Rod Liddle

Hugo, Jim and the rest………………….

Hugo, Jim and the rest………………….
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There is a surfeit of arrogance and certitude on both sides, of course. My own position is that I have little doubt that the climate is changing and most of the evidence suggests that it is, in the medium to long term, heading upwards. I suspect, again from the stats, that it is possible we may have had something to do with this, although I am not convinced. More worrying than the arrogance and certitude, to my mind, is the terror of, or awe at, science – amply demonstrated by Hugo Rifkind’s article in the current edition of the magazine and which is one of the most magnificently stupid and anti-intellectual exercises I have encountered in many a year. I realize Hugo intended his arguments to be treated lightly, but the suggestion that a degree in Climatology would equip the chap to talk with authority on the issue is, of course, fatuous. That said, it is the sort of argument peddled by a good many AGW adherents – including the doyen of them all, George Monbiot (who of course has no academic expertise in the area; he’s a Zoology grad.)

I’ll come back to the science at a later date because it will take too long right now to go through the evidence as to why I think there is plenty of room for doubt about AGW. But the terror and awe in which science is held usually means that non-scientific arguments against AGW are dismissed out of hand, as if they counted for nothing. And there are very good non-scientific arguments against AGW and are no less valid simply because they are not based upon hard science. The fact that they are dismissed out of hand is a manifestation of our confusion about science, as if it were something set apart from every other human endeavour, a pristine thing, replete with its own grammar, unchallengeable. It occupies a place in our modern lexicon similar to that occupied by religion five hundred years ago. The Climategate business reminds us that au contraire, science is neither pristine nor devolved; that scientists are as susceptible as the rest of us, that they cannot set themselves apart. This is not to denigrate science – far from it; I think it is a scandal that we are so ill-informed about science. Simply to say that there is nothing wrong with a spot of dualism, as Dawkins would put it, from time to time. Scientists are themselves dualisists, although they may, delusionally, consider themselves not to be. We all see the world rationally and intuitively.

So here are a few non-scientific arguments as to why we might be sceptical about AGW; they do not disprove AGW and it is hard to know how to weigh up their worth against the scientific arguments which will follow. But weighed somehow they should be; too often arguments are won by claiming “science!” as if it were a neutral arbiter which defeated all arguments.

1.    A large proportion of every generation that has walked this earth considers itself the very last generation to walk this earth and that we are headed towards some form of apocalyptic annihilation. This is seen, in its most extreme examples, with those effortlessly entertaining millenialist cults - and is presumably a consequence of human narcissism. There is a hunger to believe such stuff not just among the madmen, though, but among the population at large. I have a quantity theory of apocalypse which, briefly stated, rules that we can worry about only one apocalypse at a time. And it is surely more than coincidence that the eco-apocalypse really took off in 1989/90, when the previous apocalypse disappeared pretty much for good. No coincidence either that many of the most voluble proponents of eco-apocalypse were prominent in agitating about the previous apocalypse in CND. This proves nothing, of course. I have to keep saying this in case AGW monkeys think that I think it does.

2.    The status afforded to science and scientists in society is now so exalted, and the general ignorance of scientific principles so marked, that we have become credulous and unquestioning.

3.    AGW is closed, circular argument which permits no refutation (and therefore, by Karl Popper’s famous test, is unscientific). Droughts are caused by climate change. So too floods, icy winters, dry winters, wet winters, mild winters. The climate dropping is a consequence of AGW, so is the climate rising. To uncritical proponents of AGW I ask this: what would you accept as evidence that the earth is not warming up as a consequence of human activity?

4.    Too many of the scientists at the forefront of the AGW debate have a vested interest in advancing the case for AGW, for reasons of hubris, status and of course remuneration. As we have seen recently.

5.    AGW is self-flagellatory, in that its proponents argue for privation upon themselves and the rest of us. In itself this means little, but it is entirely characteristic of previous pro-apocalypse movements.

6.    The big villains of climate change are a little too convenient – big business, the capitalist west and particularly the USA, western affluence, industrialisation. The AGW lobby is disinclined to rail about what must, by definition, be the most critical factor in AGW – the tripling of the earth’s population in 50 years. They never, ever, urge birth control measures upon the third world (or indeed upon us), because it does not fit into their political lexicon. Let me give a brief example of this in microcosm; in UK house building, all the gains made in green energy-saving technology over the last forty years have been offset five times over by the fact that there are many more of us and we do not wish to live in family units. But never a word about this from the AGW lobby. As a corollary, with very few exceptions, the AGW does not lobby for more nuclear power stations.

That’ll do for now (although there’s much more and each of these points could be a decent book in themselves).