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Global Heating and Climate Breakdown: a report from Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR)

Bill-McGuire-2000_cropped

Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards, University College London, argued at the Responsible Science conference that mainstream climate science reports downplay the scale of the threats currently faced, especially from sea-level rise, extreme heat, shutdown of the Gulf Stream, and increased seismic activity. Here he spells out why.

Article from Responsible Science journal, no.2; online publication: 6 July 2020

Also to be found on the website of SGR, of which Bill McGuire is a patron:

https://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/global-heating-and-climate-breakdown


“A very fine line separates alarmism from what a risk expert colleague of mine likes to refer to comically as Compulsive Risk Assessment Psychosis (CRAP) – scaremongering as it is otherwise known. This distinction applies to global heating and ensuing climate breakdown as much as anything else; probably more so given the imminent and desperately serious ramifications of the climate emergency. My concern, however, is that – up until now at least – the message reaching the ears of both the great and the good, and the general public, is simply not alarmist enough. We have alarms for a reason, after all, they save lives. What I mean by this is that it doesn’t set the alarm bells ringing about just how bad things could get as hothouse Earth becomes an ever more likely reality.

In other words, the picture that people see and take on board, of what a broken climate will look like, is not complete. It ensures that the general view of the global heating threat is watered down, one that fails to encompass scenarios involving more deleterious impacts on society. In so doing, a sense of false security is engendered and the ‘call to arms’ to tackle global heating, diminished.

The problem can be traced to the very top. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) undoubtedly has done vital work in building understanding and appreciation of the global heating threat, flagging likely future scenarios, and signalling what needs to be done, and how quickly – to stave off the worst of climate breakdown. Without it we would already be in a very dark place indeed. But there are downsides too.

The IPCC’s periodic reports are conservative and compiled to reflect a broad consensus. This means that they fail to address global heating and climate breakdown scenarios that, although currently regarded by the climate science community as less likely, are – nonetheless – perfectly possible. Because the IPCC reports form the climate bible that drives news stories in the press and broadcast media, this incomplete picture is – inevitably – the one pitched to the public.

The blame cannot, however, be placed at the door of the IPCC. Every report it publishes is scrutinised line-by-line by representatives of all 197 nations and groupings signed up to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These include the United States, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia and others, who have a history of playing down the climate emergency. As a matter of course, objections are raised to any elements of the text that such signatories regard as pushing too far the envelope of what global heating and climate breakdown might bring. As a consequence, much peer-reviewed climate change science fails to make the reports and, as a consequence, goes largely unnoticed by most of the media and the public.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the area of future sea-level rise. In its 2019 Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere (SROCC)1, the IPPC’s worst case likely range for sea-level rise by the period 2081-2100 is 51 – 92cm, with a figure of up to 110cm provided for 2100. In stark contrast, peer-reviewed research, not addressed in the report, forecasts that more rapid break-up of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could see global sea levels 292cm higher by the end of the century2. Such an order of rise is supported by polar ice melt doubling times at the lower end of the 10-40 year range3 and by a tripling in the rate of Antarctic ice loss between 2012 and 20174. If maintained, such a tripling time of five years would see sea level climbing by around 5cm a year by the mid 2040s.

Another possible consequence of global heating that is underplayed in the IPCC reports is the collapse of the Gulf Stream and associated currents – known in oceanographic circles as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). In the aforementioned 2019 SROCC report, the IPCC recognises that ‘…the AMOC has weakened relative to 1850-1900….’ but that there is ‘….insufficient data to quantify the magnitude of weakening…’ or to ‘…properly attribute it to anthropogenic forcing.’ The report goes on to say that the ‘….AMOC is projected to weaken in the 21st century….although collapse is very unlikely.’ Other research, reported in a range of peer-reviewed papers is, however, more worrying. The strength of the AMOC has declined by 15 percent since the mid-nineteenth century and is now at its weakest for 1500 years and probably since it last collapsed 11,500 years ago5,6. Shutdown, should it occur, could happen extremely rapidly, perhaps over the course of just a year or two, leading to major cooling of the North Atlantic region and serious knock-on effects on sea level and weather patterns.

In it’s 5th Assessment Report, published in 20147, the IPCC notes that ‘…it is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.’ It does not, however, say anything about the terrifying prospect of so-called humid heat waves. These arise when the wet bulb temperature – a measure of the combination of heat and humidity – reaches 35°C. Such conditions, if sustained, are unsurvivable, so that even a fit and healthy human in the shade has only about six hours to live. The required combination of heat and humidity has not been encountered in modern times, but the conditions were almost met in parts of Iran in July 2015. Looking ahead, the second half of the century is forecast to see humid heat waves affecting the Ganges and Indus valleys of South Asia8, the Persian Gulf and China. Most at risk is the North China Plain, where widespread irrigation is predicted to contribute to the occurrence of humid heat waves later this century that could affect up to 400 million people under a business as usual emissions scenario9.

Other elements of global heating and climate breakdown research are omitted from IPCC publications too, or at least soft-peddled. The key question then, is how can this information be made generally available and how can it’s profile be raised so as to present a more complete picture of what a hotter world might look like. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an easy solution. One way forward might be for the IPCC to openly acknowledge the existence of relevant and important peer-reviewed research that supports non-consensus findings, and to publish this material in addenda to the main reports. This would, or course, require the agreement of the signatories of the UNFCCC, which is likely to prove difficult, if not impossible.

Another way forward could be the establishment of an independently-vetted, non-political website, perhaps validated by national academies of science, on which peer-reviewed research findings not included – for one reason or another – in IPCC publications, could be lodged.

Building a more complete picture – for both stakeholders and the public – of what global heating and climate breakdown could mean, would also benefit from more climate scientists sticking their heads above the parapet and saying in public, what they currently reserve for private conversations. Many climate scientists clearly have an issue with telling it like it is, as high-lighted in a recent analysis10.

This showed that later observations of the climate system (e.g. ice extent and sea-level rise) were typically worse than earlier predictions made by climate scientists, and that key climate indicators were often underestimated. The study also unearthed a general feeling within the climate science community that it needed to give the impression of univocality – speaking with one voice – and a consensus outlook. The analysis also revealed that – when the world is watching – climate scientists worry about how they will be perceived. Taken together, all this means that most researchers working on global heating and climate breakdown tend to play down worst-case scenarios, thereby presenting an unrepresentative picture of their impacts and consequences. What the climate science community should be doing is not making consensus a goal. If it exists, it will emerge in its own right. If it doesn’t, then clear differences of opinion need to be acknowledged and clarified. The time for sweeping inconvenient research findings under the carpet and keeping heads down for fear of reputational damage or derision are long gone. We all have a right of access to the complete picture of the world our children and grandchildren could inherit. Failing to provide this may well mean that the actions we take in this critical decade fall short of what is needed to avoid catastrophic, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.”

 

Bill McGuire’s novel – SKYSEED – an eco-thriller about geoengineering gone wrong, is published in September 2020.

References

1 IPCC 2019, Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate. https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/

2 Le Bars, D. et al. 2017 A high-end sea-level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss. Environmental Research Letters 12. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6512/meta

3 Hansen, J. et al. 2016 Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3761-3812.

4 The IMBIE Team 2018 Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992 – 2017. Nature, 558, 219-222.

5 Caesar, L. et al. 2018 Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature 556, 191 – 196.

6 Thornalley, D. J. R. et al. 2018 Anomalously weak Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic overturning during the past 150 years. Nature 556, 227-230.

7 IPCC 2013-14 5th Assessment Report. http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/

8 Im, E., Pal, J. S & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2017 Deadly heatwaves projected in the densely populated agricultural regions of South Asia. Science Advances 3 (8), e1603322.

9 Kang, S. & Eltahir, E. A. B. 2018 North China Plain threatened by deadly heatwaves due to climate change and irrigation. Nature Communications Article 2894.

10 Oppenheimer, M. et al. 2019 Discerning experts: the practices of scientific assessment for environmental policy. University of Chicago Press. 304pp.



 


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An alarmists guide to climate change

This is an article written by Prof Bill McGuire of University College, London and published by Scientists for Global Responsibility, as well as in: Responsible Science journal, no.1; Advance online publication: 14 February 2019.

Below is copied in its entirety from SGR magazine: http://www.sgr.org.uk/resources/alarmist-s-guide-climate-change

ProfBillMcGuire

Prof. Bill McGuire, University College London

“Have you noticed how the term ‘alarmist’ has been hijacked? In the context of climate breakdown, habitat and wildlife loss and other environmental issues, it has become synonymous with scaremongering; with the voice of doom. In certain circles it is frowned upon and judged to be a hindrance to getting the global warming message across. Iconic broadcaster David Attenborough is the latest to express the view that ‘alarmism’ in the context of the environment can be a ‘turn-off’ rather than a call to action. But are such viewpoints justified, especially when our world and our society teeter on the edge of catastrophe? After all, the simplest, most straightforward, meaning of an ‘alarmist’ is someone who raises the alarm. Is this not what we need now more than ever; to be told the whole story – warts and all? The alternative, it seems to me, is to play down the seriousness of our predicament; to send a message that is incomplete, and to conveniently avoid or marginalise predictions and forecasts that paint a picture regarded as too bleak for general consumption. Surely, this is the last thing we need at this critical time?

No-one could ever accuse the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of being alarmist. Because every sentence of IPCC report drafts is pored over by representatives of national governments – some of whom are lukewarm or even antagonistic to the whole idea of climate change – the final versions are inevitably conservative. The closest the IPCC has come to sounding an alarm bell can be found in its latest report Global Warming of 1.5ºC, published in October. Here it warns that emissions must be slashed within 12 years (by 2030) if there is to be any chance whatsoever of keeping the global average temperature rise (since pre-industrial times) below 1.5ºC, and fall to zero by 2050.

Notwithstanding the unlikelihood of achieving net zero global emissions in a little more than three decades, the pace and degree of climate change are about more than just anthropogenic emissions. They are also influenced by tipping points and positive feedback loops; sudden changes in the behaviour of ice sheets, carbon sources and sinks, and ocean currents, which can accelerate warming and its consequences way beyond the expected. Depressingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the latest IPCC report’s Summary for Policymakers [1] – let’s face it, the only bit likely to be read by the movers and shakers – includes just one brief mention of feedbacks and has nothing at all to say about tipping points. The justification for this appears to be that because it is not possible to assign levels of confidence to such known unknowns, they cannot be included. But it is difficult not to conclude that the real reason is to tone down the threat in order to appease those governments that view climate change as a nuisance that they would like to go away.

The decision to bury concerns over tipping points and feedbacks in the depths of the full report rather than flagging them in the Summary is nonsensical. Touting the critical importance of drastic action while at the same time soft peddling the threat has the potential to backfire, providing the obvious get out: well, if the situation is not so bad, maybe the response doesn’t need to be that urgent. If drastic, life-changing, action is being mooted, people need to know – have a right to know – why. They need to be presented with a complete picture showing how bad things might get – however scary or poorly constrained.

Bringing the potential consequences of tipping points and feedbacks into the equation inevitably transforms perceptions of the dangers we face. Suddenly, climate change ceases to be something vaguely inconvenient that we can leave future generations to deal with. Instead, it becomes far more of an immediate threat capable of tearing our world apart. Take sea level, for example. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, [2] published in 2013 and 2014, predicts – for a worst-case scenario – that global mean sea level could be about a metre higher by the end of the century. Bad enough for millions of coastal dwellers, but nothing compared to what our descendants might experience if a tipping point is crossed that sees the Greenland and/or West Antarctic ice sheets start to disintegrate in earnest. Models that do incorporate this, point to sea level rising far more rapidly. One suggests that the ice loss in Antarctica could occur at a much faster rate than expected, leading to global average sea level being more than 3m higher at the end of the century. [3] Another, based upon correlations between temperature and sea levels during the last interglacial, which ended around 115,000 years ago, proposes that sea level – in theory at least – could climb by as much as 5m by 2100. [4]

Worrying evidence that we might be at a tipping point in Antarctica comes from a very recent study on the rate of ice loss from 2012 to 2017. During this five-year period, Antarctic ice loss shot up threefold, from 76 billion tonnes annually, to a colossal 219 billion tonnes. [5] In total, more than 2.7 trillion tonnes of Antarctic ice has melted in the last quarter century, adding three quarters of a centimetre to global sea level. At the new rate, the contribution over the next 25 years would be 1.5cm. Not enough to worry about in its own right. If, however, the rate of increase is maintained over this period, then the annual rise by 2043 would be close to a catastrophic five centimetres a year. And this is without the growing contribution from Greenland and from the increasing expansion of sea water as the oceans warm.

And there are other causes for serious concern too. None more so than the behaviour of the Gulf Stream and associated currents (together making up the AMOC – Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) that warm north-west Europe and also have a big influence on global weather patterns. In the distant past, surges of meltwater from shrinking ice sheets have caused the Gulf Stream to shut down. Now, it looks as if it might be in danger of doing so again as huge volumes of freshwater from the crumbling Greenland Ice Sheet pour into the North Atlantic, forming a so-called ‘cold blob’.

The IPCC’s official line is that another complete shutdown is ‘very unlikely’, but this is not the same as ruling it out. And there are certainly some worrying signs. The Gulf Stream has slowed by 15 – 20 percent since the middle of the 20th century and is now at its weakest for at least 1600 years. [6] The Gulf Stream has a tipping point, and – evidence from the past shows – can shut down in just a few years when this is crossed. The problem is that no-one knows when – or even if – this will happen. If it does, the ramifications will be sudden and widespread. The North Atlantic region will cool dramatically, particularly across the UK, Iceland and North West Europe, while sea ice will expand southwards (without, it should be emphasised, counteracting the trajectory of climate change). Sea-levels along the eastern seaboard of North America could rise at three to four times the global average rate. Further afield, changes to weather patterns are forecast to include a weakening of Indian and East Asian monsoons, which could have devastating consequences for crop yields. No-one is saying that the Gulf Stream is in imminent danger of collapse. Nonetheless, the threat is not insignificant, and as such should be soberly touted, not wilfully ignored.

Of the many and varied feedback loops and tipping points linked with rapid anthropogenic warming, perhaps the most disquieting involves the vast tracts of permafrost at high latitudes – both on land and beneath the sea. Trapped beneath this frozen crust are colossal quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a warming effect 86 times greater than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, methane has a relatively short residence time in the atmosphere and breaks down to carbon dioxide within a few decades. Nonetheless, major outbursts of methane from the rapidly thawing permafrost are capable of causing climate mayhem with little or no warning. The geographic region of most concern is probably the submarine permafrost that floors the East Siberian Continental Shelf, where an estimated 1400 billion tonnes of carbon, in the form of methane, is lurking beneath a frozen carapace that is thawing rapidly.

According to Natalia Shakhova and colleagues, [7] as much as 50 billion tonnes of this is available for sudden release at any time, which would – at a stroke – hike the methane content of the atmosphere 12 times. According to a study published in 2013, [8] a discrete methane ‘burp’ on this scale, could advance global warming by 30 years and cost the global economy US$60 trillion – a figure close to four times the US national debt. Once again, the occurrence of such an outburst is far from a certainty and there are other issues to consider, including how much methane is absorbed by the ocean as it bubbles upwards. Notwithstanding this, there is a potential danger here that needs to be promulgated rather than hidden away, so that the scale of the climate change threat is clear to everyone.

So – to conclude – be alarmed; be very alarmed. But don’t let alarm feed inertia. Use it instead to galvanise action. For your children’s and their children’s sake, stand up and do something about it. Drastically change your lifestyle; become an activist; vote into power a government that will walk the walk on climate change, not just talk the talk. Or – preferably – all three.”
Bill McGuire is Professor Emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London and a co-director of the New Weather Institute. His current book is Waking the Giant: how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. He is a signatory of an academics’ letter in support of the School Climate Strike.
References

1. IPCC (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C. Summary for Policymakers. http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

2. IPCC (2014). Fifth Assessment Report. http://ipcc.ch/report/ar5/

3. Le Bars D. et al (2017). A high-end sea-level rise probabilistic projection including rapid Antarctic Ice Sheet mass loss. Environmental Research Letters, vol.12.

4. Hansen J. et al (2016). Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous. Atmos. Chem. Phys., vol.16, pp.3761-3812.

5. The IMBIE Team (2018). Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet 1992 – 2017. Nature, vol.558, pp.219-222.

6. Caesar L. et al (2018). Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. Nature, vol.556, pp.191-196.

7. Shakhova N.E. (2008). Anomalies of methane in the atmosphere over the East Siberian shelf. Geophysical Research Abstracts, vol.10, EGU2008-A-01526. Abstract.

8. Whiteman G., Hope C., Wadhams P. (2013). Vast costs of Arctic change. Nature, vol.499, pp.401–403.


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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​ (http://www.planb.earth/what-is-plan-b-.html ) 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 (http://www.planb.earth/plan-b-v-uk.html ).

 

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 https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/planb/ 
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!
Update:
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 GOVERNMENT KNOWS ITS CLIMATE TARGET WON’T KEEP US SAFE”

The second:

“SO WHY DOESN’T IT CHANGE IT?”

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/17/uk-to-review-climate-target-raising-hopes-of-a-zero-emissions-pledge

https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3030307/claire-perry-to-instruct-committee-on-climate-change-to-scope-net-zero-goal

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’:

https://www.thecanary.co/discovery/analysis-discovery/2018/06/08/caroline-lucas-just-threw-her-weight-behind-the-mother-of-all-court-cases-against-the-uk-government/ 

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhlEmI1lnm0&t=15s 

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:

http://nebula.wsimg.com/0aae89d93c9be2670843f4d3678a965f?AccessKeyId=E7B5A255C426BFBF3693&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

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:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/20/climate-campaigners-lose-high-court-battle-over-carbon-target?utm_source=sendinblue&utm_campaign=Update1054onCitizenssueGovernmentforsafeClimateTargetJuly232018&utm_medium=email



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