UPDATE: Since first publishing this article, I have examined a further relevant document from the UK government: the 2019 “Report to the Committee on Climate Change of the Advisory Group on Costs and Benefits of Net Zero.” This has shed some interesting new light on the matter, so I have updated the essay to give some more details on the costs versus benefits angle.
This essay follows on from my review of the UK government’s recent “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution,” which you can find at []. Today, I’ll trace the history of the global warming agenda, and in particular the bad things governments – particularly in the UK – and their cohorts have done to us in promoting, supporting and implementing it.
There’s a long, sordid back-story to the deep green agenda. It goes back fully 50 years. Everything in this back-story is available on the Internet to those who are willing to look, and able to sort the wheat of evidence from the chaff of lies and politics. A lot of it, indeed, is in government documents! That’s how I learned all this myself.
There are somewhat similar back-stories on other aspects of the green agenda. Notably, on air pollution. But today, I’ll confine myself to global warming, also known as climate change.
The role of the United Nations
Those of you, who have studied the green agenda, will already know that the driver of it, all along, has been the United Nations. The UN is an unelected, politicized and unaccountable élite, with a strong controlling and globalist tendency. It has dozens (at least) of agencies, through which it keeps a finger in every pie in matters that affect people all over the world.
You can trace UN involvement in the green agenda all the way back to the first Earth Day in 1970, which was personally approved by the then UN secretary general. You can read about the UN Environment Programme, started in 1972 under the directorship of Maurice Strong, a Canadian oil baron with a scandal-ridden career. His attitude can be summed up by the following quote, from a 1997 magazine interview: “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.” Later, Strong was implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal of 2005, went to live in China, and died in 2015.
You can read about the UN’s 1982 resolution called the World Charter for Nature: []. This contains extreme statements, like: “Activities which might have an impact on nature shall be controlled.” “Their proponents [of activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature] shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature.” And: “Where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.” The resolution was passed by 111 votes to 1, with only the USA voting against. The UK voted for the resolution.
You can read about the 1987 report Our Common Future, which set the scene for the deep green agenda that has brought us all to this pass. The report is here: []. On its 30th anniversary, I wrote a review of that report at [].
You can read about the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, to whose extreme agenda the politicians signed up without bothering to consult the people they were supposed to be serving. You can read about Agenda 21 (since morphed into Agenda 2030). You can read about the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development [], which introduced an all-embracing goal called sustainable development. You can read about the Framework Convention on Climate Change, in which Western countries agreed to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. This also set up the UN’s Conference of the Parties meetings; which have led to many subsequent commitments by governments, notably at Kyoto (1997), Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010), Doha (2012) and Paris (2015). You can read about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which set legally binding objectives for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
You can read about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded back in 1988. Which, in its own words, “prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.” You can learn how the IPCC’s 1995/6 report was re-worded, at the behest of governments, to be more alarmist; and the technical reports were then updated to match! You can see the infamous “hockey stick” temperature graph, so prominently featured in the 2001 report, yet gone by the 2013 one. And you can learn that vitally important numbers are missing. For example, the 2013 report doesn’t even give a best estimate of how much warming the IPCC expect to result from a doubling of CO2!
If you are interested in matters technical, you can read about the science, and the way it has been corrupted or misused by alarmists. You can learn about the issues with the quality of the temperature data, on which any credible case for government action must ultimately rest. You can learn about how the numbers have been adjusted, in ways that are often documented poorly or not at all.
You can learn about the extensive use of computer models of the atmosphere in climate science. You can read about the assumptions they make, such as that warming from one cause (“forcing”) will result in a lot more warming (“positive feedback”). You can see how the model results are all over the place, and usually predict strong warming in the future. You can see that the models’ predictions are only rarely compared with real-world data since the prediction was made, and usually fail miserably. You can see that the modellers do not accept, as the scientific method requires, that their assumptions are falsified if the model results are far enough from observations.
You can learn about some of the underhanded methods, which alarmists have used in order to make their case look scarier than the reality. You can learn of the grafting together of unrelated data, without explaining what was being done. Of data inconvenient to the alarmist case being dropped altogether. Of statistical methods that produce alarming looking “hockey sticks,” even when the data they are fed is merely noise; or exaggerate the contribution of a small sample, even down to a single tree. Of attempts to minimize, or even to suppress the existence of, the period of relative warmth between the 10th and 13th centuries, known as the Mediaeval Warm Period. Of claims that CO2 is the one and only “control knob” regulating global temperatures; and of attempts to downplay the significance of other human activities which do affect the climate, such as land use changes and the urban heat island effect.
You can learn about alarmist scientists refusing to release the data on which they based their papers; thus, making it all but impossible to replicate them, or to show that they are invalid. You can read about attempts to stop publication of skeptical papers. You can read about skeptical scientists and journal editors being persecuted or even sacked. You can get an idea of the toxic atmosphere that has developed in climate science, and read about its history from the point of view of skeptical expert Dr Judith Curry, here: [].
You can read about the photoshopped picture of a polar bear on an ice floe, published on the front cover of Science magazine. You can read about repeated claims that the science is settled, when anyone who understands science knows that it’s never settled. You can read about claims of a scientific consensus of “97% of publishing climate scientists,” who believe that “climate change is real, man-made and dangerous”. How many scientists was that 97% of? 77, picked from over 3,000 responses! And you will learn about – and may even get smeared with – the nasty names the alarmists like to call us climate realists, such as “denialists,” “flat earthers” or “conspiracy theorists.”
The accusation against us
This, I think, is the right place to say a little more about the accusation that is being made against us and our civilization under monikers like global warming and climate change.
Almost everyone thinks they know exactly what we are accused of. But do they? The meme “global warming” doesn’t cover all of it, by any means. For, according to the best evidence we have, temperatures have been rising since the 17th century; long before the start of the Industrial Revolution, and long before any significant human-caused CO2 emissions. And temperatures in mediaeval times, and further back still in Roman times, are considered by most scientists to have been warmer than today. “Climate change” doesn’t cover it all, either. For the Earth’s climate changes; and always has done, even before humans existed! Thus, I find it extremely dishonest to refer to the accusation merely as climate change.
To state the accusation precisely, it is necessary to say far more; and to divide it into several steps. First, that the climate is warming, and has been since the Industrial Revolution began. Second, that the warming is global, not just local or regional. Third, that all, or a significant part of, the warming is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide; and would not have happened without those emissions. Fourth, that the effects of the warming caused by these emissions has had, and will have, negative effects on the planet as a whole, and on human well-being in particular. And fifth, that the benefits from avoiding these negative consequences would outweigh the costs of taking actions to avoid them.
A fundamental human right, in any civilized legal system, is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The best statement I have seen of it comes from the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms: “Any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” And this right is even more important in a case such as this, where the accused is not merely an individual or a group of people, but every human being on the planet, and our civilization as a whole. Anyone that wants to compel others to take part in actions such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, therefore, must first prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, for all five of the steps I listed above.
The UK government’s part
To continue the reading list. You can read about many bad things that the UK government in particular, along with those it funds and others that share its alarmism, has done to us in promoting and supporting the climate change agenda.
You can learn that right after the Rio summit, they were already aiming towards their goal of forcing us out of our cars. I well remember the propaganda! (Staged) pictures of rural roads chock-a-block with cars. Of traffic jams in foggy weather, complete with smoking exhaust-pipes. Of the aftermaths of accidents. Even the AA (Automobile Association), an organization founded in 1905 to defend drivers against government encroachment, criticized its own members for driving “gas guzzlers.” Not long after, there were attempts in parliament to set binding targets for reductions in road traffic. The first of these was made in 1994 by a Welsh nationalist MP, with a bill that had actually been written by Friends of the Earth and the Green Party! A Road Traffic Reduction Act followed in 1997, followed by several attempts to set explicit national targets or limits for road traffic.
You can read about the UK government’s perversion of the precautionary principle, which in its true form ought to be “look before you leap” or even “first, do no harm.” In 1992, in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, they had signed up to the following: “lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” But this is nonsense. For without a high degree of scientific certainty about the size and likelihood of a problem, how can you possibly assess whether or not a proposed counter-measure is cost-effective?
In 2002, though, they perverted the principle still further. My account is here: [], and the government’s own report on the matter is here: []. It includes statements such as: “The purpose of the precautionary principle is to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.” “‘Absence of evidence of risk’ should never be confused with, or taken as, ‘evidence of absence of risk.’” And “the burden of proof shifts away from the regulator having to demonstrate potential for harm towards the hazard creator having to demonstrate an acceptable level of safety.”
Do you see what they did there? They abandoned all pretence of objective, impartial risk analysis, and of presuming us innocent until proven guilty. They inverted the burden of proof, demanding that we, the accused, must prove a negative; that we are not causing any problem. Which, in general, is impossible. And even if we’re not actually causing any risk at all, they can use the ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ trick to find us guilty anyway!
Add to all this the BBC’s 2006 decision to cut the broadcast time allowed to those skeptical of the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) meme; and you will see that they sought to deny us the right for our views to be heard, and the right to call witnesses – including experts. More recently (2018), the BBC likened allowing climate change skeptics to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores.” Even though their own guidelines say: “We are committed to reflecting a wide range of subject matter and perspectives… so that no significant strand of thought is under-represented or omitted.”
You can read about the 2006 Stern Review, ostensibly a cost versus benefit analysis on taking action, or not, to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But the resulting report was grossly biased on the side of those promoting action. One economist commented: “the Review's radical policy recommendations depend upon controversial extreme assumptions and unconventional discount rates that most mainstream economists would consider much too low.” Furthermore, of the three available Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) for calculating the so-called “social cost of carbon,” and thus the costs resulting from CO2 emissions if no policy measures were taken, Stern picked the most pessimistic, the PAGE model. This model is known to produce “fat tailed” distributions with higher estimated likelihoods of extreme scenarios, and higher social costs, than the other two.
You can read about the 2008 climate change bill, where the cost and benefit figures put forward had such huge uncertainties (a factor of 7 for costs and 12 for “benefits” of action) that they were not fit for purpose. Yet only five brave members of parliament had the gumption to stand up for the people they were supposed to represent, and oppose the bill. The rest of them voted to subject us to Soviet-style “five-year carbon budgets,” as well as all manner of taxes, and caps on emissions of other greenhouse gases too.
You can read about the 2009 decision to stop even trying to use the “social cost of carbon” measure in cost-benefit calculations about CO2 emissions. This made it, in effect, impossible to answer the question “how much harm would CO2 emissions cause if we did nothing at all to reduce them?” A question which must be answered before you can even assess whether there’s a real problem or not! Cynically paraphrased, their argument seems to have been: “We know we can’t do a credible cost-benefit analysis that justifies any political action on this. But we’re already committed to political action. So, we’ll make up numbers to match the commitments, and hope that no-one notices.” I covered this, and the Stern report, in more detail in an essay at [] (a little bit technical in places).
You can read how the UK committed at the 2009 Copenhagen COP meeting to a totally arbitrary target of keeping any global temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius. And how then environment secretary Ed Miliband underlined the UK government’s extremism on the issue by saying: “the Copenhagen conference did not agree everything we set out for.”
You can read about the Climategate e-mail releases. You can even read the e-mails themselves at []. You can learn that alarmist scientists had interfered with the review and publication process for papers on which the IPCC was supposed to rely. They had dropped, spliced or misrepresented data to produce alarming effects. They had refused to share data to allow others to replicate their work. They had plotted to delete data in order to evade Freedom of Information requests. They had conspired against journal editors who published skeptical papers. And more. Whatever they were doing, it was neither science nor honest. And so, since taxpayers had paid for them to do honest science, were these researchers not committing fraud against the people?
You can read about the three inquiries which the UK government commissioned into the scandal. But none of them seemed even to try to answer the important questions: Was the science of the climate alarmists sound, and properly and objectively done? And was their conduct ethical? The whole exercise was no more than a whitewash.
You can read about the COP meeting in Paris in 2015. Here’s what the UK government said, ahead of that conference: “A global agreement is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required to reduce global emissions. Securing an ambitious global climate deal in Paris is a UK Government priority and we are working with other countries to push political ambition.” And this was the Tories, not Labour.
And it gets worse. At the time of the Paris meeting, it looked as if global warming had stopped, and wasn’t going to reach the 2-degree threshold, or even near it. So, they moved the goalposts again, and arbitrarily lowered their 2 degrees limit to 1.5.
You can learn how the mainstream media demonize climate realists at every opportunity. This 2018 Guardian article is a good example: []. It is full of ad hominems like “far right,” “deniers” and “shamefully ignorant.” Yet it gives no factual rebuttal of the skeptical position. And its title, “Disempower far-right climate change deniers. Don’t debate with them,” gives active encouragement to those that want to suppress climate realist ideas from public view and debate. But for me, anyone that seeks to suppress their opponents’ arguments is merely demonstrating that they have no answers to them. Just like the Catholic church with Galileo.
You can take a look at the 2019 report that purported to do a cost-benefit analysis for “net zero” CO2 emission policies, here: []. You can note that the chairman of the group that produced this report, Paul Ekins, was one of the economists involved in the 2009 decision to move away from the use of the social cost of carbon. You can see in action the “mitigation-adaptation costs” (MAC) approach which replaced it, and you can marvel at how obscure and counter-intuitive it seems. You can note that one member of the working group was a representative of Shell, and wonder why someone from Shell was asked to write the section about the sociological aspects of “the energy transition.”
You can also see how, apart from quoting some (extraordinarily high!) numbers from an IPCC special report, the question of what would be the costs of taking no policy actions at all from here on in is never even addressed. The nearest they get is to say: “Given the potentially large damages from unabated climate change, and the perhaps small (but not negligible) existential risk of such change, we conclude that strong mitigation action is far preferable to not acting.” Which sounds to me much like “We have to take action, because a pixie might fart, and that would be catastrophic.” You may well conclude, as I have done, that whatever this report was, it was not an unbiased, quantitative cost-benefit analysis.
You can read about the Climate Change Committee (or is it Committee on Climate Change?), chaired by John Selwyn Gummer, Tory environment secretary from 1993-5 and also known as Lord Deben. You can read (but I don’t advise it) their May 2019 report, which seems to have been the immediate spark for the mad antics of the UK parliament in 2019. You can note that another of the economists involved in the dropping of the “social cost of carbon” measure, Paul Johnson, was one of the CCC members who produced that report.
You can remind yourself about what happened in the spring of 2019. After minister Michael Gove met with extremist group Extinction Rebellion, next day the UK parliament declared a “climate emergency.” Without any factual evidence for any such emergency, and without even a vote. A month later, they passed a bill imposing a target of “net zero” emissions by 2050, replacing the earlier target of an 80% cut from 1990 levels. This was at least the fourth time since 1992 that the UK government had moved the emissions reductions goalposts; always in the direction of greater reductions.
You can read about a so called “Great Reset,” a proposal to spur economic recovery after the COVID virus by acting “jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies.” This is a project of the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based international organization of global big-business and political élites. (Al Gore is on its board). One of those unveiling the “Great Reset” in 2020 was consummate hypocrite Prince Charles; who travels by helicopters and private jets to give speeches about lowering aircraft emissions. He ought to have walked or cycled, as he wants to force us to do. And would not the first step of a “Great Reset” in the UK be to abolish the monarchy, and throw Charlie out on his ears?
You can laugh (or cry) at the harangues, with which we are constantly bombarded in an effort to persuade us to act to “solve” some unproven problem. That we should eat bugs instead of meat, in order to “save the planet.” That zero-carbon living is sustainable. That obese people losing weight could cut CO2 emissions. That there are too many people on our planet. And more. To such tirades, my usual reply is: You go first!
You can read, too, about the key role of UK universities in planning the green agenda. My own account of this is here: []. It reveals a top-down, collectivist mentality among many academics today. A mentality that favours big government, is hostile to business, industry and the free market, and disdains individual human beings and our rights and freedoms.
Which brings me back around to the recent Ten Point Plan, which I reviewed at . I think I can fairly say that, if this agenda is allowed to go ahead, the future for everyone in the UK is truly dark green. And prime minister Boris Johnson must be whistling in the wind, if he thinks that will “unite and level up our country.” Far more likely, I think, that once the bad effects of the policies on ordinary people start to become apparent, it will turn millions of angry people against the political establishment as a whole, and the Tory party in particular.
As you look at the history and the politics, and learn more and more, you will become furious at how the UK political establishment, and their cronies, have behaved towards us all. And if you are not from the UK, you will almost certainly be able to find similar things that your own political class have done to you. Just about every government in the world – except, maybe, a few countries like Saudi Arabia and perhaps Russia, whose entire economies depend on being able to exploit their fossil fuel reserves – is in on the scam.
You will see how, again and again, the UK political class have moved the goalposts. How they have disguised politics as if it was science. How they have failed to make sure that taxpayer-funded science is done properly and honestly. How after Climategate, instead of uncovering and punishing the wrongdoers, they whitewashed the matter. How they perverted the precautionary principle into a tool for tyranny. How they abandoned the presumption of innocence, inverted the burden of proof, and required the accused – that’s us – to prove a negative. How they have sought to suppress dissenting views, and denied us the rights to defend ourselves and to call our witnesses. How they biased their purported cost versus benefit analysis towards their desired goal. How they subsequently changed the rules to make it impossible to do proper cost-benefit analysis on these matters. And much more.
You may well find yourself thinking of deep green environmentalism as like a religion. An extremely intolerant one, at that; not unlike the behaviour of the Catholic church from the late 15th century through the Counter-Reformation. And you may find yourself comparing its leaders and its acolytes with those that sought to subject innocent people to the Inquisitions.
I hope you will come to ask yourself questions such as: Where’s the hard evidence for the alarmist claims? Where, for example, are the millions of climate refugees they predicted? The thousands of dead polar bears, and the hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of dead coral reefs, that would have been still living without human-caused global warming? Where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that weather is getting worse on a global scale as they claim, and that the cause is human emissions of CO2? And where is the proof that the overall effects of human CO2 emissions on the planet and on our human civilization are, or will be, anything other than a nett benefit?
You will probably conclude, as I did, that the alarmist claims are, and have been all along, “fake news.” You will wonder how much longer they will be able to keep up their lies and deceptions. You will yearn for the truth on this matter to find its way into the public consciousness, and soon. And when it does, there will be hell to pay for those responsible.
You may even go so far as to ask: Why have the political establishment and their cohorts, for decades, persistently lied to, misled and been dishonest towards the people they are supposed to be serving? How have they managed to get away with it for so long? How could any human being worth the name behave so badly, so arrogantly, so irresponsibly, so unjustly, so uncaringly, so hysterically, so hypocritically? And why should people in any community of honest, civilized human beings tolerate anyone that behaves in such ways?
How ought governments to behave?
“Government even in its best state is a necessary evil,” wrote Tom Paine in “Common Sense.” He was right. Government, in some form, is necessary in any civilized community. But if not constrained to behave within reasonable bounds, it becomes an evil; a drain on us, and a danger to us all. So, I’ll ask: What standards of behaviour ought people in a Western democracy, such as the UK, reasonably be able to expect from those who govern them?
The idea of democracy has its roots in the Enlightenment of the late 17th and 18th centuries. And John Locke, father of the Enlightenment, was quite clear where the limits of legislative power ought to lie. “Their power in the utmost bounds of it is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave or designedly to impoverish the subjects.” And the public good, he defined as: “the good of every particular member of that society, as far as by common rules it can be provided for.”
What that means, as I interpret it, is that government must serve people, not rule over them. It must not pick winners and losers, except on the basis of how each individual behaves. It must never do harm to anyone who has not done, is not doing, and is not planning to do, harm to others. It should act for the benefit of the governed, not for the benefit of particular factions or vested interests. It should act for the benefit of all the governed; that is, every individual among them – real criminals excepted, of course. It should always uphold the rule of law: “the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes.” And it must never implement any policy that will unreasonably or unjustly inconvenience, harm or require sacrifices from any of the people it is supposed to be serving. To this end, it must do honest, objective, rigorous, accurate cost-benefit analyses on all proposed policies, taking into account the interests of all those affected; and it must make them public.
Further, government must always be reasonable towards the people it governs. It must always respect the facts in any matter. It must always be truthful and honest towards the governed. It must never defraud, mislead, or act in bad faith towards the people; or, indeed, towards any of the people. And you should be able to expect these conditions to be applied to all government officials, and to those whose work is funded by taxpayers’ money. Bad faith towards the people should be end of career for anyone in, or funded by, government.
Moreover, government must always respect the rights, freedoms and dignity of the governed as human beings. And it must always follow due process of law. If it accuses you of wrongdoing, then before punishing you in any way, it must allow you your full procedural rights. Such as: A clear statement of the accusation. An objective and impartial tribunal to judge it. The presumption of innocence, until the accusation has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. And the rights to speak up in your own defence; to call witnesses, including experts, for your defence; and to have your side of the case heard in public.
But that isn’t how they have behaved towards us over global warming, is it?
Epilogue: How to go forward?
To abate, and then to fix, the problems I have identified here will require major reforms of the UK (and, in the longer term, the world) political system. To put forward, even in outline, any kind of credible proposals for such changes is a big task. I’m among those working on this task; but I still have a long way to go.
For now, I will suggest one thing we might look to do in the short term. That is, to put some independent quality control into the governmental system. I think we should set up audits of taxpayer funded institutions and projects, to assure that they have been and are being run in the interests of the people government is supposed to serve; that is, the taxpayers. I will dub these “Honesty Audits.”
Honesty Audits should be carried out by independent, impartial and suitably qualified teams, none of whom has a political axe to grind, or is a government employee, or has been involved in any of the work being audited. Questions like “Where is the cost-benefit analysis?” “How big are the uncertainties?” “How certain are we that this is feasible?” And “Will any particular groups or types of individuals be harmed by this?” ought to be asked. The results of the audits should be made publicly available to everyone. And those that persistently, or in large matters, have failed to deal honestly and transparently with the people, should be sacked, and banned from working on taxpayer funded projects in the future. That fate ought also to be meted out to anyone in government that, directly or indirectly, opposes Honesty Audits. On the principle of: if you’ve got something to fear, you must have something to hide!
I will end with some more words of John Locke, which are very relevant to our situation today. “But if a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people, and they cannot but feel what they lie under, and see whither they are going, it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavour to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the ends for which government was at first erected.”