Ten Billion Reasons why Stephen Emmott should get out a bit more

The media hype for Stephen Emmott’s end of the world Penguin paperback has begun, with a long extract in the Observer at


plus  an interview with the Observer’s editor at


and a special offer for cheap tickets to his talk at the Science Museum at


plus a talk with Sue Macgregor and Danny Dorling on Radio4 this morning which I shall catch up on and probably transcribe. 

I expect to spend a lot of time googling “Stephen Emmott” + “Ten Billion” – “last 24 hours” over the next couple of weeks and sounding off in as bitchy a way as I can get away with. Thank Gaia for Tim Worstall, who has a critical article at 


Alex Cull and I have been doing our best to counter this stuff with a series of articles on this site, following on from the groundbreaking, earthshattering fisking we gave his Royal Court show at 


and I’ve put up a discussion post at Bishop Hill at


There are some modest signs of success. My extremely obscure site got a sudden surge of traffic yesterday, all going to articles on Emmott, and apparently due to the fact that  they and the Climate Resistance article turn up quite sharpish on Google if you search “Stephen Emmott” + “Ten Billion”. The whole point of this article is to continue this process, by encouraging you to go to the sites I’ve linked to from here.

A couple of points from the interview with Emmott in the Observer: he’s a Malthusian, as he admits in a typically tortuous reply; he works seventeen hours a day, and he takes the car out once a week for a shopping trip. He says, with that inimitable touch of pedantry which adds so much to his charm: 

Once a week I drive a used hatchback I bought secondhand about five years ago to Waitrose. And back”.

Never has the recommendation: “You should get out a bit more” seemed so apt. 

About Geoff Chambers

Retired illustrator (children's magazines, religious education textbooks, an Encyclopaedia of Christianity, gay contact and female fitness magazines, pornographic strip cartoons etc.) Retired lecturer in English and History of Art in a French University; ardent blogger on climate hysteria, banned five times from the Guardian and twice from the Conversation. Now blogging at Cliscep.com
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17 Responses to Ten Billion Reasons why Stephen Emmott should get out a bit more

  1. steveta_uk says:

    My extremely obscure site got a sudden surge of traffic yesterday, all going to articles on Emmott

    That’s hardly credible when there was a new episode of “Apocalypse Close” just a few days ago!

  2. alexjc38 says:

    Listened to most of Start the Week this morning…

    Sue MacGregor: “So if you could, very briefly, shout very loudly one message at our government, our British government, what would it be? What should they concentrate on?

    Stephen Emmott: Action and not words.

    Sue MacGregor: Well, action – in which department?

    Stephen Emmott: Well, I think in every department – the Department of Energy, Department of Transport, Department of – just every single department.

    Sue MacGregor: Right, okay, fair enough. [Someone – either Danny Dorling or Amartya Sen – is laughing in the background.]

    As well as possibly misunderstanding Sue’s use of the word “department”, Prof Emmott’s being a tad light on specifics – I’d have expected to hear about Near-Certain Doom Awareness Training for every department, at the very least…

  3. Vinny Burgoo says:


    I’ll have to lie down for a bit.

  4. Vinny Burgoo says:

    And then get up.

  5. Vinny
    What’s funny about Waitrose? My mum shops at Waitrose – only once a week because she’s ninety and she has to get a taxi back. I thought everybody did.

  6. Paul Matthews says:

    When I google stephen emmott ten billion, I get
    coming up on the first page.

    But If I google emmott ten billion, instead of your site, the first page has

  7. Vinny Burgoo says:

    My Mum shops at Waitrose too. Every day. Mostly for the company and the free coffee.

    I was a bit tiddly last night. I think I found it funny that Emmott should boast about driving an old banger to Britain’s poshest supermarket.

    Moving swiftly on … A Lewandowsky fan has just been on Radio 4 describing an experiment he did on students at Warwick. (The Human Zoo. Nick someone.) After much hard work he discovered that those who accept the reality of climate change are more likely to extrapolate a graph of the 1880-2010 global surface temperature record upwards than those who don’t accept it. Cripes! Who could have guessed that?

    I think he should look at dogs next. He should show his students a film of a dog being presented with a bowl full of food. It would be interesting to know whether those students who think that dogs like food are more likely to predict that the dog eats the food than those who think that dogs don’t like food. I reckon those who think that dogs don’t like food will predict that the dog eats the food, but I have been wrong before.

  8. Vinny
    Here’s a transcript of the experiment. I haven’t heard the interpretation, which wasn’t available this morning. I’ll transcribe it when I find it. Note that Lewandowsky has already started experimenting at Bristol. In late April he was still in Australia. He’s since turned up in Washington and Colorado. He doesn’t waste time.
    Title: Climate Change – Is your view unbiased?
    Michael Blastland conducts an experiment which shows how people’s prior knowledge of climate change can influence the way they interpret climate change data.
    MB: We thought we’d have a go at trying to understand about how people’s views about climate change affect how they look at climate data. So this was based on an experiment by Stephen (sic) Lewandowsky at Bristol University, and we thought we’d give it a try with the Warwick students:
    MB (to students):So what you’ll see in front of you is a wiggly line, and we want you just to continue the wiggly line in the way that seems the most natural. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, it’s just a wiggly line
    Question: Do we have any indication what this might be?
    MB: No, no, just an abstract task.
    MB: Now after they’ve done this we’re going to get them to do some other experiments, just to distract them a bit, and then we’ll give them another wiggly line, but this time we’ll tell them what the wiggly line is really about.
    MB: (to students) .. wiggly line, as you’ll see. And this wiggly line is real data, it is in fact average global temperatures from 1880 to 2010, so this is a climate change prediction task now. So you need to make your guess about how that graph is going to continue.
    MB: ..then a final little question..
    MB: (to students)..just says, “on a scale of 1 to 7, “How worried are you about climate change?”
    MB: (to students, after the experiment): ..climate change graph, what made you complete it in the way that you did?
    Student: The temperature can’t go up at the same rate for ever.
    MB: Right
    Student: So I tried to slow down the rate
    MB: Yes
    Student: …it was still increasing
    2nd Student: Mine was a bit apocalyptic actually. I thought of , while you know obviously it’s been rising a lot since the industrial revolution and things like that, there’s a definite pattern of like, plateaux and then going up, so I assumed there would still be sort of a plateau around now when the graph ended, and then it would go up more, and I don’t know if it’s going to make the earth explode or whatever, but
    MB: You’ve got a pretty serious, serious..
    2nd Student: That’s what I thought
    MB: ..scenario heading our way

  9. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Geoff, I assume you mean that you couldn’t find the whole programme for some reason. If you don’t have any luck let me know. I recorded all except the first few seconds of it and could upload an MP3 somewhere.

    Incidentally, have you noticed that the epub version of Emmott’s book will cost £1 more than the paperback? Perhaps he thinks that e-books require people to eat a lot of hamburgers or that e-readers (which do have a big manufacturing footprint compared to paperbacks) are used only once.

    Or, judging by the Q & A at the Guardian, that e-books and e-readers are part of the superficial debate about our fuckedness – ‘just some one-dimensional discussion about “population” or “climate” or “going green”‘ – rather than the multi-dimensional debate we should be having, which would be about population and climate and going green (by, for example, driving an old banger to Waitrose).

  10. Pingback: More on Stephen Emmott, author of ‘Ten Billion’ | NoFrakkingConsensus

  11. alexjc38 says:

    On the subject of Prof. Emmott driving to Waitrose, what got me was the “And back”. It’s as if he’s sometimes tempted (albeit briefly) to abandon both groceries and hatchback in Waitrose car park and wander off through the landscape, talking of planetary overshoot to any who would listen, a bit like a less violent version of Michael Douglas in “Falling Down”.

  12. Alex
    Yes, I noticed the “Waitrose and back” too. I put it down to the precision of thought required of someone who’s spent twenty years writing computer programmes which model the brain’s activity. I know nothing about computer programming, but I imagine that if you programmed your life and wrote a line of code “go shopping” and forgot to write another line “bring stuff back” your family would starve.
    This also explains, I think, his odd way of talking. It’s as if he’s constantly observing his own utterances, verfying them to see if they correspond to his thought. I’m sure you can’t think creatively like that. It also explains why he is at a loss when confronted with someone who doesn’t agree with him. His reaction is like: “How can you disagree? You’re not in my head”.

  13. alexjc38 says:

    Yes, maybe I need to listen to Start the Week again (and right to the end), but my impression was that there wasn’t a huge amount of interaction going on between him and the others. I was expecting a bit more rough and tumble (as it were.)

    It would be great, by the way, to read the Times article that Ben links to, above. “With climate change hastening and a population explosion looming, is there any hope? Stephen Emmott may have a plan.”

    Maybe some kind person who can get behind the Times paywall could enlighten us as to the plan! (Presumably it doesn’t involve guns…)

  14. There’s a big chunk of the Times article quoted at
    I tried to comment but kept getting an error message

  15. Pingback: We keep moaning about population, but ignore consumption habits | Family Survival Protocol - Microcosm News

  16. Sorry Geoff, I haven’t prodded the old blog comments back into action after they broke last week. Will try and get it working. Keep up the good work.

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