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Tag Along Climate Change–The One Percent Dissolution

Climate Change has ascended to the throne, Death, the Destroyer of Worlds. Does it deserve the title?

If like me you have become sensitized to the appearance of climate change stories just about everywhere, you may have seen the phenomenon blamed for all manner of ills.

If you’re as cynical as I am, you might have also noticed what I call the Tag Along effect–where the climate concerned add climate change to a list of contributory causes, often jumping the line into first place, or at least primus inter pares.

I think I noticed it first in discussions about biodiversity, where climate change was being listed as the cause of extinction of just about everything except weeds and cockroaches. I was participating in a discussion over at Bart Verheggen’s site with, among others, Jeff Harvey, who we most recently saw libeling Susan Crockford for having the temerity to notice that polar bears are thriving despite climate change.

Harvey was ranting, as is his wont, about how climate change was going to single-handedly decimate the biome of everything we hold near and dear. I took the rather obvious opposite view, that humans were indeed causing extinction on a wholesale scale, but through the more tried and true mechanisms of habitat destruction, over-hunting/fishing, introduction of alien species and pollution.
Harvey and others of his ilk acknowledged that they played a role, but still agitated for climate change as the real threat.

I light-heartedly wrote that climate change may indeed contribute, but at about a 1% level.

Then up popped a fellow blog-named Sidd, who wrote,

“Mr. Bernard J. kindly posted a link to Hoffman et al. In the paper.From the abstract:

“…main drivers of biodiversity loss in these groups: agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, and invasive alien species. ”

To check Mr. Fuller’s guess about 1% loss to climate change:

fig S7 allow one to estimate the fraction of deteriorating species (of the IUCN list of 25780 endangered species) due to climate change or extreme weather and fire regime changes, as well as several other factors:

For birds: total number of deteriorating species=433, those due to climate change or severe weather, 8, those due to fire regime change, 1
The corresponding numbers
For mammals:: 171,3,7
For amphibians: 456, 5,1

Slightly above 1%”

Since then, I have seen the same game played on a variety of fronts, from Pakistani floods (You decide–climate change or a trebling of population living in river deltas?) Sea level rise in places like Florida and Louisiana (Choose again–contributions of 3.2mm per year from melting ice and steric expansion… or subsidence of up to an inch a decade from rebounding tectonic plates… or aquifer depletion… or pumping millions of barrels of oil out of the ground?), to a spate of wildfires in California (Okay, one more time–drying out of the climate due to our emissions of greenhouse gases… or mistaken forest management practices for 70 years… or an influx of residents building wood frame structures too close to forests that have always been vulnerable?), to Syrian civil war (last time, now… climate change due to our fossil fuels… or repression by an Alawite government that enraged a population of Sunnis and Shias… or a doubling of population… or an agricultural policy that impoverished the land?)

Now, don’t just choose your favorite. Acknowledge that each of the factors listed for each of the disasters may have contributed. Go back to your figures and assign percentage of responsibility for each. Feel free to do some research to inform your work.

I’m sure readers can add to the list. And I hope you do in the comments section. If you lack inspiration, you can also refer to the IPCC’s estimate of impacts due to climate change in their Fifth Assessment Report, found here.

I don’t blame the scientists. Not very many of them are saying stuff like this–truly, Jeff Harvey and Michael Mann are exceptions, not representative. Most of this drivel comes from NGOs, careless and complaisant journalists and a host of foolish blog commenters.

Whatever the future holds, anthropogenic contributions to climate change amount to an asterisk in present day attributable impacts on our environment–and I’m pretty sure that most of the climate concerned are aware of that, which is why the solutions adopted to date are such weak tea.

18 thoughts on “Tag Along Climate Change–The One Percent Dissolution

  1. Rosie Smart-Knight, double-barreled 17 year old middle class student studying at Ofsted highly-rated Truro College, which sends the children of London escapees to Oxbridge by the dozen, will no doubt turn up to college on Monday – having been driven there in mummy and daddy’s Range Rover – with this explanation of yet another negative impact of global warming:

    ‘Sorry Miss, climate change [protest] ate my homework’.

    She believes that climate change is the single, most dangerous, most existential threat that we face:

    Twelve years – the amount of time climate scientists have given us to keep global warming in check – seems like a long time to me: it’s two-thirds of my life. But it’s no time at all to instigate the sort of radical change that we need. It scares me to think that my life could be defined so rigidly from so early on.

    In the space of 12 years, we could have three separate governments, each with their own agendas. This issue cannot be one that is used for popularity contests, it’s one that requires immediate, unified and urgent action. Politicians are gambling with the future of all known life.

    So even cockroaches and weeds are for it unless we do something now.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/15/school-climate-strike-classroom-climate-change

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  2. Jaime: when the 12 years are up, and assuming the culture hasn’t crashed by then, most adherents who promoted this date will still not be persuaded to challenge the narrative, but will simply have moved onto the next in a very long series of apparently critical deadlines.

    Thomas: below are all the other things you can expect from a strong culture, of which your tag-along is one of the consequences of 7 to 10 inclusive.

    I think in regards to adding other tag-along cases, it may soon be easier to go the other way around, and start counting the socially bad things which get a high profile announcement and yet still *don’t* have a significant CC mention / angle 😉 At any rate the old numberswatch list of several hundred is no longer live but there’s a copy here (where there was also an intent to update but I think it never happened, and many of the links are dead now anyhow): https://quixoteslaststand.com/2014/03/08/updated-list-of-things-caused-by-global-warming/

    1. Whatever is happening in society now will be due mainly to cultural effects, and not due to what will emerge regarding the physical climate (whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent).
    2. There will be a socially enforced consensus serving a cultural narrative.
    3. The above will include statements that are presented as all-explaining and/or indisputable.
    4. The consensus will be actively policed via a range of mechanisms including status control and emotive pressure.
    5. There will be uncritical acceptance of an authority or authority figures, possibly even adoration.
    6. There will likely be some rights or privileges granted to only a few.
    7. There will likely be some vision of catastrophe, and yet also an expectation of salvation / rebirth / renewal that is conditional upon catastrophe avoidance.
    8. Anxieties, fears, guilt, hopes and inspiration will all be culturally steered via the above visions and consensus, causing immense bias within all areas of endeavor connected with the culture.
    9. There will be double standards concerning many matters within the cultural domain, the creation of a feeling of threat, a shifting moral landscape and likely large changes to the law (if the culture has been active long enough).
    10. The core narrative promoted by the cultural consensus will be spread into many areas of society as justification for all sorts of changes that benefit the culture, independent of their true usefulness to the human condition and in fact even if some are damaging.
    11. There will be organizations acting as aggressively advocate wings who are still more emotive and still more convinced. Orgs like this contribute to the policing of internal ranks in a culture, plus also get the job of missionaries and recruitment agents (think Jesuits).
    12. Many adherents especially in the advocate wings, will self-identify with the culture. This produces instinctive and emotional (rather than reasoned) support.
    13. While conspiracies can latch onto any sufficiently large human endeavor, the phenomenon is not driven by conspiracy as root cause. Cultures are emergent phenomena, driven as much or more from the convinced at all levels of society and grass roots passion, as from top down command.
    14. Dissenters will be demonized, and possibly persecuted if the culture has gained enough moral penetration.
    15. Notwithstanding above, unless the culture has achieved a clean sweep of elites already, the domain-knowledgeable will be highly polarized.
    16. The 30+ years since the professor was stranded is not enough to get the multi-generational penetration needed to overcome ‘innate skepticism’ in the wider population. Hence there will still be a large rump of the public, possibly a majority, who are unconvinced.
    17. The culture will attempt to form cross-coalitions with other cultures (religious, or political or other secular).
    18. If as the sailors say this is already a global phenomenon, then likely whole governments and various other authorities will have bought into it.
    19. Huge resources will be going into infra-structure that benefits / promotes the culture and its ideals, yet doesn’t necessarily help with the renewal / salvation advertised by the core narrative.
    20. Despite an avidly promoted certainty of an apparently static position, the core cultural narrative will in fact slowly evolve.
    21. There will be icons. The evolution in 20 means that some icons will be set aside for new ones, having lost their usefulness for some reason.
    22. Cultures are by no means all bad, and not only that, without the mechanisms on which cultural consensus are founded, human civilization wouldn’t have arisen in the first place. Though some cultures can be net very negative, there will likely be positive elements to this culture.

    For the full context (and explanation of the mentions of a professor in 16 and sailors in 18), see:
    https://judithcurry.com/2015/11/20/climate-culture/ Examples of the list for climate culture are given.

    Greta is a current icon, but the conveyor belt will move on and likely (even if she doesn’t twig in later years that the extreme level of existential threat was a cultural fairy story), she will be shuffled into the background. Meanwhile, adults are releasing a monster they may not be able to get back into the box. Social controversy over climate change is not going to go away any time soon, and if it’s morally justified to skip school once in order to save the planet, how will that justification be reversed for the 2nd or 3rd or 9th or 19th or 119th, or any amount of subsequent times?

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  3. Hungry penguins! Trapped by overfishing (industrial hoovering up of fish stocks, over decades)… and our friend climate change tagging along for the ride.

    https://www.seeker.com/hungry-penguins-trapped-in-overfished-waters-by-climate-change-2252691679.html

    Update: difficult to work out percentages for this one, as nobody seems to know exactly what’s going on. Egg collection and guano harvesting also appear to have been factors in the decline, over the long term.

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  4. You can do the same with Brexit.

    Flybmi’s press announcement regarding their going into administration says:

    “It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement today. The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit. Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around bmi’s ability to continue flying between destination”.

    https://www.flybmi.com/en/press

    So Brexit uncertainty might have caused something of a problem for the business if it hadn’t already been ruined by “…recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit.” But it’s the items listed above (not Brexit uncertainty) which pushed them into administration. But the BBC’s report says:

    “The airline, which flew to 25 cities, said Brexit uncertainty and rises in fuel and carbon costs led to it filing for administration on Saturday.”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47269397

    The BBC’s reporting of the story runs true to its anti-Brexit narrative, and is factually incorrect. It makes Brexit uncertainty the first part of the story (instead of the last, as it appears in the press release); and it says the company said that Brexit uncertainty (among other factors) led to it filing for administration. The company did not say that. The BBC report is flawed in much the same way as most of its climate change reporting is flawed.

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  5. Some of the other things blamed on climate change: increases in HIV, kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, bone fractures, acne and mental illness, ice loss on Kilimanjaro, the war in Darfur, Zimbabwe’s agricultural slump, Ugandan salt miners having to tie plastic bags around their genitals, cheetahs with low sperm counts, intersex fish, fish getting smaller, Asian hornets arriving in England, fulmars flying into cliffs, pet dogs dying, rivers meandering, barrier islands and estuarine mudflats moving and changing shape, tsunamis, prostitution and (one of the oldest, this) the shrinking of the Aral Sea.

    I think it’s also quite common for (already dodgy) estimates of deaths from climate change to be padded with deaths from traffic pollution and cooking smoke but I can’t currently find an example. Perhaps climate change has fogged me specs.

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  6. Vinny,

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    At those prices she could certainly afford to buy a Range Rover I reckon.

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  7. VINNY BURGOO (17 Feb 19 at 8.06pm)
    Among the effects of climate change you’ve forgotten are a shortage of prostitutes in Sofia, due to a lack of snow in Bulgarian ski resorts, and therefore an increase in the number of frustrated would-be skiers at a loose end; plus a decline in circumcision in West Africa (I forget exactly why, and even if I remembered I don’t think I’d tell you, not on a family blog.)

    Many commenters believe that climate change hysteria will be replaced by some other hobgoblin, like biodiversity or water shortage or soil erosion. I don’t buy that. Saving species, or maintaining soil quality or access to clean water involves studying hard things like hydrology or soil science. Going out to unpleasant environments and actually making things better for people or threatened species involves serious commitment. Far better to stay in your comfortable London or Brussels-based NGO churning out pi charts.

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  8. @Thomas

    It has been obvious to me for a long time that our direct impacts on wildlife are orders of magnitude greater than the diffuse effect of CO2. What I cannot understand is why NGOs like WWF undermine themselves by latching onto CO2. Example: suppose I asked a conservationist how to preserve the tiger, what would they say? If they know anything about anything they would be forced to say that the way to save the tiger is to keep people away from where tigers live. The way to save species is to keep people away from them. Sorry people! But that’s a fact. Habitat destruction, hunting, introduced species, herbicides: nothing to do with CO2. But obvious messages about species protection are drowned out in the stupid froth that pretends that we can save endangered species by emitting less CO2.

    The IUCN have data on extinctions, and it is possible to go through them to identify the direct cause. I did this a few years ago for recent (historical) reptile extinctions: where the cause is known, it was either down to hunting, habitat destruction, or introduced species. (There was one species from Guadaloupe which may have been finished off by a hurricane, after its range had been reduced to a single islet.)

    “It is nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change” – WWF

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Richard and Geoff,

    “I agree about the special, possibly irreplaceable, nature of climate change as a hysteria.”

    I don’t, although the context of that disagreement per below compared to Geoff’s original text, may not mean full disagreement in practice.

    Cultures come in all shapes and sizes, and as long burn or quick flash or smoking ember etc, and for further complication can ally / entangle with each other (as well as oppose), and can also inspire yet not dominate more reasoned movements (e.g. political). This variability of expression is because they are emergent patterns in a highly complex and dynamic system, ironically having some similarity to weather and climate in this respect. And knowledge / modelling of culture is in a much poorer state than that of the climate system (despite this is also immature), so any useful cultural projection forwards is out of the question in the foreseeable future. Yet all cultures run on the same mechanisms, which not only results in recognisable sets of characteristics (that the public can both instinctively detect via innate scepticism, and may more consciously express via terms like ‘green religion’), but means that we can make some simple generic statements about possibilities going forward, even if nothing specific is predictable.

    So for instance on the assumption made above that current climate hysteria does collapse one day, to say that there will not be another such ‘hobgoblin’, is like saying that after some infrequent but historically common major climate event (e.g. a century scale drought event) there will not be another. Given that the general state of Earth’s climate is ‘similar’ (notwithstanding anthropogenic modifications), and of course physics hasn’t changed, there is every reason to expect another one and no reason not to, albeit most adults in the affected region are unlikely to live long enough to see it. Likewise for a culture with fear (and probably the hope of salvation too), embedded within its main narrative; these have occurred constantly throughout history, and the mechanisms that support them (underpinned by our brain architecture that evolved so to do) haven’t changed. Hence there’s every reason to expect another one, and none not to. But when, and in what guise, is anyone’s guess.

    Based purely on observation, we might note that cultures with a religious theme dominated the past, whereas secular cultures are more common now. (A reflection of scientific progress reducing the mystique of gods, while unfortunately not removing, indeed sometimes helping to introduce, many other mystiques that can grow on exactly the same mechanisms). Hence we could say that the next scary culture is more likely to have a secular theme. But with ~2/3 of the planet still believing in formal religions, and still more not ruling out a spiritual dimension, even this is far from a safe prediction as there could indeed be a spiritual revival of some kind (or even some secular / religious hybrid).

    Cultural narratives typically have a (policed) central tennet, which nevertheless supports (for global / successful cultures), a very wide portfolio of sub-narratives, which must therefore must all be tied back to the central tennet in some plausible (a relative term, the main persuasion is via emotive conviction so the ‘plausibility’ doesn’t have to be high) manner. This strategy** enables the maximum recruitment of adherents across all sub-domain attractors, buys the culture influence in many different functions of society, maximises the opportunity for allies in overlapping domains, and yet doesn’t dilute the main emotive persuader upon which the survival and growth of the culture is based. It is exactly this feature which causes what the main post here addresses, i.e. I paraphrase, ‘how come climate change explains everything bad now?’, which in my list above is covered by 7 to 10, and especially 8 and 10.

    So this structure means that when a culture does collapse for whatever reason, the fragmented portfolio of narratives it had been sustaining, some of which are able to make a poorer living on their own**, are up for grabs again, and newly arising cultures can spring from such remnants, or at least if coming from elsewhere incorporate them into their newer and shinier structures (as religions have regularly done). How important this passing of batons can be is visible in a modern context from the fact that some of the very same people who supported the climate cooling catastrophe in the 70s, later were supporting the climate warming catastrophe. The ‘anthropogenic climate calamity’ meme proved much stronger than the lack of evidence for sustained cooling, and simply morphed to warming. While from an objective reasoning PoV this seems the very opposite, from a meme’s eye view**, and hence as an emotive persuader (i.e. NOT via reason), this is merely a minor variant of the same meme. So whether the cooling scare is viewed as a separate proto-culture that didn’t get enough traction yet donated to the later successful culture, or is viewed as an early phase of the same ‘anthropogenic climate calamity’ culture, is probably an arbitrary categorization. Not only does the key narrative survive the transition, many of the actual adherents are carried forward too.

    Regarding Geoff’s examples of biodiversity or water shortage or soil erosion, these are each already entangled into the climate catastrophist portfolio, bio-diversity via threatened environments and increased stress on some species, water shortage via droughts and disappeared glaciers and more, spoil erosion via carbon load and less sinking capability. So these are already acquiring some cultural capital, so to speak, that is likely to cause a diversion from the objective fact in these domains, and hence they would still have value as future cultural assets for a while even if the master narrative collapses. But having said all of this, it is key for the main narrative to be very generic, otherwise it can’t even with minimal plausibility launch a wide society-grabbing portfolio. And surely water shortage or soil erosion are far too narrow topics to support a big generic fear. I guess bio-diversity has more legs, but the next biggy could just as easily be something unrelated like AI or genetically modified humans. These areas are not risk free (as indeed is the case with anthropogenic contribution to climate), yet are also so nascent as to be unmappable, hence they satisfy some of the necessary criteria.

    Every culture has a unique expression, which is partly a function of the era and region and social stratas in which they arose. But the level of uniqueness depends largely on what level of detail we choose to take into account. So is calamitous climate change the first big *secular* culture on the world stage that features an existential threat and a hope of salvation from same? Well no. Marxism promotes capitalism as the road to doom, and it’s own alternate systems as the salvation from that doom, and is definitely secular. (Incidentally, for anti-capitalist and climate catastrophist doom alignments / alliance, look for occurrences of ‘agenda’ in this file: https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/footnotes1.pdf). So is calamitous climate change the first big culture on the world stage claiming ‘scientific’ backing (albeit mainstream science doesn’t support the catastrophic!)? Well not quite. It isn’t such a clear-cut case, but in the cultural alliance of national socialism with anti-semitism with eugenics, the latter did provide ‘scientific’ backing for the doom Europe would face from submersion by the ‘lesser’ races. And the result of WWII was definitely a world-stage event. So is calamitous climate change the first culture in which the threat of climate catastrophe subordinated much of society’s efforts into avoiding that threat, in the process maintaining elaborate social and physical infra-structure (which is nevertheless useless to purpose) from which the cultural elite of society hugely benefited? Well probably not. The Lambayeque culture (from where Peru is now) invested enormous amounts of time and effort building monumental temples, really monumental (the later invading Spanish though they were natural features), from massive quantities of mud bricks. The people were subject to devastating drought and flood from ENSO cycles, and a strong theory is that the temples where built as man-made mountains (they perceived weather as coming from the mountains), from which man, via all the right ceremonies of course, could intercede and prevent the cyclic catastrophes. When the elite failed to predict or prevent disaster enough over extended periods (their models were likely even weaker than now!), they were burned out of the temple tops by the pissed off populace (this part is known from charred evidence), but eventually the society would fall into the same mode and build another mini-mountain further down the valley. And so the whole show repeated (more than once as far as I recall). So the current CC culture is not truly unique in any of these ways. At the other end of the scale, current climate catastrophism is unique for mostly having arisen in the internet era, for featuring Gore and Oreskes, and for a few million other details. Going up a few notches, is it the first big secular culture to feature such a large-scale hi-jacking of science (i.e. much more so than Eugenics or the limited geographical bounds of Lysenkoism)? Why yes.

    In summary I think it highly unlikely the next big scary cultural wave will come from water shortages or soil erosion or many other such limited topics. And even bio-diversity is a long shot. But that there will be another is (eventually) inevitable; nothing has changed that would stop them. As to being unique, well as Brad succinctly said on the same topic, regarding uniqueness he was referring to the unique parts and not the common parts 🙂 . And indeed all of the unique expression is necessary to fully unravel and understand to see the impacts, and indeed see how / where cultural effects on the ground may best be opposed by reason. But it is the common elements (to other cultures, per the list above) that reveal the real nature of the phenomenon.

    ** = terms used here do NOT imply anything sentient, or even agential. When dealing with entities that have some limited capabilities overlapping with life, but are not life, our language isn’t sufficiently nuanced to allow for descriptions that don’t imply agency. The same problem occurs with say viruses or prions. It is okay in context to say that the prion based disease CJD exploits cattle; it is understood that the ‘exploits’ is not agential, but via natural selection of the prion generations. When describing narrative effects in the same way though, people often jump to the assumption of agency (or even sentience). This is not so, all is accomplished in the same manner as for prions, by natural selection of narratives, and also their interaction with our (co-evolved) brain architecture, as prions interact with biological function.

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  10. Re: “It is nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change” – WWF

    The NYT has taken up the challenge. The world trembles as it mutters…

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  11. Richard Drake, I know why the current fright is so appealing. In the past one had to go to hell, now it comes to us.

    What could be more appealing to our current cohort of couch potatoes?

    Liked by 1 person

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