Thursday, November 22, 2012

The politics of despair

As the negotiations are getting underway for COP 18 in Doha, commentators have started making their noises. Usual noises, following a well-known, worn-out script. Fiona Harvey in the Guardian writes under the headline

Slow pace of carbon cuts brings catastrophic climate change closer: UN

The gap between the carbon emission cuts pledged and the cuts scientists say are needed has widened, report warns
quoting 'warnings' from those in the business who know. Warnings about the gap between what needs to be done in terms of GHG reductions and actual achievements. UNEP director Steiner and UN
Climate Chief Figueres warn that 'time is running out' but that there is still a chance to stay within the 2 degree limit. The European Environment Agency says "Climate change is a reality around the world, and the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident. This means that every part of the economy, including households, needs to adapt as well as reduce emissions."

Last week the journal Nature carried a comment from finance capitalist Jeremy Grantham, encouraging climate scientists to speak out. He is not concerned about overselling, because the reverse is more unethical. He wrote: 'Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.' He even thinks scientists should get arrested, if necessary (necessary for what?): 'It is crucial that scientists take more career risks and sound a more realistic, more desperate, note on the global-warming problem. Younger scientists are obsessed by thoughts of tenure, so it is probably up to older, senior and retired scientists to do the heavy lifting. Be arrested if necessary. This is not only the crisis of your lives — it is also the crisis of our species’ existence. I implore you to be brave.' Will this make an impression on the old guard?

We now had 17 Conferences of the parties, none leading to the desired result. The 15th was supposed the crucial one, but the most disappointing. This time the expectations are lower, but the pre-COP rhetoric has not changed register. Will this old script attract any new audiences? Is there anything attractive in the announcements? Rhetorical questions, I know.


Harry Dale Huffman said...

No, this is the politics of the hysterical and the deluded. You are charging like lemmings towards a real, world war, based upon empty visions of a nightmare that can never come to pass, and can be seen by any reasonable and honest observer NOT to be happening. You might as well be crying out to "burn the witches". A one degree C rise in global temperature would raise the energy available in the atmosphere by only 0.4%, which would raise the wind level in a 75 mph hurricane to 75.15 mph, not discernible; a rise of 2 degrees would raise those winds only to 75.3 mph -- so 2 degrees rise means nothing, no observable effect on storms. You are agonizing over NOTHING but the failed science of incompetent climate scientists (and that, you may well imagine, is what is appalling, and what you should be raving about to fix -- the system and its natural authority, in telling the public the facts, is entirely broken).

Mark B. said...

The longer this goes on, the worse they get. The premise of the story is that climate scientists are afraid to speak out about the truth of a climate apocalypse. What happened to that consensus? What, exactly, are they supposed to be afraid of - agreeing with the dominant ideology?

Of course the true problem is the exact opposite. Climate scientists know better than to question the 'consensus.' If they do, they fear they'll be isolated and attacked as enemies within their own profession. For an academic without tenure, the rational fear is the exact opposite of what is claimed. Junior professors live in fear of upsetting the apple cart, so they have to be sure they don't offend those who have power over their entire futures. If they start criticizing colleagues for making unsupported claims (it's worse than we thought) they can have their careers destroyed overnight.

When they start arguing the exact opposite of reality to support themselves, you know they're on the run.