Update 8th April
When I put this article up I posted links to it at Climate Resistance, New Left Project, TalkingClimate (where Chris Shaw’s article has been posted, so far without comments) and, a day later, at Chris Shaw’s own site
My comments haven’t appeared at NLP (where it seems all comments from sceptics are now banned) but [added 9 April] it has at Talkingclimate. Chris replies in comments below, for which I thank him.
I’m banned from the Guardian, so couldn’t comment there, where Chris’s article also appeared
I tried and failed (due to their confusing zombie pop-up registering policy) to comment also at
the German sceptic site where Chris got an enthusiastic plug (in English) from Werner Krauss, coauthor of die Klimafalle, a book which makes much the same point about the essentially political nature of the debate. There’s an interesting comment there from Reiner Grundmann, who teaches sociology at Nottingham.
A bunch of us sceptics were having a go at a deep green lefty on a far left site the other day, (as you do) swirling around the poor fellow like a flock of angry starlings round a scarecrow stuffed with popcorn.
The point of Christopher Shaw’s article was one we’d been making for years, that the supposedly critical 2°C “limit” to safe global warming had no scientific justification. Except that Shaw’s conclusion was that therefore there was no safe level of global warming at all. We shouldn’t listen to the scientists because no limit they could come up with could be guaranteed.
(He’s right of course. Even if the earth doesn’t heat up at all, there will still be storms, floods and droughts. Just as you could reduce the speed limit to 10 mph and people would still get run over).
Shaw, to give him credit, responded to our criticism politely, asking Robin Guenier if he’s read The Merchants of Doubt, (which explains how the people and organisations who were behind the lies about the carcinogenic properties of cigarette smoke were the same people and organisations spreading doubt about climate change) and explained to Rhoda Klapp just how record-breaking last years heatwaves were, by linking to some very brightly coloured maps.
[Maurizio, if you’re reading this, add this one to your list of “climate change phenomena that miraculously turned up just at the moment we were able to record them”:- record heatwaves just as we invent cheap colour printing with that extra deep magenta ink].
Then he lost his cool rather with Latimer Alder’s questioning of his records, with:
“I can only assume I am asked these questions as a desire to snag up people like myself in inane school yard banalities of ‘prove it’”.
To Geronimo he provides an unanswerable argument:
“My work is based around exactly the point you make – no one can predict the future – so how do you know catastrophic climate change won’t happen at 1 degree of warming?”
Then the tone changed abruptly with this comment from Ed Rooksby:
“Christ, climate change deniers in the comments of a left-wing website. This really is depressing.”
To which Robin Guenier replied, pointing out the futlilty of current policies and saying:
“For the Left to embrace a total reversal of this policy would, I believe, be a return to its proper values.”
After comments from Ben Pile and me, a certain Neil stepped in, quoted Ben at length, and addressed himself to the editors:
“Sir! Sir! Molesworth is firing ink pellets at me Sir!”
[sorry, wrong quote]
“NLP editors – I agree with Ed Rookby’s exasperation. I would appreciate it if you would consider whether NLP environmental articles gain anything by allowing climate change deniers/sceptics to come in and disseminate their fog of unknowing and divert and deter intelligent, constructive debate about how the Left should respond to the emerging environmental crisis. I think you’re taking tolerance of opposing views a bit too far.”
Alice Bell, environment editor added her tuppenceworth:
“I appreciate Neil and Ed’s frustrations. However, the problem is that drawing a line between ‘intelligent, constructive debate’ and ‘fog’ is far from straightforward…”
And a couple of hours later, editor Dave (“call me David”) Spart himself stepped in:
“Alice’s suggestion to ignore what you do not find interesting, constructive or useful seems like a sensible idea to me.”
And popped back 20 minutes later to agree with Neil:
“Neil – I take your point. This is a site aimed at people on the left (broadly defined) and people who are interested in the ideas of the left. On climate change, the pieces we publish are for an audience that broadly accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus..”
Conversation continued normally for a while with Ben, Rhoda, Brownedoff, Shub, JamesP, and a polite reply from Christopher Shaw to me. (“Normally” is perhaps an exaggeration, since comments were held up in moderation, sometimes for a day or two, but still…)
Then editor David returned to the fray:
“Perhaps its an encouraging sign that the denialist tendency is so rattled by our little website that they are flinging themselves in droves at its comments threads, and expending such energy here.
“The problem you face, of course, is that there is an overwhelming and long-established scientific consensus that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and will increasingly have calamitous effects on human life over the years to come …
“I’d heard that we were getting a bit of traffic from the denialists on these articles, but I’d not really taken a proper look until this particular thread. I’m glad that I did. Its encouraging to see how weak some of this stuff is, when you look at it. Possibly goes some way to explaining point two in this previous article of ours..”
Sweet Gaia. Something is amiss in the vast media empire that is New Left Project. But never fear, the ever-watchful David is on the job. Alice is new to the job and is having trouble controlling her class, but the Head is at hand, ready to step in and issue stern warnings:
“I’d heard that we were getting a bit of traffic from the denialists on these articles, but I’d not really taken a proper look until this particular thread.”
.. with a subtle warning to the new girl to get a grip
“… I’m glad that I did…”
The mysterious “point two in our previous article” is that:
‘The climate sceptics’ mission to destroy public trust in climate science has utterly failed. Public belief that global warming is real and manmade is now back to pre-Climategate levels…”
And the source for this claim is:
where it is claimed that:
“Climategate’, recent cold winters and the economic climate no longer have any discernible impact on public belief that climate change is real and man-made..”
Which was written in July 2012. No doubt they’re sharpening up their survey questions for this year. Trouble is, it’s difficult to get people to stop and answer questions about global weirding in a blizzard…
Back to New Left Project. Next to comment was Alex Cull. Alex is probably the politest, gentlest critic to ever grace the blogosphere, so it took the class by surprise when headmaster David stormed in:
“I’ve spelled this out in fairly plain English already…. as I suspect you understand perfectly well… With me so far? … And if there are people bleating … I hate to break it to them, but we’re pretty relaxed about that. I hope this clarifies things for you and others, because I DON’T PROPOSE TO REPEAT THE POINT.”
Whereupon a hushed silence fell upon the class for thirty hours, only to be broken by Alice:
“I wanted to say a couple of things to the people who are still commenting on (or just watching) this thread. Several comments have been deleted in moderation before being published on this thread. For those few who care about such things, it wasn’t me who deleted them. My personal view is we should publish anything that’s not outright offensive, respond to those we think it’s productive to respond to, and ignore those we think there’s little point in engaging with. I’m generally quite a fan of at least reading the ‘bottom half of the internet’ (and don’t like the hierarchies of talking about top/bottom either). However, the view of the NLP editorial team as a whole is slightly stricter…”
Alice Bell is a prominent academic and green activist. Since she teaches classes (in the history, philosophy, and communication of science?) she may have issues about free speech, scepticism – stuff like that …
After we were all put into detention by the moderator and eventually expelled by the Head Editor, we carried on our chat at Ben’s place
where Ben quoted Shaw at his best:
“The abstraction of a single dangerous limit removes climate politics from our immediate lived experience and into the locked conference rooms of global institutions. Instead of being rooted in the value systems which people use to negotiate life it becomes a symbol, residing in the hands of a few, that can be reconfigured to suit the changing needs of these elites.”
“I’ve spent years trying to say the same thing so concisely…”
Chris (may I call you Chris?) Shaw, I’ve been writing fan letters to Ben for years, and I’ve never received a pat on the back like that. I’m green (no, that’s not my colour) purple with jealousy.
I appreciate the delicacy of Alice’s position, and I appreciate doubly the efforts of Christopher Shaw to engage with us. I hope the dialogue can continue here. We have something to say to each other.