Musings from Bonn. The last day of the SBSTA50 Climate Change Conference

28 Jun 2019

[Inspired by a twitter discussion initiated by Karl Mathiesen:]

This is - although not completely unsurprisingly - shocking and very unfortunate. The editor from Climate Home News - Karl Mathiesen - talks about the likelihood that on this last day of the Bonn climate negotiations, 27th of June, governments won’t fully acknowledge the latest IPCC 1.5 degree report because Saudi Arabia and Iran are raising objections and are questioning the findings.

Although this is [1] outside all scientific knowledge, [2] it fails to acknowledge the fact that Saudi Arabia will be exposed to unliveable heat and water scarcity, and [3] they stand together in this statement with a country they are actively at war with, it can be explained by the fact that 89 % of the revenue of SA comes from oil fields. The revenue is used to subsidise food, fuel and many essential products and services with which the royal family buys consent of the population.

The IPCC report stated that if the world would want to stay below 1.5 degree (which can be questioned feasible, but at least a goal to pursue), oil demand would fall by between 39 % and 77 % by 2050

He then mentions that the former lead negotiator of Saudi Arabia - Mohammad Al Sabban - mentioned himself in 2015 that in such a scenario the sovereign wealth fund would only last for 8 years. Concluding that Saudi Arabia - together with Iran, Russia, and Kuwait - have the choice to either protect their power or protect their people.

Then, former negotiator Al Sabban enters the discussion himself with straightforward climate science denial: “You have based the whole argument on the assumption that the change in climate is human induced and not natural happening over millions of years. Nonsense”

Ed Hawkins - climate scientist from the UK and initiator of the #ShowYourStripes awareness campaign - then enters the discussion stating that Saudi Arabia is warming since 1901 and reaffirming the scientific understanding and consensus on climate change, established since the late 19th century.

On this, mister Al Sabban has to say: “These are natural variabilities. It has nothing to do with you claim. Again nonsense”, “Wake up. Don’t be misled forever” and “You may be part of the big mafia. Don’t forget your role in the Climate Gate”.

The last comment is brought in by Michael E. Mann, citing a part of his book in which he explains how the Saudi’s themselves might have set up this so-called ‘Climate Gate’ (emails that have been stolen from climate scientists and that have been used to undermine climate negotiations during the Copenhagen climate negotiations):

“Saudi web servers were among the first used to post the stolen materials, and Saudi Arabia was the first country to call for an investigation of climate scientists in what came to be known as climate gate, leading some to suggest that Saudi Arabia - the world’s single largest exporter of oil - may have played a role. In any case, the lead Saudi climate change negotiator, Mohammad Al-Sabban, was quick to use the manufactured scandal to help block progress at the Copenhagen summit. The e-mails would have a “huge impact” on the negotiations, he had predicted, and he went on to make the jaw-dropping claim that “it appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change”.

On my request to Al Sabban to take care of the future and rethink his and Saudi Arabia’s statements, he has to say: