Bishop of Stafford Sillier Than Chief Scientific Advisor?

Given that climate sceptics are as bad as the tobacco lobby and holocaust deniers, and that climate change is worse than international terrorism, which is worse than obesity, which is worse than climate change, and that the church is as desperate to connect with the masses as are all the other bad politicians out there, this was kind of inevitable:

Gordon Mursell, the Bishop of Stafford in England, is a man of the cloth. He is also a member of a posse of disoriented clerics, who have become so estranged from morally literate theology that they have embraced a new brand of demonology. 

At a time when moralisers cannot give any real meaning to classical ideas about right and wrong, they try instead to make people feel guilty about their impact on the environment. So instead of targeting those traditional demons – Satan, say, or witchcraft – Gordon Mursell attacks climate change deniers.

In a parish newsletter, the bishop said that people who refuse to join the fight against global warming are like Josef Fritzl, the insane criminal in Austria who locked his daughter and her children in a cellar for 24 years. For Mursell, being sceptical about the conventional wisdom on climate change is akin to the monstrous crime committed by Fritzl. He says: ‘You could argue that, by our refusal to face the truth about climate change, we are as guilty as he is.’

Mursell has not called for climate change deniers to be burned at the stake – yet. But the idea that they should be punished is implicit in his message…

Read the rest here.

Save Any Planet

For Green buffoonery in all its ghastly, opportunistic, incompetent, self-righteous glory, there is the latest episode of the BBC’s The Apprentice. That’s the series where someone incredibly rich and successful like Donald Trump conducts a “job interview from hell” in which ambitious young things compete for employment at Trump Central. In the BBC version, silly posh people and salt-of-the-earth working class types battle it out for a job with Cockney barrow boy Sir Alan Sugar, whose businesses are worth, we are told, 800 million pounds.

British readers with an hour to kill within the next four days can watch the show here. For everyone else, it goes something like this…

The candidates must come up with a brand new occasion for a range of greetings cards. Will they find a gap in this saturated market? And will their ideas be commercial? 

What the two teams come up with is Happy Singles’ Day and, yes, Save Planet Earth Day. As bad as Happy Singles’ Day may be, a packaged greetings card celebrating the use of fewer resources is, as Sir Alan points out, a complete non-starter. But that alone does not explain the excruciating hilarity of the team’s attempts to sell them to retailers. What makes the pitches for Save Planet Earth Day such exquisitely uncomfortable viewing is the religious zeal with which they fight the cause. These guys think they ought to believe what they are saying. The problem is that they don’t believe it. Which makes it tricky to convince others. But as any environmentalist worth their salt knows, when people don’t believe you, you emotionally blackmail them or appeal to their sense of self-loathing. Team leader Kevin does both. In his pitch to market leader Clinton Cards, he resorts to:

If you don’t put your weight behind it, then it’s just the same as the US saying “we don’t care about pollution” 

Kevin missed a trick there. Why stop at the US? Surely, anyone who begs to differ with environmental orthodoxy is worse even than that – they’re more like rats, slave traders, or Holocaust deniers.

Greens would interpret Kevin’s embarrassing Green epiphany rather differently. They would write it off as mere Greenwash, just another cynical attempt by business to tap into the grassroots popularity of the Environmental movement. The problem for that theory is that the Environmental movement is not popular. No sooner had we mentioned last week the ABC News poll where global warming didn’t figure at all in the US public’s list of priorities, and last year’s Ipsos Mori poll that showed that the great British public aren’t quite so Green as Britain’s Great and Good like to think we should be, than there was another poll, which found that 70% of us would not approve of tax hikes in the name of tackling climate change. The trouble is not that Kevin et al are cynically trying to exploit a market; it’s that they’re trying to sell a product that is wrapped up with a cynical ideology, and for which there is no market.

That the public are not as gullible as the Kevins of this world would have it does not bode well for green initiatives that rely on consumer power. Fairtrade, for example – still far from a market leader – won’t stand a chance once we realise that it’s not actually particularly ethical to give people a friendly pat on the head and toss them some loose change to make sure they carry on doing all those jobs that we wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.

The beauty of it all for self-righteous greens, however, is that you don’t actually have to take any responsibility when you fail – you just blame the consumers. Just as Kevin does when reflecting on what went wrong with his pitch:

If that’s the attitude everyone takes, then we’re not going to be able to save any planet 

Sir Alan didn’t get where he is today by not cynically exploiting markets. Nor by cynically exploiting non-markets. Nor by cynically blaming people who refused to buy his wares. Kevin gets fired.

Climate Deniers Are Slaves to Democracy

On the New Scientist (which is neither) blog last week, Catherine Brahic, the rag’s online environment reporter was struck by a paper published in the journal Climatic Change. Brahic summarises:

Davidson claims that historical hindsight shows how preposterous the claims made in favour of slavery were. He suggests they bear striking resemblance to claims made against taking any action on climate change by contemporary members of Congress. 

Like the mag itself, this argument is neither new nor science. It poses as philosophy. Which is fine. But really it’s just a rehash of the climate-denial-equals-holocaust-denial chestnut. Yet it is still interesting, because, just like the climate-denial-equals-holocaust-denial chestnut, it tells us more about the people making it than it does about its subjects. In spite of being ‘not convinced the comparison is helpful’, Brahic is sufficiently sympathetic to finish her article with the cynical words:

Political decisions are based on money, not morals. 

It’s that money argument, again, even though abolition is about as good an example of a political decision based on morality rather than money that you are likely to find. Brahic’s sympathy for Davidson’s thesis appears to be based on the idea that arguments for the continuation of slavery were preposterous, and business-as-usual arguments are preposterous, therefore, denying climate change is as bad as being in favour of slavery. Or something.

The causes of ‘bad science’ in today’s society – such as the rise of alternative therapies, creationism, and new religious movements – are the subject of many a hand-waving thesis. But when that discussion extends to arguments about the role of oil and money in society, people claiming to have science on their side are adding bad politics, bad history and bad philosophy to the mix. And in his paper, Parallels In Reactionary Argumentation In The US Congressional Debates On The Abolition of Slavery And The Kyoto Protocol, Marc D. Davidson certainly claims to have science on his side. In fact, he goes as far as to equate the science of climate with the morality of equality. Well, he has to really, otherwise he wouldn’t have a paper to write. Davidson’s abstract reads:

Today, the United States is as dependent on fossil fuels for its patterns of consumption and production as its South was on slavery in the mid-nineteenth century. That US congressmen tend to rationalise fossil fuel use despite climate risks to future generations just as Southern congressmen rationalised slavery despite ideals of equality is perhaps unsurprising, then. This article explores similarities between the rationalisation of slavery in the abolition debates and the rationalisation of ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases in the US congressional debates on the Kyoto Protocol. 

He then makes equivalents of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1856 13th Amendment to the US constitution, abolishing slavery. The earlier document, states:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 

On the UNFCCC agreement, Davidson writes:

Despite this commitment [“to protect the climate system for present and future generations.”], the US Congress has as yet rejected any mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases, including the binding emission targets for the industrialised nations agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol 

But how is using slaves the moral equivalent of using oil? The subtitle of the second section of Davidson’s article – ‘Similarities between slavery and the use of fossil fuels’ – promises to answer the question… but doesn’t. Instead Davidson argues that they are similar because (i) abolition of slavery/oil is not in the interests of the electorate – people who had a vote did not have an economic interest in abolishing slavery, or in the later case, oil; (ii) the electorate shifts costs onto those outside of the electorate – the slaves do all the work in the same way that oil does, and the costs of using that oil (as opposed to labour) are borne by future generations, who are not yet part of the electorate; and (iii) arguments against both the slave trade, and efforts to reduce CO2 are similar because they both resist social change.

Davidson’s problem, it seems, is with democracy – that it does not represent the interests of people who do not yet exist; people in the future are excluded from the process because they aren’t alive yet, just as slaves were denied access to the democratic process. But this does not make equivalents of using slaves and using oil. In order to be deprived of ‘rights’ it is necessary to exist. So to grant rights to people who do not exist, or to claim that they are being denied their rights, or to imply that you somehow speak for them are all totally absurd.

And it’s far from clear that using oil does leave a cost for future generations to pay. This claim cannot be tested until such time as such people exist. It is a significant assumption. Davidson defers the argument to the future, in order to escape being challenged. And he admits that reducing CO2 emissions is not without its detrimental effects: after all, he agrees that it’s not in the electorate’s interests. It is democracy itself which creates slaves out of the humans of the future, according to Davidson; democracy is the means by which social progress is thwarted; it cannot transcend self-interest in favour of the interests of people he has conjured from his imagination. The “social progress” (and it is neither) he has in mind (even though he agrees it’s not in people’s interests) is one where people who don’t exist yet are spoken for by anyone who wants to call the precautionary principle, against the interests of people who actually exist.

More interestingly, especially given that he’s a philosopher, Davidson doesn’t even explain why slavery is wrong. Slavery is wrong, of course. But if you want to show that something else is wrong in a similar way, you have to make it clear why it is wrong. Were we to claim that tap-dancing is the moral equivalent of drug-pushing you’d want to know why. If we answered in terms that failed to connect tap-dancing to drug-pushing, you’d close your browser, never to return.

Phillis Wheatley was a slave from Gambia bought by a wealthy Boston Family at the age of just seven in the mid 1700s. Unusually, the family encouraged her to read and write, especially poetry – for which she became famous on merit.

On being brought from Africa to America

`Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

You don’t need to be a Christian to see the message. Wheatley was grateful for being brought to the USA, and for the opportunities she had, but not for being bought and sold as a slave. This is pertinent because no barrel of oil could ever write a poem which expresses such potential. As her poem suggests, the act of buying, selling, or using slaves is immoral because it creates a relationship between people which degrades humanity, when in fact, slaves were in every respect as capable of achieving as much and contributing to civilisation as their white counterparts.

The trouble for Davidson is that were he to state a principled objection to slavery, he would undermine his own argument. It would fall apart because, of course, people are not oil. It is only by dint of similarities in the shape of certain arguments, without historical and political context, superficially sharing some conceptual space, that slavery and oil usage can be seen as moral equivalents. Morality, for Davidson is more like geometry than an expression of humanity. This reveals far more than any resemblance between arguments against abolition and against climate change mitigation.

Davidson goes on to look for more geometrical congruence between arguments made hundreds of years apart, and finds another six arguments used by both Kyoto sceptics and anti-abolitionists: (i) What is deemed bad is in fact good; (ii) The benefits of the proposed policy are uncertain; (iii) Change brings economic ruin; (iv) Solo action will be ineffective and unfair; (v) Sovereignty will be undermined; (vi) Social change will hit other groups.

This is utterly mundane. What political issue is not debated on these lines? What divides camps on any matter, where one sees a thing as a good, and the other bad, with one arguing for either progressive or retrogressive change, the other for the status quo? Davidson might just as well argue that using oil and using slaves are moral equivalents because arguments in favour of their continuation were both constructed using words and marks of punctuation, arranged into sentences. What he is describing are six questions that will likely be at the centre of any political discussion about change. The closer you look at these six points, the sillier they become. In fact we are starting to seriously wonder whether his paper is some sort of clever spoof.

(i) Opposing political ideas will necessarily always differ about what is bad, and what is good. That’s why we have arguments. From some perspectives, a welfare state is bad, while others maintain that it is a good. Environmentalists argue that industrial society is bad, and deep ecologists argue that nature is itself a good. Others see nature as ‘red in tooth and claw’. Davidson juxtaposes statements by vice president John Caldwell Calhoun, on February 6, 1837 with bogeyman du jour, Senator James Inhofe:

“the Central African race…had never existed in so comfortable, so respectable, or so civilized a condition as that which it now enjoyed in the Southern States”…Slavery was not “an evil. Not at all. It was a good – a great good.”John Caldwell Calhoun 

“Thus far, no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophic predictions by alarmists. In fact, it appears just the opposite is true, that increases in global temperature have beneficial effect on how we live our lives.” – Sen. James Inhofe.

We know why slavery is wrong. It deprives individuals of their liberty, and the institution limits the development of human society. Meanwhile, Inhofe’s point finds support among among many mainstream climate scientists, such as the Tyndall Centre’s Professor Mike Hulme, who has observed that catastrophe “is not the language of science. And the idea that climate change might produce benefits – however true or false it is – is not a moral argument. By contrast, the ideas that slavery is either right and good or wrong and bad are not testable, are moral arguments, and more to the point, slavery is an idea which disgusts us today not because of scientific investigation, but because of our understanding of humanity. Yet Davidson uses scientific and moral arguments as though they were interchangable.

(ii) The benefits of any proposed policy are always uncertain to any opponent. How can somebody who doesn’t see the policy as good, ever see the benefits as certain?

(iii) No doubt the end of slavery did bring economic problems, and yes, sceptics do worry about the economic costs of policies to mitigate climate change. But anyone who cites the Stern report in support of immediate mitigation also makes an economic argument. Does that make them the moral equivalent of slave traders, too? And even Davidson agrees that the economic effects of Kyoto would cause economic problems.

Although economic forecasts vary widely, there are few studies predicting that climate policy will benefit employment or economic growth. 

(iv) It is precisely the environmentalists who are arguing that solo action will be ineffective and unfair. That is why they – and Davidson – are calling for international frameworks.

(v) Sovereignty is not only a key concept in most political theories, it was also at the heart of the abolitionist argument, for slavery denies personal sovereignty. Davidson contrasts the argument that it is for individual states to decide the legal status of slavery in the 1800s with more recent complaints about supranational organisations (IPCC) creating policy frameworks.

As sincere as this fear of supranational bodies may be, however, the arguments become suspect if they are not accompanied by proposals for unilateral action. 

And yet he’s already claimed that the “solo action will be ineffective and unfair” argument is “reactionary”! Only, it seems, if it doesn’t conform to climate orthodoxy. Again, Davidson’s contempt for democracy is palpable.

(vi) All change creates winners and losers. Whether that change is progressive, or retrogressive, is, of course, the point. And as political scientist Harold D. Lasswell explained, “
Politics is who gets what, when, and how.” Even Davidson recognises this…

Apart from specific groups like manufacturers of solar cells or windmills, few people have a personal interest in rising energy prices.  

For Davidson, Kyoto sceptics are “reactionaries”, but it is Davidson who shows contempt for democracy, and for politics. He is unable to make moral equivalents of slavery and using oil, and so searches for abstract ways to connect them that bear no scrutiny. In doing so, he also shows contempt for humans. The relationship between slave and master is vicious, exploitative, and deliberate. The link between slaves and not-yet-existing-slave-like-people-of-the-future is merely tortured. The only person deliberately exploiting future generations is Davidson. The irony is that it is people in the present who suffer.

Lucas and the Majority of Some Scientists

In a conversation about EU policy on restricting CO2 emissions from aircraft, on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, this morning, Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the Southeast region said

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.

More often than not, what green politicians mean by “what scientists say” is actually “what green politicians say”. So this morning, we rang Caroline Lucas’s office to ask her which scientists are telling her that we’ve only got eight years left. We’ve never heard them say it, and we listen out for them saying it. They said they’d get back to us…

Meanwhile… this is not Lucas’s first comment of this nature. Back in July, we picked up on her comments on climate change scepticism being the equivalent of holocaust denial.

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.

Dr Lucas’s comments this morning seem equally confused. On the one hand, she appears to be claiming that people are terrified into demanding action because they’ve heard scientists say we’ve only got eight years left to save the world. On the other, she’s demanding that air travel is restricted. But if people really are as concerned about what Lucas says scientists say as Lucas says they are, then there would be no need to respond to their fear with new EU legislation, people simply wouldn’t fly. But, as she points out, aviation is a growing industry.

So if Lucas isn’t talking on behalf of the frightened public, (the ones who manage to find their way to the airport in spite of their fear) is Lucas speaking for science at least?

It turns out not, because in answer to our question, Lucas’s press office emailed us back with a bunch of links, saying,

The quote in question – that which contains the estimated ‘deadline’ of 8 years for the world’s government to act seriously on climate change – has been used generically for some time now, and is taken from a consensus view among a number of scientists.

“The consensus of a number of scientists”. Would that be the same as “the majority of some of the population”? We read the links to find out. They consisted of:

* Guardian Environment Correspondent David Adam’s interpretation of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report – “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”. (The influencial UN panel don’t actually seem to say that).

* A BBC Online article claiming that “The world may have little more than a decade to avert catastrophic climate change, politicians and scientists say“. But what they mean is a scientist, not scientists, because, all that “The taskforce’s scientific adviser is Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” says is “I think in the last few years the increase in emissions does cause concern. It gives you the feeling we might end up in the middle of that temperature range [1.5 and 5.5C], and if we do that wouldn’t make very good news.” Note that Pachauri isn’t a climate scientist, but has doctorates in industrial engineering and economics. Also note that Pachauri isn’t exactly what you’d call “balanced” about the politics of climate change, previously asking “What is the difference between Lomborg’s view of humanity and Hitler’s?… If you were to accept Lomborgs way of thinking, then maybe what Hitler did was the right thing”.

* An article from the Socialist Workers Website. Enough said.

* A link to the IPCC’s website.

We pointed out to Lucas’s press officer that these links leave a bit to be desired. We’ve been reading the IPCC website for years, and hadn’t noticed a statement about 8 year windows, and the articles she linked to were subject to the interpretations and prejudices of their authors. And asking David Adam for an objective view of climate science is like asking Bin Laden for a balanced view of the USA. Who were these scientists? Where do they say “we’ve only got 8 years left”?

The press office again pointed us to the IPCC, emphasising that Pachauri is the “highly respected chair of the IPCC and is quoted as a spokesperson on climate change across all levels of the media”. (But does he speak ‘for scientists’?) They then referred us to the IPCC’s Working Group III Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers which, according to the press offcier “focused on economic changes that need to be made, pointing out that emissions must start declining by the year 2015 to prevent the world’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrialized temperatures”.

So we were now faced with an economic argument, rather than a scientific one. Even so, we read it. There is indeed a reference to 2015. But only one. It is the “peaking year” for CO2 emissions in one of several categories of scenarios, where CO2 is stabilised at various concentrations or less, thereby stabilising average global temperature at an amount above the “preindustrial average”. But all that is said in the report about the six categories of 177 scenarios assessed by the 33 authors is

In order to stabilize the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, emissions would need to peak and decline thereafter. The lower the stabilization level, the more quickly this peak and decline would need to occur. Mitigation efforts over the next two to three decades will have a large impact on opportunities to achieve lower stabilization levels (see Table SPM.5, and Figure SPM. 8)

There is no mention of impending catastrophe. There is no mention of deadlines. There is no mention of this being a consensus amongst scientists that we have to meet the 2015 deadline, nor any deadline over another. In spite of the fact that neither Lucas nor her press officer can produce anything which supports her claim that “scientists say we have about eight years left in order to really tackle climate change”, they continue to make it. The press officer finally told us that,

Both the UN and the IPCC subscribe to the figure of eight years, and many in the scientific community have also supported the need to drastically reduce emissions by 2015. Caroline has primarily relied upon both the UN conclusions and the IPCC report, and as a busy MEP without the scientific resources to physically perform independent large-scale research on climate change, working across a vast range of issues in her South East constituency and in the European Parliament on a daily basis, Caroline trusts that the IPCC and the UN provide accurate and well-researched reports.

Lucas’s press office don’t seem to want to continue the conversation, so we have had to look for statements by IPCC scientists for ourselves. You don’t need your own pocket-sized IPCC to evaluate claims made about climate science… We found two pertinent quotes on this very site.

Prof Mike Hulme of the UK’s Tyndall Centre tells us that

The language of catastrophe is not the language of science. It will not be visible in next year’s global assessment from the world authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[Note: AR4]. To state that climate change will be “catastrophic” hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science. Is any amount of climate change catastrophic? Catastrophic for whom, for where, and by when? What index is being used to measure the catastrophe? The language of fear and terror operates as an ever-weakening vehicle for effective communication or inducement for behavioural change.

And of the projections in WGII, which Lucas’s press office seem to think amount to a “scientific consensus”, Kevin Trenberth tells us that,

In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers “what if” projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios. There are a number of assumptions that go into these emissions scenarios. They are intended to cover a range of possible self consistent “story lines” that then provide decision makers with information about which paths might be more desirable. But they do not consider many things like the recovery of the ozone layer, for instance, or observed trends in forcing agents. There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess.Even if there were, the projections are based on model results that provide differences of the future climate relative to that today. None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate.

There is no escaping the fact that Caroline Lucas has made up what “the scientists” are telling us. However busy she is, given that ‘climate science’ is the basis of her entire political agenda, there is no excuse for not knowing what she’s talking about. Lucas neither accurately nor honestly reflects scientific opinion, yet attempts to use it to win moral arguments. Worse still is the fact that whilst she claims to be representing people who are frightened by scientific reports and reflecting the views of scientists, she is in fact doing the frightening by misrepresenting the scientists.

Just how deep does Lucas’s love of science really run? That depends on whether the science in question promises to make life better, or legitimises her alarmism. In the case of science making our lives better, ban it. “Nanotechnology will revolutionise our lives – it should be regulated” she writes in a 2003 Guardian article called “We must not be blinded by science”. Oh, sweet, sweet irony.

Nobody Expects the Cimate Inquisition

‘Sustainable’ blogging (geddit?) is a bit difficult when even the green news-makers have jetted off to catch some sun… This isn’t climate change, it’s silly season, and there’s not much news around.

We have reported before how the environmentalist’s view of the future shares something with the Taliban. Now we bring you… calls for a climate inquisition. Jamais Casico, futurologist and founder of http://www.worldchanging.com/ isn’t the first to call for trials for global warming ‘denialists’. Gristmill’s David Roberts can claim that honour. But that doesn’t make Casico’s comments any less shocking.

Speaking/fantasising about the possibility of a second event such as Hurricane Katrina to hit the USA, regardless of whether or not global warming is the cause (and it seems, regardless of whether or not humans caused it), Casico writes on his blog,

For the global warming denial industry, congressional hearings will be the least of their worries. In a post-Katrina II America, aware that some of the largest companies and the most influential think tanks worked hard to make sure that attempts to mitigate climate disruption were stopped, the perpetrators of this crime may face far greater trials. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch. 

The ‘crime’, it seems is not that corporates and individuals are responsible for the material act of releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, but that daring to voice their opinion influences people to continue to consume, which causes CO2 to be emitted. Casico can charge ‘the deniers’ with nothing more than thought crime. Casico cannot comprehend that anyone might have a reasonable objection to either climate science or political orthodoxies, and so speculates as to what is driving ‘denial’:

The companies and think tanks involved in the denialist effort come across not as defenders of their beliefs and industry, but as people willing to say and do anything to protect the accumulation of short-term profits, the future (and the world) be damned. 

Aside from the sinister fantasy of lynch mobs rounding up his political enemies, which Casico seems to be indulging in, what this commentary reveals is another case of the escalation of rhetoric against ‘sceptics and deniers’ that is designed to close down debate and claim the moral high ground. This time, not by making equivalents of sceptics and holocaust deniers, but by equally hollow appeals to victimhood on behalf of people who don’t even exist yet, whose lives have been ruined by something that hasn’t happened yet.

If a dark, nasty future didn’t exist, Jamais Casico would have to invent it – which is precisely what he’s doing. It is only by fantasising about the future that Casico can find people guilty in the present. And for all the complaints about corporates gambling with the future, he has carved himself quite a profitable niche with his bleak visions. Yet this contemporary Nostradamus has a lmited imagination; all he can think of is reasons to avoid the future, not ways of making it better.

More on Lucas

We are surprised that the media has paid such little attention to Caroline Lucas’s statements likening climate change scepticism to holocaust denial. Her comments expose much of what is rotten about the environmental movement: its lack of proportion, its religiosity, its inability to cope with change and challenge, its misanthropy, its failure to capture the public’s imagination and the fantasy it constructs to explain that failure.

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.

Lucas speaks as though a consensus on climate-change allows her to say whatever she likes about the future. Her 99.999% figure is, of course, entirely made up. If it were true, it would mean that 1 in 100,000 climate scientists were sceptical, and we can think of enough sceptics to put the number of climate scientists in the world well into the tens of millions. Lucas has absolutely no idea what proportion of climate scientists constitutes the consensus position because no poll of scientists has been taken.

IPCC reports are not a license for Caroline Lucas to say whatever she wants to say about science. They are hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and cannot be reduced to alarmist statements without losing all of their meaning.

Most scientists do believe that humans are influencing the climate. But ask them how much we are influencing it and you’ll get many different answers. And it certainly does not follow that they would agree with Lucas’s plans to mitigate change. Neither does it follow that they believe that climate change would be catastrophic. In fact, many leading climate scientists who represent the ‘consensus’ position can be found directly contradicting what Lucas says, in particular that ‘we’ve literally got between five and ten years…’

Professor Mike Hulme, for example – no climate sceptic by any stretch of the imagination – wrote last year in an article for the BBC website called Chaotic World of Climate Truth that ‘a new environmental phenomenon has been constructed in this country – the phenomenon of “catastrophic” climate change’, and explicitly cautions against Lucas’s form of language.

It seems that it is we, the professional climate scientists, who are now the (catastrophe) sceptics. How the wheel turns.

Some recent examples of the catastrophists include Tony Blair, who a few weeks back warned in an open letter to EU head of states: “We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing a catastrophic tipping point.”

There is no way that Lucas cannot be aware of Hulme’s comments about alarmism. Yet she has to maintain her version of scientific certainty because if the public realises that there is a debate about how to respond to climate change, and a debate about how reliable forecasts are, her political manifesto simply has no currency.

The Green Party has invested all of its political capital in a nightmare from which there is only one escape: to vote for them. Anyone who questions these self-appointed saviours of the planet is as bad as a holocaust denier: a Nazi, essentially. And arguments don’t come much cheaper than that. Dr Lucas is engaged in a programme of terrifying people into voting for her, and making statements about the morality of people who disagree. This is the worst kind of politics.

Lucas understands that her election depends on there being a public who are terrified into voting for her:

[M]y intention is to try to wake people up a bit about the catastrophe which I genuinely believe we are sleep-walking towards. What I’m saying here is that the way in which the media always insists on having somebody to deny climate change at the same time as they have someone talking about how climate change is real. That is neutralising the debate, it’s stifling the potential to move forward on this politically in just the same way as it would be if you had somebody who was constantly denying the holocaust every time someone spoke about the Second World War. Now the media doesn’t do that, and quite right too, but my point is they shouldn’t be giving so much airtime to the climate deniers either because although it may seem a dramatic comparison to make, in reality if you look at the implications of climate change, of runaway climate change, we are literally talking about millions and millions of people dying, we are literally talking about famines, and flooding, and migration and disease on an unprecedented scale. And so yes, I know these are sensitive words that I’ve used, but I feel so strongly that we urgently need to wake people up and stop this march towards catastrophe that I very much feel that we’re on.

Without fear, panic, and alarm about catastrophe – floods, epidemics, famines, and droughts – Lucas has no vision of the future to sell to the public. She is free to ‘genuinely believe’ whatever she likes, but what she is doing here is inventing a false scientific position in order to make her apocalyptic beliefs sound plausible. She is constructing a terrifying crisis which only she is capable of saving us from, but her valiant efforts to save mankind are thwarted by evil (fascist) sceptics, and the sheer stupidity of the gullible public, who believe what they say.

Where Lucas claims that scepticism is diminishing the potential for political progress and neutralising debate, what she is actually voicing is a tantrum that she is not winning. So she escalates the rhetoric. But Lucas’s claims about millions of deaths are not supported by scientific research.

What kills humans is not climate change, but inability to cope with climate. People survive and prosper in a vast range of climatic conditions, even where climate has also always been a problem for people, occasionally killing thousands of people in a stroke. But as society has developed, natural disasters have been mitigated by ingenuity. We have the means to cope with adverse conditions, and to adapt to new ones, opening up many new possibilities for better lives. Floods and drought and disease kill people in regions which are too poor to afford to adapt. Tsunamis and storms kill people because there is insufficient coastal development. Famines and drought kill people because conflict prevents settlement, development, and the transport of aid. There is no such thing as a ‘natural disaster’ – these problems always have political or economic causes. For humans, Nature is a disaster… Drought, famine, and disease are all ‘natural’, after all.

But Lucas rejects the idea that society’s relationship to the climate is defined by human development in favour of a kind of environmental determinism. In the past, ideas about development and infrastructure were realised because it was understood that that it would be a moral good to organise society to defend itself against the elements, and better the circumstances of even the poorest people. Now, doctrines like Lucas’s offer the poor the bogus pro
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se of not making things worse for them, rather than bettering their lot. The technology that allows society to develop and prosper is exactly what Lucas seeks to deprive the world of. The kind of lifestyle that Lucas would celebrate as ‘sustainable’ in fact increases people’s susceptibility to climate. It puts them in the path of hurricanes, in areas prone to flooding, drought, and famine, because the idea that people should live within natural limits necessarily means that people will suffer the fluctuations of climate.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that there’s any reality behind holocaust denial, on the contrary, I’m saying that holocaust deniers are as outrageous as climate change deniers; both of them are outrageous, so it was very much a point I was trying to make in order to say that you know, both are completely unacceptable.

Lucas does not seem to understand the difference between the historical fact of the deliberate and systematic murder of millions of people, and a quasi-scientific theory that changes in climate might turn into human tragedy. She can invent any figure she likes to claim as deaths which make equivalents of genocide and climate change, but they are not equivalents, because the holocaust was an act of barbarism executed by people against people; people who suffer from the effects of climate are not acted against.

We reviewed Josie Appleton’s critique of Mark Lynas’s book Six Degrees a while ago, in which Appleton describes the way environmentalism explains the relationships between people:

Carbon dioxide becomes the nexus between individuals, the thing that connects us to other people and to the future of the planet

It is within this degraded moral framework that Lucas’s calculations take place. Her unsophisticated chain of reasoning posits that because Nazis killed millions of people and some scientists have speculated that climate change could kill millions of people, scepticism of climate change theory is the equivalent of denying the holocaust. Lucas finds it outrageous that anyone might question her view of the world because challenging it undermines it. It is not a view which is expanded or improved by being challenged, but is exposed as vapid posturing.

All the more ironic that Lucas should have been given the title ‘Politician of the Year’ at the Observer Ethical Awards. (What better indication of morally uncertain times could there be than a pageant in which people contest to prove their stainless character?)

I’m not saying we should somehow stifle debate, but I think at the moment we’ve got into a rather absurd way in which every time almost you have someone talking about the latest scientific facts on climate change it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to have somebody from the other side to automatically deny it. And I’ve lost count of the number of debates I’ve done for example, where someone like BjornLomborg or Richard North are dragged out these two or three names of the people that continually deny that there’s any risk from climate change. And it just really does just stop the debate moving forward and stopping action happening more than anything. And it really does seem to me that we are on the edge of an abyss here, and you know, for anybody that’s really looked at some of the very measured language coming from the intergovernmental panel on climate change from NASA, and others, it’s measured language, but what they’re talking about here really is apocalyptic, so I really hope that I don’t cause offence with this, but what I do do is to wake up people a little bit and make them think that actually what we’re talking about here is something that is desperately serious.

Only a worldview as hollow as Lucas’s needs to defend itself by claiming that public debate is dangerous because the public are not sophisticated enough to make up their own minds about what they hear, and that exposure to counter arguments risks sending the human race to their doom. If Lucas really deserved the title of ‘politician of the year’ – that is to say, if she really had a positive and coherent political and ‘ethical’ perspective – she would welcome and encourage debate and criticism, not seek to reduce it in this way. She lacks the courage of her convictions, and hides the fact behind the horrors of the holocaust – a cowardly act which reduces any possibility of genuine debate to bogus claims about what percentage cut of CO2 emissions would put the most distance between a political party’s policies and fascism.

There is a real debate to be had. There’s a debate to be had about the science, there’s a debate to be had about the best way to approach the problem of climate change and how big that problem is, in the light of – but not as a consequence of – the best scientific information available. Most importantly, there is also a debate to be had about why it is that politics has sunk to the point where politicians have to use science fiction fantasy to convince us of their importance.

Caroline Lucas's Radio Gaga

Caroline Lucas was on BBC Radio Oxford’s Bill Heine show last night to explain why she thinks climate change scepticism is the same as holocaust denial.

There is so much wrong with this that it’s going to take us a little while to list it all. We’ll get back to you soon(ish) about that. Meanwhile, here’s the audio of the interview for your enjoyment.

56% of You are Fascist B***ards

We mentioned yesterday that Ipsos MORI regard the majority of the UK population as ignorant sheep who can’t come to an informed decision even if it’s handed to them on a plate. Well, next to what Caroline Lucas, Green Party MEP for the UK South East region, thinks of them, that all sounds almost complimentary. According to eGov, she prefers to compare the climate scepticism revealed by Ipsos MORI’s poll to holocaust denial.

The media’s attempt to seem balanced is in fact distorting the public’s understanding of perhaps the most pressing issue facing us all today – and it’s tragic. It doesn’t make any sense: would the media insist on having a holocaust-denier to balance any report about the second word war? Of course not – but by insisting on giving so much airtime to climate change deniers, it is doing exactly the same thing. 

We’re glad that Lucas has finally admitted that she’s against a “balanced media”. We are less impressed with her attempts to make moral equivalents of healthy scientific scepticism and the most morally reprehensible acts she can think of. But she is not alone. We reported on Sunday how Lord May resorted to accusing Martin Durkin of making films denying the link between HIV and AIDS, and previously the Royal Society’s statements about how scepticism of claims about the climate are comparable in some way to denying the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Anybody who cannot tell the difference between scientific scepticism and fascism lacks a moral compass. (And to think that Lucas has just been awarded Politician of the Year at the Observer Ethical Awards.) Environmentalism’s moral disorientation means that in order to make a moral argument (or to explain their own failures), environmentalists have to draw on absolutes from elsewhere – whether they be absolute wrongs from the darkest periods of history, or absolute scientific certainties that don’t even exist.

We don’t need anything to compare Nazi atrocities with – they were horrors that spoke for themselves. But the morality of emitting CO2, which possibly raises global temperatures and might change the climate (in an unpredictable and unspecified way) isn’t such an easy thing to measure. That needs science – really thorough, deep and tested science. We don’t have that, yet. And we won’t ever have it if we deny scientists the opportunity to pursue a value free investigation of the material world without calling them denialists.

Given that 56% of the public, according to the MORI poll, come under Lucas’s definition of denialists, it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t have much regard for the intelligence of those she represents. If the public are so easily lead like sheep, can she say that her election victory wasn’t due to ‘media distortions’? Funny how people like polls when it suits them.