Ms. Christiana Figueres, chief secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, told a press conference in Doha today that the 18th Conference of the States Parties would bring about “a complete economic transformation of the world.”
La Figurehead did not have in mind a free-market transformation. The intention of these 18 annual vacations – er, serious negotiations to Save The Planet – is what it always was: to create a treaty binding more than 190 nations to do as the Secretariat says. Democracy? What’s that?
Todd Stern, the U.S. lead negotiator, was similarly upbeat at his own press conference. With all the fervour of an evangelical preacher in an Alabama mega-church, he predicted that the “Doha Way Forward”, following the “Bali Road-Map”, the “Durban Platform”, etc., would achieve a second Kyoto Protocol – a treaty that all the nations of the world would ratify.
On hearing this, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, the only climate-skeptical environmental group recognized by the U.N., decided to design some lapel buttons showing the figure “67” – the minimum number of U.S. Senators needed to ratify a treaty. In 1997, while Al Gore was president of the Senate, it voted by 95 to nil not to accept any treaty like the Kyoto Protocol.
Though the key bureaucratic global-warming profiteers here think “progress” is at last going to be achieved, there is a subdued air among everyone else. Very few came. Copenhagen in 2009, when almost 50,000 turned up, is a distant memory.
Even the Communist-era slogans that are a wearisome feature of these conferences are less strident than usual. This year’s official catchphrase is “Count me in.”
The very slow, ancient, badly air-conditioned buses echoing tinnily with Arab music that ferry the plebs like us to and from the conference center have “Share The Ride – Cut The Carbon” painted on their grimy flanks. Hardly a rallying-cry to man the barricades.
The trouble is that there has not been anything like enough global warming to keep the usual suspects safe in their cushy, taxpayer-funded sinecures. My innocent amusement for today was to visit several of the side-shows organized by the usual kooks who are drawn to these conferences like quacks to colored water. At each event I asked the obvious question:
“After 16 years without global warming, how confident are you that the official predictions of doom have not been overblown?”
A shrewish spokesman for the Gaia Foundation replied: “Why should we answer that? You’re a well-known climate denier.” Ma’am, 0 out of 10 for scientific rigor.
The reply from a spokesman for the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual World University Living In Harmony Environment Initiative Aligning Awareness With Action And Renewable Energy For the Future Plus Capacity Building: “Something like 80 or 90% of scientists accept that the world is warming ever faster.”
Another spokesman for the Guru-ji of Guru-jis, one “Dr. Doebbler”, said that the rate of global warming had accelerated in the past ten years. Actually, the trend since late 2001 shows a significant decline. Doebbler added, “Why should anyone take you seriously? You’re just a climate denier. About 100 million people in Africa will die because of global warming.”
I protested at Doebbler’s use of the term “climate denier”, with its malevolent overtones of Holocaust denial. A bossy woman from the U.N. Thought Police came up and told me not to speak. The U.N. still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of the Free Speech thing.
Next, I visited the Hall of Exhibitionists (Kai Lung would have called it “The Great Hall of Intellectual Colored Lights”), where hundreds of taxpayer-funded lobby groups had set up minuscule booths. Here, too, the pointy-head count was astronomical. In booth no. 1, a lady of uncertain years was briskly marketing a perpetual-motion machine.
The device, “A Modular, Large-Scale Distributed Power System (DPS) With A Zero Carbon Footprint”, had also been displayed at last year’s conference. I had taken Dr. Kelvin Kemm, a South African nuclear physicist, to have a look at the booth. He had asked the Korean inventor, “Is it a closed system?”
“Yes,” said the inventor.
“Then it won’t work,” snapped Dr. Kemm.
“Because energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another.” The laws of thermodynamics were not up for repeal.
This year’s brochure for the perpetual-motion machine has Dr. Kemm’s quotation prominently displayed (but not attributed) at the top.
I asked the earnest but evasive lady behind the counter, “Is there an installed Distributed Power System (DPS) operating anywhere?”
“Yes,” said the lady.
“May I see it?”
“Not without an appointment.”
“May I make an appointment to see it?”
“It’s in Brisbane, Australia.”
“I’ll be there in February on my next Antipodean speaking tour. Book me in.”
“We don’t show the machine to just anybody.”
“You wouldn’t understand it.”
“I’ll bring Dr. Kemm with me.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Well, may I see the technical specifications?”
“It’s secret. We’ve patented it.”
“If you have patents, the technical specifications are published in the patent filings and they’re not secret.”
“You can read the patent filings if you like.”
“Do you happen to have a copy with you?”
“Can you give me an outline of how it works?”
“You wouldn’t understand it.”
“I’ll ask Dr. Kemm.”
“No, you won’t.”
On the whole, I tentatively suspected, the Distributed Power System (DPS) would be unlikely to bring about “a complete economic transformation of the world”.
What on Earth is the U.N. doing allowing perpetual-motion machines to be openly promoted at its conferences? No doubt Ms. Figurative would reply, “Why should we answer that? You’re a well-known perpetual-motion denier.”
Next, I sat in as a head-bangingly sycophantic youth televised an interview with Dr. Riccardo Valentini of the University of East Anglia (where else?) in the “Climate Change Studio” among the exhibitionists’ booths.
“Dr. Valentini, today, you’ve published an important and wonderful paper in Nature Climate Science saying that CO2 concentration is rising so fast that there will be 4 to 6 Celsius degrees of global warming by 2100. Is that right?”
The paper – by an amazing coincidence of time that always seems to happen at these conferences – had come out that very day. The author said CO2 concentration in the last two years had been rising very fast, following the predicted trend for the IPCC’s exciting, new RCP8.5 scenario, which would mean 8.5 Watts per square meter of anthropogenic forcing and 4-6 Cº of warming by the end of the century.
“So this is really, really serious and urgent, isn’t it, and governments must do a lot more to cut carbon emissions straight away?”
Yes, said Dr. Valentini, urgency was important. More money must be spent.
The journalists and observers present were not allowed to ask questions, but I caught Dr. Valentini on his way out. I did not ask him why he had based his projection of future CO2-concentration increase on just a couple of years’ data (the previous years had showed a significant decline in the rate of increase).
Instead, I asked him how much CO2 would be in the atmosphere by 2100 on present trends. He did not know, but he thought it might be around 700 parts per million.
I said there was nothing new in that projection: the IPCC’s previous assessment report in 2007 had assumed 713 ppmv by 2100. On that central estimate, they had projected only 2.8 Cº warming by 2100. Why was he now saying the warming would be 4-6 Cº?
He said he was not a climate scientist. His CO2 curve was following the new RCP8.5 scenario, which the climate models said would cause 4-6 Cº warming. That was not his figure: it was the modelers’ figure.
I asked him whether trying to prevent that warming would be likely to cost more than letting it happen and adapting to it. He said he rather agreed with that analysis.
The unspeakable BBC featured his paper and his conclusion on all of its main news bulletins. Yet it had not asked him any of the right questions. Like the other true-believers here, it had followed the definition of faith in the Catholic Penny Catechism. It had believed without doubting. And without checking.
Count me out.