Caroline Lucas

For those who missed Wednesday’s edition of BBC2’s Newsnight, we highly recommend that you watch it:

When you’re asked to adapt your lifestyle to combat climate change, what goes through your head? Do you embrace the challenge, switch off the lights and reach for the hair-shirt? Or do you shut your eyes, bury your head in a carbon-luxurious lifestyle and hope it will all go away? Tonight we ask what the green movement has really achieved. Yes, they’ve brought the issue to the national conscience. But are they now becoming part of the problem by rejecting so many potential solutions? They style themselves as radical, but are they actually too conservative? Tonight we put the great and the good of the green movement on trial.

It doesn’t quite live up to the promise, but it’s well worth it for the spectacle of Caroline Lucas, Zac Goldsmith, John Sauven, Franny Armstrong et al being lined up Weakest-Link-style for self-inflicted humiliation. Available on iPlayer here if you’re in the UK.

After a 20-year-long role at the BBC, Peter Sissons has attacked the anti-journalistic culture at the BBC. Writing in the Mail on Sunday (the article has been taken off-line for some reason), Sissons outlines some key reasons for his decision to leave.

This bit caught our eye – look out for a familiar name.

Two other events disturbed me during the last few years.

Before I left News At Ten, I had to read out on air the BBC’s longest apology. It lasted nearly two minutes, and in it the BBC apologised to a diamond-mining firm called Oryx Natural Resources.

A report had falsely linked the firm with Al Qaeda, accusing one of its major shareholders of being a convicted terrorist. The two men had the same surname.

This humiliation for the BBC could have been avoided if one of journalism’s basic rules had been followed: if you think that you’ve got someone bang to rights, ring them up and ask them what they’ve got to say about it. But the story was, as they say, too good to check, and it greatly dented the BBC’s journalistic reputation, as well as its libel fund.

The other episode happened more recently. On a wintry Saturday last December, there was what was billed as a major climate change rally in London.

The leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, went into the Westminster studio to be interviewed by me on the BBC News channel. She clearly expected what I call a ‘free hit’; to be allowed to voice her views without being challenged on them.

I pointed out to her that the climate didn’t seem to be playing ball at the moment. We were having a particularly cold winter, even though carbon emissions were increasing. Indeed, there had been no warming for ten years, contradicting all the alarming computer predictions.

Well, she was outraged. I don’t have the actual transcript, but Miss Lucas told me angrily that it was disgraceful that the BBC — the BBC! — should be giving any kind of publicity to those sort of views. I believe I am one of a tiny number of BBC interviewers who have so much as raised the possibility that there is another side to the debate on climate change.

The Corporation’s most famous interrogators invariably begin by accepting that ‘the science is settled’, when there are countless reputable scientists and climatologists producing work that says it isn’t.

But it is effectively BBC policy, enthusiastically carried out by the BBC environment correspondents, that those views should not be heard — witness the BBC statement last year that ‘BBC News currently takes the view that their reporting needs to be calibrated to take into account the scientific consensus that global warming is man-made’.

Politically the argument may be settled, but any inquisitive journalist can find ample evidence that scientifically it is not.

I was not proud to be working for an organisation with a corporate mind so closed on such an important issue. Disquiet over my interview with Miss Lucas, incidentally, went right to the top at the BBC although, naturally, they never sought to discuss it with me. For me, this is not an issue about the climate, it is an issue about the duty of the journalist.

The truth of the matter is that for all the above reasons, I was no longer comfortable at BBC News. It remains an iconic organisation, but it stands at the crossroads.

The BBC is not able to challenge politicians in its mainstream output. Sure, there are occasionally sceptic opinions permitted onto the airwaves, but for a high-profile journalist to ask a challenging question is to speak out of turn. As Sissons implies, the BBC sees its responsibility principally to reproduce environmental ideology, not to hold politicians to account.

But let’s not single out the BBC. The culture that exists at the BBC is symptomatic of a wider phenomenon of which the BBC is just another victim. Lucas’s reaction demonstrates that she is simply not used to being challenged. Rather than seeking to explain Sissons’s challenge – perhaps using the very science she claims gives her political ideas legitimacy – she merely gets angry. It’s not even as if Sissons’s questions were particularly probing. She could easily have replied along the lines that a single bout of cold weather does not detract from an upward trend, for example. It is the fact that she does not that makes the question so revealing.

As we have argued here on Climate Resistance, climate change has become the means by which journalists and politicians alike have sought to reorientate their moral compasses. Accordingly, the world is increasingly seen through the prism of climate change. But by grounding themselves in ‘facts’, rather than in more philosophical commitments to principles, values, or even political ideas, politicians and journalists make themselves vulnerable. It means that if the ‘facts’ are challenged, their entire perspective on the world crumbles, and their value as journalists/politicians disintegrates. This is why we find journalists and politicians reacting so angrily to even the merest hint or whiff of ‘denial’.

Environmentalism is a symptom of being unable to explain the world, particularly on behalf of the establishment. It seeks to ground itself on facts, but cannot tolerate criticism. As we are fond of saying, the crisis is in politics, not in the sky.

(H/T: Austin and Rupert).

Another sure sign that environmentalists are struggling to sustain a rational basis for their influence emerged last week. The pages of the Observer featured the opinion of NASA activist/scientist James Hansen in two articles [1 , 2] and an editorial.

Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of Nasa scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen who last week warned only urgent action by the new president could halt the devastating climate change that now threatens Earth. Crucially, that action will have to be taken within Obama’s first administration, he added.

Of all the hopes pinned on Obama, ‘saving the world’ has to be the most revealing of the hoper, be it the Observer Journalist, the Observer, or Hansen.

As we pointed out last Thursday, the environmental movement’s only leverage is the prospect of catastrophe. It has no popular appeal in any real sense. So when it appears that governments are ‘on-message’, or in any way sympathetic to its concerns, the only way to sustain its undemocratic and unaccountable influence is to escalate the sense of urgency, or their function will become redundant.

This suggests that the hoper’s nervousness is owed, not to material facts about the state of the world – obviously – but their inability to explain the world, and their tenuous grip on the public agenda.

As an apparently sympathetic Obama steps to the fold, so we see the environmental protagonists escalating the sense of crisis.

“We cannot now afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.”

After eight years of opposing moves to combat climate change, thanks to the policies of President George Bush, the US had given itself no time for manoeuvre, he said. Only drastic, immediate change can save the day and those changes proposed by Hansen – who appeared in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and is a winner of the World Wildlife Fund’s top conservation award – are certainly far-reaching.

So where did this ‘four years’ figure come from?

In 2006, the same Hansen had argued that

“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said Wednesday at the Climate Change Research Conference in California’s state capital.

Less than two and a half years later, the ten years is reduced to four years.

Shortly after Hansen made his ten year claim, UK and Dutch premiers Tony Blair and Jan Peter Balkenende wrote in a letter to the EU that

The science of climate change has never been clearer. Without further action, scientists now estimate we may be heading for temperature rises of at least 3-4C above pre-industrial levels. We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing catastrophic tipping points. These would have serious consequences for our economic growth prospects, the safety of our people and the supply of resources, most notably energy. So we must act quickly.

The fact that science hasn’t – indeed, cannot – identify ‘catastrophic tipping points’ doesn’t bother politicians who use science in this way. The concept of a tipping point is only useful to politicians – it has little scientific meaning. It is a gun to your head. Do you trust the authority of the man holding it, or do you challenge it? If you don’t do as he says and you’re wrong, you might trigger the tipping point. You lose. But if you’re right to challenge it, the trust we have in politicians, and politics built around the myth of catastrophe itself disintegrates. You lose. Either way, the threat is that society breaks down, because either the climate will change, destroying our ‘fragile relationship’ with nature, or the myths on which authority is established are ripped from beneath it. This is the politics of fear.

Greens have presented themselves as radical alternatives to mainstream politics. But they use exactly the same language. In November 2007, we reported Caroline Lucas’s attempts to use ‘catastrophic tipping points’ to elevate herself.

Well, when you hear scientists say that we have about eight years left in order to really tackle climate change, I don’t think what the public actually want is cautiousness, what they want is real leadership, and that is what the EU is promising to give, and yet that’s what we’re failing to do here.

This was the second time we had picked up on Lucas’s claim that the planet had a deadline. Justifying her claim that climate change denial was equivalent to holocaust denial, she had said previously that

What’s prompted me is real concern that a recent opinion poll showed that half the population still don’t think that there’s scientific certainty about climate change; they still think there’s a real debate to be had there. And it worries me enormously because if we don’t have a population that really understands that 99.999% of international scientists do believe that climate change is happening and do believe that it’s human caused, if people don’t understand that then they’re not going to put the pressure on the politicians that is so desperately needed and so urgently needed because we’re being told we’ve literally got between five and ten years in which to put in place a proper policy framework to address climate change. And unless people are really convinced that it’s a problem they’re not going to act to change it.

Last year, vulcanologist Bill McQuire announced that we had just ‘seven years to save the planet‘ in a book of the same name. Amazon describe it thus,

‘Bill McGuire succinctly tackles a series of green queries… the book is an excellent first stop for getting clued up about climate change. ‘ METRO ‘..author Bill McGuire points out that to salvage a civilisation capable of maintaining a semblance of organisation approximate to what we have now, we must achieve a near-zero carbon economy by 2050’. GREENEVENTS ‘McGuire makes telling points about the size of the challenge we face if we are to escape some of the nastier effects of climate change. And his sense of urgency is well-placed.’ FOCUS

(Where would McGuire be, if it weren’t for the end of the world? Certainly not making numerous appearances on TV shows, or selling books. Doom is big business.)

In August last year, policy director and head of the climate change programme at the New Economics Foundation, Andrew Simms announced that we had just ‘100 months to save the world‘.

So, how exactly do we arrive at the ticking clock of 100 months? It’s possible to estimate the length of time it will take to reach a tipping point. To do so you combine current greenhouse gas concentrations with the best estimates for the rates at which emissions are growing, the maximum concentration of greenhouse gases allowable to forestall potentially irreversible changes to the climate system, and the effect of those environmental feedbacks. We followed the latest data and trends for carbon dioxide, then made allowances for all human interferences that influence temperatures, both those with warming and cooling effects. We followed the judgments of the mainstream climate science community, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on what it will take to retain a good chance of not crossing the critical threshold of the Earth’s average surface temperature rising by 2C above pre-industrial levels. We were cautious in several ways, optimistic even, and perhaps too much so. A rise of 2C may mask big problems that begin at a lower level of warming. For example, collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is more than likely to be triggered by a local warming of 2.7C, which could correspond to a global mean temperature increase of 2C or less. The disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet could correspond to a sea-level rise of up to 7 metres.

Is it four years or is it six? Or is it ten or fifteen? The tipping point is being used by everyone. The only thing that differs is when this tipping point is supposed to occur.

The idea of a ‘tipping point’ began as scientific speculation that climate systems ‘flip’ from one ‘state’ to another, rather than change as one variable – the concentration of greenhouses gasses in the atmosphere – changes. This idea armed environmentalists with the threat that a changing climate would suddenly – rather than over the course of millenia – reach a point where climate change was so rapid that natural processes on which human society depends would in turn collapse, leaving us starved of resources, and unable to cope with the new conditions.

The problem for environmentalists is that no such ‘tipping point’ has been identitifed by climate science, and the social consequences of moving past tipping points remain poorly defined. The NEF, for example, cannot point to any scientific literature which identifies tipping points. Instead, their 100 month calculation is formed from a variety of headline statements and studies taken from here, there, and everywhere. (They invent a tipping point).

Take for example, the figure of 2 degrees which Simms says is the point which must not be exceeded. The more technical document accompanying his article and campaign website says that this figure,

… is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming.

The report doesn’t say where the rationale behind the figure of 2 degrees can be located, nor why we should take the EU’s word for it. Moreover, what is the ‘reasonable confidence’ that the NEF want to ‘retain’ about the future? It implies that what lies beyond 2 degrees is not ‘reasonable confidence’ of there being a catastrophe, but less certainty about there not being one. In other words, it says nothing about climate – 2 degrees is not a tipping point, but an arbitrary point, beyond which we can be less certain about the end of the world than before it. We might just as well observe that ‘catastrophe’ is less likely before a 1000 degree rise in global temperature than after it.

We’ve pointed out before that this is ‘politics by numbers’. In this game, all you need to do to elevate yourself over your opponents is add one to their offer. This done by commissioning someone with the appropriate letters after their name to do back-of-an-envelope calculations using the figures which have already been ‘established’ by other players in the game. It is voodoo science, and it only means anything if you already actually believe it.

Once you have performed the ritual which establishes the new magic numbers, you can present your manifesto. And so it is with the NEF. Their ‘Green New Deal‘ document is

Inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme launched in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, this modernised version is designed to tackle our current crash: the interlinked crises of climate change, recession and energy depletion.

It goes on…

The global economy is facing a ‘triple crunch’: a combination of a credit-fuelled financial crisis, accelerating climate change and soaring energy prices underpinned by encroaching peak oil. It is increasingly clear that these three overlapping events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Depression, with potentially devastating consequences.

As we pointed out recently, one of those three crunch factors – high oil prices – is already a non fact. Like Hansen, the NEF and the Green New Deal Group elevate themselves with these kind of statements. But soon their forecasts will catch up with them.

Following Obama’s inauguration, and the NEF’s attempts to cast their ideas as the contemporary equivalent of Roosevelt’s New Deal it seems appropriate to answer Hansen’s demands to the new president with words from Roosevelt’s inuagural address.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Obama himself mentions fear:

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

If Obama is really to choose ‘hope over fear’, he will have to challenge the influence of the likes of Hansen. Can he do it? Well, we hope so.

Five months is a long time in climate politics. The arguments change with the seasons. Back in the hazy days of July and August, the eco-newswires were dominated by stories about ‘record-breaking’ arctic ice extent – even though it wasn’t record-breaking, and the record is only 30 years long. Now, they are more likely to be stories telling us that 2008 hasn’t been all that warm, but that global warming is still happening.

The other dominant story was the genuinely record-breaking oil prices. Every time you filled your car with petrol, the price had gone up by several per cent. The environmental movement was keen to interpret this as another harbinger of the beginning of the end, and used it to demand that we change our ways. It seemed to prove that we were in the grip of what they said peak-oil theory had predicted. Here is Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP on BBC TV, in June.

[youtube mBTE4w3qIaw]

‘The days of cheap oil are over’, she says. ‘A look at the figures’ (what ‘figures’?) would demonstrate that we’re past the ‘half way point of all oil’, meaning that it would get more and more expensive, she claims. Demand outstrips supply. Lucas must be disappointed then, that OPEC have announced that they are cutting production by 2.2 million barrels a day in an order to rescue the price from its current plunge. In July, a barrel cost $147. Today, it costs just $41.53. If ‘the days of cheap oil are over’, why is it so cheap? Why is it necessary to create the scarcity which Caroline Lucas said existed in order to create the higher prices she demanded?

It could still be argued that the price drop reflects the current economic climate. And indeed, there is some sense in the argument that as demand has dropped so too has the price. But this doesn’t explain the peak. Because, back in June and July, it’s not as if the world was experiencing an economic boom.  Another major story – you may have noticed – of the last two years has been the ‘credit crunch’ that began in early 2007. Yet these two years of worsening economic affairs saw the price of oil rocket upwards. Just as we know house prices can ‘bubble’, so too can commodity prices. The upward prices were driven, in part, not by imminent scarcity, but by the idea that they might continue. After all, many – not just Greens – were lining up to make this drama a crisis. And who wouldn’t invest in oil, if they thought it was running out? And here’s the funny thing… It’s not in oil producers’ interests for people to believe that there is an abundance of oil. The idea of scarcity makes their product more valuable. Who are these Greens working for? On this basis, too, there is no real incentive for companies to invest in new exploration. New extraction facilities are hugely expensive. Invest prematurely, and you alter the market, price, and of course, politics. Imagine that in July 2008 you had invested your capital on the basis of reports that…

Some analysts have raised the possibility of prices rising as high as $200 a barrel during the next 18 months. … “You really cannot forecast how much further the market will rally now,” said Tatsuo Kageyama from Kanetsu Asset Management in Tokyo. “All I can say is the market will continue to rise.

… you’d be feeling the pinch now.

Search the web for charts showing oil prices, and what they reveal is that upward surges in oil price reflect political events. Regional conflict in the Middle East, and Africa, the War on Terror, assassinations, strikes, and so on, litter the upward progress of curves. Yet environmental doom-sayers are quick to tell us that there is something fundamentally wrong about our relationship with the natural world, and that we stand on the brink of a precipice. Nothing could be more arse-about-face. Oil prices were high for very human reasons.

The ‘half way point’ between what was in the ground and its depletion has been given incredible significance by various alarmists. It is yet another ‘tipping point’ that is used to manufacture drama from dull statistics, in much the same way as Arctic ice progression is used to manufacture drama from dull statistics. Once this fictional point is passed, we are supposed to enter some dark new epoch, in which a society that has foolishly been predicated on some ‘unsustainable’ relationship with the natural world begins to collapse. The search for these points-of-no-return represent a religious mission to look for ‘signs’ from Gaia. So convinced are people that such algebraic maxima exist, which give mathematical identity to society’s relationship with nature, that anything and everything becomes a ‘tipping point’ at the expense of understanding the world more deeply; understanding the increasing price of oil as a shortcoming of the market in the face of events in the human – rather than geological – world, for example. The idea of the ‘tipping point’ then assumes political significance. Rarely a day goes by without it being applied to something – gun crime, obesity, you name it. Where there is a moral panic, you will find the ecological metaphor – the “tipping point” – being used to paint a picture of inevitable decline into social chaos.

The invocation of social chaos is a demand for social control. Like alienated weirdos who once stood in public places wearing ‘the end is nigh’ placards, the people making these statements cannot explain the world – it’s already chaotic for control freaks. For example, they can’t explain oil prices in terms of political events. Curves representing Arctic sea ice approach ‘tipping points’, which they argue represent movement towards ‘runaway climate change’. ‘We’ve got to change the way we live’, they say. While they so comprehensively fail to explain the social world, we should ignore them, just as we walked past those men in their placards. They deserve only a bit of sympathy, at arms length.

There is a problem for people making these statements. Their luck runs out. Nature takes a different course. So…

As the environmental movement emphasises our relationship with nature, how about we treat doom itself as a ‘natural resource’ which is exploited for political capital? It is a resource that is depleted in two ways. First, let’s assume that it is finite – nature cannot continue to provide alarmists with these resources forever, and so their jumping on everything as the sign of ‘the end’ is unsustainable. Second, the utility of these resources becomes diminished as an increasingly credulous public tire of them – demand for more and more doom grows. Hence, climate change alarmists leap on sea ice extent one year, floods the next, heatwaves the next… and so on. Each new trend constitutes a new deposit of resource, that will be depleted, flogged to death, over the season.

Let’s call this theory the peak peak-oil-theory theory. So far, environmental alarmists have been able to avoid reaching the peak because they have been able to locate new trends, and invent new ways of telling stories about the progress of little blue lines which, for that season, appear to make sense. But now, there is clear evidence emerging that the tipping points have been passed.

Doom does not carry over from one season to the next. Arctic sea ice recovers from its ‘historic low’ in a year that climate-activist-meteorologists admit that global warming is postponed. The commodity price bubble of doom bursts. In order to prevent a crisis, alarmists pump ever more doom into the market, promising a bleaker future, but it just makes them look sillier and sillier. Confidence in the doom market crumbles still further, as the value of doom approaches nil.

[youtube Higin1kY3PM]

The world’s doom-shale deposits, previously thought to contain enough pessimism to fuel the green project for centuries to come, don’t. The idea that technological developments will allow these reserves to be tapped is mere propaganda. The days of cheap doom are over.

Another day, another expensive advert from the environmental movement. Not Oxfam this time, but Greenpeace, who must spend a significant portion of the $hundreds of millions they make on their campaigns.

[youtube J8dLHZ6jKFc]

We have noted before that the environmental movement it incapable of turning its values and principles into an appealing vision. It cannot create a grass-roots movement. This is because people are not stupid, and Greenpeace, no matter how hard they try, cannot conceal the fact that they have nothing but contempt for ordinary people. This patronising film is no exception.

Lacking the means with which to connect to people, eco-poseurs have tried to give their ideas authenticity by turning them into pastiches of moments with genuine historical significance. For example, Caroline Lucas (it’s been a while since we mentioned her) aims to create a Green ‘New Deal’, which, in this post-modern vignette, casts her as Roosevelt, saving millions from the Great Depression. We have also noted attempts to apply the morality of abolition of slavery to the climate debate, to make ‘deniers’ today’s equivalent of yesterday’s slave-traders. Remakes of Kennedy’s moon-landing speech are a favourite for climate alarmists. Gore has used it. Former UK Chief Scientist, Sir David King has used it. Tony Blair has used it. It has had far too much air time. But now Greenpeace have tried to inject it with some life with CGI trickery.

There is no point examining what this puppet Kennedy is actually saying. All that needs to be said is that they are green clichés, every bit as tired as Kennedy’s image. Greenpeace just want you to know that it’s Kennedy saying them. Have they forgotten how close he took the world to atomic warfare? How environmentally friendly would that have been?

Adverts are rarely for things. They are for brands. You can buy non-branded generic non-prescription medicine far more cheaply than branded, but the adverts will tell you that their product is the fastest, and most effective. Whizzz. Bang. Woosh. It must be true. You can buy cleaning products containing exactly the same substances as branded equivalents, but for less money. You can get cheap car insurance from many different providers, but it’s the advert which stuck in your head that you try first. Adverts attempt to sell you something, not simply on the basis of the utility of the product, but that the particular product’s brand meets a deeper, more emotional need. Trust. Authenticity. Recognition.

And so it is with this advert. You don’t need what it’s selling. There are plenty of alternatives. This is not merely posthumous celebrity endorsement. This is an attempt to connect the environmental brand with nostalgia for the certainty of the past.

Fortunately, nobody is really buying it.  

Poor old Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet, who once thrust custard pies into the faces of people who dared to question environmental orthodoxies. He now finds himself on the receiving end of eco-dogma. Fancy that.

Just a month ago I had a Damascene conversion: the Green case against nuclear power is based largely on myth and dogma. […] The backlash to my first magazine article on the subject prompted my inbox to collapse, the blogs to drip with venom, the dirty looks to multiply.

In August, Lynas wrote an article for the New Statesman magazine, How nuclear power can save the planet. Citing eco-prophet Dr. James Hansen’s shrill and attention-seeking mission to persuade world leaders to give up coal (and defend vandals in courts), Lynas concluded that:

Deployed entirely in tandem with renewables, fourth-generation nuclear could offer a complete decarbonisation of the world’s electricity supply – and on the sort of timetable that Dr Hansen and his fellow climatologists demand.

Lynas’s conversion isn’t all that spectacular, nor even newsworthy. Author of the Gaia Hypothesis, James Lovelock, has long been an advocate of atomic energy, as this interview with the Guardian in 2000 revealed:

This answer, Lovelock says, is ecologically clean and tidy and has a very bad press. It is nuclear power. “I can envisage somewhere about 2050, when the greenhouse really begins to bite, when people will start looking back and saying: whose fault was all this? And they will settle on the Greens and say: ‘if those damn people hadn’t stopped us building nuclear power stations we wouldn’t be in this mess’. […]

“I have told the BNFL, or whoever it was, that I would happily take the full output of one of their big power stations. I think the high-level waste is a stainless steel cube of about a metre in size and I would be very happy to have a concrete pit that they would dig – I wouldn’t dig it – that they would put it in.” He says he would use the waste for two purposes. “One would be home heating. You would get free home heat from it. And the other would be to sterilise the stuff from the supermarket, the chicken and whatnot, full of salmonella. Just drop it down through a hole. I’m not saying this tongue-in-cheek. I am quite serious…”

Although Lovelock’s attitude to atomic energy raised eyebrows and caused a bit of a debate, it didn’t seem to influence the environmental movement much. This is because science is only interesting to environmentalists when it is saying something is dangerous. When it says something is safe (or rather, it puts risks into some greater perspective), it is generally ignored. After all, Caroline Lucas, the new Leader of the UK’s Green Party is very much ‘for science’ when it appears to lend her ideas about Apocalypse some credibility. However, the rest of the time, she seems to be very much against it.

Take, for instance, her claims earlier this year that ‘Around 75 per cent of all cancers are caused by environmental factors, mainly chemicals…’, and that EU legislation designed to stop ‘chemicals’ was being undermined by a conspiracy between the major parties and industry.

Or, how about her efforts last year to ensure that ‘alternative’ ‘medicine’ was ‘recognised’ by European health agencies? ‘It wasn’t easy persuading the governments’ negotiators to accept […] the importance and relevance of alternative medicine – but we have managed it, which should serve as a tool towards a broader and indeed holistic approach to public health.’ So much for evidence-based medicine, then.

And on the subject of medicine, consider her attempts to ban animal research in the EU, on the basis that ‘Animal research is not only cruel, it also has significant scientific limitations which mean it can never be relied on to guarantee human health or safety.’ She neglects to tell us how ‘alternatives’ to medicine – such as staying ill, perhaps – guarantee human health and safety. Presumably, it’s better to be dead than unsafe. Whatever… clearly the decision to use animals in the development of therapies to cure and alleviate human suffering from conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, cancer, and the rest is not undertaken by scientists on the basis that there is no better alternative to the animal model, but because they are sadists, who enjoy using them.

‘What has Lucas got to do with any of this?’, we hear you ask. Well, first, we never like to miss an opportunity to point out what a total lunatic the new leader of the Green Party is. Second, Lucas was on BBC’s Radio 4’s Today program last week, arguing with Lynas about whether atomic power was really Green or not. A bun-fight between two of our favourite subjects. Here it is.

[youtube FYE-NJrOcW8]
Lynas’s discovery that ‘a lot of the environmentalist’s anti-nuclear case was based on myths’ seems to have taken him by surprise. We can only hope there is more to come. Lucas’s response is of course simply irrational. After claiming that inefficiencies in the current system could be effectively converted into supply, she then claimed that atomic energy is no solution because there simply isn’t time to install new nuclear power stations, because the time it takes to plan and build them. The risks of nuclear are too great and too expensive. She won’t entertain the prospect, no matter what the ‘science’ says is possible, because the risks are simply to great. Terrorism, accidents, nuclear proliferation… It’s all just too impossible.

And here lies the problem for Lucas… (we’ll return to Lynas in a moment)… She can’t consider the possibilities that abundant centralised energy – green or otherwise – might create because it would totally undermine her ethics and her political edge. It would turn all climate problems into engineering problems rather than moral ones. In her view, today’s troubled geopolitics is created principally by the capitalist system’s need for growth, and cheap fuel. This in turn creates the terrorists she seems to imagine have designs on our atomic energy infrastructure. (Never mind that power plants are designed to withstand such attacks). It creates also the very antagonism between countries that moves them to seek ways to establish their muscle on the world stage by acquiring nuclear weapons. There is a causal relationship, in her view, between the satisfaction of your dirty desire to eat burgers from McDonald’s, global warming, terrorism, the war on terror and Iraq, and nuclear proliferation. The only solution to this is the mitigation of climate change, through mediating material aspirations and desires. But if science can produce a clean and cheap form of power, then the relationship ends. The fuel of capitalist growth ceases to cause climate change. Geopolitics is no longer ‘all about oil’. And what’s worse, this engineering solution can be realised by either the politics of the Left, or the Right. Lucas therefore looses her political capital, even if the discussion of atomic energy is only hypothetical. Lucas needs nuclear to be necessarily a totally unworkable, implausible, terrifying technology. It needs to be worse than carbon. Because if it’s better than carbon, then it is a solution.

This is Green dogma. It defends itself in this way. Any deviation from its tenets results in Armageddon, apocalypse, catastrophe, damnation. Lynas has seen this in a rare moment of sanity, according to him on some kind of road to Damascus, but in truth this conversion bears less resemblence to the Story of St. Paul – Lynas was already a Believer – than it does to the Reformation, and it is founded on ideas just as sloppy as Lucas’.

Lynas’s change of mind came at the same time as another high priest of environmentalism was undergoing a similar epiphany. George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian a couple of days before Lynas that, ‘…I no longer care whether or not the answer is nuclear. Let it happen…’.

We wrote at the time that the Green’s were ‘Split Over the Atom‘, a situation that was made all the more absurd by the presence of Arthur Scargill at the Climate Camp. This rift deepened, a few days later when Ewa Jasiewicz, a ‘writer, journalist, human rights activist and union organiser’ took issue with Monbiot’s pragmatism about the possibility of ‘solving climate change’ within the framework of conventional politics. ‘Changing our sources of energy without changing our sources of economic and political power will not make a difference. Neither coal nor nuclear are the “solution”, we need a revolution.’, She said, and called for something resembling an anarchist revolution.

In response, Monbiot misconceived identity politics as political identity, as though espousing a political philosophy – such as anarchism, in this case – was some kind of equivalent to being black, gay, female, physically disabled, or whatever. This form of politics, he said, was what had beset the radical movements of the 1990s in their attempts to change the world, forgetting, it seemed, that Monbiot’s own shrill protests in the 1990s, and well into the 2000s were very similar to Jasiewicz’s today.

As we also pointed out, Monbiot’s change of heart about the necessity of dismantling capitalism in order to achieve climate stability – or, as he put it, ‘Stopping runaway climate change must take precedence over every other aim’ – reflected very closely Lynas’s own sentiments that ‘The struggle for equity within the human species must take second place to the struggle for the survival of an intact and functioning biosphere’.

The task of the saving of souls, it seems, must take precedence over the politics of soul-saving.

The logic of risk, precaution, necessity and pragmatism have seemingly been extended by Monbiot and Lynas, to undermine the foundations of environmental politics. The Green Party was established with the intention of being a new axis from which to challenge the Left and Right, to form a politics ‘as if nature mattered’, on the basis that it was the only way to save the human race from annihilating itself. But it seems that, now, even that axis is impeding the very job it was set up to achieve. Behind the Protestant Reformation lay political interests, as it was at least as much about politics as it was theology. The dominance of Rome (Club of Rome?) prevented European elites from expressing their power as they wished. Similarly, the establishment, whilst absorbing environmentalism to the extent that for them, ‘climate change is the defining issue of our time’ (Sir David King, former chief scientific advisor to the UK Government), cannot accommodate calls for social revolution. For example, while Conservatives such as Tory leader, David Cameron and his aristocratic, Etonite eco-chums are happy to agree that there is something wrong and environmentally destructive with capitalism, Jasiewicz’s anarcho-syndicalism just isn’t their cup of tea. And it’s certainly not cricket. The environmental movement has long shared the ambitions of the political establishment to dampen the masses’ expectations, but perhaps this unholy alliance of convenience between the establishment and the scruffy eco-warriors has served its purpose.

It is no surprise that Monbiot’s and Lynas’s conversions have happened as their relationship with the establishment has become more cosy. As we reported last year, former president of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford, favourably reviewed Monbiot’s book, Heat, in the TLS, and in the process reinvented his organisation’s motto, ‘nullius in verba’, from ‘on the words of no one’ to ‘respect the facts’. The Royal Socety’s creed, too, has undergone a transformation, it seems. Earlier this year, we reported that Lynas had won an award for science writing from the RS, now headed by Sir Martin Rees, who himself wrote Our Final Century: Will the Human Race Survive the Twenty-first Century? As we said at the time:

There is a peculiar symbiosis, in which, Lynas and his ilk give the scientific establishment authority by constructing nightmare visions of the future, which are given credibility by figures such as Sir Martin Rees and Lord May. The service that Lynas does for the Royal Society is to connect this institution to our everyday fears and anxieties, to give it relevance at a time when, as with politicians, it struggles to define its purpose.

The fact that eco-theologans such as Lynas and Monbiot are breaking away from the orthodoxy of the environmental movement to create their own, establishment-friendly orthodoxy should not be seen as progressive. As with the protestant reformation, it made little difference to ordinary people in the C16th whether they worshiped a Catholic god, or a Protestant one – they had no choice. Similarly, environmental politics is estranged from human values, it’s not as if people have any choice about what the new theologians decide for them, and Monbiot and Lynas do not put humans and their interests any closer to the establishment’s agenda. It’s all about the polar bears.

The potential of atomic energy should not be discussed in environmental terms. The predominance of nonsense about ‘solving climate change’ causes people to lose sight of what the purpose of power stations actually is: to enable people to live more comfortable and more fulfilling lives. Once this has been forgotten, providing energy is reduced to a balancing act between administrating sheer necessity – keeping the lights on – against a fictional catastrophe – the end of the world. There should be more power stations, atomic, coal-fired, gas, oil, geothermal, renewable… It really doesn’t matter. What matters is the potential they create for people to determine their own lives, rather than have it determined by eco-zealots.

Ben has an article in today’s Spiked on our favourite Green, Caroline Lucas, who was elected as the Party’s leader last Friday. 

The UK Green Party – formally the Ecology Party (1975-1985), formally PEOPLE (1973-1975) – once rejected the conventional party structure of ‘leader and followers’ in favour of a model of ‘participatory politics’, comprising six ‘principal speakers’.

But discipline soon became an embarrassing issue. David Icke, former footballer and TV presenter, famously failed to represent the party when he was one of its spokesmen, preferring instead to talk about himself as the Son of God. In 1992, the party compromised its idealism to settle on two principal speakers; one male, one female. In a referendum held last November, the party decided that not having a leader was impeding the job of saving the planet. Last week, on 5 September, Caroline Lucas, the party’s member of the European parliament for the south-east region of England, beat her election rival, Ashley Gunstock, by a wide margin, and became the first leader of the Green Party.

These compromises on its constitutional ideals reflect the Green Party’s inability to identify a coherent political perspective.READ ON

The Green Party’s other principal speaker is Derek Wall. The party have been unable to decide on a leader over the years (they’re choosing one right at the moment), and so have had two: Caroline Lucas and Derek Wall – one for girls, and one for boys. No, we’re not kidding. Wall doesn’t make it into the media as often as his girly counterpart because he hasn’t had the electoral successes that Lucas has enjoyed. As we said yesterday, in 1999 Lucas won the support of 1.8% of the electorate, and 2.9% in 2004. Hmm. Maybe it’s just because she’s prettier.

Wall is a slightly different kind of Green to Lucas. He makes more noise about his eco-socialism than Lucas, who is more likely to tell you that capitalism will give you cancer. Wall’s blog lays out his stall:

“How to be green? Many people have asked us this important question. It’s really very simple and requires no expert knowledge or complex skills. Here’s the answer. Consume less. Share more. Enjoy life.” […] This blog promotes anti-capitalism, green politics, direct action, practical lifestyle change, Venezuela/Cuba and a touch of Zen. Ecosocialism or muerte!

(Anyone who thought we over-egged the pudding on Sunday for calling the Green Party ‘the party of death’, take note.)

One might expect Wall, allegedly a lecturer in political economy, to have a rather more sophisticated political argument than Lucas. But think again. The ‘Socialist Unity’ blog, for which Wall writes, carries the following image over his latest post.

Oh dear.

Wall’s post comes in the wake of the bizarre spectacle of the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, admitting to the Guardian newspaper that ‘people are pissed off with us [the Labour Government]’, and that economic times ahead ‘are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years’.

As we have said before, moments from history are often deployed where ideas have run dry

History lends today’s political players crutches to prop themselves up by. Alluding to WWII, public figures demand that we get on a ‘war footing’ to limit our consumption by ‘make do and mend’, as one British public information slogan said. To question this is to demand to be judged by that historical absolute; holocaust denial. To be a denier is, according to the likes of Hansen, to be guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’. The need for such crutches stems from the fact that today’s politicians have no legs to stand on, and environmentalism cannot produce its own history.

Darling puts us on a post-war footing by telling us that we face the worst economic conditions for 60 years. Caroline Lucas with the New Economics Foundation call for a ‘green New Deal‘. The United Nations Development Program’s 400-page Human Development Report on tackling climate change as a development issue begins by quoting Martin Luther King’s ‘Where do we go from here: chaos or community’ speech. [WARNING: BIG PDF]. Al Gore favorably compares himself to JFK by making ‘within ten years’ speeches, even though he holds no office, and has withdrawn from politics.

And Wall compares the Labour Government to Nazis, by using a quote from Mussolini (who was a fascist, not a Nazi), to advance his brand of eco-socialism (which, like the National Socialists is not socialist). There are two things to say about this. First, there is the fact that eco-socialism Wall is selling apparently cannot make a case for itself without the shadow of the swastika hovering above it. Second, Wall’s ‘socialism’ cannot sell itself without the ‘eco’ prefix. Wall calls for ‘eco-socialism or death’. But where the original slogan (‘socialism or death’) might have represented a sincere commitment to the struggle for equality, now it merely stands for ‘balance’ within the biosphere; if we don’t balance it, it kills us.

Wall places himself in contrast to Alistair Darling. But, as the Guardian article reveals, following his appointment, ‘Darling’s life, in his wife’s words, has been “a crisis a week” ever since.’ Mrs Darling understates things. The Labour Government has been in crisis since 1997. Poltics today only survives through generating crisis to avoid its own crises. And in his challenge to Darling’s party, and the mainstream politics which bumbles from crisis to crisis, Derek Wall does nothing other than create more crises – the spectres of Nazism and environmental chaos – because he, just like Darling, lacks any coherent political vision. Without crisis, he would be lost. As his profile on the Green Party website explains:

Dr. Wall describes himself as an eco-socialist, and Green politics as “the politics of survival”, stressing that “unless we build a green economy based on meeting need rather than greed our children face a bleak future. A world dominated by the need for constant growth puts people and the rest nature behind a blind economic system of accumulation”.

But this is fantasy politics. Later on in the profile, we learn that:

Dr. Wall practices Zazen and is influenced by spirituality through “pursuing a pagan appreciation of the living world in a variety of ways”. In Babylon and Beyond, he argues that Zen acts as a guard against utopianism as it “is based on being in the world rather than escaping from it”. He also links anti-capitalism and Zen, stating, based on the work of anthropologist and economist Marshall Sahlins, that “Zen minimises need and provides an alternative road to affluence”.

Hmm. The green hero, Dr. Wall stands against the forces of darkness and their plans to build an empire, by being in tune with the living world… Who does that remind you of?

Star Bores

Yoda.                    Derek Wall

Caroline Lucas again again. In the New Statesman today, talking about the Green Party’s upcoming leadership contest, she says,

There is another crucial reason why Britain needs Green leadership now. Voter turnout at all elections has been falling. Fewer than one in four people vote in many local elections. Most people simply can’t see any difference between politicians from any of the three main Westminster parties. Minor divergences in economic management emerge from time to time, but the paradigm of privatisation, liberalisation and free market dominance has killed off many progressive policies.

Funny that Lucas should talk about low voter turnout. The motor-mouthed miserablist has benefited enormously from voter apathy, as the results from the last two European elections reveal.

 
1999
2004
Party
Votes
% vote
Seats
% Electorate
Votes
%Vote
Seats
% Electorate
Conservative
661932
44.42
5
11
776370
35.2
4
12.8
UKIP
144514
9.7
1
2.4
431111
19.5
2
7.1
Liberal Democrats
228136
15.31
2
3.8
338342
15.3
2
5.6
Labour
292146
19.61
2
4.8
301398
13.7
1
5
Green Party
110571
7.42
1
1.8
173351
7.9
1
2.9
 
Electorate
6023991
Turnout
24.73%
Electorate
6034549
Turnout
36.78

As we can see, she took 7.42% of the vote in 1999, which amounts to just 1.8% of the electorate. In 2004, she increased her share to 7.9% of the vote, amounting to 2.9% of the electorate. No landslide. And yet it was enough to raise her profile well above any other European MP.

The poor showing at the European elections show how uninterested the public are in the EU. It is because so few people registered their vote that Lucas got a seat. And it is because people are so turned off by mainstream politics that the Green Party poll at all. And it is because mainstream parties cannot connect with the public that they have all turned to environmental concerns. The claim that the major parties are turning to environmentalism because it’s a vote winner defies the cold hard stats: it ain’t a vote winner.

It’s Caroline Lucas again.

Caroline Lucas MEP, who is expected to be elected as the Green Party’s first leader later this week, said: “People will be literally dying from cold this winter while companies like Shell and BP are making record profits – that outrages ordinary people and we need a party that is prepared to stand up about that … rather than having a Labour government that is cowering in a cave and scared of actually speaking out against people in the City.”

Nothing Caroline Lucas ever says is not about death.

Before we look at her morbidity, however, let’s get a couple of things out of the way… Hypothermia is a problem. So is expensive energy. But Lucas is not against expensive energy. Here she is, talking earlier in the year, on BBC Question Time, arguing for higher fuel prices.

[youtube mBTE4w3qIaw]

Curiously, she says we need higher fuel prices to modify our behaviour because ‘the end of cheap oil is over’. Could anything more stupid be said? Not only is the idea of taxing fuel redundant if it is becoming scarcer, the market gave Lucas the higher prices she was after, and now she calls it greedy! Whether it is green taxes, an inexplicable market phenomenon, or scarcity that pushes fuel prices up, it makes no difference. Higher prices mean we can do less, and poorer people bear the brunt. Higher fuel prices means more people dying. Fuel is really very useful stuff.

She is calling for energy companies to be forced to plough some of their profits back into “ensuring that some of the poorest people are able to keep warm”, and attacked Labour for presiding “over a period where we now have Victorian levels of social inequality”.

The Government has been resisting demands for a windfall tax to be levied against the energy companies, arguing that it would make Britain’s energy infrastructure unattractive to investors, just as it really needs upgrading. And who is standing in the way of that? That’s right… Caroline Lucas… who joined the Climate Campers this year, protesting at the proposed site of a new coal-fired power station, Kingsnorth.

Any government which commits to more coal fired power stations – and Kingsnorth is only the start – then claims to be aiming for a massive reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 is quite simply living in a fantasy land. … The Government should be showing real leadership in this debate, with measures to tackle rising energy costs and fuel poverty, as well as initiating major investment in energy efficiency, renewables and decentralised energy. According to its own figures, we could achieve a 30% reduction in energy use in the UK through existing efficiency measures alone.

Increasing efficiency and decentralising power generation is not going to make it more accessible to old people vulnerable to cold weather. Decentralising energy supply will make many people far more vulnerable to the climate. It will also make it vastly more expensive to produce, as the labour and maintenance costs increase. The idea that the market doesn’t exploit efficiency is just as absurd.

Let us put this bluntly, Lucas does not give a toss about old people. Unless, that is, they are dying. People who are dying, or are at risk of dying suddenly become political capital. This is the basis of Lucas’ morbidity. And it is the basis of environmental ethics. We compiled this video earlier in the year. Here is Lucas, in full doom mode, coming to a parliamentary constituency near you…

[youtube Higin1kY3PM]

Environmentalism exploits the vulnerable, because, even if we fail to connect with the idea of eco-apocalypse, we still might respond to the victims Greens claim to speak for. In the framework that the Greens have constructed, the environment is the mechanism through which moral acts are transmitted. The rise of fuel prices (which is a bad thing, unless they are demanding it), according to this thinking, reduces old people’s access to natural resources (partly by inflating the price, but also by standing in the way of renewable energy, which is imagined to be unfailingly equitable, just by itself), leaving them exposed to the cold climate, putting them at risk of hypothermia. Similarly, using fossil fuels is an act of violence against the poor further away, because they will bear the consequences of climate change. There is no room in this framework for a conception of ‘good’, which stands for the elevation of people in any way, such as reducing their vulnerability to climate by technological and economic development. A philosophy so fixated and premised on the idea of catastrophe can only think of things in terms of degrees of bad. Therefore environmentalism’s concern for the poor is predicated solely on their usefulness as victims. Everyone else is a culprit, the best they can achieve is neutrality.

The Green Party are the party of death. It’s all they can talk about, and it’s all they think about. Their unsophisticated reasoning reduces to a morbid fascination; an obsession with cancers, plagues, famines, epidemics, pandemics, chaos, destruction, doom. Political movements in the past have offered ways to overcome the challenges that society and individuals face from the natural world by way of ill-health, shortages, and the elements, but the Green Party represents something very different. Instead of challenging the inevitability of poverty’s consequences to generate support, environmentalism seeks to use the image of these consequences to discipline the public into accepting poverty as inevitable. The thinking is no deeper than “capitalism kills grannies”, “vote for me, or get cancer”, “car-drivers are baby killers” As George Monbiot once put it, “Global warming means that flying across the Atlantic is now as unacceptable as child abuse”. The objective of all this is a kind of ‘balance’ between poverty and somehow everything in the world being totally wonderful. Except that there is nothing positive about the environmentalist’s message. It has nothing to offer. And it is corrosive to any idea that life… and politics… can be about more than mere subsistence.