A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Why is the liberal elite European left so unsophisticated over climate change?

The culture wars between America and Europe, so well analysed by a thoughtful Ohio resident in an e-mail to Melanie Phillips [now posted on her online Diary (November 10) and very much worth the read], are in many ways encapsulated by the eternal wranglings over the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The unthinking, and rather unsophisticated, arrogance of the liberal European 'elite' over Kyoto, however, does not stand up to close philosophical scrutiny.

Weather and climate change every second, of every minute, of every day, of every week, of every year, of every decade, of every century, of every millennium, of every eon. As I stressed in my Wednesday blog (below), there is no such thing as a 'stable', or a ‘sustainable’, climate. Moreover, temperatures are never static for a second; temperatures are always either rising or falling, and at all temporal and spatial scales. Thus, to say that we are experiencing ‘global warming’ is little more than a half-truism, assuming that ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ approximately equal-out through geological time. Around 50% of the time we must be ‘warming’, at whatever interval we consider weather or climate. Therefore, as long as our scientific instruments are sufficiently sensitive to measure the ‘rising’ and the ‘falling’, ‘global warming’ and ‘global cooling’ are matters of fact, although both may take place simultaneously, if spatially-separated, a phenomenon frequently encountered, for example, in Antarctica and Greenland.

Philosophically-speaking, this is ‘global warming’ seen as an empirical entity. Yet, even at this level, in all honesty, we still don’t know whether we are today 'warming' or 'cooling' on a longer time-scale. Some temperature curves continue to hint at a slight recent 'cooling' or, at the most, a minuscule 'warming', overall from the 1930s and 1940s, as do certain corrected satellite and balloon measurements. In addition, there remain grave doubts about the reliability of our temperature measurements over the oceans, as well as on the land, because of the so-called urban ‘heat-island’ effect, while changes in the measuring instruments themselves make inter-generational temperature comparisons difficult.

But, since the late-1980s, ‘global warming’ has been turned, especially by the liberal elites of Europe (and of the Boston (Beacon Hill)-New York-Washington axis) into much more than this, having been re-constructed as a semi-empirical entity, or incomplete symbol, which cannot be easily verified or falsified. In this sense, 'global warming' has morphed into what Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) called in Critique of Judgement a matter of opinion, i.e. an “object of empirical knowledge which is at least in principle possible, but is impossible for us because the degree to which we are capable of empirical cognition is not sufficiently high.” It is thus in the same category as the example recalled by Stephan Körner (in his book, Kant, 1955), namely the assumption that other planets are inhabited by rational beings. Such semi-empirical entities are ultimately neither verifiable nor falsifiable because of the continuing technical limitations involved.

And the technical limitations of our current climate models and knowledge are, in reality, horrifying, with even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admitting openly that we know next-to-nothing about 75% of the main proxy (summary) factors implicated. We therefore cannot allow the Global Warmers’ key antinomy to persist, namely that: “Climate is the most complex coupled non-linear chaotic system known, yet we can control it by adjusting just one set of factors.”

‘Global warming’, as a semi-empirical entity, is thus an ‘empty’ phrase, fundamentally unverifiable and unfalsifiable in a strict ‘scientific’ sense, but one which can be empowered with meaning by those who have the motive to do so. Accordingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, since the early 1990s, this intrinsic linguistic ‘emptiness’ has been filled by a great Barthesian myth, especially in Europe, but by all those who feel the deep need for such a legitimizing ‘science’. The myth asserts that current ‘global warming’ is both faster and worse than at any previous time, that it is not ‘natural’, and that it has to be be caused by human hubris, and that the main culprit must be, inevitably, America the Evil Empire. Here we witness one of the clearest examples of the 'culture war' so carefully analysed by Melanie's correspondent from Ohio. The concept has been translated into a matter of faith, transcending “the theoretical use of reason.” For the good folk involved, following Kant again, ‘global warming’ has become neither a matter of knowledge nor of opinion, but wholly a matter of 'morality', nay, of religion. Paradoxically, where 'global warming' is concerned, it is the liberal European elite left that is 'evangelical' and 'fundamentalist', not much-abused Middle America. LEELs are desperate for 'global warming' to be 'true'.

Moreover, ‘global warming’ has been turned into the number one evil of the world by Sir David King and his like, terrorism notwithstanding. It is seen as the ultimate product of the Mordor of the present age, George W. Bush starring as Sauron, ‘Lord of the Rings’, with his genetically-modified orcs and spouting smokestack industries. It is the inevitable outcome of a Faustian pact with the devils of capitalism, industrial growth, and profit. It is Christ tempted down from the High Places to the ruin of the modern world. It is the ‘Shire’ of Europe pitted against all the metal, mills and miasmas of Erin Brockovitch's America. It is Harry Potter versus the Voldemort of greed and gas-guzzling.

Dangerously, we have allowed this myth-making to lead to the authoritarian, but totally impractical, Kyoto Protocol, to the foolish assumption that we can create a stable, ‘sustainable’, unchanging climate (an oxymoron of the First Class), and to the viewpoint that climate change must be ‘bad’ for everybody. Sadly, there are going to be some extremely disappointed people. The Kyoto Protocol is a scientific and economic nonsense that will cost the world dear in economic terms while doing absolutely nothing the stop an ever-changing climate. And the idea that climate change is bad for all has been thoroughly challenged in many recent publications, such as Global Warming and the American Economy (Edward Elgar Publishing), edited by the economist, Robert O. Mendelsohn, of Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

So, Europe, can we please become a little less arrogant and liberal elitist and a little more sophisticated about the concept of ‘global warming’? It may even do some of us some good! And, instead of throwing yet more money and political energy after bad by trying 'to halt' (the daftest infinitive in the Global Warmer's lexicon) the inexorable and the inevitable, let’s use that money and political will more wisely and fairly to assist lesser developed countries (LDCs) to grow stronger, more adaptive economies that will enable them to cope better with change.

Philip, totally fed up with Lady Magnesia Freelove (hat tip to Private Eye), Harold Pooter, Michael Moore Mayhem, and all their pontificating ilk. The above is adapted from an earlier piece first published in America. Coffee time!
And now we know why the French really hate America.....

'Rampant Louisiana crayfish threaten future of French frogs' (The Independent, November 12):

"Transatlantic relations reached a new low yesterday amid reports that a species of voracious giant crayfish from the United States is nibbling away at the French coastline.

The humiliation, for France, is compounded by the fact that the crustacean abomination - Procambarus clarkii - hails from Louisiana, the former French colony which France sold for a trifle in 1803.

The invader delights in preying on delicate French frogs and defenceless tadpoles, as well as devouring little fish and aquatic plants....." (read on)

Cleary originally from Clarkii County! Now, that really is how to get your own back!

Philip, all for Crayfish and Frog Risotto followed, of course, by Louisiana Trifle. What a purchase!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Bringing the media to task over sloppy climate-change language.....

We hear them in nearly every broadcast, or read them in nearly every report on 'global warming' - phrases that make no sense scientifically. Yet, these have become the mythical language of the age, especially in the UK and Europe. This little blog, then, is a wake-up call for everyone to be ready to carp and to complain about sloppy climate-change journalism whenever and wherever it is encountered, across the airwaves or on the published page. May I encourage you to telephone, or to write, in to editors and producers if you ever have to suffer one of the following climate-change examples of mediaese:

"Stop climate change" or "halt climate change": nobody can stop climate change. Climate has always changed, is always changing, and will always change. Even if we put 4 billion people worldwide out-of-work, scrapped every car, grounded every aeroplane, and shut down every factory and energy plant, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Remember the Ice Age, folks?

"Bring climate back to an equilibrium": there is no such thing as a climate equilibrium. This is wishful thinking based on false philosophical roots;

"Stable climate": there is no such thing as, and never has been such a thing as, a "stable climate" - the very concept is an oxymoron;

"Make climate sustainable": there is no such thing as a single "sustainable climate". The phrase, "a sustainable climate", is again an oxymoron. This is uncritical, PC twaddle;

"Carbon emissions that cause climate change": carbon emissions are just one factor out of millions that drive climate change. Always challenge dangerously naive and uncritical monocausal media statements;

"Climate change will be a disaster": climate change is neither universally disastrous nor beneficial - different places will experience it in different ways. Competitive advantage will simply move and alter. The only defence against climate change is to maintain a strong, flexible economy and to develop sensible planning with respect to flooding and other phenomena.

It is thus vital, folks, that we start to challenge the unthinking media employment of such poor phraseology, especially on important programmes like 'Today', 'Newsnight' (on which, somewhat surprisingly, there was recently a spectacular example of the use of such mediaese), Channel 4 News, etc. - indeed, on each and in every media outlet. It is this sloppy journalism that enables the 'global warming' myth to persist unchecked. Such journalistic language is, of course, widely exploited by extreme 'Green' pressure groups. Now it is time to fight for scientific precision in language.

Go deconstruct and defend the precise use of language.

Philip, 'phone and e-mail to the ready. Morning coffee and a banana first, of course.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Beyond parody.....

If you ever thought that The Observer was a serious left-leaning newspaper, then think again. Today, its two colour supplement magazines - OM ('The Observer Magazine') and The Observer Food Monthly are beyond parody. I have just spent (wasted!) an hour creased up in incredulous fits of wide-eyed mirth. The paper should be re-styled The Trustafarian Times forthwith. The pages are laced with impeccable young ladies, mainly in impeccable little black numbers, with impeccable socialite credentials, mouthing impeccably-PC recycled rubbish about food and the environment. It is all way beyond my own limited powers of parody. I will thus append a glorious catalogue of quotations for your delectation:-

"Will climate change leave the British coast at risk of Jaws-style shark attacks?" [One can only pray so!]

One "eco fashion designer" has her first complete collection made from hemp blends. Why hemp, you might ask? "'I'm infatuated by it,' she explains." [I wonder if it's addictive?]

"The Windsave mini turbine, £995 plus installation. You strap it on to your roof....."

"Model farmer: Sheherazade [she was a former model] at home in the Grade 1 listed house on the Goldsmiths' Devon estate." [At least Sheherazade is in a homely white cardie and jeans.]

"Young British people do not know how to cook." Julie Guerin, photographed looking a million dollars at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris' Place de la Concorde. Superior double rooms: a snip at "from 585 euros" a night, and where Jean-Francois Piege is the chef at 'Les Ambassadeurs', the hotel's restaurant. [I bet he knows how to cook!]

"Victoire de Castellane ... late 30s, creator of Dior fine jewellery, mother of four. Lives in Paris." "I like old-fashioned foods and classical restaurants. I don't go to 'new' restaurants."

And how do all the gorgeous, pouting French ladies in their little black numbers stay so chic? "Most French women smoke instead of eating," says Mathilde. [An eco-slip there, shurely, Ed?]

Polly Vernon: "I admit I nabbed a chopstick holder from Nobu and a side plate from J Sheekey" Not to mention "a large pepper grinder from Belgo, Chalk Farm" - "I was wearing classic Joseph tuxedo pants and a Donna Karan vest top in light charcoal." [So that's alright then! Nell's caf in Doncaster is clearly safe.]

"'Zac [Goldsmith] and I laugh sometimes because we say we'll spend all these years planting trees and so on, achieving this, then we'll die, and the children will go 'Let's chop down the forests or get some GM seeds in.' She watches the sheep making their way up to some young trees they planted..." [Baaa! Go for it kids!]

"Pure Luxury: recycled satins, organic cottons, sumptuous vintage silk. Smart shoppers choose reclaimed and fairtrade products - and not a sackcloth or sweatshop in sight." [Just pages of sexy black briefs from 'Gossypium' - cotton on, folks?]

And "30 ways to do the right thing": 1. Plan your green funeral; 4. Splash out on clothes [now there's a surprise!]; 9. Donate paint; 22. Plant a flower meadow; 26. Install a compost toilet; 28. Straw bale extensions....

Oh help! Enough Ecofroth, Ed. I've truly lost the will to live! And The Sunday Times is hardly any better with its: "The Jungle Masquerade benefit... in the Hamptons, New York [where else?]. The most recent ball raised $50,000 for the protection of ecosystems and life in the Amazon." But at least The Sunday Times never claims to be a solid paper of the left! Just Democrat (Beacon Hill, Martha's Vineyard, and a billionaire spouse!) I suppose.

So remember, gals: tonight you can slip off those sleek organic-cotton black briefs (Bridget-size) for a dip in your lovely ecofroth, gently warmed by the sweet windmill strapped to your straw-bale roof, while having a cigarette [Fire!] to keep you svelte and slim and getting ready to stun Justin 'Swampy' Fitzwaller-Frumpy all in blended hemp. Oh, and don't forget to pop on the compost toilet before you leave to car-share that Porsche and to take the 'Heritage' paint for the charity donation.

Philip, off for a strong double. Toodle-Pip!

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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