Number of the Month

April 2011

The opening of the third front

The way to bring down a modern state is to attack its energy, manufacturing and transport systems, hence the dam busters and the bombing of German railways and factories during the Second World War. Nowadays, however, developed nations are under attack from the Enemy Within, the neo-Marxist Greenies. Greenpeace, which in its inchoate form was a fairly straight environmental campaigning group, was soon taken over by political extremists and after its conversion to an apocalyptic vision lost original members such as Patrick Moore; but over time this has also happened to other mainstream parties. The UK is the world basket case in this respect (witness the passing without comment of the destructive carbon tax, which is being strongly resisted in other western countries) and almost the entire British political class have become true believers. Nevertheless, countries far apart in both distance and character, such as Australia and Germany , are manoeuvred relentlessly by their green parliamentary minorities in the direction of economic suicide.

Carbon is the focus. Even the extreme greenies were not so bold as to declare war directly on energy, manufacturing and transport, so they launched a proxy war on this wholly benign atom, which is directly involved in those essential entities. Their motivation is revealed by the fact that they consistently oppose all realistic energy sources and support only impractical ones.

The first front 

The first war front was opened under the guise of Global Warming, later transmogrified into Climate Change, Climate Catastrophe etc. This apocalyptic theory, based on tenuous logic, implausible computer models and dubious data, rapidly became dominant in world politics. Fortuitously it was convenient to a wide range of interests; the world government movement, the authoritarian socialist movement, those who promoted the transfer of wealth (from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries) various individuals and corporations (who saw it as an unparalleled money spinner), the new spate of environmental editors and journalists, finance ministers looking for new excuses to raise taxes  and politicians of various shades eager to take a ride on the coat-tails of what had metamorphosed into the most powerful propaganda machine in human history.

The activists in the new movement had adopted the method of Trotskyite Entryism, but took it far beyond anything Trotsky envisaged. They penetrated and took control of political parties, establishment media organisations and leading scientific institutions. Initially richly funded by various trusts and gullible subscribers, they later found ways of diverting taxpayers’ money to their cause (so the EU, for example, gave money to the green groups to enable itself to be lobbied by them). Control of the media and scientific publications enabled them to establish The Censorship, which successfully prevented any critical discussion of the theory and data on which The Belief was based and starved any doubters of public funding.

There was one little flaw in this impeccable construct – the internet. Chance had it that, just as the Faithful had established a firm grip on all official sources of information, new technology provided a voice to those outside the charmed circle. Disenfranchised groups, such as older scientists trained in the traditional sceptical scientific method and younger newcomers resistant to being dictated to, began to examine the detail of the theories and the provenance of the data purported to support them. What they found was a can of worms about which they were able to compare notes and circulate critiques. The response from the new establishment was a torrent of invective and ad hominem attacks on the infidels.

It is impossible for anyone outside the traditional world of science to understand the shock that such grotesque behaviour caused. Disputes had hitherto been resolved by debate, often passionate but always polite. Suddenly the public conduct of science had become thuggish. Furthermore, activists within the political and bureaucratic establishment were diverting funding away from the natural progress of science and towards the new cuckoos in the nest. Claims by the outsiders of manipulation of editorial content of journals, and particularly the operation of the peer review process, were ridiculed by the new breed of environmental editors as being devoid of evidence.

Then occurred the potentially cataclysmic event that became (unimaginatively) known as Climategate. One who was either a great human benefactor or a vile robber (depending on your point of view) released into the public domain a large selection of files, including e-mails, from the computers of the Climatic Research  Unit at the University of East Anglia . This unit had been specifically set up by a British Government to create evidence in favour of the global warming hypothesis (quite the inverse of the scientific method). It in turn was instrumental in creating the UN IPCC, a powerful international body that produced heavily biased reports in favour of the belief that human release of carbon dioxide would cause catastrophic global warming.

The Climategate files (and especially the e-mails) showed that everything (and more) claimed by the infidels was true. The CRU and its allies around the world had been engaged in a systematic corruption of science. This included deliberate misrepresentation of data (Hiding the Decline) and ruthless suppression of dissenting views. There was initial panic among the New Establishment, but The Censorship largely held fast and the general public knew little of what had been going on. The subsequent official whitewash was so crude and prejudiced that it invited nothing but ridicule, but it is a testament to solidity of the establishment (and particularly the media) that the potential tsunami passed off with scarcely a ripple. There had, however, been a serious wobble and this led to:

The opening of the second front

The attack on carbon dioxide was faltering. Even the most unscientific of lay people were beginning to realise that all the projected catastrophes that they had been warned about for a quarter of a century had simply not come about. Opinion polls showed that global warming had drifted down the scale of human worries and was in danger of dropping off the end. True belief was becoming restricted to the activists and their allies among the political class and the media. What was needed was another line of attack that was not so dependent on something that anyone could monitor. So Ocean Acidification was invented. The name is, inevitably, somewhat hyperbolic, as the alleged phenomenon is but a marginal reduction in the alkalinity of sea water, which varies with altitude and other geographic features. The launch of the alarm was characteristically accompanied by a demand for billions of dollars of funding for the work of “the scientists”. As in the case of global warming, this would require an enormous data collection system to find evidence for the alleged change.

The link from absorption of carbon dioxide to impending devastation was a tenuous one. It depended on various marine animals being unable to form shells under acidic conditions. It is simply not true that shells cannot be made in an acid environment (This author once kept a tropical fish aquarium with water that was deliberately acidified to enhance the colours of the fish, for which that was the natural environment. The plant collection was completely destroyed by the accidental introduction of live-bearing snails, which had no difficulty in making shells.) Carbonic acid is a weak one and a solution of, say, sodium bicarbonate is alkaline. It is as always, however, the measurements that are the weak point. The pH of the oceans varies from place to place and the contours of distribution are not fixed, while appending the term “acidification” to a mere alleged change of pH from 8.2 to 8.1 is, to say the least, tendentious. Even if it were true, comparing modern measurements with data from 1800 is a dubious practice and such a change could have a variety of possible causes (that year, for example, represented the last knockings of the Little Ice Age). The great weakness form the alarmist point of view, however, is that the scare is rather remote from the experiences and potential fears of the general public.

And so the third front

Many lines of attack in the proxy war have been mooted and some further promoted. As we have seen, one of them was identified and funded about fifteen years ago, but has recently sprung to life . This was based on sub-microscopic particles (implicitly of carbon) in the atmosphere that we breathe. Considering the scale of investment of funds, the data seem to be rather sparse and nebulous. Old canards, such as observations that health improves with distance from major roads, have been resurrected, but they are replete with possible confounding variables (how many rich people live near major roads?)

The alarmist community maintains excellent lines of communication and it takes no time at all for their whole world to start singing from the same new hymn sheet. In the UK the way to keep tabs on what the alarmists are up to is to read Geoffrey Lean, if you can bear to. His latest diatribe is largely directed to particles of pollution. This for example:

Mind you, Britain ’s air pollution policies have long been enveloped in a thick fog of complacency and inaction. Back in 1285, Edward I reacted to public anger over coal-burning in London by setting up a commission, which sat for 25 years and achieved nothing. In the autumn of 1952, Harold Macmillan, facing complaints about the same problem in the same city, reached for the same solution, explaining: “We cannot do very much, but we can seem to be very busy, and that is half the battle nowadays.”

In fact his committee never met, because a great pea-soup fog early that December killed 4,000 people in London over a weekend, galvanising a national clean-up. By coincidence, particulates are now officially recognised as killing much the same number in the capital each year. But, this time, little is being done.

……

This is serious stuff, because air pollution kills. Research shows that smog – which is formed by sunlight working on pollution, mainly emitted from car exhausts – caused up to 700 deaths over two weeks in August 2003. Particulates and ozone, the two pollutants responsible for this week’s warning, are to blame: indeed, a Government panel concluded that particulates alone help to kill around 29,000 people in Britain each year.  

For collectors of the genre, this is a fine example. Rewriting history is one of the established techniques among alarmists. There are none of us still around from the days of Edward I, but there are still a few of us who walked to school in the great smog of 1952. Those of us who had chemistry sets then knew exactly what the problem was, as did the Government. We had all tried setting light to a small pile of sulphur and been obliged to retreat rapidly choking for air. The problem was that the Government, faced with a mountain of debt left by its Labour predecessor (sound familiar?), was exporting all our high quality coal and leaving the low quality sulphur stuff to the local populace to burn. They got away with it until a stationary high settled over the basin of London , with the said disastrous results.

Note, however, the technique behind Lean’s version of history. First there is the frequently used procedure of subreption (misleading by concealing the truth). The cause of the deaths was and is known (sulphur) it is an egregious stunt to leave it out. The second method is the non sequitur (having no relation to what has gone before). Particulates are introduced without any reasoning. There is no basis for the supposition that sulphurous coal produces any more particulates than the higher quality form.

As for the coincidence that particulates are now officially recognised as killing the same number each year, this is what we know as the body count politic, a pronouncement by a committee of politicians who are true believers with no basis of real scientific evidence (apart from epidemiology, which parted ways with the scientific method long ago). As always the response to such claims is – Name one!

So the same old  dreary trench war of attrition against overwhelming forces continues, but watch out for much more of the new battle cry – Particulates!

Number of the month – 3

In honour of the new battlefront.

PS Apologies for the very late posting of this page. Most of it was written on time but yet another bout of ill health intervened.

June 2011

Index, searchbox and begging bowl

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