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When you do the numbers, climate change means business

A brief look at the BBC’s 2013 Weather Year shows that climate change is not just a clever theory but more a way of life.

Statistically inclined climate change deniers can always say that nothing is certain (rather like how the tobacco companies insisted on saying that the harmfulness of tobacco was never proven).

A more sophisticated analysis might look not just at what level of confidence you can have that a particular weather event is the result of climate change, but given the science of climate change, how the likelihood that it is all just chance is falling ever lower.

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2013: the difference between hope and expectation is 20 years

What hope can we hold for 2013?

I think the most profound change we can hope for is that the recent growth in awareness of sustainability becomes real, rooted and universal.

Read my hopes and expectations, and the difference between the two on the Guardian blog.

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How to lose your licence to operate

You may think that McKinsey (the consultants) is an odd choice of adviser for governments trying to conserve their rainforests. And you’d be right. They may be good at economic analysis, but they seem to have got REDD+ and carbon around their necks.

Greenpeace have been looking at the activities of McKinsey in advising governments how to go about saving the forests. McKinsey applied standard economic thinking to create their ‘marginal abatement cost curves’ or MACCs. That sounds very impressive – and perhaps it would be,  if it weren’t for the fact that, according to Greenpeace, it is so dangerous.

The McKinsey method is proprietary. So despite the fact that it could affect the lives of millions, it is largely secret. Its problems are many, including:

  • flawed assumptions which favour big forestry at the expense of small farmers and the forests themselves and ignore social costs and implementation costs
  • an exclusive focus on economic consequences – not on carbon consequences or other environmental  consequences such as biodiversity loss
  • technical inadequacies of MACC method which cannot cope with real world issues like interactions between alternatives and cumulative effects.

The end result seems to be that it would be perfectly consistent with their advice to clear virgin rainforest in order to establish a palm oil plantation. That’s not economic thinking gone mad, it’s just plain old economic thinking. But of course there is more at stake  here than simply money.

All of which goes to show that you can’t solve deforestation with the same mindset that created it.

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Good news or bad news?

The BBC is reporting that additional flights from Heathrow are an indicator of economic recovery.

What is not being reported is the carbon impact of that ‘recovery’. There seems to be no recognition at all of the connection between air travel and climate change – let alone between economic growth as currently structured and climate change.

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commentary

Global Warming: Fact and Friction

How many errors does it take to discredit something? The two errors found per thousand pages is not a bad rate. There are very few other documents, from any source, that achieve anything as low as that.

Of course it’s not just in the numbers but also in the overall judgment. Here we need cogent argument and a balanced approach to risk. And media organisations in particular need to question themselves very carefully over what they say and the reactions they generate.