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Guardian Watch: Open letter to Monbiot on the CRU investigations

July 8, 2010

Well George, I’m glad you apologised although like others I think you could have been a bit more fulsome about it. But never mind – perhaps now we can consider what we’ve learned (and what deniers are never, ever, going to admit).

Denialism is one long, concerted, disinformation campaign, to which you became an unwitting recruit. This happened at least in part because you have invested so much of yourself in the climate change debate that you could not but feel, as I did, a terrible sense of disappointment and dismay when our work suffered such a setback – CRU, the farce that was COP15, and some errors in IPCC reports.

This, as I recall, came on the back of your admission that we were losing the battle (which we’re not), and your over-reaction to the events of last year were, I believe, a product of your intense sense of failure – not your own, so much as a failure of society, of science, of education and politics. What I suggest you need to consider is the matter of outliers. The trend in warming is the issue, just like the trend in the public discourse regarding climate change. CRU and the IPCC issues have strengthened climate change science, hasn’t really dented public opinion much either way, and the ice has just relentlessly kept on melting.

So let’s remember where we are, and what we’re about. The ice is melting and the loss of mass is accelerating. The cryrosphere is the biggest thermometer we’ve got and it is telling us something really unequivocal. Perhaps now we can get back to the science, and the important debate; adaptation versus mitigation.

It is clear that we will not mitigate climate change, assuming it was ever possible that we could. I believe that train left the station quite a while ago, so perhaps us concerned pundits should move on and start thinking of practical damage limitation. The problems have not gone away, any more than this issue will now disappear from this and other media streams. Others will pick over the carcass of climategate for years to come, just as they do the hockey stick. Let’s not emulate them, but move the debate to higher ground before the floods drown us all.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/jul/07/russell-inquiry-i-was-wrong

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2010 12:41 pm

    Thanks, a polite and constructive letter.

    One thought: It is clear that we will not mitigate climate change, assuming it was ever possible that we could. I believe that train left the station quite a while ago, so perhaps us concerned pundits should move on and start thinking of practical damage limitation.
    I assume you mean “avoid” rather than “mitigate”, which is basically the same as “practical damage limitation”. Or do you mean that we cannot even reduce the severity of ACC and so should focus purely on adaptation?

  2. gpwayne permalink*
    July 8, 2010 2:02 pm

    Hi Byron 🙂

    Some clarification then: mitigation is for me the process of rapidly reducing our CO2 output world-wide, peaking around 2020 (to allow for developing countries requirements) then falling. This is the scenario in which we restrict the rise in temperature to around 2 degrees.

    It isn’t that I believe we cannot reduce the severity of ACC, it is that we are not going to do so. I’ve written about this elsewhere, the basic premise being that a democratic system will not tolerate great change that is percieved by the public as a reduction in quality of life, and that politicians will not enact legislation that will get them kicked out of office for sure at the next election. The public will not get behind climate change mitigation until they can see it (e.g. water coming in under the door, to put it crudely), by which time it will most likely be far too late.

    So basically, as you suggest, I’m saying we should concentrate on adaptation. I believe the government may be thinking much the same thing – the drive to relieve us of so many of our civil liberties may have less to do with political terrorism than it does projections of domestic unrest. You can get a feel for this if you review the US military security assessments – internal and external – in respect to climate change, where civil unrest weighs high on the agenda. Have a look at this compilation by Greenman by way of thought provoking material:

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