We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Climate change scientists starved of media coverage

According to the Independent they are, anyway.

The study showed climate change deniers were featured in nearly 50 per cent more media articles than expert scientists.

Naturally, the Indy cements its point by putting a video of renowned climate scientist Greta Thunberg at the top of the article. They also put up some graphs and, discussing them, can not quite bring themselves to use the study’s terminology of CCC (climate change contrarian) and talk about the non-existent CCD (climate change denier) data set. A testament to the Indy’s devotion to reporting accurately the true official expert view.

The Indy even gives us a lovely example:

For an example of how some media outlets mistreat environmental issues – Fox News had a debate about the Trump administration’s move to weaken the Endangered Species Act yesterday.

A former senior Interior Department official was defending the act, while a random editor from the conservative website Townhall was defending Trump.

One of those people is vastly more qualified to talk about the act than the other – Clue: It’s the one who worked for the government…

So not about climate change, and “worked for the government” is a synonym for “scientist” as far as the Indy is concerned, it would seem. Good work, guys.

As for the study, I am curious about how they selected the media outlets for comparison, but I have not yet looked. And I wonder what would happen if we measured media attention given to non-expert climate change alarmists?

In any case, even on the face of it the study does not quite show what the Indy thinks it shows:

Here we show via direct comparison that contrarians are featured in 49% more media articles than scientists. Yet when comparing visibility in mainstream media sources only, we observe just a 1% excess visibility, which objectively demonstrates the crowding out of professional mainstream sources by the proliferation of new media sources, many of which contribute to the production and consumption of climate change disinformation at scale.

I guess “crowding out of professional mainstream sources” is something the Indy would want to play down. Other than that it is the same old story: the peasants are revolting and the nobility are afraid.

Don’t think of it as a “power cut”, think of it as an “electricity holiday”

The BBC reports that the National Grid will “learn the lessons” after nearly one million people across England and Wales lost power on Friday.

But what lessons will those be?

The power outage happened at about 17:00 BST on Friday, National Grid said, with blackouts across the Midlands, the South East, South West, North West and north east of England, and Wales.

Industry experts said that a gas-fired power station at Little Barford, Bedfordshire, failed at 16.58, followed two minutes later by the Hornsea offshore wind farm disconnecting from the grid.

The National Grid director of operations quoted in this BBC article, Duncan Burt, has said that “he did not believe that a cyber-attack or unpredictable wind power generation were to blame”.

I do not know whether to disbelieve his disbelief. Those concerned with managing the UK’s power supply might have good reasons to keep mum about our vulnerability to cyber attack, and less good reasons for playing down the unpredictability of wind power.

Tim Worstall speculates,

One reading could be……wind farm closes down immediately as wind speed is too high. Gas plant on idle can’t spin up for some reason. Drax is low capacity because it’s burning wood chips, not coal.

On the cyber front, even if this power outage was entirely an Act of God in the insurance sense, the next one might not be. The bad guys have seen how much more damaging power cuts have become now that we are so reliant on the internet. As cashless payments become more common it will only get worse. I love cashless payments! What bliss to no longer have to worry about finding change when you’ve just found the last space in a crowded car park, manoeuvred into it with incredible difficulty while holding up the rest of the traffic, and only then remembered that you have to pay for the damn thing. But an entirely cashless society, as they seem to be moving towards in Sweden, might turn out to have its Orwellian nature tempered only by its lack of resilience.

A final observation: I have read a lot of comments from supporters of remaining in the European Union along the lines of “You think a few hours delay on the railways was bad? Just you wait until we leave the EU without a deal.” However, just as with the chaos caused by the Gatwick drone shutdown, that argument cuts both ways. All their frantic efforts to say “No Deal” must not be allowed to happen because it will cause vast queues at the ports and airports start to look a little silly when the same consequences seem likely to arise every time the wind surges or a cyber attacker gets lucky.

Water shortages solved

Today’s quote of the day was from a longer conversation about water, starting with the conventional wisdom that climate change will inevitably lead to global water shortages. It is not immediately obvious why this should be so, given that melting ice, for example, presumably leads to there being more non-frozen water about.

The impression from the mainstream media is that any water-related problem can be caused by climate change. Floods? Climate change. Drought? Climate change. A summary from NASA suggests that some places, the places that get plenty of rain, will get more rain: so much that it floods. And other more typically dry places will see more droughts. So there is not necessarily a contradiction. On the other hand it is not clear how reliable such predictions are.

Different climate models provide different answers about what will happen to rainfall where. You can almost pick the result you want for a particular place by picking which climate model you want to listen to. You can take the mean of all the model outputs but that only seems useful if they all broadly agree, and even then they could all be wrong. The question of the usefulness of climate models is a big topic. The way they are tuned seems to allow for a lot opportunity for bias to creep in. Also the resolution of GCMs is not high, and the resolution affects the results, especially for precipitation.

In any case, there is a practically unlimited supply of water in the oceans, it is simply a matter of energy to turn it into drinking water and transportation to get it where we need it. With photo-voltaic panels becoming cheaper and more efficient as solar generation capacity has been growing exponentially for the last 25 years, energy is cheap. For desalination there is not even an energy storage problem, since we can make water during the day and water is easy to store. The technology is effective, simple and cheap.

As for transportation, I have heard there is some new technology called an aqueduct.

So there are no technical difficulties, it is not particularly expensive, and with poverty on its way out there seems little to stop any water supply problems from being solved.

As Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, put it, we will reach the “jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs”. It was ever thus. Luckily the action is not difficult.

Samizdata quote of the day

If private companies sold people water, they would regard high levels of demand as a market opportunity. When the government runs water systems, high levels of demand mean shortages. It’s insane. Instead of finding good ways to meet demand with technology, we get price distortion, rationing, and glum pronouncements about the sins of mankind.

– Perry Metzger, reacting to this drivel.

A little phrase to look out for

The Times Saturday magazine features the latest of its series of quick interviews in which a famous person tells the readers “What I’ve learnt”. This one is with that fine actor, Jared Harris. Among the things that Mr Harris has learned and wants to pass on to the reader is that,

“We don’t have another planet. This is it. We’ve nowhere else to go. We’re going through a crisis of denial over climate science. A very small group of people are frustrating the political will to tackle it head on. But when people’s homes become uninhabitable, they will move somewhere else. If you think it’s awkward with tens of thousands of people at the southern border of the US or with a couple of hundred thousand at the borders of the EU, what are you going to do when a couple of hundred million are on the move?”

Very stirring. But I could not help noticing that the little potted biography of Mr Harris at the top of the page says this:

The British actor Jared Harris, 57, played Lane Pryce in Mad Men, King George VI in The Crown and Valery Legasov in Chernobyl, for which he has been nominated for an Emmy. He is one of three sons by the notorious hell-raiser Richard Harris and his wife Elizabeth Rees-Williams. He splits his time between New York and Los Angeles with his third wife, Allegra.

New York and Los Angeles are 2,790 miles apart by road, and 2,450 miles apart by air. It’s a fifty-hour drive, so I think we can safely assume that Mr Harris travels between his two bases by air. Compared to most people’s, his personal carbon footprint is more like a personal carbon Tunguska crater. It must be hard to juggle the claims of a far-flung family and a demanding acting career, so I do not begrudge Mr Harris his air miles. But going from what he said, he begrudges me mine.

When reading the views of celebrities on the environment it is always worth looking out for the words “splits his time” or “divides her time” or equivalents thereof. I first saw this pointed out on a Biased BBC post back in November 2009, about a model called Helena Christensen who held an exhibition of pictures she had taken to document climate change and divided her time between Copenhagen and New York, with occasional side trips to Essex to see her agent.

Samizdata quote of the day

A new update issued by watchdog groups on climate change indicated this afternoon that we only have 12 seconds left until climate change destroys the planet.

We previously thought we had just 12 years, then 10 years, but the latest update indicates that we have well under a minute.

“The earth will be totally destroyed in the next, oh, 12 seconds,” said Beto O’Rourke at a rally. “If you don’t give the government a bunch of money and power, it will happen. Trust me.”

“So hand over the cash, guys,” he said. “Like, now. I’m super serious.”

This tragic development means that humanity won’t have time to correct climate change, and our writers probably won’t even have time to finish thi…

The Babylon Bee

Oh no! We might not have to overthrow capitalism after all

“Climate change: Trees ‘most effective solution’ for warming” reports the BBC.

Researchers say an area the size of the US is available for planting trees around the world, and this could have a dramatic impact on climate change.

The study shows that the space available for trees is far greater than previously thought, and would reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by 25%.

The authors say that this is the most effective climate change solution available to the world right now.

But other researchers say the new study is “too good to be true”.

I do not know enough to say whether this paper by scientists at the Swiss science and technology university ETH Zurich really is too good to be true. But the paper was published in the respected journal Science, and seems to be being taken seriously by the scientific establishment.

I cannot help remembering that when Tony Abbott was Leader of the Opposition in Australia and he suggested the planting of twenty million trees as a climate change mitigation measure, he was roundly mocked.

It is a measure of how cynical I have become about the entire field that my first thought when I read this report was “why are they letting this be said now?”. Do not let us be consumed by cynicism: the answer to that might honestly be “because that seems to be the way the latest research is pointing”. It would be nice if so. Planting a lot of trees would hurt fewer people than almost any other massive state-backed programme I can envisage.

The restructuring of capitalism as we know it

A new kind of capitalism. A new way to measure progress. An end to the obsession with growth. We know what they really mean. Once in a while they spell it out nice and clearly.

nothing short of dramatic structural change in the way capitalism works can deliver the 2030 target of a 45 per cent cut in carbon emissions. To deliver the net-zero carbon emissions demanded by 2050 will require an economy so different from ours that we are unlikely to recognise it as capitalism.

Very unlikely, I would say.

a Sustainable Investment Board, comprising the chancellor, the business secretary and the governor of the Bank of England. First proposed by City analyst Graham Turner, the board’s original aim was to achieve a 3 per cent productivity target by funnelling private sector investment into high tech.

The state telling the private sector where to invest its money. Fascinating; and I am sure far more productive than the private sector deciding where to invest its money. Why have billions of investment decisions made by millions of people when three posh blokes obviously know better? A different kind of productivity! Greener productivity!

a £250bn National Investment Bank, its money raised over ten years, to fund some of that investment, combined with regional development banks

This is just more of the state deciding where to spend money.

I am no fan of the Stalinist planned economy

I sense a but coming…

Yet the unpleasant fact may be that centralised state intervention, planning and ownership might be the only thing that’s going to achieve the rapid reduction in carbon emissions we need.

Oh, it will achieve the rapid reduction of something all right.

If millions of human brains simultaneously accepted the need for a survival level restructure of society, akin to a wartime mobilisation, the population itself would become the change agent.

Why can’t well all just get along? Also, bring back rationing!

we are going to need a transition beyond the market and beyond an economy where incomes are largely based on work.

To each according to his need.

The central bank becomes an arm of the state, its preoccupation becomes to direct capital away from carbon

Just when you thought central banks were a bad idea, someone finds a way to make them worse.

capital flight is the financial elite’s all-purpose answer to the shutdown of its gravy train. In which case, having created the carrot, a government serious about climate change has to create the stick.

Ok, no more Mr Nice Guy, I guess.

the left has to put it to people straight. The “rights” of global finance capital have to be subordinated to the needs of the human race, via the democratic states we live in.

I am sure it will all turn out lovely.

Who is saying all this? Some crazy fringe lunatic everyone will ignore? I hope so but I am not sure. It is in the New Statesman, circulation 35,000. Paul Mason used to be economics editor of two state-funded TV news programmes, Newsnight and Channel 4 News. He is not nobody. People will be listening to him. He might be saying things that even more influential people want him to say. It is a bit of a worry.

The thing is, even if the end of the world is now imaginable, even if climate change threatens an end to universal human rights, an end to development, and “the fracture of globalisation and multilateral systems” (whatever that means); even if it really is as bad as they say: making ourselves less free and therefore poorer is only going to exacerbate it. Economic growth is more important, not less, because richer people can build infrastructure to overcome the environment. Richer people can move around. Economic growth means more people (even poor people!) get richer. When there is a natural disaster in a poor country, far more poor people are harmed than are when there is a natural disaster in a rich country. That is the difference that old fashioned, bog-standard, neo-liberal economic growth makes. That is why I am against Paul Mason’s brand of communism: because by reversing ordinary economic growth it will be more harmful than the IPCC’s most dire predictions about climate change.

There is not even any reason to suppose that freedom and growth is incompatible with reducing carbon emissions: solar energy is undergoing something of a Moore’s law cost reduction; new technology means using energy more efficiently. And there are undoubtedly ways to turn things around that Paul Mason has not though of. He thinks a few hundred human brains can direct “millions of human brains” to solve problems; but that is not how it works. Millions of human brains are very good at solving problems if they are free to figure things out for themselves.

“It was billed as the climate change election, and the climate lost.”

So says the first line of the Guardian‘s report on the unexpected victory of Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition party in the Australian federal election.

The election was framed as a great climate showdown. The Coalition has held power over a tumultuous six years, which has seen it topple two prime ministers and suffer from catastrophic infighting, largely over energy policy, as the party has been unable to agree on taking action on the climate crisis, or even agree as to its reality.

The Labor party, which proposed introducing a target of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030, said the difference between the parties’ policies on the climate crisis was “night and day, black and white”.

As I have said once or twice before, my level of belief in CAGW is two-and-a-half letters to the left of most people here. If you are curious, “CAGW” stands for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, though as of yesterday the Guardian‘s style guide has changed “Global warming” to “Global heating”. Yes, a rebranding exercise. All that is needed now is a shiny new logo and twitter handle and success is assured. After all it worked for The Independent Group Change UK The Remain Alliance For Change UK.

What with this result in Australia and the French gilets jaunes movement born out of anger at a carbon tax on fuel, does anyone else get the impression that the latest burst of upping the political ante on climate change works splendidly right up to the moment when it meets the voters?

For those who do truly believe that the peril of global warm.. heating is imminent and severe, it is time to get real. It is time to face the fact that drastic changes in lifestyle are necessary; that sacrifices are going to have to be made.

Yes, it is time to drop your enjoyable revolutionary delusions and face the fact that if climate change mitigation is to happen at all it will be done within the capitalist system.

Samizdata quote of the day

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

“This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

Referring to a new international treaty environmentalists hope will be adopted at the Paris climate change conference later this year, she added: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”

The only economic model in the last 150 years that has ever worked at all is capitalism.

quoting the remarks of Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, in 2015.

h/t David Bolton

The UK has declared a “climate emergency”, apparently

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter:

Labour has just forced the UK Parliament to declare a #ClimateEmergency.

Real politics comes from the ground up, and that’s what today has shown.

An emergency does not have to be a catastrophe – we now need a Green Industrial Revolution that will reprogramme our economy.

All flights are grounded, today’s local elections have been indefinitely suspended, and jury trials will be replaced by military tribunals for the duration of the emergency. Citizens failing to report to their local branch of the Sustainable Farming Commission for voluntary labour service will be docked ten points of social credit.

Commenting on this post is forbidden. The internet will be closing shortly.

Samizdata quote of the day

They are listening to a 16 year old. This is like some kind of weird surreal art house movie in which a lunatic asylum’s inmates break out, sneak into Parliament, throw the MPs into the basement, take their place… and no one notices.

– Perry de Havilland