6 December 2010
Mr Rees for the defences calls Prof. Ian Roberts. He is Professor of Epidemiology and Public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Widely published and contributed to issues on health issues and debates worldwide. Active research interests in the links between fossil fuel energy use, climate change and human health, contributing work to the World Health Organization WHO.
Accumulating scientific evidence suggests that man made climate change, primarily resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, has had and will continue to have serious adverse effects on the health of human populations.
Asked about his health estimates of what are the consequences of global climate change, he says in 2000 150,000 years of life lost, a measure of premature deaths each year due to such changes. Together with 5.5 million disability adjusted life years because of injury, disability and incapacity. Taken together, these amount to a generic measure of human suffering. These measures are certain to increase, evidenced by the clearly increased incidence of diseases aggravated by climate change.
When trying to understand the evidence, a first step would be to make a classification of diseases that are sensitive to climate change can be divided thus:
• Deaths due to flooding
• Drought and its consequences
• Temperature related Cardio-vascular diseases
Dr Roberts mentions the difficulty in predicting extremes. Pointing to the European heatwave of 2003 that directly resulted in 70,000 excess deaths in France.
The second step involves estimating from the science literature how changes in climate factors, influence the occurrence of disease. There is much uncertainty here, taking into account the surprises of extreme events [like 2003] probably resulting in vastly underestimating the consequences.
The third step involves making estimates of the effects of man made greenhouse gases on human health. Again, hardly an exact science, but the links between climate changes and food production, air and water quality and hence human health have all strengthened.
These global changes are resulting in mass migrations of people, the consequences of which are directly leading to lack of food, shelter and water. Land areas are being rendered uninhabitable and such mass migrations are leading to war and conflict, all clearly detrimental to populations’ health.
Dr Roberts continues that climate changes are leading to higher incidents of diarrhea, bacterial and viral infections, food poisonings and malaria. As global temperatures have increased, the spread of cover for malaria gets wider. All accentuated further by extreme weather events. The effects on food yields are already apparent, and that they have a disproportionate effect on those areas that are already suffering food insecurities.
Population migrations due to sea level rises are on the increase . For example, look at the pressures on Bangladesh and Pacific island populations. Migrations and food riots leading to violence, obviously has health implication for personal injuries and death.
Moving onto a short discussion about bio-fuels. Plant crops grown to produce ethanol fuels for both vehicles and power stations. The priorities in land use for these over previous crop growing has a direct effect on food prices and is leading to crop displacements. Problems occur in eco-systems if species can’t adapt to new conditions, leading to life distress. Many species of plants and animals cannot adapt to the unprecedented rapidity of man made climate change. It can be expected to find effects such as species extinction occurring and in a worst case the eco-systems complete collapse on which life and human existence depends.
Many species have areas of presence and timing. For example it matters when plants flower and the availability of insects of the right sorts to enable pollination to be effected. Thus, concern about the interdependence of species and their actions, within the ‘web of life’.
Concluding, Dr Roberts says that there is a public health imperative in reducing and in fact stopping, CO2 emissions. There is in fact a public health emergency and we are sleepwalking into disaster. There is and will be much increase in interpersonal violence: a generation genocide.
Miss Gerry for the prosecution cross-examines. She has no dispute about Dr Roberts evidence. She asks in relation to public health emergencies .. what do you do about it? He says he publishes research, he teaches and continues research on energy use and influences on human health. She seeks to get him to explain how to go about changing public attitudes. He again says research and publishing, explains these concerns to the media, Lancet etc. The dissemination of information to raise the public awareness.
Dr Ian Roberts, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mr Rees calls his second witness today, one of the defendants Mr BD
By way of introduction, says he’s had involvements with various climate issue related charities. Has been a volunteer researcher for Greenpeace. Since 2005 has been doing some research of human impacts on climate changes and their effects. An obvious example being regions like Darfur and its associated water stress.
Mr Rees [in dealing with prosecution continued accusations], what efforts at public engagement has BD had previously made? He replies he has made talks to a variety of groups including,
• Rotary club
• 6th Form groups
• Christian Youth Groups
• Parish council within Oxfordshire
• Vale of White Horse District Council organised meeting, inviting his local MP Ed Vaizey and the Manager of the Didcot power Station.
Moving onto the intended action, why did you go? BD replies that he was aware in 2009 of the lack of agreement being achieved at Copenhagen. The collapse of any post-Kyoto agreements. Thus he wanted to take part in some direct action himself to prevent coal-fired emissions because it did not seem to be happening by any other means. He became involved in the action from around January 2009. Initially the group only consisted of 5 people but within weeks has grown to over 100. BD say he was much involved in the planning of these operations. Safety being a prime consideration. He helped to shop for essential equipment. Produced documents already discussed in evidence.
Mr Rees goes to the 'Environment Show Stoppers' leaflet. Agreeing that it was a sham, BD says he designed and printed this. It contained directions and preparations for the action. He also helped with the 'Important notice for those working at the power station' leaflet. Distributed to all involved in the action. Included within this is mention of the required transition to a low carbon future. Reassuring existing staff about job creation in ‘green industries’. Not just about wrecking their prospects for those already employed. BD say he had also dealt with the ‘operational plan’, distributed to the Green team, whose task it was to ascend the chimney and to safely deal with all eventualities.
BD had been involved in briefings at the Iona School to help and ensure a ‘safe and effective’ action. He added that it was a condition of those taking part that no violence would be shown to police in attendance or to power station staff.
Turning to the mobile phones, discovered at the School during the police raid, he agreed he had been involved with their organisation, adding relevant numbers and labels to ensure the right groups got the right phone. To explain which phones were for what purposes.
Miss Gerry rises for cross-examination. BD, if you took the trouble to engage with meeting in Oxfordshire, why didn’t you do this in Nottinghamshire? He replies that in this instance, out purpose was to simply stop CO2 emissions at Ratcliffe. He adds that his efforts in Oxfordshire, had been in a more optimistic time. She continues with the notion that without public meetings in Nottinghamshire, he could have had no idea on what the effects of organising the action could be [thus still suggesting irresponsibility].
BD had made ‘no comment’ during interviews with the police. She says that you knew that police would have to respond, hence publicity for your action was intended for after your arrival. Thus, all was secret before. You could have said to police much of what we have learned during this trial. People of Nottinghamshire should have been informed through public meetings if you wanted to act responsibly. BD says that the object of this exercise was to reduce carbon emissions from the 2nd largest coal-fired power station in the UK, Drax being the biggest. It was owned by E-on, but that was a secondary concern.
Miss Gerry says, but you made no effort to thing of reasonable alternatives? He says but this action was reasonable. I say you made no investigations on what else could have been done in Nottinghamshire. He again disagrees saying much else had been done, but those at this action and many people in this locality for years previously.
Miss Gerry sits down very abruptly, without further acknowledgement. To all, it’s not obvious she’d finished!
Mr Rees re-examines: You’ve just been sneered at! That criticism, was any of that fair? BD says no, it wasn’t. We and others had tried at every stage to stop substantial CO2 emissions and had also taken other alternative actions and public engagements.
Witness is excused and court adjourns
After lunch, Mr Rees calls Dr Geoffrey Meaden now retired, recently been Principle Lecturer in the Department of Geographical and Life Science at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. Additionally, he provides consultancy to the United Nations. His specialties are specifically:
• Biogeography – The study of the distribution of plants and animals around the planet.
• Local physically geography of Kent, including coastal geography and water supplies in the region.
• Geographical Information Systems [GIS]. Computer based mapping and analysis. Helpful in siting a variety of service and systems.
He says that there is an increasing body of evidence, backed by the Royal Society, to suggest that the world temperatures are significantly raised compared with the last 10,000 years. More recent rises are unprecedented in history. Mr Rees says it cold outside, more snow and ice for a November in more than 70 years, can you help the jury [and the rest of us] why this is so if the planet is getting hotter? Dr Meaden, I’m glad you asked me that The current difference between sea and land temperatures are quite exaggerated, at the moment there is much evaporation. This results when passing over colder lands, tuning to snow. The point of this current weather forecast is of course to illustrate that climate change and weather are two different things. Throughout seasons and years, we have allsorts of changes up and down a scale, but implied by the average trend, the planet is warming.
The use of coal is growing on a world-wide scale and now contributes about 40% of power generation and about 20% of the total carbon emissions.
There are a number of climate change indicators that help us qualify observations we’re looking at:
1. Greenhouse gas emissions rising exponentially
2. Generally increasing temperatures in 85% of the earth
3. Drought heat waves & forest fires becoming more frequent
4. Rainfall concentrated precipitation events
5. Severe storm events rise in energy within storms
6. Sea temperatures increasing, but far more recently
7. Ocean acidification killing plankton base of marine web
8. Sea level rise increasing & more rapidly recently
9. Polar ice cover 25% reduction of arctic in 30 years
10. Melting of glaciers 30% loss in volume in 40 years
11. Day of snow [or ice] cover Ski resorts season shortened
12. Total length of growing season increase can be both pos & neg
13. Earlier leafing or flowering can affect species feeding patterns
14. Species migrations changes in animal migration habits
15. Increased human mortality cover this in Dr Roberts evidence
During this listing, in noted Dr. Meaden said increasing or exponential rise and increase, lots.
Mr Rees then takes him onto the effects of climate change on sea levels. As far as the UK is concerned, a rise of 1cm per year had been observed but this is increasing exponentially.
More locally, the Ratcliffe power station is located close to the confluence of the River Trent and River Soar. There are several characteristics of the Trent basin making it particularly susceptible to flooding. Area has impervious rock structures. Further, there are large areas of urbanised towns and cities. Again, these provide for larger areas of impervious structures from which vast amounts of ‘run off’ could be expected, rather than ground absorption.
Nottingham and area can expect that flooding will occur more frequently and such events will become more severe and problematic. A 1 in 100 year event, might result in 40% of the city flooded. We might not have to wait for 100 years for such an event, it might be next year or quite soon. It is becoming more likely because of the rise in urbanisation, building on flood plains etc
Climate is moving to warmer summers and very wet winters that may include what I’ve called ‘concentrated precipitation events’. These are likely to lead to severe flooding and more likely in prevalence. Insurance figures are showing these trends. Flood defences are become more vital, but are going to be progressively more expensive to build or maintain as the heights required to deal with become progressively higher. As I said ocean level rises are accelerating.
The coast of Britain has a ‘shoreline management plan’. Drawn up by local authorities and the Environment Agency and reviewed every couple of years. But priorities have to be made in which areas are to be chosen for protection. Urban over rural etc .. But, loosing increasing areas of low lying farmland would thus result in diminishing food production.
Miss Gerry cross-examines. Has anyone of the defendants in the dock asked you to come to Nottingham before. No. She then says what if the UK took measures to ‘go-eco’, what would that do to global changes you’ve described. Not very much!
Dr. Geoff Meaden Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent
Later in the afternoon, Mr Rees for the defence now calls another of the defendants to the witness box. Mr OB. He has a doctorate in Prehistoric Landscape Archaeology. He say he first became concerted around 86-87 about climate change matters. His concern had been enlarged on reading ‘Heat; How to stop the Planet Burning’ – George Monbiot ,
Mr Rees says dealing with the prosecution usual suggestion that no emissions would have been saved by the action, it this true. No he says, the book describes the slack and spare capacity inherent in the grid. Its resilience in fact. When the power stations manager, Mr Raymond Smith said that other stations might have been fired up to replace Ratcliffe loss in generation, these would also produce emissions. But coal-burning stations provides the baseline of supply in the UK, since the fuel is cheaper. Replacements would thus most probably come from gas-fired stations, since the coal-fired ones would already be online and generating.
Mr Rees asks what would your action have achieved? OB says a quantifiable amount of CO2 emissions would have been prevented by stopping the burning of coat at the Ratcliffe power station. The Stern Report says that every ton of CO2 emitted has a knock-on effect. It equates to a measureable cost and effect on lives lost.
With respect to this specific action, OB say he had first been involved from about March 2009 on hearing of the plan to try to shut down the plant. Convinced it would offer him the best chance of reducing emissions personally. Mr Rees reminds the court that the prosecution suggests the whole thing was a bit of a jolly! No, certainly not. This was very serious.
OB says he’s been a climber for about 10 years. He is skilled in ‘single rope’ techniques. Was part of the ‘black team’, the object of which was to shut down the coal conveyor. People would have pressed the emergency stop buttons and locked-on to the plant there through the arm-tubes. These would have prevented their easy removal. As a climber, he would have been suspended in a position to prevent the operation of the coal conveyor and again to make their removal harder.
The climbing harness is displayed to the jury and OB makes quite a lengthy explanation of its operation, components and purpose. Much of which was about the safety features in the equipment to avoid injury during the action.
Miss Gerry for the prosecution cross-examines. She asks about the purpose of being there? OB replies the same as all the other defendants, to do his best to save emissions from the power station. She says the banners you had with you were all about coal. The people of Nottingham are not shown any alternatives are they?
Moving on to a publication, she initially asks if an address in Cherwell Street, Oxford means anything to him. Yes it’s the offices of Corporate Watch. Did you author a report from there called ‘Broken Promises: why the nuclear industry wont deliver’. She is seeking to demonstrate OB media experience, since there previously been much questioning of others about the press release, prepared ahead of the action. Although he replies his was a minor role in the Corporate Watch publication, Mr Rees objects, since this appeared to be a ‘back-door method’ of introducing the document. He had been ambushed. This had not been initially disclosed to the defence. There was then a bit of legal argument, but the prosecution say that nothing is outstanding to be introduced.
Miss Gerry goes back to the events. This action wasn’t about saving carbon was it, It was just a media stunt? OB says no, it wasn’t. That because of the scale and immediacy of the situation, we need to take action on CO2 emission right now. She questions if he had tried canvasing the public on these issues. He said he had, but had seen the limitations of such a process. Next to the scale of the present situation, it could be nowhere near as effective in stopping these emissions.
‘Heat; How to stop the Planet Burning’ – George Monbiot 2006, Penguin Press
‘Broken Promises: why the nuclear industry wont deliver’. Corporate Watch 2007
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Ratcliffe on Trial Blog http://ratcliffeontrial.org/blog
Onwards ... >
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