Lord Tennyson with his “tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean” has been an inspiration to Christiana Figueres (left). She was secretary-general of the top-level UN climate body UNFCCC (2010-16) and spruiked doom on Stan Grant’s Matter of Fact show on ABC-TV on October 9.
Figueres is billed as the architect of 2015’s Paris Accord which commits China, India, and now the US, to nothing. Meanwhile the West is supposed to transfer $US100 billion a year to Third World leaders, such as the PNG politicians who’ve just ordered 40 Maseratis and three Bentleys.
The $US100b is actually small change by Figueres’ standards. A year ago she challenged Principles of Responsible Investment signatories, with $US70 trillion under management, to put 1% into renewables by 2020. If I’ve got all the zeroes down pat, she’s talking $US700 billion.
Snuffles and sobs accompany her listing of future climate horrors unless we spend $US38 trillion on renewables during the next 16 years. That’s nearly half of current world GDP. I was disappointed that she stayed dry-eyed during the encounter with the ever-affable Stan Grant while delivering her litany of climate fictions and forecasts. She also accused the commendably sceptical Grant of using “infantile arguments”.
Are any recent graduates of ritzy St Catherine’s in Sydney’s Waverley reading this piece? Girls, remember her addressing your 1000-strong assembly in 2015. She had a box of Kleenex handy, and bare moments into her speech she told you, “I have tissues here because it always pains me … [a pause] to see [a suppressed sob] … the evidence of what we’ve done.” She explained later to a worshipful SMH reporter, “I always have emotional moments when there are children in front of me…Unfortunately the painful evidence is upon us, there is no country in the world , not one single country, that has not had some extreme weather event that is related to climate change.”
The alarmist Climate Home News has noted, “Her passion for tackling climate change has many times spilled over into tears.” At Cancun in 2010, for example, she dabbed her tissues as she told kids she “had inherited a severely diminished planet [sobs] .. I just can’t look my daughters in the eye and not do what I can [more sobs].” I doubt her two daughters, now aged 30 and 29, will really do it tough. They’re both graduates from top universities (Yale and London School of Economis) and globe-trotting finance/gender/climate consultants.
One tear-jerking oration involves Figueres in the Costa Rican jungle as a kid to see the golden toad, which from 2004 became the supposed first casualty of climate change. Her two daughters would never see one, she mourned. Nice anecdote except that better research has now attributed the apparent loss of the toads to natural El Nino cycles, not global warming.
Palace-raised Figueres is from the ruling dynasty of Costa Rica (pop. 5m). Her father was president for three terms and more than 12 years, while her brother, Jose Figueres, was president for four years. Her mother was a parliamentarian and ambassador to Israel and her half-sister an ambassador to the US. At the UN and later, her politics have been champagne-socialist. She achieved perpetual quotability with this ripper from February 2015, which I’ve taken from the official UN press release:
“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”
She views a halt to growth in the West with equanimity. “Industrialised countries must stop growing — that’s fine. But developing countries must continue to grow their economy in order to bring their people out of poverty … We’re saying: “Okay, you guys, you can continue to grow, you can bring your people out of poverty — but you can’t do it with disgusting fossil fuels that those guys use’.”
After the severe flooding in Somerset and on the Thames in 2014, aggravated by maintenance and dredging failures, Figueres tastelessly found a silver lining: “It’s unfortunate that we have to have these weather events, but there is a silver lining if you wish, that they remind us solving climate change, addressing climate change in a timely way, is not a partisan issue.”
Her ideology was also on view in 2014 when she praised the Chinese dictatorship for “doing it right” with its can-do approach to climate “because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S.” Representative democracy, it’s such a pain!
A year ago, Scientific American headlined her profile: “The woman who saved the planet”. Sub-head: “By harnessing ‘female energy’, Christiana Figueres convinced humanity to take on climate change.” We also read that she has “warded off global catastrophe” by opening the Paris talks not just to governments but “to the private sector, the spiritual community, the scientists.” (Curious, who she puts last, isn’t it? She should also have mentioned the Paris hordes of green NGOs). She claims she created “a surround-sound effect” so that no matter where governments turned, they heard “a chorus of yes, yes, yes. Yes, we can go forward with ambition, yes, this makes economic sense, yes, the technologies are there, yes, the science is there, yes, the morality is there.” But no, Ms Figueres, the $US100 billion a year for the Third World isn’t there and the Green Climate Fund meetings have fallen into farce.
Figueres must stagger under all her honors and awards. They include the Shackleton Medal, the Grand Medal of the City of Paris, the Legion of Honor, the German Great Cross of Merit, the Guardian Medal of Honor, the 2015 Hero of El Pais award, the Global Thinker Award, Four Freedoms Award and the Solar Champion Award from the woke folk of California. She was No 7 on Fortune’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2016, and a Top Five Most Powerful Women in Science last year. Quite a haul for someone who is yet to discover that weather isn’t climate.
Her flagship role today is convenor of the Mission 2020 activist lobby, which in 2017 was claiming humanity had only three years to stop the planet evolving into hothouse earth with “devastating heat extremes and unmanageable sea level rise”. Mission 2020 just wants us to spent $US1 trillion a year by 2020 on renewables and coal phase-outs, thus saving the planet.
Figueres in the run-up to the Queensland election late last year was lobbying against the proposed $1 billion concessional rail loan to Adani for its Carmichael coal project. (Who needs Russians?) She claimed the loan would trash Australia’s reputation internationally and undermine the Paris Accords, as if China and India aren’t doing a good job of that already.
During the Stan Grant interview, hyperbole was rampant. “We are at the crossroads deciding the future of humanity on this planet,” she said, also posing three questions, all with false premises:
- Do you want bushfires raging across the East Coast for six months at a time or do you want a thriving and prosperous agricultural sector?After 1degC of global warming, wildfires are on a falling global trend. Australian wheat exports in 50 years are up from 6.4m tonnes to 16m tonnes, with a record 25m tonnes six years ago.
- Do you want to cause geopolitical instability because Pacific nations will not survive (rising seas) and they will have to be simply migrated, or do you want to open up your energy system to be a limitless force from wind and sun and to be a jobs and energy source for the world?Tuvalu’s 101 islands have actually expanded by 3% in area in 40 years. Al Gore falsely claimed in his Inconvenient Truth movie of 2006 — that some island populations had been evacuated, a spurious assertion that has never corrected There are no island refugees from climate change to date. Wind and solar power are unreliable, require subsidies and confer no trade advantage to Australia. The high cost of renewables has reversed our once-powerful energy competitiveness.
- Do you want the Great Barrier Reef or do you want the largest aquatic cemetery in the world?The Barrier Reef has survived thousands of years of much hotter climate than today’s or the purported heat level by 2050. It’s already recovering fast from two years’ bleaching events.
To his credit, Stan Grant kept trying to introduce reality checks such as coal’s status as Australia major energy source and export earner, while Figueres responded with her word salads. “Coal doesn’t have any place in the global energy system anymore … It would be unreasonable to expect Australia would completely demise its coal industry overnight but (it should) smoothly move out of coal energy because you have many other sources of energy and exports…”
She thought replacing coal energy and exports over 10-20 years “should not be that difficult.” Reality check: The anti-coal Coalswarm plant tracker reports that China now has as much new coal-fired capacity under development – 259GW – as the entire US coal-fired power industry – 266GW.
Grant asked why Australia should make sacrifices while China (and India) are unconstrained on emissions.
“That’s a very infantile argument,” she replied, saying that all national commitments were self-determined and voluntary. “It’s a myth that addressing climate change is a huge burden, it’s a huge opportunity. The global economy will grow between 20 and 26 trillion dollars just because we are moving to a new technology creating 65 million new jobs where young people are needing such jobs.”
The supposed “65 million new energy jobs” is a pointer that solar and wind energy is more labor-intensive, hence less productive, than equivalent coal-fired power stations – even disregarding renewables’ unreliability. Subsidised jobs are an economic burden, not a benefit.
Last month in another interview she turned the dial up to 11, claiming inter alia that “catastrophic heat waves” have stricken Australia. “After a year of unprecedented wildfires, droughts, floods, and other natural disasters around the world, it is clear that the climate crisis is already upon us,” she claimed. “Without more effective political leadership to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions immediately, the apocalyptic conditions of a warming planet will become the new normal.”
Figueres’ nickname among sceptics is “Tinkerbell”. If it means she’s divorced from reality, she’s earned it.
Tony Thomas’s new book The West: An insider’s tales – A romping reporter in Perth’s innocent ’60s, can be bought here
 Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is UN-linked but claims independence.
 The brother Jose Maria resigned abruptly as CEO of the World Economic Forum in 2004 after confirming that he had pocketed more than $US900,000 consulting fees from Alcatel, contrary to WEF rules. He blamed an oversight.
 Among the 60 signatories to the document is Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation and, from 2000-10, president of the ACTU.
 “The data available to date do not support a general increase in area burned or in fire severity for many regions of the world. Indeed there is increasing evidence that there is overall less fire in the landscape today than there has been centuries ago, although the magnitude of this reduction still needs to be examined in more detail.”
 Drought: “…low confidence in the sign of drought trends since 1950 at global scale… likely to be trends in some regions of the world, including increases in drought in the Mediterranean and W Africa & decreases in droughts in central N America & NW Australia”
Floods: “There is low confidence due to limited evidence, however, that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and the magnitude of floods. ”