Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

The Tough Guide to Climate Denial

with 15 comments

N.B. I have not actually written this book!

I have previously referred to Robert Henson’s Rough Guide to Climate Change, in which is included his summary of the positions adopted by those that claim to be “sceptical”. In the past, I have merely paraphrased what he said but, in view of the recent pronouncement of Dr Richard A Muller’s Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study (see my update to yesterday’s post), I will now simplify it to what I would like to call the 6 Pillars of Climate Denial:
1. Global warming is not happening.
2. Global warming is not man-made.
3. Global warming is not significant.
4. Global warming is not necessarily bad.
5. Global warming is not a problem.
6. Global warming is not worth fixing.
(See Henson, 2007, p.257).

If these are the 6 Pillars of Climate Denial, then Muller has just knocked over the first one. However, his road back to reality is a long one; and he has much catching-up to do. For example: In 1988 James Hansen attributed climate change to human activity; by 1998 the UN had rejected all of the above as being invalid; and by 2008 even the Communist Party of China had conceded that climate change arises out of development, and should thus be solved along with development” (Climate Change White Paper, p.13).

However, let us examine these pillars more closely (for the purposes perhaps of potential “controlled demolition“)…
— Pillars 1 to 3 are straightforward denial (whose days are clearly numbered).
— Pillar 4 is what I have referred to as Cornucopian (the belief that nature will find a way to mitigate the problem), which includes claiming that CO2 is not a pollutant and that the benefits will outweigh the disadvantages. There is a precedent for this kind of denial, in that acid rain was originally perceived as a potentially-beneficial way of fertilising the soil with nitrates, phosphates and sulphates.
— Pillar 5 is what I have referred to as Promethean (the belief that humans will find a way to mitigate the problem), which includes carbon capture and storage, geoengineering the atmosphere, and terraforming the planet Mars so that we can go and live there instead. These are dealing with the symptoms but not tackling the cause of the problem; and they are an abdication of our moral responsibility to all the other species with whom we share the Earth.
— Pillar 6 is what I have referred to as Economic Rationalism; and may well be the hardest Pillar to knock down, although Sir Nicholas Stern made a very good effort at doing so in 2006. He was of course, somewhat predictably, vehemently attacked by fellow economists such as William Nordhaus for doing so. However, as he himself has since said, normal marginal cost-benefit analysis rules do not apply (Stern 2009, p.13): Deciding whether or not to tackle climate change is not like deciding whether to build a bypass or just put up with traffic congestion.

On the contrary, deciding whether or not to tackle climate change is like deciding whether or not you want the Earth to be capable of supporting life as it is, in anything like current or expected numbers, human and non-human alike. As James Delingpole and his foolish kind might say, “Preservation of a habitable planet – what’s not to like?

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15 Responses

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  1. [...] but, yet again, I am getting ahead of myself, because many people say we have not yet knocked-down pillars 2, 3, and 4 of denial (to the satisfaction of those afflicted by it). However, to be sure, we have knocked them down; we [...]

  2. [...] be an effective mitigation strategy, the burried CO2 must never escape (see my earlier posts ‘The tough guide to climate denial‘ and ‘Five questions for Chris [...]

  3. [...] http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-Denial-book.htmlThis is one case where the “uk” really matters because, whereas the International Energy Agency clearly accepts the reality of ongoing anthropogenic climate change, the Institute of Economic Affairs appears to still be stuck in a state of non-scientific, ideologically-induced, selective blindness (otherwise known as the intellectually bankrupt state of climate change denial). [...]

  4. [...] rebuttals) can be found on sites like Skeptical Science; and/or summarised in Robert Henson’s Rough Guide to Climate Change. Nevertheless, as ever, the Ehrlich’s comments are very incisive; and remain just as relevant [...]

  5. [...] climate change arises out of development and therefore must be solved along with development see here for link). However, although China has set itself challenging targets for reducing the carbon [...]

  6. [...] For those new to this blog and/or unfamiliar with this sorry tale, this all goes back to my reading of Robert Henson’s excellent book Rough Guide to Climate Change; and my re-formulation of his summation of the arguments climate change sceptics make into what I called ‘The Six Pillars of Climate Change Denial’. Thus it was that Anthony Watts got very upset by the way in which I presented these on my blog alongside a spoof cover of a book I have not actually written – Tough Guide to Climate Denial. [...]

  7. [...] is such complete nonsense – encompassing all six pillars of climate change denial – that I am not going to repeat any more of it here, but feel free to read the original; or [...]

  8. [...] So what is all the fuss about?  Well for those who do not want to accept that recent warming (and/or climate disruption) is unprecedented or primarily caused by human activity, it will always make sense to start by denying that it is happening and/or that we are causing it to happen (i.e. the first two of the six pillars of climate change denial [with my thanks to Robert Henson]). [...]

  9. [...] was a subject to which I would return this week.  This is primarily because the last two of the six pillars of climate change denial are proving the hardest to demolish.  For ease of reference, these six pillars are as follows [...]

  10. [...] in the Church Times, Bishop Peter neatly affirmed his support for all six pillars of climate change denial, namely that: 1. Global warming is not happening. 2. Global warming is not man-made. 3… [...]

  11. [...] scepticism, it was necessary to take Dryzek’s basic idea and combine it with what I have called the ‘Six Pillars of Climate Change Denial’ that I extracted from Robert Henson’s The Rough Guide to Climate [...]

  12. [...] your style Robert. Is your surname “Henson” by any chance? If it is, I apologise for creating a spoof cover of your 2007 book A Rough Guide to Climate Change; and re-formulating some of its content to derive [...]

    Breaking Bread, Oops, Ice and I | elcidharth

    27 March 2013 at 06:08

  13. […] here for more on spoof book […]

  14. Looks like quite a good read- get on and write it.

    julesbollocks

    20 August 2013 at 12:31

    • Thanks Jules, but I think I did that! I just had to change the cover design and book title in order to avoid Copyright infringement. ;-)

      Martin Lack

      20 August 2013 at 12:43


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