Censorship of a Climate Sceptic

Benoît Rittaud is a mathematics lecturer at the University of Paris, and the author of “Le Mythe Climatique”. He also runs the climate sceptic blog skyfall.fr. He’s just written a book called “La Peur Exponentielle” (The Exponential Fear). Here’s an extract from the description on Amazon:

“The modern fear of the exponential is a reality at the same time widespread and little known. Constructed scientifically, although perfectly irrational, it is the source of numerous alarmist beliefs based on the fear that we are soon about to hit the limits of our planet: resource depletion, population explosion, global warming…

“Describing a phenomenon as exponential leads naturally to prophesies of catastrophe, and to the rejection of the other (fears of population explosion, the Jewish usurer etc.)… The last part proposes ways of overcoming this fear: tackling our horror of large numbers, reconsidering our relation to time and infinity…”

Benoît was invited to discuss the book on an hour-long programme on French public radio. Then, suddenly, the programme was cancelled. As the ensuing correspondence makes clear, the cancellation was not because of the contents of the book (essentially mathematical and philosophical) but because of who he is. Here’s a slightly abridged translation of Benoît’s article. The original is at: http://www.skyfall.fr/?p=1532

*****************

I’d been invited on a live radio show to talk about my new book “the Exponential Fear”, when last Tuesday I received a letter announcing that the programme had been cancelled. Without naming the station involved, I’ll just say that it was one of the stations of Radio France. That’s significant for two reasons:

– Radio France has explicitly announced its desire to participate actively in ensuring the success of the Paris Climate Conference in December;

– My climate scepticism has already earned me the cancellation of two interviews on two different stations of Radio France (so this is the third).

Here’s the letter I received:

“We have just finished reading your extremely interesting book. However, we are not able to devote an hour long programme entirely to the opinions of a climate sceptic. Our programme is not one devoted to debate, and we thought that the subject would be purely mathematical and philosophical. Consequently, we are sorry to have to cancel the programme. Thank you for your understanding, yours sincerely, …..”

Because I want to respect their anonymity, I can’t show here that in fact certain of the subjects they’ve tackled recently have been controversial. But note the sentence: “we are not able to devote an hour long programme entirely to the opinions of a climate sceptic.” It’s difficult not to interpret this as a ban on my expressing my opinions in general. In the words of the writer (and I imagine that, given the circumstances, he had weighed them carefully) it’s not the book that’s the problem, but me. For the journalists of Radio France, it’s inexcusable that I should be a climate sceptic, even though I’ve written a book which they consider “very interesting”.

With my faith in human nature and in the possibility given to us all to make honourable amends, I replied as follows:

“Though I was certainly surprised that climate scepticism appears to be sort of crime, I was even more astonished that you should put it forward as a reason for cancelling the programme. For, having read the book which you invited me to discuss, you must know that the climate is far from being its main subject. (I haven’t counted, but roughly twenty pages out of the four hundred must be concerned with the climate. What’s more, I’ve already given four talks about the book, without once mentioning the climate.) There should therefore be no problem in finding a way of discussing my “very interesting” book (as you described it) while avoiding the question of climate, should you wish. We could, for example, discuss the story of the grains of rice on the chessboard and it’s interpretation through the ages, the idea of the “surfinite” as an intellectual alternative to the infinite, the debate over circular time versus cyclical time and the associated mathematics, (notably in Medieval India). There’s plenty of philosophy and mathematics therein, without any mention of climate.

“I cannot imagine that the true reason for cancelling my invitation could be that I’m on some kind of blacklist, in other words, that my opinions on the climate mark me with a seal of infamy, on no matter what subject. On the contrary, I would like to believe that you know how to distinguish between the different opinions an author may hold, and that it is not necessary to be in total – or even partial – agreement with what he says in order to admit the validity of a public debate on the subject.

“I therefore request you to reconsider your position, in which case I will consider the matter closed…”

To which the programme producer replied as follows:

“Thank you for having taken the time to reply. You are not on a ‘blacklist’, and obviously I don’t consider your opinions as a crime.. On the other hand, these opinions – let’s call them ‘climate sceptic’ – appear quite clearly in your work, even if the climate is not mentioned specifically, and I therefore don’t feel able to accept your presence as the sole guest on this live programme, in the absence of a contrary point of view….”

Note the quality of the reasoning here. No, you’re not on a blacklist (whatever makes you think that!) It’s just that your book contains some examples of bad thoughts, and that “I don’t feel able to to accept your presence..”

I confess this episode doesn’t reassure me about the liberty of the media.

Posted in France Italy & the rest | Tagged | 4 Comments

CO2 – the Opera; by Giorgio Battistelli

The long-awaited opera based on Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” plays at La Scala, Milan from 16 to 29 May, though Gore’s name no longer appears. Instead, credit is given to James Lovelock, Richard Mabey, and the environmentalit periodical “Resurgence”. Tickets are from eleven to 150 euros.

According to an article on the La Scala website by Ian Burton: “CO2 was conceived as a rotating prayer wheel of our current concerns an anxieties about our climate, what we have done to change it, and what remedies, if any are possible … I knew that before attempting to understand what man had done to the earth and the climate surrounding it, I needed to say something about the splendours of creation, and to bookend the whole “non-narrative” opera with two mythical versions of the Creation and the Apocalypse. The first derived from the wonderfully paradoxical Vedic scriptures of Hinduism … with Shiva’s dance of creation and final dance of destruction; and secondly the Judaeo/Christian version of events at the beginning of time, as written in the Book of Genesis in the Jewish Old Testament, and also in St. John’s account, at the end of the New Testament, in The Book of Revelation…”

The Italian equivalent of Radio 3 has a wonderful “after the match” opera programme whose participants demonstrate all the obsessive opinionated enthusiasm of football fans. If Maurizio or anyone is tuning in, it would be nice to have some (translated) reactions.

Here’s the synopsis. Nitpickers will note that the librettist seems to think tsunamis are a symptom of manmade global warming. Fans of Vedic hymns and the Apocalypse of St John will not be fazed.

Prologue
The climatologist David Adamson begins a lecture on the problems of climate change.
Scene 1 (Creation)
As Adamson contemplates the beginning of the world, scientific creation theories are contrasted with religious and mythic ones.
Scene 2 (Airport)
Passengers are caught up in a strike of air traffic controllers. Adamson is amongst them, on his way to the Climate Change Convention in Kyoto.
Scene 3 (Kyoto)
International delegates defend their nations’ individual interests and dispute their conflicting positions.
Scene 4 (Hurricanes)
Adamson describes how Co2 pollution in the earth’s atmosphere can lead to extreme weather conditions, and explains how hurricanes are named.
Scene 5 (Eden)
Adamson imagines Adam, Eve and the serpent in the garden of Eden, and reflects on the infinite variety of plants and animal species – in particular snakes.
Scene 6 (Supermarket)
Women are buying food, enjoying the far-flung origins of their favourite produce.
Scene 7 (Tsunami)
On a beach in Thailand, Mrs. Mason talks to a hotel manager about her brother-in-law who was drowned in the Tsunami the year before. She reflects on the causes of the disaster.
Scene 8 (Gaia)
Adamson discusses practical environmentalism and James Lovelock’s “The Gaia Hypothesis”. Gaia herself appears, and describes the catastrophic damage man has inflicted on her, resulting in the ruin of her atmosphere and the disorientation of her seasons.
Scene 9 (Apocalypse)
Adamson envisions an apocalyptic end of the world.
Epilogue
Ending his lecture, Adamson tries to reconcile his environmental despair with his sense of responsibility towards the planet.

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Denial 101

Many thanks to Barry Woods for sending me this:

https://www.edx.org/course/making-sense-climate-science-denial-uqx-denial101x

It’s a free 7-week on-line course on “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial” run by the University of Queensland. Among the instructors are Fellow for the Global Change Institute John Cook, University of Queensland Environmental Scientist Dana Nuccitelli, and Professor Scott Mandia.

Courses started yesterday. There’s an optional questionnaire to fill in. I’m just about to do the questionnaire and attack the first week’s lesson,. The course apparently demands an effort of 1-2 hours per week. I’ll report back if I’m not too tired.

Posted in Weirdos | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Rusbridger’s Dementia

One of the nice things you can do on WordPress is see which of your articles people are reading. With 177 articles up so far, I find this most useful since many of them I can’t even remember writing.
One which seems to get a fair amount of attention is this one
https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2012/09/26/climate-killings-danish-management-consultants-discover-100000-more-bodies/
It’s like a million others (well, 176 others). It quotes a Guardian article claiming 400,000 deaths a year due to climate change. It’s not as many as the estimated two million a year African women who cough themselves to death over cooking fires fuelled by cowpats due to lack of clean coal or gas fired electricity, but it’s a lot of people. The figure comes from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, which is produced by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which “convenes … some of the countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change” e.g. Bangladesh, Costa Rica, and Vietnam. They offloaded the job of writing the report onto a Spanish NGO called DARA (Director: Ross Mountain). But DARA didn’t actually write the report. That was done by Commons Consultants, a Management Consultancy based in Copenhagen.
It’s two and a half years since I looked at this report. In that time, assuming the Guardian report (quoting the Climate Vulnerable Forum, quoting the Spanish NGO DARA, quoting the Danish Management Consultancy Commons Consultants) has got it right, a million people have been killed by climate change. It seemed only right, if only in honour of the million dead, to go back and survey the killing fields.
The Guardian, is in the middle of an unprecedented campaign to persuade us to stop using fossil fuels that are causing the climate change which (according to the Guardian) has killed a million people since Fiona Harvey’s 2012 article. So no doubt they’ve followed up Fiona’s article with reports on those million deaths. I mean, Editor-in-Chief Rusbridger is complaining that it’s difficult to report climate catastrophe because it’s so slow – but a million deaths! If climate editor John Vidal can write eyewitness reports on the global-warming-induced suffering in Tanzania while on a flight to Pretoria, surely the Graun’s dozen-strong environment team can find something to say on those million corpses. A bit of imagination, guys!

Why do I assume that Rusbridger is not a psychopathic liar like his employees, but an innocent victim of his own stupidity? I find the time to scan the five articles per day on climate change published in the paper he edits, and to research one from time to time. Why shouldn’t he?
My loyalty to the Guardian goes back a long time, and has survived a thousand disappointments. I wasn’t there when they supported the abolitionists against the British interests in the slave states of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. I wasn’t even there when they supported Stalin’s atrocities in the Ukraine (according to Richard Drake in a comment on a previous post).
I learned long ago that they were capable of tergiversation and worse when it came to the crimes of our American friends (in Vietnam, for instance) and of a discreet silence about the shortcomings of the European Dream, for example when British Foreign Minister Steel and French Foreign Minister Juppé decided that the Bolshie multi-ethnic population of Sarajevo, with their irritating insistence on tolerance, were not worth defending against the geopolitically more important Serbs who were picking them off one by one from the surrounding hills. (Steel has long disappeared from the scene, but Juppé stands a chance of being President of France in 2017, despite his six month suspended sentence for corruption… where was I?) But it was only around 2007 that I discovered that the Guardian was systematically lying to me about climate change, and I admit that my first reaction had all the touching naivety of the Soviet dissident who, when hauled off to the Gulag, cried out: “Just wait till Comrade Stalin hears about this!”
So I started commenting on their climate change articles, in the hope of alerting editor in chief Rusbridger to the fact that Monbiot and the others at Guardian Environment were a bunch obsessive liars. It didn’t work, which didn’t surprise me when I transcribed Rusbridger in the role of discussion chairman at a Greenpeace event. He insisted on introducing each participant by announcing the number of followers on his Twitter account, and managed to insert into the debate a comment about how profoundly he’d been affected by Stephen Emmott’s plea at the Royal Court to teach your children how to kill climate refugees.
It didn’t work. (My campaign to alert Rusbridger to the shortcomings of his underlings, I mean. For the Emmott/Rusbridger/Royal Court plan to shoot climate refugees, we’ll have to see.) He’s still there, still campaigning to ban electricity when the wind isn’t blowing, still hoping to abolish plastic by the year 2030.
I’ve just finished transcribing the fourth part of the Rusbridger/Guardian Circle Jerk to be put up eventually at Mytranscriptbox. But I do recommend that you listen to it at
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/mar/16/the-biggest-story-in-the-world
(click on 4 Risks)
The Story So Far is that Rusbridger has realised that the Paris Climate conference will be an epic failure, and so has decided to pin his hopes of saving mankind on a conversation he had with Bill McKibben in Stockholm, during which he was persuaded that the owners of the world’s megatrillion barrels of oil could be shamed into leaving it in the ground. Before starting on the chaps who own the stuff (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Scotland) he thought he’d have a go at the chaps who extract it, or rather, more exactly, the chaps who own the shares of the chaps who extract it. Or, even more exactly, two of those millions of chaps who, being known for their liberal tendencies, might be persuaded to divest of their shares in the interest of saving the planet.
But the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust told Rusbridger and the 174,000 readers who signed his petition to get stuffed. So Rusbridger turned his attention instead to his very own Guardian Media Group, the 800 million pound investment fund which exists to ensure the survival of the Guardian In Perpetuity.
(Suddenly Rusbridger’s obsession begins to make sense. Wouldn’t you like to know that the thing you’d devoted your life to – the family farm, an orphanage in Bangladesh, your collection of model soldiers of the Napoleonic wars – was guaranteed in perpetuity thanks to the backing of an 800 million pound trust fund?)
So imagine Rusbridger’s chagrin when he discovered that his campaign to divest from Big Oil was backed by a trust fund that invested in the same. There followed an urgent meeting of the GMG which decided, on purely economic grounds of course, in accordance with their statutes, to divest. Do listen to the conversation. It’s pure Ibsen. Or Pinter. Or Beckett. Or Jarry. Anyway, it’s worthy of the Royal Court. Here’s an extract:
Alan Rusbridger: Yeah, I’ve just had avocado on sourdough for my breakfast. I don’t know what Neil’s had.
Neil Berkett (chairman of the Guardian Media Group): I had muesli..
Alan: You had muesli? i can’t believe it!
Neil (laughing hysterically): I had muesli, I had raspberries, and I had goat yoghurt
AR: God!
NB: I’m absolutely genuinely serious, that’s what I had for breakfast this morning.

Yes folks, this is the Biggest Story In the World. Told by the Biggest Storytellers.

And while I was writing this, episode Five has just gone up. In which Guardian Economics Editor Larry Elliott prevents the World’s Worst Economic Crash.

This was once one of the world’s great newspapers. ,What happens to it matters.

Posted in Guardian CommentisFree, Weirdos | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Rusbridger: “This is the most Terrible Campaign”

Alex Cull has just published a transcript of the latest episode of the Graun’s Podcast of Doom at
https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/2015/20150327_gn
The original podcast can be found at
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/audio/2015/mar/27/podcast-biggest-story-climate-change-campaign-episode3-audio
A million thanks Alex. These documents are truly amazing. It’s like listening to a bunch of adolescent misfits sitting around in a pub planning to overthrow society.

I suspect many at the Graun are going to distance themselves pretty soon from this farce. An economics editor like Larry Elliott needs his contacts in finance and industry. This kind of nonsense could ruin his reputation.

Take this surrealist scene, where some of the rodents announce their early retirement from seafaring…

Alan Rusbridger: We’ve set out the basic reporting, so, um… James is putting together a list of the pieces, […] So we haven’t really geared up the investigatory bits of this, yet, have we?

James Randerson: Not really, because Nick Davies told me that he’s basically unavailable for the time. Is David Leigh a possibility?

Alan Rusbridger: David Leigh claims to have retired, again. And I’ve told him: he can’t. […]. One of the things I underestimated was that real life intervenes. […]And anyway, when you meet with your colleagues, they’ve all got different ideas of what it’s going to be.

James Randerson: Well, I’ve asked Larry Elliott to answer what I think is the most fundamental question: how do we make this fossil fuel transition? Can we even make it? You know – do we need some kind of voluntary recession? […] Um…

Alan Rusbridger: Bill McKibben wants to go a bit earlier, because he thinks there’s going to be action in America. I think our team want to push it back a bit.

James Randerson: You know, it’s all very much in flux, really.

Alan Rusbridger: So, we’re, sort of, still feeling a slight tension between the urge to go fast and go slow.

It would be great fun taking quotes at random (which is what the creative editor person has done in assembling these podcasts) and turning them into a script – but of what? – a comic opera? A graphic novel? A play for the Royal Court?

Rusbridger: “… in that sense, this is the most terrible campaign …. it’s not too bleak to say we’re all doomed.”

and again: “how can 97% of scientists lecture the rest of us and yet allow their main grant-giving charity not put their money where their mouth is?”

Posted in Guardian CommentisFree, Uncategorized, Weirdos | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Rusbridger’s Balls

Alex Cull has recently published two wonderfully weird transcripts of podcasts at Guardian Environment, at https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/2015/20150312_gn and at https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/2015/20150319_gn They confirm something we’ve all suspected for years. The editor and top journalists of a major newspaper have gone stark raving mad. I do recommend anyone fascinated by the death throes of a once great newspaper to to read the transcripts, and even to listen to the original podcasts, which can be found at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change under the heading “Keep it in the ground”. The first one is at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/12/find-a-new-way-to-tell-the-story-how-the-guardian-launched-its-climate-change-campaign It recounts how Rusbridger decided to celebrate his last few months as Guardian editor-in-chief with a campaign to bring climate change to the forefront of politics. It all started, (he says) with a chance meeting with climate activist Bill McKibben in Stockholm where they’d both flown to receive prizes for their services to humanity (well-deserved in Rusbridger’s case, I may add). They dined together, and Rusbridger, who admits to “being not very good at numbers” came away from the meeting with a slogan “The oil in the soil and the coal in the hole.” (As a children’s skipping rhyme it’s not bad – on a par with: “One McKibben, two McKibben, three McKibben, four…” – as a policy for one of the world’s great powers – not so much…) As I mentioned in a comment at http://theconversation.com/guardian-fortunes-appear-revived-as-leadership-contest-enters-home-straight-38563#comment_620464 “Few things in life are inevitable, except death and retirement, and Rusbridger is facing the latter. The Guardian podcast claims that Rusbridger caught “climatitis” three months ago in Sweden from meeting Bill McKibben, which is an odd claim given that in Rusbridger’s 20 years as editor of the Guardian he’s published about 15,000 articles on climate change, at least 25 of which were written by McKibben. In a debate sponsored by Greenpeace in 2012 Rusbridger was already boasting about having ten or eleven full time climate journalists, each one with three or four degrees (doesn’t he know that anything over two degrees is dangerous?) and about the same time Environment editor James Randerson told the Times of India that climate change was “official Guardian policy”. So it’s a bit odd to see a podcast headlining Rusbridger’s pet project and featuring Rusbridger himself claiming that he only caught the bug in 2014. But then his journalistic project is to change the world, not to pursue the normal journalistic ends of truth and rational argument. Which brings me to a tentative hypothesis about Rusbridger and the way the entire climate debate is conducted: when you’re faced with the inexorable, anything goes.” One of the most recent Guardian articles so far (but they’re coming thick and fast, and especially thick – as two short planks – or as two Plancks short of a Quark, to be exact) at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/16/argument-divesting-fossil-fuels-overwhelming-climate-change begins: “The world has much more coal, oil and gas in the ground than it can safely burn. That much is physics. Anyone studying the question with an open mind will almost certainly come to a similar conclusion: if we and our children are to have a reasonable chance of living stable and secure lives 30 or so years from now, according to one recent study 80% of the known coal reserves will have to stay underground, along with half the gas and a third of the oil reserves. If only science were enough.” Alas, science is never enough. 30 years or so from now, according to the most pessimistic forecasts of the IPCC, the world will have warmed about a degree or so. An intelligent person would observe that the world hasn’t warmed at all in the past eighteen years, and might wonder about the reliability of IPCC forecasts. But Rusbridger is not an intelligent person (he admits himself in his very first podcast that maths is not his strong point.) Still, even a very stupid person should be able to see that physics doesn’t actually have anything to say about how many tons of coal should stay underground. Physicists don’t dig coal. Chinamen do that. (And Poles and Australians, and a diminishing number of Britons.) Which brings me to my politico-psychological conclusion. British coal is being kept in the ground (and I remember an article – in the Guardian – that stated that there was enough coal in one deep mine in Leicestershire to meet Britain’s energy requirements for four centuries) because of one person – the late Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher, in her battle against the miners, taught the world a lesson of historic significance, which has been well learnt by a number of democratically elected leaders since – Putin and Netanyahu among others – that a democratically elected government can do anything it likes to stifle a popular movement. The left in Britain was castrated by Thatcher’s victory over the miners. Rusbridger is the living representative of that event. His shrill cries reverberate in our media – though his petition to keep the Pole in his hole and the African in his unlighted smoke-filled mud hut received a tenth of the signatures of the petition to bring Clarkson back on Top Gear. He is a force to be reckoned with – even singing soprano.

Posted in Guardian CommentisFree, Weirdos | Tagged | 14 Comments

Are We Downhearted?

Since deciding to renounce blogging on climate science a week ago, I see that Alex has come to a similar decision
https://alexjc38.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/pause-button/
I’ve continued to stalk at theConversation, for instance at
http://theconversation.com/is-it-time-to-take-science-out-of-the-climate-change-debate-36371
but also on articles about jazz
http://theconversation.com/the-forgotten-voices-of-race-records-pullman-porters-the-rev-tt-rose-and-the-man-with-a-clarinet-37907
and Herodotus.
http://theconversation.com/brian-williams-herodotus-and-eyewitness-reporting-37878
Who knows how many converts may come over when mild-mannered musicologists and classicists discover that among their (alas, rather rare) fans is a rabid denialist of climate change?
Jazz fans are only too aware of the lacunae in their knowledge due to the wanton destruction of evidence. You don’t have to be a mad mediaeval psychopath to destroy precious works of art. Think of Bill Cotton Jnr, head of light entertainment at the BBC in the seventies, who reused tapes of recordings of jazz greats like Charlie Mingus (recording tape was expensive).
Herodotus, whose belief in the existence of hairy gold digging ants has been justified by modern research
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus#Reliability
was sceptical when scepticism was justified in his eyes. For example when he rejected the obviously absurd claim that the midday sun could be seen in the north:
“He also passes on dismissive reports from Phoenician sailors that, while circumnavigating Africa, they “saw the sun on the right side while sailing westwards’. Owing to this brief mention, which is included almost as an afterthought, it has been argued that Africa was indeed circumnavigated by ancient seafarers, for this is precisely where the sun ought to have been.”
Oh dear. That shows that sceptics are sometimes wrong. Are we downhearted?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments