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A few weeks ago the editor of "The Ecologist" magazine, Oliver Tickell, came up with a conspiracy theory that ISIS, in a loose association with Big Oil, may have carried out the Paris terrorist attacks in order to scupper the forthcoming COP21 Climate Change conference:
"But ISIS's ambitions surely don't stop there. Its aim is to consolidate its hold of the regions it already occupies, extend its empire to new regions and countries, and establish a Caliphate whose power and income will largely derive from oil. So the last thing it needs is a global climate agreement that will, over time, limit global consumption of fossil fuels.
Oil prices are low at around $50 per barrel. The IEA estimates that OPEC states have lost half a trillion dollars a year in revenues since the oil price fell from over $100 a barrel in 2011-2014 to current levels. And this is causing deep tensions among OPEC members - due to meet on 4th December in Vienna to thrash out solutions.
The main problem is that Saudi Arabia is over-producing oil in order to suppress investment in and production of high cost oil in the the US, Canada, UK and other countries - and so capture the lion's share of an oil market it thinks will keep on growing for decades to come.
Thus OPEC scenarios foresee oil demand increasing from 111 to 132 million barrels per day (mb/d) by 2040. However the International Energy Agency thinks that even modest carbon constraints will see demand for oil slump to around 100 mb/d by 2040 - and considerably lower with tough climate policies.
And that is surely an outcome that not just ISIS but all major oil exporters fear and wish to avoid.
Was it or wasn't it?
So, assuming - as seems probable at this stage - that the Paris outrage was carried out by or for ISIS, was it in any way motivated by a desire to scupper a strong climate agreement at COP21? And so maintain high demand for oil long into the future, together with a high oil price?
Let's just say that it could have been a factor, one of several, in the choice of target and of their timing. And of course ISIS was not necessarily acting entirely on its own. While not alleging direct collusion between ISIS and other oil producing nations and companies, it's not hard to see a coincidence of interests.
So if that is the case, or even if might be the case, there's an important message in it for us all. The effort to shrink the importance of fossil fuels in the global energy landscape - and oil in particular - just took on a whole new dimension."
The name Tickell may ring a bell with readers. Oliver Tickell is the son of Sir Crispin Tickell, the British diplomat who supposedly convinced Margaret Thatcher about the threat posed by man-made global warming.
The mistake Tickell is making is that he doesn't seem to appreciate that ISIS is not a legitimate oil supplier - it would be classified more as an "oil smuggler" or a "black market supplier". A black market supplier would have no interest in observing any regulations or paying taxes that might conceivably be imposed on fossil fuel as a result of the COP21 conference, and it might even be in favour of such regulations and taxes to increase the demand for the black market version of the product.
One thing that has puzzled me about the issue of ISIS and its oil income is that there seem to be a lot of airstrikes conducted by various countries (including the USA) where ISIS operates, but I get the impression that nobody seems to bomb its oilfields or its oil distribution arrangement, which would be the obvious solution to cutting off its oil income.
An answer to that puzzle was provided in this recent news story:
"Former Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell suggested that Barack Obama didn’t order the bombing of ISIS’s oil transportation infrastructure until recently in part because he was concerned about environmental damage.
Morell also said the White House was concerned about destroying infrastructure that could be used by the Syrian people."
Apparently since the Paris attacks, Obama has now allowed the bombing of ISIS-controlled oil tankers, and there is a possibility that the oilfields themselves might be bombed in the future. Ironically a major reason for not bombing oil targets has been to avoid the associated environmental damage, so the desire to stay on the right side of environmentalists like Oliver Tickell is why ISIS has so much oil income.
In addition to the implausible conspiracy theory in Oliver Tickell's article, I thought his predictions about how the Paris attacks might affect the COP21 conference were a bit dubious.
"But failure to reach a strong climate agreement now looks more probable."
My own view was that the Paris attacks would probably be helpful in COP21 being declared as some sort of success, and the Green movement seem to have convinced themselves it was the most successful COP conference for years. Western politicians and officials (examples being Tony Blair and David King) have claimed for about ten years that climate change is the world's biggest problem, even bigger than terrorism. The Paris attacks tend to make this claim look somewhat absurd, and so I thought it unlikely that COP21 would be allowed to be portrayed as being a failure, whatever was agreed at the conference.
"It's estimated that ten thousand or more climate activists from around the world may be planning to stay in Paris for the duration of the conference, both to demand a strong and effective agreement, and to develop their own agenda, alliances and plans for climate action.
There is certain to be a far larger and more repressive security presence around them than previously planned - not just at Le Bourget but in central Paris where most of the events, conferences and demonstrations are due to take place.
Police surely fear the presence of terrorists taking shelter among the climate activists - and in many a policeman's world view, there may be no huge difference between murderous terrorists and (generally) peaceful demonstrators anyway. Both are likely to be seen as the 'enemy'."
I think Western governments have a much more favourable attitude to Green NGOs than Tickell is claiming above. If Tickell's analysis was correct, then Greenpeace would not have been able to carry out one of their customary publicity stunts at the time of the conference. A quick Google search reveals that Greenpeace did in fact manage to carry out a major stunt in Paris during COP21, involving protestors climbing up the Arc de Triomphe landmark and painting surrounding roads yellow:
In terms of trying to work out what really has been agreed at COP21, a post at the Tallbloke's Talkshop blog seems to provide a pretty good synopsis:
"Doug Proctor: What #COP21 agreement means
Posted: December 12, 2015 by tallbloke
Doug Proctor has gone over the decision at COP21 for us.
1. Everybody gets to do what he wants to do, without repercussions other than official notes in the media of progress vis-a-vis what he said.
2. Nothing has to be done that “threatens” food production. Not “reduces”, but threatens. This should allow cutting down forests and the slash-and-burn style of agriculture, and exempt agricultural practices, including beef production, from carbon-taxes, fuel surcharges or the need to make them less CO2 heavy.
3. Financing is neither fixed, nor firm, but voluntary and without a timeframe. Financing is still at the stage of ‘determining’ what others may need. There is no “SHALL” involved with collection or redistribution of funds.
4. Developed countries have to produce data on what they are doing as to emissions reduction. Developing countries don’t have to do so, only if they want to.
5. No tracking of emissions claims is permissible if the host country finds the questioning intrusive or offensive.
6. The Convention is going to appoint two “Champions” for 2-year terms (overlapping 1 year) to run around the world and talk to others about doing their bit. My bet: Obama and Merckel, once they are out of office.
7. The next global “stocktake” will take place in 2023. I couldn’t find a date for the next COP meeting of equivalence to this December 2015 Paris meeting.
8. The Agreement will come into ‘force’ after 16 April 2016 OR when 55 Parties accounting for at least 55% of global emissions sign the agreement. China is at 28%, India at 6% and the Rest of the World small Parties at 30%. The ROC have no reason not to sign. All they need is China. http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_coun.htmlhttp://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/tre_coun.html
9. Cheating has been big. Anti-“double accounting” rules, whereby British firms pay the Brazillians to plant trees of carbon-offset credits will no longer allow Brazil to claim those same trees in their emissions reduction claims, have had to be imposed because there was cheating everywhere and you couldn’t believe the numbers.
10. Surprise! Surprise! After signing any Party can bow out in 3 years, effective 1 year later. Shorter than the Kyoto Agreement! By mid-2020 anyone can be out prior to the next big conflab.
Do as you plan on doing or end up doing. No sweat. No money committed or flowing for the time being. We’re gonna get a couple of celebrities to talk it up and have grand photo-ops. Don’t worry about measuring performance success officially until 2023. If you or your electorates or other power groups get really annoyed, you can opt-out in three years, long before you are held to account for what you said today.
Except for the half-billion dollars these jokers just spent (of our tax money), and the social licence they gave each other to raise taxes and redistribute economic activity within their countries, there is nothing in this to provide comfort for the alarmists. No sense of urgency, no sense that the world is about to die/fry. The “last chance to save the planet” is now 2023."