On the fourth day of our countdown to our crowdfunding campaign ending we look at four people who are materially affecting the climate change debate in the UK, and have powerful platforms to do so.
Climate change deniers come in all shapes and sizes. Strangely, very few seem to have the scientific credentials and back catalogue of peer-reviewed literature you’d expect considering the strength of their opinions on a scientific subject.
The four horsemen of the apocalypse were Pestilence (or Conquest), War, Famine and Death, which rather sounds like some investors’ portfolios. Here’s a brief summary of the four horsemen of the climate apocalypse: Delingpole, Monckton, Lawson and Osborne.
James Delingpole (degree in English literature, Oxford)
A friend of B> (he once described our editor as an “epic wanker”), the Telegraph blogger recently stood as an anti-wind candidate in the Corby by-election, a constituency that has no wind farms as pointed out by the New Statesman. On Wednesday, he stood down, querying whether his brief run at elected office was “the most successful campaign in the history of politics”. The fact that polling by Lord Ashcroft showed he had less than 1% support had nothing to do with his decision.
Delingpole gained fame by being one of the first to wrongly declare that illegally hacked emails showed climate scientists were trying to con the public. They didn’t and they weren’t.
Eight committees (House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Science Assessment Panel, Independent Climate Change Email Review, United States Environmental Protection Agency report, Inspector General of the US Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation and Pennsylvania State University twice) investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
Delingpole admits to not reading peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate (he reads what other people say, who claim to have read the literature), but still expresses very strong views on the subject nevertheless. Another friend of B>, Nobel prize-winner Sir Paul Nurse (PRS, PhD), spoke to Delingpole in 2010 in a Horizon programme entitled Science Under Attack. In this short five minute clip (well worth watching), you can draw your own conclusion over who is the individual we should take seriously and who is not.
The rather excellent Graham Redfearn provides lots of interesting insight into Delingpole’s connections here.
Christopher Monckton (degree in classics, Cambridge)
Monckton is an outspoken denier of human-caused climate change. On Wednesday (it was Halloween, after all, so all the ghouls were out), he claimed that global warming did not cause Hurricane Sandy. That’s a strawman argument anyway, as no serious climatologist was claiming that this was the case. Many were saying that a warmer sea would contribute to worse storms, and that has the coincidence of being true.
In a vain attempt to give himself some credibility, he claimed to be “an appointed expert reviewer” of the forthcoming fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – a claim that is beautifully demolished in this piece by Graham Redfearn.
In Redfearn’s subsequent conversation with the secretariat at the IPCC, he was told, “Anyone can register as an expert reviewer on the open online registration systems set up by the working groups. All registrants that provide the information requested and confirm their scientific expertise via a self-declaration of expertise are accepted for participation in the review. They are invited to list publications, but that is not a requirement and the section can be left blank when registering. There is no appointment.”
If you’re trying to make a case about scientific corruption and conspiracy it’s probably best not to make false claims to support your own credibility. It’s worth reading the Redfearn piece as it sets out quite clearly how seriously economic with the truth Monckton can be.
Nigel Lawson (degree in philosophy, politics and economics, Oxford)
The former chancellor of the exchequer secured his place on our list by being the author of An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming and, more recently, the founder and chairman of The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). With regard to the book, Robert Watson (PhD in Chemistry), the former head of the IPCC and now director of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, accused Lawson of selective quotation and not understanding “the current scientific and economic debate.”
The GWPF sounds innocent enough (we could certainly do with some more serious policy), but it stubbornly refuses to reveal its funding as all charities should. The only known funder is a leading Conservative party donor and Australian hedge fund owner, Michael Hintze. We would like to know why they are so shy.
The GWPF’s first act was to call for a high-level, independent inquiry into the aforementioned hacked e-mails. This they got eight times and, as we’ve pointed out, all eight found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct.
A 2011 analysis by Carbon Brief concluded that nine out of 10 climate scientists who claim that climate change is not happening have ties to ExxonMobil (the oil giant). Many of their papers appear on the GWPF website.
Let us also not forget that this is the same Nigel Lawson who was the chancellor of the exchequer at the time of the Big Bang, which was the root cause of Black Monday and our current financial crisis, born of unregulated speculation. He also presided over the unsustainable and inflationary Lawson Boom, which precipitated the recession of 1990-1992. Talented chap.
George Osborne (degree in modern history, Oxford)
The current chancellor of the exchequer recently described parliamentary climate change campaigners as an “environmental Taliban”. Comparing colleagues who have a genuine, scientifically-evidenced concern for manmade climate change and the levels of pollution caused by burning fossil fuels with a group violent, oppressive, medievalist fundamentalists seems a little harsh and unbalanced.
One would genuinely hope that someone so well- and expensively-educated knew something about a reasoned and polite debate. This is not the Bullingdon Club after all, where you can trash restaurants, but a serious national debate. Daddy cannot simply pay for a trashed environment to be fixed.
It’s nice to know that the man in charge of the most powerful office of state and ministry that holds all the purse strings has such an open mind and is listening to all sides of the debate, particularly those with overwhelming scientific consensus on their side.
The forthcoming Channel 4 mini-series, Secret State (Wednesday November 7, 10pm), asks whether it is possible to have an honest politician and explores the collusion between government and big business. It seems not.
As recent lobbying scandals have repeatedly shown, vested interests in financial services spend millions lobbying parliamentarians and funding political parties either directly or at conference. The investment industry loves the steady returns from mining, minerals and metals, and would prefer we continue with the status quo rather than a community-based and owned clean energy revolution.
We can only speculate whether someone other than the scientists and the voters are yanking Osborne’s chain.
Free market free thinkers or ill-informed fundamentalists?
What is most staggering about these highly affluent, Oxbridge-educated individuals, who claim to subscribe to free market thinking, is that not one of them seems to grasp the massive economic opportunity tackling climate change represents. Innovation equals growth and the fastest-growing, most innovative businesses are developing clean technology. This is a ‘perfect’ industry, which has the double benefit of improving our economy and our environment.
Even the founding fathers of free market thinking, Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, understood moral and environmental considerations.
In addition to his more famous arguments about free markets and liberalised trade, Smith also presented a theory of moral behaviour, which was not as neatly separated from his economic thought as we treat it today.
Smith’s arguments in favour of free trade included an assumption that owners of capital would naturally prefer domestic to foreign industry, even if the latter offered higher returns. Smith thought this was a good thing because it reflected the moral sentiments that ultimately help make markets function. Compare this founding father thought to the current flight of capital to highest returns around the world. The moral sentiment in the UK and the US is clearly in favour of renewable energy and so free marketers should support it.
Sadly the pollutocrats and their political friends don’t agree.
Hayek noted that there are certain areas, such as the environment, where activities which cause damage to third parties (known to economists as “negative externalities”) cannot effectively be regulated solely by the marketplace. “Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question, or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation.”
It is time that these gentlemen were listened to by supposed free marketers and the four horsemen quietly went away. They do not appear to have the training, academic background or independence a serious debate needs.
There are just four days left of our crowdfunding campaign. Please help us by donating here. Thank you.
2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage
Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.
Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.
Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each
The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.
Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.
Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.
Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.
That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.
Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.
Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.
Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.
The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.
Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity
Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.
Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.
Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight
The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.
2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded
People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.
Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.
Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.
Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.