George Monbiot unimpressed by climate report

Environmentalist and activist George Monbiot is unimpressed by the the British Committee on Climate Change’s latest report, entitled Building a Low Carbon Economy, claiming it doesn’t go far enough in what it demands:

[The] report, published yesterday, is long, detailed and impressive. It has the admirable objective of trying to cap global warming at two degrees or a little more. This, it says, means that greenhouse gas pollution in the UK should fall by 80% by 2050 and by 31% by 2020.

But there’s a problem. There is no longer any likely relationship between an 80% cut and two degrees of warming. This gets a little complicated, but please bear with me while I explain why [the report’s] proposal is about as likely to stop runaway climate change as the Maginot Line was to hold back the Luftwaffe.

The key findings and suggestions of the report are summarised here. Monbiot believes further action than is suggested in the report is necessary, including raising the top rate vehicle excise duty from £400 to £3000, and reducing the number of airline landing slots in the UK to 5% of current capacity.
[image from kevindooley on flickr]

18 thoughts on “George Monbiot unimpressed by climate report”

  1. The harsh truth that is hard to accept to people on the far right (deniers) is that there will be a moment of accountability. There will be no such moment for the climate change crowd, because if they are wrong it will be more of the same. But if they are right, the masses, the majorities, who are left holding the mess, will be looking for people to blame.

    Who will be blamed? Industrialists who made a mess. Climate change deniers. These people will have to change their names, emigrate, hide, because the full wrath of people who are faced with the consequences (if any) will lead to deaths.

  2. dagonweb,

    I think you have misread the risk to those who have pushed AGW as fact. If they are wrong, they will have burned through their credibility. In other words, the next legitimate scientific warning that comes down the pike may well be ignored.

    “These people will have to change their names, emigrate, hide, because the full wrath of people who are faced with the consequences (if any) will lead to deaths.”

    Projecting a bit perhaps? Will it be you coming after me if AGW starts drowning us and burning us up? Are you angry that the facts lately don’t support AGW? Angry that rational people are rejecting hair shirt environmentalism?

    The problem is not with them, I assure you.

  3. On the contrary, Jasper; I think dagon, while overstating slightly, probably has the right idea of how things will work out. People love a scapegoat, after all, especially one who can demonstrably be labelled as having either caused the problem or obstructed its prevention.

    Of course, you’re right to say that if AGW is disproved, its ‘pushers’ will indeed have burned through their credibility… which will be the credibility of science itself. So now’s your chance, Jasper – as you’re evidently very certain that global warming isn’t caused by human activity, why don’t you tell us what is causing it? Because I’m sure your skepticism must be rooted in deep scientific knowledge rather than a knee-jerk fear of lifestyle and/or political change, and this is a chance to save science and the world from our own stupidity that I’m sure you can’t pass up!

    By the way, referencing posts by other people picking holes in theories held by ‘the conspiring mass of AGW pushers’ doesn’t count; nor do political deviations or semantic arguments. Genuine testable and peer reviewed alternative theories or nothing. If the science is wrong, show us why and how. Sorry, man, but it’s put-up-or-shut-up time.

  4. Do study the status quo in Europe. Climate change is policy here. Regarded across the political spectrum as proven.

    Don’t shoot the messenger. But I am aware that in the US no such consensus has been attained.

  5. Input appreciated, dagon, but that’s political consensus you’re talking about. The scientific consensus seems to be pretty global as far as I can tell, but Jasper is firmly convinced that it’s a tissue of lies, so I’m hoping he’ll take the time to explain whatever carefully-buried and provable theory the ‘eco-left conspiracy’ has been covering up all this time.

  6. Paul, I want to respond to your remark: “…that if AGW is disproved, its ‘pushers’ will indeed have burned through their credibility… which will be the credibility of science itself.” Not to be too blunt, but that is pure nonsense. The credibility of science itself is NOT on the line. Rather, it is the credibility of the subset of people in the scientific community who make claims about AGW. Science as an endeavor can, and does, remain valid even if and when scientists (even large numbers of scientists) are mistaken. Doubting what pro-AGW (or anti-AGW) scientists believe and doubting science itself are completely different things. Ironically, you have shown NO reluctance yourself, in your previous remarks here, to doubt thousands of scientists ( who happen to disagree with AGW. By your own logic, does that automatically prove that you were doubting science itself? Well, I’m willing to cut you some slack and accept that you still believe in the credibility of “science itself,” despite the fact that you doubt thousands of scientists. In return, I think you should be willing to accept the possibility that those who are honestly skeptical about AGW may be every bit as committed to “science itself” as you are! I’m in the latter category, by the way. I earned my PhD in physics more than 20 years ago and I continue to make my living as a scientist today. Much of my work involves creating computer models of physical systems, typically involving electromagnetics, acoustics, heat flow, and more. Many of my computer models have been proven, via direct experiments, to be very accurate; I am proud of that work. However, and this is worth emphasizing here, some of my models have failed completely. And yet, the systems I have modeled have always been vastly less complex, and vastly better understood, than any/all of the climate models used to predict AGW and the systems to which those climate models are applied! So I’ve learned from experience to always be skeptical about the validity of computer-based models, especially of extremely-complex systems. So yes, I’m a skeptic when it comes to AGW. And I am 100% pro-science. If AGW is proven to be overblown or without a solid basis, MY credibility will stand and “science itself” will likewise be very much alive. “Science itself” is much bigger than the debate about AGW. You do a disservice to your own credibility, to your readers, and to the AGW debate overall when you imply that those who question AGW are challenging the credibility of science itself. There is no shortage of scientists — real scientists — on both sides of the AGW debate. One side of that debate may be much louder than the other, but the debate is genuine.

  7. My apologies, Robert, for not communicating that point accurately and letting my own rhetoric get in the way of clarity. I have never intentionally discredited the idea of debate as a foundation of the scientific method, and never would.

    The point I was trying to make is that we often hear people denouncing AGW as a fraud, a delusion or a conspiracy, but they never seem to have any alternative to offer to back up their claims. In the absence of any alternative theory on how global warming is caused, repeated claims to ‘wait until the science is settled’ amount to fiddling while Rome burns. The urgency of the situation demands we act on the best information we have to hand.

    That global warming is happening is, at least, not contested by anyone but the seriously delusional; the vast majority of tested evidence we have to hand suggests that it is significantly connected to human activity. We cannot wait to act; we do not have the time to spare.

    As I have remarked before, nothing would make me more happy than to find out that, actually, it’s not our fault at all. But I’m not willing to gamble my own future on it, and I have little patience with those who insist that we should do so, but who offer no solid reasons for that insistence… and for that I will not apologise, I’m afraid.

  8. Paul:
    1. You say: “In the absence of any alternative theory on how global warming is caused…” Really? So without mankind’s activities, our world could never experience periods of warming or cooling? No other mechanisms could exist? How do you account for the geological and fossil records that demonstrate far more pronounced periods of both warming and cooling in the Earth’s past, before humans established industrial societies, and in fact for most of that record, long before humans even existed? Can there be any doubt whatsoever that important mechanisms other that human industrial activity could cause, and have caused, both substantial global warming and substantial global cooling? Humans may indeed play a role, and possibly an important one, but to suggest that there is an “absence” of other factors and to ignore the possibility that other factors may even dominate, is just plain silly.
    2. You say “The urgency of the situation demands we act on the best information we have to hand.” This presupposes three things: (1) that the situation is, in fact, urgent; (2) that we are capable of doing something meaningful and effective about it; and (3) that it will be more destructive to wait until later, even though we will have had more time to study the problem. I question all three of those assumptions. And I am not alone. Many very knowledgeable people have studied this from both a climate and economic perspective. Both matter. We do NOT have the option of simply accepting, without complete risk-benefit analyses, widespread famine and/or hardship (potentially the deaths of tens of millions or more of humans due to enforced massive-reductions in worldwide productivity) as part of a potentially misguided attempt to fight AGW sooner rather than later. If, in fact, we are not going to be in danger for decades, it could be better to gradually move to new technologies (e.g., nuclear power plants). And during that time, we would also gather more data and understanding about the climate. Acting like Chicken Little may be appealing to some, but it is also grossly irresponsible. In regard to “fiddling while Rome burns,” let me offer you an analogy. Suppose Rome seems to be burning, as I can see from a hilltop, and I am the first to notice it. Should I: (a) run madly down the hill, tripping over rocks and branches at great risk to my safety, grab whatever sand and water I can find, and start fighting the fire with my own bare hands, or (b) take out my cell phone, call the fire department in the neighboring town, tell them about the problem, and wait for them to arrive (despite the fact that I could get myself to the fire sooner)? I.e., the action that can be accomplished soonest is NOT necessarily the BEST action. Or hey, how about choice (c) take another look, and notice to my astonishment that Rome wasn’t burning at all, but rather I had mistaken the reflection of sunlight on water for a fire! Gee, sure glad I didn’t needlessly risk my life running madly down that hill…
    3. You say “that global warming is happening is, at least, not contested by anyone but the seriously delusional.” Well, I guess you’ll simply have to include me on that huge list of delusional scientists. I might be willing to say that you are “misinformed” or “wrong”, but I choose not to call you names like “seriously delusional.” There has been much criticism of data both reported and misreported in the literature. And meanwhile, there would seem to be, quite frankly, a stunning correlation between solar activity and Earth temperatures. I guess that I’m just a blithering fool, but it is NOT obvious to me, based on what I have read, that long-term global warming has actually been proven to be now taking place, or if so, is actually doing so at a level exceeding natural fluctuations and cycles. But then, you have already dismissed anyone holding such a view as simply “delusional.” Is that fair?
    4. I assert that the AGW-alarmist crowd has unfairly flipped the burden of proof on its head. As Carl Sagan pointed out, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The pro-AGW crowd is the side making the extraordinary claims. These include that modern industrial output is the utterly-dominant factor in regulating the Earth’s temperature, despite the already well-established theories of earth-solar interaction, and despite the enormous wealth of data from geological and fossil records showing previous periods of both serious warming and serious cooling, nearly all without the benefit of human influence.
    5. You say “As I have remarked before, nothing would make me more happy than to find out that, actually, it’s not our fault at all.” Well, I can’t agree with that, either! After all, you seem to be absolutely convinced that serious, substantial, and urgent-to-act-upon global warming is taking place, and yet you say that you would be relieved to learn it isn’t our fault! Huh? So, I take it that we can all die happy from global warming, knowing (while we are dying) that at least it wasn’t our fault? If global warming is real, and if it is truly severe enough, then we will have to deal with it regardless of whether it is human-caused or otherwise. I’d guess (can’t be sure, frankly) that it would be easier for us to address GW if it was human-caused. If GW is real, substantial, and if it is also beyond our control, then we may be truly screwed. So “nothing would make me more happy” would not seem to be the right response.
    6. I grew up in the 70’s and I remember the predictions made by numerous well-respected scientists of a coming ice age. I also remember the predictions by many alarmists (including respected scientists) about how we would run out of raw materials (e.g., copper) decades ago, and how overpopulation would lead to truly-massive worldwide starvations by the 1980s-90s. In my youth, I took these predictions seriously and I worried about them. Well, the quality of the data, analyses, and models that led to those predictions do not presently strike me as any worse or more inconsistent than the quality of the data, analyses, and models that are now being used to support AGW alarmism. I may be wrong, of course. But the theory, models, and experimental data of AGW are, in my opinion, still in their infancies. AGW may yet go the way of the aforementioned, failed models that predicted billions of deaths from famines, shortages of copper (and many other resources), a new ice age, the complete replacement of domestic honeybees by African killer bees, etc. Some of those problems may yet happen, of course! Meanwhile, I suggest you open your mind to the very real possibility (not certainty, just possibility!) that AGW may (just may) join those other predictions in history’s garbage bin. Oh, and one more comment about that urgency thing. Should the people of the 1970’s have *accelerated* production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and have consumed much capital, in an attempt to stop/slow the coming ice age? After all, we couldn’t afford to wait… right? I mentioned this history to an AGW-worrier the other day; incredibly, she maintained that the ice-age scare of the 1970’s was just an attempt at scare-mongering. Wow! Thank goodness that could *never* happen again!

  9. All valid points, Robert. Yet I note you have still neglected to propose an alternate hypothesis, or a verifiable refutation of the AGW theory – not saying you don’t have them, but saying they aren’t included above.

    I am not a professional scientist, you are quite correct; but as such, I am one of those you need to convince that the prevailing theory is wrong. I invite you, as I invited to Jasper, to present a solid argument as to why I should not believe what is presented to me as the opinion of the majority of researchers in the field.

    My mind is open, but I have yet to be given an argument that stands up to Occam’s Razor. Again: please, prove me wrong – using data relevant to the issue as opposed to analogies and comparisons to theories that the scientific method has proved wrong. Because there’s still no justification in all your material above that convinces me that working on what appears to be the cause is fruitless.

    If the situation isn’t urgent, demonstrate it. If our actions can achieve nothing, demonstrate it. If it’s all a hoax, tell me why. Rhetoric only goes so far; as you put it yourself, ‘extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence’. There are people who tell me they can prove that evolution is a hoax, and that man coexisted with dinosaurs in the time period described by the Bible, against overwhelming evidence. I choose to consider them the ones making the extraordinary claims; like it or not, as a minority dissenter I am holding you to the same conditions, or demanding that you prove that the consensus we’re told about is really a fabrication. And if what I was taught about the scientific method holds true, I am right to do so; if you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk.

  10. Paul,

    I started questioning AGW in the early 2000’s when we were being warned of impending Armageddon if something wasn’t done, right now. So, I became a voracious reader of all things related to climate change. I read websites, viewed documentaries and lectures, reviewed research papers and I continue to try to understand as much as I can. And my thinking evolves.

    First, a famous quote:

    “When the facts change, my thinking changes. What do you do Sir?”

    John Maynard Keynes

    The link below plots satellite data from various sources. There is a clear trend showing 1998 as the peak year for temperature. A few years ago pro-AGW scientists complained it was unfair to say GW had stopped because 1998 was an El Nino year.

    Fair enough, 1998 was an El Nino year. Let’s see where we are today in 2008:

    Not only has the warming trend reversed itself, but it has reversed itself to the point that all the warming from about 1980 on has been reversed.

    The problem for the pro-AGW crowd is that the climate models, upon which the doomsday scenarios are based, predict that as CO2 increases, so does temperature. Look at the first link again. Measured CO2 concentrations are going up, yet temperature is falling.

    Something is seriously wrong with the predictive nature of these models.

    Despite your snarky tone about knee jerk reactions and “deep scientific knowledge on the subject”, I think reasonable people can agree there are other problems with the AGW case. Another problem is the infamous “Hockey Stick”.

    Two Canadians, McIntyre and McKitrick have discredited the Mann Hockey Stick. The IPCC no longer uses it in their doomsday scenarios, but many pro-AGW writers still write about how industrialization is responsible for rapid warming in the last century. The Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age are well known global phenomena, but Mann’s Hockey Stick attempted to erase the existence these events. Why? It’s an interesting story and is also part if the reason why I turned into an interested observer into a skeptic.

    So what do I think has caused the warming up to 1998? Science fiction readers are familiar with the answer. Occam has done the proofs and it’s our old friend Sol.

    I’d like to see dagonwebs answer to my accusation. If it turns out that AGW is real and deadly, would I have to hide from him because I was a vocal skeptic?

  11. Climate change deniers are just as mad as the “Intelligent Design” crowd, and exploiting the same “logic” of it all being ‘*just* a theory’.

    I’m sorry but you don’t get to choose which parts of science you want to believe in. It’s all or nothing. So hand over your mobile phone and interent access and go live in the woods Unabomber style or STFU.

    The only reason there are Deniers in the first place is because the vested interests are funding them from the millions and billions of dollars they’re making, knowing full well it’s the wrong thing. It’s no different from the cigarette companies in the 1970s, and so many other crimes against humanity before that.

    Of course zealotry on both sides is the big problem here. Hair-shirt Environmentalism is not the way forward, and those guys can go live in the woods too, sans Internet access.

    Heavy Weather is a *fact*; it’s a reality that people around the world are experiencing and being brutalized by. It does not matter weather it’s a *natural* change in the Earth’s _normal_ weather patterns, or the latest consequence of mankinds actions. Plus, anyone (excluding the I.D people obviously) with a real understanding of the history of our planet knows that the Earth’s weather patterns have always been influenced, nay created the living organisms inhabiting it. So regardless of the what science shows/finds today or tomorrow, it’s all situation normal either way.

    Viridianism is the only way forward.

  12. So, to confirm your points, Jasper:

    • not only is AGW a fraud, but GW itself is actually not occurring at present; in fact the reverse is in effect
    • all recent measured GW effects are a function of the solar wind, and nothing else


  13. Well, this would seem to be progress. May we at least now agree that anyone who disagrees with popular AGW views is not necessarily “seriously delusional”? I hope so. After all, it is difficult to argue with someone who automatically dismisses opposing viewpoints as insane. However, you now say it is my job to prove you wrong. Well, you might or might not be wrong about AGW. I can’t prove it either way. Again, I still think Sagan’s maxim puts the burden squarely on the AGW proponents, but you appear to disagree. I don’t claim to be an expert on global warming. Rather, I know from what I have learned so far that I am not convinced of either its reality or its urgency. In contrast, you seem quite convinced of both. Since you already are satisfied with what you have read that supports both AGW and the need to act urgently to stop it, allow me to suggest some additional reading. You’ll still have to decide for yourself, of course. Here are some links to a couple papers that may be of interest to you. The first includes pro- and anti-AGW viewpoints. The second is anti-AGW. There exist many more such papers, of course, but these might be a good start. I invite other readers of this column to submit their own suggestions. Let the name-calling end and the debate begin!

  14. Paul, I don’t think AGW is a fraud. I think in Rio in 1992, mostly well meaning people really believed the earth was facing catastrophic warming.

    Fast forward to today and there is a lot of blood sweat and tears invested into the situation today. New evidence that does not support the “consensus” is not going to be welcome. So , I say “no” to the first half of your first point. But a “yes” to part 2 of your first point.

    As for #2, yes, I think solar radiation and perhaps decreased solar wind activity has a not well understood (yet) role in GW. My understanding is that research is just beginning to start looking at this.

    Are you setting me up?

  15. To # 11, m1k3y
    1. You are continuing the name-calling. Please consider behaving better.
    2. You are also provably wrong: You say “The only reason there are Deniers in the first place is because the vested interests are funding them from the millions and billions of dollars they’re making, knowing full well it’s the wrong thing.” Well, guess what? Despite the fact I am an AGW-skeptic, I have a financial interest in promoting actions to combat global warming! You see, I have a patent on an invention that could prove to be very helpful in economically extracting energy from ocean waves, a technology that produces zero greenhouse gases. You can look it up if you want (US Patent # 7,166,927, Jan. 23, 2007). The more concerned or fearful the taxpaying public becomes about AGW, the more likely I am to get additional funding for my R&D! And yet, at the same time, I am an AGW skeptic! Why? Because I am an honest scientist, that’s why! If AGW proves to be real, one of my inventions may someday turn out to be part of the solution. But I’m NOT promoting AGW. Amazing, huh? Yet, you’ve already decided that anyone who questions AGW must be a shill for an oil or coal company, right? Additionally, I’ve used my real name on this blog, and it isn’t a common name. I have nothing to hide. You might want to rethink your assertion that all AGW-skeptical scientists have vested financial interests in spewing mountains of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

  16. m1k3y….I had to look up Viridianism to see what it is. Your turn now…look up “strawman argument”.

    “It’s no different from the cigarette companies in the 1970s, and so many other crimes against humanity before that.”

    “Zealotry on both sides”? Based on your post, I would take my chances with the hair shirt crowd….

    BTW, I am still waiting for an answer from dagonwebs. Would you come after me too, m1K3y?

  17. Wow.. a guy comes by, makes a comment based on the post he’s read and returns to find himself under attack.

    Robert Koslover, JasperPants – your responses suggest you identify strongly with the zealots who irk me so.

    You’ve made that association all by yourselves.

    *I* didn’t resort to attacks by name, and Robert Koslover, my ill-mannered eyes still can’t take in your many, many words in #8, so I really can’t know if/what/how I’ve provoked such a strong response from you. But no motherfucker tells me how to speak, I’ll do as I please. Best of luck with your patent.

    JasperPants – why would I be coming after you? Let’s skip the strawman-argument argument, ‘least I repeat myself. Viridianism is about designing for a better world in general. Enjoy your hair shirt, if that’s how you want to roll.

    Oh, and whichever of you implied I’m hiding behind my ‘net id, ‘least I linked to my blog. I also write over on, where we talk about watching the world die and upgrading ourselves to go into space – stuff far crazier than this little post about some british climate policy. So when you’re done beating up on Paul, come on over. And if you accidently contribute something constructive, rather than just defending your world-view from the ‘uneducated sheeple’ you clearly see everywhere, all the better.

    k thx bai

  18. Robert – thanks for the links, I’ll read through them when I get a spare moment.

    Jasper – no, no set-up; I’m almost flattered you think me capable of it. I just wanted a straight answer as to what you think is causing the problem. Now I have one, I can read up on the research in question and then we can debate the actual science as opposed to the semantics and politics surrounding such.

    And to both of you (and anyone else), the offer still stands – if you want to present your scientific stance on global warming as a formal essay with links to supporting evidence and research, I’d be happy to run it here on Futurismic. The only condition is that it has to be done under a verifiable real name; no aliases.

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