0 out of 10 for 10:10

It turns out we’ve missed a trick in our articles about the fashion for what we have called ‘pastiche politics‘, the phenomenon by which environmentalists attempt to muster non-existent public support by comparing themselves to world-changing political movements of the past – the Suffragettes, JFK, the New Deal, anti-apartheid, that sort of thing. Because, writing at Comment Is Free about Franny ‘The Age of Stupid’ Armstrong’s 10:10 Campaign, which seeks to get us all to reduce our emissions by 10% over 2010, Brendan O’Neill has provided a handy quote from Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst:

Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance … We do not call for limitation of births, for penurious thrift, and self-denial. We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.

(Which is also a rather nice counter to the watermelon theory, which holds that environmentalism is the reincarnation of socialism – red on the inside. But that’s another story.)

O’Neill’s piece is a ripple of dissent in a sea of sycophantic Guardian coverage of 10:10. Which is not entirely surprising, given that the Guardian is backing the campaign. It presents so much material from the green great and good on the subject that it’s hard to know where to start. Happily, many of its flaws are encapsulated in this wee video of Franny Armstrong confessing all to Guardian journalists:

The good news is that the first 10% cut is actually very easy. It’s the low-hanging fruit, it’s the changing your light bulbs, turning down your heating, driving a bit less, flying a bit less, changing your eating habits a little bit – it’s that kind of thing. Unless you’re one of those people who have already started, in which case it’s a lot harder. But it only gets really hard around 30 or 40%.

But we don’t have to worry our pretty heads about that, because the good people at 10:10 will make sure the government will make us do it. And we already know that the government would like us to make them make us do it. As UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband said about the Heathrow protests:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

Unfortunately for Franny, governments are far easier to persuade than the electorate.

I’m of that generation that grew up being told that the point of our existence was to watch TV and go shopping and play computer games and then die. And I’m actually extremely excited and happy to realise that actually that’s not true. Actually, we have this immense responsibility – our generation has this immense responsibility. Because everybody who came before us didn’t know, and everyone who follows us, it’ll be too late for them to do anything. So it is down to us. And I actually find that extremely exciting and extremely inspiring, that we have got something important to do and that we’re not just passive consumers […] I find it much more scary the idea that our lives are just not worth anything, and if we just bought more Nike trainers, for example, then we would all be happier […] And I find that whole individualistic get in your little car and sit in a traffic jam for two hours and then go to a pointless job, that’s what I find really terrifying.

Don’t we all, dear. The difference is that Franny is happy to escape the treadmill by insisting that everybody else keeps on pedaling – literally. Meanwhile, Franny gets to go in big shiny helicopters:

At the end [of The Age of Stupid], there’s this great shot of this old guy mountain-climbing that was clearly shot from a helicopter. It was shot from a helicopter, because I shot it. And that kind of decision we had to make, like, you know, if we increase the production values of the film, we make it that much more mainstream by doing things like helicopter shots.

What was that she was just saying about passive consumerism?

It is de rigeur for environmentalists demanding that the rest of us change our greedy, consumerist ways to ritually, and with faux embarrassment, confess the size of their own carbon footprint. But it is only so big, they say, shifting uncomfortably yet sincerely in their seats, because they have a planet to save. Over to Franny again:

The thing about my carbon footprint is that it was really, really good. Because I’ve been vegetarian since I was eleven, I’ve never had a car, I live in a very cold house, I’ve got solar panels, I’ve got amazing insulation, I hate shopping, so I never buy anything. So I was doing really, really well until I made this climate blockbuster movie, and I’m now flying quite a lot to promote it. Like we’ve just been in Australia last week and we’re going to America next week. So my carbon footprint has dramatically gone up since I’ve become such a successful climate campaigner, paradoxically.

Not paradoxically at all. What Armstrong has succeeded in demonstrating is that, if you want to actually get anything done around here, you have to make an impact.

Her argument will no doubt cut ice with the converted, however – the converted being those with nothing better to do than read the Guardian and work out how to reduce their emissions. For everyone else, which is almost everybody, there is stuff to do. As we’ve said before, saving the planet is just a way to pass the time.

Anyway, good luck to ’em. They’ll need it. And congratulations in advance should their campaign actually manage to turn the heads of anything approaching a sizable chunk of the population. But we don’t believe for one minute that the public will go for this, like the public haven’t voted for green parties in the polls, like electoral turn-out has declined as all the mainstream parties have adopted mainstream environmental policies, like opinion polls repeatedly show that most people have little time for environmentalism, like ‘popular’ protests at energy plants and airports are anything but popular.

At the risk of indulging in a bit of pastiche politics ourselves, we would suggest that the real popular movement, the one that really is running counter to the mainstream and trying to change the world for the better, is the one that staunchly resists the political elites’ undemocratic push for a more sustainable, less aspirational world in which our only goal is to keep everything just how it used to be – forever. Because most of us, as (ahem) Martin Luther King once said, have a dream.

Make Us Let You Eat Less Cake

We’ve flagged up Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband’s relationship with climate activists before. When he’s not snuggling up to Franny ‘Age of Stupid’ Armstrong, he’s egging on airport protesters and comparing them to past popular movements:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

He continued in this vein at the weekend when speaking to demonstrators at a Climate Justice event organised by Catholic aid agency CAFOD and Christian Aid:

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband urged people to continue to fight for climate justice at a rally in Doncaster at the weekend, emphasising the public’s ability to influence international green policies […]

“I think it’s incredibly important that we show governments around the world that people really care about these issues and days like today are incredibly important” Miliband told the campaigners.

“I think we are winning the battle” Miliband added. “It is an uphill struggle, but I think it’s a battle we can win and you are contributing to it by what you do today and what you are doing in your daily lives.”

“I genuinely believe that people will make the difference to whether this challenge is tackled or not and I urge you to not succumb to the defeatism that says, ‘oh well, people can’t make a difference in this, it’s really about whether governments do their bit or not’.

“I think we need to keep up the good work between now and December if we are going to get the kind of ambitious deal on climate change that we need,” he added.

But it’s not ‘the people’ influencing climate policies. Miliband is desperate, desperate, desperate to make it look like we’re all green now, and that we’re all marching in the streets. But this image does not compare to reality. Just 400 people turned up to the rally, held in Doncaster, which has a population just shy of 300,000, and lies just 20 miles from Sheffield (population 1.8 million). Even in his own constituency, with his own party activists, and with the support of a number of church groups and environmental campaigning organisations, Miliband cannot raise more than a handful of supporters. There are, regularly, and throughout the country, village and school fêtes with a bigger turn-out. More people were in supermarkets in Doncaster that day, than were at the rally. More people were in their cars, or enjoying the warm weather in their gardens.

Yet Miliband continues to play Noah. Why? Speaking at the end of the rally, he said:

“I want to congratulate Cafod on its Climate Justice campaign. We need to keep up the good work between now and December if we are going to get the kind of ambitious deal on climate change that we need,” Mr Miliband said.

The electorate didn’t ever vote for what the Government are doing to ‘save the planet’ – the UK public have been denied the opportunity to have their interest in environmentalism tested at the ballot box – Miliband knows that. His public appearances are intended to maintain the illusion that he is responding to a popular movement, and has to whip up as much support as he can muster from anyone prepared to pose alongside him.

Miliband’s courting of the radical environmental movement has had the result of attracting their attention. The latest climate protest at the site of the planned Kingsnorth power station aimed to form a ‘giant human chain’, or Mili-Band (geddit?) around the existing plant. But although this protest numbered a slightly bigger 1,000 activists (they reckon), this is hardly the demonstration of popular uprising that Miliband wants it to be, and the ‘giant human chain’ only extended a small way around the site.

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1,000 protesters turned up at Kingsnorth demanding that no new power plants should be built, and that they pledged to use direct action to prevent it. Meanwhile, the remaining 60,942,912 people of the UK weren’t at the protest, and probably all of them used electricity.

Oxfam activists were also in attendance at the Mili-Band. The ‘development’ charity encourages people to take direct action against… erm… development.

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So few in numbers are these protesters, that the only way they can get their message across is by pulling stunts rather than actual ‘demonstration’ – the only thing such small number really demonstrate is impotence. Impotence manifests as rage, however, and so conceited are these individuals that in spite of their failure to reproduce their message, that they threaten sabotage if they aren’t heeded.

So what is all this in aid of?

This has all happened as New Labour starts making announcements about its Carbon Transition Plan, which outlines how it likes to think the UK will meet its target of a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020:

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The protesters fancy themselves as revolutionary thinkers that stand against the government, and ‘the system’. But look, here they are, doing the government’s PR work for them: organising events and speaking opportunities, and creating the illusion of grass-roots support. Behind this facade, the Labour Party are suffering perhaps their worst domestic crisis of legitimacy ever. The UK government has lost any moral authority in the international arena that it ever had. A paltry opposition fails to challenge any of its ideas. A supine media fails to hold it to account. And the activists come out ten-by-ten to save the whole undignified lot. This ark is a ship of fools. It’s not designed to save people from the climate; it’s designed to save themselves from the near-total collapse of their credibility.

The Age of the Age of Stupid

It is telling that parts of the environmental movement attempt to ram home their message by telling the rest of the world that they are stupid for not getting it.

As we have shown here on Climate Resistance, some argue that psychological mechanisms might be to blame for our failure to respond to climate change, and devise techniques that might ‘encourage’ us to behave ‘responsibly’. Others claim that the feckless public’s scepticism and denial are the result of conspiracies to distort science’s message, or that a ‘balance’ of views in the media gives a credibility to false ideas. Some even say that the issue of climate change is just too serious and big an issue for democracy to cope with – we vote selfishly, and our sinful minds cannot possibly understand the enormity of the tragedy that we are making. What fools we are.

But the last thing those who make such claims ever look at to explain their failure is their own argument. So who are they calling stupid?

All of us, it seems. One such case is ‘The Age of Stupid’ – a film that points its big pointy finger at the people of the world, and damns them for their stupidity.

Franny Armstrong, the director of the film, was at the Hay Festival last weekend, sharing the stage with climate change minister, Ed Miliband. As the Guardian’s James Randerson reports:

What we saw on stage was a clash between the absolutism of the single-minded campaigner and the art of realpolitik. For Armstrong the situation is clear. Already, 150,000 people are dying each year as a result of human-caused climate change – according to the World Health Organisation – so the consumerist growth model that has created the problem has to go.

But, countered Miliband, that would deny developing countries like China and India their chance to grow their economies. “If you say to them look, we’ve had this growth model for 50 years or whatever it is but now we’ve discovered it’s a real problem and you can’t carry on growing, there’s no way to can persuade them to be part of a global agreement,” he said.

Here is what they said to each other, according to the Guardian’s podcast coverage of the festival:

MILIBAND: Even after the recession, even after putting a price on carbon, passenger demand in the UK is expected to double. Now your position says, err…

ARMSTRONG: Ninety-five per cent cut in flights by 2020.

MILIBAND: You’d like a ninety-five per cent cut in flights?

ARMSTRONG: Yep. No, the science… It doesn’t matter what I’d like… If we’re going to prevent runaway climate change, which is the goal. Then ninety-five percent cut in flights, yeah. But I think what you said is absolutely key. Like it was only one generation ago, perhaps two [laughs] that err, flying was a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’d look forward to. You know, you’d save up, and you’d go, you know, once a decade. That’s what we’re talking about, everybody in the room could fly about once a decade. And then wed be back to being a magical experience and what’s wrong with that? I think we have to look at the level of sacrifice, don’t we, because what we’re saying is you think the British people wouldn’t agree to sacrifice [laughs] erm, their right to go on holiday as many times as they… fly, as many times as they want to.

MILIBAND: But…

ARMSTRONG: Hang on, let me finish. But in order… We’re therefore gonna ask other people in other countries to sacrifice their lives. I.E. the hundred and fifty thousand people who are already dying from climate change every year, according to the World Health Organisation.

MILIBAND: I’m not saying that, come on. I’m not saying that.

ARMSTRONG: No but you are. One follows the other.

This exchange epitomises the climate ‘debate’ in a number of ways.

First, it isn’t a debate. Miliband and Armstrong’s positions are not counterposed. Miliband is nothing if not a committed environmentalist. Yet he recognises that what both he and Armstrong want ain’t a vote-winner, and the public remain unconvinced about the environmental issue. Knowing that environmental policies therefore lack the legitimacy such far-reaching policies ought to have, he recently called for the green movement to demonstrate the kind of mass-movement that has driven political change in the past. As he said last year:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

But the environmental movement cannot muster it. Too few people – only a small number of protesters and the UK establishment, it seems – are interested in the subject at all. Nonetheless, Miliband has been instrumental in driving forward the environmental agenda, which forms a substantial part of the government’s own legislation. Because it does suit the political establishment, it has proceeded without any real parliamentary scrutiny – virtually all MPs, with only a few exceptions, are entirely uncritical of anything ‘green’ – and without environmentalism being tested at the ballot box. This democratic oversight is overcome by deferring many of the parameters of our environmental strategy to an unaccountable, unelected panel – the Climate Change Committee, and of course, to the Stern Report, and to the IPCC; each papering over the nuances, doubt, uncertainties and scientific caution of the previous.

The second is the way Armstrong hides her naked prejudice behind science. It’s not her that wants a 95 per cent cut in flights, it’s science. It has spoken to her. But wherever Armstrong got her claim that a 95 per cent cut in flights is necessary to avoid ‘runaway climate change’ and the deaths of 150,000 people, it was not from scientific literature, and it was not from scientists. It’s an argument that has been assembled from bits of science, and strung together like a Frankenstein monster – a highly dubious form of inductive reasoning which allows her to claim that Miliband is making an argument for ‘other people in other countries to sacrifice their lives’. Her chain of reasoning is that i) flights cause CO2, ii) CO2 causes global warming, iii) which will cause runaway climate change, iv) which kills people – the WHO says so, v) these are mostly poor people in other countries. There is no sense of proportion at any stage of this form of reasoning. There is no attention given to the caveats and caution or scope that the original research – if indeed it was research – presented.

This is a major problem for Armstrong if she wants to persuade anybody who isn’t stupid. Anyone who isn’t stupid is able to see for themselves, with just a little research, how her argument stacks up, or doesn’t.

The statistic of 150,000 climate change deaths is from the WHO’s The World Health Report 2002, page 72 of which says:

Climate change was estimated to be responsible in 2000 for approximately 2.4% of worldwide diarrhoea, 6% of malaria in some middle income countries and 7% of dengue fever in some industrialized countries. In total, the attributable mortality was 154 000 (0.3%) deaths and the attributable burden was 5.5 million (0.4%) DALYs. About 46% this burden occurred in SEAR-D, 23% in AFR-E and a further 14% in EMR-D.

‘Estimated’. There is no footnote explaining the method by which the estimate was achieved. for that, we need to look to press releases. This one, from Reuters, via commondreams.org:

The book estimated climate change was to blame for 2.4 percent of cases of diarrhoea because, Campbell-Lendrum said, the heat would exacerbate bacterial contamination of food.

Climate change was also behind two percent of all cases of malaria, because increased rainfall created new breeding grounds for mosquitoes which carry the disease, he said.

There is a logical problem here with using a model to attribute deaths from cause A to ultimate cause B. By virtue of being directly caused by A, we cannot say empirically, that B was responsible for any particular death. The relationship between the cause of climate change, and an Nth order effect of climate change is theoretical, not empirical, and is itself based on a speculative chain of reasoning which is unlikely to carry much necessity. People who were killed by malaria, which was caused by an increased rainfall, which was caused by climate change, which was caused by somebody driving a 4×4 in South London, were killed, first and foremost, by malaria. The relationship between the ultimate cause (CO2) and ultimate effect (150,000 deaths from disease) – which we have to take at face value, because the WHO have decided not to tell us how it was established – is contingent: things could have happened otherwise. For instance, we might have abolished malaria and dengue fever, and the developing world might have been more developed such that more people had fridges and freezers, and medicine – very simple medicine, as it happens – to deal with diarrhoea. If that had happened – and it’s not a stretch of the imagination – there would have been no deaths from climate change. So why campaign for less cars, rather than more fridges and more medicine?

But let’s be charitable to the WHO and their researchers, for a moment. Perhaps there is a value in estimating the influence of climate changes on disease, based on assumptions. It might open up some discussion about strategies that might be followed to confront malaria, and where investments might be best made. Theoretical models aren’t in themselves, ‘bad’, and can be useful to testing existing knowledge, perhaps between different disciplines. But, look, these researchers aren’t as interested in the 98% of malaria cases which aren’t ’caused’ by climate change as the 2% that they assume is caused by climate change.

Even according to WHO’s own statistics, climate change is just about the least pressing problem for anyone in the developing world. Even being overweight or physically inactive in regions where we typically understand life to be characterised by scarcity of food, and hard physical labour are each bigger problems than climate change. The WHO table attributes 404,418 deaths in the high-mortality developing world to being overweight, nearly three times as many as it claims die from climate change (144,714). That’s nothing, of course, compared to the problem of being undernourished, which kills 5,610,300 – 38 times as many as climate change. Yet, arguably it is a much much easier problem to solve, at face value, than climate change. Moreover, the likes of Armstrong repeat the claim that ‘climate change is the biggest problem facing mankind’, and that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. Is this really the picture that emerges from this research?

To read the oft-quoted headlines that the WHO’s report had generated since being published in 2002, you’d have thought so.

A Google search for 150000 deaths climate change WHO yields 150,000 search results. Perhaps the least interesting statistic that the WHO generated… indeed, the item nearly at the bottom of the table… is what generated the largest number of headlines.

More to the point, whereas it is relatively easy to measure the number of deaths attributed to a first-order cause, such as malaria, there have been no deaths anywhere in the world that can be directly attributable to climate change. Yet even establishing how many people die from malaria is fraught with complications. They aren’t all counted. None of the statistics represented by the WHO’s research are empirical ‘facts’. They are all the result of projections, estimations, and assumptions, calculated from known data of varying quality.

But the result of the theoretical model is treated outside the scope of the study as an empirical result. It is presented as a fact that 150,000 people die a year from climate change. It is Armstrong’s starting point. Without it, she wouldn’t have a case. Or at least she wouldn’t have had one until late last week. Because that’s when Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum launched its much-publicised report (pdf) revealing that it’s actually 300,000 people per year dying as a result of climate change.

The Guardian jumped on it, naturally, calling on George Monbiot, Mark Lynas and John Vidal to hit its significance home. Of those, only Vidal mentioned the highly speculative nature of the estimate. Lynas was the silliest:

These numbers are vitally important, because they provide a direct evidence-based link between culpability – those responsible for the emissions driving climate change – and victimhood, those who are suffering the consequences, including losing their lives […] The legal implications are analogous to those faced by the tobacco industry once evidence solidified about the links between smoking and cancer. Shareholders and investors in fossil fuels need to be aware that they now face a liability that will amount to hundreds of billions of dollars – their products are killing people, and it is only a matter of time before the wheels of international justice begin to turn.

Just like Franny Armstrong, Lynas grasps at the statistics as objective support for his politics. In his case it’s that those dirty oil companies are guilty of crimes against humanity and that he now sees a way to quantify those crimes. Of course, it’s pure fantasy. All one would have to do to counter his case would be to put together a report ‘estimating’ the number of lives saved each year by the burning of fossil fuels – through the provision of emergency services, heating, nutrition etc etc. But there’s the rub. The WHO isn’t going to carry out such a study. Just as it’s not going to carry out a study that comes up with a figure for the number of deaths caused by a stable climate. And nor is any celebrity diplomat with a charity at his disposal and connections at the highest level. As we say quite often, the politics is prior to the science. The WHO and Kofi Annan are responding to a hunger for statistics that confirm that climate change is real, happening and that something has to be done. Forget the starving millions, there are the appetites of directionless journalists, politicians, NGOs and diplomats to satisfy. Not to mention intergovernmental organisations such as the WHO itself. Neither the WHO nor the GHF have much to go on, of course, as they are quite prepared to admit in their respective reports. They do the best they can to cobble something together, shrouding their findings in caveats, qualifications, provisos and caution. But once the figures are out there, those caveats, qualifications, provisos and caution can be forgotten about. The job is done. Anyone is free to use these stats as they like. WHO won’t complain. Nor will Kofi Annan.

That’s the trouble with political consensuses. They are consensual. The only ones willing to challenge them are by definition outside of the consensus. And if you’re outside the political consensus, you’re a denier. And if you’re a denier, you can’t be trusted. Your money is corrupting. Your challenges can be written off as politically motivated. You can be ignored.

So, while the existence of a political consensus on climate change means that anyone who does not sign up to it is wrong by definition, the only ones who can possibly challenge that consensus are those who do not sign up to it. And indeed, even to try and challenge the consensus is evidence that one sits outside it and is, therefore, guilty of denialism.

And meanwhile, Lynas can demand that climate change must take precedence over all of the other problems out there that are ‘worse for the poor’ (which he does) – indeed, that are worse for the poor than climate change, according to no less than the WHO itself – and still be a respected member of the political climate change community.

It all leaves us in a farcical situation in which it does not matter what one’s own personal interests are, just as long as they incline one towards the proper sort of political bias. So, while just about the only group likely to make a case for the historical benefits of fossil fuels is the oil industry – who cannot be trusted because they are the fossil fuel industry – the press and politicians are more than happy to swallow the GHF report despite the fact that much of the crucial data on which its 300,000 figure is based is provided by insurance giants Munich Re, when risk insurers have as much interest in generating fear of climate change as Exxon has in generating doubt. And despite the fact that Munich Re’s data is highly questionable.

In the heat of the climate battle, excited activists like Armstrong and Lynas have absorbed

the numerical product of assumptions as concrete, cold, objective, hard, solid and unchallengeable, necessary facts about the world. These nebulous and often spurious assertions are taken out of any context in which they can be seen in proportion, and become the foundation of moral reasoning. In this way, the likes of Armstrong and Lynas project superficially plausible, but fundamentally flawed statistics into the future to make statements about what is happening in the present. Hence, Armstrong tells Miliband that he’s asking other people to sacrifice their lives so that we can go on holiday.

We might say, ‘ho hum, it’s just a couple of eco-loons’, nobody’s listening. But Miliband – a senior UK politician – is listening. He’s made two appearances with Armstrong recently: first at the launch of her film, and now at the Hay festival, apparently in order to demonstrate the UK government’s commitment to the environmental agenda. Why else would he be there? Try getting a politician such as Miliband to debate with a climate change ‘denier’, let alone a ‘sceptic’, let alone someone who’s critical of the politics. He would run a mile. Instead, he poses on stages with eco-warriors.

Even when she’s clearly mistaken, and trying to embarrass him, Miliband cannot point out to Armstrong that she’s a lunatic. He can neither challenge, nor expose her bogus way of thinking about things. He can’t assure the audience that she’s making stuff up, or taking things out of proportion, or that ‘one thing’ really does not ‘follow the other’, as she claims. Far from demonstrating the shallowness of the ‘one thing following the other’ argument, he instead tells Armstrong, that, yes, people aren’t going to give up their flights, but that he’s happy to make them more expensive:

I’m saying that we have to achieve the scientific… the… the… the cuts in emissions that science demands of us. And that is very important. But… but I’m saying that flying is the most difficult thing to tackle, partly technologically, err, speaking. I am saying that the price of airline tickets will go up including in the United Kingdom. We… we’re… it’s part of our emissions trading scheme, which means there is a price on err carbon emissions from aviation from the first… for the first time. I’m saying actually domestic flights will get much less err frequent, people will do them much less, and you got to expand high speed rail and you’ve got to have a big change in the relation to err public transport. But I am also saying that as someone in the art of persuasion, it… you know, you have probably twenty per cent of people in this country who are deeply committed on climate change. Maybe forty per cent who are… sort of… think it’s kind of… you know… right to do something but aren’t particularly engaged in it. And then a whole group of other people. In the art of persuasion, I’m not convinced that saying to people in my constituency, who are able to do something, and go to places that their parents could not have dreamed of, that that’s all got to end overnight is realistic. Which is what you’re saying.

Is it conceivable that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has not heard the ‘150,000 deaths from climate change’ factoid before? Of course he has. Can he really not know what its limitations are, and what criticisms have been made of it? Of course he does. But it wouldn’t be expedient to start challenging the very people he is turning to in the hope that they, through their films and through fear-mongery, will create support, and therefore legitimacy, for the policies he has devised.

He must think we’re stupid.

Here’s some more Stupid factoid tennis between Armstrong and Miliband.

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Only Four Years Left to Save Environmentalism

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.

The Pastiche Politics of the Runway Rush

Following the Plane Stupid protest group’s day in court recently, another climate group, Climate Rush is planning disruptive action at Heathrow and Manchester airports next Monday, according to activist media portal, Indymedia.

Hundreds of anti-aviation protesters are expected to give the government a nasty shock when they return to Parliament after their Winter Recess on Monday 12th January. Protesters from the environmental action group, ‘The Climate Rush’ will be holding a sit-down picnic at the Departures Gate of Terminal One in Heathrow Airport. The dinner will begin at 7pm sharp and is expected to last several hours. At the same time the Northern Climate Rush will hit Manchester Airport Terminal 3 (Domestic Departures).

Climate Rush? Silly name. Never heard of them? Nor have we.

‘The Climate Rush’ held their first protest last October. Taking their inspiration from the Suffragettes they mounted a ‘rush’ on Parliament.

Ah. It’s a ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ form of protest.

But let’s give this claim that they take ‘their inspiration from the Suffragettes’ a little more inspection. What exactly is it they are taking from the movement?

Yesterday, we looked briefly at the words of Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change…

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

…and we pointed out that far from standing against the Government, protesters styling themselves on the Suffragette movement were necessarily doing what the Government were instructing them to do. It is curious, isn’t it, that Government lacks such confidence in its environmental policies, that it asks people to participate in ‘direct action’ in order to make it own actions look like a response to a democratic movement. What this clearly indicates is that the Government knows that environmental concerns do not emerge from ‘grass roots’, mass political movements. And it knows that it is a problem.

The favourable comparison of climate activists to the Suffragettes fails at the first inspection. Could we imagine that it was the early 20th Century Government, wanting to extend the franchise to women, calling for the radicalisation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage? No.

Climate Rush’s website continues to explain themselves:

Climate Rush is inspired by the actions of the Suffragettes 100 years ago, who showed that peaceful civil disobedience could inspire positive change. We are a diverse group of women and men who are determined to raise awareness of the biggest threat facing humanity today – that of Climate Change. Our government acknowledges the huge problems we face from Climate Change, but carries on with business as usual. We demand DEEDS NOT WORDS because individual choice alone cannot curb CO2 emissions if we are to stop runaway global warming.

And here a further contradiction separates the Suffragettes from Climate Rush. Demanding ‘deeds not words’ is all well and good, but the Suffragettes’ claim was that women were as capable as men in determining what form of Government should exist. Climate Rush, meanwhile, claim that Government action is necessary because individuals are not capable of making decisions. An equivalent claim by the real Suffragettes would be that women be made equal to men by removing the male right to vote. Some kind of equality.

This echoes the statements made by the lawyer defending the Plane Stupid protesters yesterday, quoted in the Guardian:

Benjamin Newton, defending, said the group regretted what they saw as the necessity of taking part in the protest, but had done so as a “last, desperate act” having exhausted all traditional means of influencing the democratic process.

It’s not the Government that environmental protesters have failed to influence – as we can see from Miliband’s words, they are on side. It’s the ‘stupid’ public that the Plane Stupid and Climate Rush protesters have failed to reach. Publicity seeking, and irritating stunts are their only avenue of expression. What this expression amounts to is not a call for democratic equality, but, on the contrary, less democracy. The democratic process has failed.

These protesters have nothing in common with the Suffragettes. At all. They flatter themselves with the image of heroic, oppressed, and put upon victims, such as the following graphic from the Climate Rush website:

Here we see silhouettes of women dressed in the Suffragette style, wearing sashes, bearing the slogans, not of radical demands for equality, but for less democracy, for lower standards of living, and less freedom. This is all about style and absolutely nothing about substance. A meaningful and important historical movement has been plundered for its iconic value only, with the values it represented left forgotten.
Such a travesty is possible because of the immaturity and intellectual vacuity of the environmental movement, and the Government which requested it. We’ve argued before here on Climate Resistance that environmentalism is unable to make its own history. Therefore it needs to steal gravity from moments in the past in order to make some kind of statement in the present. And so we see claims that ‘climate change is our moon landing‘, we are offered a ‘Green New Deal‘, and environmental advocates try to rekindle the mythological spirit that was generated during WWII as the country was on a ‘war footing’, all pretending that environmentalism offers a hugely liberating way of life.
This game of dressing-up and let’s-pretend is pastiche politics. It creates retrogressive manifestos by decoupage, not political ideas: historical images are stripped of their context to give meaning to the lives of a small number of morally-disoriented moralising whingebags. This breeds grotesque chimeras: the privileged offspring of the establishment, convinced simultaneously of their own importance and the belief that they are the downtrodden victims of industrial society. They march into the lives of ordinary people, going about their ordinary business and demand it all stops, to be reorganised around their insecurities and sense of alienation. Such incomprehensible naffness would be funny, if these infantile clowns didn’t already have what they were demanding.

Branding Environmentalism

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.

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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.  

Under the Moon: Gore's Giant Limp for Mankind

Al Gore announced his strategy for powering the USA entirely from ‘renewable’ resources -a mixture of solar and wind – by a decade from now. (Are the sun and wind ‘renewable’? How?)

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The ten-year time-span, and the ‘big project’ are borrowed from JF Kennedy’s speech announcing the plan to put a man on the moon. Gore makes no secret of it, indeed, he is overtly trying to capture the same spirit, and sense of historical moment by paraphrasing Kennedy.

But there exist many differences between Gore and Kennedy, and their speeches.

The first is that Gore is not the president of the USA. He’s making grand speeches as though he were. But merely fancying himself as the president of the USA and flattering himself with allusions to Kennedy’s great speeches does not make him either. The question has to be asked; who does he think he is? He has left politics, yet appears to be setting the agenda that even McCain and now ‘Libertarian’ Bob Barr seem to be dancing to. It is a symptom of these times that it is pressure from outside the political process which sets the political agenda. Today’s Western politicians seem incapable of setting agendas, and instead merely respond to the world, hoping that crisis (environment, terror, pandemic, etc) and being in bed with NGOs will lend them legitimacy. Those who attach themselves to the word ‘progressive’ may see Gore’s and environmentalism’s influence on the political process as a Good Thing. But the truth is that, even if they are right about the destructive power of anthropogenic CO2, the political agenda being set so comprehensively by people without mandates is not what happens in a democracy. Gore’s is not an idea which will be contested democratically. It has not emerged from the kind of political activism which used to represent people’s interests, up from the ‘grass roots’. You will notice that Gore has not taken his environmental zeal to the ballot box. If climate change truly were the problem that the world faces, and if there truly were a grass roots mass movement to stop it, the ballot box would be a good place to start ‘saving the planet’. But as European Greens have shown, even weak environmentalism – never mind deep ecology – is simply not popular. What this reveals about politics in the West is that its elites suffer from an unmitigated disconnect with the public. Barr, McCain and Obama cannot challenge Gore, not because Gore has established a transformative political vision and a powerful following, but because they too lack both. In 2005, Gore, citing the disaster in New Orleans, gave a speech around the theme of the proverb ‘where there is no vision, the people perish’. Yet Gore thrives in these circumstances. It is only through being outside politics that he can influence it. It is only by exploiting the widespread cynicism towards politics – rather than by reinvigorating it – that Gore can position himself as a key player. By attaching themselves to this cause, which they sell as ‘above’ politics, presidential hopefuls imagine that they can escape the problems that that cynicism creates for them. His campaign slogan – ‘We Can Solve Climate Change’ – suggests that the impotent political process cannot. It says that ‘by working together, we can make it a priority for government and business’. This small constituency can make a bigger noise outside politics. With hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than people, at his disposal, Gore’s small movement can amplify his message, and achieve the effect of a mass political organisation, without ever actually achieving it.

Gore is not the first to make the claim that ‘climate change is our moon-landing’. In November, 2006, Tony Blair, citing the Stern Report’s findings, told the Royal Society in a speech titled Britain’s path to the future – lit by the brilliant light of science that,

The science of climate change is the moon landing of our day. This is idealism in a technical language. The scientists and the idealists will, once again, be the same people. The discoveries in the laboratory will be matters of life and death. Nothing could be more vital, nothing could be more exciting.

Of course, even Environmentalists do not regard Tony Blair as the saviour of the climate. Their rhetoric may be identical, yet he was not celebrated as an eco-hero by Environmentalists as Gore is. Like Gore, Blair hoped to create a place for himself in history, in spite of his being one of the emptiest voids ever to occupy 10 Downing Street. For example, in one of his most vain moments, following a peace deal made in Northern Ireland, he said ‘this is no time for soundbites, but I feel the hand of history on my shoulder’. Blair’s conceited determination to be remembered as a history-maker was well out of kilter with his ability to actually make it. Lacking the means and opportunities to make history then, Blair, like Gore, merely borrows from history. The subtext of ‘climate change is today’s moon-landing’ is ‘I am today’s Kennedy’. Gore’s and Blair’s speeches, seek not to change the world, but to elevate themselves to the stature of world-changing historical figures. But in Blair’s speech, there is no sign of an understanding of why Kennedy felt that science was key to transcending the political differences which defined the world at the time; he merely uses ‘science’ to create a (bogus) imperative to do so. In other words, science is being used to set, not achieve the agenda. Nor does he offer any explanation as to how and why such idealism had disappeared from the political landscape. Nor does he offer an argument as to how it might be injected back into public life. Blair, like Gore, thought that by presenting the ‘climate crisis’ in terms of the crisis precipitated by the cold war, and presenting the ‘scientific solution’ to that crisis as the means to achieve global cooperation, he would have, like Kennedy, a safe place in the history books. A giant leap. Except that what Gore and Blair have offered is not a political vision of the future powered by science, but merely cargo-cult politics. Like the islanders described by Richard Feynman, who believed that if you performed the rituals that they observed at an air force base, you would bring airplanes loaded with goods to your improvised airstrip, Blair and Gore appear to believe that, to be remembered as a great leader, you just have to go through the motions. But they are poseurs. They put Kennedy on a pedestal, merely so that they can pretend that they should take their place beside him. In much the same way, Blair also likened Saddam Hussain to Hitler, not because he was the leader of an emerging superpower, with the means to execute a global war – clearly Saddam lacked any such power. The purpose of the comparison was to make his part in the morality play – Winston Churchill – more convincing.

The science which Kennedy wished to use to liberate the world from the geopolitics of the time sits in contrast to the ambitions of those who embrace today’s ‘scientific’ conception of the future. It is not the same future. It is a future dominated by an ideology of restraint, of lowered expectations, and of dampened ambitions. Kennedy, on the other hand, had in mind a future of plenty. Today’s politicians instead use science to justify their instructions that we REDUCE! RE-USE! RECYCLE!’ They tell us we are not to use our cars, and that flying is ‘unethical’… unless it is them who are flying, of course. Kennedy wanted to transcend the problems of the age by appealing to interests that people across the world shared, in spite of their differences.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Now, however, that pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, commerce, and our common interests are perceived as the problem. Our increasing material liberty has, according to the likes of Blair and Gore, caused the problems that the world faces. Instead of science being used to liberate, it is now to be used to restrain our ambitions, to regulate our lifestyles, and to give a new authoritarianism political legitimacy. In fact, many Environmentalists today regard the moon landing as a wasteful folly, and an environmentally-destructive waste of space.

There is one further, very significant difference between Gore’s and Kennedy’s speeches. Gore’s vision of a ‘renewable’ USA is predicated on the imminent catastrophe which awaits if we do not follow his instructions. It is the gun to America’s head. Kennedy’s plan to send men to the moon had no such basis.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Kennedy believed that humanity’s common interests and the pursuit of knowledge transcended geo-political differences. Thus, by advancing humanity though science and the arts, and trade, peace might be achieved. In contrast, the folly of trade, arts and commerce are, in Gore’s perspective, the problem. Kennedy’s speech is an appeal to human spirit; Gore’s is a rejection of it. Environmentalism seeks to control human spirit for the ‘higher’ goal of ecological stability. It claims that our interests are, by dint of our dependence on natural processes, second to nature’s. Kennedy asked us to understand nature to use it to our advantage and advancement. Gore asks us to submit to it.

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.

POSTSCRIPT:

You could not make it up… Except that someone has… As the post above was being typed, this popped into our inbox from the BBC website:

A “Green New Deal” is needed to solve current problems of climate change, energy and finance, a report argues.

According to the Green New Deal Group, humanity only has 100 months to prevent dangerous global warming.

Its proposals include major investment in renewable energy and the creation of thousands of new “green collar” jobs.

The name is taken from President Franklin D Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, launched 75 years ago to bring the US out of the Great Depression.

The search for historical landmarks by which to give gravity to the climate issue reveals its total hollowness.