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« The BBC and the consensus | Main | More EPA fallout »

Science at the crossroads

Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief, is interviewed at Yale360. Her views on science and public policy are startling to say the least.

It is the most inspiring job in the world because what we are doing here is we are inspiring government, private sector, and civil society to [make] the biggest transformation that they have ever undertaken. The Industrial Revolution was also a transformation, but it wasn’t a guided transformation from a centralized policy perspective. This is a centralized transformation that is taking place because governments have decided that they need to listen to science. So it’s a very, very different transformation and one that is going to make the life of everyone on the planet very different.

Didn't they once call this "scientific socialism"?

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Reader Comments (69)

More like Lysenkoism and the politburo - no doubt being equally successful

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton


Like all scientific and philosophical endeavours, Darwinian evolution, not "a guided transformation" is the real driver of progress.

As history has already shown, her thinking is dead in the water.

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

'guided transformation from a centralized policy perspective.' by chance would that involve 5 year plans which in reality fail but are sold has massive success?

The key point of course is who gets to decide what these centralized polices should be and here you can't help but feel that Figueres has themselves and ONLY those like them not the people in mind.
Power hunger wacko's that otherwise would be regarded has little more than boring street drunks ,have long found a happy home in 'the cause '

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Centralisation/bureaucratisation can serve any number of interests or ambitions. Whether socialist or not, the issue with CF's project is that it is profoundly undemocratic. It would be much harder to resist if environmentalists actually had a mandate to save the planet from the inhabitants of the planet it wants to save. Instead, it is presupposed, and science lends it authority.

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

A list of the successes of central planning follows:

Nov 21, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Eisenhower warned us about the danger of politicised science decades ago.

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean Peake

I think the term 'centralisation' possibly misses the point here. After all, the direction in which power is being consolidated is not simply to the centre, but to new ground, upwards, to newly formed supranational institutions, where shadowy figures like Figueres can act almost as Royalty, unchallenged by popular will.

At least where illegitimate centralisation (I'm not of the view that all forms of central planning are bad) occurred in the past, power could be wrested from it, and the possibility of dismantling such institutions existed. And of course, sometimes the inadequacies of the planners caused their institutions to fall apart.

But the UN isn't the same order of institution. It serves the interests of the political class throughout the world.

I wrote a piece for Spiked on the use of 'science' to construct supranational political institutions -- Rio in particular -- back in July. May be of interest here.

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

This appalling woman has the same mind-set as the deranged military commanders who justified killing the populations of entire villages to save them from one or another ideology.
Stalin should be chuckling from beyond the grave!

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

She's mad. Seriously. She clearly has no idea that what, laughably, she calls 'a guided transformation' is exactly what Mao was attempting with his Great Leap Forward. Put it another way, if the Industrial Revolution transformed, revolutionzed and, ultimately, enriched and liberated, it was precisely because it was a response to individual insights, individual needs and an understanding of the transforming powers of science. It had fuck all nothing to do with a 'centralized policy perspective'.

Where she is right of course, should she get her hideous way, is that her idea of 'transformation' will indeed 'make the life of everyone on the planet very different', ie poorer, oppressed and powerless.

How have we allowed such shrieking, ignorant, dangerous lunatics to boss us in this way?

I repeat, this woman is mad.

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

This woman is just another in a long line of mindless drones who think they can somehow direct change to some utopian outcome. The reality is that as the age of cheap energy ends, and it currently is ending, then how on earth can these people centralise power? In time, people will be relying more and more on local solutions to meet their needs, and with diminshed surpluses left over from local production, how exactly will the likes of Figueres be able to fund the administration necessary to implement the works they direct?

I predict in 50 - 100 years time we'll be back to Darwinian evolution, both socially, economically, and biologically.

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPart timer

A great pity they didnt put that interview on the front page of The Sun, it would have been game over for alarmists ^.^

Nov 21, 2012 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterDung

"Didn't they once call this 'scientific socialism'?"

I think they once called this euthanasia.

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

from Wikipaedia:

Scientific socialism is the term used by Friedrich Engels to describe the social-political-economic theory first pioneered by Karl Marx. The purported reason why this socialism is "scientific socialism" (as opposed to "utopian socialism") is because its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its development, and these can result in changes/falsification of elements of theory.
Seriously, what’s not to like for the libertarian fans of this blog?
What la Figueres is on about is something else entirely.

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:04 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Lysenko lives!

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered Commentereco-geek

Marxists are like zombies. Keep "killing" them, and out they crawl again. This is seriously deranged stuff.


But it wont be "facts" that will be used. It will be "facts" as the Left want them to be. Witness Climate Science, the only known science (citation needed :~>) in which results from models take precedence over results from observed real world data.

Tell me - how does that work?

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

History is repeating itself and as eco-geek says. "Lysenko lives"
So far, real scientists have only been subdued by the grant system and not imprisoned as they were in Russia.
However, so many governments and sponsored organisations are supporting the use of science as an ideology exactly as did Lysenko, one wonders how long it will be before more drastic action is taken against the non-believers.

I predict that life has been found on Mars and it will be announced before Xmas.

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Ahhh .... It all makes sense now..... the Z-troll is really Christiana Figueres !!!

Now we know what she does with herself when she is not working more openly to subvert freedom, democracy, and the world's economies.

p.s. DNFTT

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Grave New World!
Here it comes: post 1984 we will join the Animal Farm and march down The Road to Serfdom.
'Listen to science’ is 1984 doublespeak for 'listen to the narrative we want you to swallow.'
Open wide!
Dystopia unbound! A control freak’s dream. They’ll have you on a bike in no time.

The Club of Rome may get its wish.

"In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill....All these dangers are caused by human intervention....and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself....believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose."

Pogo science and Global Governance. You are now chattel. Hang onto your wallets if you can. We know what's best for you.

And, oh, incidentally, CO2 doesn’t have anything to do with the weather.

Thank-you and goodnight everybody! We luv u, bye, bye!

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterLensfocus

Well, pesadia, it's not the old version of Lysenkoism, it's the updated Lysenkoism 2.0.

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

A version of 1984 where the victory gin and fags are banned for our own good.

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1


There will be a second commitment period.... We know that the European Union will be in the second commitment period... Australia will be in the second commitment period... So there will be a second commitment period... We now have the Kyoto protocol going into its second commitment period...

Against all that I have been reading, that there will only be an agreement to make an agreement, am I misinterpreting her views that in actual fact, there will be a second commitment period agreed at Doha come what may? Is this just belligerent posturing, or are we really on the verge of son of Kyoto?

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

"So it is a thankless job because we have the responsibility to support two realities at the same time. One reality is the reality of what science is demanding and which we have to hold front and center as our guiding light for our work here." C. Figueres, UNFCCC Exec. Sec'y continues, "This is a centralized transformation that is taking place because governments have decided that they need to listen to science." Two realities at once - sounds like a job for slick Willy.

Science demands something, a thing to be held front and center, as a guiding light. IPCC & UNFCCC, shoulder-to-shoulder, will find the reality science demands, and governments will obey science.
Come visit Figueres' Costa Rica, please, and see what our future looks like.
Read State Department security alerts before buying your ticket.
O/T- Passengers arriving in San Jose at dawn [un-named airline leaves Denver with scheduled touch-down ~0600] enjoy the most glorious approach in my travels: early-morning colors over the Caribbean, and electrical storms stabbing the Pacific dark.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn R T

Poor old science! The industrial revolution used science of course, that is, the old fashioned experimental science which modern day 'scientific planners' have long since moved away from. It was perhaps the Prussian late nineteenth century obsession with planning that began the rot.
Real development does indeed evolve without central planning, but requires individual brilliance and intelligence to drive it. It is this human quality that cannot be extracted, like some essence, by 'scientific planners', be they Prussian or multi-national: that just kills it.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Yes, dead is different.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

From this standpoint we tend to assume the UNFCCC and the IPCC are interchangeable and interlinked bodies. This is not the case and underestimates the immensity of the bureaucracy we face.

Arguing climate science with the UNFCCC is like quoting Lao Tzu at the Vatican, they'll just look at you like you're mad. Every one of their careers and livelihoods is based on the premise of dangerous climate change, doubt is an existential anomaly.

A friend of mine has worked for the UNFCCC via the UK government for ten years, his faith is unshakable. Interestingly he is also the only devout Christian I know.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarnwennan

Skiphill, for the first time ever, a troll made me angry, really bloody angry. But your response enabled me to laugh at her utter vacuity and I thank you for that.
Attempting to have an intelligent discussion with any troll puts one in a no-win situation, in that discussing anything with beings who follow weird ideologies that ignore facts in favour of fiction reduces both parties to the same level.
It required a lot of self-control for me to not feed the troll and you helped mightily with that. Thanks.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Philip - It was perhaps the Prussian late nineteenth century obsession with planning that began the rot.

Notice how it also took central planning to stop its march. Central planning is morally neutral. It's what you plan to do and on what basis you plan to do it that counts.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

No comments, yet, at

It's hard going, but someone must do it.

Being a cop aint easy, nowheres. Doha cops gotta load on their hands, with all these parties, and conferees, from almost 200 countries. And that MSM horde dont like to wait for drinks. Desert cops!

Agouts is wrong: this graduate of a well-known US school is NOT mad.
Mis-guided, in-over-her-wrong-headedness: Yes. Rational and logical, but toiling on, building a nightmare on faulty premises.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn R T

What Figueres appears to be admitting is that the biggest societal transformation that we will see in the future will not be due to the climate at all, but the impact of centralised emissions/energy policy on the “life of everyone on the planet”.
I’ll take the weather thanks.

Nov 21, 2012 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

The way things are going on Earth; if they did discover life on Mars I would seriously consider being Earth's ambassador.
Ah! wait, I would then be responsible for teaching single cell organisms about reducing their carbon footprint, OK I give up.

Nov 22, 2012 at 12:02 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Carnwennan, earlier: gridded here - intimate UN connections

More re C. Figueres, UNFCCC Exec. Secý,
Al Gore trainee and senior level carbon/climate advisor,

Nov 22, 2012 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn R T

Agouts said:

I repeat, this woman is mad.

Megalomania it does this to people, look at Barroso and Van Rumpoy, Obama and Mao - the UN COP is the neu international comintern, it's back to the future and communism never went away.

Nov 22, 2012 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

John R T
Thank you, that clarifies the hydra's multiple heads.
My point is that the ethos of the UNFCCC has nothing to do with climate science, it i entirely based on this cartoon...
Going into COP18 I thought a little perspective would be helpful.

Nov 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterCarnwennan

'Didn't they once call this "scientific socialism"?'

No, its call scientism. Plato's republic was the first major example of the idea, although there is was philosophy rather than science.

But it would interesting to make a "word cloud" of that paragraph.

"Transformation", "Government" and "Centralization" would feature heavily.

You shouldn't confuse socialism (the idea the economy should be run for the benefit of the masses - rather than those people whose money is at stake) with bureacracy (the idea that government should be increased to provide more jobs and increase the power of those in charge of said institutions). They are not mutually exclusive, but this person is clearly in the second category.

The "appeal to authority" argument about science is just a red herring.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

you are too quick for me, bish. just came over to post the exact same quote.

contraction and convergence! off with all their heads.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Those of you who believe that Christiana Figueres is mad, doesn't understand, should report to the nearest hospital for the demented.

She understands and she is not mad. Her lot has already won a great victory. The first part of it is the acceptance of the official world that CO2 is evil. Just look around yourselves. From Banks to Department Stores to Car Companies to Municipalities all over the world the carbon mantra is being repeated endlessly.

The second part is that the Climate Change slogan is being used as something requiring concerted effort to combat. All the while the flock of the Bishop prattle on endlessly but ineffectively.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Steiner

Science should always be backed up by empirical evidence, so I thought I'd summarise what empirical evidence exists for the main points I have made. Links and references for all these have been provided in previous posts and/or papers and articles (such as this) which I have provided before.

There is empirical evidence ...

(a) that the heat transfer between two blackbodies is in accord with the quantification in Section 4 of my paper.

(b) that air in equilibrium in a tall sealed insulated container will be warmer at the base than at the top, the difference being explained by the same adiabatic lapse rate which is proportional to the acceleration due to gravity - no coincidence.

(c) that placing a cool blackbody close to a warmer one does slow the radiative rate of cooling of the warm one.

(d) that evaporative cooling accelerates to compensate for any slowing of radiative cooling of the water surfaces.

(e) that low clouds at night slow overall cooling of the land surface at night, this being because the compensating effect of conduction takes a longer period.

(f) that surplus thermal energy in the atmosphere (causing temperatures above the plot based on the lapse rate) will be radiated away

(g) that radiation from a cooler atmosphere does not transfer thermal energy to a warmer surface, and nor does conduction or convection.

(h) that the surface temperatures of all planets with atmospheres can only be explained using the solar intensity and the adiabatic lapse rate. This is very clear cut on Venus where the surface hardly receives or emits any energy, so most heating of the atmosphere occurs when the atmosphere absorbs incoming Solar radiation. You cannot explain Venus temperatures using any radiative greenhouse effect, because such does not exist here, there or anywhere.

Nov 22, 2012 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

Please check the author of 360 article, Elizabeth Kolbert the New Yorler's gift to science journalism. We are in deep trouble when we begin to take her output seriously.


Nov 22, 2012 at 1:51 AM | Unregistered Commentermetro

"All the while the flock of the Bishop prattle on endlessly but ineffectively."

George - if you have any tried and trusted ways of getting some serious traction, please share them.

Nov 22, 2012 at 2:35 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Such trust in (a group of) scientists shows ignorance of the results of the IPCC's own investigation after the Climategate affair, the Interacademy Report:

And be aware: non of these points has been addressed for the preparation of the current IPCC report !

•The IAC warned against “confirmation bias” and recommended that “Lead Authors should explicitly document that a range of scientific viewpoints has been considered” and that Review
Editors and Coordinating Lead Authors should check that “due consideration was given to
properly documented alternative views” (p. 20). The implication is that, at present, these things
do not happen: Lead Authors in some cases fail to give consideration to a range of scientific
views, and nobody verifies whether they have done so.

• The IAC pointed out that there is no formal process or criteria for selecting Lead Authors, and cautioned that “The absence of a transparent author selection process or well-defined criteria for author selection can raise questions of bias and undermine the confidence of scientists and others in the credibility of the assessment.” (p. 18). They alluded to the problem again later when they observed “Having author teams with diverse viewpoints is the first step toward ensuring that a
full range of thoughtful views are considered.” (p. 20)

• They also called upon the IPCC to develop policies governing conflict of interest, including
intellectual conflicts of interest in which Lead Authors are in a position of reviewing their own
work, or have revealed through speeches, public statements or writings that they hold “fixed positions” (pp. 46-47).

•The IAC commented that some of their respondent were concerned that “the Summary for Policy Makers places more emphasis on what is known, sensational, or popular among Lead Authors than one would find in the body of the report.” (p. 25). They went on to observe that the Working Group II Summary for Policymakers “is more focused on the negative impacts of climate change than the underlying report” (p. 26).

•The IAC was deeply critical of the way the IPCC, particularly Working Group II, handled and reported on uncertainty, especially in regards to statements about the impacts of climate change.
The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers in the Fourth Assessment Report contains
many vague statements of “high confidence” that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute. (p. 37)

•More generally, the IAC noted that in some cases “[IPCC] authors reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence, such as the widely-quoted statement that agricultural yields in Africa might decline by up to 50 percent by 2020. Moreover, the guidance was often applied to statements that are so vague they cannot be falsified. In these cases the impression was often left, quite incorrectly, that a substantive finding was being presented.” (p. 36)

•Basis of conclusions
The IAC concluded that “many of the conclusions in the “Current Knowledge about Future Impacts” section of the Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers are based on unpublished or non-peerreviewed literature” (p. 33). They also found that many conclusions stated with “High Confidence” by Working Group II had little or no scientific basis:
[By] making vague statements that were difficult to refute, authors were able to attach “high confidence” to the statements. The Working Group II Summary for Policy Makers contains many such statements that are not supported sufficiently in the literature. (p. 4).
The IAC concludes that had Working Group II used a level-of-understanding scale, rather than their “confidence” scale, it would have made clear the “weak evidentiary basis” for many of their conclusions (p. 33).

Nov 22, 2012 at 5:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

Is Pol-Pot her hero?

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterAelfrith

some more tub- thumbing just days ahead of the UN Conference in Doha.

What's that you say? Figueres works for the UN?

Well, blow me down

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAsmilwho

It is not often I find myself in agreement with the John Birch Society AND General De Gaulle....but it may be time to pull the plug on the United Nations on the basis it may have outlived its usefulness. It would probably only take the USA to decide they were persona non grata in the USA and to step firmly on their funding feeding tube ( I think they supply about a a quarter of the money ) to send the institution into a permanent tailspin.
It would be a shame about the WHO...but perhaps we could hive that off. Like the EU, the UN is an organisation that has started to get ideas above its station. It needs to be squashed.

Nov 22, 2012 at 6:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Figueres is just another "Useful Idiot" like Lisa Jackson and Susan Rice. However, when you point to the incompetence of these people you are promptly labeled as a "RACIST".

As suggested by most of the commenters there is no hope of reforming the UN so it needs to be defunded. Some useful things such as part of the WHO will be lost but it would not take long to replace them with something better.

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:01 AM | Unregistered Commentergallopingcamel

Political corporatism, its frightening in the extreme and its coming whether you like it or not, trans national governance appealing to the unelected and frankly unelectable elites, elected puppets may come and go but the narrative and common purpose goes on without delay or hindrance. What was once thought to be tin foil hat territory is now mainstream, there really is a conspiracy to take over the old democratic world order and replace it with a post democratic new world order. The man made global warming fraud did its job of making people afraid and uncertain, it provided the excuse to build up and empower a trans national political power grid. These people are truly dangerous because they believe that the ends justify the means, they truly see local and sovereign democracy as holding humanity back from entering a golden age of one world governance. Its a road to hell they are blind to just as Germans were blind to the road they took with Hitler, today there is no demonic Hitler there are just many Himmlers, the charismatic leader is missing but there are more than enough henchmen and they believe they do not need that figurehead to succeed.

The very first tool in the box of any wannabe authoritarian or totalitarian autocracy is fear. Make people afraid enough, point them in the direction of scapegoats to hate, create an enemy of the people in the minds of the people while at the same time gathering more and more powers to the centre and removing power from the people. Its an old recipe, in fact the basic recipe is as old as civilisation itself. All the ingredients are in place, the usual storm trooper useful idiots brainwashed to be used as pawns. Democracy is the enemy of an authoritarian state apparatus and as such must be destroyed by the authoritarian state, the trick is how to fool the people into accepting it. If we are foolish enough to listen to the lies and deceptions of this new world order we deserve the new dark age that is surely coming our way.

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterCassandra King

The Industrial Revolution would never have occurred on the basis of targets and 5-year plans. We would still be living the life of peasants and serfs, which is what our descendents will be doing after the "centralised transformation" is complete. There will just be a different set of people living in the mansions and making sure the serfs and peasants do the work.

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip Foster:

It was perhaps the Prussian late nineteenth century obsession with planning that began the rot.
Prussian late nineteenth century planning helped Germany catch up with (and overtake) Britain economically, and a strong Marxist labour movement pushed up wages, providing customers for the German industrial machine.
It all came to a messy end in 1914 of course, but that was hardly the fault of planning.
Global warming fear is profoundly reactionary. What makes it so difficult to counter is that warmists are reacting to things going on in their heads rather than in the real world. Figueres is a planner only in the sense that a psychopath stocking up his flat with food and ammunition plans his actions. The only thing we can do is surround the building and, with loud hailers, persuade her to come down quietly.

Phillip Bratby:

The Industrial Revolution would never have occurred on the basis of targets and 5-year plans.
Marx knew that. But no-one will ever have to make an industrial revolution, ever again. That's the (Hegelian) beauty of history.

Nov 22, 2012 at 7:59 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

This sounds like the sort of thing that used to go on in USSR some 50 years ago.......!!

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:01 AM | Unregistered Commenterbarry

She should try and give her speech in the Congo, although she might find it a bit dangerous at the moment as the UN peace keepers are kinda finding it hard to keep the peace as they stand around and watch war criminals massacre civilians.

Shes right on one point for the people in the Congo with there UN peace keepers they are making the life of everyone in the Congo very different by watching them be raped, mutilated and die.

Nov 22, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

"Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it."

The days of talking are gradually drawing to an end. The barricades beckon.

Nov 22, 2012 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

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