The Lancet Commissions
Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health
Critiqued by Dr D Weston Allen MBBS, FRACGP, Grad Dip Phys Med
“The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change,” comprising 45 international multidisciplinary academics (29 PhD’s and one MD) headed by Nick Watts (MA), was “formed to map out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide.” It was released on 23 June and is freely available online here.
The UCL-Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change had published a report prior to the Copenhagen Climate Summit of 2009; and this report is timed to precede the Paris Convention beginning 30 November. It has been promoted by Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) in Medical Observer and by Jo Hartley’s Editorial in Australian Doctor on 3 July.
Why would a full-time GP critique this Lancet Commissions report? I have had a keen interest in health promotion since the 1970s,,  in experimental science since the 1980s,,  in evidence-based medicine since the 1990s and in climate science since the early 2000s. On reading the report, I found it to contain some valuable information and worthwhile suggestions, but also some deficiencies and areas of concern.
Regarding attitudes to climate change, I have observed two polarised positions:
- Those who think it is real but entirely natural and unalterable, and who label dissenters as alarmists or warmists;
- Those who think it is entirely anthropogenic and dangerous, who predict catastrophe unless we rapidly decarbonise, who classify dissenters as contrarians or deniers, and who lay claim to a 97% scientific consensus (Cook et al 2013).
A comprehensive survey of over 1,800 international climate-related scientists in 2012, published by Verheggen et al (2014) and later analysed in detail (April 2015), reveals a great deal of uncertainty and disagreement. I identify with the less vocal middle ground where scientific objectivity is valued more highly than advocacy for a cause.
In critiquing The Weather Makers and Slaying the Sky Dragon, publications representing both extreme positions, I found them wanting in scientific rigor; making unwarranted assumptions and erroneous or extreme statements; cherry-picking data, ignoring inconvenient evidence and mishandling uncertainties. I will leave the reader to judge the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change in that regard. It is certainly not free from confirmation bias – and neither am I.
I take sole responsibility for preparing and publishing this critique; I have received no funding or influence from any source; and I have no conflict of interest other than some Rio Tinto and SILEX shares, held since 1999 in a self-managed super fund and now comprising less than 0.4% of the assets in that fund. As a frugal vegetarian who often cycles to work and elsewhere, I happen to have a modest carbon footprint but no illusions about thereby saving the planet.
- Assumes climate change (CC) is entirely anthropogenic and potentially catastrophic;
- Links CC to increased frequency of intense storms despite contrary evidence;
- Links CC to floods and droughts with limited evidence and undue certainty;
- Overlooks the real causes of food insecurity, the displacement of people and spread of disease vectors;
- Accepts climate model’s emission scenarios and temperature projections as reliable predictions;
- Portrays all fossil-fuel emissions, including CO2, as harmful while ignoring fossil-fuel benefits to humanity;
- Focuses on the hazards of global warming while ignoring or downplaying its benefits;
- Portrays renewable energy as reliable and affordable for developing countries;
- Dilutes its positive contribution on adaptation by overemphasising mitigation;
- Overestimates the benefits of mitigation and underestimates its overall costs;
- Promotes unproven climate mitigation over proven preventive measures in combating tropical diseases;
- Recruits support for urgent climate action by employing hyperbole and quasi-religious notions (e.g. sanctity of the natural world);
- Hypocritically attributes climate inaction to vested interests while ignoring vested interests in climate action;
- Seeks to further strain the public purse by creating yet another climate action coalition.
Quotations from the Lancet report are hereafter in bold red.
“The effects of climate change are being felt today, and future projections represent an unacceptably high and potentially catastrophic risk to human health . . .
The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms, with the indirect threatening population health through adverse changes in air pollution, the spread of disease vectors, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill health.” (Page 1)
These underlined claims will be examined after first addressing climate change, which this Lancet report deems anthropogenic and potentially catastrophic:
“Keeping the global average temperature rise to less than 2°C to avoid the risk of potentially catastrophic climate change impacts requires total anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to be kept below 2900 billion tonnes (GtCO2) by the end of the century. As of 2011, total emissions since 1870 were a little over half of this, with current trends expected to exceed 2900 GtCO2 in the next 15–30 years. High-end emissions projection scenarios show global average warming of 2.6–4.8°C by the end of the century . . .” (ibid)
“Much of past emissions remain [sic] in the atmosphere and will drive continued warming in the future. GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are continuing to rise at a rate that is incompatible with limiting warming to 2°C in the coming 35 years (by 2050), and which exceeds the IPCC’s ‘worst case scenario’.10 We are on track for a global average temperature rise of more than 4°C above pre-industrial temperatures in the next 85 years, at which point global temperature will still be increasing by roughly 0.7°C per decade (due to the lag in reaching equilibrium).” (Page 4)
The starting date for the 2⁰C rise is presumably preindustrial, during the Little Ice Age. Even from the present, however, another 2⁰C is unlikely to be catastrophic. The Eemian (the previous interglacial) was several degrees warmer than now; arctic ice all but disappeared in summer; forests grew in what is now arctic tundra, the northern tree-line being over 600 km farther north than now; and hippopotami swam in the Rhine and the Thames. Variations in Earth's orbital parameters (obliquity and precession) produced the Holocene Thermal Maximum (~6,000BCE) which was also warmer than now, by up to 7⁰C in northern Russia for several millennia; Scandinavian tree-lines reached altitudes up to 300 meters higher than at present; and Arctic summers were probably ice-free.
The peer-reviewed literature contains fourteen papers on the likely impacts on GDP and human welfare of temperatures higher than now – by 1⁰C (2 studies), by 2.5⁰C (10 studies) and 3⁰C (2 studies). What these studies show is that the optimal temperature is actually about 1⁰C higher than now. This would result in a 2% increase in GDP. Not until it rises over 2.3⁰C would GDP drop below today’s level (Fig.1).
Impact of global temperature on GDP
Source: Tol 2010[i]
(derived from UN data)
While scientists generally concur that human activities are contributing to climate change, there is no consensus on how much difference we are making or how much warmer it might be by 2100. The Lancet’s 2.6-4.8⁰C is based on climate models using high-end emissions projections. How reliable are they?
CLIMATE SENSITIVITY – the elephant in the room
Climate-sensitivity is mentioned only once in this report (in Panel 3 on page 15) and never defined or quantified. The temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO2 is not linear but roughly logarithmic, which means that each doubling of CO2 results in about 1⁰C temperature increase (without feedbacks).
Positive feedbacks have been thought to increase this to 1.5⁰C – 4.5⁰C with a best estimate of 3⁰C. The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) narrowed the range of this equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) to 2.0 – 4.5⁰C. When later observation-based studies, ,  indicated a best estimate ECS of between 1.5⁰C and 2⁰C, the IPCC’s AR5 (published in 2014) reduced the lower estimate back to 1.5⁰C but declined to provide a best estimate. Lewis and Curry have since provided their best estimate ECS of 1.64⁰C and a transient climate sensitivity (TCS) of 1.33⁰C. This remains controversial.
Whereas it was also thought that business as usual would result in atmospheric carbon dioxide more than doubling this century, the natural sequestration of anthropogenic emissions has been higher than expected (~57% annually) and is not diminishing.,  The Keeling Curve (Fig. 2) of atmospheric CO2 level increased almost linearly at ~1.6ppm/yr from 1976 to 2000 and then almost linearly this century at ~2ppm/yr. If it continues to accelerate at this rate, it would increase by ~80% this century; a TCS of 1.33⁰C would thus produce just over 1⁰C of warming; and an ECS of 1.64⁰C would result in a further 0.3⁰C of warming next century if there was no further increase in atmospheric CO2.
The temperature response so far this century is almost zero. Indeed, the RSS satellite data shows no warming of the lower troposphere since 1997 and a slight cooling since 2002 (Fig. 3). The warming rate of the entire RSS dataset since January 1979 is 0.12⁰C per decade. The latest UAH satellite data shows a warming trend of just 0.114⁰C per decade since measurements began in 1979 and no warming of the lower troposphere since 1998 (Fig. 4). Satellites use microwave sounding units (MSUs) to detect the radiation from oxygen molecules in the lower troposphere, the recorded changes being converted to temperature anomalies. These are more globally representative than limited surface data and are unaffected by the urban heat and altered location or surroundings that can impact thermometers. Large cities can sometimes be as much as 11⁰C warmer than the surrounding countryside. Weather station data can be affected by urban populations of just 2,500.
|Figure 2: Keeling Curve of rising atmospheric CO2.|
The HadCRUT4 surface temperature data also shows no significant warming since 2002, despite homogenisation adjustments which inflated recent warming (Fig. 5).
|Figure 5: HadCRUT4 surface temperature data 1979-2015|
Proposed reasons for this controversial pause include:
1. A quieter sun (diminished solar cycle 24) following heightened activity (Fig. 6). Solar variability is very complex and controversial.
2. Changing ocean oscillations and heat transfer.
|Figure 6: 400-year sunspot solar cycle record, showing Maunder Minimum (MM) |
and Dalton Minimum (DM)
It is thought that stronger trade winds during negative oscillations increase Pacific Ocean overturning. The correlation between low tropospheric temperature and preceding ENSO is strong, as is that for the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and US temperatures (Fig. 7).
Figure 7: Pacific and Atlantic Oscillations (L) and USA temperature
anomaly (R) 1905-2000. Source: D’Aleo, 2007.
Positive ocean oscillations help to explain global temperature surges (1850-1880, 1910-1940 and 1976-2002). Negative ocean oscillations might explain the temperature decline, despite increasing industrial activity and atmospheric CO2, prior to 1976 (Fig. 8).
Figure 8: HadCRUT4 temperature anomaly (L) and
Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 (R) 1958-2013.
On 24 June 1974, Time magazine warned of a new ice age and, on 28 April 1975, Newsweek’s leading article titled A Cooling World forecast floods, droughts and catastrophic famines. The late Stephen Schneider, attributing that cooling to aerosols emitted from fossil fuels, then wrote: “Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it is of utmost importance: the survival of ourselves, our children, our species.” The same Dr Schneider told Discover magazine in 1989:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method . . . which means that we must include all the doubts . . . On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have.
Emulating Schneider, this Lancet report offers up ‘high-end emissions projection scenarios’. How reliable are they? Both individually and collectively, climate models increasingly exceed 21st century temperature observations (Fig. 9).
Figure 9: Average of 90 CMIP5 climate model projections
vs. observed temperature anomaly. Source: Roy Spencer
With the 15-year term of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol coming to an end, the UN had high hopes for the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, but the preceding Climategate emails,  revealed something rotten, and Denmark turned bitterly cold, so it was a dismal failure. Annual climate conventions since then have been little more than talk fests. There are now renewed hopes for the 2015 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Paris. The official UN website states:
The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. To achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation – that is, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2C – and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. . . . Another key objective of the COP21 is the mobilisation of $100 billion per year by developed countries, from public and private sources, from 2020. This commitment, made in Copenhagen, should enable developing countries to combat climate change whilst promoting fair and sustainable development. Some of these funds will pass through the Green Climate Fund, which has received initial capital of $10.2 billion . . .
As Paris approached, scientists at our Australian BOM and in the U.S. began ‘correcting’ raw temperature data, with the result that recent warming more closely matches model projections. On 4 June 2015, the NOAA website confidently proclaimed “there has been no slow down” (Fig. 10):
A new study published online today [4 June 2015] in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or "hiatus" in the rate of global warming in recent years.
The study is the work of a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's () National Centers for Environmental Information* () using the latest global surface temperature data.
Figure 10: Revised NOAA global temperature 1880-2014.
Note that the warming trend from 1910 to 1940 was at
least as steep as NOAA’s later Trend.
Whereas RSS data shows 2014 to be the 10th warmest year on record, UAH data shows it to be equal 5th and HadCRUT4 the 4th hottest, NASA’s GISS massaged their temperature data until 2014 became the hottest by the merest of margins (0.01± 0.02⁰C) with a 62% chance of being wrong! The Lancet Commission nevertheless latched onto this to proclaim: “Indeed, 2014 was the hottest year on record.” (Page 3) It also endorsed the UN agenda:
“The Commission recommends that over the next 5 years, governments:
1. Invest in climate change and public health research, monitoring, and surveillance to ensure a better understanding of the adaptation needs and the potential health co-benefits of climate mitigation . . .
2. Scale-up financing for climate resilient health systems world-wide. Donor countries have a responsibility to support measures which reduce the impacts of climate change on human wellbeing and support adaptation. This must enable the strengthening of health systems in low-income and middle-income countries, and reduce the environmental impact of health care. [Could this mean putting the environment ahead of people? saving fewer lives?]
3. Protect cardiovascular and respiratory health by ensuring a rapid phase out of coal from the global energy mix. Many of the 2200 coal-fired plants currently proposed for construction globally will damage health unless replaced with cleaner energy alternatives. As part of the transition to renewable energy, there will be a cautious transitional role for natural gas.
4. Encourage a transition to cities that support and promote lifestyles that are healthy for the individual and for the planet. . . Achieving a decarbonised global economy and securing the public health benefits it offers is no longer primarily a technical or economic question—it is now a political one. [A worrying assertion]
5. Establish the framework for a strong, predictable, and international carbon pricing mechanism.
6. Rapidly expand access to renewable energy in low-income and middle-income countries, thus providing reliable electricity for communities and health facilities; unlocking substantial economic gains; and promoting health equity. . [Without enormous cost, renewable and reliable are currently mutually exclusive.]
7. Support accurate quantification of the avoided burden of disease, reduced health-care costs, and enhanced economic productivity associated with climate change mitigation. [A wild assumption: the proposed mitigation might add to the burden of disease, increase health-care costs and reduce economic productivity]
8. Adopt mechanisms to facilitate collaboration between Ministries of Health and other government departments . . .
9. Agree and implement an international agreement that supports countries in transitioning to a lowcarbon economy. Whilst the negotiations are very complex, their goals are very simple: agree on ambitious and enforceable global mitigation targets, on adaptation of finance to protect countries’ rights to sustainable development, and on the policies and mechanisms that enable these measures. [Straight out of the UN] . . . Responding to climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. [An inappropriate response to an overblown threat could also be the greatest global blunder of the 21st century.]
To help drive this transition, the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change will:
10. Develop a new, independent Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action, to provide expertise in implementing policies that mitigate climate change and promote public health, and to monitor progress over the next 15 years. The Collaboration will be led by this Commission, reporting in The Lancet every years, tracking, supporting, and communicating progress and success along a range of indicators in global health and climate change.
In 2009, the UCL–Lancet Commission on Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change called climate change ‘the biggest global health threat of the 21st century’.” (Pages 1-2, emphasis added)
In 1909, who could have predicted two world wars, the nuclear threat, Spanish ‘flu pandemic, HIV/AIDS or the obesity/diabetes epidemic? Who could have predicted the marvels of antibiotics, antivirals, organ transplants, joint replacements or mapping the human genome? And who could have predicted that we would now be living several decades longer?
Pretending to know the future has hitherto been the domain of prophets, clairvoyants and science fiction. The Lancet Commission nevertheless relies on the IPCC Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report to predict with unfalsifiable certainty:
“Climate change will limit development aspirations, including the provision of health and other services through impacts on national economies and infrastructure. It will affect wellbeing in material and other ways. Climate change will, for example, exacerbate perceptions of insecurity and influence aspects of cultural identity in places directly affected.” (p.7, emphasis added)
THE PHYSICAL BASIS
The greenhouse explanation on page 3 is quite sound, until stating: “The oceans have absorbed the bulk (90% or more) of this energy in recent years and ocean surface temperatures have risen.”
Deeper ocean temperatures may have risen slightly, but 3,300 Argo bathythermograph buoys deployed throughout the world’s oceans late in 2003 showed an initial cooling of sea surface temperatures (Fig. 11).
|Figure 11: Sea Surface Temperature. Source: Argo, 2009|
Global cooling of 0.63⁰C from the El Niño peak to the La Niña trough during 2007 was the largest annual decline ever recorded, and it was caused by a drop of nearly 3⁰C in mean SST. Atmospheric temperature reflects SST and has been fairly flat ‘in recent years’.
“Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a rate of up to 50 000 km2 per year, the Antarctic ice sheet is now losing 159 billion tonnes of ice each year, and sea levels are rising inexorably.” (p.3)
No evidence is provided for disappearing Arctic sea ice, which actually increased in 2013-14 (Fig. 12).
|Figure 12: Arctic sea ice volume as measured by CryoSat-2|
Tilling et al (2015) found that the volume of Arctic sea ice increased by about a third after an unusually cool summer in 2013, the very summer scientists had predicted its disappearance, and this more than compensated for the loss over the previous three years. Ding et al (2014) showed that much of the recent Arctic-Greenland warming was natural.
Antarctic sea ice has been breaking records for several years (Fig. 13).
Figure 13: Southern Hemisphere Sea Ice Extent 1979-2015
On 3 June 2015, Reporting Climate Science stated:
Sea ice extent in Antarctica last month set a new record high for the month of May, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). NSIDC data shows average sea ice extent around Antarctica reached 12.10 million sq. km. in May – some 12 per cent above the long term average for the period 1981-2010 of 10.79 million sq.km. May sea ice extent in Antarctica is growing at a rate of 2.9 per cent per decade, according to NSIDC data.
The total global sea ice area has barely altered since satellite records began in 1979 (Fig. 14).
|Figure 14: Global Sea Ice Area 1979-2015|
Antarctic ice sheet loss is almost entirely from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, below which a high geothermal heat flux was recently measured by Fisher et al (2015). Much of the melting may therefore be volcanic rather than anthropogenic.
Sea level rise accelerated after the Little Ice Age ended, and again during the 1920s, after which it remained fairly linear, as shown by Ablain et al (2009), Houston and Dean (2011) and illustrated in Figure 15. Watson et al (2015) found it to be accelerating again, but by a tiny statistically insignificant amount.
“As we proceed rapidly towards 4°C warming by the end of the century, the likelihood of crossing thresholds and tipping points rises, threatening further warming and accelerated sea-level rise. . . The uncertainty around thresholds, interactions and tipping points in climate change and its health impacts are serious enough to mandate an immediate, sustained, and globally meaningful response.” (p. 5-6, emphasis added)
This is pure alarmist speculation. An important but poorly publicised fact explains why ‘tipping points’ into runaway warming from carbon dioxide has never occurred in Earth’s history, even when atmospheric CO2 was very much higher than now. Earth’s outgoing longwave radiation is fully absorbed at the 15μm wavelength by quite low levels of atmospheric CO2; adding more increases absorption only at the margins (which also overlap water vapour absorption bands); so the temperature response diminishes logarithmically as CO2 increases (Fig. 16).
Figure 16: Temperature
response to atmospheric CO2.
calculations (without feedbacks)[i]
[i] Climate models factor in strong positive feedbacks, mainly from increased atmospheric water vapour, the dominant greenhouse gas; but increased evaporation cools the surface, convection transports the latent heat high into the troposphere where it is radiated to space, the water vapour absorbs longwave solar radiation and condenses into clouds which reflect solar radiation. Weather balloons and satellites have failed to find the tropospheric hot spot predicted by climate models:
Douglass DH et al. 2007: A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. International Journal of Climatology: DOI. 10.1002/joc.1651.
The health impacts of climate change
“The resultant climate change poses a range of threats to human health and survival in multiple, interacting ways. Impacts can be direct (eg, heatwaves and extreme weather events such as a storm, forest fire, flood, or drought) or indirectly mediated through the effects of climate change on ecosystems (eg, agricultural losses and changing patterns of disease), economies, and social structure (eg, migration and conflict). After only 0.85°C warming, many anticipated threats have already become real-world impacts. Table 1 summarises the evidence attributing climate change to specific extreme weather events, outlining the role that climate change is playing in the present day (2013).” (p. 4) ‘Table 1’ lists 14 citations for heatwaves, 3 for floods, 6 for droughts and none for storms.
Civilisation began during the Holocene Climatic Optimum, globally warmer than now, and flourished during the warm Minoan, Roman and Medieval periods., Famine and disease plagued Europe during the Dark Age and preindustrial Little Ice Age35 when widespread malaria remained endemic despite bitter winters that froze the River Thames. Global rewarming has greatly benefited humanity. Typhoid and tuberculosis declined dramatically during pre-antibiotic 20th century warming.
“Rising mean temperatures mean that the incidence of cold events is likely to diminish. The analysis here focuses on the heat-related element because the health benefits of reductions in cold are not established. Whilst there is an increase in deaths during winter periods in many climates, the mechanisms responsible for this increase are not easily delineated. Most winter-related deaths are cardiovascular, yet the link between temperature and cardiovascular mortality rates is weak. There is a stronger link between respiratory deaths and colder temperatures but these account for a smaller percentage of winter deaths.46
The impact of cold temperatures can be measured considering seasonal means, extreme cold spells, and relative temperature changes. Seasonal means and extreme cold spells (or absolute temperature) have relatively small or ambiguous relationships with numbers of winter deaths, however temperature cooling relative to an area’s average temperature does more clearly correlate with mortality rates.46,47 There may be modest reductions in cold-related deaths; however, these reductions will be largely outweighed at the global scale by heat-related mortality.46 Whilst climate change will have an impact on cold-related deaths, particularly in some countries with milder climates, the overall impact is uncertain.” (Page 9, emphasis added)
Such equivocation and uncertainty flies in the face of evidence. Thomas Moore (1998) found a 13% higher U.S. mortality in winter than summer during 1952-1967 and a 16% higher winter mortality during 1985–1990 despite global warming. This was largely due to the increased availability and affordability of air-conditioning. Despite nearly 1⁰C of effective temperature-humidity increase from 1964 to 1998, Davis et al (2003)  found a very significant decline in heat-related mortality in 28 of the largest US cities (Fig. 16).
Keatinge et al (2000) found that at least five times as many Europeans died from cold as from heat, whether in northern Helsinki or southern Athens. Lomborg (2007) estimated that excess cold exposure killed around 1.5 million Europeans every year.
The largest ever international study of temperature-related deaths by Gasparrini et al (2015), published
|Figure 16: Average U.S. annual mortality 1964-1998|
in The Lancet itself in May 2015, and reported here, found that cold weather is still twenty times more lethal than hot weather. An analysis of over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries found that about 7.7% of all deaths were related to non-optimal temperatures, ranging from 3% in Thailand, Brazil and Sweden to 11% in China, Japan and Italy. Nearly 7.3% of all deaths were related to cold while only 0.42% were heat-related. Moderate cold was responsible for the vast majority of deaths (6.66%) while extreme temperatures were responsible for less than 1% of deaths.
Bosello, Roson and Tol (2006), leading economists who evaluated the future impact of unchecked climate change on global human health, projected 1.4 million fewer deaths annually to 2050 and a lower mortality rate until at least 2200.
After pointing out the well-established relationship between heatwaves and human morbidity and mortality, the report states:
“There is also now strong evidence that such heat-related mortality is rising as a result of climate change impacts across a range of localities. . . The incidence of heatwaves has increased in the past few decades, as has the area affected by them.40, 41 The most severe heatwave, measured with the Heat Wave Magnitude Index, was the summer 2010 heatwave in Russia.40 . . . Projections under climate scenarios show that events with the magnitude of the Russian heatwave of 2010 could have become much more common and with high-end climate scenarios could become almost the summer norm for many regions.40” (p.8)
‘Projections under climate scenarios’ are only as good as the 16 climate models (from the CMIP5 archive) used by Russo et al (2014) (citation 40). The Heat Wave Magnitude Index (HWMI) was “defined as the maximum magnitude of the heat waves in a year, where heat wave is the period ≥ 3 consecutive days with maximum temperature above the daily threshold for the reference period 1981–2010.” Using this, they tabulated record-breaking heat waves (Table 1), from which a number of observations can be made:
1. Although the frequency of severe heatwaves does appear to be increasing, the 33-year time frame is short. Analysing raw Australian BOM data, Geoffrey Sherrington found as many 5-6-day heatwaves in Melbourne from 1856 to 1935 as from 1936 to 2013 and they were as hot or hotter. Bourke experienced >102⁰F for 24 days straight in 1896, and the thermometer read 109⁰F at midnight in Brewarrina;2. Excluding the exceptional Russian heatwave, there was no increase in affected area over time. Indeed, the two recent US heatwaves were smaller in area than that of 1980.3. All seven major heatwaves occurred in temperate regions.4. The report states: “impacts are unevenly distributed, with greater risks in less developed countries”, but all five of these countries are developed, the U.S. being the most frequently affected.5. Apart from the 2010 Russian heatwave, they were not associated with globally warmer years. Chase et al (2006)[i] found that most of the globe was normal or cooler than normal during the 2003 European heat wave. Heatwaves are usually associated with unusual blocking high-pressure (Hadley Cell) systems combined with reduced precipitation and soil moisture (Beniston and Diaz, 2004).[ii]
[i] Chase T N, Wolter K, Pielke RA Sr. & Rasool I 2006: Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context? Geophysical Research Letters. 33(5) doi:10.1029/2006GL027470 Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context?[ii] IPCC 2007: 4AR WGI Box 3.6, Chapter 3 "Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change"
Table 1. List of Record-Breaking Heat Wave Events in the Period 1980–2012a
U.S. Benelux Europe Greece Russia U.S. U.S.
NCEP-II (1980) (1994) (2003) (2007) (2010) (2011) (2012)
Grid points 91 61 51 61 148 38 53
Max 8.20 5.49 4.70 3.76 11.71 4.17 3.75
Mean 4.65 3.26 3.30 2.46 5.50 2.72 2.71
Median 4.10 2.91 3.48 2.36 5.43 2.57 2.60
Grid points 54 37 47 78 148 44 55
Max 5.51 4.30 6.26 4.02 11.43 10.44 5.56
Mean 3.46 3.01 3.53 2.58 5.37 3.51 2.96
Median 3.23 3.05 3.72 2.51 5.29 3.14 2.76
a. The spatial extension is estimated by counting the grid points within a specific event with HWMI equal to or greater than 2.
The Lancet report correctly states: “specific subpopulations such as poor and marginalised groups, people with disabilities, the elderly, women, and young children bearing the greatest burden of risk in all regions.” (p.8)
The impact of socioeconomic, cultural and gender roles are discussed, but not risks associated with prohibiting all oral intake during the month of Ramadan, which sometimes falls in the middle of the northern summer. Fortunately, it began in late October in 2003. The excess mortality during that hot European summer probably exceeded 35,000, most of them elderly and female. Many deaths occurred during the month-long August vacation due to relative lack of care for the isolated and vulnerable.
France was the worst affected with 15,000 deaths, nearly 21 per 100,000 population. Based on a study of mortality data over 25 years in 2008, Fouillet et al showed the expected mortality should have been less than 17 per 100,000 people. Based on temperature alone, many more died than should have.
The relationship between heat and drought is complex. Thirteen of the 23 citations in Table 1 of the Lancet report were from Herring et al (2014), with an article by King et al (p.44) pointing out that: “the risk of extreme heat is extremely likely to be 25 times greater in dry years than in wet years. The heat of 2013 in this region of Australia was thus related strongly to the lack of rainfall.” El Niños often produce drought in Australia and droughts produce heatwaves.
While we can expect more severe heatwaves in a warming world, the warming produced by greenhouse gases is predominantly at night, in winter and at high latitudes. This was demonstrated by Knappenberger et al (2001) in nocturnal temperatures across the U.S. during two 20th century warming periods: 1910-1939 and 1970-1997. The earlier warming, due primarily to solar influences, was fairly evenly distributed across the year in both coldest and warmest nights; but after 1970, the coldest nights warmed far more than did the warmest nights. This is indistinguishable from the urban heat island (UHI) effect as demonstrated in the U.S. by Watts (2010), in southeast Australia by Torok et al (2001), and in Melbourne by McLean (2010). Average monthly minimum temperatures were several degrees warmer in the inner city than in outer suburbs during 1981-2010 (Fig. 17) while average monthly maximums were fairly uniform across Melbourne (Fig. 18).
|Figure 17: Average Melbourne minimum temperatures|
|Figure 18: Average Melbourne maximum temperatures|
Maps of projected 21st century anthropogenic drought for various scenarios are portrayed in Figure 6 at the top of page 11 of the Lancet report: “Figure 6 shows very significant changes in exposure to drought-like meteorological conditions over the coming decades. The analysis shows that the population changes (from SSP2) alongside climate change could lead to 1.4 billion additional person drought exposure events per year by the end of the century.” (p.13)
In The Conversation, Bill Laurance of James Cook University points out: “If you want to predict future precipitation for any specific place on Earth, such as Sydney or São Paulo or New York City, go down to your local casino and toss some dice onto the craps table. You’ll have about as much chance of success as do some of our smartest people using our biggest computers.”
Such odds didn’t prevent Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers and former head of Australia’s Climate Change Commission, from predicting in 2007 that “the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems” and that the nation’s capitals “need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months”. Australia then spent billions of dollars on large desalination plants, several of which are now mothballed.
Worse still was the reluctance of operators to release water from the Wivenhoe dam, built primarily for flood-mitigation after the devastating 1974 Brisbane flood, until it reached 190% of its normal water storage capacity in January 2011, devastating Brisbane yet again. Predictions mindless of Dorothea Mackellar’s ancient “land of droughts and flooding rains” can result in costly consequences.
Kiem et al (2003) showed that El Niños and droughts in eastern Australia tend to dominate when the IPO Index is positive (1924-1943 and 1979-98); and La Niñas (with flooding) dominate when the IPO Index is negative. Verdon and Franks (2006) found that this relationship extended back four centuries.
FLOODS & INTENSE STORMS:
Linking “extreme weather events such as hurricanes” to anthropogenic influence and claiming that they “are likely to increase in frequency in the coming decades” (p.12) contradicts this Lancet report itself, which cites four studies on page four showing no link and none showing a link. It also contradicts theoretical considerations: greenhouse gases reduce diurnal, seasonal and latitudinal temperature differentials, and thus the pressure gradients that drive storms.
“Increased frequency of floods, storm surges, and hurricanes will have a substantial effect on health. Extreme events have immediate risks, exemplified by more than 6000 fatalities as a result of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in late 2013. Floods also have long-term and short-term effects on wellbeing through disease outbreaks, mental health burdens, and dislocation.93 Risks related to water shortages, flood, and other mechanisms involve large populations. Projections suggest, for example, that an additional 50 million people and 30,000 km2 of land could be affected by coastal storm surges in 2100, with attendant risks of direct deaths and of infectious diseases.” (p.13)
Indirectly linking typhoon Haiyan to climate change is disingenuous. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was unusually quiet; no major hurricane made landfall for the first time in 45 years; it saw the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982, the first since 1994 in which no major hurricane formed, and was one of the weakest hurricane seasons since modern record-keeping began half a century ago. An extensive analysis of hurricanes from 1986 to 2005 by Klotzbach (2006) revealed “no significant change in global net tropical cyclone activity.” Studies on stalagmites in a Chillagoe cave in North Queensland indicate that nine out of the ten most intense cyclones occurred during the Little Ice Age (Fig. 19).
Flooding was much greater in Europe during the Little Ice Age when late thaw ice jams blocked swollen rivers and burst the dykes in the Netherlands. The highest flood risk in Germany’s River Werra was in the 1700’s. Only two of the 56 major floods affecting Florence since 1177 have occurred since 1844.
|Figure 19: Strength Index of Tropical Cyclone Events in |
North Qld (1226-2003) Adapted from Nott et al 2007 
Flooding of the river Vltava in the Czech Republic has also decreased over the last century. A global analysis of nearly 200 rivers revealed that flows over the last century were unchanged in the majority, increasing in 27 and decreasing in 31 of them. This is also true for a those rivers with observations stretching back much further in time. In the U.S. and in Europe, increased rainfall and river flows has been occurring mainly during the fall, when flows are generally low and flooding less likely, and rarely during spring when flows are high due to snow melt.
Flood casualties have been declining while economic losses have been increasing due to population growth, especially along waterways, altered land use and loss of flood-mitigating wetlands. Bjorn Lomborg put it simply and starkly: “. . . a dollar spent on flood management will reduce flooding 1,300 times better than a dollar spent on Kyoto.” 
|Figure 20: Time series of annual global land precipitation anomalies (mm)|
with respect to the 1981-2000 period for 1900-2005.
The smooth curves show decadal variations. Source: NCDC
Global warming increases evaporation by 5.7% per Kelvin (Wentz et al 2007)38 and therefore precipitation (rainfall); but global precipitation actually declined during the rapid warming of 1975-1998, suggesting more dominant forces (Fig. 20). There appears to be an inverse correlation with ocean oscillations.
“Reductions in emissions (eg, from burning fossil fuels) reduce air pollution and respiratory disease, whilst safer active transport cuts road traffic accidents and reduces rates of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke.”(p.5)
While this is undoubtedly true, burning wood and dung in homes deprived of cheap electricity kills more than four million people annually from “household air pollution – a major killer in low-income countries.” (ibid) We should also remember that reducing emissions can render electricity so expensive that it increases fuel-poverty, now impacting one in four Britons, and thus mortality from exposure to cold or heat. Denmark has the lowest emissions in Europe and the most expensive electricity, six times that in India.
There are indeed many benefits from active transport (cycling), but it can cut road traffic accidents only if conducted on dedicated (largely non-existent) cycle-ways. Garrard, Greaves and Ellison (2010) found the relative risk of death per kilometre travelled in Sydney and Melbourne to be between 5 and 19, and the relative risk of serious injury for cyclists in Melbourne is as high as 34.
“In total, fine particulate air pollution is estimated to be responsible for 7 million additional deaths globally in 2012, mainly due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. [The major source of fine particulates in cities is now traffic exhaust, especially from diesel.] Its effect is amplified by changes in ambient temperature, precipitation frequency, and air stagnation [ambiguous and unsupported].” (p.12)
Air pollution is decreasing in developed countries with the resources and technologies to combat it, but is now impacting developing countries as per the Environmental Kuznet Curve: “The EKC is a hypothesized relationship between indicators of environmental degradation and income per capita. According to the theory, environmental pollution and degradation increase in the early stages of economic growth, get to a peak point, and reverse in such a way that the environment improves at high income levels.” The best way to reduce global air pollution, therefore, is to enhance economic development in countries where air pollution is still increasing.
“The links between climate change, vector populations and hence malarial range and incidence may become significant in areas where the temperature is currently the limiting factor, possibly increasing the incidence of a disease that causes 660,000 deaths per year.” (p.12)
Brierly (1944) analysed deaths from malaria in Mississippi and found a four-fold decline from 1916 to 1937, a period of significant warming. The only significant correlation was with income: when incomes were high, malaria deaths were low and vice versa. Malaria today is essentially a disease of poverty. The best way to beat it is by improving the economy of impoverished malarious countries. The impact of climate change on malaria transmission is trivial, but the impact of depriving susceptible nations of cheap energy could be enormous.
Economist, Indur Goklany (2004) points out that whereas a Kyoto-type approach might reduce the total population at risk for malaria by 2.8% in 2080 at a cost of $250 billion per year, the current death toll could be cut in half at an annual cost of about $1.25 billion through a combination of proven measures including spraying with insecticides, window screens, bed nets, better case management, and more comprehensive medical care. Bjorn Lomborg (2008) likewise estimated that we could “cut malaria incidence to about half by 2015 for about $3 billion annually – or 2 percent of the cost of Kyoto.” Tackling climate change by a quixotic war on carbon, instead of a war on poverty and malaria itself, may well prove costly and counterproductive.
Gething et al (2010)  mapped the dramatic decline in malaria’s endemnicity during a century of warming (Fig. 21).
a) Pre-intervention endemicity (approximately 1900)
b) Contemporary endemicity for 2007 based on a recent global project to define the limits and intensity of current P. falciparum transmission.
c) Change in endemicity class between 1900 and 2007.
Negative values denote a reduction in endemicity, positive values an increase.
CHOLERA & DENGUE FEVER
“There are equally complex relationships and important climate-related risks associated with dengue fever, cholera and food safety. Dengue fever for example has 390 million recorded infections each year, and the number is rising. . . . Cholera is transmitted through infected water sources and often occurs in association with seasonal algal blooms with outbreaks sometimes experienced following extreme weather events such as hurricanes that result in the mixing of wastewater and drinking water, and in association with El Nino events.72 Such extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency in the coming decades and waterborne epidemics need to be planned for and monitored carefully.” (p.12)
Combating climate change is by far the most costly and least effective means of controlling tropical diseases. Indeed, it can be a handy scapegoat for government failure. The 1991 cholera outbreak in South America after Peruvian authorities failed to chlorinate water supplies was linked to climate change in the prestigious journal Science.
Dengue afflicted over 4,000 Mexicans in Tampaulipas in 1995 while, just across the border, Texas had only eight non-imported cases. The essential difference was not climate but living standards and sound public health policies. Climate change is conspicuous by its absence among the complex causes proposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the dramatic increase in dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) over the past 50 years:
Several factors have combined to produce epidemiological conditions in developing countries in the tropics and subtropics that favour viral transmission by the main mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti: rapid population growth, rural-urban migration, inadequate basic urban infrastructure (eg. unreliable water supply leading householders to store water in containers close to homes) and increase in volume of solid waste, such as discarded plastic containers and other abandoned items which provide larval habitats in urban areas. Geographical expansion of the mosquito has been aided by international commercial trade particularly in used tyres which easily accumulate rainwater. Increased air travel and breakdown of vector control measures have also contributed greatly to the global burden of dengue and DHF.
“For every degree greater than 30°C, the productivity of maize production in Africa might be reduced by 1% in optimum conditions and 1.7% in drought, with a 95% chance of climate change-related harm to the production of South African maize and wheat in the absence of adaptation.88,89 Sensitivity of crops and livestock to weather variation has a substantial impact on food security in regions that are already food insecure, pushing up food prices and ultimately affecting food availability and affordability to poor populations and contributing to malnutrition.” (p.13)
Focusing on temperature, the Lancet Commission ignores the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide. Global food production increased by 62.8% from 1980 to 2003, during which atmospheric CO2 increased by 11.2%, fertiliser use increased by 27.5% and land use barely increased at all. Doubling the atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the photosynthesis and crop yield of C3 plants (e.g. wheat, rice, soy beans) by 30-60%. Horticulturalists often increase it to 1,000ppm in greenhouses to boost crop production and reduce water loss from fewer leaf stomata.
Ainsworth-Long (2005) performed a meta-analysis of 124 papers on 40 species tested at 12 sites in the USA (7), Europe (3), New Zealand and Japan, using free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) of 8-30m diameter areas surrounded by pipes venting CO2. The actual increases achieved (above the ambient CO2 level at the time of the study) varied from 30.5% (475ppm in 1997 – NZ site) to 68% (600ppm in 1993 – Switzerland site) with a median of 50-55% (550ppm) and an average of 49.2%. The meta-analysis found that sorghum yields were increased by as much as 28% under dry conditions, due to reduced water loss from fewer transpiration stomata. Moreover, light-saturated CO2 uptake (Asat), a measure of photosynthesis, was increased by 19% at temperatures under 25⁰C and by 30% at higher temperatures, indicating much better heat-tolerance under elevated CO2. They also found that elevated CO2 reduced the toxic effects of ozone: “Ozone tended to enhance the response of Asat to elevated [CO2]. . . On average, plants grown without stress showed a 36% stimulation in Asat, trees in Rhinelander grown under high ozone showed a 59% stimulation.”
The world’s deserts are greening from rising CO2 and the global terrestrial biomass is increasing despite deforestation. If the real greens (living leaves) could communicate, they would be horrified to hear their primary nutrient being called a pollutant. Tree-rings narrowed and many (C3) plants struggled to survive at pre-industrial levels (280ppm). We have been able to feed a growing global population largely because we have taken nitrogen out of the air and put it in the soil and carbon out of the ground and put it in the air. Food production is likely to further increase in a warmer, wetter world.
“Food insecurity and its health impacts play out at the local level, but have clear links to drivers and changes at the national and international level. The compounded impacts of climate change and ocean acidification will affect both agricultural production and fisheries, including food availability and prices.” (p.16)
The impact of ocean acidification (i.e. reduced alkalinity) remains uncertain. An analysis by Australian marine scientists, Christopher Cornwall and Catriona Hurd, of 465 published studies from 1993 to 2014 of the impact of simulated future seawater was recently published in ICES Journal of Marine Science. They found that most reports of such laboratory experiments either used inappropriate methods or did not report their methods properly.
Misguided mitigation measures may also impact food availability and prices due to the growing competition for agricultural land and water for the production of biofuels. Whereas 90% of the U.S. corn crop went into food for people and livestock in 2000, 40% of the 2013 corn crop went into biofuel, saving zero emissions!
“Involuntary displacement of populations as a result of extreme events has major public health and policy consequences.” (p.13)
There are many failed predictions of displacement due to climate change. In 2004, Tim Flannery wrote: “By 2010-20, with water supplies and energy reserves strained, Australia and the US would focus increasingly on border protection to keep out the migrating hordes from Asia and the Caribbean. The European Union (to keep out those homeless Scandinavians, among others) or driven to collapse and chaos by internal squabbling . . .” (The Weather Makers p.191). The UN prediction in 2005 that there would be 50 millions climate refugees by 2010 became such an embarrassment that it was removed from the UN website. Time has shown it is not climate change that we need to fear or fight so much as racial and religious tensions, inequality, injustice, tyranny and corruption. The best way to help nations cope with climate change and sea level rise is to help them prosper through free trade and cheap energy. Holland is a prime example.
“In the longer term, flooding affects perceptions of security and safety, and can cause depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.” (p.13)
While this is undoubtedly true, it is very difficult to say how much past, present and future flooding or extreme weather events could be anthropogenic. What is certain is that catastrophising climate change can cause considerable anxiety.
A 2007 survey of 600 Australian children aged 10 to 14 revealed that 44% are nervous about the future impact of climate change and ‘a quarter honestly believe the world will come to an end before they get older.’ A subsequent survey of 200 NSW schoolchildren likewise found that fears over climate change are producing feelings of powerlessness and despair; ‘Many children thought they would not survive to adulthood.’
Al Gore’s 2006 docudrama, An Inconvenient Truth, widely shown in schools, emotively depicts polar bears drowning, oceans rising 20 feet, dreadful epidemics of disease and more – all happening in the near future. Britain’s High Court Justice Burton found that the film contained nine scientific errors and he ruled that its distribution was in breach of sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Education Act, by promoting ‘partisan political views’.
THE HEALTH CO-BENEFITS OF EMISSIONS REDUCTION
“Affordable renewable energy will also have huge benefits for the poorest. WHO found that in 11 sub-Saharan African countries, 26% of health facilities had no energy at all and only 33% of hospitals had what could be called ‘reliable electricity provision’, defined as no outages of more than 2 h in the past week.” (p.5)
Renewable energy is neither affordable for the poorest nor reliable. The unreliability of wind power is illustrated by the power output from 11 wind farms scattered across southern Australia (Fig. 22)
The Lancet report proposes ‘solar power’ for ‘clean cookstoves’ in sub-Saharan Africa, but photovoltaic solar linked to large batteries is the most expensive form of electricity. The cost of providing this to the world’s 1.3 billion people currently living without electricity would be astronomical.
|Figure 22: Roller coaster of individual (coloured) and combined (black)|
power generation from 11 wind farms. Source: Peter Mitchell, 2010
There is an oft-repeated mantra: “The poorest people are also most vulnerable to climate change”, but the poorest people can also be the most vulnerable to climate action. Climate change so far has seen a dramatic reduction in global poverty. According to the Brookings report, Poverty in Numbers: The Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015, we are living in a period of rapid global poverty reduction that is driven by high, sustained economic growth across the developing world due more to globalisation (hand-ups) than aid (hand-outs), and to cheap energy (Fig. 23).
|Figure 23: Declining global poverty population percentage.|
Section 2: action for resilience and adaptation
This section is actually quite sound and particularly good on urban design: “Green urban design can reduce obesity and improve mental health through increased physical activity and social connectivity.164 Increased neighbourhood green spaces reduces both morbidity and mortality from many cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and stress-related illnesses.31 Tree canopies have a higher albedo effect than other hard surfaces and can work to reduce the urban heat island effect, lowering heat mortality by 40–99%.185 Whilst resulting in improved public health and community resilience, many of these measures will also act to mitigate climate change.” (p.19)
Water features, gardens (including rooftop) and reflective surfaces help to reduce urban heat. Compared to a white roof, old inefficient black solar panels can cause more warming than any emissions saved. Local authorities will need to plan for the massive disposal/recycling of defunct solar panels over coming decades.
As discussed on page 15 of the Lancet report, the French Directorate General for Health responded to the 2003 heatwave by setting up a National Heat Wave Plan: real-time surveillance of health data; compilation of scientific recommendations on the prevention and treatment of heat-related diseases; air-conditioning for hospitals and retirement homes; emergency plans for retirement homes; city-scale censuses of the isolated and vulnerable; and a warning system. Specific measures to be implemented during alert periods included intensification of care, visits to isolated and vulnerable people, and repeated preventive message broadcasting by the media. When France experienced another severe heatwave in July 2006, Fouillet calculated nearly 4,400 fewer deaths than expected: less than 8 instead of the expected 11 per 100,000.
The Lancet report also notes the many thousands of lives saved by the Bangladeshi flood warning and disaster plan: “In 2007, cyclone Sidr killed roughly 4000 people in Bangladesh. By comparison, an equivalent storm in 1970 killed 300 000 people.”
Whereas adaptation measures can be relatively cheap and rapidly effective in reducing mortality, combating climate change is expensive, difficult and of unknown efficacy. Reducing the affordability of air-conditioning will cost lives. Improved economies and technologies since the 1920s have resulted in a 99% decline in the global annual death rate from all weather-related natural disasters – from 242 to just 3 per million.
The main problem with this section is not what it says, but what it doesn’t. While focusing on adaptation to global warming, it overlooks the possibility of future global cooling. On 23 June 2015, the day this Lancet Commission was released, Nature Communications published a paper by Ineson et al, stating:
The past few decades have been characterized by a period of relatively high solar activity. However, the recent prolonged solar minimum and subsequent weak solar cycle 24 have led to suggestions that the grand solar maximum may be at an end1. Using past variations of solar activity measured by cosmogenic isotope abundance changes, analogue forecasts for possible future solar output have been calculated. An 8% chance of a return to Maunder Minimum-like conditions within the next 40 years was estimated in 2010 (ref. 2). The decline in solar activity has continued, to the time of writing, and is faster than any other such decline in the 9,300 years covered by the cosmogenic isotope data1. If this recent rate of decline is added to the analysis, the 8% probability estimate is now raised to between 15 and 20%.
The ‘Maunder Minimum-like conditions’ of 1645-1715 produced the coldest period of the Little Ice Age. While the authors state that this is likely to mute rather than override greenhouse warming, it could well produce some very cold periods during negative ocean oscillations, particularly across northern Eurasia and eastern parts of the U.S. Since cold-exposure remains more lethal than heat-exposure, we need to ensure that this is not exacerbated by rendering heating unaffordable. The poor and the homeless are particularly vulnerable. In a review of fuel poverty and human health, Liddell and Morris (2009) state:
In colder climates, living in a comfortably heated home is commonly viewed as protective for human health, and the World Health Organization recommends a minimum temperature of 21⁰C in living rooms, and 18⁰C in all other rooms (WHO, 2007). In the United Kingdom, households that are unable to maintain these standards of thermal comfort and safety are described as living in fuel poverty. . . . Households which require 10% or more of their income to attain WHO standards are rated as being in fuel poverty (Sefton and Chesshire, 2005). Since relatively few UK households can afford to spend such a substantial proportion of their income on domestic heating, a large percentage of fuel-poor people live in homes that are persistently cold and damp (Liddell,2008). . . 12% of households in England were fuel poor in 2006, 21% in Wales, 24% in Scotland, and 34% in Northern Ireland (NIHE, 2008). At the last estimate, and using the OECDs definition of affordable warmth, 6% of homes in France lacked affordable warmth, 7% in Ireland, 11% in Italy, and 15% in Belgium (EU-SILC, 2005). This makes fuel poverty a common challenge throughout the Northern Hemisphere . . .
Broadly speaking, significantly more deaths occur during winter (e.g. Healy, 2003). Cold indoor temperatures are strongly implicated in this effect, in that risks are especially great for residents of poorly insulated homes (Wilkinson et al., 2007). This helps account for countries such as Italy and Greece having significantly higher excess winter mortality rates than do more northerly countries such as Finland and Sweden (Barnett et al., 2005); although the latter group have colder winters, they also have better standards of domestic insulation and lower rates of fuel poverty (Healy, 2004). Cold-related deaths occur mostly through changes in blood pressure and blood chemistry during cold weather, which in turn increase the risk of catastrophic cardio- or cerebro-vascular events such as strokes, myocardial infarctions or pulmonary embolisms (Crawford et al., 2003). The immune system is also suppressed, increasing the risk of infections (Howieson and Hogan, 2005). . .More recently, studies have begun to examine the enduring and potentially cumulative health effects that might be associated with living in cold conditions. These include increased risk of influenza, pneumonia, asthma, arthritis, and accidents at home (WHO, 2007). . . the three groups deemed most vulnerable to the effects of fuel poverty . . . are people over 60 years old, people living with disability or long-term illness, and families with children.
Section 3: transition to a low-carbon energy infrastructure
The Lancet report lists carbon mitigation technologies in Table 2 on page 20, then requirements, including carbon pricing, to meet demanding CO2 targets, and states: “The technologies are available now. We have a reasonable grasp of their performance, economics and side effects (unintended impacts) . . . we have the tools needed to achieve emission targets to avoid catastrophic climate change.” Such certainty! Renowned environmentalist, Lawrence Solomon, described some carbon-pricing ‘side effects’:
Kyoto is not an insurance policy. Just the opposite, it is the single, greatest threat today to the global environment, because it makes carbon into a currency. Carbon is the element upon which all living things are built. With carbon a kind of currency – which is what all carbon taxes and carbon trading and similar schemes do – all ecosystems suddenly have a commercial value that makes them subject to manipulation for gain. This is not some abstract theoretical concern. We are already seeing environmental havoc from the new economic order that Kyoto has spawned. . . .
The first big Kyoto calamity is the threat to the world’s forests, especially the old-growth forests, which do not soak up carbon from the atmosphere. These have become favourites of corrupt Third World governments. By seizing the forests, cutting them down, and converting them to carbon-intensive plantations, governments and their cronies have been cashing in on carbon credits. . . Look at the Plantar carbon sequestration project in Brazil’s Minas Gerais . . . run by the World Bank’s Carbon Finance Unit – is converting 23,100 hectares of natural forest to eucalyptus tree plantations to produce wood for charcoal to replace coal for pig iron production. . . . 
“The Sustainable Development Goals . . . outlined four targets to support . . . The indicators measuring progress . . . by 2030 include: ensuring universal access to affordable, sustainable, reliable energy services; doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; phasing out fossil-fuel production and consumption subsidies that encourage wasteful use, while ensuring secure affordable energy for the poor.” (p.22)
Figure 10 on page 23 of the Lancet report shows 10% of global energy coming from burning biomass, 2% from hydro and just 1% from other renewables – wind and solar. What can doubling these to 2% of global energy achieve? Should hydro be doubled to 4% and burning biomass to 20%? How environmentally friendly are they? Huge hydro-dams are now devastating the Amazon and many river systems in China. Tropical rainforests are being destroyed to grow palm oil and sugarcane for biofuels and North American forests are being converted to pellets (5.7 million tons a year) to feed biomass power plants in Europe and the UK, producing more CO2 emissions and air-pollution than burning coal. Noisy wind turbines blight the landscape, denude scenic ridges and access roadways, and kill millions of bats and birds annually. They also require the mining and production of fossil-fuel-derived materials: roughly three tonnes of copper, seven tonnes of fibreglass, 400 tonnes of concrete, 120 tonnes of steel, and 400kg of rare earth minerals per megawatt capacity, violating the Lancet’s own criteria: “for an energy source to be renewable, it must satisfy a low-carbon requirement, and consider the use of scarce resources such as copper, silicon, and rare earth metals” (p.20). In 2012, wind turbines for the U.S. consumed 2,500 tons of neodymium and dysprosium, the mining of which contaminated north China lakes with more radioactive waste than the entire U.S. nuclear industry produced that year. The Lancet report, strangely silent on such ‘side effects’, also overlooks the fact that forests have regrown around the cities of Europe and North America since the motor vehicle replaced the horse and fertilised the trees with carbon dioxide.
The only reliable alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear power, as proposed by the UK and China (p. 27-28). Germany, however, has been decommissioning its nuclear power plants since Fukushima and going back to coal. Matt Ridley pointed out in The Wall Street Journal (13 August 2015) that nuclear power is probably the safest energy source: “nuclear power causes fewer deaths per unit of energy generated than even wind and solar power. Compared with fossil fuels, nuclear power has prevented 1.84 million more deaths than it caused, according to a by two NASA researchers.” New technology promises to be even safer and cheaper and reduce radioactive waste.
“A coal-fired power plant will emit particulates that result in immediate exposure for the local population with consequent increased risk of developing respiratory disease and lung cancer.” (p.23)
Air pollution is mentioned 28 times and particulates 8 times in this Lancet report, mostly in relation to coal, but there is not a single mention of the scrubbers/precipitators used in modern coal-fired power stations to remove 99% of the fly ash, 97% of the SO2 and most of the NOx. The ‘smoke’ often depicted coming from their chimneys is actually steam. Improving energy efficiency is also mentioned many times in the Lancet report but nowhere in relation to coal-fired power stations, which can now be built with an efficiency approaching 50%. Carbon (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) is technologically possible but prohibitively expensive. Two new ultra-clean coal (UCC) technologies are under development to fuel large marine engines, greatly reducing both cost and pollution.
I agree entirely with the measures (outlined on page 24) to improve energy efficiency in the home, in transport and industry, provided lives are not put at risk – e.g. the Australian pink bats fiasco. As a keen cyclist, I also endorse active transport provided the roads/cycle-ways are made safer. I have no problem with phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, provided all energy subsidies are phased out. It is ludicrous that I can receive 60c per KWh for solar energy on one home and less than 6c per KWh on the home next door. In August 2015, Principal Economics released a report which found that Australia’s renewable energy sector received subsidies (including feed in tariffs) worth $2.8 billion in 2013-14, adding 3-9% to the average household bill and up to 20% for some industrial users. Brendon Pearson tabulated the telling results (Fig. 24).
|Figure 24: Australian subsidies for electricity production.|
New technologies must stand on their own two feet in a marketplace which the UN wants to dismantle. In February 2015, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCC, Christiana Figueres said: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.” The Lancet Commissions, aware of the difficulties and dire consequences, is right behind that political objective: “All would require an unprecedented global commitment to change, and none appears easy. To stabilise CO2-equivalent concentrations in the range 450–650 ppm (consistent with 2–4°C of warming) will require the global emission rate to fall by between 3–6% per year, a rate that so far has only been associated with major social upheaval and economic crisis.” (p.26)
The Canadian businessman, Maurice Strong organised the 1972 UN conference in Stockholm, at which the UN Environment Program (UNEP) was proposed, and subsequently headed it. He also arranged and chaired the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where climate change became anthropogenic. In 1990, Strong said: “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse?” 
“Low-carbon technologies inappropriately deployed can hurt the economic and social development of developing countries. The increased use of expensive low-carbon energy sources could delay essential structural changes and slow down the construction of much needed infrastructure. Higher energy prices can affect economic growth and exacerbate poverty and inequality. However, abstaining from mitigation technologies in developing countries carries the risk of lock-in into a high-carbon-intensity economy.244 In order to avoid such unintended consequences, a balanced strategy focusing on both human development and climate mitigation in developing countries is needed.” (p.29)
In other words, developing countries will have to do what no country before them has done – develop while shackled by costly mitigation. That will of course “require international assistance.” (p.30)
Section 4: financial and economic action
“The question of what is optimum in economic terms (GDP or welfare per head) for a given level of carbon emissions and discount rate requires the computation of an optimal time path. . . . Higher uncertainty may mean that high prevention costs would be wasted. On the other hand, with higher uncertainty comes the increased probability that high prevention costs are not high enough. However, whatever the answers to these questions, models reviewed in the IPCC’s Working Group III Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) indicate with sufficient certainty that more needs to be spent earlier rather than later if even a moderate value is given to the intermediate and long term future.” (p.30)
Implementing precautionary action, whether against climate change or specific diseases (e.g. vaccination, food-fortification, circumcision etc) requires a careful objective consideration of potential risks, benefits and cost-benefit/harm analyses. Precautionary climate action therefore depends on accurate climate models, socio-economic and health models etc. If the climate models are biased, every model based on them will be biased. If they overestimate climate sensitivity, the economic models will overestimate warming harms and climate-action benefits. The outcome is even more problematic if the economic models, which failed to predict the GFC, are also biased towards a cost-benefit for climate action. A bias against fossil fuels and the global warming once thought desirable add further complexity and uncertainty to conclusions about health, welfare and precautionary action. The ‘computation of an optimal time path’ might be worthy goal, but is still a very long way from a present reality.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, every generation has been wealthier than the one before, a trend that looks set to continue. Future generations are therefore likely to be more affluent than the present one and better able to afford adaptation measures, unless hamstrung by catastrophic climate change on one hand or a crippling decarbonising debt on the other. The question is whether our current climate and economic models are up to the task.
An early study by economists, Nordhaus and Boyer (updated in 2005) found that Kyoto would cost the world nearly US$6 trillion and provide just over $1 trillion in benefits this century (Fig.25).
Figure 25: Costs and benefits of the original Kyoto Protocol as estimated in the RICE-2001 model (with full Annex I trading) for the major regions. Costs are production costs (measured negatively), benefits are the environmental benefits of reduced climate change, and net benefits are the difference between costs and benefits. All figures are relative to the no-control baseline. Estimates are converted to 2005 using the ratio of world PPP GDP in 2005 to estimated world GDP in 1990.
Source: The underlying model is described in Nordhaus and Boyer, Warming the World: Economic Models of Global Warming, MIT Press, 2000, Chapter 8. Input data are revised to reflect changes since 1999.
Assumptions become increasingly speculative over long time frames. If mitigation costs are speculative, mitigation benefits are even more so. The Lancet report now devotes a brief section to the health and related economic benefits of adaptation, highlighting research gaps, before proceeding to monetise mitigation benefits with much more certainty.
“The health and related economic benefits of mitigation
The OECD estimates the cost of ambient air pollution in terms of the value of lives lost and ill health in OECD countries, plus India and China, to be more than $3.5 trillion annually (about 5% gross world product [GWP]), with India and China combined accounting for 54% of this total. . . The European Commission has estimated that in the EU alone, reduced air pollution from policies to mitigate climate change could deliver benefits valued at €38 billion a year by 2050 through reduced mortality. From a broader perspective, the European Commission estimates that moving to a low-carbon economy could reduce the control costs of non-CO2 air pollutants by €50 billion by 2050. . . In the USA, Thompson and colleagues estimate that human health benefits associated with air quality improvements driven by CO2 mitigation policies can offset the cost of the policies by up to ten times.“ (p.31)
This is not about CO2 but actual air pollution. The same outcome could be achieved by replacing coal with gas. Europe has ample shale gas, which could drastically reduce ‘the EU’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels’ (p.34) if exploited and fast-tracked as in the UK. Biomass is no less polluting than coal, which can be made much cleaner at lower cost than conversion to low-carbon alternatives. The reported health benefits in India “from a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050” could also be achieved by implementing modern clean coal technology. Air pollution should be tackled head on, not via climate-mitigation ideology. I agree with the reiterated benefits of increasing active transport, but changes in urban design and transport policies need not be driven by climate action.
Investment required for mitigation and adaptation
We are informed on page 33 that the International Energy Agency estimates that keeping the global temperature rise below 2⁰C will require an additional investment in the energy system of $36 trillion by 2050, “roughly $1 trillion per year”; and the World Bank estimates the annual global cost of adaptation on such a 2⁰C trajectory to total $70-100 billion by 2050. In other words, mitigation will cost around 500 times more than adaptation. In light of the enormous uncertainties in climate science, and climate models in particular, we have to ask whether $1 trillion a year could be better spent on adaptation and proven preventive measures.
In 2004, a panel of economists which included four Nobel laureates looked at this in relation to the cost of Kyoto (~$180 billion pa). They calculated that just 7.8% of Kyoto’s cost could provide safe drinking water and sanitation for over three billion people, prevent more than a billion from being malnourished, and 3.5 million lives lost from HIV/AIDS. They prepared the first ever global priority list (Table 2).
Macroeconomic implications of mitigation and adaptation
The macroeconomic impacts of climate change
“Attempts to estimate the marginal social cost of CO2 emissions in the absence of mitigation or adaptation
measures have produced an extremely wide range of results, spanning at least three orders of magnitude.” (p. 33)
Such (thousand-fold) differences illustrate the enormous uncertainties involved. After relying on the IPCC’s AR5 to indicate a 2% loss in GDP if global temperatures reach 2.5⁰C above Little Ice Age ‘preindustrial levels’, the Lancet report relies on the 2006 Stern Review: “A world of unabated GHG emissions, what might be called a business-as-usual pathway (in which a global mean temperature increase is likely to far exceed 2.5°C, and in which many of the kinds of impacts in the last row and column of table 3 are likely to be experienced) could produce costs equivalent to reducing annual GDP by 5–20% now, and forever, compared with a world with no climate change . .” (p. 33)
Sir Nicolas Stern assured us that strong action against global warming would cost only 1% of GDP – a no-brainer cost: benefit ratio of better than 1:5, the very opposite of Nordhaus’ 5:1 ratio. Stern turns a bad deal into a sure bet by enormously inflating both the damages from climate change and the benefits of action, and by vastly discounting the costs of action, which he considered to be nil after 2050. Needless to say, his review was rapidly demolished by scientists and economists., , ,  Richard Toll, on whose work Stern heavily relied, condemned it as deeply flawed, based on shaky science and worst case scenarios. William Nordhaus appropriately labelled it a ‘political document’. None of that prevented the Lancet report milking it for alarm while covering their back with an obscure statement about “a low discount rate, the validity of which has been questioned. In any case, even these large costs derive from economic models built upon climate science and impact models, which themselves necessarily cannot fully characterise all processes and interactions known to be of importance.” While this is absolutely correct, the intended inference is that “the ‘fat tails’ of climate-risk” could be a lot worse without mitigation. They might also be a lot better.
TABLE 2: Copenhagen Consensus: Global Priority List
Cost per Life Saved
3. Subsidies &
Control of HIV/AIDS
Control of Malaria
6. Sanitation & Water
7. Sanitation &Water
8. Sanitation & Water
Develop new agricultural technologies
Small-scale water technology for livelihoods
Research on water productivity in food production
Lowering the cost of starting a new business
Lowering the barriers to migration for skilled workers
Improving infant and child nutrition
Reducing low birth-weight prevalence
Scaled-up basic health services
Guest workers program for the unskilled
Optimal carbon tax
Value-at-risk carbon tax ($100-$450)
Source: Adapted from Lomborg, 2007
“The macroeconomic impacts of responding to climate change
The theoretical microeconomics position on the balance to be struck between mitigation and adaptation is clear — there should be investment in mitigation up to the point where the marginal cost of further investment is higher than the marginal cost of adaptation plus that of remaining climate damages. In practice, the robust identification of this point is impossible, because of the uncertainty of the costs concerned and how they will develop over time, the difficulties of valuing non-market costs, and the lack of consensus over the appropriate discount rate for such costs, when they are incurred over long and varied time periods.” (p. 33-34)
Note that the authors acknowledge uncertainty about the economic models (costs) but not the climate models. I totally agree with the statement: “Investments in energy efficiency measures and technologies are often cost effective at prevailing energy prices, and there is substantial evidence that opportunities for such investments are considerable. Such investments will themselves tend to increase GDP. Investments in low-carbon energy that are redirected from fossil fuel investments will, where the low-carbon energy is more expensive than fossil fuels and leaving out considerations of avoided climate change and co-benefits tend to reduce GDP.”
But not with very next statement on page 34: “However, if fossil fuel prices increase from their currently relatively low levels and remain volatile, and the capital costs of renewables (especially solar and wind) continue to fall, then at some point renewable electricity may become economically preferable to fossil-fuel derived power, irrespective of other factors.”
But not with very next statement on page 34: “However, if fossil fuel prices increase from their currently relatively low levels and remain volatile, and the capital costs of renewables (especially solar and wind) continue to fall, then at some point renewable electricity may become economically preferable to fossil-fuel derived power, irrespective of other factors.”
Being inherently intermittent and unreliable, solar and wind require back up with fossil-fuel or hydro power and expensive infrastructure to manage fluctuations. When the sun shines and the wind blows strongly, wholesalers buy the surplus power at discounted rates; but when the wind stops and wind turbines consume power, the required back-up fossil fuel power becomes more expensive. The more intermittent power fed into the grid, the cheaper it becomes and the more expensive the back-up power becomes.
Under ‘Possible Sources of Finance’, this report looks longingly at the $6.7 trillion held in sovereign wealth funds and the $75.9 trillion held in private institutional funds (in 2013) and laments the fact that only 0.1% is invested in low-carbon energy infrastructure projects. Endorsing the aims of the UNFCC’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) “to raise $100 billion of new and additional funding per annum from industrialised nations, by 2020 . . . to support mitigation and adaptation pathways in developing countries,” it wants official development assistance by donor countries to be lifted from 0.29% to 0.7% of gross national income, adding another $174.7 billion.
I am all for providing low-interest loans to people in developing countries, but not for dictating how it should be spent – e.g. buying wind turbines from large multinationals. Why not spend $100 billion a year on tackling poverty, polluted water supplies and tropical diseases? Green merchants of fear oppose NGOs, such as Opportunity International, providing microfinance for cottage industries in developing countries.
The Lancet report looks at Stern’s policy framework of three elements and then presents Michael Grubb’s  three proposed policy pillars:
1. Standards and engagement – making ‘smarter choices’ for ‘cost-effective energy efficiency’;
2. Markets and prices – pressuring producers ‘to deliver cleaner products and processes’;
3. Strategic investment in low-carbon innovation and infrastructure.
1. Standards and engagement
This is essentially about regulated energy efficiency standards “to overcome market failures such as split incentives” between landlords and tenants, but only affluent societies can afford the highest standards.
2 2. Markets and prices
“The Stern Review called the market externality of GHG emissions in the global economy ‘the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen’. Carbon pricing is the economist’s preferred means to address this externality. Such pricing may be achieved through national or regional explicit carbon taxes or cap-and-trade emissions trading systems (ETS), which are increasingly present around the world. A carbon tax sets the carbon price directly, but not the level of abatement, whilst an ETS sets the level of abatement, but the price derives from the carbon market.” (p.36)
Rather than a corruptible cap-and-trade policy, Yale economist, William Nordhaus argued for a modest carbon tax as being more transparent and easier to administer at the national level. He “estimated carbon taxes to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at twice the pre-industrial level (550 parts per million) to be $8 per ton of carbon in 2010.” Another leading climate economist, Richard Toll (2005), reviewed all 103 estimates in the literature at the time and concluded that the carbon cost was unlikely to be more than $14 a tonne and likely to be much smaller than that, perhaps as low as $2. A global macroeconomic model estimated the global cost of taxing carbon at $1 per tonne to be over $11 billion, and at $30 per tonne to be almost $7 trillion.
“As of June 2014, around 40 national and over 20 subnational jurisdictions were engaged in carbon pricing of varied scope and instrument design, covering about 12% of annual global GHG emissions (the Australian ETS was discontinued in July 2014). [It was a carbon tax, not an ETS] The largest ETS is the European ETS, established in 2005, and capping more than 40% of annual GHG emissions from power generation and energy-intensive and emission-intensive heavy industry across the EU-28 (plus Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein).” (p.36)
The European carbon price has been in decline since 2008, due to a surplus of over 2bn allowances, and is unlikely to recover before 2021 (Fig. 26).
Cap and trade has added to Europe’s economic woes by adversely impacting manufacturing, especially in Spain which had neither reunified Germany’s spare carbon credits nor France’s nuclear power. History might one day record carbon trading as ‘the greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen’.
“For sectors of the economy for which explicit carbon pricing is infeasible or administratively burdensome, taxes on energy products (such as transport fuels) could be realigned to reflect their carbon content (producing an implicit carbon price).”
When the Abbott government re-indexed fuel excise to inflation, it was opposed by Labor, a political party claiming to take climate change seriously!
“By implementing Environmental Tax Reform (ETR) principles, in which the burden of taxation increases on environmentally damaging activities and is reduced on desired inputs, such as labour, the increase in energy prices can be neutralised from a macroeconomic perspective.” (p.36)
That might work on a globally level playing field, but not one in which manufacturing emissions can be easily exported, thus impacting local labour.
The Lancet report argues for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, both for producers (~$100 billion pa) and for consumers (~$400 billion pa), the latter being “principally applied in developing countries”, because “an estimated 80% of such subsidies actually benefit the wealthiest 40% of the population”; but it also acknowledges that “the introduction of carbon pricing and the removal of fossil fuel subsidies may be regressive, as the poorest in society spend a greater proportion of their disposable income on energy.” Solar subsidies also benefit homeowners wealthy enough to install solar systems while disadvantaging the poor paying the higher tariffs. Rather than reducing inequalities in developing countries by promoting private enterprise and tackling corruption, this left-wing Lancet report promotes “the expansion of social security” (p.36).
3. Strategic investment
“Whilst a price on carbon is a key component for mitigation, it is technologically agnostic and mainly encourages the adoption of mature low-carbon technologies. To encourage deployment, improve-ment and cost-reduction of less mature technologies, direct investment is also required. Although various options exist, Feed-in tariffs (FiTs), used in the electricity sector to provide a guaranteed rate of return to low-carbon generators, have been the most effective policy instrument used for this purpose, and have been responsible for a significant majority of installed global renewable power capacity (appendix 6).” (p.37, emphasis added)
There is no long-term ‘guaranteed rate of return’ nor should there be in a free market. Bloomberg reported (19 June 2010): “Spain’s government will cut the revenue of most existing solar-power plants by 30 percent, a move that may bankrupt hundreds of companies.” On 22 June 2015, the Daily Express announced the axing of subsidies for 250 wind farms in the UK. The Lancet report recommends joint public and private research into new low-carbon technologies, comparable to that for the development of new drugs; but ideologically-driven governments can waste a lot of taxpayer funds going up dry gullies, as did the previous Queensland Labor government on research into CSS. Under the heading of Institutional reform and support, this report appropriately emphasises the need for good governance in private and public sectors (p.37-38).
Section 5: delivering a healthy low-carbon future
“Central to this Commission’s work is the question of whether human societies can deliver a healthy, low-carbon future. . . The evidence to date of humanity’s ability to respond effectively is not encouraging. . . This section analyses the politics of climate change and provides suggestions for action.” (p.38)
After briefly tracing the political history leading up to the IPCC (1988), to UNFCCC (1992) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, it states: “the fact that developing countries were not subject to any such specific commitments weakened the Protocol’s short-term impact and undermined its political viability.” It also meant that manufacturing and processing emissions were simply exported to China and other emerging economies.
“Through the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), many developing countries came forward with new projects that generated cheap emission reductions (that could then be sold on to industrialised countries), and by most accounts contributed to the establishment of renewable energy industries and other low-carbon technologies. . . The UNFCCC also provides a crucial ingredient of transparency.” (p.39)
Nordhaus (2005) also described rampant corruption:
Simulations suggest that tens of billions of dollars of permits may be available for export from Russia under the Kyoto Protocol. A Russian scientist recently reported that people in Moscow were already considering how to profit from the “privatization” of the Russian carbon emissions permits. . . . Some recent cases were described by Ruth Greenspan Bell:
PSEG Fossil LLC, the biggest player in [New Jersey's emissions trading system], apparently had not installed necessary pollution controls or obtained proper permits. . . a Pasadena broker cheated several firms who paid for emissions credits that were never delivered. . . A similar example from the United Kingdom was reported . . . in an account of a government-sponsored auction in which participating companies bid by offering greenhouse gas reductions. An independent review by Environmental Data Services noted strong grounds to suspect that at least half of the claimed emissions reductions were not real, and blamed the inaccuracies on shortcomings in the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs regulatory controls and “poorly thought through rules.”
If emissions finagling takes place in countries with relatively solid legal systems like the United States and the United Kingdom, it would be foolish to overlook the likelihood of emissions cheating in Russia, Ukraine, and many developing countries. Such cheating will probably be pandemic in an emissions-trading system that involves large sums of money. There are very poor intrinsic incentives for honesty in a cap-and-trade system. The purchasing unit gets a permit whether or not any true reductions take place by the selling unit. Emissions evasion has even worse incentives than tax evasion. Unlike the emissions-permit case, the recipient of the tax wants the payer to dispense the funds just as much as the taxpayer dislikes dispensing the funds. Tax cheating is a zero-sum game for the two parties, while emissions evasion is a positive sum game for the two parties. If tax evasion in the U.S. is in the order of 10 or 20 percent of taxes due, is there reason to believe that emissions evasion in Ukraine or Romania would be substantially less?
We are told about calls for a bottom-up approach and “the summit in Copenhagen in 2009, which collapsed in acrimony save for two pages of unofficial outline text . . . The so-called Copenhagen Accord . . . a promise to raise $100 billion per year of international finance by 2020 to help developing countries deal with climate change . . . called on countries to declare domestically-generated voluntary pledges of what they might deliver . . . ratified in 2010 by the Cancun Agreements.”
We have since seen much grandstanding and breast beating, such as “a joint US–China agreement of 2014, in which the US Administration pledged to reduce its emissions by 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and China offered to cap its emissions growth by 2030, or sooner if possible.”
With a small population scattered over a vast area, Australia has a per capita emission rate comparable to the US but produces just 1.11% of global emissions. Whether we reduce our 2030 emissions by the Abbott government’s much criticised 26-28% or by Labor’s 40-60%, the difference in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature in 2100 would be imperceptible but the economic difference could be over $600 billion.
The Lancet Commission laments the “scale of the gap between science and action: if viewed in terms of per capita emissions, it means that the USA is planning to come down somewhat below 15 tCO2 per capita, whilst China wants headroom to reach potentially 10 tCO2 per capita by 2030, before declining. This is a far cry from the scientific goals – a 2°C limit implies the need for a global average close to 2 tCO2 per capita by mid-century.”
The global average was just one ton per capita in 2007, and 2 tCO2 per capita is where the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Brazil are today.
The remainder of this section is spent analysing reasons for the weakening engagement by industrialised countries and what can be done about it. It first presents some key issues outlined in a 2009 book by Hume:
· Uncertainty and complexity. The climate is naturally variable and the science that has identified dangerous, anthropogenic climate change to a very high level of probability is complex. This leaves considerable room for public ignorance or misunderstanding of the nature and severity of the issue. Moreover, climate scientists can be ineffective at communicating the issue to the public.
Climate science is certainly uncertain and complex. The ‘very high level of probability’ that anthropogenic climate change is ‘dangerous’ has nothing to do with statistical probability and everything to do with opinions, assumptions and agreements between a relatively small group of scientists that has been very active, aggressive and effective in communicating the issue to the public; and also in opposing, ridiculing, sidelining and sacking scientists who publicly express scepticism. Matt Ridley recently stated:
The distinguished Swedish meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson was so frightened for his own family and his health after he announced last year that he was joining the advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation that he withdrew, saying, “It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy.”
The astrophysicist Willie Soon was falsely accused by a Greenpeace activist of failing to disclose conflicts of interest to an academic journal, an accusation widely repeated by mainstream media. . . .
Even more shocking has been the bullying lynch mob assembled this year by alarmists to prevent the University of Western Australia, erstwhile employers of the serially debunked conspiracy theorist Stephen Lewandowski, giving a job to the economist Bjorn Lomborg. The grounds were that Lomborg is a “denier”. But he’s not. He does not challenge the science at all. He challenges on economic grounds some climate change policies . . . His approach has been repeatedly vindicated over many years in many different topics, by many of the world’s leading economists. Yet there was barely a squeak of protest from the academic establishment at the way he was howled down and defamed for having the temerity to try to set up a research group at the university.
· Climate change is psychologically distant along four dimensions — temporal, social, geographical, and degree of uncertainty — whereas people tend to connect more easily with issues that are close in time, space and social group, and about which there is little uncertainty.
The problem with climate projections and predictions far into the future is that that they are unfalsifiable; and immanent predictions have been proven wrong – e.g. 50 million climate refugees by 2010, MET Office 0.3⁰C rise 2004-2014, Arctic summers ice-free by 2013, Himalayan glaciers gone by 2035, no dam-filling rains again etc. False prophecies corrode credibility.
· There is enormous lock-in to current economic patterns.296 Fossil-fuel use is at the heart of the industrial economy, often operating through long-lived infra-structure (eg, roads, buildings, and power plants) and enabling valued dimensions of modern lifestyles (eg, travel and temperature control in buildings). It is no exaggeration to say that human societies are addicted to fossil fuels, or at least the services they provide.
This report gives no credit to humanity’s enormous benefits from fossil-fuel over the past few centuries. With his thousands of servants, King Louis XIV of France could not enjoy the same comforts, food variety, entertainment, travel, education, health care or lifespan as the average Australian today. Why should we not be ‘addicted’ to those benefits! We left the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age when we found something better; and we will leave the fossil fuel age behind when technology finds something better. Climate alarmists want to pre-empt that, even if it means de-industrialising and going backwards in almost every way.
· These three factors can all come together in a fourth: the active promotion of misinformation, motivated by either ideology or vested economic interests. Here, parallels can be drawn between public health efforts to reduce tobacco consumption (appendix 8). It is estimated that US industry spent close to $500 million in its successful campaign against the 2010 House of Representatives proposal to cap US emissions. A major study of the Climate Change Counter Movement in the USA identifies funding of around $900 million annually.297
This is both disingenuous and hypocritical: only a small percentage of the $900 million funding of the 91 think tanks and organisations identified by Robert Brulle (2014) (297) is devoted to climate; and climate change itself has become big business. Academic institutions have become addicted to climate-funding. Billions of dollars are spent annually on climate-related research, with a strong bias against benign findings – fear fuels funding. Emeritus Professor Garth Paltridge,, an atmospheric physicist and Chief Research Scientist with the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research before becoming Director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies and CEO of the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre, observed in 2009:
It is more or less standard procedure to label as biased those scientists who are sceptical of the dangers of global warming because of their status as knowing stooges of the energy industry. This is at least an admission of the belief by global warming advocates that scientists as a class are in fact quite capable of having their judgment corrupted by political and monetary interest. That being so, the mistrust of sceptics is a peculiarly lopsided assessment. The potential for bias towards the politically correct, and massively government supported side of the greenhouse debate is the greater by order of magnitude. 
In Climate Change: The Facts 2014, Paltridge writes:
We have at least to consider the possibility that the scientific establishment behind the global warming issue has been drawn into the trap of seriously overstating the climate problem – or, what is much the same thing, of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problem – in its effort to promote the cause. It is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis for society’s respect for scientific endeavour.
Harold (Hal) Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of California, co-founder and former Chairman of JASON, former member of USAF Scientific Advisory Board and Chairman of the American Physical Society (APS) study on Nuclear Reactor Safety wrote the following letter of resignation on 6 October 2010 to the president of the APS:
When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood.... As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time…
How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
Andrew Montford carefully documented how authorities winked at fraudulent science and whitewashed investigations into it. Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry is one of the few practicing climatologists prepared to speak out:
There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes not only from politicians, but from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves who are green activists and advocates. Reinforcing this consensus are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests. The closing of minds on the climate change issue is a tragedy for both science and society.
Since the disgraceful sacking of Climate Research editor Chris de Freitas for publishing the Soon & Baliunas paper in 2003, science journals have favoured alarmist papers, even fundamentally flawed ones. The wider media makes mileage out of alarming news; national broadcasters (e.g. the BBC and ABC) are active promoters of climate catastrophe demanding urgent action. The alternative energy industry is also big business for Bosch, General Electric, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Siemens and other manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear power plants. Then there are the bankers drooling over the prospect of carbon-trading trillions; NGOs (e.g. Greenpeace, WWF etc) milking millions from fearful donors; politicians exploiting fear to win elections; and the UN itself exploiting international funding for the UNFCCC, the IPCC, annual talk fests in places like Bali, Cancun, Durban and Paris, and now wanting to play Robin Hood with $100 billion a year. The pressure on the public purse is enormous:
“A large-scale shift to such technologies will require very large investments over a prolonged period of time. This shift in financial flows will need to be incentivised, in the early periods at least, by strong, consistent, and credible public policies, and a change in financial structures. (p.40)
Public opinion and behaviour
Ultimately, effective actions by local and national governments, and by businesses, are unsustainable without supportive public opinion. Public support for stronger action on climate change is a necessary, albeit far from sufficient, factor, and is essential if behavioural change is to contribute to solving the problem. In this respect, the evidence is somewhat mixed. Cross-national studies, such as the 2013 survey presented in figure 18, suggest that most people view climate change as a threat, although with some significant variation within regions.” (p.41)
The variations illustrated in figure 18 on page 42 are interesting. In Europe, the perception of a major threat from climate change is highest in Greece (86%) followed by Spain (65%) and Italy (64%) – all economic basket cases; and lowest in the Czech Republic (34%) and Poland (45%) – former Communist countries.
Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and author of Blue Planet in Green Shackles told a Florida gathering in March 2010:
In 1989, communism collapsed and we were finally free. To my great surprise, the environmentalist doctrine was still alive and even flourishing in its new incarnation called global warming doctrine. In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit endorsed the doctrine of global warming and climate change as a leading ideology of our times. I expected that the ideology of the free world would be based on freedom, parliamentary democracy and market economy – concepts that were absolutely crucial for us in the former communist countries in the moment of our radical and revolutionary transition from communism to free society. Life under communism made us extremely sensitive, if not oversensitive to all possible symptoms of violation and erosion of our freedom. That is the reason why I feel endangered now. The subtitle of the above mentioned book asks “What is endangered: Climate or Freedom?” My answer is resolute: climate is ok, what is under threat is freedom.
After pointing out that it is not knowledge deficit but emotion that is central to motivating people to change their lifestyles, this report states:
“So-called fear appeals only work if accompanied by equally strong messages about how to address the problem.312 Representations of climate change as inexorably heading for catastrophe close off the possibility that individual and collective action can make a difference.” (p.43)
It is apparently OK to speak of catastrophic climate change so long as it is not inexorably so! The only occasions when climate change was catastrophic for humanity, however, were inexorably cold periods.
“Second, climate change is best represented in ways that anchor it in positive emotions,313 by framing action in ways that connect with people’s core values and identities. Examples include framing climate change as: an ethical and intergenerational issue; about safeguarding ancestral lands and the sanctity of the natural world;”
What is ethical about leaving our descendants unemployed and hopelessly in debt (e.g. Greece, Spain) to assuage our own anxieties? What is so sacred about ‘ancestral lands’ – is not most land ancestral? And what is sacrosanct about ‘the natural world’ with its volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, lightning strikes, noxious weeds, deadly nightshades, box jellyfish, malaria, cholera, Ebola, HIV/AIDS etc? Are not doctors in the business of combating much in ‘the natural world’? This so-called sanctity only reinforces perceptions of a quasi-religious green ideology basis for climate action.
We see more fear-mongering hyperbole on page 43: “Precautionary adaptation is clearly inadequate and prevailing patterns of energy production and consumption are still driving the world towards a dangerous climatic future.”
Having diagnosed the malady and its aetiology, and issued a grim prognosis, the remedy is prescribed:
“To be truly effective, any future agreement will thus need not only to agree goals and aspirations, but also identify what is necessary at the international and national levels to achieve them. This may also require a mechanism, such as a feedback loop, that will motivate increased national ambitions over time.”
Section 6: bringing the health voice to climate change
The Lancet report lists ways in which the health agenda might help respond to climate change:
1. Positive lessons for international cooperation and negotiation – by WHO for example;2. Encouraging political lessons from surmounting past denialism – e.g. tobacco lobby, HIV/AIDS;3. Harnessing the health impacts of climate change as added motivation – the human component;4. Highlighting the health co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation measures – e.g. less air pollution;5. Analogies in health responses to complex problems – prevention (mitigation) and treatment (adaptation).
This is all very well except for the not-so-subtle inference that the “50 years of tobacco industry resistance and obfuscation of the science” is no different to the current climate debate – all done and dusted but for obfuscation by vested interests, and “specific mitigation policies and projects are constantly faced with the ingenuity of the fossil fuel industry in finding and driving down the costs of extracting new fossil fuel resources and marketing them.” (p.44) Who leaves lights on or drives cars further because of fossil-fuel marketing? The shale gas revolution in the U.S. has not only driven down energy prices but also U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As Broderick and Anderson point out, this has resulted in cheaper coal of which the U.S. is now exporting more, especially to Europe and Asia. If environmentalists want to kill the coal industry, they should promote a shale gas revolution in Europe and elsewhere. Or could that jeopardise anti-fracking funding?
“The crux of the matter is that stabilising the atmosphere at any level ultimately requires reducing net emissions to zero . . . during the second half of this century.” (p.45)
This poses some real conundrums. How do we determine ‘net emissions’ when human sources comprise less than 5% of all CO2 emissions and atmospheric levels vary with global temperature induced by orbital variations, solar cycles and ocean oscillations? And how will we continue to make the steel and concrete required for hydroelectric dams and lifespan-limited wind turbines, nuclear plants, tide and wave machines without any emissions?
“Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action
If we are to minimise the health impacts of climate change, we must monitor and hold governments accountable for progress and action on emissions reduction and adaptation. One might argue that action on climate change is already effectively addressed by the IPCC, World Bank, UNFCCC, WHO, and the G20. We believe, however, that the health dimension of the climate change crisis has been neglected.”
The health dimension of climate change has not been neglected by either the IPCC or the WHO.
“There are four reasons why an independent accountability and review process is warranted:
1. The size of the health threat from climate change is on a scale quite different from localised epidemics or specific diseases. . .
2. There is a widespread lack of awareness of climate change as a health issue.1913. Several independent accountability groups have brought energy, new ideas and advocacy to other global health issues. . .
4. Perhaps the paramount reason for an independent review is the authority of health professional voices with policy makers and communities. . . .
We propose the formation of an independent international Countdown to 2030: global health and climate action coalition, along the same lines as other successful global health monitoring groups. We recommend that a broad international coalition of experts across disciplines from health to the environment, energy, economics, and policy, together with lay observers, drawn from every region of the world, should monitor and report every 2 years. . . . An independent review of progress would add the full weight and voice of the health community and valuable metrics to this critical population health challenge. . . At every level, health must find its voice. In health systems we can set an example with scale up of renewables, combined heat and power generation in health facilities, decentralisation of care and promotion of active transport, and low-carbon healthy lifestyles. But time is limited. Immediate action is needed. The Countdown to 2030 coalition must begin its work immediately.”
With a growing climate industry already straining the public purse, do we need yet another
‘climate action coalition’? Might the alarmism of this Lancet Commissions report serve its intended purpose better than either science or humanity?
In Conclusion, the Lancet report faithfully follows the script of the late Stephen Schneider: “offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have.” Questioning the scary scenarios and dramatic statements in this report and expressing doubts regarding the ‘settled science’ risks being tossed into the company of Holocaust deniers, tobacco defenders, shills of Big Oil, or dishonest snake oil salesmen who must be silenced. So be it.
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