New study destroys that “97% of scientists” claim…….or not, as the case may be

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Just about everyone on the alarmist side of the climate debate, from President Obama down, repeats the mantra “97% of scientists agree with the IPCC position”.  Some say “97% of scientists can’t be wrong” (which defies the whole history of scientific research and discovery, by the way).  My critics on social media sneer “So you know better than 97% of scientists, do you?  Are you a climate scientist?”.

Of course the “research” that established the “97% of scientists” claim has been comprehensively debunked, not least by Christopher Monckton, whose guest blog on the subject I published in 2014.  See also here and here. It was a reprehensible piece of work apparently designed as propaganda, not science.

Now a new study, by the Dutch Government’s PBL Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, no less, finds that fewer than half of climate scientists support the IPCC claim that “It is extremely likely {95%+ certainty} that more than half of [global warming] from 1951 to 2010 was caused by [human activity]”.  That conclusion remains true even when “don’t knows” are excluded.  The agency invited 6550 scientists who were working in climate and related fields for their views.  1868 replied (over 28%).  There is of course always a possibility of bias (either way) based on who chose to respond.  Nonetheless the overall figures are striking, and difficult to dispute.  Only 43% agreed with the IPCC position, a figure that rose to 47% with the exclusion of “don’t knows”.

Breitbart covers this story in more detail.  Worth a read:

So let’s hear no more of the 97% nonsense.

There will be those who say that if even 40+% of scientists believe that the IPCC may be right, then we should be pursuing climate mitigation as an “insurance policy”.  No we should not.  First, because the cost of the premium is higher than the risk (at least in most studies other than Stern); second because the vastly expensive policies we are putting in place cannot possibly have a significant effect of the trajectory of atmospheric CO2 and global temperature (even if you accept the IPCC position); and third, because by driving energy-intensive businesses to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, we not only undermine our own economies, but arguably increase global CO2 emissions.

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Workplace parking levies are wrong

NEWS REPORTER: Chris Birkle The car park outside Boots D80 Conference Centre, where Notts business people gathered for a meeting about the parking levy to be introduced for work space parking PHOTOGRAPHER: DUSTIN MICHAILOVS POSTPHOTO: C020708DAM3-4

It is said that Nottingham is famous for Robin Hood and lace-making – well, according to reports it is now also famous for a shake-up of its city travel infrastructure.

According to Phys.Org the city’s public transport system carried 75 million passengers last year with 89 per cent of journeys being made by bus. It is all part of the drive to encourage drivers to get out of their gas guzzling cars and onto public transport. (One such policy is the parking levy, which sees businesses charge for workplace parking). The money effectively pays for public transport improvements, as stated here on the council’s explanatory website.

Part of this green commitment in Nottingham also includes stringent environmental standards for city centre buses and 49 electric vehicles operating on council-tendered services.

Further moves will see the country’s first fully electric Park and Ride scheme and a new low emission zone in the city centre.

So, let’s look at this a little more closely. For starters, charges for work-place parking are wrong in principle, and defy the vital issue of property ownership.

It’s for the owner of the land (if he wishes) to levy parking charges.  The local authority has no moral right to do so (though they may have a legal right).

To say that the revenue was used for a particular purpose — in other words, that this was a hypothecated tax — is essentially meaningless, since it is impossible to establish the counter-factual. What would the local authority have spent on the buses in the absence of this tax?  In reality hypothecated taxes are merely a rhetorical device to make citizens less unhappy with a tax (this works particularly well with those who don’t pay it!)

That said, however, measures to make public transportation easier to use and more attractive are to be applauded (if they are affordable). Electric vehicles may well have a place on city routes. Short journeys and regular routes with nights in the depot for re-charging are the ideal environment for electric vehicles.

While we in UKIP are not paranoid about global CO2 emissions, we certainly recognise an air pollution problem from petrol and especially diesel vehicles in cities, and if electric vehicles are an affordable solution, then I’m all for it.

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The Paris Climate Deal: a threat to the US Constitution?

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There’s great excitement amongst the Climate Alarmist Community about the Paris Conference scheduled for November 2015.  Much preparatory work is being done, papers being published, hopes expressed.  They’re looking for a “Son of Kyoto” agreement, described as “A new, universal climate change agreement”.  This despite the fact that the RSS data have shown no global warming for 18½ years – so either the measures taken already have been enormously successful, or perhaps climate change is not quite the threat they thought it was.  In either of these events, it’s difficult to see quite why further measures are needed.

It’s worth casting our minds back to the original Kyoto agreement adopted in 1997. The Clinton Administration signed that Treaty, subject to Congressional ratification, but in the sure and certain knowledge that Congress would certainly not ratify an agreement which clearly disadvantaged America on a grand scale while leaving developing countries largely unscathed.

This position remained the same under the Bush Presidency which followed Clinton, though while Clinton would have ratified if he could, Bush clearly (and rightly in my view) had no intention of ratifying it.

More recently, Obama has come up against resistance to his environmental plans, and has been unable to reach Congressional agreement.  He has adopted a novel solution.  He has imposed draconian environmental measures on America by means of Executive Orders, via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Many in Washington, especially on the Republican side, feel that this wide-scale use of Executive Orders to make policy in defiance of Congress represents a direct assault on the checks and balances embodied in the US Constitution.

So where does that leave the Paris 2015 plans?  The UN and its supporters in the “Universal Climate Agreement” project are well aware that the USA cannot sign up to international treaties without Congressional approval, and they also know that such approval will not be forthcoming. But they have watched with interest the “Obama Doctrine” and the use of Executive Orders by-passing Congress.

So they have hit upon the scheme of avoiding the “Treaty” word altogether, and calling the deal merely “an agreement”.  Brits and Europeans will immediately see a parallel with the “European Constitution” of 2005, which would have required ratification by EU member-states.  Knowing that such ratification would not be forthcoming from all member-states, the EU institutions adopted the simple device of changing the name, from European Constitution to Lisbon Treaty, with the deliberate objective of by-passing the ratification requirement.  They have learned their lesson well, and are applying the same thinking toParis.

President Obama has made it clear that in his view Paris will not require a two-thirds Senate majority (as would have otherwise been the case) because (he’ll say) it’s not a treaty but a voluntary agreement (as if accession to treaties were not normally voluntary).

But the current draft of the Paris agreement includes provision for an “International Climate Justice Tribunal in order to oversee, control and sanction the fulfilment of and compliance with the obligations of Annex I and Annex II Parties under this agreement”.  That’s an enforcement mechanism which would deal with non-compliance.  So it’s not a voluntary agreement.  It’s a Treaty in all but name.  The reluctance of American legislators to subject their country to international or supranational institutions is well known, not least in the case of the International Criminal Court.

The climate obsession has already seen President Obama stretching the American Constitution, by-passing Congress with the use of Executive Orders.  But this deliberate and cynical attempt to by-pass the Constitution’s provisions on Congressional ratification of international treaties goes a great deal further.  It is perhaps not too much to say that the President appears to be dismantling the American Constitution, one step at a time.  He may well find that the American Congress and the American people take a rather hostile view of this process.

For more on this, there’s an excellent article by my old friend Chris Horner in the Washington Times  and I have made extensive use of his piece in drafting my blog post.

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Patriotic Voices from Europe

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Roger Helmer MEP speaks at one hour and three minutes

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BBC: Mass extinction caused by Climate Change! (or not, as the case may be)

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This morning (July 9th) I was watching BBC World just after 6:00 a.m., in the Ibis Hotel in Strasbourg, to be greeted by the cheerful news that the world is facing its sixth mass extinction event (the fifth, 60 million years ago, saw the extinction of the dinosaurs), and that this was “caused by climate change and loss of habitat”.  A glib observation offered without justification, and straight out of the BBC’s standard alarmist phrase-book.   I can’t find a link to this morning’s broadcast, but here’s the flavour.

So I went to Google and pulled off a graph of temperature over the last 10,000 years.  The graph above is typical, based on Greenland ice cores, and is one of many.  The basic pattern is generally accepted in the scientific community.  The ten thousand year period is significant because it covers most of the current Interglacial period – and in effect the whole span of human civilisation from the earliest agriculture.  And here’s the fact that most scientists accept, and yet which climate alarmists hate to talk about.  Not only have there been successive cyclical warmings during that period, on a roughly 1,000-year cycle, but the current warming – the one causing such global anxiety, and resulting in hugely expensive mitigation policies – is minor compared to previous cycles.

The current warming is less than the Mediæval Warm Period, which was lower than the Roman Warming, which was lower than the Minoan Optimum.   Moreover the trend line over the period peaks at about seven thousand years ago, and has declined ever since.  I have said it again and again, but I make no apology for repeating it: the current warming is modest, and is part of a well-established, long term, natural climate cycle.  There is no reason to believe that it’s caused by human activity, and no reason to regard it as dangerous.  Indeed the cyclical pattern is so clear and well-defined that it’s amazing that the whole climate alarmist industry has failed to recognise it.  We’ve done enormous economic damage for a theory which is self-evidently nonsense.

Longer term: Pattern of Interglacials:

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Source: Garnaut Climate Change Review http://www.garnautreview.org.au/

There is a broader pattern over the last two million years of warmer Interglacial periods lasting typically ten to twelve thousand years, every 120,000 years or so (with severe glacial conditions in between).  Consider that pin-up species of the alarmists, the polar bear.  Polar bear populations survived the Minoan and Roman and MWP warmings perfectly well.  (How do I know? Because they’re still with us!).  But it’s also true that their ancestors, who in evolutionary terms were pretty similar to today’s polar bears, survived previous warm periods.  And the Eemian Interglacial around 120,000 years ago was warmer than the current interglacial.  (Note: While the alarmists weep crocodile tears over the fate of the polar bear, out there in the real world polar bear populations and numbers are doing rather well).

So perhaps the BBC would like to take note.  There may indeed be a major extinction event under way (though the climate alarmists love to be – well – alarmist, and tend to exaggerate).  If so, I’d say it was caused by the pressure of human populations, by habitat loss, and by changed agricultural practices.  The one thing it certainly wasn’t cause by is global warming, since demonstrably no such extinction event took place during previous, and warmer, climate optima.

Of course if you read the climate record (which climate alarmists are so reluctant to do – they dismiss the past as “the pre-industrial period”, as though climate started 150 years ago, rather like Pol Pot and Year Zero), you will know that Interglacials typically last ten to twelve thousand years, and that the current Interglacial has been with us for — well – ten to twelve thousand years.  The financial services ads remind us that the past is not necessarily a guide to the future, but it’s the best indicator we have, and may be reliable for long-term cyclical events, (which pace the alarmists, are clearly driven by astronomical factors, not human activity).  If so, then we should indeed be deeply worried at the prospect of climate change.  Not +2oC, but -10oC.  And a mile of ice over Chicago.  And Glasgow.  And Helsinki.

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The legacy of Magna Carta

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We’ve just been celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, which many regard as the founding document of the UK’s (largely unwritten) Constitution. And the key achievement of Magna Carta was to put an end to the absolute rule of the Monarch, and to assert for the first time that every man, be he peasant, gentleman, baron or King, was equally subject to the rule of law – and to ensure that redress should be available to those disadvantaged by the failure of others to obey the law.

In these days of Constitutional Monarchy, the government has taken over many of the previous rôles of Monarchy. But the rules continue to apply. Like the King, the government is also subject to the rule of law. The elected government has the democratic right to make the law, but it does not have the right to break it.

Classical liberal economics stresses the vital importance of the rule of law, of property rights and enforceable contracts, as the basis of a free society and a workable economy. Consider most of the world’s trouble spots, and the lack of these basic elements of civilisation is at the root of their problems. If you enter into an agreement, or a contract, or a treaty, you should observe it. And it will normally include some kind of mechanism to provide redress in the event of non-compliance. Indeed a contract or treaty without such provisions is of little value.

So I am rather astonished at the large number of e-mails I am getting regarding TTIP (The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or EU/US Trade Agreement), with particular and quite aggressive concerns raised about ISDS (the Investor/State Dispute Settlement system). They are horrified that ISDS will “allow corporates to sue democratic governments”, as though this were a new thing. But already companies that feel they have been disadvantaged by a failure of a government to behave properly can and do sue governments on the basis of existing law. In Britain, the wind industry is currently threatening to sue the government over subsidy cuts. BAA threatened to sue the government over the third Heathrow runway, and now protesters are threatening to sue as well.

In Germany, the nuclear industry is planning to sue the German government (rightly, in my view) for very large sums of money for Angela Merkel’s peremptory decision to close the German nuclear plants. There is nothing “democratic” about allowing governments to break the law, or to renege on contractual or treaty provisions. Indeed, that’s the route to tyranny and despotism.

ISDS is variously described as “an assault on democracy” and “riding rough-shod over the will of the people”. In fact it is simply a dispute resolution procedure in the event of non-compliance. Correspondents write about ISDS as if it were some demonic device newly created by rapacious American corporations to damage trading partners. In fact ISDS provisions are already a commonplace of international treaties – a treaty is worth little without a compliance mechanism. But according to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the existing network of 1400 European Bilateral Treaties (BITs) – all of which include ISDS — already provide good protection to many European investors. These include 8 existing BITs between EU Member States and the US. The UK itself has negotiated 94 Bilateral Investment Treaties, the majority of which include ISDS provisions.

In other words, ISDS provisions are already widely used, and have a good track record. Only two cases have ever been brought against the British government under ISDS, and neither succeeded. Rather than “riding rough-shod over the democratic will of the people”, ISDS simply ensures that governments are called to account, and required to live up to contracts and treaties that they have voluntarily and democratically entered into.

Imagine that you wanted to invest in another country with which the UK had an investment treaty. Imagine it was Russia, say. And suppose the Russian government decided to nationalise your investment. Wouldn’t you hope that there would be a compliance mechanism to ensure that you got appropriate compensation? And wouldn’t you be happier if any legal action took place in some kind of international tribunal rather than in a Russian Court? Do you see anything anti-democratic in that?

I think that there are real issues of concern with TTIP. We in UKIP believe that Britain should be free to negotiate its own bilateral deal with America – indeed I believe that had it not been for the EU’s straitjacket, we should have had a UK/US trade deal decades ago. Then there is the issue of public services and especially the NHS. As TTIP develops (and that could take months or years), we in UKIP will be watching at every stage to ensure that there’s no threat to the NHS. But to be fair, that’s the position that just about every politician – and the European Commission – takes. There are questions about the tribunal mechanism for ISDS resolution, and we would insist that the proceedings of any such tribunal should be open and transparent. A rather more worrying concern would be any tendency for the EU and the USA together to seek to establish some kind of joint global hegemony over regulation. Similarly, any tendency to use TTIP to increase regulation – perhaps by introducing conditions from both sides – is to be resisted. But if they approach regulatory convergence in terms of mutual recognition rather than aggregating two sets of rules, so much the better.

There has been a strident and aggressive populist campaign against TTIP, which (like the rather similar campaign against shale-gas) has engaged in shameless scare-mongering and black propaganda. That campaign is leftist, protectionist, anti-trade, anti-American, anti-capitalist – and also anti-growth, anti-jobs and anti-prosperity. It is an hysterical response to a Treaty for which a final text has not yet been written.

My conclusion is that there are risks with TTIP, as there would be with any major new treaty. But we are aware of the risks, and will watch carefully to see that they are dealt with. And provided they are, a good TTIP agreement will offer huge benefits on both sides of the Atlantic.

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A minute on the Market Stability Reserve

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