Oxfam and ‘Planet Roulette’

I just emailed Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, thus:

Dear Barry,

Your article in the Herald today attracted my attention, since I am interested in the general topic of global warming, but I also experienced a certain (perhaps naive) surprise at Oxfam’s connection with global warming. Clearly you believe in the hypothesis of dangerous man-made global warming; I hope you don’t mind if I ask some questions about it.

First, some facts seem to have come unstuck from reality. You say, since developed nations appear to be pulling out of their previously-expressed obligations to undoing global warming, therefore: “The world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries are being left to deal with the growing problems of droughts, storms, floods and lower crop yields on their own.” Which sounds distressing.

But these “problems” are not observed, they are merely predicted by climate models. You must be aware that droughts, storms, floods and “lower crop yields” have not departed from natural variability in frequency or strength. In other words, we’re not seeing more, or stronger, droughts, storms or floods. Or, can you cite statistics and their source, please? I have been watching these things for some time and I’m very curious why you should make this assertion.

Further, what do you mean by “lose” the game, in the event of negotiations falling through? Are you predicting a disaster, and if so, what, and why? For the IPCC is not predicting anything at all, much less disaster. You must know that the IPCC are careful to describe their postulations as “projections” and specifically state that they are not to be regarded as “forecasts” or “predictions” or acted upon as such. With this, they tacitly admit that their models are unvalidated and therefore speculative, based entirely on the assumptions that are programmed into them. In addition, they say they include their projections in various “scenarios” of the future but state that none of these are preferred over the others, and that we should ourselves choose between them. So on what basis would you choose a disastrous version, if in fact you have done so?

In your mildly amusing description of how the ministers “arrive in Poznan and save the climate change talks” you conclude with: “They agree on a process to negotiate a far-reaching agreement that will limit global warming to well below 2C. Promises will be fulfilled, responsibilities will be accepted and the global ecological and humanitarian crisis minimised. Game over.” You imply that the need for all the carefully-crafted machinery of trading, commercial, industrial, and domestic controls will at that point evaporate, yet you fail to state that the “crisis” will be ended, merely minimised, or precisely the figures that would produce that “game over” condition. So it’s difficult to approve of your reasoning.

Finally, why are you spending your organisation’s presumably meagre resources on a postulated problem far in the future (i.e., more than 50 years)? Surely the poor and disadvantaged have more pressing needs right now and in the months ahead? Of course, I really don’t have any experience with Oxfam beyond the occasional TV images of handing over emergency supplies in countries remote from mine. But how do you justify diverting resources to a speculated future?

I will be most interested in your answers and will pay close attention in order to learn more about Oxfam’s activities and motivations.

Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

Richard Treadgold
Climate Conversation Group

While we await a response from Oxfam, any other comments? The Herald said of Barry Coates: “He was a member of the New Zealand Government delegation to the UN climate change conference in Bali last year.” Hmmm, that’s interesting. Are you happy that the head of a charitable organisation represents our country? Or that a charity should ride the IPCC gravy train? How does that assist the poor?

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