Friday, March 29, 2013

Politics, Fraud & $$$

An Interview with climatologists Art Horn and Joe D' Aleo

It’s the cold, not global warming, that we should be worried about

No one seems upset that in modern Britain, old people are freezing to death as hidden taxes make fuel more expensive

A few months ago, a group of students in Oslo produced a brilliant spoof video that lampooned the charity pop song genre. It showed a group of young Africans coming together to raise money for those of us freezing in the north. “A lot of people aren’t aware of what’s going on there right now,” says the African equivalent of Bob Geldof. “People don’t ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people? Frostbite kills too. Africa: we need to make a difference.” The song – Africa for Norway – has been watched online two million times, making it one of Europe’s most popular political videos.

The aim was to send up the patronising, cliched way in which the West views Africa. Norway can afford to make the joke because there, people don’t tend to die of the cold. In Britain, we still do. Each year, an official estimate is made of the “excess winter mortality” – that is, the number of people dying of cold-related illnesses. Last winter was relatively mild, and still 24,000 perished. The indications are that this winter, which has dragged on so long and with such brutality, will claim 30,000 lives, making it one of the biggest killers in the country. And still, no one seems upset.

Somewhere between the release of the 1984 Band Aid single and Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, political attention shifted away from such problems. The idea of people (especially old people) dying in their homes from conditions with which we are all familiar now seems relatively boring. Much political attention is still focused on global warming, and while schemes to help Britain prepare for the cold are being cut, the overseas aid budget is being vastly expanded. Saving elderly British lives has somehow become the least fashionable cause in politics.

The reaction to the 2003 heatwave was extraordinary. It was blamed for 2,000 deaths, and taken as a warning that Britain was horribly unprepared for the coming era of snowless winters and barbecue summers. The government’s chief scientific officer, Sir David King, later declared that climate change was “more serious even than the threat of terrorism” in terms of the number of lives that could be lost. Such language is never used about the cold, which kills at least 10 times as many people every winter. Before long, every political party had signed up to the green agenda.

Since Sir David’s exhortations, some 250,000 Brits have died from the cold, and 10,000 from the heat. It is horribly clear that we have been focusing on the wrong enemy. Instead of making sure energy was affordable, ministers have been trying to make it more expensive, with carbon price floors and emissions trading schemes. Fuel prices have doubled over seven years, forcing millions to choose between heat and food – and government has found itself a major part of the problem.

This is slowly beginning to dawn on Ed Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He has tried to point the finger at energy companies, but his own department let the truth slip out in the small print of a report released on Wednesday. The average annual fuel bill is expected to have risen by £76 by 2020, it says. But take out Davey’s hidden taxes (carbon price floor, emissions trading scheme, etc) and we’d be paying an average £123 less. His department has been trying to make homes cheaper to heat, and in a saner world this would be his only remit: to secure not the greenest energy, but the most affordable energy.

By now, the Energy Secretary will also have realised another inconvenient truth – that, for Britain, global warming is likely to save far more lives then it threatens. Delve deep enough into the Government’s forecasts, and they speculate that global warming will lead to 6,000 fewer deaths a year, on average, by the end of the decade. This is the supposed threat facing us: children would be less likely to have snow to play in at Christmas, but more likely to have grandparents to visit over Easter. Not a bad trade-off. The greatest uncertainty is whether global warming, which has stalled since 1998, will arrive quickly enough to make a difference.

It’s daft to draw any conclusions from this freakish, frozen spring. But in general, the computer-generated predictions do not seem as reliable as they did when Al Gore was using them to scare the bejesus out of us. A few weeks ago, scientists at the University of Washington found that man’s contribution to global warming may have been exaggerated – by a factor of two. The natural cycle of heating and cooling, they discovered, plays a far bigger role than they had imagined. Mr Davey’s fuel bill taxes may do nothing for the planet. But they will certainly lead to poorer, colder homes and shorter lives.

Our understanding of climate science may be weak, but our understanding of basic medicine is not. Low temperatures increase blood pressure and weaken the immune system, making everyone more vulnerable to bugs. For the elderly, this can be fatal. People don’t actually die of frostbite, as the Norwegian video teasingly suggested. They die of flu, or thrombosis, or other conditions they would not have acquired if their house had been warmer. Far fewer Scandinavians die in winter, because they have worked out how to defeat the cold: keep the heating on; insulate houses. It really is that simple.

So what’s stopping us? For years, various government schemes have sought to insulate lofts or upgrade boilers, but nowhere near quickly enough. When MPs looked into this three years ago, they heard from a Mr P of Cornwall. “The offer of a boiler is very much appreciated,” he said. “We hope that we will still be alive when we get the visit about the end of February.” With someone dying of the cold every seven minutes during winter, that may not have been a joke. The modest insulation scheme has been hit by cuts, while the mammoth winter fuel payment scheme continues untouched. The word “fuel” is, of course, redundant: it’s a simple bung, paid to all pensioners – who are more likely to vote.

I once drank a winter fuel allowance. It had been paid to a self-made millionaire who was appalled that people like him were being written a cheque, and he had used it to buy a magnum of claret in protest. He was a major philanthropist, but wanted to make the point to his lunch guests: the winter fuel payment is a scandal, whose very existence suggests that government is not serious about helping people make it through winter.

No one would wear a wristband or pin on a ribbon for the elderly victims of the cold – and yet freezing weather kills more than diabetes or breast cancer. The cause of death is perhaps too familiar, and the remedy too obvious, to attract much attention. If the money for winter fuel payments was instead used to help insulate homes, we might – like Norway – be able to joke about winter. As things stand, dying of the cold remains a horribly British disease.


Climate Models Are So Flawed They Fail History

 The alarmists want to place the world in servitude to the models that are predicting global warming. But those models can't even reconstruct the past.

A researcher at Sweden's University of Gothenburg analyzed climate models to see how closely their predictions fit with history, in this case, precipitation in China from 1961 to 2000. What Tinghai Ou found should crimp the alarmists' plans to establish regimes that punish and limit man's use of fossil fuels.

"Only a few climate models were able to reproduce the observed changes in extreme precipitation in China over the last 50 years," says the university's Department of Earth Sciences.

Ou himself said that the "results show that climate models give a poor reflection of the actual changes in extreme precipitation events that took place in China" during the period he examined.

"Only half of the 21 analyzed climate models were able to reproduce the changes in some regions of China," he said. "Few models can well reproduce the nationwide change."

Ou's work is important. If the models can't get the past right, how can they be trusted to predict future climate?

Seems more like guesswork than solid science to us.

Further evidence of the climate models' flaws was offered on March 16 by the London Daily Mail, which published a chart that "reveals how (the United Nations') '95% certain' estimates of the earth heating up were a spectacular miscalculation."

The Daily Mail charted the earth's actual temperatures against the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections of both 75% and 95% certainty. The lines track closely until recent years, at which point the line representing the observed temperatures "is about to crash out of" the boundaries of the lowest projections.

In other words, while the forecasts — to a supposed 95% certainty, which covers a lot of variation — show global temperatures climbing rather sharply from 1990 on, real temperatures haven't followed the rise.

That the climate models have defects and are severely limited shouldn't be a surprise. Four years ago NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt acknowledged that the "chaotic component of the climate system ... is not predictable beyond two weeks, even theoretically."

Despite the sobriety of Schmidt and many others, the alarmists keep coming with their predictions of a grim future caused by man's use of fossil fuels. Pay no further attention to them.


The biggest fight over renewable energy is now in the states

Nowadays, a huge chunk of the action on clean energy in the United States is happening at the state level. Some 29 states and Washington D.C. have renewable energy standards requiring electric utilities to get a portion of their power from sources like wind or solar.

Those state-level standards have played a big role in doubling the amount of renewable-energy capacity in the United States in the past four years. And current standards are projected to add some 76,750 megawatts of new renewable power capacity by 2025 — enough, in theory, to power 47 million homes.

Yet those state laws are now facing a fierce backlash from both conservative advocacy groups and fossil-fuel interests. ”At least twenty-two of the 29 state renewables standards have been attacked by legislators or regulators in the last year,” writes Herman Trabish of GreentechMedia. He’s got a comprehensive new analysis that breaks down these challenges by the numbers. That includes:

Serious challenges to state laws. State renewable standards have faced the prospect of being weakened or repealed outright in Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, and Wisconsin, among other places.

For example, Kansas currently has a standard that requires utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from sources like wind by 2020. Recently, Republicans in the state legislature proposed a bill that would give power companies more time to comply. Among other things, the lawmakers argued that electricity bills have surged 37 percent since 2008. (The bill ultimately failed in committee.)

In November, my colleague Juliet Eilperin reported that many of these repeal efforts were being coordinated by the libertarian Heartland Institute and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC has even crafted model legislation, the Electricity Freedom Act. Both groups argue that the renewable standards are costly to consumers, since wind and solar are often more expensive than coal or natural gas.

There’s also fossil-fuel money associated with these repeal efforts. “In many cases,” Eilperin wrote, “the groups involved accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.”

Attempts to weaken renewable laws through a “hydro loophole.” Trabish notes that hydro-loophole fights have transpired in Washington, Oregon, Montana and Maine. This is a more subtle legislative maneuver to loosen the clean-energy standards.

Take Washington. The state already gets 66 percent of its electricity from hydropower. And, in 2006, voters approved a law requiring utilities to get an additional 15 percent of electricity from new renewable sources. But one Republican lawmaker is now pushing a modification that would allow utilities to satisfy the requirement through existing hydropower — a tweak that would significantly curtail the impact of the original law.

While this hydropower tweak is unlikely to pass in Washington, a similar bill just passed the Montana state house, and could reach the governor’s desk for the second year in a row (it was vetoed by Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer last time around).

Legal challenges and other attacks. There’s a lawsuit against Colorado’s renewable standard (30 percent by 2020) charging that the rule violates the Commerce Clause. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, conservative lawmakers are trying to pull the state out of RGGI, the regional cap-and-trade system for electric utilities, which could undermine the state’s renewable market.

You can read a full list of the challenges in the GreentechMedia report here. It notes that renewable standards have largely been left alone in deep-blue states such as California, New York, Illinois and New Jersey.


Let’s lose LOST

When Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech at the Ross Sea Conservation Reception on March 19, he suggested that we should have called our planet Ocean rather than Earth. He went on to outline an international environmental agenda centered around the oceans that we can expect to be the hallmark of his time in office. Saving the oceans will be the new rallying cry of the green movement and their political and corporate allies. We can therefore expect a new attempt soon to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This would be a disaster for America.

Kerry was forthright in his argument. He said:

    “[I]t is clear that we have an enormous challenge ahead of us as we face the extraordinary excess that we see with respect to each of those issues that I talked about: energy policy that results in acidification, the bleaching of coral, the destruction of species, the change in the Arctic because of the ice melt, and the change in the krill, the population of whales. The entire system is interdependent, and we toy with that at our peril.”

In a recent study Iain wrote for the National Center for Policy Analysis, “LOST at Sea,” he notes that UNCLOS — also known as the Law of the Sea Treaty, or LOST — has been advanced at different times as the solution to all of these issues. This is because the convention includes provisions that require governments to take measures to “minimize to the fullest possible extent” the release of substances “harmful” to the oceans. It also establishes a tribunal — a permanent court — to police the treaty.

As Iain argues in the paper, anyone who knows the tactics of the environmental movement should realize that this would be manna from heaven for global warming alarmists. The release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels has been blamed for ocean acidification, coral bleaching, species loss, ice melt and virtually every other ill that greens have claimed is befalling the oceans.

If LOST is ratified, under the U.S. Constitution it has the force of law. The environmental movement would therefore be able to use the treaty, U.S. courts, and the UNCLOS tribunal to force the U.S. to minimize emissions of carbon dioxide.

Since the treaty does not take economic cost into account, and the U.S. is the world’s second largest emitter of carbon dioxide (despite rapid emissions decreases caused by technological advances such as the development of fracking), such a requirement could amount to the forced deindustrialization of the United States. Economic disaster, mass unemployment, and vastly increased poverty would result.

Nor should we be sanguine that the tribunal will be presided over by impartial or even competent justices. As Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute noted, appointment to the tribunal seems to have been used as a “dumping ground” for “frustrated politicos,” many of them from undemocratic regimes where political power is arrived at by often unsavory means.

This should not be surprising given the convention’s history. It was drafted during the Cold War, and intended by the Soviet Union as a means of support for its satellite states in the developing world. By declaring the world’s oceans “the common heritage of mankind,” it provided a mechanism by which any development of subsea resources outside a nation’s 200-mile zone would help subsidize those regimes.

Indeed, the purpose of the treaty was so transparent that President Reagan refused to sign the treaty. It has failed to garner enough support to make it to the Senate floor every time it has been suggested since, even after the Clinton administration negotiated some amendments in 1994.

The treaty, however, contains other provisions relating to international navigation and more traditional “freedom of the seas” principles. That is why many current and former naval officers support the ratification of the treaty. Many corporations do as well, falsely believing the treaty will give them more certainty in planning exploration in areas such as the Arctic Ocean. In my NCPA study, I outline exactly why all these arguments are mistaken.

In short, there is no economic case for the United States to ratify LOST.  It uses the failed socialist economic theory to govern the ocean floors, it has proven unable to resolve disputes, it subsidizes dangerous regimes, it does not establish meaningful property rights and thus fails to provide certainty for developers, and because it requires technology transfers, it suppresses research and development.  Indeed, as designed it amounts to a scheme for transferring wealth from the poor in developed countries with ocean coastlines to wealthy oligarch’s in developing countries with no ready access to the world’s oceans.

It is, however, the threat of environmental extremism given new teeth that provides the biggest reason to reject the treaty. We rejected the Kyoto Treaty for good reason. This is the Kyoto Treaty with a court attached. Secretary Kerry has told us what he wants. We may choose to call our planet Ocean, but we should not let our people drown in a tidal wave of foolishness.


Climate change: an elite affectation

Rupert Darwall’s history of the idea of global warming shows how the belief in an impending manmade apocalypse emanated from the top of wealthy Western societies

‘If all man can offer to the decades ahead is the same combination of scientific drive, economic cupidity and national arrogance, then we cannot rate very highly the chances of reaching the year 2000 with our planet still functioning and our humanity securely preserved.’ - Barbara Ward, Only One Earth, 1972.

Long before there was climate change, there was environmentalism. As Rupert Darwall explains in his new book, The Age of Global Warming: A History, environmentalism had for decades proposed that humans were a blight on the planet. ‘During the course of the twentieth century’, he writes, ‘mankind’s relationship with nature underwent a revolution. At the beginning of the last century, human intervention was regarded as beneficient and a sign of the progress of civilisation. By century’s end, such interventions were presumed harmful unless it could be demonstrated they were not.’

Darwall spends the opening chapters of his book explaining the history of these ideas, from Thomas Malthus onwards. The notion that there were insuperable natural limits has been ever-present over the past 200 years or so, though the popularity of such ideas has ebbed and flowed. The Malthusian idea that population growth would outstrip the ability to produce food was quickly shown to be nonsense. But other forms of limits were postulated instead. In 1865, for example, William Stanley Jevons - the ‘foremost economist of the day’, notes Darwall - declared in The Coal Question that the mineral that had powered the Industrial Revolution would start to run out and become very expensive.

Jevons dismissed - as many greens do today - the idea that science would come to the rescue. ‘A notion is very prevalent that, in the continuous progress of science, some substitute for coal will be found, some source of motive power, as much surpassing steam as steam surpasses animal labour’, wrote Jevons. As Darwall notes, Marx and Engels were among the harshest critics of both Malthus and Jevons. He quotes Engels’ optimistic response to Malthus from his 1844 essay, The Myth of Overpopulation: ‘What is impossible for science?’

In fact, Jevons had massively underestimated the importance of oil and overestimated the need for coal. Darwall offers Jevons as a case study in the failings of forecasts. If even the finest minds of the day can be so spectacularly wrong, why should we accept any long-term forecast? The trouble is such forecasts cannot be tested against empirical reality. For Darwall, following Karl Popper, true science must create testable propositions that could falsify it. It is only by surviving such critical attacks that scientific theories can gain our trust. Thus, the notion that we should act on forecasts - before the results of the experiment are in, as it were - is absurd.

Yet while environmentalist ideas floated around the elites for many years, they were never really mainstream. Capitalism’s success in raising living standards meant that economic growth and technical progress were seen as the way forward - crucially, by both left and right on the political spectrum.

Things really started to change in the 1960s. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, with its narrative of chemicals causing cancer and pesticides destroying nature, was a big hit. It reflected a rejection of modern society, even better expressed in the work of a former Coal Board chief economist, Fritz Schumacher. His nonsensical ‘Buddhist economics’ in Small is Beautiful (1973) appealed to a certain strand of society that was weary of industrial society, despite its many benefits, and he developed a cult following. ‘Man is small and, therefore, small is beautiful’, wrote Schumacher - or as Darwall mocks him, the Sage of Surrey. This belittling of humanity, so soon after the moon landings, shows how the ongoing tension between enchantment and disenchantment with modern society is a recurring theme.

However, what really matters is the rise of environmentalism as an elite political project. Darwall argues the crest of the first modern wave of environmentalism came in 1972, which saw the publication of the Club of Rome’s doom-mongering computer projections of inevitable collapse, under the title The Limits to Growth, and the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.

Which brings us back to Barbara Ward - the most famous person you’ve never heard of, as Darwall calls her. A former assistant editor at The Economist who later taught economics at Harvard, Ward befriended high-profile economist JK Galbraith and became a confidante of US president Lyndon Johnson. Ward was a player in high places, both in the West and in the newly independent countries of the developing world. She was friends with a number of the new African leaders, including Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta and Kenneth Kaunda, and it was Ward’s involvement that persuaded Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi to speak in Stockholm.

Ward believed that ‘the market alone cannot begin to accomplish the scale of readjustment that will be needed once the concept of unlimitedly growing wealth, mediated to all by a “trickle down” process, ceases to be a rational possibility for tomorrow’s world economy’. It was Ward - along with the Canadian conference organiser, Maurice Strong - who helped to forge a ‘political compact between First World environmentalism and Third World development aspirations’, as Darwall describes it. Further economic growth in the West would harm the environment, it was suggested, but growth in the developing world was good for the environment. This blatant piece of eco-diplomacy later became summed up in the concept of ‘sustainable development’. As Darwall argues, ‘sustainable development was the political fiction environmentalism needed to buy developing nations’ neutrality’. Such a fiction couldn’t survive the tensions created when the developing world started developing in earnest.

Nevertheless, having apparently united the world in concern for the environment, these early greens then saw the issue dropped off the global agenda. For Darwall, the moment that precipitated this change was the start of the Yom Kippur war in October 1973. Having failed to destroy Israel - in part, thanks to American support - the Arab oil-producing nations took their revenge by imposing huge hikes in the price of oil overnight. Suddenly, the notion of energy shortages seemed all too real. (In fact, US government energy policies created shortages where other countries merely had higher prices, argues Darwall.)

This inspired US president Jimmy Carter to decide that the energy crisis would be one of the major themes of his presidency. The trouble for Carter, as Darwall notes, was that ‘he saw limits where his fellow countrymen did not’. His energy plan was based on the false premise that energy supplies were running out. But world oil production actually jumped from 58.5million barrels per day in 1973 to 66million barrels per day by 1979. Even domestically, the US had plenty of supplies. ‘In April 1977’, writes Darwall, ‘shortly before Carter launched his energy plan, the Energy Research and Development Agency concluded that America’s natural gas reserves could be expected to exceed its total energy needs well into the twenty-first century’.

The depletionist idea that resources were running out kept being contradicted by ever-increasing supply. The Malthusian notion that there were too many people - most famously revived by Paul Ehrlich in the late 1960s - proved to be a wildly inaccurate scare story, too. For environmentalism to thrive, to get beyond endless international talking shops, it needed a killer issue that could not be so easily dismissed. That issue came along, at last, in the shape of global warming.

The idea that human activity might be changing the climate was not new. As early as the 1820s, explains Darwall, Jean-Baptiste Fourier had speculated about whether the atmosphere might enhance the temperature of the Earth. In 1859, the Irish scientist John Tyndall was able to declare that ‘the atmosphere admits of the entrance of the solar heat, but checks its exit; and the result is a tendency to accumulate heat at the surface of the planet’.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius argued that the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity must also have an effect, suggesting that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations would increase temperatures by between five and six degrees Celsius. However, the import of this finding was understood in a rather different way by Arrhenius than by modern greens. According to Darwall: ‘Arrhenius thought that burning fossil fuels would accelerate a virtuous cycle in preventing a rapid return to the conditions of ice age, removing the need for a forced migration from temperate countries to Africa.’ This was a view shared by Guy Stewart Callendar, a British scientist who argued in 1938 that carbon dioxide was responsible for two thirds of the warming trend seen over the previous 180 years.

Roger Revelle, Al Gore’s favourite scientist, had noted in the late Fifties that humanity was conducting a ‘large-scale geophysical experiment’ that ‘may yield far-reaching insight into the processes determining weather and climate’. But this was still not seen as necessarily problematic.

Global warming crept on to the agenda - just - at the 1972 Stockholm conference. But it warranted only half a page in the final agreement. Governments should be ‘mindful’ of potential atmospheric effects and set up remote monitoring stations to keep an eye on any changes. Global warming was very far from being centre stage. The UN-commissioned Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, published in 1987, mentions the risk of global warming in numerous places but the alarm bells were still not ringing.

The turning point was evidence given by NASA scientist James Hansen in June 1988 to the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: ‘The greenhouse effect has been detected and it is changing our climate now.’ Hansen made headlines, but it was the intervention of UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher that gave the issue high-profile political credibility. By then the longest serving G7 head of state, Thatcher gave a speech to the Royal Society in September 1988, warning: ‘We are told that a warming of one degree centigrade per decade would greatly exceed the capacity of our natural habitat to cope.’ That might well have been so. But as Darwall notes, Thatcher was implying that global temperatures would be two degrees higher by 2010 - a much faster rate of warming than even the IPCC has ever suggested.

Now the bandwagon was rolling. By 1992, US president George HW Bush thought the issue important enough to appear at the Rio Earth Summit, which created the framework for climate-change talks that produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and all the subsequent jamborees in Bali, Cancun, Copenhagen, Durban and the rest. Since then, Western politicians and royalty, the management of giant corporations like BP and the offspring of the rich and powerful, like Zac Goldsmith and Robert F Kennedy Jr, have declared the importance of tackling climate change again and again.

The most high-profile of those banging the drum on this issue has been Al Gore. The US vice president under Bill Clinton in the Nineties - and a hair’s breadth from the White House himself in 2000 - has long been an avowed environmentalist. His book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit was published in 1992. Darwall describes it as ‘one of the most extraordinary books by any democratic politician seeking high elective office, for it constitutes an attack on Western civilisation and a fundamental rejection of two of its greatest accomplishments - the Industrial and Scientific Revolutions’. Gore would, of course, go on to win both an Oscar - for his error-strewn lecture, An Inconvenient Truth - and the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with the IPCC, in 2007.

A comment made by Gore in an interview in June 1992 is indicative of the importance of climate change to these elites. ‘The task of saving the Earth’s environment is going to become the central organising principle in the post-Cold War world’, he said.

While environmentalism is certainly an obsession of many rich people, and a natural fit for many conservatives, one of the major factors that Darwall cites in the rise of environmentalism is the collapse of the left. But interestingly, this is not the usual argument about disillusioned ex-Communists turning from red to green, although such people have indeed often been the brains behind the development of these ideas. Rather, it was the collapse of a left-wing opposition to eco-notions about lowering growth that was crucial. Darwall notes the strong tradition on the left, from Marx onwards, in support of the need to increase the material wealth of society.

That tradition was still important in the 1960s and 1970s to the UK Labour Party’s ‘foremost intellectual’, Tony Crosland. Darwall quotes Crosland’s damning assessment from 1971 of environmentalism and the class bias behind it: ‘Its champions are often kindly and dedicated people. But they are affluent and fundamentally, though of course not consciously, they want to kick the ladder down behind them… We must make our own value judgement based on socialist objectives: and that objective must… be that growth is vital, and its benefits far outweigh its costs.’

For all the talk of using environmentalism - made urgent by global warming - as the Big Idea to drive the global agenda, the wheels were always likely to come off this particular bandwagon. The unholy compromise between developed and developing countries made back in 1972 was never going to last. Its last stand was the Kyoto Protocol, where developed nations agreed to make cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions while developing countries did not. As it goes, the US never ratified the deal. Indeed, when Clinton and Gore negotiated it, they already knew that Congress would never pass it. Moreover, the terms of the deal meant that the collapse of the old Soviet Bloc, along with Britain’s entirely coincidental ‘dash for gas’, would account for more than the cuts required. In fact, even in spite of these enormous free passes, the unambitious Kyoto targets were barely met. Talk is cheap; cutting emissions is not.

The follow-up to Kyoto, however, had to be a global deal where everybody - including the big new economies like China, India and Brazil - agreed to reduce their emissions, or at least accept limits on their rise. This was never going to wash. Things came to a head at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009. Despite the presence of almost all the world’s major leaders, including US president Barack Obama, only the most basic and meaningless deal between the US and the BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - could be cobbled together, a deal which bypassed the rest of the conference entirely. Since then, the best that has been achieved at subsequent shindigs has been to keep the process going. There is no prospect of a replacement for Kyoto being in place before 2020.

All of this is just one aspect of Darwall’s book, the writing of which has occupied ‘half of my marriage’, he notes. He also engages with the uncertainties of climate science and the disastrous attempts by some scientists, scientific academies and the IPCC to cover up that uncertainty. He also offers blow-by-blow accounts of the big environmental conferences, reinforcing the point that there was never any prospect of the developing world giving up on growth. Reining in development in the name of the planet was always a rich man’s fancy. The Age of Global Warming should certainly become a touchstone for anyone interested in examining this issue seriously.

The elitist idea of environmentalism could only become dominant because of the exit of working-class politics from the Western political stage and the shrivelling of the political voice of the mass of Western populations. The failure of socialist and social-democratic parties meant there were no longer critics of environmentalism from the left. The declining membership of all political parties deprived the bulk of the population of an important means to hold politicians to account. To criticise the science and politics of global warming now meant you were a lackey of big business or some kind of ‘flat Earther’ who denied the importance of science. What remains is weariness of the modern world among those - from the middle classes upwards, and most particularly among the elites - who can afford such self-indulgence.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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