A letter at the Guardian says,

Science is by its nature sceptical: scientists interrogate information and only on repeated investigation does data become science. The science of climate change has been established through numerous high-profile studies (IPCC, NOAA, Nasa) and was even verified by the sceptic-led Best report. In 2009 one of the world’s leading medical journals, the Lancet, declared climate change “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. Denying the links between greenhouse gas emissions and man-made climate change is akin to denying the links between HIV/Aids and unprotected sex, smoking and lung cancer, or alcohol consumption and liver disease. In each of these cases, well-funded deniers have had to be exposed and confronted before appropriate health-promoting legislation was put in place.

Okay. Let us agree, you shouldn’t ‘deny the links’ between causes and their known effects. But what if people claim that if you have unprotected sex you will get HIV? What if people claim that, as soon as you have just one puff on a cigarette you will get lung cancer? And what if people started claiming that, the moment you took a sip of beer, wine or cider, your liver simply melted? What then?

And what if someone said that this was so much nonsense? What if he or she suggested that you actually have to drink or smoke quite a lot to suffer illness, and that although one could theoretically have unprotected sex just once and contract HIV, it’s very very very unlikely? Would he or she be ‘denying the links’ between such effects and their causes? Shouldn’t we start to ask questions about the nature of the ‘links’ between causes and effects? And shouldn’t we ask questions about the extent to which they are stated?

‘Links’ between causes and effects have magnitude. It is incumbent on those wishing to bring those ‘links’ to bear over public policy to enumerate them. But often, risk becomes politicised. Any non-zero amount of risk becomes, in the official jargon ‘unacceptable’. ‘One death is too many’, and so on. Crusaders elevate themselves on the basis that ‘if I can save just one life, then my work is done’. This is how proportion is lost, and how the ‘links’ between causes and their effects get amplified from weak, to huge. Theoretical risk becomes immanent danger.

And just as it ought to be incumbent on those wishing to capitalise on risks for professional and political gain to enumerate risk, it should be incumbent on them to explain how a cheque for £50,000 represents a donation to a ‘well-funded denier’. Yes, this is all about the FOIA to the Charities Commission about the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The letter continues…

The Climate and Health Council supports Nasa scientist James Hansen as he joins the campaign to uncover secret funders bankrolling climate sceptic Nigel Lawson and his lobbying think-tank (Climate experts back unveiling of Lawson thinktank donor, 23 January). The public may finally discover who is secretly influencing UK climate policy – contrary to scientific consensus – today (27 January), when the Information Rights Tribunal hears this key freedom of information case. Some anti-climate lobbyists routinely misrepresent and cast doubt on the work of climate scientists. Although Lawson and his Global Warming Policy Foundation have been discredited and attacked by numerous scientists and senior politicians, his thinktank continues to receive significant coverage, wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate over climate change.

What is the extent to which the GWPF has ‘influenced policy’, as the letter’s authors claim? Nothing.

At every leap in the argument made by the authors, all proportion is lost. All ‘links’ between causes and effect are infinitely amplified, such that any amount of CO2 is indistinguishable from total Thermageddon. A cheque for sufficient money to employ someone on a decent wage for a year becomes the total failure of the UK’s climate policy. Never mind that, as I pointed out in the previous post, there are £billions available for the PR message in the other direction. £50,000 is all that it takes to completely subvert all policy-making in the UK. And it gets worse…

Perverting the course of evidence-based policy…

What?! When was there ever a ‘course of evidence-based policy’, such that it could be ‘perverted’? The complaint clearly borrows from the offence of ‘perverting the course of justice‘, but it has no analogue in policy-making. Having an opinion and wishing to intervene in a debate about policy might qualify as ‘perverting the course of evidence-based policy’. And as we have seen, the difference between opinions amounts to the difference between having a sense of proportion and not having one at all. And it is those without who seem, somewhat ironically, to be complaining about ‘perverting’ ‘evidence-based policy’. All the more an irony, that this climate inquisition are assembled from some leading UK scientific institutions.

… on climate-change adaptation and mitigation damages our health resilience, our economic prosperity and our environmental stability. Transparency around climate-sceptic funders is essential. We support freedom of information to reveal those deliberately preventing the UK’s sustainable future.
Dr Fiona Godlee Editor-in-chief, British Medical Journal
Dr. Richard Horton Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet
Professor Ian Roberts Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health
Professor Hugh Montgomery Professor of Intensive Care Medicine
Professor Anthony Costello Professor of International Child Health
Rachel Stancliffe Director, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Dr. Robin Stott Co-chair, Climate and Health Council
Maya Tickell-Painter Director, Medsin Healthy Planet Campaign

A few of these names are familiar. Ian Roberts, for example, was the subject of one of the first posts on this blog, back in 2007. He had argued in the New Scientist that the obesity epidemic is aggravating global warming.

We tend to think of obesity only as a public-health problem, but many of its causes overlap with those of global warming. Car dependence and labour-saving devices have cut the energy people expend as they go about their lives, at the same time increasing the amount of fossil fuel they burn. It’s no coincidence that obesity is most prevalent in the US, where per capita carbon emissions exceed those of any other major nation, and it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate.

Roberts didn’t make it clear how it was ‘clear’ that ‘obese people are having a direct impact on the climate’, nor what the climatic effects of fat people were supposed to be.

Robert’s claims are sheer bullshit, of course, and the cost of allowing such bullshit to flow so readily from respected scientific institutions for the service of political ideas will be that science will ultimately undermine its own authority. If you think I over-state the point, examine the liberties that Roberts has taken with science so far in order to win a political debate.

As pointed out here:

When all that the best clinical minds can offer is the political idea that people’s desire for food and labour-saving devices (ie, higher standards of living) are expressions of a kind of false consciousness, small wonder that people complain about ‘health fascism’. Roberts has such contempt for the public that he assumes to know their political and material interests better than they do, and pretends that it is ‘capitalism wot makes ‘em do it’… that people are too fat headed to know what to eat.

It must be lean times at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, because this poverty-stricken argument is so bloated, it needs four bandwagons to wheel it onto the pages of the New Scientist: obesity, global warming, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism. All that’s missing is a photo of a polar bear perched on a dwindling ice floe.

The conceit of the scientists — if that is what they really are — who have put their names under the letter to the Guardian is that their opinions, their prejudices, their politics are ‘science’. This is obvious, because not only do they fail to give proportion to their arguments, they also completely fail to identify what it is that the GWPF have argued that is so objectionable. It is merely the fact that the GWPF exists to scrutinise climate policy at all that bothers them. And this fact, when seen alongside the fact that the GWPF hasn’t influenced policy reveals the real object of their panic…

The GWPF has pricked the consciousness of some of the public, and given institutional credibility to the cause of policy-scepticism. Public opinion, however, has not had any real influence over climate and energy policy. Indeed, the point of supranational institutions such as the UNFCC process, the UN itself, and the EU also, is to overcome the problems of domestic politics. But the attempt to build international agreements has failed. (And that failure has nothing to do with either public opinion, or the GWPF). What the signatures beneath the letter to the Guardian have in common is that the belong to individuals heavily invested in public health and climate bureaucracies, whose influence is increasingly justified on the basis that it will mitigate an inevitable disaster. Such a disaster is epitomised by Roberts: climate and obesity — two of the biggest scare stories out there.

And if you don’t believe me about the scale of this absurd phenomenon, consider this BBC article today:

Miliband attacks Cameron over chocolate oranges
Ed Miliband has attacked David Cameron for failing to stop the sale of cut-price Chocolate Oranges – something the PM complained about in opposition.

In 2006, Mr Cameron criticised WH Smith for discounting chocolate rather than fruit despite the UK’s obesity crisis.

But the Labour leader told The House magazine the situation had not changed.

“If he can’t sort out the chocolate orange, he’s not going to sort out the train companies, the energy companies, the banks, is he?” Mr Miliband said.

With politicians like these, is it any wonder that public health bureaucrats and climate change fear-mongers are in the ascendant? There is a compact between them, in which the mediocrity of the former is offset by the scientific authority of the latters. The cost is democracy. The letter, entirely devoid of a scientific argument, uses scientific authority to make a political argument, and to close down debate. The substance of the relationship between these pseudo-scientists and their backers needs to be exposed.

17 Responses to ‘Transparency’ & the GWPF – Part 2

  • Do the editors of the Lancet and the British Medical Council read the letters they’re asked to sign? Do they realise what a bunch of deluded intellectual cripples they’ve fallen in with?
    The Dieri tribe of Australia used to think they could control the weather by wrapping their foreskins in the skin of the carpet snake and burying them in the sand. Clearly the British medical élite is at the same stage of intellectual development.
    (My apologies to any member of the Dieri tribe reading this. At least they never tried to stop people from expressing opposing opinions).

  • The Guardian seems to be trying to rewrite history with respect to the GWPF and Climategate.
    Hickman’s original article makes it clear that the problem with the GWPF is that it is by far the most visible sceptical body, more frequently quoted than any other. Neither Hickman nor the research he quotes explain why this is. It’s not because of their colossal funding, but simply because an organisation like the BBC wil tend to quote sources which have established legitimacy. A blogger like Montford or McIntyre or Ben has no legitimacy, however good his arguments. An ex-Chancellor has. There is clearly a concerted attempt to destroy this legitimacy.

    Below the letter you analyse is another by Dr Robin Russell-Jones
    (Chair, Planetary SOS) which says:
    “Lawson established his shadowy organisation back in 2009 following the Climategate fiasco … If the rationale for Lawson establishing GWPF was Climategate, why has he not now closed it down?”

    Lawson has made it perfectly clear that his doubts about the economics of global warming mitigation date from his work on a House of Lords Working Group – nothing to do with Climategate. Everyone on the Guardian must know this. Why do they publish this rubbish?

    Elsewhere in the Guardian, at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2012/jan/26/1
    their science blogger Martyn Robbins says of Climategate:
    “It was November, 2009. Hackers had stolen some boring e-mails about climate change from a university, and dullards on the internet were busy concocting elaborate conspiracy fantasies about them. For some reason the BBC had devoted a significant chunk of its current affairs output to coverage of their inane wittering”.

    No mention of the fact that the chief witterer was the Guardian, and that their top investigative journalists, including Fred Pearce, George Monbiot, and their chief crime correspondent, devoted scores of articles to the subject. And that just last month, conspiracy fantasist Leo Hickman was inviting Guardian readers to join him in solving the case of Climategate2.

    Robbins’ target is not Lawson but the BBC’s Question Time, which he describes as:
    “a politically-themed game show in which morons compete with a dimly-sentient studio audience to see who can make the most stupid remark”.
    His point being that neither the elected politicians who appear on Question Time, nor the voters who ask the questions, have science degrees (unlike Mr Robbins).
    Question Time is a little corner of participatory democracy in a media world where the rules are weighted heavily in favour of experts. Mr Robbins (and the Guardian) don’t like it.

  • Geoff — I saw Robbins’ article, too, and thought, what a snivelling little scum bag. He appears to be demanding technocracy, run by scientists, of course. What he seems to be oblivious is the extent to which this is already the case.

    The Guardian really is a collection of mediocre hacks and their ill-conceived ideas. I’m reluctant to give it so much attention, but it so epitomises the thinking and problems behind environmentalism.

    The Guardian’s eco team is about 3 or more times the size of the GWPF, and I’d bet my overdraught that it spends more than the GWPF. All of which is paid for, of course, by Autotrader, as the Graun can’t sustain itself from its readership. Fancy that… the sale of second hand cars supports the leading UK climate alarmist organ.

  • Ben
    “Wanker”, “scumbag”, “mediocre hacks”… I know what you mean, and I’ve given in to the temptation to fling insults more than once. What’s interesting is that I don’t think Hickman or Carrington or Monbiot would ever write anything as stupid as these two letters. The Guardian is using the editors of two of the world’s leading medical journals and a bunch of eminent medical experts to fly a kite that their environmental journalists wouldn’t touch. The fact that these university professors clearly know nothing about the position of the GWPF, and a posteriori, nothing about the climate debate, should be the subject of serious concern in academic circles. The lowliest CiF troll knows more about the subject than the Professor of International Child Health at UCL, the editors of the Lancet and the BMJ, and their eminent colleagues, not to mention 24 year-old medical student Maya Tickell. (No, really. I just looked up “Aztec Slap” on Google – 1,300,000 hits). The professors of epidemiology have take over the asylum.

    “..the mediocrity of the former [politicians] is offset by the scientific authority of the latter”.
    OK, but how come BOTH groups are so “mediocre” (not to say barking mad, pig-ignorant, and apparently unconscious of the fact that they are peddling lies)?
    The answer must lie in the social structure hich have produced our élites.
    A couple of commenters here have pointed to some sociological clues. Craig Loehle at
    http://www.climate-resistance.org/2012/01/the-the-end-is-nigh-genre.html#comments
    says:
    “Extreme environmentalists who say we should “return to the land” or shut down all power plants or ban capitalism are almost universally employed (if at all) in some sort of educational, arts, or foundation field where reality is conceptual and symbolism is more important than accomplishments”

    which is much the same point that was made by an article linked by George Carty at comment 19 at
    http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/12/the-art-of-the-possible-and-the-impossible.html#comments
    Blogger Lorenzo refers to US Urban geographer Joel Kotkin’s concept of “gentry liberals” and says:
    “This group shares various characteristics, one of which is that they typically live by manipulating symbols rather than making, moving around or shaping stuff. It is surely no accident that, as such jobs have become more common and more important, we have had the rise of political correctness – an ethic which puts enormous importance on getting words right: that is, on “correct” manipulation of symbols. A concern where, not only do symbol manipulators become advantaged in public discourse, but their prime skills become of dominant ethical importance…
    “It is also no accident that the rise of the symbol manipulators has coincided with the rise of environmentalism… the placing of enormous importance on humans not “interfering” with nature, on discounting human claims “against” nature. In essence, seeing human interaction with nature as presumptively destructive.
    “..For someone who lives by manipulation of symbols, environmentalism offers few costs and many benefits. A sense of purpose, meaning, an empowering ethic – all the things religions typically provide…It also provides a sense of status: one is clearly “superior” to those who live by creating and making “Gaia-wounding” stuff. Just as being politically correct provides an empowering sense of moral status because one gets language right (and displays conspicuous compassion). The gentry progressives typically also have comparatively high discretionary income, and so can relatively easily afford to be “green” consumers”.

    Someone else (I can’t remember who) pointed us to 19th century sociologist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” which Lorenzo adapts above. Kotkin’s “gentry liberals” are of the same species as the Guardian reading “chattering classes”, and the “bo-bos” (bourgeois-bohemians) who have taken over the French media and the Socialist Party.

    It’s good to see a bit of sociological analysis which goes beyond the sterile accusations of “eco-fascist” and “watermelon”.

    You’re right though. Hickman is a wanker.

  • As you demonstrate, as usual, very well, ‘motivation’ is a non issue. I don’t care if someone in a discussion is paid by the Devil, a diabolus advocate, I pay attention merely to their words and reply to that. An ‘open’ society must be based on trust – ie assuming, as a person of bona voluntas, that everyone else has bona voluntas. Good will, trust and rationality – without these we merely have that infamous cynicism!

  • To copy and paste is a bad habit but I think this is apropo( on Bishop Hill’s post ‘Ivory Tower Activists):

    I think it is a matter of conscience. I think, and if you think about it, what makes us an ‘open’ society is that we trust each other. When that has gone, then nothing remains.

    There is no oxygen in a ‘closed’ society! You will know it when the oxygen is turned off! Try it! And cynicism is the back end of the beginning of such hatefulness! Let us therefore say that the ‘motives’ of all scientists are, by definition, honorable and that they must mistake, sometimes, what they feel for what they think. A very common failing!

  • A trawl through the internet, to find out what the good doctors have been up to over the years, can repay dvidends:

    – Dr Fiona Godlee has a Twitter account: http://twitter.com/fgodlee
    Her tweets over the last 6 months or so reveal a certain mind-set (many were sent during a climate change summit at the BMJ last year):

    #healthandsecurity ‘someone else’ is not saving us from effects of climate change. We need to see what WE can do.
    17 Oct via MyPad for iOS (iPad)

    – Dr Richard Horton has written articles in the Guardian on health and climate change:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/14/nhs-climate-change-health

    The NHS is Britain’s largest employer. If those who work in it now back a radical agenda to change our lifestyle to low-carbon living we will make a big and valuable contribution to saving our fragile human species. Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

    He also tweets: http://twitter.com/richardhorton1

    In 2012, there will be a major strategic shift in global health: from development to sustainability. Are we in health ready for Rio+20? No!
    19 Jan via Twitter for iPad

    – Dr Ian Roberts is author of an exciting book entitled The Energy Glut: Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness:
    http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Energy_Glut.html?id=mgYpAQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

    This exciting new book argues that the pulse of fossil fuel energy released from the ground after the discovery of oil not only started the process of catastrophic climate change, but also propelled the average human weight distribution upwards. The author presents a terrifying vision of humans besieged by a food industry that uses sophisticated marketing techniques to sell us mountains of energy-dense food whilst at the same time we are functionally paralyzed with fewer opportunities to move our bodies than ever before and that the accumulation of body fat is a political, not a personal, problem.

    – Professor Hugh Montgomery has also been busy spreading the word; here he is at an event in 2008 cheerfully entitled “Climate change time bomb for health”
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0812/08121105

    Professor Hugh Montgomery (UCL Institute for Human Health & Performance) emphasised the rapidity of climate change, with disastrous events happening increasingly often. He discussed the escalating scale of impacts we could expect from unchecked climate change: from deaths and injuries from heat, to pollution, food-related illnesses, altered vectors for diseases such as malaria, crop failure and water shortages, mass migration, resource wars, economic collapse, and ecosystem collapse with mass extinctions.

    – Professor Anthony Costello was the lead author of a 2009 report entitled “Climate change: The biggest global-health threat of the 21st century”
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0905/09051501

    Lead author Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health) says that failure to act will result in an intergenerational injustice, with our children and grandchildren scorning our generation for ignoring the climate change threat – with moral outrage similar to how we today look back on those who brought in and did nothing to stop slavery.

    – Rachel Stancliffe writes in the Guardian in 2010:
    http://www.smarthealthcare.com/healthcare-green-it-30jun10

    Forget the new budget; climate change will be the greatest global threat to health this century. Some of the direct effects – vector diseases, heatwaves and flooding – are already appearing, and indirect effects such as crop failures, droughts and mass migration will create much greater health risks.

    – Dr Robin Stott is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/robinbstott

    fiona godlee BMJ editor says docs must act on climate change.I agree -My rapid response suggest HOW. [Link to BMJ article entitled “How on earth do we combat climate change?”]
    24 Oct via web

    And here he is in the BMJ, promoting carbon rationing:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476735/

    Climate change related to global warming is the world’s most urgent public health problem. Our planet is already seriously damaged, with worse to come. Health professionals have an enviable record of contributing solutions to previous threats and must do the same for climate change. The most feasible policy for tackling global warming is contraction and convergence, developed by Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute. So how can health professionals contribute?

    – Maya Tickell-Painter is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MayaTickell

    On 9th Dec last year, she tweets enthusiastically about UK medical students writing a love song to the Kyoto Protocol – @richardbranson, @stephenfry, @charliesheen, @HugoChavez and @evomorales (!)

    So basically, these are just your everyday, concerned, climate-activist medical professionals.

  • The Climate and Health Council is a now-hived-off creation of Muir Gray’s Knowledge Into Action, a charity set up to promote the health benefits of walking that spends most of its (mostly govt-sourced) money setting up and hiving off pointless little climate charities like the Climate and Health Council and last year spent all of £312 (of about £430k) on promoting the health benefits of walking.

    Is Knowledge Into Action always wholly open about its funding sources? Have a look at its semi-literate accounts.

    Also have a look at creepy self-proclaimed polymath Professor Hugh Montgomery, quoted by C&HC last year as announcing this:

    ‘There’s a 50% chance that humans will be extinct by the end of the century because of climate change.’

    Then there’s C&HC regular Mayer Hillman:

    ‘The Nazi Holocaust was a monstrous crime, and casts a unique shadow over recent human history. Six million died, but billions of people and the survival of entire future human generations are now endangered by global warming, and ignorance is no longer an excuse. Scientists are warning every day that this threat is the greatest ever to face humanity, and yet almost nothing is being done. If we fail to act in response to this emergency, we will bear the same responsibility as those who refused to believe stories about the gas chambers during the war. By the time the truth became known, it was too late. We must not make the same mistake twice.’

  • [Ben: I tried to post this comment yesterday but something went wrong – if it’s been duplicated (or if this is just too long!) please delete the duplicate or let me know if it should be a lot shorter/fewer links.]

    A trawl through the internet, to find out what the good doctors have been up to over the years, can repay dividends. With some of these, one just hopes that they’ve been managing to also find time for a few mundane medical tasks amongst all the climate activism.

    – Dr Fiona Godlee has a Twitter account: http://twitter.com/fgodlee
    Her tweets over the last 6 months or so reveal a certain preoccupation (many were sent during a climate change summit at the BMJ last year):

    #healthandsecurity ‘someone else’ is not saving us from effects of climate change. We need to see what WE can do.
    17 Oct via MyPad for iOS (iPad)

    – Dr Richard Horton has written articles in the Guardian on health and climate change:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/14/nhs-climate-change-health

    The NHS is Britain’s largest employer. If those who work in it now back a radical agenda to change our lifestyle to low-carbon living we will make a big and valuable contribution to saving our fragile human species. Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

    He also tweets: http://twitter.com/richardhorton1

    In 2012, there will be a major strategic shift in global health: from development to sustainability. Are we in health ready for Rio+20? No!
    19 Jan via Twitter for iPad

    – Dr Ian Roberts is author of an exciting book entitled The Energy Glut: Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness:
    http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Energy_Glut.html?id=mgYpAQAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

    This exciting new book argues that the pulse of fossil fuel energy released from the ground after the discovery of oil not only started the process of catastrophic climate change, but also propelled the average human weight distribution upwards. The author presents a terrifying vision of humans besieged by a food industry that uses sophisticated marketing techniques to sell us mountains of energy-dense food whilst at the same time we are functionally paralyzed with fewer opportunities to move our bodies than ever before and that the accumulation of body fat is a political, not a personal, problem.

    – Professor Hugh Montgomery has also been busy spreading the word; here he is at an event in 2008 cheerfully entitled “Climate change time bomb for health”
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0812/08121105

    Professor Hugh Montgomery (UCL Institute for Human Health & Performance) emphasised the rapidity of climate change, with disastrous events happening increasingly often. He discussed the escalating scale of impacts we could expect from unchecked climate change: from deaths and injuries from heat, to pollution, food-related illnesses, altered vectors for diseases such as malaria, crop failure and water shortages, mass migration, resource wars, economic collapse, and ecosystem collapse with mass extinctions.

    – Professor Anthony Costello was the lead author of a 2009 report entitled “Climate change: The biggest global-health threat of the 21st century”
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0905/09051501

    Lead author Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health) says that failure to act will result in an intergenerational injustice, with our children and grandchildren scorning our generation for ignoring the climate change threat – with moral outrage similar to how we today look back on those who brought in and did nothing to stop slavery.

    – Rachel Stancliffe writes in the Guardian in 2010:
    http://www.smarthealthcare.com/healthcare-green-it-30jun10

    Forget the new budget; climate change will be the greatest global threat to health this century. Some of the direct effects – vector diseases, heatwaves and flooding – are already appearing, and indirect effects such as crop failures, droughts and mass migration will create much greater health risks.

    – Dr Robin Stott is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/robinbstott

    fiona godlee BMJ editor says docs must act on climate change.I agree -My rapid response suggest HOW. [Link to BMJ article entitled “How on earth do we combat climate change?”]
    24 Oct via web

    And here he is in the BMJ, promoting carbon rationing:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476735/

    Climate change related to global warming is the world’s most urgent public health problem. Our planet is already seriously damaged, with worse to come. Health professionals have an enviable record of contributing solutions to previous threats and must do the same for climate change. The most feasible policy for tackling global warming is contraction and convergence, developed by Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute. So how can health professionals contribute?

    – Maya Tickell-Painter (national coordinator of climate change campaign Healthy Planet) is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MayaTickell

    On 9th Dec last year, she tweets enthusiastically “UK medical students have written a love song to the Kyoto Protocol” – @richardbranson, @stephenfry, @charliesheen, @HugoChavez, @evomorales, @BillGates, @DailaiLama (!)

  • Alex
    Many thanks for the painstaking analysis. I started looking at these people via the sites of their organisations. It’s a thankless task. You feel stuck on a mad merry-go-round, going nowhere.
    What’s interesting is the way the internet has enlarged the potential for this kind of argument from authority, by making it so much easier for likeminded people to form organisations which are little more than webpages, giving the impression of a mass movement based on a wide network of activists.
    You see exactly the same tendency in the pseudo-academic documents put out by NGOs and the likes of the Climate Change Committee. Their intellectual authority is based on the contents of the bibliographies, which consist entirely of papers (peer-reviewed of course) from journals which exist solely to provide publishing opportunities for the sorts of academics who sit on the committees which write the policy documents which cite the articles in the journals. Round and round they go, getting dizzier and dizzier. No wonder they think the world is ending. Perhaps they should just get off the merry-go-round for a minute and take a few deep breaths.

  • Maya TICKELL-Painter

    Any relation?

  • GC: ‘What’s interesting is the way the internet has enlarged the potential for this kind of argument from authority, by making it so much easier for likeminded people to form organisations which are little more than webpages, giving the impression of a mass movement based on a wide network of activists.’

    Amen, brother. The same names keep cropping up again and again in these little NGOs, which in many cases do little more than publicize each other. It’s respectable (or respected, anyway) sockpuppetry. Amplification by alias.

    VB (alias VB)

  • @Geoff, @Vinny – agreed, the same names appear again and again on lists of speakers at conferences, signees of letters to the Guardian, and so forth. Also, look at the affiliations of any one participant and you’ll often find a long list of organisations (some major, some – as Geoff points out – that are little more than webpages) in which they play a role; the more senior a figure (Tom Burke, for example, or Tony Juniper) the longer the list. Sometimes I’m reminded of a minimalist performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth I saw once that had just four actors, who between them played every single part in the play.

    But what interests me is why the riders on the mad merry-go-round (excellent image, by the way!) want to get all the bemused bystanders on board with them. The machine is whirling along very nicely and in a self-sustaining way, powered by (until recently) just about endless funds, and supported by the majority of political parties. Why exactly does it matter that we don’t join them on the merry-go-round? This is what I haven’t quite fathomed out yet. Not join them by complying – we are doing that already, via legislation, taxes and energy bills. I mean join them in spirit – validating them and wanting to accompany them on that mad whirl.

    Some answers are perhaps hinted at in this document: “MINDSPACE – Influencing behaviour through public policy”, published in 2010:
    http://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/publications/2/#scribe

    Apologies if I’ve gone on about it before, but I find this paper very interesting, in the way that interventions (whether these concern obesity or climate change) are subtly rationalised. p12:

    In fact, influencing behaviour is central to public policy. As citizens, communities and policymakers, we want to stop ‘bad behaviours': people vandalising cars, stealing our possessions, or threatening our children. We want to encourage ‘good behaviours': volunteering, voting and recycling. We even sometimes want a little help ourselves to ‘do the right thing': to save a little more, eat a little less, and exercise a little more – though we may be ambivalent about how aggressively we want the state [to] intervene in these behaviours.

    And on p13:

    Whether we like it or not, the actions of policymakers, public service professionals, markets and our fellow citizens around us have big, and often unintended, impacts on our behaviour. ‘Doing nothing’ is never a neutral option: we are always busy shaping each other’s behaviour. For example, if governments keep a distance, markets may emerge to satisfy our preferences. [WH Smith offers us cut-price chocolate oranges!] While this often does not cause major problems, it can do – markets rarely account properly for the good and bad spill over effects of our own behaviour on others.

    For me, this comes across as self-serving and the rationalisation of an impulse that is never fully examined. What lies behind it? I recommend reading the paper, and I think the questions it raises feed into this issue of the doctors vs GWPF. As Ben has pointed out, the influence of the GWPF has been just about non-existent on government policy – as far as I know, not a single wind turbine has been prevented from being built, for example, by anything the GWPF have said or done. And yet – it seems very important that they are silenced and not permitted to influence opinion.

    @StuB Yes, it could be more than a coincidence – I’m intrigued too, but haven’t found a link yet.

  • Perhaps Richard Horton should be called for account for publishing the tosh on ‘Iraq death counts by opinion poll’, or Dr Pusztai on ‘killer potatoes’.

  • My two cents, for what it is worth…
    I’m a professional engineer in my late 50s and I can read graphs and statistics. I’m fed up of looking at graphs issued by the UK meteorological office and BEST, examples among many, where the graph axes are distorted to exaggerate trends. Then in addition the recent BEST data used a composite average that conveniently hid the last 10-year levelling off of global warming. Finally the Meteorological Office finally produces a graph revealing there is now no discernible global warming trend for the past 15 years, and I believe only one newspaper reported it.
    Your site, Spiked and a few others are very good at exposing the fallacious and fatuous logic of the Warmists’ arguments on CO2 and trends, and in revealing the strong links between politicizing scientists and global warming. As you point out above, one distinguished scientist postulates a link between obesity and global warming without a single shred of evidence.
    My own pet hate is post-Modernist science, where narratives, opinions, computer models, and political concerns, are least as important, if not more so, than concrete scientific evidence collected by experimentation and observation and impartial analysis. That then allows people to believe that a view on obese people warming the planet is at least on a par with fact and can be perceived as valid science.
    Opinions and narratives is very lazy science, easy to write, very well-funded by governments, keeps people prominent scientists in the public eye, and is aligned with the barrage of views produced by anti-development NGOs like Greenpeace. Ad as yet global warming is still trendy, conformist, establishment, wealthy and has the ear of government. The scientific institutions enjoy the limelight, the attention, the easy life and the money.
    They can and do ignore the real evidence and the bloggers. Journalists especially on the Guardian seem not to be able to read graphs and statistics properly. A well-known professor of the UEA climate unit admits not being able to work MS Excel or do proper statistical analysis. Opinions by scientists, journalists and politicians are thrown around like confetti without a scintilla of proof or evidence.
    Yet, even those who have little doubt that there is a global warming trend, and has been since the 1850s, get lumped in with Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazis for the crime of asking what other causes there might for global warming apart from or even in addition to CO2 emissions. The sun, solar wind, eccentricities in the Earth’s orbit, deforestation, sea currents, volcanoes …?? I thought the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere and the seas were a highly complex system…
    I have to admit I find the whole thing depressing. I don’t think we’ll ever make a real impact in the UK – there is just too much vested interest and reputations involved. In fact, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that criticism of global warming might well become illegal. There are already signs…
    The only hope I have is that there are encouraging trends outside the UK. There are some straws in the wind that the madness is starting to be rolled back in the USA where live. I also travel extensively over the world for my job and global warming is a very low priority compared to poverty, wealth inequality, corruption, environmental degradation, and so on. Almost all engineers and scientists I’m in daily contact with all over the world can read graphs and while most accept the Earth is gradually warming, they agree the causes are less clear, and warming is unequally distributed and is erratic. This of course makes them sceptics and among the low-life in British establishment terms. These are only my opinions, of course, such as they are…

    Pessimistic as I am, I do realise that sites like yours provide a very important service. They are read worldwide as even in the UK there might be a slight shift. These blogs are like water dripping on to stone but even in time…

  • Ben, I sometimes use your blog, and others, as a way of ‘testing’ people and ideas. Throwing out ‘hypothetical’s’, of which, I’m not entirely convinced. I suppose that’s what’s called ‘thinking out-loud’. And, probably because I’ve never been exactly ‘fast’ at thinking the essentials, what I ‘want to say’ always occurs after I’ve attempted to say it. So I apologise for, too often, using your blog as a sounding board. My normal instinct is to ‘provoke’ thought, not to ‘belong’ to it.
    That said, I wanted to say why I admire what you try to do here. And there is a certain nostalgia in this, and as I’ve said before, a certain envy (one has heard of ‘failed’ artists, of poets, even, but not ‘failed’ philosophers!). The nostalgia is for a thinker who can make an analyses without being lost in that analyses. Who has an ‘epistemological’ background that allows him not to be floundering in his own ‘rhetoric’ and ‘good phrase’. The ‘will-to-truth’ does not come from some kind of depersonalised, direction-less, dick-less, neuter, ‘objective’ ‘search’ ( how could such a position ‘search’?) but from a willed, intelligent, grounded desire. Philosophers used to go on, in their childish dreams, how the ‘subjective’ person could find the ‘objective’ truth. You and I know that was absurd. By the by (I’m not going to rewrite an unwritten thesis – I’m to old for that!). The ‘will-to-truth’ comes from from it’s own anticipation of ‘truth’. Only by searching out that which we ‘know’ can we begin to search out that which we don’t know. Empty phrases. What I mean is, your perspicuous attention to detail, like McIntyre’s, is something very rare today and extraordinarily precious.
    For, as I’ve said before, I couldn’t give a hill of beans for climate, ‘overpopulation’, indeed, ‘capitalism’ or history – what I care about is civilization, that without which we are meaningless. And without which I wouldn’t mind mankind disappearing. I look merely for signs of hope!

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