The (un)sustainability of all climate all the time

[04/23/2013: Please note update, below -hro]

A few days ago, I was taking stock of the many framings of climate. I was also wondering about the various and sundry footprints with which enviro-activists are so concerned. Here, thanks to wordle, is an illustration of what I found:


I very quickly realized that I had forgotten “climate disruption”, so please imagine it included in the above; and I’ve no doubt that there are others I might have missed. But what I had never heard of until yesterday was “climate insecurity”.

There’s a chap by the name of John Ashton who recently delivered [h/t Tom Nelson] a rally the troops speech to the somewhat self-beleaguered of late, U.K. Meteorological Office (fondly known in climate concerned circles as the “Met Office”).

Climate insecurity (whatever this is supposed to mean) is obviously very much on Ashton’s mind, as he mentioned it no less than three times during the course of his 4,986-word peroration, which he had entitled, “Climate Change and Politics: Surviving the Collision”. Oh, and his total “climate” count was no less than 42, and included such memorable turns of phrase as “climate-exposed business sectors” (perhaps he had the UNEP’s B4E in mind?) and “climate diplomacy”.

The latter is something about which, presumably, Ashton knows a fair bit, because his previous day-job (2006-2012) was that of “Special Representative for Climate Change for three successive UK Foreign Secretaries”.

Along with the requisite alarmism, there’s an awful lot of ponderous, pompous and/or presumptuous propaganda in Ashton’s speech; for example:

[…] here is a challenge that is Promethean. We have stolen the secret of fire for our own use, unleashing punitive forces inherent in the system of which we are ourselves part. Dealing with this is imperative, because if we don’t the consequences could soon become unmanageable, perhaps even jeopardizing the system conditions within which civilization itself can flourish.

And as we look more deeply into the picture, it urges us to summon a response that is transformational, because the entire modern economy is organized around the energy system. Making that system carbon neutral will reconfigure the economy, and the power relations embedded within it. Furthermore we must accomplish this urgently, in little more than a generation, while building resilience to the climate insecurity we can no longer avoid.

Promethean, imperative, transformational, urgent. [emphasis added -hro]

Not unlike the UNEP, Ashton is obviously very big on “transformative/transformational” (eight mentions in his speech at the Met Office). But what is curiously and conspicuously absent is any mention of “sustainable” … as in “sustainable development”.

Ashton is one of three founding directors of a group called E3G, and served as the first Chief Executive of E3G in 2005-06. Ever heard of this group before? No? Neither had I! So here’s the scoop:

E3G is an independent not-for-profit organisation, established in 2004, that works in the public interest to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development.

We build coalitions to achieve carefully defined outcomes, chosen for their capacity to leverage change. E3G founders had been working together and developing their shared thinking for several years before the organisation was constituted in 2004.


E3G makes things happen. We work to deliver outcomes with strategic significance for the transition to sustainable development. [emphasis added -hro]

UPDATE: Alex Cull notes in a very enlightening comment below, there’s at least one, no doubt, “carefully defined outcome” that Ashton – presumably on E3G’s behalf – was not able to “make happen”. Alex concludes:

Whatever the cause, it looks very much as though Ashton and the Qataris had an irreconcilable difference of opinion and that on this occasion, British “climate diplomacy” did not “catalyse transformational change” but hit the buffers of geopolitical reality instead.

In 2004, Ashton made an appearance in the Climategate (CG2 2428.txt) emails. In response to an E-mail, about “getting the idea into [then Prime Minister] Blair’s mind”, Ashton had opined:

cc: “Mike Hulme” , “John SCHELLNHUBER”
date: Fri, 8 Oct 2004 10:47:57 +010 ???
from: “John Ashton”
subject: Re: Moving this forward
to: “Peter Read” , “John Shepherd”

John, John and Mike heard much of my argument at the Tyndall Assembly. But I should clarify it a little in the light of Peter’s message.

The problem at present is not the absence of propositions that offer stabilisation and that are scientifically, technologically and economically, credible. Two such broad propositions are biomass energy and capture and storage: both deserve attention within a portfolio of possible responses.


That is, I am sure, why [Blair’s] recent speech concentrated on putting across, more starkly than he has done before, the scale and urgency of the challenge. Abrupt climate change is a crucial piece of that jigsaw – and you can make more impact with it at present by simply highlighting the danger without going too far into any particular set of responses.
[…] [emphasis added -hro]

His E3G bio indicates that Ashton has a long history of having moved virtually effortlessly through the NGO/Government revolving door:

John is one of a new generation of diplomats equally at home in the worlds of foreign policy and green politics. Before moving outside government to establish E3G in 2005, John had a distinguished career in the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, including founding and leading its Environment Policy Department.

A major theme of John’s career has been China. He speaks Chinese. He was an adviser to Governor Chris Patten in Hong Kong from 1993-7. His first diplomatic assignment, from 1981-4, was as Science Attaché in the British Embassy in Beijing. He also has experience at high level on a wide range of European and global issues, including as a political officer in the British Embassy in Rome from 1988-93.

John was the first Chief Executive of E3G in 2005-06, before returning to the UK Foreign Office as the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change. His role supported Ministers in building a stronger foundation for an effective response to climate change. He had the personal title of Ambassador with direct access to the Foreign Secretary. John played a key role in designing the FCO’s climate change network and strategy, with its focus on climate stability as a precondition for security, prosperity and equity, and on strategic political engagement with the emerging and other major economies. [emphasis added -hro]

One of the other “founding directors” – and the current Chief Executive – is Nick Mabey. If that name rings a bell, it probably should. Mabey hails from the WWF – and he even had a role in promoting Mike Hulme and Joseph Alcamo’s pre-Kyoto “Statement”.

Like Ashton (and many others in this “gently” grown E3G crop of propagandists), Mabey’s bio indicates that he, too, has passed through the NGO/Government “revolving door”:

Nick was previously a senior advisor in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit leading work on national and international policy areas, including: energy, climate change, countries at risk of instability, organised crime and fisheries. Nick was employed in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Environment Policy Department, and was the FCO lead for the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 […]

Before he joined government Nick was Head of Economics and Development at WWF-UK. He came to WWF from research at London Business School on the economics of climate change, which he published as the book “Argument in the Greenhouse”.
Among other appointments Nick is currently on the advisory board of Infrastructure UK, the independent commission reporting to the UK Conservative Party on the design of a Green Investment Bank, and the Advisory Council of the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power. [emphasis added -hro]

So, it should come as no surprise that movers and shakers at E3G (which evidently stands for Third Generation Environmentalism Ltd) receive funding from WWF as well as from the U.K.’s Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Department for International Development. Big Oil (represented by Shell) is also on E3G’s funding roster.

Readers who have been following the various interwoven threads of this ongoing saga will have noted the (coincidental, I’m sure) inclusion of John [aka Hans Joachim] Schellnhuber in the recipient list of Ashton’s E-mail, above. It was thanks to Germany’s Schellnhuber that the “dangerous” 2°C first entered the propaganda scene. As he told Der Speigel‘s Marco Evers, Olaf Stampf and Gerald Traufetter in April 2010:

a group of German scientists, yielding to political pressure, invented an easily digestible message in the mid-1990s: the two-degree target. To avoid even greater damage to human beings and nature, the scientists warned, the temperature on Earth could not be more than two degrees Celsius higher than it was before the beginning of industrialization.


Rarely has a scientific idea had such a strong impact on world politics. Most countries have now recognized the two-degree target. If the two-degree limit were exceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced ahead of the failed Copenhagen summit, “life on our planet, as we know it today, would no longer be possible.

But this is scientific nonsense. “Two degrees is not a magical limit — it’s clearly a political goal,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated.”

Schellnhuber ought to know. He is the father of the two-degree target.

“Yes, I plead guilty,” he says, smiling. [emphasis added -hro]

More recently, Schellnhuber has declared [h/t dennisA]:

04/17/2013 – The preparations for the next climate agreement that is supposed to be reached in 2015 are already taking shape – and civil society [aka NGOs -hro] is being asked to accompany and support the EU’s development/decision process.

On invitation by Connie Hedegaard, the EU´s Commissioner for Climate Action, a number of experts and decision makers meet at a stakeholder´s conference in Brussels today.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, has been asked to hold a keynote on the state of play in climate science.

The conference in Brussels was organized to shape the EU’s input into negotiations on a new international agreement to protect the global climate system.

“This is the starting signal for the hardest stage on the path to the world climate agreement 2015,” Schellnhuber says. “When it comes to the facts of climate change, there has been a lot of confusion in the public debates recently, which interested circles seek to exploit and deepen.

“Now it is up to science to bring light into this darkness and to draw a realistic picture of the challenges ahead for the public in Europe. On this basis citizens can make informed decisions.” [emphasis added -hro

Seems to me that those in the Ashton/Mabey/Schellnhuber circles of influence (not unlike BC’s Andrew Weaver) have no qualms about putting the enviro-advocacy cart ahead of any evidentiary horses.

Do they care – or even realize – that the graphic images and icons (polar bears and hockey-sticks) based on flimsy “science” they have constructed to support them are being unravelled almost as fast as they come off the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s just-in-time assembly-line?

It was these flimsy “science” constructions, reconstructions (and rapid deconstructions, thanks to people such as Climate Audit‘s Steve McIntyre, Bishop Hill‘s Andrew Montford and Polar Bear Science‘s Susan Crockford) that were running through my mind when I came across the following video [h/t Digging In The Clay‘s Verity Jones]. The music isn’t exactly what I would have chosen (so you may want to turn down your speakers), but the images are quite compelling, wouldn’t you agree? ;-)

Alternatively, from a (turn up your speakers) musical perspective, the following [h/t my Dad] offers an equally amusing depiction of “footprints” and these inter-related enviro-activists’ endeavours. Enjoy :-)


7 thoughts on “The (un)sustainability of all climate all the time

  1. So many of the alarmed scientists are incompetent, so many of the politicians riding on their papers are buffoons, that it may be that the whole climate fiasco has largely been sustained by the more sophisticated players in ‘climate diplomacy’ such as Ashton, Strong, and Tickell. If so, they deserve far more scrutiny.

    • it may be that the whole climate fiasco has largely been sustained by the more sophisticated players in ‘climate diplomacy’ […]

      I think you may have a very valid point, John.

      Something that’s always puzzled me, ever since I first stepped onto this “battlefield”, is: If the science was so “settled” after AR4, why was/is there a need for the IPCC to continue doing more of the same?! Why did the UNEP not say to the IPCC, “Thank you very much, IPCC. You’ve done an absolutely Nobel award winning job at ‘raising awareness’. But money’s kinda tight, these days, and we have other fish to fry. So here’s your pink-slip. G’bye”?!

      Perhaps, as the saying goes, they should have quit while they were ahead!

      And there certainly have been times when I’ve wondered if the seemingly interminable “debate” on the primary culprit, i.e. the purported perils of human-generated CO2, has been fostered – and/or permitted to fester – as a means of (to slightly paraphrase another Pete Seeger favourite of mine) “keeping our eyes off the prize”.

      Maybe it’s time to add some more parodies to the skeptic’s songbook, eh?;-)

  2. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 23 April 2013 | grumpydenier

  3. John Ashton shares UK Energy Minister Greg Barker’s rather rose-tinted views concerning the effectiveness of British “climate diplomacy”, as can be seen from his recent speech to the Met Office and also comments made in Parliament in June 2012:

    “… the FCO has shown how a foreign-policy-led programme of climate diplomacy can catalyse transformational change in other countries.” (There’s that “transformational” again.)

    In late 2012 he was in Doha for COP18, engaging with the Qataris in an unofficial role, but it seems this conversation did not exactly go to plan. The RTCC (Responding to Climate Change) website announced on 27th November simply that he “recently spent a week advising the Qatari organisers”. However, there’s an earlier email exchange with Kevin Lister (climate and anti-nuclear campaigner), posted on (anti-nuclear, pro-CO2-mitigation website) which suggests that talks broke down quite abruptly:!emails-with-john-ashton/curc

    From John Ashton’s email of 22nd November: “When I set off for Doha, I thought I had accepted an invitation to stay for three months. In the event, after a week of being exposed to my advice, my Qatari hosts decided that they did not want to proceed after all. So I find myself back in London…”

    In the Guardian on 3rd December, John Vidal commented: “In July, they invited the excellent former British climate envoy John Ashton. Sadly, they found him too independent and he has returned home. Ashton, who no longer has any formal role within the British government, was tight-lipped about what exactly happened. “I spent a week with them and gave advice to help them with the COP [conference of parties],” is all he would confirm to the Guardian.”

    Sceptical UK commentator ‘Tory Aardvark’ remarked, during COP18: “… Al Jazeera the satellite news channel is Qatari owned and has been running the AGW fear meme relentlessly in the run up to COP18, while the COP18 President is pushing the merits of the evil fossil fuels, a cynic could construe that the Qataris are hedging their bets by the telling the warming alarmists what they want to hear, while quietly making sure that their economic growth model driven by fossil fuels continues uninterrupted.” Perhaps this contradiction was at the heart of the disagreement.

    Whatever the cause, it looks very much as though Ashton and the Qataris had an irreconcilable difference of opinion and that on this occasion, British “climate diplomacy” did not “catalyse transformational change” but hit the buffers of geopolitical reality instead.

    • Funny how these enviro-activists seem to be so impervious to reality, isn’t it?!

      In the Guardian on 3rd December, John Vidal commented: “In July, they invited the excellent former British climate envoy John Ashton. Sadly, they found him too independent and he has returned home. Ashton, who no longer has any formal role within the British government, was tight-lipped about what exactly happened. “I spent a week with them and gave advice to help them with the COP [conference of parties],” is all he would confirm to the Guardian.”

      This reminds me of Stewart Elgie’s recent tight-lipped “reconstruction” of the BC Auditor General’s decision not to renew his contract as an “advisor” – or use his input – on the AG’s audit of BC’s very own, and far from credible, emissions trading scheme.

      But thanks so much for these additional insights, Alex :-) I’m going to update the headpost with a link to your comment, hooked on to your concluding para!

  4. A lot of money is swirling around the climate diplomacy game.

    Talk of $100 billion here for instance:
    “The World Bank is a leading heavyweight in development investment, presiding over US$30 – $40 billion per year. Inaugurated last summer, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) could soon dwarf that portfolio.

    It is estimated that by 2020 it will be channelling US$100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries – to help arrest the advance of climate change whilst adjusting to its effects.”

    (I fear Pete Seeger wouldn’t have liked this, Hilary. Not his style of socialism to have bankers, and suchlike, taking the lead to ‘help the poor’. Too much like the rich folks keeping their eye on their prizes? I might even have to agree with him.)

  5. The year 2011 marks a critical deadline for the UNFCCC negotiations, with the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012. Delegates at United Nations Headquarters will partake in far-reaching decisions related to the international regimes to protect the environment and the climate, amongst others in the lead-up to the next Conference of States Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in South Africa end of this year. Many developing countries, least developed countries and, in particular, small island states have vital interests in the climate change negotiations. However, the importance of environmental sustainability for the future development of their countries is often not matched by the necessary resources and negotiation power to achieve desired negotiation outcomes.

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