Skip to main content

Going Cold on Warming

Ian Katz, in a thoughtful Guardian article (Case for climate-change science) suggests today that climate activists will need to start again and make the case for climate change from from scratch, thanks to recent scandals involving the IPCC and East Anglia University, the unusually cold winter and the failure of Copenhagen talks. I'm sure he's right, but I wish him lots of luck in the attempt, as I don't believe a significant political movement will be mobilised around climate change any time soon.

That isn't because I deny the reality of the Greenhouse Effect - on the contrary I've been a "believer" in it (that's to say one who's aware of and accepts the scientific evidence) for 20 years or more. The problem is that climatic systems are so complex that no current (or foreseeable) climate models are good enough to produce the kind of cast-iron predictions needed in politics to convince people. The adoption of the term "global warming" was the environmentalists first and probably fatal error, linking the effect in the public's mind with things getting warmer soon, and where they live, a sore hostage to fortune. Also
the industrial revolution isn't yet completed globally, and the fact that China and India won't abandon it on the strength of current evidence is hardly surprising.

What we can say for sure about the
Greenhouse Effect is that we have unquestionably raised levels of atmospheric  carbon dioxide to levels not seen for many thousands of years, and have thereby caused more solar energy to be retained in the atmosphere. That makes all climatic processes operate faster, more extremely and more unpredictably, but doesn't leave us with any single politically-exploitable prediction. Drought and flood patterns will shift with dramatic social effects, perhaps triggering mass migrations and wars, but we can't say where and when.

After another 50 years or so of increasing global turmoil a generation will arise who do accept the connection and set about dismantling the growth-based industrial economy, if there's anything left to dismantle among the chaos. We're clearly not that generation, though perhaps my grandchildren are.
There's irony in this situation (as always), namely that those who own the most desirable bits of the world, hence with the most to lose, are the strongest climate-change deniers. Their dismay once the penny drops should be a sight to see.

originally posted 9 Feb 2010 11:25 by Dick Pountain

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Blimey, it could be Brexit!

It's a year since I wrote a new entry on this blog, and that isn't because I have nothing to say, merely that the world is getting crazier faster than I can focus on it. Now though, faced with an imminent EU referendum, it would be remiss not to say something. Boris, Gove and the other Brexiteers have the scent of victory in their nostrils, a scent wafting from a silent majority who don't share their real thoughts with pollsters. This scent is part xenophobia – the Brexiteers are convincing many people that leaving the EU would reduce immigration, which it won't – but also partly from their simmering rage against liberal media and cultural elites who have for several decades been fiddling while they were robbed of security, dignity, jobs. Unfortunately the Remain campaign relies on precisely those elites for advocates, which simply turns up the heat under the simmering pot.

So what of a "Left Case For Brexit"? There isn't one. Even if you sneakily share s…

What I've learned this week.

That insecure, narcissistic, retarded-adolescents who can barely distinguish between reality and computer games, are inventing and controlling technologies on which the future of civilisation may depend (Andrew O'Hagan's "The Satoshi Affair" in the LRB, 30th June). That a majority of working people are being written out of this future, robbed of dignity, security and jobs, and they're so furious that they'll lash out right and left at institutions they blame - like Parliament, the EU, and perhaps in November the USA. And that we lack any politicians who have clue what's going on, the nous or the backbone to handle it. It will take some time to digest these lessons.

To be absolutely honest, I did know all this already but, hell, I don't get too many opportunities to exercise my rhetoric nowadays...

A New Age of Sabotage

I haven't posted much recently because every time I think of something to say, the extraordinary pace of events makes it sound lame by the next morning: New York under water, Obama re-elected, News International in the dock, rockets falling on Tel Aviv, and that's even before we reach the Mayan apocalypse on Dec 21. However I've finally plucked up courage to wade into the torrent of the miraculous-horrific thanks to a fortunate discovery on the web. In this previous post I confessed an increasing interest in the radical Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen, but that interest was quite narrowly based on reading only three of his works, namely The Theory of the Leisure Class, The Theory of Business Enterprise and his important essay The Socialist Economics of Karl Marx and His Followers. This wasn't just due to laziness but to the difficulty of obtaining many of Veblen's books, which have been out of print for a long time.

But I re-read Veblen's Wikiped…