Spiking Copenhagen

by | Jan 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

We have been somewhat neglectful of our blog. The truth – other than that we’re very busy – is that we decided to enjoy Christmas, and forget about climate change for a while.

Normal blogging service will be resumed shortly. And there will be much to discuss. The debate has moved on considerably in the last few months. There has been Climategate, Copenhagen turned out to be more of a failure than anyone was predicting, and the cold snap is once again causing hand-waving from the weather-is-not-climate warmers, who are only too happy to leap on freak warm weather, or other outliers such as the 2007 Arctic Ice extent as evidence of our imminent demise. More imminently, the UK faces a general election, and there are efforts to resuscitate the international response to climate change after Copenhagen.

Two predictions. First, we are anticipating that “scepticism” or “denial” – call it what you want – will become more organised this year, perhaps it already is. Second, although the climate issue is not going away, it has suffered terrible PR, and there is widespread recognition that the climate change pudding has been over-egged. We anticipate that the environmental debate will begin to refocus around the issue of over-population, rather than climate.

Ben has a piece up on the Spiked “after Copenhagen” online debate today.

December’s Copenhagen climate summit was supposed to be the moment at which nations came together to save the planet. But the attempt to produce an international, legally binding agreement on climate change ended up more like a squabble between rivals than the invention of a new green era. Even the force of the ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’ championed in the lead up to, and during, the conference was insufficient to unite the world’s decision-makers. Although the blame game has begun, it is the nature of the meeting itself that explains its failure far better than the behaviour of its players.

Read on at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/debates/copenhagen_article/7912/


  1. Stefan

    I’m not sure I get the “crisis of confidence” argument, but in the meantime, your anticipation that environmentalism will begin to refocus on overpopulation, prompted me to glance at The Ecologist.


    I could have told anyone 5 years ago that, even if global warming was real and man made, that you may as well just forget about it, because nobody (meaning a sufficient percentage) in the world is selfless enough to do anything radical about it.

    Let me put this in some context. There is a spiritual teacher/guru called Andrew Cohen. His teaching and efforts (whether you give them any legitimacy or not, I just want to take his stated and intended efforts at face value) are to create a new culture that is rooted in something beyond and outside the ordinary needs and desires of people, of the ego and its egocentric, selfish, self-interested morality. I’ve listened to a few of his talks and read some books, that’s the extent of my impression.

    A key point is that he wants to not just get a few individuals to “enlighten” (something which individuals have been doing, here and there, for a couple thousand years, but only sporadically), he wants to create a group of people who are all connected to a deeper more authentic motivation (ie. not self-interested) and he wants there to be enough of them to actually create a new form of culture (you need a sufficiently large group to be able to start to create a culture).

    Now as far as he is concerned, Cohen is the only person in the world attempting this project. It is cutting edge, difficult, and a work in progress. Bear in mind, many of his students are very dedicated and willing to do what he says. Cohen, at least, is up front about it, claiming that what he is asking his students to do is the hardest thing anybody could do in life.

    OK so, just contrast his efforts to get just a small group of people to start living beyond self-interest, to the talk coming from environmentalists about getting the whole world into making the ethical choice to simply not have a car and not have a TV and not have a mobile phone, for the sake of selflessly living in a balanced relationship with the environment…. yeah right.

    My own sense is that environmentalists just don’t understand how much they are asking. They have a language, with noble words and concepts, but they have no way to live it. They ask for green enlightenment, and then they sit there and complain that people won’t follow them.

    When I look at that article on The Ecologist, and see the chart contrasting “vulgar sustainability” with “virtuous sustainability” — first I try not to laugh now that “waiting for experts” is listed as “vulgar sustainability” — oops, looks like they’ve truly given up on “the science” to convince people! but I digress — on that chart they are listing as “vulgar” the trends of ethical consumerism. They are criticizing companies and consumers who shop for green products. They say this is now merely being “vulgar”. Imagine! Eco bulbs are now vulgar!

    But they are starting to realise, that what they really want in order to put nature first, is selfless human beings, so their “virtuous sustainability” is about deeply ethical selfless motivation and choices.

    Well, good luck with that. By all means, humanity has indeed been moving towards higher and higher levels of ethics, as we’ve moved from being mere barbarians, thousands of years ago, to modern people who grant each other equal rights, respect, and love. But the next step, to actually become so selfless that we’d sooner put the happiness of the forest before us…. well that might happen, I guess, there could be a sudden radical social transformation, but then I think about Andrew Cohen and his group of students, who have made it their life purpose and commitment to transcend, and how hard they are still working at it.

    Meanwhile, what do most greenies do? Buy a few bars of chocolate with “fairtrade” stamped on them and then get back to the computer to hammer out another article for The Ecologist?

    Like the article says, consider that it would be more ethical to simply stop drinking coffee. Yep, most people can’t manage that even for their own health, never mind the health of the planet.

  2. geoffchambers

    Your two predictions are really interesting.
    On scepticism becoming more organised – that’s really up to you/us. I count about five active sceptical sites in Britain (sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone). I’d love to see you, Bishop Hill, Maurizio, Benny Peiser and Harmless Skies discussing together what you think you have in common. If nothing else it would kill the media lie that we’re all Exxon/Sarah Palin puppets.
    As to the environmental debate refocussing around overpopulation, this would be really good news, since demography, unlike climatology, has a good record of predictions, and the news is far from catastrophic. We know (as far as we can know anything in the future) when, where, and at what numbers, population will level out. When the story of environmentalism comes to be written, there’ll be an interesting chapter on the covert racism of the neo-Malthusian left.
    On the subject of sceptics getting organised and – dare I say – coming out, at
    there’s the possibility of meeting and discussing ideas like free human beings. Only an Australian could have thought of it (and so far, only the French and Germans have taken up the idea). Go, Climate Resisters.

  3. Kev

    Interesting to see how the political class and NGO-ivists handle the evolution of the ‘Overpopulation Existential Crisis’, given how they have run AGW to date.

    If the statistics are to be believed, fertility rates are dropping. Large parts of the developed world are below sustainable levels, and reportedly a number of developing countries are seeing fertility rates drop substantially too.

    Conversely – longevity is increasing, for the obvious and well-known reasons.

    So perhaps the elephant-in-the-room they will have to dance around is not so much that The-Collective-We are breeding like rabbits. The real problem will be breaking the news to the Baby Boomers that they aren’t dying like flies. I wonder if a call for volunteers to do the needful will go out ?

  4. John Bailo


    I wrote a blog post about this. I want to question the whole game of population statistics and counting.


    “I was thinking about population. When I was born in 1960, there were 3 billion people on Earth. Now there are 6 billion (no wonder it’s so more difficult for me to find a parking space!)…or so they tell me. But, on what basis are there 6 billion people. This population number is put forth with such certitude and in so many places, you would think (like in the case of Climate Change) that the research is obvious, patent, available…it should be in the top 10 or at least top 40 in a Google search…right? But I sure couldn’t find it.”

  5. JMW

    I would think that, when it comes to world population the censuses that are conducted around the world would be a basis to start with RE how many people there are.

    6 billion people may be a rounded off figure: not accurate, but possibly close [we have to account for groups of people like tribal societies where it may be difficult-to-impossible to get an accurate census from].

  6. George Carty

    If the environmentalists shift their focus to the alleged problem of overpopulation, won’t that just make them easier to demonize as genocide advocates?

  7. cm

    The big thrust for Copenhagen was to get rich countries to pay guilt money for the damage they are supposed to be causing for poor countries. There was very little emphasis on fixing any problem, much more on people paying for it.

    For this guilt to work the problem has to be a global one caused with something that is impossible to track, is generated by a rich country and can transport itself across the world to cause problems for poor people. CO2 and friends are the ideal problem.
    When you drive an SUV in a Western country the CO2 finds its way to a poor country.

    Sure we humans are causing environmental problems, but most of those are local problems. Chop down a forest or over graze the land and that impacts on the local microclimate. The ground dries out quicker, springs and sub-surface water dry out and crops fail. Less humidity in the air means less local rain and less precipitation replenishing glaciers and rivers. But these are not global problems, they are local problems. You can blame the Western SUV driver for chopping down forests in his own lands, but it is hard to blame him for chopping down forests in a land he has never been to.

    The biggest problem with global warming is that it has been used as a guilt tool for far too many problems.. Unfortunately this prevents people from looking at the real local problems and fixing them. Thus, it is not just a waste of time but is actually detrimental to making any real environmental progress.

    I consider myself an environmentalist, and a scientist, but think the whole climate change thing is significantly overrated. There might be something to climate change, but there are many other far more significant causes that get swept under the carpet and ignored. They won’t go away with a myopic focus on climate change.

    Too many environmental groups have embraced climate change because it is “on the side of good” and are willing to put that before fact. They have been trying to use the climate change message to boost their cause. Unfortunately it also erodes the very good work that many environmental groups are doing. The climate change messages are completely swamping messages on deforestation, extinction etc and the practical measures that can be done to help out (eg.reversing habitat destruction).

    Take for example the Pandas. We here that global warming will threaten them. But really habitat destruction is a far more significant problem.

    My prediction: environmental groups are going to splinter from global warming as they see it does not serve their causes. They will go back to their earlier messages and get on with their core business.

  8. George Carty

    Good point about the role of guilt in climate change activism! That explains two things:

    * The appeal to puritanism is an important reason why climate-change activists (Monbiot most notably) demonize aviation, despite it being responsible for only a small fraction of total CO2 emissions. Aviation represents holidays (pleasure) and is thus evil in puritan eyes).

    * It explains some very big threats to the environment are ignored. Underground coal fires in China alone emit more CO2 than all the cars in North America, and unlike the cars have no benefit to humanity whatsoever. That climate-change activists ignore these shows that they’re not really about protecting the planet from CO2, but about fostering guilt trips. They’re probably doing it just for the money, like corrupt medieval Catholic priests selling indulgences.



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