One of the things I missed during my failed New Year’s Resolution attempt to be less involved in Cliscep was Jaime’s reference to the Climate Assembly at the end of her article on the government’s kow-towing to Extinction Rebellion. The 20-odd comments under the article contain more useful information than are to be found in any mainstream news source (thanks everyone.)
Paul Homewood at Notalotofpeopleknowthat also has an article on the subject in which he raises the question of how many of this self-selecting group (110 people chosen to be representative from 2000 who responded to an invitation sent out to 30,000 random households) will be eco-loons. I pointed out in a late comment that the organisers have done what looks like a reasonable job of making the panel representative, including attitudes to climate change among the factors for choosing the panel.
The Guardian, in an article here also raises the question of representativity and quotes one of the organisers:
Of the assembly members, three people are not at all concerned, 16 not very concerned, 36 fairly concerned, 54 very concerned, and one did not know, organisers said. The selection process meant those chosen could include climate deniers or sceptics [..] “It is really important that it is representative of the UK population,” said Allen. “Those people, just because they’re sceptical of climate change, they’re going to be affected by the steps the government takes to get to net zero by 2050 too and they shouldn’t have their voice denied in that.”
As I point out in my comment, this won’t stop the over-representation of extreme Greens. The overall response rate to the invitation to participate (which involves three weekends in Birmingham being lectured to by the likes of David Attenborough and Professor Ed Hawkins) was just 6%. One imagines more fervent Green types would be keener to attend than average Joes who just watch wildfires and worry, so the 54 attendees who claim to be “very concerned” about climate change probably contain more than their fair share of XR-type militants.
One can never repeat too often that asking what is the real level of concern about climate is like asking what’s the length of a piece of string. 50% of punters are “very concerned” about climate, but only 3% vote Green, and only about 0.1% sign up with Extinction Rebellion. Concern is as variable as the weather, which is what – for 99% of the population – it’s all about.
But bias is also possible at the other end of the spectrum. What’s the chance that among the three Assembly members who are “not at all concerned” and the sixteen “not very concerned” are a number of informed sceptics? Pretty high, I’d say. After all, “not being concerned” is a very good reason not to go to Birmingham to discuss it, unless you are concerned about what the government intends to do about it. Most of the 14% who are “not very” or “not at all concerned” according to the Ipsos/MORI poll on which the organisers based their selection of Assembly members will eliminate themselves by not responding to the invitation, leaving more room for us. It would only require a half dozen awkward customers to give the organisers a hard time.
So what will happen at the Assembly? Answer from this parliamentary committee site:
Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee said:
“Adopting the net zero target was a major milestone for the UK, reflecting the strong cross-party support for action on climate change. We now need to set out a clear roadmap for the actions to achieve net-zero. It’s very clear that we will all need to play a part in meeting this target and that we all share a responsibility to future generations to do so. Finding solutions which are equitable and have public support will be crucial. Parliament needs to work with the people and with Government to address the challenge of climate change. The Climate Assembly UK will advise Parliament on how people want us to meet the net zero target, and suggest policies that the Government can implement to secure success.”
Key themes to be discussed at Climate Assembly UK will include how people travel, what people buy and household energy use.
The small detail snuck in here under the radar is that the Climate Assembly isn’t about climate at all. It’s about eliminating CO2 emissions by changing the way we live. No more petrol, plastic, steel or concrete for a start. Part of the first day has apparently been devoted to explaining why climate change makes this necessary, but th at won’t be part of the remit of the Assembly to discuss. It is no concern of the Assembly whether the Central England Temperature, which has been rising off and on since the time of Isaac Newton, goes up or down or sideways, or whether the Climate Change Act is based on sound science or is just another one of Dirty Deben’s Delusions. They’ve been chosen to meet a target, and that’s it.
The Assembly has a Twitter thing, the musical sharp note sign (dunno where it is on this keyboard) followed by ClimateAssemblyUK plus a website. The likes of Caroline Lucas and Jonathon Porritt, present as observers, are already commenting favourably.
Here you can find a list of the three groups of experts who will be aiding the Assembly in their deliberations.
The Expert Leads,“responsible for ensuring that the information provided to Climate Assembly UK assembly is balanced, accurate and comprehensive, and that the assembly is focused on the key decisions facing the UK about how to achieve net zero emissions by 2050” are:
Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the UK Committee on Climate Change
Professor Jim Watson, Professor of Energy Policy and Research Director at the University College London Institute of Sustainable Resources
Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, environmental psychologist, specialising in perceptions and behaviour in relation to climate change, energy and transport, based in the School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Director of the UK Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST).
Rebecca Willis, Professor in Practice at Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University. Her work focuses on energy and climate governance.
TheAdvisory Panel supports the Expert Leads. Its members were chosen to represent stakeholders with an interest or expertise in the areas of emissions reduction that Climate Assembly UK will examine. The are:
Fernanda Balata: New Economics Foundation
Tannish Beebee: Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
Patrick Begg: National Trust
Allen Creedy: Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)
Audrey Gallagher: Energy UK
Professor Michael Grubb: University College London (UCL) Institute for Sustainable Resources
Eamonn Ives: Centre for Policy Studies
Ann Jones: National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Chris Jones: National Farmers Union (NFU)
Chaitanya Kumar: Green Alliance
Kirsten Leggett: 2050 Climate Group
Matthew Lesh: Adam Smith Institute
Nick Molho: Aldersgate Group
Luke Murphy: Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
Tim Page: Trades Union Congress (TUC)
Doug Parr: Greenpeace
Dr Alan Renwick: Constitution Unit, University College London (UCL)
Dhara Vyas :Citizens’ Advice
Rebecca Williams: RenewableUK
And finally, the Academic Panel, which is made up of researchers working on areas of climate change to be covered by the assembly. They are:
Professor Jillian Anable: Professor of Transport and Energy, University of Leeds
Professor John Barrett: Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, University of Leeds
Professor John Barry :Professor of Green Political Economy, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Jason Chilvers: Professor of Environment and Society, University of East Anglia
Professor Nick Eyre: Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, University of Oxford
Dr Clair Gough: Senior Research Fellow with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester
Dr Rosie Green: Assistant Professor in Nutrition and Sustainability, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Dr Jo House: Reader in Environmental Science and Policy, University of Bristol
Professor Tahseen Jafry: Professor of Climate and Social Justice and Director The Centre for Climate Justice, Glasgow Caledonian University
Professor Carly McLachlan: Professor of Climate and Energy Policy, University of Manchester
Professor Dale Southern: Professor in Sociology of Consumption and Organisation, University of Bristol
Professor Benjamin Sovacool: Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex
Note that, as far as I can see, not one of these experts is an expert on climate. The only one who works at a climate research centre is Dr Clare Gough of the Tyndall Research Centre, but her experience is in “integrated technical and social science analyses, featuring the use of long-term scenarios and public and stakeholder participation in the context of energy and climate change.”
So that’s it. The Citizens’ Assembly will be hearing from experts on climate, like David Attenborough and Professor Ed “Stripey” Hawkins, but the panel of 35 experts whose job it is to ensure that the information provided to Climate Assembly UK is “balanced, accurate and comprehensive” contains not a single climate scientist.
What’s going to happen if one of the Assembly members (or one of the expert policy wonks, for that matter) suddenly dons a red dervish robe and starts chanting a prayer to Gaia to spare us extinction in twelve years’ time? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is what I want to know.
Answers below please. I’ll be looking further into the tangled web of greenery from which the experts have emerged, and help with that will be appreciated. Plus there’s Twitter to follow. It’s going to be a busy three weeks.