100 Months to Flog a Dead Horse (and a Book)

The final countdown, the title somberly states.

So begins the “100 months to save the world” series in The Guardian, penned by Andrew Simms exactly 100 months and two days ago. Ostensibly the purpose of the series was to chronicle our doom over the ensuing 100 months whilst uselessly flailing about with ridiculous policy suggestions as to how to dodge the bullet at the end.

In this very first piece, his understanding and articulation of “the problem” is curiously very child-like. Or perhaps he regards his readers as simple-minded children. It is difficult to tell. When explaining why we should be clutching one another in abject terror of imminent irreversible Thermageddon in just 100 months he makes the following curious statement:

‘Faced with circumstances that clearly threaten human civilisation, scientists at least have the sense of humour to term what drives this process as “positive feedback”.’

Sense of humour? Andrew, ‘positive feedback’ is a technical term used across a multitude of disciplines and the clear absence of any obvious strong positive feedback to human produced CO2 in the climate system is the very backbone of most sceptical objections to the hysterical catastrophism you’re trying to sell. It is also a term completely separable from the ethical and practical consequences in whatever domain it is used. You, however, bizarrely and cluelessly liken it to “accidental humour” and needlessly inform the reader that by “positive”, climate scientists actually mean “negative” in this context. I think even Brad would struggle to parody this.

Speaking of selling: it just so happened that not long past the halfway point in the “100 months” (coincidence, I’m sure), Simms had a book to flog—Cancel the Apocalypse: The New Path to Prosperity—in which “Simms shows how such end of the world scenarios [global warming and financial meltdown] offer us the chance for a new beginning,” according to the accompanying blurb. If it’s just the same to you, Andrew, I think the only thing I’ll be saving as a result of your book is my wallet. And given your apparently sub-primary-school understanding of the rôle of positive feedbacks in this entire debate I suspect most readers will come out dumber than they went in after reading it. Caveat Emptor.

Simms also set up a website with a dramatic looking countdown which has not only counted down to zero and neglected to self-destruct but now appears to have gone hilariously wrong, with part of the countdown now showing -94 days.

Now, did our protagonist do the honourable thing, put his hands up and say “sorry folks, I got it wrong”? No, of course not. Just like the famous UFO cults studied by psychologists when their appointed day for mass abduction comes and goes without incident, he carries on as if nothing has changed.

Yes, the “-1 Months and counting to save the world” has an entry as recently as 24th November. What does it say? Well—and I’m sure this won’t surprise most of you—apparently we need a “new climate change story.” And why is that, Andrew?

He explains that the paragons of rationality (including himself of course, natch) have failed. With absolutely no self-awareness apparent whatsoever, he opines:

“The presentation of evidence, sober argument and the appeal to reason is deeply engrained in the culture of campaigning for progressive change. Other approaches tend to leave advocates feeling insecure, suspicious or lacking confidence.”

Oh really?

“100 months to save the world”? Sober argument? Huh. And he has the chutzpah to also complain about snake-oil salesmen in the same piece.

Simms opened his first piece with the clichéd ‘shouting fire in a crowded theatre’ metaphor. Which is amusing. Because these people never stop shouting fire and yet they never run for the exits. In fact, they continue to sit calmly.

Why is that?


  1. “Because these people never stop shouting fire and yet they never run for the exits. In fact, they continue to sit calmly……….”

    ……. Hoping the gullible will buy their expensive, unnecessary, fire extinguishers.


  2. Oh, this takes me back. Andrew’s monthlies were the joy of my commenting time at the Graun, but the menopause comes to us all. You can find all his articles starting here
    https://profile.theguardian.com/user/id/2440291?page=5 and working back.

    I had a look at random at no 89
    in which he extolled Hansen and other protesters such as those who

    ..last summer …stopped a train containing 1,000 tonnes of coal on its way to Drax power station in Yorkshire. They stopped the train with a red flag, following standard railway safety rules, boarded it and began shovelling the coal on to the line. One was dressed as a canary – the traditional warning of dangerous pollution down a coal mine..

    Those were the days when commenters repled directly to the article, adding concrete information, e.g. JamesCameron (1 Jul 2009 9:48):

    ..Sadly the one thing Andrew is not and never has been is a scientist which explains the sort of tosh he has contributed this morning. As usual he is particularly upset with Physicists such as me who find his apocalyptic hysteria slightly wearing. I have to tell him that the blessed James Hansen he extols in his article was in St Andrews University recently to share with us his increasingly demented world view. Unfortunately in a fit of absence of mind the organizers of his lecture said he would accept questions. He was simply shredded by the assembled Physicists and Geophysicists and the “open” session had to be abandoned after 10 minutes…

    Or quoted from the article in order to demolish it, like Fomalhaut88 (1 Jul 2009 9:58):

    How beautifully poetic you sound with the likes of… “First, the environment comes riding in to save the economy”, and… “In reclaiming part of their lives to do anything from spend more time with family, learn a new skill, volunteer, start a campaign or enterprise, take a walk in the woods or, indeed, study stars and asteroids, people are discovering that there is a big payback in added wellbeing”

    Get ready for resistance Andrew boy, and plenty of it, if this is the quality of your debate, or your methods. You are going to find yourself with a criminal record, just like the rest of them.

    But there was always some silly idiot ready to lower the tone:

    geoffchambers (1 Jul 2009 14:25):

    Fomalhaut 88 at 9.58am noted what a poetic article this is, and straightaway MilesSmiles weighed in with a remark about “some venal politician armed with Lomborg’s tripe”. What a lovely image! If I had to choose between the latter and a man dressed as a canary carrying a shovel and a red flag, I think I’d put my faith in the man armed with Lomborg’s tripe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ref – the coal train and the coal power station.
    We now know that the European Climate Foundation funded activist groups, to do this sort of thing… their aim to stop new coal in Europe, and they boasted they stopped new coal power in the UK (ECF funded by, climate coalition, backers the Hewlett Foundation.) over 40 grants to the likes of Greenpeace, wwf, Client Earth, etc

    We spent hours digging threw that material, but nobody cared enough to think why should very well funded green activists get to make energy policy, by direct action/ protest.

    I got this to David Rose’s attention, and Ben and I did loads of research


  4. By their Tweets ye shall know them. I looked at Andrew Sims’s recent tweets and found a link to a recent Guardian article by someone else. This listed five ways to take action on climate change. Pleasantly surprised to discover that first on the list was “Ensure that everyone has access to energy”. (Yay!) Also, one way to do this is “Power the economy with cleaner, more efficient technologies*. One such technology offered is ‘ a natural gas turbine’. So let’s get fracking? Another is “A coal plant equipped with carbon capture and storage [which] can release less than 150kg of CO2 per megawatt-hour.” Anybody located one of these?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. On the insistence of his increasingly concerned GP, Andrew Simms agreed to have an MRI to check for early signs of wit loss, dysgraphia and sulcal stultification of the science cortex.

    You can imagine his relief when they all came back positive.


  6. “The final countdown”, the title somberly states.

    With Trump about to overthrow useless climate regulations it must be time for Simms to have ‘the final meltdown’.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Barry Woods: ‘Mark Lynas mentioned to me once that he might have had a hand in the 100 months concept’

    Lynas definitely had a hand in correcting a coding error at the 100 Months website that, when it was first launched, grabbed hold of visitors’ CPUs, made them unavailable for almost any other purpose and wasted humongous amounts of electricity – in my case, about 75W for as long as my poor old P4 was connected to the website.

    Let’s say that my 75W wastage was typical and that an average of a thousand people spent an average of a minute a day at the 100 Months website throughout the 100 months.

    75W x 1000 people x 1/60th hour x 30.42 days a month x 100 months is… ~ 4 GWh.

    Which equals Malta (or thereabouts).


  8. Mike Hulme has written about this at his blog, “Deadline-ism”: when is it too late?

    Last Thursday was the first day of December 2016. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the date. Except that it was exactly 100 months since Andrew Simms and the New Economics Foundation announced that the world had only 100 months to avoid a climatic disaster. The climate clock had started ticking 3,044 days ago, but last Thursday it stopped. Time was up for averting climate catastrophe.

    How we should interpret this moment? Has disaster been averted and how would we know? If it is too late, then too late for what exactly? And is this ‘end-of-the-world’ type story one that helps people make sense of, navigate through and develop agency in a dangerous world?

    But as more reflective religious movements have realised, “deadline-ism” isn’t the best way to evangelise. Deadlines place unnecessary, and unhelpful, time limits after which the currencies of faith, hope and love–the well-springs of the will to act –rapidly devalue.


  9. The extreme alarmists, like Andrew Simms, declare a time period to “save the world” in the hope that their prophesies will see the light of the real world. Somehow the massive warming will leap out and grab us. In AR4 2007 it was hidden by aerosols. When that excuse failed, it was because the temperature data had failed to be tortured enough to confess.
    IIf the chaps had done the numbers on policy, in the alarmist terms the opportunity was lost in the Rio Declaration. Robin Guenier pointed this out last year in his notes on the Philippe Sands Lecture. In the conclusion he stated of Sands:-

    However he might perhaps note that it’s not disputes about science that are making it so difficult to reach a global agreement to reduce GHG emissions. The problem derives from the understandable wish of the developing countries – responsible for about 70% of global GHG emissions and comprising 82% of the world’s population (including virtually all the world’s poorest people) – to develop their economies and to eradicate poverty.

    There was an error in Guenier’s figures. He only used CO2 emissions data. The proportion for GHG emissions (at least the estimates from the EU EDGAR data was only 62% in 2012. But that was up from 46% in 1990. In fact the rise in emissions between 1990 to 2012 from countries not included in any agreement to cut emissions is pretty much the same as the global rise in GHG emissions in the same period. To achieve the 2C warming limit to “save the planet” requires GLOBAL emissions to be cut by over 80% to less than 10,000 MtCO2e, so that cumulative emissions from now on do not exceed 1,000,000 MtCO2e. The graph below shows that GHG emissions exceed 50,000 MtCO2e and are rising.


  10. Four years ago I intercepted Simms at the halfway point in his countdown to doom

    The problem with the terminally obtuse is that there’s no development. I challenge anyone to find a sentence in any one of Simms’ posts in eight years of doomsterdom which couldn’t be transposed into any other one. Like the Bourbons he’s learned nothing and forgotten nothing. And the Bourbons did a lot of damage before they faded away.


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