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Should universities declare a “climate emergency”?

 

At a website called WONKHE, which arrogantly claims that it is “the home of higher education policy, bringing the sector together through expert, trusted and essential analysis”, there’s a blog post saying

Declaring a climate emergency is an important first step. What do we do next?

It’s by someone called Keri Facer, who apparently is both “Professor of Climate Change Leadership” and “Professor of Educational and Social Futures”, at two different universities.

The first linked words in the article are climate emergency, which takes you to a BBC page about the University of Bristol’s declaration. That page helpfully has another link, What is a climate emergency?, leading to another BBC page, which, despite its title, utterly fails to answer the question:

Dozens of local areas around the UK have also said there is a climate emergency – but what does the term mean?

There’s no single definition, but many areas say they want to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Why declare an emergency?

The United Nations says we could have just 11 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe.

That last claim is, of course, untrue — the UN said no such thing, as at least one climate scientist has pointed out.

Since the trail runs cold, I asked the learned double-professor the question at her blog; more than a week later, there’s no answer.

The Bristol announcement seems to be this. Again, there is no substance to it. It consists of the usual tired cliches, “commitment to take action on climate change,” “the urgency of the task we are engaged in,” plus virtue-signalling about aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The only concrete claim in the Bristol statement is a falsehood about more frequent and severe extreme weather events. Contrary to their claim, the IPCC SR15 report actually say that storms are decreasing: “Numerous studies towards and beyond AR5 have reported a decreasing trend in the global number of tropical cyclones and/or the globally accumulated cyclonic energy”.

But it’s worse than this. Declaring a “climate emergency” is not just political posturing based on misrepresenting the facts. It is irresponsible and damaging. As mentioned in the Bristol statement, there’s a widespread effort in universities at the moment to provide help and support for students who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. If someone is worried or stressed about something, the responsible and compassionate thing to do is to try to reassure them and calm them down. Tell them that their fears are exaggerated, for example by showing them some actual data on storms, tornadoes and floods, or citing what the IPCC really says. The worst possible thing to do is to shout fire in a crowded theatre, which is exactly what the University of Bristol has done and what Keri Facer is advocating.

 

 

 

 

 

24 thoughts on “Should universities declare a “climate emergency”?

  1. Absolutely agree. The science is far from settled.CO2 is the signature of life and climate on Earth not by any means the main driver. In fact it is helping crop and tree growth all over the World.

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  2. It is annoying that we are witnessing the deconstruction of a pretty good culture by parasitic ingrates who reject data, reason, integrity and sympathy. All to obsess about a shoddy secular apocalypse that is not going to happen.
    The academy is failing society in nearly every way.

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  3. For those making a living out of the CO2 Scare, the notion of climate emergency has arrived just in time. The old ‘catastrophic anthropogenic global warming’ (CAGW) seemed to have been sidelined by the more sophisticated climate ‘scientists’ as being just a bit over the top, and by the campaigner zealots as too long, and with a big, not widely used, word in it. But as schemers at ‘The Guardian’ have recently noticed, ‘climate change’ is a bit dull and wicked ‘deniers’ can get too much mileage out of it, and so it had to go. ‘Climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ are now in. Whew! Sit back and wait for the funding to surge again, and flushes of scary headlines to roll off the presses and the pixels. Just like the good old days.

    I just came across a ‘Primer on Carbon Dioxide and Climate’ which could be a useful restorative for those just on the receiving end of the Scare, and who are beginning perhaps to feel a but under the weather about it. This primer (available here: http://co2coalition.org/2016/02/22/primer-carbon-dioxide-climate/ ) was published in 2016, and is full of unscarinesses for those sinking into despond. Here are the final two paragraphs:

    ‘Empirical data on global warming and carbon dioxide lead to an optimistic outlook for the Earth and its inhabitants. People everywhere can look forward to a greener, lusher, slightly warmer planet. More food can be grown while using less land to do so. Longer growing seasons are likely, and insecurity about hunger will decline.

    Hundreds of millions of desperately poor people stand on the cusp of benefiting from the same advances in prosperity that affluent nations have already achieved. Moral and economic justifications intersect to argue that the available, reliable, and inexpensive sources of energy be used to foster development and modernization across the globe. Yes, there will be mild climate change, and it will benefit the world.’

    Now that is terrifying talk for people on the supply side of the Scare, and for the rest of us, the opposite. Read the whole thing to see what a decent case is made for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It is high time for declarations that climate conditions in the future are unpredictable and could be either colder or warmer, wetter or drier, more or less stormy than at present. Let us also agree that humans can do nothing to prevent future climate conditions, even if we could agree on what we would prefer. Let us stop wasting resources on immature technologies like wind and solar farms, and instead invest in affordable, reliable energy and robust infrastructure.

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  5. Walking through the original wonky city, Bristol, on Saturday, I came across a major demo/celebration of Extinction Rebellion. The music sounded very fine, the dancing energetic and I cheerily took a leaflet. There seemed little point rehearsing any of my points, against the noise, made in Missing Facts. But I’m also a member of Bristol Uni’s brave Free Speech group on Facebook. I really like the place. We’ve got a way to go.

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  6. Pingback: Should universities declare a “climate emergency”? — Climate Scepticism – NZ Conservative Coalition

  7. Circular references, circular narrative, propagating round authorities and organisations and media across the world. Every few passes around another crop of variants and another notch more emotive, a bit more widespread, a bit louder. The catastrophe narrative already left mainstream science (let alone anything skeptical) behind many years ago. A few mental health casualties among the wider flock will not make adherents see the contradictions; cultural conviction blinds folks to its contradictions, and there’s already a range of more glaring ones in play. Not uncommonly, some of these might simply be perceived as yet another reason to be concerned about the supposed existential issue.

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  8. Richard:

    “We’ve got a way to go.”

    I don’t know your group, but in the current university (and wider) environment, I’d guess that this could be the understatement of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. bit O/T but from your link Paul to – “someone called Keri Facer”

    interesting but not surprising who pops up on her twitter comments – just a taste.

    GeorgeMonbiot‏ @GeorgeMonbiot · May 24
    quote – ” We need a political Catch-22: If you are crazy enough to want to be Prime Minister in current circumstances, you should be disqualified from running, as you’re likely to be a danger to the nation.”

    Good old George hits it on the (his) head again.
    so we (the UK) need no Prime Minister after May Exits according to Guru Monbiot for the safety of our country!!!

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  10. The earliest I recall somebody declaring a ‘kind of climate emergency’ was in a Guardian article in Feb/Mar 2016, when global temperatures spiked due to the El Nino (weather). I’ll post the link when I find it.

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  11. Jaime,
    The term has quite long history and roots. Quickie samples from prior years:

    ‘Amazon Rainforest dieback and the global climate EMERGENCY’, article at climateye.org, 2014.

    ‘To confront the climate emergency we need to dismantle the WTO and the free trade regime’, La Via Campesina, Sept 2013.

    ‘Amazon Regional Alliance to Confront the Climate Emergency’, Tierramerica Environment and Development, Dec 2012

    ‘Climate Emergency Overnight Vigil’, St Martin-in-the-Fields church, Trafalgar Square, 2010.

    ‘Climate Emergency: A Crisis of Democracy’: article at ‘climate and capitalism’ site, April, 2009.

    ‘A BUDDHIST RESPONSE TO THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY’ available from wisdompubs , first published 2009.

    ‘Climate Emergency’ article / pdf at global-greenhouse-warming.com, Feb 2008, which extracts from…

    Greenleap Strategic Institute Climate ‘Code Red’, a ‘climate emergency’ action book by David Spratt & Philip Sutton, 2008, and also includes quote…

    UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, 10 November 2007: “This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action”
    See ABC article: UN chief says global warming is ‘an emergency’ :
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-11-11/un-chief-says-global-warming-is-an-emergency/722062
    This may not amount to an official declaration, but I guess it carries a lot more weight than a media outlet ‘declaring’ the same.

    ‘CLIMATE EMERGENCY INSTITUTE’, the website ‘about’ page says started in 2008.

    “We really have reached the point of a planetary emergency” James Hansen 2008 (can find on Utube). (Similar statement in 2012 is separate).

    ‘The Climate Emergency’, Al Gore, April 13th 2004. Article at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, was presumably an address.

    And so on…

    New terms in an evolving umbrella narrative tend to start beneath the radar, then increase their scope and reach over time via emotive selection, potentially breaking out of initial sub-domains into mainstream use. The geo-engineering sub-domain may have given this term a leg up. A 2013 article on geoengineering noted: ‘Yet, the emergency frame has not gone away. The Tyndall Centre, for example, found that ‘climate emergency’ was the joint most-common frame in expert appraisals of geoengineering along with insufficient mitigation, and Nerlich and Jaspal found that it was an underlying narrative in scientific and popular discourse.’ So, also by this date it was apparently already in measurable wider circulation, but I don’t think that can really have meant mainstream media by then. The older and overarching ‘certainty of climate catastrophe’ (in various forms) is no nearer to mainstream / IPCC science than ‘climate emergency’, but the latter emphasizes action more (and potentially reduces the growing strand of fatalism in the public that had been concerning many of the orthodox regarding straight catastrophe). Another leg up might have been Arctic death spiral folks, I think there was some traffic on ‘Arctic emergency’ and ‘Methane emergency’, which is only a short variant modification away.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. To me, the real problem here is the use of the word ‘declare’. Where is the moral authority coming from for any of these institutions to be making a declaration? The only thing that is coming across to me is an exaggerated perception of self-importance and a desperation not to be left behind when the latest caravan of piety goes on the road.

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  13. Andy, thanks, it goes back a lot further than I imagined. It was Stefan Rahmstorf who declared the climate emergency back in 2016, when global temperatures peaked due to the exceptionally powerful El Nino. However, he said he would have declared it any time (regardless of natural weather variability), but he still chose the peak of the El Nino warming anyway!

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2016/mar/18/welcome-to-the-climate-emergency-youre-about-20-years-late

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Paul Homewood illustrates just how apocalyptic this spring has been in the UK, so I guess that’s why so many UK institutions and even individual councils are now declaring a climate emergency. Since records began in 1910, a total of 17 springs have been warmer, the earliest back in 1943 and spring temperatures on average have flat-lined since about 2005, after getting rapidly warmer between 1975 and the beginning of the 21st century. Here we are at the start of summer and I’m in the Peak District and it’s been very chilly. I’m sorely tempted to put a blue flashing light on the vehicle with some highly visible XR stickers in the windows and patiently explain to the police when they stop me that I am merely observing the fact that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. When they argue the fact, I’ll hit them with the graph of UK spring temperatures and that will convince them I’m sure. After all, it is World Environment Day today as well.

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  15. The Greens petitioned one local council here in West London earlier this year to “declare a Climate Emergency and review the council’s current carbon reduction plans to establish the actions needed to be compatible with 1.5 degrees warming”:
    http://petitions.hounslow.gov.uk/ClimateEmergency/

    Surprisingly the council showed some sense and rejected it, one reason being that it “was outside the remit or powers of Hounslow Council”.

    The petition has since been updated and resubmitted, and is now back in the “Closed petitions – being considered” category, so the story is not over yet.

    In the meantime, those people thinking about visiting Dorset and similar places where a Climate Emergency declaration is in force should avoid the floods, droughts, catastrophic sea-level rise and mass extinctions this summer and come to sunny, tranquil Hounslow instead. 😀

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  16. Pingback: Mike Hulme speaks out | Climate Scepticism

  17. Phew. It is outside the remit or powers of Hounslow Council.

    And the United Nations, as it happens, and every national government, and every one of Edmund Burke’s little platoons below that. But so many haven’t yet had the sense to admit it. Hounslow, you rock.

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  18. Meanwhile, Trump declared that “Climate Change goes both ways,” triggering a warmist freakout. The very idea, thinking that future periods could be cooler than the present is anathema. Methinks Trump is learning some things in his briefings with Will Happer.

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  19. To not study past catastrophist movements and compare/contrast with the present seems so odd.
    To only double down on the climate catastrophe narrative, no matter the evidence, is so bizarre.
    During the darkest days of the plagues there were apparently ER type demonstrations. But one could see the depopulated villages, towns and cities. Our ER is literally based on reality free perception.
    And the academy is doing little or nothing to compare reality against this perception….
    How shameful is this failure?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. This is how Christianity spread, by going after conversions of opinion leaders when possible.
    Converting (or creating) institutions to support the narrative.
    Except Climate Change Consensus is only winter never Christmas, all Lent and no Easter.

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  21. We have arrived at the post-scientific era. Universities are pretending to do science. It looks like science in fancy journals, but it isn’t.

    The emperor has no clothes, but after the crowd told him this, he just walked on, pretending he hadn’t heard it.

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