Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

A question of terminology…

Posted on timeJuly 28th, 2007 by userPali Gap    flagNo Comments


When it comes to rhetorical devices, the proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), like the Devil, seem to have all the best tunes. Those with whom they disagree they refer to as “deniers” and/or “contrarians“.

The best response of course is the somewhat lofty one viz. that this just goes to show the irrationalism endemic in some elements of their cause. But that’s not much fun is it!

And in any case, in the course of any discussion there is the simple, practical problem of how best to refer to the side that is promoting the AGW conjecture. The impressive neutrality and accuracy of the phrase “the proponents of Anthropogenic Global Warming” is only matched by its ponderous ugliness.

I think then I will go with the termĀ  “warming-monger” in the future as a probably ill-advised and futile attempt to respond in kind to the use of “denier” and “contrarian” by the AGW folks.

As they say, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em“.

(But then, as it also said, “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword“…)

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Jonahs can be cheerful when it suits

Posted on timeMarch 10th, 2006 by userPali Gap    flagNo Comments


“Politics & epistemology” – now there’s a subject!

It seems clear that you can correlate epistemological optimism with left-leaning politics and epistemological pessimism with “liberalism” (by which I mean non-authoritarian right wing politics).

A predilection for Scientism, Positivism, or any flavour of “foundationalist” epistemology is very convenient if you wish to sign up to the idea of progress through social engineering and the command economy. If you believe that Science gives us certain knowledge; that this knowledge is growing steadily; that there is effectively no limit to our quest for knowledge; and that even the laws of mind and society are fair game to Science – then you are an “epistemological optimist” and open to a Politics that believes that Society, the economy, the environment – even the Planet herself – can be managed and controlled in a rational, progressive way.

On the other hand you don’t have to be a foaming-at-the-mouth epistemological pessimist (sceptic, relativist, whatever) to believe that the tentative and conjectural nature of Science does not square with any form of Utopianism. Perhaps you think “certainty” is unattainable (and even undesirable as an aim); perhaps God does play dice (Einstein notwithstanding); perhaps Science does not progress in a simple cumulative fashion; perhaps the innate complexity or chaotic nature of some systems gives rise inevitably to a little cloud of unknowing. Any or all of these little sins of the Scientism faith are likely to make the supplicant give pause when considering grand projects such as genetically modified crops and nuclear power.

All of which is fine and dandy – except if we treat all the above as a conjecture and put it to the test it all falls apart pretty quickly! It seems folks just aren’t, well, they’re just not darn consistent between their politics and their epistemology! Is that the fault of my nice little theory, or is that their fault? “Cognitive dissonance” perhaps?

Take environmentalists…

In The Global Warming Bugaboo, George Reisman points out the contradiction between their pessimistic and gloomy epistemological comfort zone (i.e. worries over the capability of Science to guarantee the safety of nuclear plants, or to produce safe pesticides, or to introduce genetic engineering without horrible unintended consequences) and their need to get up close and intimate with the men in white coats so as to support their climate change doom scenarios – which only works if you throw in a fairly heavy dose of Scientism and epistemological optimism (especially an unshakeable faith in the powers of the computer modelling of chaotic systems!).

So what have we here? It seems the global warmers are playing fast and loose with their epistemology: cheerful, epistemological optimists one minute; depressing Jonahs the next. How inconsistent of them!

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Out of the mouths of babes…

Posted on timeFebruary 12th, 2006 by userPali Gap    flagNo Comments


Oh dear. A UK government web site reports that UK “Climate Change Minister” Elliot Morley is recruiting kids to “act as the voices of climate change in their region”.

Why kids? Do they have some special insight? Er no – but they are “useful” to the likes of comrade Morley in a way that Joseph Goebbels would have readily understood.

“The South West climate change champion will spend a year ‘in office’ helping to spread the word about climate change to their communities through local activities. They will also have a number of engagements throughout the year, including a fact-finding tour to Switzerland to witness the effects of climate change at the Gurschen glacier. They will also have the opportunity to meet with a senior Government Minister to discuss climate change in the UK”

(To be a “champion” seems to be the latest corporate/public sector/political gobbledygook wheeze!)

The web site reporting this is the charmingly named “DEFRA” – Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (South West). On the site, the starting brief for aspiring champions is this:

The South West climate change facts

If action isn’t taken, greenhouse gas emissions could lead to the following changes:

* Coastal erosion
* Potential issue of water availability in the summer.
* Increasing pressure on infrastructure due to an increase in tourism
* Increase in river and urban flooding with winters wetter by between 5-15 per cent by the year 2050s

I started to imagine how this might turn out if their appointed champion is a little free-thinking!

Dear Comrade Morley, DEFRA

It was a great honour to be appointed your South West Climate Change Champion. However it is with regret that I wish to resign my post.

My first problem was with your plan to fly me to Switzerland to witness a melting glacier. I’m sorry I had to decline. You see my research has shown me that air travel (much favoured by ministers and civil servants) is a prime example of wasteful planet-damaging carbon emissions. In my position as “champion” I did not wish to appear hypocritical to the public that you would have me “educate”. In fact young as I am, I am quite capable of absorbing knowledge from a book or from my multimedia PC rather than from expensive, unproductive fact-finding “jollies” abroad – so this is what I have been doing instead.

As we all know the South West UK is primarily a farming, fishing and tourism region. It is one of the poorer regions in the country. My research has indicated that the main contribution of the region to global warming is probably the methane from flatulent cows. I believe your organisation DEFRA regulates the farming industry, so you might want to consider restricting cattle farming as a remedy. My enquiries with local farmers suggest that their businesses are so precarious at present (as a result of DEFRA’s policies they say!) that a few more regulations on your part could easily result in a big reduction in livestock farming. If you replace the bourgeois aesthetic of green fields with some inspiring industrial wind farms this could both reduce methane emissions and generate a little energy (when the wind blows).

In your brief you mention “coastal erosion” – presumably from raised sea levels caused by global warming? I’m afraid I have been unable to discover any scientific research to suggest a change in the rate of coastal erosion in our region. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction? However I have learnt some amazing things! I never knew for example how warm our region was in the Middle Ages. And I have been astonished to discover that my village (near Truro) was a thriving sea port not so long ago, but is completely landlocked now. It seems that Henry VIII was able to sail from Falmouth right up what is now farmer Jethro’s field. It is apparent then that the good folk of our region have been coping very well with quite extreme changes in climate and sea level for many centuries (nay millenia!). They didn’t need a “climate change champion” then; and I’m not sure they would welcome one now.

Then there’s the point about “increasing pressure on infrastructure due to an increase in tourism”. You see a lot of people I’ve interviewed think this would be a jolly good thing. Are DEFRA against increased tourism? (If that’s really your policy then if you proceed with my wind farm suggestion I’m sure you would achieve your goal of less tourism!)

Finally – the last straw – the stuff about winters becoming wetter (and warmer). In this winter of 2006, when the South of England is threatened by drought and has experienced exceptional cold, I just find it too embarrassing to attempt to champion the idea of combatting wetter, warmer winters.

So – Sorry! – I’m afraid I just have to give up.

Yours etc

ex SW Champion

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