At 11.00am defence barrister, Mr Edward Rees QC opens the case for the defence.
He calls the first witness, one of the defendants SS.
She has been employed by Greenpeace for 8 years, although, this was not an ‘official’ Greenpeace action. In fact she took a short holiday in order to do it. Money had been raised by an assortment of donations. She said that her attitudes about climate change had developed over the last 10 years but her involvement with Greenpeace and other influences. She sited a pamphlet she remembered reading in 2001 titled ‘Millions at Risk’ that was one of her first awakenings about the nature of the likely consequences of climate change.
SS mentions Dr. James Hansen as another influence and an earlier publication ‘Climate Change and Trace Gases’ as impressing on the need for change.
She says she was part of a team that presented climate change issues to political party conferences, sometimes including the head of the Meteorological Office.
For her, there is little doubt that there is a link between different amounts of carbon in the atmosphere and the resultant climatic changes. Another work sited to illustrate these concerns: Mark Lynas - Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.
Mr Rees asks her, what are climate changes causes?
The emitting of far to much CO2 by burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. Coal IS the biggest contributor to these changes and the most polluting. The resulting CO2 causes changes in the composition of the atmosphere. Interacting with the CO2, the suns rays then create a ‘greenhouse effect’ as more heat is absorbed.
SS goes on to explain the additional concern of ‘tipping points’. These are thresholds beyond which climate change spirals out of control. Instead of linear relationships, conditions change beyond predictions and control. Reductions in carbon emissions are thus required now. We could be within 10 years of tipping points being reached before irreversibility. Within the 8 years with Greenpeace as a climate campaign assistant, she has been a political advisor to politicians of all parties. Greenpeace however is non-political and supports no particular parties.
She goes onto to explain meeting with groups like the Environmental Audit Committee and party conferences. Mr Rees is showing that SS had engaged in the political process and not engaged in the ‘bit of the jolly’ the prosecution were trying to suggest. SS had previously met with environment ministers, Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor. Members of the European Parliament MEP’s in meetings about European Environmental Targets, and the attempts to influence politicians to engage in CO2 limiting processes. But as far as she could see, little change was affected. She now works as a forest campaigner dealing with issues of de-forestation.
Mr Rees asks what has that got to do with climate change? Forests by absorbing CO2 assist in keeping the balance. Forest burning contributes to CO2 emissions and a ‘domino effect’ is brought about. Trees store and absorb carbon, thus less trees = less CO2 absorbed. Half of all species in the world are to be found in the Amazon. Effects of climate changes would be unknown in the region.
SS says she is also aware of frightening projections in the reduced scale of the ice caps, perhaps in her lifetime. Again, there is a potential tipping point. The ice will thus reflect less heat. The resultant ‘darker oceans’ will absorb more heat, accelerating the process of further melting. The consequences are unknown, of the excessive heating of the oceans. The collective processes are leading to organisms ‘soaking up’ less carbon.
Climate change is leading to an increase in flooding worldwide. She has had some personal experience of this. The burning of coal and the resulting carbon emitted is causally linked to this increase in flooding. It is an alarming prospect and it is necessary to think about alternatives like, wind and solar power.
E-on are burning coal because it’s cheaper. When dealing with politicians she is very pessimistic about their political will to bring about the required changes. Going on to the Kyoto Treaty, the international agreement to limit greenhouse gases., she points out that it has not bought about the required restrictions. With limited ratifications, the USA had watered down meaningful requirements and politicians remained intransient. SS says this had made her very pessimistic about the ability of politicians to affect change. On to the Copenhagen Conference, there is still no optimism in setting target or agreements of the required changes that are needed.
The proposed Ratcliffe action occurred before Copenhagen but she was aware of limitations on the build up to the Conference. Of course the conference didn’t result in any agreement on targets. To this day, this remains the case. She says politics is clearly hopeless in bringing about changes and she remains pessimistic about bring about the required changes by political argument. Politicians are ‘carrying on’ without view to the consequences.
Thus, she takes direct action. She did so to save 150,000 tons in carbon, that Ratcliffe emits a week. Every ton counts towards effects and deaths. Thus stopping emission even for this short time, will saves lives, species, flooding, peoples’ livelihoods and property. Dealing with the proposed action, SS was part of the planning. Since Mid January 2009 to their arrest in April planning continued with the associated timeline. Later, she gives a briefing at the Iona School, in the lagal system and advice on arrest. This is based on the Climate Camp ‘bust card’ with advice to remain silent on questioning. The defendant followed this advice.
On the day, people were to split into groups, some would lock onto the coal conveyors, some to climb a chimney. Entrance was to be achieved by simply driving through the front gate, only minimal opposition was to be expected since this would have been on the Bank Holiday weekend.
The Black team were to head for the conveyor, press the emergency stop button and occupy that plant.
Green team would climb a chimney, SS said she was part of that team. The object was to prevent the re-starting of the station. She said her main object was to stop emissions but realised ther would be press interest and would make the most of it.
Orange group to occupy the gates.
Silver group to surround the chimney.
Gold group to go to the control room and to explain action to staff. With a view to advising on safety measures.
Mr Rees takes her back to the school and the police action. The police broke in casing the damage previously described to the school. Those present caused none of the resulting damage. Police would not let supporting groups back into the school to clean up after events. Preferring that the owners claimed on the insurance, adding to the costs of the operation of course.
Miss Felicity Gerry for the prosecution starts her cross examination. Confirming SS was involved in elements of the planning of the operations. Agreeing she was and confirming she was conspiring to close down the power station. She seeks to divide the defendants into ‘chiefs and indians’ but this wasn’t accepted.
Miss Geery went on to the ‘Ecological Show Stoppers’ Leaflet. This document was a complete sham. A cover to assemble the group. Just going to a workshop if challenged. Some people knew what they were going to without specifics, others were curious.
The prosecution tries to suggest no carbon would in fact be saved ! SS replies that if they had been successful a gas-fired station might have been stated instead with less CO2 resulting. The object was also to highlight the proposed construction of the Kingsnorth Station. But the reason for going to Ratcliffe was because it was owned by E-on and the second largest emitter of CO2 in the UK.
Miss Geery then goes on to highlight efforts that people made in hiding laptops, sim cards phones etc, and trying to flush materials down the toilet. Defendants did all this because they knew their action were unreasonable.. Legal briefings were necessary because they knew they were committing a crime. SS responds that there is a difference between trespassing as against the crimes against the lives and conditions of millions of people.
Attempts to say activists were on the fringes of society and actions can result in disengaging the public. By taking such direct action, there is a risk of loosing public support for an issue. She seeks to marginalise their efforts.
The prosecution returns to criticising the defences argument of an existing ‘democratic deficit’. Miss Geery suggest all are remiss in not taking every opportunity in engaging with the public in argument in a variety of groupings.
The prosecution then went on to suggest a bizarre list of ways that the activists could better have spent their time.
• Woman’s Institute
• Scout Groups
• Police Federation
• Trade Unions
• Conservative Party meetings
• Canvasing for politicians
• Bingo Halls
Establishing her own credentials Miss Geery does this by letting the jury know that she bought second hand clothes and had a compost toilet, before the judge told her that her personal life wasn’t relevant to the court case.
She cited Paul McCartney and Coldplay’s Chris Martin as examples of effective environmentalism, through their involvement with ‘Meat Free Mondays’. Instead of closing down power stations, she suggested that the defendants would be better off searching for celebrity endorsements for the likes of ‘Turn-off Tuesdays” or “Switch-Off Sundays.” Finally, she suggested that the money that was spent on the action would have been better off hiring Cheryl Cole to model second hand fashions!!!!!!!
SS does agree that people do need to take individual action in their own lives. But this is simply note enough, next to the size of the issues / probems.
For the defence, Mr Rees again get SS to reiterate the scale and magnitude of the required changes. That celebrity endorsement and action that people , just as individuals can make is not enough.
Witness SS stands down and court retires till after lunch.
IPCC Report: Millions At Risk Of Hunger And Water Stress In Asia Unless Global Greenhouse Emissions Cut
James Hansen - National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Mark Lynas - Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
From Cancún to Copenhagen: A year in climate change : As delegates from around the world descend on Cancún, Mexico, we reflect on 12 months of climate talks
In the afternoon, the defence calls Dr. James E. Hansen, Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA’s Goddard Institute. Mr Rees takes the jury through his large number of accolades and his experience since 1977. He advised the Climate Task Force during the Bush administration on the role of humans in accelerating climate changes.
He published work titled ‘Storm of my Grandchildren’, Mr Rees asks about the reference to grandchildren? It takes decades for full effects of any changes to take place. But it’s put to him you can’t predict the weather a week ahead in Nottingham, so how on earth can we predict these climate effects decades ahead.
There are trends. For the planet to be in equilibrium, energy radiating would be equal to the energy received. Human processes have been upsetting this balance. CO2, methane and other gases absorb infra-red. There is little effect on the radiation coming in but it does prevent heat leaving at the same rate, acting like a blanket around the earth. That all is getting warmer, there is no significant challenge to these concepts.
Additionally, there is an amplifying feedback. As the planet becomes warmer, the ice surface diminishes. Thus the larger area of ‘darker oceans’ heats up faster. A slow change but inexorable and would take millennium to return to an equilibrium. As oceans become warmer, it gives up CO2 to the atmosphere, another amplifying feedback.
Mr Rees asks how we know this process is anything to do with human interventions. It is now clear that human influences far exceed natural changes. 10,000 times faster than changes before the industrial revolution. Referring to changes since the last ice age, there will of course be natural changes, but humans are contributing to these cycles.
Asked what if nothing is done, what’s the impact? Dr Hansen says disintegration of the ice sheets, extermination of species and taking tens of thousands of years to regenerate. Thus, our grandchildren will inherit a more desolate planet than we have inhabited. We are approaching tipping points when these processes will become alarming. There is disagreement about the rates of change, but, large agreement about it consequences. Being shown many maps, graphs and charts, Dr Hansen interprets ranges of effects leading to ocean rising levels. In Europe, there are higher human populations living next to coasts because of historical maritime commerce. There are of course grave effects awaiting the millions of Bangladesh and numerous islands. The IPCC says that ‘business as usual’ will result in catastrophic rises in ocean levels within this century.
Mr Rees says we now come to ‘King Coal’ why is this fuel significant? Dr Hansen say that it’s because the stocks are so much larger than oil and gas reserves in the earth. Further all resources are finite, with the approach of ‘peak oil’, oil and gas will become more expensive as it becomes more problematic to extract dwindling reserves. Burning coal is the dirtiest of fuels and should be left in the ground. We simply must phase out coal burning for energy generation.
Why is urgent to take action now? It’s because it’s plain that we are approaching these tipping points, and we need to limit amounts of additional CO2 emissions or it wont be possible to avoid passing them. Thus causing distress to future generations. Resulting in imbalances in processes for a very long time. Current governmental target are meaningless without phasing out coal burning. ‘Business as Usual’, might lead to 5degC increase in this century and the planet wont look like it has for the last 10,000 years.
Dr Hansen says it is obvious that unless coal is not burnt, then governments are lying in what they say are their stated aims. I can see why young people are upset when faced with such deception. Referring to the fluctuations in climate described in the many graphs, charts and maps it is apparent humans are changing what is normal.
Miss Gerry cross-examines. Dr Hansen says he’s done his best to educate the public on shortcoming governments. They are mainly influenced in policy by fossil fuel industries. The public needs to be better informed to thus bring about political pressure. He appears pessimistic that governments are listening to peoples concerns.
If we shut all the power stations, and coal mines, what are the alternatives? At present, we don’t have an alternative. Simply improving energy efficiency is not enough. What can ordinary people do? Influence politicians. Burning materials slower wont do it. People see companies lobbying for ‘business as usual’ as having a disproportionate effect on policy. Deniers and contrarians are given equal weight, but they shouldn’t be since opinions are well out of proportions in numbers believing their is nothing to worry about.
He says the media is failing to give the public an explanation on these issues. Sometimes they are funded by corporations with their own agendas. The public cannot hold the politician to account if they are under informed.
Miss Gerry asks if we carry on, are we all going to die? Dr Hansen says yes, we are all going to die anyway. But during the lifetime of our children, there will be many changes to our planets distress.
Governments continue to ignore their responsibility to young people.
There was then a ripple of applause from the public and disapproving looks from court officials. You’re not supposed to do this in courts!
Dr. James E. Hansen : Storms of My Grandchildren:
The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. ISBN-13: 978-1608192007
Dr. James E. Hansen, Head of National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA’s Goddard Institute http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/jhansen.html
The case continues a bit more …….. etc
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