Lack of Environment

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

Archive for the ‘American Physical Society’ Category

High profile scientist resigns over climate change

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This kind of headline is appearing in the news with alarming frequency these days. I say “alarming” because I think it should trigger an alarm: This is not news. This is propaganda. It is the equivalent of war-time misinformation designed to demoralise the enemy (I am trying hard not to mention those German people and/or their leader who were prominent in the 1930s). And remember, this is not conspiracy theory, this is conspiracy fact. See http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/index.html.

So, if anyone wants to take me up on this, I would gladly bet my house on the fact that for every one with links to denialist organisations that resigns; there are 10 others better-qualified without such links that do not resign.

Climate science is without doubt complicated; but it is not impossible to understand. However, most people do not have the time or inclination to try and understand it, they just rely on others to tell them what the truth is; and therein lies the problem – Who is it that most people rely on?

To be sure, it is not the scientists. It is more likely to be self-appointed non-scientists in the media (also known as journalists). I think I have previously made my position clear regarding newspaper journalists, so let’s not go there today! Let us consider instead the television and radio coverage that climate change gets: Let’s be honest, TV and radio news is not about information; it is about entertainment. Some man in a white coat telling you what he knows makes people switch-off (quite literally). No, what keeps people entertained is two people in the studio, or on a satellite link, having a blazing row. This is the problem with the news media; they do not care about the truth or even very strong probabilities; they just like arguments – even totally artificial ones.

But, at the risk of alienating all those that read this, it is a well known fact that most people think they are a better-than-average car driver. This is statistically impossible. Similarly, most people think they are actually quite good at interpreting information and making good decisions. This too is unlikely. Unfortunately, ignorance is like a sexually transmitted disease; no-one likes to admit they are afflicted by it, but it probably affects more people than you think. You may even have it and not realise. In fact, so could I…

How can we find out if we have got it or not? How can we make sense of all these conflicting truth claims? Well, if you are really serious in your quest, you must be prepared to set aside everything you have ever heard or thought about the subject before and, instead, decide what the truth is based solely on the evidence. It is a bit like being sworn-in as member of the jury in a murder trial of someone famous (but no-one in particular!). What do you think you would decide then? If you are unsure, read this.

At the end of the day, the jury is notout” on climate science; and we are way, way beyond the point of having reasonable doubt. Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying desperately hard to put off the day when their irresponsible – if not morally reprehensible – strategy of asset-stripping the entire planet is actually, finally, called into question.

In fact, it all makes me wonder whether there is not somewhere a secret timetable of pre-arranged resignations planned by significant-sounding scientists who will then have their retirement income boosted by one or other of the Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) that are behind just about every single climate change sceptic you have ever heard of (and many more that you have not). Furthermore, behind all these CTTs stands the Atlas Network (formerly known as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation). This is an organisation founded in 1981, whose purpose was once defined by John Blundell (a former Director-General of the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs) as being “to litter the world with free-market think tanks“. However, what he and all other libertarian economists seem to want to deny is that free-market economics are no longer appropriate in a resource-constrained, finite, and over-populated planet. Growth is not the answer. Growth is our ultimate problem.

Quite literally, we cannot go on like this (not for very much longer anyway). As part of this global ecosystem in which we find ourselves, we must learn to live within its means; and its means are not infinite: Its capacity to assimilate waste is dependent upon the rate at which we produce that waste; and carbon dioxide is our biggest waste product. Furthermore, no matter what anyone says, if we pump that waste into the atmosphere faster than it (or the oceans) can use it, or otherwise assimilate it, then it becomes a pollutant. End of story.

It’s time we dealt with it.

Most scientists don’t believe AGW is happening (?)

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Nope, sorry, I don’t accept the validity of this statement. There may be protestors within various Institutions; and lists of people who dispute the consensus view on Wikipedia; and lists of unscientific people that do not; but…

Wikipedia also contains a great deal of evidence to suggest that the overwhelming majority of scientists of all kinds accept the genuine consensus view that AGW is happening:
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

Indeed, the above (very long article) includes reference to the fact that more than 97% of published climate scientists take this view:
See http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

Furthermore, there is also no EVIDENCE of a massive scientific conspiracy just to keep a few researchers busy. In fact, as George Monbiot has said, “It is hard to convey just how selective you have to be to dismiss the evidence for climate change. You must climb over a mountain of evidence to pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates in your palm. You must ignore an entire canon of science, the statements of the world’s most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals“.
See http://www.monbiot.com/2005/05/10/junk-science/

And as James Hoggan has said: “Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy. There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness“.
See http://www.desmogblog.com/about-climate-cover

And finally, as I have said, “There is simply no evidence for your left-wing conspiracy to over-tax and over-regulate people; so as to make everyone poorer. Whereas, there is a great deal of evidence for a right-wing conspiracy to under-tax and under-regulate industry; so as to make a few people richer…

So, will people please stop saying things that are not true? No matter how many times you say such things; it will not stop them being false. But it will prevent concerted, effective action being taken on a global scale to address a truly global problem.

Conspiracy theory – History for losers

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So says David Aaronovitch in Voodoo Histories – and he is absolutely right. (For the benefit of new readers, David Aaronovitch is an old favourite of mine but let’s not digress; unless you want to)…

In 2007, the American Physical Society (APS) decided to get off the fence and endorse the need for action to mitigate AGW; and 260 of its 48,000 members (by conventional maths that is just over 0.5%) have subsequently complained. Unfortunately, simple maths was apparently insufficient reason for influential British sceptical politicians like the Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP to choose to ignore such protests. On the contrary, he highlighted this protest in Parliament citing it as legitimate reason to question the scientific consensus that human activity is indeed affecting global climate.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) got into a similar mess after asking Energy Consultant (founder of Crestport Services) Peter Gill (just possibly prejudiced in favour of the continuance of “business as usual”?) to compile a highly sceptical submission (e.g. claiming that “Unfortunately, for many people [AGW] has become a religion, so facts and analysis have become largely irrelevant”) to the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the UEA/CRU email scandal. The whole fiasco left the IOP looking very foolish indeed.

And yet, these losers will not (it seems) give up.

As a first step towards realising their folly, they could all do a lot worse that read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science because the continuing existence of AGW denial can only be explained by the fact that its proponents are guilty of one or more of the fundamental mistakes Goldacre highlights in his book (see my previous post yesterday). Furthermore, he is therefore right to conclude that… “You cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themself into”.

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