It’s another tiny marker on the road to reality. Mike Hulme has admitted that Cooks 97% study is “infamous” and “irrelevant”. He’s trying to wash himself of both the “Consensus” argument and Cook’s work which he can see are becoming a liability. But make no mistake Hulme is more alarmist than ever. He’s just trying to rebrand the gravy train.
In Science can’t settle what should be done about climate change he’s not trying to argue from scientific authority. But–watch the pea–it is just a different form of authority — his. He’s trying to chuck both sides of the science debate under the bus-of-oblivion and pretend that science is completely irrelevant. With his mere statement that the science is settled (according to him), he’s hoping to get the policies discussed and stop people raising awkward points about the science.
What’s amazing is that anyone falls for this nonsense at all. It’s a naked attempt to divert the national conversation with statements that are self evidently inane. He wants us to discuss how much money to spend to change the weather, but not discuss how much the weather is going to change. What, no discussion of value for money–how much for 1C of warming-avoided, Mike? Again, it’s as if the climate is a Yes or No question, and half a degree equals three degrees. Let’s run the country without any numbers shall we?
Here’s his bland argument from his own authority, with the Yes:No assumption built in.
“What matters is not whether the climate is changing (it is); nor whether human actions are to blame (they are, at the very least partly and, quite likely, largely); nor whether future climate change brings additional risks to human or non-human interests (it does).”
Then here’s the incredibly weak followup — where the fact that the highest projections of the scientists on the No case overlap with the lowest projections of the scientists on the Yes case, means we should give up on figuring out whether it’s half a degree or three degrees. Really? These people are not good with numbers.
“As climate scientist Professor Myles Allen said in evidence to the committee, even the projections of the IPCC’s more prominent critics overlap with the bottom end of the range of climate changes predicted in the IPCC’s published reports.”
So our policy on the climate doesn’t depend on the truth about the climate? Surprise me. It was always about the politics all along. Copenhagen redux anyone?
Toss out the science?
It’s like the pea is hidden under a clear plastic cup. Does he think we can’t see it? To state the bleeding obvious, the amount we ought to drain from the economy depends very strongly on whether the warming will be small or large. Small warming will help plants grow, give longer growing seasons, produce more crops, reduce winter deaths, and methinks we ought spend exactly no dollars to avoid. Large warming has a totally different cost benefit ratio, which is harder to predict, and yes, we might want to turn the economy inside out.
Mike Hulme posts the four questions he hopes we will discuss. It’s a wish list, and all of them have built into them the unspoken assumption that the warming will be large, that we need to do something, that even democracy itself needs to be discussed.
He poses as someone who wants “debate” while he quietly tries to sweep the most important debate under the rug. It’s about “seeming”, and not about sense.
“As I have argued elsewhere, the most important questions to be asked about climate change extend well beyond science. Let me suggest four; all of which are more important than the committee’s MPs managed. They are questions which people should and do disagree about and they have no correct answer waiting to be discovered by science.
- How do we value the future, or in economic terms, at what rate should we discount the future? Many of the arguments about urgent versus delayed interventions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions revolve around how much less we value future public goods and natural assets relative to their value today. This is a question that clear-thinking people will disagree about.
If the warming is small, we don’t need to reduce greenhouses gases at all. Clear thinking people don’t ask what rate to discount nothing.
- In the governance of climate change what role do we allocate to markets? Many arguments about climate change, as about environmental management more generally, revolve around whether commodifying nature, by pricing environmental “goods” and “services”, is part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
If CO2 doesn’t make much difference, we don’t need governance. (What politician wants to hear that?)
- How do we wish new technologies to be governed, from experimentation and development to deployment? This question might revolve around new or improved low-carbon energy technologies (such as fracking, nuclear power, or hydrogen fuel), the use of genetically modified crops as a means to adapt to changing climate, or proposed climate engineering technologies. Again, these are not questions upon which science, least of all a scientific consensus, can adjudicate.
Renewables? We didn’t need to ask scientists in the first place, we just needed to let the free market work. If renewables were useful they’d make cheap electricity and everyone would want them.
- What is the role of national governments as opposed to those played by multilateral treaties or international governing bodies? This requires citizens to reflect on forms of democracy and representation. They are no less important in relation to climate change than they are in relation to state security, immigration or financial regulation.
Yes, finally a question that does not need science. It’s answered by history pretty darn well. Big Government has killed and incarcerated millions, shall we do that experiment again? Even in it’s most benevolent kind form (aka the EU) we see productive economies reduced to flaming wrecks, with mobs in streets rioting over their lost hand-outs and 50% youth unemployment.
Not only does he fool The Conversation editors (not much of a task), but many of the commenters fail to see the transparent ruse and the obvious contradictions. If we don’t care how much warming is coming, why not axe all the climate research right now? In one fell swoop we save billions. Let’s rush those funds towards studies on discount rates of more-or-less crops in 2100. And we don’t know if extra deaths are coming, but we ought know exactly what the cost of the death-or-not-death will be, right?
At the most optimistic I would say Hulme’s admission means only that one alarmist politician thinks that the alarmist scientists and the consensus arguments are starting to be a drag on the propaganda campaign, and his answer is try to reframe the debate, improbably, as if all scientists are irrelevant. Should skeptics call this a win? Not much – though it is a loss for Cook. But as long as our tax funds are used to pay editors and politicians who post transparent drivel it just means the debate has moved from one swamp to another. It’s progress I suppose on the road back from the climate cult, but it’s only a side-step.
This is the same old boring “the debate is over” argument. The only difference is this time he’s not lauding “The Scientists”, just pretending science is irrelevant and saying we should focus on politics.
In his dreams people would just assume that there is no debate. Those days are gone.