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A Brief Comment on Moderation

September 13, 2010

I regret that due to a rash of personal remarks, stereotypical obfuscation and bizarre denialist claims, I will now have to pre-moderate all commments from new posters. I tried leaving the blog open, but many people seem to confuse free speech with cheap speech – another detrimental facet of consumerism, I suspect.

I also want to make clear my position on this subject. There are innumerable places in the blogosphere where people can attack climate change science. This isn’t one of them. Deniers, skeptics, doubters, troofers, tin-foil fans – doesn’t matter what you call them, these discussions are pointless, stupid and the bitter fruit of very questionable motives.

I want this blog to be a place where people may constructively address the problems we face. I expect my views to be challenged, but not by repeating the many failed memes of climate denial – telling me why I’m wrong to think we need to address these problems, in other words – or that the problems don’t exist.

Challenge the solutions I discuss, the nature of consumersism or the difficulties of doing good science in such a politicised climate. Do not waste your time here attacking science, scientists, me or anyone else who supports the findings of good and honest men whose work and reputations are traduced and maligned by those will far less scruples and a lot more to gain. Climate denial is the voice of the mob, writ large across the internet. I can’t silence the mob and its baying ignorance, but I can at least keep it out of my house.

This article and others connected with it have described in detail the way that, under the cover of science, reputable people are lending that reputation to statements that science does not support. These statements are part of a propaganda war, they are dishonest and serve purposes that have little or nothing to do with serious debate. I will not entertain them, or the defence of the indefensible, in this blog.

If you want to air your grievances, want to express your many anxieties about hockey sticks, emails, science funding, world governments, communists, socialism, the UN, Illuminati, Bilderbergers, Gore, Mann, Hansen, Monbiot, treehuggers, environmental nazis, tax and control and other brainless conspiracies that are as illogical and impractical as they are fearful – go somewhere else.

For the rest of my visitors, if you are looking for somewhere you don’t have to wade through mud, this is the place for you, and I hope you always feel welcome here.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. Neil Winder permalink
    September 13, 2010 8:11 am

    You’ll get a bit of criticism for this decision but it’s the right one. Good for you.

  2. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 13, 2010 8:39 am

    Thanks Neil – at least I’ve been forthright about it rather than secretive, even though the latter method would present less of a target.

    I will tell you this has troubled me very much, but recent threads in this blog convinced me that all my work could easily be derailed by those who choose to attack me, attack science, just generally attack things. I want to engage in constructive debate, and since it’s blindingly obvious I’m going to be wrong sometimes, I have a powerful obligation to keep an open mind – something I think I achieved in the recent discussion about nuclear power, for example. Arguments put to me on that subject were well constructed – to the extent I could not disprove them – so I must be candid and admit that others have equally valid views when they take issue with mine.

    But on climate change science in particular, there is a curious issue that comes up. One unfortunate challenge I deleted yesterday put the matter in a common form – one poster’s opinion about science versus my opinion . I have observed many times that deniers/skeptics etc have only personal opinions, so they naturally view all debate in that context. In fact, I have no personal opinion about climate change at all. Really. The reason is simple: I do not conflate politics or any other kind of ideology with science. I simply report what science says, hate the whole notion of climate change, resent the changes to my own life that are mandated by the science, and none the less accept and respect that the science describes the probabilities of AGW accurately and without much bias.

    I do not care for climate change and wish with all my heart it was wrong. I am an advocate for numerous changes that will be detrimental to me personally (I’ve expanded on this theme here). I am not pursuing some agenda, I’m simply reporting what science says today. If tomorrow, science says ‘hey, we got it wrong – it’s not us’ then that would also be my message tomorrow (once I’d sobered up).

    I want to discuss this issue constructively, based on what the science says. I’m not qualified to dispute it, nor are most deniers. Those ‘sceptics’ who are, like Pielke, who then invest the science with their own distaste, their own fears, their own ideological preferences or agendas, do us all a great disservice with the spin they put on the science. I have not disputed Pielke’s work, I have disputed his certainty, his unqualified statements and the ammunition he gives to unscrupulous demagogues and members of the public who depend on such memes for credibility. If the Pielkes, Lindzen, Christy, Spencer, Michaels et. al. shut up shop, the denial brigade would have to nominate Sarah Palin, ‘Bedwetter’ Monckton, Nick ‘Holocaust Denial’ Griffin and Glenn Beck as their most credible spokespersons. That would be a monumental setback, I believe.

    I will continue to take these people to task, but I will not countenance attacks on me any more than I will mount personal attacks on them. I take issue with what they say, not who they are. The remarks I have removed do the opposite, fail relentlessly to address the topics I write about, and choose instead to hijack every thread with cod-scientific attacks – this last being the thing I most want to avoid, the constant hijacking that overtakes every Guardian thread, for example. Deniers can go somewhere else to do that, and the fact they will condemn me for taking this stance is as inevitable as global warming itself.

  3. September 13, 2010 2:20 pm

    Hi Graham

    Just re-read the thread about nuclear power. Great to see sensible, well-informed debate about how best to power the UK and other nations, without reading nonsense from climate change deniers muddying the water.

    You’re right to not give these views a platform.

    Matthew

  4. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 13, 2010 3:17 pm

    Hey Matt – how are you? Thing about that thread was that David C, Adelady, Byron and Hengist all made such good points I had to reconsider my own views – and I am now less certain than I was (although the ‘improvement’ issue stands merely as a technological point). That, to me, is the point of the discussion – stick to the topic, respect the views being expressed and consider always you might be wrong. This debate was in the realm of opinion: climate science will never be moved at all by opinion, and as soon as we go down the road of pretending it can be debated in that context, the topic is lost. The LIA item shows that all too well, where we end up talking about something else and the thread is hijacked by sceptics.

  5. September 13, 2010 5:39 pm

    Hi Graham

    Yes, the thread has also made me consider my thoughts on nuclear. David C argues such a good case. Since I read James Lovelock’s book I’ve been rattling on to people about the need to go nuclear.

    I run a home improvement company and have avoided getting into the solar panel market because I’ve felt that if the government needs to pay a feed in tariff then it must be an inefficient method of energy creation. Yet, there’s an argument that if someone invests £10K on a solar panel, at least they won’t be spending the money on a car (or whatever). And, as the market develops they become more efficient and cost effective

    If I could believe in Solar PV then I’d invest myself in one for my home, and then look at retailing them to others. Do you have a view on this?

    Matthew

    PS. Sorry I’ve changed the topic. Maybe email me if you have a view 😉

  6. September 13, 2010 6:08 pm

    Ooooooooooooooooh get her.
    I take it occasional sarcasm will get past your censorious iron fist 😉

  7. September 13, 2010 6:12 pm

    I realise decisions like this are difficult, but I agree that it is better to be upfront about it and set out what you believe the parameters for a healthy discussion are.

  8. King In Yellow permalink
    September 13, 2010 7:06 pm

    As a proponent of free speech, this is a sad day.
    However, when free speech is abused repeatedly, and maliciously to regularly spread falsehoods as it is being done by the deniers then sometimes you have to throw them into the gaol and lock the door.

    All the best.

  9. King In Yellow permalink
    September 13, 2010 7:07 pm

    Interesting – I seem to be a “new poster” as I am awaiting moderation….?
    😉

    Is the line in the and being drawn now (serious question) ?

    All the best

  10. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 13, 2010 8:51 pm

    King – that was weird. No idea what went on there.
    Byron – thank you
    Hengist – first laugh I’ve had over this. Top man!
    Matthew – no problem, I’m glad to be diverted. I’m going to take a small liberty however and move your post over to that nuclear thread, and I’ll respond there.

  11. elsa permalink
    September 13, 2010 10:31 pm

    As a complete sceptic (and that is actually a sceptic of what you would call denialist “science” as well as your own warmist “science”) I would just like to say you have been a star hosting all of this. And sorry if there has been any trouble from others on my behalf.

  12. September 14, 2010 3:50 pm

    PS While we’re reflecting on your blog, can I put in a request for a search box? I was just looking for an old post and it took me a few minutes to locate it.

  13. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 14, 2010 4:57 pm

    Byron – no problem…

  14. September 14, 2010 5:07 pm

    Thanks!

  15. September 14, 2010 8:44 pm

    Seriously tho it’s interesting that you should reach this conclusion now. Jo Abbess is moaning about it too. And Ive put some thoughts down in Liberal Conspiracy which always attracts the denier crowd.

    If you’ve got a strong stomach check out the comments (77 so far)
    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/09/11/how-the-bbc-manufactures-ignorance-on-climate-change/#comments

    It seems to go like this: LC is monitored by right wingers and deniers who tweet anything on climate , and deliver a virtual flashmob. Although I am writing about the coverage of AGW they attack the science , expect me to defend it, then judge my responses against their skeptical prejudices . When that doesn’t meet their expectations they suggest I shouldn’t be writing about climate ( in a harsh tone) . The original article is never addressed by the deniers, they can just undermine my observations with tin foil hat claims.

    This doesn’t happen with any other field that I know of, or maybe it does, I dunno.
    I’m all for freedom of speech but the global warming debate is so heated that moderation is sometimes necessary. The luxury of being able to rely on the science is with AGW proponents. It is with a great deal of regret that that needs to be defended , and that the denier crowd can’t see that.

  16. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 15, 2010 7:28 am

    Hengist – as I discussed in my post about Pielke and journalism, it’s part of a greater pattern. In fact, you’ll see exactly the same tactics in discussions of evolution v creationism, for example. And where science isn’t involved, the rhetorical tricks change tack a little, but the slippery nature of the debate, the straw-men, the sophistry, personalisation and the self-righteous indignation is very similar. What’s curious to me is that nearly all those we find ourselves arguing with are notably and remarkably certain they are right, yet inevitably depending on even less evidence than we have – or indeed no evidence at all.

    Climate change denial, by virtue of the complete lack of scientific evidence to support it, is akin to a superstition. It cannot be argued fairly or logically, and so the patterns of propaganda become evident very quickly in any debate – condemnation, accusations of fraud, corruption, vested interest and all the rest – and because there are a lot of scared and bewildered people out there who don’t understand the shape of the world, these scare stories gain traction. We are often accused of being ‘alarmist’ but the strange thing is that sceptics and deniers spend all their time trying to alarm the public with lurid tales of conspiracy, world governments, tax and control.

    It turns out that, to the general public, the idea that other people are conspiring against their best interests is far more believable than the notion it is their own actions that are threatening their future. We’ve never been good at being responsible for our own actions, and the knee-jerk denialism we see on contentious subjects is how that irresponsibility is defended.

  17. adelady permalink
    September 15, 2010 8:18 am

    It’s common in several areas. I’ve no interest in the creation-evolution sites, but just try a medical site. Any mention of vaccination and the anti-vaxxers swarm like bees. And they do it in exactly the same way.

  18. September 15, 2010 3:14 pm

    Cheers guys, actually for a while I was dealing with “the earth is cooling” meme. I’d like to take this opportunity to coin the word ‘coolist’ meaning people who press that notion . On second thoughts sounds like the superlative for cool.

  19. elsa permalink
    September 16, 2010 10:36 pm

    I don’t like to see creationism and what you describe as climate change denial equated in any way. Creationism is a falsifiable proposition and has been falsified. Parts of what you call denialism can be falsified such as the claim that the world is not warming, although I would doubt that we are in a position to say that such warming as has taken place is anything out of the ordinary. Climate change denial in the wider sense does not need to backed by science because it is the climate change believers that ask mankind to change massively. The onus should therefore be on them to show that they are right (or perhaps more correctly not wrong) or at the very least come up with a falsifiable proposition. This they have not in any way done. All they have done is produce a flimsy correlation between temperature and CO2 (dressed up in complex mathematics that purports to but does not prove the case in any way at all). It is their forecasts that unless mankind lives a hairshirt existence from now on we will all burn that resembles the unscientific old testament prophets not the deniers who are for the most part not deniers but doubters of the scientistic approach of the warmist believers.

    I very much like the idea of a medical site. Something about homeopathy or chiropracty would be particularly good. I can feel an efluxion coming on as I write.

  20. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 17, 2010 8:17 am

    Elsa – creationism is utterly non-falsifiable and it has never, ever, been falsified. (If you are going to make claims like that, you better link to the proofs because I think you just made that up).

    You cannot prove or disprove God, and that’s the real problem with trying to discuss it. One side – evolution – depends on a long chain of robust, inferential evidence. The other depends on faith alone, since evidence is simply not possible to provide (where would you even start looking for ‘proof’ of God?).

    The analogy is in fact very apt, because sceptics like yourself cannot falsify the theory of AGW (or haven’t yet, to be scrupulously fair). To save time, here’s how to falsify AGW: prove what is causing the climate to change, because by providing evidence for the ‘other’ causal mechanism, you eliminate AGW.

    We have a clear, definable phenomenon – the climate is changing globally. Something must be causing the change, catalysing it, contributing to it. The only theory that currently works, that fits all the evidence reasonably well, and that conforms to the laws of physics and chemistry consistent with Tyndall, Arrhenius et. al. – is AGW. There is no other hypothesis, let alone one supported by evidence, that can account for the empirical evidence. Crack that problem and I’ll be the first to concede the entire issue.

    All they have done is produce a flimsy correlation between “fossils” and “complexity” (dressed up in complex “physics” that purports to but does not prove the case in any way at all).

    Here, I’ve taken your quote and changed three words – temperature becomes fossils, CO2 becomes complexity, mathematics becomes physics (carbon dating) – to demonstrate the very exact parallel between climate change denial and creationism arguments. You’re aligning yourself with the very forces of darkness I think you want to oppose, and you’re using their arguments to do so.

    It is their forecasts that unless mankind lives a hairshirt existence from now on we will all burn that resembles the unscientific old testament prophets not the deniers who are for the most part not deniers but doubters of the scientistic approach of the warmist believers.

    That entire paragraph is hyperbolic guff. Hard to respect you or your viewpoint when you indulge in such hysterical amateur dramatics. I always think that when people start laying on the fear and anxiety it demonstrates they can’t muster decent arguments that hold together under scrutiny.

    Note too that while I’m referred to as an alarmist, I’m constantly urging moderate, timely intervention to maintain order and the standard of living we now have – it’s sceptics that constantly try to scare people with this ‘back to the dark ages’ stuff – along with tax, control, socialism, Marxism, world governments, fearful conspiracies and all the rest. Here’s a challenge: I say you made this point up (a habit!). Try to find a single quote anywhere on my blog or in my Guardian profile where I’ve advocated anything even remotely like this.

  21. elsa permalink
    September 17, 2010 10:42 am

    It depends what you mean by creationism as to whether or not it is falsifiable. The basic fairy story that the world came about in seven days is demonstrably nonsense. Now of course you then get the “sophisticated” version that the story should not be taken literally but should rather be taken in some other way. This way then alters from time to time as more and more evidence is uncovered that gives the creationist version a problem. The reworked version of my text that you give does not apply to evolution. Evolution is a theory that could most definitely be falsified. To date it has not been and indeed things that were not available to Darwin, such as DNA testing are completely consistent with the theory. I think your swapping of “physics” for “mathematics” is probably not what you mean.

    The “sophisticated” version of creation is the one that comes close to the CO2 warmist view. When the temperature does not rise but CO2 does the warming is explained by “other factors” rendering the CO2 theory beyond falsification.

    You say if I come up with a better theory you will abandon warmism. My point is I don’t have a better theory. I don’t pretend to have an explanation. The position that unless I have a “better” theory the warmist one should be kept is like saying that creationism ought to have been accepted as true until Darwin came along with something better. The fact that the creationist story was the only one available did not make it right.

    While you may not have the hairshirt tendency (and my comment was about warmists generally not you specifically) many warmists do – take a look at Simon on the LIA post if you want an example of a 21 st century gloom laden prophet!

  22. elsa permalink
    September 17, 2010 3:34 pm

    PS How about a crank medicine post. I love Adelady’s idea of the anti vaccination lobby though my personal favourite is chiropractic. Should you ever be bored and in an airport, as I was, there is an excellent book by Rose Shapiro about these “medical” practices which you can read while waiting for your plane. I think on balance the biggest fraud of the lot is chiropractic but there are some close contenders. Prince Charles has (maybe had) a website dedicated to this nonsense. Surprisingly my views did not make it through his moderation process so you should not apologise for moderating, the end result is a million times more liberal than the site promoted by our future king.

  23. Graham Wayne permalink*
    September 17, 2010 3:56 pm

    Elsa: “It depends what you mean by creationism as to whether or not it is falsifiable”.

    Now you are being disingenuous – this is sophistry and it fools nobody when you try to split hairs or hide behind pendantry. Creationism is the theory that a ‘superior being’ or intellect created man, not an evolutionary process.

    “You say if I come up with a better theory you will abandon warmism”.

    No, I say that someone has to come up with one. The way to falsify AGW – which you have claimed is not falsifiable – is to demonstrate some other plausible mechanism. Nobody has managed that in 30 years of concentrated research.

    Can I point out you do this a lot – you make a claim, it’s challenged, so you move on without addressing it. Byron is still waiting for responses to a thorough rebuttal of some other claims you have made. This is not a respectful way to debate – create straw men and leave them like litter all over the place, or just duck the issues you bring up with ‘depends how you define…”

    If you don’t start debating the issues you yourself raise, and be intellectually honest about valid rebuttals, I will be obliged to consider your posts superfluous to the best interests of this blog. I’m really not going to ask you many more times about this, so if you value discussion you better start engaging in it properly. If you don’t you’ll have to find somewhere else to post. This is the last time I’m going to say this.

  24. September 17, 2010 4:38 pm

    I broadly agree with Graham’s comments about what it takes to engage in constructive conversation. I am going to leave the misunderstandings about the difference between traditional Christian teaching on creation and the (largely) modern phenomenon of creationism (though it is a bit like not distinguishing between valuing community and communism or valuing liberty and liberalism).

    Instead, I’d like to focus on one comment you made that I think is genuinely morally and epistemically interesting.

    Climate change denial in the wider sense does not need to backed by science because it is the climate change believers that ask mankind to change massively. The onus should therefore be on them to show that they are right (or perhaps more correctly not wrong) or at the very least come up with a falsifiable proposition.

    This is the matter of the burden of proof. But who bears the burden of proof by asking for changes depends on your frame of reference. If you only look within the last few decades and assume that human behaviour during that time is “normal”, then I’ll grant that taking action on climate change does appear something of a novelty. However, on a longer time frame, industrialism and its assumption that we can treat the atmosphere as an endless waste dump without reference to the long term costs is the novelty. We are already in the middle of a grand experiment with the atmosphere (and oceans), making changes to the chemical composition of these vast bodies on a scale and rate hitherto unthinkable. We have not yet woken up to our own strength and to the novelty of our actions in doing this. So in my opinion, those who think we ought to continue this experiment are the ones with the greater burden of proof

  25. elsa permalink
    September 20, 2010 10:50 am

    I think you do me an injustice about creationism and that “It depends what you mean by creationism as to whether or not it is falsifiable” is quite true. If you take the basic genesis story it is quite falsifiable and demonstrably wrong. Then the creationists move the goalposts. As more evidence comes to light they move them again. They even in some cases get to the point of saying that the miraculous process of creation had such an effect that e.g. carbon dating is pointless because the process made everything appear to be older than it really is. Clearly such a theory cannot be falsified. I don’t want to labour creationism too much because actually I think, certain finer distinctions aside, that we agree on the subject.

    I am sorry if I used the word “I” as opposed to “someone” but I don’t think it alters my basic premise that you do not need a better theory for the CO2 hypothesis to be wrong. Just as creationism was not right before Darwin. I would quite accept that a better theory would help enormously in dispensing with the widespread acceptance of the CO2 view but the fact that there isn’t one does not make the CO2 view right.

    I think I tried to answer each of Byron’s points and I had hoped that they had been dealt with. I accepted his point on past predictions of cooling/warming and I also accept that I have not dealt fully with the models point (this though lack of time) although I think my short comments about models addressed what he was saying at the time. If there are particular points that you think I have not addressed then do list them. It may be my fault because I had to be away for a few days and maybe I lost the thread of the arguments. I can assure you however that it was not intentional.

    As far as Byron’s point on this posting is concerned I would say that his comment pre-judges the science. He assumes he is correct and that we must do something about CO2. The assumption is then dressed up in emotional language such as “we can treat the atmosphere as an endless waste dump without reference to the long term costs” . My point is we do not really know about the effects of CO2. There may be some small things we can do that cost little or nothing to reduce CO2 emissions and there is no reason to hold back on those. But to have a significant impact we need to change what we do drastically. This substitution of high cost energy for low cost energy will be massively expensive and at the margin will cost lives. To act on the basis of an unproven theory that costs lives is not something we should do lightly, however gloom laden the forecasts of the 21st century Jeremiahs. And underneath Byron’s comment is a basic acceptance that the science is not proven (“We are already in the middle of a grand experiment with the atmosphere”) although elsewhere you both treat the CO2 hypothesis as a fact.

  26. September 20, 2010 4:20 pm

    To act on the basis of an unproven theory that costs lives is not something we should do lightly
    When I said that we are already in the middle of a grand experiment with the atmosphere, I was referring not to the state of the science, but to the fact that human actions have significantly altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This is not unproven theory, but simple measurement. This experiment was begun on the basis of a largely unspoken and so unproven theory (that significantly altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere will be benign). This is the novel element that bears the burden of proof.

  27. elsa permalink
    September 20, 2010 10:38 pm

    Byron, you mix two different items in your comment. One is the rise in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The second is the effect that the increased CO2 may have on global temperatures.
    The first we do not disagree on as having taken place nor do either of us, I think, believe that it is in itself an experiment. The second is a matter of disagreement. You, through some means or another, know (I would say believe) that the rise is significant and that it will have a material effect on global temperatures.
    I think what you are now saying is that we have entered into an experiment to see whether the increase in CO2 increases temperature significantly. I am not sure that I would agree with you over that. I think mankind mostly saw fossil fuels as a cheap and effective way of replacing manual labour; rightly or wrongly the effects of CO2 were not considered. But I think my point remains: when you describe it as an experiment you are effectively conceding that we do not know the outcome, as indeed we do not. What you now propose is a truly massive change in the way mankind does things on the basis of an unproven theory that a small change in the composition of the atmosphere will bring about a substantial change in temperature and that the effects of the change will not be benign. It is because you ask for so much that the onus is on the warmists to come up with a much better case than they have done to date.

  28. adelady permalink
    September 20, 2010 11:24 pm

    No, Elsa, “mankind” does not do things in the way you describe. A significant portion of it, the OECD countries, has been doing things this way and now others are joining in.

    I very much doubt that more than a handful of the people who lost their homes, their crops or their lives in the Pakistan floods would see “a massive change” to distributed, renewable power generation as a bad thing, economic or otherwise, affecting the way they’ve lived their lives until now. They’ve never lived an easy life the way *we* do. Nor would most of the half a billion Indians living below the international poverty line nor many other groups on such a list.

    What we have to bear in mind all the time that the lifestyle of the USA requires 5 planets to support it. The last time I checked my global footprint I was over 2 planets – I’m not happy about that but I’m not putting in the effort to redesign the assumptions underlying the program in question. I very much doubt whether I could get it down to 1 planet anyway – because of the infrastructure of where I live.

    We have to learn to do without fossil fuels some time. We might as well start sooner rather than later. I’d like to think that my grandchildren’s grandchildren will have enough oil resources to take advantage of advanced carbon fibre technologies. They won’t if we greedily waste it now.

  29. elsa permalink
    September 21, 2010 9:55 am

    Adelady, I have tried to put aside your emotional language that hides what it is that you are trying to say. This amounts to:

    1. The OECD countries use a lot of energy.
    2. People in Pakistan (I’m not sure why Pakistan is singled out for this honour unless you are saying that OECD induced climate change caused the recent floods) would not mind if the OECD countries changed their sources of enery because it would not affect them.
    3. The USA (how surprising!) uses lots of energy as do you.
    4. Fossil fuels will run out.

    I am not sure in what way these statements (with the possible exception of 2) have any relationship to climate change. A number of points arise from what you say:

    1. I agree with what you say. However other countries have long used fossil fuels as well albeit not in the same quantities. Fortunately for them many other countries now have the chance to use more and are taking it. In China they open a new power station every week so the people there, who starved under communism, can now start to live like you and me with a warm house, transport and labour saving devices.

    2. The substitution of expensive energy for low cost energy will benefit no-one. A switch by other countries to expensive energy is most unlikely to benefit Pakistan and quite likely to hurt it.

    3. Well I guess the US just had to be singled out for a special mention.

    4. As the fossil fuels deplete they will become more expensive and people will switch to other sources of energy. I suspect that long before the oil runs out it will have ceased to be used in huge quantities. As Sheikh Yamani put it, the stone age did not end because the world ran out of stone. In the short term I suspect there is going to be a huge increase in the amount of coal used because it’s very very plentiful.

    If you really feel the need to reduce your “global footprint” (whatever that may mean) I don’t think you should use the excuse that you cannot do it where you live. If it’s that important I suggest you move. As a more positive suggestion I would recommend that you look around you and see all the fantastic things that there are in the world. That we do not need to do backbreaking work or live in freezing hovels that we can travel all over the world cheaply and find that most of our small families survive infancy. Yes there are problems but we mostly live lives that are beyond the dreams of our ancestors. You are even able to afford the time to write your pessimistic drivel, an opportunity given to you by cheap energy and a market economy.

  30. adelady permalink
    September 21, 2010 2:29 pm

    Why on earth do you think that fossil fuel energy is cheap? As far as prices go, the only way for fossil fuels is up, and the combination of technical improvements and larger scale implementation is bringing renewable prices down. I don’t know the slopes of the graph lines, but I’m absolutely sure that one day in the foreseeable future not the remotely distant future , the price advantage is going to swap over.

    Where on earth would I, and all the people like me, move to? We’re far better off staying where we are and supporting and voting for mass transit or urban redesign or whatever will most improve the way people live in our own communities. I don’t matter as an individual. Individuals are most effective acting in concert with others.

    Sorry if the pessimism offends you. Normally I’m quite positive about innovation and technical improvement, but not the last couple of days.

  31. September 21, 2010 5:19 pm

    Elsa, you continue to misrepresent my comments. Not sure how many times I should repeat myself here.

    The first we do not disagree on as having taken place nor do either of us, I think, believe that it is in itself an experiment.
    I do disagree. Human activities have changed the chemical composition of atmosphere and oceans on a grand scale. Unwittingly, we have entered an experiment in which we don’t know the outcome, but based on predictions based on solid observation (of a huge variety of kinds), physical laws understood and established for decades or centuries, and sophisticated computer modelling, we have little reason to think the outcome will be benign and plenty to think it likely to be harmful.

    That grand experiment is what stands in need of justification.

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