Carbon Brief has a most interesting recent article 

(no, really) about how Boris was persuaded to go for Net Zero by an eleven-slide  presentation in January 2020 organised by Patrick Vallance.

Someone called John Dodders mentioned it on Twitter, saying:

“The PM ‘bounced’ into costly & draconian decisions by a short slide show. Each slide here is debatable.”

Ben Pile retweets Dodders’ tweet and expresses doubts about something Bishop Hill says about Dodders’ point but I don’t recall the details. (Twitter is such a lousy stupid waste of time. For non-aficionados, “tweet” in bird language  means “Oh goody! I’ve found a crumb.” Trouble is, while you’re peering round to see if anyone’s heard your cheep, the crumb has disappeared in a mass of dust and feathers that makes you regret you ever opened your beak. Leave it out Ben – Also Valerius aka Maurizio, and Barry. Come back here and talk to sensible people in paragraphs of more than nineteen characters.)

Carbon Brief has obtained via the  Freedom of Information Act the eleven slides from the presentation that turned Boris from a sceptic to a fervent believer in climate catastrophe, plus the emails between those setting up the presentation. The slides are reproduced at the end of the Carbon Brief article and they have to be seen to be disbelieved. They were devised in consultation with Betts and Stott of the Met, plus a number of other people whose names have been redacted, presumably for fear of reprisals from Denialism State or something. 

Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the complexities of the climate could be encompassed in a mere eleven slides. In fact the eleven slides contain about 33 complex graphs, charts, or maps. Take for example the very first slide, which contains three graphs and one map, namely:

  1. the Keeling curve of the rise in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 since the fifties, a combination of three coloured lines label Mauna Loa, NOAA, and WDCGG. Now you and I know what Mauna Loa and NOAA mean, since we’ve been thinking of little else for the past fifteen years. We live and breathe rising CO2 concentrations, (though not on top of a Hawaiian volcano.) So does Boris, but he doesn’t know that.
  2. A graph of Global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900. (That is, the difference is from 1850 to1900, not the graph, which runs up to the present.) The ever alert Boris will have noted, even if it wasn’t pointed out to him, that, after dropping half a degree from 1875 to 1910, temperatures have bounced back about 1.3 degrees in the past century, which just happens to be the most productive, beneficial century of human progress in terms of wealth, health, life expectancy or anything else you care to measure, ever. Which makes it all the more obvious why everything must be done to prevent a future rise of two tenths of a degree which would inevitably tip us over the edge of the fatal 1.5°C. Or something. This graph too has multicoloured lines labelled HadCRUT, NOAA, GISTEMP, ERA-5 etc. “Why no UAH?” I imagine Boris interjecting. Because, explains Sir Patrick with the saintly patience he was about to develop in the upcoming two years of health crisis, there were no satellites back in 1850. Nor were there computer models enabling them to retro-predict the adjustments that would necessarily have to be made to 20th century temperatures in the 21st (and no doubt succeeding) centuries. The Arrow of Time is jolly unfair sometimes. (Always, in fact.)
  3. A graph of global sea level difference, showing  a steady, though slightly kinky, rise in sea levels – all the way from 1993. For some unfathomable reason (OK, fathoms are a bit last century, and not really to scale) sea level rise starts at minus 20mm (five eighths of an inch to you) which might lead the unwary to believe that back in the mists of time (the 1990s) sea levels were actually falling. It’s not mentioned that the same straight line graph could be extended backwards for a couple of centuries, to a time when gigatonnes of CO2 emissions were an industrial pipe dream and the sea was still advancing at a steady tenth of an inch per year, just like now.  

Fourthly and lastly (and apologies for the numbering of the previous three points. My new writing tool was designed by the same genius who designed the NOAA historical temperature revision app.)  on the first slide (of the eleven in the presentation) is a map of the world (Mercator projection) showing “Observed warming  2009-2019 relative to 1961-1990.” Mercator handily exaggerates our ignorance of the third of the world’s surface which is supposedly warming the fastest, and about which we know the least. But even for the rest, our knowledge seems to date from the pre-Doctor Livingstone era. Even bits of Australia are grey on the map. They can put a man on the moon and cure the common corona virus infection with horse medicine, but they can’t stick a thermometer up vast tracts of the outback.

The point is not so much whether the slides are truthful, or a fair representation of the state of the climate, but whether they are a suitable means for imparting complex information to a world leader known to have the attention span of a thirsty goldfish in search of the drinks cabinet.

That Boris’s attention may have wandered during the presentation is indicated by a remark attributed to him in the article at Carbon Brief:

“I got them [government scientists] to run through it all and, if you look at the almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph, the anthropogenic climate change, it’s very hard to dispute. That was a very important moment for me.”

Now Betts, Stott and Vallance are fallible human beings, but they are not serial liars capable of fabricating an “almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph.” Possibly Boris’s attention had wandered at this point, and he was gazing at an embossed pattern on the Downing Street wallpaper, or an indication of Russian troop movements up Whitehall, or an upside-down version of his popularity ratings. We all make mistakes. Not all of us make mistakes capable of plunging the population into freezing poverty, or starting world war three, or both.

15 Comments

  1. Geoff,

    Not only did you post your article within five minutes of my own, but you also stole my best word: ‘aficionados’.

    It’s so random, as the kids might say 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A person known for easily flying off the handle iften says, “This is driving me crazy!”.
    An observant person might note, “It must have been a short drive.”
    The drive to convert most Western leaders into anti-scientific morons seems to have also been a short drive.

    Like

  3. “Now Betts, Stott and Vallance are fallible human beings, but they are not serial liars capable of fabricating an “almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph.” Possibly Boris’s attention had wandered at this point, and he was gazing at an embossed pattern on the Downing Street wallpaper, or an indication of Russian troop movements up Whitehall, or an upside-down version of his popularity ratings. We all make mistakes. Not all of us make mistakes capable of plunging the population into freezing poverty, or starting world war three, or both.”

    Perhaps he was already primed by prior exposure to the ‘hockey stick’ (which has loomed large in the public imagination since Al Gore’s film), and saw what he expected to see from said priming. Especially if, given by the same government “it’s bad” scientists after all, he momentarily conflated the HS with the exponential rises in covid cases from models 0:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Geoff:

    Twitter is such a lousy stupid waste of time. For non-aficionados, “tweet” in bird language means “Oh goody! I’ve found a crumb.” Trouble is, while you’re peering round to see if anyone’s heard your cheep, the crumb has disappeared in a mass of dust and feathers that makes you regret you ever opened your beak. Leave it out Ben – Also Valerius aka Maurizio, and Barry. Come back here and talk to sensible people in paragraphs of more than nineteen characters.

    Try substituting ‘Twitter’ for SOCIAL MEDIA here (and from my reading the author wouldn’t mind in the least):

    There’s been a billion articles decrying this beast and they’ve all been turned into feed for it. Every SOCIAL MEDIA IS BAD headline digested, regurgitated, and shat out to millions of followers. A savage cycle of success indeed.

    This recurring loop has brought me more than a little down on the internet over the past few years. Because it’s so easy to equate the two. Social media is the black hole that seemingly swallows up all discourse, people, and good intentions on the internet. And how do you escape the gravity of that, exactly?

    You could stay far away from the event horizon, but then you’re floating alone in space. Sure, nobody there to endlessly echo and amplify the screams, but nobody there to hear yours either. We need others enough that even if they become these warped beings, pulled apart by the black hole, they’re still preferable to the cold emptiness of being alone.

    42-year-old David Heinemeier Hansson on 28th January. Escaping yet maintaining meaningful relationship ain’t easy. At all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A man so easily swayed, without having any alternative point of view before him, and without a contemplation of the costs of “net zero”, and without any concept of the competitive disadvantage he is imposing on the UK if the rest of the world doesn’t follow (in which case, even if the slides are right, it’s all for nothing) shouldn’t be the UK’s PM, IMO. Then again, some would say there are quite a few other reasons why he shouldn’t be the UK’s PM…..

    Like

  6. RICHARD
    Your first comment is most useful in the way I know Twitter can be, and your second so good I’m tempted to create a bot to go on giving it likes. My beef with Twitter is that I don’t like it but I’m addicted to it, which is the definition of porn I suppose. Even if I learned to use it properly, I guess that I’d just be more addicted. I watch e.g. McIntyre using it as an indispensable tool on the subject of Guccifer2 etc. by sharing information with the half dozen other people in the universe who understand what he’s talking about. But that’s not what I do or could do. I follow people I like and who interest me, and feel shocked and hurt when I find I only agree with them 80% of the time. That’s a disappointing fact of life a child has to learn at the age of three, but which social media makes you forget.

    JOHN
    Apologies for filching “aficionados.” If it’s any consolation, I’m gradually coming to realise that I’ve been a closet Bayseian most of my life.

    ANDY
    If Boris had prior expectations about certain signs and was “primed to see what he expected to see,” it wouldn’t be the first time in the history of religions.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. MARK
    “Even if the slides are right, it’s all for nothing.” Quite. And the emails show that they did make a big effort to ensure that the slides should be “right” in the sense of not raising any awkward questions. They really do seem to believe that Boris is the analytical type of person who would spot an unconvincing argument. His talent is more for following his hunches in binary choice situations (“In or out of Europe?” “Should I make a play for this dolly bird or not?”) – that kind of thing.

    Ben Pile has an article on the Carbon Brief scoop here:
    https://www.climate-resistance.org/2022/02/carbon-briefs-strange-foi-story.html

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I posted the following on Open Mic two days ago. Trying to tell everyone what they want to hear. Take the following Tory leaders. Who fits the bill? Churchill, Thatcher, Johnson. It is so what we don’t need but … it’s possibly not catastrophic. Yet.

    I may do some other snippets of Cummings from Tuesday, on climate and energy. It wasn’t (and never is) one of his main themes.

    —-

    Dominic Cummings is doing an Ask Me Anything on Substack after Sue Gray’s neutered report. This bit may interest people.

    Person A: Are the reports true Boris is willing to ditch Frost’s plan to get rid of EU red tape in favour of net zero rules – which means he is choosing green ( shite) over brexit ?! This would mean he has totally deceived the country – forget partygate – every Brexiteer will be wanting to string him up ?! Get yourself back in Dom with Frosty and sort this out !

    Dominic Cummings: Probably true – but he will trolley back/forth over this trying to tell everyone what they want to here [sic] as usual

    Person B: You mean Brexit can’t be green?

    Richard Drake: In the sense of Borlaug’s Green Revolution it can.

    At https://dominiccummings.substack.com/p/ask-me-anything-dec if you want to stump up for a month.

    Like

  9. Is this a fair summary of the Telegraph front page today from the BBC?

    “The big squeeze” is the headline in the Telegraph, reporting that senior cabinet ministers are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “rethink net zero” plans as the “cost of living crisis bites”. The paper adds several ministers are concerned the speed of a switch to renewable energy is “too fast and increasing costs for consumers”.

    Don’t have time for more!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-the-papers-60254207

    Like

  10. Richard, it may well be, and that’s encouraging. It might also explain why the BBC pushed the Telegraph down its review of the papers, behind the Mail, Guardian, i, Sun, Metro, Times, Mirror, FT and Express.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. It’s not “never”, it’s “slow down a bit”:

    But it’s travel in the right direction.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/02/03/ministers-urge-boris-johnson-rethink-net-zero-plans-cost-living/

    This is from the editorial:

    Ministers invite us to believe that they are grappling with circumstances over which they have no control and yet Government policies are at the root of our problems, whether it be the stampede to net zero, the Climate Change Act, the energy price cap, the botched regulation of suppliers or the failure to take critical decisions when they were needed. This is not a crisis visited upon us by outside forces. It is home grown. The fault and the solution lies with our own politicians.

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2022/02/04/britains-energy-crisis-self-inflicted/

    Quite refreshing, I’d say.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Mark: Yeah I noticed that too. It’ll be down with the Daily Worker if it goes on like this!

    Geoff and Jit: I go with refreshing rather than frog boiling. It’s not time for me to croak just yet.

    Like

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