Saturday, 27 August 2016

Brexit: and Clexit: or the links between Eurosceptics and climate change sceptics

There are clear implications for the climate change agenda following the EU referendum:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the future for climate change >>> anti-intellectualism and inter-generational theft
Futures Forum: Brexit: and energy: nuclear, renewables and climate change

The latest news is that the UN agreement made in Paris earlier this year
Futures Forum: Climate change: Reporting back from the UN summit >>> with Prof Peter Challenor of Exeter Uni @ Exmouth Thursday 21st January

... is about to come into force with more countries ratifying the agreement:
So the Paris climate deal enters into force: then what? | Climate Home - climate change news
Reports: Big emitters prep Paris Agreement ratification
What does Brexit mean for the Paris climate agreement? | Public Radio International

But leading climate sceptics are voicing doubts about the agreement - particularly within the context of Brexit - and are calling for 'Clexit':
News - Brexit Casts a Shadow Over Paris Climate Change Agreement | Heartland Institute
#Clexit: #Brexit-Inspired Fight Against Paris Climate Treaty

The Heartland Institute is one of those leading voices:
Futures Forum: Climate change sceptics 'are losing their grip'

The point being that the debate on climate change has gone beyond the science and is now highly politicised - on both sides of the Atlantic:
Futures Forum: "Climate science has been dragged into the American-style culture wars that are turning British intellectual life into a battlefield."
Futures Forum: Climate change: "Conservatives don’t hate climate science. They hate the left’s climate solutions"

What is now clear is that the politics of climate change is very much connected to the politics of Brexit - and it has been for some time.

From the Desmog and Open Democracy blogs from just before the vote:

Brexit Climate Deniers

There is a deep-rooted connection between UK climate science deniers and those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union.

On 23 June 2016 the UK will vote in the EU referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union...

Since then, the link between climate science deniers and Eurosceptics has become more pronounced. In February 2016, it was revealed that Lord Lawson's climate denying Global Warming Policy Foundation had moved its headquarters into the same building as Brexit campaign groups 'Business for Britain' and 'Vote Leave', along with a slew of other right wing organisations including the TaxPayers' Alliance.

The Brexit-climate denier overlap stems from a common neoliberal ideology that fears top-down state interventions and regulations which are perceived as threatening values of individual freedom, economic (market) freedom, or the sovereignty of national governments. Under this logic, we must reject both the European Union and most climate policy.

And the influence of this small group extends beyond the walls of their 55 Tufton Street address - just a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament - to include prominent politicians and traditional British media outlets. It begs the question: If the climate-euro sceptic bubble is successful on Brexit, what will then happen to British climate change policy?

Revealed: the climate science deniers behind the Brexit campaign | openDemocracy

From the Economist from March:

Where Brexit and climate-change scepticism converge

Mar 22nd 2016, 14:45 BY BUTTONWOOD 

CAN you spot the connection between rising carbon-dioxide levels and a European free trade area? Or between free movement of labour and the increased risk of "extreme weather" events? It is not easy to spot the intellectual link. Remarkably, however, many of the leading campaigners for Brexit are sceptics about climate change. There is Nigel, now Lord, Lawson, chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and chair of the Vote Leave campaign; other former Conservative ministers such as John Redwood and Owen Paterson; Douglas Carswell, the UKIP MP (pictured); and journalists like James Delingpole and Matt Ridley (once of The Economist).

One issue concerns physics and meteorology; another trade rules and sovereignty concerns. It would seem perfectly possible to believe in staying in the EU on economic grounds and believe that the climate is not very sensitive to changes in carbon-dioxide levels; or to accept the evidence for climate change and argue that Britain might be more prosperous outside the single market. But the overlap between the two camps is much larger than chance would suggest. Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for mayor of London, is a green campaigner who believes in Brexit. But he is a rare beast.

The obvious linking factor is that most of the campaigners are on the political right. There are some left-wing Brexiteers but they tend not to be climate sceptics; Kate Hoey, for example. But this only raises the question of why this should be a right-wing phenomenon. On the American right, there is a kind of pre-Enlightenment approach to science whereby politicians who want to appeal to fundamentalist voters will even deny evolution. There isn't the same tradition in Britain, where religious leaders are probably more concerned about climate change than the average voter. Take Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who recently said that

The global church—extraordinarily led on the issue of climate change by Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch—must be a key partner in tackling climate change.

The most likely reason seems to be libertarianism with a hint of nationalism. Brexiteers dislike EU regulations and know that any effective action to tackle climate change will require some kind of global co-operation: carbon taxes or binding targets on emissions. The latter would be the EU writ large and Britain would have even less say in any global agreement, involving some 200 nations, than in an EU regime involving 28.

But another factor is surely a knee-jerk reaction to what sceptics see as the "liberal" consensus on climate change, and the mainstream political support for EU membership (the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National and Labour parties are all in favour of staying, albeit very weakly in the case of Jeremy Corbyn). Here is James Delingpole, one of those with feet in both sceptical camps:

Euroscepticism and climate scepticism often go hand in hand, first because many of the very worst, most destructive environmental policies (such as the commitment to "decarbonise" the economy, which led to Bryony Worthington's 2008 Climate Change Act) are originally dreamed up by EU apparatchiks. And second because to express such views in public life requires a fearless, cussed, contra mundum temperament, the product of an intellectual self-confidence and independence many if not most of our craven political class lack.

This belief that they are "fearless speakers of truth" gives these campaigners a sense of grievance that leads them to suspect all those who take the contrary view of having a hidden agenda. Scientists working on climate change have an interest in perpetuating their case because of the research grants they receive, sceptics argue. Either they refuse to believe the data on rising temperatures (2015 set a new record), or they try to find wrinkles in the data to deny the trend. Sometimes the debate resembles the long rearguard action that was fought by tobacco enthusiasts as evidence mounted for the view that smoking causes lung cancer: a series of strategic retreats that manage to delay action.

Similarly, when Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, warned of the financial risks surrounding a Brexit vote, Douglas Carswell took to Twitter to declare that the governor's view was hardly surprising, given that he was appointed by the British government. Those who worry about the economic consequences of Brexit are told they have no evidence; when they produce that evidence in the form of economic forecasts, or fund-manager polls, or a falling pound, they are accused of scaremongering. Occasionally, sceptics will have a go at the "mainstream media" for distorting the facts, though in the case of the EU, the Times, Telegraph, Sun, Mail and Express are all broadly in the Brexit camp.

In short, it is hard to believe there could be any evidence capable of convincing these campaigners they were wrong. Were London to be basking in 90-degree temperatures in February, while rising sea-levels submerged Florida, they would still deny climate change. And if Britain does vote for Brexit and the pound and the economy plunge, they will find some other factor, not the referendum vote, to blame.

With plenty of other comment from before 23rd June:
Brexit campaign leadership dominated by climate-sceptics – EurActiv.com
Never mind a Brexit recession, Leave voters don't believe in climate change
Revealed: the climate science deniers behind the Brexit campaign | openDemocracy
Is there a link between climate change ‘sceptics’ and Brexit supporters? | British Politics and Policy at LSE

The environmental scientist and risk assessor Dana Nuccitelli has written some very sharp pieces on the thinking around climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: and ‘the Chewbacca defense’
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the future for climate change >>> anti-intellectualism and inter-generational theft

This is his piece from earlier this month:

Rejection of experts spreads from Brexit to climate change with 'Clexit'

Clexit calls for withdrawal from climate treaties, rejects the conclusions of 97% of climate science experts and 95% of economics experts

Dana Nuccitelli Monday 8 August 2016

Brexit Leave campaigner Nigel Farage with Clexit president Christopher Monckton in Aberdeen. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

Brexit support and climate denial have many similarities. Many Brexit Leave campaign leaders also deny the dangers of human-caused climate change. Older generations were more likely to vote for the UK to leave the EU and are more likely to oppose taking action on climate change; younger generations disagree, and will be forced to live with the consequences of those decisions. On both issues there’s also a dangerous strain of anti-intellectualism, in which campaigners mock experts and dismiss their evidence and conclusions.

With Brexit, the Leave campaign won the vote, and the UK economy is already feeling the consequences. As Graham Readfearn reported, a new group called “Clexit” (Climate Exit) has formed in an effort to similarly withdraw countries from the successful international climate treaty forged last year in Paris. As the group describes itself:

Brexit was Britain’s answer to the growing over-reach of EU bureaucracies. Clexit is our answer to the push for global control through climate hysteria.

Clexit leaders are heavily involved in tobacco and fossil fuel-funded organizations, in what’s become known as “the web of denial.” The group’s president is Christopher Monckton, whose extensive misunderstanding of basic climate science was revealed in a thorough debunking by John Abraham, and whoinsists that President Obama was born in Kenya, among his many controversial and conspiratorial public statements. Its vice president is Marc Morano, who began his career working for Rush Limbaugh and is essentially the real-life version of the character Nick Naylor from the film Thank You for Smoking. Its secretary is Viv Forbes, who has been involved with coal industry for over 40 years and is associated with many fossil fuel-funded groups.

With feedback from the rest of the group’s members, Forbes prepared Clexit’s summary statement, which is full of myths and misinformation about economics, energy, laws, and climate science. It includes this expression of compassionate concern over the plight of low-lying island nations that are being engulfed by rising seas:

Some of the biggest supporters of the Paris accord are small oceanic nations seeking welfare through handouts to save them from baseless predictions of rising sea levels, even though actual changes in sea levels are tiny and not unusual.

The fact is that sea level rise in Tuvalu has been effectively zero since accuratemeasurements commenced in 1993, on tide gauges set up by the Australiangovernment

This purported fact is actually a fiction: the tide gauge data show the rate of sea level rise in Tuvalu since 1993 is 4.3 mm per year, which is faster than the global average of 3.4 mm per year. And Tuvalu is only one among the many small island nations facing the loss of their homelands at the hands of global warming-caused sea level rise.

However, when it comes to energy use, Clexit’s compassion for developing countries becomes even clearer yet:

For developing countries, the Paris Treaty would deny them the benefits of reliable low-cost hydrocarbon energy, compelling them to rely on biomass heating and costly weather-dependent and unreliable power supplies, thus prolonging and increasing their dependency on international handouts. They will soon resent being told to remain forever in an energy-deprived wind/solar/wood/bicycle economy.

The problem with energy from burning fossil fuels is that it’s only “low-cost” if we ignore the tremendous costs of the damages its carbon pollution causes via climate change. Poorer countries are particularly vulnerable to those costs, both because they lack the wealth and resources to adapt to them, and because they tend to be located in already-hot geographic regions near the equator.

There’s a reason why 95% of expert economists agree that we should cut carbon pollution. Of course, the Clexiters deny that carbon dioxide is a pollutant:

Carbon dioxide is NOT a dangerous pollutant – it is a natural, non-toxic and beneficial gas which feeds all life on earth.

However, this was long ago decided in the courts. In 2007, the US Supreme Court ruled that the State of Massachusetts had legal standing to sue the EPA for its refusal to regulate greenhouse gases, specifically because Massachusetts showed that it was being harmed by global warming via sea level rise encroaching on its shores. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the EPA issued an endangerment finding concluding that, based on the available scientific evidence,carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare, and must therefore be regulated as a pollutant.

The Clexiters deny that vast body of scientific evidence. In addition to sea level rise, their summary statement denies the major role of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s greenhouse effect, that current global temperatures are hotter than they’ve been in over 2,000 years, the dangers of ongoing climate change, that most climate scientists were predicting global warming in the 1970s, and so on.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the Clexit group denies basic climate science, since the only climate scientist on their committee is Ole Humlum, who has done some very shoddy research on fossil fuels and carbon pollution. The group effectively asks that we all reject the conclusions of 97% of climate science experts and 95% of economics experts, in favor of the myths and misinformation propagated by their fake experts. Perhaps, as top Leave campaigner Michael Gove said:

people in this country have had enough of experts

Gove also pushed to remove climate change from school curriculums, before backing down.

Fortunately, given the high level of global concern about climate change, Clexit faces a much tougher road to success than Brexit, because a Clexit victory would be a disaster for the rest of us.

Rejection of experts spreads from Brexit to climate change with 'Clexit' | Dana Nuccitelli | Environment | The Guardian

Finally, the Climate Code Red blog has some lessons to consider:
Climate Code Red: What Brexit teaches us about climate change communications

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