Fighting Gaia with Kaya

Ben has an article about Roger Pielke Jr’s criticism of the UK’s Climate Change Act on Spiked.

The rate of decarbonisation required to meet these targets would, according to Roger Pielke, be ‘more aggressive than has ever been documented in any developed country at any time ever’. But isn’t this the ‘drastic action’ that environmentalists have been demanding, and politicians have been promising, for many years now? The problem is the difference between goals and action. ‘One of the implications is that the UK would have to be as carbon-efficient as France within the next decade’, Pielke tells me. France’s energy policy gives us a good benchmark for understanding the scale of the numerical goals in more practical terms. To become that efficient in that time frame is equivalent to building 30 nuclear power stations by 2015. ‘There’s a fine line between aspirational goals, and fictional goals’, says Pielke, ‘but from a political and societal perspective, it’s just not going to happen. We should be rethinking the process that’s been put in place to achieve these goals.’

While you’re there, have a look at Frank Furedi’s piece on the Green rebranding of Lent.

The campaign for a carbon fast is a morally illiterate attempt to recycle the practice of fasting during Lent as a form of environmentally correct behaviour. The aim is to provide religious authority to the condemnation of everyday behaviour that green moralists find objectionable. So, the tips offered to those embarking on the carbon fast include: don’t drink water from a plastic bottle; forget about having your morning latte (it uses too much water apparently); turn down the lights; eat ‘slow food’ (fast food is too carbon-intensive); and give the dishwasher a break (1). Through rebranding these environmentalist rituals as moral obligations, campaigners hope to invest their cause with meaning.

Munich ReGurgitated

Roger Pielke Jr reports that Al Gore is now presenting data from our favourite insurance company Munich Re to bolster his case that natural disasters are on the increase as a result of global warming.

Munich Re, if you remember, is a company that has rather a lot to gain from climate catastrophism, and that likes to interpret data rather more catastrophically when not constrained by the need for accuracy.

Compare, for example, Munich Re’s statements to the media

“It is now very probable that the progressive warming of the atmosphere is due to the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity,” said Prof Peter Hoppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research.

“The logic is clear: when temperatures increase there is more evaporation and the atmosphere has a greater capacity to absorb water vapour, with the result that its energy content is higher.

“The weather machine runs into top gear, bringing more intense severe weather events with corresponding effects in terms of losses.”

with its statements in the scientific literature regarding the same data…

According to data collected by Munich Re, global weather-related economic losses (inflation adjusted, 2006 dollars) have increased from an annual average of U.S.$8.9 billion from 1977–1986 to U.S.$45.1 billion from 1997–2006. However, because of issues related to data quality, the low frequency of extreme event impacts, limited length of the time series, and various societal factors present in the disaster loss record, it is still not possible to determine the portion of the increase in damages that might be attributed to climate change brought about by greenhouse gas emissions (S1). This conclusion is likely to remain unchanged in the near future.

Gore switched to the Munich Re data in his lectures following criticism by Pielke and Andy Revkin that the data he had been using (from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium) to make the same point about human-induced natural disasters, did not actually support his case – criticism supported by CRED itself:

justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if its impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future.

The strangest part of the story is that even senior scientists seem to have been taken in by Gore’s disaster porn. Writes Pielke:

Now that Gore has admitted that including the slide based on CRED data was a mistake, it raises a more fundamental [question]: How could it be that Al Gore presented obviously misleading information before a large audience of the world’s best scientists, which was then amplified in a press release by AAAS, and none of these scientists spoke up?

As climate catastrophists have been fond of saying of late:

One of the oldest public relations trick in the book is called the “echo chamber” and it plays off the idea that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth


The Conspiracy-Theory Conspiracy Theory

Our previous post, and one the week before looked at the arguments emerging from climate activists about what to make of the existence of an email news circular, operated by Marc Morano, the Communications Director at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, under Republican Senator James Inhofe. They say it’s evidence of a sinister network intent on distorting the climate debate for oil interests. We say it’s just politics, and that there are many email lists on both sides of the debate, distributing news and opinion to people – even if we happen to disagree with (probably a lot of) Sen. Inhofe’s politics.

One of our favourite readers has sent us a link to a similar conversation going on at ‘The Reality Based Community’ blog – a misnomer. Mark Kleiman has posted an article there called ‘Global-warming denialism as a conspiracy theory.’ Hmm.

One largely unremarked aspect of global-warming denialism […] is that it amounts to a conspiracy theory. All of the world’s actual climate scientists, and everyone in an a allied field capable of understanding their models, would have to be co-conspirators in the plot, with only a rag-tag group of economists, meteorologists, petroleum geologists, astrologers, and political pundits capable of seeing, and willing to say, that the emperor has no clothes.

All of the world’s actual climate scientists? Really? And everyone in an allied field capable of understanding the models? Really?

Of course, it’s nonsense. Kleiman doesn’t know how the scientific community divides on climate matters, because no decisive poll has ever been taken. Neither does he know how so-called deniers divide on matters of climate science. He takes one case of an (admittedly rather silly) opinion piece in a newspaper to identify a phenomenon of ‘denial’. The interesting part of his claim is that this phenomenon – a ‘movement – of ‘denial’ can be explained as a ‘conspiracy theory’.

Most of the glibertarians, cultural conservatives, and gadget-heads who constitute the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency would be horrified to imagine themselves playing the role of 9/11 Truthers, or RFK Jr. pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV. But all four “movements” are alike in depending on compete mistrust of actual scientific experts. (Holocaust denialism is similar in that respect, but different in being almost entirely insincere: the Holocaust deniers seem to be saying, “Hitler didn’t kill all those Jews, and I’m glad he did.”)

We pointed out previously that there is an irony about David Roberts and a network of activists complaining about misinformation and distortion spread through a network of activists operating on the blogosphere on the … erm… blogosphere. (If you still don’t get it, imagine if the Governor of California were to start complaining about vapid Hollywood actors using their celebrity to achieve political influence – it’s a bit like that).

And with the words ‘the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency’ Kleiman demonstrates exactly the same failure of logic. His conspiracy-theory-theory is just a conspiracy theory. He continues:

Global-warming denialism is a special case, of course: the policy implications of the facts about climate change threaten some very large economic interests and some dearly-held political beliefs. So global-warming-denialist brochures are printed on glossy paper. Other than that, though, it’s fairly standard-grade fringe pseudoscience, not much different from the folks who write endless papers full of gibberish proving that Einstein was wrong.

There is a palpable failure on Kleiman’s behalf to test his own argument by the logic he’s applied to others’. Pots calling kettles black, and all that. Such unreflectively is par for the course in normal discussions. We kind of expect comments on our posts linked to from activist sites (such as this one) to vary in their sophistication. Some of our critics have been barely worth responding to. Others have made us think hard, at least about how we’ve presented our argument. Some even cause disagreements here at Climate Resistance HQ.

But Kleiman’s words aren’t the frothing of any old internet troll. According to the site’s About page…

Professor of Policy Studies at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, Kleiman teaches methods of policy analysis, political philosophy, and drug abuse and crime control policy. He is also the Chairman of BOTEC Analysis Corporation, a Cambridge, Massachusetts firm that conducts policy analysis and contract research on illicit drugs, crime, and health care. Previously, he held teaching positions at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Rochester.

Maybe Kleiman has been taking his drug abuse research a little too far into the field, and it has adversely affected his judgement. Shouldn’t we expect a Professor of policy analysis and political philosophy to make just slightly more robust and sophisticated criticisms of the players and sides in the climate debate, rather than reduce these putative camps to cartoonish heroes on the one hand, and evil villains on the other?

His blog’s slogan states that ‘Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts’. But Kleiman just makes his own ‘facts’ up while accusing others of ‘denial’. We’ve pointed this sort of thing out often enough that we no longer believe this is just a mistake, or mere hyperbole. This is a phenomenon far more widespread that ‘denial’. This kind of argument is rife amongst people who seem to feel the need to explain their lack of success in convincing the world of their politics. Blame the conspiracy.

But what kind of phenomenon is it? If we were only able to think about it only as deeply as Kleiman has, we might say that there is a deliberate attempt to distort the public’s perception of the debate. In other words, we would be inventing a conspiracy theory. So we’re not saying that, because we have no reason to doubt that Kleiman doesn’t believe his own words. he just hasn’t thought very hard about what they are supposed to mean.

What we think is going on is that the reality that the likes of Kleiman think they are in touch with isn’t as real as he imagines it to be. His slogan protests too much about being ‘reality-based’, which only serves to demonstrate that he lacks confidence in subjectivity. ‘The science’ plays a similar role in the arguments that emerge from environmental activists. The ‘science says’… The ‘science is in’… ‘According to the majority of the world’s top scientists’… We know the script. We’re asked to engage with moral and political arguments not on the basis of human values, but by appeals to climate science. Necessarily then, environmentalism rests on the authority of climate science. Demands for political action on climate change sit behind claims about climate science, and are assumed to flow from it, a priori.

Climate science seems to act as a kind of metaphysics in today’s political arguments. It serves to orientate the frameworks through which the world is seen and gives structure to the arguments about what is good/bad, right/wrong, forward/backward, and in the case where climate scepticism and denial is judged to be equivalent to Conservatism, Left/Right. To deprive environmentalists of this framework would leave them disoriented, a bit like if one were to rob Catholics of the Holy Trinity. Kleiman is just as vulnerable without climate science. How would he be able to criticise his opponents without it?

Kleiman might well respond by claiming that he is applying the label of denialism to those who, by definition, reject the science outright. Indeed, he compares his climate deniers to those ‘pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV’. But for every such ‘nutjob’ in total denial of ‘the science’, there is at least one environmental campaigner/politician, exaggerating ‘the science’ beyond recognition. The problem is the centrality of the ‘scientific’ claims to the debate – and it’s not the deniers who are putting it there.

For instance, if we accept that there is a phenomenon of ‘denial’ in the climate debate that is a factor in the outcome of the debate, then we can agree that this is a problem. But it is a problem because it states that the science – real or not – is decisive in the question about ‘what to do about climate change’ in exactly the same way environmentalism does – it expects science to be instructive. We can agree, furthermore, that even if we accept that (i) the climate is changing, and that (ii) we have caused some of this change, and that (iii) this will cause a problem of some degree, we don’t necessarily have to agree that these three premises safely take us to a conclusion that demands special politics and ethics, moreover, that it creates any unassailable moral imperatives. We might argue, for instance, that the plight of the poor doesn’t need climate change to be recognised. Yet nearly all the major UK poverty and development NGOs, for example, have absorbed the language of climate change ethics into their discussions – at the expense of ambitious large-scale development projects, in favour of ‘sustainability’. As we have argued previously, this represents a failure to develop a substantive understanding of poverty and development and a criticism of what causes them to happen. Environmental metaphysics fills the void. It is used to explain that moral actions are transmitted through the biosphere. This phenomenon is a much wider, much deeper, and much bigger problem than ‘denial’.

The Great Global-Warming-Denial-Echo-Chamber Echo-Chamber Irony

Last week, we posted about David Roberts’ conspiracy mongering about the email list operated by Marc Morano, which like its many green counterparts, serves to keep people in touch. Roberts said:

Morano’s entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post. [Our emphasis]

In our view, there’s nothing spooky, or illegitimate about people – even people you have political differences with – talking to each other.

Unless you’re paranoid.

That’s politics. In fact, it’s democracy, and as we pointed out, Roberts’ objection seemed to be that people were actually allowed to talk to each other. There’s clearly something up with Roberts, who seems to believe that, without Morano’s list, the climate-sceptic argument in the news, and on the blogosophere, would disintegrate.

Roberts’ story made its way today to the Wonk Room blog, where Brad Johnson wrote

Morano’s “entire job,” Gristmill’s David Roberts explains, “is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts” to the right-wing echo chamber. The Wonk Room has acquired Morano’s email list, and we can now reveal the pack of climate skeptics, conservative bloggers, and corporate hacks who feed the misinformation machine. [Our emphasis]

Echo chambers, eh?

Over at Desmogblog Kevin Grandia had this to say in reply to Brad Johnson:

One of the oldest public relations trick in the book is called the “echo chamber” and it plays off the idea that if you repeat something often enough it becomes the truth

Senator James Inhofe’s political spindoctor Marc Morano knows this technique well and he has been using for years to shotgun blast out misinformation on global warming to right-wing media and bloggers for years.

In turn, these bloggers and media outlets blast out their own rendition and before you know it the misinformation is bouncing around the internet and inboxes all over the world. [Our emphasis]

What these complaints seem to relate to is the existence of a mode of communication between climate sceptics, through which pointless and made up stories are passed, published, and, by repetition, the profile of these stories is raised in the public mind.

Without an echo-chamber network to propagate silly stories, Roberts, Grandia, and Johnson wouldn’t have much to talk about. But the irony of the nonsense they propogate is beyond their understanding.

A Crisis of Faith in Crisis Politics

Two Popes, two statements, two apparent U-turns:

1. The Vatican declares that evolution by natural selection is not incompatible with its teachings and that Intelligent Design is a ‘cultural phenomenon’ rather than a scientific or theological one.

2. Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office Hadley Centre warns against climate catastrophism and appeals to scientists to rein in misleading climate change claims:

News headlines vie for attention and it is easy for scientists to grab this attention by linking climate change to the latest extreme weather event or apocalyptic prediction. But in doing so, the public perception of climate change can be distorted.

One, however, is more of a U-turn than the other. The Vatican’s statement is not news. It has been making similar statements for the past decade or more. Likewise, Dr Pope is not the first influential climate scientist to criticise climate porn. For example, Professor Mike Hulme has been saying similar things for a couple of years now. What makes Dr Pope’s statement newsworthy, however, is that it represents a U-turn not only for Dr Pope, but for the MET office itself.

Much of Pope’s article is rather sensible. For example:

Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this. Indeed, the record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer sea ice increasing again over the next few years.

It’s certainly encouraging to see a MET office spokesperson debunking talk of tipping points regarding summer Arctic ice melt. She’s talking about James Hansen, but we highlighted that same problem back in September, in response to comments from NSIDC senior scientist Mark Serreze.

He said:

We could very well be in that quick slide downwards in terms of passing a tipping point

We said:

Serreze neither explains what this tipping point might be, nor why his NSIDC data suggests we might be passing it. In this sense, ‘tipping point’ is used simply as a sciencey-sounding synonym for ’something terrible might happen’. And reporters don’t even think to ask him what on Earth he is talking about.

More sense from Pope:

Overplaying natural variations in the weather as climate change is just as much a distortion of the science as underplaying them to claim that climate change has stopped or is not happening.

Although she spoils it rather with her next sentence:

Both undermine the basic facts that the implications of climate change are profound and will be severe if greenhouse gas emissions are not cut drastically and swiftly over the coming decades.

No. She would be equally (un)justified if she said that both undermine the basic facts that the implications of climate change are up for debate. Of course, it is true that climate change poses problems that must be confronted. Just as it is true that our understanding of the effects of climate change is rudimentary. It is not the case that overplaying and underplaying natural variations in weather both undermine one of those more than the other. Both do, however, undermine the ability of society to make plans informed by the best available evidence.

Anyway, others have noted how Pope’s comments sit uncomfortably with her own statements in the recent past about the effects of climate change, and we have ourselves flagged up the MET’s over-interpretation of data for dramatic effect.

The most amusing reaction comes from climate guru Joseph Romm, who goes a long way to doing our job for us. Referring to an article written by Pope in December for the Times, he writes:

Pope herself is the principal source of the major recent apocalyptic prediction made by climate scientists — ironically in a December article in the Guardian [sic], “Met Office warn of ‘catastrophic’ rise in temperature”

Well, quite. Romm falls out with Pope because, in his world, the apocalyptic claims she refers to are not actually apocalyptic, but statements of fact.

If Pope wants to criticise climate catastrophism, that’s just fine with us. We hope, however, that she appreciates the enormity of the job she has taken on. It’s all too easy to cherry pick a handful of silly statements made by a few over-enthusiastic scientists and desperate reporters. But the fact is that such language is at the very core of environmental politics. So, by way of assisting her in her project, here’s a few bigger fish for Pope to get her teeth into…

Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister:

We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing catastrophic tipping points.

Mr Blair said the consequences for the planet of inaction were “literally disastrous”. “This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime,” he said. Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just environmentally but economically as well.”

We are headed toward catastrophic tipping points in our climate unless we act

Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister:

So the new settlement also requires another great and historic endeavour to end the dictatorship of oil and to avert catastrophic climate change

David Cameron – Leader of the Conservative Opposition:

the threat of imminent, irreversible, and catastrophic change to the climate of our planet should prompt us to challenge any perceived consensus on green growth

If you want to understand climate change, go and see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Lord Professor Sir Nicholas Stern:

The possibility of avoiding a global catastrophe is “already almost out of reach”, Sir Nicholas Stern’s long-awaited report on climate change will warn today.

President Barack Obama:

Today we’re seeing that climate change is about more than a few unseasonably mild winters or hot summers. It’s about the chain of natural catastrophes and devastating weather patterns that global warming is beginning to set off around the world.. the frequency and intensity of which are breaking records thousands of years old.

John Gloster, Met Office Research Scientist:

The arrival of Bluetongue disease in the UK in recent years is evidence that changing climate is already impacting animal health. The Met Office, working with other interested parties, is taking the lead in providing the advice and solutions government, veterinary experts and farmers will need to mitigate against the effects of climate change on animal and plant health in the future.

The Modern Movement vs. the Miserable Moment



Modern Movement, who are mounting a stand to the bleak language of the environmentalists, are planning a demonstration in favour of the Heathrow Airport expansion, to counter a demo planned by opponents of the scheme.

Support Airport Expansion: Thursday 19 February, 17.30 -19.30 on Parliament Square, East Footway

The extension of flying to millions of people has been a liberation. Most of us can now afford to go on holiday and welcome the cheapening of air travel allowing us to fly abroad. The development of aviation infrastructure is crucial to allow ever more people to fly.

This is why Modern Movement will be holding a counter-demonstration at the same time as the anti-aviation groups to show our support for airport expansion and urge on the building of the third runway at Heathrow.

Join us in front of Parliament to argue for guilt-free travel, for ever-cheaper flights and for freedom of movement.

Modern Movement – Faster, Cheaper, Better Transport for All!

Banners, flags and posters welcome but not essential. Look out for the large Modern Movement banner. This demonstration has been authorised by the Metropolitan Police.

This comes in the wake of what seemed to be a call for movement to be rationed from the Climate Change Committee chair, Lord Adair Turner, who gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee last week,

If there has to be demand constraint, we will then bring in the analysis I mentioned earlier of where are these flights, and one of the questions we will ask is, “How many of the flights which occur are of sufficiently short distances either because they are domestic or they are London to the south of France, London to the skiing resorts, et cetera”, that there is a believable story that they do not have to be flights, they can be high-speed rail, or are quite a lot of them things where, realistically, it is never going to be competed by high-speed rail and, therefore, you actually have to say that we have got to constrain demand in an absolute sense and people just will not be able to make as many journeys as they would want to in an unconstrained fashion. That is the analysis that we are going to do.

If you’re near enough to London to be able to make it to the demo on the 19th Feb, please do.

Ragin' Roberts

Over at Gristmill, the angry David Roberts gets his knickers in a twist about an email list:

Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Morano’s entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.

How did we know about Roberts’s latest blog post? Well, we got an email from Marc Morano about it.

Roberts finishes his otherwise pointless post with the very revealing words,

The conservative movement gets its information about climate science from the office of James Inhofe.

What more really needs to be said?

Well, quite a bit more really needs to be said. Such as what is supposed to be wrong with that, even if it were true? Which it isn’t, as there are a number of email list servers of interest to sceptics. And it’s not as if there are no green newswires spewing less than perfect information. And it’s not as if that transparently false information never comes from Grist.

As we discovered a year ago, for example, when Professor Andrew Dessler wrote on Grist that the IPCC consisted of thousands of climate scientists, all uniquely qualified to look after the sick planet, and that we ought to ignore social scientists and computer programmers. Unfortunately for him, we pointed out that the IPCC in fact consisted of a great number of social scientists and computer programmers – we counted them. Dessler was hoisted by his own petard. But he continued his tired analogy, just as Roberts and his ilk trot out the same old lines about oil-industry-funded-corporate-shills, the scale and the substance of the ‘scientific consensus’, and of course, the equivalence of climate scepticism and conservatism, all of which, many times, have been shown to lack foundation. They are myths. This makes it all the more a surprise that Roberts once uttered these words:

Long-time greens are painfully aware that the arguments of global warming skeptics are like zombies in a ’70s B movie. They get shot, stabbed, and crushed, over and over again, but they just keep lurching to their feet and staggering forward. That’s because — news flash! — climate skepticism is an ideological, not a scientific, position, and as such it bears only a tenuous relationship to scientific rules of evidence and inference.

Roberts’ inability to self-reflect is painfully obvious to anybody who is not him. As we pointed out, scepticism cannot be in itself ideological. On the other hand, Environmentalism – which, after all, demands that we reorganise the global economy, monitor every productive endeavour, and regulate lifestyle – is an ideology. But it hides its politics behind science. ‘Science’ is environmentalism’s fig leaf. Behind the green veneer is its shame.

What a cautious lifting of the fig leaf reveals is that the object of Roberts’ anger is democracy itself. He doesn’t seem to like people having email lists with which to communicate ideas. Just as he doesn’t like people being able to travel, or to consume according to their own needs and desires.

Accordingly, Roberts needs to turn democratic expression into a subversive, nefarious activity. In this fantasy, what are in fact normal forms of communication appear as sinister conspiracies. Two people knowing each other is an element… a cell… of a dark network standing against science…. truth itself.

But the reality is that the recipients of Morano’s emails are people who can see for themselves what an email from a – shock horror – Conservative actually consists of.  We’re not conservatives, and you don’t have to be a conservative, for example, to know that when James Hansen says that there are just four years left to save the planet, he’s talking unmitigated BS. And yet it was an email from Marc Morano which first drew our attention to the story. It’s just a way of distributing news. Everybody who comments on the news is connected to many similar services. We get daily digests on topics from the newspapers themselves, from Government departments, NGOs, Quangos, political parties, charities, and from Google news alerts. Some of these sources are neutral. Some have a clearer agenda.

Of course, Sen. Inhofe is a Conservative. But his take on the climate issue is a little deeper than Roberts gives him credit for.

It is becoming increasingly clear that man-made global warming is not a partisan left vs. right issue. It is a scientific question and the promoters of global warming fears now realize they have significantly overreached.

Roberts frames the debate as ‘Science versus Conservatives’. But it doesn’t stand. Roberts can’t tell left from right, forward from backward, progressive from retrogressive, sceptic from conservative, liberal from deeply illiberal. As we recently said of George Monbiot, he

… emerges dizzy from his own spinning and thinks it is the world that’s confused about what direction it is moving in. And this is his fundamental problem. Everything he writes is a projection of his own inability to understand a world that fails to conform to his expectations. The ideas he uses to orientate himself fail to give him purchase on his own existential crisis; they crumble underfoot.

Like Monbiot, Roberts see a challenge to his perspective as a catastrophe. He cannot countenance dissent. It would be the end of the world. Roberts’ can only explain his objection to conservatism in terms of environmental catastrophe, because he doesn’t possess a principled, coherent objection. Fantasy takes the place of insight and shrill posturing the place of careful argument.

Climate Criminals to the Naughty Step

It’s not easy watching It’s Not Easy Being Green, BBC2’s show about how easy it is being green – if you are a professional environmentalist.

After the first episode of the new series, we mentioned that edgy yet ethical rock chick Lauren Laverne had been trying to chivvy along the upper classes’ pitiful attempts to save the planet by showing how to build your own eco-swimming pool for £100k.

In the second episode, her task was to decorate the home of some well-heeled eco-spivs with overpriced recycled furniture. It was her own home. In her own words:

This is like punk-rock antiquing!

(And in the words of Harry Enfield: ‘There’s quite a market for this particular type of wank round here.’)

Episode three sees Lauren answering a series of questions about her lifestyle to find out how many planets we would need to sustain us if we all lived like that. She scores 2.73 planets, a close second behind green-guru presenter Dick Strawbridge’s own 2.4 planets, which he says is only so high because the quiz takes into account that he eats meat but not that they’re his own pigs. (Neither does it include the planets exploited by the BBC infrastructure that tracks – and pays for – his every eco-improvement.)

In episode 4, Strawbridge heads up to London to put actor Julian Rhind-Tutt through the eco-guest lifestyle challenge quiz thing. He scores 3.84 planets. Oh how they laugh. Before he travels back to Cornwall by carrier pigeon, Strawbridge provides another justification for his own (and Rhind-Tutt’s) planet-hungry ways:

Travel comes with work and the sort of things we have to do, and, you know, to be fair, you’ve got to look at how many people you make happy when you’re off doing all these things

Yeah, look at all those bastards going off travelling and not making anyone else happy or even feeling guilty about it. (Spiked have put it rather nicely recently, here.)

To episode 5… Lauren checks out designer low-carbon-fair-trade-recycled fashion. At the bottom end of the market, T-shirts – quite literally a snip – start at £80. Lauren is too embarrassed to show the price-tag of the skirt she takes a fancy to. And for the rest of us?

Strawbridge: Let’s not forget, Lauren, you don’t have to stick to the highstreet. You can buy clothes from car boots and charity shops, too. Great clothes don’t have to cost the Earth.

Patronising twaddle aside, this whole climate-change-is-a-fun-sort-of-disaster theme is not only to be found on desperate tv shows for people with spare cash and time on their hands. We are reminded of an exhibition called Burning Issue: Climate Change. Though held at London’s Science Museum, it was about anything but science. The finale there was another computer game that ‘measured’ the environmental impact of our lifestyle choices.

Such was the confusion of the nation’s premier science museum’s computer that it couldn’t actually bring itself to recommend any of its own recommendations. Try to do the right thing and skip your annual holiday for the sake of future generations and it told you that:

Even eco-warriors need to get away sometimes! Relax a little

Take a coach tour of the highlands – the lowest carbon option available – however, and it accused you of triggering environmental ‘meltdown’.

Similarly, we’ve been quoting UK energy minister Ed Miliband’s comments about the airport protests rather a lot recently:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

One of the many problems with orthodoxies that exist only because nobody can come up with anything better is that they are just a bit of a laugh for everyone concerned. They are not really meant to be taken too seriously or anything. These lifestyle quizzes/comedy confessions are meant to make the participants feel a little bit guilty, but not too guilty. Miliband likes to see a bit of an environmental protest by people dressed up as Suffragettes, just so long as it is only a bit of one. No one really believes this stuff. Apart from Lieutenant Colonel Dick Strawbridge maybe. But only because he doesn’t have any time to sit down and think about it, what with having to run round all the time milking lentils and fleecing the BBC.

Saving the planet is just a way to pass the time.

Penguins Are Killing the Polar Bears

This week has been a PR disaster for the North Pole. No sooner had scientists shown that the Antarctic really had been warming up a bit, actually, probably due to climate change and everything, than it was proved that Emperor penguins are more screwed even than the polar bears:

Emperor penguins, whose long treks across Antarctic ice to mate have been immortalised by Hollywood, are heading towards extinction, scientists say.

Based on predictions of sea ice extent from climate change models, the penguins are likely to see their numbers plummet by 95% by 2100.

That wasn’t the week’s only Disney-esque polar-flip. The BBC tells us that the theory of evolution is now as robust as climate science. Enjoy the closing remarks of BBC4’s otherwise excellent What Darwin Didn’t Know:

Perhaps, then, evolution does not so much resemble the weather as it does our climate. At the grander scales of space and time, the atmosphere is not chaotic. The physics of our planet imposes order, and thus predictability upon it. So, although we can scarcely tell what the weather will be three weeks from now, we can predict, at least probablilistically, what the climate will be three centuries hence.

All of which will be news to climate modellers.

Elsewhere… it was a while ago now, but our original post about Lord Professor Sir Nicholas Stern’s potential conflict of interests regarding his writing of the influential Stern report on the economics of climate change and his executive position with IDEAglobal drew a certain amount of criticism at the time. Eg:

I hate to deprive your charming readers of any opportunity for the foam-flecked ranting they so obviously enjoy, but there is a gaping hole in your argument here.

Stern was not connected to IDEAcarbon/IDEAglobal at the time he wrote his report on climate change, or indeed when he served as chief economist at the World Bank. If he had been, or if his report had been funded in any way by companies that stood to gain from its findings, then there would have been a conflict of interest. As it stands, the comparison with Exxon’s funding of climate denialists doesn’t hold up to a moment’s scrutiny.

As smear campaigns go, this one is well below even your own usual standards.

We disagreed:

environmentalists wouldn’t be satisfied if it were a sceptical scientist (even though Stern is not a scientist) who had been instrumental in influencing anti-mitigation, anti-Kyoto policy decisions in governments throughout the world, who later landed a top job in a company selling PR, financial, and market intelligence products to the oil industry. There would be talk of ‘the tobacco strategy’. There would be talk of private and political interests ‘manufacturing uncertainty’.

However, it is a joy to be able to plug the gulf that separates those double standards with this article from 4 August 1999:

Nick Stern, who has been made chairman of London Economics, has advised the IMF and the World Bank, and of course had to be a terrible Europhile to work for the EBRD, of gold taps and Jacques Attali fame. Professor Stern will be full-time chairman until he adds a half-time Chair in Economics at the London School of Economics

The Prof also joined the advisory board of yesterday to give the web consultancy a weekly round-up on global economics. How he finds the time, goodness knows.

Soon after Stern started at IDEAglobal, he was appointed chief economist at the World Bank: announced today that professor Nicholas Stern of its Advisory Board was named Chief Economist of the World Bank. Professor Stern succeeds Joseph Stiglitz and is due to take up his new post in July.

As a member of its Advisory Board Professor, Stern contributes to’s research on international financial markets and global economic policy. Professor Stern is the former Chief Economist of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, where he played a key role in advising on the transition process in Eastern and Central Europe.

The Stern Review was published 2006. The rest is history.

At the risk of getting all Exxon-Secrets ‘on yo asses’… Thanks to the reader who let us know about Bob Ward‘s latest career move. Ward, if you remember, left his post of director of communications at the Royal Society to join global risk analysis firm RMS as Director of Global Science Networks. It was a perfectly natural progression that allowed him to continue both his pseudo-scientific catastrophe-mongering and his crusade against Exxon and Martin Durkin. Which he did.

Ward now pops up at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, where he has taken on the post of Policy and Communications Director. The Grantham is chaired by Professor Lord Sir Nicholas Stern of Brentford, author of a rather influential report on the economics of climate change, and who stands to profit admirably from institutional environmentalism via his carbon credit reference agency. It is no surprise that Ward and Sir Nicholas find themselves in the same company department, given their shared interests. Stern is also Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), which is funded by the UK government’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and which acknowledges that ‘Generous support for the Centre’s work is also provided by Munich Re’. Munich Re is the insurance giant that claims to know what the IPCC does not when it comes to the reality of climate change in the present.

Glancing down the profiles of Grantham’s management team, we spot another corporate Green to have found a new home among academic foliage. The last time we looked, Sam Fankhauser was Managing Director of IDEAcarbon:

IDEAcarbon is an independent and professional provider of ratings, research and strategic advice on carbon finance. Our services are designed to provide leading financial institutions, corporations, governments, traders and developers with unbiased intelligence and analysis of the factors that affect the pricing of carbon market assets.

IDEAcarbon’s parent company is IDEAglobal, where Stern is Vice President.

Fankhauser doubles up as a member of the Climate Change Committee, the ‘independent’ body set up by the UK government to advise the UK government on climate policies.

The CCC is chaired by Lord Adair Turner of Ecchinswell, a man whose CV includes stints of environmental activism as a trustee for WWF and membership of the Advisory Board of Climate Change Capital, a firm offering services as an ‘investment manager and advisor specialising in the opportunities created by the transition to the low carbon economy’.

After all this, we were slightly disappointed to gather that the Grantham Research Institute is not named after the birthplace of green pioneer Margaret Thatcher. That it’s named in honour of multi-millionaire sponsors Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham, whose Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment also supports such green multi-nationals as GreenpeaceOxfamWWF and the Union of Concerned Scientists, is no less appropriate, however.

Grantham’s raison d’être is, according to its Chair:

Professor Stern said: ’As scientists continue to play their role in analysing the causes and effects of climate change, it is crucial that social scientists take a lead in the building of policy. The Grantham Institute will produce high-quality, policy-relevant research, alongside a range of outputs designed to support policy development, raise public awareness and contribute to private-sector strategy formation.’

Climate Resistance would not stoop to suggest that the corporate and ideological interests of the Grantham Research Institute’s staff could conceivably influence the direction or quality of its research output.

In fact, it’s worth re-stating that we wouldn’t make so much of the financial interests of these folk were it not for the fact that Bob Ward and his cronies make so much about links with dirty oil money, as exemplified by Ward’s former boss at the Royal Society, Bob May, writing in the TLS:

Despite the growing weight of evidence of climate change, along with growing awareness of the manifold adverse consequences, there remains an active and well-funded “denial lobby”. It shares many features with the lobby that for so long denied that smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. […] Whoever got things started, this is a ball which ExxonMobile picked up and ran with, shuttling lobbyists in and out of the White House as it did so. Following earlier talks and seeking to exemplify its centuries-old motto – Nullius in Verba (which roughly translates as “respect the facts”) – the Royal Society recently and unprecedentedly wrote to ExxonMobile, complaining about its funding for “organisations that have been misinforming the public about the science of climate change”, and more generally for promoting inaccurate and misleading views – specifically that scientists do not agree about the influence of human activity on rising temperatures.

Likewise, we would be less interested in such dodgy dealings if it weren’t for the mainstream media’s tendency to decry Exxon funding as corrupting of the scientific method while deeming Munich Re’s pronouncements – let alone the pronouncements of those they sponsor – as above scrutiny. It’s also worth re-stating at this point that fear is to the insurance industry what oil is to Exxon.

The ESRC’s CCCEP is worthy of further comment. According to its home page:

Human-induced climate change could have enormous impacts on economies and societies if we persist with ‘business as usual’. This is the consensus view of climate scientists and one with which economists are increasingly finding agreement (eg The Stern Review). It is much less certain, however, that our economic, social and political systems can respond to the challenge. Will public, private and civic actors take action to create low-carbon economies? What emission reduction strategies will be efficient, equitable and acceptable? How much should we invest, and when, on measures to reduce vulnerability to climate change? Who will bear the costs and enjoy the benefits? […] The Centre is chaired by Professor Lord Stern of Brentford

So, Lord Professor Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on the economics of climate change is somehow representative of the ‘scientific consensus’, and he shall, therefore, chair the ESRC’s climate change body.

There was a time when the social sciences felt it necessary to scrutinise the natural sciences, on the basis that scientists weren’t quite as objective as they liked to think they were. They had a point, even if the scientists were probably more objective than the sociologists thought they were. It was a good fight. Now, however, the starting point of centrally-funded social science is that it accepts unconditionally that not only is there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but there is an economic one, too. Aren’t new-fangled scientific practices like consensuses and peudo-scientific creations like ‘sustainability’ precisely what the social sciences should be scrutinising?

The CCCEP assumes from the outset that it follows necessarily that something must be done – and, indeed, that is the duty of each of us to do something. From its mission statement:

Climate change and its potential impacts are increasingly accepted, but economic, social and political systems have been slow to respond. There is a clear and urgent need to speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to unavoidable climate change.

The Centre’s mission is to respond to this need by advancing public and private action on climate change through innovative, rigorous research.

This is not sociology as the study of social institutions. It is sociology as government department, scholarly discipline and activist group all rolled into one. As if the Science Wars never happened, ‘climate science’ is free once again to speak ‘Truth to Power’ unfettered. Except that now it is aided and abetted by those who would be scrutinising it were it not for the fact that sociology has lost any sense of mission, just as political parties, the media, environmentalist activists and a host of scholarly disciplines attempting to justify themselves in terms of ‘relevance’ have lost sense of their mission.

The environmental orthodoxy is a tangled web of corporate interests, policy-makers, -movers and -shakers, academics, NGO’s and activists – all pushing in the same direction. Which would be just fine if the idea had been tested democratically. But it hasn’t. We’ve said it many times… environmentalism has not risen to prominence through its own energies: it has not developed from a mass movement; it isn’t representative of popular interests. It is useful only to various organisations that have otherwise struggled to justify themselves over the last few decades. The political parties have bought it. Various ‘radical’ organisations have bought it. Large sections of the media have bought it. Academic departments and funding agencies have bought it. Little wonder that corporate interests have been able to jump upon the bandwagon and play their hearts out for personal financial gain.

Forget speaking ‘Truth to Power’. Today it’s all about speaking ‘Official Truth™ for Official Power©’.