Think Progress is a misnomer for a site devoid of thought or sensible conception of ‘progress’. It’s currently running a series of crass, pointless, sub-tabloid mini interviews with climate alarmist, Nicholas Stern. In the first interview, Stern expounds some views that mirror the site’s problems with thinking about progress.
Nicholas — now Lord — Stern is a pillar of the climate change establishment. He is perhaps even more respected a commentator on matters climate-related than most climate scientists. He authored the 2006 report on climate change that still determines UK policy today, and which NGOs and other organisations draw from to set and further their own self-serving agendas. Since authoring the report, Stern has shot to climate stardom, being sought by carbon finance firms, keen to cash in on his connections to government and his insider policy-making knowledge, by the media, and by billionaire philanthropists wishing to have him set up and manage climate research organisations that bear the benefactors’ names.
But why? Anybody could invent the argument in the video above, in which Stern claims that increases in temperature will make some areas inhospitable, driving the population away, causing war. It’s a what-if-join-the-dots kind of bogus thought experiment, which only carries any weight because of Stern’s authority, not because of the quality of any research or theoretical ground behind it. In order to take Stern’s word for it, we have to trust that authority. It goes without saying that I don’t.
And so shame on Brad Johnson, the author of the piece, whose idea of an ‘interview’ is merely to repeat, verbatim, what the interviewee told him, without subjecting the claim to any criticism whatsoever. That’s not interviewing, Brad, that’s flattery.
Stern, who advises politicians the world over, gets to sit on influential panels that dictate national and international policies, and who does the bidding of billionaire ‘philanthropists’ seems particularly reluctant to face criticism. He has strong views about what the world should do, but has yet (as far as I am aware) to face, let alone answer, a single critic or criticism of his work. The closest Stern ever seems to get to defending himself is to send the idiot climate bulldog, Bob Ward, out to harass any editor that dares publish anything that dissents from the orthodoxy.
So much for Stern’s authority then. Since he is incapable of defending them, his arguments and research can carry no authority. The authority he has then, lies only in the fact that he repeats the mantras that politicians and others engaged in the climate change agenda want and need to hear. For instance, I had the misfortune of attending a lecture by luvvie-turned-planet-saver Lord David Puttnam a few years ago. (They’re all Lords — unelected, unaccountable feudal relics — these people; Lord Stern, Lord Puttnam, Lord May, Lord Turner.) During the lecture Puttnam claimed
To read much of the media, you simply wouldn’t know that there’s a ninety-nine per cent scientific consensus on this issue. In some cases we’re even led to believe that the whole idea of man-made climate change has been put about by a bunch of self-promoting scientists in flapping white coats in some vast conspiracy. If anyone ever tries to pull that on you, I beg you; ask them a few very very simple questions. Where has this conspiracy come from? Who is financing it? How is anything in this disorganised world so brilliantly organised as to make this possible? And most important of all, consider this. If Crispin Tickell, myself, and others are wrong, and if ninety-nine per cent of the world’s scientists are wrong, to what degree will we have damaged your lives and life chances? […] On the other hand, if the climate change deniers are wrong, if you’re stupid enough anyway to believe them, the net effect of that could be to devastate your entire life, and more important than that, your children’s’ lives, your grandchildren’s lives and your great grandchildren’s lives. You cannot afford to give them that much credibility. Everything I said about the BNP, I feel just as strongly about intelligent climate deniers. They are living on another planet. I wish they’d go there.
Puttnam’s own contribution to scientific knowledge is limited to his role producing films such as Bugsy Malone and The Mission. These remarkable achievements, nonetheless, qualify him to make pronouncements about who in this debate are reckless and stupid.
I asked Puttnam where the 99% figure came from. The figure is widely cited, he told me… And after some hesitation, ‘from Stern’. All that it took for Puttnam — who chaired the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill — to have such confidence in the figure was for Stern to have uttered it. I asked him precisely where the figure had come from. He promised to reply to my email, asking him. I sent him three. He never replied. Meanwhile, anyone who disagreed with Puttnam, was, by proxy, disagreeing with Stern, and 99% of the world’s scientists. Now we can see how Stern’s authority exists at the end of a chain of circular reasoning. This must be what is meant by ‘peer review’.
But what of the argument itself. The climate changes where people can be, claims Stern. This is true to an extent, of course. But who could have imagined Phoenix, Arizona, before it was possible to divert entire rivers? The extent to which human populations are forced to move, then, is determined by our ability to transport sources of water to where they are needed. Leaving aside the matter ‘is climate change happening, the question here, then, should divide the debate between those who think that, in the 21st century, this is no impossible challenge, and those who think it is. Stern must presuppose it is impossible. We can see for ourselves that it is possible, and it should be more possible between the years 2011 and 2022 than it was when those first huge dams were constructed in the early part of the last century. We can now see how it is Stern’s presuppositions which influence his understanding of climate, not his understanding of climate which informs his economics.
But let us assume, anyway, that it is not possible for humans to respond positively to climate change, and that, a century from now, climate change has caused the displacement of a billion people? Is this likely to be the cause of World War III, as he claims?
No. The movement of a billion people over the course of a century amounts to the movement of 10 million people a year. This is no exodus. It is 0.143% of the world’s population. In other words, it’s the equivalent of 87,000 people leaving the UK (population 60 million) each year. That’s fewer people than would fit into the new Wembley stadium. It’s less than half the number of people who pass through Heathrow airport each day. The resettlement of a billion people throughout the world over the course of a century presents absolutely no technical challenge whatsoever. Again, Stern must presuppose a political problem with such a movement of people in order to demonstrate that a climate problem exists. Why is ‘Think Progress’ — seemingly a ‘liberal’ organ — so convinced that immigration is such a problem that it could create a world war? So much for liberal values. In fact, we might point out that, if the problems of climate change are problems of poverty, the world might well cope with climate change — anthropogenic or not — by migration. Isn’t that how early man survived the ice age, after all? It shouldn’t need pointing out: as a race, we’ve survived climate change before. And we survived it with far less technology and resources than we now posses.
So, in order to take Stern seriously, we must presuppose too much. We can only arrive at a position in which we trust Stern after too much circular reasoning. We can trust Stern because of his authority, or we trust him because we presuppose the bleak things he presupposes. But we can’t trust him for having made a sound argument.
As the political ambitions of Stern and Co have failed, so they have escalated the drama in their depiction of the future. As Stern finds it harder to make convincing and coherent arguments, so the worse the future becomes in his view. What Stern expresses then, is not ‘science’, nor even coherent economics. It is just the ravings of a lunatic, the same as any religious nut-case in a sandwich board bearing the words, REPENT: the end is nigh! The man in the sandwich board, and Lord Nicholas Stern say more about themselves than they say about the end.