Stephen Emmott Comes Out

I’ve got a summary of the Emmott story so far at

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/07/the-thirteen-worst-graphs-in-the-world/

Donna Laframboise gave us a great write-up at

http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/07/03/more-on-stephen-emmott-author-of-ten-billion/

and Jo Nova has an interesting perceptive take on Emmott’s position at

http://joannenova.com.au/2013/07/fake-polite-guys-and-fake-skeptical-scientists-stephen-emmott-tries-it-on/

As always, Donna and Jo manage to be bitingly sarcastic without being rude – something I’ve never managed, I’m afraid.

What’s important here is that the Emmott story has got on to the bigtime sceptic blogs. From there, one hopes, it will get on to the Amazon reviews, and eventually out into the media.

This very minor blog has seen its readership treble over the past few days thanks to links from Donna Laframboise, Tom Nelson, and Jo Nova. The idea is not so much to expand the reach of this blog, but to encourage its readers to get the message out to the big wide world.

In order to facilitate analysis of the infamous thirteen worst graphs in the world, I reproduce from Newsbuzz the sources for each graph, before they, too disappear.

1. World Population

Adapted from UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

2. Water use

Adapted from UN Environment Programme Water Statistics, 2008, FAO

3. Transport

?

4. Coal consumption

Adapted from US Energy Information Administration, International Energy

Outlook 2011 (EIA, 2011)

5. Global carbon emissions

Adapted from data from the US Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center,

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

6. Global CO2 in the atmosphere

Adapted from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UC San Diego) CO2

program, ŒClimate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, Working Group 1

contribution to IPCC, Fourth Assessment Report, CUP 2007; C.M. MacFarling

Meure et al. ŒLaw Dome CO2 CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000

years BP, Geophysical Research Letters 33, 14 (2006)

7. Global temperature increase

Adapted from J.E. Hansen et al. Goddard Institute for Space Studies,

2012: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/temp/hansen/graphics.html

8. Fires in the Americas

Compiled from data from the US National Interagency Fire Center, 2010;

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report, 2005. Data for 2000-2010 are USA

only.

9. Loss of tropical rainforest and woodland

Adapted from Steffen et al. ŒThe Anthropocene: From Global Change to

Planetary Stewardship?, AMBIO, October 2011 (Royal Swedish Academy of

Sciences)

10. Global ocean warming

Adapted from data from the NOAA Ocean Climate Laboratory and World Ocean

Databse; S. Levitus et al. World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea

level change (0-2000 m), 1955-2010, Geophysical Research Letters, 39, 10,

(2012)

11.Floods in Asia

Compiled from data from ICIMOD and UNEP-Grid Arendal, 2010; Millennium

Ecosystem Assessment Resport, 2005

12. Exploitation of the world’s marine species

Adapted from Steffen et al. The Anthropocene: From Global Change to

Planetary Stewardship, AMBIO, October 2011 (Royal Swedish Academy of

Sciences); FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 (FAO,

2012); B. Worm et al. Rebuilding global fisheries, Science, 325 (2009)

13. Species extinction

Adapted from S. Pimm and P. Raven, Biodiversity: Extinction by

numbers, Nature, 403 (2000); A. barnosky et al. Has the Earth’s sixth mass

extinction already arrived?, Nature, 471 (2011)..

(Alex’s second comment at

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/the-emmott-penguin-graphs-in-detail

has more on this reference)

Thanks to Alex also for the text of Emmott’s interview in the Times (reproduced in the Australian) by a journalist who seems to specialise in articles about Spitfires and other WW2 memorabilia.

From the interview:

He affects bafflement at climate scepticism: “I have no idea why people don’t believe what is overwhelming evidence for climate change,” he says..It’s what you might call the spurious balance problem: “I think well-intentioned broadcasters and newspapers tend to give equal weight to a climate scientist and a climate denier in the interests of balance, so what you get is presented as a two-sided, balanced discussion and yet the evidence is overwhelmingly on the side that climate change is happening. You get equal time being shared by someone like Nigel Lawson, who last time I looked was not a bio-geochemist or an atmospheric physicist…It’s fine to have a view,” he says, politely. “But it has to be based on something sensible.”

If the past is any guide, soon after this article goes up online the comments section will start filling up with attacks on Emmott and his position, some sober, some vituperative, from people with modest scientific credentials and none at all.

[Hey Alex, that’s you and me! (I’m the vituperative one, I think – and certainly not sober)]

Emmott is braced for it. He sees the nastiness as part of a trend among climate change deniers to attack the messenger as evidence for the message mounts up. It surfaced in the original “climategate” scandal over emails between scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia four years ago…and it’s “worrying” that the attacks continue, Emmott says. Apart from the fact that he would prefer not to be vilified for his views as a scientist, he’d like some credit for his own scepticism. “Science is organised scepticism,” he points out. “Being sceptical is what scientists do all the time. What else might explain this? And the reason almost everyone in the science community is of the view that climate change is happening is there are basically no other explanations for what we see.” In fairness to many so-called deniers, what they question is not climate change but the idea that we’re to blame. In fairness to Emmott and his profession, a recent survey by the Skeptical Science group of 12,000 peer-reviewed climate change papers found that 97 per cent of them backed the idea that… we’re to blame.

“There is a gaping chasm between the actual consensus and the public perception,” John Cook, who led the survey, said. “It’s staggering given the evidence for consensus that less than half of the general public think scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.”

In public he gently mocks the rational optimism that sustains Matt Ridley, and the rather less rational version that sustained George Bush throughout his presidency. He points out that just because old-time doom-mongers such as Thomas Malthus – the original population alarmist – were made to look blinkered by the march of human progress, this doesn’t mean we can go on breeding, plundering the planet’s resources and pumping carbon into its atmosphere at unsustainable rates.

Why is 2013 so different from 1813, or 1963 for that matter? Because right now all the graphs in his book, which you suspect he carries around in his head as well – graphs for world population, CO2 parts per million, global ocean heat content and loss of tropical rainforest and woodland, for instance – are lurching upward in ways they never have before.

“It’s precisely because of those graphs that I think we are in trouble,” he says. But despite everything, behind the scenes, he’s a bit of a rational optimist himself.”

Well of course he is. He’s got Microsoft, the European Union, the United Nations, the Guardian, Times, Observer, Financial Times, Penguin Books, Vintage Books, and European publishers Suhrkamp/Insel and Feltrinelli on his side. Until last week, he was opposed by Alex and me, plus Ben Pile at Climate Resistance and Tim Worstall at Forbes. Now we’ve got Anthony Watts, Joanna Nova and Donna Laframboise on side. Plus our readers, who will, I hope, start a systematic deconstruction of his anti-humanist message.

Come out with your hands empty, Stephen Emmott – and tell your friend’s kids to lay down their arms. You’re surrounded.

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13 Responses to Stephen Emmott Comes Out

  1. Me; I can’t resist satire in the face of such dramatics.

    Satire might get a few to think again about the “data” in front of them; to initiate a spark of scepticism about Malthus’ New Testament as witnessed by Emmott.

  2. Tom says:

    Every time I read about someone like Emmott, I think back to an interview (or perhaps a speech) that Michael Crichton did following the release of his novel State of Fear. He said he wanted to write a novel about a global disaster which would kill off a great deal of the planet.

    He couldn’t find one.

    One of the themes of his more popular Jurassic Park was “life finds a way,” the biological corollary to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

    Given all of the ink which has been spilled on chaos theory and failed predictions from the past 20, 50, or even 100 years, I’m surprised any serious scientist would write this book or even take it very seriously.

  3. tlitb1 says:

    I don’t know if you’ve see this review? “’10 billion’: a strangely unscientific and misanthropic book”

    http://www.carboncommentary.com/2013/07/08/3141

    Roger Pielke Jr just tweeted a link to it

    It is from a guy who is obviously a believer in AGW who picks through on the errors in Emmotts book and gives a pretty withering appraisal. I get the impression he sees it doing more harm than good to the cause:

    “Its reliance on random facts pulled from the internet is truly shocking and it will harm the cause of environmental protection.”

  4. alexjc38 says:

    @ Leopard, that’s a pretty damning review, the more so because it’s by someone who, as you say, appears to broadly share Prof. Emmott’s stance on AGW.

    This is a problem for him. His message is, basically, that we’re almost certainly doomed unless humanity takes some kind of radical decision, in concert, to live like medieval monks. In the words of Katie Mitchell:

    “I suppose what he made me realise, and what the show tries to communicate, is that what we are doing is too little. So, we do a lot of recycling in the United Kingdom, and he made it very clear that that is a completely pointless thing, and that if we wanted to make a difference there would be – we would consume less stuff – no meat, no fish, only vegetables, we don’t live in concrete buildings, we don’t have any heating, we don’t drive cars, we don’t fly aeroplanes, we don’t go on trains. So if you wanted to make a difference, you would have to really, radically consume less and live completely differently. And anything else is pointless, in his opinion. It’s quite frightening, really.”

    I wonder how many people will go with him to this bleak place, even if his graphs were accurate.

    On Thursday next week (18th July) he will be at the Science Museum in London to launch his book:
    http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/sitecore/content/Home/visitmuseum/events/talks/tenbillion.aspx

    “Emmott’s book lays out a compelling argument for how we have become the cause of every global problem we face. We have grown to a population of seven billion, and as we head towards ten billion every problem is set to get worse – much worse. Indeed, Emmott claims that we are facing nothing less than a planetary emergency.

    He won’t tell you to recycle. He won’t tell you to buy an electric car. 10 Billion is anything but a ‘green’ book. It is a book about us. It’s about the failure of us, as individuals, as governments, and as corporations.”

    Universal failure, with little chance of recovery or redemption – I’m really finding it difficult to see many people – even ardent greens – resonating with that.

  5. tlitb1
    Many thanks for the link. The review is quite devastating. It’s exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to encourage WUWT readers to do by my article. Apart from Willis Eschenbach and his magnificent demolition of the species loss argument, readers of WUWT prefer by and large to argue among themselves about Islam and birth control. Just like the rest of us really. A good argument is always more fun then looking things up and checking boring statistics.
    Alex
    I tried to book a ticket for the Science Museum talk, but it was “sold out/unavailable”.
    It’s billed as a “conversation with Observer editor John Mullholland, who is unlikely to give him a hard time.
    I just hope someone in the audience goes armed with Chris Gooddall’s CarbonCommentary critique.

  6. Pingback: A tale of two “inspiring” gloomers: Stephen Emmott and Achim Steiner | The View From Here

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  8. Pingback: The Global Guardians And The League Of Extraordinary Nutjobs | The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)

  9. Leopard in the Basement
    Thanks for the tip. Alex has a comment up on the Guardian article, linking here and elsewhere. Arch-warmist troll Onthefence has come out strongly against Emmott, so strongly that he’s had a couple of comments removed. There must be an Emmott defender silently working the complaints box. (It’s not difficult getting comments removed at the Graun, and you can cause havoc wiping them out , leaving replies suspended in midair).
    This has the makings of a minor media revolution, I feel. Most commenters at Guardian Environment are not deep thinkers, and they’re going to be very unhappy to see a message they want to hear trashed like this. Theatre critic Michael Billington and editor Alan Rusbridger both raved over Emmott’s stage show, as did Observer science correspondent Robin McKie. There’s going to be some handwringing and backtracking at the Graun.
    I can’t wait to see the reviews in the other papers when the book is officially published (this weekend, I think).
    Meanwhile I’ve got into an interesting discussion with Chris Goodall and Paul Kingsnorth at CarbonCommentary

  10. tlitb1 says:

    Yes it’s going to be interesting to see what sort of mainstream level this book could possibly achieve. I think it may prove to be an embarrassment that some will hope doesn’t get too much attention and just goes away.

    Emmott almost seems to be some sort of sociological experiment, an inevitable consequence of the powerful megaphone wielded by certain of the Grauniad alarmist echo chamber. Though I think this experiment may have gone a bit wrong, he may turn out to be a bit of a Frankenstein monster 🙂

    It seems there was always a fantasy need for some Oxbridgey type who will be incredibly certain, and definite, not doing any of that boring wishy washy, weighing evidence crap that say Goldacre will do – No, they want someone who would just get on and big up their feelings of delicious doom and feed it with an authority rush.

    So along comes Emmott. From what you have written he seems to me like he is a pet. These luvvie media types dressed him up in his clothes and put him in the doll house recreation on stage and cooed at him in the tiny theatre that all could cram themselves into to make themselves feel like a crowd.

    It’s a bit sad when I think of it now.

  11. Mooloo says:

    Alex, you say “Universal failure, with little chance of recovery or redemption – I’m really finding it difficult to see many people – even ardent greens – resonating with that.”

    They’ll lap it up, just as people still want to hear Paul Ehrlich — the world’s “expert” most often wrong. And they’ll honour him, even as his prognostications are proved wrong, again.

    Fire and Brimstone ends of the earth — and I’ve lived through dozens in my fifty years — are very popular. I’ve been hit by the Comet Niburu, Mayan catastrophe, Nuclear winter, UFOs unleashing destruction, a handful of Raptures and a fair few Mahdis.

    Of course almost none of those liking Emmott’s message will actually do anything about it, because in their hearts they don’t really believe it. If they thought the world as we know it was going to end soon they’d be practicing subsistence agriculture, having bought an isolated island. That’s what real end-of-the-earthers do, the likes of the “survivalists”.

  12. There’s a note at
    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ten_billion/default.aspx
    pointing out that Ten Billion “is not a Microsoft project, but a personal work, by the author, and the views expressed in it are not necessarily those of Microsoft Research, or Microsoft Corporation” and correcting “a number of small errors and ommissions” [sic].
    At a quick glance, some seem to be in reaction to the criticisms of Chris Goodall at
    http://www.carboncommentary.com/2013/07/08/3141/
    In at least one case, Emmott has left in the comment that leads to the correction:
    p.109, final paragraph: “If, as seems likely, melting sea ice, triggered by our activities, is now causing the release of this methane, it will go on for centuries” should read: “If, as seems likely, melting sea ice, triggered by our activities, is now causing the release of this methane, it will go on for decades” (A biogeochemist colleague has kindly pointed out that we don’t actually have an accurate estimate of how much there is, so althought indeed it may well go on for centuries, probably safer to say ‘decades’).
    It’s most odd that Microsoft should be issuing a correction of errors made by Penguin Books.

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