Of advocacy carts, evidence horses and Andrew Weaver’s carbon “baby”

British Columbia’s Climate Action Team was established in November 2007 to help the government reduce provincial greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. It was made up of some of the province’s best minds, including nine world leaders in the climate sciences.

The team’s mandate was threefold:

  • to offer expert advice to the province’s Cabinet Committee on Climate Action on the most credible, aggressive and economically viable targets possible for 2012 and 2016;
  • to identify further actions in the short and medium term to reduce emissions and meet the 2020 target; and
  • to provide advice on the provincial government’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2010.

Source

And you’ll never guess who one of the Climate Action Team members just happened to be: Yep! None other than the illustrious Andrew <climate change is a barrage of intergalactic ballistic missiles> Weaver; he who remains silent when it is falsely claimed that he “shared the Nobel Peace Prize”; an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Lead Author who also remains silent when asked how his BC Green Party Deputy Leadership (and Oak Bay Gordon Head candidacy) could be squared with the “objectivity” required of an IPCC Lead Author.

The very same Andrew Weaver who has, in effect, acted as a PR agent for Greenpeace – and who can’t stand the heat in his twitter kitchen!

Here’s how Weaver is billed on the Climate Action Team:

Dr. Andrew Weaver is a professor and Canada research chair in atmospheric science in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UVic. His contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Al Gore. He joined UVic in 1992, having spent three years as a natural sciences and engineering research council university research fellow in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill University. He has written over 120 peer reviewed papers in climate, meteorology, oceanography, earth science, policy and education journals. He was involved as a lead author in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change second and third scientific assessments of climate change. Weaver presently serves on the United Nations World Climate Research Program Working Group on Coupled Modelling, and the United States National Academy of Sciences Climate Research Committee as well as the NAS Panel on Climate Feedbacks. He is co-chair of the UN WCRP CLIVAR-PAGES Intersection Panel and is an editor of the Journal of Climate.

So, I doubt that many will be surprised to learn that this marvellous 2008 Climate Action Plan (132 page pdf which contains the seeds of BC’s legislated lunacy and which appears to have been authored by the Climate Action Team) describes “The Challenge” (p. 11) as follows:

We’ve all seen signs that our climate is changing – from devastating storms, to longer summer droughts, to the warmer winters linked to the mountain pine beetle epidemic threatening Interior forests. Some people argue that these changes are natural; that the earth’s climactic patterns have always varied from year to year and decade to decade. However, in November 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – representing the most respected climate experts worldwide – issued a report with the most decisive evidence yet to support three key conclusions:

  • the earth’s climate is changing
  • the change is being caused by human activities, and
  • its effects will worsen if no action is taken.

The Problem Is Real

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world’s foremost authority on the subject, drawing on the expertise of more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries. [emphases added -hro]

As anyone who has conducted her/his own due diligence will know, the above is Chapter and Verse straight from the pages of the PR version of the Climate Bible – which had earned no less than 21 F’s on a citizen audit Report Card issued three years ago.

Furthermore, as Donna Laframboise has meticulously documented, in her exposé, the IPCC has a long history of acting more like a delinquent teenager than a body whose “expertise” and pronouncements are deserving of public trust.

Considering that much ado has been made of the need for “mechanisms” that will lead us to the promised land of “The Future We [don’t need or] Want” – and in particular those “mechanisms” upon which “climate finance” (their phrasing, not mine) depends – I found a recent “bulletin” from the IPCC & UNFCCC’s “parent”, the UNEP’s Global Environmental Alert Service (GEAP) to be somewhat amusing – albeit quite pathetically so. Some excerpts (all emphases mine -hro):

Thematic focus: Environmental governance, Climate change

The impact of corruption on climate change: threatening emissions trading mechanisms?

This bulletin provides an overview of recent discussions about the impact of corruption on environmental governance, with a focus on emissions trading. It reviews new definitions and the latest corruption assessment methodologies in order to illuminate the broader challenges faced by GHG trading mechanisms and climate finance.

Why is this issue important?

The trading of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has recently emerged as one of the most dynamic and promising areas of global environmental governance. According to the latest assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), global GHG emissions must peak, if not decline, by 2015 in order to limit global mean temperature increases to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The Panel predicted that without a reduction of GHG emissions, the globe would experience an overall temperature rise of 6.4°C by the end of this century, which is a catastrophic scenario.

[…]

Emissions trading systems are often hailed as a powerful and cost-efficient approach to dealing with the multi-faceted challenges posed by climate change (Kossoy and Guignon, 2012). The UNFCCC estimates that these systems will contribute a significant portion of the funds necessary for climate change mitigation (UNFCCC, 2007).

Well, there you have it folks … Emissions trading systems are the great panacea for all that ails our planet because, well, because the UNEP said so. But alas, there are a few flies in this “powerful and cost-efficient” ointment:

Corruption impacts the success of emissions trading schemes by reducing the overall reliability and effectiveness of GHG markets. The implementation of cap-and-trade systems in both developed and developing countries has been recurrently tainted by cases of fraud and bribery, abuses of power, and other conventional forms of corruption. Corruption in this sector has also taken more original forms, such as the strategic exploitation of ‘bad science’ and scientific uncertainties for profit, the manipulation of GHG market prices, and anti-systemic speculation (Lohmann, 2007; TI, 2012a; Wara, 2007). The challenge that corruption poses to climate finance also contributes to broader debates about the impact of corruption in environmental governance. Over the past two decades, domestic and international anti-corruption initiatives have proliferated, with the process being largely driven by the increasing recognition of the impact of corruption on the quality of environmental governance.

Although he did not call it such, one might consider that the recent findings of the BC Auditor General on the fruits of Weaver and the Climate Action Team’s 2007 labours, i.e. the disgraceful actions of the Pacific Carbon Trust – and its “partners” – are tantamount to corruption.

In his Report, An Audit of Carbon Neutral Government, the Auditor General had noted:

This audit examined two projects which accounted for nearly 70 percent of the offsets purchased by government to achieve their claim of carbon neutrality: the Darkwoods Forest Carbon project in southeastern B.C. and the Encana Underbalanced Drilling project near Fort Nelson. However, this claim of carbon neutrality is not accurate, as neither project provided credible offsets.

The credibility of carbon offsets is the crux of the entire concept. [emphasis added – hro]

Candidate Weaver’s carefully considered response:

Media Release
April 2, 2013 | Victoria, British Columbia

South Island Green Candidates Support A New Path to Carbon Neutrality

Provincial Green candidates Dr. Andrew Weaver, Deputy Leader, and Adam Olsen [another Greeen Party Candidate -hro] announced today that they support the concept of Pacific Carbon Trust (PCT) despite the criticism by the Auditor General, and will be purchasing PCT offset credits for their own carbon neutral campaigns. The candidates want to see public sector offset revenues fund public sector projects, to begin the gradual transitioning from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy.

“We should be investigating every opportunity for PCT revenues to directly benefit British Columbians by investing in locally-based public projects—if we adhere to international carbon offset accounting standards, we will reduce our GHG emissions,” says Andrew Weaver.

[…]

“Carbon offset project assessment is a highly sophisticated process, and while I acknowledge there are bound to be difficulties with a new organization, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” says Weaver.

Does Weaver acknowledge that he was – in effect – a “midwife” at the birth of this precious little “baby”?! Not bloomin’ likely. Weaver’s glasses are so dark green that he failed to notice that no suggestion was made by the Auditor General – or anyone else with any influence, as far as I know – that this “baby” (or its bathwater … unless one considers the PCT Board to be “bathwater”) be thrown out!

Does Weaver have any comment on the atrocious behaviours of those who participated in the campaign to discredit the AG’s report?! Not bloomin’ likely.

Two of these campaigners are quite, well, interesting: Stewart Elgie is a carbon crusader with a long history of green-heart-on-sleeve advocacy. James Tansey is described as the “chief executive officer of Vancouver-based Offsetters Climate Solutions” – which (although not mentioned, surprise surprise, just happens to be a partner of Pacific Carbon Trust.

Both Elgie and Tansey have claimed that they were part of some “expert” advisory group to the Auditor General. Considering that the AG made no mention in his report of any “expert” advisory group – as is customary in such reports if, in fact, such a group had contributed – I’m more inclined to think that Elgie and Tansey (and who knows how many other advocacy-tainted and/or interest-conflicted “experts”) have perhaps “revisionized” the following from p. 16 of the AG’s report:

The audit focused on the actions of the Climate Action Secretariat and the Pacific Carbon Trust. In confirming the credibility of offsets purchased by the Pacific Carbon Trust, we also extended our work, as necessary, to obtain evidence from agencies outside of government involved with the offset projects development and approval.

We carried out our work between January and August 2012. Subsequently, we went through an extensive clearance process with a number of organizations involved in these projects. We conducted the audit in accordance with section 11(8) of the Auditor General Act and the standards for assurance engagements established by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Tansey has shown himself to be a whining smear-artist who could rival Michael Mann, as evidenced by a recent “reporter” facilitated irrelevant and diversionary screed in the Georgia Straight. [Link fixed 2015-Feb-22 -hro]

But I digress … Here’s how one BC reporter described this campaign:

Greenhouse gas leaks from trust

By Tom Fletcher

VICTORIA – The Pacific Carbon Trust orchestrated a months-long campaign of calls and letters to discredit a report from B.C.’s Auditor General on its first two big carbon offset projects, before it could be released.

Just as the audit report was about to be made public, the trust, a Crown corporation created at taxpayer expense, participated in the leaking of selected critical letters to media outlets.

As Donna Laframboise has recently concluded:

The government of BC needs to make it clear that greens will be held to the same standard as everyone else. It needs to send a clear message that there is a proper way to respond to an Auditor General’s report – and that the Pacific Carbon Trust failed that test. Spectacularly.

Public confidence needs to be restored. This entire board of directors must be replaced.

In a subsequent post, Laframboise highlighted the most damning parts of the AG’s report, including:

…Pacific Carbon Trust has not purchased credible offsets. [pp. 5, 6, 16, 19]

The report says the Trust paid well above market rates when it purchased the 2010 offsets – and that it agreed to conditions that, in the view of the Auditor General, “raises questions” about the Trust’s “ability to be objective” (pp. 6 and 30).

And as Fletcher had noted in his article:

Here’s the next Pacific Carbon Trust project that should be audited. In a complicated transaction, the trust bought offsets from something called the Great Bear Carbon Credit Limited Partnership. Yes, this is the world-famous forest on B.C.’s North Coast that was subject to a preservation deal hammered out between the Coastal First Nations, the B.C. government and three U.S.-backed environmental groups.

That was in 2006. The offset purchases were in 2009 and 2010, years after detailed preservation areas were mapped and codified in law.

Again, the trust paid for forest that was already preserved.

The Globe and Mail‘s Gary Mason has also weighed in on this shameful story:

After smoke clears, taxpayer-funded boondoggle revealed

[…]
There is much about this story the public should be concerned about, not the least of which is the dubious efficacy of carbon offsets themselves. The idea that we have struggling schools paying $25 a tonne for the carbon dioxide they emit while having to forgo the hiring of teachers and the purchasing of books is preposterous. Especially given that in many cases this money is going to highly profitable private-sector companies.

[…]

It all has a certain smell of desperation about it, the embedded worry that the report might expose carbon offsets as a taxpayer-funded boondoggle.

[…]

I believe the carbon-offset program was conceived with the best of intentions. But I also think it quickly attracted a potpourri of consultants and entrepreneurs and savvy corporations that smelled easy money. While the endeavour allowed the government to feel righteous and moral, the truth about what it was really accomplishing seems to be something else.

YMMV, but it seems to me that Weaver’s carbon “baby” was obviously ill-conceived and that what Weaver and his over-eager allies like to call a “highly sophisticated process” is more likely an instance of putting an environmental advocacy cart way ahead of any evidential horses with no qualified “drivers” in sight.

Mason had concluded:

Whoever forms government after the May 14 election should immediately halt the program until it can be properly assessed by a credible independent body. While carbon neutrality is a worthy goal, it can’t be achieved through smoke and mirrors or campaigns intent on intimidating those who dare question its validity.

Are you listening, Candidate Weaver?! The problems identified represent far more than mere “difficulties with a new organization”. In fact, if this is an example of your “assessment” skills in action, I shudder to think what we might expect from your Lead Authorship of the IPCC’s forthcoming AR5 WG1 Chapter 12.

Perhaps if the best pap your “passion for politics” is capable of mustering is of “babies and bathwater”, you would do well to step down from your ivory tower and reflect on what your green dreams have wrought.

One thought on “Of advocacy carts, evidence horses and Andrew Weaver’s carbon “baby”

  1. Don’t be so hard on the good Doctor.

    After all, with the hysteria and fear mongering about AGW that he so wonderfully promoted, he would still be an unknown professor toiling in obscurity in a tiny Department in a backwater University.

    But since he saw the opportunity to jump on the Fame & Gravy Train as it rolled by the UVic Once in a Lifetime Station, we now have a full record of his false predictions, incorrect claims and general climate nuttiness with which to entertain ourselves.

    The irony of him getting elected just in time for the bloom to fall off the AGW rose is beyond ironic. The schadenfreude of him getting into politics as the bottom falls out the atmospheric temperatures is just so wonderful.

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