December 17th 2013 print
It must be a tipping point in the climate debate when a senior Shell executive notices something odd about the Green activists with whom he has been consorting. David Hone, Shell UK’s Melbourne-born “senior climate change adviser”, went to a Royal Society conference on “radical emission reduction strategies” in London on December 10-11. He concluded that he had fallen among eco-idiots wanting to remould society from the ground up.
Hone, who is also a director of the Emissions Trading Association, has a background in oil- and shipping-trade markets. One explanation for his blog outburst could be that he was still in shock from the collapse of carbon pricing and trading schemes at the Warsaw IPCC conference.
‘This was a room of catastrophists (as in “catastrophic global warming”), with the prevailing view, at least to my ears, that the issue could only be addressed by the complete transformation of the global energy and political systems, with the latter moving to one of state control and regulated consumerism. There would be no room for “ruthless individualism” in such a world. The posters that dotted the lecture theatre lobby area covered topics as diverse as vegan diets to an eventual return to low technology hunter-gatherer societies (but thankfully there was one CCS [carbon capture] poster in the middle of all this).
‘Much to my surprise I was not really at an emission reduction conference (despite the label saying I was), but a political ideology conference…
‘This was a room where there was a round of applause when one audience member asked how LNG and coal exporters in Australia might be “annihilated” following their (supposed) support for the repeal of the carbon tax in that country…
Another feature of the discussion was the view that like apartheid or the Berlin Wall, the change from the current state of the energy system to a zero emissions one (there is no 40% or 50% or even 80% reduction talk here) can happen overnight and be triggered in a similar way, i.e. a popular but peaceful uprising, hence the talk of a rapidly evolving “climate movement”.’
In passing, it is worth reminding that this conference of the Tyndall Centre (a consortium of universities) was held under the auspices of the Royal Society, once a great part of Great Britain, now happy to see hunter-gatherer advocates putting up posters on its conference walls.
Hone himself would normally be seen as a catastrophist, though in comparison with the conference attendees, he sees himself as a centrist. On his blog he has a video homily, which transcribed goes:
“WE have got politicians talking about 80% reductions in just 40 years. As the 80% -reduction world plays out, Shell will not look like the oil and gas company it is today…
CO2 will play havoc at some point in the future. Energy use today and the type and way we use it is completely unsustainable. We may think it will be all right in five or ten years, but cast your mind forward 50 or 100 years, is it sustainable? No it is not, it has got to change. I like to work in a company that thinks this way…The company is starting to make these changes along with the people inside it.”
The conference per se was unhinged, its manifesto burbling about ‘radical repercussions of severe climate change’ (but no warming since 1997) and calling for energy cuts of “at least” 8% per year to achieve 60% cuts within a decade. Maybe they could reduce household emissions by 8% a year by bulldozing one house in 12 each year. While tackling its ‘minus 8%’ plan, the conference aimed to “foster an up-beat and can-do mentality.”
The conference, sadly, was no less unhinged than the UK government’s legally mandated goal to cut CO2 emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Stand by, hardy Britons, for brown and black-outs. By comparison, Australian national targets are merely 5% emission cuts by 2020, compared with 2000 levels.
Some readers may wonder that big-oil Shell and Greens have previously got on so well. In fact, Big Oil’s main product these days is gas and the Green’s No 1 goal is to kill coal-fired power generation. Less coal equals more gas sales. Moreover, new wind farms need to be backed up by gas-fired power, that can be fired up when the wind doesn’t blow. Thus Big Gas and Greens both want more wind farms.
The Australian reported a month ago that Shell has formed an advocacy department whose sole aim is to promote gas over coal-based power generation. Shell has even leant on the World Bank to cut bank funding for cheaper coal-fired generators in the Third World.
Believe it or not, Royal Dutch/Shell was the first corporate sponsor of the WWF half a century ago, with a start-up grant equivalent to a modern $US663,000.[i] John Loudon was Royal Dutch/Shell president for 15 years, then switched to presidency of World Wildlife Fund for four years. WWF took oil-company funding for more than 40 years. (These days WWF has a budget of $US750m a year for its advocacy work, compared with a piffling $US5m annual spend on all topics by America’s premier skeptic think-tank, the Heartland Institute).
The Sierra Club, America’s grass-roots environmental group, from 2007 to 2010 took $25m in donations from gas companies, mainly Chesapeake Energy, to campaign against coal. BP donated $US10m to the Nature Conservancy, and allied with 20 environmental and energy groups to set up the American Wind and Wildlife Institute, promoting wind power.
To sum up, Big Gas and Big Green are bedfellows not belligerents.
So back to David Hone, suddenly turning feral against his Green allies. His comments were made wearing his Shell hat. What will his warmist bosses make of that? (In fact Royal Dutch/Shell has a surprise new CEO from January 1: Dutchman Ben van Beurden supersedes Peter Voser, who wants more quality time with his family. Conspiracy theory, anyone?).
UK climate blogger Andrew Montford noted, “Hone’s sudden realization that many of his fellow-travelers in the environmental movement are completely round the twist is rather comical and you can’t help but wonder where he has been in the last twenty years.”
At this loopy conference, Australia’s fruit loop ideas on climate catastrophism were well represented. One weblink paper was from Laurence Delina and Dr. Mark Diesendorf, of the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW. The title? ‘Is wartime mobilisation a suitable policy model for rapid national climate mitigation?’ No wonder Shell’s Hone felt trapped in a madhouse!
Our two experts in war-time mobilizations wrote,
“Climate activists assert that rapid mitigation is feasible, invoking the scale and scope of wartime mobilisation strategies. This paper draws upon historical accounts of social, technological and economic restructurings in several countries during World War 2 in order to investigate potential applications of wartime experience to radical, rigorous and rapid climate mitigation strategies…We find that, while wartime experience suggests some potential strategies for rapid climate mitigation in the areas of finance and labour, it also has severe limitations, resulting from its lack of democratic processes. Furthermore, since restructuring the existing socio-economic system to mitigate climate change is more complex than fighting a war and since the threat of climate change is less obvious to non-scientists, it is unlikely that the public will be unified in support of such executive action…”
Yep, that could be right.
Delina has been doing a Ph.D on strategies that could be used by the Australian government and people in the event that a future decision is made to undertake urgent, rapid and radical actions to mitigate Australia’s greenhouse emissions. With Tony Abbott now Prime Minister, Delina may need to tweak his topic.
Dr Diesendorf is a big fan of wind power (no pun intended) and has authored Climate Action: a campaign manual for greenhouse solutions. He also enjoys conspiracy theories about fluoridation of water.
Another participant was Professor John Wiseman, of Melbourne University’s Sustainable Society Institute, whose talk via weblink was titled, ‘Winning the climate war: removing political roadblocks to radical emissions reductions’.
I particularly enjoyed a portrait of Professor Wiseman at an Australian conference last October, shown alongside a slide projection quoting excitable Green activist Miriam Lyons: “The highest priority action for achieving a rapid transition to a just health and resilient post-carbon future is to sculpt visions of the future that are beautiful, and lifelike enough to fall in love with.” (Needless to say, Ms Lyons is a regular guest on Radio National’s Drive and Outsiders programs, along with ABC television’s QandA and The Drum).
Among Wiseman’s authorships is ‘Hope, despair and transformation: climate change and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing’. Hopefully the absence of global warming since 1997 has restored to sanity the victims of climate scare campaigns.
Another Aussie was Dr. Jane O’Sullivan, of the University of Queensland, whose topic was “Reducing emissions through family planning and women’s empowerment.” A gung-ho person on carbon taxes, Dr O’Sullivan shows symptoms of Life of Brian’s People’s Front of Judea divisiveness, being “frustrated by the tangled web of misconceptions and the determination of environmental activists to regard any criticism of the cap-and-trade proposal as climate change denial.”
However, our Aussie presenters seem conservative compared to the Poms.
Typical of the green contingent was Pete Brace, an IT nerd and seven-year careerist in computer games, who wound up three years ago in a community called Tinkers Bubble which prohibits fossil fuels. His ambition is zero emissions plus a high quality of life.
Dr. Jane Hindley and Professor Ted Benton, of the Essex Sustainability Institute, did a paper called ‘What would Churchill say? Political leadership, collective action and the framing of radical emissions reduction strategies’. Dr Hindley describes herself as “a comparative, political sociologist and a member of the Red-Green Study Group, UK”, hardly the sort of group Churchill would normally hang out with. So what might Churchill say? Perhaps, “Cultured people are merely the glittering scum which floats upon the deep river of production.”
The whole show, including David Hone’s epiphany, would be funny — except that taxpayers, including Australia’s, must have funded 90% of it.
Tony Thomas is distraught that he missed Dr Jane O’Sullivan’s lecture on climate change and women’s empowerment