Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Thunberg’s apocalyptic millenarianism

Michael Fitzpatrick

‘I speak on behalf of future generations’ was Thunberg’s opening line in her speech to British parliamentarians. These are indeed the words of a prophet – one claiming an even bigger constituency than the ‘99 per cent’ of humanity whom the Occupy Movement of 2011/2012, forerunner of today’s Extinction Rebellion, claimed to represent. Many commentators who are critical of the claims of populist politicians to speak on behalf of ‘the silent majority’ or to have privileged access to the minds of the masses seem to accept without question Thunberg’s status as the self-appointed tribune of the yet unborn.

Thunberg’s gloomy message that we are facing ‘the end of civilisation as we know it’ echoes the familiar ‘Repent the End is Nigh’ slogan of evangelical Christians. Like the millenarian preachers of 19th-century America, Thunberg has appointed a precise end time: ‘10 years, 252 days and 10 hours’ from the moment of her speech in London. William Miller, founder of the Seventh Day Adventists and promoter of the Great Awakening evangelical revival, proclaimed 22 October 1842 as the Last Day.

Though the Great Awakening was followed by the Great Disappointment when the promised messiah failed to appear, similar movements have reappeared around the world at times of social crisis. In a famous chapter in The Making of the English Working Class, the historian EP Thompson characterised as ‘the chiliasm of despair’ the millenarian movements that emerged in Britain following defeats of the early labour movement. One striking difference is that, whereas Miller and his ilk, including ‘the deluded Joanna Southcott’, anticipated a messiah bringing redemption and salvation as well as hellfire, Thunberg and her secular modern followers believe that this really is the end: ‘Now we probably don’t even have a future any more.’

Like all preachers, Thunberg has a dogma – ‘the message of the united climate science’. Climate science is here elevated to the status of revealed truth, as The Science. It is also boosted as ‘united’, in the sense that it is backed by a consensus of authorities, including politicians and religious leaders as well as scientists. For much of the 20th century, the same could be said about the now discredited racial science and eugenics.

Whatever the complexities of the controversy about carbon emissions, it is certain that science, even The Science, cannot predict the future. From Thomas Malthus in the 1790s to the Club of Rome in the 1970s, environmental science has a poor record in its projections of future trends. When asked at Westminster how she dealt with those who questioned her message, Thunberg’s response – ‘I don’t’ – won applause. The dogma of ‘the united climate science’ is, like divine revelation, beyond debate. To question it is the 21st-century equivalent of heresy, or a manifestation of the psychological disorder of ‘denialism’.

Thunberg’s autistic identity raises other worrying issues. Commentators have attributed the ‘glorious simplicity’ of Thunberg’s arguments to her diagnosis as autistic. In a radio interview, she suggested that her autism makes her ‘see things from outside the box’. Not only does she think that autism provides intellectual insights – she believes it also confers moral qualities. ‘I don’t easily fall for lies, I can see through things’, she says. Congratulating Thunberg, celebrity chef Jack Monroe, who has also been diagnosed as autistic, describes her own autistic traits as ‘a kind of superpower’ (which she has harnessed to the production of exotic recipes).

Thunberg has acquired the aura of ‘the blessed fools of Old Russia’, whom the autism specialist Uta Frith has suggested may have merited a diagnosis of autism. Though regarded as eccentric and apparently oblivious to social convention, the ‘holy fools’ were considered to have qualities of innocence and virtue that allowed them ‘to confront bishops and tsars’. By contrast, Thunberg’s moral message has received the endorsement of the pope, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the plutocrats of Davos, the United Nations and the European and British parliaments, if not yet any tsars. It is bizarre that a creed supported by such a chorus of reaction should be considered by some, such as the Guardian’s Aditya Chakrabortty, as a left-wing cause.

For journalist Ian Birrell, Thunberg’s insistence that ‘being different is a gift’ is a message ‘so pertinent to our troubled age, arguably as important as her bold stand on climate change’. He argues that the difficulties facing autistic people are the consequence of ‘blinkered attitudes and bigotry’ that arise from a lack of respect for difference. He claims that the abuse of people with autism – and their premature mortality – results from ‘indifference and insidious discrimination’.

As the parent of a young man with autism and severe learning disabilities, I struggle to regard autism as a gift. I am also wary that celebrating ‘difference’ indulges a sort of identity politics that merely encourages fragmentation and isolation. Like the tragically murdered MP Jo Cox, I believe that we have more in common than divides us and that we are stronger together. As a doctor, I am also well aware of the indifference and other poor standards of care that people often experience under the NHS – but ill-treatment is sadly by no means exclusive to people with autism.

I am also sceptical about locating the blame for the problems facing people with autism in the prejudices of ordinary people (there is a striking parallel here with the misanthropic outlook of the environmentalist movement). In more than 20 years as a parent, I have often had occasion to be grateful for the kindness of strangers and for the tolerance and understanding of people faced with my son’s sometimes challenging behaviour in public places.

Birrell writes about ‘girls like Greta’ facing ill-treatment in secure units. But the main reason why many young people languish in such units, eight years after the Winterbourne View scandal, is the lack of suitable accommodation, day centres and support systems in the community. This has nothing to do with popular prejudices, but is the direct result of the austerity policies imposed on local authorities by the government of David Cameron (for whom Birrell worked as a speechwriter).

‘Autism awareness training’ for all NHS staff and sentimental pieties about ‘difference’ and ‘autism as a gift’ will do little to improve the plight of most people with autism, who need more and better community resources, and properly paid and well-trained care staff.

When Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook invoked the authority of Sir David Attenborough in support of her claim of impending mass species extinction, breakfast TV host Richard Madeley observed that ‘he’s just a broadcaster, not a saint’. But, of course, despite having been chastised by Cardinal George Monbiot for a lack of environmentalist zeal in the past, Attenborough is indeed a secular apostle in the church of impending planetary doom, in which Thunberg has been elevated to the status of patron saint.

Brendan O’Neill is right to point out that the appointment of Thunberg by the green movement as ‘the messiah of their miserabilist political creed’ is ‘unforgivable’. The deference of the political establishment to this child-like saviour, and its approval for school protests supporting her environmentalist crusade, reflects the abdication of adult authority in British politics, of which David Cameron is the most abject personification.

Like that other precocious teenager, Shamima Begum, Thunberg has been radicalised by an older generation which ought to be more careful about exploiting childhood innocence in pursuit of their political agenda, and ought to teach children to think for themselves.


Climate Change Letter To The Editor, Sunday Times

Sea level rise is to be expected -- but from a SOLAR cause

Mr Bob Ward (letter, 5th May, ‘A roasting for climate claims’) is unlikely to be impartial on CO2, for he is Policy and Communications Director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, an entity whose very existence (founded 2008) rests on the assumption that modern global warming (since 1900) is due to CO2 via the 19th-century idea of a so-called greenhouse effect.

Mr Ward feels geophysicist Mr Gil Gilchrist (letter, 28th April) is arrogant to say geologists are “the only scientists qualified to speak with authority” on climate change. I disagree: sedimentary geologists in particular, unlike any other profession, deal almost daily with the effects of Earth’s ceaseless changes in climate (hence sea level) throughout its 4.5-billion-year history.

Gilchrist claims warming by man-made CO2 is an “unproven idea promulgated by” the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which, he rightly laments, has no geologists among its 800 “experts” (his quotation marks).

In flat contradiction Mr Ward says “Many of the authors on the panel’s assessments have been geologists”. In fact IPCC’s author listings (accessible online) for its Fifth and Sixth Assessment Reports (published 2013-14 and due 2022) do indeed show “not … a single geologist” (Gilchrist) among the 838 and 784 authors, who include ‘climate scientists’ (a flourishing new discipline), meteorologists, economists, sociologists and public-health specialists; the geosciences are represented only by a few glaciologists and geophysicists.

Thus IPCC lacks crucial long-term perspective.

Nobody denies man’s rising CO2 emissions accompanied modern warming. However, warming also accompanied rising solar output (dismissed in IPCC climate models). Warming reached a (geologically unspectacular) peak temperature in 2016 (NASA online graph; note cooling since then), a few decades after the solar peak (1958), a delay compatible with the vast ocean’s thermal inertia (ignored by IPCC).

Astrophysicists define this 20th century solar upswing as a rare Grand Maximum (GM) of the sun’s output, unsurpassed since the 4th century GM. The latter was followed decades later by global warming and a sea-level rise of 3 to 5 metres (e.g. google Romano-British Transgression; denied by IPCC), ["transgression" = rising seas in geology-speak]  proven by world geological evidence plus exquisite UK archaeological evidence, e.g. Portchester seaside fort’s 4th century water well, dug to 6 metres (proving low sea level), but with a deliberately introduced (stratified) 5-metre backfill, dateable by contained 5th and 6th century artefacts; and in Londinium a flow-eroded notch reaching 1.7 metres up the Thames-estuary Roman wall, and a drain-hole at 1 metre deliberately plugged with rubble including 4th-century pottery.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Higgs DPhil (geology)


Big Green The Handmaiden Of Big Oil

Written by David Wojick PhD

Climate alarmists often accuse skeptics, like myself and independent groups like CFACT, of being in the pay of Big Oil. This is completely false — we don’t receive a dime from them.

It is part of the green fairy tale that skepticism only exists because the oil companies are funding it.

That Exxon-Mobil threw a few million at various skeptical causes prior to 2007 is the standard example, but that was many years ago. They have stopped sending any money whatsoever to skeptical causes since then.

So I did some digging and the reality turns out to be just the opposite. In fact, the big oil companies are putting at least a billion dollars into alarmist projects and lobbying.

Of course, they have good commercial reasons, which are killing coal and making natural gas more “climate friendly.” After all, Big Oil is also Big Gas.

The central vehicle for moving these green billion dollars goes by a perfectly descriptive name — the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative or OGCI.

If the false accusers were correct then “oil and gas” would never go together with “climate initiative” but there it is and it is very big.

Collectively they claim to produce 30% of the world’s oil and gas.

The OGCI website features a lineup of Corporate CEOs, just to show how seriously green they are. Their latest annual report has a letter from the CEOs, including this gem:

“As our ambition grows with the scale of the challenge, we look forward to working closely with policy-makers, regulators and all stakeholders to help develop the levers that can economically and sustainably accelerate the pace of the low carbon transition.”

OGCI was started in 2014, shortly after the famous Chesapeake Energy scandal. Chesapeake’s CEO was caught giving the Sierra Club millions of dollars to support the war on coal, but some Club members objected, given that they consider fossil fuels their enemy.

What seems to have happened is that the ever-wily big companies simply created their own green group. With a billion bucks in funding, it may well be the biggest outfit in Big Green (not counting the green governments).

However, I also found that EDF is actively engaged with corporations, via its EDF+Business arm. In particular, EDF has a huge methane reduction program — the Methane Challenge — that involves OGCI.

This program is featured in the Sustainability Reports of several major oil companies. EDF is even building and launching their own satellite, cleverly called MethaneSAT.

EDF is clearly getting a lot of money for this. They say they get none directly from the companies, rather that they get it from unspecified “philanthropies.”

Where these philanthropies get it may be a different story. They could easily be laundering Big Oil money. It may be telling that OGCI does not issue a financial report.

Space News actually asked EDF about this funding but got stonewalled. Here is their report:

“However, EDF has provided few details about how much MethaneSAT will cost or how it will be funded. The project received last year a grant from a new initiative called The Audacious Project, although the size of the award was not disclosed. An EDF spokesman did not respond to an inquiry about the financial status of the project.”

Having EDF on their side is certainly a big plus for Big Oil.

In any case, it is clear that Big Oil is spending at least a billion dollars on the green stuff, which is a lot of green.

There is no evidence that the skeptics are getting anything, but if some are it is trivial in comparison. Meanwhile, OGCI is getting at least a billion and EDF maybe many millions.

When it comes to skepticism, the simple fact is that roughly half of Americans do not accept climate alarmism, right up to the President. No one is paying for this widespread skepticism.

As for Big Oil, they are putting big bucks into green climate initiatives, not skepticism. Conservatives do have their think tanks, which happily manage to find some funding, but not from Big Oil for climate skepticism.

Claiming that Big Oil is responsible for skepticism is just another part of the alarmist fantasy world.


Record ‘Global Warming’ In May Hits Switzerland

Switzerland snowfall may 2019An historic Arctic blast affecting much of Europe over the past couple of days brought record amounts of snowfall for the month of May to parts of Switzerland.

Capital Bern received 4 cm (1.57 inches) of snow on May 5, breaking the previous record for the month set back in 1945 at 1 cm (0.39 inches).

The city of St. Gallen received 19 cm (7.48 inches) of snow on the same day, breaking the previous record of 12 cm (4.72 inches) set on May 7, 1957.

The region will continue feeling effects of the unseasonal cold blast, but damage to crops are not expected to be as severe as in 2017 when Swiss fruit farming industry suffered heavy losses, due to frost coming a few weeks later after many trees have already blossomed, SwissInfo reports.


Climate politics as changeable as global weather

Comment from Australia

The politics of climate change is moving quickly and in different ­directions in different countries, presenting serious media and politicians with even more challenges in the coming decade.

Last Saturday week The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly argued that the election of a Shorten government would redefine the politics of climate change as voters accepted Labor’s assertion that Australia needs tougher ­action to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions than that offered by the Coalition and effectively rules out being constrained by policy costings. Kelly likened the situation here to protests in Britain by people wanting a commitment to carbon neutrality and cited the influence of Swedish 16-year-old savant Greta Thunberg.

Yet the push for carbon neutrality is not going as uniformly well as Labor leader Bill Shorten or Greens leader Richard Di Natale would have you believe. As this column has pointed out for three years, China and India, No 1 and No 3 respectively of the top global emitters, have not committed to start to reduce carbon intensity, let alone total CO2 output, until 2030.

Activists and left-wing media outlets never like admitting the one major emitter to have success in reducing emissions, though still short of the Paris commitments it is withdrawing from, is the US. It has achieved this on the back of fracking for natural gas.

Gas was expected to be the transition fuel to renewables here when former Labor PM Julia Gillard signed her deal with the Greens in 2010. Just as Greens’ maximilism destroyed Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading system, advocates after 2010 immediately pushed for a faster transition to renewables.

With no gas reservation policy to guarantee domestic prices, ­renewables that had been expected to phase in across 40 years ramped up faster than the grid could cope with and created instability and price pressure. Back in 2010, the idea had been that ­renewables would not dominate until 2050, when large-scale, grid-size battery storage technology had matured.

What Labor, the Greens and some media companies appear to have missed is that the same pressures that have created havoc in our power industry are now splitting EU and Canadian attitudes to renewables.

EU plans for total carbon neutrality are in trouble east of France. Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, long a leader in renewables, is facing a possible economic slowdown and historically high energy prices in its heavy manufacturing sector, just as energy conservatives have argued it would. While Britain, France and The Netherlands remain committed to the idea of zero carbon and want it sooner if possible, Italy, Poland and Hun­gary are falling in behind Germany in urging a more cautious approach. No EU country is as yet meeting its Paris commitments in full.

Several European countries, especially Poland and Hun­gary, are a long way behind their targeted reductions and Europe’s rate of renewables growth is ­slowing. Wind and solar photovoltaic ­installation rates have declined and total ­renewable installation in Europe last year was only at half the 2010 level.

Populist parties of the Right, ­especially in France but also in Finland and The Netherlands, are building electoral support for nationalist programs aimed at resisting the EU on centrally imposed climate policies. While these parties were once driven by anti-immigration sentiment, they are increasingly mobilising behind opposition to Brussels over planned carbon ­dioxide reductions. France’s protesting yellow shirts are violently opposing plans to increase fuel taxes. Wait until France’s farmers hear about Greens proposals to hit the meat, game and poultry industries, given agriculture is next on the activists’ list after electricity.

Even renewables as they are in Europe are not what many in the media may think. As business columnist Terry McCrann pointed out in The Weekend Australian on May 4, ­Europe is pulling what many would think is a renewables swiftie. The biggest renewables power generator across the EU is biomass, effectively firewood. Despite being a heavy emitter of CO2, biomass emissions are not counted in Europe’s carbon accounting.

The theory says carbon dioxide will eventually be reduced by growing new biomass, but this does not seem to fit alarmist scenarios calling for carbon neutrality immediately. Biomass was 60 per cent of renewables generation across ­Europe in 2016. And Europe, a long-time ­opponent of fracking, is doubling imports of US gas created by fracking.

Add to the European picture the votes in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario for conservatives opposing carbon taxes. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are also facing federal carbon taxes because their governments have refused to ­implement their own.

However quasi-religious the rhetoric of the ALP or parts of the Coalition in committing to action on climate change, there is no point in a country with 1.3 per cent of global emissions destroying its economy when major emitters are increasing global CO2 output.

Politicians need to resist policies that hurt their own poor, and journalists should resist bullying calls for reporting conformity by parts of the scientific, political and business community, many with a vested interest in renewables.

Environment writers could start by reading the submission to the US congress on February 6 by eminent climate scientist ­Judith Curry. Curry, hated by climate alarmists, bells the cat on media lies about extreme weather events. She points out that even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rejects the idea that any individual weather ­incident can be linked to CO2 ­increases and cites data showing droughts and heatwaves in the US are not as ­severe as they were in the 1930s dust bowl era. She says more work needs to be done to understand the role of geology and the sun in global temperatures and ridicules the notion that CO2 can be used like a dial to change global temperature.

She urges the US to be cautious: “Drastic reductions … will not ­reduce global CO2 concentrations if emissions in the developing world, particularly China and India, continue to increase. If we believe the climate model simulations, we would not expect to see any changes in extreme ­weather/climate events until the late 21st century.”

Like Copenhagen Consensus director Bjorn Lomborg, published in this paper for 15 years, Curry ­rejects environmental spiritualism in favour of rational approaches that will not damage society. She urges greater adaptation strategies to deal with possible emerging weather changes and discusses ­social and planning changes to ­increase “resilience, anti-fragility and thrivability”.

Politicians who think commitments to action at any cost will win them votes need to be careful. While the Coalition has torn itself to pieces on climate change for a decade, Labor’s position is not without risk, as Germany and France show in different ways. Labor, the party of the worker, needs to be mindful of possible damage it could do by appealing to rich Greens and young voters at the expense of the older poor.

And journalists, before reporting ridiculous scientific claims, should look at a piece published in The Wall Street Journal last June 21 under the headline, ­“Thirty years on, how well do ­global warming predictions stack up?” The answer? Every scientific doom forecast has been proven wrong.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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