We’ll Always Have Paris

From the official website of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy:

http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/Les-enjeux-de-la-conference-de.html

Les enjeux de la conférence de 2015

The challenges of the 2015 conference

February 17, 2014 (updated February 20, 2014)

This conference should be a milestone in the negotiation of a future international agreement to come into force in 2020. The aim is that all countries, including the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions – developed as well as as developing countries – should commit themselves to a universal binding climate agreement.

France wants an agreement applicable to all, ambitious enough to achieve the two degree target, and with binding legal force.

So for three French ministers involved in organizing and chairing this conference (Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pascal Canfin, Minister for Development, Philippe Martin, Minister of Ecology) “Paris 2015 Climate” should be a meeting, not for mapping out the terrain, but for coming to decisions. It must be offensive, collective and positive. In order to achieve this aim, the future French Presidency is working in close coordination with the other two Presidencies, both current and future, in Poland and Peru to form a veritable troika to give political impetus to the negotiations. The agreement in 2015 will be binding and applicable to all, aiming to contain global warming to 2° C, but adopting the principle of differentiation. They [the three presidencies] recognize that “a series of steps” will have to be completed “to achieve universal and binding agreement” by late 2015. Furthermore, even the best deal possible in 2015 will have to be completed in order to enter into force in 2020 as planned .

With this conference, the French aim is to move from a sharing of burdens to a sharing of solutions: France is working on an agenda of solutions in order to establish a more positive discourse in advance of the conference. The agreement will indeed have to implement a paradigm shift, taking into account climate challenge not as a necessary “burden sharing” of emissions, but also as an opportunity for job and wealth creation, and for the creation of new modes of production and consumption.

Which is all well and good, except that two of the three ministers mentioned in the text were fired six months ago. The Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy is now Ségolène Royal, the mother of the President’s four children. Her energy bill is currently being discussed in parliament in an atmosphere of total indifference. Following the decapitation of a French citizen in Algeria, France became the second country to follow the USA in bombarding Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government (now followed by Britain, Belgium and Denmark). The country is in a state of collective hysteria which is not conducive to sensible discussion of energy policy.

Her energy bill proposes phasing out France’s use of fossil fuels (which is minimal) cutting the use of nuclear by a half, and replacing them by renewable energy sources, thus halving the cost of energy.

I googled Ségolène to find out how her fantasy policy of destroying the economy of the world’s fifth greatest power was coming along. The big story on the minister of ecology is that she’s just renounced recent measures to measure and control air pollution in the country’s creches as part of the government’s economy drive.

Her children are grown up now. You can hardly expect her to be worried about the quality of the air breathed by the tots when she’s in charge of closing down the world’s most efficient energy production facility, now, can you?

Posted in France Italy & the rest | 6 Comments

Stop Climate Coalition Collapse Chaos

The world’s biggest climate march is being held in New York on Sunday. 100,000 people are expected to attend. Similar events are being held around the world, organised by

http://peoplesclimate.org/

which is an umbrella group for a number of other organisations. A letter publicising the event in the Guardian was signed by representatives of:

Avaaz

38 Degrees

Greenpeace-UK

Tearfund

Oxfam

Save the Children

WWF-UK

The Climate Coalition

Cafod

Christian Aid

Friends of the Earth

Campaign against Climate Change

People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

The Campaign against Climate Change is at http://www.campaigncc.org/ and the Climate Coalition at http://www.theclimatecoalition.org/

Both are themselves umbrella organisations, with many of the other signatories sheltering under their umbrella

The rain it rains upon the just / As well as on the unjust fella. / But more upon upon the just because / The unjust’s stolen his umbrella.

The Climate Coalition has 11 million supporters – a figure obtained by adding up all the members of all their hundred plus supporting organisations, from Friends of the Earth to Surfers against Sewage. Details of two of the English marches in England, in London – and Stroud. are available at their site. You can sign up for the London march via Eventbrite (do you need a ticket?) and there are separate comment threads for the two marches. No comments so far.

Surfers against Sewage can be found here: http://www.sas.org.uk/

where you can see a couple of their members marching against climate chaos, complete with surf boards and faces painted blue (should that be Smurfers against  Sewage?)

They claim to belong to Stop Climate Chaos, which is the old name of the Climate Coalition, except in Ireland and Cymru. [I bet the real SAS are miffed at the smurfers having got that domain name. Or perhaps they are the real SAS? They look fit, and infiltrating dodgy political movements is right up their street, isn’t it?]

Of the other organisers:

38 Degrees has nothing to do with temperature, but refers to the angle at which avalanches start. They specialise in launching petitions, or popular referenda, as they’re called. Of the fifteen petitions on their site under the heading  “environment”, only two are about climate change: “ENERGY BILL: EMAIL YOUR MP” and “TELL NICK CLEGG TO TAKE A STAND ON CLIMATE CHANGE”, both of which are marked: “Update: This is no longer a live campaign”.

Their top environmental campaign is: “PUT AN END TO THE CRUEL CONDITIONS IN PUPPY AND KITTEN FARMING. On 4th September, MPs could take a stand against the cruel conditions many young pets are sold in. There’s a debate in parliament that could kickstart a ban on puppy and kitten farms.” 

And they invite you to click on a link marked “Get Started”.

So get started and kickstart a ban. If you can’t get Clegg to make a stand, at least kick a kitten.

Perhaps they’re trying to tap into a new market among climate activists, under the mistaken impression that there’s a popular pressure there waiting to be siphoned, and little realising that the global warming popular movement consists of Barak Obama, Bob Ward, and a half dozen other people whose names I forget, but who anyhow won’t be marching in London on Sunday.

Emma Thompson will be there. And someone called Jarvis Cocker.

Of the signatories of the letter to the Guardian, the one that caught my eye was Avaaz. According to Wiki:

“Avaaz is a global civic organization launched in January 2007 that promotes activism on issues such as climate change, human rights, animal rights, corruption, poverty, and conflict; it works to ‘close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.’ The organization operates in 15 languages and claims over thirty million members in 194 countries,and The Guardian considers it “the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network”.

The latter claim is pretty weird, considering that the Guardian’s survival policy depends on becoming itself  “the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network”. The claim is backed up by a reference to an article at:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/02/avaaz-activist-group-syria

which is about Avaaz’s central role in organising the Syrian resistance to the Assad regime. The article is an extended interview with “Ricken Patel, Avaaz’s Canadian-British co-founder and director” and the same Ricken is the first activist consulted at the Guardian article by science correspondent Adam Vaughan

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/08/activists-promise-biggest-climate-march-in-history

“Ricken Patel, executive director of digital campaign group Avaaz, one of the organisers of the People’s Climate March on 21 September, said: 

‘We in the movement, activists, have failed up until this point … Our goal is to mobilise the largest climate change mobilisation in history and the indications are we’re going to get there… climate change threatens us all so it brings us together.’

Nearly 400,000 have signed a call on Avaaz’s site, saying they will attend one of the global events, which also include marches in Berlin, Paris, Delhi, Rio and Melbourne… We’re building for the longterm here. This is about launching a movement that can literally save the world over the longterm. We want to build to last. We recognise that at this stage what needs be done is build political momentum behind this issue – our governments are nowhere near even the planning to reach the agreements needed to keep warming below [temperature rises of] 2°C.’”

But back to the 2012 Guardian article, which is about Avaaz’s role in an attempt to liberate western journalists in Syria which resulted in the tragic death of thirteen Syrian activists:

The tragic loss of life, combined with Avaaz’s increasingly pivotal role in the Syrian uprising, has raised inevitable doubts about such a young organisation. In particular, questions have been asked about whether an internet campaign with such a limited track record is equipped to be operating in such a brutal war zone.

The accusation of inexperience clearly irritates Ricken Patel, Avaaz’s Canadian-British co-founder and director. He stresses the personal experience of Avaaz’s senior team – the 20-odd war zones that Avaaz’s campaigns manager previously worked in; the time served by its campaign director at the US state department and Amnesty; and his own four years in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Afghanistan. ‘I spent four years right up close to this stuff, this isn’t new for me,’ Patel says as we speak in Avaaz’s New York headquarters…

Since then its internet membership has soared, doubling every year to 13.5 million. Its fundraising ability has followed suit: it has raised $3m through small donations to fund activities across the Arab spring … Initially, it was better known for its online petitions against such targets as Rupert Murdoch and climate change polluters. As time has passed it has taken more and more risks, expanding both the scale and scope of what it does – from “break the blackout” campaigns in Myanmar and Tibet, to engagement with the Arab spring uprisings in Tunisia and Libya…”

A campaign director who worked at the State Department (and Amnesty ???) and

a co-founder and director who worked in in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Afghanistan. Excuse my cynicism, but you do’t go there without State Department  permission, which means that you’re working for the CIA or one of its sister organisations.

On its website it currently boasts  38 million members. This is not impossible. There are enough Westernised democrats in Arab countries to justify this number of adherents.  But excuse me Mr CIA director if I point out that you don’t convert a billion Moslems to the cause of climate change simply by financing a website with an Arab-sounding name. A billion Arabs fed up with living under dictatorships are not going to turn to CIA-financed websites, but to the people thay know, who tend to be their local Imams, Sunnite or Shia, according to their geographical tradition.

Dear Mr CIA director, I’m all for spending the American taxpayer’s money on spreading the word for western democracy. That means plurality of ideas. But push the feudal owners of half the world’s fossil fuel resources too far, and they may begin to play the democratic card themselves.

I won’t be at the People’s Climate march in London this Sunday. Nor at Stroud. But the day I turn up at these fixtures will be the sign that I have been financed by Big Oil, or Big Sunnism, or Big Shiaism, or anyone else who is prepared to pay the rent.

Any offers?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sir Martin Rees and Harun al-Rashid

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and ex-President of the Royal Society, had an article in Prospect Magazine last month entitled “We need an enlightened despot to save our vulnerable planet”:

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/regulars/if-i-ruled-the-world-martin-rees

Sir Martin is worried about progress, and about the short-termism inherent in democratic politics. He’s not against scientific progress as such, but he worries about some of its side-effects:

“Pandemics could spread at the speed of jet aircraft, causing maximal havoc in the shambolic megacities of the developing world. Social media could spread psychic contagion—rumours and panic—literally at the speed of light.”

Sir Martin’s nagging worry about speed is odd, coming from an Astronomer Royal. If pandemics can spread at the speed of jet aircraft, so can medical supplies. And are rumours more dangerous when they travel at the speed of light, instead of at the speed of sound, as they used to in the good old days when I was a lad?

There are two problems with his article: first, in calling for an enlightened despot to replace democracy, Sir Martin is placing himself at the extreme right of the political spectrum, along with the guys in balaclavas who break up meetings of the British National Party, accusing them of being a bunch of democratic wimps. In a word, Sir Martin is embracing fascism. The truly disturbing thing is that neither he nor Prospect Magazine seem to be aware of the implications of his argument. Enlightened despots don’t suddenly appear because some member of the Establishment wishes them into existence by writing thoughtful magazine articles. They emerge from periods of bloody struggle, and much of the blood is on their hands. (Who is he thinking of, anyway? Surely not any of the despots of the past century? Though many enlightened members of the Establishment put their faith in Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Franco.)

Genghis Khan gets a good press these days, since the sufferings of his victims are less well documented than those of more recent despots. and he was good on architecture and commerce and suchlike. I suppose most people thing of figures on the borderline of mythology, like the Emperor Augustus, Alfred the Great, or Harun al-Rashid. I must admit I quite like the idea of Sir Martin disguising himself as a simple citizen and going among the common folk to discover what they think.

Which is more or less what he has done in this article. I suppose for the likes of Sir Martin, writing an article in Prospect Magazine must seem like wandering the streets of Baghdad in disguise, or minding the cakes in a peasant’s cottage. But if his purpose was to sound out the opinions of the peasants, it must be accounted a failure, since not one peasant has left a comment.

I tried, but you have to register, and possibly pay, to comment at Prospect. I left out my objections to fascism (which are uninteresting anyway) and concentrated on my second criticism of Sir Martin’s article, which concerns his method of reasoning, which is not reasoning at all, but simple assertion: “I say this, this, and this, so therefore democracy is crap and I want a Real Man I can fawn to.”

I didn’t say it like that in the comment I wrote for Prospect, since I wanted it published. There’s a lot of other things I didn’t say about my analysis of the motivations of very old men  (Sir Martin is four years older than me) who want  what their grandchildren will be allowed to think and say and do  to be dictated by the enlightened despots they hope to see replace our current political system. This is the comment I didn’t leave at Prospect:

“The silence which has greeted Sir Martin Rees’s demand for an enlightened despot is such a welcome sign of intelligence on the part of Prospect readers that it seems a pity to break it, but I find Sir Martin’s style of reasoning – which might be termed the Argument from Assertion – too tempting to resist. So here are my carefully crafted replies, using the same logical method as the ex-President of the Royal Society.

“Space-ship Earth” is hurtling through space. Its passengers are anxious and fractious.” 

No they’re not.

“We downplay what’s happening in impoverished far-away countries.”

No we don’t. We know and care more about  what’s happening in impoverished far-away countries than any people in history.

“Only an enlightened despot could push through the measures needed to navigate the 21st century safely.”

No he couldn’t.

“Shouldn’t we worry about “worst case” climate scenarios?” 

No.

“The despot would willingly pay a higher insurance premium to guard against future catastrophes;” 

No he wouldn’t.

“He or she would generate a vast “sovereign wealth fund” to finance infrastructure and research and development at low interest rates.”

Why?

“Indeed many philosophers would assign equal value to the rights of those not yet born:”

Really? Name one. 

We know that we are stewards of a precious ‘pale blue dot’”.

No we’re not. We live on a big fat green and blue planet, with lots of room for everyone.

“We need rulers who care what happens in the 22nd century and beyond.”

No we don’t. Perhaps we need rulers – and thinkers – who can appreciate the profound humility of Keynes’s throwaway remark that “’in the long run we are all dead”.

I assumed in my first sentence that the silence of Prospect readers at Sir Martin Rees’s suggestion was a sign of civility on their part, but an alternative, less attractive explanation suggests itself. Perhaps people haven’t seized the implications of his demand for an enlightened despot. 

Such folk don’t turn up because a number of civilised intelligent people wish them into existence. They only appear in the wake of the bloody overthrow of legitimate government . Is that what Sir Martin wants?”

I read somewhere (probably in the Guardian) that when we abolished hanging for murder, we left on the statute books a load of other punishments, like drawing and quartering for such crimes as rape of a royal princess, or arson in Her Majesty’s dockyards.

I’m wondering whether there isn’t some obscure statute which is applicable to a servant of Her Majesty (such as the Astronomer Royal) who proposes overthrowing Her Majesty’s Loyal Government in favour of some benevolent despot in jackboots with shares in a solar energy company?

Will we see Sir Martin Rees hanged drawn and quartered in Trafalgar Square? I sincerely hope so.

Benevolent despot, Me? Here’s hoping.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Science without Consensus

The climate change story in Britain over the past few weeks has been dominated by the arrival of a new warmist organisation, the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, and by press articles (both in the Guardian) by Britain’s two most famous scientists, Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society,

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/sep/04/sir-paul-nurse-criticises-figures-distort-scientific-evidence

and Brian Cox, the dishy mop-headed popstar who does science for the Beeb on the telly.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/03/brian-cox-scientists-climate-change

For an intelligent analysis of Cox and Nurse see

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/09/how-not-to-crush-and-bury-climate-sceptics.html

and for an equally intelligent analysis of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, see

http://www.climate-resistance.org/2014/08/does-the-uk-need-another-climate-unit.html

Ben Pile’s articles are getting longer, which may unfortunately dissuade the busy and the fainthearted, but Ben remains by far the best guide to what’s happening on the climate politics front  in Britain. If you care about the future of the planet,  or about the future of intelligent discourse, which is the lifeblood of democracy, please proceed to Ben’s site. If not, stay with me.

The ECIU is run by ex-BBC environment correspondent Richard Black, with grants from three multi-million pound philanthropic foundations, and has three articles up on its blog in the three weeks of it existence, all by Richard Black.

The first article received five comments, all from climate sceptics. The comment thread is administered by Disqus, which allows readers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to each comment. The five sceptic comments received a total of 85 thumbs up and zero thumbs down. Then comments were closed.

One of the commenters, Robin Guenier, complained to the ECIU, who promised that comments would be reopened, which apparently didn’t happen.

Robin tells me that the second article has comments, though for some mysterious reason I can’t see them. I can see comments for the third article, but there aren’t any.

If anyone in the sceptic camp was harbouring suspicions that warmists are a highly organised band of conspirators – forget it. Richard Black was a highly visible BBC journalist with – presumably – thousands of followers on Twitter, and all the other accoutrements of media exposure, if not fame.

No-one has gone there to lend him support. Not his close relatives. Not his ex-colleagues at the BBC. Not the thousands of fellow green activists all busy blogging on their own websites. Not one of the millions of supporters of climate action claimed to exist by those same websites.

Richard Black is alone.

Alone with the three million dollar philanthropic foundations which finance his site: the European Climate Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the Tellus Mater Foundation. (for details, see Ben’s article cited above).

Following on from the creation of the ECIU came articles in the Guardian by Sir Paul Nurse, suggesting that climate sceptics should be “crushed and buried” and Brian Cox , who crushed and buried two thousand years of epistomology with gems such as:

“The scientific view at the time is the best, there’s nothing you can do that’s better than that. So there’s an absolutism. It’s absolutely the best advice,”

and:

“I always regret it when knowledge becomes controversial. It’s clearly a bad thing, for knowledge to be controversial. We can trace back through history the times when knowledge was considered to be controversial. And that’s what we are actually saying when we talk about climate change. We’re saying that there’s something inherently problematic with knowledge.”

The hard conclusion from this is that we live in a harsh world, where any senile idiot can revel in macho fantasies of crushing and burying his opponents just because he happens to be President of the Royal Society, and an infantile failed popstar thinks he can chuck Socrates in the dustbin because he happens to have a job sweeping up the bosons at the Large Hadron Collider.

There’s more.

There’s a climate change conference in New York at the end of the month, an extended foreplay for the Big One in Paris next year, with the promise of the world’s biggest anti-climate change march.

And there’s a book on climate change coming out by Naomi Klein, who is magnitudes more famous than Nurse or Cox. For an idea of its contents, see

http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt

I have a soft spot for Ms Klein, since I find her criticisms of capitalism sympathetic, (though I haven’t read her books “No Logo” and “The Shock Doctrine”).

However, the above article in the NS reveals her to be bonkers. (Was she always so, or did  climate science render her thus? In ten years’ time, unless temperatures have risen significantly in the meantime, we will be asking the same question about  every single politician and intellectual on the planet.)

I do recommend the New Statesman as a place to comment. Comments are not too numerous, and they are arranged, courtesy of Disqus, in order of popularity , Since the supporters or the NS’s warmist line are all ignorant green zombies, there’s a strong chance of reason prevailing.

Some of us had great fun tearing Brian Cox apart  at

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/sci-tech/2012/12/brian-cox-and-robin-ince-politicians-must-not-elevate-mere-opinion-over-sc

Here Disqus ordered responses by “best”, instead of by “oldest’ or “newest”.

I somehow don’t think Brian Cox will be commenting at the Staggers again any time soon.

But not all science is climate science. The following article in the New Statesman sheds an interesting light on the way Big Science is treated in the media, and hence how it is viewed in educated circles and by politicians.

http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/2014/09/pleiades-row-fault-our-star-measurements

It’s all about the distance of the Pleiades star cluster from us, a subject about as irrelevant to our everyday life as its possible to be, yet the article’s sub-heading neatly encapsulates the way problems of our understanding of the cosmos and our political decisions on budgetary questions interact:

“Either our understanding of how stars form needs a big overhaul, or one of the current missions of the European Space Agency could turn out to be something of a white elephant.”

The problem is that American and European scientists have come to differing estimates of the distance of the Pleiades. The article (which is no better and no worse than most articles about science in the “serious” press) sums up the problem thus:

“There is more at stake than international relations. The correct distance to the Pleiades matters for two reasons. First, if Hipparcos [the European probe launched in the eighties] was wrong because of something in its instruments, the European Space Agency craft Gaia, which has just embarked on a new survey, may be subject to the same kind of error. For a mission that costs €740m and is going to take five years to complete, it would be nice to know that there isn’t a fundamental design flaw.

Second, if Hipparcos is right, something is wrong with our understanding of how young stars form. The US measurements relied on received wisdom about how bright the Pleiades’ stars should be, given their age. Astronomers were confident that we have a good handle on this but if we don’t, the new result could be incorrect – as could many other “facts” about the history of the cosmos.

It is hard to know how things will play out. When it became a nationalistic issue all hope of reasonable dialogue disappeared. Now it’s down to Gaia.”

First there’s the question of whether European taxpayers are wasting €750 million, then there’s the question of whether our cosmological model is correct.

Note two things about this article:

1) It is considered perfectly normal that two scientific teams working for two international agencies on different continents should come to different conclusions, and should defend their respective positions in the scientific literature with the same fervour as supporters of rival football teams

2) It is considered perfectly normal to discuss in the same sentence the cost of research and the likely results – the politics and the physics.

Now compare this with the way climate science is discussed at the NS or any other mainstream media outlet.

When did you last read an article discussing whether American or European estimates of global warming were the most accurate?

Or whether it was worth spending x million euros to establish this or that supposed “fact” about the climate?

I like the New Statesman. Despite their total obedience to the cult of global warming, despite their obsession with the current craze for trans-sexualism, pan-sexualism and generalised middleclass bourgeois wankerophilism, they remain an oasis of alternative radical thought..

(As long as they let me comment there, the green fascist bastards).

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Rupert Darwall: The Age of Global Warming

If you haven’t read Rupert Darwall’s book “The Age of Global Warming: A History” please do so. There’s an excellent summary in a speech given by Darwall at the GWPF book launch on 27th March 2013 at

http://www.thegwpf.org/rupert-darwall-age-global-warming/

There are also good reviews at

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/10748667/The-game-is-up-for-climate-change-believers.html

in the Spectator

http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/8883981/the-greatest-scare-story/

and at BishopHill

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/8/5/book-review-the-age-of-global-warming.html

while there are interesting comments by Richard Drake and others at

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/3/6/costs-exceed-benefits.html

The Telegraph review attracted over nine thousand comments, few, alas from people who had read the book, or even intended to. Christopher Booker in the Spectator points out that it’s only the second book to have tackled the subject of global warming as political history, the first being his own “The Real Global Warming Disaster”, which ended before the 2009 Copenhagen débacle.
The originality of the book lies in the fact that it is a book of political history, though it gives an adequate account of the science, and of the pseudo-science which informed the politics of environmentalism in books like Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth”. The politics, with its huge, changing cast of characters and endless, bafflingly titled conferences and policy papers, is treated chronologically, enabling those of us who weren’t around in the seventies and eighties, or (in my case) who weren’t paying attention, to begin to make sense of the evolution of this monstrous affair.
The input of particularly active behind-the-scenes operators like Maurice Strong and Barbara Ward is highlighted, and there are scores of fascinating character studies to lighten what is inevitably a sometimes tedious account of COP meetings in one darned exotic location after another. The effect is sometimes like reading a pile of holiday brochures on tropical paradise locations which contain nothing but the small print warnings about risks and the non-applicability of insurance in case of non-compliance.
Most people reading this article will probably learn little new about the science from Darwall’s book. He deals adequately with the Hockeystick affair and Climategate, though unfortunately out of chronological order (inevitably, since Climategate had its effect in 2009 on the Copenhagen conference, but concerned events surrounding the IPCC and the Hockeystick affair much earlier). He gives credit to McIntyre and McKitrick for their work on rebutting the worst excesses of climate pseudo-science, but hardly mentions the role of sceptics or sceptic blogs in general. The long discussion of the Hockeystick and the Caspar and Amann paper surely merits a footnote citing Montford’s “Hockeystick Illusion” and “Caspar and the Jesus Paper”, and it seems churlish not to mention the role of the likes of Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, and Donna Laframboise in revealing the weaknesses of the science and the machinations of the bureaucrats.
What I gained most from the book is a historical perspective of events which no-one can have except those inside the circle of activists and bureaucrats who were carrying the process along. Even the politicians who made the headline decisions were only sporadically involved, and their short attention spans and periods in power make them secondary characters most of the time.
One of the most important points in the book involves the smashing of the myth of American climate policy seesawing between the views of Big Oil Bush and the saintly Gore. Darwall demonstrates convincingly that American policy consistently aimed to protect American interests (who’d have thought it?) while staying broadly in line with the environmental objectives of the rest of the world. The tensions in the American camp were between different arms of government, but Republican-appointed negotiators consulted their Democrat predecessors and vice versa. European climate policy, on the other hand, involved consultations between 27 different Ministers of the Environment, each one of them representing the tiny Green lobby in their respective electorates. No wonder European climate policy has been a monument of collective insanity.
The main thrust of Darwall’s argument is that there was never the slightest chance of the developing world signing up to emissions reductions that would limit their economic growth, and this is as true now as it was in 1972. And yet the official French government webpage devoted to the Paris 2015 COP21 meeting announces that they are expected to do just that. Never was Einstein’s definition of madness more apposite. And it applies to the governments of the entire developed world.
The book is not perfect. David Rose, in a review in the Mail on Sunday quoted on the back page (which I couldn’t find on-line) calls it beautifully written. Darwall certainly has an excellent stock of ironic one-liners, but the proof reading is sloppy, and an awful lot of grammatical mistakes have slipped through. On the very first page is a quote from Popper (one of many) that seems to have been cut short, forcing the careful reader to stop and read it three times in puzzlement. This happens on page after page, and though it doesn’t affect the force of the argument, it spoiled the pleasure for this reader.

Though Darwall gives as thorough an account of the evolution of the global warming story as it’s possible to do in a single book, he doesn’t really provide a satisfactory causal explanation. This is no criticism of his work, since it will probably take a generation of social scientists and historians to do such a thing. The story starts, chronologically, with a couple of marginal scientists, continues via weird far right pre-war environmentalist groups, to pop science authors like Carson and Ehrlich who inspired a generation of green activist scientists and bureaucrats, who got the ears of the politicians. But How? And why now and here? And what happens next? There are still many unanswered questions, and Darwall’s book is a great point to start from for anyone interested in seeking answers.
` ` `
I found the Darwall book in Waterstone’s, a place I detest, but my visits to England are brief and I didn’t have the choice. I was searching the non-fiction floor looking for the sections entitled “Environment” or “Ecology”, and found only “Popular Science”, arranged bizarrely alphabetically by author (Dawkins, Gribbin, Singh…). Then, sandwiched between pop science and astronomy was a tiny section called “Weather” with books about clouds and stuff, and three oddities: Darwall, Emmott and Lynas.
Could this be a sign of the times? Is Environmentalism over? Are Waterstone’s marketing men the canaries in the coal mine who’ve discovered something the politicians and journalists haven’t yet twigged?

Posted in Lives of the Climate Bloggers, Sociology of Climate Change, Uncategorized | Tagged | 5 Comments

Chambers v the Guardian: Press Complaints Commission’s Decision

My complaint to to the Press Complaints Commission about an article by Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian which accused Frontiers of giving in to bullying in retracting Lewandowsky’s “Recursive Fury” paper has been rejected. This is their decision. (emphasis mine).

Commission’s decision in the case of Chambers v The Guardian
The complainant was concerned about coverage of the withdrawal of a scientific paper. The article stated that the journal Frontiers had withdrawn the paper in question due to pressure from climate change contrarians. It had linked to a blog post discussing the matter, in which the complainant was named as someone who had contacted the journal to criticise the paper. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Clause 1 (i) states that “the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures”. The Commission noted the complainant’s position that Frontiers had not been “bullied” into withdrawing the paper, an assertion for which he considered the newspaper had no evidence and was contradicted by the journal’s retraction statement. The Commission noted that the article had included a statement from the journal which stated that it had received complaints about the paper, and that though it did not consider that it raised any academic or ethical issues, it had retracted it for legal reasons. The Commission acknowledged that the complainant objected to the use of the term “bully”, both in the article and in below-the-line comments, to refer to actions taken by critics of the paper. It made clear, however that, used in this context, the term “bully” represented the journalists’ interpretations of events. It was clear from the article that the grounds of reference for this interpretation were the letters sent to the journal. The complainant was not in a position to dispute the journal’s statement regarding the complaints it had received as a whole, beyond the complaint that he himself had submitted. Under the terms of Clause 1 (iii) the press is free to report comment and conjecture, “provided it is clearly distinguished from fact”. The author of the article was entitled to express the opinion that the actions of the complainant and others amounted to bullying. As such, there was no breach of Clause 1.
The Commission noted that the complainant had objected to the fact that the article had linked to a blog post which named him as one of those who had contacted the journal to request that the paper be retracted. He was concerned that this amounted to an inaccurate assertion that he was a bully. The Commission once more referred to its position that the term “bully” was an interpretation of the complainant’s actions. It noted that the complainant had not disputed that he had contacted Frontiers to criticise the paper, an action which was cited as one reason for its withdrawal. In the circumstances, the Commission did not establish that the link to the blog had engaged the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Which is fair enough, frankly. It’s a free country, and Nuccitelli is at liberty to call me a bully on his blog, just as I am free to call Lewandowsky a liar and a charlatan and Nuccitelli his bumwiper-in-chief. Blogs being blogs, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will take the legal action which would establish who is right and who is wrong.
At the origin of this dispute was a peer-reviewed scientific paper by Lewandowsky, Cook and others which stated that McIntyre, Watts, JoNova and I were irrational beings suffering from feelings of persecution. Lewandowsky’s response to all criticism has been either to ignore it, or to state that the only proper response to a peer-reviewed paper is to write another peer-reviewed paper criticising it.
This is unlikely to happen, since the problem with the Lewandowsky-Cook paper is not that it contains some inaccuracies, but that it is a pile of nonsense from beginning to end, from the first citation of a paper by its peer reviewer Dr Swami (“a study of anti-semitism among ethnic Malays found that there was no significant anti-semitism among ethnic Malays”) to the final Summary Table Three that stated that four named bloggers and one pseudonymous blog commenter were paranoid idiots responsible for launching conspiracy theories which weren’t conspiracy theories. The paper was trash, not worth the aether it was published in, and the publishers “New Frontiers in Psychological Science” have been neatly revealed by Lewandowsky’s Vice-Bumwiper Graham Readfearn as promoters of a Ponzi scheme for ambitious academic charlatans in possession of an irresistible urge to publish and a capacity for mutual backscratching that would try the patience of a rhinoceros with anal pruritis.
Somewhere on the scale of seriousness between the scientific paper, whose veracity is guaranteed by the peer review system, and the blog, where any vile accusation can be made with equanimity, lies the newspaper of reference (and lies, and lies, and lies…). This may be the voice of authority, like the Times, the New York Times, or le Monde, or the voice of protest, like Libération, Repubblica, or the Guardian.
The Guardian is certainly the doyen of radical newspapers. It opposed England’s support for the slave states in the American Civil War; it opposed British entry into the Great War and Blair’s Iraqi adventure, and it has honourably opposed the use of torture by British and American governments post 9-11 (as has Professor Lewandowsky, praised be his name).
The Guardian has always taken a great interest in environmental questions, and hence in global warming. It gave quite a lot of space to the contrarian views of Bjorn Lomborg up until about 2009. Then it stopped. For global warming is not simply a scientific fact attested by the IPCC and every responsible scientific body on the planet, it’s also official Guardian editorial policy, according to their environmental editor.
Making predictions of future temperature official editorial policy is pretty odd, but the Guardian is a pretty odd paper. (So are the Independent, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Libération and Repubblica, but that’s another story). Editor Rusbridger was boasting a couple of years ago about having ten or eleven full-time environmental correspondents, each one with a couple of degrees. But Hickman, Vidal, Harrington, Monbiot and the others no longer comment on global warming. They leave it to their associate bloggers Nuccitelli and Abraham, who are no more qualified than you or I to comment on the subject. Abraham s an engineering lecturer who came to prominence with an 80 minute rambling anti-Monckton audio diatribe which was praised to the skies by Monbiot. Nuccitelli is Cook’s Jerk-of-all-Trades at SkepticalScience. The Guardian publishes his regular defences of Cook and Lewandowsky’s pseudo-scientific charlatanism, without ever revealing his links with the charlatans he’s defending. It’s their right. As the Press Complaints Commission points out, it’s only opinion.
“Comment is free, but facts are sacred” is the quote from Guardian editor C.P.Scott which adorns every blog article on their site. The key fact about global warming is that it hasn’t been happening for 17 years, but if you exercise your freedom to comment on this sacred fact at the Guardian, you’re liable to have your freedom to comment removed. Comment is free, but facts are scary.
The Guardian, by embracing Global Warming as a religious principle, has abandoned any pretensions it might have to being a centre for rational discussion. Of course I regret the suicide of Britain’s foremost radical journal, but there we are. It’s their choice. This year or next the Guardian (and the Independent) will probably cease to exist, and there will be no serious centre-left daily to criticise the totalitarian tendencies of governments of left or right in Britain, which is a pity.
The Press Complaints Commission dealt with my complaint in an exemplary fashion. They came back to me with intelligent demands, and I can’t fault their decision. Nuccitelli has every right to express his opinion of me and Steve McIntyre on the Guardian’s site, and the Guardian’s readers (or those who are allowed to comment) have every right to react accordingly.
The pity is that open-minded readers who value the Guardian’s courageous stand on such matters as Snowden and the US spying scandals are turned off reading their nasty little narrow minded rag because of their bonkers stand on global warming. Just as the Lewandowsky affair has turned me off reading peer-reviewed scientific papers. “Why should I believe anything these wankers say?” is my gut reaction to any claim made in a peer-reviewed article in social science. Or, as the original Latin has it: “Nullius in Verba.”

Posted in Guardian CommentisFree, Stephan Lewandowsky | 6 Comments

We’ll Always Have Paris, 2015

Next year’s meeting of the UNFCCC in Paris promises to put climate change back on the front pages. While serious people will be examining closely the policies of China, India, the USA, and other functioning economies, I’ll be keeping a close watch on what’s happening in France.
Election hysteria will be at fever pitch by December 2015, given that the presidential and parliamentary elections will be a mere 18 months away. The political microclimate will be in chaos, abuzz with the only question which counts in the coming French presidential election: who will be chosen to have the honour of coming second behind the ultra-right-wing Marine Le Pen? (Everyone accepts that Marine Le Pen will win the first round, with up to 30% of the vote. But with 70% of the electorate saying they would never vote for her, it’s who comes second, and therefore goes through to the second round, which counts).
On the right, it looks like being Nicolas Sarkozy again, unless one of his rivals has the courage to come out and say what everybody knows: that Sarkozy has six or seven teams of examining magistrates on his tail, for a variety of suspected crimes ranging from corrupting high court judges to taking multi-million euro bribes from Colonel Ghadaffi. He may be cleared of all suspicion, or he may find himself in a police cell on the eve of the election. No-one knows.
On the left, the possible candidates include the current left-of-centre President François Hollande, his right-of-left-of-centre Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and anybody else who thinks they could do better than the most unpopular French President in history.
Among the latter group will certainly be his minister of ecology, Segolène Royal, unsuccessful socialist candidate for the presidency in 2007, and mother of President Hollande’s four children.
The 2015 UNFCCC Paris conference will propel her into the political limelight (though France’s climate negotiations are apparently in the hands of ex-Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius). While serious people will be discussing carbon offsets and other climatey stuff, the French electors will be watching Segolène flash her eyelashes as she courts the 90% of French electors who think that nuclear is rubbish, renewables are marvellous, valiant peasants who block airport runways with their tractors are heroes, and anything would be better than another five years of Hollande.
I’m limbering up for this event by commenting on French Lefty Green blogs, which demands a certain intellectual effort, and the use of corners of my brain which haven’t been exercised since French O-level more than fifty years ago. Meanwhile, I thought I’d share with you a sample of the kind of exchange which passes for discussion of things climatic in France.
This dates from 2009. It’s an interview with Michel Rocard, who was socialist Prime Minister during François Mitterand’s second presidential term, and who was named by incoming right wing president Sarkozy to head a commission to advise on ways to tackle climate change. This is an extract from his radio interview on France Info, translated from the transcription 30th July 2009 at

http://www.skyfall.fr/?p=385

Michel Rocard: The principle is that the Earth is protected from excessive solar radiation by the greenhouse effect, that’s to say a kind of cloudy protection, I mean a gaseous protection, which in the atmosphere is relatively opaque to sunlight. And when we emit carbon dioxide or methane or nitrous oxide – a thingy which is found in agricultural fertilizers – we attack these gases, it reduces the protection of the greenhouse effect and the planet is slowly turning into a frying pan.
The result would be that the great-grandchildren of our great-grandchildren will no longer be able to live. Life will come to an end in seven or eight generations. It’s completely terrifying. So to do that, we must reduce what is emitted as carbon monoxide and began by addressing the major sources of that, which are the production of electricity and the manufacture of such things as cement, concrete, steel, aluminum or plastics that consume a lot of energy in their production. And to do that, we’ve invented quotas, it’s an invention that was made by the Kyoto Protocol, whose application in the European Union, twenty-seven countries, covers all electricity producers and manufacturers of materials, which are subject to emission ceilings. If they need to produce more, and thus emit more, they need to buy. It is a cost, so a kind of tax, they must buy quotas on the quota market.
Unfortunately this only applies to producers of energy and materials. For transportation, for agriculture, for heating our apartments, for our private motoring, there is nothing. And so in the case of Germany, these quotas are aimed at 60% of the production because it makes all its coal-fired electricity from the production of carbonic gases. It makes all it’s electricity from carbon. We make most of our electricity from nuclear, so we have less, but the quotas still only concern 40% of all our production of carbonic gas. And so we need something else.
So, the other thing is an idea of a deterrent tax. It is called the climate-energy contribution. Meaning that perhaps in the future, we will have to take care of other gases, methane and nitrous oxide, but later. We begin by carbon monoxide – carbon dioxide, sorry -, in order to get used to the change, and then to push for the bigger prize. After all it is two thirds of the total greenhouse gas emissions. This tax will mean higher prices for our energy consumption, hoping we will adjust the range so that it puts, so that it weighs as much on electricity from coal, gas, fuel, and it weighs as much on petrol as on heating oil for example. This tax should be implemented fairly soon. We could have tried to tax everything we sell in supermarkets, all the things that we buy there, based on the content of carbon dioxide in their manufacture. It was too complicated, it would have meant taking questionable decisions – never very certain, so we preferred to tax upstream, that is to say the energy consumption itself, and that is what the tax will hit.
Interviewer: It will hit everyone, everyone who uses…
Rocard: It must hit everyone, otherwise people won’t feel that it’s fair. We are facing a rather strange situation. Nobody denies the need to avoid roasting our great-grandchildren like whiting in a frying pan, that we need to go ahead with this. Everyone agrees on condition that the harshness of the tax – because it is nasty, it’s going to hurt – that the pain should be shared by everyone and there should be no exceptions or exemptions.
Interviewer: So you want it to be reimbursed to the poorest households.
Rocard: So, in fact, not only the poorest, in fact the poorest, the middle income households, but above all those who, because they live far away, because they are in rural areas…
Interviewer: …so have to use their car…
Rocard: They are forced to take their car, including those who work nights or unsocial hours where there is no subway or train to get there or bus..
Interviewer: It’s the case for us journalists who work mornings.
Rocard: Absolutely, we have to find, it’s complicated to do, the tax administration is working on it. We must find ways to exempt them. There are also complete trades, agriculture, fishing, taxi drivers, in which we must find ways to make the business economically feasible despite the tax. So, the tax must play a role in changing behaviour but it mustn’t murder people.
Interviewer: So in fact, if this tax …
Rocard: We’ve been working to find ways of not killing people.
Interviewer: It will bring in eight billion euros to the state. But if it doesn’t happen, the joke will be on you.
Rocard: It will be reimbursed largely by separating profoundly what is paid by households, that must be used to compensate the extra cost to households, from what is paid by companies which must be used offset what is paid by companies. Households must in no case have the impression that they’re contributing to the proper functioning of the economy and the functioning of businesses. That would be a disaster. So it’s hard to do and our recommendations to the tax administration that will organize it all in detail and above all organize the refunds are strict.
Interviewer: You have the full support of the Greens and Daniel Cohn Bendit, who came second in the European elections. I imagine you must be pleased about that.
Rocard: Yes, it is nice that they understand that we take these things seriously. Uh! the government is strong. I think we have had no objection to the principle of the tax. There will be plenty of fighting about the details, but we have had no objection to the principle of the tax from either the Socialist or the Communist Parties. Everyone knows that it can’t be avoided. So we must do it well.
Interviewer: Very quickly Michel Rocard, what are you going to do now that your report is in? What are your projects?
Rocard: I have a permanent mission which is that I’m French ambassador in charge of of the international negotiations concerning the Poles. And that’s very difficult because the Antarctic is more or less saved. It’s because I’m the father of the protocol which protects the environment in the Antarctic that they launched me into this affair.
In the Arctic, on the other hand, until five years ago no-one talked about it. It was something that only concerned poets, scientific researchers and explorers, that’s all. No-one went there. Since global warming we realise that we can go there and practise fishing and tourism, and that for two months of the summer big ships will be able to go round the North Pole via Siberia or Canada to go from Europe to Japan or China. That cuts 5000 kilometres off the journey. Everyone will be going there, and what’s more it’s full of petrol. Now, oil exploration represents an ecological threat.
Interviewer: We’ll have the chance…
Rocard: Putting all that in order is a long business and there’ll be some real battles…

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