Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Campaign Against Climate Change meeting about “climate scepticism” on 14 April 2010

The Campaign Against Climate Change meeting about “climate scepticism” on 14 April 2010 was contentious, not least because the very term “climate scepticism” (or more accurately perhaps “climate change scepticism”), was one of the many subjects of disagreement.

I liked the contentiousness, as one of the speakers (1) admitted, it is possible to be bored, or at least complacent when listening to yet another panel asserting that the majority of current scientific opinion is that human caused climate change is taking place.

He also suggested that simply relying on this scientific majority opinion had led the Green movement to blunder into the media furore that some now call “ climategate”, (although the use of that term too was disagreed about). “ Climategate” involved the leaking of emails about the work of climatologists at the University of East Anglia suggesting that some data they had about climate change may have been exaggerated. Their defenders assert that their findings were basically true but the apparent uncertainty was seized on by those who wished to deny that human caused climate change is happening. This matter received media coverage in November 2009 shortly before the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

As two of the panel speakers were from Green pressure groups and one was an environment correspondent of a quality paper (the Guardian), they were from bits of the Green movement that I seldom come into contact with. I was interested to hear them confirm, in slightly different ways, a report I had heard earlier that some such greens were in varying states of despair over the failure of Copenhagen. Most of my associates were not pleased that these talks had failed, a perhaps even a bit surprised that they failed as spectacularly and chaotically as they did; but I doubt if anyone really expected much real progress from them.

So when the panel speakers all basically advocated combating “ climate scepticism” with counter information campaigns and reaching out to sections of the population that the green movement allegedly did not usually reach, (trade unionists and Conservatives were the two examples given), I did not disagree but I came away doubting if that by itself would be enough.

There were differing nuances on this point of view, the journalist seemed the most sanguine, and some of the suggestions that people mainly agree with information that confirmed their existing opinions did seem to have pessimistic and possibly self-contradictory implications.

However I‘ll leave that one for one or other of the Green movements many philosophers to sort out merely noting that framing Green augments against “ climate scepticism” in such a way as to widen their appeal is a good tactic but may not an entire strategy.

One panel member was against using Climate change as an argument for organising anti-capitalist revolution suggesting that the threats posed by climate change were now too close for there to be time for such distractions. Similar grounds were given for not ruling out nuclear power generation, and there was no contradiction when it was suggested that the emerging middle classes of developing nations were not going to accept cutbacks in their improving standards of living.

The question as to how capitalist pressure for ever increasing economic growth was a definite indoor pachyderm and outside I wondered if persuasion was enough.