human activity and the destruction of the planet

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2017: the worst hurricane season on record

The following statistics are available from an article by Paul Simons in The Times on 27th December 2017:

Ten consecutive storms reached hurricane status; this is the first time it has happened since 1893.  These storms included two category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, the first time this has happened in ten years.

Hurricane Irma’s strongest winds (185mph) broke the record for wind-speed intensity for an Atlantic hurricane outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Irma also maintained its peak intensity for 37 hours, a record for a cyclone anywhere in the world; the previous record was 24 hours, set by Typoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.

Hurricane Harvey rained more heavily than any hurricane ever recorded in US history. About 1,640mm (64.6″) fell in one location in Texas and an estimated 127 billion tonnes of rain fell in total in the state — so much that it compressed the Earth’s crust by roughly 2cm.

Three of the largest hurricanes hit land at their peak intensity, causing huge devastation. Much of the Caribbean lies in ruins in the aftermath of both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria; the island of Barbuda was so devastated that it is uninhabited for the first time in 300 years. See:

Devastation in Barbuda after Hurricane Irma hit the island

Puerto Rica was hit by Hurricane Maria and the number of deaths there is estimated to be over 1,000.  It also affected power and water supplies.

The entire hurricane season in the US is reckoned to have been the most destructive in history, taking historical inflation into account, with damage totalling an estimated $206 billion (£154 billion).

Now, a recent article by Eleanor Ainge Roy in The Guardian reports that there are calls for a revision of the scale used to measure hurricanes.  Currently, a category 5 hurricane is the worst, describing near-total destruction. But climate scientists meeting at a conference in the New Zealand city of Wellington have floated the idea of creating a category six to reflect the increasing severity of tropical cyclones in the wake of warming sea temperatures and climate change.

New research, published in Nature, shows that rising global temperatures could be causing tropical storms to slow down, allowing them more time to unleash heavy rainfall once making landfall. The research found that the speed at which they travel across the Earth has slowed by an average of 10% over the past 70 years, with the speed of storms originating in the Western North Pacific falling by 30%. An example of this effect was seen during Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Houston, releasing 100cm of rain in just three days.

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Crowd-fund to sue UK government over safe climate target: PLAN B

The following has been posted by a member of Scientists for Global Responsibility:

Plan B​ ( ) is supporting the emergence of a networked, international movement of legal action to prevent catastrophic climate change. People all over the world are now heading to court to hold governments and corporates to account for Climate Change.

As part of this gathering, global movement Plan B and 11 UK citizens are suing the UK Government for failing to set a safe climate target ( ).


They need £35,000 to pursue this action and have already, via a crowd-funder, raised £25,335 with more than 500 people pledging their support. They have 11 days to raise just under £10,000 and they have a donor who will allow them to double all donations received between now and the end of New Year’s Day. If they can raise another £5,000 they’ll have made it.

I think PlanB-v-UK is a good project and I hope it meets its target. If you’d like to support it, visit 
People all over the world are now heading to court to hold governments and corporates to account for Climate Change. As part of this gathering, global movement Plan B and 11 UK citizens (aged 9 to 79) are suing the UK Government for failing to set a safe climate target. This case is for everyone and everything!
1st March 2018.  This group have now got their first court hearing on 20th March 2018 at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2.  Below is a copy of their recent email:

“We need to persuade the Court that we have an arguable case, that merits a full hearing (it’s called a ‘permission hearing’). It could last anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Permission hearings are normally listed at 10:00 or 10:30hrs, but we won’t know the precise time or Court number until the afternoon of 19th March. So we’ve decided to stage a ‘solidarity’ event outside the Court between 09:00 and 10:00 hrs.

We can’t afford 3 Billboards, so we’re going to have just 2. The first will read:


The second:


The original UK 2050 target derived from Aubrey Meyer’s model of Contraction & Convergence (‘C & C’). Indeed in 2008, the year of the UK Climate Change Act, a cross-party group of British MPs nominated Aubrey for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

Aubrey is also a musician and composer. We’re honoured that he has agreed to play the violin outside Court in solidarity with our legal action. It’s a way of making the point that our legal action aims to ensure the UK Climate Change Act fulfils its original purpose and intention, i.e. aligning UK emissions to the global climate obligation on the basis of transparent, equitable and replicable assumptions. There’ll also be music from ClimateKeys, and readings and statements from some of our supporters.

We couldn’t be doing this without you, and hope to see loads of you there!

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11″

Posted on 29th March 2018:

Update on Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

Dear friends

We’ve got our next hearing date and it’s a good one! 4 July (Royal Courts of Justice, the Strand London).

It’s a historically resonant day to be running ground-breaking right to life arguments. On 4 July 1776 the US Declaration of Independence was signed, containing the first and arguably most important political articulation of the principle:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed  … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life … “

We’re listed for a full day’s hearing, and this time we really do expect to get a ruling on whether the case proceeds to full trial. But who knows! We were also really expecting that last week.

Update posted on 18th April 2018:

Update on Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

Today the future for us and our children is looking just a little bit brighter. And it’s thanks to you.

Yesterday Claire Perry, the Minister for Climate Change, committed to a review of the UK long-term climate targets in light of the Paris Agreement and a forthcoming report on the impacts of 1.5˚C warming.

She did so with an announcement at the meeting of the 53 Commonwealth Heads of Government taking place in London. This is precisely what we’ve been urging – the UK Government to show leadership and to use its diplomatic influence positively. The announcement was welcomed by, among others, the Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji:

“I am encouraged by Britain’s undertaking to review its climate targets with a view to increasing ambition. The [targets] we all promised to make in the Paris agreement should be setting high standards for the rest of the world to follow.

Only a few months ago the Government was adamant that no such review was necessary. There’s no question that the hundreds and hundreds of you supporting our legal action financially; the public messages of support; and the packed court-room on 20 March, have sent to the Government a powerful message – their future is our future and our future is theirs.

Of course the Government has not yet actually changed the target or brought it into line with the Paris Agreement. But under the Climate Change Act, a review from the Committee is the necessary first step. We’ll be discussing with our legal team precisely what this means for our legal action and will provide a further update soon.

But quite simply this is a hugely important and globally significant development, that would no have been possible without your support.

Best wishes,

Plan B + 11


















8th June 2018: court hearing set for 4th July.

EMail update:

Update on Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

Dear Supporters

As we approach our critical hearing date on 4 July, Caroline Lucas has thrown her weight behind what’s being described as ‘the mother of all court hearings’: 

Meanwhile the climate justice movement is gathering momentum around the world, and Plan B were recently interviewed by Al Jazeera about ‘the People’s Climate Case’ against the EU: 

We have served a further statement on the Court to update it on significant new developments in support of our position arising since the last Court hearing on 20 March. More and more policy-makers, scientists and academics are joining our call for the Government to get serious on climate change:

Please show the Court, the press and the Government how much this matters to us all by joining us on 4 July from 9am, the Royal Court of Justice, the Strand, London.

With thanks and best wishes,

Plan B + 11


Update 7th July 2018:

Update on Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

Judge postpones decision on our case

It was an amazing day last Wednesday. Thanks so much to all of you who came.

The court-room, the largest in the Royal Courts of Justice, was even more full this time. Dozens of people were sitting on the floor! We had a whole group of school-children who’d chosen to set off from Lowestoft at 5am to witness the demand for their future.

Jonathan Crow QC, Attorney General to HRH Prince of Wales, made compelling submissions on our behalf. Counsel for the Government was less focussed on addressing our main arguments, than emphasising that the Government has now committed to reviewing its targets. Jonathan pointed out that the Government has not actually yet commissioned a review, nor set terms of reference or a time-frame.

The argument seemed finely balanced. The judge, Mr Justice Supperstone, extended to court day to 5pm, and then postponed a decision. That’s unusual for a permission hearing, but reflects the gravity and significance of the issues.

Bindmans, our solicitors, expect us to have the ruling within a fortnight, but can’t be sure.

Here’s some coverage from the BBC: “Court action to save young from climate bill”

And here’s a Tweet from one of the journalists present in Court, describing how the case is putting ‘huge pressure’ on the government to increase its ambition:

Update 23rd July 2018:

Sadly, this campaign group lost the case.  However, they will be appealing against the decision.  The full story can be seen at:

Update 30th January 2019:

Update on Citizens sue Government for safe Climate Target

Dear supporters of our future

Sadly, the Court of Appeal has rejected our appeal to have our case heard. That’s now the end of the road for the appeal process. Given what’s at stake (ie the future) it’s deeply disappointing the courts have has not had the courage to hear our evidence, which is so strong.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt the legal action has made an impact. Within a month of commencing legal proceedings, the Climate Change Committee had recommended a review of the 2050 carbon target in light of the Paris Agreement, which is what we had been urging, and the Government announced announced a review in April 2018. That review is now well underway, and it’s vital that the Committee recommends a bold and ambitious target, that reflects the science and the climate emergency that we’re facing. We’ll be watching the outcome closely.

Thank you so much for your wonderful support, which has made this case possible!

While we did not get the legal outcome we were looking for, there’s been a major change in the public and media conversation over the last year. With the backing of leading scientists, and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, a mass movement of people, Extinction Rebellion, is rising up to demand that the Government is honest about the crisis we’re facing and that it takes the necessary action to safeguard our future. Local governments around the country (including the Mayor of London) are acknowledging and facing up to the climate emergency. The spotlight of our legal action has been part of this and we must keep up the momentum!

Next week, on 5 February, at 9.15am, we’re back at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, to argue that our legal action against the expansion of Heathrow Airport should be live-streamed, so that everyone can witness the inconsistency between the Government’s aviation and economic policy and its claims to climate leadership. Please join us there, to show the courts that people want transparency and open justice.

Thanks again and best wishes,

Plan B + 11 Citizens













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Paris Agreement is leading to changes in investment strategies

According to John Plender, writing for the Financial Times on December 15th 2017, there are rapid changes underway to support greener economies, triggered by the Paris Agreement.  Details of this can be found in his article, “Rapid Changes in the climate for carbon-heavy investments”:

According to Plender, this is even affecting the notorious ExxonMobil, the world’s biggest oil and gas group, which is bowing to investor pressure to increase disclosure on climate risks to its business.  At it’s May AGM, there was a 62% vote against the board on a shareholders’ proposal calling for a yearly assessment of the long-term portfolio impact of climate change policies.  The company has now agreed to demonstrate how it would be affected by the Paris Agreement, as well as explaining its positioning on a lower carbon future.  This is a considerable climb down from previous resistance to similar proposals in earlier years.

In addition, in a separate initiative, 225 global institutional investors are putting pressure on 100 of the world’s more carbon intensive companies, to increase their actions to reduce climate change.  These investors control assets worth $26.3 tn.  This initiative is known as Climate Action 100+ and is the biggest shareholder action plan ever launched.

According to Plender, it is Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, who has been influential in outlining the financial risks in continuing to burn fossil fuels, as well as the risks to the future of the planet. Many companies are not properly positioned for a low carbon economy and much capital is currently being misallocated.


If these changes in investment strategies are happening, then it is a huge step forward.  However, to meet the 2015 Paris commitments, most companies will need to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 80%.