Emmott’s Last Stand

Thanks to my article at

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

hits on this site went up 20-fold. This is gratifying. Comments are welcome. (Only one insult so far; with someone who can’t spell comparing me to King Cnut, who pretended to be able to predict sea level rise, or something).

Most linked to my most recent articles, omitting the one which I think holds the key to Emmott’s thinking

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/apocalypse-close-chapter-7-ten-billion-reasons-to-top-yourself/

Emmott’s forthcoming talk at the Science Museum is apparently sold out (or cancelled, I’m not sure which). For those who have never experienced Emmott live, I extract from the above link this slightly fictionalised description of Emmott in action from Apocalypse Close: Chapter 7: Ten Billion Reasons to Top Yourself:

*               *

[George Moonbat is attending a seminar on climate catastrophe]

The whole morning was to be taken up by a private performance of  “Ten Billion” a scientific stage happening written and performed by Stephen Emetic,  Professor of Universal Omniscience at  the University of Microsoft. The show had already been a spectacular rave sellout success in The Room Above the Bar in Sloane Square.

Though only ninety seven people had seen it in Britain, they included the theatre critics and environmental correspondents of all the main newspapers, who were lavish in their praise. There were already plans to turn it into a BBC TV series, a national radio talk in America, and a three part Hollywood sequel to the Lord of the Rings.

The show was a sixty minute exposition of the latest scientific analysis of the state of the universe, based on the most sophisticated mathematical models. The message was that we were screwed, the world was going to end and, in the words of Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, you might as well roll a big joint and kiss your arse goodbye, because we have fucked up, totally.

George entered the little lecture theatre still in a daze, and by great good luck found a seat next to Miranda.

“Did you not see it at the Royal Court?” she gushed. “It was fantastic. When he described how many litres of fuel it takes to fly a banana into Waitrose, the tears were welling up in my eyes, and by the time he got to how much water it takes to make a cherry soufflé, I was positively dripping.”

Before George could think of an adequate response, she had turned to the person sitting on her left and was deep in conversation. it was Michael Billington, the Guardian’s theatre critic. He had already seen Professor Emetic’s doomladen discourse twice, and written about it four times with an enthusiasm bordering on the morbid. He’d spent a lifetime reviewing London Theatre. As far as he was concerned, the end of the world couldn’t come soon enough.

The small stage had been laid out as a faithful replica of a scientist’s office. There was the usual bric-à-brac – files, papers, half a rotting Big Mac in its polystyrene box, a couple of paperbacks (a Stephen King novel and “Excel for Dummies”) and a couple of crates of champagne, still unopened.

Professor Emetic shuffled onto the stage, coughed nervously in a dry Yorkshire accent, and began his discourse in the practised Thespian tones of Alan Bennett on his deathbed reciting his mother’s shopping list:

“I am not an actor,” he began, and he paused to let his words sink in, looking round furtively at the audience. He liked to begin with an incontrovertible fact.

“I’m not a public speaker as well”, he continued. “In fact, I’m sort of just an ordinary  Professor of Universal Omniscience from the Microsoft University of Cambridge, the Bill and Melissa Gates University of Oxford, and the Powerpoint University of London”.

He paused to let his words sink in. A murmur of admiration could be heard from the audience, and one or two genuflected.

“There are folks who call themselves Rational Optimists – people who think that the sun is going to rise tomorrow; that a giant asteroid is not at this very moment hurtling towards the planet; that we are not suffering the most direst plague of famine drought pestilence mass extinction and hair loss ever known to man or dinosaur.”

“Well,” and he paused to peer meaningfully at his lap top, “I am not one of them.”

“I’m a scientist. In  fact, I’m a new kind of scientist, doing a new kind of science, training a team of a whole new breed of scientists doing a whole new breed of science. Microsoft science. When you purchase a software license through a Microsoft Volume Licensing program, the terms and conditions for how you can use the software are defined in the Volume Licensing Product Use Rights document, Product List Document, and Program Agreement. The Product Use Rights document is updated quarterly. Links to the current Product Use Rights Document and an archive of previous Product Use Rights Document Editions are available below.”

He paused for breath, and aimed his remote control at the laptop. A series of icons appeared on the screen behind him – Emmotticons representing birds, flowers, hearts, angels and smileys.

“I’m here to tell you that we’re fucked. Buggered. Shafted.”

There was a gasp of disbelief from the audience, and a few whispered groans of “Praise the Lord!” “Hallellujah” and “Oh, my Jesus”. Steve raised his hand, and the icons behind him morphed into devils, skulls and vampires, just like that brilliant bit in Fantasia. A hush fell over the audience as Emetic picked up an ancient copy of Reader’s Digest, and declaimed in a grave monotone:

“Did you know it takes five hundred litres of water to make a cup of coffee, six thousand litres to make a bar of chocolate,  twenty seven thousand litres to make a hamburger, and seventeen days four hours and thirty five minutes to get through to the Apple helpline?”

The audience gasped.

“Did you know that it takes more electricity to make a single Google search than to power an entire hospital in Tanzania? Did you know that more irreplacable rare earth metals go into the manufacture of a single Macbook than exist in the earth’s crust? Did you know that every time Brian Cox tosses his boyish mop, a fairy dies in Upper Volta?

The audience groaned and swayed in their seats. Some rolled on the ground, begging for mercy.

“Did you know that, by clicking on the right hand toolbar, you can locate use rights, points by program, and special notes for individual products and supporting documents related to Volume Licensing, review this scenario-based guide to help you understand how Microsoft licensing models apply to common I.T. solutions, and get activation instructions including which products require a key?”

And so it went on. Point by power  point Professor Emetic explained how we were hurtling towards an inevitable hellhole of population growth, mass consumption, ever-increasing gross national product and utter messiness. As he reached his climax, Emetic’s voice rose from a slight mutter to a low drone: “…and millions of climate refugees will be hammering at the gates of Passport Control, rolling their eyes and brandishing their I-phones. And my advice to you is…” and he paused for effect as the stage lights went out…

“… get a gun and shoot the bastards.”

The audience broke into thunderous applause, and George woke up with a start. He looked round, but Miranda had disappeared.

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10 Responses to Emmott’s Last Stand

  1. Lynn Clark says:

    Off topic (sorry), but inquiring minds want to know. In the title “Apocalypse Close”, is it “close” as in “close the door”, or “close” as in “that was too close for comfort”? Apologies if this was explained early on when you first started publishing chapters (all of which I’ve read and eagerly await further installments). Maybe it’s obvious to those of you in the mother country, but it’s not to this American. 😉

  2. Hector Pascal says:

    Close as in “too close for comfort”. Close meaning “cul-de-sac”, if it is not used in the USA, cousin🙂

  3. Hector Pascal says:

    Sorry, that reads a little cryptically.

    In the UK, dead-end streets are sometimes called: (something or other) Close. Especially if they are a bit posh. And while it means the street is “closed”, it is pronounced as in “too close for comfort”.

    Two nations separated by a common language. You’re welcome, cousin🙂

  4. steveta_uk says:

    Emmott V Fred Pearce in Newsnight last night (Thurs 20th). BBC showed Emmotts graphs quite uncrtitically as if they ar eknown fact.

    Fred was reasoned and fairly non-amarmist. Emmot was loony. For example, Fred pointed out that the population graph assumed high fertility rates, whereas his graph from the UN showed that world wide women are having little over 2 children, and the rate is dropping. Emmott response was this was too late, and would peak at 28 billion! Fred just laughed and pointed at the graph again, and said it was more likely that peak population was likely around 8 billion.

    They agreed that CO2 will kill us all anyway.

  5. Missed your Emetic sketch over Xmas Geoff – pure genius – you should publish it!

    Meanwhile it looks as if he’s achieving his ambitions for Microsoft – they are fucked!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2361275/Microsoft-announces-broad-shakeup-dubbed-Microsoft-amid-slumping-sales-Windows-8-flop.html

  6. alexjc38 says:

    @ steveta_uk, there’s a screen capture of Emmott and Pearce on Newsnight, here:
    20130712-2146_NEWSNIGHT

    Emmott: “Even if we never produce another child, with seven billion of us we’re still going to be in trouble. The other thing about Fred’s graph there is that it is true – we’ve known since the 1960s that the fertility rate has declined. But you can see from Fred’s graph that – the rate of childbearing has declined. But that graph is levelling off, and even if, on our current rate of reproduction, if we continued with that, because that graph is levelling off, there would be 28 billion of us by the end of this century.”

    Pearce: “No, no, we’re levelling off at two children per woman, which is the replacement level.”

    One of them must be wrong…🙂

  7. Alex
    I shouldn’t say this, but you have to wonder about the guy’s sanity. The 27/ 28 billion and the 10 billion both come from the same source, the UNPD 2004 report and 2010 update. 10 billion is their new medium prediction (up from 9 billion). 28 billion is the population on the assumption that nothing changes in the minority of countries where women continue to have 8-10 children, an assumption that no-one believes for a moment. He got into trouble over his 28 billion figure in the Q&A session at the Royal Court. And here he is insisting on it, in a programme to launch his book which is called Ten Billion. Doesn’t he learn from his mistakes?
    Something I haven’t seen noted anywhere, but which should be central to any serious critique, is that the whole population question is a red herring. A 40% increase from 7 billion to ten billion might well pose problems – who could deny it? but not enough to threaten the survival of the human race. A healthy economic growth rate of say 3% p.a. on the other hand – I can’t remember my compound interest formula, but it must add up to a several 100% increase in consumption and resource depletion over a century. Now that would make a difference.
    We can’t begin to imagine what a world twice as rich as ours would look like – how could we? Nor can Emmott. All he has over us is a mathematical model of the future which crashes every time he tries to run it, and he mistakes the crashing of his model for the crashing of the world itself.
    I noted in a comment to my last post that Microsoft had put up a number of corrections at
    http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ten_billion/default.aspx
    I pointed this out in comments at articles by Willis Eschenbach and Chris Goodall, and within a few hours the page had been taken down.
    Something very odd is going on.

  8. Mooloo says:

    I shouldn’t say this, but you have to wonder about the guy’s sanity.

    It’s not his sanity that worries me, but his barefaced cheek.

    We’re told climate science has “settled” that we’re heading to Thermageddon based on our use of fossil fuels. Anyone who disputes the “97% consensus” is tarred as a “flat earther”.

    Yet the 10 billion limit (within the appropriate caveats and errors, naturally) is a actual consensus, based on longstanding principles, with far stronger than 97% agreement as far as I can tell. And yet Emmott feels free to ignore it.

    I’m appalled that anyone with any intention of wanting scientific credibility would be seen or heard agreeing with him on anything. The fact that he’s a “scientist” shouldn’t mean that we disregard the fact that he’s no better politically than Oswald Mosley.

  9. alexjc38 says:

    “As you know, your World Health Organization has again increased its forecasts, predicting there will be some nine billion people on earth before the midpoint of this century. Animal species are going extinct at a precipitously accelerated rate. The demand for dwindling natural resources is skyrocketing. Clean water is harder and harder to come by. By any biological gauge, our species has exceeded our sustainable numbers.”

    “Any environmental biologist or statistician will tell you that humankind’s best chance of long-term survival occurs with a global population of around four billion.”

    Stephen Emmott? Actually it’s the arch-Malthusian baddie in Dan Brown’s latest novel “Inferno”. But they sound somewhat similar. 🙂

  10. fjpickett says:

    “because that graph is levelling off, there would be 28 billion of us by the end of this century”

    That’s what happens when you use Excel. No wonder Phil Jones thought the hockey stick was real.

    I enjoyed the digs at MS licensing which, in the boxed versions, require you to break the wrapper to read the agreement, which you have automatically agreed to by breaking the wrapper…

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