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A Poet Explains...

Discussion in 'Personal' started by artboyusa, Nov 27, 2019.

  1. artboyusa

    artboyusa Star commenter

    "Mass Death Dies Hard": Clive James on climate change...
    ...They came out of the grant-hungry fringe of semi-science to infect the heart of the mass media, where a whole generation of commentators taught each other to speak andwriteahyperbolicdoomlanguage(‘unprecedented’,‘irreversible’,etcetera),which you might have thought was sure to doom them in their turn. After all, nobody with an intact pair of ears really listens for long to anyone who talks about ‘the planet’ or ‘carbon’ or ‘climate denial’ or ‘the science’. But for now – and it could be a long now – the advocates of drastic action are still armed with a theory that no fact doesn’t fit...
    alex_teccy likes this.
  2. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Hmmm... he had a way with words I grant you...

    But not entirely convinced ...
  3. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Which bits convince you of anything?

    If there's an area of climate change you are unsure about, we can discuss it here.
  4. NoseyMatronType

    NoseyMatronType Star commenter

    This is going to be my only post on this thread as we’ve been through all this before on other ones.

    Firstly, it's a compelling and wonderfully eloquent article, as one would expect from James. If I was still teaching, I might deploy it with my brightest students to see if they could spot the basic logical fallacy that runs through it.

    It's this: initially true statements (e.g. about the Great Barrier Reef and the filming of the movie Australia) do not mean that conclusions drawn from them are true.

    Similarly, just because several pieces of evidence or part of a theory turn out to be wrong does not mean that the whole theory is wrong. That’s also not how Popper’s principle of falsification works.

    For example, let’s consider the Holocaust (with the obvious proviso that the historical evidence for this event is decidedly not a theory). Holocaust Deniers sometimes uncover the odd fact here or there that supports their thinking. The problem is that they then go on to act as if these pieces of evidence are sufficient to show that the entire Holocaust never happened.

    In fact, the reason why we know that the Holocaust happened is because there are lots and lots of small pieces of information and evidence that all point in the same direction. Such as:

    a. Eyewitness testimony from survivors of the Concentration Camps.

    b. The testimonies of Nazis who worked in those camps or played a part in the Holocaust.

    c. All the surviving documents from the Nazi regime that relate to Hitler’s policy towards the Jews.

    d. Aerial photos and other photos of the Concentration camps in action.

    It's similar when it comes to climate change (but not identical as some climate science is obviously predictive).The evidence for it is substantial and overwhelming, from climate change modelling (which does take account of both natural and anthropogenic forces – only a combination of the two explains what we are seeing) to surface temperature readings, to the observation that the troposphere is warmer than the stratosphere.

    According to one of the (admittedly older) sources I consulted, globally, average surface temperatures have increased by 0.7 degrees over the twentieth century. This may not seem much but it is unprecedented. By 2100, an average surface temperature increase of between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees is anticipated. In order to avoid the worst case scenarios and limit that increase in temperature to around 2 degrees, the majority of climate scientists are of the view that estimated cuts in emissions of between 60 and 80% in 1990 levels by 2050. This is why the 2 degrees figure formed the basis for the 2015 Paris Agreement.

    Who believes this?

    The main research has been undertaken by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Their website is here:


    The National Academy of Sciences (which has over 2,000 of America's best brains on its books, including 200 Nobel Prize winners) has found that the IPCC's work on climate science was fair and accurate. Its own views on climate change are straightforward: 'Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise.'

    Meanwhile in 2003, the American Meteorological Society concluded that there 'is now clear evidence that the mean annual temperature at the earth's surface, averaged over the entire globe, has been increasing in the past 200 years...Human activities have become a major source of environmental change.'

    In the same year, the American Geophysical Union adopted a statement which claims that scientific evidence strongly indicates both that the climate of the planet is changing, and that human activities are partly responsible for the changes.

    The US Climate Change Science Program, which undertakes research on behalf of 13 federal agencies in the US published a report in 2006 which expanded on the science underpinning the findings of the IPCC. The report argues that the observed patterns of climate change over the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural factors alone - the human production of greenhouse gases is responsible as well.

    Scientific opinion outside of the US is behind the IPCC too. In June 2005, just ahead of the G8 summit, the national science academies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, Brazil, China and India signed a statement in support of the findings of the IPCC. The statement claims, ''there is now strong evidence that that significant global warming is occurring...It is likely that most of the warming can be attributed to human activities.'

    Following a campaign by the Royal Society in the UK, the national or regional scientific academies of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Sweden issued a joint statement on the science of Climate Change in 2001. A part of it reads, 'The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents the consensus of the international scientific community on climate change science. We recognise the IPCC as the world's most reliable source of information on climate change and its causes.'

    In short, there is a lot of agreement among experts all over the world about both the changing climate and our role in it and James’s article does almost nothing to engage with that wide-ranging consensus. It’s also rather far-fetched to envisage this lot as a cabal of sinister scientists conspiring together to maintain their funding streams through their research.

    But I would agree up to a point with James where he is critical of the unhelpful hysteria that some supporters of climate change seem to want to generate. Though James does not mention them, Extinction Rebellion spring to mind.

    In fact, it’s dismaying to see members of ER participating in panicked reactions to the problem of climate change. The thinking seems to go something like this: climate change is an urgent problem — an emergency! People will only take action to fix climate change if they’re scared. Therefore, the best thing to do is whip up as much panic as possible.

    But consider other, more immediate scenarios in which people seem to have very good reasons to do just that. If a building was on fire and you were trapped in the lift, even then any sensible person would tell you that the best thing to do is not to panic.

    More specifically, I just think that blocking roads and obstructing road traffic is plain wrong. It just gets people’s backs up, the very people who ER need to get onside. Plus, they are possibly preventing the ambulance service, the fire brigade or the police from attending to emergencies. And what if someone was on their way to a last conversation with a friend or relative who was dying in the hospital?

    Although I am not up to speed with more recent pronouncements from the scientific community themselves, the general impression I am getting is that they too believe that urgent action is required, without sounding the alarm in quite the way that ER do, though I will leave it to others to fill in the gaps.

    Climate change is, nevertheless, obviously a huge problem that took the combined actions of millions of people over the course of hundreds of years to bring about. The solution to the problem that mankind has created will therefore also require the cooperation of governments and/or its citizens across the world and may take many years to put into effect and be effective

    That solution will also have to be neither a left-wing solution nor a right-wing one. Without the cooperation of people across the political spectrum, it is not going to happen.

    Often some of those who are labelled “climate change deniers” actually do believe that man-made climate change is a real thing that requires immediate action. But they are suspicious of the solutions that are offered by a lot of people in the environmentalist movement because those solutions tend to involve expanding the powers of centralised governments to little effect (see Roger Scruton’s Green Philosophy for more on that).

    Those on the political right and even centrists are also suspicious of the ways that some environmental activists tie the cause of addressing climate change to any number of radical leftist positions whose connection to the climate problem is tenuous at best. For example, Extinction Rebellion’s founder Stuart Basden has stated that the movement was established to address problems like white supremacy, the patriarchy, and heteronormativity. He argues “To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is a … racist and sexist form of denialism, that takes away from the necessary focus of the need for all of us to de-colonize ourselves.”

    That's fine if you also reckon that these issues matter too. But if our most urgent problem is climate change, we need to get a lot of people with a wide range of political views on board.

    There’s one other point on which James can be challenged: his dismissal of George Monbiot’s appeal to Terror management theory as an explanation for why older people are particularly resistant to accepting climate change.

    In fact, as the philosophers John Martin Fischer and Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin have pointed out, ‘Terror management theory is a very well-validated psychological theory. Over the past three decades, its predictions about human behaviour have been repeatedly verified’.

    What do I want to say in conclusion? Probably this: that my response to James’s article and everything that I have typed above certainly won’t alter anything on here. Climate change deniers will go on believing what they believe and people like myself will go on believing that climate change is genuine. Or at least I will until a huge, wide-ranging study is published that comprehensively refutes the evidence in a convincing and properly Popperian manner. Pointing to a few anomalies like James does is not going to do that.

    I would also, once again, recommend that contributor’s to political threads on here consider reading Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. What that publication demonstrates is the futility of much political debate and discourse, as it is largely being conducted to defend deeply ingrained intuitions. Any reasoning or argument is secondary to those sentiments and will almost certainly not succeed in persuading others. So we won’t have better disagreement until those mechanisms are acknowledged.

    At the very least, it’s a timesaver. Instead of getting triggered by a post on here, there will be more time for people to maybe enjoy a bit of family life, tell jokes, do stuff that helps other people or the environment, and to read good books like James’s Cultural Amnesia.
    artboyusa and Weald56 like this.
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Way too generous.

    Even the first sentence is so wrong it's hard to believe it made it to print.

    Scientists have purposefully downplayed the effects of coming climate change for years and years so as NOT to sound hysterical. Now they are wishing they had simply been honest and direct.

    Climate science has not come from the "grant hungry fringes of semi-science", it is mainstream basic science, as it was when James Hansen really started ringing alarm bells over 30 years ago.

    I can see the article's appeal to those who like to wallow in ignorance though.
    Weald56 likes this.
  6. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I suppose it depends if you want to believe a poet or scientists who have researched the subject.
    Scintillant likes this.
  7. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    William Blake - who needed to take heed of anyting he wrote durning the industrial revolution? Far better to listen to all those scientists that knew better at the time.

  8. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Do you agree with Clive James then, as that would be a fair implication from your comment.

    You will say not I expect, yet you seem to like these posts that attempt to undermine climate science for some reason.
  9. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    Unlike you, I keep an open mind like William Blake.
  10. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    Is that painting ACTUALLY by William Blake? I'm not sure it is.

    NB Weren't his 'dark Satanic Mills' actually references to Oxford & Cambridge Universities?
  11. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Eeny Meeny Miny Mo
    Destroy the environment?
    NO NO NO.

    There, sorted. And it rhymes so it's proper poetry.
  12. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    An open mind on climate change?

    In terms of....?
  13. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Blake's 'dark satanic mills' may actually have been a reference to the Albion Corn Mill which was established not far from his home, and which was huge and mechanised, putting many local traditional corn millers out of business. When the Albion Mill mysteriously burned down in a fire of indeterminate cause, said corn millers could be seen literally dancing in the ashes before they'd even settled.

    It wasn't necessarily a reference to cotton mills, although some believe otherwise. Author Alan Moore claims it was inspired by a mill in Northampton, but he would say that, because in his opinion the Universe centres on Northampton as eny fule kno. :)
  14. artboyusa

    artboyusa Star commenter

    Yes, dear. Anything you say, dear. You're right; everyone else is wrong. You're smart; everyone else is dumb. But you didn't bother to read James' essay, did you dear?
  15. artboyusa

    artboyusa Star commenter

    Scientists have often been wrong, poets seldom.
    Kandahar likes this.
  16. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter


    Kandahar likes this.
  17. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    So poets are more often right than scientists when talking about matters scientific? How many poets have won Nobel prizes for anything scientific? Made new discoveries about the universe or the Earth? Discovered or created a new treatment which has saved lives?
    Weald56 likes this.
  18. Kandahar

    Kandahar Star commenter

    Imagine the world minus Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci.

    And while the Romantics were warning about industrialisation, the scientists steamed ahead.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  19. artboyusa

    artboyusa Star commenter

    There goes the point, right over your head...
  20. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Style over substance, clearly for some a nicely presented preferred message is more important than the truth.

    I note that Mr. James was more then happy to have his life extended by scientifically developed treatments rather than relying on the power of poetry in any of the usual delivery methods, religion, crystal healing, aromatherapy, rubbing the affected area with a dead cat et.

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