Sunday, May 12, 2019

GWPF Newsletter: EU Heads Downgrade Climate Change To 'A Footnote'

The Truth About The Latest Mass Extinction Scare

In this newsletter:

1) EU Heads Downgrade Climate Change To A ‘Footnote’ In Their Statement On Future Of Europe 
EurActiv, 9 May 2019 
2) The UN’s Extinction Warning Doesn’t Add Up
Toby Young, The Spectator, 9 May 2019

3) The Truth About The Latest Mass Extinction Scare
Ronald Bailey, Reason, December 2017 
4) Matt Ridley: Biodiversity Alarmism Doesn’t Work
Reaction, 7 May 2019 
5) Green Killers: Dams and Reservoirs Used for Renewable Energy Threaten World's Rivers
Bloomberg, 9 May 2019 
6) Merkel’s Partner CSU Calls For Lowering Taxes Instead Of New Carbon Tax
Clean Energy Wire, 9 May 2019 
7) Nick Timothy: When Will Green Zealots Figure Out That Britain Cannot Fight Climate Change Alone?
The Daily Telegraph, 9 May 2019 

Full details:

1) EU Heads Downgrade Climate Change To A ‘Footnote’ In Their Statement On Future Of Europe 
EurActiv, 9 May 2019 

Heads of state and government from the EU-27 signed off on broad-brush ‘ten commitments’ for Europe’s next five years on Thursday (9 May), as they adopted a vague Sibiu Declaration during the opening stages of an informal summit dedicated to the bloc’s future.

The leaders took only a few minutes to agree on the draft text, which was widely circulated last week and covers everything from defence and solidarity to the rule of the law and the EU’s role on the global stage.

“We will continue to protect our way of life, democracy and the rule of law,” the declaration reads, concluding that the EU will “jointly tackle global issues such as preserving our environment and fighting climate change”.

Less substantial and specific than traditional summit conclusions, the declaration outlines broad strokes on what the EU should focus on in the coming years, rather than suggesting actual courses of action. […]

Environmental activists descended on Sibiu to urge the leaders to keep climate change at the top of their agenda, though the Green Party revealed that the mayor of the city had not granted a permit for the march.

Demonstrators still made their voices heard though, amid heavy security that locals have said is a remnant of the communist period.

Greenpeace also criticised the Sibiu Declaration for putting climate change as “a footnote to an afterthought in their statement on the future of Europe”. Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said she was “appalled” by the text.

Full story
2) The UN’s Extinction Warning Doesn’t Add Up
Toby Young, The Spectator, 9 May 2019

Anyone watching the BBC’s News at Ten on Monday would have been surprised to learn that economic growth poses a dire threat to the future of life on this planet. We’re used to hearing this from climate change campaigners, but I’ve always taken such claims with a pinch of salt, suspecting that the anti-capitalist left is distorting the evidence. Apparently not. ‘One million species at risk of imminent extinction according to a major UN report,’ intoned the BBC. ‘It says the Earth’s ecosystems are being destroyed by the relentless pursuit of economic growth.’ So does this mean the Extinction Rebellion protestors are right?

I decided to do some digging to see if one million species really do ‘face extinction in the next few decades’, as the BBC put it. That claim is based on a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), but it hasn’t been published yet. All I could find online was a press release put out by the IPBES and a ‘summary’ of the report ‘for policymakers’. The press release states: ‘The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.’ It gives no source for this beyond the as-yet-unpublished report, but the summary makes it clear that it’s partly based on data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The IUCN’s Red List website says that ‘more than 27,000’ species ‘are threatened with extinction’. So how did the IPBES arrive at the one million figure? The key passage in the summary for policymakers reads as follows: ‘An average of around 25 per cent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around one million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken.’ The word ‘suggesting’ is doing a lot of work there. On the Red List website, it says 98,500 species have been ‘assessed’ — and the IPBES worked out what percentage 98,500 was of the total number of species and multiplied the 27,000 figure accordingly. That’s a difficult calculation to make, given that the number of species in the world is unknown. The most reliable estimate is 8.7 million (with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 million), but even the compilers of that stat acknowledge that 86 per cent of all species on land and 91 per cent of those in the seas have yet to be discovered, described and catalogued.

So how exactly did the IPBES arrive at the magic one million number? It seems we’re just supposed to take it on faith, which the BBC duly did. What about the IPBES’s claim that ‘around 25 per cent of species… are threatened’? That seems a little pessimistic, given that the number of mammals to have become extinct in the past 500 years or so is around 1.4 per cent and only one bird has met the same fate in Europe since 1852.
Not bad when you consider how much economic growth there’s been in the past 167 years. So what does ‘threatened’ mean? The IPBES is using the IUCN’s definition, which is ‘at high risk of extinction in the wild’. Rather implausibly, the IUCN includes species in this category that it designates as ‘vulnerable’, which it defines as facing a ‘probability of extinction in the wild’ of ‘at least 10 per cent within 100 years’. About half the species the IPBES includes in its 25 per cent figure are in this ‘vulnerable’ category.

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3) The Truth About The Latest Eco-Scare
Ronald Bailey, Reason, December 2017 

New predictions of animal population doom are likely exaggerated.

Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich has made a gaudy career of prophesying imminent ecological doom. "In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now," he declared in his 1968 manifesto The Population Bomb. In the subsequent 50 years, as world population more than doubled, the proportion of chronically undernourished people in the world dropped from 33 percent in 1968 to 11 percent now.

Ehrlich is now predicting population doom for the world's animals. The cause? Human overpopulation, naturally. Ehrlich and his colleagues Gerardo Ceballos and Rodolfo Dirzo describe the allegedly impending "biological annihilation" of about a third of all vertebrate land species in a paper for The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction [are] human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich," they argue. "All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life." The crisis supposedly results from "the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet"; meanwhile, "the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most."

Ehrlich and his colleagues reached those conclusions by taking the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's data on populations of 27,600 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians and overlaying those figures on a grid of 22,000 plots measuring 10,000 square kilometers across all of the continents. The goal is to identify areas where local populations of each species has been extirpated. They report that since 1900 "nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32% (8,851/27,600) are decreasing; that is, they have decreased in population size and range."

This not the first time the alarms of mass extinction has been raised. In 1970, Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, predicted that between 75 and 80 percent of all species of animals would be extinct by 1995. In 1979, the Oxford biologist Norman Myers suggested that the world could "lose one-quarter of all species by the year 2000." Also in 1979, the Heinz Center biologist Thomas Lovejoy chimed in, estimating that between a seventh and a fifth of global diversity would become extinct by 2000.

None of those dire predictions came true.

Ehrlich and his dour colleagues are probably wrong too, thanks to human ingenuity and the very trends in "perpetual growth" that they think are threats to biodiversity.

First, human population will peak this century at perhaps as few as 8.2 billion people. The United Nations projects that 80 percent of those will be living in cities by 2100, meaning that fewer than 1.6 billion people will be living on the landscape, down from 3.2 billion now. Humanity may already be at peak farmland. If biofuel subsidies are stopped, some researchers project that as much as 400 million hectares of land would be returned to nature by 2060; that is an area double the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River.

Many countries have now gone through the forest transition and their forests are expanding. More broadly, the global rate of deforestation has been declining. Furthermore, there is evidence that "dematerialization": Thanks to technological progress, humanity is using relatively less stuff to obtain more services. Current trends suggest that humanity is likely to withdraw increasingly from nature over the course of this century, thus relinquishing a great deal of territory in which our fellow creatures will be able to thrive.

In fact, a very different and much more positive story can be told about how biodiversity is faring around the world. In a forthcoming book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, University of York conservation biologist Chris Thomas points out that at reasonable scales—say, regions the size of Vermont—humanity has actually been enriching local biodiversity. How? By moving around and introducing species to areas they were previously absent. New Zealand's 2,000 native plant species have been joined by 2,000 from elsewhere, doubling the plant biodiversity of its islands. Meanwhile, only three species of native plants have gone extinct.

In many cases, as I reported in my book The End of Doom, the newcomers may actually benefit the natives. In a 2010 review article in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, the Rutgers ecologist Joan Ehrenfeld reports that rapidly accumulating evidence from many introduced species of plants and animals shows that they improve ecosystem functioning by increasing local biomass and speeding up the recycling of nutrients and energy.

Similarly, as a 2012 review article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution notes, "ecological theory does not automatically imply that a global decline in species richness will result in impaired functioning of the world's ecosystems." In other words, the foundations of civilization are likely not imperiled even in the dubious event that Ehrlich's mass extinction occurs.

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4) Matt Ridley: Biodiversity Alarmism Doesn’t Work
Reaction, 7 May 2019 

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency.

Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives.

Much of the human destruction of biodiversity happened a long time ago

Species extinction rates of mammals and birds peaked in the 19th century (mostly because of ships taking rats to islands). The last extinction of a breeding bird species in Europe was the Great Auk, in 1844. Thousands of years ago, stone-age hunter-gatherers caused megafaunal mass extinctions on North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar with no help from modern technology or capitalism. That’s not to say extinctions don’t still happen but by far the biggest cause is still invasive alien species, especially on islands: it’s chytrid fungi that have killed off many frogs and toads, avian malaria that has killed off many of Hawaii’s honeycreepers, and so on.
This is a specific problem that can be tackled and reversed, but it will take technology and science and money, not retreating into self-sufficiency and eating beans. The eradication of rats on South Georgia island was a fine example of doing this right, with helicopters, GPS and a lot of science.

We’ve been here before. In 1981, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich predicted that 50% of all species would be extinct by 2005. In fact, about 1.4% of bird and mammal species, which are both easier to document than smaller creatures and more vulnerable to extinction, have gone extinct so far in several centuries.

The idea that “western values”, or “capitalism”, are the problem is wrong

On the whole what really diminishes biodiversity is a large but poor population trying to live off the land. As countries get richer and join the market economy they generally reverse deforestation, slow species loss and reverse some species declines. Countries like Bangladesh are now rich enough to be reforesting, not deforesting, and this is happening all over the world.
Most of this is natural forest, not plantations. As for wildlife, think of all the species that have returned to abundance in Britain: otters, ospreys, sea eagles, kites, cranes, beavers, deer and more. Why are wolves increasing all around the world, lions decreasing and tigers now holding steady? Basically, because wolves are in rich countries, lions in poor countries and tigers in middle income countries. Prosperity is the solution not the problem.

Nothing would kill off nature faster than trying to live off it. When an African villager gets rich enough to buy food in a shop rather than seek bushmeat in the forest, that’s a win for wildlife. Ditto if he or she can afford gas for cooking rather than cutting wood. The more we can urbanise and the more we can increase our use of intensive farming and fossil fuels, the less we will need to clear forests for either food or fuel.

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5) Dams and Reservoirs Used for Renewable Energy Threaten World's Rivers
Bloomberg, 9 May 2019 

Large dams and reservoirs built to provide renewable energy around the world are one of the biggest threats to global river health, a new study has found.

Just one-third of the world’s longest rivers are free flowing, with 60,000 large dams used to provide hydropower to populations from Brazil to China blocking most main waterways, according to the research from McGill University and the World Wildlife Fund Inc.

Long seen as an effective way to move on from burning fossil fuels, building the infrastructure for hydropower prevents rivers from flowing naturally, which harms agriculture, biodiversity, and access to water supplies.

The report claims to be the first global assessment of river health and examined 12 million kilometers (7.5 million miles) of rivers. The world’s only remaining free-flowing rivers can now be found in underpopulated areas of the planet including the Arctic and the Amazon Basin, the researchers said.

“Free-flowing rivers are important for humans and the environment alike, yet economic development around the world is making them increasingly rare,” said lead author Gunther Grill at Montreal’s McGill.

Climate change is also threatening rivers as rising global temperatures affect water flow and quality. However, efforts to combat climate change by transforming energy systems to be less carbon intensive mean that the environmental impact of building dams needs to be factored into planning decisions. Some 3,700 hydropower dams are currently planned or under construction, the report said.

Full story

6) Merkel’s Partner CSU Calls For Lowering Taxes Instead Of New Carbon Tax
Clean Energy Wire, 9 May 2019 

The Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) – part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s alliance of centre-right parties – is sceptical regarding the introduction of a new CO tax. The party is calling instead for a reduction in existing energy taxes, such as the electricity tax, to steer Germany towards a low-carbon future. 

“We as CSU are not prepared to introduce a form of CO₂ pricing which puts an additional burden on citizens,” said Georg Nüßlein, deputy head of the CDU/CSUparliamentary group, at a press briefing in Berlin. Nüßlein said the CSU would prefer a European solution, such as expanding the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), as its “instrument of choice." However, should a national solution be necessary, “I propose to check all environment and energy taxes for their relevance to CO₂, and reduce taxes where needed,” said Nüßlein. “For the Union [CDU/CSU alliance], ecologic tax reform means tax reduction reform.”

Nüßlein said a resulting economic stimulus and innovation drive would finance part of such a reform. But climate action also “has to play a different role in federal budget planning in the coming years,” Nüßlein said. “Apart from the energy and climate fund, the current budget positions do not do justice to the issue.”

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7) Nick Timothy: When Will Green Zealots Figure Out That Britain Cannot Fight Climate Change Alone?
The Daily Telegraph, 9 May 2019 

Britain is about to take a dangerous leap into the unknown. It will cause a massive economic hit, damaging industry and jeopardising jobs. The Government has no policies to implement its plan. Parliament has barely considered it. MPs are under pressure from zealous activists, who don’t realise that Britain doesn’t lead the world anymore.

Yes, the Climate Change Committee is back, and more crazily unilateralist than ever before. Their latest brainwave: to make Britain the first country to cut its carbon emissions to zero.

Industry must be decarbonised, conventional cars banned, and a fifth of farmland given up for biomass production and peatland restoration. “Emissions from international aviation,” it warns, “cannot be ignored.” Enjoy your family holiday while you can.

All this can be achieved, the committee says, at no greater economic cost than the original target, set by the Climate Change Act, to reduce carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 80 per cent by 2050.

Ignore the fact that the committee produced no credible impact assessment to justify its assertion. The Climate Change Act has already proved more expensive than was ever predicted, or admitted by ministers even today. And all for little reason.

The truth is, alone, Britain cannot do much to slow or stop climate change. Last year, we emitted 352.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In the past eight years, developing countries increased their emissions by 4,362 million tonnes.

Yet Britain is wrecking its economic competitiveness. Industrial electricity prices have gone up by more than 160 per cent since 2004. And they are getting increasingly uncompetitive: in 2010 they were about average for a western economy; now they are 28 per cent more expensive.

We are also pushing up domestic bills. More than 2.5 million households in England – 11.1 per cent of the total – live in fuel poverty. A quarter of households on low and middle incomes struggle to pay their energy bills. So much for helping families who are “just about managing”.

And what are we achieving? Yes, Britain has reduced its emissions by 43.5 per cent compared to 1990 levels. But emissions relating to imports are 28 per cent higher than in 1997, when statistics were first collected. Emissions associated with imports from China are 276 per cent higher.

However, it is not only to China and the rest of Asia that we have outsourced our industry and emissions. We’re outsourcing them – along with jobs and prosperity – to other European countries too.

This is because the Climate Change Act ignores the European Emissions Trading Scheme. Under the ETS, total carbon emissions are capped and companies are given emissions allowances. Companies can then trade their allowances, selling their spares to companies that need them.

For every tonne of carbon not emitted in Britain as a result of the Climate Change Act, therefore, an extra tonne can be emitted elsewhere in Europe. Britain is going through the hardship and sacrifice of reducing its emissions, only to hand over its allowances, in effect, to European competitors.

Meanwhile, 39 per cent of Germany’s electricity production comes from coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Seven of Europe’s top 10 carbon emitters are German power stations. And while even America has reduced its carbon emissions by 16 per cent since 2000, Germany’s have fallen by only 10 per cent in that period.

Critics of the Climate Change Act warned ministers against reckless unilateralism. And the Act’s own impact assessment warned, “the economic case for the UK continuing to act alone where global action cannot be achieved would be weak”. Ministers said it was “a contribution to a worldwide effort”, but naively conceded that, “as yet we do not know what the worldwide effort is”.

Eleven years on, we know that the worldwide effort has been less intense than Britain’s. As Prof Dieter Helm, who ministers asked to review the cost of energy, says: “The cost … is significantly higher than it needs to be.” He adds that the Committee on Climate Change has been too gung-ho in setting carbon budgets, arguing, “as technology moves on … it will be cheaper to reduce carbon tomorrow than today”.

Sadly, ministers are keen to listen to a 16 year-old schoolgirl, but not to the esteemed economist and energy expert they themselves commissioned. And now, instead of learning from the mistakes of the Climate Change Act they look set to repeat them.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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