Climatic licence

The matter of “global warming” aka “climate change” first crossed my radar a little under two and a half years ago. When I began my exercise in due diligence – apart from the then standard appeal to the authority of “thousands of scientists” who cannot possibly be wrong – the very first element of doubt that crept into my mind was learning that much, if not most, of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “climate scientists” have been telling us is derived from what they believe the output from computer simulations is telling us.

Another early eye-opening experience related to the much-vaunted “peer review” of the scientific literature (well, not all of it, of course) on which the IPCC bases its assessments – and the so-called “consensus“. My mind positively boggled when I learned that the process of peer review does not include any verification of the underlying data or methodology. Not to mention that some “climate scientists” depend on … wait for it … intuition when conducting peer review. But I digress …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite and I love computers! I certainly couldn’t imagine my life today without one – or even without the three in my possession that are currently functioning … not to mention my very recently acquired (much to the shock of some of my friends!) iPad which has a fabulous app for practicing and improving my Bridge-playing skills:-)

I mean, imagine trying to create a visual representation such as:

Click to embiggen

The jolly green sustainable hockey stick ... Eat your heart out, Michael Mann!

as I did to supplement my recent post on the phenomenal growth of non-governmental organizations (NGOs aka “civil society” in UN-speak) accredited with “consultative status” by the United Nations.

I could not have created that graph without the aid of a computer! Nor could Michael Mann have created his work of art. As Dr. Judith Curry noted in a post today:

When people say that the hockey stick and paleoclimate analysis of the last 1000 years isn’t an important part of the climate change argument, well it should be. We have been seduced by the relatively flat blade of the hockey stick into thinking that natural internal variability isn’t important. With improved proxies and analysis methods, we may find out that natural internal variability is significantly larger than is indicated by the Mann et al. reconstructions. [emphasis added -hro]

And speaking of seduction … thanks to a virtual army of mainstream media commentators, I think we may have also been “seduced” by their unrelenting repetition of hype – aided and abetted, of course, by hypsters such as Al Gore. He began his hyping twenty-three years ago. But simple hype wasn’t enough for Gore; he gave himself licence to inappropriately and appallingly invoke memory of – and word-images from – the Holocaust [h/t Richard Drake via Climate Audit]:

An Ecological Kristallnacht. Listen.

By Albert Gore; Albert Gore Jr., a Democrat, is Senator from Tennessee
Published: March 19, 1989

Humankind has suddenly entered into a brand new relationship with our planet.

Unless we quickly and profoundly change the course of our civilization, we face an immediate and grave danger of destroying the worldwide ecological system that sustains life as we know it.

It is time to confront this danger.

In 1939, as clouds of war gathered over Europe, many refused to recognize what was about to happen. No one could imagine a Holocaust, even after shattered glass had filled the streets on Kristallnacht. World leaders waffled and waited, hoping that Hitler was not what he seemed, that world war could be avoided. Later, when aerial photographs revealed death camps, many pretended not to see. Even now, many fail to acknowledge that our victory was not only over Nazism but also over dark forces deep within us.

In 1989, clouds of a different sort signal an environmental holocaust without precedent. Once again, world leaders waffle, hoping the danger will dissipate. Yet today the evidence is as clear as the sounds of glass shattering in Berlin.

Twenty-three years ago, folks! And in the intervening years, billions of dollars have been spent and countless “peer-reviewed” papers have been written; all touting the glory of green – and the gory stories of projected gloom and doom.

In the interim, we have had to learn to, well, acclimatize ourselves to “climate scientists” who give themselves licence to redefine commonly understood words in the English language; words such as “trick“, “decline”, “fudge” – and even “experiments”

And in twenty-three years, regardless of medium, the message has not changed:

Humanity is at a crossroads. Social, economic and environmental crises that have played out in recent years offer a unique opportunity for a step change in the way humanity does business. Although the concept of the ‘green economy’ was introduced to address today’s challenges, its continued dependence on traditional – and questionable – trickle-down economic growth theory has rendered it inadequate. A fast-growing population, rapidly diminishing resources and planetary boundaries are forcing humanity to find innovative ways to use resources more efficiently, to work within the limits of the Earth’s natural capital, and to make fundamental changes to our economic systems. This policy brief sets out the guidelines for the social and technological transformations needed for a new economic system, as well as the new ways in which we will need to measure and monitor this system.[emphasis added -hro]

Where did that come from, you might well ask?! In case you hadn’t heard, in addition to various and sundry panels, pronouncements and preparatory papers peddling the “must act now” mantra all emanating from the UN en route to Rio+20, next week there will be yet another “international” confab with the ominous theme of “Planet Under Pressure”**. The text I quoted above was excerpted from one of their nine “policy briefs“.

[** For a more thorough discussion of the background (and self-licensed foreground, under the auspices of the U.K.’s Royal Society, a co-sponsor) of this conference, please see Donna Laframboise’s recent post, Fairy Tales on the Road to Rio]

If you’ve done any reading lately, you will perhaps have recognized that the emphasis seems to be shifting away from “global warming” aka “climate change” and towards the more fashionable “sustainability” – which covers a multitude of our “sins”, not just production of the dreaded human-generated CO2.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we’re probably in for yet another outpouring of “science” that is nothing more – and nothing less – than computer generated simulations designed to support the conclusions and mantras of the day. But you don’t have to take my word for the rather dubious nature of the output from the “climate scientists'” computer modelling exercises; Bishop Hill has a very enlightening post (with comments from those who are far more knowledgeable than I) that is well worth reading: Mathematical models for newbies.

And consider the following from Wikipedia

Artistic licence (also known as dramatic license, historical license, poetic license, narrative license, licentia poetica, or simply license) is a colloquial term, sometimes euphemism, used to denote the distortion of fact, alteration of the conventions of grammar or language, or rewording of pre-existing text made by an artist to improve a piece of art.

The artistic license may also refer to the ability of an artist to apply smaller distortions, such as a poet ignoring some of the minor requirements of grammar for poetic effect.

In summary, artistic license is:

  • Entirely at the artist’s discretion
  • Intended to be tolerated by the viewer (cf. “willing suspension of disbelief“)
  • Useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps
  • Used consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally or in tandem

[emphasis added -hro]

YMMV, but it seems to me that climatic licence is another form of “artistic licence” that falls well within the criteria listed in the summary above. At the very least, that with which the hypsters and “climate scientists” have been regaling us for so many years does require a “willing suspension of disbelief”.

6 thoughts on “Climatic licence

  1. Feynman: “Science is belief in the ignorance of experts.” Which is equivalent to disbelief in their omniscience. Suspension of that disbelief is suspension of science. So the quote becomes, “Willing suspension of science.”

    Greens and pols are up with that!

  2. On the subject of “climatic licence”, have a look at this Grist article by David Roberts:

    It’s about the Mike Daisey/Foxconn business, but Roberts applies the idea of “telling a greater truth” to the climate debate.

    “But facts are not truth. Facts do not, in and of themselves, have meaning. Facts only add up to something – literally make sense -when they are embedded in some kind of framework or narrative that fits into our cultural identities and ways of seeing the world. That’s how humans are built to learn, going back to the Stone Age. So “telling a greater truth” is a thing of real value, not some theatrical pretense.”

    “Daisey sacrificed accuracy for meaning. Too much journalism does the opposite. We desperately need storytellers who can give the facts about climate change life and meaning, people who can get at those greater truths. Journalists could be part of that.”

    The thing is, though – journalists and the media, generally, have been putting on a grand theatrical production of climate change doom since the turn of the century. The whole affair has been a narrative of drowning polar bears, monster hurricanes, hordes of climate refugees, corals bleaching in acidic oceans, greedy capitalists drilling for oil in an ice-free Arctic, sinister early springtimes, rampaging pine bark beetles, starvation, malaria, extinction, death, etc., etc. It’s not been called “climate porn” for nothing! But over the years, it has been losing its power to arouse people (as it were…) It isn’t working.

    But Roberts doesn’t see it that way. Climate porn losing its potency means – *even more* is “desperately” needed!

    • Geeze, Alex, you sure know how to ruin a person’s day ;-)

      Anyone with a functioning moral compass – which Roberts clearly lacks – would find it impossible to put such a post-modernist spin on Daisey (and Gleick) so that “meaning” – i.e. presumably whatever the “storyteller” chooses to impute – trumps accuracy!

      To my ear, Roberts’ POV has echoes of Mike Hulme‘s:

      “the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects…”


      “we shall continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilize them in support of our projects” [emphasis added -hro]

      But as you noted:

      Climate porn losing its potency means – *even more* is “desperately” needed!

      Indeed! For Roberts and his ilk, it seems to be an almost incurable addiction, doesn’t it?!

      What would they do without “climatic licence”, eh?!

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