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Discussion > Is this what winning is like?

Richard: thanks. And TonyCO2: you’re getting closer.

The beauty of my approach is that it’s a simple case to make: no arguments about peer review or consensus, no scientific “experts”, no sneering at lack of qualification or experience. Moreover, it’s knocking on an open door: it’s widely accepted that current policies are damaging (see for example the current BH “Shameless” thread) and it’s impossible to argue with conviction that the UK’s policies are anything but pointless in a global context – yes, Tony, the “lead by example” assertion is simply embarrassing. And the bonus is that it can be presented as a leftie position: what’s wrong with defending the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially when current policies favour the wealthy middle classes (solar panels) and rich landowners (wind turbines)?

TinyCO2 said (8:34 and 8:38 yesterday) that volunteering to “say something coherent at 7:15AM on Radio 4 at a moment’s notice” would be “scary”. I disagree: hammering home the “damaging and pointless” soundbite would be enjoyable.

A footnote: what I’m proposing is essentially Steve McIntyre’s position. Here are some notes I made of his presentation at the GEPF meeting in London last August:

He noted (1) that China’s GHG emissions will be double US emissions in 2012, and (2) that, in the past 5 to 6 years, China has increased its emissions by an amount equal to the USA’s total emissions (now maybe close to 1990 levels). That, he said, is the reality of what’s happening and it means that one of the IPCC “base cases” for GHG emissions will be what actually happens. He said, “You have to assume that the IPCC advice is accurate. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of [room for] for manoeuvre.” Yet the “entire rationale” of Western policymakers has been to simply ignore this. The truth, he said, is that nobody really knows what to do, although building resistance to extremes is one obvious action. He noted that “acts of petty virtue” (great phrase) have no point: "Even if you install windmills you're not going to change the trend of overall CO2 emissions".

Feb 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

It seems to me that UK political parties formulate policies based upon pragmatism. CAGW - adopted by all parties - was a "no brainer", in that it "saved the planet", raised taxes and kept their money grabbing supporters happy. More on this later...

Foreign aid, fixed at 0.7% of GDP, was the same thing - adopt the moral high ground while feeding billions into the charities and NGOs that were stuffed full of their friends. However, aid unrelated to need has been rumbled as a nonsensical idea, so this is now being diverted to Cameron's little war in Africa to protect the locals from Islamic extremism (but also with the useful side effect of safeguarding the oil and gas reserves in Libya, and the uranium mines in Chad). Pragmatism in politics, yer can't beat it...

So back to the point - how to supply a pragmatic solution to HMG that avoids an embarrasing climb-down? If temperatures continue to flatline (or equally likely start to fall due to reduced solar activity) the absurdity of the expence of windmills, etc., will attract ridicule and one of the major political parties will jump ship - probably before the next election (the EU referendum was a case in point). My guess is to go with the science and say that it has now been proven to be wrong, based on the evidence, and to keep it simple otherwise nobody will understand it.

Rambling thoughts, after a liquid lunch...

Feb 22, 2013 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Re pointless (or futile) gestures, some may recall this sketch from the 1960s British comedy "Beyond the Fringe":

It opens with Peter Cook, in the uniform of a senior RAF officer, entering to the sound of airmen singing heartily around a piano.

Cook: Perkins! (Jonathan Miller, dressed as a Pilot Officer, breaks away from the singing) Sorry to drag you away from the fun, old boy. War’s not going very well, you know.

Miller: Oh my God!

Cook: …war is a psychological thing, Perkins, rather like a game of football. You know how in a game of football ten men often play better than eleven?

Miller: Yes, sir.

Cook: Perkins, we are asking you to be that one man. I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war. Get up in a crate, Perkins, pop over to Bremen, take a shufti, don’t come back. Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too.

Miller: Goodbye, sir – or is it – au revoir?

Cook: No, Perkins.

Unfortunately this time it's not just Pilot Officer Perkins who's heading for annihilation, but the entire UK economy.

Feb 22, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Rambling thoughts, after a liquid lunch...Roger Longstaff

Better than a rambling lunch and liquid thoughts.

I'm for attacking on all fronts since there isn't an element to AGW that isn't loopy. And yes, keeping it simple is essential. I don't succeed.

Feb 22, 2013 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

My take on this is slightly different.

We all agree that costly useless mitigation and righteous self-flagellation is pointless and harmful to the economy. We all sort of agree the government is likely going to do it anyway for the forsee-able future.

I say let them.

Long long before we are reduced to poverty, the penny will drop. When we get brownouts, they will build more power stations, and they'll have to do it quick so it'll cost more. When the windmills rust through misuse, they'll stop building them. When the temperatures drop by half a degree per decade, they'll scrap AGW quicker than margerine.

There are many ways to wreck an economy, this is only one of them. It will hurt. Good, I say. Serves them right for being stupid.

Feb 22, 2013 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Robin: one of my favourites of the early Peter Cook. But Jonathan Miller has in more recent days, without denying the originality of the humour, wondered if knocking the bad war films of the 50s and 60s was all that could be said. If it wasn't for those military types made fun of preventing Hitler invading the UK, he and his family would have been carted off the Auschwitz, he realised. He wanted to make clear he was very grateful for the blood that had been shed to prevent that.

And that I think is similar to the problem here as we talk about winning or not winning, whatever that might mean for the 'sceptic, lukewarmer, denier, donryu or toryu'. Some of our cogitation is rightly light-hearted. But underneath I'm not as sanguine about the result as some. Something unpleasant lurks within some of the hard core that reveres, or feigns to revere, The Population Bomb and other products of the doomsters over many years. The CAGW 'debate' and the ruthless policy making that kicked off long before the scientific debate had really even begun, as Lindzen said long ago, totally against the interests of the poor, as you rightly say, is not a laughing matter. TBYJ's latest reaction is for me ridiculous - with all respect for his contributions in other areas. It's not the elite that suffer when the economy goes down the toilet, it's the most vulnerable. We can't afford to let that happen, here or in the 'bottom billion' of Africa.

This is in strong support of your position, Robin, to avoid any doubt. Futile gestures are a massive part of the picture in the West, as Steve pointed out at the GWPF, and Cook and Miller satirise such things brilliantly. But somewhere, someone has to make real sacrifices for our freedoms. Lord, let it be the next chap?

Feb 22, 2013 at 6:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I'm not so sure it's ridiculous. I've always found the skeptic's claim to be "fighting for the poor" faintly ridiculous. The poor don't wan't us. It's a type of righteous self-deslusion of our own that we're fighting to save the economy. In fact I'd go farther, we suffer from a form of "Economy Alarmism" - the idea that if we spend a few too many pounds here, there will be some sort of tipping point where the economy goes down the pan. There's no economic tipping point for us any more than there's a climate tipping point.

We waste some money on fighting imaginary climate concern. We waste money all the time, on foreign wars, on bank bailouts, on expensive social security, on tax cuts near elections. We pay for it later. People hurt in their pockets.

Serves them right, i say.

Feb 22, 2013 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: So you don't agree with my statement:

It's not the elite that suffer when the economy goes down the toilet, it's the most vulnerable.

Or you don't care that it's true?

Feb 22, 2013 at 6:58 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Firstly, I don't believe the economy is going down the toilet - I don't subscribe to the widespread belief in Economic Alarmism, remember, a disease which seems to affect skeptics and has almost as little chance of being true as climate alarmism.

We are already partly down the toilet right now. And yes the poor are suffering, but it's not Ethiopia-1980s style suffering. It's baked beans and cold bedrooms suffering. The money they are wasting on windmills is paltry. Yes, it could be used better elsewhere, but if we stopped spending a bean on renewables tomorrow, we'd still have the poor and vulnerable. We've had them since time began, we always will.

I think wheeling out the poor is a tactic used by all political classes to justify their pet theory, and it's a cheap shot.

Feb 22, 2013 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

The vulnerable will be best served by the collapse of the CAGW scam as soon as possible, as they pay a higher proportion of their income on fuel and food. Drax and the other coal fired stations will survive because the consequences of entirely avoidable power cuts would make the current NHS scandal look trivial.

Power cuts will finish Cameron just as surely as they finished Heath, and he knows it.

Feb 22, 2013 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

We're closer than it might seem BigYin. My sentence following the one quoted was:

We can't afford to let that happen, here or in the 'bottom billion' of Africa.

Like Martin Durkin, maker of the Great Global Warming Swindle in 2007, the last point is something that does concern me. And the fact that every tinpot dictator cites the poor as the reason they have to beat up their people the way they do doesn't mean that none of the rest of us should care, it means we should care all the more. I want these poorest countries to feel free to use coal, for example, as much as they like if it's going to give them the cheapest electricity. And get a reliable grid to those that don't have that blessing we in the west take for granted. You may think I'm phony for writing that but, for my part, I don't think anyone should be thinking about CAGW without this in the forefront of their mind.

But I have to wrap up and will probably go back to lurker mode on BH for a few weeks now. Have fun. Good thread. :)

Feb 22, 2013 at 7:42 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

TBYJ has a good point about the kind of short-term economic alarmism which claims that windmills are going to break the economy. Fuel poverty is as much a fantasy construct as carbon footprints. Both are born of too many half clever people learning to do complicated sums on their laptops. We’re always in danger of aping the daftness of our opponents.
The real reason for economic alarm is the medium term prospect of several decades of third world growth at 5% coupled with stagnation in Europe. Growing prosperity in Asia, Africa and South America is to be welcomed of course, but it won’t be any prettier than Europe’s growth in the nineteenth century. The poor will continue to suffer (more so, as Roger Longstaff’s opposition to aid gains favour) while we continue to court the new third world plutocrats. We’re already begging them to send their offspring to our universities and buy second homes in Kensington. Soon we’ll be flogging off the factories and the museums.
So it’s not the windmills which will break us, but rather the mentality which produced them. What’s the point of having the most highly educated élite in history if the best they can come up with is the Climate Change Act?
Perhaps the best we can do is try to explain where we went wrong, so that our future Chinese masters can learn from our mistakes.

Feb 22, 2013 at 7:59 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Richard, my comments regarding motivations and the poor properly belong to a thread which I will start if I ever write that essay about living easily with doubt. I'm in a transformational mod at the moment, and it's not fair for me to scattergun it here until it's fully formed.

For now let's get back to the excellent suggestions for bringing pragmatic skepticism into the public domain.

Feb 22, 2013 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I’m not a subscriber to economic alarmism any more than I am to climate alarmism, although I’m less sure about Geoff’s view that fuel poverty is a fantasy. No, my real concern is a climate policy that could well cause, not just brownouts, but major power outages. I wish I shared Roger’s confidence that coal-powered (and nuclear?) power stations won’t close: I suspect that Cameron, like Miliband (his successor if he’s finished), truly believes that more wind turbines will compensate.

So why am I so concerned about power outages? After all, as some are arguing here, won’t they be the wake-up call that will bring our masters to their senses? Yes, that may happen – but it would be too late: you cannot turn an inadequate electricity supply system into an adequate system overnight. It takes years.

My concern stems from the (poorly understood) fragility of modern society: in periods of extreme heat or cold, it’s electricity that prevents disaster. No energy means no water, no trains, no phone systems, no computers, no traffic controls, no petrol stations, no factories, no airports, no central heating, no trains, no street lights, no refrigeration, no sewerage … In really cold weather, many thousands would suffer and thousands, especially the most vulnerable, could die. It would be intolerable and tragic. And, were such disasters to start happening, it would then be too late to realise that support for renewables (especially wind energy) is little more than impractical, sanctimonious piety.

We need to communicate that now. And I’ve suggested above how we might do it.

Feb 22, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

I may be unable to contribute to this thread over the weekend, so I’d like to make a suggestion now as to how we might find a way of agreeing – as TBYJ (nearly) has it – a pragmatic approach into the public domain.

First we need a message to which we can all subscribe. That will not be at all easy given the healthy disparity of views expressed here. But perhaps this might crack it:

Let’s have another Pub meet with as wide an attendance as possible. As to venue, Iffley, Oxford, seems as good as anywhere and would certainly suit me. But this time it would need a private room, ideally at a pub. (rhoda?) Then everyone attending should (if possible, not compulsory) prepare a two-minute presentation of the message they’d like to get out there – the case they’d like to see made on the Today Programme. Each of us would then have six minutes (rigorously enforced): one minute for an introduction, two minutes for the presentation and three minutes for a tough “dragons’ den” / devil’s advocate type interrogation. If any message survives, we adopt it. If more than one, they fight it out.

If we have an agreed message, we consider how best to communicate it.

Feb 22, 2013 at 9:50 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Robin Guenier
To be clear about fuel poverty: high fuel prices are real, and poverty is real. “Fuel poverty” is an artificial construct invented by decent people who think that everyone is as impressed by an official-sounding statistic as they are. It’s the fascination with scientific-sounding statistics which is at the root of public acceptance of “the science”. The last thing we should do is imitate the environmentalists and invent our own armoury of impressive percentages.
If I don’t wholeheartedly support your idea of the “killer quote”, it’s not because I disagree with your point, but because you and I and a few others have done rather well, I think, at New Left Review and elsewhere with a policy of scattershot and no agreed programme.
I’m drawing back now from my previous support for the idea of an organised group and coming round to TinyCO2’s view. I’ve spent so many hours transcribing meetings of Greens, who spawn groups like dandruff.
The discussion here about how things will play out has been enlightening and intelligent, so it seems churlish to criticise, but the most difficult thing to accept is that we really don’t know how things will play-out: - power cuts, brown-outs, last minute desperate measures, a Heath-like humiliation of the government of the day - all or any of these are possible. In a crisis the one thing we can count on (despite all the criticism of the BBC and the MSM) is the journalist’s nose for a story. However brainwashed and cowed they’ve been in the past, they’ll hunt out the opposing point of view; I just hope it’s Montford rather than, say, Jeremy Clarkson.
Robin 9.50pm
Excellent idea. I'm in Oxford over Easter. hope you can make it that week

Feb 22, 2013 at 9:54 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

A thought for the weekend:

During this cold weather, if you've got an elderly neighbour, just pop in occasionally and make sure they're keeping their thermostat turned down - after all, everyone must do their bit to save the planet.

Feb 22, 2013 at 10:25 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Wow, another really interesting discussion.
Robin - Barry very regularly makes your point on twitter.
Roger - note that Drax is being converted to a woodburning stove.
I agree with Tiny that there are easy open goals across the whole spectrum of the agw story.
My favourite Geoff quote applies: "All that's needed to start a dialogue is for someone to talk to us".

Feb 22, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews


What would be the objective of your proposed meeting? What could it achieve that the GWPF can not?
At least Lawson, et al, seem to have the ear of the establishment and the MSM, who would take any notice of us?

I am all for action (I started an epetition in 2011), and I have debated the scientific issues on this and other websites, but none of it seems to make any difference. I think that a well organised meeting, at a university, would be a good idea, rather than a pub meeting.

Feb 22, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

the example of California comes to mind here. this is a state on the verge of economic catastrophe. A decade or so ago, it suffered from power brownouts. The government has no solution and the electorate recently voted back the governor who was in charge during the brown-outs, which is reminiscent of Argentina - Peron ruined the country, so the army took power...and then things got so bad that Peron was voted back. Their economy is getting worse from year to year and it is very large- the 8th largest economy in the world. No one seems to know the solution but they are still pursuing "green" power. The only thing is that raising the cost of power is bound to be self-defeating.

Feb 22, 2013 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Geoff, TBYJ, Robin. Did any of you meet a government minister yesterday? No? I thought not. I'd bet my pension that yesterday at least one government minister met an envrionmental lobbyist. I'd also bet that DECC and Defra, or whatever they're called nowadays received letters from environmentalists yesterday. You might ask why I'm bothered about this stuff. Well, here's the issue, what makes me scared if you like. Environmentalists want to run every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, what we study, what we read and how much energy we use. They don't care if we subside into abject poverty just so long as the "environment" is looked after. The don't care how many humans die in this noble cause. They have already won significant victories way beyond their representative power. They, along with their scientific counterparts, have persuaded our governments to embark upon energy policies that, if followed to the ultimate will result in energy rationing, which I believe is the ultimate socialist plan. How better to redistibute wealth than by giving each person on the planet the same energy? It is the nightmare scenario at the end of this CAGW scare. All of you have said you don't think it will happen, and that we become like them if we exaggerate the outcomes, and to some extent you're right, but this thread is about what victory looks like, so why not take a look at what victory looks like for the environmentalists? Why not talk about the world they are trying to bring about? I don't think it's too far fetched to imagine them winning, they've already silenced the opposition, we have no voice, we can only talk to each other.

I'm arguing that they have won here in the western industrial societies, they don't feel they've won because they have something much more draconian in mind than forcing us all to have solar panels, but they've pretty much won, at least for the time being. If final victory does arrive then it will be our worst nightmare, and the only obstacle now to that final victory is democracy. That's what's stopping our politicians from going the whole hog, the fear that the public won't accept compulsory vegetarianism, or energy rationing, which is why you hear the clarion calls from the socialists for a world government, and sacrifices to be made by all to save the planet. Did you not note that's what Paul Nurse said in nis recent speech. These people intend to take over our lives and those of our children and like all fanatics don't give a damn for the consequences, and will repress ruthlessly any opposition to their goal.

I'd admit that where we are now seems a long way from their ultimate goal, but don't for one minute drop your guard, becasue victory for the greens is total control, and yesterday and everyday of the week in every western democracy they lobby government ministers. Think the Roman Empire and Christianity - it could happen, so let's not be sanguine about it. We've already lost, the Climate Change Act was put together by a green activist, and the leader of the Labour Party calls us deniers and flat-earthers, nonsensical solutions to energy problems brought on by our politicians accepting that greens can set the agenda are already part of our energy strategy.

The greens don't care about global warming, they know they're not going to stop China and India pumping CO2 into the atmosphere for the foreseeable future, just as we do. This scare has given them the opportunity to circumvent the democratic process and they are full tilt at taking it.

Of course I don't believe they'll succeed, but the might. It's not the money spent on renewables that's important it's the threat of this scare giving power to individuals who basically hate human beings.

Feb 23, 2013 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

good post again geronimo, and you may be right, but I think the interesting thing which is emerging form this discussion is not about what is actually true, but finding very specific areas which resonate with the public and attacking only on those fronts.

In general, people are not scared of a green-driven totalitariat. Warning against one makes them think you are a loon, and they will discard your other arguments. They should be scared of one, I agree, but the point is how do we move them towards that without alienating them with what appears to them to be fringe beliefs.

Feb 23, 2013 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Geronimo, I think Geoff Chambers is making the same point about forming a recognisable group. Ministers wont see you unless you individually go see your own MP or if you lobby them as a group. And of course they’ll never see you if you don’t try. It’s the bare faced cheek of environmentalists that gives them any success at all.

The country is suffering from what I call middle class syndrome. The parents worked like dogs to get out of poverty and send their kids to a good school. There they were infused with the idea that being clever and getting bits of paper entitled them to the nice comfy existence they’d enjoyed since childhood. The media pumps them full of the idea that they’re entitled to do their own thing, express themselves. The sybaritic lifestyle is the way to go. Business waves countless goodies at them in a frenzy of buy now pay later. The resultant citizen is self indulgent, lazy, greedy, feckless and filled with a huge sense of entitlement. And yes, I include myself in that description.

On the upside, that sort of nation is almost impossible to spur into the kind of self flagellation that green plans would require. Lazy they might be but if there’s one thing that will rouse the self indulgent to action, it’s someone trying to take their toys away.

The Brits have an impressive history of ditching totalitarianism. Catholicism got the boot and we have steadily watered down the harsh strictures of the early church to the point where it is now just a club for nice people. Royalty were turned into a tourist attraction. Communism didn’t appeal at all and cults find the UK very stony ground. At this very moment the Brits are trying to decide which is more work, leaving the EU and going it alone or staying and putting up with all those bloody rules! I bet you never thought of laziness as a defence mechanism ;-)

The British people are rebelling in the most effective way they know how. By doing the absolute minimum.

Feb 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I agree, an excellent post geronimo. But it still leaves the question - what to do?

As I have said before, nothing I have done has ever made the slightest difference. I have written to the PM, my MP, government ministers and civil servants (even before Climategate), organised an epetition and debated with friend and foe alike. The problem seems to be that we have found ourselves in the position where the burden of proof (that CAGW is nonsense) rests with us, and we are a hard core of about a thousand, disorganised people who can easily be ignored as seceptics, deniers or whatever (personally I couldn't care less what people call me). Even debating with Richard Betts and Tamsin Edwards has been futile, as they just walk away when the going gets tough, or they feel insulted. Perhaps I have been too agressive when frustration set in?

We seem to be in a "Vicky Pryce llike" trial, where the jury do not understand their function and the unelected judge will do what is necessary to support the establishment, or consensus.

Feb 23, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

I forgot to add - I also spent a whole year at war with the BBC, about that bloody Horizon programme (that still makes my blood boil!). All futile, and always treated politely, but like an infant that had thrown its' toys out of the pram.

Feb 23, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff