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.