Books that have been important to me #3 The novels of C.P. Snow

You don’t hear much about C. P. Snow these days. When I was young he was an important figure, both in the literary world and in the world of policy. Born in 1905, the same year as my father, he came from a poor family, and made his way through excelling at school and university to become a fellow of a Cambridge college, then a senior civil servant, and at last a famous writer. I think I first heard of him in connection with his Rede lecture ‘The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution’, a lament from the 1950s about the separation of the arts and the sciences. How many serious scholars in the humanities, he wondered, could state what the second law of thermodynamics was. He might have gone on to wonder if they could say why it was important. Maybe some of today’s young literati could answer his question. I’m not sure my lot could have done it in the 1950s; they would have got it wrong had they tried. There was, and remains, such a division, though Goethe and James Mill, two centuries ago, were at home in both domains. Snow felt that the future belonged to science, and so far he has been proved right.

Snow fascinated me as a novelist because he was interested in power, how people got it and what they did with it. He was also interested in the compromises they made in order to possess that elusive and uncertain attribute. Snow did a Galsworthy-like thing in his eleven Strangers and Brothers novels, following the lives and careers of a small group of people from the 1920s to the 1960s. I was hooked on Corridors of Power when I was in the UK in 1964, and then was steered by my mentors into reading his earlier novels. In time I read them all, and also his wonderful non-fiction biographical sketches, in particular The Realists (novelists) and Varieties of Men (chaps he had met or would like to have met). He was extremely well read, well connected and well informed. He was first distinguished as Sir Charles, and then later as Lord Snow. I envied him and all he had been able to do.

The Strangers and Brothers novels are all written in the first person, by Lewis Eliot, in the last books honoured as Sir Lewis. Eliot, like Snow himself, came from a poor family, had an indifferent father and an adoring mother, and wins through because of innate intelligence, hard work and some useful mentoring. On the way he falls for Sheila, the beautiful but schizoid daughter of a wealthy vicar, marries her when he is at last a successful lawyer, and lives a life of marital misery thereafter. Sheila does not love him, but feels as safe as she will ever be in his care. She finally kills herself, which he has been expecting for a long time. During the war he meets another woman, Margaret, to whom he is instantly attracted, and she to him. They become lovers, but the weight of his first marriage hangs over their relationship, and she finally gives up, believing that she is no use to him. She marries another man, a doctor, and has a son by him. Eliot never stops loving her, and in time becomes free of his gloom. They meet again, the attraction is still strong, and they agree to marry. This takes time, since she has to divorce her husband, in the days before easy divorce. They too have a child, and Margaret’s first husband is important in saving their child from meningitis.

Much of that, my favourite element of the whole story, is from one novel, Homecomings. While all the novels are self-contained, you meet many of the same characters at different stages and ages, they become familiar to you. Charles March, the wealthy son of an Anglo-Jewish banking family (who renounces wealth for medicine), George Passant, Eliot’s first mentor, who never rises to the level that his abilities predict, Sir Hector Rose, the Permanent Secretary of the un-named Department in which Eliot works during the war and afterwards, Lord Lufkin, the tycoon, Francis Getliffe, the scientist, Eliot’s brother Martin, another scientist, Herbert Getliffe, the scientist’s lawyer half-brother to whom Eliot is apprenticed as a young man — they are all alive and visible, old friends almost.

And as you read you learn some of the big stories of the period — the despair of the thoughtful rich in the 1930s, and their conversion (some of them, anyway ) to Communism, the development of Britain’s own nuclear weapon, the dropping of the bomb and scientists’ reactions to that event, the treachery involved in acquainting the Russians with Western nuclear secrets, the movement away from Britain’s being a nuclear power, the Moors murders. Snow was there, and his judgments seem to me, anyway, to have been understandable, fair and sensible.

Snow seems to have some expectations that he might get the Nobel prize for Literature, but it was never going to be his. In one of his most celebrated novels, The Masters, an account of the election of a head of house in Cambridge in 1937, one of the Fellows of the un-named College, Nightingale, is eternally waiting for his election to the Royal Society. It never comes. Snow’s interest in the Nobel came a long time later, but I wondered if he ever reflected on the irony. F. R. Leavis, the fearsome Eng. Lit. critic, wrote an extraordinary denunciation of Snow, describing him as  as intellectually undistinguished as it is possible to be… portentously ignorant… as a novelist he doesn’t exist; he doesn’t begin to exist. He can’t be said to know what a novel is… And more of the same. All this is unsustainable, and diminished Leavis much more than it did Snow.

I’m not a Leavis fan, though it is fair to say that I was never taught by anyone who had come under his influence and talked to us about him. Later in my life I met Eng. Lit. people who had sat in his lectures and thought the world of him, but Leavis’s position was not mine. For him, the best novels showed authors who were deeply concerned with the morality of life. Maybe they are. I like novels to be accessible, offering stories that people can read with satisfaction — and return to. What they make of the stories is up to them. I can enjoy page-turners, like Dan Brown, but I don’t return to them; once was enough. Leavis liked Jane Austen, and so do I. He didn’t think much of Dickens (though he recanted later in life). I thought Dickens was a great storyteller, as was Anthony Trollope, who was left out of Leavis’s ‘great tradition’.

I’m re-reading Snow’s novels, and while they are well-remembered and rather like familiar clothes,  I can now see elements that don’t appeal. Lewis Eliot seems to know far too much about the psyche of people whom he cannot know well. How can he have gained such knowledge? It is fair to say in his defence that, in all the novels, the narrator Eliot is looking back, and that may be part of the explanation, though it is never offered. Snow likes unusual words, which he uses again and again — ‘sadic’ (a version of ‘sadistic’) and ‘nepenthe’ (a drink for oblivion) come to mind. I don’t think I ought to have to go to a dictionary to find out what the author is saying. Often the pace of the novels is slow, or great chunks of time pass without much explanation. His protagonist is often too conveniently available to witness the interaction of others. There is not a lot of action in the usual sense, and the tension can flag. One of my knowledgeable English friends thought Snow was over-fond of recreating real events in the lives of real people known to him. I am not in a position to comment.

Nonetheless, I am finding the re-reading enjoyable and profitable. If you haven’t read any of the novels, The Masters is a good yarn if you are acquainted with and interested in higher eduction, and Homecomings is a love story of power and elegance. The world of 20th century England, especially its universities and politics, was fruitfully and fictionally caught by him, no matter what Leavis thought.





Join the discussion 65 Comments

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    Don, your recollections stir one or two of my own. It was also in the early 60s that I came across CP Snow, and as I reflect, I wonder whether his writing provoked a re-awakening to my school-time interest in science. For it was just a few years later that I took that leap from teaching English, into the world of computing. Perhaps Snow laid the seeds for that; what captured my early interest, which I have since retained without flagging, was the enormous implication for human society of what then was a quite new technology. I had of course absolutely no idea of how far reaching the technology would become.

    Leavis was a bit of a cult hero to the literati of the time. Whenever I heard his view quoted, it was rather like hearing a pronouncement from the Archbishop of Canterbury; teachers and lecturers were expected to kowtow. The problem for every cult hero is that humility drifts away like the morning mist.

    Snow’s writing? I came to recognise that he worked at it, stolidly. I’m glad that I had the chance to understand his perceptions, his understanding of how power worked, his grasp of society as a whole. We should not deride the steady artisans of writing, nor should a Leavis. The world is full of solid plodders, and we make the world go round, or at least, work.

    • Suzanna c Byrne says:

      While I agree with most of what you say about CP Snow’s Strangers and
      Brothers novels, his sensitivity to the moral dilemmas faced by most thinking people is a balanced exploration of opposites viz., light and dark (lighted windows on dark, rain swept nights), and the whole dichotomy of life lived before, during and following a very difficult era such as WW2 and its aftermath on not only Britain but the entire world. His characters create balance between power and the lack of power, and the way “good men” and women seek or do not seek power. The ghastly and grim use of the atomic bomb and the discovery of the plutonium bombs dropped on Japan are brought into stark realization that human beings are capable of the most horrendous atrocities and that governments must find moral solutions that do not include the use of such weapons. On the more literary side, however, for me the most attractive aspect of the novels is the distanced and understated voice of the narrator Lewis Eliot whom I adored as a 15 year old discovering him for the first time – a very long time ago!
      My footnote to this comment is that I have just re-read the entire series of S and B having acquired the three omnibus volumes; my first reading was in 1958, and it is now 2020. Even though there is a gap of 62 years, I have enjoyed Snow’s novels even more.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Dear Suzanne,

        I can’t seem to find you in the main set of essays, so my response is here. It is all, positive,since you and I share an equivalent fondness for Snow’s long examination of his times. I named my elder son ‘Lewis’ as his middle name, in response mown feeling about Lewis Eliot. With every good wish,


        • Suzanna c Byrne says:

          It is such a joy for me to know someone else who appreciates Snow’s most important work and I was able to develop my moral compass because of work like that. It showed me, when I was a youngster, that a moral compass is one of the great assets a person can have whether it is in a personal matter, or on a national scale. Thanks for responding.

  • Alan Gould says:

    I should probably give CPS a more determined go because I welcome a re-integration of an erudition in science with an erudition in the literary arts. But I got some 60pp into a Snow novel last year and drifted from it, deterred by, not just the slow pace, but the ‘beige’ characterisations (unlike, say, my present read – ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ that has full Mark Twain vividness).
    One thing I do wonder about is whether CPS’ notion of ‘The Two Cultures’ is an innate mental divide that separates us quite early. I have a good head for recalling poetry and history’s details. But I cannot keep in my head for two minutes at a time what a ‘zygote’ or ion is, let alone the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, no matter how many times I read up this material. And I note among the scientists I know how reflexively they recoil from poetry or fiction with an embarrassed shudder, and are notorious in the blasé of their history.
    By the time I went through University English, Leavis was in serious disfavour, but I always stuck up for the man’s central tenet, which was that, as the bulk of reading matter swelled from year to year, to keep sight on what was worthwhile reading for the civilising role of literature, one needed to crystallise the values one looked for in a book, and for Leavis it was “moral seriousness” or “moral openness’. For this reason he identifies Austen, George Eliot, Henry James, Conrad and Lawrence, and dismisses so much else. Certainly one sees the high calibre of moral watchfulness in, say Austen or G. Eliot, the aliveness to moral strangeness in Conrad, and in this an idea of value becomes palpable, and Leavis’ name properly belongs to its identification. That said, I do reckon ol’ FRL was severe to the point of being a spoilsport. He pooh-poohs Fielding who with Richardson got the novel started as a serious human art in the 18th Century. He decries Dickens who was a vivid, energised genius in the art, morally acute in novels like ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Hard Times’ and ignores many other worthies. In thinking through the worthwhile values that pertain to the novel, Leavis did fine work, in my view, and should be accorded his recognition for that. But it is also a limited view, blinkered when reflecting the wider parts of life that come from the reading experience and exposure to the multifarious differences between human imaginations.

    • margaret says:

      It seems strange to me now that I read Strangers and Brothers. I read the first book of the series and then The Light and the Dark and The Masters. Maybe another (dealing in part about nuclear fission I think), but I can’t remember now as once again, I was in my prolific reading era. But it’s interesting isn’t it that I am aware of CP Snow and have read him and I doubt that many who read DA’s essays or even Don himself has read or would be interested in reading Drabble, Lessing, Atwood et al. This of course is because the literature canon is chock a block with dead or dying white males.
      But as to the books I read by Snow, The Light and the Dark dealt with brilliance and mental illness – well, say no more – so many men are so uncomfortable with a male author who gets to the nub of the human condition.
      I don’t think Snow was plodding at all – I think Leavis was a prick.

      • Alan Gould says:

        Well, the literature bloc is certainly choc-a-bloc with sterile prejudice, eh! I did not persist with Drabble because I found very much more satisfaction in the fiction written by her elder sister, A.S.Byatt, most of whose books i have read as an inevitably dying white male. I read Atwood’s poetry when it preceded her novels into print, but concede that an enjoyment of Lessing is still a prospect I have not reached.
        As for that canon so cannoned by Feminist righteousness, I reckon it is a falsehood to caricature it as mono-gender when it begins with Aphra Behn, proceeds through the likes of Burney, Austen, G.Eliot, the three Brontes, Mrs Gaskell, Willa Cather, to the 20th Century company of Woolf, Bowen, Murdoch, etc…that etcetera is jusrtified by now, I reckon. I include here only the names of authors I have read, many of their books having been set on high school or tertiary curricula, that fact suggesting that dead white females are not as sparse in the graveyard as trigger-happy indignation would like it.

        • margaret says:

          Haha, I like to respond as I feel things. I don’t wish to be objective (or objectionable). Yes, well there’s an irreparable feud between Byatt and Drabble (yes I did know that the perhaps more cerebral Byatt is her sister) but … no sisterly togetherness there. One or both has said at some time that they were set up in childhood for competition and that they craved their father’s favouritism (there you go, a point for Philip Larkin ).

      • Don Aitkin says:


        I have to ask you to remember the rule of three, and you’ve posted seven times today (while I have been driving).

        I have not only read Margaret Drabble, but I met her, too, and talked with her. Doris Lessing I read when i was about twenty, and Margaret Attwood too. I don’t just read books written by men! (‘stale, male and pale’ as I saw the other day).

        • margaret says:

          Sometimes three is just not enough as Spangles knows. Sometimes one must respond lest the topic itself becomes stale, male and pale.
          I would certainly hope that if you met Margaret Drabble that you did talk with her 🙂
          I’m going to a granddaughter’s eighth birthday so you’ll all get a rest.

    • margaret says:

      “unlike, say, my present read – ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ that has full Mark Twain vividness).”

      WTF ! It was written by Harper Lee – as you well know – so why the nod to Mark Twain? Would that better be said as “full Harper Lee vividness?”.

      Ah its insidious this male author worship (unless of course it’s the neat little narrow world of Jane Austen with her incisive wit and one or two sparky women who eventually succumb to the ‘man who has it all’.
      How many women walked those Corridors of Power in “Strangers and Brothers”? How many of the men who walk the corridors of power are childless bachelors?

      • margaret says:
        “Snow fascinated me as a novelist because he was interested in power, how people got it and what they did with it. He was also interested in the compromises they made in order to possess that elusive and uncertain attribute.”
        And of course, it was the Fifties and Sixties when power for most women resided in the kitchen appliances and boudoir.

      • Alan Gould says:

        Nonsense, Margaret1 There is nothing whatever insidious about it. It is to do with the continuity of imagination in literary art, not gender. Harper lee’s splendid book comes out of the imagining of Mark Twain as his came out of Dickens, as his came out of the comic novelists of the 18th century, Fielding and Smollett in particular, as Fielding took his ‘comic epic idea from classical sources. Each of these derivations does not impair the vibrancy and engagement of the talents that find sustenance in a previous book, but rather help in integrating each work that aspires to literary integrate with the wholeness and roundness of the art itself.

        What a heap of grievance has been foisted on the simple idea that human writing does not appear from nowhere, but takes its resource from previous writing.
        Insidious? Bunkum!

        • margaret says:

          Nonsense! Double bunkum with bells on it. No doubt Harper Lee read Huckleberry Finn but who are you to say that Mark Twain should get the mention – you are determined to not see my point. Each author’s work deserves at least the sentence that begins with “Harper Lee’s splendid book To Kill a Mockingbird … ” without segueing immediately to an author who wrote on the same theme with a similarly young protagonist about a century beforehand. TKAM is superior anyway IMO.

        • margaret says:

          Oh, and Alan, you are ‘harrumphing’ with your “nonsense!” And “bunkum!”

          • Alan Gould says:

            They are words a shade more accurate than the more usual Oz vernacular, whatever reflexive grievances they might draw.

  • Nga says:

    Don, you begin your introductory on climate with this statement:

    “I have written a large number of essays on ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW) and its later sister ‘climate change’, a term which came into use in about 2004, when dedicated Climate Botherers could see that warming was refusing to rise as it had done … “

    This comment does not withstand scrutiny and you know it to be a falsehood. You know it is a falsehood because various climate change related authorities including the IPCC, have had term “climate change” in their title since prior to 2004. You also know it is a falsehood because a simple Google Scholar search brings up over 800,000 hits for “climate change” prior to 2004 and a simple scroll through the first 50 or so links brings up numerous articles in journals like “Nature”, books and so on that use the term “climate change” going back to the previous millennia. If you wish to claim you were only referring to public discourse or the media, a Google search brings up hundreds of thousands of earlier results including media reports.

    Don, why did you provide false information? When will you apologise for misleading readers? When will you correct your mistake?

    • spangled drongo says:

      More than dumb denial now, hey enge?

      Are you seriously trying to claim that the “climate botherers” use of the phrase “climate change” is the traditional one??

      What a deceiving denier you are!

      When the CB’s term “climate change” came into use this century it had a completely different meaning to the traditional term which has been in use for yonks.

      As well you know!!!

      When you true believers of catastrophic AGW lost the ability to scream GLOBAL WARMING [because in spite of record emissions for nearly 20 years the globe didn’t warm and some parts of it still haven’t] you fabricated the expression “climate change”.

      With all the implications that it meant CAGW.

      But you could conveniently deny it did, if anybody nailed you on it.

      But now butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth and you’re claiming Don is the one telling lies.

      You are a thorough cad.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      First, your post here is way off topic. Go and find where it might usefully sit, and I’ll respond to it there.

      Second, try to get the superior (but inferior) tone out of your writing. If I made an error (and I don’t agree that I did) that does not mean that I know it to be a falsehood. I might just be wrong. As I explained earlier, ‘global warming’ beats ‘climate change’ throughout the last couple of decades as a Google reference.

      Third, if you want to contribute, find something useful and apposite to contribute with. If you can’t, please go and find something else to do.

      • Nga says:

        You now say:

        “As I explained earlier, ‘global warming’ beats ‘climate change’ throughout the last couple of decades as a Google reference.”

        This is entirely irrelevant. You claimed “climate change” is a “term which came into use in about 2004”. You did not claim “climate change” became more common about 2004. Your claim is false and takes less than five minutes to confirm it is false in respect of public comment, the media, academia and scientific journals by using Google and Google Scholar to do a date range search.

        Rather than continue to dissemble, why not demonstrate a new found commitment to honesty and admit that the very first sentence in your series of essays on climate change is untruthful?

        Should you wish this discussion to continue on another thread, please be so kind as to nominate an appropriate thread.

        • Don Aitkin says:


          You don’t read and you don’t listen. YOU do some reading to find where such an issue should be dealt with, and go there. This matter is simply off topic here.

    • Peter WARWICK says:

      Don, do not reply to Nga. Baits are being laid.

  • PeterE says:

    Leavis provided a very useful pathway into the judging of the novel and made a very good case for the novels he championed. I am suspicious of the anti-Leavis faction; they seem to be obsessed by other than literary values. I did read the two cultures writings and found them stimulating and making an important point: it is necessary for the good humanities person to know some science and vice versa. I read ‘The Masters’ and found it interesting but in the end I lost interest in Snow as a novelist; his work is, as mentioned, ponderous and often boring. Leavis was correct about him but couched his objections in such a way as to damage himself rather than Snow. Nevertheless, Snow might well merit a re-read for what he does bring that is ‘novel’ in the novel.
    I did notice the influence of Snow in the couple of your novels that I have read. These, actually, struck me as rather better written than what I remember of Snow, and much more flowing. I’ve had a look at your latest and it seems an interesting new path but as things stand I’m taking up too much time on keeping up with emails. Keep the words flowing and ignore the comments of the AGW fanatics.

  • Aert Driessen says:

    Thanks Don, I was absolutely fascinated by your insights into the world of literature. By any standard I am very poorly read through lack of opportunity — change of language before high school (Holland to Hong Kong), 5 years of boarding school with structured after-dinner study periods (and chapel), 4 years of university and a part-time job, then 10 years in exploration camps with only a tilly lamp for light. That said, the only 2 books that I enjoyed more than the movie, which says a lot for me, are the Cruel Sea (Monsarat?) and The Spy who came in from the Cold )le Carre). As for Leavis, I can’t imagine anyone writing such a derogatory opinion about someone else, which I won’t respond to Nga.

    • margaret says:

      “absolutely fascinated” … oh I wish to hear that written about a woman’s insights into the world of literature (rather than her physical attributes lol).
      Enough from me today as steam is coming from the frontal lobe of my cranium.
      But lastly, Nga has a point – the thing that first bothered me about DA’s masthead, which has now changed to list less Renaissance man interests was the italics around ‘climate change’ only, like a signal, prompting me to tune in.

      • Aert Driessen says:

        Margaret, we don’t live in the same universe, but parallel ones. 🙂

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Margaret, you must have missed it. Climate change means a change in climate over time. ‘Climate change’ means what the UNFCCC refers to — a change in climate caused by human activity.

        • margaret says:

          Oh that was kind of you not to point out my error. I meant quotation marks or as we once called them, inverted commas. So it simply means that UNFCCC is being quoted when you use that term in quotation marks – thanks!

          • margaret says:

            Because until now I thought the quotation marks you used for ‘climate change’ meant this:
            “Quotation marks around words can instruct the reader to think the words mean something other than what they say. It’s like adding a wink to your statement, so people know you’re kidding.”

            So I was wrong.

          • margaret says:

            Whilst I can accept that I mistakenly thought Don’s inverted commas implied irony when I first read them on the subtitle of his original masthead, I also think it’s quite misleading to continue the practice because many, particularly Gen X, for whom ‘irony’ is part of their make-up if they’ve been educated in a post-modernist humanities faculty, are aware of the ‘air quotes’ used for irony in conversation up until emoticons came and made us all simpletons … 🙂

          • margaret says:

            I.e. Don’s USE of inverted commas to denote a UNFCCC term.

          • margaret says:

            More inverted comma use in Canberra Times article The real reason politics has ‘gone mad’.

            Politics has “gone mad”, and Australian politicians shouldn’t blame a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment or opposition to multiculturalism as the main reason.

            ‘Instead, according to Labor finance spokesman Jim Chalmers, it’s because of a “deeper disillusionment” in society, linked to low wages growth and falling living standards.’

        • Peter WARWICK says:

          I disagree with you Don. “Climate Change”, according to the English Language, is simply a change in climate over some discernible time (lets say 50 years (anything less is too indeterminate)). Most things “change”. Do we have to re-define the meaning of the word “change”. Are we driving the same cars as 50 years ago ? Do we build the same style (technical) house as we did 50 years ago ? Do we knock out a letter on a Remington typewriter ? They are all “changes”.

          The question is “Who/ Why/ When/ How has climate changed”. Can the “change” be exclusively or partly attributed to mankinds activity or not, and if so, to what extent.

          I do hope that the English Language has not been perverted to the point that we need a new Oxford English Dictionary (updated hourly !)

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Peter, I said all that above. But the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defined the phrase in Definition 2. as follows:

            ‘2. “Climate change” means a change of climate which is
            attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that
            alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which
            is in addition to natural climate variability observed
            over comparable time periods.’

            So there are two definitions abroad. One is sensible, and one is there to forward an agenda, at least in my judgment. How should one distinguish them? I used inverted commas when I had in mind the UNFCCC version.

            I hope that is understood.

  • margaret says:

    If anyone is interested in watching a brilliant television adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall it’s on ABC on Sunday nights at 9.40. First Ep was last night and it’s about POWER! in the court of Henry VIII. It’s superb. Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell is prodigious – if that word can be substituted for amazing.

  • Chris Warren says:

    While I like to keep threads on track, it is not possible to let this pass by in silence.

    “One is sensible, and one is there to forward an agenda, at least in my judgment.”

    Such claims do not help and seem to indicate a preempted mindset that will have great difficulty accepting new science.

    Anyone can cry “agenda” and when that doesn’t produce the desired effect, you can always add another word, “hidden”, can’t you.

    If you want to see how agendas do intrude, just watch how the anti-renewable campaigners are trying to reverse renewable targets just because a wind toppled some power transmission towers and lightening struck a substation or two.

    Let science create the agendas.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Perhaps you would like to explain, Chris, how defining climate change as something that is caused by human activity is not part of an agenda. What then are we to do with climate change that is natural? Should that be called something else? What, exactly? Why couldn’t climate change have been said to be the real thing (a change to climate conditions), and scientists asked to separate out natural and human-caused influences? Wouldn’t that have been sensible? If you don’t think so, perhaps explain why you prefer what has happened.

      And I did say, ‘in my judgement’. I am prepared to believe that those at the Rio conference were so convinced that human activity was the cause that they just didn’t think of anything else. But that was 1992, and there is abundant evidence since that we simply cannot explain all warming simply by reference to human activity. Yet the old definition continues. An agenda does seem likely, but it could be habit, or the wearisome business of changing words in documents that have been adopted by others, and getting them to agree to the change. Or it could just be that those in the UNFCCC like things the way they are, even if the outcome is not helpful, even to their cause.

      But you might like to think about it, and then respond.

      • Nga says:

        Don, is this what you are referring to?

        If it is, you should note that the definitions are prefaced by these words:

        For the purposes of this Convention:

        It has been common practice in legal documents dating back to before the Magna Carta to include an annex of definitions that pertain solely to the legal document in question. All of the legislation I am familiar with from my days working in administrative law have a clause or appendix of some sort that contains definitions that are limited to that particular legal instrument.

        Your claim that “there are two definitions [of climate change] abroad” is thus based on your misunderstanding.

        This is only the second claim of yours that I checked to date and just like the first one, you have stuffed up. Anyway, please enjoy your weekend.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          What I referred to was what I wrote — definition 2 of the Convention. There is no ,misunderstanding, on my part, anyway. There are certainly two definitions about. One is the UNFCCC definition, which I set out. The other is the ordinary meaning of ‘climate change’, which is any change to climate, from any cause. Because there are two meanings abroad, I use inverted commas to indicate the UNFCCC definition. If I don’t, then I’m referring to the more sensible, broader meaning. No stuff-up on my part. And I’m not sure what the claim’ you refer to is.

          Nga, others have pointed this out, and I am beginning to think you are simply a time-waster.

          • Nga says:

            Your comment makes no sense. The UNFCC has provided a new definition of climate change, all it has done is provide a definition that pertains only to the Convention. Talk about thick.

          • Nga says:

            sorry that should read ” The UNFCC has NOT provided a new definition of climate change”.

      • Chris Warren says:

        I am thinking, that if science points in a direction, then this is immediately not being driven by any agenda.

        Although this does not exclude deliberately basing agendas for the future on science.

        You have to use the word agenda in the right context and not as a label or device for the sake of an argument.

        • spangled drongo says:

          No agenda? Who’d ‘a’ thought?

          What the climate botherers don’t get is, because they can’t offer definite evidence that the below average global warming can be sheeted home to human emissions, they and all the organisations they support that are forced to use the term “climate change” as a cop-out, the thinking public easily see right through their self-adorned emperor wear.

          “It is telling that one of the few remaining gas-fired power stations at Pelican Point had to be called on last night to re-boot the network given that wind turbines are unable to turn themselves on.”

          But the irony is delicious. SA jumps on the green gravy train ahead of every other state so they can milk those “dirty” F/F excesses to make up for their own shortcomings but when their RE systems fail so badly the overload even switches that power off.

          “Last night South Australians witnessed a preview of the future Green utopia where the carbon budget has been exceeded and consumption must be limited. They would now be the first to insist that a world without reliable electricity is not a very nice place in which to live.”

          • JimboR says:

            “wind turbines are unable to turn themselves on.”

            That’s true of most generating technologies actually. Hydro is one of the easiest (lowest power requirements) to restart standalone, but most technologies need about 10% of their capacity just to get themselves started. After one massive US/Canadian blackout they called on a US Navy Ship to jump-start the grid.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Tell ya what, jimb, this would’a’ turned itself on:

          • JimboR says:

            Not a chance in hell. It’s exactly those that need massive amounts of power to get started. And it was the main trunk from Port Augusta to Adelaide that got taken out by the winds so even had it still been in use, and continued to run, it wouldn’t have helped Adelaide.

          • JimboR says:

            The good news is Drongo, EE is much easier than climate science and given your mastery of that field, you should be able to knock off an EE degree in a week! Let us know how it goes.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Perhaps, jimb, I could have put it a little better. The Playford Power Station would have been capable of being turned on [not that it ever would have been turned off in the first place] in such a situation.

            That is, if they hadn’t had the acute foresight to blow it up.

            And SA would have had a network of generators prior to this “rationalisation” that would have backed up their system to a much greater degree than this disaster they have ended up with.

            When they had a worse storm 50 years ago, what happened then?

            Or didn’t they learn from that either?

            But the fact is, Qld often gets much worse than this over much greater areas and a state blackout has never happened.

            Unless, that is, we go all RE like these gits.

          • JimboR says:

            Repeating yourself won’t make it any more true Drongo. A coal fired power station needs massive amounts of power to start up, and until it’s started can’t generate that. And of course it would have shut off, otherwise where would have all that power gone? You did see the damage to the network right? That linked Port Augusta to Adelaide.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Who did you say is repeating himself, jimb?

            The bleedin’ obvious that you conveniently avoid is the fact that, by destroying these F/F generators, they have seriously damaged their cred if they ever expect to develop any serious industry again in that state.

          • JimboR says:

            Yes perhaps, or perhaps their grid got blown away in a storm. Either way, the issue I raised here is how helpful your observation that wind turbines need the grid in order to start, when that’s true of most generating technologies…. hence the need for a US Navy Ship to help bootstrap a the US/Canadian grid, which was primarily coal-fired at the time.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Jimb, ol’ chap, wind generators are induction generators which means they require the grid to be energised so that they can generate and deliver power. Without an energised electricity grid they cannot generate any power no matter what the wind does.

            Engie turned on the Pelican Point F/F power station at their own expense to save the day.

            They obviously did this with no power in the grid.

            And are you serious about needing a navy ship to start a F/F grid???

            Pull the other one.

          • JimboR says:

            It depends on the ‘F’. Gas easy, which is why they’re used for taking up the slack when intermittent renewables drop out. Coal extremely difficult, which is why they’re used for providing always-on baseload. Take away that base-load by blowing your grid away and you have a massive problem. You’re not even a week into your EE degree and I see you’re showing the same confidence you do in climate science… I’d expect no less.

          • spangled drongo says:

            One thing I’ve quickly learnt, Jimb, is to be a bit sceptical of claims like:

            ‘“wind turbines are unable to turn themselves on.”

            That’s true of most generating technologies actually.”‘

            They don’t have to turn themselves on as long as they are capable of being turned on in the absence of a powered grid. And that is something wind can’t do but F/F can.

            You shouldn’t alibi dumb decisions with devious declarations.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Chris, as I see it, ‘the science’ points in many directions. Apparently you think the science is settled. I don’t. We are not going to agree on anything much in this domain if that is the case.

          • Chris Warren says:

            Yes some science is settled. Absorption spectra, different Carbon isotopes, and satellite data prove a scientific effect.

            Observations of ice-loss corroborate this.

            Observations of a more energetic weather system, though vague, do not contradict the current scientific understanding.

            Projections into the future should be possible without any impetus from agendas.

  • spangled drongo says:

    BTW, no books allowed:

    “This classic 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone stars Burgess Meredith as a librarian in a dystopian future without books. The state decides he has no function in society, and is to be executed for the crime of being obsolete. Rod Serling delivers the brilliant closing narration: “Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognise the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete.”‘

  • Don Aitkin says:

    It occurred to me after writing the essay that there might be a film or a mini-series involving one or more of the books in the Strangers and Brothers series. And indeed there is, a BBC mini-series from 1983. It is very good, too, but the 13 episodes of an hour each took a while to see. I recommend it.

  • […] Christie, which I read in an hour or so and thought quite thin. C. P. Snow, about whose novels I wrote some time ago, did quite a good one, A Coat of Varnish (1978), where both the protagonist and the detective at […]

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