In today’s Observer, Robin McKie channels scientists

Climate change: IPCC issues stark warning over global warming
Call to ‘stop dithering about fossil fuel cuts’ as expert panel warns entire globe is affected

This is now part of the ritual established by the Guardian whenever the routine, scheduled, planned, expected, and timetabled publishing of IPCC assessment reports or UNFCCC COP meetings occur. These events are in every case presented as always new, more comprehensive, deeper, and more ‘stark’ than previous pronouncements on climate change, even when the reports say very little or nothing at all that is new, and even suggest that things aren’t as bad ‘as previously thought’. McKie continues…

Scientists will this week issue their starkest warning yet about the mounting dangers of global warming. In a report to be handed to political leaders in Stockholm on Monday, they will say that the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have now led to a warming of the entire globe, including land surfaces, oceans and the atmosphere.

The starkest warning yet? How can he know, when it has not yet been published — indeed, it is still being written.

The scientists’ warning – the most comprehensive and convincing yet produced by climate scientists – comes at a time when growing numbers of people are doubting the reality of global warming. Last week, the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) published a survey showing that the proportion of British people who do not think the world’s climate is changing has almost quadrupled since 2005.

The most comprehensive and convincing [warning] yet produced by climate scientists…? What evidence is there of scientists escalating their warning? McKie should be more cautious. After all, if he is worried about the rising proportion of British people who do not think the world’s climate is changing he might want to think about why some people might — on his view — stick their heads in the sand.

The Guardian’s regular coverage of the climate debate is notable for two reasons. One: its attempts to sustain the climate change narrative is unremittingly alarmist and increasingly shrill. Two: it polarises the debate into binary, opposing categories of scientist versus denier, truth verses falsehood, good vs bad, thus excluding any nuance, complexity or middle ground from the debate.

These two tendencies together explain why scepticism of climate change may be increasing. The problem for the Guardian is that, when you divide and polarise the debate as it does, when the alarmist story you tell turns out to be nonsense, you force people with the sense or intuition to see it as nonsense to the other, opposing camp. In other words, if you do not let people assent to the climate story by degree, you alienate yourself in an attempt to alienate ‘denial’. And the view that the climate has not warmed for over a decade and a half is no longer controversial — only people assembled at the Guardian argue otherwise, albeit they argue the point with (far too much) vehemence. The Guardian’s ire is too much for science to sustain, even if there are plausible hypotheses about where the warming is going. Those who are making the argument that the non-warming of the surface of the planet is not a problem for the climate narrative of 2006 — the ‘travesty’, to use the word of the most vocal proponent of the ocean warming theory of the missing heat — are simply shifting the goalposts, and the whole world can see them being hoist by their own noxious petards: bogus surveys intended to shine a light into the mechanisms of the sceptical mind, to measure the consensus, and to ‘frame’ the debate in such a way as to gently coerce non-believers into ‘behaviour change’ and ‘attitudinal adjustment’. They don’t recognise themselves as the cause of so much climate scepticism. They don’t understand that it is words like McKies…

But as the IPCC report underlines, scientists are becoming more and more certain that climate change poses a real danger to the planet.

… which prompt the reader to reflect on his intransigence, and the continued framing of the debate by the climate change establishment…

Many believe the disconnection between popular belief and scientific analysis has been engineered by “deniers” explicitly opposed to the lifestyle changes – including restrictions on fossil fuel burning – that might be introduced in the near future. “There are attempts by some politicians and lobbyists to confuse and mislead the public about the scientific evidence that human activities are driving climate change and creating huge risks,” said Stern.

Stern’s conspiracy theory, is not new, of course. But it looks like an increasingly desperate move when seen in the light of mainstream scientists scratching their heads about the global warming hiatus, and the non-manifest problems that climate change orthodoxy of yesteryear promised we should be expecting by today. There has been no warming. There is no observable increase in the frequency, intensity or longevity of storms. There has been no detectable increase in the number of floods and droughts. There are not tens of millions of climate change refugees escaping worsening conditions. There has been no increase in the prevalence of diseases allegedly attributable to global warming. There is no widespread loss of agricultural land. And of course, the objections raised by climate sceptics are not attempts to ‘confuse and mislead the public’, but are attempts to point out that that is precisely what Stern and writers at the Guardian have done.

Here are some previous headlines from The Guardian’s archive, where they have issued warnings seemingly on behalf of science, but are much more owed to their own misunderstanding — to put it charitably.

Scientists warn growing acidity of oceans will kill reefs
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 4 February 2005 10.20 GMT

Scientists have given warning of a newly discovered threat to mankind, which will wipe out coral and many species of fish and other sea life.

Climate scientists issue dire warning
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 28 February 2006

The Earth’s temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations’ team of climate experts.

Global warming study warns of vanishing climates
· Scientists warn of disaster in biodiversity hotspots
· Species ‘must evolve or migrate’ to survive
James Randerson, science correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 March 2007

By the end of the century up to two fifths of the land surface of the Earth will have a hotter climate unlike anything that currently exists, according to a study that predicts the effects of global warming on local and regional climates. And in the worst case scenario, the climatic conditions on another 48% of the land surface will no longer exist on the planet at all.

UN scientists warn time is running out to tackle global warming
· Scientists say eight years left to avoid worst effects
· Panel urges governments to act immediately
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 5 May 2007

Governments are running out of time to address climate change and to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures, an influential UN panel warned yesterday.

Scientists warn on climate tipping points
Alok Jha
The Guardian, Thursday 16 August 2007

Some tipping points for climate change could be closer than previously thought. Scientists are predicting that the loss of the massive Greenland ice sheet may now be unstoppable and lead to catastrophic sea-level rises around the world.

‘False optimism’ climate warning
James Randerson, science correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 30 May 2008

Climate scientists have warned that a “false optimism” has infused international climate talks and that governments must work quickly to set tough targets for global carbon emissions or risk profound consequences for the planet.

Scientists to issue stark warning over dramatic new sea level figures
Rising sea levels pose a far bigger eco threat than previously thought. This week’s climate change conference in Copenhagen will sound an alarm over new floodings – enough to swamp Bangladesh, Florida, the Norfolk Broads and the Thames estuary
Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009

Scientists will warn this week that rising sea levels, triggered by global warming, pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. There is now a major risk that many coastal areas around the world will be inundated by the end of the century because Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are melting faster than previously estimated.

Climate change warning: ‘We’re sick of having our messages lost in political noise’
David Adam reports scientists’ exasperation at the climate change conference
David Adam, environment correspondent
theguardian.com, Friday 13 March 2009 09.39 GMT

Blind date with disaster
We are constantly warned by scientists that our planet is in big trouble, so why can’t we change direction? David Suzuki, one of the world’s leading ecologists, on how humans have lost the vital skill of foresight
David Suzuki
The Guardian, Wednesday 12 March 2008

As I approach my 72nd birthday, I have reluctantly achieved the position of elder, and it is mindboggling to reflect on the changes that have occurred in my lifetime. The population of the world has tripled, while technology has exploded from early radio, telephones and propeller planes to the telecommunication revolution, computers, space travel, genetic engineering and oral contraceptives. And stuff! My biggest challenge is to staunch the flow of stuff into my life. But these great successes – economic growth, technology, consumer goods – have come at enormous cost: the degradation of our very life support systems – air, water, soil, energy and biodiversity.

Scientists warn carbon dioxide may soon make coral reefs extinct
Alok Jha
The Guardian, Monday 6 July 2009 19.22 BST

David Attenborough joined scientists today to warn that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already above the level which condemns coral reefs to extinction, with catastrophic effects for the oceans and the people who depend upon them.

Climate scientists warn of wild weather in the year ahead as El Niño begins
El Niño expected to increase drought, floods and other extreme events, and cause a hot summer in the UK
John Vidal, environment editor
theguardian.com, Monday 13 July 2009 16.30 BST

Climate scientists have warned of wild weather in the year ahead as the start of the global “El Niño” climate phenomenon exacerbates the impacts of global warming. As well as droughts, floods and other extreme events, the next few years are also likely to be the hottest on record, scientists say.

Climate change scientists warn of 4C global temperature rise
Team of experts say such an increase would cause severe droughts and see millions of migrants seeking refuge
Damian Carrington
The Guardian, Monday 29 November 2010

A hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the agonisingly slow progress of the global climate change talks that restart in Mexico today makes the so-called safe limit of 2C impossible to keep. A 4C rise in the planet’s temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

Extreme weather will strike as climate change takes hold, IPCC warns
Heavier rainfall, storms and droughts could wipe billions off economies and destroy lives, says report by 220 scientists
Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 18 November 2011 13.38 GMT

Heavier rainfall, fiercer storms and intensifying droughts are likely to strike the world in the coming decades as climate change takes effect, the world’s leading climate scientists said on Friday.

Agriculture needs massive investment to avoid hunger, scientists warn
Group of leading scientists urge investment in sustainable agriculture to solve hunger crisis and reduce global warming
Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
theguardian.com, Wednesday 16 November 2011 13.30 GMT

Billions more investment is needed in agriculture and food distribution systems around the world in the next few years, if widespread hunger is to be avoided, according to a group of leading scientists.

Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists
Water scarcity’s effect on food production means radical steps will be needed to feed population expected to reach 9bn by 2050
John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian, Sunday 26 August 2012 19.00 BST

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

These are just a random selection — the first results from a quick Google search. But in each case the story is the same — scientific opinion of variable provenance — has been uncritically reproduced, or wildly exaggerated, often to the point of actually contradicting the science, or to be later contradicted by scientists. Guardian writers use ‘science’ as a puppet to act out morality plays, in which their own fantasies are seemingly given authority by the invoking of ‘stark’ or ‘dire’ — typically, the ‘starkest’ or ‘direst’ yet — ‘warnings’ that things are ‘worse than previously thought’.

But that’s not how things have turned out. And it doesn’t look to any sensible perspective that things are going to turn out to be ‘worst than expected’.

The question that remains then, is, how come all this emphasis on ‘science’ — calls to put ‘science’ at the heart of policy-making and information provided to the public — hasn’t been able to change the quality of the pronouncements made by the likes of Stern and the Guardian? Why hasn’t it been able to challenge alarmist memes finding their way into cheap and shrill Guardian copy? And why is pointing out that the climate change pudding has been over-egged is still dismissed as ‘denial’ by the climate Great and Good? The reason the public switch off is that it is by now completely obvious that there is more to the climate debate than science vs denial, and anyone claiming otherwise is pulling your leg. The only people who don’t understand this are writing for the Guardian.

36 Responses to The Guardian’s ‘Scientists Warn…’ Meme

  • Here’s the ‘Scientists warn’ headline in its purest form:

    Scientists warn world of danger

    That’s above a story by Anthony Tucker in the Grauniad on 6th March 1972.

    The first couple of paras:

    A major analysis of world trends [The Limits To Growth], commissioned by the Club of Rome and published in the United states States today, shows that unless dramatic changes take place in economic and political policies civilisation will degrade and collapse within a century.

    The study, carried out by an international team under the direction of Professor Dennis Meadows at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to be published in this country at the end of next month, is based on the most complex computer model yet constructed of dominant interacting components of world systems. Its unavoidable conclusion is that economic and population growth must cease and be replaced by stable systems.

    (The rest of the article says, in essence, that while some think the Club of Rome is a sinister organisation because it is invisible, powerful and ‘industrially-orientated’ ‘[n]othing could be further from the truth': the CoR preaches doom, therefore it can’t be sinister. The Grauniad printed long extracts from TLTG in the same issue (complete with wonderfully meaningless graphs) and also gave it an editorial, ‘A sober look at doomsday’. Lovely stuff. Available online via Proquest, Manchester Library and your local library card number.)

  • (I misremembered about the Manchester Library thing. Your local library number won’t work. You need to register at Man Lib, and I’m not sure that’s still possible if you don’t live in Manchester. It was five or more years ago but they must have closed the door by now.)

  • Excellent piece. As regular Guardian reader I would absolutely concur. Their “never-give-an-inch” attitude, whilst cheered by the faithful, has been responsible for sparking scepticism in a lot of people, me being one of them.

  • It never lets up. Here’s Fiona Harvey of the Guardian channelling Helen Lovejoy of the Simpsons, this morning:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/23/children-bear-brunt-climate-change-new-study

    Including this statistic (again!):

    Children among the 150-200 million people estimated to have to flee their homes because of climate change will suffer more than adults because of their relative lack of resources and higher vulnerability to disease.

    This has been debunked on BBC Radio 4, no less:
    https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20130830_r4

    Stephen Castles [International Migration Institute at Oxford University]: Norman Myers, who I know and we’ve discussed together, is an environmentalist. And I think his objective, in putting forward these dramatic projections, was to really scare public opinion and politicians into taking action on climate change, which of course is a very laudable motive. But the problem was that he really used a method to make projections that is really not permissible at all – he simply took a map of the world, worked out what areas would be inundated if the sea rose, say, by 50 centimetres, and then simply assumed that all the people affected by this sea level rise would have to migrate, and a lot of them would migrate to developed countries. And really there was no basis for it.

    Tim Harford: And the 200 million figure was calculated in the same way.

  • I went to Smith’s today to get a wedding anniversary card for my wife. There was one from the National Trust with a view of Newlyn being battered by a storm combined with a high tide. She likes crashing waves. On the back I learned that villages like Newlyn are under threat because storms are becoming increasingly severe. I didn’t buy it.

  • Spot on. And written without mention of the odious Monbiot, whose splenetic and vile attacks on sceptics were what alerted this default warmer a few years back, that all was not well in the world of “climate science”, in that it had such hangers on behaving in such an unpleasant manner.

    Excellent article, Ben, Bookmarked in my “Rebuttals” folder.

  • A major analysis of world trends [The Limits To Growth] …

    I was in college when TLTG came out, so of course I had to study it in depth.

    Here is what I learned: as of about 15 years ago, we are all dead and civilization is collapsed.

  • McKie’s article was in the Observer, not the Guardian (they share the same website and only the Sunday date indicates which paper articles are from). It was accompanied by another from Sir Nicholas Professor Lord Stern, and one by Will Hutton, their senior economics journalist, all talking up the still unwritten IPCC Summary for Policy Makers.

    One thing that’s changed at the Guardian/Observer over the past couple of years is the nature of the comments on their climate change articles. Before Jack Savage and I and a lot of others were banned, we sceptics would consistently get about five times as many “recommends” as the warmist comments. Sceptic comments that get through now tend to be from newcomers and get less support, and the discussion between true believers is frequently surreal, (“we’re all going to die from ocean acidification!” – “No we’re not! We’re doomed by resource depletion!” etc.) The terrifying thing is that the censorship of the views of a majority of its readers has probably had no adverse consequences for the Guardian.

    Its hard to imagine that this espousal of blatant censorship in what used to be the “serious” media doesn’t affect their coverage of other subjects. I’m thinking of the lukewarm response to the suppression of the main political party in Egypt, but no doubt there are othere examples.

  • Geoff, Ben has corrected the Observer/Guardian thing. You say

    The terrifying thing is that the censorship of the views of a majority of its readers has probably had no adverse consequences for the Guardian.

    But aren’t they unsustainably losing readership (I’m not including on-line which involves a different calculus). When I was young (the 70’s) my mother always bought The Times and The Observer on each and every Sunday (for balance) and I used to feed on the titbits I could digest. That and Sunday brunch (we didn’t call it that then). Both papers seemed to have really good writers and there was a lot of what used to be called ‘Investigative Journalism’ (the ‘Insight Team’ – or was that later? – etc). It is not now as it hath been of yore.

    So, Ben and Geoff, perhaps the Guardian Newspapers are merely political rags. Or more likely a kind of modern, unofficial Gazette, speaking on behalf of the establishment, which very few people would want to buy.

    As to the occult explanations for the ‘hiatus’, what a bore…

    It is politics by any other means.

  • This was part of a debate I was having with a Joshua, on Judith Curry’s blog about the idea that we are unable to be autonomous, rational human beings because we are, by nature, biased. If you think this to much, Ben, please delete:

    Joshua, Sorry I didn’t catch your reply of http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/22/sundays-climate-logic/#comment-385770

    But life is buzzy. I think what you are saying is nuanced but fundamentally, from both a logical and an ethical standpoint, wrong.

    From a logical point of view, it must endlessly tie itself in knots for it both wants an objective criterion and yet denies that that truth can be seen. ‘Truth’ then becomes a proximate Ideal, something some ‘approach’ closer than others. But since, in such a universe, no one actually reaches such a ‘Truth’, such a ‘Truth’ might well as not exist. Someone, that is to say, among these ‘approaches’ might challenge the existence of what allegedly is being approached, they might say “This Truth is a myth and since none of you have this Truth, none of you can prove otherwise – it is an illusion.” And, thus, we have the Philosophy of Savages.

    But, secondly, there is an ethical question, and that is the question of Trust. This is the crucial difference between a closed and an open society. Not, as Popper and others, would have, a matter of our conception of truth or the different methodologies via which we might gain it (or demonstrate it, rather). No, it is the trust in the Other that comes first, as all good historians know. Ie the Open Society creates science, rationality itself, not the other way round. What do I mean by trust, politicly speaking, for it is, ultimately, politics of which we speak? I mean trust that your fellow interlocutor, yes, your ‘opponent’, your fellow man or woman, is, until proven otherwise, a person of good will, of bone voluntas – that they are speaking openly, honestly to you.

    That trust is belied by your projection of so called ‘biases’. To assume bias is to assume mistrust, surely? If you notice this comment I would be interested to know what you think.

  • A comment I posted in response to a Guardian article back in 2010:

    “Articles like this strive to enlighten people on the apparent dangers of regarding AGW skeptics as anything but ‘bonkers’.

    Ironically, as far as can be seen, such pieces are likely have the opposite effect. Those who agree continue to do so, while those who deny are unlikely to cross the floor and join the light side.

    Those remaining must surely wonder why articles in this vein are so defensive. If the skeptics opinions are so completely absurd, and everything they claim is such a joke, why do you continue to offer defensive responses to everything they produce? Surely you weaken your position with regards to all but your regular fans?”

    The attitude of the commenters at the Guardian certainly encouraged me to learn more about climate change that I otherwise would have done.

  • Indeed, Ben. I had a kind of perverse thought the other day, that if the shoe was on the other foot, that is, if ‘climatism’, to coin an ugly word, were, itself, not the establishment, but, like me, it’s opposite, I would be in it’s defence. But that is, of course, a perverse hypothesis, since ‘climatism’ is, in essence, an Establishment proposition (not ‘eco-warriors’ and other hippy bs – that is a recollection of a fantasy of an unreal past.). Always for the underdog, being a dog myself.

  • As a graduate student in the late 1970s, specializing in computer modeling of dynamic systems, our class had to reproduce The Limits to Growth simulations. Without even knowing many of the things I know now it was easy to see that they made many assumptions that were iffy at best. They left out increasing efficiency, new technologies for the environment, improved crop yield, demographics due to reduced child mortality. In fact, their models were terribly unstable (face it, just terrible). That exercise has been infinitely useful whenever I hear that something is based on a model.

  • What I worry about, Craig Loehle, is whether we are merely ‘old white men’? How does one Know? The old and the rational? I know it’s not quite true but, assuming it is, what would it mean? I mean, who, who, is hanging on to civilization? By our fingernails and teeth? So, passive, not people who shoot people, in ‘shopping malls’ etc? Merely try to think? (I’m 46, therefore young!)

  • This is potentially a fascinating article and analysis of the current fashion for climate ‘alarmism’. Except, tragically, it falls down by failing to provide a single piece of supporting evidence for its wild claims of conspiracy theories, the ‘exaggeration’ of IPCC reports etc. In retrospect this is a little ironic – for it is guilty of the very crime it accuses the ‘alarmists’ of perpetrating – unsupported, biased views of climate change science which distort any kind of balanced analysis being undertaken by focusing exclusively on the suggested polarity of existing climate change debate – ‘scientists’ v deniers. It’s also a little inconsistent in parts – eg the claim is made that climate change science is a continuous work in progress with various details of the intricacies of the underlying physics still to be discovered and evaluated. How then, and on what basis, has the conclusion that the latest IPCC report is ‘exaggerated’ been reached? For surely, in order to establish this, a comprehensive knowledge of a fully complete climate science would be required to compare the IPCC report to – which, it has been claimed, nobody has yet. Sadly, if this article had been written with some (or maybe even any) supporting evidence for these highly entertaining but somewhat wild conclusions, it would probably make as much impact within the scientific world as the IPCC’s latest report is making now. And also win the next Nobel Prize to boot. And then there are the other glowing, yet bizarre, observations and inaccuracies – eg ‘the earth’s surface temperature is not warming’ – oh really? – then what explanation (scientific if possible) can be given for the fact that, last year alone, parts of the USA had the highest surface temperatures on record, Australia had to rewrite their own temperature gauge because it was recording temperatures which went, for the first time in recorded history, off the scale they were so high and in the UK and Europe we experienced one of the longest heatwaves in decades? I do not pretend to be any kind of expert in climate science but all of these would suggest, most strongly, a trend of rising temperatures. There are some other interesting pieces of climate misinformation (or is that simply anti-AGW propaganda?) in this article as well – ‘there is no observable increase in the frequency, intensity or longevity of storms’. Not quite correct i’m afraid (though nearly right) – there has been no observable increase in the frequency of storms (though, to be accurate, the research which forms the basis for this statement was actually focused on subject of hurricanes, not storms per se) but there has been substantial increase in their intensity – particularly in US – Hurricanes Sandy & Katrina ring any bells? Finally, to its credit, this lengthy, propaganda-spiked article does contain one nugget of (almost) serious analysis worthy of further discussion – there has, sadly, been an upturn of public opinion change in the UK in recent years towards the denialist camp. The explanation for this, though, rests on an understanding of wider political and economic interests – could it be, perhaps, that this is the result of the billions of pounds pumped into the economy by professional denialist foundations such as Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation and the legions of right wing Tory backers (not to mention the combined, and substantial efforts, of the global oil industry and other vested interests) which influence, through their ownership, most of the mainstream media?

  • leedsjon. You say

    Except, tragically, it falls down by failing to provide a single piece of supporting evidence for its wild claims of conspiracy theories

    Where, in fact, does Ben make such a claim. I’ve read the article twice and I still can’t see it. Could you substantiate such a claim about this alleged ‘claim’?

    And if you concede this, then:

    for it is guilty of the very crime it accuses the ‘alarmists’ of perpetrating. Therefore he has not said, nor could it be said, that

    that the latest IPCC report is ‘exaggerated’

    Makes no sense, does it? As you might of noticed, unless you just made the classic mistake of not reading the article, Ben’s blog is about the politics of those who talk of climate science (sometimes they are ‘climate scientists’), not about climate science. Ben makes no claim (I don’t believe he ever has nor would) about science, never mind about ‘climate science’. I suggest you try to read a few more of his articles, look up, for instance WWF and Ben Pile or climate resistance. This is a category mistake which Ben constantly, and it seems pointlessly, points to. Therefore

    the claim is made that climate change science is a continuous work in progress with various details

    He could not have made such a claim (he did not). And

    has the conclusion that the latest IPCC report is ‘exaggerated’ been reached?

    About a report that has not been published (therefore, it cannot be the ‘latest’, unless you mean the 1997 report?) and which Mr Pile did not comment on.

    You say

    Sadly, if this article had been written with some (or maybe even any) supporting evidence for these highly entertaining but somewhat wild conclusions, it would probably make as much impact within the scientific world as the IPCC’s latest report is making now.

    Wrong, in fact (see above) and wrong in essence. Your demanding ‘evidence’ for a commentary on a Guardian article and the wrong type of ‘evidence’. What ‘evidence’ does politics establish itself with? For I would agree, if that would have been what you meant, that it needs something akin to ‘evidence’. Let me put it another way: what ‘evidence’ does Ethics require? There was a kind of absurd craze in so called ‘British Philosophy’ (an oxymoron, if there ever was one) to give a kind of ‘Logic’ to Ethics, an ‘evidence’, if you like, but that was just a bad reading of Kant and Hegel and, perhaps, the Greeks. The Logic of Ethics. Quelle horreur!.

    You say

    ‘there is no observable increase in the frequency, intensity or longevity of storms’. Not quite correct i’m afraid (though nearly right) – there has been no observable increase in the frequency of storms

    (As if that was Ben’s point!) which is, absurdly, a contradictio in adjecto! ‘Not quite correct’ and you affirm the very proposition. You say

    I do not pretend to be any kind of expert in climate science but all of these would suggest, most strongly, a trend of rising temperatures

    Which begs the very question being asked. Those without ‘expertise’ please stand up (grab your trousers first). What is being asked is what is your politics? If ‘temperatures’ are ‘rising’what should we do about it? For instance, we could welcome it – mankind, after all, has faced far greater worries? The reason you misunderstand Ben Pile and have misread this article is because you, yourself, like so many others before you, think ‘the science’ is the deciding basis for action. As any self-respecting scientist will tell you, science is not actionable and what you think is ‘science’ is only your politics.

    You say

    the billions of pounds pumped into the economy by professional denialist foundations such as Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation

    But that is merely slander. This article suggests the opposite reason – that, first, the airwaves are dominated by the very message you would probably welcome – that ‘climate change’ is a frightening prospect and we must do ‘something’ about it. An ‘alarmism’ which has become self defeating. The ‘billions’ of pounds, that is to say, are in your pocket. And it has not only failed to persuade but it has dissuaded. Do you not understand that, yet?

    Finally, I must dissuade you of another misconception. You might not know it, but Ben (if I can say this) is very much not a Tory. Nor am I. It is the real Left that opposes you, rather than the fake.

  • Australia had to rewrite their own temperature gauge because it was recording temperatures which went, for the first time in recorded history, off the scale they were so high

    Sorry, but I had to laugh at this. The system of temperatures was changed to achieve this. The “record” temperatures were due to estimates being made of the centre of Australia. Somewhere no-one lives.

    This is important, because it shows an amusing feature of “Climate science” — the move for warming to be where we can’t actually measure it.

    We were told that evidence for warming would be found in the high climate. Once we had proper satellites we found that wasn’t true. (The missing “hot spot” is one of the elephants that the IPCC no longer even discusses. It’s fatal to their vaunted “physics based models” but they can’t explain it, so they don’t.)

    Then we would melt thanks to polar amplification. Once we start measuring accurately we discover Antarctic ice we discovered it was growing. Ooops! (Another elephant to wave away.)

    Currently our best evidence is apparently hiding in the deep ocean. Conveniently now the only place on earth not measured accurately.

    Or the centre of Australia. Where, of course, there are no actual thermometers.

    That anyone actually still believes this charade, as you apparently do, leaves those that have taken the time to track down the science, which you have not done I note, somewhat amused. It’s like arguing with five year-olds.

    A couple of other things. Please use paragraphs. Your output looks like a rant and is very hard to read. And for the record, I am not a Tory either, having voted Labour all my life.

  • We might think of the Guardian as a club for those militantly unwilling to get on with life. Its always-half-finished statements always leaving out the most vital component: what the environment – or space – must become before they are prepared to make use of it.

    In seeking to force this space to be identified merely as “the environment” what is the Guardian excluding from its description? If a space is what’s left when something is felt to be missing, what is the “environment” missing that privileges it as a void – for people drawn to voids – rather than as a container with the potential to both confirm a loss as well as to meet it to some degree?

    Of course, the risks associated with owning (up to) a loss and identifying the resources to address it may lead some to turn away from the process altogether. After all, it requires a less defensive description of oneself – vis-a-vis the environment – along with the chance of is what is being described receiving a humiliating rejection. Faced with such a seemingly daunting task – and, crucially, the negotiation intrinsic to its success – some might choose instead to flee to the pages of the Guardian… from where they can forever protest the space as being nothing other than an attractive, but useless, blank (indeed, its attraction being commensurate to its deemed uselessness). Its only facility being as cover-story for the half-finished statements – describing the half-finished lives – their authors wish to pass off as a whole.

  • [This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by the standards set by the hypocrite who authored it. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see your own FUQUs.]

  • PeterS, Your ‘analysis” is intrigueing but half said. I might, sometimes, seem hostile to you and to such an ‘analysis’ but that is only because I feel an amber of poetry cannot capture this stupid tsetse stinging us. I, myself, must come off my ‘stupidity in the stars’ just wrestle with these beasts. Because it existantialy threatens me. Irrationality threatens me. And, before you say it, yes, it is because I have little ‘rationality’. All that by the by, your attempt at understanding is a kind of poetry which I admire.

    What do you mean by ‘space’ and ‘enviroment’? If you mean that, let us say, ‘The Guardian’, invents a ‘space’ which it fills with a fantasy of a so called ‘Enviroment’, and that that ‘space’ is, by definition, a fear of ‘space’, a real enviroment, then I think I understand you?

    Freud began a poetry of soul that both his detractors nor his followers have understood. But he knew it need presicion, every word for a thing. No?

  • You are always yesterdays man: Relearning sorrows
    And stories that are no longer relevant:
    Catching up with the ‘latest’ news which is always 1901.
    No worries: the Titanic is before you, the death of a million
    Men later, later than that,
    The death of Europe, itself, it’s walking corpse
    Perambulating a shore of unsense, of nonsense.

  • Brutality is a bruised cheek.
    Heartache a soul burned.
    Your child cry? Swaddle him
    In sackcloth and ashes and
    Berry him in the back garden.
    Out there, where the apple tree
    Grew, was my friend. His eyes,
    Glistening with diamonds,
    The dew wet on his brow.
    “I searched because I was lost
    But I have been here, all the time.”
    Your smile in the blindness of mists
    Like teeth chattering in the wind.

  • Star.

    How did that star break
    Against this O to dark a dust
    Lit for a moment
    Of accidental end,
    Swallowed among
    A million furnaces?

    We’d watched last flicker
    Of evening sun and
    Were surprised by a dawn
    Blazing the south side
    In evaporate glare,

    Lost among the irate
    Fools of panic
    Running to the west,
    To the east, to any
    Sure concept of sense.

  • The malady of ‘being there’.
    That particular faltering step
    Towards what? A covert neon
    Or the moon, eclipse of the night.
    Like those long roads of understanding
    At the end of which only a fields
    Grubby grass, the twitch of a tree,
    Broken and misplaced alien nature.

    Rather, on the obdurate pavement,
    Ones feet grooved to a steady tread,
    Here in the town is one truly alone:
    Anonymous with the anonymous,
    Destructive with the destructive –
    Out there another world, ejected ghost
    Of a field that haunts our want
    Of substance, useless to intrude upon.

  • Lewis – “What do you mean by ‘space’ and ‘enviroment’?”

    I mean nothing more, or less, than the dictionary definition of environment: ‘A person’s surroundings’. The first thing a person is surrounded by, of course, is a body. That in itself may place all sorts of demands upon its owner which he (or she) may find intolerable. For example, the demand to be fed, to be pleasured, to touch and be touched, etc. Such constant external pressures might be wholly at odds with the idea the person has of himself… which would result in a power struggle. Here, we might ask what the difference is between a bulimic and an environmentalist – other than the limit each places on what constitutes their surroundings?

  • Peter S

    There is nothing ‘more or less’ about a word, no matter what your dictionary might tell you: a word is ‘more or less’ over-determined, weighted. In fact the first recorded use of ‘environment’ was from Thomas Carlyles clumsy attempt to ‘English’ the German Umbegung. What does that tell you, if you know anything of Carlyle? An infested imagination. These words are too meaningful, as Carlyle might have said.

    A ‘person’ is never ‘surrounded’ by a body. It is often said, that an infant cannot distinguish between ‘his’ body and the ‘world’ that truly ‘surrounds’ him (more likely a ‘world’ of ‘meaning’, of purposive ‘objects’, if you will, though ‘objects, here, are not our ‘objects’). It takes a certain amount of maturity to assay ‘this’ body from ‘that’. And later, ‘my body’, but very much later. When the body, ‘my body’, becomes other. And we know this ‘assaying’ is itself merely steps on to other maturities.

    Therefore, there cannot be any ‘demands’ upon an ‘owner’ – we are not conscious, as such, of having this ‘property’, which we ‘own’, a ‘body’. This kind of ‘objectification’ is very historical, ie it cannot be wished back into history. Pre-historic ‘man’, I do not believe, knew of such a ‘property’. It cannot be objectivised and, therefore, de-historicized.

    In fact, ‘body’, like ‘gravity’, is a very English term. Like ‘vacuum’, like ‘dead matter’. Re: Hobbes. Or the liberation from such a ‘deadness’ that Berkeley attempted. It became a kind of illusion, of a certain ‘push’ and a certain ‘pull’ that Hulme, finally, knocked on the head.

    So, ‘it’ cannot ‘demand’ to be fed (you know, yourself, it is the raging Ego that does this) , ‘it’ cannot demand ‘to be pleasured’ (and the passivity there in implied), to be touched or to touch etc. ‘We’ demand these things.

    If ‘environment’ means anything it means surely something we condition, we make. A ‘world’ in which we are the actors, the ‘makers’, of tools and raw material. Something, that is to say, that is not there without the Artist that makes it?

  • Lewis – “This kind of ‘objectification’ is very historical, ie it cannot be wished back into history. Pre-historic ‘man’, I do not believe, knew of such a ‘property’. It cannot be objectivised and, therefore, de-historicized.”

    A hypothesis of the ‘first’ environment (ie, the first consciousness of there being a ‘not me’) is important in understanding a later rejection of the broader environment – as utility – we observe in those drawn into collaboration towards such a cause. Of course, this can only be a hypothesis – or idea – because the initial event was the precursor of the very consciousness by which we might later reflect upon likely experiences in those early years. In the same way, we might understand a person’s later irrational rejection of his environment – as utility – as driven by a similarly unconscious will… being the unresolved residue of that first event.

    Of course, when we think of the ‘environment’ purely as utility, we can also understand that ‘use’ follows ‘need’. That is to say, a felt need (or desire) is prior to the use of an object which meets it. We might also recognise that this process involves agency for it to be resolved. Therefore, the ‘first’ environment would also presuppose the first felt need. As we can only feel need through the body (it is the body urgently requiring the food, the warmth, the security, etc), it is the body located as the environment from which these disruptive demands emanate. And, later, we realise an environment extending beyond the body as the utility to meeting them.

    If feeling a need is the first consciousness of an existence which is not what we might originally have believed it to be – ie, existence by virtue of it being willed – then need can be identified as villain… the saboteur, threatening to democratise us into a world in which our original belief must be completely surrendered. Getting rid of the environment – as utility – therefore becomes the project of getting rid of the felt needing which constantly betrays the (archaic, orgiastic) fantasy of who we are. Just as witnessing the actions of those making free use of the environment in confirming, meeting and refining their felt needs (along with a developed agency of negotiation in doing so), forces the “environmentalist” to be face-to-face with a reality about himself which is wholly at odds with his wishfulness (a wishing reactivated from dormancy, ‘legitimised’ and made-millitant by collusion with like-mined others and a plausible-sounding cover story).

    Of course, if such a hypothesis bears a resemblance to the story of the Garden of Eden, that may only be suggestive of its enduring quality and its resonance from times when we had no scientific language to put it into words.

  • Peter S, Just to say, I’m intrigued and thinking. Will report back (hopefully with the discipline of being sober – a soggy mind is a waist of time!)

  • Peter S,

    My initial thought is, how I must object to the term ‘need’ – it involves a ‘lack’, a ‘wanting’, an ‘impotence’. Does one begin as an ‘emptiness’, a mouth to be fed, a hole, a grave!, to be filled? Environment is the outside, a circle of discovering and creating (one creates the path one discovers), beginning where? Yes, the babe, the child is weak and vulnerable and, therefore, assumes the part – but do you remember looking out of those eyes and feeling that extraordinary forming power of being that being a baby was? Perhaps an innateness unfeasable? That is to say, perhaps, we are, the isolated babe, and what they used to call, in the 19 century, the collective mass, innately real, before the mother, before the environment (both temporarily and conceptually?

    I know this is no answer to your questions – more to mine – which I will address shortly – but just a note.

  • For, actually, Peter, the ‘body’ is merely a supposition, a working hypothesis, if you will. Ie the ‘body’ is ‘objectivised’ in as much as this hypothesis is confirmed by our ‘seeing’ it. Perhaps that’s to much like Descartes? But what I mean is there is no integration, no ‘oneness’ with this body. In fact, we are disintegrated. And this ‘objectification’ is both historical and mature.

    That is to say, ‘consciousness’ is superficial, literally. Ie it is a surface of something other. Our discourse, our thinking does not come from consciousness, it merely passes through it. Further, being ‘aware’ does not mean being ‘conscious of’. For that would be absurd – it would mean we only exist when we are conscious, awake. Therefore, rationality is not an agent, a creation, a means of ‘consciousness’. No, contra Freud, the ‘unconscious’ is deeply rational, form giving, thoughtful, the origin of the Logos.

    You have it back to front, but, don’t worry, it is a modern, common complaint. You see such things as ‘need’ that a passive self must ‘feel’. But ‘need’ is secondary (and superficial, like consciousness) to being. One only needs in so far as one lacks. It is like ‘motive’ in those dime store crime stories. In reality Raskolnikov did not murder because he wanted to rob, he robbed because murdering alone could not be born.

    For I like your ironic gesture towards my attempt at a ‘pre-consciousness’, at the ‘pre-historic man’ and the babe. It is an old problem, how can one talk about that of which one is not conscious? But if talk itself, if rationality itself, discourse originates somewhere other than consciousness, of what can it ‘talk’? Is ‘it’ not itself aware? Awareness therefore being other than consciousness? And, of course, therefore, it is not ‘willed’ (superficial, like ‘motive’, like consciousness).

    Need meaning a lack. A powerlessness. And,therefore, it is a ‘demand’, a master, a tyrant. As such, one must hate it. It is alien, it is other. (Incidentally, such a hatred turns the world into a mere ‘utility’, a means, an end) Hence, your ‘environment’. But this is not ‘normal’, this is not ‘natural’. It is a contortion of the human spirit. What is essential, what is human, is the creation of the world, that plastic, form giving power of that which people once called the soul. The babe is dependant, ‘unconscious’, yes, but that is because he or she has great, creative work to do and, like all artists, he/she must be nurtured, must be fed. Give the babe the right ‘environment’, the right ‘food’ and he/she will grow up to become a man, a woman.

    Hence, the world of ‘bodies’, of ‘needs’, of ‘utility’ is a dead world, the slough of a dead serpent. Thus, one need not go ‘back’ to a putative ‘Garden of Eden’, nor, once more, eat of the Tree of Knowledge or resow our fig leaves. No, we are masters of this world, ni dieu, ni maitre, walking in our world, as a God, in the cool of our evening.

  • I think I am, more or less (! ha ha), saying what your saying. That is, I take it, you are diagnosing a pathology, that of the ‘environmentalist’. If you mean that he/she is who, pathologically. sees the world as that of ‘needs’. ‘utilities’, of ‘bodies’, of, to use my favourite phrase, ‘dead matter’ (an original, provisional term for Mass). Something oppressive, forcing a backward glance toward a ‘wish’ that is a “Garden of Eden’. Utopia is an impotence revenge on reality.

  • Life is ‘retrospective’ and, therefore, ‘nostalgic’, only from the point of view of ‘consciousness”, that part of ourselves that is always the last to hear the ‘clap of thunder’. ‘Nostalgia’, therefore, the superficial regret, impotence of a ‘consciousness’ that must always be to late ‘at the bell’? I mean, memory, is something other, unsentimental, objective, accurate, because non-conscious (except consciousness as a conduit of its articulation, its becoming ‘part of speech’)? We regret what we had only in so far as we were not conscious of having it. But we were there. We are ‘there’. We do not need an instagram to each second record, for consciousness, that we are here and were there. The need to ‘record’ a failure of confidence in our ability to remember – a selective and discerning, a discriminatory process. But we no longer trust our ‘judgement’ to discern what to remember and what to forget?

    And such a ‘retrospection’, therefore, only the obverse of Projection. Hence, Utopia, a kind of essential expression of that parasitic organ that is called consciousness. And it this organ, that believing itself to be a ‘Gate keeper’, but, in fact, bruised and insulted, servile, attempts to assert it’s presence by projecting a victim and it’s Utopian ‘liberation’. But, of course, it can not be ‘liberated’, any more than the liver or your lungs. And it is at this disjunct – between consciousness and reality – that the dividing line between pathology and health begins. Pathology is were one believes in ones own nostalgia, ones regret. Where ‘wrongs’ must be ‘righted’. Were Raskolnikov tosses and turns on his bed, dreaming of Napoleon, lusting to murder a poor old woman next door?

  • Bully.

    1

    The head was broken – split asunder – the poring out of blood and soul – gargling what was left of my spirits – down there, in a Lancs gutter – I cried out to you, I asked do I deserve to exist, can I, must I, should I? The echoe of an emptiness is my answer.

    2

    A broken soul, like the Jew and his belongings,
    His pictures, his Picasso, his Pisaro – we have distinguished them,
    We have decided between the twain, we have put on one side
    This person and on the other this thing – almost a cleverness,
    An articulacy, as if to alienate was to be.

    3

    For I have stepped upon bones and heard them crack
    And slime as they attempted to grasp and plied. I stood
    Upon them and had no guilt. I stabbed down, only to quieten
    Them. For I have stood upon bones and known there suffereing.
    I have seen eyes outside of context and hands
    Without history. I have been haunted by souls
    That do not exist. Or smiled at smiles that have no history.
    I am dead and yet am I arisen. I have been
    Stamping upon a world
    Yet I live.

    4

    The cracked smile I smile is not a joke.
    An askance, a lie or a slyness. A semblance of a smile.
    No. Not the pretence to seem, not this, a talking
    Into nothingness. A carpet mouth and a joke.
    Those two eyes a befuddled constellation
    Beckoning this kind of death. In the middle of Europe
    Some kind of sand. Which you realise
    Is a man hair.

    5

    Down on the ground, then, a bully above you
    And you turn your face to the left or the right –
    For which way is best? Not to love is best
    Not to be loved, second, but better still
    Never to have been born. Hatred is gallant
    In the glad old days. Sorrow, too.

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