Left Alone in the Gloom and Doom
It’s been noted in a few articles here that cracks have been appearing in the fabric of Climate Alarmism. Firstly among environmental journalists, even at the BBC and in the Holy of Holies of Guardian Environment, where Goldenberg and Vidal have admitted there just might be more to environmental activism than warding off a slow roast in a CO2-fuelled hell. The blogs of government-funded non-governmental organisations founded to rouse the masses have largely fallen silent since Paris, even during this, the warmest winter the Northern Hemisphere has ever known. And now even the Gotha of climate scientists is divided, with the great Mann pitched against NOAA’s Karl and NASA’s Schmidt in a religious schism that may yet shake the foundations of the Consensus Triumphant. It would be an exaggeration to say that Mann et al have nailed their opponents’ opuscules to the church door, but it must have been quite painful, nonetheless.
But one corner of the warmist world network has remained immune to the plague of doubt.
It won’t have escaped your notice that a wave of leftwing indignation has been shaking the political establishments of the West. For all their faults and differences, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and the Five Star Movement in Italy represent genuine popular mass movements whose rise would have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the USA would have been laughed off as fringe figures just months ago, and now they’re tapping nervously at the doors of power.
However different these figures and movements may be, there can be no doubt about what propelled them to centre stage: the 2008 banking crisis; the unemployment and loss of earnings it provoked, the disgust with the reactionary policies implemented to deal with it; and – in the background – a slow burning resentment at decades of declining wages and job security, and the growing gap between rich and poor. That may seem like just another left wing rant, but you can read similar analyses from the likes of Warren Buffet, George Soros, and the more thoughtful journalists in the Telegraph and Financial Times. The super-rich are too rich; they’re driving the world economy over a cliff; and they don’t care.
Yet when you look at the statements at the politicians at the centre of this vast worldwide movement, what do you find among their most pressing concerns? – climate change and renewable energy.
I caught the end of the last Clinton – Sanders debate in Florida in front of a Hispanic audience. The biggest cheer I heard for Sanders (certainly not from a typical cross section of Florida Democrats, but rather from Bernie’s supporters) was when he called for a carbon tax and a ban on fracking. Why? When Corbyn faced Cameron the day after the Brussels agreement, after Cameron told Corbyn (who was wearing a suit and tie) that he should be wearing a suit and tie, Corbyn listed the things that the negotiations had failed to address, namely: “…climate change, the power of global corporations, cyber-crime and terrorism, and refugee movements across the world …” But the first among them was climate change.
It was Benoît Rittaud of the climatosceptique blog skyfall.fr who alerted me to the extent of this phenomenon in this article.
The subject, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is the unofficial leader of the far left in France, and the fact that he is standing in next year’s presidential elections will almost certainly mean that socialist president Hollande will be eliminated in the first round, leaving France to choose in the second round run off between a right wing conservative and the extreme right wing Madame le Pen.
As you’d expect for a far left candidate, the problems that concern his electorate are unemployment, unemployment and unemployment, which is 10% and rising under Hollande’s socialist rule, while it is 5% and falling in Conservative-ruled Britain and Germany. Melenchon had ten minutes of prime time TV on the main evening news in which he announced his candidature, and what did he talk about? Climate, climate, and climate.
Varoufakis, the telegenic Greek finance minister who seemed at one time to be the only politician in Europe with the guts and intelligence to face down German financial orthodoxy, the Brussels bureaucrats, and the IMF, has formed a new trans-European political party – Diem25. Its manifesto rings out like a peal of bells above the turgid fog of Euro Büro-speak. It even quotes Edmund Burke, which is odd coming from a self-proclaimed Marxist.
The list of Europe’s woes echoes the famous “a spectre is haunting Europe..” which opens Marx and Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto:
At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, communities, working conditions and environment.
The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also the dream of shared prosperity:
The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters
Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe
This is stirring stuff. Maybe Boris could borrow some of it.
But when you get to the positive points, the list of things “we aspire to”, you get a long list of adjectives: “A Democratic Europe… A Transparent Europe … A United Europe and so on, and it’s not until adjectives ten to twelve that you get back to the economic heart of the problem. And what are you being offered?
– A Productive Europe that directs investment into a shared, green prosperity
– A Sustainable Europe that lives within the planet’s means
– An Ecological Europe engaged in genuine world-wide green transition
We know that ecologists are wedded to the far left like a tin can to a dog’s tail. But they account for a trivial 3% of votes, and they have nowhere to go but to the left. The surge of anger fuelling the current leftwing movements is about jobs disappearing to China, steelworks moving to India, and bankers’ profits winding up in the Cayman Islands. It’s about 50% youth unemployment in Spain and zero-hour contracts in Britain. One can understand that a Cameron or a Miliband, surrounded by Guardian-reading think tank wonks, might be misled into thinking that renewable energy, sustainability and a light carbon footprint are the path to the voter’s hearts. But Varoufakis? Corbyn? The French Communist Party? What’s their excuse?
Or is it just that left wing politicians, eternal cuckolds, are always the last to know?
You know matters are really bad when the Central Banks are pursuing negative interest rates = a tax on savings for the middle class. Negative interest rates means that the power brokers have run out of ammunition to restart economies. Major recession is just around the corner, and what follows will be catastrophic political restructuring. I wouldn’t recommend buying stock and bonds in the green sector, as I foresee green subsidies about to evaporate.
Melenchon gets only a tiny proportion of the vote compared to the French Nation Front (which is designated as far right but is in reality based on Vichy style national socialism)
The “climate debate” ended some time ago. Subsidies for renewable energy have made electricity generated by solar and wind energy “cheaper” than most other electricity production sources. The subsidies have made fossil fuel power stations uneconomic (particularly in France and the UK) and they are being closed down and dismantled already.
Dave, I’m not sure what country you’re in, but here in the UK green subsidies have already been slashed, which has upset the Guardian and green industry trougher Lord Deben
Geoff, your theme of the left abandoning its core values and obsessing about climate change reminded me of this sequence of tweets from Mike Shellenberger, one of those calling themselves ‘Ecomodernists’, following a visit to slums in India. Here are a few:
2. The last time I was this bitchy I had just returned from Indonesia to Berkeley & the Pope [cough] (Naomi Klein) was denouncing progress.
3. This time, in India, I interviewed hungry peasants & waste-pickers & all they wanted to talk about was global warming & over-consumption.
4. Ha. Okay. Joking. Nobody talked about global warming. They talked about how they were hungry & wanted good jobs. Stupid stuff like that.
11. My new friend, Sumandy, said: “Please, take away my labor-saving washing machine because… global warming!”
12. Joking! Sumandy said she loved wash machine b/c it allowed her to do other work — just like @HansRosling mom! https://goo.gl/ehblnH
Mélenchon got 11% in 2012, le Pen 18%. The point is not their future success or lack of it, but the fact that the very different leaders of the far left who have emerged recently have two things in common; they have been propelled to prominence by the classic leftwing concerns of jobs and wages; and they place climate change, renewable energy and opposition to fracking at or near the top of their lists of demands. It’s not as if there weren’t other vote-winning subjects on the left; Europe, war in the Middle East, nuclear weapons etc. So why chase after the tiny number of hard Green votes (2% in France in 2012) with promises of open-ended spending on useless subsidies and policies that put their own working class supporters out of work?
Groups such as the Labour Party do seem to me to have given up on ‘the workers’, preferring the headier delights of saving the entire planet. I guess there’s logic to that, and it certainly is fashionable. The rise of Sanders and Corbyn and the others seem to bring hope for the least well off, if only because that is what they claim to be doing. But as you explain, the priorities these recently-made-prominent ones express seem to say ‘ah but first we have to save the planet’. So legislative horrors such as the UK’s Climate Change Act, still hallowed ground afaik for Corbyn and chums, help jobs go to China, where it seems inevitable than more pollution, atmospheric and otherwise, will result per unit of output such as a sheet of steel or a motor car. An insidious catchphrase seems to be the reason: think globally, act locally. It is insidious because all too often it means ‘don’t bother thinking at all, we’ve worked it all out, just do what you have been told is required’. This is of course means the ordinary person, working class or upper class or anything in between, has been removed from the decision-making. Their views are not being investigated and acted upon. Would they ask for starvation abroad brought about by bio-fuels? Or reduced economic prospects at home because of high energy costs? Or the defiling of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, be they the refined-by-many generations English countryside or the wilds of the Highlands, with ludicrous whirligigs. These windturbines serve as pumps to take money from poorer people and pass it on to richer ones with nothing good back in return. Who would want them other than the rentiers and the zealots?
It all puzzles me. I suppose it may be the appeal of having the might of Science to fall back upon as the ultimate justification. The fantasies of Karl Marx were held to be science, and led, and still lead, to much misery and eventual failure as their many disconnects from reality come home to roost. The sociologists of the early 20th century also thought they had Science and that the construction of desirable societies and behaviours was within our grasp by virtue of their insights and to-be-discovered prescriptions. They were suffering from physics-envy. So perhaps that helps explain the CO2 Cult. All of a sudden, Physics was the back-up for massive societal interference, direction, and control. A hard science, not a soft upstart like Sociology or Economics, or needing the supernatural like previous Religions. Our CO2 it’s like a blanket, you see, trapping all this heat, so we’ll just get hotter and hotter and hotter. Basic physics don’t you know. Settled science. So, now when asked why do you want to do so much harm/ inflict so much suffering?, the political zealot will trot out ‘97% of scientists say..’, or ‘we are told by the IPCC that …‘. The first a piece of statistical junk, the second an organisation that does not deserve our trust. And as for the Physics, it is ok for the radiative properties of CO2, but my goodness it is being naughty when it gives CO2 a role of dominating importance in the climate system, a role it has never had in the past, is not having at present, and nor does it seem likely to have in the future.
You’re quite right about the Labour Party (and many, possibly most Western socialist parties) giving up on the working class, and about the absurdity of many of the unintended consequences, the jobs exported to China, and the general loss of interest in politics. These results must be perfectly obvious to, for instance the steelworker in Redcar who sees his job disappear to India, aided by a carbon credit scam. Where are his defenders in the Labour Party and the Unions?
I disagree with you about the history of sociology though. Yes, Marx’s fantasy of a scientific analysis of society was mistaken, but I don’t think many social scientists suffered from Physics envy. Max Weber specifically wrote about importance of defining the role of the scientist in society and distinguishing it from that of the politician, and the great generation of German emigré philosophers and social scientists, which included Popper, Hayek, and Isaiah Berlin, recognised the key role of Marx as a founding father of social science. Popper’s treatment of Marx as one of the Enemies of the Open Society is in fact extremely sympathetic, as is Isaiah Berlin’s biography.
I hold to the belief that a true understanding of Warmism can only be achieved via a proper sociological analysis. Analysing its idiocies is fun and necessary. What we do most of the time here I think of as pamphleteering, keeping alive a critical view of a juggernaut that rolls over us without any sensible organised opposition. If it fades away like just another intellectual fad or religious cult, ok, we can file it away as one of Mackay’s Popular Delusions. But some religious cults establish themselves for millennia. I’d like to think we can play a little quixotic part in barring its way. Here’s to tilting at windmills.
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Geoff, John, apparently Corbyn spent most of today’s PMQs asking about air pollution and climate change.
Thanks for that. With a bit of searching I found a report on Corbyn’s questions (in the Guardian, where else?)
PM and Labour leader clash over air pollution (and Corbyn has a new suit)
Jeremy Corbyn used all six questions to press the prime minister on air pollution, citing the fact that 500,000 people die as a result of the failure to meet targets… Corbyn took a sombre approach in challenging Cameron on the government’s “failure” to deal with air pollution.
“The sad truth is that half a million people will die because of this country’s failure to comply with the international law on air pollution.”
Update we asked one of our fashion writers to consider his new look. Priya Elan gives his fashion verdict:
“The Italians call it the “spezzato” the mis matched, bricolaged outfit. It’s a tailored, thought out look that’s been worn by male icons from Andre 3000 to David Beckham. And now Corbyn. Pairing black trousers with a deep sea blue jacket (cut just with a light, easy to wear touch) and a red almost maroon toned tie he looks, perhaps for the first time since he came to power in September 2015, like the take charge leader of our hopes and dreams. He’s gone from geography teacher chic to The Headmaster with one salient style flourish.”
Turning a question to the Prime Minister about half a million deaths into a jokey article about clothes is pretty strange. The Guardian presumably understands, just like the rest of us, that those half a million extra deaths don’t exist. We’re all playing a sophisticated game of “let’s pretend”, like atheists at a funeral, outwardly respectful of the priest in charge, but giggling silently to ourselves.
Pollution killing half a million Britons, says Jeremy Corbyn.
To which Richard Tol says “what’s a few zeroes between friends?”
Thanks you for those good comments, Geoff. I was getting a little polemical back there – sometimes the pain from that juggernaut gets to be too much for me. For clarification, I mean no disrespect for sociology in that it is tackling a hugely complex subject, but I do think some exponents of it can get carried away with themselves if they hear about stuff in physics which sounds impressive to them. There is an example in this recent (2015) presentation made by Alan Sokal (famous prankster physicist) about a paper in psychology, another so-called ‘soft-science’. I shall reproduce the text from his first and his final two slides below:
Prologue: The “hard” and “soft” sciences?
Paul Krugman tells this story
. . . in which an Indian-born economist explains his personal theory of reincarnation: If you are a good economist, a virtuous economist, then you are reborn as a physicist. But if you are an evil, wicked economist, then you are reborn as a sociologist.
Krugman comments: But good economists know that the speaker was talking about something else entirely: the sheer difficulty of the subject. Economics is harder than physics; luckily it is not quite as hard as sociology.
Sokal then goes on to recount the shredding of some silly paper which nevertheless was widely referenced and promoted in the field of psychology. I skip to his two final slides:
How on earth could this have happened?
How could such a loony paper have passed muster with reviewers at the most prestigious American journal of psychology?
Netted 350 scholarly citations prior to our critique?
Been cited in dozens of popular books and 25,000 web pages?
Repeatedly hyped by the “father of positive psychology” (and past president of APA)? without anyone calling it into question . . . until a first-term part-time Masters’ student at an obscure London university came along and expressed his doubts?
How on earth could this have happened?
Where were all the leaders in positive psychology?
The leaders in applying nonlinear-dynamics models to psychology?
Was everyone really so credulous?
Or were some people less credulous but politely silent, for reasons of internal politics?
I hope we shall see more people working through the CO2 alarmism literature to find similar examples. Here is the most recent example of this I have seen: Ari Halperin shredding the ad hoc carbon accounting in the IPCC.
The Guardian presumably understands, just like the rest of us, that those half a million extra deaths don’t exist.
I imagine the number is worldwide, not UK (I’ve seen 40k suggested). Clearly they are not “extra” in any sense. But they may nevertheless be “early”. And there may be effects that, although maybe not leading to early death, have lifetime consequences. It seems silly to dismiss the problem just because some proponents of action against it don’t understand it very well.
I’m stunned by Hillary Clinton’s speech on coal last week. (http://thefederalist.com/2016/03/14/hillary-clinton-has-a-message-for-coal-miners-youre-fired/) I’m not stunned that she made that message because the party elite have handcuffed the climate change briefcase to their wrists. But I’m stunned by the timing. Trump is making inroads into the working class (what an irony that is) and she attacks Appalachia and coal, which could supply the poster for a blue collar advertising campaign. And then she attempts to sooth the wounds going to handout $30B tax dollars to compensate. I.e. I’m going to destroy blue collar jobs and replace them with government handouts. Now, maybe you write off Appalachia as small and lost to the Republicans for the last 20 years. But of course, oil and gas knows they’re next with a significant impact on the auto-industry. Not to mention the regressive effects that raising the price of energy will cause. While polls show that most Americans has some concern for climate change, they also show that concern to be ranked near the bottom whereas jobs and security are ranked at the top. IMO, she’s handing Trump blue collar votes on a platter. Was she losing ground to Sanders among the party elite and felt the need to play some party favorites to shore up support?