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James Delingpole

A Supreme Court justice and the scary plan to outlaw climate change

An imaginary problem could soon have real consequences in international law

10 October 2015

9:00 AM

10 October 2015

9:00 AM

How do you make an imaginary problem so painfully real that everyone suffers? It’s an odd question to ask, you might think, but it’s one that has been exercising some of the brightest minds in the legal firmament, led by no less a figure than Lord Justice Carnwath of the Supreme Court.

Last month, at an event whose sinister significance might have passed unnoticed had it not been for the digging of Canadian investigative blogger Donna Laframboise, Carnwath contrived to nudge the world a step closer towards enacting potentially the most intrusive, economically damaging and vexatious legislation in history: an effective global ban on so-called ‘climate change’.

The setting was a rather dull-sounding symposium Carnwath organised at King’s College London called ‘Adjudicating the Future: Climate Change and the Rule of Law’. We don’t know the names of the ‘leading judges, lawyers and legal academics’ from 11 nations who attended because the organisers won’t disclose them. What we do know, though, is that you and I helped pay for this three-day shindig: among the sponsors were the Supreme Court, Her Majesty’s government and (publicly funded) King’s College London.

So far, so very dreary. It probably wouldn’t have got into the news at all if the Prince of Wales (Carnwath used to be his attorney general) hadn’t published a letter of support, urging the judiciary to play a ‘crucial role’ in preventing ‘the disastrous consequences of global warming’. But as ever at these grey convocations where men we’ve never heard of decide our future behind closed doors, the devil lies all in the detail.


We can see this in the opening speeches, viewable online and described by Laframboise as ‘among the most terrifying 90 minutes I’ve ever witnessed’. If you’ve the stomach to sit through the faux-judicious burblings, you’ll see what she means: here are leading, influential, international lawyers proposing to reject the scientific method, bypass democracy and permanently shut down the climate debate by declaring ‘global warming’ illegal under international law.

It sounds absurd. Impossible even. But already there is local precedent. This summer, in response to a case brought by a green activist group called the Urgenda Foundation, a Dutch court ruled that the Netherlands government must drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in order to save future generations from the effects of dangerous climate change. Central to the court’s decision — and widely quoted in its ruling — was the allegedly accepted scientific wisdom that the world simply cannot be allowed to heat up by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels without disastrous consequences.

Had that court done its homework, it would have discovered that the 2°C figure was the arbitrary invention, at the height of the climate scare in the 1990s when the world still was actually warming, of a neo-Malthusian activist-scientist called Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (who also advised the Pope on his recent, controversial encyclical on the environment). Schellnhuber has himself admitted: ‘Two degrees is not a magical limit. It’s clearly a political goal. The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated.’

Indeed it is. There is evidence to suggest that even were the planet to heat up to 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the benefits — for example in increased crop yields — would outweigh the drawbacks. But no one really knows because global climate is a chaotic system which remains ill-understood even by the ‘experts’. Only a fortnight ago, a new study was published revealing that the oceans are producing, abiotically, unexpectedly vast quantities of isoprene, a volatile organic compound known for cooling properties. No wonder then, that with discoveries like this being made all the time, the alarmists’ doomsday computer models are continually failing to accord with reality: there’s still so much stuff out there that the scientists don’t know.

Which, of course, is precisely what is scary about this scheme being cooked up by Carnwath and his green fellow travellers in the judiciary. What they are proposing is to ignore the uncertainty, act as if the ‘science’ really is ‘settled’ and close the argument forever, using the sledgehammer instrument of the International Court of Justice.

This was the shameless proposal of Carnwath’s keynote speaker, Philippe Sands QC. By making the ‘2°C target’ an ‘obligation under international law’, he suggested, the UN’s General Assembly could impose ‘obligations to reduce emissions, including if necessary by phasing out altogether certain emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases’.

Since carbon dioxide is a natural byproduct of almost every industrial process, you can perhaps imagine the chaos such legislation would cause. It would be great news for lawyers like Sands, of course, and an endless excuse for litigation by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. But for businesses and nation states on the receiving end, it would be a disaster.

Meanwhile, in the real world, for no reason that any alarmist scientist has ever managed plausibly to explain, there has been no actual ‘global warming’ for nigh on 19 years. This point ought not to need reiterating. The only reason it has to be — with Groundhog Day regularity, unfortunately — is in order to counter the specious propaganda of an overmighty green establishment embracing everything from the Obama administration and the Vatican to the BBC and, now, it seems, certain members of our famously neutral and apolitical senior judiciary.

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