Client Earth: Climate denial
Client Earth is an environmental organisation that "uses the power of the law to protect all life on Earth".
Its principal project on climate change is curently a court case brought in 2022 that the UK Government's climate strategy does not contain sufficient detail for it to achieve its target reductions.
A document that appears typical of its messaging around the case is assessed here by a checklist for climate realism or denial of climate implications.
The findings are that Client Earth's messaging is not in line with the climate science and what the IPCC says needs to be done. In paticular, it is endorsing the UK Government's Net Zero 2050 timescale of target emission cuts, whereas according to the scientific consensus, the timescale is at least three times too slow. Instead of the Net Zero 2050 strategy, urgent radical emission cuts are needed.
The consequences are that Client Earth is contradicting and undermining the IPCC, and the climate scientists, economists and campaigning groups who are trying to publicise the need for urgent radical cuts in emissions.
Client Earth is suffering from a variety of denial termed implicatory denial.
Client Earth needs to revise its messaging if it is to accurately inform its supporters and the wider public about the seriousness of the climate emergency as part of its aim of "using the power of the law to protect all life on Earth".
Summary table Assessment against a checklist for consistency with the IPCC regarding climate action
|Climate action an overriding priority
|Temperature limit e.g. 1.5°C
|Keeping to the IPCC CO2 budget
|Including equity between nations
|Including all CO2 emissions
|Double digit percentage annual emission cuts
|Credibly compliant policies
|Avoiding false solutions
|Number of fails
This can be compared with the assessments for other groups via the summary table in document 154.
The organisationClient Earth (https://clientearth.org) is an environmental organisation that, according to its website, "uses the power of the law to protect all life on Earth".
Project assessed: The 2022 Client Earth High Court caseClient Earth, in conjunction with two other organisation, Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project, brought a High Court case that the UK Government's climate strategy does not contain sufficient detail for it to achieve its target reductions. The verdict was given in July 2022 and was in favour of Client Earth and its partners, and the UK Government now has to revise its strategy. Client Earth celebrated the verdict as a success without qualification , and has used it in its mailings to supporters to appeal for more funding.
This document is an assessment of whether Client Earth's messaging around the legal case is consistent with the climate science and with what the IPCC says is to be done. The web page We've won our case against the UK Government's inadequate net zero strategy  was selected for assessment - it seems to be representative of the overall messaging (including press releases and emails to supporters). Assessment was carried out using a checklist for climate realism or denial of climate implictions - see document 138. There are concerns  that there is widespread denial of the implications of the facts of climate change, which is termed implicatory denial.
AssessmentA summary of the assessment is given at the top of this page. Details of the checklist elements are given here.
1. Is climate action an overriding priority, on the basis of e.g. the gross injustice?
NO - the main aim of the legal case is to force the UK Government to comply with its own (flawed) targets. The text refers to the Government's timescale of cuts as
cuts that are critical to keeping a just and liveable world within reach.But the Goverment's plans would take three times the UK's share of the residual CO2 budget for 1.5°C - see document 109 - and so are not consistent with "a just and liveable world". The Goverment's target cuts are the wrong targets, and Client Earth seems to be unaware of this.
2. Is a limit to global warming specified, generally 1.5°C?
NO - no temperature limit is discussed.
3. Is there adherence to the IPCC CO2 budget? Is the mechanism for limiting global warming clearly stated to be limiting further total global CO2 emissions to the CO2 budget specified by the IPCC?
NO - there is no mention of the IPCC CO2 budget.
4. Is equity between nations incorporated? Are the implications of the international commitments to global equity properly taken into account, i.e. that developed nations cut emissions faster than the global average?
NO - there is no mention of global equity.
5. Are all CO2 emissions included, especially those embodied in imports and exports and those from aviation and shipping?
No - the court case endorses the UK Government's strategy, which ignores emissions from imports and exports.
6. Is the size of appropriate annual emission cuts specified e.g. double digit percentage cuts in developed countries?
7. Are any policies discussed consistent with this timescale?
Not applicable - no detailed policies are discussed.
8. Are false solutions avoided?
CommentIn summary, the Client Earth report has five failures on the checklist.
Client Earth is not denying the facts on climate change, or how they should be interpreted. It is the implications of the facts that Client Earth is failing to communicate. This is an example of implicatory denial, according to Stanley Cohen's description of the different forms of denial - see document 147.
Client Earth appears to be unaware that the UK Government's emission reduction targets are inconsistent with the climate science, but the situation is being brought to its attention.
There is a cacophony of inconsistent messaging about what needs to be done about climate change. Client Earth (with its partners) is adding to this.
If Client Earth wishes to support the UK's adherence to the Paris Agreement and efforts to contain global warming to 1.5°C, it should
- make a commitment to
explain honestly, clearly and without compromise, what scientific evidence tells us about the seriousness of the climate emergency...along the lines of the Science Oath for the Climate  of Scientists for Global Responsibility.
- publicise the speed of cuts required, as indicated by:
- "immediate rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions" as advised by the IPCC 
- the Tyndall Centre reports for UK local authorities showing that annual emissions cuts of typically 13% were needed in 2019 , with faster cuts now being needed because of the lack of action.
Update September 2023Client Earth has restarted its court case with Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project that the UK Government does not have policies to deliver its Net Zero 2050 timescale of CO2 emission cuts.
Client Earth is still endorsing this grossly inadequate timescale.
It has not responded to feedback.
|Client Earth website (Jul 2022) We've won our case against the UK Government's inadequate net zero strategy https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/news/clientearth-are-suing-the-uk-government-over-its-net-zero-strategy/ (accessed 4 Feb 2023).
|Iain Walker and Zoe Leviston (2019) There are three types of climate change denier - and most of us are at least one The Conversation https://theconversation.com/there-are-three-types-of-climate-change-denier-and-most-of-us-are-at-least-one-124574
|Scientists for Global Responsibility. A science oath for the climate: text and signing (2020) https://www.sgr.org.uk/projects/science-oath-climate-text-and-signing
|Abdalah Mokssit (Secretary of the IPCC) (Aug 2021) IPCC press conference https://un-spbf.org/event/ipcc-press-release-climate-action-cannot-wait/
|Tyndall Centre The Tyndall carbon budget tool (2019) https://carbonbudget.manchester.ac.uk/reports/
First published: 4 Feb 2023
Last updated: 25 Sep 2023