A tale of two “inspiring” gloomers: Stephen Emmott and Achim Steiner

[07/13/2013 Please note UPDATE at end of this post]

Stephen Emmott is yet another self-appointed third-rate prophet of doom; he seems to have risen through the ranks of the “climate concerned” to indisputable “drama queen” who is currently basking in the glory of his “hamuscript” being (unfathomably, IMHO) chosen for publication by Penguin Books.

If you haven’t heard of Emmott, by all means do take a look at the portrait that has been emerging since he first launched himself into the circles of adulation accorded to him by virtue of his one-man theatrical crusade dedicated to convincing the world that we’re rapidly heading towards “an emerging global catastrophe” (to borrow the phrasing of yet another third-rate hyper-alarmist of the intellectually dishonest kind).

Should you count yourself among those for whom a hockey-stick image is worth a thousand words, Emmott’s opus is a book you’ll want to rush right out to buy. His “hamuscript” is virtually littered with them, as Willis Eschenbach confirmed during his deconstruction of Emmott’s “extinction” graph.

Alternatively, you might want to save your money and your time – and recommend that your friends, enemies and anyone you know who might be gullible enough to be taken in by Emmott, do likewise – by taking a look at a review by Chris Goodall on his blog CarbonCommentary. Goodall, from all virtual appearances, a man who stands firmly on the “green side of life”, introduces his eminently readable review as follows [h/t tlitb1 via Geoff Chambers]:

’10 billion’: a strangely unscientific and misanthropic book

Stephen Emmott’s book on global ecological challenges is attracting much attention. The work is extremely short – perhaps about 15,000 words – and is in the form of notes that provide terse commentary on a series of graphs. It is little more than a Powerpoint presentation turned into a slim paperback. Although any attempt to increase mankind’s alarm at the threat from climate change is welcome, Emmott’s book is error-strewn, full of careless exaggeration and weak on basic science. Its reliance on random facts pulled from the internet is truly shocking and it will harm the cause of environmental protection. As might be expected, the best sceptic bloggers are already deconstructing its excesses line-by-line.

Things are indeed pretty bad. The steps to address climate change are lamentably slow and ineffectual. […] But we don’t help solve these problems by exaggerating their seriousness and picking up gobbets of data from dodgy sources we found on the web.

[…]

Very strangely, I don’t think any of of the thirteen apocalyptic charts in his book are taken from primary sources. The data he uses is almost always ‘adapted’ from other work, something which doesn’t appear to embarrass him. The figures employed aren’t traceable and checking is difficult.

[Goodall concludes and begins an appendix:]

In the end, his ambivalent feelings towards humanity come out all too clearly. Every which way you look at it, a planet of ten billion looks like a nightmare, he writes. I wanted him to come up with solutions to humanity’s problems, not to exhibit a troubling misanthropism and astonishingly careless use of data and basic science.

Appendix

There are scores and scores of errors and exaggerations in this short book. I’ve mentioned a few of them below to demonstrate the range of surprising misstatements. [emphasis added -hro]

If I were to summarize Goodall’s review, although he and I have never “met”, I somehow doubt that he would disagree with my putting the following words in his mouth: “With friends like Emmott, we don’t need enemies” ;-) Now, if only Goodall would take an equally critical look at the equally shoddy work of the likes of Lewandowsky and Cook (for starters!) perhaps we could find some common ground for reasonable discussion among grown-ups!

I confess that I haven’t read any of Goodall’s books; their titles are a little too green for my current A-list. And besides, they don’t appear to be on Kindle, yet! In the meantime, it occurs to me that Goodall could give Peter Gleick some much-needed lessons on how to write a book review.

And I’d like to think that Goodall’s a man who practices what he preaches. Unlike the United Nations.

But, speaking of the UN … now that I think of it, perhaps it’s not entirely fair to blame Emmott for his fault riddled emotive emissions. To a great extent he – like far too many others, unfortunately – may well have been led down the garden path by the very much “do as we say, but not as we do”, United Nations.

As Donna Laframboise noted in a post yesterday, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (or his speechwriter) has been tossing word salads, again. She reports:

Proof the UN Doesn’t Believe There’s a Climate Crisis

Five years after they said they’d get right on it, more than one-quarter of UN organizations have done nothing about their carbon footprint.

[Ki-moon begins:]

Five years ago, the Executive Heads of all UN agencies, funds and programmes responded to my call to make the UN more efficient in its operations, and committed to move their organizations towards climate neutrality. [emphasis added -hro]

Hang on a sec! “Climate neutrality”?! Where did this term spring from? What is it supposed to mean – and, equally importantly, how does it differ from the so-called “carbon neutrality” which BC’s Auditor General recently reported this province had failed to achieve (notwithstanding claims to the contrary) … particularly when both seem to be used in close proximity to discussion of “carbon footprint”.

Isn’t it enough that the UN’s “transparency” is such that it requires far more time than should be necessary to deal with its ever-growing list of acronyms, not to mention its arcane document-naming conventions. I mean really, folks, how meaningful (or mnemonic) can GCSS-12/GMEF and UNEP/GCSS.XII/1/Add.1/Rev.1 possibly be?! Talk about “transparency minus”, eh? But I digress …

Interestingly, a Google search on “carbon neutrality” yields “About 296,000 results” (although without the “quotes” one gets “About 1,210,000 results”); while that for “climate neutrality” (with quotes) yields merely “About 62,800 results”. Wikipedia is at the top of all search results for climate and/or carbon “neutrality” … and (mercifully) one lands on the same page regardless of search path:

Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutral, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and industrial processes such as production of carbon neutral fuel.

The carbon neutrality concept may be extended to include other greenhouse gases (GHG) measured in terms of their carbon dioxide equivalence—the impact a GHG has on the atmosphere expressed in the equivalent amount of CO2. The term climate neutral reflects the broader inclusiveness of other greenhouse gases in climate change, even if CO2 is the most abundant, encompassing other greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, namely: methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Both terms are used interchangeably throughout this article. [emphasis added -hro]

OK, I think I’m beginning to see the light! “Climate neutrality” is more “inclusive” … or perhaps in Mike Hulme-speak more “plastic” and perhaps in the long-run more … uh … sustainable!

From time to time I’ve come across words to the effect that reducing [whatever] is the “equivalent” of x tons of C02. So I’ve wondered how they made such a calculation (and no doubt there’s a UN acronymic something or other that meets every once in a while to decree what these “equivalencies” should be, assuming the assembled delegates can agree on the Agenda!) But I’m sure that it’s all very convenient (if not positively lucrative) for the carbon-trader wannabes!

So here’s the kicker … The rules of this particular UN game appear to be such that an Agency gets (or gives itself?!) a seal of “climate neutral” in accordance with some word-fog shrouded criteria (as you will see later in this post). According to the official overview of the UN’s “climate neutrality”:

This is the fourth edition of Moving Towards a Climate Neutral UN – the annual progress report on the UN’s journey towards climate neutrality. This publication details the UN’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 and some of the activities undertaken in 2012 to reduce them.

In a change from previous editions, which have taken the form of a 40-page report, the 2012 edition aims to reach a wider audience by presenting the key messages in a short brochure and an eye catching poster. [emphasis added -hro]

Not only is there an “eye catching poster” to compensate for the considerably reduced (i.e. from 40 pages to 8) new, improved 2012 edition, but from the link above, you can also download the brochure (with Ki-moon’s word salad intro and the stats noted by Laframboise in her post), the acknowledgements, and … wait for it … a Powerpoint presentation! How cool is that, eh?!

I do wish I’d found this page two years ago when I first realized that it’s not easy to be green for UN Agencies. At that time, I would like to have compared these green pilgrims’ progress with that which they might have achieved in previous years. But I could find nothing. And now, miracle of miracles, all the previous reports are at my fingertips on one page!

Anyway … back to the superstar UN agencies which have been determined to have achieved the nirvana of “climate neutrality”. There are five, evidently who have been “greening the blue” to beat the band! And each one has been rewarded by being featured on the “eye catching poster“. And the winners are (drum-roll please):

Climate neutral superstars

Wow! Look at that! the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program, creator and promulgator of scary stories since 1972) is one of these five superstars – and, if the citation is to be believed, the UNEP has been “climate neutral” since 2008. What a trendsetter, eh?!

But … hmmm … check the double-speak, folks: “… achieved full climate neutrality in part or all of their operations …”

I wonder how exactly the UNEP might have landed in the winners’ circle. Perhaps it was the sparkling,

ambitious new showcase building which houses the UN in Nairobi. 6,000 square metres of solar panels, energy saving lighting, natural ventilation systems and other green features enable the office to generate electricity for its 1,200 occupants.

officially opened by Ki-Moon in April 2011 (according to the 2011 40-pager published at some time or other in 2012). Although one does wonder what the cost of this “showcase” might have been – and what were the C02 “equivalents” that went into the manufacture of all these bells and whistles and other construction components?!

I very much doubt it could be the UNEP’s “Air travel as a proportion of total emissions”. As I had noted in my post two years ago (according to their 2010 declaration) this was a whopping 94%

But there has been some improvement in the UNEP’s flight record emissions: it’s now down to 88%. But I’m not sure what kind of mathematical formula was used by Achim Steiner which permits him to claim:

a 20 % drop in flight emissions in 2011 as compared to 2010 (a peak year for flight emissions that claimed 94 %)

Oh, well, perhaps he thought that this claim was far enough down the very same page on which on which one finds the current “Air travel as a proportion of total emissions: 88%” that no one would notice this rather glaring error!

Accuracy in reporting, well, just about anything, come to think of it, has never been a UNEP forté (or that of its multitude of acronymic offspring – including the IPCC). Nonethless Steiner continues with his round of self-applause. First the “mission statement”:

UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

And for “evidence” that his ever-growing empire is fullfilling this “mission”, Steiner reports:

UNEP’s work to support Climate Neutral UN has resulted in harmonized methodologies within UN, and inspired organizations within as well as outside the UN to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve improved sustainability.

Perhaps as “penance” for the uncountable scary stories Steiner has flogged for so many years – which have no doubt contributed to poor Stephen Emmott’s current state of despair and “troubling misanthropism and astonishingly careless use of data and basic science”, Steiner should read his book and/or arrange a performance for his staff.

Nah … forget it. “Climate neutral” Steiner is more likely to twist the arm of the IPCC’s “Editorial Board” to include one (or more) of “climate concerned” Emmott’s apocalyptic “graphs” in the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report!

UPDATE 07/13/2013 Here’s another tidbit to add to the annals of the UNEP’s Achim Steiner’s** many-tentacled graspings. This is from the conclusion of Steiner’s word-salad published on July 1 in the International Trade Centre’s quarterly, International Trade Forum Magazine:

Promoting sustainable trade for a green economy

As UNEP’s new report finds, creating economic incentives to implement sustainability standards and traceability methods that allow for the tracking of products from the source to the consumer fosters sustainable trade. Enabling effective supply chain partnerships with international exporters can particularly benefit small producers, and assist in developing or expanding a sustainable supply chain infrastructure, including storage, packaging and transport. Furthermore, strengthening national institutions and regulatory frameworks can help support these green economy activities and stimulate additional initiatives.

Given the surge in international trade in the past two decades, UNEP’s work to identify the trends, challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable trade is essential to aiding countries in improving their economic, social and environmental well-being and to placing them in a more advantageous position moving forward in the global transition to a green economy. [emphasis added -hro]

And I’m sure readers will not be in the least surprised to learn that the International Trade Centre (ITC) is yet another of the UN’s acronymic offspring; as of December 2009, it had a staff of 277 – and a very impressive org chart!

** As I should have noted earlier, Steiner’s “official” title these days is “United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme”

7 thoughts on “A tale of two “inspiring” gloomers: Stephen Emmott and Achim Steiner

  1. Hamuscript? I googled, of course, and got eleven hits, two in Arabic (the Hammurabi script?) Two from your site, one from Willis Eschenbach’s reply to my article at WUWT. Enlightenment, please.

    The big news is that Chris Goodall’s massacre of Emmott (yes, it really is that good) has reappeared at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jul/09/stephen-emmott-population-book-misanthropic?
    and the regular commenters there seem to be at a bit of a loss. To non-Brits, perhaps it needs explaining that Guardian Environment has always maintained a Stalinist defence of the True Warmist Religion. Any criticism of Mann, Briffa, Jones Gleick etc. meant automatic expulsion from the Paradise of CommentisFree. Now here we have Goodall saying of Emmott’s Doomfest:
    “As might be expected, the best sceptic bloggers are already deconstructing its excesses line-by-line”.
    The best sceptic bloggers, eh? That can only mean Donna, Jo Nova, Willis Eschenbach, Alex Cull and me. Shame I’m not allowed to reply to such praise, having been banned six times from the Guardian.
    I often see comments on the lines of: “Why bother with such second-raters as Lewandowsky and Emmott?” Answer: “Because that’s where we can win”. I’ve seen just one positive review of “Ten Billion” so far in the British media. Next week Emmott will be speaking at the Science Museum. Thanks to Goodall’s review (and maybe to our efforts) he won’t have an easy time of it.

    • On the “hamuscript” front, I was the one who coined the word in my comment in that thread!

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/07/alexander-the-great-explains-the-drop-in-extinctions/#comment-1357830

      I rather thought that, in the context of Emmottica™, it’s a word that works – on more than one level! Ham is not “kosher” – and neither is Emmott’s “science”. And of course, as a drama queen of the first order, he’s obviously a “ham” ;-)

      Goodall is part of the Graun’s “Green Environment Network”, so perhaps he was able to convince the affiliated green powers that be that they really don’t need friends like Emmott!

      I haven’t attempted to comment at CIF since I discovered that I’d been put on “pre-moderation” a few years ago. I suspect that the cause of this may well have been my (I thought polite) second request (since he ignored the first) that Carrington correct his post in which he had mistakenly asserted that “all the nations of the world” had “Approved” an IPCC report {see https://hro001.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/in-defence-of-the-ipcc-journalist-ignores-the-real-scandal/)

      And to be honest, I rarely even visit the Graun these days – unless I’m looking for a dose of depression (which, as you can well imagine, I’m not in the habit of seeking!). But later today I shall attempt to praise reinforce the positive step of publishing Goodall’s review!

      And I completely agree – we cannot ignore the mediocrities (Lewandowsky, Cook, Emmott, et al) whose shallow shoddy work the scientific community (who should know better) are permitting to lie fallow and uncontested.

      You’d think that after getting so burned by Mann and Gleick (amongst others) they would have woken up and smelled the coffee. But, alas, they seem to be terminally challenged in the lesson-learning department.

  2. Stephen Emmott was on BBC’s Newsnight yesterday, along with Fred Pearce, who was explaining that his graph showed world fertility rates levelling off and that women were having half as many children as their mothers and grandmothers had. There’s a screen capture here:
    20130712-2146_NEWSNIGHT

    Emmott: “Even if we never produce another child, with seven billion of us we’re still going to be in trouble. The other thing about Fred’s graph there is that it is true – we’ve known since the 1960s that the fertility rate has declined. But you can see from Fred’s graph that – the rate of childbearing has declined. But that graph is levelling off, and even if, on our current rate of reproduction, if we continued with that, because that graph is levelling off, there would be 28 billion of us by the end of this century.”

    Pearce: “No, no, we’re levelling off at two children per woman, which is the replacement level.”

    Slight difference of interpretation there!

    • Thanks for this, Alex. I had been wondering what might have happened to Fred Pearce, as I haven’t seen or heard much of him since a piece he wrote during the run-up to Rio+20 last year.

      As for this latest example of Emmottica™, once again I have to wonder if he’s ever listened to (or read the transcript of!) any of his outpourings!

      I think I might have mentioned when you and Geoff did your very fine first fisking at Ben Pile’s, a year ago (give or take a month or so!), I cannot fathom how Emmott ever succeeded in getting as far as he has.

  3. It’s not a “difference of interpretation”, Alex. Emmott is just plain wrong.

    He knows full well that the United Nations — noted hand wringers — don’t even predict us getting to ten billion.

    For Emmott to dispute that is disgraceful, but fairly typical. His message depends on the misrepresentation of facts.

    • Mooloo, I’m sure that Alex would agree with you; because my reading of his comment is that he was indulging in understated irony, as is his wont, from time to time. Alex is an admirable virtual font of additional information that I find enhances the value of my posts when he adds his comments:-)

      This time was no exception … and, btw, if you haven’t already done so, you might want to take a look at his awesome Transcript box

    • Thanks, @ Hilary and @ Mooloo, in fact yes I do agree with Emmott being wrong (I find gentle irony helps, otherwise I’d probably be in a state of permanent annoyance with all the nonsense we’re witnessing from Emmott et al!)

      What I found remarkable in this case was that they were looking at the same graph but coming out with such vastly different conclusions. It reminded me, for some reason, of the old story of the three blind men and the elephant, with one man saying “It’s like a tree trunk”, the second saying “No, it’s more like a sail”, and the third saying something completely off the wall like “No, it’s actually more like the Great Beast of Revelation and it’s about to devour the world.”

      Unfortunately the moment quickly passed, possibly with interviewer Kirsty Wark not fully realising in time that such a glaring discrepancy had just been highlighted!

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