The Denier Who Came In From The Cold

One of the best ways of understanding the threat to Humanity represented by global warming is to pop down to your Oxfam bookshop tomorrow and browse through the Environment / Esoterica section for one of the thousands of titles that have come out in the past 15 years explaining climate change from every possible point of view. For just £1.99 you may alight on the definitive guide to how to save the planet from imminent catastrophe. Or not. This one is in the “not” category, but none the worse for that. (And to tell the truth it wasn’t from Oxfam, but left on the computer I bought secondhand from my daughter, along with 500 other pirated books on history, philosophy and science and about a million photos of her cat.)

It’s called “Why Aren’t We Saving the Planet: A Psychologist’s Perspective” by Geoffrey Beattie. (Routledge 2010)

What makes the book so fascinating is that Geoff started out as “an environmental unbeliever.Yet, somehow, he seems to have slipped through the media denier dragnet:

He was the resident psychologist on all ten Big Brother series and has also appeared on a number of television programmes for BBC1, Channel 4 and UKTV Style (including Life’s Too Short, Family SOS, Dump Your Mates in Four Days and The Farm of Fussy Eaters).

How this fervent unbeliever became the dedicated researcher into ways of persuading us to reduce our carbon footprints is told, alas, all to briefly. St Paul’s conversion is a Kierkegaardian struggle in comparison. One moment he’s sitting in his office at the University of Manchester, revelling in the extravagant lifestyle of an academic kilowatt addict:

Everybody needs a vista on the world, and this is mine. A bright airy office lit by lamps huddled in every corner of the room, three desk lamps hugging the corners of the desks not covered in paper, six more lamps standing tall and proud with chrome and off-white shades, one with a white paper shade billowing out, giving out a dull glow.. the noise of the computer whirring in the room makes the whole room feel alive. That’s the sound I prefer, the sound of activity and life. I like the glow when students enter the room. It’s like coming in from the dark and the cold, into the light and the warmth. They always say the same thing, “It’s very cosy in here.” “I live here,” I say, “it has to be.”

…and the next he’s writing a book on how to save the planet by lowering the glow. But let him tell the story:

…I love that optimism of university life, it’s all about the future and possibility; anything is possible, any dream, no matter how ridiculous…. And I can see the new recycling bins, all nine of them in a neat row with blue or black tops and a bright orange chute thing on the top, just inviting you to recycle and save the planet. They turned up recently…

I sit and look out of my window and watch one man carefully and tentatively approach the bins. He has come prepared … and he stands there in the grey drizzle placing each item carefully and neatly into the correct box…I just notice his ill-fitting trousers and his haversack, purple and green, the colours and fashion of twenty years ago, maybe more. His pullover looks tired and recycled, probably from an Oxfam shop. He is a living embodiment of one of my cultural stereotypes – the repressed eco-warrior, on his own little pathetic moral crusade to save the planet.. It makes him feel different and unique. I catch him glancing up at my room… and only then do I see the mild look of disapproval when he sees me sitting there… That fleeting look said something about the earth’s limited natural resources, and finite sources of natural energy; it said something about academics who should know better. It said something about me and him and the gap between us, in a vertical rather than horizontal plane; it said something about moral and intellectual superiority. I hate people looking down at me. [Hang on Geoff. You’re up here, with the lights blazing, looking down on him down there in his tired Oxfam shop pullover. Did you never do projection in your psychology course?] I said something under my breath and turned away. For some reason that look of his had made me momentarily angry.

There’s a knock on the door, and a young lady enters. But never fear, this is not a Pachauri-type temperature-record-ripper:

It was one of my recent graduates, Laura Sale, a former student working with me on how the brain sends its complex messages through gestures and speech to other brains during conversation. She came into the room and visibly sighed, looking round slowly and deliberately at each of my lights. “Do you need all of those on?” she asked. I like her directness. She reminds me a bit of my mother… Perhaps that’s why I do it, perhaps I’m celebrating the fact that my life has moved on from those days in the streets of Belfast, perhaps I’m signalling my small stake in consumer culture, gratuitously enjoying my days of material possession…

Laura was still looking at me. There was something in that look that I really didn’t like. “What’s your problem?” I asked her. “Do you actually believe in global warming? Have you not noticed that in Manchester winter lasts from October until May, and that it rains every day? My view is that you should only believe what your senses tell you, and mine are telling me that it’s getting colder around here. Perhaps I should have a ‘Stop global cooling’ sticker on my door. That might do the trick. You could join my movement. It might start small but I’m sure that it would grow.”

She didn’t take the bait and didn’t respond with any anger or any kind of discernible emotion. But that may be temporary, I thought. “Stop global cooling,” I chanted quietly; “Stop global cooling,” I said more loudly in that provocative manner I have that really irritates people. She just smiled in that way that women do at men who aren’t behaving in a totally mature fashion, at men who should know better.

But say there was something in the whole thing,” she said. “You’re a psychologist, wouldn’t you find it rewarding to try to do something about it?”

You mean, like the guy with the moth-eaten pullover and the little haversack?” I asked.

What are you talking about?” she said. “What pullover? What haversack?”

Basically, you want me by the bins down there,” I said, “recycling bits of my very busy life? Checking out who’s watching me, showing that I have all the time in the world and the patience and the moral authority to sort all of the crap of my life into little neat piles and then stick them one by one down that bloody orange chute? And you want me to do that slowly enough so that everyone can see what a great guy I am, and not that selfish bastard that some suspect that I really am?”

No, that’s not what I meant,” she said. “I want you to use your psychology, everything you know to work out what we would have to do in order to make a difference.”

I made a ppppfffffff sound at her cheek, a sharp expulsion of air, a primitive rejection of the idea that seemed to do the trick, although the basic onomatopoeia here, which could form the basis for the word ‘piffle’, probably helped.

What would the basic principles be?” she asked. I glanced away, breaking any sort of bond. “Treat it as an intellectual journey if you like. You don’t have to believe in it at the start.” She paused. “But have you ever thought that the reason that you don’t believe in it to start with is because the whole thing is so massive that you might not have the psychology to help you? Perhaps you just feel helpless in the face of great challenges? Perhaps this is a classic case of avoidance behaviour by a psychologist who should know better?”

She knew that I would find this confrontational for highly personal reasons. That week I had been on ITV1 providing expert analyses on then in a TB hospital for Ghosthunting with Girls Aloud. “If youre out there why dont you fuckin well show yourselves?” Cheryl had screamed into the nothingness with Kimberley perched precariously on her knee. I had said something about the fight or flight response and what happens to the human body and the human brain when it is prevented from fleeing by social or physical constraints, including Yvette Fieldings constant, and well-practised, challenges – Youre not going to bottle it, are you Cheryl?” – and Kimberleys ample bottom. It was not what I had imagined myself doing with my degrees in psychology.

[Look, I’m only transcribing this stuff from a pirated version of what some expert on Girls Aloud said in a haunted house about how he saw the light – all x kilowatts of it, about climate change. I’m as in the dark about Kimberley’s ample bottom as you are.]

I went back to staring out of my window. The problem presented now as an intellectual challenge had everything, even I could see that: social identification and the man with the moth-eaten jumper, risk perception and the fact that I love warm, brightly lit offices and that I’m too busy to think too much about the future, attitudes and behaviour and how to change both, the unconscious mind and conscious reflection, the reasons behind behaviour and the way that we can rationalise our actions, beliefs and knowledge, empathy with others in other parts of the world, cynicism and scepticism about commercial involvement, human perception of the world as a small ecosystem or a giant disconnected macro-system, our emotions and our logic, our feeling that we live in the Garden of Eden or at the very end of days, our belief that evolution is over or that a new cultural evolution has just begun, our innermost thoughts that we can do something or that in the end we can do nothing.

Laura smiled back at me. It was the face of optimism. “Okay,” I said, “let’s think about what psychology might have to offer.” It was a conversational opener, to keep her on board, nothing more. “Where would I start?” She came back that afternoon with the first paper for me to read and placed it neatly on the side of my desk next to one of my lamps so that it wouldn’t be displaced. She also placed it with the words facing me so as to minimise my effort, to cut down my excuses as to why I hadn’t time to read it. That was her little bundle of unconscious messages.

The paper was predictable enough in its content and tone. It was the doomsday scenario paper: I am sure that you can imagine the tone. I read it carefully, but embarrassingly it did nothing for me or rather it didn’t do what the author clearly thought that it was going to do. She came back later and sat over in the corner of my room while I finished reading it, occasionally looking up, as if I could not be trusted to finish the job in hand. The arguments in the paper made some logical sense, as far as I could see, but the problem was that I was no expert in the field and I felt overwhelmed by the insistent, relentless arguments. It might have all been true, every single word of it, but then again none of it might have been true. It was hard to tell.

But the real problem as far as I could see wasn’t the logic or lack of logic or even my ability to discern logic in action, it was in my emotional response to what I was reading. I felt no fear or nowhere near the level of fear that the smug git of an author guessed that I would be feeling. And there was something else. It was as if the article didn’t concern me and my behaviour: it was almost as if the article wasn’t about me or, dare I say it, my planet. It was written for other people, living less busy lives, with time to reflect and find the recycling bins, and time to grade their rubbish into neat piles, with time to walk to busy appointments, instead of running from their cars, and time to browse in supermarkets and make green considered choices instead of running up and down the aisles at five to ten with the assistant with the bad skin shouting that the shop was already closed, and me shouting back that there was at least another three and a half minutes before closing time and what was his problem.

I needed some emotional response to galvanise me into action. Ask me about what time supermarkets close and who makes that decision and I will give you an emotional response, ask me about the convenience of car parking by my department, and why we can’t park just outside, and you will be able to read my visceral response from thirty feet, but ask me about the environment in 2050 or test my galvanic skin response to that iconic image of the polar bear stranded on the raft of ice as it floats away from the polar ice cap and I will give you nothing. Perhaps I don’t have the imagination or perhaps I’m too good at thinking up alternative scenarios. Perhaps I have learned to look on the bright side of life. After all I did run a happiness course on Richard and Judy teaching random members of the public who were a bit miserable to be a bit happier…

Well, what do you think?” she asked eventually and with more than a hint of expectation. I cleared my throat gently, making time, ready to be vague in my reference, prepared to feign my enthusiasm. I wanted to feel emotional, I wanted to feel fear but I couldn’t. But I did feel something, and that was a curious empty feeling inside, accompanied by this genuine intellectual curiosity about how many other people out there were just like me, sitting at their desks murmuring about the need to save the planet and exclaiming about what a terrible mess we had got ourselves into and really deep down inside feeling virtually nothing. That almost produced just a flicker of anxiety; an anxiety about the fact that I clearly wasn’t getting the message combined with this odd thought as to whether there might actually be something in it. Just that single thought, “what if?” But, I suspected, many people were not really getting the message… The public proclamations were just too on-message for the likes of me: I wanted to know how everyone really felt.

But then I had a strange and unexpected moment. A sort of momentary intense fear of not feeling fear; a fear of something that was absent, like noticing that my clock had stopped ticking; a brief fear of my emotional stillness coupled, I have to say, with this odd desire to know why I was the way I was, and whether I was alone. Was I really this uncaring human being who didn’t give a toss about his children or his environment, including his house overlooking the beautiful moors outside Sheffield? the moors there for hundreds of thousands of years, now with golden brown heather? or his legacy?

I had talked to the ex-Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine the day before for a BBC documentary about Blair Mayne, the co-founder of the SAS with David Stirling, and the living embodiment of the regiment in the Second World War. Eddie Irvine and I had discussed Mayne’s coolness under fire, his emotional detachment, his apparent lack of guilt after the war about his combat missions in which he had become the most decorated soldier in the British army for his close-quarters killing. Eddie Irvine like Blair Mayne hailed from Newtownards, a stone’s throw from Belfast, and he opened up about his own emotional detachment from aspects of life and the way that images of the Troubles in that small part of Ireland never really troubled him – unless there were children involved. “Mutilated adults just don’t have any real effect on me. And when it comes to Formula 1 I never really cared if I had to manoeuvre another driver into the wall. It just doesn’t affect me. In my view it’s all about evolution and the survival of the fittest.”… So, what if I had that same kind of emotional detachment and it was that something which was missing in me which was leading me to be so uncaring and unthinking about the environment? What if I should have been doing something, but wasn’t? I love our planet; I love the quiet, rugged moors near my home outside Sheffield…

But what if I have too egocentric a view on our world? What if I am too analytic about my own limited experiences? What if my inaction was my own fault, all down to one or two moments that I had experienced in my life etched on my unconscious mind? It was maybe that feeling plus a certain intellectual curiosity, in which I clearly needed to reassure myself that I was conventionally normal, that galvanised me to do something, to test who believed what and whether or not this would ever line up with their actions. Laura might have been the emotional believer, maybe a catalyst (maybe not); I just wanted to understand why people like me, and there must be many, were doing nothing. It was as simple and as complex as that. But I knew that this was going to be a journey. Like any psychologist I spend the vastly greater part of my time in very familiar terrain, but for this journey I was going to have to travel through some very unfamiliar territory. If psychology was going to offer anything here, by way of explanation, I was going to have to rethink many old assumptions, to retrace steps that I had already taken to get to where I now stood, to look again at many old issues afresh, to climb many new mountains, some unpredictable and treacherous.

So,” I said, with a good deal more enthusiasm, to Laura still standing there, waiting for my response, “I’ll start at the most basic level, with the individual and his or her basic thinking. Hey, I’m a psychologist, where else would I start?”

And we both laughed in the way that people do when they think that they’re communicating openly but know in reality that they have a great deal that they’re not yet ready to share.

In 2008, in a book entitledThe Hot Topic, Gabrielle Walker and David King expressed the following important sentiment:

“It’s easy to believe that global warming is somebody else’s problem – other people will suffer and other people will come up with the solution. However, this is far from the truth. There’s a clue in the name: “global warming” is a truly global problem. None of us is safe from its effects (although some of us have a better chance of adapting to them). We are all part of the problem, and each of us will need to be part of the solution… Every time each of us switches on a light, reaches for something in a supermarket, gets into a car or bus, chooses what clothes to buy or which movie to see, we have all made a difference to the way the economy works. Choices like these have driven the world’s economies ever upwards in the twentieth century. They have also led to spiralling greenhouse gas emissions. Now we will all have to adapt our choices to the new realities of the twenty-first century.”

As a psychologist, I find this argument not just persuasive but attractive. It empowers me and my profession. Of course, I agree that it is “as individuals that we live our lives and make our choices”, but I also believe that there is a good deal of complex psychology underpinning the actual behaviour of making choices, choosing one product rather than another, or, indeed, choosing whether to buy a product at all, and maybe putting it back on the shelf (sometimes the hardest choice of all for many people).

[particularly when the product on offer empowers me and my profession]

One of the less traditional features of this book is the inclusion of me and my own particular predispositions and peculiarities in the analytic equation. [Yes, we had noticed.] Why would I bother to do this? Is it just hopeless vanity or maybe, just maybe, something else? I hope that it is the something else that is driving this.. [So do we.]

So I start with myself and my own consumer choices, with shopping at the most basic and mundane level… Our everyday consumption was killing the planet, we were told… So it was no real surprise that I wanted to start my quest here with the decisions individuals make when they wander around supermarkets, making decisions about what to buy and what not to buy on the basis of the marketing messages laid in front of them, without much conscious reflection… And I carried out my first experiment on myself, of course: each day for a fortnight I studied the contents of my own carrier bags when I got home from my local Tesco Express for evidence of my own environmental sensitivity. It was a strange sort of experiment, hardly double blind, more than a little biased, for I knew what I wanted to find…

Professor Geoffrey Beattie is Head of School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester. His work on sustainability is carried out in the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the university (founded by Tesco)

In “Acknowledgements” he says:

I would like to thank Tesco for its generous financial support of the new research that forms the basis of this book. The research was carried out under the auspices of the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester, an institute established with the financial support of Tesco.

And his psychological quest continues thus:

Many people have argued that the retail sector has a crucial role to play in this global fight against climate change (and, of course, it was this and similar arguments that persuaded Tesco to introduce carbon labelling on some of its products and to fund research in this area). As Sir Terry Leahy (Chief Executive of Tesco) commented (2007), “To achieve a mass movement in green consumption we must empower everyone not just the enlightened or the affluent.”

Geoff points out that:

For example, in three common products (sold in Tesco, UK), already labelled with carbon footprint information, this information has to compete with the information shown in Tables 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3.

Table 7.1Information displayed on Tescos low-energy light bulb packaging

Table 7.2Information displayed on Tescos freshly squeezed orange juice carton

Table 7.3Information displayed on Tescos Non-Bio liquid detergent container

and that:

A number of retailers (including Tesco in the UK) are now selling products with carbon footprint information clearly marked on their own-brand products to allow this empowering process to commence.

Geoff’s 300 page dissertation on the way psychology can help save the planet is somewhat pessimistic, given what an egocentric bunch of Yahoos we consumers are, but he has some ideas, outlined in his action plans:

We need to determine whether implicit or explicit attitudes are better predictors of green consumer behaviour in terms of the purchase of low-carbon-footprint products, and we have immediate plans to use online Implicit Association Tests (IATs) and online explicit attitude measures and relate both of these attitudinal measures to Tesco Clubcard data, as a measure of actual consumer behaviour (Tesco will be funding the research)

There’s more though, in the book than you might find in the average leaflet stuffed through your door by your local supermarket. Psychology, for instance:

A few years ago I treated a shopaholic for a television series for the BBC: her name was Carmel and she lived in a bungalow just outside Derry in Northern Ireland. She was like me in many respects, at least in terms of her shopping habits. She had hundreds of items of clothing and maybe a hundred pairs of shoes… As part of the programme we fitted a heart-rate monitor to Carmel to see where the excitement of being a self-confessed shopaholic came from. Carmel could have got the buzz from the power of the credit card, or with the interaction with the sales staff or even by walking down the streets of her native Derry laden with designer bags, all attracting envious glances. But no, the buzz came, and her heart rate peaked, when she got home and tried on her new clothes in front of her family and particularly in front of her beautiful sister, because for a moment all eyes were on Carmel. It was easy for me to predict what the critical moment would be and to understand exactly what her consumption did for her, her ego and her life. It sometimes pays to be a flawed psychologist.

Particularly if you get to place scientific instruments on unhappy young women to find out what secret things their bodies do in the intimacy of their family circle. We hear no more of Carmel and her responsibility for the destruction of the planet, because Geoff is off in pursuit of another of his bugbears – China:

But from the point of view of the planet I cannot go on consuming in this way because the labels on all of these shirts and suits that I buy tell me that many of them are manufactured in China, competing to be the world’s largest emitter of CO2and the new bogeyman of climate change.

China becomes a bit of an obsession for poor Geoff, but it’s not the fault of the poor Chinese, you understand:

China might have a total annual emission rate of 6,467 megatonnes of CO2, but its per capita emission rate is 5.0 tonnes per person, compared with 7,065 megatonnes for the USA but 24.0 tonnes per person (with the UK at 656 megatonnes and 11.0 tonnes per person).

I need to pass on some of the things I have bought to cut down overall consumption to slow down the pollution from China and other developing countries, but I also need to break the emotional bond between me and my possessions and to separate who I am from what I own, but I knew that this was going to be easier said than done, even when life was conspiring to help me.

So how did life conspire to help Geoff, and where?

In Mauritius the Hotel Maritim had a gym, and every day without fail at roughly the same time I would be there. This is also a big part of being a narcissist. The gym was quite quiet and most days it was just the instructor and me – he was a broad-shouldered Mauritian of Indian descent with a shaved head and a left eye that seemed to be permanently bloodshot, perhaps as a result of the effort he was putting into his bench presses. We would train in parallel and thereby developed a sort of bond, an intimacy that comes from routine and dedicated activity. Each day he would ask me about my runs and often he would remark on the quality of my running shoes. One day I happened to comment that in England I had maybe sixty pairs of running shoes. And from then on he kept asking me when I was leaving and whether I would be leaving in the morning or the afternoon. It was as if he didn’t want to miss my departure, although I couldn’t really understand why. But then he came right out with it and he asked me whether I would give him my running shoes when I left. “They are of much better quality than the ones we get here in Mauritius,” he said. I glanced down at the shoes he was wearing: they were also Nike and I could see that they were much bigger than mine. I pointed this out to him and he explained that the shoes he was wearing were several sizes too big for him but that they had been given to him by a previous guest.

So this was my essential dilemma. I know I need to break my habits of consumption and to do something about my emotional attachment to possessions. I know I need to recycle not just tins and cans but my shirts and suits so that hundreds of other shirts and suits don’t have to be produced in the first place. Giving a pair of trainers away would be a start, a small moral act that would make me feel better about myself and might be the first step in my attempt to break one of my destructive habits, but it was never going to be easy. I sat that night full of self-reproach, raging at my lack of will.

Well I can sympathise, since I’ve sometimes raged, full of self-reproach, at my lack of will myself. But I HAVEN’T GOT 60 FUCKING PAIRS OF USELESS RUNNING SHOES IN MY WARDROBE.

Geoff’s personal anecdotes continue to the bitter end of his mindless ramble. And it’s all to the good, since even a professor of psychology may have occasional moments of lucidity:

That night my friends and I took drugs for the first time, and gabbled away outside the chip shop for hours, hardly noticing the smell of chip fat. It probably wasn’t that much fun, but we all felt different, separate from everyone else, empowered in a curious sort of way. “We’re on the drugs,” we said to anyone who would listen. And it felt great, dangerous and exciting…

But climate change isn’t like drugs, I hear you say. Where’s the glamour in global warming? What’s so attractive about the submergence of the San Francisco Bay by the Pacific Ocean, or the disappearance of the area around Shanghai which is home to forty million people into the sea due to global warming? Well maybe I’m odd, but I grew up on disaster movies. I can see the human challenge in catastrophe. These films showed me what that challenge was. I can see the glamour in the whole thing…

This might all seem a little perverse but there is a point here, namely that one shouldn’t always assume that every individual has the same emotional response to any situation as everyone else, or even the same logical or rational response. When it comes to doing something about climate change we need to think carefully about the psychology underpinning the whole process and reflect that what works for some individuals might not work for everyone. It may be that some people do not understand the logic behind the scientific arguments for climate change (and are too embarrassed to confess this). It may be that some people feel little emotionally about climate change (and are too concerned to confess this). It may be that some people get a slight buzz out of the impending disaster (and are definitely far too sensible to confess this) and what they are relishing is that they, and they alone, will be tested like Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman and they are waiting with anticipation, and with genuine visceral excitement, for things to deteriorate to give them the right sort of filmic backdrop for their heroic recycling and climate-sensitive actions.

It may indeed.

Geoff is no longer a Professorial Research Fellow in the Sustainable Consumption Institute of the University of Manchester, financed by Tesco’s. He was sacked for gross misconduct in November 2012. It was alleged he had failed to account to the university for the resources he had used during this work, particularly the time spent by his research assistants. He is now Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire. It is not known whether he continues to shop at his local Tesco Express.


  1. Great find.

    You nailed his obvious growing desire to be a climate change hero. He wanted to be the one who reprogrammed the rest of us nasty deniers using his super skills as a psychologist. He also had the hots for Laura and clearly wanted to impress her, even if he didn’t realise it. Earning some grant money from TESCO also didn’t hurt.

    He follows in a long line of warmists, who really don’t engage with the issue in any logical way. They wear their belief (albeit neophyte in the case of Geoffrey) like a hat and are quick to take it off when it suits them. As you say ’60 FUCKING PAIRS OF USELESS RUNNING SHOES’. This isn’t just a former denier, it’s an idiot waster. CO2 won’t be reduced just because he gets his shoe and lamp habit under control. His holiday in Mauritius would equate to quite a few pairs or many hours of bulb glow. How many warmists self justify their globe trotting so they can see for themselves man’s impact on the planet and/or lecture someone less carbon dioxy about their central heating?

    Ironically given his spell on the production team of Ghost Hunting, AGW hysteria is like the ‘belief’ people have of ghosts. It’s something they flirt with when they’re in the mood and mostly when there is an encouraging audience. They don’t worry about going to the loo in front of pervert ghosts or stop having sex in case their Mum is looking. Their fears are largely confined to when they have time for being scared and are in the designated place (eg a haunted house). Who ever got scared of ghosts in a supermarket? Even when they visit the spirit aisle. Apart from a few loonies, nobody.

    Most people feel good about recycling but the main reason they do it is because it means they get some kind of bin collection each week. A lot of people are doubtful it does much good. I don’t know when he looked down on the determined recycler but if it wasn’t in the late nineties, early noughties I’d say his connection with the real world was very loose. Council recycling schemes from your door have been going for ages. Apart from the odd knuckle dragger, who doesn’t recycle at least some of their waste? Those things that people are prepared to do, irrespective of the justification, are those that make sense in their own right.

    The public can’t be nudged into serious CO2 reduction. There is no psychological trick that will turn a modern, educated population into a primitive belief driven mass that meekly does as it’s told. If they act it will be because they trust the science and the effectiveness of the solutions.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Wow, what a “mindless ramble” indeed.

    It’s on Amazon with three reviews. There’s a brief positive one but the other two seem more in agreement with you:

    “Beattie introduces his piece with a personal introduction that couldn’t be less clear. He describes himself in an office, judging a nearby student/hobo sorting the recycling while Beattie the academic in every-way sits in an office lit by a dozen high-energy lamps. His student walks in and he starts critiquing a paper she places on his desk.

    If you didn’t pick-up on the point from that summary, its because neither did I. Is Beattie trying to cast himself as someone who doesn’t care for climate worries? Is he trying to relate to deniers? Whats with the student, is the book based on her work, inspired perhaps (she doesn’t seem to appear on the credits.)”

    “Chapters 1 and 2 need special mention as they are emotionally grating. The author’s tone is pierced with ego, antagonism, self-loathing and superiority/rationalization of inaction. Is this what he and the editors think are readers’ initial feelings toward environmental issues?”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Has anyone managed to get an answer from a believalist, or even a believer, to the riddle: how come nobody can name a single scientist who’s converted from skepticism to unskepticism upon closer examination of the evidence, while countless have converted the other way?

    (And no, I don’t count psychologists as scientists for the present purpose.)

    An answer that doesn’t involve the fake data point of Richard Muller, preferably.

    Surely this must make non-scientific believers wonder if they picked the right horse??


  4. I made a ppppfffffff sound at her cheek

    Left or right? He won’t say, but either way the invasion of the student’s facial space doesn’t exactly sound consensual to me.

    I thought you said this wasn’t going to degenerate into a litigable, Almora-style encounter, Geoff.


  5. You can see why he seems to have been the “goto” guy for all those great programmes but I am intrigued by his follow-up opus “Beattie, G. (2011). Get The Edge: How Simple Changes Will Transform Your Life. London: Headline Book Publishing” but not enough to want to purchase a copy. Perhaps it’s also on your hard-drive, Geoff? Also, what insightful nuggets did he gather from the Clubcard data?


  6. Muller claimed to be a sceptic but he really wasn’t. This guy is trying to big up his conversion by portraying his ‘sceptic’ phase as him being a thoughtless, arrogant jerk. Or maybe he’s still like that. Contrast instead the thoughtful and dare I say green credentials of quite a lot of sceptics like Anthony Watts. It would be interesting to find out how many sceptics were broadly pro the consensus before they started thinking about the issue properly. Countries like the UK were brainwashed early, before any coherent critiques were aired but scepticism spontaneously developed.

    Maybe that’s why Dr Lew et al’s plans to deprogram deniers is doomed to fail? It’s hard to con people a second time with the same trick.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brad:

    Has anyone managed to get an answer from a believalist, or even a believer, to the riddle: how come nobody can name a single scientist who’s converted from skepticism to unskepticism upon closer examination of the evidence, while countless have converted the other way?

    Depends what you mean by scientist, of course. But David Attenborough was definitely a sceptic once. They really felt they needed him and eventually he fell into line.


  8. It reminds me of the Born Again speakers who would occasionally inject our school assemblies with a bit of color by transparently exaggerating their own wickedness prior to conversion. One guy wanted us to believe he systematically smashed statues of the Virgin Mary at his Catholic high school, until finally breaking down with remorse and “letting her into his heart” one day because he’d chanced to ask himself: why is God letting me get away with this time after time, without ever getting caught? (As ours wasn’t a Mary-recognizing school, much throat-clearing was heard on the part of the faculty at this section of the story.) It was a cute tale, but I was no more tempted to confuse it with historical fact than BBD’s retrospective justifications for his years of climate denial. (He claims to have been the kind of mindless, flightless African bird I’ve never actually met in the deniosphere.)


  9. BRAD KEYES (02 Mar 18 at 12:55 pm)

    I made a ppppfffffff sound at her cheek

    Left or right? He won’t say, but either way the invasion of the student’s facial space doesn’t exactly sound consensual to me.

    Who said it was facial?

    Liked by 3 people

  10. A bit more googling provides some more entertainment. The book has been reviewed by Contemporary Sociology. Guess what? They like it.

    The review starts with:

    “As the devastation of global climate change reveals itself, Geoffrey Beattie, in Why Aren’t We Saving The Planet?: A Psychologist’s Perspective, presents the basis for collective action (p. 207) as overcoming psychological obstacles to green and sustainable behaviors at the individual level.”

    And ends with:

    “Beattie offers important psychological insights about the individual that may enhance discussions of climate change and other environmental issues from more sociological or STS perspectives. This book will be of interest to undergraduate or graduate students studying social psychology, especially in terms of messages from authority and consumer behavior, as well as those interested in applications of psychology in STS. For scholars interested in the social movement toward green practices and sustainability, this book reveals various aspects of the element of human motivation, and offers directions for future research in this important and timely field of study.”


  11. Richard,

    good point—but

    1. Attenborough presumably hasn’t practiced the scientific method in decades, if ever. Or do I misrepresent his biography? I do remember him talking about the stamp-collecting-style science he was examined on once, as a Cambridge [?] undergraduate, but the interim from then to TV megastar is a blank space for me.

    2. perhaps I should shift the goalposts to “scientists without a celebrity/financial stake in choosing the Right Side.” After all, there could be one or two other TV scientists, somewhere, that fit the bill. Or would this proviso render the challenge vacuous, since I could pretty much say that about anyone if my reasoning were motivated enough?


  12. Geoff,

    “Who said it was facial?”

    The decidedly windowed nature of his office.

    That’s the main factor that made a knickerless manoeuvre unlikely, in my opinion. But then I shouldn’t underestimate the audacity of these folk, should I?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s a strange day. The Conversation discovers via research that the poorest are hardest hit by green taxes.

    And the Guardian learns the CCS isn’t working.

    Should we be keeping score of the ‘we told you so’s ?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Heh fella, I once took my coins of silver from the outstretched hooves of filthy big oil, peddling my knowledge for oilgeld and a company car (non electric) . But then I was shown the light and I saw myself in all my false finery (and masses of airmiles) Converting to the haloed halls of academie, first of Toronto, then the brutalist minarets of UEA, I used my ill gained understanding for goodness and confusing wavering undergraduates. In the inner recesses of CRU more evil was being concocted and black missionaries were trained and sent out into an ever warming world, telling all who would listen that there would be no more snow. I DID MY BIT.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Brad. I watched intermittently James Lovelock shift his position upon AGW over the years although I cannot claim he was ever a staunch believer or ended a full sceptic.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Did I fall asleep? Is it April Fool’s Day already? I was convinced this was another spoof until I read the comments, and now I find it’s apparently true. It can’t be – can it?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. “This might all seem a little perverse but there is a point here, namely that one shouldn’t always assume that every individual has the same emotional response to any situation as everyone else, or even the same logical or rational response.”

    This is not quite the way I would say more or less the same thing. When I was a teen my mom told me that I would get into trouble some day simply by asking too many questions. Some day I would ask the ultimate question. I was always polite to my mom, so I thought, but did not ask, “What? Would I explode?”

    I knew that she was not referring to asking politically incorrect questions, but fundamental epistemological and ontological questions? (Yes, I did know about these modes of thought when I was a teen).

    My mom feared that I would lose the Faith. Because she secretly feared it was all smoke and mirrors, more or less whet 60 years of studying Earth science has led me to believe about anthropogenic global warming. I am not even certain that the globe is warming long-term. not certain the climate of the globe is not merely fluctuating as it has done for forever and forever.
    I am not even certain that a global climate exists outside the minds of people who follow what climatologists proclaim.

    When I began studying climate in high school and at university, the concept of “global climate” was nowhere near as popular as was the Koppen-Trewartha climate system with its zones numbering a dozen or so, replicated more or less in both the Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

    In those days most people were more humble about the capacity of the human species in the scheme of things. We knew about hubris and nemesis, pride and retribution, the Tower of Babel and all that, With the development of the H-Bomb, we even understood the fable of Pandora’s Box.

    But now we seem to be hell-bent on casting ourselves back to preindustrial times. For the purpose of saving the Earth from ourselves, we would destroy ourselves.

    Sounds to me like committing suicide to avoid being murdered, which would be rational to avoid torture. But we are told we must commit self-slaughter to avoid luxury. Strange way to deal with the problem of Pandora’s Box.

    I my opinion modern psychologists would understand the psychology of climate alarmism better after reading Charles Mackay’s book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

    But as the psychologists might be quick to say, this difference in perception is probably intergenerational, which goes with having become a grumpy old man.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Frederick. ” this difference in perception is probably intergenerational, which goes with having become a grumpy old man.”
    But was it ever thus. The yoof desire independence and many of them wish importance and to make their mark on the world. In the past (my yoof, yours?) those with drive would enter industry, politics or commerce and claw upwards. Today anyone can be important because the Earth needs saving, and from us. As we gain experience we progressively and commonly painfully drop any pretence that we are “important” (except to those that love us). But today matters have changed somewhat. Gaia doesn’t relinquish her grip when you become wrinkly. To save Gaia needs constant attention and you can become important to the struggle all your life. It is a religion. Like the Jesuit belief : give us your yoof, and they are ours till they die. So I question whether grumpy old men become climate sceptics, I believe they become grumpy old believers. My fear is that we may be one of the last generations where climate scepticism is widespread.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Can I repeat my question:

    nobody can name a [natural] scientist [with a working knowledge of the scientific method] who ever came in from the cold, can they? Plenty of scientists have gone out, but not one has come in, to my knowledge.

    Surely this fact is discomfiting* for the people indoors, is it not? Doesn’t it poke a small hole, at least, in their lacquered-paper armor of confidence*?

    * I mean encouraging and fear, respectively, of course. Naughty me. We are talking about the biggest threat to civilization since the Nip-Hun-IBM Alliance reared its cerberoid heads from East to West (a calamity that was Even Worse Than We Thought When We Wrote Revelations).


  20. Brad, sorry for not responding more promptly to your questions yesterday about Attenborough as possible counterexample to the question you’re asking again now. I’m struggling to keep up with Cliscep, let alone the other blogs other contributors obviously read. I think, frankly, as a tool of persuasion, you’re likely to be seen to be using motivated reasoning. But I also mentioned Attenborough because I’d been thinking of his change of heart and what an enormous pity it was. And then I’m reminded of Clive James, on his deathbed or thereabouts. No pretensions of being a scientist but a staunch sceptic, for deep and fully thought-through reasons.

    And there I’m beginning to respond to your and Alan’s reflections on Frederick Colbourne’s brilliant comment. I don’t think it is quite as bad on the yoof front as you all may be thinking. The crucial cowardice has come from older people at places like the BBC, with Attenborough quite possibly among them. Meaning there is underground scepticism and a lot of it, as Manic’s been showing vis-a-vis women. We simply don’t know where it all leads.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I doubt any former sceptic scientist would trumpet their return to the fold, simply because it would advertise their former position. However luke warmerism is looking more viable as the hysterical predictions haven’t come true. I doubt any warmist making that move would trumpet it now, simply because of the vitriol from the other side.

    Another ‘we told you so’.

    Re AK’s comment, the public are falling out of love with cults. Sure, they flirt with them but only until they costs begin to bite. And by costs I mean time as much as money. There will always be a few people who are drawn to them but the majority don’t invest that much. In some ways it’s no accident that those with a Christian outlook have been drawn in by warmism. It portrays itself as the ultimate goodness. Saving the planet from the evils of mankind. They’ve made asking questions an act of heresy. Both sides have a problem in the younger generations. They’re easy to convert but the last to do anything about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Tiny. I have visited two Schools of environmental science since the new year. While it’s not wall to wall climate fanaticism, AGW is accepted as established truth and people like me as unscientific old relics. There is no-one able to, or willing to, expose undergraduates to even the mildest form of scepticism. No doubt any showing of questioning would be frowned upon, if not marked down.
    Where do some of you get your optimism from? I have decided not to talk at universities any more, it’s so depressing.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. It won’t come from the environmental sciences, it will come from practicality – which our university system is poor at generating admittedly. I’m more fearful of Labour’s hold on the youth because Corbyn offers free stuff. It’s easy to believe in free stuff. Only experience tells you that there’s no such thing. So the renewables business says the electricity is cheap and people want to believe it. ‘Free energy from the wind’. Yeah right. Until people realise that green costs, they find no reason to reject it. But the bills will come. That’s not optimism but realism. Sadly the same is true of the belief in Corbyn. I fear the young will learn too late that free stuff is very expensive. How ironic that those with degrees will be the most affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. The whole concept of “carbon footprint” is very clever, implying something dirty, when it should really be called, if you believe it to be harmful, your CO2 gas print. That doesn’t scan quite so well and your methane gas print even less. It is very rarely pointed out that we breathe out CO2 constantly, but presumably this is never quantified in the UN INDC submissions.

    Kevin Anderson, deputy head of Tyndall, proposed in January 2004: “Carbon Rationing to save the planet”: “Carbon cards…each adult would be given a smart card that only allows them to use a certain
    amount of carbon ‘units’. Every year the nation’s total number of units would decrease, thus reducing greenhouse gases.”

    A few years ago, soon to retire Professor John Schellnhuber, put the maximum sum of greenhouse gases to be emitted until 2050 at 600 to 750 billion metric tonnes of CO2.

    “You divide the 750 billion tons of CO2 by the world’s total population, and have the per capita budget of emissions allowed until 2050, of some 110 tonnes of CO2,” said Schellnhuber, who is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

    A couple of years ago he became a climate adviser to the Pope, so he is pretty clever.

    For the final word on Re-cycling, check out the Penn and Teller video: (some strong language…)

    For a vision of No-Cycling check out this Chinese example:

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Dennis staggering photographs of bike mountains [what do you do if you parked your bike at the bottom?]
    Another oldie but goodie is the “ecological rucksack” – the total quantity (in kg) of the natural material that must be disturbed from its natural setting (= the total environmental change caused in order to generate a product). The diamond engagement ring you wear or have given has a huge ER – the weight of gold x 540,000, + weight of diamond x 53,000,000.

    Liked by 1 person

    On the question of the cleverness of the Carbon Footprint concept – a point I’ve tried tirelessly to make (on no evidence, it’ true) is that your carbon footprint is directly proportional to your expenditure and therefore income, which makes it a political non-starter, unless you can persuade voters that they’ll be happier poorer.

    If you Google Kuznets Curve + Carbon Footprint you find a number of papers trying desperately to find a carbon Kuznets curve, in order to demonstrate that the richer we get, the more we care about reducing our contribution to climate catastrophe – alas in vain. It’s as if these earnest eco-economists had never heard of Al Gore or Leonardo di Caprio.

    The idea of equal shares of carbon therefore comes down to equal income for all, an idea that might appeal to Pol Pot or a naive ten-year-old who’s just discovered socialism, but no-one else (and possibly the Pope, if he’s taking advice from Schellnhuber.)

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Richard

    thanks for writing back. Which aspect of my argument seems like motivated reasoning? Excluding Attenborough on the basis that he seems to have spent most of his career doing TV, rather than science?

    Or the whole argument? I’m fully aware that it’s not a remotely valid argument for skepticism to say “hey, scientists only seem to be converting from believer to unbeliever, not vice versa.” I know that doesn’t constitute evidence of which side is right.

    But it does seem like the kind of argument I’d be swayed by if I’d been brainwashed into thinking What Scientists Think = science. In other words, if I were in thrall to Oreskes’ pre-scientific consensualist epistemology.

    Remember, the Oreskeist delusion entails that “what counts as knowledge are the ideas that are accepted by the fellowship of experts” and “what scientific knowledge is, is the consensus of the scientific experts who through this process of organized scrutiny, collective scrutiny, have judged the evidence and come to a conclusion about it, either yea or nay” and “we can think of scientific knowledge as a consensus of experts.”

    If I believed this fantasy, then I think I’d be disturbed (I mean… relieved?) if someone pointed out that no scientist is known to have become an alarmist on further examination of the evidence, while plenty of them have become non-alarmists.

    Assuming that’s true, of course. It’s true AFAIK, provided the Attenborough Exclusion.


  28. Tiny,

    “I doubt any former sceptic scientist would trumpet their return to the fold, simply because it would advertise their former position.”

    I’d have thought the opposite! In the US at least, people love a Road to Damascus story. It’s a confessional culture, where admitting (in lurid detail) how wicked and self-deluding you were before seeing the light only adds to your cross-market appeal.

    Imagine being able to say—truthfully, unlike Richard Mueller—”I’m the first scientist ever cured by further examination of the evidence, and my message to others who are still in denial is: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—you just have to have the courage to examine the science.”

    You’d go from gullible scientist to celebrity scientist overnight.

    One interesting thing:

    I notice you said “return” to the fold. Is this because you assumed they’d have been a believer before apostasising and then becoming a believer again?

    I don’t get why people assume that. Why couldn’t someone have been born a skeptic, remained a skeptic for decades, and then recently accepted The Science?

    Am I the only one here who NEVER believed?


  29. Geoff, I’ve suggested repeatedly to warmists that cutting CO2 is easy – you just have to have less, do less, go less. A lot less. Cutting CO2 isn’t hard but the life and economy you’re left with is. If I gave a sod about AGW, I would be investing in virtual reality. A Matrix style reality would be the easiest way to reduce people’s energy footprint. It would allow people to enjoy all that life could offer but not use real resources to do it. It might also see the human race die out but warmists aren’t fussed about that.

    CO2 reduction is set to be the new way to divide the haves and the have nots. They literally want to tax the air we breathe. Clearly those who push it don’t see temselves as the have nots. However if I only had 2 tonnes of emissions I sure as hell wouldn’t be spending it on film stars and politicians.


  30. Brad, at any one time there are real threats, exaggerated threats and fake threats. Invariably the experts, the politicians and the media don’t know which is which, so for the public it’s a bit of a lottery which you believe or don’t. Often you just let it wash over you until you’re required to do something. The UK has clearly warmed and until about 2006 it wasn’t obvious that it wasn’t going to keep rising or what had caused it. Before that some of the claims were obviously exaggerated but the hysteria was relatively low key. For me it went into the pending pile. I’m not a natural conspiracy theorist. I tend to support science but I do believe in the power of cock ups, lazyness and noble cause corruption.

    In some ways it was Al’s movie that put the spotlight on the issue. What had been stealth insanity became too noisy to ignore. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that the solutions were rubbish but I had to concentrate on the science claims to spot the wealth of holes in it. At that point it didn’t take long to build up a picture of activism, egotism and shoddy work.

    I still don’t know what effect CO2 will have but then I don’t think anyone else does either. Any way it’s moot given the useless nature of renewables and the unrealistic views of politicians. Unfortunately they’re addicted to throwing away public money on crap.


  31. Tiny, I’m sure many people have a different file within which is located their climate change thoughts and concerns. There are two varieties – the “oh, let others decide, its too difficult for me” file, and the “for deities sake, lets give it a rest” file. I believe those with the second type of file are very numerous. They can’t escape, everywhere they turn, climate invades their space, and the last thing they wish is to provoke discussion (= ranting) with an activist or an avid sceptic. I don’t think pollsters capture the magnitude of these file-bearers.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. AK I agree with your view of most people and their reaction to AGW. The warmists rely on this effect, hoping to sneak action in while nobody’s looking and to a certain extent it’s successful. But it only works until people have to pay the bills. They may not know what they’re paying for or why but they balk at the effect.


  33. Tiny you seem awfully sure that when the purse begins to empty that the populous will become incentivised to act against the current climate madness – presumably when fuel costs go through the roof or rationing is introduced. Yet for some years now events have occurred in the name of dealing with climate that seemingly lack response from the general public (bitching and learned discussion by broadsheet columnists yes, but anything significant?). Extra charges on electricity, extra fuel taxes (for some years now in connection with falling relative incomes), deliberate reduced effectiveness of dryers and vacuum cleaners &c, have come without causing much rumpus. When do you believe we will react? I have lived through brownouts and blackouts. Other countries have endured much, much worse (Cuba still hasn’t regained its former position, which was not great then). Who is going to stand up and point the finger at climate activism and governmental acquiescence, and risk being pulled down by the climate mob? For there are too many vested interests to acquiesce quietly. Populism is not a panacea – look at German and now Italian politics.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Only slightly off-topic:
    A while ago I wrote about one of the Munk debates in which George Monbiot figured:

    I still mean to write about a more recent one in which Matt Ridley and Steve Pinker successfully stood up for progress.

    The word “progress” figures in the motion for the next debate in May, the motion being: “Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress…”
    Speaking against are Stephen Fry and Jordan Peterson.

    Should be interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

  35. The role of Stephen Fry in this seems odd. Has he ever expressed an opinion on climate science other than fear and let’s save those goddam bears?


    It’s not about climate, but about political correctness. Their opponents believe that: “If you’re white, this country is one giant safe space.” and that: “The focus must be on protecting the groups of people who are targets precisely because of their identities. To sideline their interests is to accede to a backlash that has just begun…”

    I’m not sure if we sceptics are defined yet among the oppressed minorities. I’d got used to the Gay Bacon Lettuce and Tomato acronym, then today in the Guardian I saw a reference to the GBLTI community. I for Independents?


  37. I stands for Intersex and that I think is incredibly out of order as an addition. A completely different challenge, as shown by this piece in Jan 17 on Hanne Gaby Odiele. But the addition of the T wasn’t without its unforeseen implications either. I’ve just read Helen Saxby on that. I’d recommend her post to anyone, even those like myself somewhat to the right of the articulate feminist.


  38. I is for intersex (hermaphrodites). I think. There’s also C – curious. There’s probably a whole alphabet of people looking to be different from everybody else. I self identify as the Sun a demand that warmists bow down and worship me. I shal be upset if I don’t get my way. Where do you get one of those safe space barrels?

    A for Asexual
    B for Bisexual
    C for Curious
    D for.. Doggy style?


  39. I’m feeling somewhat left out, and I certainly don’t know my A,B,Cs.

    For some idea of the Intersex read Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel Middlesex.


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