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Always look on the bright side of life

I thought about the line in the title – from Monty Python’s Life of Brian – when I read this article today about the diabolical “summer” that we are enduring. Floods, thousands of people displaced from their homes; huge insurance payouts……yes, all the ingredients to keep us Brits moaning as only we know how. The article does make clear, in fact, that we have had terrible summers before. In 1845, one of the wettest summers on record precipitated the Great Famine in Ireland, as potatoes, on which the Irish population were dangerously reliant, were hit by blight. The disaster led to mass starvation and emigration of millions of Irish people to the US and Australia, among other places (the rancour that was caused by that calamity has never entirely disappeared, unfortunately). It also precipitated the end of the UK’s tariffs on corn, as the then Prime Minister Robert Peel pushed ahead with free trade and caused a split in the Tory Party, leading to about 30 years of Liberal Party dominance in the age of Gladstone.

I am a global warming skeptic (not the same as denying it) and I do not know whether our lousy summer is linked to the increased violence of weather conditions that some say will be caused by global warming. But this is the weirdest weather I have experienced. A friend of mine who has taken up viniculture in the hope that hotter UK weather would lead to a revived UK wine industry may be wondering whether he has chosen the wrong career path. But then next year may be a scorcher. That is the beauty of global warming – you can blame anything on it.

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42 comments to Always look on the bright side of life

  • freeman too

    I have known wet summers before, but years ago the usual miserable British holiday season didn’t draw quite the same frenzy of anxiety.

    For a start not too many new houses were then built on flood plains or adjacent to rivers and above all we didn’t have a 24 hour media to feed us images (many with viewers’ own videos of local damage) to keep it at the forefront of our minds. Floods in one part of the nation weren’t of much interest to other areas and thus not “news.” A sad indictment of human nature, but true.

    Is all this global warming? Perhaps, though it may be climate change in the way that the climate changes naturally as it always has done. We have had a period of relatively dry weather preceding this deluge and one thing that dear old Mother Nature does is try to balance things up.

    I just feel sorry for all those people cultivating Mediterranean gardens. Could be TV programme planners interested in gardening are looking right now at plants and features that benefit in swamps or wetlands.

  • It doesn’t matter whether the flooding we are now experiencing is linked to global warming or not. The way the press are baying for blood is frankly disgusting. Its the bloody weather for crying out loud, and they are looking for someone to blame.
    Less than 1% of the EPA’s flood defences failed and yet Andrew Neil was haranguing (sp?) their representative for not having been better prepared. The truth is that this kind of weather is impossible to prepare for adequately and no amount of money is going to change that.
    I am saddened by the culture of blame that has grown up in our society, when people want to blame the authorities for the weather you know that something is broken.

  • It seems likely that planners are to blame in some instances — in that they decide where houses get built.

    People need to accept responsibility, though. Listening to interviewees on the radio is an eye (ear?) opener. One woman “can’t believe it’s happened again”, as if floods are like lightning and never strike twice in the same place. Another chap has lost irreplaceable personal items, somehow having failed to take precautions despite constant news coverage of floods for the past week or so. Where do they find these people? Just once I’d like to hear from someone with a stiff upper lip: “It’s only a bit of water. We managed before and we’ll manage again. Looters? They’ll ‘ave my shotgun to deal with!”

  • watcher in the dark

    The Nanny State won’t disappear when citizens are looking for nannies in force… the floods have brought out the “Why can’t the government do something?” cries from all over.

  • Xel

    First, global warming is indeniable. The onus is on the sceptics.

    Second, people must pay for intriniscal externalities of their behavior. Some things cannot be bought and thusly turned sovereign – the climate, the content of our air and water and, maybe, radio waves are included here. This includes driving precious SUVs and other holy property and holy individual choices.

    As such, if one could prove that the damages in Europe, Africa et al. are caused by pollution then the US owns individuals in many countries lots of money. Likewise, the EU has to pay the US and China some money etc.

    Or an analogy; if ten rugged entrepreneur SUV owners cause the flooding of some dependent multi-culturalist socialist nannyninny-boy’s house they pay up every penny of damages.

  • RAB

    Xel Bless !!

    Floods? What Floods?

    The Fool on the Hill

  • Sam Duncan

    Can I just say it’s a lovely day in Glasgow?

    That’s probably due to Global Warming too, no doubt. Ah, the joys of the unfalsifiable theory…

  • First, global warming is indeniable. The onus is on the sceptics.

    It is far from undeniable… as it happens, I do believe it is happening, however mankind has very little to do with it and most of the climate science models suggesting otherwise are preposterous. However the prevailing orthodoxy being what it is, people tend not to get their project funded by telling people what they did not want to hear.

  • James Waterton

    First, global warming is indeniable. The onus is on the sceptics.

    Hallelujah, brother!

    Congratulations, Xel – you’ve quite precisely illustrated the confused yet utterly dogmatic mentality of so many global warming champions with that supremely ill-considered comment of yours.

  • James Waterton

    Love to see the cool “smite control” graphic – hate to see it!

  • Mandrill writes:

    I am saddened by the culture of blame that has grown up in our society, when people want to blame the authorities for the weather you know that something is broken.

    In a world where the “authorities” blame the people for the weather (through CAGW, Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming – now renamed “climate change” as a political safety measure), it strikes me as a fairish (if not strictly logical) response so to blame them.

    Best regards

  • Paul Marks

    Almost (but not quite) needless to say, Mr David Cameron has declared that the problem is that there is not enough government spending.

    Whether the great man meant that flooding could have been reduced by more government spending, or that the rain could have been prevented by more government spending, was unclear.

  • Xel

    “It is far from undeniable… as it happens, I do believe it is happening, however mankind has very little to do with it and most of the climate science models suggesting otherwise are preposterous.”

    Nope, I still think you are drenched in onus, but I will not attack you or call you unreasonable, since I don’t have time to dig 4- what have previously read.
    Visit realclimate.org for starters, read carefully, cross-reference, and realize that Lomborg, Staerk and Swindle aren’t worth the salt. For starters.
    The thing is, if the climate reaches a tipping point it would not have reached without US overconsumption and many millions die, then Americans are partial murderers in the same way that socialist politicians are partial slaveowners. Intrinsical effects.

    “That’s probably due to Global Warming too, no doubt. Ah, the joys of the unfalsifiable theory…”
    Climate models do take in the human factor. A report with more footnotes than you or I can count said that there is a 90 % chance that this level of global warming is our doing. You may not care, but there are individuals in Africa and elsewhere who do not. How will they adapt, become cacti?

    “Whether the great man meant that flooding could have been reduced by more government spending, or that the rain could have been prevented by more government spending, was unclear.” Well, the thing is that we have entire villages that are built with the presumption that the weather wouldn’t go bazookas on us. It might not be economically unreasonable to pay now rather than have a stymied economy later. I know that the level of goverment control and manipulation in the EU is far far far too high and that issues like islamic separatism or economic breakdown due to social spending are overlooked too often, but we must be ready to understand that we are talking when, not if on this issue, Al Gore’s silliness be damned.

    Once we add 2 centigrades to the climate we could be seeing a shit-fit coming, and it will be the third world that takes most of the damage. I am ready to do a lot to save these people, considering it’s our greenhouse gases…

  • See a moron; his name is Dave, and he is visiting Rwanda.
    Well.
    I suppose it is ‘different’.
    Unfashionable enough to be ‘conservative’, yet relevant enough to be ‘progressive’.
    More AID anyone?

  • RAB

    Oh dear. I fear you may have taken my Bless in the wrong way.
    Apparently our current weather problems in the UK are down to the Jetsteam not being in the right place.
    Why it is not in the right place our scientists and computer models have absolutely no idea!
    Yes you can blame the Government! Why the hell not! They take the credit when something goes right that is nothing to do with them.
    Our sea and river defences are at 54% of what they should be, and those are the govts figures.
    But we wont spend more says Baroness Young because this kind of thing only happens every hundred years or so.
    Now hang on a goddam minute! On the one hand the govt is telling us that the world is about to go to hell in a handbasket if WE dont mend our ways, yet it is complacent about concrete things you can to to alleviate the effects of global warming on the general populace, and just wont spend the money on unsexy things like building barriers , fixing riverbanks and getting sandbags at the very least, to where they are needed! Like Perry and many others here, I dont deny the fact of global warming but the WHYof it.
    Last year , whilst I was sat in 100f heat in my egyptian nightshirt with the air conditioning going full blast , I was promised that it was going to be even hotter this year! If they cant forcast a year ahead with some accuracy, then I will continue to be skeptical of 2 degree tipping points and the world in flames by 2020!!
    So thanks for dropping in Xel. Hope you enjoy the ride.
    Be gentle with him folks.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Visit realclimate.org for starters, read carefully, cross-reference, and realize that Lomborg, Staerk and Swindle aren’t worth the salt. For starters

    I have rather more regard for Lomborg than most of the “we are all doomed” variety of scientists who have made a nice little living pushing the climate change argument, Xel. Lomborg does not deny climate change and neither do I; Lomborg argues, however, that instead of trying to tell the industrial world to stop in its tracks, and surrender trillions in the attempt, it should focus its energies on things like dealing with the consequences of climate change, providing the Third World with clean drinking water and sanitation. That is a value judgement: it does not depend upon accepting or denying that the world is hotting up. This would apply even if climate change had a solar, rather than man-made, cause.

  • These Climate Models,anyone tried them on a full sized planet?

    “. I am ready to do a lot to save these people, considering it’s our greenhouse gases…”

    You realise that you produce CO2 just by breathing,go donate your carbon to Gaia.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Xel,

    We know about realclimate. We’re also well aware that it’s biased – it’s purpose is to push pro-AGW polemic. It is technically more informed than many sites but ocasionally uses misleading, incomplete or even incorrect argument, is well known for censoring dissenters and contrary opinions from the comments, and has something of an attitude problem with regard to scepticism.

    Lomborg generally quotes official sources for his material, like the UN. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a far more honest debater than realclimate. Swindle was an unashamed polemic on the same level as An Inconvenient Truth. It’s not meant to be a scientific lecture, but a pop-science TV documentary for the masses. It suffers from the same sort of over-simplification, but judged by the appropriate standard is on the whole is a lot more accurate than Al Gore’s oscar-winner – which has just become part of the official British school curriculum, by the way.

    Your tipping point argument has a difficulty when it comes to dealing with paleoclimatology – a few hundred million years ago, CO2 levels were more than ten times what they are now, and the planet didn’t blow up, and all life forms didn’t die. Life did rather well, actually. The ‘tipping points’, such as they are, are a long way out of reach. There are further arguments to explain why the concept is incorrect, but I don’t really have space here.

    Your ‘report with footnotes’ is presumably the IPCC assessment/summary for policy makers. That’s a political document, gives only a (one-sided) overview of the scientific literature, and I don’t even know where to begin on listing its shortcomings. The scientific review comments are now online (after a major FOIA fight) and you can see how many of the criticisms, gaps, and errors that were pointed out got ignored. The last one was the one that popularised the famous Hockeystick – which is now well-known to be based on duff statistics. Although the latest version barely acknowledges that, or mentions the similar failings in all the follow-up studies that supposedly replace it.

    Why would the Africans have to become cacti? The Sahara desert is reported to be shrinking, (there’s no reason to think global warming wouldn’t increase precipitation in places as well as decrease it) and desert can be adapted to by irrigation anyway.

    You need to be aware of what that 2 degrees C actually means. The climate anomaly (which is what that is measuring) is an very complex statistical quantity that varies locally over a very wide range. On a monthly 5×5 degree gridcell basis, it is spread over about plus or minus 20 degrees. (Although such excursions are in the outliers – most of the spread is within about plus/minus five degrees.) If you take the global average, the average varies over a much smaller range, and it is that which has increased by about half a degree over the past century. But that is a lot less relevant to any sort of local weather considerations. Although the quantity is polluted by the urban heat island effect, rounding, missing data, station location changes, bucket adjustments, and a plethora of other noise sources, there are good reasons for thinking this rise is real. But the normal spread of weather randomness is a number of degrees anyway, so it only shows up in an increased likelihood of unusually warm as opposed to unusually cold temperatures. Temperatures colder than the present will still occur.

    The scientific issue got hijacked and became a political issue, and when the initially good-looking scientific evidence started to crumble, it no longer mattered. The climate is changing, because it has always changed. It will continue to change in the future, and that may be good or bad. Past civilisations have all risen and fallen with major climate shifts – it’s well-worth studying. And CO2 may indeed be an issue, although the evidence that it is a major one is weak. But what is known past all doubt is that significantly cutting CO2 emissions is not the best way to tackle it, even if the theory is true. Indeed, it’s one of the worst. And if the theory is not true, that method is positively disasterous.

  • Frederick Davies

    First, global warming is indeniable. The onus is on the sceptics.

    Sorry, but no. The onus is ALWAYS on the side of those who want to prove something. There are NO exceptions to the rule, that is how Science works; otherwise it is not Science, but Philosophy. Science is not meant to be easy; if you can’t do it, you just can’t do it, you do not lower the burden of proof until it works.

  • Xel

    “I have rather more regard for Lomborg than most of the “we are all doomed” variety of scientists who have made a nice little living pushing the climate change argument”

    Have they? You have on good authority that all those who are behind the thoroughly referenced IPCC report is making more of a mint than before? Please, nothing baseless. And Lomborg’s credibility isn’t tarnished at all even though he may have “made a living” giving skeptics some breathing space in the debate, which they probably don’t deserve? http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

    Consensus doesn’t have objective value. I know you are reasonable to warn of dogmatic thinking, but your side hasn’t performed much.

    “instead of trying to tell the industrial world to stop in its tracks, and surrender trillions in the attempt, it should focus its energies on things like dealing with the consequences of climate change, providing the Third World with clean drinking water and sanitation.”

    That old Strawman… He’s cropping up so often I may name him soon. Anyway, I perfectly agree with Lomborg if he says that corporations and nations should pay up for all damages done to nations in the danger zone.

    “You realise that you produce CO2 just by breathing,go donate your carbon to Gaia.”

    That is below expected levels of reasoning and communication and you know it.

    PA Annoyed, on the other hand, has shifted the onus over to me Bravo and thanks, although I’ll look up your claims myself before I adapt. AFAIK there was a tipping point not very long ago… Ah, continue elsewhere, but thanks for poking some new stuff into view, and keeping communication straighter than me.

  • Jerry

    Xel,
    the temperature has stabilized or gone down since 1998, yet CO2 has increased by 5%.

    Temperatures went down from 1940 to 1970,while Co2 was increasing.

    Al Gore’s Ice Core data shows rising Co2 600-800 years behind the warming of the earth.

    go back to realclimiate.org and preach to the choir. We actually thing on this site.

    How do these ‘FACTS’ fit with Computer model ‘guesses’.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Jerry,

    It’s too early to tell whether the temperature has stabilised – it has a tendency to go up in steps. There’s too much noise to pick up trends (or their absence) over anything less than about thirty years. (And even then, no proof that they are trends rather than long-term persistance. A point the warmers prefer to ignore.) But you’re right that it hasn’t moved since 1998.

    But you’re OK on the other two points. They usually explain the drop in the 70s with global dimming, but their aerosol figures aren’t accurate enough to actually test that, so it’s no more than a guess. And Al Gore definitely was telling porkies about the Vostok ice core temperature sawtooth.

    I’m only pointing that out in the interests of ensuring sceptics are not too easily debunked in future. Scepticism is certainly justified, in my opinion, but the detailed arguments are by now very complicated.

  • “That is below expected levels of reasoning and communication and you know it.”

    Not when dealing with the fascist branch of stupid,but why don’t you set an example,what are you doing to prevent “global warming”?

  • Terry Colon

    Climate and weather are not the same thing. Weather is local and temporary and is not indicative of any climate change whatever. No-one can really tell you what the weather will be in two weeks, but they can tell you the climate will be next year. Pretty much what it was last year, and the year before, etc. There is always variations in weather from year to year, that is not climate change.

    MGW skeptics are not skeptical of climate change, only that man’s contribution is anything but minimal. 95% of the greenhouse effect is from water vapor and all CO2, most of it natural, is only about 3.5%. The mechanism of MGW is far from an established fact.

  • David A.

    A report with more footnotes than you or I can count said that there is a 90 % chance that this level of global warming is our doing.

    If a study has many footnotes, it must be true.

  • what do you think the chances that the extensive British nanny state will do a better job of intervening to save those hundreds who have been flooded out of their homes from any inconvenience than did the supposedly ineffectual American federal government with the million or two who lost their homes in Katrina?

  • Xel

    “Not when dealing with the fascist branch of stupid,but why don’t you set an example,what are you doing to prevent “global warming”?”

    There are smarter skeptics than you to deal with and learn from, as evident in the response to my posts. You are not worth the effort or the reading, and I have been given no reason to persist in arguing with you. I give W/O.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Anyway, I perfectly agree with Lomborg if he says that corporations and nations should pay up for all damages done to nations in the danger zone.

    It is some time since I read Lomborg and I don’t recall him saying that on the basis of what is a theory – and that is what AGW is – that companies and their investors should be made to pay trillions of dollars to certain parts of the world. Even the most ardent defenders of tort law might wonder about that.

    Xel, the problem with a lot of Greens is that they have become very adept at accusing any global warming skeptic of being in the pay of Big Oil, or whatever; they must find it a bracing experience to have the same tactic thrown back at them. A lot of grant funding comes with supporting the Global Warming hypothesis; Lomborg writes at length about this and given his experience of how academia works, it is not surprising that he ruffled a lot of feathers.

  • Philosophy is science too.
    You mean theory.
    While I’m at it, what was all that I wrote about Cameron?
    Damn this tasty beer.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Xel also claims that I am raising a “strawman” in pointing out that Lomborg, and others, have challenged the idea that we should spend trillions of dollars in trying to curb global warming by massive changes to our industrial way of life and instead focus our energies on things like reducing Third World poverty, etc. Quite why this is a “straw man” is not clear; Lomborg merely raises the point that in a world of scarce resources, if we expend $Xtrillion on trying to change the Earth’s climate (a singularly hubristic venture) we will not be able to spend that money on something else.

  • guy herbert

    Xel,

    Jonathan writes: It is some time since I read Lomborg and I don’t recall him saying that on the basis of what is a theory – and that is what AGW is – that companies and their investors should be made to pay trillions of dollars to certain parts of the world.

    I can remember him quite clearly enough to state unequivocally that he doesn’t advocate any kind of reparation theory. Lomborg’s arguments are pragmatic, and analytical not moralitarian like Xel’s. Lomborg in academic mode merely asks: what’s the most effective use of the money assuming it is available, not whether it ought to be available to dispense, nor who deserves it.

    He shows Kyoto is nonsense, not by contradicting the IPCC, but by affirming it. Where’s the straw?

  • “There are smarter skeptics than you to deal with and learn from, as evident in the response to my posts. You are not worth the effort or the reading, and I have been given no reason to persist in arguing with you. I give W/O.”

    So I will take it you are personally not doing anything towards AGW,having stated quite categorically “I am ready to do a lot to save these people, considering it’s our greenhouse gases… ”
    When asked precisely it is you are doing you become very coy.

    Your opening line,
    “First, global warming is indeniable (sic)”. leaves no room for debate and your general tone is reminiscent of the old Marxist”inevitability of world communism”.
    So before perpetrating totalitarian disasters like the collectivisation of the Kulaks,Pol Pot’s social experiments and the Cultural Revolution of Mao,it would be a courtesy if you true believers could actually enunciate what it is they are doing.

  • freeman too

    The joy of the Xeloids is that they can believe wholheartedly, and wholehearted belief in anything (even something as vast as AGW) trumps a mind that questions, or those that ask for more information.

  • indeniable.
    First of all it is ‘undeniable’.
    Secondly, in the context of the Right to Rule, it should be ‘inalienable’.

  • Changing the subject slightly, I was wondering if you are getting a flood, er, a plethora of American commentary talking about the horrors of this flooding, the miserable failure of the Labor government to respond quickly, and how it basically reflects poorly on the British character and temperament that your people are suffering through this? I ask because in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded and flattened a chunk of civilization roughly the size of England, from Brom eastwards, we were treated to exactly that type of commentary at the hands of the British commentariat. I was sort of hoping that our Amerikkkan logorrheaic class was dishing out some payback, as it got mighty tiring to be getting lectured on our classist, racist society by the likes of the French and the Fleet Street newsrooms. Somehow, I’m guessing you aren’t hearing it from our pundits and that everybody is holding their critique of British society in abeyance, understanding perhaps that not even the Queen can control floods, and not even a socialist government can control the bureaucracy and get it to effectively deliver aid in a massive, stricken area.

    My heart goes out to those who are suffering, but I wanted to remind y’all that while your politicians are turning on each other like badgers in a bag, it’s interesting contrast with how they treated the flood on my side of the pond. I guess trying to blame it on the moral/ecological failings of the people is the next best thing. Perhaps somebody should suggest blaming it on George Bush and Halliburton – hey, 50% of the people in the U.S. would buy it…

  • Imethisguy

    “But this is the weirdest weather I have experienced.”

    I don’t want to belittle anyone, but you (and I, and all the rest of humanity combined) are no more than a pimple on a gnat’s bottom.

    In the 4500 million years of earth’s history CO2, water vapor, &c &c &c have varied by orders of magnitude without human agency. It is the arrogance of mankind to think that change happens only when we are here to see it.

    Let us grow up and see how small we are.

  • Sunfish

    Al-
    Alas, the floods in England get very little attention at all. Outside of Samizdata and a few UK-centric blogs kept by bloggers actually in the UK, I’ve seen only one mention at all.

    The antics of a drunken skank who happens to be a hotel heiress are apparently far more important here.

    It’s maddening. Handling emergencies and disasters is something that I study closely, and I’d have liked to be able to see more of how the police/fire/EMS services in the affected area are performing.

    Over here, FEMA/DHS and the Red Cross frequently play up the need to keep 72 hours of supplies ready to go, and the need to have a plan to bug out or shelter-in-place in the event of disaster. Okay, DHS’ advice is less than fully helpful. The point is, they’re at least talking about it and admitting that there will be no government aid in the initial aftermath.

    Are the UK equivalents doing likewise?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Changing the subject slightly, I was wondering if you are getting a flood, er, a plethora of American commentary talking about the horrors of this flooding, the miserable failure of the Labor government to respond quickly, and how it basically reflects poorly on the British character and temperament that your people are suffering through this?

    No. From what I can tell, we are getting no such comments from across the Big pond. In fact, I’d wager a suggestion that Americans, after having heard the sneering at the US after the Katrina disaster, might be excused for a spot of gloating; but that has not happened. But then gloating is not in the style of most Americans, who have always struck me as the most generous-hearted nation on earth.

  • Has anyone looked at the numbers as to the extent of the damage in England and Louisiana, and can tell if they are comparable in scope?

  • Midwesterner

    All I have seen is helicopter pictures of massive flooding, explanations of how big it really is (showing normal and present water lines) concern from at least one disaster manager that it will be rising further, and several human interest stories of people helping people. Some professionals, some just friends and neighbors.

    No. I have not heard one iota of negative commentary.

  • Interesting… we’re still getting reamed out over Katrina by the UN and various international human rights groups. For the most part they are telling us that our lack of initial instantaneous response was due to race and class hatred, and our failure to restore everything to its previous condition (which would be tough in the case of New Orleans, since that city was pretty comprehensively wrecked before the flood) is proof that it is intentional race & class hatred. I guess in G.B.’s case, any failures in response & recovery can be chalked up to a government that simply doesn’t get enough tax revenue, the poor dears, from the greedy rich and middle class.

    As for gloating, naah, none here. Wouldn’t wish the storms & floods we saw on the Chinese Central Committee for Economic Planning, much less our friends in England. Okay, maybe I’d wish it on Red Ken and George Galloway, but nobody else I can think of offhand.

  • Kim du Toit

    If I may make just a teeeeeny correction:

    Brits grumble.

    When it comes to whining, no one but no one comes close to New Yorkers.