Category Archives: Climate

The Politics of Climate Change

In a comment on my Insanity article, Robert Duquette comments on George Monbiot’s critique of the climate change sceptics.

Monbiot should be careful about using an affinity of narrative to explain the global warming skeptics, because the same affinity can be used to explain the gw alarmists. Man-made global warming is the perfect, apolcalyptic morality tale. Monbiot also makes the mistake of questioning the motives of every scientists he disagrees with, while putting those who agree with him under no such scrutiny. Why not question the motives of scientists who work for governmental agencies, agencies that stand to increase in power and influence, and butgetwise, under any anti global warming regulatory scheme? When facts are not with you, question motives.

There has been a huge amount of tosh spouted by the environmental movement, with their own pathologies and a fondness for trying to persuade through fear and emotional manipulation. But these groups are distinct from government and climatologists.

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Robert Fisk has an article in the Indie about a Dutch press photographer putting on a photograph exhibition on Iraq based on images that Iraqis have captured with their mobile phones. The reason he is using Iraqi’s amateur collection is that Iraq is still too dangerous for anybody with any sense who has any option to be elsewhere.

The refugee statistics are so appalling that they have become almost mundane. Four million of Iraq’s 23 million people have fled their homes – until recently, at the rate of 60,000 a month – allegedly more than 1.2 million to Syria (a figure now challenged by at least one prominent NGO), 500,000 to Jordan, 200,000 to the Gulf, 70,000 to Egypt, 57,000 to Iran, up to 40,000 to Lebanon, 10,000 to Turkey. Sweden has accepted 9,000, Germany fewer – where an outrageous political debate has suggested that Christian refugees should have preference over Muslim Iraqis. With its usual magnanimity – especially for a country that set off this hell-disaster by its illegal invasion – George Bush’s America has, of course, accepted slightly more than 500.

This collection of pictures is therefore an indictment of us, as well as of the courage of Iraqis. The madness is summed up in an email message sent to Van Kesteren by a Baghdad Iraqi. “This summer,” he wrote, “a workman wanted to quench his thirst by putting ice in his tea. A car pulled up, the driver stepped out and began to beat and kick the man, cursing him as an unbeliever. ‘What do you think you’re doing? Did the Prophet Mohamed put ice in his water?’

The man being attacked was furious and asked his assailant: ‘Do you think the Prophet Mohamed drove a car?'”

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Climate-Change Denial

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here The Daily Duck) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

This isn’t actually a part of my series on counterproductive and downright ethically and intellectually sloppy liberal elitist attitudes towards people they disagree with. The reason is that I am highly critical of those that have been arguing that climatologists are a bunch of ignorant, discredited alarmists, or part of some vast conspiracy to defraud the consumer of their divine right to cheap fuel. Of course I am adopting the kind of snarky, dismissive language that I have been criticizing, and my tongue is half in my cheek because there is a not-insubstantial school of thought out there that seems almost impossible to parody. I have listened to them change their story so often, from denying that there is any change in climate, to denying that it is caused by human activity, to denying that it is caused by CO_2, to denying that even if all of that is true then there are actually net benefits to the climate change. These are the lines of argument that I have heard advanced by a single group of people, all encouraging each other and not showing the slightest concern for the contradictions entailed in any of their positions. The common factor that must be denied at all costs is the need to do anything about the degradation of the environment. I feel quite sure that this is part of a modern nihilism, a kind-of party mentality that says we should live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself. I am convinced it is the pathology of a drug addict.

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In Defence of Motherhood

Jean Kazez has an interesting article at Talking Philosophy, Are Kids Green?, where she discusses the ethical dilemma of having children (for an atheist). As Kazez makes clear, and this is an argument that the Chinese government has made, children are not environmentally friendly, so how do you ethically justify having children. The article is brutally honest, and Kazez rightly argues for the common sense position.

But that’s not how I read it. I think in discussions of morality there’s usually an unstated assumption that moral imperatives take priority. Either you do what you should, morally, or you hang your head in shame…you lose your right to self-respect. In the lingo of metaethics, this is the view that moral considerations are overriding.

But I think not. Morality is a very important part of what we aim for, but not all of what we aim for, and not first priority all of the time, over absolutely anything else. What can compete with morality? A variety of things, but one is the sense of having one life to live. I will do what’s critically important to me before I die, and I won’t hang my head for that.

On another meta-point, I agree with Kazez allowing common sense to take precedence here. If your philosophy is contradicting reality then this is interesting, but you must give the benefit of the doubt reality and assume the philosophy has gone wrong somewhere (at least until the reason for the paradox has become clear). I think there is a paradox here as ethics is a guide to actions and why shouldn’t ethics guide the decisions over how many children to have. The environmental logic is difficult to escape yet it is plainly barmy to conclude that it is ethically dubious for a couple to have a child. Kazez is clearly interested in grown-up real-world honest philosophy, which can’t but command respect.

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Marc Ambinder and Obama’s New Politics

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Mark Ambinder) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

For anyone who hasn’t seen it I recommend Ambinder in conversation and Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan, who makes no pretense at all of running a non-partisan blog, explains that when he needs to ground himself he heads for Ambinder’s office, just such an occasion providing the inspiration the video discussion. The discussion is vintage Sullivan, but I think it is vintage Ambinder too who quickly gets out of the way, giving Sullivan the space to make some eloquent observations about the appeal of Obama and the nature of politics.

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Collective Insanity (George Monbiot)

[A series of articles reviewing blogs and websites on my blog-roll.]

In Buddhist circles it is common enough to see references to collective delusions (and not doubt in other religions) but it is extremely rare to see it in secular writing. George Monbiot has an article up on his blog, Majesty, We have Gone Mad (also published in the Guardian and on Comment is Free where you can join the bun fight). This is vintage Monbiot and beautifully researched as you would expect.

What I know and you may not is that the high price of oil is currently the only factor implementing British government policy. The government claims that it is seeking to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, by encouraging people to use less fossil fuel. Now, for the first time in years, its wish has come true: people are driving and flying less. The AA reports that about a fifth of drivers are now buying less fuel(8). A new study by the Worldwide Fund for Nature shows that businesses are encouraging their executives to use video conferences instead of flying(9). One of the most fuel-intensive industries of all, business-only air travel, has collapsed altogether(10).

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Face facts, George Monbiot. Our environmental catastrophe is partly your responsibility

[It goes without saying that I would only write such an article about someone I truly respected and admired. My line of reasoning in the heading is that George Monbiot the high-priest of agressive secularism and George Monbiot the environmental campaigner contains a fatal contradiction, a contradiction that is pervasive in the modern, industrial, Enlightened philosophy.]

Dear George Monbiot,

Last Tuesday’s article in the Guardian, Face facts, Cardinal. Our awful rate of abortion is partly your responsibility, made its central point very well, better far than I have seen it made elsewhere. However there was one telling sentence.

Murphy-O’Connor has denounced contraception and abortion many times. That’s what he is there for: the primary purpose of most religions is to control women.

This last sentence is of course a rhetorical assertion. It makes a mistake which is truly endemic in our culture, a bundling together of things that we resent and then projecting their causes onto religion. This habit is surprisingly pervasive, being widespread for example in Buddhist circles (I am a Buddhist), the assumption being that Buddhism is somehow different and authentic while Christianity is shallow and a kind of crude mind-control that we have out-grown. It really isn’t at all possible to parody this kind of thinking for the more crude you make it to try and make the point, the more you just find people nodding in agreement. It is a lazy kind of thinking and we are very fond of it.

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