Dec 022009

This from Bob Ward: ‘Climate change denial is the new article of faith for the far right.’

Illustrated by a photograph of Nick Griffin.

‘No evidence of research misconduct,’ George Monbiot guilty by implication of joining the ‘climate change denial lobby’ because he called for the resignation of Phil Jones, ‘hysterical witch hunt…desperation’ etc.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hysterical atmosphere created by the emails has encouraged more of the denial lobby to emerge from the shadows. The British National party leader, Nick Griffin, gave a speech in which he claimed that climate change was a leftwing conspiracy, in much the same way as Lord Christopher Monckton has in his recent speeches in the United States. Monckton and Prof Ian Plimer then helped the UK Independence party to launch its own declaration of climate change denial this week. Suddenly climate change denial has become a new article of faith among the far right.

I’m much less interested in this piece for its arguments about climate change than for the tone of its debate.

Humans are very good at creating word associations and reading their connotations, and the chain of association Bob Ward appears to want his readers to follow is this:

Climate change denial = Nick Griffin = racism = evil.
Climate change denial = Nick Griffin and UKIP = far right = fascism = evil.

Thus by the imposition of Nick Griffin into our tautological exercise, the transitive property eventually gives us climate change denial = evil. (Leave aside for the moment that somehow UKIP has become part of the ‘far right.’) Now, Bob Ward never says this directly, but nevertheless these are the associations he wants us to make. It’s not so much that he thinks climate change denial is wrong-headed and happens to be supported by Nick Griffin; it’s that climate change denial is wrong and anyone who supports is complicit with an evil racist fascist.

I’d like to try Bob Ward’s strategy myself.

Now, according to the BNP’s website, that party (and, obviously, its leader Nick Griffin) advocate:

Power should be devolved to the lowest level possible so that local communities can make decisions which affect them.

We will implement a Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental freedoms to the British people.

According to the Labour party website, it advocates:

Ensuring a fair say for all by devolving power away from the centre and to local people; giving councils more power to promote local democracy to increase citizen involvement and improve services by making them more responsive to local needs and ambitions.

A green paper to examine the case for developing a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.


Power to the people = Nick Griffin = racism and fascism = evil.
Labour Party = power to the people = Nick Griffin = racism and fascism = evil = climage change denial.

Using Bob Ward’s Griffin Tautological Principle (reductio per Griffinum), I think I’ve just proved that the Labour Party are all climate change deniers and that local democracy and rights are a fascist evil.

Bob Ward is guilty of a tremendous number of argumentative fallacies, the worst of them being false attribution. Because Nick Griffin is a racist fascist (and therefore evil) does not mean everything he says is wrong or distasteful. The fact that he is a racist fascist has absolutely no bearing on the climate change debate. If climate change denial is wrong, it is because it is contrary to truth, not because it is a belief held by certain unpleasant people. If the ‘far right’ are wrong, it is not because some of them deny anthropogenic climate change. Deliberately conflating these propositions, in order to associate a view the author disputes with an unrelated view many people dispute, is dishonest, manipulative, and lazy.

If climate change admitters, or whatever they call themselves, want to win more flies, they should stop implying that ‘deniers’ are evil by association, and try honey instead. There are many ways to sweeten the pill of dealing with climate change. Most people would be happy to change their behaviour if it meant a better life in the short run as well as the long run. Finding out how to make that possible shouldn’t be impossibly difficult. But, as a commenter on Ward’s piece points out, the admitters are manifestly against that:

Is it any wonder that many people think climate change is a left wing conspiracy when the proponents of the AGW theory make statements such as these:

  • “We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination… So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts… Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” – Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports
  • “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen.” – Sir John Houghton, first chairman of IPCC
  • “We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.” – Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation
  • “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony… climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” – Christine Stewart, fmr Canadian Minister of the Environment
  • “The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe.” – emeritus professor Daniel Botkin
  • “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsiblity to bring that about?” – Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme
  • “A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.” – Paul Ehrlich, Professor of Population Studies
  • “The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.” – Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund
  • “Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control.” – Professor Maurice King

Now, I haven’t sourced those quotes, so I’m just taking this person’s word for it that they’re genuine. The real kickers come from Maurice Strong, Michael Oppenheimer, and Prof. Maurice King. They appear to welcome the collapse of industrialisation, the continued poverty of the third world, and global poverty in general, as a consequence of mitigating climate change. Is it any wonder, then, that ‘deniers’ are so obdurate? Admitters are looking forward to the collapse of society and impoverishment of the human race, whilst calling those who disagree with them evil (and labelling them with a frankly inflammatory word that is obviously meant to associate climate change ‘deniers’ with Holocaust deniers).

Anyone who thinks climate change is ‘all about the science’ is either lying to themselves or lying to everybody else. This issue is no longer about science or truth. And the more acrimonious the debate becomes, the less the truth even matters, because even if it could be demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, the people who ended up being on the ‘wrong’ side would, out of pride, stubbornness, and resentment, refuse to believe it.

And the onus for stopping the acrimony is, I’m sorry to say, firmly on the admitters. As long as they keep insulting, belittling, and misrepresenting everybody who doubts their claims, and drooling expectantly at the thought of poverty and the demise of the industrialised world, they’re never going reach a ‘scientific’ consensus, let alone a social one.

Nov 272009

Though this appears to have been written before people really started to go through the code files in depth, Greenfyre discusses how climate change proponents should be responding to sceptics’ claims about the hacked/leaked material from the Climatic Research Unit:

I suggest that we have change our response to “smoking gun? who cares? show us the “body!” Of course there is no “body”, or even “bullet holes” anywhere … ie no evidence that anything actually happened.

We need to switch from seeming to be defending the supposed culprit to demanding actual evidence of a crime, any crime. We need to be asking:

“Which studies were compromised, how? be specific. Cite papers and data sets. What is the evidence? where is it? what work is affected? how? show me the evidence that says so.

This supposed scandal involves perhaps a half dozen people, how does it affect the work of the 3,000+ others who’s work makes up climate science?

How does it affect the work that was done before the alleged culprits graduated from univeristy? the work from before they were born?

Of the 30,000(ish) studies that make up climate science, which ones are undone? where is the evidence? be specific … show us exactly how and why?” etc

because of course another hole in the Denier frame is thier certainty that the CRU hack topples climate science. Naturally they are taking advantage of the bobbhead credulity and the public naivete, which does work, but it also makes them vulnerable to it being challenged on it.

“You are certain it topples climate science? how? where? which studies? what evidence? You don’t know? then how are you certain?

Please run through a list of the studies you believe are affected? Hockey stick? what’s that? please refer to specific papers and studies.You don’t know? then how can you be certain?

Ahhh, Soandso 2004? so just how is it compromised? what part of the work? I thought you were certain?”

We need to hammer that and keep hammering it. Push hard, and not only the Deniers, but the media drones who brainlessly echo the Denier memes. Not hysterically or in anger, but with relentless defiant decency and certitude. Make it clear that they do not understand the science, and in fact have no idea what they think the emails actually mean.

We have to be the ones asking questions and demanding answers!

So. Is it possible to answer Greenfyre’s questions? The emails do not necessarily show that the science is unsound (although they do offer some startling insights into the nasty and arguably unethical ways some scientists behave), but the code… ah, the code. What, if any, studies, papers, reports, articles, etc. does it affect? Can anyone cite chapter and verse?

Nov 242009

Iowahawk strikes again:

But there’s a problem: as the worker researchers attempt to store each raw datum into the neat honeycomb hockey stick structure provided by the hive’s Alpha Grantwriter, they discover that few will fit. The infrared shows them growing cool with fear. This signals the climate researcher’s instinctive behavior to begin viciously beating, rolling and normalizing the data into submission. According to Dr. Nigel V.H. Oldham, professor emeritus at Oxford University’s Centre for Metascience, this violent data dance is what makes climate researchers unique among breeds of scientists.

Professor Nigel V.H. Oldham:

Like other species in the order homo scientifica, the climate researcher gathers and organizes data to lure grant money to the hive. In contrast to those other species, however, the climate researcher has evolved a set of complex violent behaviors to insure any data leaving the hive is perfectly adapted to nature’s most lucrative and sweetest grants. It really is a marvel of natural selection, and explains why the climate researcher continues to thrive in any kind of weather condition.

Truly, Iowahawk is a giant among satirists. Do go and read the whole thing.

Aug 052009

Oh, George. Read your own words:

As any old hippy will tell you, festivals aren’t what they used to be. Gone are the days when you could announce a happening, call up a few mates with drums and guitars, and put the word out that something groovy and free was about to kick off. In these buttoned-down times, it would be treated like an al-Qaida training camp. Today, you must apply for a licence and spend months of your life filling in forms and liaising with the various responsible authorities. There are good reasons for this: it ensures that no one is crushed to death and that local people aren’t harried by intolerable noise and disruption. There are also bad reasons: the controlling, snooping, curtain-twitching state tendencies which insist that all spontaneity be planned six months in advance, that no one can ever take her top off or smoke homegrown weed or get a little bit outrageous – even within a festival site – for fear of offending some tight-arsed busybody in desperate need of a life.

You didn’t defend us when they snooped in our rubbish bins. You didn’t defend us when they fined us for not recycling properly. You didn’t defend us when Jamie Oliver wanted to dictate what chickens we buy at the supermarket. You have been, for some time now, one of the tight-arsed busybodies in desperate need of a life.

And now they’ve turned on you and your pet causes, too. Doesn’t feel nice, does it? Lie in the bed you helped to make, George. Lie there and learn to love it.

Feb 192009

As I sit here and listen to an enterprising builder outside whistle an excellent rendition of Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ my thoughts turn to halls, and kings, and naturally thence, to the Middle Ages.

With my intellectual cap on, as opposed to my professional one, I am a medieval historian and have collected degrees in the subject in the same way that others might collect da Vinci sketches (i.e. expensively). In the hallowed drinking establishments of the world’s foremost institution of learning, I have pondered with fellow medievalists what it might have been like to live during the Middle Ages.

And, despite speculations about the scholarly aestheticism of monastic existence, or the bellicose excitement inherent in noble birth, we decided that it would have been utter shit.

So why – and I have seen this flagged up on Tim and the Landed Underclass already today – are there people, bred in luxurious modernity, who want us to go back to it?

Monty Don, the former BBC Gardener’s World presenter, said the UK could run out of food “within weeks” because the country is so dependent on imports and it was essential for the country to grow more of our own food.

He urged businesses around the country to follow the lead of the National Trust: “If every household, business, office or factory dug up a patch of land there would literally be millions of allotments made available. This is just the start of something really big.”

I will tell you when we really will run out of food, and that is when we stop depending on imports. In the Middle Ages, when importing food was impractical due to the obvious problem of it rotting in transit, local growing conditions meant the difference between a full belly and death by starvation. With the succession of overly-dry and overly-wet summer growing seasons Britain has experienced in the past four years, had we relied entirely on local produce, we all would have starved.

The other problem with eating only local produce is, of course, that delightful as these shores may be, we’d all be eating nothing but turnips and parsnips from November to March. A four-month diet of root vegetables might solve the nation’s obesity problem, but the incidence of malnutrition (particularly things like scurvy) would soar to fifteenth-century levels.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, said it was not just the recession driving demand for land to grow food but the desire to “reconnect” with the soil.

“More and more people want to grow their own fruit and vegetables,” she said. “This isn’t just about saving money – it’s really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your labour.”

Oh, indeed – it’s very satisfying to till the soil and eat the fruits of one’s labour, as long as one doesn’t have to do it from sun-up to sun-down eight months out of the year, and as long as the fruits of one’s labour are sufficient to keep body and soul together. As the Landed Underclass points out, subsistence farming is hard on the body and, unless one has the luxury of farm-labourers and a horse-drawn plough, unlikely to generate enough produce for actual, y’know, subsistence.

But perhaps in addition to sharing allotments, we will all have the privilege of access to the village horse. It might even be better to have a system wherein the municipality’s food is grown entirely on common land, the care for a strip of which is allocated to every resident. Then we can all reconnect with the soil, and our roots, and our ancient heritage. While we’re at it, we can reconnect with bathing in the freezing rivers and defecating in buckets!

Christ, haven’t these people learned anything? If living off our own fucking local food was so great, our ancestors wouldn’t have escaped in relief from doing it as soon as conditions made it possible. Pardon me while I descend into teleological historicity, but isn’t one of the purposes of chronicling human development to avoid past mistakes, rather than to do the same stupid shit all over again?