Lack of Environment

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

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It’s ‘Game Over’ for Fossil Fuels

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bookcoverleggettI’d really like to think oil companies will soon admit the game is up: The extraction of fossil fuels is going to become increasingly financially uneconomic and socially unacceptable.

After all, it is almost 4 months since Mark Carney said as much at the Bank of England:

It is also 20 months since Lloyds of London urged financial investors to consider the risks of continuing to back fossil fuels:

No wonder academics that have watched 50% of the Great Barrier Reef disappear in the last 30 years – and say it will all be gone in another 20 years – are almost reduced to tears:
‘Does Australia Care About Saving The Great Barrier Reef?’ (Andrew McMillen, in GQ Australia, 18 January 2016)

The Guardian may be five years late with it’s warning that humanity has now delayed the onset of the next Ice Age by 100 thousand years – a prospect first highlighted by the Geological Society of London in 2010 – but this is no excuse for the oil industry to continue to deny the nature of reality.

The game is up. Now is the time to invest in non-fossil alternatives that could even make Forumla1 carbon neutral. Alternatives like the mixed alcohol fuels being produced by Bioroot Energy: Fuels that can be created from any waste product containing carbon.

This is the hydrocarbon equivalent of the nuclear industry’s Fast Breeder Reactor, which could burn all the world’s nuclear waste and the 99% of the Earth’s uranium that a conventional reactor cannot burn and, when we’re through with all of that, we could extract uranium from seawater…

Please welcome Cumbria to the world of global weirding

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Whilst I have the greatest of sympathy for all those affected by flooding in Cumbria, they should not seek to blame the government or the Environment Agency.

If anybody is to blame it is the fossil fuel industry, which has spent the last 50 years trying to discredit climate science and climate scientists, in a short-sighted and mean-spirited attempt to prevent effective regulation of the pollution caused by burning their products.

A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture more of the time.

14 of the last 15 years have been the warmest on record. This rainfall in Cumbria is the highest on record for any 24 hour period in over 300 years.

How many more statistical records must we see broken before the denial of the validity of climate science becomes as socially unacceptable as farting in an elevator?

Written by Martin Lack

7 December 2015 at 21:30

An open letter to James Delingpole (2)

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Dear James,

Please tell me you are still not mad with me for something I did 5 years ago? If not ‘Pilegate’, I hope you are not still annoyed by the ‘Background’ page of my blog. Can you not see that was my tribute to your style of writing?

Given that I meant every single word of the above, how much longer do you think it will be until even ‘policy scepticsm’ is untenable?

Given that ‘watermelons’ seem to be emerging everywhere – in the Pentagon, OECD, IMF (etc) – even Viscount Monckton’s Agenda 21 conspiracy makes more sense than your Watermelon fallacy.

As almost any athiest will tell you, Galileo triumphed over the ideologically-motivated rejection of science by sheer weight of scientific evidence. So, how much longer will it be until you accept that your ‘scepticism’ regarding climate science is the no better than that of fundamentalist Christians regarding the age of the Earth?

With very best wishes for Christmas,

Martin Lack.

Written by Martin Lack

5 December 2015 at 19:28

A brief history of climate change ‘scepticism’

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Here is my attempt to make sense of the academic literature categorising the rhetorical positions adopted by climate change ‘sceptics’.  However, please note that the term ‘sceptic’ is used solely for convenience: Given that the totality of post-industrial climate change can only be explained as primarily human-caused, these forms of ‘scepticism’ represent varying degrees of ideological blindness.
Categorising Climate Change ScepticsGiven the recent speech by Pope Francis on Capitol Hill, it will be interesting to see how resilient this ideological blindness is – and/or how strong the cognitive dissonance is – amongst the Catholic members of the Republican Party.

Disgraceful Volkswagen caught putting profit before planet

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Non VWI can barely believe it.  One of Germany’s best-value exports (i.e. in the non-luxury end of the car market) has been caught faking the CO2 emission test data on its diesel cars in the USA (and, it has subsequently emerged, elsewhere).

Has it been doing the same in Europe?  Is this the beginning of an international  scandal similar to the rigging of financial markets in the City of London?

One thing is for sure, in putting profit before doing their bit to reduce the carbon footprint of their cars, I think the manufacturer should be re-branded:

Nicht VolksWagen

Written by Martin Lack

21 September 2015 at 18:02

Jeremy and Piers Corbyn – ‘Brothers at Odds’

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Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: Islington Gazette)

Here in the UK, the Labour Party has, almost by accident, just voted in the most overtly and unashamedly socialist leader since Michael Foot over 30 years ago. As such, 66-year old Jeremy Corbyn, has already managed to upset many people by not singing the National Anthem at a service in St Paul’s Cathedral to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Britain.

So, Jeremy Corbyn may have a lot to learn (very quickly) about being Leader of a political party; and it will be interesting to see whether he can hold such office and stay true to the anti-establishment character that defines him. As such, Jeremy Corbyn is the latest in a long line of people within the Labour Party who often managed to make controversial ideas sound entirely reasonable. In recent decades, those that come to mind include Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Tam Dalyell, George Galloway, and Dennis Skinner. Furthermore, as became clear during the leadership contest, Jeremy Corbyn accepts the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD); and the need to take action to mitigate it and/or adapt to it. As do Paul and Anne Ehrlich:

Many complexities plague the estimation of the precise threats of anthropogenic climate disruption, ranging from heat deaths and spread of tropical diseases to sea-level rise, crop failures and violent storms. One key to avoiding a global collapse, and thus an area requiring great effort and caution is avoiding climate-related mass famines. (Proc. Royal Soc. B, 280: 1754)

Piers Corbyn (Image: Public Domain)

I must admit I had not really paid any attention to Jeremy Corbyn before. However, I cannot say the same of his brother, Piers Corbyn – who came to my attention while doing my MA in Environmental Politics: According to Wikipedia, Piers Corbyn is an astrophysicist with a life-long interest in meteorology. He is also the founder of WeatherAction and was the main organiser of Climate Fools Day in the Houses of Parliament on 27 October 2010 (to mark the 2nd anniversary of the passage into law of the Climate Change Act 2008).

As such, it is very clear that the views of Jeremy and Piers Corbyn – as to the primary cause of climate change – could not be more different.

The purpose of this blog is not – nor has it ever been – to defend the validity of the scientific consensus (that ACD is an imminent threat to a large proportion of life on Earth). I will leave that to the IPCC (WG2) and websites such as SkepticalScience. However, I would like to highlight the absurdity of the position adopted by Piers Corbyn…

In 2008, the flyer for the Climate Fools Day event highlighted a supposed necessity for “evidence-based science and policy” rather than the “Carbon Con”. It went on to suggest:

If the UK had been relying on wind farms there would have been blackouts all over, freeze-ups, more burst-pipes & cold-weather deaths. This is the madness CO2-Global Warmist religion is leading Britain towards.

As such, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is presented as a myth; not based on evidence, and pursued by politicians who have been duped by the proponents of a new religion.  On his website, Piers Corbyn also describes AGW as a “failing theory” and “scientific fraud” (because it supposedly stopped in 1998); maintains it was warmer 1000 years ago; and has made it clear he believes our Sun is the most likely cause of the climatic changes we see (2008).  However, more recently, he has gone much further than this; to claim that:
• solar activity (total radiance, sun-spots, coronal mass ejections, and/or solar flares) are causing more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions;
• people who believe in AGW are as deluded as Colonel Gaddafi; CO2 has no effect on weather or climate (emphasis added); and that we are heading for a mini ice age by 2035; and
• there is no evidence in thousands or millions of years of data that CO2 changes drive any changes in climate.

If anyone is inclined to ask why this position is absurd, just think about the implications:

Anyone who equates the scientific consensus regarding ACD/AGW with religious belief, collective hypnosis, hoax, fraud, myth, or whatever… is asserting that the vast majority of relevantly-qualified and active research scientists are simply wrong. As such, they are asserting that the majority are either stupid, sloppy, or suspicious.

Such people often point to the example of Galileo overturning a consensus. However, Galileo overturned theological orthodoxy by weight of scientific evidence.  Therefore, climate change ‘sceptics’ are not like Galileo; they are like the medieval Roman Catholic church. As such, they are not sceptics at all; they are blinded to the truth of science by libertarian ideology.

Written by Martin Lack

16 September 2015 at 18:00

From Noah to Nordhaus via Inhofe

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US Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is a climate change sceptic primarily because he believes God has promised not to flood the Earth again; and the rainbow in the sky tells him it must be true.

Such ideologically-driven wilful blindness is very dangerous. Indeed, most climate scientists agree that it threatens the future of most life on Earth.

Sadly, such ideological blindness is not unique to those foolish enough to believe the Earth was created in 6 days only 6,000 years ago. As Stephan Lewandowsky et al have pointed out, adherence to libertarian ideology and free market economics are strongly correlated with a rejection of the scientific consensus that humans are the primary cause of post-Industrial climate change. Pseudo-skeptics may have attempted to discredit this research but, they cannot refute the empirical evidence for the above correlation.

Indeed, in his book Poles Apart: The international reporting of climate scepticism, James Painter provides ample evidence that climate change ‘scepticism’ is predominantly a feature of right-wing newspapers in English-speaking countries.

However, I digress from the story I want to tell…

It is no secret that stories of a global flood, like that of Noah and his Ark, are found in the earliest writings of numerous ancient civilisations around the World.  Until yesterday, however, I had no idea what this might have to do with an abrupt but temporary global cooling event, known as the Younger Dryas, which occurred between 11,500 and 12,900 years ago.

This came to my attention yesterday morning while watching television, when the presenters of BBC Breakfast began interviewing a journalist I had never heard of before.

For at least 20 years, Graham Hancock has, apparently, being telling anyone that would listen that a comet impact in Antarctica about 12,000 years ago – and the sudden sea level rise it caused – wiped out most evidence of an advanced human civilisation that predates any of the others by about 5,000 years. In doing some research on this yesterday, I discovered that this was something that the Huffington Post had picked up on in May this year.  However, digging a little deeper, I found that it is over 5 years since Hancock’s ‘smoking gun’ evidence was reported in the Scientific American magazine.  It would therefore appear that Hancock is very good at self publicity and recycling old news.

Even so, I nearly choked on my breakfast when Hancock suggested that the Giant Sphinx at Gaza was not built by the Egyptians. He pointed out that the Sphinx appears much more weathered (by rainfall) than the in-situ stone on the pyramids around it. However, the real clincher for his argument was the fact that organic material – which can be carbon dated – found at the Gobekli Tepe site in Turkey is about 12,000 years old. This is significant because all other early civilisations – that left behind monumental architecture – are thought to date from no more than 7,000 ago.

This has long been a mystery that archaeologists could not explain, but which is explained by the comet impact.

However, again as a result of research I did yesterday, I was amazed to find out that suggesting a comet impact might explain the origins of the story of Noah’s Ark was not just Hancock’s idea. It is one that can be traced all the way back to Edmund Halley in 1694, as blogger Jason Colavito pointed out in his summary of Graham Hancock at the end of last year.

So, Graham Hancock has used his skills as an investigative journalist to pull together evidence from different spheres of science to solve the archaeological mystery of Gobekli Tepe.  Therefore, given the amount of criticism he received 20 years ago for putting forward an idea with no supporting evidence, it is perhaps understandable that he is now making so much of the fact that the evidence has since been found.

However, even if the idea was not really his in the first place, I think this explanation for the Younger Dryas event is important because it highlights the fact that the vast majority of modern human civilisation is in danger of being wiped off the face of the Earth if large amounts of land-based ice slide into the sea.

Sadly, those who continue to dispute that this might happen – and/or assert that Antarctica is actually cooling – have picked a fight with science and history that they are bound to lose.

On what basis do I say this, you may well wonder. Well, for the record, here are two good reasons:

1. It is impossible to explain the totality of post-Industrial warming without acknowledging that the dominant factor is the 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels (see also Fig 5 in Hansen et al 2007 below).

2. Although the interior of Antarctica may be cooling – and the sea ice around it may not be shrinking because of the huge expanse of the surrounding Southern Ocean – the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Antarctic peninsula are amongst the fastest-warming places on the planet.

Fig 5. in Hansen et al (2007), 'Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE'. Clim. Dyn., 29, 661-696

Fig 5. in Hansen et al (2007), ‘Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE’. Clim. Dyn., 29, 661-696

To conclude, I can do no better than to refer, once again, to the six reasons put forward by the formerly-sceptical economist William D. Nordhaus as to ‘Why the global Warming Skeptics are Wrong‘.


10 Sept 2015 (15:00 BST): With apologies for any confusion caused, this blog post has now been edited to remove repetition and ambiguity resulting from my hasty/poor proof-reading of the original.


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