Hello dear readers. I’m in a particularly frustrated mood this evening. I’ve had a great day climbing one of Yerevan’s nearby mountains, trudging through snow all day and having a lovely picnic on the summit. When I returned home, I read a particularly aggravating email, and so I wanted to share the situation with you, for little reason other than to get it off my chest and to give you an idea of what I get up to while I’m hanging around in Armenia for the winter.
You might have caught wind of a little political summit that will start in about a week’s time. It’s known as COP15 – the UN summit in Copenhagen at which the world’s leaders will supposedly drum out a politically-binding framework for controlling humankind’s effect upon the Earth’s climate.
Sadly, I can be fairly sure that some of you reading this will have bought into the idea that there is actually a scientific debate over whether or not we’re actually having any effect upon the climate.
You might have deduced that it’s all been invented (just the other day) in order to justify raising taxes, subjugating the Third World even further, or other such malignant political objectives on the part of the West.
Or you might have managed to cut through the empty rhetoric spewed by the likes of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, the legions of sensation-seeking filmmakers and journalists, and the propaganda mills of the rich and powerful, and actually look at the facts instead.
The writer of the email had obviously been bought by the denialist rabble. But why would I receive such an email in the first place?
Well, a few weeks ago, an Australian namedon his way to Copenhagen. Over a year earlier, he’d set off from Australia on a journey to collect anecdotal video clips from anyone he met on the way who had been affected by the changing climate (and have a bloody great adventure doing so). Ambitiously, he has also been trying to organise bicycle demonstrations in a number of the world’s major cities, all of which will happen on the 6th of December – the day before the summit is due to begin.
Due to some severely unlucky timing, I was unable to meet Kim in Armenia or Georgia, but as I’ve followed the science of anthropogenic global warming (as closely as any lay-person can) for many years, and I’d seen nothing but fallacious arguments to suggest a realistic consensus to the contrary, I agreed to organise Ride Yerevan. Plans are coming on well, and it is due to take place next Sunday.
But (and I cringe when I find myself having to write about it) Facebook’s raucous hordes had other ideas. A particularly vocal rebuttal to the idea that there was any point organising such an action was voiced by an Armenian lady whose name I shall not mention. “Every person is concerned about the environment,” she wrote. (As I was returning from Mount Hatis today, I watched one of the villagers wander over to the roadside verge and chuck a plastic bag of rubbish over the conveniently-placed lip and into the communal open-air rubbish dump. Normal? Yes.)
“I’m far from philosophical on this matter. I hope you’ve managed to read the news on the hacked computers from the Global Cimate [sic] Change Center, outlining dozens and dozens of e-mails and documents proving how certain Euro-Atlantic coalitions are “building-up” the argument on the global warming […] do your work and let the results speak for it, upon which the common sense (which I hold as a collective intuition of the people) will follow IF they see they’re truly under a threat.”
Well, it sent me over the edge. The Global Climate Change Center doesn’t even exist.
I’ve read one too many pieces of writing recently, which someone has incongruously filed under the heading ‘objective journalism’, that is so fundamentally flawed in its reasoning, so obviously engineered to cherry-pick and misquote climate science to death in order to support a predefined consensus, so sensationalist about such pathetically misinterpreted words, and followed by such hordes of readers whose defence mechanisms simply refuse to allow them to take reality on the chin, that I simply had to sit down and get it all out.
And here is the result. See what you make of it.
(Maybe I’m completely wrong and my children will laugh at me for ever believing such apocalyptic twaddle – they’re welcome – but I simply can not any more back down, reconsider my own opinion and then keep the result to myself. And maybe I’ll lose a few readers out of being so ratty. If I touch a nerve, I’m sorry.)
I’ve been following ‘both sides’ of the anthropogenic global warming
argument ever since it emerged AS an argument rather than simply a
growing body of scientific knowledge – which was only recently. Global
warming has long been something put into school geography textbooks as
a curiosity to be pondered and then forgotten about. Now it’s turned
out that the phenomenon has actual, real-world implications, and so
(as usual) the shouting of the interested parties on a political level
has become far louder than that of the climate scientists who have
been researching the field since the middle of the last century.
The current state of play is that climate scientists (those with a
professional reputation to consider, rather than a back-pocket full of
oil company dollars) are putting forward the evidence that a) the
global average temperature is rising and b) the cause is anthropogenic
– created by human activity. This evidence is (naturally) peer
reviewed and anyone who knows the methodology of climatology and its
related fields can reproduce the evidence for themselves using the raw
data which is freely available.
The ‘counter-argument’ is a disorganised media collective rallying
around the post of ‘denialism’. They excel in the false arguments of
cherry-picking, ad hominem, fallacies of single causes and more, all
wrapped up in a big package of confirmation bias and social conformity
– the natural desire to look to one’s peers in order to be right. They
are set to the task by their editors, who serve (as they always have)
a particular set of political interests depending on who their rich
friends are. They are funded and supported by interest groups (such as
the world’s big oil companies) with a frightening amount of wealth and
influence who are able to ‘buy’ climate ‘scientists’ and ‘research
centres’ – with no credentials – to support their ‘arguments’.
Obviously the oil companies (for example) stand to lose their raison
d’etre if the world moves away from fossil fuels, and have
demonstrated repeatedly in the past their unscrupulous approach to
this kind of ‘problem solving’, and have no problem misrepresenting
reality or falsifying it entirely in order to keep their business
So the argument boils down to fact vs rhetoric. And we all know the
way that such things play out in this thing we live in called
Denialism has been described as “the employment of rhetorical tactics
to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in
actuality there is none.” This is exactly the state of the ‘argument’
against the existence of anthropogenic global warming. I’ve done my
‘homework’, and not just a token effort the night before hand-in. [You]
could try http://www.realclimate.org as a starting point for reading
facts instead of rhetoric (watch, out, there might be some formulae
This politics of AGW is frustratingly full of people shouting ‘well
Georgia had the coldest winter on record in 2007/8, therefore global
warming doesn’t exist’, or other such misguided conclusions which
demonstrate nothing except the fact that there are many people in the
world who don’t understand the basic premises of logic, let alone the
science of palaeoclimatology.
Regarding this email hacking controversy, the ‘Global Climate Change
Center’ must be a figment of [Person X]’s imagination, because it doesn’t
exist. I assume she’s talking about the University of East Anglia’s
Climate Research Unit (CRU) in the UK. 13 years of emails between
climate scientists inside and outside the centre were stolen. A major
UK newspaper (the Daily Telegraph), whose editorship has joined the
global warming ‘denialist’ movement, ran a story about this 13 years’
worth of emails. Far from uncovering a global conspiracy ([Person X] has
obviously not read the emails or any objective summary of them), the
most damning quotes this newspaper (and others) could come up with
from 13 years of communication was that one of the CRU scientists
expressed a wish to punch another scientist. Not exactly a global
conspiracy to exaggerate/falsify the existence of global warming!
Now my motivations for suggesting a little bike ride in Yerevan town
centre have been defended, I should point out that I’m not criticising
society for creating the AGW problem. We didn’t even know about it
until a few decades ago. We were – with the best intentions – devoted
to the advancement of our emerging technical civilization. Now we’ve
got to change the way we’re doing it. Shock, horror – let’s dive under
the bed and pretend it’s not happening!
The point of the bike tour is to visibly show to the Armenian
leadership that there is a sector of society who are genuinely
concerned that Armenia’s future development in relation to the
environment takes place in a more responsible way than currently (see
the ACP/Teghut forest travesty for example, or call WWF Armenia and
ask them why they exist), and that this development is not restricted
by the greed of the developed world and its energy and material
demands. Is there anything to lose by making this statement? At least
we’ll get some fresh air and a little exercise!
There is also the power of the collective, which self-interested
individuals tend to forget about. A few minutes of video from Yerevan
sent to Copenhagen might dissolve into the fray, but the magnitude of
the fray itself is going to be enormous with the combined
contributions of countless other actions – all designed to remind the
world’s leaders at Copenhagen that they’d better not screw up because
there’s a hell of a lot of people watching.
I don’t want anthropogenic global warming to exist. But it does. So
I’m trying to do something constructive, however small, rather than
dive under the bed and pretend it’s not happening.
PS. The ‘collective intuition of the people’ recently held that the
world was a) flat and b) created about 8,000 years ago over the course
of 6 days of really hard work (see Genesis). Also, America didn’t
exist (it was India), the Sun orbited the Earth, and mercury (a highly
toxic liquid metal) was a great cure for constipation.
Time will tell, I suppose. I feel better now anyway…