Sunday, 7 February 2010

Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility

Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor
A LEADING British government scientist has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility.
Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra, the environment ministry, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, was speaking after more potential inaccuracies emerged in the IPCC’s 2007 benchmark report on global warming.
The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.
This weekend Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the IPCC’s climate impacts team, told The Sunday Times that he could find nothing in the report to support the claim. The revelation follows the IPCC’s retraction of a claim that the Himalayan glaciers might all melt by 2035.

The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.
This report is the IPCC’s most politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers. Its lead authors include Pachauri himself.
In it he wrote: “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised.” The same claims have since been cited in speeches to world leaders by Pachauri and Ban.
Speaking at the 2008 global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Pachauri said: “In some countries of Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50% by 2020.” In a speech last July, Ban said: “Yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries over the next 10 years.”
Speaking this weekend, Field said: “I was not an author on the Synthesis Report but on reading it I cannot find support for the statement about African crop yield declines.”
Watson said such claims should be based on hard evidence. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report,” he said.
The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”.
“Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.
Its author was Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. His report refers to the risk of “deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000–20 period”.
These claims refer to other reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN. These do not appear to have been peer-reviewed either.
The IPCC is also facing criticism over its reports on how sea level rise might affect Holland. Dutch ministers have demanded that it correct a claim that more than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level when, in reality, it is about a quarter.
The errors seem likely to bring about change at the IPCC. Field said: “The IPCC needs to investigate a more sophisticated approach for dealing with emerging errors.”

Sir David King: IPCC runs against the spirit of science

The science of climate change appears to be under siege.

By Professor David King, former Government chief scientistPublished: 7:30AM GMT 06 Feb 2010

Following leaked emails from the University of East Anglia and evidence for sloppy referencing in the IPCC’s 2007 report, the work of thousands of remarkable scientists is now being questioned, not just by the public but also by other members of the scientific community. To understand the implications, it helps to consider how this parlous situation has arisen.
First, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produced the landmark reports in 2007 showing that climate change is real, and has been at the heart of this storm. Faced with the social need to tell the world what the science says, the IPCC was set up as a means of seeking consensus. My concern has always been that it runs against the normal spirit of science.

In science, people are supposed to rock the boat. If someone challenges your findings, you make measurements, check the arguments, and see if they might be right. Well-established theories such as evolution and relativity have survived this process. The ideas you don’t hear about are the ones that didn’t make it through this ordeal by fire.
If you depart too far from this in your desire for consensus, the consequences can be disturbing. The emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia suggest that certain members of the IPCC felt that the consensus was so precious that some external challenges had to be kept outside the discussion. That is clearly not acceptable.
Moreover, this leads to the danger that people will go beyond the science that is truly reliable, and pick up almost anything that seems to support the argument. The dodgy dossier saying that all ice would vanish from the Himalayas within the next 30 years is an example of that. When I heard Dr Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, declare this at Copenhagen last December I could hardly believe my ears. This issue is far too important for scientists to risk crossing the line into advocacy.
However, it’s not all the IPCC’s fault. Climate scientists have been forced into this corner by a disastrous combination of cynical lobbying and a misguided desire for certainty. The American lobby system, driven by political and economic vested interests in fossil fuels, seeks to use any challenge to undermine the entire body of science. The drive for consensus has come to some extent because the scientific community (me included) has become frustrated with this willful misuse of the scientific process.
This is exacerbated because—as the lobbyists know only too well—people and governments hunger for certainty. The problem is that science doesn’t work that way. Nothing can ever be 100% sure; we use science to draw conclusions about how probable it is.
When cigarette manufacturers paid lobbyists to try to discredit the scientific theory that smoking causes lung cancer, they used the argument that it wasn’t a proven fact. Well it wasn’t then, and nor will it ever be, but would you now bet against it? We have built many successful enterprises by going with the balance of probabilities that science deals us. And in the case of climate change, the scientific probability that the world is warming, and that humans are the chief cause, is overwhelming.
That’s why I believe that this set of so-called scandals will be little more than a temporary setback to the state of climate science. For one thing, there are more than 3000 pages to the IPCC’s 2007 report. Lobbyists have thrown an enormous amount of effort at discrediting this and have so far come up with very little—and nothing that touches the foundations of the problem. Of course the Himalayan glaciers will not vanish overnight, and the report should never have suggested that they would. But if they continue at their present rate of melting, they will be around for a mere 300 years. That’s still a pretty short span on humanity’s timescale, and the run-up to that loss will make life very uncomfortable for the many hundreds of millions of people who depend on the water they provide.
What’s more, this is only one manifestation of a very broad and robust set of evidence. We know from thermometers and satellites that temperatures have risen at least 0.8C. There is now massive monitoring of the loss of land ice around the planet, including the ground-breaking double satellite gravitational measurements. We have robust data on rising sea levels, the acidification of our oceans, and the spectacular multidimensional details of how climate has changed in the past.
Given all this evidence, it’s ridiculous to say this that human-induced climate change isn’t happening, absurd to say we don’t understand why, and any suggestion that we have nothing to worry about is like making a very bad bet.
Enough already. Instead of vainly trying to pretend that the waters are not rising, let’s get on with the opportunities for innovation and wealth creation that this climate challenge brings. We in the UK have a fantastically strong science base, but in the past few decades manufacturing has fled our shores and we have been steadily losing our ability to capitalize on science. Now is the time to turn that around. We know that we need to decarbonise our economy, so let’s do it. Let’s work to create a new, smart manufacturing sector in this county that is fit to tackle the carbon challenge while stimulating our economy back into growth

Climate makes money move in mysterious ways

The British Government has been pouring millions of pounds into 'climate-related' projects all over the world, says Christopher Booker

By Christopher Booker Published: 6:14PM GMT 06 Feb 2010

In all the coverage lately given to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its embattled chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, one rather important part of the story has largely been missed. This is the way in which, in its obsession with climate change, different branches of the UK Government have in recent years been pouring hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into a bewildering array of "climate-related" projects, often throwing a veil of mystery over how much is being paid, to whom and why.
To begin with a small example. Everyone has now heard of "Glaciergate", the inclusion in the IPCC's 2007 report of a wild claim it was recently forced to disown, that by 2035 all Himalayan glaciers will have melted. In 2001 the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £315,277 commissioning a team of British scientists to investigate this prediction. After co-opting its Indian originator, Dr Syed Hasnain, they reported in 2004 that his claim was just a scare story. Some glaciers were retreating, others were not. There was no way they could disappear in a time-span shorter than many centuries.
Three years later, however, when the IPCC produced its 2007 report, it endorsed Dr Hasnain's claim without any mention of the careful UK-funded study which had shown it to be false. What made this particularly shocking was that in 2008 another British ministry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that it had paid £1,436,000 to fund all the support needed to run the same IPCC working group which, as we now know from a senior IPCC author, had included the bogus claim in its report.
But the story did not stop there. In a report to Parliament the same year, Defra stated that its funding of the IPCC working group had been not £1.4 million but only £543,816. It was also in 2008 that Dr Hasnain was recruited by Dr Pachauri to work in his Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), where his spurious claim was used to win Teri a share in two lucrative studies of the effects of the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The trail into this tangled undergrowth began last December, when Dr Richard North and I were trying to track down 11 payments made by four separate government departments for projects involving Teri Europe, the London-based branch of Dr Pachauri's institute. We were struck by how reluctant the ministries often seemed to be to reveal how much they had paid under these contracts. What's more, why was UK taxpayers' money being used to fund these projects in the first place?
Why in 2005, for instance, did Defra pay Teri for a study designed to help the Indian insurance industry make money out of the risks of global warming? Why was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) sponsoring a study into how Indian industry could make billions out of "carbon credits", paid by Western firms under the bizarre UN scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism?
Typical of this curiously opaque world was a payment by Defra to fund the work of an unnamed "head of unit" on something called the IPCC Synthesis Report, of which Dr Pachauri was co-editor. This money was paid to Cambridge University (department unnamed), to be forwarded to Teri Europe, then sent on to the anonymous recipient in Delhi, whose email address was Teri India. On one part of the Defra website this payment was given as £30,417. However, the same Defra report to Parliament which had under-declared the payment to the IPCC's working group now gave this payment as only £5,800. (The IPCC itself meanwhile paid Teri a further £400,000 for its work on the Synthesis Report, although it was only 52 pages.)
The same Defra report to Parliament includes a whole string of other climate-change-related projects, covering three pages, many just as mysterious.
Why, for instance, have UK taxpayers shelled out £239,538 to unnamed recipients for a study of "Climate change impacts on Chinese agriculture"? Or £230,895 for a "research programme on climate change impacts in India"? Or £57,500 on the "Brazilian proposal support group"?
The largest single payment on Defra's list, and almost the only recipient identified, was £13,315,168 given to the Hadley Centre itself for its Climate Predictions Programme. This is just a tiny part of the money UK taxpayers have been contributing for years to assist the work of the IPCC: the Hadley Centre alone has been handed £179 million.
A key player in the setting up of the IPCC in 1988 was Dr John Houghton, then head of the Met Office. He persuaded Mrs Thatcher to fund him in launching the Hadley Centre in 1990, which has played a central role in the IPCC ever since. Part of the price we pay for Hadley exercising such disproportionate influence in the IPCC is that Britain has made a similarly disproportionate contribution to the cost of running the panel's operations.
Then why should DfID have paid £30 million to assist "climate change adaptation in Africa"; or £2.5 million for the same in China? Why in 2002 should UK taxpayers have given £200,000 to pay for delegates from developing nations to attend a "Rio Earth Summit" conference in Johannesburg, and another £120,000 for green activists to attend the same shindig – let alone £10,000 for a "workshop on women as 'sacred custodians' of the Earth", to "explore the spiritual, religious and philosophical views concerning women and ecology and the policy implications of these belief systems"?
Only rarely do the government departments funding all these shadowy activities shout pubiicly about how they are spending our money – as when last September DfID's Douglas Alexander was happy to get publicity for flying to Delhi to give Dr Pachauri £10 million to pay for his institute to examine how India's poverty could be reduced by "sustainable development".
Similarly, in 2008, our then energy minister Malcolm Wicks flew to Japan to boast that the UK was "the world's largest donor" to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, pledging another £2.5 million of taxpayers' money, on top of £9 million Britain had already paid into this scheme since its launch in 2003. Again, more than one ministry is responsible for funding this programme, as when DfID pays for a "research agenda on climate change and development", while the FCO sponsors yet another study into "clean development mechanisms".
Contemplating the impenetrable maze of payments made by various ministries to the UN, the EU, banks, research institutes, teams of academics, NGOs, environmental and industrial lobby groups and "charitable foundations" – often through chains of "funding vehicles" which may give only the most nebulous idea of their purpose – we can get little idea what is the total amount of taxpayers' money flooding out from all our different branches of officialdom.
The ministries involved have not seemed exactly keen to help sort out all these mysteries and confusions. What does seem clear is that our Government doesn't really want us to know all the sums involved, who many of the recipients are or why most of these payments are being made in the first place.
Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs publishes an interesting note on the Money Laundering Regulations. This lists 26 "suspicious indications" which should attract attention to the possibility that a financial transaction might need investigating. These range from "checking identity is proving difficult" or "reluctance to provide information requested" to "unnecessary routing of funds through third parties" and "transactions having no purpose" or "which seem to involve unnecessary complexity". Any such "suspicious indications", we are told, should prompt the filling in of a "101 form" to report dubious financial dealings to the authorities. But a good many of them would seem to apply only too neatly to the veil of obscurity our Government draws over the astronomical sums it is paying out in support of its religious belief in "climate change".

Greenhouse effects: recycling

Tony Juniper

The UK is finally getting serious about recycling. Many local authorities are sending upwards of half our household waste to recycling facilities. All the stuff we put in the bin originated from a natural resource, from a forest or productive soil, ore-bearing rocks or an oil field. The waste we generate is also created using energy and water.
This is the main point of recycling: to reduce the need to take resources from nature, and to save the energy and water that would otherwise be needed to make new products from raw materials.
Much of our recycling comes back in the form of new products. Have a look at You’d be surprised how much of your junk could get a new lease of life. Our newspapers (including the one you are reading now) contain, on average, 80% recycled fibre. Green bottles have about 85% recycled content. Drinks cans have a turnaround time of as little as six weeks between being dropped in your recycling bin and arriving back in the shop as a new can.
Much of the plastic we increasingly recycle comes back in new forms.
It’s made into bin liners and carrier bags, bottles, flooring, window frames, insulation, fencing, garden furniture, water butts, composters, seed trays, fleeces, filling for sleeping bags, and office accessories, among other things. We have just bought a 1,000-litre water butt made of recycled plastic.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme is a government-backed initiative that provides a national guide to products made from recycled goods. Its website,, offers information on everything from electrical items to pet bedding, and lists all sorts of products, from chairs and tables to fencing and paving.
One product that caught my eye is the Buzzibag. It’s a beanbag-type thing that, on the inside, has 100% recycled polystyrene beans, while the outside is made using 100% recycled PET plastic bottles. They look great. Prices start at £156;
The greenest thing of all, of course, is to use less stuff in the first place. So try that too.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth;

Green light for show homes to sell eco-town project

Government to fund construction of 100 state-of-the-art houses to show public that environment-friendly estates really can work
By Jane Merrick, Political Editor
Sunday, 7 February 2010
One hundred "eco-show homes" are to be built to allow people to "test drive" green living as ministers try to convince the public that controversial eco-towns can work.
This week the Housing minister, John Healey, will announce the start of building work on the properties in towns near to the four sites earmarked for Britain's first zero-carbon developments. Work will start next year on a further 10,000 eco-homes that will be for sale in the areas.

Despite anticipated scepticism from local residents, families will be given a glimpse of a state-of-the-art green lifestyle, as the show homes will be fitted with smart meters, electric car charging points, solar-heated water tanks and water-saving and composting systems.
The Government has faced criticism for pushing ahead with eco-towns despite claims they are little more than "green-wash". But ministers believe that once people view at close hand the show homes, and see how money can be saved on energy bills, there will be enthusiasm for the project. While most of the show homes will be sold, some will remain open to the public as community facilities.
Mr Healey is expected to say this week: "This is a massive boost for the first wave eco-town sites so they can get their ideas off the ground and introduce green living to thousands of residents in the local areas.
"Building green homes and preparing communities for the eco-living will not only teach us valuable lessons for how we plan, design and build for our new towns, but contributes to our national crusade to drive down emissions and tackle climate change."
Some 90 existing homes, and a number of schools and libraries, in the eco-town areas will be "retrofitted" with insulation and green technology. All homes will be within 10 minutes' walk of public transport links and shops.
One of Gordon Brown's first announcements on becoming Prime Minister in 2007 was for 100,000 homes to be built across five eco-towns. But progress has been slow in the face of residents' protests, and the size of the developments has been scaled down.
Last year, Mr Healey announced the first four sites, from an original shortlist of 15, would be in Whitehill-Bordon in Hampshire, St Austell in Cornwall, Rackheath in Norfolk and North West Bicester in Oxfordshire. There will be just 10,000 homes in total, for 30,000 people, within five years, rather than the 100,000. A third will be classed as affordable homes.
Construction of the show homes, plus the first 500 houses in the eco-towns is expected to cost £60m.
Councils will present their master plans for the eco-towns over the next few months which will be put to public approval and planning permission. All of the homes will be built by local workers trained to fit environmentally friendly technology.
The Government announced a second wave of eco-towns last autumn, which it hopes will be finished by 2020.
Plant foreign trees 'to save our forests'
Published Date: 07 February 2010
By Jenny Fyall
SCOTTISH forests should be replanted with Lebanon cedars, Italian elders and Macedonian pines and not native species, according to a leading expert in a Forestry Commission study.
The imported trees must form a vital part of a dramatic expansion of tree cover as global warming changes the Scottish environment, says Professor Sir David Read.Wet climate species such as Scots pines and native oaks could struggle to grow as temperatures increase and the environment becomes drier, suggests Read, a former vice-president of the Royal Society, in a report for the Forestry Commission.He is now calling for trials of more exotic species from southern Europe to see which would thrive best in a changing Scottish landscape.But his suggestions have been condemned by the Woodland Trust for Scotland, which believes the focus should remain on planting new native woodland using traditional species.Read, also Emeritus Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said he believed a huge expansion in new forestry planting each year in Scotland was necessary to help soak up carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.Under current government plans, the commission will increase tree cover in Scotland by up to 10,000 hectares a year.But, according to Read, Scotland's emptier countryside could cope with an additional 25,000 hectares a year – about the size of the Queen's Balmoral estate on Deeside – increasing total forest cover and reducing the amount of CO2 escaping into the atmosphere.In Combating Climate Change: A Role For UK Forests, the first national study of its kind in the world, Read says: "In replanting, the preference for use of native tree species under all circumstances will need to be reconsidered."An increased frequency and severity of summer drought is likely to represent the most immediate threat to UK woodlands from the changing climate. "A list of about 50 species that could be suitable to replace native species is listed in the report and includes Lebanon cedar, Oriental spruce, Macedonian pine, Greek fir, Mexican white pine, Italian alder, Shagbark hickory, Oriental beech, Eucalyptus and Hungarian oak.The report advises that a 4 per cent increase in tree cover over the next 40 years would help lock up 10 per cent of the country's carbon emissions. Trees currently cover 17 per cent of Scotland, but the Forestry Commission hopes to increase the figure to at least 25 per cent. Bob McIntosh, the director of FC Scotland, agreed there was a need to move species "from south to north" to cope with climate change. However, he added: "There will still be a hope that we can use our native species as widely as possible."But Angus Yarwood, policy and campaigns officer for the Woodland Trust for Scotland, said it would not support large-scale planting of foreign species."We would be very concerned about wide-scale planting of non-native species," Yarwood said. "If you were to plant lots of non-native species then you are not allowing the wildlife and habitats native to the UK to be best placed to adapt to climate change."BRANCHING OUT• LEBANON CEDAR is the national emblem of Lebanon, but as a result of long exploitation, very few old trees remain in their native land, and there is now an active programme to conserve and regenerate the forests.The Lebanon Cedar is widely planted as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens and the most prominent landscaping feature in London's Highgate Cemetery is its "Circle of Lebanon".• MACEDONIAN PINE ranges from the mountains of western Bulgaria through Albania, and the extreme southwest of Serbia, to the extreme north of Greece and often reaches the alpine tree line in this area. The mature tree is very resistant to White Pine Blister Rust a fungal disease accidentally introduced from Europe into North America, where it has decimated American native white pines. Macedonian Pine is therefore of great value for research into hybridisation and genetic modification to develop rust resistance in these species.• ITALIAN ELDER is a pretty, fast-growing egg-shaped tree and at a distance, bears more resemblance to a pear tree than to the other members of the elder family.The tree is able to fix nitrogen from the air and thrives on much drier soils than most other elders, growing rapidly even under very unfavourable circumstances. This renders it extremely valuable for landscape planting on difficult sites such as mining spoil heaps and heavily compacted urban sites