Kingsnorth trial: witness statements in full

Posted by bex — 12 September 2008 at 1:17pm - Comments

Zak Goldsmith outside Maidstone Crown Court

Zak Goldsmith outside Maidstone Crown Court © Greenpeace/Jiri Rezak

As promised, here are the full written statements from the defence witnesses at the Kingsnorth trial:

Obviously, these don't include verbal answers the witnesses gave while they were on the stand - check out the daily blogs from the trial for some of those.

I'm sure you're too happy with the verdict to be interested in the following but I said I'd do it so here it is, one citizen's view of the usefulness of the statements submitted to the jury:

James Hansen's submission: Convincing on most aspects of the science but vague and even evasive on the impacts, and the impacts are the most important bit. (And no explanation, alas, of his spoken claim that the Kingsnorth power station will be responsible for 400 extinctions.)

Zac Goldsmith: Incoherent cut'n'paste politicking. Doesn't even mention law or legality. Shome Tory!

Aqqaluk Lynge: "I am an indigenous person." Cripes! So am I. I'm not a professional victim, though. Byeee!

Jennifer Morgan: A professional tranzi's 20-year history of the intergovernmental "climate process". Not sure what her point is. Perhaps there isn't one. Or perhaps the submission is incomplete. It just sort of stops all of a sudden without having explained why it exists.

Geoff Meaden: Oh dear.

Weaknesses in GM's first, comparatively coherent statement. (1) Research suggests that "the rate of [global temperature] increase since 1750 is very likely to have been unprecedented in the past 10,000 years" (IPCC AR4 Summary for Policymakers 2007), not "over the past 10's of millions of years". (2) The sea level in the South East of England is currently rising by about 5 millimetres per year (<3mm eustatic + <2mm subsidence), not "at almost one centimetre". (3) "Even the more modest estimates suggest that sea levels will rise by nearly one metre by the end of this century". Define "more modest". I reckon that the lower estimates are in the 20-40 cm range, the most likely estimates are 40-80 cm, the Hansenites are on 80-200 cm and the total loonies are fixated on 5 or 6 m. It's only the loonies that make "nearly one metre" look modest. (4) The authorities in New Orleans were not confident that their flood protection was adequate before Katrina struck. The federal government had unilaterally decided to reallocate funds needed for repairs and improvements to Homeland Security. The locals weren't pleased. (5) Dr Meaden predicts that "by the end of the next century, when we have a severe storm surge event, then all the land that is presently 5 metres or lower in Kent will be flooded. This possibly means that some 20% of Kent will be under the sea." Assuming he's right that 20% of coastal Kent is less than 5 m above the current sea level (his maps aren't included) and that the "storm surge event" somehow eventuates with undiminished force on both sides of the Dover Strait (so that both main areas of low-lying land have a chance to be inundated), that's not a totally daft prediction. The largest observed surge in 1953 was 3.9 m. Add a metre or so on top of that to account for two centuries of progress and if the right storm surge comes along a 20% flood might just about be possible. But then Dr Meaden ruins it by saying that this possible flooding means "by the end of the next century we may have to abandon up to 20% of Kent to the sea." Eh? We didn't abandon the areas flooded in 1953 (more's the pity); why would we have to abandon land flooded in the next once-in-a-hundred- or once-in-five-hundred-years "storm surge event"?

Weaknesses in GM's second, supplementary statement. (6) "... most of these consequences will increasingly be disastrous for the biological life on the planet." Is there another sort of life on the planet? I know it's poor form to attack a writer's style rather than his substance, but here we have someone who until recently was a senior lecturer in life sciences at a British university and he's talking about "the biological life on the planet". Is Dr Meaden a Second Life junkie or something? NTTAWWSLJOC. (Dr M also seems to have a somewhat shaky grasp of the meaning of "exponential", but so do I, so I won't get into that.) (7) "It is overwhelmingly perceived ... by the scientific community that" SOME of "the causes of" SOME "climate change are anthropogenic". This famous consensus is overwhelmingly about SOME of the (probable) observed warming being anthropogenic and does not attribute all climatic changes in all regions to mankind. (8) That sorry stuff about the AGU predicting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2013. Which is immediately followed by ... (9) "The Arctic ice-cap in 2007 covered only 50% of the area it covered in 1980." Nope. The Arctic sea ice (formerly known as pack ice) in 2007 covered, at its minimum, only 50% of the area (actually extent, but let's not get too technical) covered by the 1980 minimum. (10) Shrinking summer sea ice extents mean that "many of the indigenous people's [sic] inhabiting these areas ... will have no option but to move into social and cultural milieux to which they are potentially alien." Why? (11) Similar shrinkages in the Antarctic "have less effect on humans but a much greater effect on other animals." Why and why? Surely "ice-cap" melting affects all coastal peoples, north and south? Isn't that what you have been saying? And which animals are greatly affected by this alleged "ice-cap" shrinkage in the south? (12) Paraphrase: rate of ice reduction outstripping models. Answer: yes, but not the ice-free 2013 model favoured by Dr Meaden - that one's back at the starting line. (13) "Greatly accelerating ice reductions are with us, and only exceedingly urgent and drastic actions can ameliorate this." I love this sentence. (14) Dr Meaden, the temperate waters fish GIS man, his expert thoughts on drought in Australia: it's all down to evaporation.(15) "Regarding global climate change the most well known tipping point is now happening where, for the first time in 11,000 years, the far northern perma-frosts are melting." Are you sure? (16) Stuff about the North Atlantic Drift being switched off. Nope. Sorry. (16) Toodle-oo to Tuvalu. Wanna bet? (17) "... [T]here has been plenty of evidence over at least the last decade to show that climatic disasters are becoming more frequent." Nope. No there hasn't. Sorry. (18) The wealth of climatic modelling --> a simple list of "scenarios in which the human condition will be increasingly affected." The human condition? Puh-lease!

All the same, I wish Dr Meaden a happy retirement.

Hey Vinny Burgoo,

Why do you have such a problem with the fact that when presented with known peer-reviewed scientific facts by one of the world's most eminent scientists, a British jury had the temerity to agree with him?

Simply listing comments which you disagree with (which may or may not be taken out of context) in an aggressive and arrogant manner doesn't deserve a response, and if I were Greenpeace I wouldn't bother giving you one - you may or may not be a paid-up member of the Exxon/Bush climate change denial brigade, but you sure sound more like someone who's being paid to take an interest rather than the concerned citizen you present yourself to be. Whatever...

The fact is that the prosecutors at the Kingsnorth trial could have called their own expert witnesses to refute Hansen and Meaden, had they been able to find anyone willing to oppose them who carried enough credibility to convince a jury. They couldn't.

Hmm - I wonder why that might be? Almost certainly because Hansen is a world-class, internationally respected scientist and anyone going up against him would probably have been made to look extremely foolish.

And so, unlike you, they wisely chose to keep their mouths shut.

Ah! That old Greenie misconception, the peer-reviewed fact.

Slowdazzle, there are no "known peer-reviewed scientific facts" in proper science. Peer review doesn't mean that a hypothesis or observation suddenly becomes an officially sanctioned fact; it means that the research has met the standards of competence and utility (and sometimes novelty) required by the editor or publisher of that particular journal and that experts in the same field have read the research and, if necessary, recommended improvements. If, as usually happens, after publication the research turns out to be wrong in some respects, subsequent peer-reviewed research will seek to plug the gaps and correct the errors. Some of those peer-reviewed efforts will themselves be wrong ... and on it goes. That's how (proper) science works. It's a collective enterprise. Failure is usually honourable, nothing is ever wholly true and the notion of a "peer-reviewed scientific fact" is deeply unscientific.

I'm sure you're too happy with the verdict to be interested in the following but I said I'd do it so here it is, one citizen's view of the usefulness of the statements submitted to the jury: James Hansen's submission: Convincing on most aspects of the science but vague and even evasive on the impacts, and the impacts are the most important bit. (And no explanation, alas, of his spoken claim that the Kingsnorth power station will be responsible for 400 extinctions.) Zac Goldsmith: Incoherent cut'n'paste politicking. Doesn't even mention law or legality. Shome Tory! Aqqaluk Lynge: "I am an indigenous person." Cripes! So am I. I'm not a professional victim, though. Byeee! Jennifer Morgan: A professional tranzi's 20-year history of the intergovernmental "climate process". Not sure what her point is. Perhaps there isn't one. Or perhaps the submission is incomplete. It just sort of stops all of a sudden without having explained why it exists. Geoff Meaden: Oh dear. Weaknesses in GM's first, comparatively coherent statement. (1) Research suggests that "the rate of [global temperature] increase since 1750 is very likely to have been unprecedented in the past 10,000 years" (IPCC AR4 Summary for Policymakers 2007), not "over the past 10's of millions of years". (2) The sea level in the South East of England is currently rising by about 5 millimetres per year (<3mm eustatic + <2mm subsidence), not "at almost one centimetre". (3) "Even the more modest estimates suggest that sea levels will rise by nearly one metre by the end of this century". Define "more modest". I reckon that the lower estimates are in the 20-40 cm range, the most likely estimates are 40-80 cm, the Hansenites are on 80-200 cm and the total loonies are fixated on 5 or 6 m. It's only the loonies that make "nearly one metre" look modest. (4) The authorities in New Orleans were not confident that their flood protection was adequate before Katrina struck. The federal government had unilaterally decided to reallocate funds needed for repairs and improvements to Homeland Security. The locals weren't pleased. (5) Dr Meaden predicts that "by the end of the next century, when we have a severe storm surge event, then all the land that is presently 5 metres or lower in Kent will be flooded. This possibly means that some 20% of Kent will be under the sea." Assuming he's right that 20% of coastal Kent is less than 5 m above the current sea level (his maps aren't included) and that the "storm surge event" somehow eventuates with undiminished force on both sides of the Dover Strait (so that both main areas of low-lying land have a chance to be inundated), that's not a totally daft prediction. The largest observed surge in 1953 was 3.9 m. Add a metre or so on top of that to account for two centuries of progress and if the right storm surge comes along a 20% flood might just about be possible. But then Dr Meaden ruins it by saying that this possible flooding means "by the end of the next century we may have to abandon up to 20% of Kent to the sea." Eh? We didn't abandon the areas flooded in 1953 (more's the pity); why would we have to abandon land flooded in the next once-in-a-hundred- or once-in-five-hundred-years "storm surge event"? Weaknesses in GM's second, supplementary statement. (6) "... most of these consequences will increasingly be disastrous for the biological life on the planet." Is there another sort of life on the planet? I know it's poor form to attack a writer's style rather than his substance, but here we have someone who until recently was a senior lecturer in life sciences at a British university and he's talking about "the biological life on the planet". Is Dr Meaden a Second Life junkie or something? NTTAWWSLJOC. (Dr M also seems to have a somewhat shaky grasp of the meaning of "exponential", but so do I, so I won't get into that.) (7) "It is overwhelmingly perceived ... by the scientific community that" SOME of "the causes of" SOME "climate change are anthropogenic". This famous consensus is overwhelmingly about SOME of the (probable) observed warming being anthropogenic and does not attribute all climatic changes in all regions to mankind. (8) That sorry stuff about the AGU predicting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2013. Which is immediately followed by ... (9) "The Arctic ice-cap in 2007 covered only 50% of the area it covered in 1980." Nope. The Arctic sea ice (formerly known as pack ice) in 2007 covered, at its minimum, only 50% of the area (actually extent, but let's not get too technical) covered by the 1980 minimum. (10) Shrinking summer sea ice extents mean that "many of the indigenous people's [sic] inhabiting these areas ... will have no option but to move into social and cultural milieux to which they are potentially alien." Why? (11) Similar shrinkages in the Antarctic "have less effect on humans but a much greater effect on other animals." Why and why? Surely "ice-cap" melting affects all coastal peoples, north and south? Isn't that what you have been saying? And which animals are greatly affected by this alleged "ice-cap" shrinkage in the south? (12) Paraphrase: rate of ice reduction outstripping models. Answer: yes, but not the ice-free 2013 model favoured by Dr Meaden - that one's back at the starting line. (13) "Greatly accelerating ice reductions are with us, and only exceedingly urgent and drastic actions can ameliorate this." I love this sentence. (14) Dr Meaden, the temperate waters fish GIS man, his expert thoughts on drought in Australia: it's all down to evaporation.(15) "Regarding global climate change the most well known tipping point is now happening where, for the first time in 11,000 years, the far northern perma-frosts are melting." Are you sure? (16) Stuff about the North Atlantic Drift being switched off. Nope. Sorry. (16) Toodle-oo to Tuvalu. Wanna bet? (17) "... [T]here has been plenty of evidence over at least the last decade to show that climatic disasters are becoming more frequent." Nope. No there hasn't. Sorry. (18) The wealth of climatic modelling --> a simple list of "scenarios in which the human condition will be increasingly affected." The human condition? Puh-lease! All the same, I wish Dr Meaden a happy retirement.

Ah! That old Greenie misconception, the peer-reviewed fact. Slowdazzle, there are no "known peer-reviewed scientific facts" in proper science. Peer review doesn't mean that a hypothesis or observation suddenly becomes an officially sanctioned fact; it means that the research has met the standards of competence and utility (and sometimes novelty) required by the editor or publisher of that particular journal and that experts in the same field have read the research and, if necessary, recommended improvements. If, as usually happens, after publication the research turns out to be wrong in some respects, subsequent peer-reviewed research will seek to plug the gaps and correct the errors. Some of those peer-reviewed efforts will themselves be wrong ... and on it goes. That's how (proper) science works. It's a collective enterprise. Failure is usually honourable, nothing is ever wholly true and the notion of a "peer-reviewed scientific fact" is deeply unscientific.

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