Many UK Tories Still Sceptical of Climate Change Theory. Ha-ha!

25 Jan

Scepticism can be a very good thing. For instance, I am sceptical about the merits of late middle-aged executives who play golf and wear Lacoste shirts and like to talk about their cars. I find them boring. I prefer dirty bastards who get drunk in pubs at lunchtime. I am also sceptical about people like Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary of the British Government, who comes from an honourable Lib Dem tradition of changing one’s mind as soon as any point of principle comes under a little bit of pressure. Davey spent this week pressing for dilution of EU fixed targets on renewable energy. Why? Well, because right now fossil fuels and nuclear power are cheaper. Ah, right. No doubt Davey was given further incentive by the frowning figure of Cameron in the background, modulating his schoolmaster voice and giving him, and us all, a good lesson in what’s “sensible” (Favourite word no.1) and/or “decent” (Favourite word no.2). In this case there was no mention of decent people, only about the sensible things they want. And of course sensible people know that nothing is more dangerous than meddling with the markets. It could lead to left-wing policies, red tape, immigration, higher taxes, improved public services, and other bad things. Markets must choose their own way, more or less as flies will unerringly find the nearest lumps of shit.

For instance, Cameron and his gang of laissez-faire activists have wailed and sobbed against proposals for scientifically based EU legislation on fracking. The mere mention of “Brussels” seems to be enough to annoy the Government. England, this tiny principality, will have trouble finding bits of land not earmarked for housing or shopping centres, where they can frack away without unpleasant side effects to the environment and human health. But never mind, there shall be shale gas and oil, there shall be a market mechanism deciding these things, for while there is money to be made from it, it’s quite legitimate. That is the rule, and that must be so. Davey and Cameron have also been egged on by their backbenchers, alert to the scepter of the UK Independence Party haunting their steps. It creates a very unpleasant spiral of stupidity.

I was not so very surprised to hear that the Tory party still has a fair number of refuseniks who are sceptical of climate change theory. Scepticism, one concludes, is only a good thing when it is entertained by a good mind. A decent mind, even. A decent and sensible mind would defer to the overwhelming, crushing weight of scientific opinion. But oh no, not this brilliant gang of analysts, including Christopher Chope, the hon. member for Christchurch, nor Peter Lilley, an intellectual sniveller and heavyweight by anyone’s reckoning, nor the insightful member for Chichester, Andrew Tyrie, who interestingly compared the Climate Change Bill to the Dangerous Dogs Act. And then, of course, John Redwood, one would always expect to see his name on any compendium of villainy. He even resisted Thatcher, after all, which takes a very mutinous personality. I could go on, but I won’t. The names I have mentioned here are the flat earth and creationist thinkers of the political sphere – the decent people on whom David Cameron relies for his political survival. And he is very beholden to them. And willing to meet them halfway, cutting back on a bit of renewable energy here, holding a referendum on EU membership there, all in the interest of beating off the UKIP and keeping himself in power. Because, like his sacred role model Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron has a sexual fantasy that he will be the new saviour of Britain, calmly and strategically and very sensibly lifting his country from this vale of temporary gloom. Then, retiring to a rectory in Wiltshire and writing learned speeches on his struggle. We can be fairly certain that Mr. Cameron will not be retiring anywhere near a fracking site. He will be in a beautiful place, surrounded by other retired politicians. And who knows, maybe also a couple of sacked News International executives. They’ll have tea together. Ha-ha!

If it wasn’t so irritating it would be bloody hilarious.

4 Responses to “Many UK Tories Still Sceptical of Climate Change Theory. Ha-ha!”

  1. birkenkrahe January 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    Then again, the “good mind” of British physicist Freeman Dyson, neither a man of the left or the right, of Labour or Tory, and well known for his liberal views, can hardly be doubted. His sceptical position concerns both the scientific validity and the ostracism aimed at those wary of our ability to predict climate using today’s limited models — something I’ve been involved in myself as a young physicist 20 years ago.

    • Henning Koch January 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      With super-complex systems such as the weather we may never be able to fully predict what will happen. Hence we must apply the precautionary principle. In so doing we will also become more efficient and less reliant on dirty energy sources such as oil, coal and nuclear power. It’s a win-win situation. I think there is a need for systemic analysis of the problem, not dithering with details.

      • birkenkrahe January 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

        Good repose — I think “systemic analysis” is rather synonymous with “dithering with details”. Only politics can afford to neglect detail on behalf of action and accessibility, not science. Science that doesn’t dither with detail is a disaster — especially true for science that deals with complex systems (not all science does, obviously: solving algebraic equations is a luxury carried out best in splended isolation). The (for me) conceptually most interesting part of the Dyson interview is when he describes the (systemic!) nature of climate science 30 years ago and how it evolved since then (namely, not in the direction of systemic sciences—discrediting not just the power to “fully predict” but to predict at all with any degree of accuracy). There’s simply no alternative to dialogue and interdisciplinarity. As a scientist, I find the ideologization of the issues which concern our children and the future of the planet lamentable. As a parent, I’m worried and concerned. As a writer, I remain optimistic. I’m not sure how well these three get along…

  2. Henning Koch January 25, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    Sure, I take your point about science being concerned with details. But what I am saying is, a systemic analysis of a very complex problem is step one. For instance, one could conclude that falling to the ground from a height of 1 km. is always going to result in death. That is a systemic truth. The scientists could then amuse themselves by analysing whether the primary cause of death would be rupture of the aorta or brain seizure or some other catastrophic damage to the body. Are CO2 levels increasing as a result of human activity? Yes. Do higher CO2 levels tend to increase atmospheric temperatures? Yes. We can then go on to argue about how quickly this will happen, whether it will happen at all, or whether the human impact is quite as severe as some people say. Whether it is or not, the fact remains that the basic system definition still applies. This is the precautionary principle. Dealing with the systemic problem has secondary benefits anyway: advancing environmental technology and reducing pollution.
    Right now, people are using the secondary arguments to disagree about a very basic point of science.

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