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George Monbiot’s Dark Night of the Soil

Cliscep has been criticised (and lost readers) for deviating from the path of climate sceptical righteousness to consider other subjects apparently far removed from climate. At the time of the election of Trump and the success of the Brexit referendum, the levels of hatred and lack of self-awareness exhibited by a ruling caste, who were also fervent climate believers, led us to speculate about the common factors at work. On Covid, the deviation is easier to justify. A genuine crisis unfolding in a few months has revealed startling parallels with the decades-long climate crisis: the mindless faith of politicians in incompetent and probably corrupt science; the self-censorship of most of the media; and the level of hatred aimed at sceptics, all suggest a similar pattern of unconscious causal factors.

And, of course, the same actors are at work. The supposedly lefty BBC and centre left or “liberal” media like the Guardian and the New York Times have been the keenest to defend the official government / establishment positions, and the popular rightwing papers like the Daily Mail and New York Post have been the most active in promoting intelligent scepticism of the official line. And this strange reversal has been effected in other fields, including the murkiest corners of geopolitical intrigue. When a British Foreign Office asset, who was on the receiving end of forty million quid of your money channelled via a private company registered in Dubai, claims that she was busy in Iraq and Afghanistan on climate-change-related matters, it’s time for us ex-Guardian-reading lefties to start paying attention.

Luckily other people have been paying attention for us, mostly independent left wing journalists like Caitlin Johnstone Craig Murray and Jonathan Cook.

Cook, formerly of the Guardian, but now independent and working from Nazareth, has been taking George Monbiot to task for several years now for accepting the official government line as gospel, first on Ruanda and Syria, and more recently on the trial of Julian Assange, who is being held on remand in solitary confinement in Belmarsh maximum security jail in conditions usually reserved for convicted terrorists. He has already served a harsh term of imprisonment for jumping bail, and is now being held pending the US government’s appeal against the judge’s decision (taken on health grounds) that he should not be extradited to the USA where he risks life imprisonment in solitary for embarrassing revelations about Western war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his latest article

Cook criticises Monbiot (for the third time) for not raising his influential voice in defence of Assange. Monbiot justified his silence on the subject in this tweet:

I’ve tweeted about it many times. But for me it’s one of hundreds of crucial issues, many of which are even more important. It’s terrible, but compared to, say, soil loss, it’s a long way down my list.

Well, we all have our priorities. Monbiot is a famous radical campaigning journalist, and the fact that the defence of a fellow famous radical campaigning journalist facing a life sentence for telling the truth counts for less than dirt is an interesting comment on the place of environmental issues in the minds of our intellectual élite. 

To claim that soil loss is at the top of Monbiot’s mind seems a stretch. According to his blog he has mentioned it just three times in the past three years. His latest article on the subject – on the promise of producing artificial protein from bacteria – published a year ago is fascinating stuff – Monbiot at his best, even if it is a plug for his forthcoming documentary “Apocalypse Cow.” 

In the article he mention soil erosion just once:

A global soil crisis threatens the very basis of our subsistence, as great tracts of arable land lose their fertility through erosion, compaction and contamination.

referencing a previous Guardian article by science editor Jonathan Watts which cites Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Monique Barbut is a French civil servant with a masters degree in economics. Before coming to the UN she worked for twenty years for the Global Environment Facility. (No I hadn’t heard of them either. They have “.. a unique governing structure organised around an Assembly composed of all 184 member countries, a Council, a Secretariat based in Washington D.C., 18 Agencies, a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP), and an Evaluation Office.”) So if Monbiot says that the Guardian’s science editor says that Monique says that a global soil crisis threatens the very basis of our subsistence, you’d better believe it. What more do you want? Evidence? 

Back in November 2016  soil loss was near the bottom of Monbiot’s list of thirteen things that were worrying him sick. The other twelve were, in order: Trump, Trump, Trump, Brexit, the EU’s crumbling economy, the world’s crumbling economy, automation, le Pen, le Pen, climate change, migration due to climate breakdown, and the extinction crisis.

His reference for his worries about soil then was an article in Scientific American by Chris Arsenaut of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Somehow, the claim in the Arsenaut article that:

Unless new approaches are adopted, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be only a quarter of the level in 1960, the FAO reported, due to growing populations and soil degradation

became transformed in the subheading to:

if current rates of degradation continue all of the world’s top soil could be gone within 60 years  a senior UN official said. 

And the sole source for this claim was a speech by Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) addressing a forum marking World Soil Day.

Ms Semedo also has a masters in economics. Before joining the FAO she was minister of maritime affairs and then of tourism in Cape Verde, an archipelago off the coast of West Africa with a population of half a million.

Monbiot’s concern for soil may be genuine, and certainly greater than his concern about a fellow journalist being condemned to a slow death by torture, but his concern for informing us about the problem doesn’t go further than quoting the opinions of obscure UN spokeswomen. Monbiot used to worry about genocide in Indonesia, and even risked his life going there to find out more. Having nearly died in Indonesia and Kenya, he came home and for the past twenty years has been worrying about the Death of Everything. (Everything except other radical journalists that is.)

The political left has always been an uneasy alliance between the organised labour and a section of the moralising middle class that provided the intellectual structure and much of the leadership. Rising living standards have gradually transformed the trade union movement from the protectors of the toiling masses into a kind of blue collar Rotary Club. And the complexities of modern capitalism and imperialism have led most intellectuals to concentrate on simpler subjects like pronouns and planetary extinction due to a half a degree rise in the average global temperature anomaly. 

It’s a depressing fact that the three people I’ve mentioned – Caitlin Johnstone, Craig Murray and Jonathan Cook – three of a few dozen radical journalists who dare to question the official line on important geopolitical subjects – are all firm believers in the official line on climate change. 

Mike Pompeo announces publicly that it’s his job to lie and cheat, and a tiny number of brave journalists are banned from the mainstream media because they take him at his word. Why don’t they similarly believe Stephen “make little mention of any doubts” Schneider or Al “over-representation of the facts” Gore when they say much the same thing? Not to mention Monbiot and Lewandowsky when they justify Gleick’s lying in the cause of the climate.

It’s as if those who are excluded from polite society for doing what was once considered the normal job of the journalist – to question authority – have to cling to one last source of authoritative truth – ands have chosen to believe the non-existent consensus about the forthcoming death of the planet.

That a journalist considered too dangerously radical for the once radical Guardian should retire to Nazareth is a strange symbol of our times.

[For the most moving and terrifying bit of journalism you’re likely to read this century, please go to Craig Murray’s site and read his reports on the Assange trial, if you can bear to, starting here. And donate if you can]

57 thoughts on “George Monbiot’s Dark Night of the Soil

  1. Let me try to help you Geoff. The clue is in the title of the blog. Try returning to a focus on the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Chamge (CACC) hypothesis (hence my “CACC CACC CACC” comment that it apoears you chose to delete.

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  2. I’m puzzled by Pete’s comment. As far as I’m concerned, this piece of writing is getting back to what cliscep used to be (and, FWIW, IMO ought to be).

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  3. I’m puzzled by Mark’s comment. I thought that I was attracted to this blog because of its focus on the flaws in the CACC hypothesis. I tried to check back on my first comment here but couldn’t get into any archive for a search.

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  4. Well, Pete, admittedly this article is tangential to the core subject, but in focusing on how Monbiot works, it’s useful in terms of critiquing his overall approach (and the approach of other similar climate hysterics) it seems to me. Just my opinion.

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  5. It’s just a put-down.My version is “I would comment but right now the dog needs worming”. Reducing “soil loss” to the level of a put-down suggests that Monbiot doesn’t care about soil loss at all

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  6. PETE RIDLEY

    I haven’t deleted anything. I’ll look into it.

    Let’s begin by trying to establish some common ground across the political divide. Can we accept that both left and right are subject to ideological biases? I can see some of the biases from where I am on the left, – utopianism, a sometimes naïve belief in progress and human perfectibility, a blindness to the crimes committed in the name of socialism etc. I don’t need to list what I’d consider ideological blind spots on the conservative side, but would just point out that they tend to be – conservative – in that they remain much the same over time.

    Leftwing ideology on the other hand is in the process of executing an astonishing U turn, and most who consider themselves on the left (the Labour party, Democrats, Guardianistas.. ) seem completely unaware. Only at Spiked! and among a few rogue radical journalists do you find an attempt to understand and maintain a bit of old fashioned socialist sanity.

    For years I considered climate hysteria to be an eccentricity that had somehow infected the left. But it’s turned out to be merely a symptom of something much weirder. To be “on the left” nowadays means to be afraid – of Trump, of Putin, of the weather, of a virus. Afraid, and nasty with it. My musings are an attempt to understand that.

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  7. The nature of Monbiot’s justification tweet suggests that he’s not so much justifying to the outside world (otherwise he’d make a far better job of it), but rather he has a conflict here that he can’t face internally.

    “It’s a depressing fact that the three people I’ve mentioned – Caitlin Johnstone, Craig Murray and Jonathan Cook – three of a few dozen radical journalists who dare to question the official line on important geopolitical subjects – are all firm believers in the official line on climate change.”

    Or at least say they are, to seal off a route to attackers. But more than likely they really are. Belief seems to be almost universal in the media.

    “It’s as if those who are excluded from polite society for doing what was once considered the normal job of the journalist – to question authority – have to cling to one last source of authoritative truth – ands have chosen to believe the non-existent consensus about the forthcoming death of the planet.”

    I doubt it’s a choice per se, albeit all journalists choose which targets are likely to be juicy. Rather, they have no conception that it might be. Though you may be right in the sense that I guess it’s always more comforting to believe there’s some ‘solid ground’ somewhere. The greatest trick of catastrophic climate-change culture is to have convinced masses of humanity that it is hard science. Hence notwithstanding journalists may be tempted to investigate secondary features such as, say, some dubious payments to windfarms or whatever, they still don’t think that the core issue driving everything (namely, the certain catastrophe) can be wrong. Nevertheless, this may still be the best route to eventual scepticism, and Lomborg, Ridley and others have pursued it regarding eco-colonialism and renewables shortfalls etc.

    In the nineteenth century when religion first started to come under major attack from the mainstream, it seems from my brief look into such that these assaults were frequently made in the context of reform and improvement *within* belief, rather than attacking belief itself. And the feminist movement attacking male dominance within the church didn’t come from the perspective that the whole ‘males only’ thing was just a fairy-story like the rest of religion, but that God loved women also and hence they should get a crack at being priests too. But this did in the end all lead to far more common disbelief, and we may have to go through the same process (ugh). Yet even the temptation for journalists to investigate the more obvious is dulled by the worry that they may thereby be damaging the greater moral cause (an objection often raised by orthodoxy in the above case too). The lack of interest in Planet of the Humans for instance, is surprising, it thought it’d have more impact. The secular religion can still very successfully suppress; though we don’t know how many are being slowly turned under the surface, so to speak. But how much attrition will it take?

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  8. Re the discussion of relevance to climate-change, I think this piece is firmly within the bounds of same, and discussion of this sort stretches through much of the history of Cliscep and some other climate blogs. Monbiot is a big player in climate orthodoxy, and he chose an environmental play in regard to his justification tweet, which is very interesting from a motivational PoV just for a start. And Geoff’s notes about journalists and climate-change belief are likewise highly relevant.

    More generally, the social psychology (and on occasion personal psychology) of the domain has always been a significant portion of discussion. Given that practically everything happening in the public domain regarding climate-change is in fact due to (measurable!) culture, and so not physical climate nor even climate science, then this could hardly be otherwise. Practically all my contributions from years of guest posts at Climate Etc to many comments here (and in the past elsewhere), have focussed on this side. I very rarely comment on physical climate / climate science arguments (except to note that the dominant cultural narrative contradicts both orthodox and sceptical climate science).

    Argument about the science hypothesis is far from being the only valid ground. Pete, you’ve recently contributed here with some analysis of XR leadership persons and motives. This is highly relevant to the blog / discussion generally, but likewise part of the social psychology and nothing to do with the scientific arguments.

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  9. “For years I considered climate hysteria to be an eccentricity that had somehow infected the left.”

    In practice this has never been the case. Because of the huge polarization in the US, whereby the Dem/Libs allied with catastrophic climate-change culture, so the Rep/Cons then opposed it, this has tended to prime folks that its a ‘left’ thing. But in Germany for instance, the right-of-centre party was always the biggest pusher of climate policy, and Merkel was known as the climate chancellor. And in most countries it has afflicted all political parties, as is clear in the UK for instance. As the topic became global, and hence local alliances had to shift to accommodate, there is more left leaning, e.g. Labour here would be even more gung-ho, but it’s marginal in the sense that the Conservatives are pretty damn gung-ho too. The only other country that approaches the US is Oz, but here the divide goes *through* the right side, not between the left and right, and the public are far less polarised. Across 59 countries it is clear from data that the huge predictor of climate attitudes is religiosity, with very mild political leans that I can find where measured. In the US, the dominant lean is easily political, albeit this still means a religiosity lean because the parties are differential in this respect also.

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  10. Night soil: what’s that all about? Fertilising new ideas or stirring up old ones? With Monbiot it’s sometimes difficult to tell. He once tried to educate me about the oil company financing of climate denial by analogy with tobacco funding, leaving me to consign his article to the toilet. Even the briefest of searching would have revealed I had worked in the oil industry, so would be unlikely to swallow his blatant fabrications. Istopped reading him soon after, except for his really, really weird articles.

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  11. BARRY WOODS
    That’s funny. Ben covers the same ground (sorry) as I do, but with 50 times more research. And I’m in there commenting, as are Hunter and Vinny Burgoo. And only five years ago and we’ve probably all forgotten about it.

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  12. I’ve just returned to my home neighbourhood – the government’s reheated ‘Stay at Home’ being hard when you’ve been instructed to self-isolate by the NHS app when you were legitimately over 100 miles from home. And now I’ve taken a look at Cliscep for the first time since whenever. Thus I came to Geoff’s comment to Pete Ridley of 12:21pm, without reading his main post. But it’s a very fine comment, in my view. I feel we have to interpret our remit as being permitted – maybe compelled – to discuss such matters. My brief comments in ‘Despair’ were about the inevitability of losing commenters and lurkers when we depart from climate and energy. (And see how energy isn’t in our name but surely has to be seen as central – perhaps even more central than climate?) Anyhow, that pessimism didn’t mean I felt we could easily narrow our field of vision. It just meant that realism and pessimism are sometimes inescapable bedfellows.

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  13. As far as relevance to climate goes, this is background on major climate commentator George Monbiot — lucid, illuminating background. Just when I’m feeling above the fray over discourse at Cliscep, Geoff writes this great post that brings me back down to Earth feeling like a lightweight. I’m sure the parts I don’t understand about people I’ve never heard of are great too.

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  14. So the Deputy Director-General of the FAO comes from Cape Verde. I have actually visited one of the Cape Verde islands – Sao Vicente – and I think it must be one of the most soil-free environments I have ever seen. Alan K might be a better person to comment but the Cape Verde islands are the results of volcanic eruptions. A few of the islands have large hills, which has encouraged a certain amount of rainfall, which in turn allows sugar cane and bananas to be cultivated. Sao Vicente is fairly flat and I have never seen a more barren place. Rock covered with an inch or two of sand, no rivers or streams, sparse clumps of tough heathery plants growing sideways under the force of the strong prevailing winds. Ms Somero’s biography doesn’t say which island she comes from but, somehow, it is not surprising that someone at the top of the FAO should come from a country that has bugger all in the way of agriculture. Only 11% of the country is suitable for agriculture, Wikipedia tells me, and that is spread over 4 Islands. Gdp is about $7000 per head, of which maybe 700 comes from agriculture. I am not sure whether it is heartening that there is still room for generalists in the UN or dismaying that a specialised agency is not run by a specialist. Luckily she is over 60, so her chance to influence the “climate debate” might be coming to an end

    “Agriculture has been the focus of development aid programs since the 1960s, but progress has been frustrated by drought, locusts, overgrazing, and archaic cultivation methods. Approximately 85–90% of food needs are met by imports; agricultural imports had a value of $112.8 million in 2004.”

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  15. Geoff: “For years I considered climate hysteria to be an eccentricity that had somehow infected the left. But it’s turned out to be merely a symptom of something much weirder.”

    The left infected climate alarmism and in so doing they turned it into climate hysteria. Everything the left infects becomes hysterical. The left wing guardian literally invented the ‘climate crisis’ in 2019 – as part of their new ‘style guide’. Now the ‘climate crisis’ has become mainstream science, supported even by the likes of senior research scientists at the Met Office like Richard Betts. The Green Blob is the ongoing spectacle of the Left oozing its way across the political, scientific and social landcape, absorbing stuff into its ideological framework. It’s currently oozing its way across the Covid landscape, gobbling up such nuggets as naked authoritarianism and erosion of civil liberties (and now rampant censorship), spitting them back in our muzzled faces in the guise of virtuousness, public health protection and the saving of lives. Hence we now have full blown psychotic Covid hysteria.

    Moonbat was infected with mad bat disease years ago. You could say he’s been suffering from Long Moon Battiness ever since.

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  16. Jaime: “The left infected climate alarmism and in so doing they turned it into climate hysteria.”

    I much prefer Geoff’s “For years I considered climate hysteria to be an eccentricity that had somehow infected the left. But it’s turned out to be merely a symptom of something much weirder.”

    Partly because some of those years that Geoff remembers Jaime didn’t (I think) see climate hysteria as a thing at all. But the hysteria was there, from 1988, as this lengthy excerpt from the Boston Globe from 2010 (Wayback Machine here and here) I think shows. And the leftie Richard Lindzen had the moral clarity to see it as the friend he joked was to the right of Attila the Hun increasingly didn’t.

    Richard Lindzen and Kerry Emanuel are both brilliant and convivial. Both study the atmosphere and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where their offices overlooking the Charles River are one floor apart. In an academic world often dominated by liberals, both have strong conservative streaks and once agreed that the evidence for catastrophic man-made global warming just wasn’t there.

    But then the climate changed between them. Friends became intellectual foes, dueling icons in one of the world’s most acrimonious political debates.

    Friends had a hard time staying friends.

    Lindzen, a leading specialist on atmospheric physics, has emerged as one of the most prominent climate change skeptics in the world. At age 70, he speaks at home and overseas, arguing that there is little to worry about from emissions of heat-trapping gases from power plants, factories, and cars. We should “go back to dealing with real science and real environmental problems such as assuring clean air and water,’’ he wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Earth Day.

    Emanuel, an equally respected researcher, emerged as a preeminent voice on climate change’s potential dangers after he published a paper three weeks before Katrina that suggested global warming might be making hurricanes more powerful. Named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine, Emanuel, 55, says he has been persuaded by the evolving science that man-made climate change is a real threat.

    “I don’t see how a climate scientist can look at the evidence and not see risk,’’ he said recently.

    Emanuel thinks Lindzen’s key theories don’t hold up, and just two weeks ago went public with his criticism, penning a tart letter to the editor rebutting Lindzen’s Journal piece — “irresponsible and misleading,’’ he called it, “advancing spurious hypotheses.’’

    Lindzen has implied that Emanuel is hyping the evidence and making a play for fame and funding in the age of Obama and Gore. In a letter savaging an opinion piece by Emanuel in the Globe, he branded the reasoning “more advocacy than assessment.’’

    In the Ivory Tower, these are fighting words.

    The story of the scientists’ relationship is much more than a curiosity. The fact that these serious-minded colleagues and longtime friends disagree so vehemently highlights the immense difficulty of finding common ground on human-caused global warming. That’s because their disagreements are not just about interpretations of scientific data, but about how they assess the risks, amid the uncertainty over global warming’s future impact.

    Their divide mirrors a much larger political split, as the US Senate begins to debate a climate bill written in large part by Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry. All parties to the debate have the same evidence to draw on; their conclusions are another matter. Lindzen and Emanuel’s collision spotlights the ultimate sticking point: What steps should we take, and at what cost? That is: How much insurance against the possibility of catastrophe should a prudent planet buy?

    “If these two guys can’t agree on the basic conclusions of the social significance of [climate change science], how can we expect 6.5 billion people to?’’ said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado at Boulder professor who writes a climate blog.

    Emanuel had to laugh. He and Lindzen were at lunch in a university dining hall in the early 1980s, shortly after both arrived at MIT in what is now the program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate.
    Emanuel, who had recently voted for Ronald Reagan, was espousing his views. Lindzen, at that time a registered Democrat, looked up and said, as Emanuel recalls: “You’re to the right of Attila the Hun.’’

    It was classic wry Lindzen and Emanuel found himself drawn to this colleague with the bushy beard and piercing eyes, this entertaining conversationalist with wide-ranging interests, from food to photography. Emanuel, who is more buttoned-down and cautious — he dislikes attending large sporting events because the crowd mentality unsettles him — saw a little of himself in Lindzen’s aversion to the status quo.

    Lindzen delights in questioning many assumptions that most people accept as truths. He smokes Marlboro Lights and doesn’t worry much about dying from them. He doubts that acid rain was ever much of a problem.

    In 1988, he began questioning an emerging environmental issue: Man-made climate change. An economist had written him, saying he had been interrupted by then-Senator Al Gore at a Washington lunch for daring to suggest that there was uncertainty about the case for global warming.

    “That’s when I thought, wow, things have gotten really out of hand,’’ Lindzen said recently.

    He reviewed the evidence and came away a skeptic about the projections of future catastrophe. He came to see opportunism in some of those loudly sounding the global warming alarm — especially as they raced to obtain a piece of the growing pot of federal research funding on the topic. The professor who once cast his presidential vote for Democrat Michael Dukakis became a Republican.

    Back then, Emanuel agreed there wasn’t yet enough evidence. Computer models that tried to project future warming were woefully inadequate. Temperature data showing recent warming didn’t demonstrate a clear trend.

    Al Gore can be thought of as an archetypal infection of the left and that’s the way things went in the end. But just the above convinces me that left=evil/right=good isn’t the most helpful frame to gain clarity on the weirdity.

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  17. Jaime, ‘climate crisis’ and ‘climate emergency’ and similar terms are at least ten years old, some much older. E.g. See Archer / Rahmstorf book published January 2010, ‘The Climate Crisis’. And have been in science publications plus the public domain long before the Guardian style-guide. I tend to agree that Monbiot is into cult level belief. But I don’t agree that this is just a left thing outside of the US (and even inside, for some particular individuals as Richard notes). In a bulk sense across a swathe of countries, parties of the left and the right both heavily support climate-change policies (the UK gov being a good example), and in Germany most climate policy push for many years came from right-of-centre, so much so that Merkel was known as ‘the climate chancellor’. That on average, left parties would push even more (e.g. Labour and SNP here), doesn’t really speak to the issue that essentially most parties with real power (all within the UK) hold a strong belief in the climate crisis. In more recent years in a few European countries, some right-wing opposition is emerging. But it tends to be a secondary agenda at best, and the more centre-right (having greater representation, typically) often still see this as an extreme or anti-science position.

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  18. Yep, that all seems fair Andy. But just to underscore the point I was trying to make: in 1988 this was a fair description of what the Democrat-voting Lindzen was doing in response to barmy fake certainty from Al Gore:

    He reviewed the evidence and came away a skeptic about the projections of future catastrophe.

    Certainty about catastrophe was always baked in. It was multi-billionaire man of the Left (puke – not at the Left but at how’s it’s become captured by Big Cronyism, from energy scams to transgenderism) Al Gore whose outrageous shutting down of any debate triggered Lindzen to look into it and be honest, unlike Emanuel and so many others. Geoff’s framing is I think vital for us to grapple with. Infection is a fair word.

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  19. MIKE DOMBROSKI

    I’m sure the parts I don’t understand about people I’ve never heard of are great too.

    Don’t take my word for it. You may not like them at all. Jonathan Cook writes only about the Palestinian cause on his blog, though he writes about other stuff here
    https://consortiumnews.com/tag/jonathan-cook/
    Craig Murray is an ardent Scottish Nationalist. When not writing about the Assange trial, he writes about the scandalous trial of ex Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, and his own forthcoming trial on trumped up charges. An ex-ambassador who protested about the use of torture on behalf of the British authorities, he is in danger of becoming the UK’s second prisoner of conscience.

    Caitlin Johnstone writes about the standard leftwing obsessions (war, torture, criminal élites..) with a level of vulgarity and invective I couldn’t hope to match. She’s also into yoga and spirituality and saving the planet. (Nobody’s perfect.)

    My point was not to push any particular political line, but just to point out that the kind of concerns that used to be central to the leftwing middle class are now to be found only on the outer fringes of the internet. I could have mentioned the conservative Christian blogger Rob Slane of https://www.theblogmire.com or the Brazilian China expert Pepe Escobar
    https://asiatimes.com/author/pepe-escobar/ or ,the anonymous (German?) owner of the quirky and hugely well-informed site https://www.moonofalabama.org – all of them are signs that:

    Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

    Like England in the 1640s, America in the 1770s, France in the 1790s…

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  20. Richard: “Al Gore whose outrageous shutting down of any debate triggered Lindzen to look into it and be honest, unlike Emanuel and so many others.”

    Yep, for others too, including me! Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was what first triggered me to look into the climate domain. I was into cultural narrative back then too, and suddenly realised a monster one had been brewing right under my nose and I hadn’t noticed it until that point 0: Gore’s vid is full of classic cultural narrative stuff and, whether or not one believed the presented science content at the time, very little of it by comparison.

    “Geoff’s framing is I think vital for us to grapple with. Infection is a fair word.”

    Indeed. Cultural narratives bypass our rationality, in part to prompt retransmission and so spread further, hence this has the feel of an ‘infection’, and in part to engage in-group behaviours.

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  21. JAIME (10 Jan 21 6.09 pm)

    I said: “..climate hysteria … infected the left.”

    You said: “The left infected climate alarmism and in so doing they turned it into climate hysteria.”

    Ben Pile at Climate Resistance has long claimed that climate alarmism is essentially a right wing, and even aristocratic invention, born of population hysteria and the fear of the effect on the environment of the accession of the plebs to a decent standard of living. The left adopted climate alarmism in turn as a way of signalling their concern for the Third World, without having to face the awkward facts Of the exploitation of the resources of the developing countries to the benefit of the rich.

    You say: “The left wing Guardian literally invented the ‘climate crisis’ in 2019 – as part of their new ‘style guide’.”

    No. Rusbridger became editor of the Guardian in 1995 determined to make this once radical paper apolitical, so that he could stop worrying about CIA assassination plots in South America and concentrate on his beloved Schubert. See my forthcoming article on him. (Rusbridger, not Schubert.) Climate Change was a handy way for a once radical journal to show its compassion for the poor African without exploring the question of why he was poor. In 2019 Global Warming became Global Heating when the control passed from old fashioned British pseudo-lefty-Fabian socialists like Rusbridger to out-with-the-LGBT-fairy types who think their millions of freeloading readers (like me) are going to pay for their nonsense. My great-great grand uncle C.P. Scott can rest assured. We’re not buying their shit.

    The Green Blob is the ongoing spectacle of the Left oozing its way across the political, scientific and social landscape, absorbing stuff into its ideological framework.

    I don’t think so. If you like. I see the ongoing spectacle of the newly educated sons and daughters of the working classes seizing the opportunity to work in an office instead of a factory, in front of a computer screen instead of a conveyor belt. The white collar worker in the vanguard of technical progress has been a leftwing ideal since the post war Labour victory.

    Note how I correct / contradict myself at the beginning of this paragraph, as I realise that our positions are not as far apart as I thought. But I don’t see a victorious Left “oozing its way across the political, scientific and social landscape” but rather a defeated left desperately trying to reflate itself with gigatonnes of greenhouse gasses.

    [discussion to be continued]

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  22. Andy, the first mention of a phrase is not the same as the point at which it enters into the public consciousness and becomes mainstream. I’m sure that one can find mention of a ‘crisis’ going way back, but the point is, the Guardian popularised the term and it quickly became an acceptable and even scientifically legitimised part of the lexicon after that. 2019 was THE year that the ‘climate crisis’ went mainstream.

    “Public Citizen reported that in 2018, less than 10% of articles in top-50 U.S. newspapers used the terms “crisis” or “emergency”.[18] In 2019, a “Call it a Climate Crisis” campaign urging major media organizations to adopt the term, stated that in 2018, only 3.5% of national television news segments referred to climate change as a crisis or emergency,[19] (50 of 1400),[18] though Public Citizen reported triple that number of mentions, 150, in just the first four months of 2019.[18]

    Following a September 2018 usage of “climate crisis” by U.N. secretary general António Guterres,[21] on May 17, 2019 The Guardian formally updated its style guide to favor “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating”.[22] Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner explained, “We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”[23]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_crisis

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  23. Geoff, see above. I’m not sure how your potted history of the Guardian refutes my statement that they basically invented the climate crisis in the popular imagination.

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  24. Jaime: “Andy, the first mention of a phrase is not the same as the point at which it enters into the public consciousness and becomes mainstream.”

    Agreed. And also, phrases do not work independently (except faddish ones), but within the context of whole suites of narrative, which indeed as you imply above, also evolve, and indeed can overlap by decades or more. The point being that any one phrase doesn’t suddenly change a population as it rotates to a prime position, but indicates where that population is in their trajectory of cultural belief, of ‘infection’ if you will, from the whole process. IOW the ‘infection’ is not due to that one phrase, and in the climate-change case has been growing within the public domain since at least Hansen’s pitch in 1988. In this process, the Guardian has an outsize role for a little paper, granted, absolutely. But it is one voice in thousands and it was joined by Presidents, PMs, high ministers, UN elite, religious leaders, economists, celebs, influencers, businesses and indeed scientists plus uncle Tom Cobbly and all of orgs and authority sources, who all have spouted phrases with very similar *meanings*, essentially for decades.

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  25. P.S. I kind of agree with Geoff that climate-change has been something of a free pass in lieu of proper journalism not just for the Guardian but for many others. The publication didn’t invent the climate crisis, it’s an emergent phenomenon that’s been growing in the public (and authority and media) imaginations for many years. They for sure played a significant part in sticking the latest label on the beast, and indeed every label has tended to be one more notch more of amplification. This makes one wonder where it could possibly go next. ‘Apocalypse’ is perhaps the only one left, and indeed has already been used, albeit more by critiquing sceptics I guess than the orthodox. But maybe this term is the next one due for mainstream treatment 0:

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  26. The activist organisation that did the most to push ‘Climate Crisis” and the “Climate Emergency” are the Climate Mobilisation project (though not many are are of them..) the founder worked extensively with Extinction Rebellion and knocked them into shape XR early2017 stuff, was pathetic, until Margert Klein Salamon got involved in early 2018.. (Margaret was of course influenced by the earlier declare war, war footing, climate crisis, emergency footing stuff. but it is she that gave it the push this time around).

    “Imagine there is a Fire in your house” – not Greta – Margaret – 2016

    Leading the Public Into Emergency Mode – Climate Mobilisation Project
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/17txQT3cUdVe3Xv0FLhqAWsRLtaDjK6ZD/view

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  27. Barry, good point, and indeed who could forget Salamon ‘The Climate Psychologist’ and her ’emotions of climate change’. Not to mention her hook-up with Rosemary Randall and the ‘psychology of Deniers’.

    I see her latest is an ‘an advice column’, on which someone writes to tell her that they’re too scared of climate-change to have children. Only to get told that scientists assure us the climate emergency is real and hence ‘you have every right’ to feel this way. Then be presented with the apocalyptic nonsense of Wallace-Wells ‘Uninhabitable Earth’, plus her own latest book, ‘Facing the Climate Emergency’ too. I guess that’ll finish off any chance of children.

    ‘The Fire in your house’ is a ‘terminal metaphor’ (i.e. unless something drastic is done to put out the fire). This is a very common memetic mode in the climate-change domain, one that likewise has been growing for a long time. I collected some examples that go back many years, from politicians / NGO persons / scientists and various other authority sources, of which the short summary:

    1v) suicide, 2e)ii] a giant car heading towards a brick wall, 2u) drunk driver and inevitable car wreck, 3l) ‘Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction’ [rather ironic given the WMDs Blair previously used as a justification were never in fact found], 4b) We are careering towards the edge of the abyss, 5ac) children in burning house with no help, 5ca) suicidal, 5ga) shiny new car driving too fast on a wet, curvy road, heading straight for a crowd of pedestrians, 5gb) a runaway train headed over the climate cliff as we stoke the engine with more coal to increase its speed, 6b) climate is a battalion of intergalactic smoking missiles, 6c) by driving global warming we are unleashing hell, 6d) very fast train heading for the wall, 6g) the climate dragon is being poked, and eventually the dragon becomes pissed off enough to trash the place, 6h) Imagine a giant asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth. That is the equivalent of what we face now, 6t) automobile driving with bad brakes toward a cliff in the fog, 6v) Unaddressed man-made climate change is… state terrorism, sanctioned corporate terrorism, carbon terrorism, climate terrorism, 6y) playing Russian Roulette with the future survival of human civilization [traditionally this is just a one in six chance when using a six-chamber revolver], 7ea) biblical portent of Noah type floods, 8a) comparison to World War III (very probably not terminal for everyone, but assuming it’s nuclear and truly a world war, terminal for large swathes of humanity and on a timescale far shorter than anything mainstream science proposes as likely for climate change). Plus, example 3a) invokes T.S. Eliot’s famous lines to raise up emotive speculation about the end of the world.

    There’s a whole list of other memetic modes too. They each have a different means of invoking our emotions to bypass rationality. Some combine, e.g. the ‘engaging anxiety for children’ mode, overlaps with the ‘terminal metaphor’ mode, within example 5ac) above.

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  28. What is it with psychologists and a total lack of self-awareness.
    Dr Rosie Green (arrested at an XR demo) – interviewed

    https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-33/december-2020/i-took-my-turn-friday-be-arrested

    “…Do you see connections between your professional role and your work with XR?

    Ah, there are many different ways I could speak to that question…

    Firstly, I have found it has been very beneficial to have a good understanding of the severity of the climate and ecological crises as a therapist. A few clients have brought their own grief and anxiety about it to sessions, for example not feeling they should have children. Being aware of the issues has meant I don’t fall into the trap of pathologising these responses and assuming clients are catastrophising. We have then been able to disentangle how the issue might be triggering their maladaptive coping modes, and work on more helpful responses to the crisis, including giving space for grief. I think you do need, as a therapist, to have faced your own grief about the climate (that’s an unending journey I think) to be able to hold space for others, otherwise it’s just too painful, or defences kick in.”

    ————

    that is mad, has she not thought that she herself is catastrophising?!
    after she went to an XR workshop!
    —————————

    “……. By the summer of 2018 I was so alarmed with the state of the climate and ecological world, I was already thinking ‘this is now an emergency, it’s time for direct action, nothing else has worked’, and then I came across some early members of the Extinction Rebellion movement at a festival. At a workshop I learned about the principles and social theory behind non-violent civil disobedience, and, in a nutshell, it was pretty convincing.

    I was scared at first to associate myself with a group that was planning illegal activities, but as more people joined, who all seemed very reasonable and sensible, I became more comfortable and more engaged with the movement, and I helped start Bath XR after supporting the blocking of four bridges in central London in November 2018. “

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  29. Barry: “What is it with psychologists and a total lack of self-awareness.”

    Great question. Kahan (albeit being a social psychologist!) has done work which strongly suggests that when folks are more cognitively capable and more domain literate, they are *more* not less culturally motivated. I.e. for those people who do happen to believe in a particular culture, their intelligence and knowledge are ‘in service’ as it were, to their cultural belief. If they have more skills, they support it more successfully than those with less skills. This is measured for the general public and not at any level of scientists / experts. However, speculative extrapolation for the case of psychologists (and indeed belief in ‘certain imminent climate catastrophe’ seems to be rampant in the social sciences generally), would suggest that they’re deploying their professional knowledge to help justify / support the culture, despite this pretty much means turning psychology on its head to achieve such support. And to which process, they’d be completely blinded by their belief.

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  30. Dr Adam Corner…(psycholgist – Climate OutReach working with cardiff University, who have 5 million pound grant to ‘nudge people on climate)

    Adam: We were very surprised by our findings that images of activist painted blue on climate marches were hated by the generally public.. (paraphrased)

    Adan Corner, continues, ……. I was on that march..

    yes Adam, and your were painted blue…..

    now about your lack of self-awareness, and unfitness to be a researcher into climate psychology, because of massive blind spots..

    (paraphrased)

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  31. Andy:

    Yep, for others too, including me! Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was what first triggered me…

    Thanks but I’ll disagree! I say Lindzen was being honest in 1988 in a way you weren’t being dishonest in 2006. Both Lindzen and Emanuel in 1988 had the background to see Gore’s gross overstatements for what they were. But from 1989 to 1993 Bush senior increased funding on ‘climate research’ from $200 million to $2 billion a year. A Republican president, please note, laid out all the gravy on the train that corrupted many of that generation of scientists and almost all those that were to follow.

    I don’t really get much from what Geoff says is Ben Pile’s theory either though. I do think the Guardian inventing the ‘climate crisis’ is bunk. Catastrophe schmatastrophe. I’m so pleasant, aren’t I? But Barry is normally right 🙂

    There is another way to view the history 1988-2021 and in November 2020 I found I’d written it down in 2015 as a group of us discussed the beginnings of this blog. In one paragraph. Maybe, with Geoff’s permission, I’ll get into that on this thread.

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  32. Richard, I think you took it too literally. I only meant that Gore’s actions triggered many not in the direction he would have wanted. me included.

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  33. “I do think the Guardian inventing the ‘climate crisis’ is bunk though. I’m so pleasant aren’t I?”

    Well, not to be either pleasant or unpleasant, but to back up what I say with corroborating data, the Guardian doesn’t think it’s bunk and this is one of those rare occasions I actually agree with them. They were extremely influential in getting the term into popular usage. OK, you can be pernickety and say that they didn’t “literally invent” the climate crisis, but they were instrumental in making it a reality in the public perception. Personally, I think they first got the idea when some ‘scientist’ (I forget who, maybe Rahmstorf) said of the spike in global temperatures in early 2016 that “we are in a kind of climate crisis at the moment”. They printed that quote. I think they really liked it and thought, ‘yeah, we can use that’.

    The Guardian’s decision to alter its style guide to better convey the environmental crises unfolding around the world has prompted some other media outlets to reconsider the terms they use in their own coverage.

    After the Guardian announced it would now routinely use the words “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” instead of “climate change”, a memo was sent by the standards editor of CBC, Canada’s national public broadcaster, to staff acknowledging that a “recent shift in style at the British newspaper the Guardian has prompted requests to review the language we use in global warming coverage”.

    Senior CBC management told staff they were able to use the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency” when covering the wide-ranging impacts of temperature rises around the world.

    Newsrooms around the globe have been digesting the changes, with journalists at several UK and US media outlets reporting internal conversations about the language used around climate.

    Laura Helmuth, the health, science and environment editor at the Washington Post, said there were no new guidelines at the newspaper as yet, but she had “circulated the Guardian story about your guidelines to our reporters and copy desk for inspiration”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/24/media-outlets-guardian-reconsider-language-climate

    That was only weeks after the Graun first introduced the change. It’s really taken off since, grown legs you might say. Religion is like that.

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  34. My point is, Jaime, that the money poured into ‘climate research’ by Bush Snr from 1989, and only increased thereafter, except perhaps by Trump, made such corruption of one UK newspaper looking for a purpose a minor piece of sewage in a long line of effluent. Geoff’s point about the Left looking for a purpose is critical for me, as are his examples of left dissidents like Murray. But Gore also seeded the Nazi smear for dissenters in March 1989. It took till 2007 before *that* became mainstream. There is weirdity all over this thing.

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  35. Jaime: “I think they first got the idea when some ‘scientist’ (I forget who, maybe Rahmstorf) said of the spike in global temperatures in early 2016 that “we are in a kind of climate crisis at the moment”.”

    He certainly said below. And various other scientists issued similar OTT statements around March 16, usually with ‘unprecedented’. But given his Jan 2011 book with Archer was ‘The Climate Crisis’, it’s pretty likely he’d deploy this term too, maybe in a different interview.

    ‘Scientist Stefan Rahmstorf, from Germany’s Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research told Fairfax “we are in a kind of climate emergency now.” “This is really quite stunning … it’s completely unprecedented,” he said.’

    On a quick scan I see various Guardian articles inclusive of ‘climate crisis’ going back to 2011, with a flurry in 2015. Often inclusive of other typical suspects too, such as ‘catastrophe’. Sometimes the crisis word appears to be supplied by a guest, e.g. Tim Flannery or Naomi Klein, others it seems to be part of the editorial, but I didn’t drill below the superficial. The decision to adopt within guidelines is certainly a milestone.

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  36. “But Gore also seeded the Nazi smear for dissenters in March 1989. It took till 2007 before *that* became mainstream. There is weirdity all over this thing.”

    Indeed. I think this is a feature of emergence by emotive selection. Not only has inertia to build behind any particular term, all the terms within the same domain are to some extent ‘helping’ each other’s inertia too (as very overlapping concepts and indeed geared to the emotive). So the trajectory of the entire movement matters too for any term. No doubt we notice something far more when it breaks the line of the mainstream, and indeed its traffic jumps. But it couldn’t get towards that line without significant build beforehand. Which I guess is just another way of saying that they have a very non-linear growth profile.

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  37. As a small gesture of reconciliation on different accounts of history I’m reminded of this by Henry Hardy:

    Churchill once spent a whole lunch talking to Irving Berlin [the American composer and lyricist], mistakenly believing he was talking to Isaiah Berlin. Berlin used to say about that story of the two Berlins: ‘There are many versions of this story, all true.’

    Isaiah Berlin talked more about this very amusing incident on Desert Island Discs in 1992. It actually happened in early 1944, at the height of the Holocaust. But Berlin, and even Churchill, were unaware of the extent of that horror at that moment.

    And so it is with us. We’ve lived a really charmed life, compared to what others have had to go through. All versions of some stories can be true. But in some the details, and the weight given to them, matter. Which are which takes wisdom and empathy that go beyond mere facts.

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  38. GC: “Leftwing ideology on the other hand is in the process of executing an astonishing U turn”

    Amen to that and thanks for stressing the Assange scandal – the silence of many on the ‘left’ on the latter is despicable. My only quibble is that I’d argue that ‘leftwing ideology’ began its U-turn at the tail-end of the Reagan/Thatcher years and the political defeat of the organised working class (esp, early doors and for obvious reasons, in the Anglophone west). That defeat was quickly followed by the collapse of much of the West’s ‘basic’ industries: finance capital soared ahead at the expense of grubby-handed industrial colleagues.

    An irony many seem to miss is that de-industrialisation became all the rage as the governments of Thatcher, Major and Blair were passing a range of anti-union legislation purportedly aimed at making British industry ‘competitive’. (The laws were of course as much symptom as cause.)

    In short order, the alliance between a mostly middle-class ‘left’ and the working class that had lasted, give or take, since at least the 1930s began to break down as lefties segued to liberalism, dumped the proles PDQ and sought new allies and new agendas. It found many in, of all places, a milieu of rabidly misanthropic ‘environmentalists’ with aristocratic and upper-middle-class roots and, again ironically, non-trivial links to Thatcherism. A late friend of mine, a gifted labour historian, caught the mid-’80s mood well by coining the slogan ‘gay whales against racism’. Sadly, it didn’t catch on though fatuous notions such as ‘eco-socialism’ did rather better.

    Fast forward to the present to see most ‘lefties’ campaigning vigourously not to improve the conditions of coal miners but to put them out of work and to label any critics ‘deniers’. Even when active in the relatively privileged public-sector unions, they are typically indifferent to the plight of the wider society (aka us plebs) and scorn its rare seizing of moments of rebellion. The Brexit vote, e.g., is dismissed as racist by people seemingly unaware that the EU is the direct descendant of the EEC whose members were all, bar West Germany – and that not by choice – active and rabidly racist colonial powers. But you know all this, probably better than I do.

    The scariest bit for me is the increasing irrationalism and authoritarianism of purportedly left-wing thought. How many lefties can explain the very basics of the AGW hypothesis? I’ve tried hard enough but I’ve never met one who has so much as read an IPPC tome (bar at a stretch the SPMs) let alone a climate primer or, Monbiot Forfend, a climate-sceptic book. None. Zilch.

    All that said, I cannot agree that Monbiot was ever much by way of a lefty even back in the day. Contrast his Wiki entry with that of Piers Corbyn who, though now, er, eccentric and becoming eccentricer, actively campaigned with some success for the homeless back in the day. IME, ‘investigative’ journalists very often like the buzz (and the status and the pay) to be had by biffing nefarious foreigners. They are but rarely motivated by compassion for the downtrodden, esp those just down the street.

    To close on a lighter note, you mention the Spiked crew. I see that Emeritus Prof Frank Furedi is giving/has given this year’s GWPF lecture and that some of its contrubutors (such as Joanna Williams, who to be fair writes well on the degeneration of the feminist movement) also write for The Spectator. Changed days. What many CliSceperatti may not know was that Furedi was a leading light in the rather odd-ball Revolutionary Communist Party in the 70s and that many Spiked authors came from the same milieu. As almost its entire membership were students at Kent University, the lefty in-joke was that they stood for ‘Socialism on One Campus’.

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  39. “I see that Emeritus Prof Frank Furedi is giving/has given this year’s GWPF lecture…”

    Fantastic lecture. Although I’m bound to think so; it’s all about the cultural angle, a secular religion of climate change. His ‘cultural scripts’ are my ‘cultural narratives’, and other equivalence.

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  40. I hesitated about bringing up Moonbat and the Graun again, wondering if the subject hadn’t been done to death. Apparently not. I have a 70 page list of thousands of Guardian articles on Climate Change up to 2011, with headline, subheads and sometimes the URL. Perhaps we could put it up on the site as a research tool? Unfortunately the Guardian has changed its method of listing past articles, making it difficult to update.

    RICHARD
    What’s this about permission? Have I ever refused you anything?

    RYELANDS
    I agree entirely about the onset of the left’s decline. It was under Thatcher/Reagan that the wealth and income disparities began growing to their present obscene level. It’s hard, boring work analysing economic data, and not easy to come up with solutions. It’s much easier to moralise about the oppression of the Uighurs. To be fair to Monbiot, he did go to Indonesia to see the genocide for himself.

    Funny about Furedi. Monbiot mentions him in 6 articles, mostly in the context of ad hom attacks on the far left for its dallying with the far right. A proper journalist would be fascinated by the phenomenon and try and understand it. Monbiot’s analysis is at the level of “Koch Brothers bad. Furedi bad too.”

    JAIME
    What you’re pointing to is the Guardian’s insane policy of attacking the language in order to hide its own failure to produce a mass climate movement, much as people try and solve their own confusion as to who they are by attacking pronouns. It probably couldn’t happen before because there were enough people at the Graun who’d read Orwell and had the minimum reasoning skills necessary to see how mad they would look.

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  41. Andy, thanks for digging that quote out. Right person then, slightly different quote.

    All I’ve been trying to get across here is the fact that the left have really jumped on the climate change mitigation bandwagon in the last few years and have ruthlessly exploited the idea of an imminent or presently occurring ‘climate crisis’ as justification to implement their radical leftist policies which actually have very little in practice to with ‘saving the planet’. It is shocking that such language has now become acceptable even in scientific circles. I see the radical left as having infected the already highly politicised climate change issue and in so doing have ensured that any science or science-based policy is now largely irrelevant to the direction of travel of the climate lobby. There’s no point in challenging them on science, data, evidence because the radical left just don’t do those things any more in the post normal, post factual, post Enlightenment era.

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  42. “Perhaps we could put it up on the site as a research tool?”

    Sounds good to me. I’m always on the lookout for older catastrophe narrative quotes and such, and no doubt others would find it useful too.

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  43. Jaime:

    There’s no point in challenging them on science, data, evidence because the radical left just don’t do those things any more in the post normal, post factual, post Enlightenment era.

    We have some real challenges right now but, for me, that conclusion rests on some dubious assumptions. Post Enlightenment era is the worst. When and how did the Enlightenment help with the rise of Stalin, Hitler and Mao? Or are those dates and places excluded from the era? For me there’s never been an Enlightenment era. It’s a narrative that comforts some but on no solid basis. The reality is far more complex. Good science has produced real miracles, like the eradication of smallpox and the latest mRNA work to counter Covid-19. Ah, but you might not agree on that last bit, just as you might find fault with the history in Smallpox Vaccine: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I don’t know.

    The radical left has gone crazy, I think we agree. But there is a point in challenging many on the fringes, or those completely unaligned, on ‘science, data, evidence’ – especially as the financial impact of Covid lockdowns becomes clear. And there is a point in asking why the craziness has arisen, including its broader reaches.

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  44. Andy West: ‘I’m always on the lookout for older catastrophe narrative quotes and such, and no doubt others would find it useful too.’

    I certainly would.

    I’ve got my own CAGW archive but it’s very ramshackle and hard to search.

    A more or less random example, from 2007:

    DAVID MILIBAND, Foreign Secretary on October 7th 2007

    (Speaking as Environment Secretary, April 26 2007 at the Vatican)

    The wealth of evidence on the scale and impact of climate change has produced a major shift over the last 12 months. Paradoxically, the most urgent environmental challenge facing the planet has stopped being primarily an environmental issue. Climate change is not just as Al Gore puts it, ‘a planetary emergency’ but a humanitarian one.

    Climate change has also become an economic issue: catastrophic climate change will, according to Sir Nicholas Stern, have a greater economic impact than two world wars and the Great Depression put together. Dealing with the consequences of climate change will cost between five and twenty times more than arresting climate change.

    Source: A quote used by Zac Goldsmith in his defence of the Kingsnorth narcissistsnarcissists.

    See:

    Click to access goldsmith.pdf

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  45. Sorry. Please add an ‘f’ to the end of that link. ‘*.pdf’.

    [Done, and of course WordPress now embeds it! — rd]

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  46. I’ve taken the liberty of censoring myself on this thread. My previous response to Geoff was completely wrong-headed, now that I think about it. His comment has to have been a response to this by me at 2:52pm:

    There is another way to view the history 1988-2021 and in November 2020 I found I’d written it down in 2015 as a group of us discussed the beginnings of this blog. In one paragraph. Maybe, with Geoff’s permission, I’ll get into that on this thread.

    To which Geoff said, very fairly:

    RICHARD
    What’s this about permission? Have I ever refused you anything?

    Indeed not. Here goes then. On hitting technical problems with this blog, due I believed to our use of the ‘Sight’ theme now retired by our gracious hosts at WordPress.com, I went looking for where and when the choice had been made to use it. And thus I stumbled back onto the private WordPress site set up by Paul Matthews in June 2015 for a group of us to discuss this enterprise, eventually subtitled ‘joint ideas under construction’. (Probably my best contribution.) How cool it is that Paul has kept that whole site up. I think we should arrange tours.

    Anyway, on a page called Current Members, four of those on the inside track wrote about ourselves as follows. The other six – Alex Cull, Barry Woods, Danny (surname elided), John Shade, Kevin Marshall and Spence (commonly called Spence on Science) – didn’t bother.

    Geoff blogs at geoffchambers.wordpress.com I’d like to concentrate on the sociology of the green thing, where it comes from and how it got to where it is. Also looking into the detailed finances and origins of individual organisations, the sort of thing Barry does well in numerous threads,and Ben Pile at CR and stewgreen on BH threads. Since I live in France I’ll make a special effort on the Paris conference.

    Ian http://www.livefromgolgafrincham.org – I have a few things already written over the last year or so, more from a sociological point of view on ‘scientism’ and things like that. So wouldn’t mind submitting those for a start. (But would need to polish them up to make more sense in this environment.)

    Paul Blog at ipccreport.wordpress.com, originally looking at IPCC AR5 report but getting more interested in social science aspects. Plan to close that blog down but continue similar themes here. Semi-competent with basic wordpress and html.

    Richard is a software guy. I’ve never seriously run a blog but I did host, moderate and write the software for a wiki from 2000 which left quite an impression. I’ve been a climate sceptic from 1988 or 1992 depending how you count. I only felt the situation was getting out of control with the advent of ‘deniers’ around 2007, after which I got involved in social media on the subject.

    There are many things I could add by way of explanation of my own self-summary but what remains true is that in 2007 I felt that there had been a change of gear in the climate crisis narrative (as Gore had taught it from 1988). An injection of evil, to be blunt. And that meant that this strange phenomenon of science and sociology was no longer an idle concern.

    In what way I became a climate sceptic in 1988 and/or 1992 might be worth talking about but it’s true enough. It made me different to some others. It made me more prone to boredom, for one thing. But I felt I had to fight back as this movement was radicalised by the worst forms of demonisation of its enemies.

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  47. Vinny: That’s a nice little gem. Seem to have that missing in my collection.

    I do have a fantastic Stephan Rahmstorf one though, which I used in preference to his fairly ordinary effort in the thread above. It’s in response to science communicator Joe Duggan’s question ‘how do you feel about climate change?’: “Sometimes I have this dream. I’m going for a hike and discover a remote farm house on fire. Children are calling for help from the upper windows. So I call the fire brigade. But they don’t come, because some mad person keeps telling them that it is a false alarm. The situation is getting more and more desperate, but I cant convince the firemen to get going. I cannot wake up from this nightmare.”

    Not as snappy, but way more lurid! This all reminds me of swapping cigarette cards. My collection is very well organised, with all meta-data such as date, source-links, memetic type and lots of explanation for the more complex or cross-breed types, and grouped as primary / secondary authority sources and scientists and such. Plus published at Climate Etc. The snag being that it’s a lot of work to get it to that standard, meaning I haven’t done an update even though it’s a couple of years old now. I need to find some time for that, really.

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  48. Richard,

    The Enlightenment was real. Of course it was complex. I never suggested otherwise. Of course it did not shine a light everywhere, constantly, from the time of its inception to the time of its waning (now). In essence, it delivered humanity from its previous reliance upon faith and superstition only to an alternative reliance upon empiricism. It worked so well because the two systems were mutually exclusive for a long time. But then, alas, religious belief declined and we needed new forms of belief as a substitute. Political belief systems flourished in the vacuum. Hence the rise of Stalinism, Maoism, Nazism. They too have faded and we have developed new belief systems which sadly now threaten the foundations of empiricism which once provided the logical alternative to faith. We are developing blind faith in science. Science itself has become the New Religion of the masses and thus the Enlightenment is rolling back, because science is not belief and can never be belief. To remain health and vigour, it must be constantly challenged and criticised. That is no longer happening. You provide an example yourself:

    “Good science has produced real miracles, like the eradication of smallpox and the latest mRNA work to counter Covid-19”.

    How do you KNOW it is ‘good’ science? There are no miracles in science and your faith in the Pfizer mRNA vaccine to protect against Covid-19 may be dangerously misplaced:

    https://sciencewithdrdoug.com/2020/08/01/is-a-coronavirus-vaccine-a-ticking-time-bomb/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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  49. Jaime: You quoted one sentence but what followed showed I knew my onions. The mRNA work is I think good science. The two vaccines based on it may prove to have some negative side-effects, just as the smallpox vaccine did. But the eradication of smallpox is an awesome thing in human history achieved by good science, good public health policies and the social bonding that has to go with them to make the science and the policies effective.

    That’s why I pointed you to one person’s history of smallpox and how it was overcome, against much scepticism about the vaccine(s) in earlier days, and wondered if you agreed with that piece. You didn’t grapple with that at all. Because you’re not an expert, perhaps? I know I’m not.

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  50. Jaime: The Enlightenment is a matter of faith, as John Gray has often pointed out, having been mentored by Isaiah Berlin in his early days. That’s one of the most amusing ironies in Western intelligentsia. Sceptics like Gray, who’s not a believer or a theist, are in my view a great help in understanding our shared intellectual landscape. But that’s me all over – sceptic good here, sceptic bad there (in opposing the smallpox vaccine when it was a massive life and death issue). No easy answers.

    Like

  51. Thanks, Richard. I’ll leave the ‘https://’ off next time. Or deliberately lose the ‘f’. It’s a bit daft having an inline pdf. Sorry, all.

    Andy, that’s a nutso quote from Rahmstorf, but not uniquely nutso. Climactivists often make claims/frames about dreams.

    Says he whose archive is *so* ramshackle he can’t find any other examples. Perhaps they exist only in my nightmares.

    I did find Duggan’s ‘This Is How Scientists Feel’ project, though. It was part of his MA in Science Communication. Well done, him. He managed to get lots of self-described scientists to participate in his project, including some who are very famous.

    He also attracted people with interesting hair.

    I’ve only skimmed the hairstyles of the first ten or so of the ~400 ‘climate scientists’ who responded to Duggan’s request for a handwritten note about their fears about climate change, so these results aren’t in any way significant. But…

    First responder:

    Tenth responder:

    I think a climate scientist could make something out of that resemblance. The science says that bubbly grey hairdos for Ozzie men who are terrified of climate change indicates…

    (Jit, thanks for the comment-then-post about Wee Bankie etc.)

    Like

  52. Vinny: Yep I’ve made great use of Duggan’s project. Best ever demonstration of enormous emotive bias of climate / environmental scientists to certain catastrophe. I doubt that was his intent!

    Like

  53. this post & comments about Rahmstorf prompted me to visit “realclimate” to see what they are up to?

    “Flyer tipping Filed under: Climate Science In the News skeptics — gavin @ 12 January 2021”
    “You would be forgiven for not paying attention to the usual suspects of climate denial right now, but they are trying to keep busy anyway”
    “BREAKING: @WHOSTP has fired climate contrarians David Legates and @RyanMaue days before their last scheduled day of service, due to their role in the unauthorized writing and publishing of controversial climate papers w/ White House markings. https://t.co/3aMhpZJ65w
    — Andrew Freedman (@afreedma) January 12, 2021″

    good old gavin & team are still the witch hunter A team!!!

    Liked by 3 people

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