British PM, David Cameron has written to his Australian Counterpart, Julia Gilllard, to congratulate her on her climate change policy — the Carbon Tax. The Sydney Morning Herald says,

“Your announcement sends a strong and clear signal that Australia is determined to make its contribution to addressing this challenge,” he said. “It will add momentum to those, in both the developed and developing world, who are serious about dealing with this urgent threat.”

Mr Cameron’s letter, dated July 22, is the second high-profile endorsement for Labor’s carbon tax plans in less than a week, after former British Labour prime minister Tony Blair, in Australia for a series of corporate speaking events, said reducing carbon-fuel dependence was an “intelligent” move being adopted around the world, during a joint press conference with Ms Gillard.

It ought to be funny that one PM who failed to win sufficient seats to win the election without forming a coalition is congratulating another in the same position, for her indifference to public opinion. David Vote-Blue-Go-Green Cameron, like his predecessors Brown and Blair have presided over a growing chasm that exists between the public and the political establishment. As I pointed out in the previous post, the UK’s energy and climate policies have resulted in rising prices, millions of UK households living in ‘fuel poverty’, and the possibility that energy intensive industries will leave these shores at the expense of many thousands of jobs, yet the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change’s priorities are with the mitigation of climate change. Climate change policies epitomise the indifference of politicians to the public’s concerns. Criticism of their policies is waved away as so much ‘denial’ of ‘the science’.

Nigel Lawson has stepped into the debate with some interesting comments in reply to Cameron’s letter. Says The Australian

While Baroness Thatcher was at the forefront of Britain’s moves to set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Lord Lawson said her motivation was to challenge the coalmining union and at the same raise support for nuclear power as a clean energy replacement for coal.

If there’s anybody still reading this blog who holds with the ‘watermelon thesis’ of environmentalism (why do it to yourself, why?), I’m sure the irony will be lost on them. Says Lawson…

“I was as close to Margaret Thatcher as anybody at the time. The fact is initially she felt this issue needed to be looked into, but she was agnostic as to whether it was a serious problem or not.

“She was instrumental in having the IPCC set up, but it has changed greatly from what she intended as a fact finding organisation to become a lobby group.”

“She did have reason for highlighting the possibility of global warming because the biggest threat to the UK energy security at the time was the stranglehold the Marxist National Union of Mine Workers had on the coal industry.

“She felt Britain should not be so dependent on coal. She was in favour of building up nuclear energy to break the dependence on coal and the main opposition to nuclear came from the environment movement. Mrs Thatcher thought she could trap them with the carbon emissions argument.”

The ‘watermelon theory’ holds that environmentalism is the reincarnation of Marxism. Yet here we have a former senior UK politician — the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Thatcher — claiming that the UK political establishment absorbed environmentalism in order to win a political battle against Marxism and/or organised labour.

This blog has long argued that the climate is a proxy issue for vacuous politics. And here we hear it first hand: the UK political establishment’s emphasis on climate change has its origins in attempts to do politics by other means; and it was not Marxists who were smuggling their agendas into the public sphere under cover of ‘science’, but their opponents. I don’t say it to divide the debate, or to blame one putative ‘side’ for the ascendency of environmentalism. I say it to show that the climate debate never has and doesn’t now divide on left-right lines, and to point out that what has driven it — its dynamic — is vacuity.

The truth of the matter is, that by the time Thatcher went Green, the Left in the UK was in complete ruins. In fact, the unions and the Labour Party were already at their historical weakest by the time she arrived at number 10. She is remembered as a strong and combative leader, but public confidence in her, too, was often the lowest for any previous prime minister. Thatcher appeared popular, however, because of the fact that UK general elections are lost, not won: the Labour Party and the unions were simply less popular even than she. She might have been able to continue her political project unhindered, were it not for the reality that having defeated the left, her political project was left without its own purpose. The fight with the Left had given her project identity, but it was negatively-defined. Thatcher’s greening, then, owes less to a struggle with the reds — they had already gone — and more to do with the fact that blue had faded too. Like each Prime Minister since, she failed to connect with those below, and so reached for the skies for help.

Mr. President, the Royal Society’s Fellows and other scientists, through hypothesis, experiment and deduction have solved many of the world’s problems.

Recently three changes in atmospheric chemistry have become familiar subjects of concern. The first is the increase in the greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons—which has led some to fear that we are creating a global heat trap which could lead to climatic instability. We are told that a warming effect of 1°C per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope. Such warming could cause accelerated melting of glacial ice and a consequent increase in the sea level of several feet over the next century. This was brought home to me at the Commonwealth Conference in Vancouver last year when the President of the Maldive Islands reminded us that the highest part of the Maldives is only six feet above sea level. The population is 177,000. It is noteworthy that the five warmest years in a century of records have all been in the 1980s—though we may not have seen much evidence in Britain!

[...]

In studying the system of the earth and its atmosphere we have no laboratory in which to carry out controlled experiments. We have to rely on observations of natural systems. We need to identify particular areas of research which will help to establish cause and effect. We need to consider in more detail the likely effects of change within precise timescales. And to consider the wider implications for policy—for energy production, for fuel efficiency, for reforestation. This is no small task, for the annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide alone is of the order of three billion tonnes. And half the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution remains in the atmosphere. We have an extensive research programme at our meteorological office and we provide one of the world’s four centres for the study of climatic change. We must ensure that what we do is founded on good science to establish cause and effect.

[...]

The Government espouses the concept of sustainable economic development.

Stable prosperity can be achieved throughout the world provided the environment is nutured and safeguarded.

Protecting this balance of nature is therefore one of the great challenges of the late Twentieth Century and one in which I am sure your advice will be repeatedly sought.

Reading Thatcher’s 1988 speech to the Royal Society with the benefit of 23 years hindsight, it seems littered with eco-clichés. And for an ‘agnostic’, as Lawson now describes her, she seems committed to the tenets of ecologism: the precautionary principle and ‘sustainable development’. It was just a year earlier that Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Norwegian Prime Minister, had completed her report for the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, in which sustainable development is defined, and proposed as the organising principle of domestic and international policies.

If we take Lawson’s argument seriously, the watermelon theory is yet more roundly defeated. By 1988, the UK Left is in ruins, and the Soviet Union is yet to fall, but it is now that the process of establishing supranational political institutions to deal with climate really begins — the creation of the IPCC, for instance. In short, it was a domestic crisis which causes the climate to become the #1 international issue. Moreover, science had been recruited into Thatcher’s war against the non-existent Marxists: she had given the Royal Society a purpose. It now had ‘relevance’ –the poisonous category that now dominates research in almost all disciplines — to public policy.

That the Royal Society was recruited into a political project comes as no surprise to many of us. Though it is a point which is lost on them and the many scientists wheeled out to comment on climate matters. As I have argued here previously, the current President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, is as oblivious to the political nature of his function, and the influence that environmental ideology has over him.

Nurse might argue that this reorganisation of political life around environmental issues comes with the blessing of scientific authority, and that it is science which identified the need to adjust our lifestyles and economy. But the greening of domestic and international politics preceded any science. The concept of ‘sustainability’ was an established part of the international agenda long before the IPCC produced an ‘unequivocal’ consensus on climate; the IPCC was established to create a consensus for political ends. Nurse, nearly recognising science’s role in the legitimisation of such political ecology, worries about loss of trust. If scientists are not ‘open about everything they do’, he says, ‘then the conversation will be dominated by people driven by politics and ideology’. But it is already ‘driven by politics and ideology’; it’s simply that Nurse does not recognise environmentalism as political or ideological, and he does not notice himself reproducing environmental politics and ideology. The loss of trust he now observes is not the consequence of politics and ideology, but the all too visible attempt to hide it behind science and highly emotive images of catastrophe. If the presidents of science academies want their trust back, they will first have to admit to the politicisation of their function in an atmosphere of distrust. Nullius in verba, indeed.

Nurse, like his predecessors, had entered the climate debate with guns blazing, though not blazing quite as ferociously. There is now a peculiar story, that reflected the politicisation of the Royal Society’s function, and its causes, in an unpleasant symmetry. As I argued on Spiked, the incautious remarks made by the RS’s presidents had done more to undermine science in the public mind than anything any climate change ‘denier’ had ever said:

The science academy had attached itself to a side in the climate war. It was now not only identifying the basis on which the climate-related political institutions would be built – defining the defining issue – it was identifying the enemy of that process and engaging them in battle. But rather than cementing the foundations of these political institutions, the Royal Society had undermined them. The aggressive position it had assumed had shown that science is a corruptible institution. The claim was that the ‘deniers’ had particular motivations, and so produced bad science. But the Society’s position rested on the assumption that climate scientists were unimpeachably honest.

By the time the Society published Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide in 2007, it had polarised the climate debate into camps divided by simple, cartoonish categories: ‘scientists’ and ‘deniers’. One side was dispassionate, objective, and not motivated in the slightest by financial interests or political ideas; the other consisted of nothing less than scientific prostitutes peddling lies. But most of all, the Royal Society had created an expectation that science could produce unambiguous and instructive moral and political statements.

The events since winter 2009 have demonstrated that these standards and expectations were unrealistic. Science did not consist of pure, virtuous individuals, who were impartially and dispassionately informing the debate with unimpeachable evidence. Science could not provide a basis for the construction of new, climate-change-solving political institutions. Claims had been made on behalf of the scientific consensus which simply didn’t stand up to closer inspection.

The new report issued by the Royal Society at the end of last month is more circumspect than its predecessors. Gone are the claims made about ‘myths’ and financial interests contaminating scientific objectivity. It now presents ‘the science’ within three categories of certainty: ‘aspects of climate change on which there is wide agreement’; ‘aspects of climate change where there is a wide consensus but continuing debate and discussion’; and ‘aspects that are not well understood’. This restatement will say little to anybody with an existing knowledge of the issues it relates to, and so the document looks now more like a rearguard action designed to define permissible areas of debate and discussion.

In a similar move, the BBC published its new guidelines, which promise that its coverage of climate issues will be more ‘inclusive’, and ‘ensure the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected’. The hitherto unchallengeable IPCC – the body that produces the ‘scientific consensus’ – has announced in the wake of criticism that the teams constructing its next report will take ‘guidance’ on the inclusion of non-peer-reviewed literature, the way it handles uncertainty, and its error-checking.

In autumn last year, it looked as though public institutions such as the BBC and the Royal Society might be at last moderating their positions. Then came Paul Nurse’s silly Horizon film, in which he claimed there had been an ‘attack on science’. The BBC and the Royal Society have merely regrouped, only having offered to relax their zeal on the belief that they had been damaged by ‘sceptics’, rather than by their own actions embarrassing them. One reason for this inability to self-reflect just may be the fact that without overweening crises — i.e. climate change — public institutions and roles are not easily justified. The BBC guidelines offered hope that a more nuanced public debate might be possible. But if it did so, it would bring it into conflict with the entire establishment… Chief amongst them, the coalition government’s fragile claims to certainty regarding the most expensive policies ever conceived: a commitment to nearly 20 years of expensive renewable energy policies. But not just that. There isn’t a public institution in the UK which hasn’t been organised on the basis that ‘climate change is the biggest threat facing mankind’. Entire university departments have reinvented themselves as ‘relevant’. The relationship between individuals and local government has been reorganised around the climate issue. And nominatively democratic nation states now defer to supranational institutions and panels of scientific experts, rather than to democratic processes, to determine their direction.

There is simply too great an institutional need of climate change to allow public service broadcasting to start challenging the orthodoxy. Hell, even the evil news barons, the Murdochs, disgraced over the phone-hacking scandal are committed environmentalists. Yet those screaming for their scalps, and protesting at their influence over the UK media did not notice, and were convinced instead that a Murdoch controlled BSkyB would lead inevitably to the UK becoming a hotbed of climate change denial. Meanwhile, the Murdoch’s great enemy, the British Broadcasting Corporation published Steve Jones’ review of its coverage of scientific issues. Jones claimed,

Things are, perhaps, improving. Lord Monckton is, without doubt, a man who adds to the gaiety of nations and is a skilled communicator of his views. However, a recent BBC Four investigation (“Meet the Climate Sceptics”, Storyville, 31st Jan 2011) of his activities made his isolation from mainstream beliefs very clear. A 2011 Horizon in which the President of the Royal Society interviewed other climate sceptics also revealed their marginal position. A submission made to this Review by Andrew Montford and Tony Newbery (both active in the anti‐global‐warming movement, and the former the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science) devotes much of its content to criticising not the data on temperatures but the membership of a BBC seminar on the topic in 2006, and to a lengthy discussion as to whether its Environment Analyst was carrying out BBC duties or acting as a freelance during an environment programme at Cambridge University. The factual argument, even for activists, appears to be largely over but parts of the BBC are taking a long time to notice.

It seemed beyond Jones’ genius to notice that at least two of the few programmes he could find which seemingly gave a voice to ‘deniers’ — Meet the Climate Sceptics, and Paul Nurse’s Horizon episode — were polemic hatchet jobs. Far from giving a voice to sceptics’ arguments, then, these shows offered only a caricature of their personalities: to set them up as fools, rather than engage them in debate, to make statements about ‘denial’ in general. What Jones misses, then, is that the substance of the debate is hidden behind the ‘fact’ of climate change, reduced, such as it is, to the binary, true-false calculation. Assuming that no BBC executive or producer possess any greater brain-power than he, it is safe to assume that any criticism of climate change policy will be taken as a defacto position of climate change denial.

Here, for example, is Ed Miliband, as former Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2009, hiding from Nigel Lawson’s criticism of his policies behind ‘science’.

Miliband says, ‘The problem is, Lord Lawson, that you’re trying to spread doubt where in fact there is as close as you can get to a scientific consensus’. Lawson makes the important point that development — or lack of it — is the major problem facing billions of people. Miliband insists, however, that it is ‘science’ which has determined the problem — in this case access to water –and that Lawson ‘doubts’. Yet it is necessarily true that if you remove the problem of lack of development, you reduce the degree to which climate change is a problem. And Jones, too, seems to fail to grasp this point that climate change may well be a ‘fact’, but that the extent to which this fact is a problem depends on when and where it is experienced. That is to say that we can’t understand climate change in terms of pure material science: it’s impacts are determined primarily by social factors, and only then by the material nature of the phenomenon.

It comes as a great surprise to me that Professor Steve Jones is not capable of understanding the point, and prefers instead the binary treatment of the issue. This binary treatment runs as follows. It divides the debate into two simple camps, one attached to the claim ‘climate change is happening’, the other its denial. The former camp has been criticised here for the necessary implication that the significance of the claim is only a given if it is true that the sensitivity of human society to climate change is equivalent to the sensitivity of the climate to CO2. That is the presupposition of climate change alarmism. Lord Lawson recognises that the presupposition is false, and so do many others, including ‘libertarian conservatives’ who Jones identifies as most strongly representing climate change ‘denial’. In this respect, then, ‘libertarian conservatives’ are more progressive than their counterparts on the ecological left. The debate divides on this presupposition, not the ‘scientific’ fact of climate change. It is a shame that Jones is not a capable enough thinker to recognise it.

It is a surprise to me that Jones takes this ignorant position, because his discussions about race in the 1990s and early 2000s appealed to me, and influenced my thinking not just of genetics and the environment (he was very critical of George Monbiot, for instance), it also struck me as a criticism of the naturalised view of the social world — i.e. determinism and scientism. Here is Jones in the 1990s, talking about Charles Murray’s book, The Bell Curve, which Jones reads (rightly, in my view) as an attempt to give scientific credibility to racist ideas.

people who try to disect genes from environment are wasting their time. [...] you can’t separate the two. I sometimes jokingly say … that scientists … discovered and sequenced the gene for crime. And they did. I can assure you that … in thousands of laboratories around the world, there is a copy of the gene for crime. And what is that gene? Well, the logic is simple. Nearly all criminals are male. And that’s, true, okay. All males, which is what makes them male, have a tiny segment of DNA… the logic is impeccable, we have the gene that makes embyos that when they’re in a very early phase female, into male; all criminals are male; therefore we have the gene for crime. But of course, most males aren’t criminals. Crime is not a biological phenomenon alone. It’s a biological and social phenomenon.

[...]

In Japan in the [1950s], the mean IQ score of Japanese kids was around 100. Now it’s around 111. Now what’s happened? Has there been a sudden burst of genetic change in Japan? Some evolution? Of course there hasn’t, the schools have got better, right. So you can change IQ, although it’s inheireted, you can absolutely change it, by changing the environment.

[...]

In the US today, there is a prominent and growing class of young Asians who have high IQs and are being … socially very successful. And nobody disputes that’s tue. [Murray] says that genetics and IQ are intimately linked — these people have good genes. Well, 20 or 30 years ago, therefore, their parents had no doubt good genes. That’s what genetics is all about. They were down there struggling among the poor. I didn’t see Charles Murray and his gang out there saying ‘this is terrible, there are clever people out there among the poor, let’s help them’. There was a strange silence. And it’s, I’m afraid, a classic case of the rich — those with power — blaming the problems of the country, or the problems of the world economy on the poor. Well, I’m afraid it ain’t like that. And genetics doesn’t tell us anything about economic and social problems.

To deny that race has a scientific basis seems to insult our faculties of sense. We can see racial characteristics, and that they are inherited. Yet the attempt to define race in scientific terms yields little if any meaningful or useful value — our social environment counts for so much more. Similarly, we all have a rough and ready account of ‘climate’ in our heads, which like ‘race’ we experience through our senses, and both are closely linked to our understanding of history. We can see very easily that climatic processes are apparently conditions of our existence: the weather changes, and brings us water to drink, or to irrigate fields, or sunshine to help crops grow and so on. But what is harder to see is that the real fundamental is social organisation. It’s not the weather that brings crops to market; it’s people. It is sad to see that Jones does much to show that ‘race’ is a socially-constructed idea — or ‘ideological’ in some way — but fails to see the same in the understanding of the ‘climate’. I wonder how much more a robust scientific concept ‘climate’ is than ‘race’. That’s not to say ‘there’s no such thing as climate’, but that even scientists are vulnerable to ideology, and go looking to substantiate their prejudices, just as Murray — and countless eugenicists before him — did. And we all know about those orthodoxies.

An interesting historical background exists to this idea that we are dependent on the climate. We could go back forever, but today’s events — ridiculous climate policies, ranty scientists dictating the terms of public service broadcasting, isolated and self-serving politicians and so on — can be understood by looking more carefully at what produced them: the industrial conflicts in the UK in the 1970s, and the fight between Thatcher and the Left in the 1980s. Following those disputes, scientific institutions are recruited into a political project. Their members’ insights into the material world become a new basis for the creation and legitimation of political institutions. In the process,the business of politics became increasingly removed from the concerns of everyday life. Politics and science became preoccupied with the security of the environment, on which it imagined we all depend. But in reality, it was the idea of this dependence itself which public institutions in turn depended on. The crisis was in politics, not in the atmosphere. Now, the defence of the idea has become a battle to defend those institutions and their political power, because without the idea of a looming crisis, they are like the naked emperor.

Steve Jones, upset by the criticism of his report, has penned an angry reply.

The system shows how uneasy is the ground beneath our feet. The Earth’s shape changes as its continental plates move, and the growing bulge as they strain against each other may soon mean that, for the first time, an earthquake can be predicted (but not, alas, a tsunami, for the GPS beam cannot penetrate water). Alarmingly, the patterns of movement suggest that an unexpectedly large seismic shock may soon be due on the eastern side of the Andes, not too far from where Wallace himself made his early collections. The system does the same for volcanic eruptions, for it reveals that volcanoes heave and sag over many centimetres as the molten rock deep below swells and shrinks. Parts of Etna, for example, are slumping at around 20cm a year, which means that it will probably not erupt any time soon. GPS shows also that volcanic islands such as Tahiti are sinking into the Earth’s crust, but at no more than 5cm a century.

Jones makes an appeal to our sense of unease about the world. The ‘ground beneath our feet’ is ‘uneasy’. Science says so. Trust in science. The scientist is either a victim or a propagandist of the politics of fear. But as he penned his angry reply, Etna spewed lava hundred of feet into the air. Jones seems unaware of what is going on in the world now, never mind his grasp of science’s predictive skills. The human race has survived volcanoes before, and got better and better at it — thanks largely to science. Yet Jones and other climate alarmists — because that is what he is — now want to use science to create the view that we’re more vulnerable than ever before. He does so in defence of a political idea, and of institutions that no longer beleive in finding ways of making life better. They would prefer instead to keep things the same.

71 Responses to The PM, Her Chancellor, the Royal Society, its Geneticists & the BBC

  • This is the second post you’ve made about watermelons and I can see now where you’re coming from. You’re being too precise about the meaning ‘red’. Red is a way of behaving, not a political straight jacket. It doesn’t matter who started the IPCC, it only matters what it does now. It wants to create rules for people who haven’t voted for them. Environmentalists want to closely define what a person can have and where they can travel. They are creating a hierarchy of un-elected busybodies who will report on you to the state. They want to redistribute the global wealth, regardless who deserves it or who deserves to pay. They want to limit human population but they’re too shy to come right out with it. They are most definitely anti capitalist, even if AGW makes some of its members obscenely rich. Some deserve more for their devotion to the cause.

    Personally I never use watermelon, simply because I’m not American and I’m not obsessed with communism but I would say that many environmentalists are left wing (democrat) in their outlook. If there’s a group of individuals that think communists moved into environmentalism as some kind of plot, I’ve not heard it mentioned but it would be a natural place for them to migrate if they were missing a totalitarian state.

  • There’s a record of an interview with Steve Jones on a website called YS Journal (“For young scientists by young scientists”) – it’s a really long link, so I’ve tinyurled it:
    http://tinyurl.com/3npphj5

    It reads rather oddly at times, and doesn’t appear to have been proof-read, but if accurate (caveat lector, as always), it affords us a few insights into Prof. Jones’s mindset.

    On human evolution: “Given what we know about nuclear weapons, stupidity of politicians and the ability of humans to kill each other, I have to say that I think evolution is going to come to an end and quite soon.”

    However, he appears to contradict himself a few lines later: “And I think what ever happens to of [sic] global warming, unless it finally goes completely out of control, for those who can afford it we’ll continue to do that. We’ll spend more on air conditioning which would probably make it worse. So I think that we’re uniquely flexible in that respect, which isn’t to say I’m not worried about global warming as I am but I think we’ll be the last species to go extinct.”

    On the subject of global warming and other species:

    “I thinks [sic] that it will kill them off; the observation is that ecology is a much more volatile process than evolution. What happens is that when you get climate change, you get ecology changing much quicker than organisms will adapt. The classic example is the Sahara desert ten thousand years ago was an open lightly watered savannah, it was then overgrazed by humans and then turned into desert, it wasn’t the case savannah plants evolved to overcome over grazing they have to some degree over millions of years but it was too quick. Some creatures will evolve to some degree but I don’t think they’ll keep up with the changes in ecology, in that respect. Having written my coral book, the subtitle which is “the pessimistic paradise”, it transpires coral is much more interesting than I previously thought but the last chapter is about the corals being doomed and take it form [sic] me corals are doomed and didn’t think they were until I started looking into it, the story is very very gloomy indeed. And that’s ecology they are simply not keeping up with climate change, given time they might evolve themselves back but they haven’t the time.”

    The “coral book” is “Coral: A Pessimist in Paradise”, published in 2007. There’s a review of it on the Guardian, here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/mar/17/featuresreviews.guardianreview7

    “The coral of the title provides a rather loose link for a series of ruminations on natural history and global change. The pessimistic conclusion is that we humans are doomed, sooner or later – and probably sooner. The death of the coral that is happening now is a herald of what will ultimately happen to us all. The message is neither new nor cheering, but it is very well told.

    Corals trap carbon dioxide in their limestone skeletons, so another link introduces an account of the current crisis in the atmosphere – organisms have been on hand to remove excessive gas in the geological past, but we are now headed for a crisis to match the great extinctions of many millions of years ago.”

    Here are some quotes from the book itself (again, a caveat – these are gathered from the internet, as I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to, soon.):

    “Life has seen five major extinctions since it began. The reefs have been witnesses to them all and are now horrified onlookers to the sixth. They remind us of our own fragility and of how a Garden of Eden can so easily be destroyed. Those who live upon such places, or study them, are right to feel a certain sense of gloom.”

    “Corals have always been the canary in the ecological coal mine. There have been five great extinctions throughout the history of life and, in every single one of them, the first to go has been the corals.”

    “They show a forthcoming disaster and very often it has to do with global warming. Coral bleaching is a harbinger of another mass extinction.”

    On the subject of climate change, there is little to separate Steve Jones’s opinions from the conclusions of the recent IPSO report. On the SeaMonster site, Alex Rogers writes, similarly, that it seems inevitable that coral reef ecosystems will “go”. Terry Hughes, coral reef ecosystem expert, writes: “Go where exactly? The answer is they’ll go to a new configuration of species. Ecosystems don’t disappear, they change.”

    In other words, there is a spectrum of scientific opinion on the subject, and Steve Jones occupies a point close to the pessimistic extreme. Coral reefs are doomed; they will all “go”. Most other species will similarly “go”, being unable to adapt to global warming. Human beings are “uniquely flexible” (he gives us that) but we’ll probably be the last to “go” in the end, if “nuclear weapons, stupidity of politicians and the ability of humans to kill each other” don’t kill us off sooner.

    The science says we’re probably doomed, according to Steve Jones, so his logic would dictate, would it not, that anyone arguing differently ought to be in the “denier”, rather than the “climate change is happening”, pigeonhole and should not be given airtime by the BBC. That’s how I’m interpreting his position, anyway.

  • TinyCO2 – You’re being too precise about the meaning ‘red’. Red is a way of behaving, not a political straight jacket. It doesn’t matter who started the IPCC, it only matters what it does now.

    I think it is important to understand where environmentalism comes from. That’s the point of this blog. It’s no good just speculating about what environmentalists want. It’s important to know how they got there — how the ideas developed, and in what circumstances.

  • Alex — another interesting link. I have to admit to having missed Jones’ interventions in the climate debate until the BBC thing, and now this bizarre text you’ve discovered. Typical of the BBC to appoint someone from the hysterical end to review their science policy.

  • Ben, an interesting and thought-provoking post as always. It’s an interesting twist on the ‘watermelon’ theory, but your view of the Left refers to a specific historical period. As you point out, Thatcher effectively destroyed the trade unions and what passed for Left at the time. You refer to them as the Marxist Left, but a more accurate term might be Marxist-Leninist or Leninist. It was a Left that was embedded in class-war politics. However, partly in response to existing political developments on the Left, and partly in response to the defeat of the trade unions and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Left changed. The role of identity politics replaced class as a central theme of the Left. The ideology of multi-culturalism replaced the existing ‘race and class’ view of anti-racism. And environmentalism emerged as a dominant theme where once it had been incidental. Large parts of the Left are no longer interested in class or class war. These days Red can refer as much to members of the conservative or lib-dem parties as it can to members of the Labour, Green or SWP parties.

    The coincidence of race and environment emerged recently in the story of ‘conservative white males’ and climate change. I examine the links here:

    http://progcontra.blogspot.com/2011/08/climate-change-in-black-and-white.html

    I also think the point you make about the fixed binary view of climate change politics is of central importance. In the same way that analysing politics in simplistic Left/Right terms is meaningless (at the very least you need to think in terms of libertarian/authoritarian as additional axes), so analysing climate change in terms of the importance of CO2 serves to obscure a wider range of possible responses to the science and to social policy.

  • I had penned a long statement but it was boring. The short answer is that when NASA knew ‘back radiation’ was a mathematical mistake from 1922 [Milne] and what’s supposed to hide high feedback CO2-AGW, the cloud part of ‘global dimming’, is another mistake [Sagan], it put out incorrect ‘surface reflection’ physics. This deceived the rest and AR4 got the false claim of high feedback.

    The reality is that CO2-GW is low, perhaps net zero due to the atmosphere of a water planet controlling itself to give constant IR optical depth, fixed greenhouse heating independently of minor GHGs – see Miskolczi who in 2004 NASA tried to silence by stopping him from publishing.

    Late 20th Century warming was probably Asian aerosols causing clouds to pass more energy, not less. This real AGW pops out when you correct Sagan’s physics and explains why the polluted northern hemisphere has warmed more than the south, also fast heating of ocean deeps at the end of the last ice age started 1300 years before air temperature rose, 2100 before [CO2] rose. CO2-GW has to give way. The real [bio-feedback] explanation is there; just needs linking.

    S0, 30+ years after what had been a genuine scientific mistake, a decision was made by insiders to carry out a finesse. By corrupting peer review they’ve maintained control. Cameron’s 22 July letter to Gillard shows how well these people pushed science they knew was junk.

    Nurse and Jones were apparently sucked in on the basis of understandable reaction to what they perceive as unfairness. However, those who have really gone into the physics [they can't] are coming down hard on sloppy, politicised work which degenerated into shameful unprofessionalism.

    When Jones et. al. learn the truth, they’ll be very quiet at the extent of this attack on the credibility, basic competence and honesty of science.

    As always, the astute [Trenberth?, Hulme?] are distancing themselves. The Met. Office has reportedly gone to 50% solar, 50% CO2 and as it becomes politically possible, it’ll probably drop CO2 to the correct level. Hansen’s latest move has been to claim ‘cloud albedo effect’ cooling has doubled, but the paper ‘proving’ it, from Michigan State, is more turgid modelling nonsense.

  • Re: Alex Cull’s typically astute observation of Jones’ ramblings on matters environmental, does anyone know whether the following apparently wild assertion from Jones has any foundation other than pure speculation?

    “The classic example is the Sahara desert ten thousand years ago was an open lightly watered savannah, it was then overgrazed by humans and then turned into desert,….”

    Of course there is no dispute about the relatively recent desertification of the Sahara region, but the suggested anthropogenic cause … ? What Jones is saying sounds like the kind of myth that you can pick up on any of the less responsible environmentalist websites, and which a scientist should be suspicious about. Yet this is a scientist who has been entrusted with reviewing the integrity of our national broadcaster’s coverage of science, much of which is presently leading public policy.

  • The Sahal is currently greening. It’s all to do with where the downward dry air from the Hadley cells comes to the surface. When solar energy was greater 10,000 years’ ago, it was the Mediterranean sea, not the Sahara: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png

    The graph shows a bit of current warming as we get back to that 10,000 year temperature, but the World is now cooling as solar output falls. If we’re lucky, we’ll get about 0.2K CO2-AGW by the end of this century, but expect by 2030-2040 temperatures to fall to the level of the mid-19th Century and the Sahal to become desert again.

  • “The classic example is the Sahara desert ten thousand years ago was an open lightly watered savannah, it was then overgrazed by humans and then turned into desert,….”

    Well, presumably it was overgrazed by sheep, not humans.

    The Sahara desert was desert in early Egyptian times, long before any over-grazing could have become an issue.

    I believe the Libyan and Tunisian part has become drier in human history, but the desert was always there. It’s an issue of the way the winds circulate.

  • Ben, thank you very much for alerting me to the Cameron support for Gillard and especially to Lawson’s response. I regret though that you left out these parts of what Lawson said:

    ‘Lord Lawson said Baroness Thatcher made her position clear in her memoirs and her later book Statecraft.

    Lord Lawson said that in Statecraft Baroness Thatcher had said she had moved from agnostic on climate change to sceptical. The accounts that are given in the current debate in Australia were seriously misleading. “I think it is unfortunate to use her in that way, particularly given she is not in any position to answer back.”‘

    I’m old enough to remember the time Thatcher ‘went green’ and I also eagerly bought Statecraft when it came out. I was delighted to see Maggie citing Richard Lindzen and others as she advanced the watermelon thesis of global warning mania in that – there’s now no other word for it!

    I have my own views of what was going on in 1988. One thing I felt at the time and still feel is that Thatcher was aware of the pressure from international organisations and the cosy interlocking ‘think tanks’ that have traditionally tried to shape them for a big ‘push’ on green matters. She wanted her man in at the top. I don’t think John Houghton was such a good choice as it turned out. That it is valid to criticise Thatcher for.

    While I accept the rest of what Lawson says about the matter, I think it’s very parochial indeed to think that the IPCC would not have come into existence if it wasn’t for Maggie. She was going along to try and shape the thing in a sensible direction. But folks like Heseltine, Howe and Lawson (I’m afraid) made sure of her early demise – all because she stubbornly held to the view that the Euro and its precursors would be a disaster. Hmm, wonder who was right about that.

    Vacuity is right for many but you may already have picked up that I don’t think it applies to one of the crucial players involved.

  • TonyN, Mooloo, re the Sahara, I wonder if Steve Jones is conflating two separate things entirely. One is the deterioration of “range lands” on the margins of the desert, which can be caused by overgrazing, and the other is the shifting of the African monsoon over millennia, due to Milankovitch cycles, first northwards (creating conditions for lush vegetation, etc,) then southwards, creating the desert.

    Ironically, the BBC have a good explanation of the monsoon shifts on their weather blog “23 Degrees”:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/23degrees/2011/06/will_monsoons_once_again_retur.html

    It certainly looks as though he is no more knowledgeable on the subject of desertification, than he is on the subject of volcanism or the matter of pendulum clocks on sailing ships; the problem, however, is that he has authority vested in him as a scientist, and his pronouncements, no matter how speculative or bizarre they might be, carry weight.

  • ProgContra – … your view of the Left refers to a specific historical period. As you point out, Thatcher effectively destroyed the trade unions and what passed for Left at the time. You refer to them as the Marxist Left, but a more accurate term might be Marxist-Leninist or Leninist

    It’s Lawson, not me, who refers to ‘Marxists’. I suggest that they’re barely anything at all — unions who are no more popular with their base than Thatcher with the public. The importance of Lawson’s point is to speak to the current tendency who insist on imposing their preferred coordinates over the debate and its history. Lawson saw Thatcher’s emphasis on climate change as a response to the Left/Marxists, whereas the watermelon thesis holds that the left created the emphasis on the climate/environment. Lawson shows us this view is bust.

    Your point about the post-political era of the left — which is one I’ve made here, but which you make more effectively at your post about ‘conservative white males’ — is important. Multiculturalism — which you refer to — is also developed in Canada, by (nominative) conservatives, and introduced to the UK by Conservatives, but taken up enthusiastically by the (nominative/post-political) left. There’s a peculiar a-political consensus between ‘left’ and ‘right’, then, which emerges during (or perhaps begins before) Thatcher’s government. As your blog argues, ‘the terms left-wing and right-wing have lost any meaning whatsoever…’. Of course the Left absorbed ideological multiculturalism, but the point of your argument must mean that the Right (or at least the established Right) did also.

    These days Red can refer as much to members of the conservative or lib-dem parties as it can to members of the Labour, Green or SWP parties.

    So, then, just as the coordinates ‘left’ and ‘right’ are redundant, so too is the category ‘red’ aka green, which is taken as counter-posed to ‘blue’. As you ask on your blog, ‘is there any fundamental fault line that means anything politically any more?’… My old politics lecturer called them ‘cleavages’. The answer then, is that these simple categories do not do as much to explain the debate as they do to obfuscate it. Even the category ‘green’ isn’t much use, it being a nebulous concept at best, and as I claim, ‘a symptom, not a cause’. The point being that there’s nothing particular, as such, about environmentalism, but that it epitomises the problems of contemporary western politics.

    There is a tendency of some sceptics to see the climate debate as a continuation of the left vs right struggle of the early C20th and before. ‘Red’ does serve in this perspective as a synonym of ‘Left’, as countless discussions below the posts here attest. In this respect, some sceptics have been complicit with the parts of the green movement who also want to resurrect those categories to give historical context to the debate. I call it ‘pastiche politics’, in which the protagonists of this reconstruction dress up as historical figures, and flatter themselves with comparisons to historic struggles. This puts the putative ecological left in some absurd game of fancy-dress and make-beleive, but it leaves the putative ‘right’ in the equally absurd position of arguing with ghosts.

  • TonyN – Of course there is no dispute about the relatively recent desertification of the Sahara region, but the suggested anthropogenic cause … ?

    I think Prof. Philip Stott has done some work — a fair while ago — which shows that there are perfectly natural cycles of forest-savannah-desert. I cannot find it, however.

  • A fascinating post, but missing the mark in parts. To follow on from Progcontra’s remarks, timing is everything.

    You’re too kind to Nurse and Jones. The Royal Society has indeed been naive in being co-opted by Nurse, but his naivety is questionable and certainly has precedent. You ignore the history of Marxist influence in British science itself, going back to the hugely influential Social Relations of Science movement of the ’30’s and ’40’s. Dozens of articles and books by the likes of Bernal, Haldane, Huxley and others (Bernal in particular; a brilliant molecular biologist who became pre-eminent in the SRS movement) created a Marxist analysis of Science’s role in society that determined much of political and social thought amongst academic scientists right up to the ’70’s. This was the academic environment that inculcated Paul Nurse and Steve Jones. The Paul Nurse who sold copies of Socialist Worker and took part in occupying the Vice-Chancellor’s office at Birmingham University. The Paul Nurse who proudly proclaimed his refusal to work in the private sector and welcomed political activism amongst scientists, not to mention the Steve Jones who described private schools as a “cancer on the education system” on a Radio 5 interview. They are anything but oblivious to the political nature of their function and the Marxist influence over science has it’s roots in the ’30’s, not the anti-capitalism a la mode of the Green movement. These guys have form and it is naive on our part to ignore it.

    You are, of course, absolutely correct that the origins of AGW are tied up with the cynicism of the Tories in the ’80’s, but that’s only part of the story. Every subsequent lobby and regime has found it the most accommodating Trojan horse imaginable. Increasing taxes, hindering capitalism, arrogating control; every bureaucrat, apparatchik and politician has used that poor nag to further their interests. Watermelons are simply the latest which is why James Delingpole’s observations are still apposite. The dynamic of AGW is not vacuity, but utility.

  • Richard – Lord Lawson said that in Statecraft Baroness Thatcher had said she had moved from agnostic on climate change to sceptical.

    I don’t see the significance. The point about her emphasis on climate is that it was expedient to her political project, whether that was about defeating the (already defeated) Left, or (as I claim) merely about some more internal crisis of identity (i.e. a lack of a ‘project’, which was shared with the public). Having resigned her position and free from pressure, she was of course able to reflect a little more deeply on such politicking and account for it. So she was ‘agnostic’. Blair claimed pretty much the same thing when interviewed by Harrabin last year. Didn’t stop him, though, did it? I’m sure Brown will one day say the same — not that anyone will listen. And so will Cameron. And it will be the same argument Blair used about the War on Terror — they acted on the ‘best available evidence’.

    I have my own views of what was going on in 1988. One thing I felt at the time and still feel is that Thatcher was aware of the pressure from international organisations and the cosy interlocking ‘think tanks’ that have traditionally tried to shape them for a big ‘push’ on green matters.

    My argument is that she — and politicians since — have needed them, hence she helped to create them. The rise of the NGOs and think-tanks is concomitant with a degradation of the relationship between the (increasingly indifferent) political establishment and the (increasingly disengaged) public.

    While I accept the rest of what Lawson says about the matter, I think it’s very parochial indeed to think that the IPCC would not have come into existence if it wasn’t for Maggie.

    I agree. This isn’t about personalities. It’s about politics in the west, which, although increasingly seen through the prism of personality, as though it is individuals and their ‘vision’ which define it, is better characterised as lacking both personalities and vision. I refer also to Gro Harlem Brundtland, — Norwegian PM and author of the UN WCED report, ‘Our Common Future’, which as her speech to the RS in ’88’ shows, Thatcher bought into.

    She was going along to try and shape the thing in a sensible direction.

    I think this is counter-factual. I don’t think she had the foresight, and she evidently lacked the political means. She went green as her own political capital — which in many respects came from without, rather than within — began to diminish. That’s the fundamental dynamic, I argue.

    Vacuity is right for many but you may already have picked up that I don’t think it applies to one of the crucial players involved.

    Indeed, some people still celebrate her. And some hate her with an undignified passion. Both give her far too much credit in my view.

  • There is a tendency of some sceptics to see the climate debate as a continuation of the left vs right struggle of the early C20th and before.

    Very true, Ben. However, if we think in terms of authoritarian/libertarian then there is something to explore. As you, and others, have pointed out there is a strong authoritarian streak in contemporary environmentalism which is as prevalent on the ‘right’ as it is on the ‘left’. If you view the world through left/right lenses then it’s easy to ignore inconvenient facts like nominally right-wing politicians advancing the alarmist cause, or the fact that so many coprorate interests (including big oil) being fully on board the green gravy train.

    However, one of the underlying ideas of the watermelon hypothesis is that thanks to the ‘cultural Marxist’ ascendancy in academia and the media, their ideas have become dominant. I discuss this in the context of science journalism here:

    http://progcontra.blogspot.com/2011/07/science-journalism-and-climate-change.html

    …but I think the idea applies to our political elites as well as to those in the media.

  • Sorry about the messed up italics there…

  • Cameron’s astonishingly public support for Gillard may arise from two factors. One appears to be his reported stubbornness when policies or people he backs are criticised. That his energy policies are under pressure was shown just before Christmas when in an aside about climate change he mentioned ‘if it’s true, but we have to prepare for the worst’.

    The other is probably poor advice. Beddington, an economist, hasn’t the independence to question those to whom he probably turns to for advice on climate. This was shown by his response to Fukushima and the climate programme at Imperial is funded by Grantham, a carbon trader whose Foundation is an unashamed propaganda outfit for the IPCC.

    This is extraordinarily dangerous because by 2020, even without factoring in the rapid cooling we expect in the next, sun-spot free solar cycle, half the population is expected to be in fuel poverty. Add in temperatures on the way to mid-19th Century levels and a wind power system which will be a proxy for c. 82% fossil fuels and new nuclear just emerging, we will probably be on the way towards a million early deaths in the vulnerable old and young.

  • ProgContra — if we think in terms of authoritarian/libertarian then there is something to explore.

    I would count myself as a libertarian. But I wonder if this new political dimension creates a geometry that gives us sufficient depth to understand environmentalism. It certainly gives us something to argue for. Are things simple enough that we can just explain environmentalism as ‘authoritarian’ though? Environmentalists are certainly authoritarian, but not for just one reason, and not just for the hell of it. I think libertarians who deserve the title have an implicit faith in their fellow humans, and environmentalists have a tendency to diminish them, but again, for many and varied reasons — hence it is a symptom, rather than a cause. This is characterised by libertarianism’s detractors as indifference, rather than trust, however, and the claim is that libertarians are ‘politically-motivated’. To this we can reply, of course, that so too are the authoritarian environmentalists. They just don’t recognise it, and beleive that instructions on how to organise society can be ‘read off’ from ‘science’, as though that reading was not vulnerable to any ‘ideological’ filtering.

  • The Jones angry article contained many inaccuracies and mistakes. Interestingly, some seem to have been copied from the world of geology: (see http://gretchen.geo.rpi.edu/roecker/AppGeo96/lectures/gravity/latitude.html which shares similar errors about pendula).

    One wonders if this is example of ‘consensus’ or ‘coinicidence’ – or perhaps Jones in this case is simply a lazy copy-and-paster, like many climatologists.

  • Environmentalists are certainly authoritarian, but not for just one reason, and not just for the hell of it.

    Agreed. I think part of the authoritarian impulse is a pathological fear of uncertainty. We see it in some climate scientists promoting the idea of consensus and a massive down-playing of scientific uncertainty. We see it in policy where there is an irresistable urge to ‘do something’ rather than waiting to see what happens. And, coming back to your final point, it makes authoritarians particularly prone to what Hayek called ‘scientistic’ thinking.

  • Pirran — The Paul Nurse who sold copies of Socialist Worker and took part in occupying the Vice-Chancellor’s office at Birmingham University.

    It’s delicious, if it’s true. But yet, I still can’t imagine the Murdoch’s, Prince Charles, or David Cameron doing the same.

    The point being that what worries me is the desire to locate historic continuity between ideas and movements of the past and present — categories which hold over time. Of course the legacy movements of superficially ‘Marxist’ theories went green. The important thing, though is that everybody went green. We can only locate the continuity between ‘Marxism’ and ‘environmentalism’, then, by ignoring the inconvenient. It is an unfortunate fact, that through green glasses, you can only see red and blue; with blue glasses, you can only see red and green. And with red glasses, you can only see blue and green.

    Most left movements of the 1970s were very hostile to environmentalism. How come they changed? One answer might be that, as those movements lost their purchase and attempted to reformulate their theories, they lost their ability to criticise capitalism, and ended up resorting to a natural perspective. The same tendency occurs on the right: it sought a legitimising basis in ‘science’, rather than its emphasis on tradition, etc. Of course, this picture is painted with a broad brush. The point is intended to illustrate that the desire for permanent historical categories precedes the debate, much as does the idea that the climate debate divides according to the categories ‘scientist’ and ‘denier’.

  • Ben Pile says:

    “It is an unfortunate fact, that through green glasses, you can only see red and blue; with blue glasses, you can only see red and green. And with red glasses, you can only see blue and green.”

    But all can see the advantage of co-opting AGW to their own cause. The left lost their hostility to environmentalism because of the gift of AGW’s implied assault on capitalism. The Cameronian right adopted it because of it’s historic links to Thatcherism, it’s appeal to the young and it’s relative lack of contentious history within the party. It might not be true-blue but at least it wasn’t Europe. The science is almost moot, AGW is just too damned useful.

    Incidentally, the Socialist Worker comment came from a recent interview in the New Statesman, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen it. You just know Paul Nurse goes to bed in a faded “Rock Against Racism” t-shirt – you godda geddown wid de kids, innit?

    http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2011/06/british-science-nurse-society

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  • Pirran — But all can see the advantage of co-opting AGW to their own cause.

    Absolutely, though through the prevailing soft-ideology, than through anything as explicit as the ideological ideas of yesteryear, that those scientists were apparently victims of.

    On that point, I was thinking about your discovery of Nurse, the SWP member, and Jones, the shouty lefty. I think you’re right to say that some scientists have political beliefs. But I don’t think we should be surprised by it, or say that they shouldn’t. I think the problem comes when we imagine that scientists are above that sort of thing, like priests are supposed to be above sin, and so on.

  • Ben Pile says:

    “I think you’re right to say that some scientists have political beliefs. But I don’t think we should be surprised by it, or say that they shouldn’t.”

    Agreed. I would never seek to suppress the political beliefs of individual scientists, but the ubiquity of a a particularly obdurate group-think amongst the most vocal members of the scientific establishment is hard to ignore. That AGW so adroitly alines with many of their own anti-capitalist instincts (whether victims of an age-old Marxist dialectic in science or no) has made the task of being judiciously sceptical almost impossible. Whether Beddington or King, Nurse or Jones, we are all deniers now, simply for posing the question.

  • There’s plenty to discuss there, Pirran. But mostly, I think I would have to say that it’s not “the ubiquity of a a particularly obdurate group-think amongst the most vocal members of the scientific establishment”, nor even “anti-capitalist instincts”, “an age-old Marxist dialectic in science”. If only it were so coherent.

    My argument is that what is ‘ubiquitous’ comes to the rescue of the ‘capitalist’ at least as much as the ‘anti-capitalist’, in or outside the scientific institution. Really, these guys abandoned anti-capitalism (and dialectical materialism, if they ever thought that deeply about it) long ago.

  • Ben, thanks for the thoughtful reply, which I’ve only just seen and can’t do justice to this evening I’m sure.

    I agree with you on much. I felt at the time (and everybody did, that I remember) that Thatcher was jumping on the latest bandwagon partly because she thought that was to her political advantage. That’s the kind of thing politicians do and she was no different.

    But, more that most others, Thatcher was also a conviction politician. Lawson is I’m sure quite right to say that she genuinely believed that there might be a problem with CO2 emissions, for a little while. That was another reason she took the initiative she did. Both aspects can be present – indeed, need to be present in a successful but benign democratic leader.

    This makes Thatcher particularly interesting as far as the cosy interlocking think tank level is concerned. Jim Tucker ran into her at a social event in June 1995 and relayed to her his view, based on his sources (which were paltry – but greater than any other journalist willing to write about it), that the Bilderberg Meeting had denounced her (about her resistance to the march towards the Euro, amongst other things) and then arranged her removal as Prime Minister. Here’s the reported conversation:

    ‘AFP’s Jim Tucker discussed this with Lady Thatcher in June, 1995. “It is an honor to be denounced by Bilderberg,” Lady Thatcher told Tucker. “Anyone who would surrender the sovereignty of their country . . .” her voice trailed off as she shook her head in disgust.

    “They are a stuck-up set,” she added. Lady Thatcher expressed optimism that Bilderberg would fail to meet its goal of a world government by 2002, a deadline that had been set back from the original target year of 2000. Although she is now in the dimness of Alzheimer’s disease, Lady Thatcher’s optimism proved justified.

    “They said, ‘nationhood should be suppressed,’ but there will never be a new world order,” she added.’

    I wouldn’t reproduce that unless I believed its general veracity (albeit seen through Tucker and AFP’s prism). I am strongly of the view that everything Thatcher was doing by 1988 was coloured by a desire to overcome the forces that wanted to “surrender the sovereignty of her country”.

    She wasn’t effective in everything she tried, of course, but she didn’t do too badly in hand-picking Gorbachev as a ‘man I can do business with’ and, with Reagan, seeing the end of the Soviet bloc. She was also completely right about the ambitions to form a united Europe, for me. We are about to experience, perhaps, how right.

    Thatcher would have been very aware from the beginning of how CO2 control could become another tool in the hands of those whose dream was ‘global governance’. She would have become more educated the science and fought tenaciously against such tendencies, if she’d remained in charge.

    It’s another perspective :)

  • I don’t think it is important to trace the roots of the AGW crowd. It is more to the point to notice why these scientifically weak ideas grew so popular so quickly and there the watermelon theory is quite accurate. What drives the AGW crowd is not love of the environment, but rather hatred of humans – especially of industrialization. This is the same crowd that pretends to care about the poor, but really just hates the rich. Their claims of “consensus” in place of science facts are typical of collectivists. They are a gang of power-lusters. AGW is just their latest excuse to pursue what they always pursue: punishment of humanity for being humanity.

  • Ben Pile said:

    “Really, these guys abandoned anti-capitalism (and dialectical materialism, if they ever thought that deeply about it) long ago.”

    Their thoughts on dialectical materialism might have gone the way of student beards and poor hygiene, but I wish I had your confidence over their anti-capitalist instincts. It’s bred in the bone and for many of them has never been tested in the real world. The Beeb and grant funding is a convenient insulator against reality.

    You’re right on the nature of this discussion, though. It could go on for ever and I need to get some sleep. Many thanks for all your timely responses.

  • Pirran — ‘ It’s bred in the bone and for many of them has never been tested in the real world.’

    It’s incoherent, and inarticulate, their anti-capitalism, if it exists. I’m more worried about capitalists who have lost faith in capitalism.

    Bred in the bone? In me too. And I voted green in two elections. People change. I’m not scared of capitalists or Marxists. I’ve met plenty of both.

  • The historical perspective you give the AGW issue is instructive and insightful. It makes me cringe to think of the obtuseness and lack of foresight that must have pushed forward the Iron Lady’s strategy back then. Naturally we have distant hindsight to help us now in understanding, but even in the heat of battle it should not have taken a genius to see the glaring flaw in the battle that was being raged.
    To wit, imagine the hand wringing when the golden logic is placed on the table: we can beat organized labor AND promote the centralized, controllable, friendly and future-proof technology that is nuclear by launching the glorious HMS AGW. With one logical step she thought to cure the world of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, while taking the Unions’ stranglehold off the Empire–truly tempting. Oh, and academia and the research industry would be more than glad to help out for the usual fee, right?
    But where was the devil’s advocate to point out the futility of the move? Did anyone really believe it would be possible to trick the “reds” into resigning our collective fate to the most capital intensive industry ever developed by man? Mrs. Thatcher had to be asleep to dream that the Left, Labour, the Unions, the Commies or anyone else she was fighting would simply give up the fight when presented with her infallible logic: our energy use is killing the world (and the little brown skinned people in the Maldives), and the only solution is to put all of our resources into the few skilled hands of the nuclear specialists.
    The move was equivalent to bursting a helium balloon, then trying to suck up all of the gas. Or checking the opponent only to lose our queen on the next move.
    Thatcher expected that the defeated Left would have no chance of regrouping against the onslaught of the nuclear giant under the new ideological umbrella of saving the planet. But there never was a chance that these folks would give in to Big Capital, nor would they simply evaporate dejectedly into irrelevance. Especially when she recruited a good part of the more socially oriented experts into the fight. What else could she expect from Academia?
    The battle simply left a gaping hole that could easily be filled by any creative solution available, and naturally the winners were anything that looked controllable by “the Masses” instead of by Big Capital. So we get clobbered with PV solar and windmills, technologies that everyone can understand and control. Never mind that Big Capital took over, as Big Capital will do ’til the end of the world, those simple devices and now monopolizes them. The “Reds” still get their wealth redistribution out of the deal.
    I can’t believe there was no thought to the impossibility of the premise back at the origin. I guess they were other times.
    For what it’s worth, I am one of the nuclear nerds by training, so I agree with the goal to some extent. Boy, the chosen method sure was a failure, though.

  • I have never understood why left wingers should naturally be pro environment and right wingers anti. You only have to look at some of the environmental disasters left behind by the Soviets to see that this is nonsense.

    What has happened is that extreme left wingers having been utterly discredited at the polls have infiltrated the environment movement to achieve their ends in a different way.

  • ZT, it’s hard to say if Jones is lazy/sloppy or just happy to bend words/quotes to fit his own point of view – see the BBC report page 53:

    “In 1904 the President of the Royal Society advised British physicists to give up their subject as everything worth knowing had been discovered”

    Yet the quote from Lord Kelvin on Wikipedia (caveat lector and all that) is explained as follows:

    “The statement “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement” is given in a number of sources, but without citation. It is reputed to be Kelvin’s remark made in an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1900). It is often found quoted without any footnote giving the source.[53] However, another author reports in a footnote that his search to document the quote failed to find any direct evidence supporting it.[54] Very similar statements have been attributed to other physicists contemporary to Kelvin.[55][56]”

    See this link and the footnotes:

  • So, what is the extent of our brainwashing today? Will we look back in 20, 30 years and say WOOOW, how did we swallow the gobbligoock BS of our government & scientific organsiations that were corrupted by politics, just as the Nazi’s were. Im afraid that, given the international strength of the people who for wwhatever reason support ‘environmentalism’ & ‘equality’ & ‘multiculturalism’ ideologies, resistance to the brainwashing will be ineffective and war? war? war will be an escape that these Marxists will want to prevent. Im going to sit back an smile unless anyone has a better idea? :D

  • Anybody watch that show called Numbers
    Two brothers ones an FBI agent and the other is a mad proffessor of maths (and thier dad is Judd Hirsh who used to be in Taxi with Danny Devito and was the mad dad in Independance Day) so the maths professor is always helping his brother the FBI agent by plotting patterns and using mathermatical equations to help catch terorists ,kidnappers and serial killers that sort of thing

    Realy good cop show but not as good as CSI or The Shield

    So are there any published Mathermatical Equations related to Climate Change

    Does anybody actually know how many tons of CO2 it takes to actually lift the temparature and how do you measure it and how long does it take

    Climate Scientices Instead of asking to see their Emails ask to see their equations

    The problem with Climate Change is as agent Epps from Numbers would say is theres too many variables

  • Ben – the Watermelon thesis is, of course, a thesis all about ulterior motives. It goes that the Green movement is a good place for obscuring particular motives… ‘red’ ones. This begs the questions of why anyone who is motivated by leftwing aims should feel the need to hide them inside of an Environmentalist shell and why, as you say, Thatcher’s aims were also to be found there – a paradox which suggests the melon thesis holds no water.

    However, if we consider the base leftwing aim as being to get rid of negotiation – if negotiation means bartering an exchange on mutual terms – then we might begin to see why the Green movement is an attractive place for anyone who pursues this as a goal.

    It may be argued that the Left has no such aim (at least that it is aware of, or is prepared to admit to), but if we look at the Soviet Union we can see that, from its immediate post-revolutionary days up until its demise in Thatcher’s time, the power base in that territory had fundamental issues with any individual or group that insisted on negotiation. Its usual response was to send them to Siberia, murder them or aim nuclear warheads in their direction… rather than participate in what was being asked for.

    If true, the very ending of the Soviet experiment (and the fracturing of the Left) was brought about by nothing other than peoples’ preferences for negotiation. Rather than society being endangered by negotiated exchange – as the old Left claimed, society appeared to be thriving on it.

    Clearly, if the Left was to regroup in the post-USSR/Thatcher/Reagan world – with its base aim intact – it had to change its central tenet… the old one to all intents and purposes had been debunked. It has done this within the necessary shell of Environmentalism. The subtle, but profound, shift in the Left’s ‘new’ (revised) claim conveniently sidesteps people’s preferences altogether by shifting focus onto their surroundings instead. The new claim states that negotiated exchange endangers the space society lives in – regardless of whether society thrives on the process or not.

    Indeed, we can see that anyone who wishes to get their own way – by devaluing and avoiding the obstacle of negotiation – would find the Environmentalist shell a useful one to hide within… including Thatcher when faced by militant mine workers. If the inside of the melon is predominantly red, it may be for no other reason than the Left believes more than anyone else that the end justifies the means.

    It has to be said, of course, that the trade unions were set up with the specific purpose of initiating a negotiation where there hadn’t previously been one. But it’s worth recognising the difference between someone reluctantly entering a mutual exchange and someone becoming a soft-touch if exposed to enough militant ranting. The story of Thatcher’s ‘greening’ may need to consider this too.

  • Hmmmm says “… lets look back 20,30 years to see how we were brainwashed … ” Yeah, say 90, or 60 years ago we were told the best way to sort European problems was wrap gunpowder in brass casings and blast other countries until millions were dead. Or 50 years ago “Nuclear power will make electricity too cheap to meter.” Or now, for god’s sake – lets go up to N England, to Wales, to Scotland, take your scarf against the cold winds, and cover the landscape with 500 foot tall turbines. Hey! And, work out whats 1/3 of everyone’s electricity bill – we’ll charge that over the top and give it to the turbine builders and generators. No-one is being brainwashed, of course.

  • 8< -- SNIP -->8

    [ADMIN: Please chill out, Jamspid]

  • Peter S – if we consider the base leftwing aim as being to get rid of negotiation .

    … which is an unsound assumption.

    And the conclusion is just as unsound. You’re simply trying to reinvent a continuous historic left for the purposes of an argument in the present. There is no such continuity.

    Certainly, capitalism is held by the (nominal) eco-left as incompatible with a ‘healthy biosphere’, but the eco left is not the whole of the eco-tendency. Your theory doesn’t explain the establishment’s environmentalism. Again, the point is not that ‘there’s no such thing as a watermelon’, but that the hypothesis has to ignore the vast bulk of environmentalism’s ascendency in order to be at all interesting: everyone, right or left is green on the inside, whether they are red, blue, yellow, or brown, purple, orange or gold on the outside.

    If you want to criticise the Left, you ought to be able to do so with some accuracy. I sense instead that the ‘left’ stands in your argument as any opposite to what you think, whether or not it even exists. I’m not seeking to defend the ‘left’ here — I don’t think it even exists. The desire to reduce the entire left to one category, or one single idea is just absurd to anyone who has studied it to any depth, just as the premature dismissal of anything from the historic right is equally glib. Go away, read something — maybe some Marx — read what it was a response to, read rebuttals to it, and read the attempts to reformulate the left, and the responses from the right. Then you might have some idea that the discussion across the two directions is about something, and that it develops, and that thinkers from both traditions have legitimate arguments, which cannot be reduce to single -isms, and that ideas occasionally converge, and that ideas are not the the whole story, and do not fail for simple reasons. Then I will take your arguments from ‘human nature’ seriously. I don’t see much evidence of thought behind them, frankly.

  • I think that as soon as you start to look at some of the best-known environmental NGOs and the people who run them – and also those who used to run them – it becomes quite clear that they are now just as much part of the establishment, for want of a better word, as are the large corporations. I’m wondering if there was some sort of a cultural shift some time during the latter part of the last decade? The reason I say that is there’s an interview from 2008 in the Guardian with Bryony Worthington, founder of Sandbag, who was with Friends of the Earth in 2000, before moving on to Defra, SSE and the House of Lords, and in which she explains that FoE “was never a natural home for her.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/12/carbonemissions.carbonoffsetprojects

    “I didn’t fit the mould at FoE. I was keen to talk to civil servants and talk about the detail of the policy. I’ve always been pragmatic. FoE is a great brand and has a brilliant media team, but I suppose it has quite a limiting perspective.

    “Since going into government and the private sector I’ve noticed things aren’t as black and white as you’d like them to be in the NGO world.”

    This seems a little surprising to me, given that, for example, FoE’s current Director of Policy and Campaigns is Craig Bennett, who was at FoE, then in 2007 became Deputy Director of CPSL and also Director of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change (CLG) before returning to FoE in 2010.

    Taking Baroness Worthington’s remarks, back in 2008, at face value, something pretty fundamental appears to have changed in the culture of at least one major environmental pressure group over the last five years or so.

  • Ben – The desire to reduce the entire left to one category, or one single idea is just absurd to anyone who has studied it to any depth…
    Fair enough, but the debate has to use fairly broad brushstrokes if it is to have any value and not get stalemated by People’s Front of Judea/Judaean People’s Front-type minutiae. If you are saying that no one can make a valid contribution unless having first consumed a vast reading list – isn’t that an admission of failure to get your ideas across to the people you seek to influence?

    Go away, read something — maybe some Marx
    When I try to read Marx, I get stuck on formative ideas such as capitalism requiring the oppression of the proletariat. I wonder if instead capitalism requires the surrender of the working classes – and if that surrender isn’t gladly given (yet open to renegotiation) and is felt as a civilising achievement.

    I end up wondering if it isn’t Marx himself who requires the proletariat to be oppressed for all his subsequent ideas and solutions to hold up. Just as the Environmentalists require the climate to be oppressed – for the same purpose. The only difference of course (and it is a clever difference) being that the climate can’t negotiate and has to rely on self-appointed proxies.

  • Peter – If you are saying that no one can make a valid contribution unless having first consumed a vast reading list – isn’t that an admission of failure to get your ideas across to the people you seek to influence?

    You can read as little or as much as you like. I don’t think you need to read extensively to follow what I have been saying — all that you need should be linked to in the post. But you seemed determined to defend the watermelon thesis nonetheless. You may well be concerned that depth of analysis results in PFJ/JPF silliness, but the opposite problem is the imposition of spurious, binary, opposing categories over the debate — which is precisely what is done by diving the debate into ‘scientists vs deniers’.

    Evidently I have failed to convince you that there is more depth to the debate. In which case, I don’t understand why you read or post here. I suggested you read some more, because you seemed to have a fairly crude understanding of what ‘left’ and ‘right’ refer to, yet you seem to attempt some fairly abstract arguments about them, and how they are in/compatible with ‘human nature’, the sense of which (as far as I can make of them) has often been anticipated by the arguments you seem to be rejecting.

    I get stuck on formative ideas such as capitalism requiring the oppression of the proletariat. I wonder if instead capitalism requires the surrender of the working classes – and if that surrender isn’t gladly given (yet open to renegotiation) and is felt as a civilising achievement.

    Marx’s argument is that capitalism produces economic classes with antagonistic interests. Politics emerges as the working class develop an awareness of their interests in relation to the other. Negotiation requires an awareness of interests — consciousness — on Marx’s view. Thus, ‘surrendering to capitalism’ would be equivalent to surrendering consciousness of one’s interests, and disparity in the ‘renegotiation’ — i.e. not negotiation, and not civilisation at all. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm I don’t point it out to defend or begin a discussion about Marxism, but to demonstrate that there is nothing resembling this idea — Marxism 101 — in the debate about climate change. Not from the eco left, not from the establishment environmentalists, not from Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, and not from David Cameron.

    I end up wondering if it isn’t Marx himself who requires the proletariat to be oppressed…

    As the Marxists will tell you… “there’s only one thing worse than being exploited by capitalism — that is not being exploited at all”.

  • Ben – I’m not defending the watermelon thesis. I just think you haven’t completely succeeded in showing it to be unconvincing… and that you may need to broaden your focus – rather than others narrowing theirs – in order to do so.

    You say on Bishop Hill’s blog “…there is no coherent ‘environmentalism’ as a concrete political idea or philosophy at all”. I agree, but this absence is environmentalism’s power – not its weakness. Emptied of any recognisable (and failed) old political rhetoric, the green ‘melon’ becomes osmotic to anyone harbouring an unresolved social grudge – that is, anyone nursing a strong felt-need to change the space they live in which the old left/right establishment (and the surrender it requires as the terms for participation) is unable to meet.

    As for there being nothing in the debate about climate change that resembles the Marxian view you outline. I think by changing a few key words a resemblance appears. Environmentalism simply swaps the proletariat for the climate (or the ‘climatariat’, if you like)…

    ‘Environmentalism’s argument is that capitalism produces ecological classes with antagonistic interests. Politics emerges as the climate (via its proxy) develops a [pseudo] awareness of its interests in relation to the other. Authentication of these interests as ‘real’ — eco-consciousness — is prerequisite to their political negotiation (via its proxy), in Environmentalism’s view.’

    My guess is that the proletariat turned out to be fairly useless to the ’cause’ – as their post-negotiataive interests didn’t extend much beyond having a 42″ plasma telly, an iPhone and a week or two in the sun. Replacing them with the dumb climate at least enables the claimed ‘interests’ to be kept idealised (whilst cleansed of old, divisive rhetoric) – and thus the demanded idealised ‘solution’ unchanged.

  • Peter – I just think you haven’t completely succeeded in showing it to be unconvincing… and that you may need to broaden your focus – rather than others narrowing theirs – in order to do so.

    What more do you need? there is no continuity or exclusivity between the membership of the historic left and the environmental movement. There is instead, a great deal more establishment environmentalism. There is no exclusivity or continuity of ideas between the historic left and environmentalism. There is just as much — if not more — a contribution from the traditional right. Moreover, we can see substantial changes in the movements and ideas representing the left and right traditions. The watermelon thesis fails a historical test, it fails a sociological test. It fails a philosophical test. It fails a logical test. It fails a categorical test. And it fails against a more comprehensive argument: that the atrophy of those traditions, institutions, movements, and ideas explains the emergence and ascendency of environmentalism. As you agree: ‘…there is no coherent ‘environmentalism’ as a concrete political idea or philosophy at all…’ But you miss the wider point: ‘there is no coherent or concrete political idea or philosophy at all’. It’s not that environmentalism’s incoherence which is its power — i.e. what drives its ascendency. It is instead the more ubiquitous ‘absence [which] is environmentalism’s power’. Environmentalism’s ‘ideology’, so to speak, is not exclusive to environmentalism.

    I think by changing a few key words a resemblance appears.

    Yes, but it now only bears a geometric resemblance to ‘Marxism’, much as a doughnut only bears topological resemblance to a teacup. Try pouring tea into a doughnut. Moreover, the ‘changing a few words’ only produces a nonsense, which even if we try to make sense of it, only goes so far as poorly characterising an argument from the putative eco-left and thus presupposes what it intends to prove. Substitution of like terms is one thing, but your attempt to paraphrase is something else entirely. We’ve seen environmentalists do the same thing, to show that ‘climate change denial’ is functionally equivalent to C18th arguments against the abolition of the slave trade, or to make moral equivalents of holocaust denial and climate change scepticism. If the problem with environmentalism is such vacuity, I don’t see the sense in mirroring it.

  • Ben – Moreover, the ‘changing a few words’ only produces a nonsense…

    Well, if it reads as a nonsense that’s very likely because it is one. But it wouldn’t be the first time in human history that a group has attempted (and in some cases, succeeded) to win political power by spouting pure nonsense. All I have done is changed the objects (climate for proletariat) and introduced a needed proxy (or oracle) for the non-human one. The claimed ‘interests’ of both objects is the same: emancipation from capitalist abuse. Just as the forecast consequences of not submitting to meeting these interests is the same: an outwardly catastrophic and irreversible change in the object’s function.

    The only object which leaves this manifesto still traceable to its pre-climate origins is now the ‘capitalist’. But as the climate (and its needs) has already been infantalised, so to is the villain – who is swapped out for ‘BIG Interest’.

    Superficially free of any recognisable ideology – and with the terrorising (and potentially costly) ‘proletariat’ nowhere in sight – the wealthy Right can now flirt with jumping aboard this Green bandwagon.

    It’s not that environmentalism’s incoherence which is its power — i.e. what drives its ascendency. It is instead the more ubiquitous ‘absence [which] is environmentalism’s power’.

    I agree. But I would argue that this vacuum has been left by the extinction of the Marxist idea. Marxism failed not because its solution was over-idealised, but because its problem was. Once equipped with the apparatus for placing a value on their labour and negotiating whatever the market would bear in exchange for it, the working classes had no further usable interest in the Marxist romance. Consequently, the Left lost interest in the working classes (as if they had a choice) and abandoned them for a new – more compliant and more accessible – ‘victim’… the climate.

  • Peter – All I have done is changed the objects (climate for proletariat) and introduced a needed proxy (or oracle) for the non-human one.

    Yes, indeed… but as I said, try pouring tea into a doughnut. Or try pouring tea from a teapot made of chocolate. Still not getting it? Ok. Well, imagine that “5-3=47″ is functionally equivalent to “2+4=6″, ‘all I have done is changed the objects’. Arguments that express relations between objects don’t hold when you change the objects. I can’t beleive you don’t understand this, and I see little point indulging such daftness.

  • Ben,
    I don’t think you quite understand what the strange origins of our present are. (I don’t say I do!) But it is obvious that something as ‘cloudy’ as the ‘enviroment’ movement can not be attributed to any specific form of thought, whether that be ‘Marxism’ (and of who’s understanding) or Prince Charles ‘conservatism’ or a kind of general luddite rage against the ‘modern’ – it is none and all of these things but least of all is it ‘Marxism’ as you and I might understand it (some might say that has other sins on it’s head, but with you, I say, no idea, whatever it’s nature can, in and of itself, be blamed for any persons or peoples action).
    However, and at the same time, those who believed themselves of a putative ‘left’ have drifted to and invested in a certain form of ‘Green”ism and perhaps, predominately so. Don’t be so sensitive about this (you might end up like Kieth Kloor!). It isn’t meaningful in any real cogent sense and, of course, it isn’t based on an analyses that deserves either of each of ours’ respect. But this ‘Leftness’ is a fact you can not help acknowlagde.
    Excepting that as a provisional premis, it is not too ‘unreasonable’ (though, it is unreasonable!) of some to conflate this with a supposed ‘socialist conspiracy’. I always prefer a ‘confederacy of duncies’.
    A final question – you talk, quite rightly, often, about the ‘emptiness’ of the ‘establishment’, of the State, of ‘politicians’, how they use this or that garb to cover this nakedness, but you very rarely talk about why? The ‘how’ yes but why? The question I ask is not teleological but rather what are the’yre present interests? You see some would argue that, whatever the origin of this present ‘confederacy’, there is now an unholy parasitical alliance of politicians, big buisness, insurance companies, so called ‘NGO’s and a supine media that looks awfully conspiratorial. It isn’t – as we know, just, to a more obvious extant, it isn’t marxist (toto caelo not!). A ‘confederacy of duncies’ as I say. But what a world, what a pitiable and empty world it is a sign of. I would say the conflation of financial and power interest, and vacuity of purpose, of meaning, could be a very interesting study (heavy irony, in case you missed it!)
    N.B. Sometimes I write nonesense here because I can’t write it at Spike – why don’t they start a forum – it would be pretty vibrant, perhaps unmanagable, but it might be fun and productive?

  • And what does this supposed ‘left’ mean? Against Peter S you seem to want to defend to broad a front. The ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ were always mythological. As you know they began on a very crude French anology. And nothing has changed. Most of the time I find your thinking out loud highly stimulating and I am always very grateful for it. But when you get defensive it doesn’t sound right. Sorry.

  • Lewis – And what does this supposed ‘left’ mean? … The ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ were always mythological.

    Isn’t that my point?

    And nothing has changed.

    But it has changed. The left has changed. It’s ideas changed, the circumstances it was responding to changed. Its interests and its membership changed. And its projects changed. (As has the right). Even if those coordinates were never adequate, and concealed differences within them, we can see change. And I don’t think they help to explain the debate.

    something as ‘cloudy’ as the ‘enviroment’ movement can not be attributed to any specific form of thought

    Isn’t that my point, too?

    however… those who believed themselves of a putative ‘left’ have drifted to and invested in a certain form of ‘Green”ism and perhaps, predominately so.

    Predominantly? David vote-blue-go-green Cameron (Conservative, i.e. ‘Right’)? Nick100%-carbon-free-UK-by-2050 Clegg and Chris let’s-ban-nuclear-energy-no-let’s-not Huhne (Liberal Democrats, i.e. ‘centre’)? And all their voters?

    ‘Green’ is predominant, within the establishment. Outside the establishment, sure, on the street, a good proportion of the few environmentalists there are, claim to be the legacy of the ‘Left’. But who hell are they? Barely 250,000 people voted green. Perhaps a diagram would be more helpful.

    you very rarely talk about why? The ‘how’ yes but why?

    It’s been said before. Doesn’t a ‘confederacy of duncies’ capture it? People in power, for the usual reasons — some of them good, some of them bad — but without the ideas. Maybe it’s institutional atrophy, or the consequence of professional politics. Maybe malaise. Postmodern nihilism? Maybe there’s just not enough resentment? Take your pick. There are plenty of theories.

  • Ben, have some sleep! For a young man, you fight to many monsters! Which is good, but you need rest!

  • Ben – Arguments that express relations between objects don’t hold when you change the objects.

    Oh? I thought the changing of apparently dissimilar objects to see if relationships still held – and if (and how) the functionality of the original proposition survived – was one of the cornerstones of Western philosophical inquiry…. a means of discovering something’s otherwise-obscure core value.

    I think my effort is successful – despite having donuts, chocolate teapots and random numbers thrown in its path! (It also explains how the Tory party, under Cameron, is now able to parade its moral virtue vis-à-vis the new object after a century of being strategically and intellectually denied the chance in its relationship to the old one).

    If you believe that’s daft, perhaps it’s best to leave it at that.

  • Peter – I thought the changing of apparently dissimilar objects to see if relationships still held

    Maybe there is such a method. But it can’t be practised in the dark: chickens have wings and lay eggs –>> dogs have engines and sing lemonade. You just end up producing nonsense — context-free grammar — out of the same geometry.

    The point of substitution in such a test, then, would be to draw out the difference between two similar terms, whereas you do the opposite: stuff whatever ignorance or or prejudices you have into the paraphrase to draw an equivalence, after having presupposed it… Look, it’s the same! TADAAA!

    I think my effort is successful…

    Of course you do. Congratulations.

  • As far as the supposed desertification of the Sahara, this is, as usual, a conflation of half digested histories, mythologies and archaeological/geological speculations, as far as I know. That is, from my memory of my reading(20 years back), the classical world and it’s more ancient forebears, depended on much of the well cultivated agriculture of North Africa and, when it was abandoned, due to various collapses of various civilizations, it became fallow and ‘desertified’. Ie it was (as it is) human ingenuity that made it fecund (think of Israel!) The opposite of Mr Jones perspective.
    The origin of civilization is human ingenuity, specifically in agriculture (look at the etymology, all the way back to Sanskrit) – making the deserts bloom!

  • To Ben Pile says: August 4, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Once as tragedy, then as comedy, then as…. what?

    You don’t have a reply button set up!

  • Lewis, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • This is my last comment – as you may have realised, I’ve been scrolling through the commentary to your essay – and, much of it, is fascinating and credit to you – I always learn something – but I want to turn the edge of this discussion back to what it should reflect, I think.
    To me, it doesn’t matter if the temperature goes to those extremes that some people dream and seem to want – what matters is that we humans are always equal to the task. Technology, yes, ingenuity, yes (‘deserts bloom’!) and people with courage, o yes!, but, what for? We need a society that has a meaning. Otherwise I don’t give a hill of beans. I believe in mankind’s ingenuity, but, I sometimes despair this lack of a question about who and why? What, no more Shakespeare’s, no more Popes, no more Gibbons, no more Ovid’s, no more Homers? That’s my question and a kind of despair at the vacuity of some?

  • Actually, Israel isn’t a desert climatically-speaking (except for the Negev region, which has not been made agriculturally productive) but rather has a Mediterranean climate.

    The reference to “making the desert bloom” is more about how Ottoman Palestine had been neglected (because the Ottoman Empire’s most important provinces were the ones in Europe and Anatolia, not the Arab lands further south).

  • Sorry – Addendum: I meant to mention that wonderful British film “When The Earth Caught Fire”, all set in a newspaper office and how they reacted! Curtis should investigate! Finis

  • Ben – Maybe there is such a method. But it can’t be practised in the dark: chickens have wings and lay eggs –>> dogs have engines and sing lemonade.

    I wonder if the method is being received in the dark rather than practiced in it? Introducing absurdities into the equation doesn’t change two apparently different political claims (from the Left and from the Environmentalist) being significantly similar…

    CAPITALIST -> PROLETARIAT -> LABOUR -> BANG!! -> OUTWARD CATASTROPHIC CHANGE
    CAPITALIST -> ECOSPHERE -> MATERIALS -> BANG!! -> OUTWARD CATASTROPHIC CHANGE

    I don’t think there is any presupposition in this, just deduction to find a common core value. It seems to me that trying to reintroduce difference in the way you are is like saying ‘the Environmentalist claim is not similar because coal isn’t pink’ – or ‘the Leftist claim is different because workers don’t have tree-rings’… ‘truths’ which have no influence over the functioning similarity of the claims.

    I would say that the irony (and the awkwardness) in this is that you and the Greens are both singing from the same hymn sheet – working hard to keep the two claims distinct. You, to protect the historical Left from Green contamination… and the Greens, to protect their new claim from being revealed as a rehash of the old, discredited one (the Watermelon theory).

  • Peter – Introducing absurdities into the equation doesn’t change two apparently different political claims…

    Well, precisely, Peter. And yet you do. And you do again. And again. You stack absurdities upon absurdities. And again.

    I don’t think there is any presupposition in this,

    Of course you don’t. I’ve been saying so all along.

    I would say that the irony (and the awkwardness) in this is that you and the Greens are both singing from the same hymn sheet…

    Hmm. Yes. I’ve spent so much time in the service of Gaia… Go away, you silly, silly man.

  • Ben – I’m sorry you are frustrated as I really do appreciate your writing. I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I fail to understand how you see the claims I list as a stack of absurdities. Both lists are what I imagine a political professor might write on a blackboard to outline the key points (and explain the linear relationships) within each separate theory. If so, I also struggle to see where your insistence on my presupposition fits in. I thought I was noting similarities rather than making any prior assumption of them.

  • Peter – … I really do appreciate your writing …

    I’m not asking you to appreciate it. I’m not even asking you to agree with it. You can take it or leave it, or you can take issue with it. I’m annoyed because the discussion seems to have been a waste of time, and leaves a boring mess under a post that has otherwise been popular.

    Professors writing on blackboards don’t make sense merely by virtue of the act of writing on blackboards. They (usually) have an extraordinary grasp of their subject, way beyond anything offered here. It’s one thing to sketch out an idea or hypothesis as some kind of schematic. It’s another thing entirely for that schematic to accurately represent the world, or parts of it. Forget about professors and blackboards. If you want to take issue with something I’ve written, it would be much more productive to concentrate on what I’ve actually written — I keep saying it — than introducing a whole new bunch of claims, concepts, relationships, as you seem inclined to. E.g. psychoanalysis, or the functional equivalence of the ‘proletariat’ and the ‘biosphere’. (For a start, Marx means something particular by ‘proletariat’, whereas ‘biosphere’ is a nebulous concept. So forget the Marx, too.) You see, if you don’t stick with the actual argument, you end up taking issue with what’s in your head, not with what I’ve said. There’s plenty to take issue with in the post above. Inventing stuff to take issue with just creates an annoying mess.

  • Ben, I hear what you are saying. There is a slim possibility, I suppose, that at least a small part of your post’s popularity is down to an interest in the “mess” which responds to it. A mess, of course, is simply an unresolved order – or an unmade conclusion. A box of jigsaw pieces can appear to be a puzzling mess at first, but when patiently pieced together something more tangible emerges. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending one’s take on things), life’s jigsaws don’t come with a picture on the lid… so resolving one can be both a challenge and a frustration. One thing’s for sure though – when completed, the picture’s contents are almost always surprisingly different to what we presupposed them to be along the way. That’s why it’s best, I think, to keep one’s options open.

  • Martin Durkin has returned to the climate debate, and has an interesting perspective on green and red. http://www.martindurkin.com/blogs/secret-global-warming-posh-anti-capitalism

    Greens are ‘posh anti-capitalists’, he points out, and alludes to their desire for products manufactured by pre-industrial methods. In the terms of this discussion, then, I would suggest that anti-capitalism comes in two flavours: pre and post-capitalism. Green anti-capitalists seek a return to feudal lifestyles, and concomitantly, equally backwards relationships in society. In other words, it is a mistake to conceive of anti-capitalism as exclusive to the ‘left’.

  • Yes, Ben,
    MD, is saying what Delingpole says in his book. What I said here, and at Bishop Hill. Etc.

    Incredibly enough, you said it yourself. “The reds just wear a green shirt.”

    Finis

  • Shub – What I said here, and at Bishop Hill. Etc.

    No it isn’t.

    Ad infinitum.

    “The reds just wear a green shirt.”

    I can’t see where I’ve said it. And moreover, nobody is disputing the existence of watermelons. The question is about whether scratching away the green reveals red. In the case of getting past the green skin of the pre-capitalist anti-capitalists, the result is a distinct shade of blue. As I explained, everyone is wearing a green shirt.

  • I forget what Marx called the ‘Aristocratic’ anti-capitalist Utopians – ‘pre-capitalists’ is pretty good and might include anyone from Prince Charls to Poll Pot. ( I once mentioned the latter on Keith Kloors site and suffered many an outraged mention! I, sometimes, think I was more ‘right’ than I thought?)

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