For those who need to be told, the line in the title comes mostly from ‘Blazing Saddles’, in my view the best spoof in film — though I probably say so because in my boyhood all I saw in the cinema for several years were Westerns, and Mel Brooks’s 1974 film has every cliche in the genre (‘stinkin badges’ is the line in the film).
I adapted it because of a series of events in the past week, once again what seem like orchestrated performances to get us all worked up about the Paris Conference that starts at the end of November and finishes in December. It is re-run, some hope, of the Copenhagen Conference in 2009, but with a triumphal finish instead of a fiasco. More about that in a moment.
The first event is an open letter written to the President of the USA by a group of climate scientists. After congratulating the President on his efforts they say: as climate scientists we are exceedingly concerned that America’s response to climate change – indeed, the world’s response to climate change – is insufficient. The risks posed by climate change, including increasing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increasing ocean acidity – and potential strategies for addressing them – are detailed in the Third National Climate Assessment (2014), Climate Change Impacts in the United States.
No equivocation here — no suggestion that extreme weather events don’t seem to be increasing, that sea-level rise is much as it has been, and that ocean acidity is as yet really unmeasurable. No, these guys are sure. What is quite bizarre is that they then invite the President and his Attorney-General to use a piece of legislation intended to deal with racketeers, known as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), to investigate corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. The writers then go on to suggest that what is happening in ‘climate change’ is similar to what happened with respect to the tobacco industry.
I wrote in March this year about an attempt by an American politician, Raul Grijalva, to have several climate scientists ‘investigated’ for speaking out against the hysteria over global warming. Another, Senator Whitehouse, has joined him, and he seems to have been the first to mention the RICO Act. The scientists have apparently followed his lead.
To me this is an astonishing thing for a group of scientists to do, and indeed some sceptics have already returned serve, asking whether or not the scientists themselves would be prepared to be investigated in the same way. Judith Curry, perhaps the best known of the climate scientists who have argued that there is far too much uncertainty in the climate issue for governments to proceed as though they known what is to happen (especially as it isn’t happening), has been particularly severe. She wrote her own letter to the scientists, pointing out, in part, that
scientists disagree about the causes of climate change for the following reasons:Insufficient observational evidence
Disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence (e.g. models)
Disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence
Assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance
Belief polarization as a result of politicization of the science.
The biggest disagreement however is about whether warming is ‘dangerous’ (values) and whether we can/should do something about it (politics). Why do you think your opinion, as scientists, matters on values and politics?
And finished like this:
What you have done with your letter is the worst kind of irresponsible advocacy, which is to attempt to silence scientists that disagree with you by invoking RICO. It is bad enough that politicians such as Whitehouse and Grijalva are playing this sort of political game with science and scientists, but I regard it as highly unethical for scientists to support defeating scientists with whom you disagree by such methods. Since I was one of the scientists called out in Grijalva’s witch hunts, I can only infer that I am one of the scientists you are seeking to silence.
I’ll leave that event and pass to the next, much more civilised, where David Attenborough and a group of likeminded people have invoked the Apollo program to seek a similar commitment, this time from the world’s governments, to make renewable energy affordable. They want this commitment to occur in time for the Paris meeting.
The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of $15 bn a year in research,development and demonstration of clean energy. That compares to the $100bn currently invested in defence research and development globally each year. Public investment now will save governments huge sums in the future. What is more, a coordinated R&D plan can help bring energy bills down for billions of consumers. Renewable energy gets less than 2% of publicly funded R&D. The private sector spends relatively small sums on clean energy research and development. Just as with the Apollos space mission sod the 1960s, great scientific minds must now be assembled to find a solution to one of the biggest challenges we face.
I wouldn’t call the need to make alternative energy affordable one of the biggest challenges we face. And I’m not sure about how consumers of electricity — all of us — will be better off finding $15 billion every year for his project. I would have thought that solar energy’s great problem is storage. As for wind, I can’t see how $15 billion a year can do much about its intermittency and need for constant back-up. But look, Attenborough’s idea is a good deal more useful that calling on the President to prosecute deniers.
Finally, I came across an interesting piece about the likely shape of the document about which the world’s nations are to be asked to agree at the Paris meeting. It’s from the BBC’s Science Editor, and therefore carries the BBC’s usual note of doom and gloom about ‘climate change’. He declares that no one involved in the planning for Paris wants to hear the word ‘Copenhagen’, and that there is excitement at the thought that China and the USA have somehow joined the party. But it seems that that there will be something much less regulatory in the Paris document.
Whereas in Copenhagen there was an effort to browbeat countries into accepting targets for reducing carbon emissions, Paris is about collecting voluntary plans for action drafted by individual countries.
If that is the case, then the real outcome of the Paris meeting, whatever the hoo-haa in the media, will be a fizzer. China has said, after all, that it expects its emissions to go on rising until 2030. Governments can put in what they think will be more or less acceptable, and get on with their real work. Is an agreement not to regulate better for the world than no agreement not to regulate?
You would think we might have a debate about whether or not this fuss is sensible. Debate? We don’t need no stinkin’ debate.