Posted by Big Gav
While I'd like to remain in hibernation I feel vaguely compelled to emerge once more (grumpy as ever) to comment on the recent screening of Martin Durkin's mock documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle", which aroused quite a lot of controversy.
Perhaps the best line describing the event was in a letter from Mungo Macallum to Crikey, noting that "The only thing we learned from The Great Global Warming Swindle was that Durkin is jerkin his gherkin". Well done to the folks at Rutherton Labs in Oxford who released a study last week conclusively showing that solar radiation is not responsible for climate change in recent decades.
John Quiggin had a good description of the "Delusionists demolished".
The presentation of The Great Global Warming Swindle on ABC TV was a huge success, but not of course for the delusionists who pushed for it, notably including Michael Duffy. Tony Jones comprehensively demolished Martin Durkin, doing an excellent job of covering the critique from all angles including:
* Durkin’s past history of fraud
* The fraudulent history and Big Tobacco links of people like Singer and Seitz (Lindzen got a passing hit on this later on)
* The bodgy qualifications of many of the so-called experts on the show
* Dodgy and doctored graphs dating back 20 years or more
* The Wunsch misrepresentation
* The absurdity of the conspiracy theory central to the show
* The drastic shortening of the version we saw, reflecting the deletion of the most outrageous lies
Of course, he only covered a fraction of the lies, and while the panel discussion pointed to even more (the ice core stuff) a film like this takes longer to refute than to watch. I’ve already linked to some replies and I understand that the Federation of Australian Science and Technology Societies will have more.
After all this, Michael Duffy got the first chance to respond and Jones asked him straight out whether he backed the film. Of course, Duffy couldn’t defend it, so he dodged into a tu quoque about the Stern Review. His only subsequent contribution was to flash some props meant to back the conspiracy theory he was unwilling to endorse out loud. Bob Carter was similarly evasive, launching into a rambling postmodernist thought experiment that apparently showed that there is no such thing as truth so it doesn’t matter if Durkin lied. Later he dragged out his 1998 cherrypicking line. By contrast with these two, Ray Evans was refreshingly straightforward in his wrongness, making even more explicit claims of fraud and repeating all the old stuff (satellite data, the hockey stick and even urban heat islands).
Overall, a good night for science and the environment and a bad night for delusionists, including those in government ranks, such as Nick Minchin, who will doubtless be regretting his endorsement.
Update: I didn’t bother watching the audience discussion section, but the comments I’ve seen (and the cheers when silly things were said by Carter and Evans) indicate the presence of a strong contingent of obviously unhinged delusionists. So much the better, I’d say.
Further update: There’s video here - “Unhinged” doesn’t begin to describe it. Even Ray Evans, representing the lunar right Lavoisier Group, has his head in his hands as Tony Jones fields a string of increasingly bizarre questions/statements from LaRouchites, several of them cunningly disguised as ordinary people. Carbon-14, Kepler, Plato, and of course the Royal Family’s plot to wipe out most of humanity all get a run.
Crikey also had a good laugh at the assorted crackpot deniers who made up the studio audience, noting that a number of them come from an organisation populated by the followers of Lyndon LaRouche.
Those viewing the post-Swindle discussion with Tony Jones would have noticed that things got a little bit fruity when it came time to throw to the audience.
One audience member went the climate change believers for relying on methodology "disproved 400 years ago" while three others accused them of running a secret Eugenics agenda. "This is Hitler's Nazi race science!" yelled one.
Somehow, the audience seemed to be chock-a-block with members of the Citizens Electoral Council (CEC).
The CEC was originally an electoral front for the Australian League of Rights (increasingly elderly "patriots" largely concerned with Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracies), until it was stacked by local followers of Lyndon Larouche and disagreements over the status of the Queen (ALOR loved her, the Larouchites reckon she runs an international drug empire) forced a split.
Since then, the CEC has spent most of their time losing elections (badly) and raising money (and lots of it).
The CEC is especially dark on the idea of man-made climate change. It is, they say, a fraud perpetrated by agents of the British Crown who wish to kill off billions of people. Why? Because they're the British, you fool! They're evil -- it's what they do!
The Larouchites much prefer the theories put forward by Swindle, because it shifts the danger from the consequences of man-made global warming, which are difficult to fight, to the dangers of genocidal global warming proponents, who can be defeated with the stroke of a pen.
So why did it seem like the audience was loaded with Larouchites?
The ABC told Crikey that viewers who contacted the station to congratulate or complain in the lead-up to the airing of the documentary were invited to apply to participate in the studio audience. A balanced mix of believers and sceptics were then selected. The ABC estimates there were around five members of the CEC in the audience of 80.
According to the Larouchites, there were 18 -- three of whom were kicked out prior to the show for being "potentially disruptive". Four of the remaining members asked questions.
As an anti-hate campaigner, I should probably be critical of the ABC for giving a platform to a group which is considered by many to be a fascistic, anti-Semitic cult. As a viewer, I was grateful for anything which spiced up the proceedings.
Before I move on to consider the LaRouchies and some of their claims (and I must admit I wasn't aware the original tinfoil cult had a local presence), I might just note this article in the SMH - "Last of the Djok Clan Has a Message for Uranium Mining Companies: No - Sole survivor sitting on a $5b fortune". Somehow I suspect this guy won't be owning his land for much longer - but I hope the poor bloke gets his rightful share of the money even if he can't protect the land itself.
While I doubt you guys at the French Nuclear Agency and Areva who feel the need to read my rantings have any liking for my thoughts, I'd like to make a request anyway - how about you make sure this guy gets properly taken care of when you get his uranium ? Fair's fair - you get your "energy security" and he gets the economic benefit of his property, and hopefully a relatively intact homeland once you're done digging up the radioactive bits of dirt.
Moving back to the LaRouchies, there are 2 memes which I regard as toxic which tend to raise their heads in parts of the peak oil world (and various other doomer subcultures) from time to time - the deliberate collapse of industrial civilisation and population reduction as ways of dealing with the "limits to growth", as the Club of Rome termed them.
Peak Oil is one example of a limit to growth being reached - in this case, an energy source (though not the only one and one we can easily and happily be rid of). Global warming is another example of a limit - in this case, the overwhelming of the sinks that keep carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere steady (or at least changing very slowly), again, something we can deal with if we ditch the use of coal as well as oil to provide our energy needs (and wants) and replace them with non carbon emitting energy sources.
Tinfoil theories like the one raised by the "Swindle" audience about population reduction and eugenics always fly around when any of the "Limits To Growth" or the Club Of Rome itself are mentioned - the vast majority of Google searches on the Club and population will return a huge range of accusations about them advocating population reduction and the like, from both the left and right fringes. I've come across so many of these over the years (courtesy of my peak oil induced tinfoil habit) that I eventually began to wonder if where there is smoke there is fire (the subject has come up a lot lately at most of my regular conspiratainment sites, and I occasionally blunder across it elsewhere in all sorts of odd corners of the internet, including a classic one recently where the host was declaring Paul Hawken a Luciferian - though he came off better than Javier Solana who is apparently the literal embodiment of the Anti-Christ).
While I don't think we're in "overshoot" and I'm certainly not advocating any sort of population reduction agenda as the way to deal with peak oil or global warming, I did eventually decide I should dig into this enormous tinfoil mountain to determine if there was any substance to it. I focused just on the Club Of Rome (there are several other groups and individuals associated with "depopulation" theories - some, like the "Sea Shepherd" nuts I discussed a little while back who definitely seem to be guilt of wanting humanity to be culled, and many others who I haven't bothered researching well enough to make a call on) as they tend to be the most commonly accused and because my 2 core topics are closely related to their work.
In spite of doing quite a lot of searching, I couldn't find anything substantial - whenever I compared what the "Limits" book says to what the critics claimed it said, I found myself concluding they either hadn't read the book or were deliberately misrepresenting it. I bounced a few thoughts from time to time off my favourite tinfoil sounding board and got nothing credible back - in the end most of the theories seem to lead back to the Executive Intelligence Review (ie. the LaRouche organisation).
For those who haven't read "Limits", what it outlines is a number of scenarios (10 in the "30 Year Update" edition) showing what would happen to population, food, industrial output, available natural resources, life expectancy and various other factors (eventually summed up as a graph of "human welfare index" vs "human ecological footprint) if the world was modelled under various sets of assumptions over the next 100 years.
Most scenarios show bad things happening if current trends continue unchecked (though in general things don't head seriously downhill until 2050 and after). These are the scenarios the book warns against.
3 of the scenarios show everything turning out well by and large - global population plateaus between 8 and 9 billion (in line with current population modelling results) while the human welfare factors all continue to hold steady or improve. These are the scenarios the conclusion to the book concentrates on, along with a long description about how to make the "transition to sustainability" (which doesn't include population reduction, world government or any of the other measures the theorists talk about - its all sustainability/equity/efficiency, clean energy, closed loop industrial techniques, regenerative agricultural practices, nonviolent conflict resolution, accurate/unbiased media and "decentralisation of economic power, political influence and scientific expertise" - the closest it comes to population control measures is advocating "stable populations" and "low birth rates" by "individual choice").
There are a number of different ways you could deal with a nasty collision with one or more "limits to growth", with various malthusian or totalitarian "solutions" being possible resulting outcomes (the "carbon dictatorship" being the one I rant against most often here), however the set of solutions recommended in the book is pretty much in line with all the Viridian style solutions I like to promote.
This probably isn't an accident - the scenario modeller culture that was popularised by the Club also influenced later organisations like GBN (Global Business Network) which in turn influenced the various Viridian outposts. Stewart Brand (co founder of GBN) is a classic example of an environmentalist who doesn't believe population growth will be a problem, noting the various factors serving to reduce population growth already - and that these are positive ones - giving women access to education and contraception along with economic opportunities rapidly reduces population growth rates - a far cry from the drastic alternatives the theorists talk about (or totalitarian solutions like China's "one child policy"),
Anyway - maybe I missed something, so if you can find a decent conspiracy theory (and have checked it against the book or some other COR publication for accuracy) then feel free to send it my way.
One a related note, I watched "Children Of Men" recently - great movie , and very much in keeping with the darker theories about hitting the limits...
Moving along, here are some semi related links worth checking out:
* Daily Reckoning - 1 in 3 Londoners Born Overseas, United by Greed and Fear. I talked about the contrast between global citizens and national citizens a little in "The Shockwave Rider". My choice on this one was to sit on the fence - retreat to my home country but live and work in the most globalised bit. Its not a bad way to go, though I miss the weekends away in Europe...
* Daily Reckoning - Why Foreigners Hate Americans and Who the Terrorists Really Are. Reminiscent of Bruce Schneier's "Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot".
* Jeff Vail (The Oil Drum) - Mexico: A Nation-State Dissolves?. And if it does, what happens next...
* Guy Rundle (Crikey) - Al-Maliki manages to give everyone the Shiites. Could Pakistan fall too ?
* The Nation - The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness
* Cryptogon - This is easily the most far out thing that I’ve read in a VERY long time.. This story is pretty weird, but if you've spent a few days trawling through depopulation conspiracy theories I've got to say it isn't all that unusual (except for the ninja / triad assassin army angle). This, on the other hand - well, that is really weird...
I'm heading back into hibernation - more in a few weeks time - I think I'll go really mainstream for a change and see how the "Peak Oil Portfolio" is coming along next...