the problem was first identified, the USA and the world remains unable to take meaningful action on emissions reductions — the means he chose were not those we would expect from a respected senior scientist.

However this plays out in the longer term, it’s clear that Peter Gleick played the role of whistleblower, bringing the attention of the world to the nefarious activities of a well-funded right wing lobby group with mysterious “anonymous donors” and zero accountability for their actions. It’s a job that any worthwhile investigative journalist would have loved to have done — and which should have been done long ago.

Together with the sterling efforts of John Mashey, the leaked documents confirm in detail what many had suspected. Heartland have made a career out of subverting the truth, the law, and the democratic process.

Gleick might pay a heavy price for his indiscretion, however laudable his goals. Heartland, its funders and the pet “scientists” on their payroll must be made to pay the higher price. Their actions have condemned future generations to far worse than any lapse of judgement or ethics. The real price of Heartland’s policies will be paid in human suffering, and for that there will be no forgiveness.

See also; The Guardian, George Monbiot on why We need to know who funds these tinktank lobbyists, Union of Concerned Scientists report on How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense, Josh Rosenau on parallels between Heartland’s climate “education” tactics and that of creationists, plus Peter Sinclair on Heartland’s abject pleading for tobacco money as recently as 1999 — and let’s not forget they arer still getting it today, and are happy to have a “smoker’s lounge” on their web site.

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Milliband’s Reading Cheers Monbiot

George Monbiot has a striking piece in the Guardian this week, asking how much of the economic growth of the past 60 years is real and how much an illusion created by levels of borrowing that cannot be sustained. Ireland is his exemplar:

“Go to Ireland and you’ll see that even bricks and mortar are a mirage: the marvels of the new economy, built on debt, stand empty and worthless.”

And it’s not only financial borrowing, but also ecological borrowing:

“…we have inflicted more damage since 1950 to the planet’s living systems than we achieved in the preceding 100,000 years.”   Continue reading “Milliband’s Reading Cheers Monbiot”

Ratcliffe coal protesters invited to appeal conviction

The defence of the Ratcliffe coal power plant protesters in the UK, charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass, was that they were acting through “necessity” to prevent death and serious injury caused by carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. James Hansen was among the defence witnesses, testifying to the reality of the danger from climate change. The prosecution argued that the defendants were not really intending to stop carbon emissions, but instead engaged in a publicity stunt. I wrote in this post in January of the lenient sentencing from a judge who was clearly impressed by the motivation of these “decent men and women with a genuine concern for others”. They were found guilty and had to be punished, albeit leniently.

Their conviction now appears likely to be overturned. The Director of Public Prosecutions, no less, has urged them to appeal their convictions after allegations that police suppressed potentially crucial evidence from an undercover police officer. “I have invited the defence to lodge an appeal and to include the issue of non-disclosure of material relating to the activities of an undercover police officer in any grounds of appeal.”

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