The “Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat” – the French equivalent of the British Climate Assembly – finished its deliberations last June, and the “Loi Climat” designed to implement its recommendations was adopted by the government 10thFebruary and will be examined in parliament mid-March. The Convention’s official website is here

with a shortened version in English here.

The Convention made 149 propositions aimed at reducing France’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Macron promised to adopt all of them but three, then reneged. The propositions retained in the 65 articles of the law include compulsory insulation of all buildings, vegetarian meals available in school canteens, plus bans on advertising for all “polluting” products, mailbox advertising, and internal flights where an alternative train service of less than 2 hours exists. All propositions that might upset the consumer, such as an alignment of the price of diesel with that of petrol, have been eliminated or postponed to after the next but one presidential election. So at least we know how long Macron intends to stay with us.

The Convention has just fired its farewell shot in the form of an end of term report on the government’s reaction its work. They award Macron 2.8 out of ten for the law on reducing emissions from air transport, and 2.7/10 for its proposed watered down law against “ecocide.” On the other hand they awarded themselves 7/10 for the usefulness of the Citizens’ Assembly as a concept, with which I concur, since it has successfully shown up Macron as a hypocrite in the eyes of the ecolo-left, and a mad ecolo-zealot in the eyes of the right. Petrol prices won’t go up fast enough for the Greens, but they’ll go up one day, as Madam le Pen will be reminding her yellow jacketed fans from here to the presidential election in 2022. 

Now it’s all over I got round to visiting the site of the Convention to check out how it went. The structure was very similar to that of the British Climate Assembly, with just one address by a climate scientist, palaeo-climatologist Valérie Masson-Delmotte. As with the UK’s Climate Assembly, she shared the podium with a political appointee, in this case Laurence Tubiana, French ambassador to the COP21 and director of the European Climate Foundation.

You can see Valérie’s exposé here.

It’s been viewed 3,362 times, and has provoked nine comments. So much for the Citizens’ Convention as a spark to ignite a new era of participatory democracy. Once you’ve discounted the close families of the participants and France’s several hundred environmental journalists, the number of ordinary citizens who have watched this video must be close to zero.

I can find no transcription of her exposé, though here 

is an excerpt from her explanation of the greenhouse effect:

Imagine that you’re a tiny planet. Your body is warm and emits an invisible infra-rouge radiation around it. If you go to bed at night and forget to put the duvet, you’ll lose heat and feel cold. If you put the duvet on the duvet traps your heat and in a little while you’re cosy. This is the natural greenhouse effect. But if you keep on adding more duvets, you don’t see the effect at once, but after a while you’ll see that it heats up. The principle of the greenhouse effect on the earth is rather similar. It stops part of the earth’s heat from escaping into space in the form of radiation because of the procucts we’re releasing into the atmosphere.

Since 1900, the scientific community believes that no other factors other than human activity can explain the warming. What’s more, the climate reacts and amplifies the disturbance. As it warms, the air contains more water vapour, which is a greenhouse gas. As it warms, there’s less snow and ice, we lose the mirror effect, and the warming is accentuated. So what we’re seeing is the climate machine reacting to our disturbance and amplifying the warming. 

The initial session in which Val explained climate science was odd, in that, after the initial introduction, the moderator went straight to questions. Unlike the UK Assembly, there was no initial filtering, so what follows are the first seven thoughts that came into the heads of a random group of citizens, before they’d heard a word from the experts:

1.Do we know, technically, what led to the great eighteenth century cooling, which led, for example, to the fact that at Bordeaux the wine was sold frozen by weight instead of liquid, in bottles?

[Here the moderator asked the questioner to explain the relevance of her question, to which the lady replied that her question was perfectly clear. One sensed a certain panic at this point. How were they going to steer the discussion round to the need to ban the internal combustion engine if little old ladies from Bordeaux were going to pose serious questions about the Little Ice Age?]

2. Today you’re asking for our opinion, but you are the experts. So what do you think would be the most important measure to put in place in order to realise our objectives?

3. In the presentation you said that we hoped to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030 in comparison with 1990. I don’t understand why 1990. Is it because we don’t know the current situation, because 1990 is 39 years ago [sic] Is it because in those 39 years we have already increased emissions, or is it because we’ve made an effort to reduce them? So we have eleven years left to attain our objectives, are we already at 20% less or 40% more, etcetera?

4. You associate the question of climate with social questions. I work in the social sector, where there are lots of great initiatives at a local level, which are not necessarily supported by the government, so local associations often find themselves alone in supporting them. What astonishes me is that we come from all sectors, every region, every political orientation – it’s a “melting pot” [in English] and we manage to make proposals and carry them out. Why is this not possible at a global level?

5. I’d like to ask if you find that you receive enough recognition for your research and the possible solutions that you propose from the state and its institutions?

6. I’d like to know what is the level of urgency at the technical and human level.

7. I’d like to know what’s happening to the ozone layer.

Now, my impression is that these questions were far more intelligent and pertinent than the organisers had a right to expect, which is why I won’t condemn the Citizens’ Assembly idea out of hand. What happened next was that Valérie Masson-Delmotte got up and, instead of answering the seven questions, gave a slide presentation.

The first slide announced that:

– the climate of France and the world is changing, and its effects are visible everywhere, due to global greenhouse gas emissions

– future change was inevitable up to 2050, and we must prepare for the consequences

– long term change depends on future global emissions

– there are numerous options before us

The second slide was entitled: “La formidable aventure scientifique des sciences du climat,” and consisted of an arrow starting in the 17th century with meteorological instruments and ending in the 20th century with super computers, satellites, climate modelling and climate change, the implication being that climate change is a 20th century thing. 

On climate models she said:

“And something that’s really new is our ability to model the climate. We put it into equations, ,and we have a kind of virtual planet. And with this model of the climate we can replay the history of the past centuries. If there were only natural factors what would have happened? What wouldhave happened given human activity? And these climatemodels are the only tool we have to explore the plausible future evolution of the climate.”

On and on she went for 25 minutes, with slides of an ever increasing complexity, finishing with her first slide, to which she added this point:

– The division of responsibility, and the effects of climate change on different regions, generations, and according to the vulnerability and ability to act, makes climate change a profound question of justice.

leaving three minutes to answer the questions about frozen wine in Bordeaux in the 18th century (volcanoes) and her personal most important initiative (advertising, since it confuses people by encouraging them to buy things, which is bad for the planet.)

Valérie had more than twice as long as the UK Climate Assembly’s expert, the auld biddy Professor Wassname, ex-vice president of that hedge fund billionaire Wassname’s climate thingy which keeps our British universities afloat – you know, the bloke who employs Bob Ward to yap and bite the ankle of any journalist who dares to quote the GWPF – to describe the science of global warning. And she made a much better hash of it, possibly because the language of Descartes is better suited for demonstrating that x = ky, or because French culture expects more of their citizens in the way of intelligent reflection. Anyway, she delivered in excellent French the bog standard description of the current state of climate science, with all the standard warnings that We Must Act.

Which was pretty cheeky for a palaeo-climatologist. A bit like a palaeo-historian telling us how we should run our lives, based on his reading of the ancient Babylonian cuneiform texts. (Which is roughly what Jordan Peterson does in his first book, which I intend to review soon here.)

My point is: The French parliament is about to vote on a law which will determine how we travel, heat our homes,and basically live, supposedly based on the conclusions of a hundred citizens whose mainsource of information was a 25 minute slide show by an expert who is described thus by Wikipaedia:

Masson-Delmotte was born 29 October 1971 to two English teachers.. She completed a Diploma of Advanced studies in Engineering with honours at the Ecole Centrale Paris in 1993. She also received her PhD in from the same institution in 1996, in fluid physics and transfers. Her doctoral thesis was “Climate simulation of the Holocene means using general circulation models of the atmosphere; Impacts of parameterization”.

After her PhD, Masson-Delmotte began working as a researcher at the Commissariat for Atomic Energy (CEA), specifically the Laboratory of Climate and the Environmental Sciences.She became head of a paleoclimate group in 2010, head of a research group in 1998, and completed her habilitation in 2004. Since 2008, she has been the Research Director/Senior Scientist at CEA. Her research includes water vapour monitoring and combines past climate variability (ice cores, tree rings) with simulations, to address current climate models.Masson-Delmotte served on numerous national and international projects including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since 2014, she has been a member of the French Research Strategic Council.She has published extensively, including several books for the general public, as well as children’s books.

Note that, despite being “born to two English teachers,” Valérie’s English Wikipaedia entry seems not to have been written by an English speaker. She knows about ice cores and tree rings, and was therefore chosen to inform the Convention on the Climate on the need for the French peasant to invest in hydrogen powered tractors pretty sharpish, and cut down drastically on his Camembert-producing farting cows. 

On the basis of which, the French parliament will vote in a couple of weeks on a law which will determine whether our kids can eat meat in their school canteens, and how I may be allowed to travel to Paris. 

19 Comments

  1. Citizen Assemblies are just climate Soviets for the 21st century: perversions of actual democratic means of governance.
    They should most assuredly be condemoed out of hand.

    Like

  2. And regarde ca on the co2 blanket…, “It *stops* part of the earth’s heat from escaping to space in the form of radiation…” Doesn’t she mean,”It *slows* part of the earth’s heat, ” it’s not a real glass greenhouse ést ce que?

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  3. From the short English on-line version:

    “For the first time, a panel representative of the diversity of French citizens, will be directly involved in the preparation of the law.

    The Citizen’s Convention on Climate, an unprecedented democratic experiment in France, aims to give citizens a voice to accelerate the fight against climate change. Its mandate is to define a series of measures that will allow to achieve a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990) in a spirit of social justice.

    Decided on by the President of the Republic, the Convention brings together 150 people, all drawn by lot; it represents the diversity of French society.”

    “[An] unprecedented democratic experiment”? 150 people get to choose the measures required “to accelerate the fight against climate change” on the basis of a pre-agreed “mandate…to define a series of measures that will allow…a reduction of at least 40%…”

    What if the 150 people didn’t agree the 40% target, or didn’t even agree it was necessary to “accelerate the fight against climate change”? And 150 of them, out of a population of more than 65 million. On what basis is this a “democratic experiment”? We seem to be living in a world of Orwellian 1984 Newspeak.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Quite often when the non-democratic character of climate deliberations are discussed, mention is made of the small number of participants making the analysis and recommendations, and the willingness of governments to accept those recommendations from such bodies. Commonly complaints are made that small bodies of unelected participants are tasked with making wide-ranging recommendations that may be accepted by governments without full democratic discussion. Oddly critics of such procedures often argue that such procedures are not democratic. Yet classical Athenian democracy involved several mechanisms and organisations. Commonly those making these anti democratic complaints are only considering the Ekklesia. In contrast The Boule consisted of only 500 drawn by lot and is more similar to climate assemblies.

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  5. @Alan – ps – Spartans & helots also spring to mind, oh for the good old days!!!

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  6. Alan, ‘classical Athenian democracy’ is for the birds.

    Sortition may or may not have had the support of the demos of city states in classical antiquity. It makes no difference to the observation now that the Climate Assembly — or any other form of extra-constitutional sortition — lacks democratic legitimacy. Any amount of wittering that it ain’t necessarily so because of what happened 3,000 years ago will ultimately have to answer to tens of millions of people who may well find themselves without homes, without power, without incomes, without work, without mobility, those things having been in such abundance that Athenians could not dream of. Not those without slaves, at least.

    What would you tell them? “I don’t know why you’re so worked up about it — the ancient Greeks didn’t mind focus-group politics”?

    Contemporary democracy is not defined by the design of dissolved societies, but by the historical settlements that have since produced the development of its principles.

    No doubt, the political design of ancient and medieval city states and federations is interesting. But we would no more accept those historical designs than we would accept or ancient or feudal modes of production — or concomitant social relations and institutions such as slavery. The demos — the hoi polloi itself — defines democracy, in other words, not wonks.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. DF, Ben. Oh how misunderstood I am. I believe the adoption of any “suggestion” from today’s climate indoctrination schools to be most I democratic. I wrote my 1 Mar, 8,31pm as an interest piece. I thought others might be interested in a closer analog to the Climate Assembly than the wider Athenian democracy with which it is commonly adversely compared.

    We like to compare our Western political institutions with Athenian precursors. What we don’t imply by using the word “democracy” is everything associated with it – slavery in particular. Likewise pointing out what I believe is a greater similarity between the Athenian Borse and modern Assemblies confers no support for the latter

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  8. Apologies then, Alan, for misu8nderstanding you. I can assure you however, that it is the proponents of Climate Assemblies that are those who are raiding the ancient history books for recipes of democracy that are ‘superior’ to the version that has failed to give them what they want. It’s not the critics that are wanting here. One being the Sortition Foundation, for instance, which was involved in the UK Assembly, and which is categorically hostile to representative democracy, which it claims has produced a toxic Parliament, full of corruption.

    Which makes it all the more strange that it was Parliament which accepted the bid from the coalition of such grubby outfits as the Sortition Foundation to put the Assembly together. And odder still that the Sortition Foundation then accepted Parliament’s coin, too, to follow Parliament’s instructions that the Assembly obediently find a way to realise the toxic, corrupt ambition that the toxic, corrupt Parliament had set. It turns out that being toxic and corrupt is OK, if you do what the Sortition Foundation want.

    I don’t know how common or serious attempts to compare today’s democracy with ancient Greek variants are. I haven’t seen any critics of the UK Assembly invoking ancient Greece to advance their criticism. I certainly didn’t do it in my report, which is one of very few responses to the scheme.

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  9. Ben, it’s good to see you here again, and you should know that many of us have been watching closely your recent work in this area. Please keep up the good work. It is appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “working” for a decade or more, with f all money coming in. gets tiresome?

    Bishop Hill appeared to give up because it all seemed pointless, endless repeating battles, achieving nothing. Then a new generation of activist come along, hype things up even more (than you would have though possible) and then the politicians all go along with it..

    I’m at the say something on twitter to a MP.

    …and then say I told you so in a decade, when NetZero trashes all the parties

    Liked by 1 person

  11. @Barry – assume you mean running a blog?

    anyway, agree “endless repeating battles, achieving nothing”

    unless you can compete (level playing field in Brexit parlance) with the MSM narrative/news expert advice/bias/evidence we have lost the game (not even on the pitch).

    they have the ball with an empty goal at both ends, need you & others to be in goal (ps – not locked up)

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  12. BARRY WOODS

    Bishop Hill appeared to give up because it all seemed pointless, endless repeating battles, achieving nothing.

    Actually Andrew Montford now has a proper job being paid for what he used to do for free. I imagine he gave up posting at Bishop Hill because the enemies of the Global Warming Policy Foundation would use any extreme comments under his posts as evidence against the GWPF.

    Barry is the best example of the fact that it’s not entirely pointless. Whenever we’ve scored a small success, for example against Lewandowsky, or Neil Levy at the Oxford centre for Practical Ethics, Barry has been at the forefront of commenters. He and I and Paul Matthews and a number other clisceppers share the honour of having been banned from commenting on an Oxford university blog about ethics. If Lewandowsky is no longer a star writer at the Conversation or the Guardian, it’s probably due to our efforts. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. BARRY
    OK, you’ve convinced me. My “It’s not much, but it’s not nothing” is like the bottom-of-the-leaguers consoling themselves with memories of how they once beat Manchester City.

    “First they attack you, then they block you, then you win” worked for Gandhi, but you don’t hear that line quoted by the millions of contrarian voices who disappeared in the landfill of history. But history is a quirky thing, and if the tide turns, I don’t want to see the likes of Marine le Pen, or even Boris Johnson, taking the credit. We were there. We saw that it was bollocks before Net Zero reduced the country to a third world standard of living.

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