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Discussion > AR5 a side issue

On Unthreaded at 2:04 this afternoon, I drew attention to Russia’s firm dealing with Greenpeace activists who had attempted to invade one of their oil drilling platforms in the Arctic, noting in particular the strong support for the Russian action expressed by people commenting on two Guardian articles about the incident.

In my view, the story is far more important than meets the eye. It's not just that the likes of Greenpeace have lost the support of their erstwhile constituency - the real issue is that Russia plainly has no sympathy whatever with "green" issues. As Pointman says:

Russia has never been interested in environmentalism and indeed probably spends more Roubles on improving their caviar production than on things like renewable energy. If their competitors want to voluntarily decarbonise themselves back to the middle ages, why should they be bothered.
Consider this in the light of the current brouhaha about AR5. If IPCC bureaucrats and politicians really think that, by fudging the obvious uncertainties about climate science, they're likely to pull the wool over the eyes of already unsympathetic countries such as Russia and the big developing economies, they're fooling no one but themselves. Is it really likely that AR5 “findings” will persuade China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia etc. to sign up to a programme of substantial GHG reduction at COP 21 in Paris in 2015?

No, I didn't think so either. AR5 is really little more than a side issue. Extreme environmentalism died at Copenhagen. Paris will not bring the corpse back to life.

Oct 4, 2013 at 6:10 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

The overwhelming majority of climate change supporters are either Anglophones or Europeans. That is where the profits are to be made by speculators, banks, hedge funds, oil companies and energy companies. That is also where the scientists are and the politicians who see the current environment as a glorious opportunity to hike taxes.
It is also where the majority of the environmental campaigners have their bases and where the Anglo-Saxon (include USA) guilt complex still rules.
As I have repeated virtually ad nauseam, this was never a scientific project, it was always political. Look at who has been driving it.
Gore, Tickell, Wirth, Strong. (Add in Ehrlich and Hansen who are both activists before they are scientists)
FoE, WWF, Greenpeace, Club of Rome.
Suzuki, Grantham, Lehmann Brothers, Enron.
Then the power generators who recognised a cash cow when they saw one.
Then the fuel producers who found a way to have their cake and eat it.
Russia, China, India, Brazil are all happy to go along with the scam because for every idiot move we make to "decarbonise" our economy they pick up a couple of hundred thousand jobs.

The IPCC are not trying to pull the wool of anyone's eyes. As far as I can make out AR5 is a (reasonably) honest attempt by the majority of those directly involved to state the science and the potential outcomes as they see them. The wool-pullers are the politicians, the financiers, the "fringe scientists" who are more eco-activist or who have got themselves firmly ensconced on the gravy train or fancy their 15 minutes of fame.
I'd better refrain from naming names but I think most people would find it easy enough to identify most of them.
Forget the little greenie men; this is now being driven by the big greedy men.

Oct 4, 2013 at 7:37 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Green Peace doesn't get that much money from the public in this country and has never been a main charity outside the media luvvies. Like many issues its importance is magnified by the BBC which disguises the promotion of the loony lefty greenies as 'balance'. Can anyone tell I hate the BBC?

Countries like China and Russia are what I'd describe as pragmatic. They deal with life with much more realism than the west. Not that I'd like to live there but surely there ought to be a happy medium between the wet, self doubting West and the brutal, every man for himself attitude of the former communist countries?

As for AR5 or COPxx, it's all irellevant because nobody has worked out how to cut CO2 and the science isn't likely to change that. I'm not sure that the leaders of China or Russia are any more clued up about climate scepticism but they probably know that renewables aren't going to do any good. They won't be deluded by ideas of 'setting an example' or paying some kind of imperialistc debt to the World.

Oct 4, 2013 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Yes, Robin, I concur. As an ex-Guardian reader it bemuses me as to why they apparently can't see some self-evident truths, as they appear to me. I also just posted this opinion on Pointman's excellent article:

Honestly. Greenpeace would probably have more luck trying the same stunt in Saudi Arabia.

If Russia gave up on it's gas and oil production, then there soon probably wouldn't be a Russia at all. So if Greenpeace think they can achieve what Napoleon and the Wehrmacht couldn't, then, well, it'll be interesting TV...

I think the top of the organization can't possibly be so foolish as to think otherwise, but the rank-and-file members (and donors)? How would they react if this reality ever dawned on them? Greenpeace should be channelling their energies into helping make the whole world wealthy enough, such that birth-rates drop voluntarily, like they did in the West.

There is still time for the organisation to achieve good, before they become totally irrelevant. But at the moment, Greenpeace still haven't got beyond the behaviour of a five year old. A five year old child throwing tantrums at a weary parent who is trying to get the child to want only what they can have.

Oct 5, 2013 at 1:27 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

One of the interesting things that came out of the Grauniad comments on the Greenpeace (unacknowledged) article was that a few brave souls tried to explain that Russians don't see the world in the same way as comparatively rich societies do. I remind readers that Russians are relatively poor; also that most of them live in a harsh, cold climate where heat and light are the difference between life and death.

Quite rightly, they cannot comprehend any rationale for why anyone would stand between them and not freezing to death, not to mention potential prosperity from their natural resources.

The Greenpeace crowd are seen most benevolently as lunatics; the alternative is that they are trying to prevent Russia from increasing its prosperity and power for more sinister reasons. In either case, they get zero sympathy.

For historical reasons - which go back even further than the Revolution of the early C20th - there is a well-developed streak of paranoia in the cultures of central and eastern Europe. I don't mean that as some sort of pop-science definition of "paranoia" as a pathological state, but as a realistic response to the world that they were living in.

As a few perceptive commenters remarked, they don't see the world at all in the same way as people from wealthy, stable democracies that have been relatively untouched by war and upheaval over the centuries do.

It is bad enough that Greenpeace now only represents the luvvies in their host countries in the West. Once they start tackling cultures where there is practically no common ground to begin with, they are completely at a loss.

I should point out that this comment does not mean that I think that other cultures care nothing for nature. But, like everybody else, that can only be pushed up the priority list when they are safe and warm and well-fed, and expect to be so in the foreseeable future.

Oct 5, 2013 at 1:32 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Mike/Tiny/michael/joanna: it seems you would all agree that it's really only the anglo and most European economies (not all - e.g. Poland) that are campaigning for comprehensive global GHG reduction. And some of them, e.g. Canada and probably now Australia, are hardly doing so very seriously. Essentially all other economies, for a variety of very understandable reasons, have every intention of continuing to burn increasing quantities of fossil fuels. And, between them, they already emit over 70% of the global total.

To an extent, this crucial fact has been obscured by the exemption of so-called “non-Annex 1” countries from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. The EU negotiators tried hard to reverse this at Copenhagen but were humiliatingly rebuffed – indeed they were excluded from the final negotiations. The Europeans were described by Rupert Darwall in his book the Age of Global Warming as

... a side that lost more comprehensively than at any international conference in modern history where the outcome had not been decided beforehand by force of arms.
Nonetheless, they persuaded themselves that things were back on track by the adoption in 2011 of the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” whereby it was agreed that an agreement “with legal force” would be “completed no later than 2015 … and implemented from 2020”. But anyone who really believes an agreement to agree means anything knows little about agreements or about negotiation. Unsurprisingly, it’s already unravelling: India, China etc. insist on the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, putting the onus on developed countries - and the Chinese negotiator has stressed that China could not impose emission caps because it “needed time to focus on economic growth”.

Copenhagen (2009) killed off the prospect of emission reduction and Paris (2015) isn’t going to revive it. In my opinion, that simple fact is vastly more important than erudite discussion about AR5. And, of course, it means that our efforts to reduce emissions are not only damaging and absurdly expensive, but they’re completely pointless.

Oct 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

I can never make up my mind whether all this “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”, "agreement “with legal force", “completed no later than 2015", "implemented from 2020” stuff, not to mention Bali, Cancun, Rio, Lagos (as I've said before, no mention of Scunthorpe, Lille, or Akron, Ohio in there, you'll notice), is displacement activity or some form of intellectual masturbation.
None of this has anything to do with global warming or climate, a fact which Edenhoffer admitted three or maybe four years ago. According to him it was all about redistributing wealth from the rich West to the poor South. My take is that it is simply what bureaucrats do given the chance — dash around the world at great expense on taxpayers' money to scratch each others' backs at conferences where they can feel important, reach high-sounding but effectively meaningless conclusions on matters about which they are singularly ill-informed.

... our efforts to reduce emissions are not only damaging and absurdly expensive, but they’re completely pointless.
Indeed. The whole exercise is, as Shakespeare put it, "full of sound and fury and signifying nothing".

Oct 5, 2013 at 6:31 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I just intercepted a secret communication in Russian to the Greenpeace executive

Comrades, we've been paying you guys all these years to screw up the western competition to the Russian oil/gas industry.. and to get the west to close down all their heavy industry, while we carry on regardless. What the hell are you were doing coming onto our Russian platforms ?
- Now get back to the west and promote the fictitious greendream of wind & solar to them so that they'll end up buying more Russian gas

Oct 7, 2013 at 1:15 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

AR5 may be a side issue world wide, due to the fact that countries with growing economies tend to be run by people who are numerate. But it’s still important in the West - it’s our Great Wall of Consensus, cutting us off from reality as efficiently China’s thousand year isolation, possibly with similar results.
I don’t see any signs that anything died at Copenhagen. Mike Jackson’s cynicism is fully justified. You and I who lurk on the blogs of the Other Side know that their popular “activist” support is non-existant. But the Greeds mentioned by Mike are in charge, and will continue to funnel money to the Greens, who will continue to produce the illusion of political pressure for green solutions to the non-problems raised by the interpreters of the IPCC report.
The West is stuck in an economic rut, torn between the Anglo-Saxon solution of bribing the bankers who got us into this mess to get us out again, and the European solution of making more and more laws declaring economic decline illegal.
As Tiny CO2 says, China and Russia are pragmatic. So would you be if you’d seen millions of lives lost due to invasion, civil war, and oppressive and incompetent dictatorship. Everywhere outside the West, growth is going ahead at a subdued, biut still respectable 4-5%. They’ll need energy to keep that up.

Mike Jackson
If, as you say, AR5 is “a (reasonably) honest attempt by the majority of those directly involved” why aren’t they objecting publicly to the gross distortion of their message in the media?

Oct 9, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff: when I say that AR5 is a side issue, I'm focusing exclusively on its world wide impact. And I believe that, from that perspective, Copenhagen marked the death of extreme environmentalism. The West suffered a massive defeat from which it cannot recover: there is no chance now of a global cut in GHG emissions.

In this article Rupert Darwell expresses that sentiment precisely:

Whatever the IPCC says, it has become a sideshow. What happens at Paris in 2015 depends on politicians and governments. Given the diplomatic smarts shown by President Obama and other Western leaders over Syria, it is hard for even the most fervent believer in global warming to believe that the Paris climate summit will deliver a global agreement to cut emissions. When your best hopes rest in Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, you need to start believing in miracles.
[My emphasis]

PS: that, of course, will not deter Europe's greens from campaigning for us to commit economic suicide. And probably winning.

Oct 10, 2013 at 12:36 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin, I tend to agree with Geoff.
Not much died at Copenhagen because it was already undead. There never was a chance of significant cuts in total human CO2 emissions, at least not before most energy consumed across the planet is derived from nuclear power.

When Western politicians and electorates have taken that fully on-board, then the stake will have been driven through the heart of the most foolish environmental agenda yet espoused. Everything up to that point is damage limitation.

Oct 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

michael: yes, you have a point. I certainly agree that, well before Copenhagen, there was never really a chance of significant global CO2 cuts. But the environmental movement (a wholly Western construct), completely unaware of this before 2009, began to dimly understand it thereafter. And, although it may have faded somewhat recently, that vague understanding still exists.

I wholeheartedly agree with your second paragraph. That's precisely why my message is that we should focus on sharpening that understanding and getting it fully on board. It means that, instead of wasting so much time trying to show that the CAGW hypothesis is without foundation (a battle we're never going to win), we should treat AR5 as the side issue it really is. It means demonstrating, for example, that, as nations responsible for about 75% of global emissions have no intention of making cuts, our feeble efforts are, as well as damaging and absurdly expensive, completely pointless. And that's true however AR5 is interpreted.

Oct 10, 2013 at 10:22 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin Guenier, how well do you think the actions of Russian government represent the views and wishes of Russian people?

Oct 12, 2013 at 8:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra


Read this

Oct 12, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

This thread, of course, is not particularly about Russia, although Chandra's useful intervention helped to consolidate that message. (Nor incidentally is about Poland which, rather amazingly, is hosting this year's COP19 and causing some merriment at Tory Aardvark's blog.)

No - it's about the relative unimportance of AR5 in view of the fact that anyone who believes in a comprehensive emission reduction deal at COP 21 in Paris in 2015 is living in dreamland. Part of that dream is the idea that the so-called developing economies will sign up to the deal when the industrialised West transfers $100 billion to help less developed countries fund adaptation and mitigation projects. This is supposed to happen via the "Green Climate Fund" (GCF). So how's that getting on? Hmm ... not too well, it seems: see this. An extract:

The GCF remains hugely underfunded. While developing countries have committed to mobilizing US$100 billion per year for climate finance by 2020, so far, it has only raised $.7.5 million.

Oct 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin, are you suggesting your article from Voice of Russia is representative of the Russian people? Do you really believe what you read there? You must have some idea of the degree of political freedom (or lack thereof) in Russia both current and historical, the level of press freedom, the activities of the Kremlin. I am surprised you can use anything from there to support any case on any subject, except if the subject relates to kleptocracies taking over nations.

Oct 12, 2013 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Got any better evidence, Chandra? And, when even commentators at (of all places) the Guardian have the views expressed here, it seems likely that the VoR poll may be reasonably accurate.

In any case, you've completely missed my point: see my post at 4:04 PM.

Oct 12, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Evidence of the Russian peoples' views, you mean? No. But peoples' views depend a lot on what they have been told. And when we are talking about Russia we can be sure they will be fed the Kremlin line. You don't need me to tell you that. Any reasonable system and people would see climbing aboard an oil rig carrying weapons as piracy and doing so unarmed as trespass.

On you real point, I agree with you. There is no chance of the West supporting developing nations to a degree that would be useful - sadly, I think, because it would be in their own best interests.

Oct 13, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Well, Chandra, it's interesting how so many Guardian commentators seem to agree with the Kremlin line. Who told them what to believe I wonder?

But my real point is simple: the fact countries responsible for over 70% of global GHG emissions have no intention of agreeing to substantial reductions, makes the UK's (responsible for 1.7%) efforts, not only damaging and hugely expensive, but completely pointless.

Oct 13, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Do you think it is piracy?

What evidence do you have for GHG reductions being damaging?

Oct 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Piracy? No idea - I don't know enough about the facts. But anyway it's not relevant to this thread except of course as a demonstration of how Russia's seemingly cavalier attitude towards (1) international law and (2) green issues underlines how unlikely it is that they would be interested in agreeing to substantial, if any, cuts in their GHG emissions.

Damaging? The UK 's policies are already increasing costs - inter alia threatening jobs and harmful to the poorest and most vulnerable people. Moreover they threaten power outages - which could cause immense harm to society in general and to the most vulnerable in particular. For example, I know from experience just how dependent people with disability and the frail and elderly are on a constant supply of electric power. When much of our conventional power is phased out, a long cold period with no wind could put many such people at serious risk.

Oct 13, 2013 at 4:55 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

That is just opinion or hearsay. What evidence do you have?

Oct 13, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

What evidence do you have for GHG reductions being damaging?

Oct 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

Chandra, you are asking the wrong question of yourself, and sounding like Kevin Trenberth, trying to reverse the null-hypothesis.

The question can be put the other way: What evidence do you have that GHG decreases are not harmful? Well, the benefits that come from fossil-fuel use are obvious and manifold. We would not go to such lengths to obtain fossil fuels if they did not provide great benefits. Those benefits are what we risk losing from attempts to reduce CO2 emissions. And it's more than a hypothetical risk, the industrial revolution wasn't a random occurrence. We (humans) created it by intelligence and, by golly, we can reverse it with stupidity.

The losses that would come from eliminating fossil-fuel use: Other than making billions of humans poorer as a result of more expensive energy, less able to drag themselves out of poverty, more likely to degrade forests & the general environment, more likely to degrade their health with wood-smoke, more likely to have a shorter life-expectancy... I can barely think of less than a dozen others in less than 12 minutes. Generally returning us to agricultural pre-industrial life styles and pre-industrial life expectancies. No thanks.

You've got a cheaper source of energy to fuel humanity?... Bring it on. Let's hear about it. Wind, wave and solar isn't. If Greenpeace et al think it is, then they should go qualify as engineers that can can build it,show us, make themselves rich in the process, and stop belly-aching to the rest of us about what THEY THINK is possible. [lol. How funny will that be, the first "Greenpeace-funded" nuclear-engineer?]

Now, the external benefits of emissions of the "greenhouse gas" carbon dioxide: It increases the productivity of much of the photosynthetic biosphere; increases the water efficiency of another significant fraction of the photosynthetic biosphere; more trees; more plants; more food; more green.....Should we also sacrifice that on the altar of green ignorance?

What was your question?

Oct 13, 2013 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Well said, Michael.

Getting back on topic, here's an extract from a recent article (7 October) in, rather surprisingly, the Financial Times that reflects much the same sentiments as I have expressed on this thread:

"By acting alone, however, the UK risks disadvantaging itself without furthering its environmental objectives. Companies that use a lot of electricity will consider moving elsewhere. The effect on investment will be immediate even if existing plants stay put for now. This could further deplete Britain’s industrial base just as the government tries to rebalance the economy away from financial services. The danger is exacerbated by an EU carbon price that has continued to fall since the floor was first proposed. This risks becoming a “beggar thyself” policy that merely shifts emissions – and associated jobs – to other European countries and beyond.

The troubled EU scheme is itself a reminder that climate change cannot be solved by unilateral action, even by a bloc that accounts for roughly 11 per cent of global emissions. Since EU tariffs take little account of disparities in environmental regulations, the continent’s manufacturers have to compete with cheap imports from countries where dirtier production methods are allowed. Although carbon trading is being tried in places such as Australia and California, no major economy has shown much enthusiasm for European-style self-restraint."

Oct 13, 2013 at 9:38 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Michael Hart, fossil fuels have been available for centuries and yet there are still large parts of the world without access to energy, clean water, food. The fuels haven't done them much good, have they? Save your crocodile tears for the poor for someone more gullible. You have lots of talking points but you have failed to show any evidence that GHG reductions are and will be damaging.

Robin, that we are competing with dirtier producers is true of all manufacturing, not just energy. Be consistent and advocate lower environmental standards here across the board, not just for CO2. I'm sure you will find wide agreement from the right, from industry and the from the FT.

Oct 14, 2013 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra