Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« BBC joins Guardian divestment campaign | Main | Greens really do go by air »
Thursday
Apr162015

Rusbridger asks my question

In Nature, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is calling on scientists to put pressure on organisations like the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. Now I'm not sure about the idea of scientists taking up the activist cudgels in this way, but I'm certainly interested in the views of climate scientists on the moral dilemmas involved. A month or so ago I asked climate scientists a very similar question on Twitter.

My question had been prompted by a tweet by Gavin Schmidt, who had been taking Matt Ridley to task for even suggesting that there might be a trade-off:

 

Unfortunately, nobody seemed to want to respond to my question, and Doug McNeall said that this was my own fault:

 

 

I don't see this myself. The policymakers who had to consider the question of investment in fossil-fuels in the Third World had a simple choice to make: do it, or don't do it. To ask people which way they would have chosen is hardly unfair.

Nor is it unfair to note that the policymakers in question said "no" and that their choice has had consequences: no decrease in deaths from woodsmoke in the present day but, if the climate and economic models are to be believed, then a saving of lives and costs in the future.

These are the choices that society has to make, and Alan Rusbridger is asking scientists to stand up and make the same decision. For sure, he makes no mention of the trade-offs involved, so I'm sure I will be commended by all involved for making this clarification.

I wonder what reaction he will get?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (142)

Bishop,
Do you seriously not get the problem with how you framed your question? It's not even all that complicated. You've essentially interpreted a concern about the risks associated with AGW, with people seeking to deny the thrid world access to fossil fuels. I mean, you must get the difference. Surely you do? Well, in fact, I'd be surprised if you don't which actually reflects more negatively on you than if you were just too stupid to understand why people object to the way in which you've framed your question.

Apr 16, 2015 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP has evidently never grasped the concept of collateral damage.

Apr 16, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeospeculator

Let A be "the risks associated with AGW" and B be "adoption of policies which will have the effect of denying the third world increased access to fossil fuels".

The original question was: what is your response to people who want B because of concern about A?

ATTP says: You've essentially interpreted concern about A, with people seeking B. That's a bit of a grammatical disaster that needs some interpretation to make any sense. I presume the intended meaning was: You've implied that people with concern about A are seeking B? If so, well yes, but what's your point?

Is your point that it's so offensive to suggest this that you should not expect any reply? Is it that the implication is incorrect in that the majority of people concerned about A do not seek B? Or that the implication is incorrect in that none of the people concerned about A are seeking B? Whichever it is, it would seem to require at least some back up in the form of evidence that the implication is wrong.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterand then there's this

aTTP I see it differently - The Bishop's question is indeed deliberately framed so that alarmists will admit that they made the wrong choice. And so rather than do that they choose simply not to answer. It doesn't change the fact that by this measure they are indeed making the wrong choice.

Alternatively they could state why this measure is incomplete (it isn't wrong) and that other factors are more important than 3rd world lives. Except that would mean revealing a very inconvenient truth....

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

A search of Department for International Development for "fossil fuel" reveals 2 projects:

1. £330k to International Institute for Sustainable Development to look at Fossil Fuel "Subsidies"

2. £37.5m for Small scale renewable energy in Uganda (nothing to do with fossil fuel at all)

A search for Renewable Energy found 20 results (including the Uganda one) with a total grant value of £508 million.

Clearly the Government is not helping the third world gain access to cheap fossil fuel energy.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS


The Bishop's question is indeed deliberately framed so that alarmists will admit that they made the wrong choice.

No, it is framed in such a way as to imply that anyone who presents information that may have inconvenient consequences is somehow responsible for those consequences. It is, in my opinion, fundamentally undemocractic and is an underhanded and devious technique to try and suppress those who are pointing out something that may lead to policy options about which you would disagree.

I guess you'd rather live in a world where we ignore the possible consequences of our actions and demonise anyone who attempts to point out these possible consequences. I'd rather live in a world where we do consider the consequences of our actions and in which we do allow people to speak out without suggesting that their goal is to actually deny people the opportunity to improve their lives.

Okay, I'll ask my version of the question


what is your response to people who seek to deny others the freedom to speak out about something that they regard as important and significant?

Anyone going to answer that?

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

WTF has it do do with climate scientists ?

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

@aTTP - stop playing the victim card. If you are informed and now know that following a certain route has likely dire consequences and you still choose to follow that route then please don't attack those who informed you of the likely consequences! Man up and accept that you are ok with the collateral damage or alternatively change your route. Its not difficult.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

Geospeculator, or irony ......

The rise in irony is clearly linked to the non existent rise in global temperatures.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Farley,


If you are informed and now know that following a certain route has likely dire consequences and you still choose to follow that route

Jeepers, how is this for you people to get? If someone points out that there are risks associated with following a certain route, then they're not responsible for those consequences, nor are they responsible for what might happen if we decide not to follow that route. Just because you disagree with them does not mean that they are seeking to deny the third world access to fossil fuels. This is not complicated.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP
Simple question, isn't it?
What is your view on the concerted efforts by Greenpeace (inter alia) to block the building of coal-fired power stations in southern Africa on the grounds that fossil fuels will add to global CO2 which is the prime (or if you believe some of the extreme fanatics, sole) cause of global warming?
Are you seriously suggesting that environmental activist groups are not busily making a nuisance of themselves in an attempt to prevent the only practical source of non-polluting, reliable, cheap energy (ie fossil-fuel generated electricity) thereby condemning the poor of Africa to continuing poverty and premature deaths caused by polluted water supplies, inefficient or non-existent drainage systems and persistent inhalation of carcinogens from cooking with wood and animal dung?
How blind or obsessive or stupid do you need to be not to understand that there are things in this world more important than futile attempts to keep global temperature increase to below a totally arbitrary 2C and that the welfare of the poorest people on earth is one of them?
And that is precisely the point that Andrew is making and that I have been making for years. The "pull up the ladder, Jack, I'm on board" attitude is not one that either Andrew or I or (I believe) anyone else on the skeptic side of this argument subscribes to though it does not surprise me to find that you do.
What you and Schmidt and MacNeall cannot understand with your heads firmly stuck up your ivory towers is that it is not a question of "conflating" climate change concerns with a disregard for African children dying from smoke inhalation. The two are inextricably linked. Without cheap, reliable energy there is no realistic way out of their current poverty for most of rural Africa. The demands of the environmental lobby that the use of fossil fuels be banned is a direct cause of those deaths.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Interesting questions here.

What has it to do with climate scientists? Climate models are the justification for action.
Are climate scientists responsible for this particular policy decision? No, but as people who are concerned about the climate, I'm interested to know what they make of it.

I also wonder about the extent to which you discount the future because the climate models are uncertain. I would argue that you should discount more, but I know that it many greens and many climatologists think that the uncertainty means you should discount less. That being the case, then refusing to invest in FFs in the Third World is the right thing to do. This is a pity for Africans.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

When fools divest, angels rush in.
=============

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Mike,


How blind or obsessive or stupid do you need to be not to understand that there are things in this world more important than futile attempts to keep global temperature increase to below a totally arbitrary 2C and that the welfare of the poorest people on earth is one of them?

And how blind, obsessive ior stupid do you need to be to not understand that just because some people are highlighting something that they regard as a serious issue that they don't also regard the other issues (including the welfare of the poorest people on Earth) as important too. Again, this is not a complicated concept.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP, Mike

Calm down.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Bishop,


I'm interested to know what they make of it.

I don't believe you. I think you're trying to frame this as a situation in which people who are suggesting something that has policy consequence you dislike are seeking top deny the third world access to fossil fuels [Snip - venting]

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP

Why don't you try writing that again, because it makes no sense whatsoever.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:32 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"I guess you'd rather live in a world where we ignore the possible consequences of our actions and demonise anyone who attempts to point out these possible consequences."

When you make WAGs like that you simple make an idiot of yourself. Spare us the self-righteous claptrap.

"Okay, I'll ask my version of the question"

The relevance to this thread is what?

"Anyone going to answer that?"

The relevance to this thread is what?

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Bishop,
Why don't you try reading it again? You seem to have real trouble understanding basic concepts, so why not just give it more time, think about it, and ask someone esle if it still doesn't make sense.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Here's another question. If we are forced to stop using fossil fuels, how can we prevent our children's children from using them in the future?

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

aTTP,

Faux outrage.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

The Bishop's question was quite clear and simple... "Climate scientist followers: what is your response to people who seek to deny third world access to fossil fuels because of AGW?"

I assume the simple answer would be that they believe this is morally wrong and say something similar to what's in the Green Party Manifesto (p.69, 1st bullet of 'C&C means')... "Allowing countries that currently emit very little carbon to increase their emissions, using their energy resoucres to reduce poverty and improve their people's well-being".

Of course, you could say that the question implied more... but that tends suggest a feeling of either guilt or paranoia.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

ATTP "I guess you'd rather live in a world where we ignore the possible consequences of our actions and demonise anyone who attempts to point out these possible consequences."

Like you are attempting to demonise the Bish for pointing out that one of the consequences of denying cheap fossil fuel generated electricity to large swathes of Africa is that you condemn large numbers of the world's poorest to the damage and deaths associated with smoke inhalation from burning dung?

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

I am interested in the same question too. What do climate scientists think of where their work is taking the world toward?

Obviously there are some extreme Malthusians who privately believe letting some Africans/Asians/Chinese/poor people die is for the better but they are well likely a minuscule minority. The majority of climate scientists just do their jobs. Do they lift their heads up to see how their work is being used? A good chunk of them think they are saving the world and environment from corporations and industry. Do they meditate on the consequences?

If I were a climate scientist my internal struggle would be to reconcile Africa and Asia's desire for progress and my desire to advocate for curbing of fossil fuel use. Knowing the fragility of human progress I would apply the precautionary principle to the human side of the equation first.

Do we really see climate scientists grappling with this question? I certainly don't. Their attitude seems to be: 'the Africans and Chinese can fend for themselves. Let me push hard for my corner, i.e., the climate'.

I asked Michael Tobis the same question yesterday. He tweeted:

I am intransigent about CO2: net emissions must stop. No compromise, but this can't happen without broad consensus.

To which I asked:

@mtobis You realize these sentiments are genocidal in effect?

Then Tobis:

Believe @shubclimate is climate-sophisticated enough to understand what "net emissions" are. Apparent unwillingness to admit it => #troll.

Me:

@mtobis It is not possible, without causing harm. That's a very simple point.

and so forth.

The examples of the World Bank abolishing loans for coal power plants and climate activists fighting desperately to prevent 'lock-in' of fossil fuel infrastructure in the developing world are well-known. Ideology does not come cheap - it has consequences, it affects people. Too hard for ATTP to understand?

He's been told this before: don't wriggle out of the debate claiming your opponent's using 'talking points', instead respond to their substance. Otherwise the inference is that you have no real answer.

Apr 16, 2015 at 12:57 PM | Registered Commentershub

ATTP will not like this:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/04/15/former-un-climate-chief-coal-is-essential/

but it need to be said

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPethefin

The Grauniad always promoted Peak Oil theory, unfortunately shale gas pulled the rug out from beneath that one.

To refresh the hype, they had to bury the old failed theories, without admitting failure, hence..

'Keep it in the ground', launched with co-ordinated attacks wherever, and whenever possible.

Fortunately Bishop Hill does not apply the same censorship policies as Real Climate experts.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

SteveW, you have to marvel at the rhetorical inventiveness of the average climate activist. For ATTP and McNeall, if you point out curbing fossil fuel use has negative consequences for the poor, you are demonising them!

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Registered Commentershub

Jimmy Haigh (Apr 16, 2015 at 12:34 PM): simple – we ensure their education is so poor that they have no idea that these resources are available, or what to do with them should they accidently find them. With our current education policies, where schools are now producing children less educated than their grandparents, we are well on the road to that. Also, as they, too, will be coughing and spluttering over wood and dung fires, their life expectancy will be suitably reduced so that they are not around long enough to make any progress, anyway.

That the likes of aTTP and his ilk appear unable to see such consequences does speak volumes.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

aTTP

"this is not a complicated concept."

Although apparently beyond the grasp of Greenpeace et al, for whom all fossil fuels are anathema (even though they jet around the place promoting themselves and run their boats on diesel).

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Once again aTTP comment-bombs a thread in order to derail any coherent response,.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

This is not complicated.

It's not even all that complicated.

Again, this is not a complicated concept.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterchange the record

It's open to anyone commenting on this thread to say that the policy of banning fossil fuel investments in the Third World is a bad thing.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:18 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"what is your response to people who seek to deny others the freedom to speak out ..."

Who is trying to do that? Nobody here - BH is libertarian, pro-free speech, even allowing the most disruptive trolls to speak. Perhaps it's a self-referential comment. I've updated And Then There’s Hypocrisy.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

It's been said before, but it's a further indication that Nature is becoming a mouthpiece for left-wing political activism.
Rusbridger show himself to be ignorant not just of the science, but of the economics too. As the comment by Mark Duffett under the Nature piece says, no argument has been made about how divestment will lead to any reduction of fossil fuel use. Indeed even some of the Guardian team realise this themselves (One says "it will do very little, even if it's unimaginably successful, to keep it in the ground" and Monbiot says "it's not actually going to change anything").

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:30 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

"the policy of banning fossil fuel investments in the Third World is a bad thing"

One might even say, obviously, but because admitting as much ties the Greens in philosophical knots, they prefer to shoot the messenger. Well, shoot at him, anyway.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

What is ATTP's views on whether the World Bank should provide loans to build coal fired power stations in the poorest developing countries?

You seem to be complaining that you and you compadres are not arguing for fossil fuel sourced energy be denied to third world countries, but arguing instead that they can have any source of energy they want as long as it isn't fossil fuels.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

The only matters that climate "scientists" are concerned about are the continuation of the various gravy trains financed by the public.

You can't believe after the last 20-30 years that they are interested in honesty, scientific competence, the consequences of their madness, etc.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

ATTP
Thank you for proving my point.
If you (and Schmidt and MacNeall and all the other climate activists and eco-fascists) really thought that the plight of the African poor was important then you wouldn't all be huffing and puffing with what Golf Charlie called "faux outrage" that someone has put you on the spot.
The question was quite straightforward and deserves an answer but instead of giving an answer you go all prissy and accuse the questioner of ..... what exactly? Suggesting that in fact that Climateers and their useful idiots and supporting claque (of which you are certainly one) do not give a damn about the poor of Africa.* If you do, then answer the question because at the moment all we are getting is a lot of displacement activity apparently aimed at anything except a straight answer.

* Allow me to remind you of a quote from Michael Oppenheimer, of the Environmental Defense Fund

...the only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States: We can't let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the U.S. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.
Kind of gives the game away that, don't you think?

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:37 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

A simple question in the real world requires a simple answer, but in the bizarre world of climate science, one cannot make assumptions according to normal criteria.

For example, the Guardian's fanatical obsession with climate change results in the publications and activities of its columnists that gives fodder for this blog on a routine basis. Mr Rusbridger's requests should be judged accordingly.

It seems that the majority of climate scientists are happy for global warming alarmism to continue at full rate even though there has been no warming this century. They are slow to point out that extreme weather events are, in fact, less frequent that in previous decades. Some climate scientists do speak out on these matters only to be hounded out of their jobs and careers.

So when climate scientists are in denial about their science, why would one expect them to volunteer judgements about policy? If they have policy contributions to make, they should start with updating the observation based conclusions and the extent to which these underpin (or fail to underpin) the alarmism that continues to rage on, justified by their flawed models.

Perhaps the answer to the question can be seen in Germany where the total commitment to renewable energy is unquestionable. Without ever showing any relaxation of this dominant policy, they are quietly building coal fired power stations as fast as they can.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Oppenheimer denies saying those words. He believes that Africans should have solar power. I guess this means they only choke on woodsmoke in the evenings.

Apr 16, 2015 at 1:53 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

LOL.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM | Registered Commentershub

" ...banning fossil fuel(s and) investments (in such) in the Third World anywhere is a (very, very) bad thing ..." /paraphrase

Any excuses/reasons for the above are driven by irrational, baseless fear (until such time as some of that old fashioned 'exceptional claims require exceptional proof' turns up) and should be treated as such.

It has been obvious to me that aTTP has been in this category since first reading him here. It warps his Dunning–Kruger no end and stroking him will not cure anything. 'Fear is the little death'.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterHenry Galt

...and Then There's Physics makes a valid point. The question is offensive.
Demanding that we keep fossil fuels in the ground increases poverty in the third world and so is effectively campaigning for mass murder.

...and Then There's Physics argues that we should keep fossil fuels in the ground and thus campaigns for mass murder. That makes him a callous man of malicious intent.

It is very socially awkward to be exposed as a callous man of malicious intent. And so it is offensive when he is forced to admit that he is such a callous man of malicious intent.
He has every right to be offended at being exposed as a callous man of malicious intent. It must hurt when he has to see himself in a mirror.

Of course, some might think that his hurt feelings are not worth the lives of one family in Africa let alone thousands.
But he can quite rightly argue that they won't matter soon, when their dead as he is campaigning for.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Hello...after my comment of 1:18pm, ATTP seems to have gone quiet.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:17 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Bishop, I appreciate your frustration here but remarks like "I guess this means they only choke on woodsmoke in the evenings" simply 'stoke the fires' of animosity (pun intended :-) and discourage sensible discussion.

Nevertheless, it does highlight the problem of imposing 1st World solutions on 3rd World people (i.e. forcing them to use batteries as well as solar panels). When we in the 1st World cannot provide sufficient basic solutions (e.g. mosquito nets) to help solve major 3rd World problems, how the hell do we expect to provide the hi-tech solutions like those proposed to combat CAGW?

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

No one would ever dream of supplying a national grid from wind turbines or solar panels. It makes no sense at all. However, bucket loads of taxpayers' money can make the most unlikely appear attractive. They don't actually need to work, they just need to be put there.

Then the taxation on conventional electricity generation makes that less attractive. That is what happened in Germany. Keeping gas fired stations ticking over on standby is inefficient and expensive but with green penalties to pay it just isn't worth it. The big energy companies are no longer interested in operating the only decent power stations.

The flaw in the green dream is that wind power and solar are still useless and would never normally be chosen to supply a national grid. It is funny how Greens fail to grasp this fundamental fact. Nuclear is beyond the pale for most Greens so that leaves ..er, nothing. They can ban fossil fuels as much as they like, but wind and solar will never be any good at supplying a national grid.

They will destroy the economy, industry and push our way of life back to the stone age. Of course, that was their objective all along.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Software Developers: what is your response to people who seek to make some workers redundant because of improved systems?

seems like a reasonable question to ask of someone like me, and I could answer it at length. I have to conclude that ATTP is either a bit over-sensitive, or out looking for trouble.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Hello...after my comment of 1:18pm, ATTP seems to have gone quiet.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:17 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


Could be he's got to give one of his Astrobiology lectures.
Or, to be more precise, he has to give it somewhere else apart from Bishop Hill.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Did Rusbridger write in Chinese ? (ie he's not making a difference to world CO2 consumption)

WTHell has happened to the world ?
1. A Newspaper got taken over by a cult and stopped reporting objectively
2. A Science Journal refuses credible science and uses newsprint instead for the deluded newspaper editor to push cult activism.
etc. etc.

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:35 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Your Grace: Oppenheimer does deny making that statement, but does say: “…many could export stored solar energy the way some now export oil. Well, colour me stupid, but, given that it is usually referred to as a fossil fuel, is it not possible to consider oil as a form of stored solar energy? This means that many “poor” countries (Arabia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, etc.) are already exporting stored solar energy, but many eco-fascists seem to want to deny these countries the right to benefit from these exports.

Dave Salt:

When we in the 1st World cannot provide sufficient basic solutions (e.g. mosquito nets) to help solve major 3rd World problems…
When you say, “…the 1st World” provide solutions to the “3rd World”, do you mean that the “1st World” should not just inform and educate the “3rd World” but buy the goods and do the work for them, as well? Quite why the “1st World” should be providing what are the most basic of necessities to countries that seem to have unlimited funds for weaponry does seem a bit strange to me. It is, perhaps, more an indication of priorities than necessities. Also, it does display a rather patronising attitude, “Look, these poor brown people need the white man to rescue them…”

Apr 16, 2015 at 2:52 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>