Monday, August 20, 2007


The excellent online news magazine The First Post has published a right-on article on climate change and the attitudes of environmentalists, the article is brisk and to the point: if we are to deal with climate change we must adopt the attitudes of wartime, from TFP:

"...if they [environmentalists] really are sincere about acting on global warming, they must follow the example of wartime scientists, and give politicians solutions, not problems.

They must drop the notion that a perfect answer exists out there somewhere - if only enough time was spent dreaming it up. For example, no-one thinks nuclear power is the perfect solution to energy generation – but it beats the hell out of letting the lights go out.

There must also be an acceptance that there's neither the time nor resources to tackle every aspect of climate change. And that means drawing up invidious priority lists and building coalitions of the willing to tackle them. Self-indulgent campaigns aimed at making us all feel guilty – about, say, using cheap air travel, which is of trivial importance for climate change – are no way to do either."

(my bold print - I agree with that assessment of nuclear power entirely)

The miserabilist, holier-than-thou, and puritan-sounding PR of climate change activists hurts their campaign more than any amount of opposition from big business, like BAA. To quote some of the protesters (via Johann Hari's report in The Independent):

"Do you know the connection between your flight and the hurricanes and the floods and the droughts we are seeing intensify across the world? Do you care?" and "We are on a trajectory towards the extinction of life on earth. In the main, people have done this unwittingly, so it can be excused. But now we know what we are doing, and it cannot be excused."

I agree entirely with the sentiment of the people at the Camp for Climate Action: but I suspect that if the problem of climate change is to be solved it will require a certain amount of deviousness, compromise, sacrifice and propaganda.

SF-writer Karl Schroeder echoes some of these anti-progressive sentiments in an article on the WorldChanging blog. He posits the challenge facing us in terms of an opportunity to colonise Earth "as though it were a planet with no ecosystem resources to exploit".

Scientist and futurist Freeman Dyson (he of Dyson Swarm fame) also has something to say at about climate change, how we could repair the damage caused by global warming, and why "global warming" is a ridiculous oversimplification of something we're nowhere near understanding, from the article:

The biosphere is the most complicated of all the things we humans have to deal with. The science of planetary ecology is still young and undeveloped. It is not surprising that honest and well-informed experts can disagree about facts. But beyond the disagreement about facts, there is another deeper disagreement about values. The disagreement about values may be described in an over-simplified way as a disagreement between naturalists and humanists. Naturalists believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil. Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert, into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature. Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The greatest evils are poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, disease and hunger, all the conditions that deprive people of opportunities and limit their freedoms. The humanist ethic accepts an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a small price to pay, if world-wide industrial development can alleviate the miseries of the poorer half of humanity. The humanist ethic accepts our responsibility to guide the evolution of the planet."

Dyson has a lot to say: he also comments on the necessity of heretics when it comes to scientific debate - people need to keep asking questions and keep being sceptical.

Again the emphasis is on the challenge and the opportunity for expansion, rather than emphasising the negative aspects of our response to climate change.

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