I started this blog yesterday afternoon and was astonished to receive a ‘like’ almost immediately. And then another. This medium is powerful !
It is a month since my open Climate Change meeting: http://www.friendsinlowplaces.co.uk/OnceMore.htm
The key point that has emerged for me during and since the meeting is that personal theories about climate change, yours or mine, are of no significance whatsoever. The only thing that we non-experts should legitimately concern ourselves with is which of the two stories about climate change we can trust. Because it is clear that there are two stories. And they are diametrically opposed to one another. One calls for urgent global action; the other urges inaction. If we back the wrong one, or undermine our politicians in their attempts to back the right one, the consequences, we are being warned, could be beyond our imagination.
In deciding which story to trust, the suggestion I made at the meeting was that we should look at the language being used. I picked out two characteristic signs of material that should arouse suspicion: CERTAINTY and VITRIOL. Having reiterated the principle that science is never ‘certain’, I gave a number of examples of what I meant by ‘vitriol’. These made a big impression on the audience, especially the personal message from a well-known journalist I invited to the meeting, which I allowed people to read as a slide. To these two tell-tale signs we can now add a third, as described in two of the links below — ‘occult funding by vested interests’. And when these three come together to contradict the consensus view of global scientific expertise on such an overwhelmingly important issue I for one have not the slightest doubt where I will continue to place my trust.
There have been some important developments in the month since the meeting, some are shocking, but some are wonderfully encouraging. Here is my selection in chronological order:
- 21 January : President Obama’s Inaugural Address ‘Gives Climate Goals Center Stage’ “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/us/politics/climate-change-prominent-in-obamas-inaugural-address.html?_r=0
- 24 January: Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science Audit trail reveals that donors linked to fossil fuel industry are backing global warming sceptics http://tinyurl.com/ax8d3pg
- 26 January : Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’ http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/27/nicholas-stern-climate-change-davos
- 7 February : Online poll shows 64% of Americans ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ favour the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions http://nicholasinstitute.duke.edu/news/poll-americans-back-climate-change-regulation-not-taxes
- 15 February: Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups http://gu.com/p/3dnyn/tw
And here are the links I promised to sources of trustworthy information:
- Federal Advisory Committee. The best source for the current state of knowledge seems to me to be the Climate Assessment Report which this American body made public in draft a few days before our meeting. http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/ I cannot see how anyone could read the conclusions of this immensely authoritative and clearly-written report and persist in trying to undermine attempts to respond to the threat we all face.
- The Royal Society – Climate Change — A summary of the science: http://royalsociety.org/policy/publications/2010/climate-change-summary-science/
- The World Bank Another unequivocal statement, but from a different source http://climatechange.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/Turn_Down_the_heat_Why_a_4_degree_centrigrade_warmer_world_must_be_avoided.pdf
- The National Academies (of US Sciences) Video explaining how scientists have arrived at the current state of knowledge about recent climate change and its causes. Concluding words: “The picture that emerges from all of these data sets is clear and consistent – the earth is warming” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IuVzcp39rs&feature=youtu.be
- BBC An uplifting and inspiring Radio Four programme in the series Costing the Earth, showing what the Germans are doing; http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01q8mqh
- Skeptical Science www.skepticalscience.com ‘Explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation’. This is a brilliant site which provides clear answers to the queries deniers keep on raising. There is even a smartphone app so that you can look up replies in the pub. (For one thing you can see clearly why it is a misnomer to call deniers ‘skeptics’)
Finally, here is the latest pie chart by James Powell, showing the miniscule number of peer-reviewed scientific papers which deny that global warming is caused by humans (Look for the green dot) The excellent website is at jamespowell.org – the methods and criteria are detailed there so that anyone can repeat the survey for themselves if they doubt the findings.
3 important letters in the Guardian of 23 February 2013
Catherine Hopewell (Letters, 21 February) hits the nail on the head. It’s the target culture which has all but destroyed the professions of social work, education and health, replacing care and common humanity with an obsessive drive for “results”, scored by tick-box assessments on computer databases. In the last 10 years I have seen the social work service for children, young people and families distorted beyond recognition by the need to feed the Ofsted-driven target machine and, to that end, on management instruction, have held “meetings” in the school holidays when nobody could attend, undertaken home visits to families when nobody was in and manipulated my work in all sorts of ways to meet targets rather than real human needs.
The culmination was working in an organisation where personal supervision and team meetings focused on reading out the results of individual and collective “scores” on the data spread-sheet. Children were never mentioned at all. The target culture can be traced back to the Thatcher era, continuing under Blair and Brown, with even more vigour and added spin. Taking care of people cannot be reduced to tick boxes, spreadsheets and scores. It is high time the fightback began and people were given the help they need. My target is to ignore the next five targets I am given.
• Over 30 years as a hospital doctor leads me to concur about the morale-destroying effects of the target-driven culture. The idea of a vocation to help other human beings has all but gone and I fear that we are reaping the effects in our next generation of doctors, teachers and social workers. The Francis report highlights some of the appalling results when targets become more important than humanity (which of course is not readily amenable to measurement). I would welcome the creation of a multi-professional forum in which people-orientated work values, and the quality of care that results from treating both service users and staff as valued human beings, could be resurrected before it is too late.
Dr Diana Brighouse
Chichester, West Sussex
• As a teacher I have seen the negative impact that tick-box targets can have. Tick boxes rarely have much to do with the real day-to-day challenges. They are a tool designed to empower managers, not to help public-facing staff. Competition may drive efficiency in the private sector, but in education we do not want winners and losers. We want every child to be given the best possible classroom experience. What we really need is a culture of trust and co-operation.