For over a month now, since the farcical conclusion of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, I have been silent, partly through family commitments abroad in the USA, but also because, in this noisy world, in ‘The Clamour Of The Times’, it is on occasion better to be quiet and contemplative, to observe rather than to comment. And, as an independent academic, it has been fascinating to witness the classical collapse of a Grand Narrative, in which social and philosophical theories are being played out before our gaze. It is like watching the Berlin Wall being torn down, concrete slab by concrete slab, brick by brick, with cracks appearing and widening daily on every face – political, economic, and scientific. Likewise, the bloggers have been swift to cover the crumbling edifice with colourful graffiti, sometimes bitter, at others caustic and witty.
The Political And Economic Collapse
Moreover, the collapse has been quicker than any might have predicted. The humiliating exclusion of Britain and the EU at the end of the Copenhagen débâcle was partially to be expected, but it was brutal in its final execution. The swing of power to the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) had likewise been signified for some time, but, again, it came with precipitate ease, leaving even the American President, Barack Obama, with no doubts as to where the political agenda on climate change was now heading, namely to the developing world, but especially to the East, and to the Pacific Rim. The dirigiste tropes of ‘Old Europe’, with its love of meaningless targets and carbon capping, will no longer carry weight, while Obama himself has been straitjacketed by the voters of Massachusetts, by the rust-belt Democrats, by a truculent Congress, by an increasingly-sceptical and disillusioned American public, but, above all, by the financial crisis. Nothing will now be effected that for a single moment curbs economic development, from China to Connecticut, from Africa to Alaska.
And, as ever, capitalism has read the runes, with carbon-trading posts quietly being shed, ‘Green’ jobs sidelined, and even big insurance companies starting to hedge their own bets against the future of the Global Warming Grand Narrative. These rats are leaving the sinking ship far faster than any politician, many of whom are going to be abandoned, left, still clinging to the masts, as the Good Ship ‘Global Warming’ founders on titanic icebergs in the raging oceans of doubt and delusion.
The Scientific Collapse
And what can one say about ‘the science’? ‘The ‘science’ is already paying dearly for its abuse of freedom of information, for unacceptable cronyism, for unwonted arrogance, and for the disgraceful misuse of data at every level, from temperature measurements to glaciers to the Amazon rain forest. What is worse, the usurping of the scientific method, and of justified scientific scepticism, by political policies and political propaganda could well damage science sensu lato – never mind just climate science – in the public eye for decades. The appalling pre-Copenhagen attacks by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his climate-change henchman, Ed Miliband, on those who dared to be critical of the science of climate change were some of the most unforgivable I can recall.
It is further salutary that much of the trouble is now emanating from India. Indeed, the nonsense written about the Indian Sub-Continent has been a particular nadir in climate-change science, and it has long been judged so by many experts on the region. My ex-SOAS friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Bradnock, a world authority on the Sub-Continent, has been seething for years over the traducing of data and information relating to this key part of the world. In June, 2008, he wrote:
“However, in my own narrow area of research, I know that many of the claims about the impact of ‘global warming’ in Bangladesh, for example, are completely unfounded. There is no evidence that flooding has increased at all in recent years. Drought and excessive rainfall are the nature of the monsoon system. Agricultural production, far from being decimated by worsening floods over the last twenty years, has nearly doubled. In the early 1990s, Houghton published a map of the purported effects of sea-level rise on Bangladesh. Coming from a Fellow of the Royal Society, former Head of the Met Office and Chair of the IPCC, this was widely accepted, and frequently reproduced. Yet, it shows no understanding of the complex processes that form the Bengal delta, and it is seriously misleading. Moreover, despite the repeated claims of the World Wide Fund, Greenpeace, and, sadly, Christian Aid, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers is of completely marginal significance to the farmers of the plains in China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. One could go on!”
The Media Collapse
One could indeed! But we may not need to do so for much longer. Why? Because the biggest collapse is in the media, the very ‘mechanism’ through which the greedy Global Warming Grand Narrative has promulgated itself during the last ten to twenty years.
The break in the ‘Media Wall’ began in the tabloids and in the ‘red tops’, like The Daily Express and the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, but it is today spreading rapidly – yet once more as theory predicts – to the so-called ‘heavyweights’ and to the BBC. In the past, uncritical and apocalyptic stories and programmes were given the highest prominence, with any sceptical comment confined to the briefest of quotations from some benighted, and often snidely-mentioned, sceptic squeezed in at the very end of the piece (“For balance, you know”). Today, the reverse is becoming true, with the ‘global warming’ faithful firmly forced on to the back foot. Yet, in our post-modern world, it is the journalistic language being employed that is the true indicator of a new media order. Listening to good old Roger Harrabin this morning, reporting on BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘Today’ programme, was a revelation in this respect; the language, and even the style, had altered radically.
The collapse is now so precipitate that there will inevitably be some serious losers caught out by it all. The UK Met Office could well be one, with the BBC rightly reviewing its contract with them. At the moment, Met Office spokespersons sound extraordinary, bizarre even. They bleat out ‘global warming’ phrases like programmed robotic sheep, although they are finding it increasingly difficult to pull the wool over our eyes. It is terribly 1984, and rather chilling, so to speak. It is obvious that the organisation is suffering from another classical academic state, namely that known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ [see here and here]. This is experienced when belief in a Grand Narrative persists blindly, even when the facts in the real world begin to contradict what the narrative is saying. Sadly, many of our public and private organisations have allowed themselves to develop far too great a vested interest in ‘global warming’, as have too many politicians and activists. These are increasingly terrified, many having no idea how to react, or how to adjust, to the collapse. It will be particularly interesting to witness how, in the end, the Royal Society plays its cards, especially if competing scientific paradigms, such as the key role played by water vapour in climate change, start to displace the current paradigm in classic fashion.
Certain newspapers, like my own DNOC, The Times, have also been a tad slow to grasp the magnitude of the collapse (although Ben Webster has tried valiantly to counter this with some good pieces); yet, even such outlets at last appear to be fathoming the remarkable changes taking place. Today, for example, The Times carries a brief, but seminal, critique of the ‘science’ from Lord Leach of Fairford.
What Will It Mean?
I have long predicted, and in public too, that the Copenhagen Conference could prove to be the beginning of the end for the Global Warming Grand Narrative. It appears that I may well have been right, and, indeed, I may have considerably underestimated the speed, and the dramatic nature, of the demise.
Where this all leaves our politicians and political parties in the UK; where it leaves climate science, scientists more generally, and the Royal Society; where it leaves energy policy; where it leaves the ‘Green’ movement; and, where it leaves our media will have to be topics for many later comments and analyses.
For the moment, we must not underestimate the magnitude of the collapse. Academically, it is jaw-dropping to observe.
And, the political, economic, and scientific consequences will be profound.