by | Jun 25, 2008

Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the famous Stern Report, which underpins many an argument in favour of climate change mitigation, is behind a ‘carbon credit reference agency‘ launched today.

“If we are to attract the levels of finance necessary to make this a mainstream market and have a strong impact on emissions reduction, risks must be clearly understood, articulated and managed. A detailed ratings system is a vital tool to bring greater clarity, transparency and certainty to the market,” he said. 

Of course, where there’s muck, there’s brass.

The agency, run by the IdeaCarbon group of which Lord Stern is vice-chairman [he is in fact vice-chairman of IDEAglobal], said it would offer investors a guide to the quality of credits and the likelihood that they would be delivered. Sellers of carbon credits would have to pay to have their products rated, while buyers would also pay to gain access to the ratings. 

IDEAcarbon sell themselves accordingly:

IDEAcarbon is an independent and professional provider of ratings, research and strategic advice on carbon finance. Our services are designed to provide leading financial institutions, corporations, governments, traders and developers with unbiased intelligence and analysis of the factors that affect the pricing of carbon market assets. 

Other group directors include:

Ian Johnson – Chairman
Ian joined IDEAcarbon following a distinguished career at the World Bank. For eight years he was the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development overseeing its work on climate change and carbon finance. Prior to that he played a major role in negotiating the establishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and managed its day-to-day operations for six years. Ian is presently an advisor to Globe, G8+5 and to the UNFCCC. 


Samuel Fankhauser – Managing Director (Strategic Advice)
Sam served on the 1995, 2001 and 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also gained hands-on experience in the design of emission reduction projects as a climate change economist for the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank. Sam joined IDEAcarbon from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where his most recent position was Deputy Chief Economist.

Now, just imagine the fuss that would ensue, were some figure who was depended on for his impartial advice to make public statements on climate change that weren’t in accordance with the ‘consensus’, and it turned out that that person had a financial interest in the public’s perception on matters that he advised about? Might there not be some protest? After all, it’s not as if his advice is subtle:

Lord Stern, the former World Bank chief economist whose landmark report on the economics of climate change warned the world risked plunging into economic depression if action was not taken urgently on greenhouse gases, said carbon trading was a “key plank” in dealing with climate change. 

It is often said that ‘climate change will be worse for the poor’. Well, it turns out that it will be great for the rich. As a December ’07 press release shows, there’s plenty to be positive about climate change:

“By 2020 the global carbon market could be worth EUR 240-450 billion” says Lord Nicholas Stern, Vice Chairman of IDEAGlobal Group, in the inaugural issue of CARBONfirst 

He’s no fool, Sir Nick. This gives the lie to the claims that environmentalism is the continuation of anti-capitalism – there is clearly room for capitalists at the fair-trade, organic, global warming beano.

Just shouting about hypocrisy gets nothing done, and doesn’t change anything. But how does this happen? Why isn’t Stern embarrassed about this? Why don’t we see an equivalent to Exxonsecrets.org, showing the monied interests buzzing around the global warming issue? Why is it that this kind of barefaced conflict of interests is largely overlooked, while people like James Hansen call for oil company executives to face trials for ‘high crimes against nature and humanity‘, allegedly for distorting the public perception of climate change for profit?

What this shows is that ‘the ethics of climate change’ allow for financial and political interests to be overlooked for the ‘greater good’. The fact that Stern has been instrumental in creating the idea of mitigation serving that greater good must, by the very standards demanded by the environmental movement, surely raise questions about his profiting from it. Yet don’t expect outrage, because, as we have seen before, the ethics of climate change only apply one way. To challenge Sir Nicholas’s apparent profiting from his report would be to undermine the very foundations of so many environmentalists’ arguments. For example, one of our favourites, Sir Bob May, former president of the Royal Society, in his review of the Stern Report and George Monbiot’s Heat, cites Stern as an authority on ‘the facts’ which we are expected to ‘respect’.

Despite the growing weight of evidence of climate change, along with growing awareness of the manifold adverse consequences, there remains an active and well-funded “denial lobby”. It shares many features with the lobby that for so long denied that smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. […] Whoever got things started, this is a ball which ExxonMobile picked up and ran with, shuttling lobbyists in and out of the White House as it did so. Following earlier talks and seeking to exemplify its centuries-old motto – Nullius in Verba (which roughly translates as “respect the facts”) – the Royal Society recently and unprecedentedly wrote to ExxonMobile, complaining about its funding for “organisations that have been misinforming the public about the science of climate change”, and more generally for promoting inaccurate and misleading views – specifically that scientists do not agree about the influence of human activity on rising temperatures. 



  1. KuhnKat

    Ahhh yes. We are not to believe any papers written by scientists who are associated with any oil companies due to their obvious conflict of interest!!

    BUT, please get in line to buy your carbon credits from companies started/run/owned by Al Gore…

    Thank you for the info.

  2. Daryl

    Ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecy. Stern starts the notion there is money to be made from climate change in order to make money from climate change.
    I agree there is money to be made, by people who sell carbon credits, trade permits, etc. A commodity market without any real commodity ran on promises and intentions.

    I am starting an oxygen market with the premise that oxygen is destroyed everytime you burn fossil fuels and there may be one day dangerously low levels of oxygen as the CO2 concentration rises. Each company and consumer must pay for their personal oxygen use by purchasing credits.

    Sounds crazy? That is a carbon market, it is esentially an oxygen market because that is what is being produced by the consumption of CO2. Gone are the days when statements such as “free as the air I breathe” are true.

  3. Double D

    What a dick!

    What else can you say about a guy who can’t push hard enough to crumble the worlds economy to make a buck for himself, in a blinding conflict of interest.

    We should put a sperm cap and trade system in place to ensure that scum like this do not reproduce. The real end to life as we know it would be 6 billion scumbags like this crawling the planet. Thank god only one living human has the complete lack of character required to talk this talk and actually think we should all oblige.

  4. John Nicklin

    Nullius in Verba (which roughly translates as “respect the facts”)

    If he can twist “nullius in verba” to mean respect the facts, he can twist anything. Roughly translated, nullius in verba means nothing in the word or don’t take our word for it. Its a challenge to do your own investigation and come to your own conclusion.

    The whole carbon trading scheme reminds me of a Dire Straits song, Money for Nothin’ but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get his “chicks for free.”

  5. talisker

    I hate to deprive your charming readers of any opportunity for the foam-flecked ranting they so obviously enjoy, but there is a gaping hole in your argument here.

    Stern was not connected to IDEAcarbon/IDEAglobal at the time he wrote his report on climate change, or indeed when he served as chief economist at the World Bank. If he had been, or if his report had been funded in any way by companies that stood to gain from its findings, then there would have been a conflict of interest. As it stands, the comparison with Exxon’s funding of climate denialists doesn’t hold up to a moment’s scrutiny.

    As smear campaigns go, this one is well below even your own usual standards.

  6. Editors

    It’s just too funny that Talisker complains about ‘smear campaigns’ after his attempts to connect us to a ‘sinister cabal of Trotskyites’.

    Is it true that there is sufficient distance between Stern and the Stern report to make him an impartial player in the business of making money out of the economic policies that he was instrumental in laying the ground for?

    Well, we don’t think so. Just as Talisker and other environmentalists wouldn’t be satisfied if it were a sceptical scientist (even though Stern is not a scientist) who had been instrumental in influencing anti-mitigation, anti-Kyoto policy decisions in governments throughout the world, who later landed a top job in a company selling PR, financial, and market intelligence products to the oil industry. There would be talk of ‘the tobacco strategy’. There would be talk of private and political interests ‘manufacturing uncertainty’. He would be featured on the interactive web of connections at Exxonsecrets.org. Monbiot would whine about it in the Guardian and his next book would feature the fact as the cornerstone in a case ‘proving’ a vast international capitalist conspiracy to attack science.

  7. talisker

    While Stern was responsible for assessing the economic impact of climate change on behalf of the UK government, it would have been completely unacceptable for him to accept funding from commercial interests. Had he done so, this could indeed have cast doubt on the impartiality of his findings. He is no longer in that position, and I see nothing either shocking or dishonourable in him putting his skills to work for private-sector companies that he no doubt sees as playing a positive role in the move towards a low-carbon economy.

    Stern, after all, has never claimed to be an anti-capitalist. It’s stretching it a bit even to describe him as an environmentalist, but like many who do describe themselves thus he sees a major role for the market in raising the capital and developing the technology needed to accomplish this move. Having left public service, he’s now playing a part in that process himself. Where’s the hypocrisy or conflict of interest?

    By the way, I’ve never used the phrase ‘sinister cabal of Trotskyites’, so please don’t put quotation marks around it as if it’s mine. But it’s hardly any secret that the Spiked/Institute of Ideas group is dominated by former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and I have to say I do indeed find it more than a little creepy that a group that claims to be ‘free-thinking’ and ‘off-message’ (to quote from Spiked’s mission statement) should all chorus the gospel according to Furedi so devotedly. However, I’m prepared to accept your claims that you believe this group to constitute nothing more than a sort of debating society of like-minded folk, and that the similarity of your positions is merely a case of happy coincidence.

    As to the part played by Trotskyite ideas in this network – certainly, much of the agenda promoted on its platforms (and, coincidentally, in this blog) seems to fit much more happily with a far-right libertarian perspective than with any recognisably left-wing or anti-capitalist position (you’ve no doubt noticed that your readers are of a generally right-wing persuasion). The line taken by Frank Furedi, Mick Hume, Brendan O’Neill et al (and, coincidentally, by yourselves) would seem to be two-fold: a) that the old left-right divisions no longer make sense, and b) that it’s they who uphold the true spirit of the revolutionary left. Make of that what you will.

    It’s something of a cliche to suggest that ideologies tend to meet on the extreme fringes, but this might well be a case in point.

  8. Wadard

    Trotskyites, FRWDBs, and disaffected hybridised neocons: Come out with your hand up. We have your blog surrounded. Climate Resistance is futile!,

  9. Editors

    Talisker says that “While Stern was responsible for assessing the economic impact of climate change on behalf of the UK government, it would have been completely unacceptable for him to accept funding from commercial interests.”

    This seems to imply that it’s alright to go on and profit from climate change denial, as long as you profit from it after you’ve done the denying. Does this mean he’s happy to let all thosedenialists who didn’t get paid in advance off-the-hook? Is that all it takes to have a clear conscience, in Talisker’s book – to get paid after the deed? Clearly Stern’s work leaves him in a position to take advantage of the reputation it earned him, and the policies it generated.

    Talisker also claims that the convergence of our views with those of Furedi/Hulme/O’Neil is indicative of some nefarious conspiracy. Yet it’s not even a controversial fact that “that the old left-right divisions no longer make sense” – in fact, Orwell (a socialist, but no communist, Marxist, or Trotskyist) said as early as 1940 in ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ that Left and Right “…merely point to the existence of multitudes of unlabelled people who have grasped within the last year or two that something is wrong”. It is the observation of many commentators, especially relating to the climate change debate, and is by far from unique to the dark trinity of men that Talisker is so terrified of. The fact that Talisker thinks it is unusual merely reflects his ignorance of politics.

    We’ve yet to see anyone making the claim that either we, or Spiked etc “uphold the true spirit of the revolutionary left”, let alone either them or us. Yet there are a lot of Greens around claiming to be ‘revolutionary’, in spite of their clearly conservative aims. And, curiously, a lot of revolutionary greens citing Stern as an authority on the best way to proceed. That is a bit like communists running around citing laissez-faire capitalists, isn’t it? What were you saying about ideologies tending to meet on the extreme fringes, Talisker?

  10. Wadard

    This seems to imply that it’s alright to go on and profit from climate change denial, as long as you profit from it after you’ve done the denying.

    Go for it: if you have been telling porkies the market will find you out, if you haven’t, you are a hero. What’s the problem?

    Is that all it takes to have a clear conscience, in Talisker’s book – to get paid after the deed? Clearly Stern’s work leaves him in a position to take advantage of the reputation it earned him, and the policies it generated.

    He’s earned nothing. He’s spotted ho market opportunity, and is risking start up capital investment, and his own head-hours. Is he not entitled to any profit he makes?

    I don’t know (or want to know) anything about Talisker’s claims bout your readership, and left that out of my post. I can make up my own mind.

  11. talisker

    Editors –
    Do you really believe that Nicholas Stern wrote his report as a way of securing himself profitable employment thereafter? Or are you trying to make out that environmentalists are hypocritical in not criticising him for going on to work in an area connected to the shift to a low-carbon economy? If the latter, perhaps you should ask yourselves why exxonsecrets.com and other such sites do not focus on what scientists (or think-tank staff) do after they have produced ‘research’ favourable to the commercial interests of fossil fuel companies – they focus instead on the actual funding of such ‘research’ by corporate interests. Spot the difference.

    I have an instinctive distrust of claims that left/right divisions are outmoded – a line much favoured by such would-be political iconoclasts as Benito Mussolini and Oswald Mosley. But Orwell – a hero of mine, as it happens – was writing very specifically here about the impact of the outbreak of war on British politics of the time (he was also, of course, writing in the shadow of the Soviet-Nazi pact, which had caused many on the left to question their allegiances).

    It’s an interesting essay to revisit at the present moment. The war against Hitler was the great existential political event of Orwell’s lifetime. I think the struggle to prevent catastrophic climate change is the defining issue of our own times. In his essay, Orwell wrote: ‘War is the greatest of all agents of change. It speeds up all processes, wipes out minor distinctions, brings realities to the surface. Above all, war brings it home to the individual that he is not altogether an individual. It is only because they are aware of this that men will die on the field of battle. At this moment it is not so much a question of surrendering life as of surrendering leisure, comfort, economic liberty, social prestige.’

    I cannot imagine anything further removed in spirit from Orwell’s writing than the sort of shrill, ideological posturing found on Spiked and your blog. One of his essays of 1946, ‘Some Thought on the Common Toad’, prefigures much of the thinking that was later to inform the environmentalist movement (in the broadest sense of that term). In it he writes:

    ‘Is it politically reprehensible, while we are all groaning, or at any rate ought to be groaning, under the shackles of the capitalist system, to point out that life is frequently more worth living because of a blackbird’s song, a yellow elm tree in October, or some other natural phenomenon which does not cost money and does not have what the editors of left-wing newspapers call a class angle? There is not doubt that many people think so. I know by experience that a favourable reference to “Nature” in one of my articles is liable to bring me abusive letters, and though the key-word in these letters is usually “sentimental”, two ideas seem to be mixed up in them. One is that any pleasure in the actual process of life encourages a sort of political quietism. People, so the thought runs, ought to be discontented, and it is our job to multiply our wants and not simply to increase our enjoyment of the things we have already. The other idea is that this is the age of machines and that to dislike the machine, or even to want to limit its domination, is backward-looking, reactionary and slightly ridiculous.

    This is often backed up by the statement that a love of Nature is a foible of urbanized people who have no notion what Nature is really like. Those who really have to deal with the soil, so it is argued, do not love the soil, and do not take the faintest interest in birds or flowers, except from a strictly utilitarian point of view. To love the country one
    must live in the town, merely taking an occasional week-end ramble at the warmer times of year.

    This last idea is demonstrably false. Medieval literature, for instance, including the popular ballads, is full of an almost Georgian enthusiasm for Nature, and the art of agricultural peoples such as the Chinese and Japanese centre always round trees, birds, flowers, rivers, mountains.

    The other idea seems to me to be wrong in a subtler way. Certainly we ought to be discontented, we ought not simply to find out ways of making the best of a bad job, and yet if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a
    labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him? I have always suspected that if our economic and political problems are ever really solved, life will become simpler instead of more complex, and that the sort of pleasure one gets from finding the first primrose will loom larger than the sort of pleasure one gets from eating an ice to the tune of a Wurlitzer. I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and – to return to my first instance – toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.’

    Apologies for the length of this quotation, but perhaps it will help to dispel some of the ‘political ignorance’ of which you complain in your last post.

  12. Editors

    Talisker complains about our mistreatment of Orwell’s ‘the Lion and the Unicorn’. Here is a fuller version of the passage in question.

    “Progress and reaction are ceasing to have anything to do with party labels. If one wishes to name a particular moment, one can say that the old distinction between Right and Left broke down when Picture Post was first published. What are the politics of Picture Post? Or of Cavalcade, or Priestley’s broadcasts, or the leading articles in the Evening Standard? None of the old classifications will fit them. They merely point to the multitudes of unlabelled people who have grasped within the last year or two that something is wrong.”

    Talisker wants things both ways. He says that he distrusts the claim that Left/Right divisions are outmoded, because Mussolini and Mosley made the same observation, and that Orwell’s text was ‘historically specific’. But Mussolini especially, and Mosely, too, were making their statements during the same era as Orwell. Then he says that there are parallels between that time and now in terms of Hitler’s threat to Europe and global warming’s threat to the planet. “The struggle to prevent catastrophic climate change is the defining issue of our own times”, he says.

    Talisker might like to revisit Orwell here: “Progress and reaction are ceasing to have anything to do with party labels.” Progress, and any conception of it, is being displaced by anxieties about environmental destruction, across the political spectrum. As we have reported, political environmentalism has not won any political contest in the UK, it has merely been absorbed by struggling political parties. Democracy itself is problematic for climate-change alarmists, as is free speech. And you don’t need to look for fringe hair shirt lunatics to find evidence of this retrogressive tendency. One only needs to look as far as James Hansen. Similarly, actual lunatics such as George Monbiot fret about the effect on the fragile minds of the public, who are more influenced by the occasional Top Gear, than by his own turgid prose and the constant deluge of global warming propaganda forced onto our TV screens, into schools, and missives from every local authority in the UK. We are told that our consumerist age is over, in spite of living conditions in the UK, not to mention the rest of the world, being such that many people still struggle. We need to ‘make do’ with less, we are told. We are greedy, and it is selfish to have more than one baby. If these are things which ‘progressives’ attach themselves to – as indeed they do – then there can be no question that ‘progress’, never mind ‘Left’, has lost all of its meaning. They are all ethics which belong to that camp to which ‘reaction’ was synonymous.

    We don’t need to agree with Orwell about toads. We mentioned him to show that scepticism towards the Left/Right distinction is not new, nor specific. (Indeed, Andrew Marr briefly discusses the fact on a recent program about contemporary politics, and Brian Waldon “considers the political muddle create by archaic terms such as left wing and right wing” on the BBC website.) The point remains, it’s not a controversial observation. The way to show that that view is false, Talisker, would be to offer an definition of both terms, and their pertinence to today’s politics. Where is the left? Where are the right?

    When Orwell complains about the claim that “love of Nature is a foible of urbanized people who have no notion what Nature is really like”, and that it is shown to be false by “Medieval literature”, which “is full of an almost Georgian enthusiasm for Nature”, he forgets that it wasn’t the rural poor who were writing Medieval literature – they couldn’t write. It wasn’t the people who were experiencing it who were enjoying it. even if they could write, it is a fact that it’s hard to find the means and the time to write poetry about nature when you are experiencing drought, plague, disease, famine, poverty, and back-breaking manual labour.

    We digress. This is a post about $ir Nichola$ $tern.

    Did ‘Nicholas Stern [write] his report as a way of securing himself profitable employment thereafter’? Well, it is the claim of many environmentalists that ‘deniers’ prostitute their scientific abilities and credibility to serve private/corporate interests. ‘Industry shills’, they are called. Sceptics who cannot be so easily linked to private interests are waved away as ‘ideologically motivated’. Talisker himself points to an alleged ideology which drives sceptical commentary on climate change, such as this very blog. This seems to suppose that environmentalism, or anything which is productive in the effort to mitigate climate change through carbon emissions reduction is above ideological interest, and not something which can be manipulated for private gain. Yet here we see someone who is set to create profit for his company out of the legal frameworks he was instrumental in establishing. We do not wish to speculate as to whether or not Stern ‘knew’ that he would be in a position to exploit the policies that his report went on to generate. Nor do we wish to speculate as to what ideological persuasion Stern may have been driven by. What we do believe, however, is that while the environmental movement pretends to be concerned about political motivation, and scientific prostitution, it lays the authors of its central tenets open to exactly the same criticism.

    So yes, we are ‘trying to make out that environmentalists are hypocritical in not criticising him for going on to work in an area connected to the shift to a low-carbon economy’. In answer to this, Talisker says that exxonsecrets et al ‘do not focus on what scientists (or think-tank staff) do after they have produced ‘research’ favourable to the commercial interests of fossil fuel companies – they focus instead on the actual funding of such ‘research’ by corporate interests’. That’s not true at all. For example, the profile of Bjorn Lomborg on Exxonsecrets complains that he was “Awarded Competitive Enterprise Institutes Julian Simon Award 2003”, and that his “key deed” was to be a ‘featured speaker at an “exclusive” luncheon hosted by the Fraser Institute in January 2005’ where he ‘discussed his new book’. Shock. Horror. Gasp. This is sufficient in the environmental alarmist’s rhetoric to substantiate a link in the ‘well-funded denial machine’. Fred S. Singer, a prominent sceptic, is listed by Exxonsecrets for having been, at some point in the past, a ‘consultant to several oil companies’, and that the SEPP – the organisation he worked for ‘received multiple grants from ExxonMobil, including 1998 and 2000”. It turns out that the ‘multiple grants’ ‘including 1998 and 2000’ refer to just two donations, both nearly a decade ago, which amounted to just $20,000, weren’t made to him personally, and are generally given as reasons to continue to doubt doubt Singer’s work. This amount would not have been sufficient to commission the Stern Report, never mind create the ‘doubt’ in the public’s mind to stall action on climate change, as the likes of Greenpeace and Naomi Oreskes claim. And it seems unlikely that Stern and the IdeaGlobal group would have launched their initiative for a mere 20K bung.

    If having spoken at a dinner, and having been a consultant to oil companies, and having worked for an organisation which once received a donation from an oil company substantiate the existence of a ‘well funded denial machine’, then all that it says is that environmentalists represent a far more devious network of interests than any ‘deniers’ do – and a far better funded one, at that. The irony is that the reason that environmentalists are blind to such goings on is their own ideological preference; the ‘ethics of climate change’ only work one way. Once the spectres of global annihilation and social co

    apse are made plausible by ‘scientific’ environmental determinism, the environmentalist’s moral and political work is done, as far as he is concerned. He has his Hitler now, and anyone who stand in the way, or challenges the orthodoxy is a ‘denialist’, or an ‘industry shill’; an ‘appeaser’. Never mind the substance of the sceptic’s complaints. We should now be on a ‘war footing’ against the enemy, without any question as to whose interests are really being served, and what kind of society it will create. It’s as if it doesn’t matter that ‘science’ is ‘abused’ for political ends, or is distorted for financial gain, just so long as it’s consistent with the idea that we face armageddon.

  13. talisker

    Chill out, editors. No-one’s expecting you to agree with Orwell about toads, the importance to human happiness of an appreciation of the natural world, or indeed anything else (far from it).

    However, if you want a clear statement of a bedrock left-wing perspective – which is moral as much as it is political – I’d say that the one made by Orwell in his 1946 essay ’Can Socialists Be Happy?’ has never been bettered:

    ‘The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.’

    I’d say the biggest and potentially most murderous swindle being practised at present is the pretence that the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is not strong enough to merit immediate and far-reaching action to reduce usage of fossil fuels.

  14. Editors

    As touching as Talisker’s appeal for human beings to ebrace the ideal of brotherly love is, it’s hard to see how it forms the basis of a ‘bedrock left-wing perspective’. His biggest problem is not merely in persuading people to love one another, but convincing them that they are about to be killed in a climatic apocalypse. It clearly prevents him from expressing his brotherly affections. It makes him see his brothers as ‘murderous swindlers’. Very shrill.

    Worst still is that he would deny his brothers a ‘central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise’ because of his anxieties. It’s hard to see how that would acheive libertie or equalitie, let alone fraternitie. After all, what is the point of libertie or equalitie when you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything, and you haven’t got any money? Such is life in eco-socialist-utopia.

    Nonetheless, Talisker has only answered half the question. He’s given us an idea of what ‘the Left’ stand for in today’s world. Now he has to tell us where this Left are. Who are these left? Where can we find them? What movements represent them? And more pertinently, what and who are the Right they stand against?

  15. talisker

    Orwell had lived through a lot by the time he wrote the words I quoted above, and I see them as hard-won wisdom. But I’m not remotely surprised that you should find them sneerworthy. Sneering would seem to be your default mode on this blog.

    What I think he pinpoints is that a sense of fairness and human dignity is a more powerful political motivator than the promise of an infinitely expanding supply of material goods (a promise that anyway looks increasingly hollow in the light of what scientists tell us of the likely impacts of unchecked climate change).

    You ask: “Who are these left? Where can we find them? What movements represent them? And more pertinently, what and who are the Right they stand against?

    Well, the kind of people I’d see as motivated by the same spirit as Orwell expresses would include:

    – The Green Party of England and Wales (for the reasons outlined above – in fact for pretty much the same reasons that you appear to despise them). Despite their many imperfections, they have my vote.

    – The many organisations campaigning for and actively engaged with improving the livelihoods of poor people in the ‘developing’ world (Oxfam, Christian Aid) and so on. Incidentally, these are already reporting a major impact of climate change on the communities they work with, and warning that these communities stand to lose the most from continued warming.

    – Those in the UK Labour Party who resisted and continue to resist Blair’s embrace of Thatcherism, defending well-funded state education, free provision of full medical services, basic civil liberties, the rights of asylum seekers, etc.

    Who are the Right they stand against? Well, they’re also too numerous to list fully, but a quick look at the top ten sites linking to your own (as thrown up by Google) gives quite a good picture of the kind of people I’d include in this category. Amongst these top ten are:

    Claims to be “made up of Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives” but the views expressed seem to be almost unanimously free-market libertarian. Sample quote: “The Green movement is really the watermelon movement; green on the outside, red on the inside, and armed with a fascist mentality when it comes to government intrusion, regulation and control over industry, business and ultimately every aspect of your daily life.” Site links to numerous conservative sites, as well as to “science” sites such as JunkScience.com, run by the tobacco and fossil fuel industry lobbyist Stephen J. Milloy.

    Blog “facilitated by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research”, the latter being a free-market, anti-tax think-tank run by one Drew Johnson, formerly with the conservative thinks-tanks the American Enterprise Institute and the National Taxpayers Union. In the early 1990s, the latter was described by tobacco company Philip Morris as “strategic vehicle” via which to advance its corporate objectives.

    Personal blog of a leading figure in the Libertarian Alliance (“Britain’s most radical free market and civil liberties think tank – hosting the world’s second largest libertarian web site after the CATO Institute in Washington, DC”). The LA’s website bears a beaming mugshot of Ronald Reagan on its front page.

    Free-market conservative libertarian who believes Adolf Hitler was “a leftist” and likes a good rant against Muslims.

    Conservative libertarian blog; pro-guns, anti-immigrant, anti-environmentalist etc.

    “Premier online gathering place for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the web”. Blog links to such luminaries as the famously rabid talkshow host Rush Limbaugh and the Watergate burglar and eminent gun-nut G. Gordon Liddy – and yourselves, of course.

    Of course, you probably don’t choose such ‘friends” on the web. But they choose you. Perhaps, in the course of your ruminations on the hazy distinctions between left and right, you might ask yourself why.

  16. Editors

    Talisker can be assured that it was his shrill and ill-conceived contemporary ‘bedrock left-wing perspective’ that we were ‘sneering at’, not Orwell’s.

    He goes on to argue that NGOs such as Oxfam, the Green Party, Christian Aid, the Old Labour Party members, represent the ‘Left’.

    On the subject of NGOs. They are not ‘Left’, for a number of reasons. Firstly, they represent an anti-political approach to social problems – the Left has never been ‘for’ charities for precisely this reason – why should the poor need to depend on the generosity of the rich? In terms of correcting wrongs in the world, they do not ask for an engagement with mass politics, but merely dipping your hand in your pocket when you feel sufficiently guilty – a deeply paternalist view of the world’s problems. They sell their campaigns through emotional images of poverty, not by developing an understanding of what the political and social antecedents to poverty are. Secondly, they are as likely to buy into market orthodoxy as any on the ‘Right’. For example, fair trade is sold byNGOs as a system which will transform the lives of people in the developing world, but the truth is, again that it only asks people in the West to respond to the guilt they generate, and it barely makes a difference to the lives of the poor; it doesn’t create the possibility of mass primary, secondary and tertiary education, it doesn’t deliver a system of welfare, it locks people into heavily manual – rather than industrialised – systems of production on a promise that it cannot deliver, and it doesn’t create civil infrastructure. Finally,NGOs are instrumental in perpetuating the perception that problems in the third world are caused by ‘corruption’ (aka backwardness), creating a paternalistic role forNGOs in overseeing the direction of politics and development through deveopment schemes such as HIPC , and policies towards the developing world in the West, undermining the emergence of political movements and engagement in the developing world. That is an antithesis to any traditional, anti-imperialist, left-wing perspective.

    The remnants of ‘Old Labour’ that persist are rather more evidence that the Left no longer exists than they are evidence that it is still alive. After all, they have been unable to prevent their party’s embrace of market orthodoxies. In fact, we are confused as to whoTalisker can even be talking about. Who are these stalwarts? What are their politics? Does he mean ‘Red Ken’, who made it impossible for anyone but the rich to use London’s roads, and who refused to allow a new desalination plant to provide London with water, on the basis that it mightemmit CO2, and that people should use less water instead? Revolutionary.

    Are the Green Party ‘Left’? It’s hard to see how, other than for some shallow anti-capitalism. But their anti-capitalism is one which would encourage people to take out loans to pay for solar-panels and microgeneration, rather than develop an energy infrastructure capable of improving people’s standard of living and working lives. It would restrict our freedom to travel, and increase our dependency on manual labour. It would end the possibility of cheap clothes, and cheap food. It puts not ‘brotherhood’, but ‘nature’ at the heart of its policies on the basis that what’s good for nature is good for us. So much for ‘social justice’ then. It has far more in common with romantic conservatism, and classical economists such as Malthus than it does with any ‘Left’ tradition. Indeed, it celebrates the pre-capitalist lifestyle of rural peasantry, and forgets about the nasty political systems which capitalism upseated. What this really forgets is that freedom is as much a material condition as it is a political concept. What is the point of political freedom if you do not have the means to enjoy it? Similarly, can political freedom become a reality without material force driving it? Riots, strikes, and protests in feudal times did not succeed, because lacking a material force means being political impotent. It was industrialisation – and capitalism – which created the conditions in which the Left were able to organise themselves into a political force. Orwell recognised this – indeed, it is the premise in The Lion and the Unicorn that trades unions and the English working classes had their interests served by global capitalism. His answer was to create a more equitable and voluntary relationship with the colonies in the developing world, not to patronise them by foisting backwards technologies on them, to sustain their dependence on Western agencies and their basic lifestyles, to undermine their political movements, and sending in unaccountable, undemocratic, self-appointed NGOs.

    Talisker moves on to tell us who the ‘right’ are. He assembles a short list of blogs and personalities, rather than demonstrates the existence of a political movement. Mainly people he doesn’t like, and who are climatesceptics. He truly seems to believe that Green and Left are synonymous. So how does Talisker explain the greening of the Tory party? How does he explain the Goldsmith family’s green activism? How does he explain McCain’s green conversion?

    The truth is that Talisker’s conception of Left and Right is no more sophisticated than lists of people he likes and doesn’t like. He doesn’t attempt to understand what the ideas are. The world is divided into people based on his emotional feelings towards them, not any intellectual engagement with the arguments being offered. Accordingly, the ‘Left’ in Talisker’s argument means no more than ‘being nice’.

    As to our ‘friends’ on the web… We are perfectly happy to be linked to by conservatives. It doesn’t bother us in the slightest – we are interested in discussing environmentalism and climate politics. Neither does it bother us when we are linked to (or hectored endlessly) by those on the ‘Left’. We frequently have discussions with conservatives about how they have misconceived environmentalism as the continuation of socialism. They often disagree. One key difference remains, however, between those still claiming to be on the Right, and those clinging on to the Left. Those on the green/’left’, such as Talisker are desperate – in fact they are shrill and hysterical – to link our position to Trotsky, or, curiously, the ‘far right’, rather than focus any attention to any of the arguments actually being made. Those on the Right aren’t so uncomfortable with our views that environmentalism isn’t ‘Left’ that they don’t link to us. Perhaps that speaks far more loudly about the disorientation of the Left. And it is typical of the disphoric Left that anything which challenges its fragile perspective is ‘far Right’, or ‘extreme’.

  17. DennisA

    In January 2006, at the opening of his new Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, (4CMR), Dr Terry Barker said “It may seem astonishing, but the global climate models, providing governments with estimates of the costs of climate stabilisation are nearly all reliant on one year’s data.”

    Yet Stern produced a review using such data.

    Terry Barker was at Copenhagen with Stern, they know each other very well as Barker was highly involved in the Stern Report. Other Tyndall staff were also involved and one Tyndall staff member was seconded to Stern for a year. (The Tyndall Centre as founded in 2000 as a multi-disciplinary research group to investigate mitigation of climate impacts as envisaged by climate models. It produces social engineering policies and is reponsible for the aviation emission politics and the idea of carbon credit cards.)

    The Report was timed to co-incide with the US mid-term elections and support the democrats in their push for cap and trade. It was widely quoted by them and by all those pushing for carbon taxation.

    Barker had had the US in his sights for some time: “Terry Barker, leader of Tyndall’s CIAS programme of research (Community Integrated
    Assessment System) and Director of 4CMR, set up a project to conduct a meta-analysis of
    the literature on the costs of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) mitigation with induced technological
    change, funded by HM Treasury. This generated a report for the Stern Review.

    A Tyndall Briefing Note from April 2005 is available on Terry Barker’s area of Tyndall Centre research, called ‘New Lessons for Technology Policy and Climate Change. Investment for Innovation; a briefing document for policymakers’: Tyndall Briefing Note 13

    Terry Barker, Rachel Warren, Robert Nicholls and Nigel Arnell were asked for their comments
    on various parts of the draft Stern report.

    Finally Terry Barker read and edited the Modelling Costs Chapter of the Stern Review.”

    Dr Barker and Tyndall had had the US in their sights for some time and this paper goes back
    to 2001: How high are the costs of Kyoto for the US economy? – Terry Barker and Paul Ekins (Department of Applied Economics, University of Cambridge), School of Politics, International Relations and the Environment, Keele University.
    Tyndall Centre Working Paper No. 4 (4 July 2001)

    Estimates of the costs of implementing the Kyoto protocol are uncertain and most are based
    on assumptions that necessarily imply high costs. A selection of alternative (often more
    realistic) assumptions gives estimates that suggest net benefits rather than costs. One highcost estimate is from the US Energy Information Administration but it is based on a rapid short-term adjustment to Kyoto-type targets and the model does not include the flexibility mechanisms. Another high-cost (but long-term) estimate is from the Oxford model and
    suggests a 4% cost of US GDP by 2020 to achieve Kyoto targets without the flexible mechanisms.

    It is shown that this estimate is based on a wrong interpretation of the literature,
    a confusion of short-term with long-run costs, and a selection of worst-case assumptions and

    Provided policies are expected, gradual and well-designed, the costs for the US
    of Kyoto are likely to be insignificant.

    The high costs for the US economy of mitigating climate change have been cited by the Bush
    administration as one of the reasons for rejecting US ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.
    However the estimates of high costs are uncertain and most are based on assumptions that
    necessarily imply high costs.

    This suggestion that Kyoto is a cheaper option than doing nothing because perceived global warming will be more expensive, runs through the Stern Report. The report was an establishment document and was necessary to ramp up the hype in the face of an unco-operative climate vis a vis the models. I suggest Lord Stern actually wrote very little of the report which carries his name.

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