“There’s an overwhelming consensus…”

New transcript: it’s Michael Mann, being interviewed on BBC Radio Bristol last week, on the day of the New York summit and a few hours before his lecture at the University. He ascribed activity by hostile entities, in part, to the continued existence of public scepticism about climate catastrophe:

Geoff Twentyman: … do you think people generally are aware of the threat of global warming, right now?

Michael Mann: Well, I think they are. Now, part of, you know, the attacks that I’ve been at the centre of are part of a larger effort to, sort of, undermine the public confidence in the science. And so I think, to some extent, the public is not as aware as the scientific community is. There’s an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community – more than 97% of the scientists who study climate change will tell you that global warming is real, it’s caused by us and it represents a threat if we don’t do something about it. The percent of the public that has that same understanding is somewhat lower, and in part it’s because there has been a successful campaign to delegitimise, to attack the science, to create doubt and confusion.

Personally, I don’t think we sceptics can generally take the credit for this: after all, what need to invoke dark forces when sheer public indifference will suffice?

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“A Tremendous Opportunity”

Sunday night and I’m a bit tired, so here’s just a roundup of several transcripts recently added to MyTranscriptBox. Firstly, the “tremendous opportunity” quote comes from Lord Stern last week on the Today programme, where he talks about the many ways to spend money during the “great change, in the world economy that’s coming”:

On the economic story, I’m optimistic, positive about what we can do. The technology’s changed remarkably quickly, and particularly – as we show in this new report, Better Growth, Better Climate – we show that through the process of urbanisation, through the process of investing in energy in the coming three or four decades, there is a tremendous opportunity to invest well, invest in cities that are much less congested, much less polluted, to invest in ways which can reduce wastage, increase energy efficiency.

On the subject of return on investment, he’s a bit light on the detail, though. Also last week, at the start of the Ryder Cup, here’s Donald Trump, talking about golf, wind farms and a bit of an upheaval he claims is happening up in Scotland:

Justin Webb: Are you saying one of the reasons why Alex Salmond lost the Referendum vote was his energy policy, was offshore wind?

Donald Trump: Oh, absolutely. Well, onshore wind, too – you have a minor revolution going on in Scotland, because of these wind farms, and if you happen to have one near your house, your house loses at least 50% of the value. So there are a lot of people that voted against, you know, Alex Salmond’s energy policy, there’s no question about that.

Finally, still on the subject of energy policy, here’s a speech by Caroline Flint, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the UK, back in July:

This transition to a low-carbon economy, fuelled by the sun, the sea, the wind and the waves, has the potential to be a major source of wealth and prosperity for decades to come, creating jobs here, exporting expertise and technologies abroad, and making our economy smarter and leaner.

Meanwhile, people are seriously discussing the possibility of power cuts in the UK, this winter or the next.

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“That Sustainability Agenda”

Not being very interested in sports, that particular section of the news tends to wash over me while I think of other things; however, I was drawn to listen to an item about golf on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 last week, in which Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organisation, explained about how the golf courses at Gleneagles in Scotland were to be brought “back into ecological shape” after the Ryder Cup this weekend. What followed sounded rather like a serious attempt to win a tournament of Sustainability Bingo, with positive-sounding phrases of NGO-speak swiftly flying off the tee, one after another.

Rob Bonnet: So what’s your blueprint, then, for a “green” golf course?

Jonathan Smith: It’s one that is the right type of golf course, in the right place. One that is using entirely renewable water and resources, one that is as close to organic as it possibly can be, one that is full of nature, not just for golfers but for other people – it, sort of, multiplies benefits out into the local community. I think, you know, if it’s done well, golf can be a social and economic and environmental asset – that’s not always been the case, but the industry is investing in the standards and the activities and initiatives now, to make that the case in the future.

Somewhere in all of that is, I am sure, the kernel of something worthwhile, but we never get to hear exactly what it might be. There are “certain species that enjoyed the heather and lived in the heather uniquely, [but] don’t live there any more”. What are these species? We never find out. How would they contribute to making the golf course better, exactly? We don’t know. A “green” golf course is “full of nature”, but then how could it be otherwise, when golf courses consist of grass, trees, ponds, bushes and the like? It is also “as close to organic as it can possibly be” – as opposed to an inorganic golf course of metal and glass? Or is he talking about alternatives to pesticides, that kind of thing? No idea. That’s the problem – the flow of sustainababble just consumes everything before it, like the Blob, eating up all meaning. The irony is that some golf courses have been part of the landscape for many centuries (the one at St. Andrews, for instance, has existed in some form or other since the 1400’s) and are thus extremely “sustainable”, as in “held continuously at a certain level” – which is, I think, the most intelligible definition of the word.

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Ficdep in Minitrue

About another Naomi, this time – not the globe-trotting anti-capitalist Canadian Naomi (Klein) but the globe-trotting anti-capitalist American one (Oreskes). She’s written a luridly detailed future history of mankind’s downfall (The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future), where the entire populations of Africa and Australia are wiped out and nasty climate change even targets all of our pets. A taste:

By 2040, heatwaves and droughts were the norm… In wealthy countries, the most hurricane- and tornado-prone regions were gradually but steadily depopulated… Then, in the northern hemisphere summer of 2041, unprecedented heatwaves scorched the planet, destroying food crops around the globe. Panic ensued, with food riots in virtually every major city. Mass migration of undernourished and dehydrated individuals, coupled with explosive increases in insect populations, led to widespread outbreaks of typhus, cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever, and viral and retroviral agents never seen before… The European Union announced similar plans for voluntary northward relocation of eligible citizens from its southernmost regions to Scandinavia and the United Kingdom…

(And that’s just small potatoes – later on, it gets really bad.) This afternoon, on Twitter there was a rather interesting exchange of views, after @ClimateCentral tweeted the following: “Stocker: “Majority of warming is in the ocean. During warming pause, the ocean has been absorbing all that heat:”. The “Stocker” being quoted is, of course, physicist Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group I. Naomi didn’t like that, tweeting: “Good work, but why are you using the “pause” meme? Please rethink” and later proffering “slowdown” as the “correct” word to be used. I’ve saved an image of this conversation on Flickr.

The irony – Naomi has written a melodramatic work of fiction but asserts that it is “all based on solid science” and therefore as good as fact. Thomas Stocker and the Met Office scientists are referring to the global warming “pause” as something factual, yet Naomi calls it a “meme”, something replicating itself, virus-like, in human minds and therefore tending towards the fictitious and untruthful.

Commentator Foxgoose retorts that “Naomi would be perfect casting for 1984’s MINITRUE”, to which I agree, and her talents would specifically be appreciated in Ficdep. Minitrue is, of course, the Newspeak name for the Ministry of Truth (within which Ficdep is the Fiction Department) in George Orwell’s novel 1984 – a book that in certain circles is clearly still being used as an instruction manual.

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“We are the Martians”

Well-versed in the popular Viv Westwood/Russell Brand school of climatology, mother of Gaia and Hollywood actress Emma Thompson made a number of media appearances yesterday at the People’s Climate March in London. Speaking to BBC News, she took the opportunity to check quite a few important boxes – declaring, for example, that we needed to be “carbon-free by 2030″ (meaningless target, impossible deadline: check), that using fossil fuels was like being addicted to nicotine (spurious link with tobacco: check), that the science was settled (invoking the “97%”: check) and that sceptics were “bonkers” (people we don’t agree with are mentally ill: check). Earlier, on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show, she talked of “Martians” (i.e. eco-unfriendly, out-of-touch humans being similar to alien invaders) and when Andrew asked her what the public could do about climate change, this is how she responded:

Andrew Marr: So, Emma Thompson can get on a boat and get up to the Arctic and see it – what can the rest of people do? I mean, I think there’s a big march that you’re involved in.

Emma Thompson: There’s a big march that – you can do a lot. Go on the march – I’ll be there and I’ll be speaking. Inform yourselves and understand the fact that actually, even though we’re up against huge difficulties, because fossil fuels are a very, very difficult thing to give up, but we now understand that we cannot afford to use them any more – it’s as simple as that. The day for those fuels is over.

But just who is the “Martian”, here? As well as taking fossil-fuelled trips up to the Arctic in order to lecture everyone else on the importance of not taking fossil-fuelled trips, Emma is something of a very, very frequent flyer (which is not a bad thing in itself, I hasten to add – with more money and leisure, I’d be one, as well). Reported in a 2009 Guardian article, erstwhile UK Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon criticised her for flying a lot, out of Heathrow, and at the same time wanting to put limits on the rest of us doing so (to which she haughtily replied “get a grip”, Hoon’s valid point obviously having whooshed harmlessly over her head).

More recently, she was photographed beaming radiantly as she touched down at LAX last December, and here she is later on, at the 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in January this year, and here she is again looking relieved to fly out of Heathrow for sunnier climes in February, after yet another awards do. The Daily Mail noted that she “… looked delighted to be leaving. While she is a proud Londoner, Emma’s career means she is often overseas” and that she was one of a bunch of celebs snapped that day who “looked grateful to be heading out of sodden London the morning after the BAFTAs”. And then she jetted off to New York, and then flew back to London, and after that… well, you get the picture.

But does Emma? Get the picture, I mean. I don’t think she does, does she. Much like fellow liberal luvvie Leonardo DiCaprio, she talks the low-carbon talk, saying that “we cannot afford” (meaning “you, the little people cannot afford”) to use fossil fuels any more, and likening CAGW sceptics to folks with David Icke-like delusions about lizards in disguise, but she behaves all the while eerily just like a member of some out-of-touch alien elite from the pages of a conspiracy theorist’s pamphlet. If anyone’s being a “Martian” here, I cannot help but think, Emma (yes, with your initials E.T.), that it’s – you.

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“Custodians of Mother Earth”

As the Green and the Good gather in New York (their myriad Boeings and Airbuses temporarily re-classified as shining chariots of climate justice while these righteous folk are on board), it seems that the world’s most eminent deities are now also urging action on climate change, via their human intermediaries. In turn, they (the deities) have signalled that they are open to be petitioned by their representatives or “ambassadors” (in the usual circular way of these things), and such an example is this prayer by Desmond Tutu:

Creator God,
You have called us to be keepers of your Earth.
Through greed, we have established an economy that destroys the web of life.
We have changed our climate and drown in despair.
Let oceans of justice flow.
May we learn to sustain and renew the life of our Mother Earth.
We pray for our leaders, custodians of Mother Earth
as they gather in New York City at the climate talks.
May they negotiate with wisdom and fairness.
May they act with compassion and courage,
and lead us in the path of justice for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

I understand that Desmond has officially retired, and retirement does allow for a certain freedom of opinion, but he appears to be hinting at some sort of merger between Anglicanism and the undoubtedly pagan Earth-Mother worship recently popularised by the Andean chapters of the U.N. A sign, perhaps, of desperate times in the celestial regions, as supreme deities resort to strange alliances and power-sharing deals in their panicked concern over man-made CO2. However, simple logic would therefore surely dictate that the supreme supreme deity must, in fact then be man-made CO2 itself, and that our worship would be better employed in propitiating the god of Carbon directly, burning as much incense (“fossil fuels”) as we can in His/Her temples (“power stations”) and mobile shrines (“cars”, “planes”) to avert the end of the world. By a divine coincidence, it seems that we’re doing this already. Thanks be!

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Klein, bottled and sold

Like her namesake, mathematical oddity the Klein bottle, activist and anti-capitalist writer Naomi Klein is something of a paradox. Her latest book is This Changes Everything and is described in melodramatic language by someone at Canada’s CBC:

An existential crisis for the human species, a clear and present danger to civilization, a death sentence for the planet, a weapon of mass destruction: these are just some of the phrases you will find in Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything. The book is a wake-up call about the state of the environment.

Ms. Klein argues that nothing else matters – war, pestilence, disease, economic collapse – if we don’t have clean air to breathe and water to drink. But we seem to be sleep-walking en masse towards a point of no return.

Meanwhile, Naomi (as the rest of us head for the point of no return) is busily criss-crossing the northern hemisphere in order to promote said book, which will be available for filthy lucre at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many another retail establishment – here’s her schedule. Now, her website doesn’t tell us exactly how she will traverse the globe from Portland (1st October) to London (6th October), for example, but odds are that fossil fuels and modern capitalism in 101 different guises will play a not inconsiderable part in her travels – propelling, providing for, supporting and enriching her at every moment.

It strikes me that Naomi and others like her wouldn’t really want a world without fossil fuels and global capitalism, should it actually threaten to come to pass – they might say so but their actions generally reveal otherwise. Rather than being foreign bodies, they seem more like symbionts or parasites within the system they profess to disparage, inhabiting a comfortable anti-capitalist niche in the wider global economy. Hence the Klein bottle paradox – inside is outside and outside is inside, as it were, and hence the contradictions of someone travelling great distances to sell a book that tells the rest of us we shouldn’t be travelling great distances to sell stuff.

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“It doesn’t belong to you”

Last Friday, just before the start of the UK Green Party annual conference, there was a radio interview with leader Natalie Bennett and then a BBC TV news report that placed much emphasis, not on the Greens’ call to action on the environment or climate change but on their call for radical wealth redistribution; Bennett, in the interview, said that the British public were looking for “new answers”, the implication being that it is the Greens who will supply them. One idea is that of a guaranteed income for every single person in the UK, the flaws of which people in the street noticed pretty quickly.

Ross Hawkins: The Green pitch includes plans for a £10 an hour minimum wage by 2020, a wealth tax on people worth more than £3 million and a guaranteed taxpayer-funded income for every man, woman and child, whether they’re in work or not. Adults would get £80 a week each, replacing several benefits – but do voters like the idea?

Woman 1: I do, yeah. But what if people are not working and just sitting at home, compared to people that are working?

Woman 2: That’s good – that sounds really good.

Ross Hawkins: Paid for by the state – by the taxpayer.

Woman 2: That’s not good. [Laughs.]

Actually, that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard, but would rather we were somewhat closer than we are now to an Iain Banks “Culture” type society, where robots did everything, before implementing it, otherwise we will have an awful lot of people being subsidised by hard-pressed worker bees for – as the lady said – “just sitting at home”. As for the other “new” ideas, well, re-nationalising the railways will bring back British Rail. As for the wealth tax, other European countries have already tried and abandoned it, and the philosophy of “if you haven’t declared your wealth, then it doesn’t belong to you”, hearkens back to that golden age where overlords could confiscate all their hearts desired from a subject population – feudal Europe in the Middle Ages.


Signs and Wonders

One quite odd piece of news I read last week via Samizdata was that the Venezuelans have come up with an adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer, with Hugo Chávez standing in for God. Slightly stranger than that, even, was learning (via Breitbart) that current Venezuelan supremo Nicolás Maduro has received endorsement from his dead predecessor and hero in the form of a small bird’s encouraging tweets. That is actually not a new story – the HuffPo ran an article in spring 2013 about the bird which allegedly fluttered three times about Maduro’s head and acted as a sort of reverse psychopomp for the spirit of Chávez. Which reminded me, in turn, of this story.

A natural wonder was also observed around the statue of the President standing on Tonghung Hill.

At around 21:20 Tuesday a Manchurian crane was seen flying round the statue three times before alighting on a tree. The crane stayed there for quite a long while with its head drooped and flew in the direction of Pyongyang at around 22:00.

Observing this, the director of the Management Office for the Hamhung Revolutionary Site, and others said in union that even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong Il born of Heaven after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him.”

In fact, a whole panoply of natural phenomena seems to have been involved in the mourning of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il in 2011, including the dramatic breaking of ice on a lake, a fierce snowstorm and an unearthly glow in the sky which illuminated the Dear Leader’s autobiographical writings that were carved in stone on a mountainside. One thing I can safely conclude from all this is that while democracy is not a perfect form of government (as per the famous Churchill quote), when there isn’t even much of a pretense that a regime is democratic, an extra supply of legitimacy has to be piped in from somewhere else – like the natural world or the afterlife.


Steamy Video Release

Donna Laframboise draws attention to a recent video release that is intended to get pulses racing amongst the target audience of this (ahem) genre. Aptly called a “teaser”, this short but overheated little movie is the first of a series to be emitted at regular intervals by the WMO, under the passionate direction of Secretary-General Michel (“There. Is. No. Pause.”) Jarraud, in a build-up of tension and arousal which is meant to reach its climax on 23rd September, at the climate summit in New York.


This is the hot and heavy message running through the mini-movie in stark-looking block capitals (and see my mini-transcript for a few more details). Otherwise, there are some of the standard tropes we might expect from the genre – scenes of cracked mud, billowing clouds, rain, floods, gridlocked traffic and a calving glacier, as well as glimpses of weather extremities calculated to tantalise and excite (“Miami South Beach is under water…” “The temperature is expected to rise…” “The mega-drought in Arizona has claimed another casualty…”) Over the coming instalments, I suppose we’ll find out whether this series is stiffening the spirits of its intended audience – or whether it will leave them tired and feeling rather limp.

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