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2 Dec 2009

Six Things We Know For Sure in the Wake of ‘Climate Gate’

hoaxA few people have been in touch to ask whether, in the light of the recent illegal hacking into UEA’s emails, and the proposition by climate deniers that some of the emails that have emerged prove climate change is a scam, Transition Network now intends to renounce the absurd notion of human-induced climate change.  Of course not.  It has been a fascinating few days though, and we are probably the last people to actually post any thoughts on it, but on reflection my sense is that there are perhaps 6 things we can say that we know for sure (or, as climate scientists would say, with a very high degree of probability) .

1. Climate change is a very real and present danger

Is there anything in these emails that leads one to assume that climate change is not happening?  No.  Writing in the Sunday Times, Bryan Appleyard tried to carve in stone what we know for sure about climate change (in spite of acknowledging that there are never certainties in science, rather “all science can ever be is the best guess of the best minds”).  We know that the climate is warming, and that this is caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, and that if this continues, “nasty things probably start happening within the next century, possibly within the next decade”, although of course there are many extreme events already happening attributed by many to climate change.

Jeff Masters at wunderground.com puts it thus, “even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true – the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change – which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines – is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three of four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks”.  Indeed.

We are talking about a scientific case that has been built up over 20 years or so of peer-reviewed science.  As Greenfyre puts it, “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”.  It is much easier just to fling muck around than to be specific.  Nothing has emerged this week that puts the actual science behind climate change in question at all.

Every year the human race throws 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide (7.3 tons of pure carbon) into the atmosphere.  Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have thrown half a trillion tons of pure carbon into the atmosphere.  Are we to assume that that will have absolutely no effect on the planet’s complex and delicately balanced climate and ecosystems? Climate science was proved years ago.  Most people in any position of responsibility have long since moved on to thinking about what we are actually going to do about it.  As Rupert Read put it, “when the dust settles, I predict that the climate deniers will be left holding onto hardly anything here”.

2. Scientists are Human Beings

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it’s true.  There were things that appear to have been done in some of the emails that is not accepted practice, and academic protocols were not always observed, but it might also be instructive to be able to read the emails that they were being bombarded with.  I thought that UEA’s defense of its position and its staff was mostly fair enough.   I get emails from conspiracy theorists, and they can be very unpleasant and aggressive.  I usually ignore them, and can completely understand anyone else doing the same (although it is true that I am not funded by the taxpayer).

Brian Davey recently picked up on UEA’s assertion that they don’t need to go on a counter-offensive to defend their science  because “the science speaks for itself”.  As Brian puts it, “the science can only “speak for itself” fully to other scientists operating in the same peer group. To the overwhelming majority of the population  the science doesn’t speak to them at all – they can’t make head nor tail of it”.

Herein lies the problem.  Often those who best understand climate science are the worst at communicating it.  They are not campaigners, they are often not articulate explainers of the undoubtedly complex science of climate change.  They are also often people who, puzzlingly, often manage to maintain a complete professional distance between what they know and what they feel. As George Marshall puts it over at ClimateDenial;

Scientists often seek public anonymity. The only person portrayed the front page of the IPCC’s website is the long dead Alfred Nobel on the side of a gold medal. Deniers by comparison realise that trust (and distrust) is all about personalities. They promote themselves (and their personal backstories) constantly. They are not a pleasant bunch, but they get lots of practice in creating a good impression and some (such as Lomborg and Stott) can be charming in person.

I once attended a lecture at Plymouth University by a marine scientist, working on sea level rise for the IPCC, very well respected.  He talked very articulately for 40 minutes about climate change and sea level rise, and then, during the Q&A, I asked him whether knowing what he did about climate change mean he lived his life differently in any way.  There was tutting from other academics at the petulance of my question.  He replied that no, it didn’t.  I struggle to understand that.

Scientists aren’t perfect, and they need to get better at getting out there and explaining climate change in a way most people can understand, but in having spotted the potential extinction of our species heading our way and given us at least the option of avoiding it, we owe them a profound debt of gratitude.  There are also some great examples of climate scientists who understand the science, are great communicators and also live the changes in their personal lives too – James Hansen with his personal commitent to civil disobedience about coal, and Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre, who has no car, no fridge or freezer. 

3.  That there are major dirty tricks campaigns at work.

Jeff Masters’ article about the Manufactured Doubt campaigns is an essential read, if you want to get a sense of the context within which this release of emails takes place.  It is, of course, no coincidence that this happened a couple of weeks before the Copenhagen climate negotiations.  There has been a huge upsurge in co-ordinated climate contrarians (Masters argues that ‘contrarian’ is a much more appropriate term than ‘skeptic’, because “all good scientists should be skeptics“, and there is a fine tradition of skepticism; rather ‘contrarians’ is his preferred term).  He draws the parallels between the well funded campaigns of ropy science and PR that held off the smoking ban for many years, and did the same with the withdrawl of CFCs to stop ozone depletion.

He notes that in the US, there are 5 lobbyists in Congress representing the fossil fuel lobby trying to argue against climate legislation, for every one environmental lobbyist.  For just the second quarter of 2009, the fossil fuel lobby spent $36.8 million and the environmental lobbyists spent $2.6 million.  The scale and the co-ordination of the final push in advance of Copenhagen to try, again, to weave doubt into what is a watertight scientific case, is, as Masters observes, highly reminiscent of the tobacco industry in the mid 1950s, and we can only hope that they are received with the distain they deserve, although recent polls showing that less than half of the UK population believe in climate change are a cause for alarm.

4.  That there is no vast conspiracy to uncover

I have little time for conspiracy theorists.  I find it amusing that some of the very same people who argue that peak oil is a scam, a con cooked up by the New World Order (whoever they are) in order to manipulate oil prices and become vastly wealthy, are unable to discern the similar hand of the oil industry behind the push on climate scepticism (in spite of clear evidence of Exxon, for example, funding climate contrarian organisations).  The idea that climate science was cobbled together by corporate powers with the collusion of scientists who actually all know it is really nonsense is absurd.  George Monbiot has had fun telling the story that such a scam would necessitate, but for me, other than the many other reasons why such an argument simply makes no sense, it is historically inaccurate and revisionist.

One only has to read Jeremy Leggett’s book ‘Carbon War‘ to get a sense of how, during the Kyoto negotiations, the global corporate powers who supposedly have invented climate change, ruthlessly went out of their way to water down any proposed legislation.  Scientists were intimidated, documents drafted and redrafted to have uncertainty put into them, and targets reduced.  To reach the point where the concept that human activity is responsible for climate change has taken a huge effort over 20 years by a wide range of activists, scientists and campaigners, most of whom history will not recall.   Corporate interests have been dragged kicking and screaming into taking action on climate change, rather than (with a handful of notable exceptions) leading from the front, and Copenhagen will likely fare no different.

5.  Even if there was, conspiracy theorists would be the last people to uncover it

Conspiracy theorists email me stuff about dubious organisations Transition Network supposedly works with, ask what I think about 2012, free energy devices and some of the various people who peddle this stuff around the country.  There are references online to ‘Rob Hopkins and his paymasters’, this kind of thing.  However, my experience of how these people work, is that their ‘research’ is generally anything but. Actual research involves creating a hypothesis which you then test, with as little attachment to one outcome as to another.

Starting out with the idea that everything the world is connected, linked by some nefarious network, and then looking around for bits of ‘evidence’ that you can then cobble together to prove your point is not research, and the same goes for much of the contrarian ‘research’ on climate change.  As Sir Terry Frost put it, “if you know before you look, you cannot see for knowing”.  Much of the case for conspiracy is built on foundations of what starts as a rumour, is then copied onto blogs, then quoted elsewhere, and before long is a ‘fact’.  As I say, even if climate change were the result of a vast sprawling conspiracy, conspiracy theorists would, given the paucity of their research methods, be the last people to figure it out.

As John Michael Greer puts it in ‘The Long Descent’, conspiracy theories offer us three comforting messages, that its not our fault, because everything bad that happens has been engineered by dubious powers, that the world does what it’s told, i.e. there is no point engaging in the political process at all, and that you don’t have to change your life.  It is easy, in a world that demands increasingly tough choices from us, to see why grasping at this kind of thinking is attractive to so many.

It is also worth bearing in mind the politics behind much of this stuff.  Who is the most vocal climate skeptic out there, arguing, as these people do, that it is all a scam trumped up by political elites?  Nick Griffin.  Much of it reads like the psychedelic wing of the UK Independence Party, a bizzare mix of wild out there pseudoscience and reactionary Daily Mail politics.  Best avoided.

6.  That Climate Change is Not the Only Reason to Break Our Love Affair With Oil

Even if climate change were not a pressing reason to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels (which it is), and even if peak oil were not an issue and there was 3000 years worth of cheap oil left in the ground (which there isn’t), there is a list of other reasons why we should be loving and then leaving the black stuff as soon as possible.  I could go on and on here, but for a start how about social justice, all the health problems caused by inhaling particulates, the clearing of people from their land when oil is found, Shell’s behaviour in Nigeria, the cocktail of harmful chemicals we have extracted from oil, the ability it gives us to alter landscapes and habitats, the M25, the build up of pthalates in body tissue… etc, etc, etc.  Climate change isn’t the only way in which the society and the industrial model oil had enabled us to create are killing us, there are many many reasons to leave our oil dependency behind as urgently as possible, what Sharon Astyk calls “The Theory of Anyway”.

So there you have it.  In conclusion, I think that the only one thing scarier than entering the 21st century on the verge of triggering runaway climate change (if we haven’t already) is entering it with the idea that belief is the same as science.  I meet conspiracy theorists who argue that belief in climate change and climate contrarianism are the same, both just belief.  Actually, one is a scientific case built up over 20 years of rigorously peer-reviewed science, the other is a belief system. Presumably creationism and evolution are also just equally valid belief systems too?

This last week has been challenging for many, but how many people actually expected that we would get this close to Copenhagen without something like this happening?  It is par for the course, the stakes are very high.  But as for whether Transition Network will continue and strengthen its dedication to inspiring communities in responding with creativity, adaptability and imagination to climate change, of course it will.  To do anything else at this point in history would be to give up on science, on reason, and on the rights of future generations to be able to make the sme choices as we are able to today.

P.S. Having witnessed the abusive nature of the debates that often arise in forums and comments threads on this topic, I will ask here for civility and respectfulness in any comments please, and also I will only moderate comments where people use their actual names, not ‘WolfPig18′ or ‘sausageears’ or whatever….

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

41 Comments

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Our World 2.0 and GreenFeed, NewForest Transition. NewForest Transition said: RT @GreenFeed: #Transition Six Things We Know For Sure in the Wake of ‘Climate Gate’… http://bit.ly/6yGYsw [...]

joanna
2 Dec 9:22am

Thank you for your list of reflections. I found the post of “The theory of Anyway” the most helpful of all as I think that will speak most clearly to many of my friends and acquaintances. I feel it says what I have been trying to say all along but more eloquently. How much CO2 pumped out is not helpful in some ways because many believe that we can deal with that, it is something that plants use after all but the amount of poisons that are also pumped out at the same time that plants do not use and degrade the land and our health I think would make more sense to more people. Global warming may seem a far cry from our rain drenched countries but the poisons emitted are closer to home in people’s thoughts and more comprehensible.

Brad K.
2 Dec 4:36pm

Back in the Clinton administration, one reported observation stuck with me. That is, that a 2,000 page report on climate and the environment, signed by some 200 scientists, concluded basically that what was happening, and why, required more study for a definite conclusion. This seems reasonable, and in line with what science is and does for the world.

But the Clinton White House, including Al Gore, took that 2,000 page report, and released a 200 page “executive summary” that concluded that the globe is warming, because of greenhouse gases released by mankind.

This offended me at the time, and offends me still. I am offended that the same fund raising, the same tax-the-rich to exempt third world nations from restrictions approach used to be called global warming, and now is labeled an ambiguous “climate change”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not in a position to state that the climate isn’t changing, or isn’t warming. I think that change and warming is going on. I trust the not-so-widely reported findings by both the US Army and NASA that the earth is warming – as are the rest of the planets in the solar system. I understand that the nearing completion of a historic lull in sun-spot activity is affecting our climate as well as our computers and electric grid.

But I find the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest to be much more telling than industrial or consumer produced greenhouse gases. The deforestation in the continents of Asia and Africa drive the inevitable world climate instability – I cannot imagine elsewise. The deforestation, however, takes place largely in non-wealth areas, and in Asia and Africa are taken to produce charcoal for home heating and cooking. As the deforestation cannot be taxed, no one is interested in criminalizing people wanting shelter and food. So the Kyoto Protocol, and the rumored treaty intended for Copenhagen, ignore completely what I consider the most telling, most significant factors in climate change. There isn’t any money, they don’t involve gaining political prestige, and so the deforestation issue isn’t of interest to the movers and shakers of the “green” community.

I have heard coal, gas, and oil fired electric plants decried, yet there is an assumption that *because* electricity *could* be generated by hydroelectric (where is the research into low-head generation?) or wind generators, that *all* electricity is “green”. It seems to me that *every* single erg of electricity must be treated as if coming from a coal-fired plant – since that single erg could be considered the last bit of electricity that requires the last coal, oil, or gas fired generation plant to remain in operation. That isn’t happening. For some reason, car makers are allowed to make new plug in cars, without revealing the carbon footprint of mining, transporting, and manufacturing the materials and providing the labor to deliver that vehicle to the dealer’s lot. New electric vehicles don’t report the carbon load of the electricity used to recharge the batteries – for a direct comparison to gas and diesel powered vehicles (which also fail to report the carbon load as a function of fuel and lubricant consumption).

While enterprising people might focus on producing better engines with less carbon consumption to retrofit existing cars – that approach has been overlooked. Instead of mining or recycling materials for a complete (lucrative) vehicle, the difference in carbon footprint of overhauling and upgrading existing vehicles – of building vehicles in a fashion that admits of swapping engines, etc. has been ignored, in favor of mining more minerals, of increasing world electricity demand for manufacture and operation.

It used to be that Geico car insurance had a lower rate for people that lived within four (4) miles of their work. This seems to me to be a simple focus to affect lifestyle and petrochemical consumption. I imagine a simple $0.01 tax per employee per week per mile that that employee lives from their place of employment would be sufficient to alert every employer to the degree that that employer contributes to traffic congestion and fuel usage – and the impact of commute time on their work force. The amount of revenue would seldom be significant, but could not be allowed to benefit communities where the employer or employees live or work – it would reward long commutes. Ideally, employers would focus on hiring locally and become more aware of the community about them, to assure adequate housing and living amenities. Require the collection of this “commute tax” on stock holder reports, and prominently on tax returns, as well as being available to any visitor to the employer. The Kyoto Protocol didn’t have much to say about commuting, that I recall.

Peak Oil, to me, is a much clearer and more persuasive argument. It depends for severity on an assumption of butt-covering, of influence peddling, and ethic depravity among elected officials. And I can motivate that. When climate change brings in the methane from cows, though I balk. I haven’t heard or seen any comparative analysis on this. The first widely touted variant I was aware of was that the holes in the ozone layer (remember when the current We Are Ruining The Earth agitators focused on holes in the ozone layer? What happened to that cause – though the players are pretty much identical to the global warming and climate change activist old school) was due to cows (!) that are grazing on leased (!) federal (!) lands. That was a lot of caveat for me. And it seemed silly science.

Yes, cows burp up methane.

What hasn’t been shown to my satisfaction, is that a pasture with a cow grazing on it, produces more greenhouse gases over the course of a year than it does with natural wild life and processes with the single exclusion of the cow. Do cows in a feed lot, combined with the lands used to produce the feed, produce more methane and other green house grasses than if all that land were left to grain production for food, or pasture, or weeds?

I know that swamps emit swamp gas. Anyone that heard UFO stories in the last fifty years knows that. No one has shown to me that the world’s swamps produce significantly less or more greenhouse gas than industry and consumers. Nor that compost heaps produce more or less greenhouse gas than if they had been burned (producing more soot which would settle out of the air, eventually) or buried in a land fill.

I can point to a light fixture and claim, “See! That light is energy that artificially ages the materials of the home, that disrupts natural sleep patterns, and affects weight gain!” It would take understanding of the difference between that light fixture and not having a light fixture to convince me that the claim is reasonable and responsible. That hasn’t happened yet with cows, or electric vehicles.

PETA abhors using fur for clothes. Great. So, where is all that earth-friendly nylon and polyester supposed to come from? Why aren’t the climate change folk agitating for relief of anti-hemp laws that ban a known useful and durable fiber? What about developing localized infrastructure to encourage cotton and wool production and use in carbon-sensitive ways? Today’s agricultural cotton requires an enormous amount of chemical intervention in the life of the cotton plant. I see all kinds of articles about beans and mangel-wurzel, while cotton, and hemp, and addressing the carbon footprint of internationally created polyester an nylon seems ignored. PETA seems opposed to any agricultural use of animals, so I presume they oppose Transition and Peak Oil on using wool, too. Where is that conflict, or are both Transition and PETA fund raising organizations, and according each other “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” accommodation the way politicians contribute to the current economic crises?

I notice that Transition doesn’t rely on taxing anyone outside the group efforts, or rewarding anyone not involved. So I wonder that the Copenhagen agenda, like the Kyoto Protocol, isn’t abhorred here.

I think, myself, that ClimateGate is a necessary disillusionment of the political claptrap that came to light with Al “I invented the Internet so believe what I say” Gore. Perhaps addressing real issues, such as deforestation, and abandoning the wealth redistribution agenda that hijacked the science of understanding the climate and natural and affected cycles, can now proceed.

Robert
2 Dec 5:59pm

Rob,

I think your “struggle to understand” why the climate scientist doesn’t translate his knowledge of climate change into taking action on his personal “carbon footprint” could work both ways.

I struggle to understand why so many people think their own personal carbon emissions make a blind bit of difference to the planet – especially considering that for every litre of oil they don’t burn, the price drops, meaning that other people will burn that much more.

And this is coming from someone who is building a straw bale – cob house, by the way – so I’m not some kind of climate skeptic…

RS
2 Dec 8:23pm

Brad

We have moved on a bit since Clinton.

Personally, it was only 2007 that I really woke up to the full implications of climate change and the speed of the change, because that was really when last IPCC report really hit home.

We knowe a fair bit more than in Clinton’s era and it is not good news.

As to the issue of taxing the rich, one climate change activist I have heard has a fairly basic response.

We need to cut emissions by 87%. At that time (2007) 87% of emissions were produced by 13% of the population, who live in the richest countries in the world. Wipe us out and the planet could recover quite quickly.

China was not so much of a problem then but even now a high percentage of their emissions are produced making crap for us to buy, so are really our responsibility.

Annie Leymarie
2 Dec 9:41pm

Hi Rob
You write that the contrarians ‘start out with the idea that everything in the world is connected, linked by some nefarious network’. I too feel that everything in the world is connected, but linked to a benevolent network – the web of life. It’s because I revere life in all its magical splendour, because life and I are one, that I feel impelled to reduce my footprint. The call comes as much from my senses and my heart than from my intellect, which finds it harder to see the whole picture.

Jennifer Lauruol
2 Dec 10:18pm

Robert–in my view it’s not only about reducing one’s carbon footprint to ‘make a difference’. What it really helps with is one learns to live more lightly, embracing voluntary simplicity. That kind of resilience is going to be needed, as well as modelling it for others. Simple things–learning to walk or cycle all those shorter journeys–it becomes a comfortable habit, one gets used to it. No big deal to carry the shopping in the backpack. Incidentally one reduces a bit of carbon, principally one gets fit, and resilient, and less self-centred.

Matt Heins
2 Dec 10:48pm

I think this whole debacle provides us with some clear lessons:

1. The “Global Warming as Apocolypse” or “Drastic Change or DIE!” persuasion technique that has been employed more and more over the last decade by those trying to translate the scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Climate Change into social action -Monbiot included- is an utter failure and has substantially backfired.

Once you have shown someone several visions of the Field of Armaggedon and they STILL won’t stop driving their SUVs back-and-forth between jobs they hate and houses they can’t afford…well, let’s just say a new strategy might be warranted.

Why so many classically educated people thought Cassandra would be effective THIS time -just because she had lots and lots of scientific observations most folks don’t understand- is a mystery to me.

2. The “world” (meaning the Global Telecommunications Culture and those persons in its thrall) has gone well and truly nuts. Just total bonkers.

For proof of this, Mr. Hopkins provides the excellent example of conspiracy seekers’ strong belief in a baroque and unlikely conspiracy involving thousands of scientists around the globe and simultaneous disbelief in a much more predictable and rational conspiracy be fossil fuel sellers.

I’d like to mention another:

The metamorphosis of the second half of the word “Watergate” (as in the Watergate Hotel in D.C., as in the break-in at Democratic Party HQ there in ’72, as in the scandal that resulted for Nixon as a result) into a word compound or suffix meaning “scandal”.

Seriously. “Climate Gate”?!?

In a society so insane as to produce that sort of nonsense/Newspeak term, it is no wonder that paranoid-schizophrenic ideas about the world and its functions have become common place.

(For anyone not following me here: A-The “watergate” in “The Watergate Hotel” refers to an actual thing called a “watergate”, meaning a “gate to or from the water”, in this case the steps next to the Lincoln Memorial that lead down to the Potomac and were meant to be an embarkation/debarkation point for watertaxis. B-There were scandals before the break-in at the Wategate Complex, why has “gate” become the buzzward for scandal? Why not “Climate Dome”, as in Teapot Dome? Only the arbitrary choice of T.V producers and journalists, that’s why!)

3. Lastly and more succinctly, Peak Oil and economic failures and community spirit and local resiliance and quality of life are far better tools of persuasion than Climate Change. This confirms what Mr. Hopkins wrote in the “handbook”, and should be taken to heart by all.

Although, wait till Peak Oil induces some governments to actually respond and watch the conspiracy seekers suddenly find them in that as well. ;)

Thank you,

Matt Heins
(Long-winded proponent of a Transition movement in little Roslyn, Washington.)

[...] From ROB HOPKINS Transition Culture [...]

Patrick
3 Dec 12:16am

Rob,

Congratulations for your award. You thoroughly deserve it. The larger movement deserves it, just as you said.

I admire you as a powerful leader speaking the truths and vision that need to be spoken. You are speaking about the most important things that we as humans can speak about in my opinion.

Your courage gives me strength, and the Transition Movement gives me possibilities and inspiration to continue my work in my community.

We got a good future ahead of us. Let us gather together again and continue the work that brings us joy and so wonderfully benefits all walks of life.

This Earth is just too sacred. We are doing great work. A salute to you all out there!!!!!!! YEAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep it up all, never forget how much you have helped me as a person and as an organizer. And how many hours you have kept me awake struggling to figure out how to best transform a community.

HAHAHA!!

peace all!
Patrick from Woodacre in California

Robert Firth
3 Dec 7:22am

You quote: We are talking about a scientific case that has been built up over 20 years or so of peer-reviewed science. As Greenfyre puts it, “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”.

But this misses the point, and badly so. The evidence from the leaked documents is very strong, not just that data were altered, primary data hidden, and conclusions fabricated. The evidence is that the peer review process itself was systematically corrupted. That is the greatest scandal since Lysenko; more significantly, it casts doubt on everything. How badly has the process been corrupted, and for how long? How much published informations is valid, and how much is not? At present, we simply don’t know. For Greenfyre to throw “peer review” in our faces when it is peer review itself that is in question, is impermissible (as well as being stupendously arrogant).

There is a legal principle that applies here; “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus”. It is not for us to state what studies were compromised – it is for the proponents of the case to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that certain studies were NOT compromised. I note that so far they have made no attempt to do so.

Many, many people have accepted climate change science in good faith as true sciense. That faith has been destroyed, and the scientists themselves must rebuild it.

John Mason
3 Dec 10:18am

Hi Rob,

Quote: “Every year the human race throws 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide (7.3 tons of pure carbon) into the atmosphere.”

Should read 7.3 billion tons of pure carbon.

People whose faith has been destroyed ought to really find up what the opposition have been up to. I was sent a review copy of the following recently and can thoroughly recommend it:

Climate Cover-up
James Hoggan with Richard Littlemore
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Greystone Books (29 Sep 2009)
ISBN-10: 1553654854
ISBN-13: 978-1553654858

The book charts the emergence of an organised climate change denial campaign on an absolutely industrial scale.

Cheers – and congrats on the award BTW – John

Graham
3 Dec 11:14am

Great summary Rob and good to see you becoming more skeptical (in its proper sense)and pro-science.
The whole issue of how science and critical thinking should be communicated is a crucial one for the times we live in. Not easy when the environmental movement itself is so full of pseudoscience.

Bill Clift
3 Dec 12:07pm

Hi Rob -

My sincere congratulations and thanks for your vision, effort, and various works.

You are having a positive and profound impact on my in-progress website and free book, ALTERNATIVES TO CHAOS.

We need profound changes in most areas of life. An informed, angry, grassroots movement of millions, going from individual to local to national to global can get new ethics, policies, and ways of life.

Your idea of going to a party, not a protest, sets a great mood about our future.

Namaste,

Bill Clift
newfreedom.bravehost.com

Ivan
3 Dec 12:49pm

Hey Rob
Can you stop lumping together “conspiracy theorists” as people you “have little time for”. It is a weak generalisation.Is David Holmgren a conspiracy theorist for what he says about 9/11?
The degree to which someone might be blinded by their need to build up facts around their “conspiracy theory” outlook is similar to the way that your vision might be obscured by your level of immersion in and acceptance of mainstream narratives and belief systems.
Everyone has some insight and everyone has their own tangled ball of ideas. When I see the words “consensus” or “peer reviewed” should I go back to sleep knowing that the truth of how the world works has been well and truly nailed down?
Your essay is mainly attacking weak strawman positions rather than debating the most articulate and coherent alternative views which are not just based on these e-mails.
The climate IS changing, conspiracies to control us ARE being hatched and the plot WILL thicken, Thats my working theory anyway.
Peace

James
3 Dec 10:36pm

Excellent article Rob. Very well thought through. Thanks.

Marella Fyffe
4 Dec 12:55am

Hi Rob,

Thank you for taking a stand for something that is bigger than self interest and maintaining that stand regardless of the difficulties and challenges that must be confronted.

James
4 Dec 7:27am

Transition and denial

I think it is important to recognise that ‘climate gate’ has been manufactured to an agenda.

Firstly, as Rob has stated that there is nothing in the stolen emails to suggest that climate change is not happening. The ‘quotes’ used are very highly selected and taken out of context from hundreds of emails going back 13 years.

The timing of the release is interesting. Just a few weeks prior to the Copenhagen Summit it could not cause more damage. Bearing this in mind, the illegal nature of the theft of these documents points at the very least to mischief-making.

For many years now, the Heartland Institute has been running a disinformation campaign about climate change based on a right-wing free-market agenda. They have been funded to do so by Exxon-Mobil (source) as they have been by Phillip Morris (US tobacco giants) to defend smoking.

One of the Heartland Institute’s prize ‘speakers’ (very tempted to say something else here) is (‘Lord’ Christopher Monckton who worked in an economic think-tank for Margaret Thatcher during the 80’s. Interestingly, his degree is in classical languages – plus a diploma in journalism, while Margaret Thatcher’s degree was in Chemistry. Lady Thatcher profoundly disagreed with Monckton on his denial of global warming. Monckton’s other claim to fame is that he is inventor of the ‘Eternity’ puzzle.

A brilliant strategist, Monckton has tapped into a vein of right-wing culture and is currently (whipping up a storm of nationalism based on his assertion that the Copenhagen document seeks to create a new world government specifically created to tax America.

I have been monitoring the response to his claims and they are rather sinister, some moronic, e.g “There is so much cold in the world, one would hope it would all melt away. The increase in crops such as wheat and corn would be staggering”. Some scary – for example “Would the treaty still stand if we overthrew the government by force of arms? I’m just asking…”. The vast outpouring of these comments are politically motivated and are anti-Obama. Unworthy though it may be in an objective discussion, I like to think that followers of ‘Lord’ Monckton as ‘Monckeys’.

What is most most sinister about the disinformation campaign funded by Exxon-Mobil is how it has reached across the channel to the UK and across the Pacific to Australia. There have been ( questions in parliament using using the Heartland ‘data’. Nigel Lawson has set up his own disinformation website which he sells under the banner of being an objective commentator. I use the term ‘disinformation’ because the data presented and the contributors he has recruited are highly selective. Even the global temperature graph on the home page conveniently ignores the record highs from the 2009 data and anything before 2000.

As Rob has said, denial is only the first of the five stages of grief. There seems to be a huge amount of anger, bargaining and depression about climate change right now (I myself am wavering between depression and acceptance on a daily basis). Transition is one of the things that give me hope – and because of its outright common-sense approach, I think it is waterproof to the current storm of a prejudiced agenda. Godspeed.

James
4 Dec 7:43am

Transition and denial

I think it is important to recognise that ‘climate gate’ has been manufactured to an agenda.

Firstly, as Rob has stated that there is nothing in the emails to suggest that climate change is not happening. There are hundreds of emails that go back 13 years. The ‘quotes’ used are very highly selected and taken out of context.

The timing of the release is interesting. Just a week or so prior to the Copenhagen Summit it could cause be timed to cause more damage. Bearing this in mind, the illegal nature of the theft of these documents points at the very least to mischief-making.

For many years now, the US Heartland Institute has been running a disinformation campaign about climate change based on a right-wing free-market agenda. They have been funded to do so by Exxon-Mobil (check their entry on Wiki) as they have been by Phillip Morris (US tobacco giants) to defend smoking.

One of the Heartland Institutes prize ‘speakers’ (very tempted to say something else here) is Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley who worked in an economic think-tank for Margaret Thatcher during the 80’s. Interestingly, his degree is in classical languages – plus a diploma in journalism, while Margaret Thatcher’s degree was in Chemistry. Lady Thatcher profoundly disagreed with Monckton regarding his denial of global warming. Monckton’s other claim to fame is that he is inventor of the ‘Eternity’ puzzle.

A brilliant strategist, Monckton has tapped into a vein of right-wing culture and is currently whipping up a storm of nationalism based on his assertion that the Copenhagen document seeks to create a new world government specifically created to tax America. (Check You-Tube ‘With the Stroke of a Pen).

I have been monitoring the response to his claims and they are rather sinister, some moronic, e.g “There is so much cold in the world, one would hope it would all melt away. The increase in crops such as wheat and corn would be staggering”. Some are scary – for example “Would the treaty still stand if we overthrew the government by force of arms? I’m just asking…”.

The vast out-pouring of these comments are politically motivated and anti-Obama. Unworthy though it may be in an objective discussion, I like to think of the followers of ‘Lord’ Monckton as ‘Monckeys’.

What is most sinister about the disinformation campaign funded by Exxon-Mobil is how it has reached across the channel to the UK and across the Pacific to Australia. There have been questions in the UK parliament (Ref. John Maples) using the Heartland ‘data’. Nigel Lawson has set up his own disinformation website which he sells under the banner of being an objective commentator. I use the term ‘disinformation’ because the data presented and the contributors he has recruited are highly selective. Even the global temperature graph on the home page conveniently ignores the record highs from the 2009 data and anything before 2000.

As Rob has said, denial is only the first of the five stages of grief. There seems to be a huge amount of it in addition to anger, bargaining and depression about climate change right now (I myself am wavering between depression and acceptance on a daily basis). Transition is one of the things that give me hope – and because of its outright common-sense approach, I think it is waterproof to the current storm of a prejudiced agenda. Godspeed – and see you at The WAVE.

James
4 Dec 8:19am

Apologies for the double posting – please will the web controller delete the first posting – unless you’d like to leave it there for the sake of the links it contains.

Robert
4 Dec 5:04pm

Jennifer

I’m totally in favour of the whole voluntary simplicity thing – resilience, frugality, generosity of spirit, etc etc – on both an individual and community level.

BUT there is no way voluntary simplicity is going to deal with climate change. Saving energy so someone else can use it is NOT a valid strategy to reduce CO2 emissions. I suspect that most people realise this, which is why the majority don’t buy the whole hair-shirt green lifestyle business.

Climate change is a global problem that needs to be dealt with on a global level.

Daniel
4 Dec 9:35pm

A lot of what I see from the contrarians, whether it’s the polite-and-reasoned argument or the nutball-conspiracy argument, seems to be based in a sense of anger that humans (i.e., they, the writers) are being blamed for global warming. This odd little video by the Fraser Institute is one example:

http://www.fraserinstitute.org/newsandevents/multimedia/The-Climate-is-Constantly-Changing.aspx

In other words, the two sides are talking past each other. The contrarians seem to be saying “The science is wrong!” but what they’re REALLY saying is “It’s not my fault! Who the hell are you to blame me for something I didn’t do and then restrict my lifestyle to fix it?!”. The climate change folks respond “No, see, the science IS right!” and blather on about data points and ice cores and whatnot, completely missing that they’re answering the wrong question.

So what DO we say in response? Damned if I know, I’m not a psychiatrist…

-Daniel

Daniel
4 Dec 9:44pm

Also: Brad said “I am offended that the same fund raising…used to be called global warming, and now is labeled an ambiguous ‘climate change’.”

Two responses:
- There used to be a folks in the enviro community who felt that the change to “climate change” was a plot by the *opposition* to make global warming seem like less of a threat, and thus water down public pressure to do something about it.

- Whether or not that’s the case, though, “climate change” is preferred now because it is easier to talk to the public about all the various effects — things like some places getting wetter, some places getting drier, some places even getting cooler, etc. — under than term than under “global warming.” (Unfortunately, it still seems like every time there’s a big snowstorm some editorial cartoonist does a lame “Whatever happened to global warming?!” gag.)

Brad K.
5 Dec 2:39am

@ Robert,

” Saving energy so someone else can use it is NOT a valid strategy to reduce CO2 emissions. ”

I agree – yet that is the precise part of “cap and tax” that bothers me most – it requires some to stop emitting contributing gases, but gives others a pass to continue – and to increase the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases they produce. If it is wrong to produce greenhouse gases, then it follows it must be wrong for everyone.

“Climate debt” is another horrifying attribute of the current scheme. How does taxing one nation benefit the earth, whatever is done with the money collected, except, of course, from the designated favorites that somehow don’t have to pay up? It seems a plan designed to encourage corruption in management and in purpose.

What seems obvious to you at the personal level seems to me to be just as forlorn at the level of nations.

@ Daniel,

My concern is whether the instability we see today is due to natural cycles of the solar system, of the earth, of a combination, of production of greenhouse gases – or the aspect of anthropocentric global warming that I will concede, deforestation at the continental level, such as in Africa, South America’s Amazon basin, and Asia.

About greenhouse gases, please riddle me this. How many cows does it take to emit the amount of greenhouse gases that an acre of swamp emits? How many cows are there, is the number increasing or declining, how many acres of swamp are there, and is that number rising or declining? How much greenhouse gas is produced when composting a yard of garbage, of wood cuttings, of barnyard sweepings, or yard or field remains? As Rush Limbaugh mentioned a few years ago – how does the quantity of greenhouse gases produced industrially compare to the average volcano eruption?

Using the spectre of greenhouse gases is a politician’s dream. It divides people into groups, creates a problem that people wanting more authority can stand up and yell, “There is a terrible problem! There is an enemy! I can save everyone if you follow me!” The current President of the United States’ own administration, this past January, was quoted as saying they would use every crises to achieve their goals.

Graham
5 Dec 11:50am

Brad:
“How many cows does it take to emit the amount of greenhouse gases that an acre of swamp emits?”

It is true that humans only emit 3% Greenhouse gases of what is emitted naturally by swamps, volcanoes etc; however, the earth is able to naturally absorb pretty much all of this resulting in homeostasis. In a system like the earth, it is the extra 3% net increase which cannot be absorbed that is changing the climate over and above any natural variation.
In science, the only thing that matters is the scientific papers; the rest is just paranoid ramblings, not helpful.
How we actually deal with the issues, what our political response should be is of course open to manipulation and corruption, but no more so than business as usual has been up till now. Best not to confuse political response with science.

Brad K.
5 Dec 3:55pm

@ Graham,

But – the Kyoto Protocol, and the upcoming December 7th (A Day that Will Live In Infamy) in Copenhagen – these are political actions, about money, and sovereignty, and about imposition of regulations and laws – these are entirely political. Completely, with politicians as the significant players. I cannot help but believe the the environmental community chose that date, deliberately, in (political) confrontation of the United States, as symbolic of the catalysing act that drew Americans into the Second World War.

Science is Sharon Astyk, and Transition Towns, in development of alternate energy sources and turning the for-goodness-sake thermostat down. Science would be the proposed dams on Scandanavian Fjords to minimize dilution of the North Sea – to restart customary flow of the Gulf Stream from Mexico to Europe.

Scince would be an agenda to enforce and enact reforestation of Africa, Asia, South America. Should North America and Europe be reforested as they were in the 13th century? That should be considered.

Should transport of goods and products from place to place be transferred partially or wholly from private trucking to community shared vehicles, routes, rail, etc.? It would be political, offend teamster unions, and thus hasn’t been suggested, even with all the communal involvement of Transition Towns. Instead of high speed rail, has anyone considered horse-drawn (or people drawn) light rail for transporting goods and commodities between communities – making much smaller footprints across landscapes, having much less impact on albedo and thermal patterns, laying out much less petroleum on the land and throwing much less volatile fumes into the air?

Climate Gate seems to show that politics, within the science communities, is the process used to arrive at consensus, with quality of work a poor and decades-slower force towards advancement. Science, as always, is a paid-for factor of the economy. That is, someone provides funds for the facilities, for salaries, and the natural bias is to solve proposed problems. There is relatively little truly independent work, unbiased by colleagues, by consensus – or by the funding mechanism or organization. Funding for research into global warming or climate change is simpler to come by – concerned parties are more likely to fund such work, than those that are concerned that the climate isn’t changing. Researchers into climate change have a vested interested in the premise of climate change, and should be expected, as ClimateGate showed, to act scientifically, economically, and politically against nay-sayers to protect their work, their reputations, their funding, and their beliefs.

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” tended to more polarize opposition than to inspire support. The science that might or might not have been present in that particular story was overshadowed, as at Kyoto and Copenhagen, by a suspect connection between science and proposed political agendas.

Graham
5 Dec 7:30pm

Brad K:
“Funding for research into global warming or climate change is simpler to come by – concerned parties are more likely to fund such work, than those that are concerned that the climate isn’t changing. Researchers into climate change have a vested interested in the premise of climate change, and should be expected, as ClimateGate showed, to act scientifically, economically, and politically against nay-sayers to protect their work, their reputations, their funding, and their beliefs.”

You and the other human spam-bots (see Orlov http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/)of course are not at all biased nor have you any vested interests.

For the rest of us who are mere flawed human mortals time would be better spent listening to the experts:
http://climateprogress.org/2009/12/04/press-call-michael-mann-gavin-schmidt-and-michael-oppenheimer-climategat/

John Mason
6 Dec 2:44pm

This is neat:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nnVQ2fROOg&feature=player_embedded

Need I say any more?

Cheers – John

Brad K.
7 Dec 5:37am

Graham,

I’m sorry. I was thinking of historical precedents, like the Roman Catholic Church jailing “Sun Centric” solar system advocates. I figured that people trying to solve a perceived problem, like climate change, are more apt to fund research into answers. People content that there are no immanent climate threats, I imagine, are less ambitious about funding what would be general research.

I know that some very good science gets done without significant funding. But most science is done under a funding grant or other support. That doesn’t invalidate findings; I never thought so. Well, actually I kind of think of Al “I invented the internet, so believe what I say” Gore as being a dim cousin to Orlov’s poster child from the double-wide. You know. My next door neighbor.

Thanks, by the way, for addressing the content of my message, and not making things personal.

RS
7 Dec 8:47pm

Quoting Brad “I cannot help but believe the the environmental community chose that date, deliberately, in (political) confrontation of the United States, as symbolic of the catalysing act that drew Americans into the Second World War.”

I doubt is most Europeans are even remotely aware of that connection and it is even less likely that people from other countries which were less involved in WW2 know about it. People of my mother’s generation who had first hand knowledge are now in their eighties and much has passed under the bridge since then.

Someone will have wored outwhen there was a break in the international meeting schedule and when the conference and hotel space was available; no more than that.

Excelsior
8 Dec 4:35am

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the world is getting warmer.

But this only matters if a significant portion of the warming is human-preventable, and at a social cost which is less than the cost of adaptation.

East Anglia CRU’s findings were intended to show that the warming is human-caused (which isn’t the same thing as human-preventable, but it gets you part-way there) and very costly (which isn’t the same thing as more costly than adaptation, but it gets you part way there).

But the Climate-gate e-mails, and even more the software code and incomplete/unusable data, demonstrates that East Anglia CRU’s findings are useless garbage.

Where does that leave us?

Well, it doesn’t allow us to write off AGW as “all a big hoax.” East Anglia CRU is only one (albeit the most prominent) of several groups asserting the human causation and catastrophic cost of warming.

If the science being done by the other groups is up-to-snuff, then the assertions of human causation and catastrophic cost still remain credible.

And we are told that the papers by these other groups are all “peer reviewed.” That means they’re reliable, right? It tells us they’re up-to-snuff, right?

Unfortunately, no.

The failure of peer review to detect the utter worthlessness of the output from East Anglia CRU — the failure to examine the procedures producing it and to reject it out-of-hand as being without merit because of shoddy methodology — indicates how very unreliable the label “peer reviewed” has been, as a gauge of good climate science.

We certainly hope that science it is not being done so thoroughly ineptly by all the other groups. But we have no reason for confidence that it isn’t: The other groups don’t have scientists of particularly greater caliber, or access to particularly different data.

True, the East Anglia team was not the only one in their game…but it was one of the leading lights. Are the software development processes better in the other groups? Are their data archiving procedures better? Are they less prone to expectation bias? Do they exercise any better judgment about avoiding questionable fudge-factors? Do they show any greater openness about how they produced their results?

We don’t know, or at least I don’t. All we know is that they managed to get their results past the same kind of “peer review” as East Anglia.

That does not inspire confidence.

There is now an investigation of the shenanigans at East Anglia: The missing data, the unusable data, the buggy modeling software, the inability to reproduce the original results, the ducking FOI, the attempt to influence the organs of peer review to stifle dissent.

Good. That needs investigating.

But we also need an audit of the methods and procedures at the other groups.

This is needed in order to restore confidence.

Until then, climate studies labeled “peer-reviewed” will have barely a hair’s more scientific authority than studies labeled “casually sniffed by a blind horse.”

If the other groups have been doing their jobs in a procedurally bulletproof way, which can survive intense public scrutiny, why then, wonderful! The issues of human-causation and catastrophic cost can be put to bed, and we can move on to showing whether that which is human-caused is also human-preventable, and at what cost.

Shoring up confidence is the first step, though.

(And if, after examination, we instead find that the other groups have been half-assing and fudging their way through their research the same way East Anglia was, then we’ll know that the current scientific consensus means very little: That it is a sociological, not a scientific, phenomenon.)

Mike Grenville
8 Dec 3:51pm

“…the psychedelic wing of the UK Independence Party.” wow! Cool. I never knew there was one. How do I join ;-)

ken osborn
8 Dec 4:53pm

The missing ingredient on global warming from an educational perspective is the absence of discussion on the link between rising CO2 and global warming. The data demonstrate CO2 is rising and the data demonstrate that global warming is real. Of course we can ignore the data, but even if we don’t are we sure that the two are connected?

That connection is the C12:C14 fingerprint by which I mean the ratio of carbon-12 (C12) to carbon-14 (C14). When carbon rich sources are buried long enough to convert to coal or oil the relative amount of C12 increases as C14 ‘breaks down.’ The C12:C14 ratio is increasing and is a strong indicator that the primary source of increasing carbon dioxide is anthropogenic (human caused from the burning of fossil fuels).

Brad K.
10 Dec 1:18am

Graham,

Someone else motivated that funding restrictions are influencing whether there is consensus about AGW or not.
http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2009/12/incentives-and-conspiracies.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CoyoteBlog+%28Coyote+Blog%29&utm_content=Bloglines

One of the points made on CoyoteBlog is a comment made on WattsUpWithThat.com,
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/07/americans-belief-of-global-warming-sinking-below-50-for-the-first-time-in-2-years/#comment-252604
- That at least one source of research funding is limited to efforts to confirm AGW, and explore catastrophic consequences; those questioning global warming, or that an anthropogenic component is significant, need not apply. This kind of function has to skew the balance of pro- and anti- AGW reports.

[...] Rob Hopkins: “Six things we know for sure in the wake of ‘climate gate’”. http://transitionculture.org/2009/12/02/six-things-we-know-for-sure-in-the-wake-of-climate-gate. A piece from George Marshall’s “Climate Denial” website, that talks about the [...]

[...] Oh yes, in fairness I should try to include the scientist’s world view, with which I am somewhat familiar. In my experience, real basic science is nearly dead and most of the survivors are living in the ivory towers of their well developed brains, where life is (believe me) a lot more fun than solving real problems. [...]

Peter Taylor
30 Dec 8:58pm

Dear Rob,

I don’t know if anyone reads this far and so late on from your posting – but I would like to respond and communicate directly with Transition Towns – since I have a great deal of sympathy with its aims. I am what you would probably refer to as a ‘denier’ and hence not worth listening to, but I nevertheless urge TT to enter a rational dialogue and not simply respond from a ‘position’.

As you know, I have written a book – ‘Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory’. It was published in June 2009. It took three years to research and write and it relies entirely for its arguments on peer-reviewed science literature. I am a life-long ‘green’ – an ecological scientist and active in policy formulation. I pioneered ‘critical scientific review’ of policy issues in the 1970s – and have brought about several significant changes in policy connected to nuclear safety, waste disposal, toxic emissions, energy strategies and biodiversity conservation. I have no links to the oil industry. I do not hold that climate science is a conspiracy. I work on climate issues because I am concerned that simplistic computer simulations do not allow for natural cycles that could bring much colder periods and soon – and for which we are not prepared (and have done so consistently since 1996 when I reviewed climate science for the Countryside Commission).

My opinion – based upon 35 years experience, is that the current ‘global warming’ science will not survive the UEA ‘climategate’ exposure.

Contrary to your own view in this posting – their data is crucial to the science – all of the other work – the tens of thousands of papers are not relevant – the issue is not whether the globe has warmed, but whether what we have seen between 1950-2009 (the global warming period for which computer simulations of the natural world diverge from observed temperatures unless carbon emissions are added), is primarily driven by carbon emissions or by natural cycles.

What the UEA material reveals is that a) there are only two teams working on the homogenised global index (average temperature – calculated by computer codes from all the station data) and that they collude to get the same results; b) that where the data did not exist to support their expectation, they made it up; c) they bent data to fir the expectation, d) they sought to remove a ‘blip’ they could not explain – i.e. change the data (that ‘blip’ is evidence for a cyclic effect focussed in the Arctic on a 70yr periodicity and is strong evidence that the current warm period is a repeat); e) they ignored correspondents who found divergences with their graphs compared to station averages – for example, Fennoscandinavia; f) they sought to subvert the peer-review process and the FOI requests from bona fide academics in order to avoid ‘criticism’ – one of the fundamental safeguards of good science; g) they have not kept appropriate records or quality checks of the ‘homogenisation’ process (so nobody can check it).

These are all extremely serious failures of scientific protocol. Under normal circumstances, UEA might be able to bluster, but it is likely the investigation will be fair, and that powerful political forces will use the results. A cover-up is not likely.

I am not entirely sure how far the US team have colluded – and whether any of the data can be trusted. I intend to find out in February when I will visit their laboratory.

I have been advising TT and my former allies in Greenpeace to find an exit strategy on climate change. That is because I think the ‘ship’ will go down. There is a danger it will take the environmental movement with it. Of course, the ‘greens’ will still be there – but they will be politically neutered by a resurgent right-wing business as usual wave with the spin that ‘we have all been scammed’.

It was not a ‘scam’ but it sure was ‘something’ – and green philosophers may one day take a hard look at what went wrong (I make a stab at it in my book and it will be hard reading for many).

I have been called all manner of names by TT people – who won’t attend my talks or read the book – ‘mad’, ‘bonkers’, ‘troll-feeder’ – except my home town, where TT members know me. How likely is it that the person who drafted the Kyoto Protocol and who endorsed my book, would have done so having read something that did not make sense?

It is time to stop name-calling and hiding behind convenient smokescreens of ‘they are all deniers’ and look at your own denial of the science – there is no consensus within the IPCC – that’s what I show in my book – they could not agree on the causes of what they saw. But that is not the spin.

Let go of the spin, if you dare, and start to look critically at the science – not align with academies and institutions and pundits who have no decent historical record of leading on any aspect of environmental protection. Otherwise, you gift ground to the ‘deniers’ that the world is in any kind of environmental danger.

Rob
1 Jan 8:58pm

Peter.

I am not a climate scientist. But my point here is, neither are you. In your talks, (I have sat through most of a DVD of one, and had detailed reports of your recent Totnes adventure), you spend at least the first 30 minutes trying to sell your credentials, and why the audience should take you seriously, why you are a respected scientist, but, I repeat, you are not a climate scientist.

Your qualifications, so far as I can tell, are in marine pollution, and you have acted as a consultant on environmental issues, but you have no qualifications in climatology, glaciology, or any of the many disciplines that make up the complex study of climate change.

You state that “I do not hold that climate science is a conspiracy”, and you try and paint yourself as a respectable yet misunderstood climate scientist who has the good of the environmental movement and Transition initiatives dear to your heart, yet you go about trying to achieve that scientific credibility in a very odd way. Do you write papers for respected journals, present those papers at scientific conferences, i.e. approach this in the way a credible scientist would? No.

You give talks at events like Ian Crane’s ‘Alternative View’ conferences, alongside people who argue all kinds of absurd conspiratorial nonsense, like Crane’s assertion that the 2012 Olympics will be used to stage a fake extraterrestrial invasion in order to usher in the New World Order, as well as other similarly silly stuff made popular by the likes of David Icke, who has also appeared at those events.

You appear in films about 2012, and use your platform to also talk about shamanism, consciousness shifts and other utterly non-scientific, belief-based stuff. If you don’t hold that climate change is a conspiracy, why allow the publicity for your recent talk in Totnes to rant that your talk will cover “the true agenda behind the Copenhagen Treaty, and the ? collusion of Transition Town Totnes??”. Do you actually hold that TTT is knowingly spreading what it knows to be falsehoods about climate change? If not, why would you ever allow a talk you gave to be hijacked in this way? If you are the credible scientist you would like us to believe you are, you really do yourself no favours at all by mixing your supposedly scientific work with pseudoscience and New Age beliefs.

The organisation promoting your recent talk in Totnes have run events stating that swine flu, 9/11 and peak oil, among a wide range of other things, are all conspiracies, and your climate talk was promoted in just the same way. What’s next, “The Evolution Scam”? Creationism is, after all, another example of where belief trumps science. From my encounters with some of those who organise such events, their core belief, to which your work is now, by association, linked, is that we make our own reality, and that belief and science are the same thing.

As I wrote in this piece, that assertion is really a terrifying position to be facing an uncertain future with. One of the most often heard pieces of feedback from your Totnes talk was that the onslaught of graphs you subjected the audience to would have been utterly incomprehensible to most, if not all of them, leaving them to decide whether or not to take your word for it. The mostly positive acceptance of your message at that event is proof, I would argue, of the degree of gullibility among those attending, the fact that that was the message they wanted to hear (which was presumably why they came), and the lamentably low levels of critical thinking and basic scientific understanding we leave school with these days.

As I put to you when we met briefly in Glastonbury last year, if your views on climate change are so robust, then where are the peer reviewed papers on the subject that you have had published in respectable journals (i.e. not Nexus magazine)? You had no answer for that question at all. As I said, I am not a climate scientist. When I go looking for the most informed, reliable, convincing science on climate change, should I;

a). look to a robust body of scientific evidence, built up over decades of peer reviewed science by scientists from a wide range of disciplines, or

b). listen to one guy from Glastonbury with no climate science credentials, no peer-reviewed papers, who also uses his talks to also talk about shamanism, 2012 and other New Age beliefs, and who thinks that exactly the opposite is taking place to what that body of evidence believes?

Peter, you can’t have it both ways. Do you promote science, in the form of peer-reviewed, credible science, or do you promote belief? Can you apply the same rigorous, impartial scientific thinking that you claim to have applied to the question of climate change as set out in your book to the other beliefs you promote, such as 2012? Of course not, and therein lies the reason why if I look for credible evidence about climate change, I don’t look in your direction.

As for your assertion that “the current ‘global warming’ science will not survive the UEA ‘climategate’ exposure”, time will tell. I think in a few months it will have been seen as the petty and irrelevant pre-Copenhagen dirty tricks campaign that it was.

Rob

Jasper Solomon
1 Jan 9:52pm

I recommend everyone in TTT read Ian Plimer’s book: ‘Heaven and Earth global warming: the missing science’. Expensive at £25 but almost certainly going to be available in paperback very soon. It’s devastating. Quite soon now a lot of politicians and others are going to have egg on their face and won’t know how to face the public. Meanwhile, TTT should concentrate on the effects of peak oil and leave global warming well alone.

Jasper

julian
1 Jan 9:55pm

Regardless of the mud slinging and desire to be seen worshipping closest to the temple of science there is a central issue here about the need for TT to be aligned with climate change.If a dismissal of climate change leads a person to dismiss the notion of TT this can not be a good thing.The general craving for community,the story of stuff,sustainability,resilience,stuff runs out etc..are much more accessible and more comfortable bed-fellows I feel.
To me the issues of which TT is a part have never revolved around science but just a sense of doing the right thing but then I’m just a naively optimistic Anarchist, who thinks we all know the difference between right and wrong, doing my best not to ‘grow up’!

Annie Leymarie
2 Jan 10:33pm

Re Ian Plimer, please see George Monbiot’s assessment and their debate (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/dec/16/ian-plimer-versus-george-monbiot).
Plimer is, among others, director of three mining companies…