Monthly Archives: November 2015

Back in June, chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) John Gummer, aka Lord Deben, appeared on BC Radio 4’s Today programme to talk about the CCC’s new report , ‘Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament‘. The report purports to detail ‘progress towards meeting carbon budgets and progress on adaptation to climate change’, but the interview deviated from the report. In his reply to challenges from the interviewer, John Humpphys, Gummer made a number of statements about the consequences of climate change, and of critics of climate change policy, all of which struck me as entirely groundless to the point of being little more than Gummer’s fantasy.

In particular, note Gummer’s claims that the CCC’s analysis is not based on models, and that critics of his preferred policies – and even Humphrys himself – are the victims of a Big Oil conspiracy…

John Humphrys: The climate is changing and the world is getting hotter and that’s going to cause problems. But what problems? And what – if anything – should we be doing about it now? The Committee on Climate Change has just published a report and says this country must take urgent action. Its chairman is Lord Deben – good morning to you.

Lord Deben: Good morning.

John Humphrys: What action?

Lord Deben: Well, the government has a whole series of programmes in play, but they all come to a conclusion, an end, in 2020. The trouble is, people need to know what’s going to happen after 2020 if they’re going to put the investment in new arrangements for generation, low-carbon generation, for example, new arrangements for better heating for homes, doing something about our infrastructure and also doing something about the serious matter of the decline in the fertility of our soil. Those are the four major things, and the government has to act very quickly, otherwise we will lose the investment and all that we’ve done up to now will come to a stop.

John Humphrys: Can’t we wait and see?

Lord Deben: If we wait and see, it’ll be much more expensive and of course the climate will then become much more difficult to live in, even in this country, with much short – with much greater numbers of heatwaves one end and flooding at the other, and some parts of the country, like the east of England, with very little water and other parts with huge amounts of water. And we will be better off there than many of the countries of the world, and one of the most remarkable things, if you take the country you’ve just talked about – Bangladesh – Bangladesh will practically be unable to be lived in, if we do not halt the march of climate change, and we’ll have 170 million displaced people wandering around the world, looking for somewhere to live. We can’t wait for that – we have to put it right, now.

John Humphrys: And your critics will say: everything you’ve just said, pretty much, is based on computer modelling, and computer modelling is often wrong.

Lord Deben: No critic is taken seriously any longer. The science is not based on computer modelling – it’s based upon a whole range of intricate, very careful measuring of the situation, over 30 years, and we know that what we say is absolutely true. The only people who oppose it are people who have a very vested interest from the fossil fuel industry, who are spending billions of pounds, trying to get people like you to say that, in order to confuse people. The science is now stronger than the connection between smoking and health, so if you want to take the risk, you can smoke as much as you like but that would be your health – if you take the risk with the climate, it’s everyone else’s health.

John Humphrys: And of course you may be absolutely right about all of that – the problem is when you use the sort of language that you’ve just used, people will say “He makes it sound more like a religion than a science. You’re not allowed not to believe”.

Lord Deben: Well, I’m not saying that you’re not allowed not to believe – what you’re not allowed to do is to believe that there’s no risk. You don’t need to believe in climate change – what you have to say is: as every learned society in the world warns you of the risk, you’d be a very bad father of a family that said “I know best”. If even the Pope comes out and says “This is a serious risk”, you wouldn’t be a very sensible person to say “I know better than everyone else”. Even if you were right, you would have to take into account this very serious risk. It’s not a religion, it’s a fact of saying: this is what the science says, these are what the facts are, you can ignore them but if you do so, you take a very large risk, one which most people wouldn’t want to take.

John Humphrys: Lord Deben, many thanks.

Gummer has long struck me as the epitome of political environmentalism. Intransigent, insincere, mediocre and self-righteous, greens will brook no dissent. To dissent is to bring on the Apocalypse, and to voice dissent is to do the Devil’s own PR. As a peer, Gummer is not a democratically-appointed politician. As chair of the CCC, he is a technocrat. And as a man charged with overseeing the UK’s climate policies, but with interests in green companies – and an entourage of green ‘entrepreneurs’ – he is conflicted. It amazes me that any media take him seriously at all. This strikes me as a deeply problematic mixture of shortcomings.

The problem of taking Gummer at face value, as the chair of an ‘independent’ body with statutory responsibilities to provide clear advice to Parliament is that, as wonderful an idea as technocracies seem, they are rarely so unimpeachable. Gummer is as hostile to democratic debate about climate change as he is hostile to criticism. It seems to me that the shortcomings of environmentalists as individuals has been institutionalised, meaning that the CCC (and many other bodies) exist on the wrong side of a substantial democratic deficit and have no interest in closing. Gummer, like many green politicians and technocrats, defends that deficit with alarmism, conspiracy theories and slander.

If Gummer, appearing on the BBC as the chair of the CCC, makes the claim that we will see ‘much greater numbers of heatwaves one end and flooding at the other, and some parts of the country, like the east of England, with very little water and other parts with huge amounts of water’, and that ‘Bangladesh will practically be unable to be lived in’, and that these prognostications are not the result of computer modelling, and that those who say otherwise ‘are people who have a very vested interest from the fossil fuel industry’, with budgets of ‘billions of pounds’, can we believe that ‘we know that what [the CCC] say is absolutely true’? Can the CCC or its chair support his claims?

I sent an FOI to the CCC, asking them to provide the evidence for Deben’s statements. The long exchange is copied below this blog post.

What is revealed by the exchange is that the CCC cannot support Gummer’s claims. In their responses, they throw much in the way to obfuscate the reality that Gummer’s predictions were barely grounded even on computer modelling, and were far from uncontroversial, even within consensus climate science. The get-out clause, however, is that Gummer was speaking to the BBC in a ‘personal capacity’.

This is an excuse I have heard via FOI requests before, which is referred to in the FOI response from the CCC, in correspondence between CCC and DECC/BIS officials.

Back in 2013, I asked the DECC to explain comments by the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey:

From: Ben Pile Sent: 22 June 2013
To: deccfoi
Subject: Foi Request – Davey speech 18 June.

Dear Sir,

On 18 June, Ed Davey made a speech at at Residence Palace, Brussels, which is published on the DECC website at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/edward-davey-speech-ambitious-and-flexible-europes-2030-framework-for-emissions-reduction.

Davey: “The science is solid and accepted by pretty much every government on earth. Of course there will always be those with a vested interest in the status quo. Who seek to create doubt where there is certainty. And you will always get crackpots and conspiracy theorists who will deny they have a nose on their face if it suits them. But the truth is this: while forecasts of the future rate at which the world will warm differ, and while many accept we will see periods when warming temporarily plateaus, all the scientific evidence is in one direction.”

Davey’s comments — now published by DECC — seem to refer to arguments made by individuals or organisations in the wider debate about climate and energy policy. However, these parties were not named. Moreover, nor were any specific claims made by these parties addressed by Davey given any substance.

I am sure that the comments made by Davey in his speech reflect the best scientific advice and research, and an impartial view of the arguments for and against the policies he is advancing.

However, in the interests of clarity and an informed debate, I believe the Secretary of State should be more candid about who he is addressing his arguments to, and what the substance of their arguments is. I would like the following questions to be treated as a FOI request.

1. Who are the parties with ‘vested interests’ referred to by Davey?

2. By what means was Davey made aware of these ‘vested interests’?

3. Who are the ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’ referred to by Davey?

4. By what means was Davey made aware of these ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’?

5. What is the science, referred to by Davey, which is contradicted by the ‘vested interests’ and ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’?

6. How do the arguments advanced by ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’ and ‘vested interests’ contradict the science?

7. What is Davey’s (or the department’s) evidence that ‘vested interests’ and ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’ have had an impact on the wider debate?

8. Has the department had an internal discussion, or commissioned any research — internally or externally — that identifies these ‘crackpots and conspiracy theorists’ and ‘vested interests’, and evaluates their arguments? If such discussions or research exist, may I see them?

Many thanks,

Ben Pile.

The answer was as follows:

From: deccfoi Sent: 25 July 2013
To: Ben Pile
Subject: FOI reply

[…]

In answer to your questions 1-5, we do not hold recorded information within scope of these questions. As is made clear in the statement Edward Davey’s intent was not to point to any particular group or party, but to the practice of public relations and lobbying in all areas of public governance, some arguing for change, some arguing for no change, and how it can sometimes be reflected unchallenged in some sections of the media. His comments were informed by his personal experience, including as a member of Parliament. The scientific evidence that Edward Davey referred to in his speech comes from the published peer-reviewed work of many research groups in the UK and around the world and from the published assessments undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other organisations, including the Royal Society, the US National Academies of Science and the Committee on Climate Change. In answer to your questions 6 and 7, Edward Davey did not make the specific claims to which you refer in his speech, and we do not hold recorded information within scope of these questions.

[…]

If the conspiracy that Davey and Gummer believes exists, they would surely be able to produce the evidence of their existence. The only conspiracy that there is evidence of is the collaboration of civil servants to avoid answering difficult questions put to politicians about their unsupportable claims:

From: Witty, Hannah (CCC) [xxxxxxx@theccc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:25 To: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy) Subject: FOI advice

Hi XXXXXXX

We have received an interesting FoI and I’d like to discuss it with an expert. Do you have contact details for anyone in DECC who can help me? I’ve attached the request.

Regards,

Hannah

From: XXXXXXXX ( (Strategy) [mailto:xxxxxxxxxx@decc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:44 To: Witty, Hannah (CCC) Cc: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy); XXXXXXXX@bis.gsi.gov.uk Subject: FW: FOI advice

Hi Hannah,

Copying in XXXX who is our FOI adviser.

Thanks,

XXXXX

From: Witty, Hannah (CCC) [xxxxxxx@theccc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:56 To: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy) Cc: XXXXXXXXXX (Strategy); XXXXXXXXX (ITD) Subject: RE: FOI advice

Thanks XXXXX

XXXX – would it be possible to have a quick chat about this one?

Thanks,

Hannah

From: XXXXXXXX (ITD) [mailto XXXXXXX@bis.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 13:03 To: Witty, Hannah (CCC) Subject: RE: FOI advice

Hannah

Thanks for calling about this request.

DECC have answered some similar requests. 13/0795 was from the same requester about evidence relating to a speech by Ed Davey. The reply includes the line:

His comments were informed by his personal experience, including as a member of Parliament.

EIR 2014-24122 is a reply from the DECC Climate Science team for a request about the evidence for global warming. It referred to a lot of published sources of scientific information – not all technically ‘held’ by DECC.

These may not exactly match your case but might be helpful in drafting the answer. If you want to send over the draft answer I can have a look at it.

Hope this helps

XXXXXXXX

Of course, it is not really a surprise that there is no way of getting senior politicians to account for the absurd claims they make. But it’s not good enough either, that there is a pretence that ministers and senior technocrats develop policy on the basis of evidence, and that such information is available to the public, and that ‘personal opinion’ is the get-out-FOI-free card for such individuals who make statements they cannot support. Neither Davey or Gummer were asked to speak in public for their ‘personal opinions’, but in their capacities as heads of public bodies, which are funded by the tax-payer, and which are responsible for important decisions, affecting millions of people’s lives and livelihoods. Radio 4’s Today programme is not some phone-in. And the Residence Palace, Brussels is not some bar where ordinary people drink and chew the fat, but was the location where Davey gave his speech, outlining the UK government’s proposals for a ‘European Union Energy and Climate framework’.

In particular, this problem seems pervasive in debates environmental and energy policy. Which is ironic, given the emphasis put on ‘evidence’, ‘consensus’ and ‘the science’.

The fact that statutory bodies and ministerial departments cannot support the claims and conspiracy theories that their top staff issue in public, in support of far-reaching policies and international agreements should prompt more reflection from them.

The public was able to make a choice about Ed Davey and his party. His constituents threw him out of Parliament at the General Election this year.

But the public has no freedom to do the same with Gummer, nor any member of the CCC, which was created by the Climate Change Act, 2008. A cross-party consensus prohibited debate on that act, which was passed by a huge majority. That consensus affords climate champions like Gummer and Davey some security – freedom, in other words, to make stuff up to advance their agenda. Until, that is, the public finally gets their say, as they have had their about Davey, and also his predecessor Miliband. (It was a judge and jury who decided Huhne’s fate).

Climate policy makers, then, have been unpopular, but secure, protected by cross-party political consensus, and by being established outside of proper democratic oversight. In a bubble, in other words.

In the cosy environs of such a bubble, there is no debate, no public to answer to. Political ambition can thrive – or rather, fester. Energy policies and international agreements have not been robustly challenged. When reality threatens to prick the bubble, the pricks within in get nervous.

That is why Gummer et al are forced to invent stories about climate change, and conspiracy theories to explain away criticism of their political agenda and the failure of their policies.

Neither Gummer nor the CCC are fit for purpose. It has not provided sensible advice to parliament, but has been a vehicle for its chairs’ political ambitions and its members and their cronies’ business interests.

If it were otherwise, Lord Deben – John Gummer – would not have needed to fib about the immediacy and extent of climate change, and and would not have fibbed about the critics of those policies. It cannot be said that John Gummer isn’t fibbing. He had the opportunity to explain what the basis of his claims are, but refused. And he can’t claim to be acting in good faith. He has denied the public the opportunity to hear an honest rebuttal to the criticism that has been made about his advice, and the direction of UK energy and climate policy — criticism which has at last begun to change the direction of policy, much to his annoyance. And he can’t claim to simply be ignorant of the facts, since he is appointed precisely to be informed about them.

 


FOI Correspondence:

 

FOI REQUEST TO CCC

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to request information under the Freedom of Information Act regarding Lord Deben’s comments during his interview on BBC Radio4’s Today Programme this morning.

Lord Deben was introduced by John Humphrys as Chair of the CCC, following the publication today of your report, ‘Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament’.

Lord Deben claimed that climate change will cause “much greater numbers of heatwaves one end and flooding at the other, and some parts of the country, like the east of England, with very little water andother parts with huge amounts of water”, and that “Bangladesh will practically be unable to be lived in”, which will in turn cause “170million displaced people wandering around the world”.

John Humphries pointing out that “critics” would point to the problems of computer modelling: “everything you’ve just said, pretty much, is based on computer modelling, and computer modelling is often wrong”.

Lord Deben replied,

“No critic is taken seriously any longer. The science is not based on computer modelling – it’s based upon a whole range of intricate, very careful measuring of the situation, over 30 years, and we know that what we say is absolutely true.”

I have searched your site, but cannot find any reference to any “science” which supports the claims that climate change will cause the following, which is “not based on computer modelling”:

  1. “Heatwaves at one end of the country and flooding at the other”
  2. “Some parts of the country … with very little water and other parts with huge amounts of water”
  3. “Bangladesh will practically be unable to be lived in”
  4. 170 million Bangladeshi people will be “wandering around the world”

I would be grateful if you could supply me with the information that Lord Deben used to make these claims (1-4), which is “not based on computer model’s”, but “based upon a whole range of intricate, very careful measuring of the situation, over 30 years”, and which is “absolutely true”.

Lord Deben continued,

“The only people who oppose it are people who have a very vested interest from the fossil fuel industry, who are spending billions of pounds, trying to get people like you to say that, in order to confuse people. The science is now stronger than the connection between smoking and health…”

There seems to be no literature on your site which supports these claims. So I would be grateful if you could explain the basis for Lord Deben’s comments as follows:

  1. Which people “who oppose [Lord Deben’s claims]” are referred to?
  2. What are their “interests” — what companies are they invested in?
  3. What is the evidence that these interests “are spending billions of pounds”. Through which companies or organisations?
  4. What is the evidence that those “‘billions of pounds” are being spent on “trying to get people like [John Humphrys]” to ask critical questions “to confuse people”?
  5. Where is the evidence that the links between climate change and the effects referred to in questions 1-4 are “stronger than the connection between smoking and health”?

Finally, it seems to me that if Lord Deben is wrong to claim that his/the CCC’s critics “have a very vested interest from the fossil fuel industry” and that they are “spending billions of pounds”, then there may be a possibility that The CCC, under Lord Deben’s chairmanship, may have prematurely ruled out criticism, and on an erroneous basis.

  1. Please explain the extent to which the CCC has considered criticism, and what processes the CCC has in place to consider criticism in general.
  2. Please explain what criticism has been presented to and considered by the CCC from ‘fossil fuel interests’, and has been ruled out on the basis that it has come from fossil fuel interests.
  3. Please confirm that *all* the criticism that the CCC is aware of– i.e. “the only people” — has come from people who have a “very vested interest from the fossil fuel industry”.

A transcript of the interview is copied below for your convenience.

I look forward to your reply.

Ben Pile.

 

FOI Reply from the CCC. 28 July 2015.

Thank you for your request for information about Lord Deben’s comments on the BBC R4 Today Programme, 30 June 2015.

Your request has been considered under the terms of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000. However, some of the information which you have requested constitutes environmental information for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs). As such, to the extent that the information requested is environmental your request has also been considered under the EIRs.

Your specific request was:

{SEE ABOVE}

Our response:

Lord Deben’s comments were informed by his personal knowledge and experience, and wider sources of evidence than held by CCC.

The information we hold that relates to his comments is set out below.

In relation to questions 1-2, information we hold is listed at Annex A.

In relation to questions 3-9, the information that you have requested is not held by the CCC.

Questions 10-12 do not bear directly on the Today programme interview, and question 10 does not bear directly on information held by CCC. Nevertheless, the following may be of help to you.

In relation to question 10, Committee members meet regularly with parties interested in climate change issues, which will include individuals and bodies who may take a different view to the Committee. We have conducted a number of calls for evidence, most recently on the 5th carbon budget. The CCC also has a process for receipt of complaints and comments, the guidance for which is linked at this page on our website:  www.theccc.org.uk/contacts/ . No complaints have been received under this process.

In relation to question 11, no criticism to the CCC has been ruled out of consideration by the CCC “on the basis that it has come from fossil fuel interests”.

We do not hold information related to question 12.

I hope this reply is helpful. If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision.

In keeping our transparency policy, the information released to you will be published on www.theccc.org.uk. Please note that this will not include your personal data.

Annex A

In relation to questions 1-2, information we hold relating to preparedness for climate change includes our assessment of how vulnerability to climate-related hazards has been changing in the recent past, including over the past 30 years.  This analysis is largely based  on observations.  A summary of these vulnerability indicators is available with our latest progress report (see technical annexes at bottom of page): http://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-emissions-and-preparing-for-climate-change-2015-progress-report-to-parliament/

Key evidence sources we have used to consider how risks related to flooding, water scarcity and heatwaves may change in the future, which have informed and been referenced in our 2012, 2013 and 2014 adaptation progress reports, are set out below:

 

Request for internal review. 30 July 2015.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your response.

Your explanation for the length of time taken to respond is not sufficient. The substance of your reply to the bulk of the questions is that Lord Deben was speaking in a personal capacity, not as Chair of The CCC. On that basis, no answer was given to eight out of twelve questions. The remaining four were questions which were neither complex, nor demanded answers that required 20 days to put together. The answer to question 10 was a single paragraph which would take just minutes for someone with knowledge of the CCC’s processes to answer. Question 11 was similarly undemanding and its answer was incomplete (discussed below). The only substantial answer to my questions — 1 & 2 — was given in your Appendix A, and contains a list of seemingly pertinent articles which have been cited in your own literature. Although that list itself is somewhat exhaustive, I don’t see how it required more than a copy-and-paste job that could have been completed in minutes.

Although it may be correct to say that you responded within the limit, the ICO’s guidance (discussed previously) is clear that public bodies have a duty to respond promptly not simply within the allowed 20 days, and that they must properly account for responses that are given as close to the time limit as your response. Moreover, given the number of questions that were explained as simply Lord Deben’s personal opinions, it cannot be argued that the ‘scope of the request’ was demanding. Only one information source was required to provide an answer: the footnotes to your own publication.

Please supply the internal emails and documents relating to my request to support your claim that it has taken 20 days to respond.

Regarding your response to question 11 — “Please explain what criticism has been presented to and considered by the CCC from ‘fossil fuel interests’, and has been ruled out on the basis that it has come from fossil fuel interests” — you replied:

‘In relation to question 11, no criticism to the CCC has been ruled out of consideration by the CCC “on the basis that it has come from fossil fuel interests”’

The question asks you to explain first “what criticism has been presented to and considered by the CCC from ‘fossil fuel interests'”. It then asks you to explain what has been ruled out on the basis of its origins. I apologise if this was not clear in my original email. Please supply a complete answer to this question.

On your refusal to answer questions 3 to 9 & 12, the argument that Lord Deben was speaking in a personal capacity cannot be sustained any more than, for example, a government Minister could claim to be speaking personally about the work of his or her department. Lord Deben made an appearance on the Today programme as Chair of the CCC, was introduced as such, and was asked to discuss the CCC’s work. Lord Deben was clearly and adamantly of the view that any criticism of the CCC’s report in question has origins in a fossil fuel industry-funded conspiracy, which had even influenced the editorial decisions of the Today Programme. Lord Deben is Chair of the CCC. As such, the CCC must be in possession of the information he used in his answers during the interview. If Lord Deben has that information, the CCC has that information. If that information does not exist, or cannot be supported by the CCC, Lord Deben had no business raising his own ‘personal knowledge and experience, and wider sources of evidence’ in an interview about the CCC’s work. In other words, the Chair of the CCC’s replies to John Humprys in an interview about the CCC’s report are as much the CCC’s product as the report itself was. The simple remedy is to ask the Chair of the CCC to provide the data to support the claims he has made.

I am therefore requesting an Internal Review of your decision not to respond to questions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12.

Regarding your response to questions 1 & 2, and for your information, the sources you cite contradict Lord Deben’s statements to John Humphys. I have not had time to completely review your many references, but the first of them give a much less confident assessment of the future than listeners to the Today Programme would have been left with.

In “Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry: Drivers and impacts of seasonal weather in the UK”, the Met Office considered whether recent seasonal variations could be attributed to climate change, and to what extent this could be used to estimate likely future climate. Whereas Lord Deben claimed that “the climate will then become much more difficult to live in, even in this country, with much short – with much greater numbers of heatwaves one end and flooding at the other, and some parts of the country, like the east of England, with very little water and other parts with huge amounts of water”, and that “The science is not based on computer modelling” the Met Office advised that:

* “UK rainfall shows large year to year variability, making trends hard to detect” * “While connections can be made between climate change and dry seasons in some parts of the world, there is currently no clear evidence of such a link to recent dry periods in the UK” * “The attribution of these changes to anthropogenic global warming requires climate models of sufficient resolution to capture storms and their associated rainfall.”

The contradiction between these and Lord Deben’s statements needs no further discussion here.

If the CCC’s own sources of data suggest a very different story to the one presented by its Chairman to millions of listeners, then the CCC has a problem with its data. I have no shares or any kind of pecuniary interest in the fossil fuel sector or current commercial engagement to support that sector’s interest directly or indirectly. Yet I can find problems with the CCC’s reports and its Chair’s statements, without ever having received a penny from the oil, gas, or coal sectors. With the CCC being responsible for informing decisions with consequences for policy decades into the future, it reflects very badly on the CCC that its Chair routinely makes such uncompromising, and unfounded claims in public, which cannot be supported with evidence, apparently to defend the CCC’s advice to Parliament from criticism.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

Ben Pile.

 

Response to request for internal review. Part A. 13 August 2015.

Dear Mr. Pile,

Thank you for your further request of 30 July 2015 relating to Lord Deben’s comments on the BBC R4 Today Programme on 30 June 2015.

Please find our response attached.

Regards,

Committee on Climate Change

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST: Lord Deben comments on BBC R4 Today Programme, 30/06/2015

Thank you for your further request of 30 July relating to Lord Deben’s comments on the BBC R4 Today Programme, 30 June 2015.

Your request has been considered under the terms of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000. However, some of the information which you have requested constitutes environmental information for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs). As such, to the extent that the information requested is environmental, your request has also been considered under the EIRs.

Your request relates to your previous request of 30 June to which we replied on 28 July.

Specifically, there are three elements to your request:

{SEE ABOVE}

Our response:

In relation to your request for us to support the reasons it took 20 days to respond to your 30 June request, we note that you e-mailed CCC on 28 July, prior to receiving our reply, asking for an “explanation for the length of time it has taken for you to respond”.

We replied on 28 July to explain that, “We have responded within the limit for this case. It has taken the full 20 working days which reflects the scope of the request, number of questions raised and the need to search a range of information sources”.

To expand on that reply:

  • You raised 12 questions for consideration. Each needed consideration of potential information sources and how best to respond to meet your request.
  • For the first 2 of these we have provided a list of references. We were able to provide these within the limits for resources to be employed in answering requests, and are happy to have done so.
  • More generally, the request concerns comments made by Lord Deben. To respond fully we had to check with Lord Deben what CCC information sources that he was using. Lord Deben is only contracted to work 3 days a month for CCC. We therefore discussed your request with him on 17 July, when we knew that he would be in the CCC offices on CCC business.
  • We do not have a dedicated FOI resource within the CCC. We were concerned to check that we answered your request as fully as we could and in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Following the discussion with Lord Deben we sought further advice from a dedicated FOI adviser within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). A request for discussion with that adviser was made on 21 July (attached, Annex A) and, reflecting his availability, took place on 24 July.
  • Following that discussion we provided Lord Deben with the text of the proposed reply, on 24 July, which he reviewed and agreed on 27 July. The response was then sent on 28 July.

Copies of the internal emails and documents “relating to my request to support your claim that it has taken 20 days to respond” are attached at Annex B.

In relation to question 11, thank you for clarifying your request.

We do not believe that there is a standard definition of “fossil fuel interests” on which we could search all CCC information sources; neither is it necessarily clear as to what might be considered “criticism” as opposed to comment. As noted in our reply of 28 July, no complaints have been received under the process set out on our website. But we have directly examined two further CCC information sources:

  • Responses to CCC calls for evidence. A number of fossil fuel companies have responded to these calls. We have reviewed responses received in relation to development of the Committee’s first report in 2008, for which there was a call for evidence ending in January 2008. None of those responses contained criticism of the CCC. You will find responses to the call for evidence in relation to the review of the fourth carbon budget at https://www.theccc.org.uk/call-for-evidence/. A call for evidence in relation to the fifth carbon budget closed in June 2015 and these responses will be published later this year.
  • We have searched our general CCC communications inbox for e-mails received from fossil fuel companies. Available records go back to 4 December 2012. None of these communications can be considered “criticism”.

CCC members and secretariat will have attended many meetings, and had e-mail exchanges, with individuals and companies who might be considered to have “fossil fuel interests”. We may therefore have further information relating to “criticism” from such interests stored in e-mails, or on our computers. We have determined that Regulation 12(4)(b) applies in this case. Namely, it would exceed the cost threshold for dealing with your request to go through all these documents to identify the relevant information. In applying this regulation, we have considered the public interest test in respect of your request and applied a presumption in favour of disclosure (as required by Regulation 12(2) of the EIRs). We believe that the information we have been able to provide meets your request at a cost that is proportional to the issues raised.

I hope this reply is helpful. If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision.

Your request for an Internal Review of our response in relation to your previous questions 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 12 is under separate consideration. You will receive a reply in due course.

In keeping with our transparency policy, the information released to you will be published on www.theccc.org.uk. Please note that this will not include your personal data.

 

ANNEX A {reordered}

From: Witty, Hannah (CCC) [mailto:Hannah.Witty@theccc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:25 To: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy) Subject: FOI advice

Hi XXXXXXX

We have received an interesting FoI and I’d like to discuss it with an expert. Do you have contact details for anyone in DECC who can help me? I’ve attached the request.

Regards,

Hannah

 

From: XXXXXXXX ( (Strategy) [mailto:xxxxxxxxxx@decc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:44 To: Witty, Hannah (CCC) Cc: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy); XXXXXXXX@bis.gsi.gov.uk Subject: FW: FOI advice

Hi Hannah,

Copying in XXXX who is our FOI adviser.

Thanks,

XXXXX

 

From: Witty, Hannah (CCC) [mailto:Hannah.Witty@theccc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 11:56 To: XXXXXXXXX (Strategy) Cc: XXXXXXXXXX (Strategy); XXXXXXXXX (ITD) Subject: RE: FOI advice

Thanks XXXXX

XXXX – would it be possible to have a quick chat about this one?

Thanks,

Hannah

From: XXXXXXXX (ITD) [mailto XXXXXXX@bis.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 09 July 2015 13:03 To: Witty, Hannah (CCC) Subject: RE: FOI advice

Hannah

Thanks for calling about this request.

DECC have answered some similar requests. 13/0795 was from the same requester about evidence relating to a speech by Ed Davey. The reply includes the line:

His comments were informed by his personal experience, including as a member of Parliament.

EIR 2014-24122 is a reply from the DECC Climate Science team for a request about the evidence for global warming. It referred to a lot of published sources of scientific information – not all technically ‘held’ by DECC.

These may not exactly match your case but might be helpful in drafting the answer. If you want to send over the draft answer I can have a look at it.

Hope this helps

XXXXXXXX

From: Witty, Hannah (CCC) [mailto:Hannah.Witty@theccc.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 21 July 2015 13:04 To: XXXXXXXXX (ITD) Cc: Gault, Adrian (CCC) Subject: RE: FOI advice

I’ve attached a couple of draft responses to this request, one of which has been endorsed by Lord Deben. If possible, could we arrange a quick call to discuss these answers and whether there is a reasonable case not to answer the response, or to limit our answers to questions 1 and 2, or 1, 2, 3 and 4, or 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11?

We can do 16:00 today, 11:30 – 13:00 on Thurs, or Friday morning?

Regards.

Hannah

From: XXXXXXXX (ITD) [mailto:XXXXXXX@bis.gsi.gov.uk] Sent: 21 July 2015 15:11 To: Witty, Hannah (CCC) Cc: Gault, Adrian (CCC) Subject: RE: FOI advice

Hannah

Thanks.

I just haven’t got time to look at this today. But I’ll be available Thr or Fri morning if you want to call then.

XXXXXXXX

ANNEX B {reordered}

From: Communications (CCC) Sent: 28 July 2015 14:47 To: Gault, Adrian (CCC) Cc: XXXXXXXXX (CCC) Subject: FW: FOI Request: Lord Deben comments on BBC R4 Today Programme, 30/06/2015

Hi Adrian,

We’ve just this minute sent the FOI response. The person requesting the response has emailed us 1 minute before our response went out asking for an explanation as to why we have taken the full 20 days to respond (see email below).

Hannah has suggested saying this is due the length and nature of the request and to speak to you about wording.

Is there any specific wording you would like us to use?

Thanks,

From: Gault, Adrian (CCC) Sent: 28 July 2015 15:07 To: Communications (CCC) Cc: XXXXXXXXX(CCC) Subject: RE: FOI Request: Lord Deben comments on BBC R4 Today Programme, 30/06/2015

Can we say,

“We have responded within the limit for this case, but it has taken us the full 20 working days reflecting the nature of the request, number of questions raised, and the need to search a range of information sources”.

Adrian

 

Response to request for internal review. Part B. 14 August 2015.

Dear Mr. Pile,

RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST: Lord Deben comments on BBC R4 Today Programme, 30/06/2015

Internal Review of decision of Committee on Climate Change not to respond to questions 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 12 of the request.

Please find our response attached.

Regards,

Committee on Climate Change

Dear Mr Pile,

RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST: Lord Deben comments on BBC R4 Today Programme, 30/06/2015 Internal Review of decision of Committee on Climate Change not to respond to questions 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 12 of the request.

I am writing in response to your request for an internal review of the above case. I have now reviewed the process we followed and the decisions that were made to respond to your original request. I set out my decision below.

Basis for Internal Review

You asked 12 questions in your Freedom of Information (FOI) request. In your subsequent request, you asked for a review of our responses to a subset of those questions: questions 3 to 9 (inclusive) and question 12.

The specific questions from your original Freedom of Information request asked for any information that we hold that is not based on computer modelling about the statements that:

  1. Bangladesh will practically be unable to be lived in
  2. 170 million Bangladeshi people will be ‘wandering around the world’
  3. People who oppose Lord Deben’s views that he was referring to
  4. The interest of those people, and the companies they are invested in
  5. Evidence that those interests are spending billions of pounds and through which companies or organisations
  6. Evidence that those billions of pounds are being spent to influence people like John Humphries to ask critical questions to confuse people
  7. Links between climate change and the effects referred to are stronger than the links between smoking and health

You also asked, in question 12, for evidence relating to the statement that “all” the criticism the CCC is aware of has come from people who have a vested interest from the fossil fuel industry.

The Committee on Climate Change responded that it did not hold any information in relation to questions 3 to 9, nor in relation to question 12 (while noting question 12 does not bear directly on the Today programme interview).

You requested an internal review of the “decision not to respond to” the above questions. My review has covered the conclusion that was reached by those responding to your original request that the Committee on Climate Change does not hold any information relevant to the above questions.

Process for Internal Review

As the Accounting Office responsible for the Committee on Climate Change I have undertaken the Internal Review. As part of my review I have:

  • Reviewed the guidance from the Information Commissioner on FOI requests and reviews of requests for Freedom of Information
  • Read your original Freedom of Information Request
  • Read the Committee on Climate Change’s reply to that request
  • Interviewed those involved in drafting the response and asked them questions including (but not limited to): what searches were carried out for information falling within the scope of the request and why would these searches have been likely to retrieve any relevant information? What was the scope of such searches (e.g. did it include emails, information held on individual computers, written documents?) What criteria were used for the searches? Whether the interviewee was aware of anything that could have been deleted from electronic records or thrown away from written records?
  • Read and reviewed documents relating to the search and its results
  • Drafted this response

Conclusions of Internal Review

Four people were directly involved in responding to your original request, and they requested information and discussed the questions you raised with others. They undertook the following activities:

  • Within 24 hours of receiving your request your questions were divided into two groups with a specific individual responsible for searching relevant documents, files and correspondence for each of the two groups of questions
  • Those two people were fully briefed at the time on what they needed to do to find relevant information
  • The searches that were conducted covered the emails of relevant people and reports and research we have published. The searches covered terms relevant to your questions (e.g. search for the word “Bangladesh”, “computer models” etc.). A full search of our computer files was not undertaken – I address that below
  • The team cross-checked their approach with an FOI expert in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
  • Following completion of the searches and checking with the FOI expert, a draft of the response was developed which included all items the searches had revealed that were relevant to your questions
  • Further internal discussions took place about specific questions to consider, and whether there could be other sources (including our network computer drive) that might contain further information of relevance to your questions
  • Discussed the draft response with Lord Deben as Chairman of the Committee
  • The final draft response was then reviewed by the two people originally charged with the search to ensure any edits or changes that had been made were in line with their findings

While we did not record the time taken for the process, I estimate that, in total, the development of the response took about 10 – 12 hours. I note that in your response you express concern that the nature of the response (e.g. “copy-and-paste job that could have been completed in a few minutes”) is such that it could have been sent to you more quickly. While that was not part of my review, one outcome of my review was to clarify that time is required to ensure searches are exhaustive. While it may be quick to draft a response once the information has been assembled, ensuring all relevant information has been assembled does take time. My review has not considered whether too much or too little time was taken in this case. It focuses on whether the searches were sufficiently exhaustive in respect to the specific questions you asked about (namely questions 3 through 9 and 12).

For the avoidance of doubt, my own review has taken approximately 4 hours of my time plus the time of those I interviewed and their time assembling the information that I requested to undertake this review.

On the basis of this Review I have concluded as follows:

First, that the process to answer the relevant questions did consider systematically the information and evidence that we hold within the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and associated guidance. The search terms used were sensible and related to the questions asked. The people involved asked themselves whether they knew of anything that might be relevant over-and-above what formal searches revealed.

My review did reveal that they did not conduct a computerised search of our network drives (or the harddrives of individual computers used by staff) using specific search words. Those involved thought that would involve disproportionate amount of time. I agree with that conclusion.

Recognising the time involved in such a search, those involved did discuss amongst themselves, and with others who might know, whether such a search would be likely to turn up relevant information. Their view was that such a search was unlikely to turn up any relevant information. That provided a further check when considering whether such a search would be proportionate.

Second, in response to your questions 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12 we did provide all the relevant information that resulted from the searches we undertook (subject to point three below). We answered each of the questions asked. The searches indicated that, for some of the questions, we do not hold any information.

Third, one of the search terms we used was “Bangladesh” in order to respond to questions 3 and 4. The searches undertaken in response to your request did reveal mentions of Bangladesh and wider impacts around the world in our documents and records. These mentions were not included in the response to your FOI request. Those involved in responding to your FOI request concluded that these mentions were not directly relevant to the questions you asked. For the sake of completeness I attach those in the Annex to this review.

Finally, if you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

In keeping with our transparency policy, the information released to you will be published on www.theccc.org.uk. Please note that this will not include your personal data.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Bell Chief Executive Officer Committee on Climate Change

Annex: Additional references to Bangladesh and wider international impacts

“Building a low carbon economy”: Chapter 1, particularly page 18 https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/building-a-low-carbon-economy-the-uks-contribution-to-tacklingclimate-change-2/

Non-model evidence for sea level rise comes from the geological record, and is discussed by the Royal Geological Society’s position paper on climate change to which there is a link on our website http://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/the-science-of-climate-change/ .

4th Carbon Budget Report, chapter 1 http://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/the-fourth-carbon-budgetreducing-emissions-through-the-2020s-2/ Discusses the range of evidence, beyond the models, for a warming world driven mainly by greenhouse gases.

 Response to CCC’s reply. 

Dear Mr Bell,

Thank you for your response to my request for an internal review. I have some questions about your reply.

You reiterate the point that the CCC ‘do not hold any information’ relating to a number of my questions. Yet it would seem from the replies I have had from The CCC that Lord Deben was party to the responses I have been sent — he approved them. Why then did Lord Deben not supply the evidence? After all, his appearance on R4 was as Chair of The CCC, and was speaking with the authority of that position, on matters relating to The CCC’s work. If what Lord Deben told John Humphrys was, to the best of his knowledge, truthful, he would surely have access to that information. To not respond to a request for that information would seem to be hiding behind the letter of FOIA rules (we shall see what the IC says), rather than responding in its spirit; if the information exists at all, it is surely in the public interest for it to be made public, to improve the quality of the debate about climate change policy. I refer in particular to Lord Deben’s statements about critics of climate policy or science, which he maintains belong to an oil industry-funded conspiracy.

You admit that the Annex is not relevant in your reply, though in the Annex, you provide comment that does relate to my questions. I agree that the Annex (and the evidence offered in the previous reply) fails to reply. Nonetheless, the problems with what you have offered serve to illustrate that the question Lord Deben was asked by Humphys did have a reasonable foundation, and that it was wrong of him to suggest that the origin of those questions was a £billion conspiracy.

The Annex to your reply contains a link and reference to ‘“Building a low carbon economy”: Chapter 1, particularly page 18′.

CH1: “Climate change is likely to amplify precipitation patterns around the world, so that wet regions will generally get wetter and dry regions drier. The combination of these changes with a growing world population will lead to more people suffering water shortages, with a projected 1 to 2 billion people at risk for a warming of around 2°C. In addition, precipitation is projected to become more variable so that longer droughts will be interspersed with heavier rainfall.”

The effects that climate change are “likely to amplify”, the growth of the world population, the *projection* of the people put at risk, and the *projection* of future precipitation are statements that are implicit references to models of and interactions with the climate. If there is another basis for probabilistic statements and projections than models as such, I would be grateful for your explanation as to what that basis is.

The next paragraph in CH1 seems to have been paraphrased from IPCC AR4:

“Extinctions of species are of particular concern because they are irreversible. Many ecosystems are facing a range of pressures due to human activity, with climate change a contributing factor [10]. However, as a direct result of climate change, 20% to 30% of plant and animal species assessed so far would face a ‘commitment to extinction’[11 ] for a temperature rise of 2°C to 3°C.”

The IPCC SPM it is taken from said,

“Climate change is likely to lead to some irreversible impacts. There is medium confidence that approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk if increases in global average warming exceed 1.5-2.5oC (relative to 1980-1999). As global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5oC, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.

This was, on any fair analysis, a concatenation of increasingly vague statements: “likely… some… medium confidence… approximately… 20-30% of [how many?] species assessed so far… likely… increased risk… if…”, and the necessary caution should have been applied before The CCC presented IPCC work in this way. In AR4 4.4.11 we get more detail than was provided by the SPM, showing why it is dangerous to produce headlines from headlines:

“Based on all above findings and our compilation (Figure 4.4, Table 4.1″) we estimate that on average 20% to 30% of species assessed are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction from climate change impacts possibly within this century as global mean temperatures exceed 2°C to 3°C relative to pre-industrial levels (this chapter). The uncertainties remain large, however, since for about 2°C temperature increase the percentage may be as low as 10% or for about 3°C as high as 40% and, depending on biota, the range is between 1% and 80% (Table 4.1; Thomas et al., 2004a; Malcolm et al., 2006). As global average temperature exceeds 4°C above pre-industrial levels, model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% species assessed) around the globe (Table 4.1).

Worse than being merely ‘based on models’, the statement was based on estimates based on models of extinction, based on a particular definition of ‘extinction’, which differs from its ordinary sense, and was based on studies which may be prone to bias (such as choosing species which are known to be vulnerable to extinction), and small sample sizes, neither of which are quantified. The substantial difference between IPCC AR4 and AR5 statements on extinction should also be noted:

AR5: “Changes in abundance, as measured by changes in the population size of individual species or shifts in community structure within existing range limits, have occurred in response to recent global warming (Thaxter et al., 2010; Bertrand et al., 2011; Naito and Cairns, 2011; Rubidge et al., 2011; Devictor et al., 2012; Tingley et al., 2012; Vadadi-Fülöp et al., 2012; Cahill et al., 2013; Ruiz-Labourdette et al., 2013), but owing to confounders,confidence in a major role of climate change is often low. Across the world, species extinctions are at or above the highest rates of species extinction in the fossil record (high confidence; Barnosky et al., 2011). However, only a small fraction of observed species extinctions have been attributed to climate change—most have been ascribed to non-climatic factors such as invasive species, overexploitation, or habitat loss(Cahill et al., 2013). For those species where climate change has been invoked as a causal factor in extinction (such as for the case of Central American amphibians), there is low agreement among investigators concerning the importance of climate variation in driving extinction and even less agreement that extinctions were caused by climate change (Pounds et al., 2006; Kiesecker, 2011). Confidence in the suggested attribution of extinctions across all species to climate change is very low.”

The second item in the Annex — “Non-model evidence for sea level rise comes from the geological record, and is discussed by the Royal Geological Society’s position paper on climate change” — contains a link to a link. However, I do not see the pertinence of this study at all. The fact of historic sea level rise is not in question; sea level rise is a problem with or without any amount of climate change. Moreover, the question of sea level rise is not addressed with respect to Bangladesh, which other studies — rather than position statements on political questions — suggest may be increasing in land area, in spite of climate change and sea level rise, by as much as 1000km^2 to 2008. See for example, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221209631300003X Moreover, in spite of claims that Bangladesh is increasingly vulnerable to climate change, it’s population, GDP and agricultural productivity have risen steadily over the past half century — a fact that is difficult to reconcile with the story of so many displaced Bangladeshis as heard by millions of listeners to Radio 4.

The third item in the Annex, which you claim ‘Discusses the range of evidence, beyond the models, for a warming world driven mainly by greenhouse gases’ in fact contains the passage:

“Despite this high level of certainty that warming is occurring due to human activity, projections about the exact future level of warming and its consequences are inherently uncertain. This uncertainty derives from the complexities involved in modelling the whole Earth system (including the strength of feedbacks from clouds, etc.) and also from predicting the future path of human activities. Scientists have developed models as best possible to capture these effects and produce projections. These are continually improving and provide us with the best estimate of the range on which we need to base policy.”

It is therefore puzzling to me that you have offered it as a discussion of the evidence ‘beyond the modelling’, or what that expression means, since it seems very clear that modelling entirely underpins every aspect of the discussion, contrary to Lord Deben’s claims in question. It would seem that it is only possible to move ‘beyond the modelling’ if the modelling can be taken for granted. Suffice it to say that that move does not seem safe to me.

The evidence offered in the documents linked to in the Annex is at best outdated, partial and questionable. I note your point that they were not included in the original reply because they were not relevant, in which case I wonder why they were sent at all. They do not do provide any depth to the extent that they have any particular focus on Bangladesh, or the UK, or the non-modelled basis for the claims in question. Therefore, I would ask you again to reconsider your replies, and for you to respond directly to the questions I have asked about Lord Deben’s statements.

I believe The CCC’s has a *statutory* responsibility to be able to respond to those questions properly, and to offer Parliament and the public debate accurate and complete evidence and information. Furthermore, it is surely incumbent on the Chair of The CCC to have in his possession the facts he uses to discuss The CCC’s work in public.

It may well be ‘time-consuming’ to find data to support Lord Deben’s statements, but it is surely in the public interest to either establish his claims that there exists a conspiracy to undermine The CCC (and his claims about the likely course of the climate being based in science), or to rule them out as groundless. Official estimates have it that R4’s Today programme can reach audiences above 7 million per week. The amount of time finding the basis for Lord Deben’s claims is therefore surely proportional to the impact and reach of his statements.

If you think that an exhaustive search of data in The CCC’s possession would be too time-consuming, I suggest that you ask Lord Deben to provide the answers or to publish a retraction of his statements, which seem to have dramatic implications, but have been made without evidence. The failure of either The CCC or Lord Deben to account for his claims will surely raise questions about the quality advice both have given to important and far-reaching policy discussions.

I look forward to hearing from you or Lord Deben.

Ben Pile.

The CCC declined to comment further.

 

 

 

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