Lack of Environment

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

Archive for the ‘denial’ Category

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: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/09/30/bank-england-head-warns-potentially-huge-risks-literally-unburnable-fossil-fuel

It is also 20 months since Lloyds of London urged financial investors to consider the risks of continuing to back fossil fuels: http://blueandgreentomorrow.com/2014/05/09/insurers-should-consider-climate-risks-says-lloyds-of-london/

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.
http://www.biorootenergy.com/about/

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…
https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/our-three-biggest-problems-solved/

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?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-35025065

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2015/dec/05/storm-desmond-in-pictures

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?
https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/background

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?
https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/a-brief-history-of-climate-change-scepticism/

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.
https://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/worlds-biggest-watermelon-found-in-washington-dc/

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?
http://openparachute.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/the-galileo-fallacy-and-denigration-of-scientific-consensus/

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.

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.

Fracking off in Lancashire (and elsewhere?)

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Elysium (2013)

Elysium (2013)

I know this is very late but, it is such significant moment, I feel I must comment on the recent decision of Lancashire County Council to refuse to allow fracking to proceed in their county.

Never mind that their decision was primarily the result of NIMBYism… spurious worries about earth tremors; slightly-less spurious worries about groundwater contamination; and probably-valid worries about methane escaping into overlying aquifers (rather than being sucked out of the ground)… this was a great result for anti-fracking campaigners all around the world.

This decision sets an important precedent that I hope will not be overturned by the inevitable appeal by Cuadrilla; and/or over-ruled by the same national government that has promoted the cause of NIMBYism when it comes to opposing onshore wind turbines and solar farms.

Our supposedly “greenest government ever” could and should therefore be decried as hypocritical if they try and go against the wishes of local people in Lancashire.

Long-standing readers of this blog, written as it is by someone with a geological and hydrogeological background, may recall some of my previous posts on the subject of fracking. However, in a nutshell (or perhaps I should say “in a drill casing”), my opposition to fracking has hardened over time. Initially, my opposition was based on the same logical grounds as that against drilling for oil in the Arctic: Having established that burning fossil fuels is changing our climate, humans should now be trying to stop burning them as soon as possible.  Now, however, I am also against it because it has been proven to give rise to methane contamination of groundwater; and because as little as 3% of the gas will actually be recoverable.

Given that China has now announced that it intends to make its carbon emissions peak within 15 years, can the G7 now be shamed into doing the same? We can but hope.

However, I digress from fracking (and Lancashire): In May this year, I was delighted by the appointment of Amber Rudd, as the new Climate Change Minister. This was partly because she is a woman.  However, I was mainly pleased because, unlike so many totally ill-qualified, ‘sceptical’ non-experts — with Degrees in subjects like economics (Lord Lawson), Sociology (Benny Peiser), English (James Delingpole) or Classics (Christopher Monckton) — Amber Rudd accepts that the IPCC is not part of a global conspiracy to foist environmental alarmism upon a credulous world.

Amber Rudd, in common with the vast majority of relevant experts with a history of producing peer-reviewed scientific research, has concluded that the growing disruption to the Earth’s climate is being predominantly caused by the burning of fossil fuels in the last 200 years.

The only people now disputing this (as-near-as-science-ever-gets-to) certain fact are those with a vested interest in the perpetuation of the oil industry… and a handful of credulous (or wilfully blind) economists and journalists who perpetuate the myth that the science is uncertain.

Sadly, whether deliberately or otherwise, these very same people have, just as they did for the tobacco industry, succeeded in delaying for decades the effective regulation of an environmentally-damaging product.

That being the case, investment in fossil fuel companies should not only be seen as financially unwise; it should be seen as corporately irresponsible and socially unacceptable. We can but hope.

However, in the UK at least, there is of course the problem of the Energy Gap: The UK is being forced to close down it’s ‘dirty’ (i.e. high carbon intensity) coal-fired power stations.  Unfortunately, the mix of low-carbon and renewable sources (i.e. wind, solar, tidal, and nuclear) — which even the fossil fuel executives of 50 years ago thought would have become dominant in the power-generation sector by now — is nowhere near to being in a position to replace coal.  This leaves the UK importing huge amounts of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

As a quick aside, I would like to encourage all non-scientific types not to be intimidated by jargon. Take “carbon intensity” as an example. This is merely a reference to the number of carbon atoms in the product being burnt. As such, mining tar sands is ‘highest’ and burning methane is ‘lowest’.

Sadly, however, none of this changes the fact that burning any fossilised carbon increases the total amount of CO2 circulating within the biosphere, which is warming the planet as a result of the basic Laws of Physics.  To make matters even worse extra atmospheric CO2 is slowly reducing the pH of seawater, which is making it harder for shellfish of all kinds to live and grow.  This is a much more serious problem because they are the only means Nature has for removing excess carbon from the biosphere (by the processes that created the fossil fuels in the first place)…

Getting back to LNG: Clearly, it would be much better if the UK did not have to do this. However, if we accept the science, we do not have the luxury of taking decades to phase-out fossil fuel use.

China is right and the G7 should follow their lead.

As many economists have now pointed out, humanity needs to treat climate change as an existential threat — far more potent than any Earthbound terrorist group — that requires mobilisation of the military-industrial complex to minimise and/or adapt to it.  Sadly, far too much of the military-industrial complex is still fighting a rear-guard action to perpetuate its own existence — rather than on trying to safeguard the habitability of planet Earth for future generations.

World-famous film director, James Cameron, might well have cited the ill-fated MS Titanic as an analogy for humanity today. However, I am sure we would all rather that money would be invested in minimising climate change; rather than on constructing Elysium.

We can but hope.

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