Thursday, January 03, 2008

Frying Tonight

On the subject of the "Environmental Crisis" facing us I replied to a comment on an earlier post with these words:

"It’s all part of the logical impossibility of negative proof and the difficulties in showing causal effects in [very] complex systems. What we are dealing with here is probabilities and Risk Management. Unfortunately we don’t have another planet or two upon which to test our hypotheses."

Stephen FryStephen Fry [the Actor] has been thinking along these lines too on his blog. It is a lengthy piece so I will attempt to summarise as best I can.

There are three types says Stephen. Type As, the believers. Types Bs, the non-believers. And Type Cs, the don’t knows. Type As argue for action to avert the crisis, Type Bs say no action is necessary and Type Cs fall in with the Type Bs.

Stephen goes on to argue that the key determinant of this impasse is not who is right or wrong, but what is at stake – our civilisation or even the survival of our species.

If the Type As are wrong and there is no crisis, it does not matter if they succeed in getting their way on proposed action – we still survive. However, if we believe Type Bs are right and they turn out to be wrong we are in real trouble.

For most of us, and let’s face it most of us don’t really understand the science, it is a game of Risk Management. And there are organisations that have a political or financial agenda on BOTH sides of the debate. So, who or what do we trust?

What I find odd is that the Type Bs are those most likely to argue for a strong Military and border controls to deal with external threats, “just in case”.


  1. Very true.

    However, I was chatting to an in-law at a funeral recently - unlike most of our family he is a staunch Conservative, and very much 'type B'.

    But after joking with this gentleman about how global warming is a left-wing plot, I soon found that we could heartily agree about the delights of the outdoors, and lament the drastic decline in quality of life in England over recent years.

    If it wasn't for the 'dialectical materialists' and fellow travellers constantly trying to control and frame the debate in their own polarised terms, the world might well be a much greener and ecologically sustainable place.

  2. The use of the word 'believers' is significant.

    "Global warming/CO2 emissions" has become a new religion, and those of us who are sceptics are treated as heretics.

    One could even liken the ludicrous (and hideously expensive) knees-up in Bali to the excesses of the pre-Reformation Papacy: don't do as we do, do as we tell you.

    Finally, let's stop confusing 'global warming caused by nasty humans' with caring for the environment - the two are not synonymous.

  3. That's an interesting final sentence, Judith. And one that I would like to explore. Would you care to expand? Off-line if you like.

  4. Your notes on climate change type A nutters ignores - as do they - the certain ghastly effects of their daffy prescriptions for wrecking the world's financial and industrial economy by dragging everyone back to the stone age. Subsisting on raw carrots and the occasional nut or berry might appeal to them and you, but sounds extremely unattractive to me. So does walking to Wiltshire for my holiday, rather than motoring

    The climate change industry is keen to perpetuate its views by scare tactics, designed mainly to foster research grants irrespective of the validity of the so-called science. It seems to be mostly run by people with total disregard for truth and reasonableness, who present wild assumptions as if proven facts, rather than the gross exaggerations of self-serving speculation

    I know their prescriptions will be disastrous. I doubt their predictions will come to pass - and if they do, so what?

  5. Douglass,

    "the certain ghastly effects" "I know their prescriptions will be disastrous."

    What are the reasoned arguments behind these two statements? I accept that some Type As are "nutters", I've met some of them. Equally some Type Bs are also "nutters", I've met some of these too. It would be a fool who tries to curb Human Enterprise, either individual or collective. Equally those who ignore Human failings, such as greed and gluttony, also are fools.

    Science is a tricky subject. All evidence has to be interpreted. The process of interpretation inevitably means that the result is filtered through the belief system [we all have one, even you and I] of the interpreter which in turn will have been fashioned by "socialisation" and current "accepted conventional wisdom".

  6. Yup, agreed - nutters on both sides of any fanatical divide [very possibly I'm one of them]

    Briefly, the reasoning is that unilateral UK promises of arbitrary reductions in carbon emissions by equally arbitrary dates are entirely nonsensical in terms of their [negligible] impact on the global situation. EVEN supposing that carbon emissions have anything at all to do with global warming. And EVEN supposing that global warming exists anyway. Both these propositions appear to be highly suspect. That they are widely believed by Joe Soap is no proof of their validity. That they are widely advanced by academics with a powerful vested interest in gaining sponsorship funds for interesting research is equally no proof of their validity. That they are used by the ambitious and unscrupulous European Union centralists as a further tool to extend their already frighteningly extensive control over our lives is a further reason to distrust the whole shebang. My belief system leads me to treat with the utmost suspicion what looks like a bandwagon, and a patently dishonest one at that

    On the other side of the argument, there will be gigantic costs associated with making these changes to carbon emissions, which will come out of my pocket [eg in artificially elevated electricity tariffs to subsidise hideous, noisy, inefficient and above all intermittent wind farm generation]. On the wider national scale, imposing costs on UK businesses which are not imposed on our competitors puts our economy at a disadvantage, so we as a country suffer, to no benefit to ourselves

    The moral leadership argument, should anyone advance it, can be dismissed out of hand with one glance eastwards - what possible notice would be taken of it in Moscow, Delhi or Beijing? Come to that, what impact will it have looking westwards - is Hank from Texas going to be impressed to change his ways?

    My belief system, again, suggests all the above recipients of our kindly gift of competitive advantage will say 'Thanks, guys, just what we need'. This cynical attitude is engendered not so much by socialisation and conventional wisdom as by a lifetime's conditioning from experience

  7. Judith, could you tell us if you have accepted Barkingside 21 's saucy offer to expand off-line?
    After Christmas and New Year, I, myself, would not feel like expanding anymore, rather the reverse!

  8. You do not have to have a belief in the 'human-caused' global warming theory to want to care for the environment, it's quite simple.

    I have no desire to personally or corporately destroy rainforests, wipe out endangered species or displace Hottentots - on the contrary, we should all be acting responsibly to counter such activities.

    Let's take a local example often raised here: the paving over of front gardens. We recently had our front garden remodelled (and quite lovely it is too!); it would have been vastly cheaper to have simply paved over the lot and popped a couple of pots of daffs on it. Instead we carefully planned it so that one-third is a flower-bed, including two trees and a large shrub (well it will be large in a few years). Front gardens can be a contribution to the community or an eyesore, and I hope ours is the former.

    As to the rest of the argument/discussion, I fully agree with Douglass on this issue - and not just because I'm married to him!

  9. Thank you to Judith for educating me simply by writing so elegantly and with feeling and information and also words new to me.
    When I don't understand a word, I (usually) check and, thanks to google, I know more about the Hottentots. Had I not checked, I would have thought it was another term for allottees! However, allottees have something in common with the Hottentots, they have no wish to be displaced.

  10. Douglass said...
    " - the certain ghastly effects of their daffy prescriptions for wrecking the world's financial and industrial economy by dragging everyone back to the stone age. Subsisting on raw carrots and the occasional nut or berry might appeal to them and you, but sounds extremely unattractive to me. So does walking to Wiltshire for my holiday, rather than motoring."

    So, "global boiling" aside, how about "peak oil"? Will crude be back down to $18 a barrel soon, or could there be genuine constraints on supply looming ahead? The Russians and Chinese seem suspiciously keen to talk down peak oil fears, yet are rushing to grab the remaining supplies in every fly-blown corner of the world.

    Not to forget another major problem with our oil addiction - the security threat it poses. Automobile-loving US rednecks now recognise the truism "Support the Global Jihad - Drive More Often!" and are seeking alternatives.