Stephen Emmott is back on stream launching his new book at the Carnegie Council
He starts his talk by saying that, following the introductory comments of his kind hostess, he’s “not sure that he needs to say much more”. This is a rewrite of the classic slip reported by Freud in “the Psychopathology of Everyday Life”, in which a professor opened a conference by saying how pleased he was to be closing it.
He then goes on to tell the audience that they’re free to disgree, “as a charming chap here has chosen to do so already”, thus revealing that the criticism has begun before he even got to the podium.
His third point is that this is the first time he’s given this talk, which is just part of a promotional book tour. So having thoroughly denigrated his hosts, his audience and himself, he’s ready to go. Should be fun.
[Update: I'll update as I get time to transcribe]
It’s the usual stream of consciousness, with no mention so far of the population problem which forms the main theme of his book. It’s all about climate change.
After comparing himself to John Milton, he gets down to business with this extraordinary claim:
Most in the science community all accept that we’ve missed the target for restricting climate change, global average temperature change to two degrees, and we’re well on our way to a four degree rise in global temperature, and this notion about global average temperature is a bit of a misnomer by the way, because there’s really is no such thing as a global average temperature. It just means that in higher latitudes it could be nine, in places nearer the tropics it could be three or two but that would still be bad, but 800 parts per million on a business as usual scenario – a business as usual scenario would be just carrying on obviously as we are – in the CMIC, this coupled model inter-comparison project which basically has driven the IPCC AR5 report, shows that we could be in for at least a 6° rise in global average temperature on the way that we’re going.
I got to the end, including the question and answer session, in which mostly elderly, well-educated and sometimes important people gave Emmott a sympathetic reception. There was no “We’re f*cked”, no mention of teaching your kids to use guns, and hardly any reference to population growth. Emmott did say that 70-80% of all available fresh water on earth is used for agriculture, one of his phoney factoids which can’t be falsified, since there’s hardly a river on earth that doesn’t have something edible growing in it. He also had a kind word for Paul Ehrlich. Stephen is talking at the Harvard Bookstore tonight.
I won’t be around for a few days. If anyone feels like continuing the transcription in comments here, or just commenting, please feel free.
There’s a couple of video reviews of the book at
The first one is by an English girl who was bored stiff by her eco-lessons at school but now wished she’d listened. The second one is by an American girl who read the book in an hour and then went to the London Science Museum presentation of it, which, she said, was basically a book reading. She liked the pictures though, and the way the last six pages go from white to grey to black. She shows it to camera and it’s true, they do. You get two empty white pages, followed by two empty grey pages, followed by two black pages. Cool. Well done editor of the Penguin Books Philosophy and Social Science section.
Weep, Sir Allen Lane, wherever you are.