How’s that for a heading aimed at getting up the maximum number of noses? But it is what I feel.
The political and environmental profile of climate change has been dramatically reconfigured in the past two years. A wave of activism has dissipated and a broad consensus on the necessary measures broken thanks to the failed Copenhagen summit and the anti-global-warming lobby’s apparent triumph in the Climategate emails affair. Mark Lynas is one of a growing band of influential figures, along with James Lovelock, Stewart Brand and George Monbiot, who now argue that the approach of most Greens to climate change needs to change.
Lynas puts it briskly in this new book. "Global warming is not about overconsumption, morality, ideology or capitalism. It is largely the result of human beings generating energy by burning hydrocarbons and coal." Inevitably, the beliefs of most environmentalists involve a cluster of other goals and ideological imperatives but if some of these are inimical to the need to reduce carbon emissions then, Lynas believes, a decoupling is necessary.
Environmentalists, of course, do want to address global warming: Lynas’s other target is the rather large constituency who feel the need to deny it altogether. I’m sure he’s right when he divines a reason for the deniers’ PR successes: "They tap into a powerful cultural undercurrent that insists we are small and the planet is big, ergo nothing we do – not even in our collective billions – can have a planet-scale impact." Later in the book he gives an excellent refutation of this in the example of Thomas Midgley, who single-handedly almost roasted the entire human race and rendered them brain-damaged. Midgley invented the refrigerants and aerosol propellants (CFCs) that began to eat the ozone layer and was also (this isn’t mentioned in The God Species) a key developer of the lead tetraethyl additive for petrol. Lynas goes on to commend the 1987 Montreal Protocol on CFCs as an exemplar of the kind of international action we need on climate change.
He is level-headed about issues that have become intensely emotive, and recognises that the debate around climate change has become polarised on political grounds: libertarians with little understanding of science don’t want to acknowledge that there are natural limits to human activity…
So I will be keeping an eye out for his latest book The God Species.
On a similar wavelength is Wilson da Silva in Cosmos.
GREENPEACE WAS ONCE a friend of science, helping bring attention to important but ignored environmental research. These days, it’s a ratbag rabble of intellectual cowards intent on peddling an agenda, whatever the scientific evidence.
It was once the most active, independent and inspiring civilian group for the environment. Whether riding zodiacs alongside boats carrying barrels of toxic waste to be dumped in the open sea, or campaigning against CFCs and HFCs that were depleting the ozone layer, Greenpeace did admirable work.
But in the last decade or so, Greenpeace abandoned the rigour of science. When the science has been inconvenient, Greenpeace chooses dogma. Which is why it has a zero-tolerance policy on nuclear energy, no matter how imperative the need to remove coal and gas from electricity production. Or why it is adamant organic farming is the only way forward for agriculture, when organic could not feed the world’s population today…
Greenpeace has lost its way. Its former glory rested on the righteousness of its actions in support of real evidence of how humanity was failing to care for the environment. Now it is a sad, dogmatic, reactionary phalanx of anti-science zealots who care not for evidence, but for publicity.
I am definitely no hippy nor am I in any way an anarchist. I am as suspicious of deep greenies as I am of Alan Jones, and for similar reasons – the triumph of ideological fetishes over what really is happening and what needs to be done.
That said, suck on these latest from NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for July 2011.