Copenhagen sets disastrous CO2 targets
Truth is much more prosaic, writes Eddie Ford
This week saw the beginning of the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen. Of course, as readily admitted by Barack Obama - since the United States is the world’s greatest offender in relation to the per capita emission of greenhouse gases amongst the big developed countries - no new ‘post-Kyoto’ binding agreement will come out of these talks. Rather, at best, the various leaders will come to a fluffy-bunny consensus that something has to be done - at the next set of talks, obviously.
However, far from ‘saving the planet’ - or at least making sanctimonious noises about it - it seems that the leaders of the rich countries are using Copenhagen as an opportunity to accrue yet more political-economic power and leverage over the developing and poor countries. So, according to the contents of a leaked document (the so-called Danish text) there has been a ‘conference within a conference’ of states deemed to be part of the “circle of commitment” - which includes the US, UK and Denmark. This “circle” seemingly aims to abandon the Kyoto Protocol altogether, sideline the UN’s role and effectively hand over control of climate change finances to the World Bank.
Primarily, and if the document is to be believed - to date there have been no public or ‘official’ denials of its authenticity - the rich countries are scheming to allocate grossly unequal limits, or targets, for the per capita carbon emission rate that the developed and developing countries are supposed to adhere to by 2050. That is, an attempt to force developing countries to ‘agree’ to specific emission cuts and measures that were not part of the original UN agreement. So the rich countries would be permitted to 2.67 tonnes of carbon per person - yet the poorer countries would not be allowed to emit more than 1.44 tonnes. Furthermore, any possible monies to help developing countries combat global warming would be contingent upon their agreement to a whole range of actions decided in advance by this “circle”.
In other words, the spirit of neo-colonialism - or carbon imperialism, if you like - appears to be alive and well in Copenhagen. Needless to say, communists are not in the slightest surprised by such undemocratic and elitist machinations, whether they eventually prove to be successful or not - they are only to be expected. Given that the rulers of the advanced capitalist countries have so much invested - in every sense of the term - in the status quo, they will not give up their privileges lightly: after all, centuries of global plunder have enriched the ruling class almost beyond measure.
Also, as we in the CPGB never tire of pointing out - as opposed to crusty ‘official communists’ and reformists/legalists like the Communist Party of Britain/Morning Star group - for all its democratic and internationalist pretensions, the UN is in essence no different from its League of Nations predecessor. Which is to say, in reality it is a “thieves’ kitchen” - to use VI Lenin’s apt description. And there is no honour, or commitment to radical and revolutionary change, amongst thieves.
But, having said all that, the turning of Copenhagen into either an empty talking shop or even a rather squalid pork barrel affair - if indeed that is what transpires - is not to be welcomed. For the simple reason that global warming, and all its attendant dangers, does represent a potential environmental and ecological disaster - from which there might be no way back, technological fantasies and quackery aside. To deny this fact, or ignore the stack of painstakingly documented evidence, is at best a wilful and stupid self-deception.
Yet, of course, there are those who, for one reason or another, precisely refuse to recognise the grave threat posed by global warming. Yes, the climate change ‘sceptics’, as they like to call (or flatter) themselves - who have seen through the ‘hoax’ of anthropogenic climate change peddled by the ‘liberal elite’. Which brings us to the recent incident of the leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which inevitably became dubbed ‘Climategate’. Presumably timed as some sort effort to ‘sabotage’ Copenhagen (though, of course, the conference looks likely to do a perfectly good job of that itself) and denigrate climate change science in general, persons so far unknown hacked into the CRU’s webmail server and then proceeded to busily disseminate emails going back 13 years. Indeed, this ‘theft’ involved some 160 megabytes of data in total - consisting of more than 1,000 private emails and 3,000 other documents. In due course an anonymous statement posted from a Saudi Arabian IP address (no surprises there then) appeared on the “climate-sceptic” blog, The Air Vent - which defended hacking into the CRU on the grounds that climate science is “too important to be kept under wraps” and went on to describe the leaked, or stolen, material as “a random selection of correspondence, code and documents”.
However, closer inspection of the various documents strongly suggests that they were in fact carefully selected and edited - cherry-picked, if anything, in an obvious ‘sting’ to present the scientific work conducted at the CRU in the most unfavourable light possible. An uncharitable person would even think that there has been a deliberate attempt to distort and twist the hacked material, by ripping it out of proper context. For those with the time, or patience, all these various emails and documents - which are now part of the public domain, whether the CRU likes it or not - have been comprehensively catalogued (with a search engine to ease study) by Opinion Times - which claims to offer “news and opinions from a Conservative, Christian perspective”. Opinion Times has set up a special website where all the leaked CRU documents may be viewed.
Naturally, most of the correspondence is of a technical or mundane nature - mainly topics related to surface temperature records and assorted paleoclimatological issues, such as data analysis and details of scientific conferences. Hardly the drama of Watergate or the sort of stuff that normally gets the pulse racing. As the highly reputable Real Climate blog (which first alerted the CRU to the hacking operation) commented, in some ways it is what is not contained in these emails that is the most illuminating: “There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’ [Medieval Warm Period], no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.”
In reality, the whipped-up controversy centred on a very small number of emails - particularly those sent to or from the climatologist, Phil Jones - the head of the CRU - and Michael E Mann of Pennsylvania State University, one of the originators of the graph of temperature trends dubbed the ‘hockey stick graph’. This graph, it should be noted, is the subject of much longstanding ire from the ‘sceptics’.
Anyway, the most attention - or excitement - has focused on an excerpt from the following November 16 1999 email from Jones, where he bullishly states: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”
These few words were enough to set the rightwing blogosphere alight. At long last, proof of the conspiracy by the insidious ‘climatists’ - gotcha! So, for example, the US Truth or Fight blog took this as evidence of the “way in which the bullets to shoot down American democracy were made in Britain”. As the blog recounts, when the Environmental Protection Agency published its Endangerment finding report on greenhouse gases in April of this year, “almost every paragraph of the text” drew as its “main authority” the “jokers” from the CRU. Diabolically, as far as the blogger is concerned, this “authority” is being “invoked to overturn the principles of 1776 in the United States - with “the Protocols of the Elders of Norwich” providing the justification for “EPA tyranny”. The grim conclusion is that Obama - who “hates America” - is going to Copenhagen to “sell out American taxpayers to third world subsidy junkies”, and indeed that the entire climate change conference is a “socialist, world government putsch”: but do the American people have the “resolution to resist it?”
Closer to home, James Delinpole - a rightwing blogger linked to The Daily Telegraph - was rejoicing that the anthropogenic global warming “myth” has been “deliciously exposed” by the CRU “scandal” - accusing the unit of trying to foster a “scientific climate” in which anyone who expresses disagreements with the theory of anthropogenic global warming “can be written off as a crank”. Delinpole goes on to warn us to expect “more and more hysterical” stories in the “mainstream media”, and to see “ever-more-virulent campaigns conducted by eco-fascist activists” - like the “risible new advertising campaign by ‘Plane Stupid’ showing CGI polar bears falling from the sky and exploding because kind of, like, man, that’s sort of what happens whenever you take another trip on an aeroplane.” And so on and so on.
Of course, the truth is much more prosaic. The “decline” mentioned by Jones in his email in fact refers to a decline in tree ring metrics, not temperature. As Real Climate calmly explains, the scientific document in question is the 1998 Mann, Bradley and Hughes Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction - and the “trick” in question is merely to plot the “instrumental records along with reconstruction, so that the context of the recent warming is clear”. As for the actual “decline”, Real Climate goes on to detail how it is “well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960" (known as the “divergence problem”) and “has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998” (Vol 391 - pp678-82). That is, Mann’s “trick” of combining proxy data had been corroborated by numerous statistical tests and matched thermometer readings taken over the past 150 years.
Frankly, we should not be surprised that scientists resort to such “tricks” and statistical methodology. They are human, after all: not the super-rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats - uncorrupted by bias or emotionalism - of myth and popular culture. Scientists, at the end of the day, are people who use scientific methodology despite their human imperfections and frailties in order to arrive at some relatively reasonable and accurate approximation of objectivity - or the truth.
Perhaps more the point, scientists have a thesis - and want financial backing and grants. Badly. Far from the topsy-turvy picture presented by rightwing climate sceptics like Delinpole - where the dangers of global warming have been massively exaggerated - the reality is, capitalist governments have absolutely no interesting in promoting the message that ecological catastrophe looms. Quite the opposite. We should not forget for a minute that the George Bush administration was the most irrational and authoritarian anti-science US government in modern times - withdrawing grants and generally choking the life out of scientific research and the scientific community as a whole. And in Saudi Arabia who gets the grant - the scientist highlighting the perils of anthropogenic global warming or the one denying it? Yes, you guessed it.
But over time governmental leaders are being reluctantly dragged into line by the overwhelming tide of scientific opinion, which naturally finds a reflection - in some shape or form - amongst those who job it is to advise and inform governments. Sometimes facts do speak for themselves. And if it takes drawing a graph this way - as opposed to that way - in order to secure some possible extra funding from an undecided government minister, then who in their right mind would do anything else?
We should have no truck with the global warming “sceptics” - many of whom are, yes, out-and-out cranks, oddballs and anti-communist fanatics. In fact, rather we should emphasise how the dangers of global warming have been understated - especially when you bear in mind that the major reports which have enjoyed high-profile publicity in the mass media are more often than not the products of lowest-common-denominator haggling: something that a large body of scientists with all manner of viewpoints and differences feel they can put their names to without too much embarrassment. The reality is that CO2 emissions are set to increase, not decrease - US gas-guzzling habits show no sign of abating, and China’s projected 6% growth rate guarantees that yet more carbon will be pumped into the air. Life as we know it is endangered by the ethos of production for production’s sake, the drive of capital to constantly expand surplus value.
However, on the other hand, communists have no intention of hitching our wagon to that of the greens - programmatically or organisationally. No ‘green taxes’ for us. At best, greens have a utopian - though doubtless sincere - ideal of a non-competitive or ‘cottage’ capitalism, and to that end a large number are involved in the petty bourgeois economy: natural food shops, small-scale organic farming, environmental consultancies, green marketing, green tourism and the such like. At worst though, ‘deep’ or reactionary greens have an overtly anti-human agenda - such as blaming ordinary people for the capitalist-created environmental mess, and then trying to get us to pay the price. And hypocritically lecturing workers about the unmitigated evils of flying off on holiday - before jetting away to the next environmental conference on the other side of the planet. Least of all those who want to resurrect the distinctly unwanted, and thoroughly unlamented, reverend Thomas Malthus - such as the former chair of the UK Ecology Party (now the Green Party), Jonathon Espie Porritt CBE, who wants to stop people placing an “unbearable burden” on the environment by “irresponsibly” having more than two children. To reach this misanthropic goal, Porritt, who chairs the government’s sustainable development commission, insists that “curbing” population growth through contraception and abortion “must be at the heart” of policies to fight global warming.
No, our flag remains red and pro-human. Only a communist world can create a genuinely sustainable economy and environment - one not a slave to the profit motive and production, production, production.
- See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_graph; and for the actual ‘controversial’ graph: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc_large.jpg