The WMO warns that we will hit 1.5℃ within the next two or three years. How is the legal profession approaching climate issues and climate-damaging clients, and why are cyclists bad for the economy?
First, some comments on the legal profession and climate issues.
Over the last few weeks, we've spoken about protesters, and particularly about protesters who have been prevented when in court from addressing the jury to explain why they took the actions which they did. Some of them have been sent to prison for contempt of court when they attempted to address the jury. This has raised a number of questions about the legal profession and the wider issue of whether lawyers should represent organisations undertaking activities which are damaging to the planet.
Right to Representation
There are a number of principles at stake here. First of all, it is argued that anyone in court has a right to representation, however dreadful the alleged crime. After all, everyone is innocent until proven guilty and should be entitled to professional assistance to establish that. Even alleged war criminals get defence lawyers, and so they should.
Another argument is that a lawyer should be bound to take the next case that offered, and to treat it fairly, independently and objectively. It's the cab-rank rule.
Outside the Court
A lot of legal work takes place outside the courtroom, so that while the fossil fuel industry and other organisations damaging the planet may be prosecuted and require defence, there are other situations where they use lawyers. For example, if they are planning to invest in plant, machinery, pipelines, oil fields and so on, they will need permissions and licences, and the assistance of lawyers to obtain them.
Some lawyers may believe that it is morally wrong to develop industries or operations which will damage the planet and that creates a dilemma between morality and the law. According to the press, both the Bar Council, which regulates barristers, and the Law Society, which regulates solicitors, have commented on this situation, although after extensive searches I have not been able to find specific statements from them.
Lawyers Are Responsible
However, a website called Lawyers Are Responsible bears a declaration signed by nearly 200 members of the legal profession. You can find the full declaration by following the link on the Sustainable Futures Report website.
The headlines state that the signatories:
- BELIEVE IN UPHOLDING THE RULE OF LAW, AS A CORNERSTONE OF SOCIAL STABILITY, PROSPERITY AND DEMOCRATIC VALUES.
- NOTE THE UK PARLIAMENT’S DECLARATION OF A CLIMATE EMERGENCY IN 2019
- RECOGNISE THAT WE ARE SET TO BREACH THE 1.5C GLOBAL WARMING LIMIT ESTABLISHED BY THE PARIS AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE.
- PROFOUNDLY REGRET THE DIRE CONSEQUENCES.
- EXPRESS OUR GRAVE CONCERN THAT THE ABOVE DEVELOPMENTS POSE A SERIOUS RISK TO THE RULE OF LAW
And accordingly, [amongst other things],
- (5) WE DECLARE, IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR CONSCIENCES, THAT WE WILL WITHHOLD OUR SERVICES IN RESPECT OF:
- (i) supporting new fossil fuel projects; and
- (ii) action against climate protesters exercising their democratic right of peaceful protest.
Of course, there are thousands of members of the legal profession and there is a long way to go before they are all ready to turn down the considerable fees which the fossil fuel industries are able to offer. There is still much work to be done to change public opinion within that profession, and that will extend to judges.
As I understand it, a judge has a legal right to stop defendants from addressing the jury, certainly in the cases which I have reported. Again, as I understand it, and I am no lawyer, contempt of court is at the judge’s discretion. The judge therefore has the discretion to convict someone of contempt of court, or not. You might argue that the judge would be giving the defendants an unjustified opportunity to restate their views if they were permitted to address the jury. On the other hand, the purpose of a jury is to see that justice is done, and to distinguish between the relevant and the irrelevant in reaching their decision. Therefore they should be allowed to hear from the defendants and make up their minds on the merits of the information they receive.
At the moment judges who prevent defendants from addressing the jury are very much in line with the rhetoric coming from the Home Secretary. Maybe this will change if the UK elects a new government next year. In the meantime, let's keep working on public opinion both within and without the legal profession..
All at Sea
In an article, entitled “Another year of record heat for the oceans”, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, the authors say:
Changes in ocean heat content (OHC), salinity, and stratification provide critical indicators for changes in Earth’s energy and water cycles. These cycles have been profoundly altered due to the emission of greenhouse gasses and other anthropogenic substances by human activities, driving pervasive changes in Earth’s climate system. In 2022, the world’s oceans, as given by OHC, were again the hottest in the historical record and exceeded the previous 2021 record maximum.
Heat in the Oceans
In another article, this time published in Earth Systems Science Data, entitled “Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: where does the energy go?” The authors state:
The Earth climate system is out of energy balance, and heat has accumulated continuously over the past decades, warming the ocean, the land, the cryosphere, and the atmosphere. According to the Sixth Assessment Report by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this planetary warming over multiple decades is human-driven and results in unprecedented and committed changes to the Earth system, with adverse impacts for ecosystems and human systems…
…The majority, about 89 %, of this heat is stored in the ocean, followed by about 6 % on land, 1 % in the atmosphere, and about 4 % available for melting the cryosphere.. ..
There are already reports of record ocean temperatures this year and fears that the anticipated El Niño will make things even worse. Even if we ever managed to stop global warming, it could take centuries for the excess heat in the oceans to dissipate. In the meantime, the changes in the temperature at all levels affect the marine biosphere. We have already heard how corals are bleaching but warming leads fish and other marine animals to move away from their normal habitat, either towards the poles or deeper into the ocean. This disrupts the food chain and leads to stress on other marine species.
Symptomatic of all this is the sad case of the puffins. The BBC reports that dozens of dead or dying puffins have been washed up on the beaches of Orkney. It's not clear exactly what was the cause of the death, but a similar situation in Alaska, reported by New Scientist, states that there the birds have have died of starvation. Their principal diet is sand eels, and as the sand eels migrate further and further offshore, they are more and more difficult to find. Without sand eels to carry back to their nests, the puffins have nothing to feed their chicks on. The fate of future generations is in doubt as well.
Puffins are highly photogenic, which might be why they made the headlines. There are likely to be many less interesting species that are under equal threat.
The World Meteorological Organisation
“Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fuelled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event, according to a new update issued today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“There is a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.
Sounding an Alarm
“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“A warming El Niño is expected to develop in the coming months and this will combine with human-induced climate change to push global temperatures into uncharted territory,” he said. “This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared,” he said.
“Arctic warming is disproportionately high. Compared to the 1991-2020 average, the temperature anomaly is predicted to be more than three times as large as the global mean anomaly when averaged over the next five northern hemisphere extended winters.
“Predicted precipitation patterns for the May to September 2023-2027 average, compared to the 1991-2020 average, suggest increased rainfall in the Sahel, northern Europe, Alaska and northern Siberia, and reduced rainfall for this season over the Amazon and parts of Australia.”
We need to be prepared. As I’ve asked before, is anybody listening? And with that in mind, should we be concerned about the company that British cabinet ministers have been keeping?
National Conservatism Conference
This week the National Conservatism Conference took place in London with keynote speeches from Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The National Conservatism Conference is completely separate from the UK Conservative party and has taken place for several years. It is organised by the US-based think tank the Edmund Burke Foundation (EBF) and included a number of US speakers.
The DeSmog website reports that these prominent government politicians are speaking alongside known climate deniers. The article warns that while energy and climate policy is oddly absent from the agenda, many of the speakers and their parent organisations have a record of hostility to climate action, a scepticism of climate science, and interests in fossil fuels.
Conference speakers also include Lee Anderson, Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party, who has claimed that people are “sick to death” of net zero, and former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has said that taking action on climate change is “unrealistic” because “it would have no effect for hundreds or possibly a thousand years.”
NatCon conference chairman Christopher DeMuth, who is co-chairing this week’s London conference, has previously expressed climate science denial and is tied to a number of think tanks that have opposed climate action.
To read the full article follow the link on the HTTP://WWW.SUSTAINABLEFUTURES.REPORT website and learn more about the climate denial credentials of many involved in the organisation.
“We need to be prepared”, says Professor Taalas. With our senior politicians moving in such circles, we are right to be concerned that not enough is being done soon enough.
Cyclists and the Economy
Every Finance Minister promises economic growth. Infinite growth is clearly impossible, and even in the short term, it gets difficult. It's a topic which I want to return to and analyse in more detail before long. I picked up a story on Twitter this week, attributed to the General Director of Euro Exim Bank Ltd, explaining how cyclists can avoid growth and wreck an economy.
“A cyclist is a disaster for the country's economy: he does not buy cars and does not borrow money to buy. He does not pay for insurance policies. He does not buy fuel, does not pay for the necessary maintenance and repairs. He does not use paid parking. He does not cause serious accidents. He does not require multi-lane highways. He does not get fat.
Healthy People not Needed
Healthy people are neither needed nor useful for the economy. They don't buy medicine. They do not go to hospitals or doctors. Nothing is added to the country's GDP (gross domestic product).
On the contrary, every new McDonald's restaurant creates at least 30 jobs: 10 cardiologists, 10 dentists, 10 dietary experts and nutritionists, and obviously, people who work at the restaurant itself."
P.S. Walking is even worse. Pedestrians don't even buy bicycles.
The Euro Exim bank whose director allegedly made these remarks, is based in St. Lucia, and it says clearly on its website: “We aim to be one of the leading international trade finance institutions focused on innovation that excites international transactions. There is supervised practice of strong anti-money laundering, compliance policy, due diligence and a comprehensive know your customer KYC process.”
I wonder why they chose to set up in St. Lucia. For the sunshine, I expect.
And that’s it!
And that's it. For another week. And as I explained earlier the next edition will be on Thursday of next week. Thank you for listening and thank you for your support, particularly if you are a patron. I am constantly grateful to those of you who are paying a small amount each month to help me with the costs of this totally nonprofit podcast. If you would like to contribute, then please do go to patreon.com/SFR and help this organisation to stay independent and ad free.
I've decided to re-organise my week and Thursday will be the publication date for the Sustainable Futures Report in future. The reason for this is that I am fully committed on Mondays and therefore if I am to publish on Wednesday mornings I only have Tuesday to do the preparation. If I leave it till Thursday I have an extra 24 hours potentially. I could go back to Fridays, but since I am fully committed on Thursday the work would still have to be complete by Wednesday night, so you might just as well have it on Thursday. I’m still aiming to get it out at least a day earlier to Patrons.
I recorded an interesting interview this morning. You may get it next week or you may get it in a few weeks. Either way, I'm sure you'll find it interesting. If you don't then please let me know. And if there are things that you think I am ignoring and ought to include than do please also let me know.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
I am Anthony Day.
Until next week.
Lawyers are Responsible
Legal Profession ruling on accepting climate cases.
National Conservatism Conference
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