MPs from two select committees have reported today on the good and the bad of the response in England to Covid-19. I wanted to single out this phrase, as reported by the Irish Times

Some of the most serious early failings, the report suggests, resulted from apparent groupthink among scientists and ministers which led to ‘fatalism’, the report finds.

and the BBC

Some early failings, the report suggested, resulted from apparent “group-think” among scientists and ministers.

It meant the UK was not as open to different approaches on earlier lockdowns, border controls and test and trace as it should have been.

So these MPs think it possible that groupthink can adversely affect scientists and ministers, together, leading to the needless loss of thousands of lives, as it says elsewhere in the report.

Hmm. Any other area, and groups, that this might apply to? MPs, even?

As if in answer, the same day the Environmment Agency shows that groupthink about climate change may be more apparent than actual once one delves into the detail. Climate change: ‘Adapt or die’ warning from Environment Agency, courtesy of the BBC’s David Shukman, is all about adaptation, not decarbonisation. And in response to the EA, DEFRA seems to totally go along with this. There is only one response considered to the ‘climate emergency’, which both sides agree, as a higher-level groupthink, I suppose, is upon us. Including in the context of COP26, mighty extravaganza of global decarbonisation as I for one thought it was.

But no, it’s all about adaptation.

Or so this version of the groupthink goes. The apparent groupthink, I should say.

10 Comments

  1. Richard, thanks for highlighting two points that had also occurred to me.

    Firstly, it’s laughable that MPs affected by almost total groupthink regarding climate change can see that groupthink is a thing among politicians and scientists, but don’t recognise it when it comes to climate change and their (and scientists’) response to it.

    Secondly, I’d also started to note that more and more of the climate change publicity seems to be about adaptation these days. Is the tide turning, so to speak?

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  2. Thanks Mark. Those two thoughts were very much in my mind. The grouping of scientists and ministers into a joint venture of groupthink you’d think would make ‘em, er, think.

    I won’t be around for an hour or two to respond to comments now.

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  3. As mentioned in Open Mic, that EA quote was from the Chair, Emma Howard Boyd CBE. What else is Emma involved in? From gov.uk:

    Emma Howard Boyd is Chair of the Environment Agency, an Ex officio board member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and interim Chair of the Green Finance Institute.

    She is also an Adviser to the Board of Trade, and a UN Global Ambassador for Race to Zero and Race to Resilience ahead of COP26.

    Emma serves on several boards and advisory committees which include:

    The Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment (co-Chair)
    The European Climate Foundation
    The Council for Sustainable Business
    The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project
    Menhaden PLC

    Emma was the UK Commissioner to the Global Commission on Adaptation from 2018 until January 2021.

    Emma said [quote from the Green Finance Institute website]:

    In the last month alone we have seen fatal heat in Canada, devastating floods in Germany and a climate induced famine in Madagascar, the Green Finance Institute can help investors understand the opportunity in creating a more resilient global economy for all. [Sic.]

    My conclusion: she doesn’t have the first clue what she’s talking about re: climate change.

    Re: adaptation. As a certain Mosher once said, and I paraphrase, “we don’t even plan for the present, let alone the future.” While every weather event is used as evidence of impending catastrophe and as justification for “Net Zero”, it is obvious that the impact of weather in the developed world is far less than it was in the past. [Building in a stupid place notwithstanding.] So far I see nothing that tells me we need to adapt, beyond planning for existing weather, not concreting over more land, not expecting Victorian drains to handle deluges, etc.

    Obviously squandering trillions on Net Zero has a cost re: resilience to present, unchanged weather. It also affects our independence re: food production (already at some ludicrously low level like 30%), given the vast area of solar panels planned.

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  4. Jit: The term Emma Howard Boyd meant nothing to me, until you explained it. Thank you.

    I must come back to this but I have a combo of duties and debugging right now.

    (I just typed Apple’s latest error message into Google to receive the encouraging: No results found for “swift-frontend quit unexpectedly”. Talk about unknown unknowns.)

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  5. IMHO, the kind of thinking that results in calls for “Net Zero” is the same kind of thinking that calls for “Zero Covid” – not so much Groupthink as Dumbthink.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Richard,

    I too had read the BBC article on the EA’s warnings, and I too was struck by how much was said regarding adaptation, to the exclusion of other remedies. However, it is in a sense unsurprising that flood mitigation, rather than weather management, should be the main topic of conversation. I think it is an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as the wrong weather, only inappropriate clothing. However, this sense of taking personal responsibility seems to be reserved only for matters regarding rainfall. It’s a strange quirk of our psychology that, unfortunately, does not seem to extend to other aspects of public and societal behaviour.

    I make no excuses for recommending once more Robert Muir-Wood’s book ‘The Cure for Catastrophe – How we Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters’.

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  7. I just finished some other, slightly demanding coding work and had a look at my email.

    My old Cambridge college felt there was something happening on Friday I should know about:

    Doesn’t that happen so often?

    Emma Howard Boyd was a name that rang no bells when Jit mentioned her earlier.

    I still have things to say about the absurdity of the apparent groupthink over climate.

    And, just maybe, the hint of an opportunity. But maybe tomorrow now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Shuckman article you mention is all about prevention, rather than adaptation:

    According to Ms Howard Boyd: “We can successfully tackle the climate emergency if we do the right things, but we are running out of time to implement effective adaptation measures. “Some 200 people died in this summer’s flooding in Germany. That will happen in this country sooner or later, however high we build our flood defences – unless we also make the places where we live, work and travel resilient to the effects of the more violent weather the climate emergency is bringing.”

    which makes Ms Howard Boyd’s “adapt or die” comment all the more bizarre.

    What’s happening in part is that, by stifling debate, the actors are forced to have the debate in their own heads with imaginary electors, and it’s not going well.

    You can imagine poor Ms Howard Boyd, after a busy day at the EA, DEFRA, GFI, BoT, CCRI, ECF, CSB, and the The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, falling asleep with the words of her latest statement echoing round her brain: “We must adapt or die. Look at the floods in Germany.” And a little voice pipes up: “So what are you going to do about it?”

    “Plant trees and windmills. Extract firm promises of net zero emissions by 2030, 40, 50…”

    “Yes, but what about the people dying in floods?”

    “Well, obviously we’re going to build resilience, adaptation, mitigation, flood defences, dredging and er, provide lifejackets and inflatable dinghies to save people trapped in their houses.”

    Now sooner or later, someone will realise that if you’ve got flood defences and dinghies, you don’t need to spend trillions on windmills and bribing 200 countries to get on board. But will it be the voice in Ms Howard Boyd’s head, or the elector?

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  9. Geoff:

    Now sooner or later, someone will realise that if you’ve got flood defences and dinghies, you don’t need to spend trillions on windmills and bribing 200 countries to get on board. But will it be the voice in Ms Howard Boyd’s head, or the elector?

    That’s exactly my point, thank you. Well, one of them.

    There are two groupthinks on show here.

    They both think the climate emergency is real and terrifying.

    But only one says:

    “Plant trees and windmills. Extract firm promises of net zero emissions by 2030, 40, 50…”

    The other one says “Hold on a moment. Instead of the $1.5 trillion a year we could spend $100 billion a year (say) and get far more immediate benefit.”

    The climate emergency is a daft idea but its absurdity is squared by hopeless and useless decarbonisation.

    The response to the EA by DEFRA I found truly amazing.

    But anyway. Laters.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jit:

    So far I see nothing that tells me we need to adapt, beyond planning for existing weather, not concreting over more land, not expecting Victorian drains to handle deluges, etc.

    Me neither. Planning for existing weather, or merely bad weather that we’ve known in the past, is fine by me. But even if a grander vision is built up for, and a grander budget allocated to, adaptation than it really should be, such measures will surely do far less damage economically, and to the poor, than crazy decarbonisation of the Net Zero kind?

    Where I would question my own categories is that I’m talking, as most greens do, about decarbonisation without any increase of nuclear power. Once a serious movement to use nuclear more arises, through the likes of Shellenberger and Zion Lights, my simplistic picture changes. But I’m most interested here in how climate alarmist groupthink is broken. “A house divided against itself cannot stand” said Lincoln, quoting Jesus. And the half I most want to see fall down – and great to be the fall of it – is the crazy decarb side.

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