Climate and Brexit

privateyev2On the day when David Cameron has tried to banish forever the notion that he is engaging in “Project Fear” (appropriately lampooned by John Crace here in the Guardian), here are a number of parallels between the climate wars and the current Brexit skirmishes that I have noticed and found interesting. Make of these what you will:

1. There’s the stereotyping. Those in the “Out” camp are often viewed in the media as right-wing Little Englanders – except they’re not. George Galloway, anyone? Likewise, those in the climate sceptic camp here in the UK are often viewed in the media as right-wing Little Englanders – except they’re not. Piers Corbyn, right wing?

2.  Somewhat illogically, there’s also a perception in the media that the Brexit gang are a diverse and divisive rag-tag alliance (Nigel Farage and George Galloway on the same platform). The same could also generally be said about climate sceptics. I think this is actually not far from the truth, and it might indeed be a strength rather than a weakness, as not everyone can then be tarred with the same stereotypical brush.

3. There’s a bit of overlap between EU and CAGW scepticism – if these were circles in a Venn diagram, we would find UK politicians Owen Paterson and Graham Stringer (Conservative and Labour, respectively) in the area where they intersected (and they would probably be joined by lots of non-politicians, too).

4. There are also the big battalions lined up against both the Brexiteers and the climate sceptics. Against the “Out” camp are ranged a giant army of big business concerns, environment agencies, world leaders, the EU itself, Emma Thompson and President Obama. Against the CAGW sceptics are ranged a giant army of big business concerns, environment agencies, world leaders, the EU itself, Emma Thompson and President Obama. And the Pope. The power of authority! (Or the power of deeply vested interests, looked at in another way.)

5. And, of course, there’s Project Fear. Both Britain leaving the EU and “inaction on climate” will lead to Bad Things happening. Very Bad Things. I don’t need to spell these out, really. On climate change, Project Fear has actually been going for decades, although when they periodically realise people aren’t all that scared, something akin to Cameron’s “Project Fact” then gets proposed (just as long as the purported facts are frightening facts, mind). That doesn’t work, either, and so they go back to the Fear.

Anyway, why are there apparent close similarities between these two conflicts? I don’t have the definitive answer to this but suspect that something they have in common, very broadly speaking, is the age-old antagonism between Freedom and Authority.


Discussion thread for the Brexit result.


  1. As a Brit living in Europe I can’t vote in this referendum so my views don’t really count. The Outers are an odd lot though, aren’t they? The one thing they have in common that I can see is that they’re all hated and despised by the Guardian, which is probably a recommendation to the 97% of the population who don’t read that paper.

    Europe and Climatism are joined at the hip though. Apparently it’s all about toasters. I never imagined that I’d go to the barricades to defend my right to a bigger toaster, but there we are, history is a funny thing.

    Leonardo DiCaprio said last night: “if you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in modern science or empirical truths – and you will be on the wrong side of history.” Maybe, but at least I’ll have a working toaster.


  2. I think both issues contain a camp that is attracted by grand schemes to determine our collective future. One sees the EU as a wonderful opportunity to do away with borders, share capital and people, stop wars, develop common standards for this and that (including toasters – an area of overlap with the next group), and so on and on, with the alternative being wars, nasty nationalisms, fortress mentalities, general gloom and despair, and too many toaster-power options. The other sees CO2 as a wonderful opportunity to control just about everything, specifying allowed behaviours – including how much power we can feed into our toasters, and so to the promised land which we are assured will be both ‘sustainable’ and ‘resilient’, with a pleasant and familiar climate to boot. Their alternative scarcely bears talking about: all the coastal cities under water, fearsome storms wracking where and what they have never wracked before, species disappearing like snow off a dyke (Scots vern.), tropical folks baked to well-done, and eskimos to medium-rare, and worse, oh much worse.

    But one shared flaw (and I do suspect there may be one or two others) of these camps is their pretension to knowledge of how to do it, their marvellous assurance of what the future holds if we do this or that, follow them or disregard them. Thomas Sowell has their number:

    One of the most important questions about any proposed course of actions is whether we know how to do it. Policy A may be better than policy B, but that does not matter if we simply do not know how to do Policy A. Perhaps it would be better to rehabilitate criminals, rather than punish them, if we knew how to do it. Rewarding merit might be better than rewarding results if we knew how to do it. But one of the crucial differences between those with the tragic vision and those with the vision of the anointed is in what they respectively assume that we know how to do. Those with the vision of the anointed are seldom deterred by any question as to whether anyone has the knowledge required to do what they are attempting.

    Sowell’s ‘anointed’ are those convinced by grand schemes or visions for the future of mankind under the firm control of elites (the ‘anointed ones’). His ‘tragic’ ones are those with more modest expectations, those more inclined to accept the ‘ancient Greek sense of tragedy’: ‘inescapable fate inherent in the nature of things’. In my interpretation of this, we are dealing with on the one hand, the authoritarian left, and on the other, a somewhat libertarian right who see the left as hopelessly deluded about the probabilities of success for their schemes. Thus wishing to control the climate or wishing to control society are both doomed to disappointment when the complex realities of both assert themselves.


  3. Geoff, “The Outers are an odd lot though, aren’t they?”
    Ah, that’s where the parallel breaks down then, since people like you and I are so completely normal.

    I find it hard to get excited about the EU vote. The Remainers will win, partly because most of us in the UK are (small c) conservative, reluctant to change – hence for example the strong rejection of AV in our last referendum. Also partly because Project Fear will work and partly because the Leavers are not well organised.

    The bookies seem to agree, Stay 1/3, Leave 2/1.


  4. Climate Wars:- Professional, ‘Knowledgable’ Scientists vs enthusiastic individual amateurs

    EU Divides:- Elite, professional, politicians & businessmen vs outsiders and mavericks

    Group Thinking vs Individual thought


  5. There are another two similarities between the climate alarmists and the pro-EU consensus. There are no significant achievement to boast of, and they are far outweighed by the failures.

    In terms of achievements, climate alarmists have been predicting numerous short-term catastrophes and none have come true. Accelerating sea level rise or glacier melt or ice cap melt (West Antarctica/Greenland/Himalayas) or sea ice loss (Arctic & Antarctica) have all proved failures. Also worsening weather (more tropical storms / heatwaves / droughts / floods etc.) have all been falsified by the evidence where explicit short term prophesies have been made.
    The climate consensus had a big test failure. Post 1998, following an economic crisis in many emerging economies, global economic and emissions growth accelerated. By the theory, global warming should have, at least maintained the rate of at least 2C per century since the mid-1970s. Instead it slowed or stopped.
    In 1999 the Euro came into existence. In theory it should have brought greater economic stability. For many nations it has been a disaster. Similar disasters can be seen in renewables policies and emissions trading.

    Another is massaging of the data. There are now dozens of excuses for warming having stopped. WUWT has 52.
    Then there are the re-interpretations of the data. Cowtan and Way 2013, the Lewandowsky Smooth and Karl et al are just some of them. Along with this are various bogus records, such as the warmest decade or the warmest year ever. There is no development of standard for average temperature anomaly that is independent of human biases, akin to development of standards to evaluate forensic evidence used in criminal trials.
    Similarly the EU fails to submit its accounts to independent audit. They went for 20 years without a signed-off audit to say the accounts were a “true and fair view” of reality. The EU budget is categorized according to meaningless categories, that hide where the money is spent, and how effectively that money is spent.


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