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Discussion > Is this what winning is like?

It's a very interesting discussion, and I've been working up an idea for an essay on this very topic. Given that most of us aren't activists, yet we feel the urge to correct people when we hear them talking about climate change, and given that climate will do it's own thing no matter if we agree or not, what sort of strategy can we adopt to give ourselves a less unhappy (and less ostracised) life.

It's less about climate and more about feeling happy as a doubter, and being able to look like less of a crank to your friends and colleagues whom you have to live with.

I'll write it one day.

Feb 21, 2013 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TheBigYinJames (2.24PM)
I’m glad you said that (and not me). You’ve hit upon the weakness of our position, which is the weakness of all activists (and like it or not, we are just one more aspiring pressure group, just like the green NGOs we despise).
The confusion comes from not recognising the difference of magnitude in the different groupings in play. Voters are numbered in tens of millions; those concerned about the environment in millions (maximum); the informed, scientifically literate, capable of understanding the arguments, in hundreds of thousands; green activists in tens of thousands, and we’re a few thousand, maybe.
The changes in public opinion necessary to bring scepticism to the fore can’t be compared to the ebb and flow of opinion associated with most processes of political change, where major parties and interest groups line up on either side of the debate in a fairly predictable fashion. Like it or not (and most people here won’t) we’re in the position of a Leninist minority party relying on some disastrous event (power blackouts, windmills falling on someone, Pachauri caught with his trousers down) to propel our arguments on to centre stage. The best we can hope for is that when that happens the Lawsons and the Montfords will get a fair hearing.
Got your ticket for the sealed train, Your Grace?

TheBigYinJames (3.02PM)
Write it and I'll stick it on my blog, with pleasure

Feb 21, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

We are not alone.

There are a lot of people out there who suspect AGW is rubbish, and to a certain extent, they’re wrong. They’re wrong because the amount of balanced information available is minute and finding the counter arguments is difficult. We know it’s not a yes/no question but we’d all agree that there are serious causes for scepticism. As bills and green taxes bite there are more people out there looking for an argument, the excuse to say ‘hang on!’

If you read WUWT, this site or dozens like it regularly, you can make a good stab at justifying what’s wrong with AGW theory but most people haven’t the time or the enthusiasm. Even sceptic reporters and politicians can be a bit sketchy about the thing and sometimes they’re embarrassingly wrong. Your average guy in the street is reduced to muttering ‘it’s all a hoax to get our money through taxes’, which might be true but it’s not really a powerful argument against action on CO2.

What got most of us from being suspicious but uninformed to being fired up enough to start engaging? For me it was The Great Global Warming Swindle. Not perfect, but enough to start looking. Of course at the time, there wasn’t much see. I think I found WUWT by about December that year. But look at scepticism now!

Without the sceptic bloggers would Climategate have ever happened? Would people like Steve McIntyre and the Bish have been invited to speak before audiences? Would the alarmist community be awarding us with demonic status if nobody posted on the internet? Would GWPF have been formed? Would Mark Morano have the ammunition he gets to feed to Republican politicians? Would the scientists who are currently wavering on the sensitivity value have started blogging if it hadn’t been for sceptic bloggers? Would the Spattergate movie now be showing regularly instead of standing testament to alarmist stupidity and crass tastelessness? Would Anthony Watts have finished his survey of surface stations or kept on blogging if not for the feeling that somebody cared?

And you think you’re not wining?

Feb 21, 2013 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

We should forget about winning. In my view, the CAGW scare will die eventually. But it will do so by gradually fading away and being regarded as progressively less important. They’ll be no winners or losers because no one will care any more. So dreaming of victory is a waste of time and effort. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. Far from it. And doing something is urgent: as Geoff says, the idea of waiting for victory is profoundly pessimistic.

Politicians, their hangers-on, the media, scientific and other established institutions, academia and a raft of other bodies, charities, so-called opinion formers and “right thinking” individuals now take it as given that emissions must be curtailed for the good of mankind. And probably, despite the widespread special interests associated with that point of view, most believe it. Yet I think there’s a simple enough strategy that, if it’s applied coherently and constantly, can drive them from that position. And it doesn’t entail arguing about the reality of man-made climate change; surely by now it’s plain that that doesn’t work?

No, our argument should be grounded on practicality. It would have two themes: first that current policies are damaging – to the economy, to “ordinary” people, etc. – and second that, in any case, they are pointless. Neither requires esoteric or complex argument. And both are, I suspect, half understood already. After all, it’s pretty obvious that “green” policies are putting additional pressure on our dreadfully weakened economy, threaten jobs and increase fuel costs - especially damaging to the most vulnerable. And, as to their pointlessness, it must be becoming obvious that Britain is almost alone in its attempt to curb its emissions. And, in any case, ours are a tiny share of the global total: so, even if successful, we cannot possibly make any appreciable difference to a world that's dominated by developing economies wholly committed to cheap energy based on fossil fuels.

Damaging and pointless. Easy to establish. And could make a difference. The challenge is getting heard.

Feb 21, 2013 at 4:59 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Tiny CO2
A good bunch of questions, though I’m not sure about the last one. Did you mean “winning” or “whining”?
There’s a crucial difference between Britain and the USA, in that we have no mainstream political party or major media outlet supporting scepticism. UKIP is still considered freaky, and important (or self-important) people in the UK don’t take the Mail and the Express seriously. We could have 70% of the population agreeing with us, but it would be like the 70% in favour of the death penalty or an end to immigration - a fringe belief to be ignored.

Feb 21, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Well said, Geoff. Whenever I see a reference to a "hard hitting" article in the Mail or Express my heart sinks. Publication in those papers is enough to damn it in the eyes of "right thinking" people.

Feb 21, 2013 at 5:52 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Winning, whining, wining and dining, yep they’re all good LOL. I let my fingers spell things ‘cause they’re better at it than me. Unfortunately they never tell me when they get it wrong. I was one of the ITA generation and couldn’t tell there was a difference between that and normal. My spelling has always been creative and I only use punctuation to keep that end of the keyboard feeling neglected.

Feb 21, 2013 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Don’t dismiss the Mail or the Express, they might not be where stories have their finest hour but they’re sometimes where stories break. It’s not like you’re going to start in the Guardian or the Independent outside the comments section. We can’t transform people but what about sewing seeds? Most politicians and PR people read the full scope of papers if only to see if they’re in them.

I agree that what will kill AGW hysteria will be the lack of financial viability for the solutions but too many people are locked in the ‘money is no object when it comes to saving the planet’ mindset. Personally I favour the ‘cutting CO2 might be necessary but nature is giving us the opportunity to look again at the science to make sure’.

If you were new to scepticism what would make you think twice? What might attract a suitable journalist? If you were an MP or Boris, what might make you receive a sceptic or two for a serious discussion about AGW? A news paper article or fifty? Something on the net? Youtube or TV? A direct approach? An action group? Pensioners for Predictable Power? A free cake? Naked sceptics chained to the bollards at Westminster :-P

Feb 21, 2013 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I've enjoyed reading these thoughtful comments.

From an admittedly selfish perspective, one benefit of winning ("Freedom of the light bulb" hasn't yet been abolished here!) would be opening our small city's news rag without a seeing global warming catastrophe article two or three times a week.

Very recently, we readers have been told:
-how the U.S. Forest Service will need more money to help Ponderosa pine forests cope with climate change,

-how global warming means less snow but more storms, and

-how two photos of an Alaskan glacier from 1910 and today (nothing before 1910 of course!) prove that anyone who doubts CAGW must be a "science-denying Biblical literalist."

Maybe I just need to change my reaction to such "news" and view it as entertainment.

Feb 21, 2013 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Bob

Dave Bob, you are exactly the audience I had in mind for my essay about living easily with your doubt. I too have a vicious knee-jerk reaction when I see AGW being wheeled into every story to pep it up, but I intellectually know why they are doing it, and I need to stop reacting emotionally.

I'm not saying I have the answers, it was going to be more an exploration of alternatives to the knee-jerk in order to make life happier.

Feb 21, 2013 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

“... Naked sceptics chained to the bollards at Westminster?”
Stop. You’ll give 10:10 ideas.
I appreciate your approach of asking: “What would work?” One thing is sure, Boris or your MP are never going to receive “a sceptic or two” unless they represent something or someone. Which brings us back to the idea of an organisation, which got a resounding thumbs down here not long ago.

Feb 21, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I think the rejection of a group thing was a rejection of getting together, raising funds, voting for a leadership, arguing about it, doing lame things, some people putting in more work than others, some ending up defensive because they’re not doing enough an finally everybody feeling dejected and falling out.

As it happens, this is an organisation. It’s not a traditional one but it’s very 21st century. This is people who have leadership, meet regularly, discuss things, have issues, etc. There’s even drinks and biccies. Would you get more sitting in a cold school hall wondering if your car will be vandalised before the night is over?

What I think might be productive is a task or a goal. The best one is where people can contribute with 5 mins or 5 days and feel it helps. Not sure what or how we’d do that. The goal might be to court an MP or even the step before that – decide exactly what to say.

Or just carry on as we are. It all helps. Better that we stick to back stage grumbling, than try more and fall out.

Feb 21, 2013 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Who said anything about a cold school hall? All you need is a group that elects a spokesman who can say something coherent at 7.15AM on Radio 4 at a moment’s notice. But the group would have to represent something or a reasonable number of somebodies. At the moment, if there’s a bombshell in IPCC AR5, the only representatives we have who might get asked to comment are Lawson, Peiser and Dr Whitehouse of GWPF and Andrew Montford, because he’s written two books. With all due respect, that’s not a huge team, and there’s a sad shortage of reserves.

Feb 21, 2013 at 8:34 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I think it might be more of a call for volunteers than an election. Who'd want the job? Scary.

Feb 21, 2013 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2: you say that "Most politicians and PR people read the full scope of papers ..." Yes, that's probably true. But they hold the Express and Mail in contempt. Visit the homes of senior lawyers, academics, media people etc. and you'll find they read the Guardian and Independent. These are the papers that reflect their views. And these are the people who set the agenda - the people who are determining our future. There is, in my view, no prospect of changing their minds on CAGW in the foreseeable future. Trying to do so may be fun, it may be intellectually challenging - but it's a waste of time and energy.

Yet we must do something: this country urgently needs a change of course. I suggested one above at 4:59 PM. I believe it would be a worthwhile goal and, as I said, it could make a difference.

The Today Programme requires a simple, memorable soundbite. What better than "our current climate policies are damaging and pointless"?

Feb 21, 2013 at 8:45 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Publish your essay by all means. I might find it therapeutic!

Feb 21, 2013 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Bob

Robin, I doubt there's anything you can do to get into those papers without representing a significant organisation.

Bigger groups are already taking the (don't even need to say climate) 'energy policies are damaging and pointless' line. Charities in charge of poverty and the elderly, campaigners against wind, coal companies, steel companies, the national grid, etc. We can support that line and a letter to your MP or paper about fears of powercuts or excessive bills for an aged relative is a start.

Any lawyers, doctors etc who don't realise that renewables are rubbish are being deliberately blind. The Times and the Telegraph and other reputable sources have published the facts about them. They ignore the truth about renewables because they've set their hearts on AGW. They pride themselves on taking the scientific line. It would be easier to convince Phil Jones.

Feb 21, 2013 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

The line I do take with some of these people is to get them thinking about how much CO2 pain they're ready for. It would be a legitimate subject for the Guradian if you could disguise the motive. By using some of the figures dropped into the warmist propoganda, you can make them nervous. The two ton CO2 footprint is one that they don't like to dwell upon and few professionals can come close to it.

Feb 21, 2013 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I suspect climate 'science' has degenerated to the intellectual level of economics. Often dogmatic, great versatility at retrospective analysis, facile attribution of causes to major events, very feeble predictive skills, lots of opinions, a few dominant camps, and of course an every present 'relevance' to politics and every day life. Has there been a victory over Marxist economics, or over Keynsian economics? Yes at a rigorous level of analysis. Have they gone away? No. Do their zealots slink off into dark corners, full of shame? No.

Feb 21, 2013 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Here's what seems to be a new essay at numberwatch

It seems relevant to what we have been discussing. If you haven't been to numberwatch before, it will be both a treat and a giant timehoover as you go back over years of incisive rants from John Brignell. I respect that man immensely.

Feb 22, 2013 at 11:22 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda


You’ve missed my point. We’re not going to persuade the bien-pensant classes (those who read the Guardian and Independent and determine their editorial line) that they’re wrong about CAGW – at least not for a very long time. And that includes the BBC. So, if we really want to change the UK’s climate policy, we have no option but to adopt a completely new approach – one that bypasses the futile CAGW alarmists v deniers debate altogether.

We’re halfway there: as you say, there are plenty of people and organisations campaigning about the damage being done by current policies. It’s the next step that’s being missed. It’s this: even if AGW is real and dangerous and even if renewables are everything their supporters claim, the developing economies are not interested and action by the UK – with its tiny 1.7% share of global emissions – cannot make the slightest appreciable difference.

That’s why current polices are both damaging and pointless – a simple statement that even the Guardian and BBC should find difficult to ignore.

Feb 22, 2013 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin: Well said. This mininal argument is of the utmost importance - the opposite in fact of the chocolate teapot of the skydragons where winning is defined as nothing less than a scientific revolution that overturns much of 20th century physics. A high bar is fine for an individual trying to beat a world record and make his name for life (in the knowledge it's far less than 1% chance they will succeed) but for a large, highly disparate group trying to change extremely damaging policies in many countries across the world it's both ridiculous and disastrous. Before we get all gloomy we should consider the argument you present and whether we don't all agree with it. The next question is whether the general public will be persuaded by it. Answer: they already are. And the CAGW intelligensia? Increasingly they are. Think Richard Curtis on biofuels and James Lovelock on pretty much everything.

Of course there are some hold outs but, as the Bish has been saying in recent weeks, there's much good news at present. There again, some people are never happy unless they have something big to moan about.

Feb 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

PS Great thread Rhoda. You are in sparkling form in the discussion section.

Feb 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

rhoda: I agree about John Brignall. For example, did you see this remarkably prescient footnote (in view of the recent Ofgem announcement) he wrote in 2003? I hadn't until Anthony Watts drew attention to it last week.

Feb 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin Guenier, do you want to get across to those people that far from being the respected, trend setter for the planet the UK is despised and ignored? Have you heard of the UN? That’s an organisation that was principally set up to show the heathen masses how much better we westerners behave and wouldn’t life be better with a few common standards? In practice it is just a stick that bad countries use to beat us with, while doing exactly as they please. No matter how huge the atrocity the UN just stands around, wringing its hands lamenting ‘won’t someone think of the children!’ Eventually, the US, the UK or France make a stand and if we’re lucky the rest chip in. If we’re unlucky they join together to condemn us for interfering.

If the Guardianistas haven’t clocked that yet, I hardly think we can convince them that our pitiful efforts on cutting CO2 are never going to start a global trend. How can they miss the uncomfortable fact most people hate us?

There is plenty of evidence out there that the current crop of CO2 reduction actions don’t work. The clearest sign is that CO2 is not actually coming down. It was the Guardian itself that reported that the UK CO2 footprint had increased on 1990 levels when imports were included. Ding, ding, ding! Why are not alarm bells ringing?

The simplest answer is the ‘we must try something, every little helps’ meme. After which they put the recycling out, get into their 4x4 and drive off to the airport for a climate conference somewhere warm and poverty stricken. Is it possible to overcome that level of stupidity and hypocrisy with logic?

Is the fastest way to kill their support for CO2 reduction to keep banging on about their CO2 footprint? Use their own strength against them? Keep asking David Cameron, through Caroline Lucan to Leo Hickman how they’re getting on? Press upon the public that cutting CO2 for them is the same a being encouraged to eat cake was to revolutionary France?

Feb 22, 2013 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2