Archive for the ‘Merchants of Doubt’ Category
This post was therefore not published yesterday (i.e. International Workers’ Day).
Since publishing my book, I have been contacted by a number of academics in a variety of countries who are doing – or have done – research into climate change scepticism (i.e. similar to that which I did for my MA – the basis of my book). As well as being very enthusiastic about my research, they have all asked me why I did not get it published in an academic journal. However, the answer to this question is simple: I did not rate my chances as an unknown, sole author, while not doing a PhD. I am therefore now actively pursuing the possibility of doing both.
However, to get to the point, having established these contacts, it is obvious to me that, along with ‘Agenda 21’, the concept of a ‘New World Order’ conspiracy is one that I did not mention in my dissertation two years ago. Although one is merely a subset of the other, Wikipedia is a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with these terms:
– Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development. It is a product of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It is an action agenda for the UN, other multilateral organizations, and individual governments around the world that can be executed at local, national, and global levels.
– The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive… elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government… Significant occurrences in politics and finance… and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to achieve world domination through secret political gatherings and decision-making processes.
Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, is fond of mentioning Agenda 21 in his speeches (e.g. here and here), but I have still not come across anyone (maybe I have just not looked hard enough) who frequently refers explicitly to the New World Order (NWO). Having said that, NWO conspiracy theory is the basis of James Delingpole’s stupid Watermelons books.
The trouble is, of course, that, whereas the organised nature of the campaign to discredit climate science and scientists is a very well-documented conspiracy fact, the idea that there is a global conspiracy to bring about an NWO is a delusion. Indeed, it may even be a form of vestigial anti-Semitism. I say this because Hitler believed the Jews were intent on establishing an NWO. However, as well as being entirely discredited long before the start of World War Two (WW2), this idea was – and is – entirely intellectually incoherent. In the decades preceding WW2, Jews were simultaneously accused of plotting to bring about an NWO and derided for being obsessed with making money. Despite this, even today, anti-Semitic organisations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood indoctrinate their followers into believing that there is an NWO conspiracy – they just call it ‘Zionism’. But that is another story.
Certainly, from the beginning of the Cold War onwards, belief in an NWO and/or characterisation of the USSR as the “evil empire” or “Red Menace”, acted as a recruiting sergeant for libertarians and free-market economists everywhere. Furthermore, as Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have clearly documented, in their book Merchants of Doubt, it was a bunch of neo-conservative physicists, whose worldview was forged in the Cold War era, who laid the foundations of the campaign to dispute climate science for ideological reasons. In the twilight years of the USSR (before the Berlin Wall came down), it was they who convinced President George Bush to resist much of what the first Rio Earth Summit sought to do in 1992… The USA had decided that the new enemy was “environmentalism”. People may think this is simplistic but the German Minister for the Environment at the time, Klaus Topfer, is on record as having said this is how he perceived the USA’s position at the time (See Timothy Luke’s ‘A Rough Road out of Rio’ (2000) – PDF available here).
Sadly, the idea that environmentalism is the enemy of progress is complete bullshit.
I’m sorry to be so blunt but, there really is no better word for it. However, this is sad for a variety of reasons:
– So many have been – and still are – convinced that concern for the environment is a form of Communism (or Fascism).
– This powerful delusion has been responsible for the failure of international efforts to prevent the environmental catastrophe that is now unfolding.
– The failure of climate scientists to explain their message in such as way as to shatter this delusion may result in things getting much worse than they might have done.
– The World’s politicians are yet to wake up to (or admit) the reality that simply curtailing the increase in global CO2 emissions will never solve the problem.
What we needed was ecological modernisation (i.e. modifications to the way we do things so as to make them more ecologically-friendly and environmentally-sustainable). Instead, what we have got is economic stagnation (because perpetual growth in consumption and accelerating resource depletion was always going to run into trouble eventually).
The questions that therefore remain are whether climate change sceptics are going to continue to try to perpetuate:
– The myth that Communists realised they could not win power in Western democracies so therefore invented the Green Party instead.
– The myth that there is a left-wing conspiracy to over-tax and over-regulate people (so as to make everyone poorer).
– The myth that we need not worry about the finite nature of the Earth’s mineral resources or its ability to deal with our pollution simply because of human ingenuity (Prometheanism) or Nature’s bounty (Cornucopianism).
I really do think it is time to admit that the game is up, the NWO does not exist:
– The only environmental conspiracy is that which seeks to deny the truth that human activity is irreversibly altering the Earth’s climate.
– The only political conspiracy is that which seeks to under-tax and under-regulate industry (so as to make a few people richer).
– The amount of energy received from the Sun is effectively constant and therefore, by powering industrialised civilisation using the fossilised energy received by the Earth over millions of years, the Carbon Era has been neither physically nor environmentally sustainable.
So, then, the NWO conspiracy does not exist. However, that is not the end of the story.
Sadly, as I pointed out three months ago now, the CO2 fairy does not exist either: Given the history of exponentially growing demand for fossil fuels (and therefore CO2 emissions), it will be a very long time until carbon capture and storage (CCS) could possibly begin to solve our problem. Indeed, the technology is still at the experimental stage and, even once the best method of CCS is identified, it will then have to be made operational on a global basis such that sequestration exceeds emissions. Only then would the atmospheric concentration of CO2 begin to fall. This will therefore never happen unless global emissions are massively reduced.
The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; and we have a limited carbon budget that we simply cannot exceed and expect to retain a habitable planet. Therefore, wherever their use is easily substitutable, we need to phase out the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. And, yes, that is the end of story.
In the Preface to my book, The Denial of Science: Analysing climate change scepticism in the UK, I make clear that it was reading Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, that prompted me to do the research that my book summarises.
Therefore, I am delighted here to reproduce the review of my book by Vice-President of the Geological Society, Dr Colin Summerhayes, now published on Amazon.co.uk, in which this comparison is made. Although Dr Summerhayes has asked me to stress that his review his solely a statement of his personal opinions, he agreed that it would be appropriate for me to highlight the expertise that perhaps make his opinions significant: Dr Summerhayes is a marine geologist and oceanographer with a particular interest in the Antarctic. As such, since 2010, he has been an Emeritus Associate of the of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) – a part of Cambridge University. Prior to that, Dr Summerhayes was Executive Director of the International Council for Science’s Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and, as such, was also one of the editors of the Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment report published by SCAR in 2002. For the record, Dr Summerhayes was also, to my knowledge, the only other non-sceptical person in the audience when Professor Richard Lindzen gave his now infamous talk in a Committee Room of the Palace of Westminster in February 2012 (which I refer to as Lindzengate).
However, without further ado, here is the review posted on Amazon by Dr Summerhayes:
In 2010, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway did a service to science when they documented the manufacture of doubt about human-caused global warming by many of the same people who brought us ‘safe’ cigarettes. Most of their book focussed on doubt generated in the USA. The attack on the science of global warming remains shrill, and it comes from within the UK as well. Martin Lack has provided much the same service as Oreskes and Conway by documenting the UK’s sources of doubt about this socially important topic. Lack starts out by addressing the philosophical roots of scepticism, its misappropriation for ideological reasons and the psychological causes of denial. He lists the main UK organizations, scientists, economists, journalists, politicians and others promulgating ‘denial’ of the science of human-induced climate change. Rather than labelling these ‘agents’ ‘deniers’, Lack prefers to label them ‘sceptic’ or ‘contrarian’, citing Robert Henson’s definition of the climate change contrarian position (in the 2008 second edition of “The Rough Guide to Climate Change”) as: “The atmosphere may not be warming; but if it is, this is probably due to natural variation; but if it isn’t, the amount of warming is probably not significant; but if it is, the benefits should outweigh the disadvantages; but if they don’t, technology should be able to solve problems as they arise; but if it can’t, we shouldn’t wreck the economy to fix the problem”. Scientific scepticism is healthy and widespread within the climate science community, the group of people who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to human-caused climate change. Their collective view could be called ‘scientific consensus, or scientific authority, or conventional scientific wisdom’. It is this ‘mainstream’ view that is attacked by the contrarians. Their common argument is that this or that particular point is wrong, hence the whole edifice is wrong. Such an approach displays a fatal misunderstanding of what Karl Popper meant by falsification. Read Lack and learn.
My book is now available in electronic form – search any online bookstore website for the ISBN 9781481783989 – and if it does not show up on Amazon.com please pester them until it does.
Presumably Lord Monckton (et al) will now sue the film-makers for defamation of character?
Or, maybe, just maybe, this new 90 minute documentary film could be the final push that US Congress needs to investigate the corporate misinformation machine that – like Frankenstein – just refuses to die. However, we killed it once; so we can kill it again. As Brenden DeMelle (of the De-Smog Blog website) has said in an email to all site subscribers:
Just imagine a Congressional investigation, like the one Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) headed up against the tobacco companies and their efforts to downplay the scientific findings that cigarette smoke causes cancer. Imagine, David and Charles Koch and Exxon’s Rex Tillerson, alongside Marc Morano, Fred Singer and all the others, in a Congressional hearing… It could happen. Both Rep. Waxman and Senator Boxer have the power, right now, to hold such a hearing.
In fact, De Smog Blog has an excellent summary of the movie and some great quotes from (or links to) reviews of it: http://desmogblog.com/2013/03/08/greedy-lying-bastards-new-film-pulls-no-punches
Here are a couple more I have found:
[The Director, Craig Rosebraugh] scores points by contrasting his film’s emotional title with the temperate rationality of his talking-head scientists. But the film’s effectiveness largely stems from the flat-out lameness of the opposition arguments, the lack of scientific credentials of those making them, and the self-interest of their corporate bosses. (Ronnie Scheib in Vanity magazine)
Although lacking the cinematic finesse and frequent doses of humor that such filmmakers as Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock bring to their similarly polemical projects, Rosebraugh advances his arguments with undeniable persuasiveness. The sheer volume of damning information, imparted in clear and comprehensive fashion, gives the film a power that might indeed succeed in changing some people’s minds. (Frank Scheck in The Hollywood Recorder newspaper)
This film deserves to do well. Indeed, it is in all our interests that this film should do well because, as I point out in the Preface to my new book, The Denial of Science:
…because of the economic and political realities of the world in which we live, politicians will not take any action that will be unpopular with business interests and/or the wider electorate. If this is the case, Peter Jacques (2009) would appear to be right to conclude that anti-environmentalism (i.e. environmental scepticism) needs to be exposed as being “in violation of the public interest”.
This means that the US Congress will only overcome the power of vested corporate interests (by which it is encircled and controlled) if there is sufficient public demand for this misinformation campaign – surely the greatest and gravest false flag operation in human history – to be brought to an end. We can but hope…
However, if there is anyone reading this who somehow remains unconvinced about who it is that has been lying to us for so long, please read this excellent article by international environmental journalist Stephen Leahy: http://stephenleahy.net/2013/03/07/climate-change-b-s-detector-sorting-fact-from-fiction/
Today is the first anniversary of my trip to London to hear a certain Professor Richard S. Lindzen give a talk to an invited audience of climate change “sceptics” in a Committee Room inside the Palace of Westminster.
Having sat through a highly misleading presentation I was one of those who put up my hand to ask a question. However, having been invited to speak by the chair of the meeting, I attempted to address some of the misrepresentation of fact that I had just witnessed. I was then interrupted by Professor Lindzen and, having self-identified myself as a non-believer, was not allowed to ask a question.
This sequence of events has been the subject of much pedantic debate, on this blog and elsewhere, so the video (of the Q & A session following Lindzen’s talk) is embedded to provide proof of my version of events. To just see me not ask a question view from about 5:26 onwards.
Once the Question and Answer session was completed, I approached Professor Lindzen who, obviously confident he could rebut anything I said, kindly invited me to email my questions to him. This I did and, the rest, as they say, is history.
Although I would advise against following links without first reading to the end of this post, for those of you that are unfamiliar with this particular history, it may be summarised as follows:
1. I sent Professor Lindzen 3 emails and never received any substantive answers to my questions. All I ever got was a perfunctory response in which Lindzen (1) feigned indignation at my suggestion that he had once helped the tobacco industry defend itself against the claim that smoking causes lung cancer; and (2) warned me not to publish my email. I ignored him.
2. In failing to answer any of my original questions, Lindzen has, in particular, failed to explain why he uses the same tactics he claims others use to mislead people (i.e. graphs whose axes have been stretched or compressed in order to make two correlating data sets appear not to correlate – as appended below).
3. Having failed to get Lindzen to answer my original questions, I submitted a formal complaint to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) because his behaviour was likely to bring climate scientists and/or MIT into disrepute. Without addressing the above very specific piece of hypocrisy from Lindzen, MIT refused to take any action.
4. I therefore complained to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), who astonishingly, admitted they had no code of conduct against which they could judge and/or censure Lindzen for what he had done.
5. Consequently, Professor Lindzen has continued to travel around the World giving talks and writing letters to Newspapers – repeating the same message: A message that reveals that he is either being wilfully deceptive of is so blinded by ideology that he cannot see how wrong he almost certainly is about climate sensitivity.
If any or all of this comes as a surprise to any readers, I would recommend that, before you dive into the links above, you start by reading this brief summary of exactly what it was I was unhappy about. You can then follow links from there (or here) depending on your level of curiosity.
Other than that, from the above-referenced brief summary, I have here extracted the image of the graph from Lindzen’s presentation (whose absence from the PDF version on the Internet has never been satisfactorily explained), with my caption explaining why it destroys any veil of objectivity that Lindzen might otherwise be able to hide behind.
There is, however, one final thing to note about this graph; something that has only become clear to me in the last few months: It has clearly been generated using the Wood for Trees website, which was set up by a non-climate scientist who admits that his website has repeatedly been used by climate sceptics to manipulate data to support invalid conclusions. So much so, in fact, that the home page now includes a warning against people doing this. Therefore:
What does it say about Lindzen that he would use a graph like this – obtained from such a website – in his presentation?
There is an awful lot of rubbish spoken about climate change scepticism.
I have had a very busy week this week: preparing and delivering a Powerpoint presentation to students doing one of the options I did on my MA two years ago; preparing for and going to a job interview; and starting to proof-read the first draft sent back to me by the publisher of my forthcoming book, The Denial of Science: Analysing climate change scepticism in the UK (conceptual design for the book cover is shown here).
In between all this, I have somehow managed to read and respond to posts on a number of blogs by people who seem to want to insist that there is still some significant room for doubt about whether or not human activity is the primary cause of the climate disruption we are now witnessing.
Over on Learning from Dogs this week, Paul Handover has published an interesting series of posts culminating in an open letter to his “sceptical” friend Dan Gomez. My response to this was quite firm (and perhaps a little more polite than those I submitted to the previous posts). However, even this seems to pass some people by; leaving them still claiming that climate science is too abstract for most people to have a settled opinion regarding our current predicament.
Perhaps then, the problem is that they are focussing on the science – and feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of it all – when they should be focussing on the track-record that big business has for attempting to discredit science and scientists that threaten the viability and morality of the marketing of their products.
For any readers who are not familiar with any of the above, you may benefit from reading the comments submitted in response to all of the posts in Paul Handover’s mini-series (which may be accessed via the link above).
However, I am going to simply reproduce here my most recent comment on the unknowispeaksense blog:
That is an illuminating story, Michael. However, with regret, I am bound to point out, as I have done elsewhere, that there is nothing very“abstract” about the ‘The Organisation of Denial’ (Jacques et al., 2008).
On the contrary, climate change denial is a morally bankrupt, selfish, self-serving and ultimately self-defeating campaign being waged by the fossil fuel industry to preserve the profitability of its business interests; and delay inevitable changes in energy policy that need to be made ASAP by both individuals and governments.
For those who have not been subscribers to this blog for very long (and cannot wait for my book to be published), you may want to catch-up on the issues alluded to here by reading some or all of the posts below; and pursuing any links (within them) that spark your curiosity:
Update: 12 March 2013:
My book has now been published.
A kindle version will be available soon.
See the book’s Facebook page for more info..
For this spoof of the Anglican version of the Nicene Creed I apologise to all those who lack a sense of humour:
We believe in some gods,
like Professor Ian Plimer,
writer of ‘Heaven and Earth’,
of all that is mean and not green.
We believe in some lords; John Christy
and in Richard Lindzen.
Endlessly they are proven wrong and yet still,
from their shite we recite,
true lies from sad guys,
opinions, not facts,
of one thing we are certain,
through them all truths were made.
For us and for our salvation
they came down from science:
by the power of our human folly,
they became embedded in ideology,
and made their plan.
For our sake they were crucified by climate scientists;
they suffered ‘death’ and were ‘buried’.
On the third day they rose again
in accordance with the sceptics;
they returned to their jobs,
and are seated in academic tenure.
They will come again in future to fudge the reason and the facts,
and their soapbox will have no end.
We believe in the wholly spurious, our god, the slither of doubt,
which precedes our judgement of evidence.
With the money and the vice it is worshiped and glorified.
It is supported through the profits…
We believe in one wholly cynical and irrational church.
We acknowledge one purpose; for the pursuance of greed.
We look for the perpetuation of growth,
and the life of the World to shun.
[Please be seated]
Copyright © Martin Lack 2013
I have been somewhat pre-occupied with the task of ending my unemployment recently. However, I found myself pondering the above subject on my drive home from a couple of job interviews in London yesterday.
I know I have blogged about the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before (and the Kyoto Protocol to which it led in 1997); and – in particular – how we (all human beings on this planet) are now so clearly in breach of Article 2 of the UNFCCC:
The ultimate objective of this Convention… is to achieve… the… stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
However, driving from London to my home in the NW of England yesterday on part of the UK’s motorway network, I was astonished to see almost every single river valley covered by floodwater. Some parts of the UK have been very wet this year (bringing to an end a record-breaking 18-month drought). However, on the 180-mile journey home yesterday, I was really impressed by the fact that – as the BBC have reported - this flooding is now affecting such a large part of the country.
Meteorologists and climate scientists have a phrase for what we are witnessing – it’s Global Weirding. I believe James Hansen spoke for the majority of reputable climate scientists when, in August this year, he provided irrefutable historical statistical evidence for a reality that atmospheric physics has made inevitable:
I think all decent human beings owe it to their children and grandchildren to face up to the facts of history; and accept the nature of reality:
So-called “climate sceptics” (i.e. those ideologically prejudiced against admitting human activity is responsible for any and all environmental degradation) have dismissed the warnings of climate scientists over several decades as attempts to justify and perpetuate research funding. In a vain attempt to prevent having to pay for the environmental cost of its pollution, the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry before it, has denied that it is the cause of the problem for decades… They have sought to perpetuate doubt and uncertainty; and have even accused climate scientists of crying “wolf”… However, the truth of the matter is that much more money has been spent denying science than has been spent on research and, just as it did in the morality tale, the wolf has now turned up.
What I really object to is that my children and grandchildren are going to be the main ones that have to pay the price for the shortsightedness of fossil fuel executives who have succeeded in ensuring the UNFCCC has achieved absolutely nothing.
Over the last 20 years of UNFCCC meetings, there has been a great deal of talk and very little action. Despite Hurricane Sandy and President Obama’s fine words on the night of his re-election this month, I suspect COP18 in Doha (starting next week) will be no different: Sadly, I think real action will only start to be taken when events like Hurricane Sandy become an annual occurrence.
Therefore, although I do not wish such things on anyone, I suspect I may look forward to concerted action becoming a reality before the end of this decade. By then, as any decent insurance company will admit to you, it is now very likely that we will all be paying the price of the failure of the UNFCCC process.
So says Chris Rapley, a professor of climate science in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, in Nature magazine on 30 August 2012 (vol 488, pp 583-585 [behind paywall]).
The title of his 3-page article (a commentary on the current state of climate science), is explained in its final paragraph:
The warning signals from the planet are clear. Now is the moment for our community to adopt the rallying cry of sea kayakers confronted with conditions too challenging to handle alone: “Time to raft up!”
However, Rapley begins his article by recounting a discussion with prominent British right-wing politician whose parting shot was a triumphalist “Among key political power-brokers your case has been lost!” This sounds like the sort of thing Lord Monckton would say, but is it true?
It may well be true, as indeed Rapley laments in his article, that a surprisingly-large proportion of the UK population remain unsure as to whether they can trust what climate scientists say. It may well be true that the UK’s Coalition government has not delivered the “greenest government ever” it promised (far from it – it has pulled the rug from under the feet of many of those who would like to invest in renewable energy). However,
in its public pronouncements at least, it remains fully committed to the urgent need to minimise anthropogenic climate disruption. Therefore, the only way in which this triumphalist remark can be seen as having any validity is that our governments have failed to honour a commitment made at the 2009 G20 Summit in Pittsburgh (PA):
1. To end their long-running sponsorship of the fossil fuel industry; and
2. To commit to a timetable for phasing-out fossil fuel-based power generation.
However, whatever victory this anonymous right-wing politician thinks has been won, he or she is getting all triumphalist over something about which no-one should be proud – the ability of humans to hide from unpleasant truths. This common human flaw was the central point of an article in the by Kurt Eichenwald in the New York Times last week on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity: The argument being that 9/11 was not prevented because the neo-Conservative government chose to ignore warnings about Al Qaeda because they were convinced Saddam Hussein was a much greater threat. In other words, this was Cognitive Dissonance on an unprecedented scale – and it resulted in the deaths of nearly 3000 innocent people. Peter Sinclair posted an excellent summary on his Climate Denial Crock of the Week website, entitled ’9/11, Climate Change, and Why Facts Matter’. I have written much on this blog about cognitive dissonance and Leon Festinger (see category index) but let’s move on…
In fact, let’s get back to Chris Ripley’s article in Nature magazine. Rapley highlights the apparent disconnection between the pronouncements of governments and mainstream climate scientists. This was brought into sharp focus recently when the UK Government’s own chief scientist, Robert Watson, admitted that the above failings at an international level mean that we probably cannot now limit warming to 2 Celsius (a supposed UNFCCC/IPCC target). Indeed, since at least 2009, mainstream climate scientists have been saying that we are heading for at least 4 Celsius rise in average global temperatures. Rapley therefore suggests, “the voices of dismissal are evidently trumping the messages of science”.
However, are the triumphalist voices those dismissing the science? I doubt it, actually. I think the people winning the argument are those who say we can have it both ways (i.e. that we can keep on burning fossil fuels with impunity because carbon capture and storage [CCS] technology will solve all our problems).
Unfortunately, this is a lie the coal industry has been peddling for decades. Even more unfortunately, as I demonstrated last week, this is a piece of propaganda that we must now rely upon being turned into a reality.
So, is it not reasonable to ask why our governments do not acknowledge that we are currently on track to a +4 Celsius or +6 Celsius planet? The answer is, of course, that, were they to do so:
This would necessitate the action none of them is willing to take (see points 1 and 2 above).
I will conclude this review of Chris Rapley’s article tomorrow.
On Monday, under the title ‘More fracking madness’, I published a recent exchange of emails I sent to and received from Professor Robert Mair (who chaired the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering committee that recently investigated the safety of fracking). On Wednesday, under the title ‘Making sense of madness’, I published an exchange of emails I had with Schalk Cloete (oneinbillion blog) on the sustainability issues surrounding carbon capture and storage (CCS).
It was therefore a happy coincidence that I should happen to read in this month’s Geoscientist magazine a book review by the former President of the Geological Society, Dr Bryan Lovell (son of the World-famous astrophysicist Sir Bernard Lovell who died recently). This prompted me to write to the Editor of the magazine and, the rest, as is often said, is now history (or at least it has been published on the Society’s website). Therefore, today, in reproducing this exchange (between me and Dr Lovell), the story comes full circle as I finally come to terms with the essential inevitability of CCS as our most likely means of avoiding climate catastrophe… Hence the title ‘Embracing the madness’…
My email to the Editor:
Sir, I have just read, with great interest, Bryan Lovell’s review of a new book Clean Energy, Climate and Carbon by Peter Cook, in Geoscientist. Having double-checked, it would seem that the esteemed former President of the Society is very much a climate change realist. Nevertheless, Dr Lovell would appear to agree with Cook that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) must now be an essential part of human strategy for avoiding excessive climate change. This would appear to make my hope that CCS not be relied upon as an excuse for perpetuating “business as usual” look hopelessly optimistic.
However, in view of the email I sent to Professor Mair and his reply (i.e. both published on my blog yesterday), I would be extremely interested to know if and/or how Dr Lovell thinks we can avoid tracking inevitably towards at least 4 Celsius increase in global average temperatures if we make no attempt to phase-out fossil fuel use and or leave some of them in the ground?
Dr Bryan Lovell responded very promptly, as follows:
Sir, Martin Lack reassuringly describes me as a climate change realist. He and I agree that, realistically, it is unwise to continue to burn fossil fuels and to dump the carbon directly into the atmosphere once we’ve had the use of it. We can also agree that, realistically, coal and gas will continue to be burnt in large quantities for many years to come, to provide the electricity so eagerly consumed around the world. The carbon that is produced by burning that coal and gas cannot with impunity be dumped into the atmosphere. So we need to capture and store that carbon, by developing a 21st Century CCS industry on a scale comparable to that of the 20th Century oil industry.
This prospective CCS industry is nothing like ‘business as usual’. Its development will require the adoption of an attitude that the fossil-fuel industry is no more simply the problem then we, the consumers of its products, are simply the problem. Carbon is the problem. Managing the transition we now have to make to a low-carbon economy is going to be even trickier without CCS. CCS is going to be even trickier without the skills of the fossil-fuel industry: new business and new thinking.
Although it has not been published, in addition to thanking Dr Lovell for responding so promptly, I felt it was necessary to clarify my original meaning (as I suspect he misunderstood):
I should apologise for the way in which I use the phrases “status quo” and “business as usual”. I say this because I did not mean to infer that I think CCS will be anything less than the revolution you describe: My concern is that CCS has been used by the fossil fuel lobby to perpetuate the moral and/or social acceptability of fossil fuel use; and to put off the day when fossil fuel subsidies (ten times those given to renewable energy) are eliminated.
This then remains our greatest challenge: To establish a level playing field. However, here we are in severe danger of going around in circles because, unfortunately, this is going to be very hard This is because (can you guess?)…