Ecomodernism… and a plea for depolarisation

Remarks at ‘Eco-Modernism: Restoring Science to Environment Policy’, hosted by UK2020 & Owen Paterson MP, London
9.30am, 24 September 2015

Thanks to UK2020 and Owen Paterson for hosting this event. I think it’s safe to say that none of us visitors have a background as conservatives, either with a big or a small C so it’s a tribute to your open-mindedness and interest in new ideas that you generously hosted us today to share some thoughts on ecomodernism.

I’d like to start by emphasising what ecomodernism is not. One of the main reasons why we wrote the ecomodernist manifesto in fact was because so many people seemed determined to define us negatively – so we thought we’d better get a move on and try to define ourselves positively instead.

So here goes. Ecomodernism is not neoliberalism with a green tinge.
It is not a cover for business as usual.
It is not a free pass for corporate polluters to damage our environment.
Nor is it a simplistic knee-jerk rejection of traditional environmentalism, but more of an attempt to recognise its limitations and move beyond it. Michael, Ted and I all have long experience in the environmental movement. We celebrate its achievements, and they are many, but recognise that we now need something new in a rapidly changing world.

Here’s what ecomodernism is, in short.
It is progressive. It believes in equality, diversity and human rights and freedoms.
It is therefore humanist – we do not believe that humans are somehow the pre-destined pinnacle of evolution, but we do believe humans are special, giving us as a species special rights and responsibilities both to ourselves and to the non-human natural world. We don’t see humans as innately destructive or doomed and are enthusiastic about the human potential for innovation and problem-solving using technology. Technology is not a dirty word, it is what fundamentally sets us apart from other species.

One of the most fundamental human rights is the right not to suffer in extreme poverty in the modern world. Indeed it is the fundamental challenge of dramatically raising the consumption of people in the developing world to eliminate poverty within the context of addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and other planetary-scale ecological challenges that defines the Anthropocene.

Ecomodernism is pragmatic – it believes in working with the grain of well-established social and economic trends where they move us in the direction of improving human livelihoods and decoupling from environmental impact. If this means challenging the green movement’s taboos then so be it. An example is gaining an understanding of how agricultural modernisation can spare wild lands through land-use efficiency – if the world switched to organic low-yield agriculture, we would pay the price in lost rainforests.

We believe in being honest about tradeoffs and recognising unintended consequences. If you oppose fracking, for instance, you may be reinforcing our dependence on coal. We should not be so blinded by moral righteousness that we make the perfect always the enemy of the good. Nor should we allow intuition to trump evidence – as do those believers in all things natural, from natural foods to natural healthcare, otherwise known as quackery.

In my view, ecomodernism believes in collective action – and here’s something that might be a difference between some of us here today. This means a strong role for the state in ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are shared fairly, that the market is properly regulated and that funding is directed in essential areas outside the private sector such as public R&D.

As Ted and Michael never tire of pointing out, it is public sector investment in R&D that gave us everything from the iPhone to nuclear power. The private sector then adapted these technologies and took them to a mass market in a way the public sector could not do. My own work with Cornell University at the Alliance for Science is focused mostly on biotechnology – and here too it is public sector science that is most critical to improve food security in developing countries and mitigate farming’s overall impact on the environment.

An example might be the virus-resistant papaya developed at Cornell – that saved the Hawaiian papaya family farming sector from total eradication due to disease. However this brings us full circle because the prospects for the technology elsewhere, such as Thailand and the Philippines, were destroyed by regrettable scaremongering by Greenpeace.

This brings me to the title of this session, ‘restoring science to environment policy’. I would claim that ecomodernism is driven more by empiricism than ideology, but then so does everyone. No-one thinks they themselves are anti-science. It’s always the other side who are anti-science. However it is a fairly fundamental facet of human nature it seems that we choose our facts selectively on the basis of where we identify ourselves in terms of our political, cultural or ideological tribe. Nowhere is this clearer than in environmental policy.

On the right you have different degrees of climate scepticism or outright denialism, not because of any particularly insightful or novel reading of the scientific evidence, but as a result of motivated reasoning and selection bias – mostly resulting in my view from of an ideological rejection of the role of collective social action in decarbonising our economies.

On the left you have an equivalent ideologically-motivated rejection of the scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. I’ve sometimes despairingly drawn attention to the same tactics of each side – issuing ‘no consensus’ statements from hand-picked contrarians, attacking bona fide scientists who try to speak out to explain or defend the consensus, cherry-picking single papers that are then hyped to challenge the consensus and so on.

Each side constructs pantomime villains to rally the troops, Exxon-Mobil or Monsanto on one side, the UN or the EU on the other, who are imagined to be deviously controlling events behind the scenes. It’s not true of course. As far as I can make out, Monsanto is probably an environmental net-positive for the world. With insect-resistant corn and cotton, Monsanto has likely done more than the entire organic movement to reduce global insecticide use, and without tradeoff in lost productivity. Even the much demonised roundup ready herbicide tolerant crops have facilitated a huge move towards no-till in North and South America, reducing soil erosion and trapping carbon in the soils. Yet just hinting at anything positive about Monsanto is to breach an utter taboo in green circles.

On the other side, they may be demonised by the right but the EU and UN are forces for good by and large – the world would be poorer and more dangerous without them. Its farming and fisheries subsidy systems may be antideluvian and damaging, but imagine trying to deal with the current Syrian refugee crisis without the collective role of the EU.

I also think we need less name-calling and demonic labelling. I object in particular by the use of some here today of the term ‘Green Blob’. It’s polarising and divisive, which I hope is not the intention. There’s a reason why our local refugee support effort in Oxford, for example, tends to be led by Greens – it’s because by and large they are principled and compassionate people.

So how can we move beyond ideological tribalism? Perhaps by emphasising instead what we have in common. I’ve talked to many climate sceptics in my time, and even if we disagree about the IPCC report all of them seem comfortable – even enthusiastic – about the most environmentally friendly emissions reducing technology, nuclear power. So if the green left wants to promote wind and solar, and the right wants to push nuclear, that’s fine with me – let’s figure out how we can deploy both renewables and nuclear to their fullest extent to reduce fossil fuels.

Similarly perhaps we can have a shared approach on removing those disastrous subsidies on farming and fishing. With regard to the latter, why subsidise the collective destruction of an entire ecosystem? Subsidies are corrosive and encourage vested interests and clientilism, as well as the inefficient use of resources. With an economy-wide carbon price, the market could do its job.

On conservation and biodiversity protection, I also think there is a lot of common ground between different ideological positions. Both left and right want to see threatened species protected. The new movement towards rewilding unites many disparate themes. But rewilding needs spared land, and sparing land requires using smaller amounts more efficiently for producing food. The ecomodernist theme of decoupling, of sparing nature from direct human exploitation through the deployment of modern technology and innovation, should be appealing to more than just a single political tribe.

Ultimately most people want to see poverty eradicated and human rights respected. Most people want to reduce the risk of serious climate destabilisation. Most people want to see the natural world protected and species saved from extinction. There are some at the extremes who don’t want these things, but most of us do. So let’s build on what we have in common – we might find it’s more than we usually think.

45 Comments

  1. John Russell

    So from what you say, Mark, you must be very annoyed by Owen Paterson aligning himself with ecomodernism and misusing it to attack what he calls disparagingly ‘the green blob’? No wonder people are getting the wrong idea.

    Reply
  2. Ben Pile

    Reading three sequential paragraphs backwards:

    “Each side constructs pantomime villains to rally the troops… On the left you have [pantomime villains]… On the right you have [pantomime villains]…”

    The schema is clearly a tripartite, mutually exclusive war of pantomime villains, about pantomime villains.

    Left and right are useless terms here. “Left” used to be the designation of most EU/EC scepticism. And there are leftist criticisms of the UN — good ones, too. Ditto, we can find ‘right wing’ objections to nuclear, GM, whatever, that you posit as categorically ‘left’ wing, and ‘ideological’. Indeed the foundations of much green thought (such as it is) are on the right, and many of the values espoused by contemporary ‘left’ environmentalists are categorically conservative, if not downright reactionary and regressive.

    While there is some degree to which those positions do belong to nominally left/right perspectives, to dismiss them as merely ‘pantomime villains’ is to do the debate a disservice more than it is to ‘modernise’ it. Right or left scepticism about the EU (and the UN, for that matter) isn’t merely the construction of pantomime villain, but owed to legitimate concerns about the distance between the public (ie ‘demos’) and political power. There is no secret that both institutions aims are to transform the concept of national domestic sovereignty — for good ends, so you say. But what if we think that the compact between members of them and the members themselves are responsible for creating the crises you say they are the remedy to? And what if we think that it is dangerous to hold power so far away from democracy? Nobody would deny that curing diseases through mass immunisation programmes is a Good Thing, and that it likely needed a supranational organisation to oversee it; but there is more to the UN than merely curing babies of incurable diseases — the photo of a helpless child surely belongs on the same shelf as the pantomime villain.

    Ditto, it is not enough to say that the environmental left simply makes monsters out of Monsanto and GM for merely strategic ends. I agree that many do, and that I have zero agreement with the vast majority of their outlook. But people believe in those things for reasons, not simply because they are told to. If ecomodernism doesn’t mean taking people’s seemingly ‘ideological’ positions in good faith, and to confront them in debate, it has no claim to ‘humanism’.

    The point of disagreement is to explore it. To simply reduce all disagreement to ‘ideology’ between pantomime villains is no way through the impasse of seemingly mutually-opposing right wing nuclear and left wing wind farms — your synthesis.

    Rather than representing ‘ideology’, then, it seems that strident positions taken with respect to wind turbines, the EU/UN and GM could well represent a dearth of ‘ideologies’ as such. Antipathy towards new political categorically ‘post-political’ institutions represents, in no small part, frustration with the intransigence and remoteness of such lofty organisations — including members of the ‘green blob’. Simultaneously, it is impossible in the current political climate to make positive arguments for one choice of technique over another — only a looming crisis can be decisive. What’s lost in debates about whether nuclear, shale gas, wind or solar represent the best energy for the future are what it is used for. Policies, devoid of any argument about what energy is used for, seem to regard means as ends in themselves. I think Ecomodernism shares the understanding here, but if it can only explain it as ‘the problem with the other side is that they polarise the debate’, it is a doomed project.

    So much for ‘less name-calling and demonic labelling’; unless ecomodernists can interrogate ‘ideologies’ and reflect on their own, it will descend to precisely that, and will have no chance of building on ‘what we have in common’. You can’t presuppose what we have in common, no matter how unimpeachable the objectives of curing disease, abolishing poverty and restoring ecological diversity seem to be. What is common can only be brought out by debate, and that means suffering the hazard that what you believe to be universal, unimpeachable and indubitable, turn out not to be so.

    Reply
  3. Rachel Freeman

    The problem with ecomodernism is that it assumes a win-win outcome is possible. It may not be.

    I believe there will need to be significant economic contraction and reduction in consumption to reduce mankind’s impact on the biosphere enough to avoid catastrophe.

    Reply
    1. Hans Erren

      Rachel, You can’t reduce consumption on people who live on one dollar per day.
      The majority of people in the world don’t even have the living standard of Croatia.

  4. Jim Hunt

    You’re strangely quiet over on Twitter Mark.

    Based on your closing paragraph, and at the risk of repeating myself:

    https://twitter.com/jim_hunt/status/647073498205175808

    Reply
  5. Robert Ellison

    Being an Environmental Scientist and green activist I can speak with informed disdain about the ideologies of the would be green masters. Where was I reading just yesterday about the technocratic impulse that springs from the idea that in this crisis democracy has failed. Them’s fightin’ words. Democracy and the attendant freedoms are the core of the values of classic liberals.

    Meanwhile the tales of catastrophe told by idiots – full of sound and fury – continue in full spate. These are fabricated in internet echo chambers complete with gatekeepers, self censoring, denigration of the outsider, etc. Classic symptoms of course – around which a fragile sense of their own moral and intellectual superiority is built. There is no point at all in dialogue with these people.

    As Vice-President of the Jervis B ay Protection Committee we once stopped a joint US/Australian navy exercise. We sent the greenies out onto the bombing range. Now there’s a win/win scenario. Worst case was that the navy would bomb them and we’d let God sort them out. I spent the week in the local shopping center doing public relations. Our great sin – in the eyes of the greenies is that we were far too good at political lobbying and public relations – ignoring far too many opportunities for petty moral posturing.

    As far as I can see the left and right are engaged in an absurd, misguided and unwinnable battle. But we have known that for a long time.

    ‘Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values.49 Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’ http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/mackinder/pdf/mackinder_Wrong%20Trousers.pdf

    The rest of us are concerned that the real objectives of humanity are not lost sight of. It is simple in principle to take the initiative on the broad front of population, development, energy technology, multiple gases and aerosols across sectors, land use change, conservation and restoration of agricultural lands and ecosystems and building resilient communities. What we really want is much more clarity on effective policy responses – a focus on the real issues of global economic progress and environmental protection. Emissions of greenhouse gases or loss of biodiversity are far from intractable problems — but economic growth is the foundation of any practical measures.

    http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/08/attrition-in-the-climate-trenches/

    Reply
  6. John Heil

    What those against ecomodernism seem to not understand is that, as the world develops, those with less will demand more. If we cannot find a way to have our cake and eat it too, the climate will surely suffer.

    It is probable that by combining nuclear power, and wind, solar in cities, hydroelectric when appropriate (lowish impact), we can actually provide all the energy we need and more. Nuclear is a huge resource, that we can use safely.

    Also, we have only scratched the surface of what is possible using GMO technology. There is so much good that can come from it!

    Reply
    1. John Russell

      I struggle to see how everyone who questions eco-modernism must also be, by definition, against wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and technological advances generally. With the exception of nuclear, which for some reason seems to be anathema to some more extreme greens, most are very much behind those energy sources. On the other hand, some eco-modernist sympathises are very much against renewables and actively lobby for fossil fuels: Owen Paterson and Nicolas Ridley being cases in point.

      I, for one, am all for encouraging and accepting any scientific development that can free us from reliance on fossil energy. At the same time I’m very scathing about a flaky eco-modernist agenda that preaches carrying on regardless with the status quo in the belief that technological breakthroughs are sure to save us from the environmental disaster that we face.

    2. Robert Ellison

      If it is a choice between having a cake and eating – I vote for eating.

      The levelised cost of wind is competitive – but beyond a relatively small penetration the costs escalate.

      https://watertechbyrie.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/nrel-energy-futures-cost.jpg

      That’s the problem in an economic sense. Global economic stability and growth depends on strong regional economies acting as nodes in a complex system. Rather than limits to growth – meeting critical development needs depend on optimum growth. Energy is the engine of optimal growth.

      The rational management of economies requires interest rates to be managed through the overnight cash market to restrain inflation to a 2 to 3% target. Markets need fair, transparent and accessible laws. Including on open and fair markets. Optimal tax take is some 23% of GDP and budgets are balanced. Markets operate best in a robust democracy. These nuts and bolts of market management – mainstream market theory pioneered by F. A. Hayek – keep economies on a stable growth trajectory. As much as is possible.

      So it’s gas in the US – and coal most other places – until we can start to bring on cost effective alternatives. High temperature, gas cooled, fast neutron nuclear are evolutionary technology rather than revolutionary.

      http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/06/safe-cheap-and-abundant-energy-back-to-the-nuclear-energy-future/

      It is simple in principle to take the initiative on the broad front of population, development, energy technology, multiple gases and aerosols across sectors, land use change, conservation and restoration of agricultural lands and ecosystems and building resilient communities. What we really want is much more clarity on effective policy responses – a focus on the real issues of global economic progress and environmental protection. Emissions of greenhouse gases or loss of biodiversity are far from intractable problems — but economic growth is the foundation of any practical measures.

  7. Jim Hunt

    You’re strangely quiet on here too Mark.

    There’s still no sign of any dialogue, debate or “build[ing] on what we have in common” when it comes to a carbon budget, that I can discern at least.

    What are your views on that difficult topic, as far as Mike is concerned at any rate?

    Reply
  8. ...and Then There's Physics

    I think your essay illustrates some of the basic issues. You feel the need to tell people what Ecomodernism is. May not seem like a bad thing to do, but one of the reasons is that I think many associated with Ecomodernisms are not behaving in a manner consistent with what you describe. If they were, you probably wouldn’t need to describe what Ecomodernism was about. It would be pretty obvious based on what people were doing or saying.

    The other issue is highlighted by your comment about the Green Blob. You criticise its use. Good. However, 2 of the 5 people on yesterday’s panel seem to use it regularly. Even though Shellenberger may not use that exact phrase, he certainly seems to spend a good deal of his time criticising environmentalists and greens while excusing others. It’s almost as if Ecomodernists think that Green/environmentalists are all powerful, while major corporations have little influence.

    Whether you like it or not, I think Ecomodernism as it is currently being promoted, is associated with Green bashing. I think many of the basic ideas behind ecomodernism are interesting and worth persuing. I think those doing so, could – however – try harder to actually reduce tribalism, rather than simply claiming to be trying to reduce tribalism, while appearing to do the opposite.

    Reply
    1. Robert Ellison

      Poor little thing. Objecting to being called a green blob? That seems disingenuous from such as you.

      It is a nice movie metaphor – an undifferentiated blob with ambitions to rule the world. A galaxy away from all powerful however.

      I think the objective is to forge a community of interest – not to indulge the wounded sensitivities of the pissant progressive. There will always be many who are ideologically blinkered – no need to take such things too seriously.

    2. Jim Hunt

      Robert,

      You appear to have missed the point.

      Our host states above that “I think we need less name-calling and demonic labelling”.

      It seems as though you disagree with him?

    3. ...and Then There's Physics

      Robert,
      Still bitter that I banned you from my blog?

      I don’t care if people use the term Green Blob, whether aimed at me or not. However, if people who use Green Blob then spend the rest of their time either complaining about labelling, or claiming to be trying to reduce tribalism, then I’m going to assume that they either lack self-awareness, or are not being entirely honest.

      Your final paragraph is indeed true. My point isn’t that people should be trying to include everyone, but that if they are attempting to improve dialogue, then it’s going to be a dismal failure if they spend most of their time labelling those with whom they claim to want improved dialogue with.

    4. Robert Ellison

      The overwhelming concern of most people is that the real objectives of humanity are not lost sight of. It is simple in principle to take the initiative on the broad front of population, development, energy technology, multiple gases and aerosols across sectors, land use change, conservation and restoration of agricultural lands and ecosystems and building resilient communities. What we really want is much more clarity on effective policy responses – a focus on the real issues of global economic progress and environmental protection. Emissions of greenhouse gases or loss of biodiversity are far from intractable problems — but economic growth is the foundation of any practical measures.

      The alternative vision involves tales of the collapse of western civilisation and capitalism — leading to less growth, less material consumption, less CO2 emissions, less habitat destruction, and a last late chance to stay within the safe limits of global ecosystems. And this is just in the “scholarly” journals.

      There is a stark cultural difference and there is never going to be a rapprochement. The difference will continue to be highlighted because that’s the nature of the game. For me the point is not engaging with the green blob – but with a wider political agenda.

      .
      But Ken Rice whining about reducing ‘tribalism’ in this context was too funny to pass up.

    5. ...and Then There's Physics

      Robert,
      Come on, you’re not this stupid; or are you? I’m not whining about tribalism. I’m pointing out that those who seem to be whining about tribalism, are engaging in it. I personally don’t particularly care. I’m not starting a campaign to improve dialogue. I don’t object to improved dialogue, or think that it wouldn’t be a good idea. I simply fail to believe that some of those who are claiming to want improved dialogue actually mean this, given their own behaviour. If you think about this for a few minutes before responding, you might actually get it. I’m confident you can do it!

    6. Robert Ellison

      Ken,

      Did you ban me from your blog. I really hadn’t noticed.

      As I say below in a comment still awaiting clearance – the science adds up to a conclusion you may find very surprising — and you get points for guessing which denier said this. “In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” It means that most of “the science” — the data interpretation, the methods and the theories are utterly inadequate to the task of explaining climate for us. But both sides of the climate battle continue to insist on a certainty that is impossible.

      Temperatures are not likely to increase for another decade or so – and beyond that we are likely to be surprised. Something I predicted in print a decade ago. It doesn’t let us off the hook. It doesn’t relieve us of the risks – quite unpredictable – of changing the composition of the planetary atmospheric.

      As Marcia Wyatt said. ‘Climate is ultimately complex. Complexity begs for reductionism. With reductionism, a puzzle is studied by way of its pieces. While this approach illuminates the climate system’s components, climate’s full picture remains elusive. Understanding the pieces does not ensure understanding the collection of pieces. This conundrum motivates our study.’

      So it is not matter of not liking the science – it is more your not understanding the full ramifications of climate science and being utterly contemptuous and dismissive of views you haven’t quite got your head around. That’s why I chose not to engage with you further after a very brief experiment.

      My point – and it should be fairly clear – is that we really have to accept the impossibility of rapprochement with everyone and politically make clear the differences for the sake of the wider discussion.

      Clearly your focusing on this irrelevant point – rather than the wider significance of ecomodernism – is not meant to be conducive to understanding and communication.

    7. ...and Then There's Physics

      Robert,
      My own view is that strawman arguments are intellectually juvenile. YMMV – in fact, your mileage does seem to vary.

      That’s why I chose not to engage with you further after a very brief experiment.

      You’d be doing me a favour if you continued to stick with this.

    8. Robert Ellison

      As I said – I am not engaging with you and certainly not on your blog. The wider discussion on the issues is far more important.

      And your ‘argument’ doesn’t need refuting – it is a trivial diversion as i said.

      You reply – as seems typical – only in a dismissive and contemptuous manner.

      The ‘denier’ btw was the IPCC. You get no points at all.

    9. ...and Then There's Physics

      For the benefit of everyone else, I’ll post the full IPCC quote. The final sentence is quite crucial.

      In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions.

      This also comes from the TAR, published in 2001.

    10. Robert Ellison

      ‘Atmospheric and oceanic computational simulation models often successfully depict chaotic space–time patterns, flow phenomena, dynamical balances, and equilibrium distributions that mimic nature. This success is accomplished through necessary but nonunique choices for discrete algorithms, parameterizations, and coupled contributing processes that introduce structural instability into the model. Therefore, we should expect a degree of irreducible imprecision in quantitative correspondences with nature, even with plausibly formulated models and careful calibration (tuning) to several empirical measures. Where precision is an issue (e.g., in a climate forecast), only simulation ensembles made across systematically designed model families allow an estimate of the level of relevant irreducible imprecision…

      Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation’

      http://www.pnas.org/content/104/21/8709.full

      The last sentence in the TAR quote – and we have certainly known this for decades – refers to perturbed physics models – very different to ensembles of opportunity that are commonly presented. Perturbed physics models have been implemented – but they are probailistic rather than deterministic. Not something we have a great handle on and not something that makes a ‘crucial’ difference to understanding model behaviour.

      ‘Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change…

      As the ensemble sizes in the perturbed ensemble approach run to hundreds or even many thousands of members, the outcome is a probability distribution of climate change rather than an uncertainty range from a limited set of equally possible outcomes, as shown in figure 9. This means that decision-making on adaptation, for example, can now use a risk-based approach based on the probability of a particular outcome.’

      http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1956/4751

      In theory at least. You might note that the quality of the sources here. James McWilliams, Julia Slingo and Tim Palmer.

      The risks of abrupt climate change include climate shifts every 20 to 30 years and the possibility of extreme change in as little as a decade.

      ‘Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed. For example, roughly half the north Atlantic warming since the last ice age was achieved in only a decade, and it was accompanied by significant climatic changes across most of the globe. Similar events, including local warmings as large as 16°C, occurred repeatedly during the slide into and climb out of the last ice age. Human civilizations arose after those extreme, global ice-age climate jumps. Severe droughts and other regional climate events during the current warm period have shown similar tendencies of abrupt onset and great persistence, often with adverse effects on societies.

      Abrupt climate changes were especially common when the climate system was being forced to change most rapidly. Thus, greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the earth system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climatic events. The abrupt changes of the past are not fully explained yet, and climate models typically underestimate the size, speed, and extent of those changes. Hence, future abrupt changes cannot be predicted with confidence, and climate surprises are to be expected.’

      http://www.nap.edu/read/10136/chapter/2

      If Ken wants a wider discussion on science – he should really try to be better informed. Reducing climate risk – is probably a futile exercise. Whatever the cause – global hydrological and climate variability – extreme drought, extreme floods and extreme temperature changes such as has not been seen in the past century – will occur again. The next climate shift seems likely in a decade or two – and the scope and direction are intrinsically unknowable. This is not to say that we should not reduce human changes to the climate system.

      I would be the last to suggest that there isn’t more uncertainty in a system with the internal dynamics of Earth’s climate – and much more scope for severe and rapid change than a 2 degree warming target – amidst other impossible things – implies. The solution, such as it is, is to build prosperous and resilient communities. As the biblical Joseph tells us – to avoid catastrophe in the times of need requires a wise and honest person to manage things in the times of abundance. Global economic growth provides resources not just for the technological innovations on electricity (26% of global greenhouse gas emissions) and liquid fuels (13%) that are inevitable but also to fuel the creative destruction of capitalism that transforms productive systems. The other sources of greenhouse gases, and black carbon, are a messy human problem of management of the global commons. They are solved by the most modern theories and models of human behaviour in the broader context of development, population, technology, agricultural production and environmental conservation and restoration.

    11. Jim Hunt

      Robert,

      “Temperatures are not likely to increase for another decade or so.”

      Surely you jest?

      “Your focusing on this irrelevant point…. is not meant to be conducive to understanding and communication”

      Mark introduced that point. Are you accusing him of being irrelevant to “the wider significance of ecomodernism”?

    12. Robert Ellison

      ‘Finally, the presence of vigorous climate variability presents significant challenges to near-term climate prediction (25, 26), leaving open the possibility of steady or even declining global mean surface temperatures over the next several decadesthat could present a significant empirical obstacle to the implementation of policies directed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (27). However, global warming could likewise suddenly and without any ostensive cause accelerate due to internal variability. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, the climate system appears wild, and may continue to hold many surprises if pressed.

      http://www.pnas.org/content/106/38/16120.full

      Climate is a wild beast – as Wally Broecker said long ago. The argument is not resolvable – it goes round and round until my head spins.

      Surface temperatures have not increased since 2002 – 0 to 700m ocean temps have not increased. Deeper ocean sampling prior to 2005 was at less than 10% coverage – and temps at 0 to 2000m do seem to have increased since circa 2008 – as solar intensity increased. It will get a little cooler as we pass the current solar cycle peak and move into a cycle trough over the next couple of years.

      But unless you understand the basis for the ‘speculation’ that current climate phase space – based on evidence of past changes – seems likely to persist for another decade or two – and that the next climate shift is inherently unpredictable – we are speaking different languages.

      http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/06/climate-chaos-the-once-and-future-dragon-king/

      As for the other yet again? I always like a quote from F. A. Hayek – every progressive’s least favourite economist.

      ‘We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage. What we lack is a liberal Utopia, a programme which seems neither a mere defence of things as they are nor a diluted kind of socialism, but a truly liberal radicalism which does not spare the susceptibilities of the mighty (including the trade unions), which is not too severely practical and which does not confine itself to what appears today as politically possible… Those who have concerned themselves exclusively with what seemed practicable in the existing state of opinion have constantly found that even this has rapidly become politically impossible as the result of changes in a public opinion which they have done nothing to guide. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.’

      What we lack is a (classic) liberal utopia. Make no mistake – it is a battle in the culture war that is a century and more old. The outcome is not at all uncertain – people will muddle through to development – it is asymmetric warfare. Much better – however – to put it at the forefront of global policy – and there will be the odd angry shot.

      Ken’s is an odd angry shot – and really not worth the gunpowder. It’s purpose is to be antagonistic while complaining about others – not Mark I gathered – not being conciliatory. Pointless snark as usual.

    13. ...and Then There's Physics

      It’s purpose is to be antagonistic while complaining about others – not Mark I gathered – not being conciliatory.

      I do like the “It’s” – grammatically incorrect, but very de-humanising; nice. Apart from that, you still seem to think that I’m complaining about others not being conciliatory, when I’m very obviously not. I won’t explain it again, since I imagine that those who realise that declining temperatures for the next few decades is extremely unlikely if we continue to emit GHGs, will be able to work it out for themselves.

    14. Robert Ellison

      Unlike El Niño and La Niña, which may occur every 3 to 7 years and last from 6 to 18 months, the PDO can remain in the same phase for 20 to 30 years. The shift in the PDO can have significant implications for global climate, affecting Pacific and Atlantic hurricane activity, droughts and flooding around the Pacific basin, the productivity of marine ecosystems, and global land temperature patterns. This multi-year Pacific Decadal Oscillation ‘cool’ trend can intensify La Niña or diminish El Niño impacts around the Pacific basin,” said Bill Patzert, an oceanographer and climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “The persistence of this large-scale pattern [in 2008] tells us there is much more than an isolated La Niña occurring in the Pacific Ocean.”

      Natural, large-scale climate patterns like the PDO and El Niño-La Niña are superimposed on global warming caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and landscape changes like deforestation. According to Josh Willis, JPL oceanographer and climate scientist, “These natural climate phenomena can sometimes hide global warming caused by human activities. Or they can have the opposite effect of accentuating it.”

      http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=8703

      Sure work it out for yourself. I’m content to watch the tin man blundering down the yellow brick road. But science moves on and I’d suggest you check your assumptions if you are able to.

      I’d quibble with the quote from NASA above – it’s not one thing or another but a global spanning ‘grand climate system’.

      My grammar is usually pretty good – but typos do of course slip through in blog comments. It’s rather than its is ‘dehumanizing’? Sensitive much?

      There is a link below to my new fb page – at the top is something I wrote yesterday. I read it again this morning – and made a few corrections. But – OMG – something might slip through. But you may get the point anyway. Occasionally a friend will post one of those word jumble things on my personal timeline – I’m pretty good at deciphering them. People are pretty good at pattern recognition.

      I trust this is not a word jumble thingy. It’s purpose is to move beyond rhetoric and put ecomodernism into a political, social and technological context.

      https://www.facebook.com/Australian.Ecomodernism

  9. Robert Ellison

    The World Wildlife Fund recently in its 2014 Living Planet Index (LPI), purports to measure more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. These are said — based on reputable databases — to show declines in populations by 52 per cent since 1970. In other words, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. There is indeed a risk of accelerated extinctions this century. As an environmental scientist, and having read widely in the population literature, I see no reason to doubt that this represents a real trend of species decline. The problem as defined is that these declines owe much more to poverty and lack of development than climate change.

    Nutrients likewise drive abrupt and more or less extreme changes in freshwater and marine systems. Throughout the world there are many coastal dead zones where oxygen levels have dropped to levels that will not sustain vertebrate life. The solutions here is urban runoff control only affordable in rich economies, building organic content in agricultural soils, water and soil conservation, precision agriculture and conserving and restoring ecosystems. Climate change is of no direct relevance.

    Climate change has come to dominate the public space for environmental discourse, with attendant and unfortunate demands on social and economic policy. Complexity science adds unexpected dimensions to the problem, but we would still be much better off — and much more environmentally friendly — pursuing a broad social and economic development agenda than one focused narrowly on climate change.

    https://wordpress.com/post/70052886/1037/

    The alternative vision involves narratives of moribund western economies governed by corrupt corporations collapsing under the weight of the internal contradictions – leading to less growth, less material consumption, less CO2 emissions, less habitat destruction and a last late chance to stay within the safe limits of global ecosystems. And this is just in the ‘scholarly’ journals.

    There is great divide here that will not be bridged – and it is legitimate in political discourse to expose the differences.

    Emissions of greenhouse gases are far from restricted to transportation and electricity generation. Greenhouse gases come from a number of sectors and technologies. We may add black carbon to the list of significant climate ‘control variables’(1) – second only to carbon dioxide from fossil fuel sources. Some 26% of emissions come from electricity generation and 13% from transportation. Mitigation of these sources can come from a range of technologies – good solutions come from low cost energy technologies.

    Mitigation of other sources – as well as management of wild stocks and commons – require a far wider ranging approach than merely taxes and caps. It requires a whole new approach in the intersection of business, government and community that Elinor Ostrom described as polycentric governance. Ideally this leads to a harmony with nature and conservation – rather than a tragedy – of the commons.

    Such co-operative, polycentric management of planetary systems is best described as a global ‘Iriai’ – a Japanese word meaning to enter the joint use of resources – and I suggest using the methods of environmental science. Environmental science is a cross-disciplinary field that combines in small teams a range of skills in the natural sciences, law, economics, archaeology, sociology, etc., as well as local knowledge, focused on solving problems across a variety of scales from the local to the transnational. It is a complex and messy solution – as Elinor Ostrom said is needed to solve complex and messy problems of the global commons.

    http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/06/economic-growth-and-environmental-management-in-a-global-iriai/

    As is said explicitly here – the problem is simplistic, linear thinking.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgmssrVInP0

    Even in climate science the prevalence of linear thinking, cause and effect, reductionism, is overwhelming and utterly misguided. ATTP should now something about that.

    As Marcia Wyatt said. ‘Climate is ultimately complex. Complexity begs for reductionism. With reductionism, a puzzle is studied by way of its pieces. While this approach illuminates the climate system’s components, climate’s full picture remains elusive. Understanding the pieces does not ensure understanding the collection of pieces. This conundrum motivates our study.’.

    Reply
    1. Robert Ellison

      Sorry – a couple of typos. Know not now. I’m sure you can sort the rest out.

    2. Robert Ellison
  10. Chris Smaje

    Mark

    Most of us, I’m sure, would like to see more civility and less bluster in this debate, so well played sir for extending the olive branch. And now can I ask you three questions?

    #1 Will you now repudiate the labelling and name-calling you’ve indulged in yourself, for example by promising in future to refrain from calling GMO critics ‘denialists’, to avoid the use of phrases like ‘simplistic nonsense’ to describe contraction and convergence arguments with which you disagree, and to discard the phrase ‘let them eat broccoli’ in your advocacy for golden rice?

    #2 Will you write a constructive response to critiques of ecomodernism and the Ecomodernist Manifesto – for example my two essays and George Monbiot’s recent article, which drew in part from them (all linked from http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?page_id=862)? Mike Shellenberger posted a series of critical tweets about my first essay, including some terrible caricatures of my arguments, and posed a series of questions to me which I’ve answered in my second essay. So could you or he demonstrate your commitment to rational debate by responding?

    #3 At one point in your remarks you contrast empiricism with ideology, but later you seem to accept the surely more plausible view that ‘ideology’ invests all positions in the debate, including ecomodernism – since we all seek social justice and sustainability but have different views about how best to achieve it, perhaps we can agree that debate needs to clarify the basic ideological divergences that point us in different policy directions and whether we can reach out across those divergences? This is surely better than the all too common tendency to dismiss others’ arguments as ‘ideological’ and thus implicitly assume that our own are the non-ideological (‘empirical’?) truth?

    I’d more or less given up trying to engage ‘ecomodernists’ in debate because I’ve received little in return other than abuse or pejorative one-liners, but if you’re genuine enough in your remarks to answer ‘yes’ to my three questions, then perhaps there’s still some hope for constructive engagement…

    Reply
    1. Mark Lynas (Post author)

      Hi Chris,

      thanks for your note. I did invite you over email to attend the evening launch event, but never heard back. That’s a shame – I know many people there would have been interested to hear from you directly and personally. I read your first essay (haven’t had time to read the second) and appreciated its clarity and challenges; I also thought it was well written, as I tweeted at the time.

      1. Will I stop calling anti-GMO people denialists? Sure. Would you like me to stop using the term also for those who doubt global warming science?

      2. A response to George’s piece was in the Guardian on Friday. My name isn’t on it, but Ted, Michael and Linus did the work. We met up with George on Friday and had a great discussion also. Will I write a response to your piece? I haven’t even had time to read the second one, and I’m sure you’d want any response to be considered and well researched. So it’s going to be a struggle personally as I have a lot else on (this is a spare time thing for me) but I’ll float the idea with the others.

      3. Yes I agree. That’s a point I’ve tried to make also. I wouldn’t be completely relativist about it (I think some views are more informed by empiricism than others, an obvious example being the debate on evolution/creationism) but I agree that no-one can claim to discard ideology completely, nor should they. Ideology holds the moral framework for any normative action.

      Please don’t give up on engagement. I have ‘instructed’ Michael to engage more positively (and less often!) on Twitter for example!

      cheers
      Mark

    2. Jim Hunt

      Mark,

      “I have ‘instructed’ Michael to engage more positively (and less often!) on Twitter for example!”

      That will make a pleasant change! Perhaps you might also ‘instruct’ him to stop calling me names and to answer my questions instead?

      https://twitter.com/MichaelBTI/status/647383234033123328

      Perhaps you wouldn’t mind answering my questions also?

    3. Chris Smaje

      Mark

      Gosh, thanks for inviting me to the launch – I didn’t get your email, most likely because I changed email address recently. You can contact me via http://www.smallfarmfuture.org.uk should you wish to in future.

      On the denialist tag – yes, I think it’s best avoided altogether. When applied to situations where some people choose to dispute the occurrence of events that manifestly have occurred or are occurring, such as the Holocaust or climate change, perhaps there’s a slightly stronger case for using it. But it’s still a form of labelling that essentially demonises a group of people for holding a view, rather than engaging with the view itself. Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of anti GMO arguments, I can’t see any justification for using it in that context. And whatever the strengths of the argument for golden rice, the phrase ‘let them eat broccoli’ is a four-word telegraph that you’re more interested in GMOs than in social justice.

      Thanks for pointing me to the response to George. I need to keep up a bit better don’t I? Probably by stopping wasting time working my small farm. Anyway, it’s good to have a clear and specific set of contentions of the kind articulated in the article to work with, although it does wrap up with signature ‘Ecomodernist Manifesto’ style grandiosity ‘urbanisation, industrialisation, and agricultural modernisation are processes that have been overwhelmingly positive for humans.’ I’ll write a response to that article when I get a chance, for my own benefit if for nobody else’s. A first blush thought is on the false homology of rural/urban: poverty/improvement. And there’s a good couple of billion rural poor people currently – I hope you guys have a good plan up your sleeve for finding them or building them the cities you think they’ll need to get richer. Still, we do have the makings of a worthwhile debate here.

      And finally, talking of debate, I’d be delighted of course if you did respond to my ‘ecomodernist challenge’ http://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?page_id=862 while recognizing that there’s no particular reason why you should. Mike, on the other hand – well, after posting various absurd caricatures of my arguments on Twitter and then posing a series of questions to me which I answered in my second piece, yes I do think he owes me a response.

    4. Aubrey Meyer

      That seems pretty reasonable Chris.

      Contraction & Convergence now embedded in the 2nd Domain of Carbon Budget Accounting Tool (CBAT) 4 Domains: – http://cbat.info/#domain-2

      CBAT was created out of C&C to encourage the ‘do-the-maths’ cry from various parties who (like me) rank this above ‘polemics’.

      It has had a good reception so far, including from those who do: – http://www.gci.org.uk/Documents/z.pdf

  11. Robert Ellison

    So let’s have a carbon budget.

    https://youtu.be/wgmssrVInP0

    Reply
    1. Jim Hunt

      A bit like this perhaps?

      https://youtu.be/UYAaQ4iwdtY

      “We can’t do [2°C] with low carbon supply. We can’t make the changes quick enough. You have to do something with our demand for energy, and that is very, very unpopular amongst all of us, all of our colleagues, all the policy makers, so basically the whole world, all the high emitting parts of the world, which is only a small proportion, none of us like this at all, and that’s why we don’t really like the science.”

    2. Robert Ellison

      The ‘science’ is one thing. There are ongoing skirmishes on the climate battlefront. They involve key ideas in climate science – climate extremes, climate sensitivity and the accuracy of climate models. There is as well an ongoing quibble – recently revisited by “climate scientists” – about whether surface temperature has increased recently. It is really quite obvious that if you start with the La Niña early in the century that it has. Surface temperatures have not increased since 2002 – 0 to 700m ocean temps have not increased. Deeper ocean sampling prior to 2005 was at less than 10% coverage – but temps at 0 to 2000m do seem to have increased since circa 2008 – as solar intensity increased. It will get a little cooler as we pass the current solar cycle peak and move into a cycle trough over the next couple of years. Climate extremes, climate sensitivity and the accuracy of models have interpretations that are not widely understood.

      It adds up to a conclusion you may find very surprising — and you get points for guessing which denier said this. “In sum, a strategy must recognise what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” It means that most of “the science” — the data interpretation, the methods and the theories are utterly inadequate to the task of explaining climate for us. But both sides of the climate battle continue to insist on a certainty that is impossible. This includes on a 2 degree ‘target’.

      http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/06/08/attrition-in-the-climate-trenches/

      Temperatures are not likely to increase for another decade or so – and beyond that we are likely to be surprised. Something I predicted in print a decade ago. It doesn’t let us off the hook. It doesn’t relieve us of the risks – quite unpredictable – of changing the composition of the planetary atmospheric.

      As Marcia Wyatt said. ‘Climate is ultimately complex. Complexity begs for reductionism. With reductionism, a puzzle is studied by way of its pieces. While this approach illuminates the climate system’s components, climate’s full picture remains elusive. Understanding the pieces does not ensure understanding the collection of pieces. This conundrum motivates our study.’

      So it is not matter of not liking the science – not understanding the full ramifications of climate science on your part seems more the point. However, you then have to make a leap into the policy arena – which is informed by culture, ethics and values.

      And here and yet again we are lead back to emissions from electricity generation – we could stop generating electricity from coal tomorrow and it is not going to matter a damn for emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation is some 26% of the total. Less than the climate forcing from black carbon. Here’s a pie chart – but you really need to think about black carbon t the same time. Can you hold two thoughts simultaneously?

      http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/images/ghgemissions/GlobalGHGEmissionsBySource.png

      Is the electricity monomania founded in the alternative vision? The alternative vision involves tales of the collapse of western civilisation and capitalism — leading to less growth, less material consumption, less CO2 emissions, less habitat destruction, and a last late chance to stay within the safe limits of global ecosystems. And this is just in the “scholarly” journals.

      A much broader sociopolitcal response is required – and reducing agricultural emissions and sequestering carbon while improving productivity, conserving soil and water and enhancing biodiversity is one pathway to better outcomes for everyone. Agricultural productivity generates resources for health and education, safe water and sanitation and environmental conservation and restoration. The best thing we can do is open up global trade.

      One of the phenomenal (benefit to cost ratio >15) of the Copenhagen Consensus is to improve market access for agricultural and industrial exports of developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries, and at least double the share of LDCs’ exports in global exports by 2020. The green blob of course hates it.

    3. Robert Ellison

      … phenomenal goals…

  12. Robert Ellison

    It seems to take 2 days and more to clear moderation here – might just cut my losses.

    What happened in the years 1976/77 and 1998/99 in the Pacific was so unusual that scientists spoke of abrupt climate changes. They referred to a sudden warming of the tropical Pacific in the mid-1970s and rapid cooling in the late 1990s. Both events turned the world’s climate topsy-turvy and are clearly reflected in the average temperature of the Earth. Today we know that the cause is the interaction between ocean and atmosphere…

    The researchers used a climate model, a so-called coupled ocean-atmosphere model, which they forced with the observed wind data of the last decades. For the abrupt changes during the 1970s and 1990s they calculated predictions which began a few months prior to the beginning of the observed climate shifts. The average of all predictions for both abrupt changes shows good agreement with the observed climate development in the Pacific. “The winds change the ocean currents which in turn affect the climate.”

    http://www.geomar.de/en/news/article/klimavorhersagen-ueber-mehrere-jahre-moeglich/

    Science is saying one thing – and most people understand something else entirely. For the most part it is the simply an inability to put it into the appropriate theoretical context.

    Should the unthinkable happen and it mot warm for decades yet – it leaves the poor little things blundering like the Tin Man down the yellow brick road. I admit to finding the prospect amusing.

    Reply
  13. Robert Ellison

    ‘Climate is ultimately complex. Complexity begs for reductionism. With reductionism, a puzzle is studied by way of its pieces. While this approach illuminates the climate system’s components, climate’s full picture remains elusive. Understanding the pieces does not ensure understanding the collection of pieces. This conundrum motivates our study.’ Marcia Wyatt

    There is a great wonder here and much uncertainty – and both sides do a great disservice to natural sciences by gross oversimplification, false certainties, entrenched positions and virulent attacks on anything that smacks of heresy.

    There is another way of looking at climate – one where powerful internal mechanisms of climate variability change randomly and chaotically according to the rules of the class of dynamic and complex systems. The most telling of these rules for climate is abrupt change. Climate data at all scales show abrupt changes. Complexity theory suggests an explanation. Small changes push the system past a threshold – at which stage the system transitions to a new state at a rate determined by the internal dynamics of the system itself. Disentangling anthropogenic climate change from these chaotic and random shifts – if these indeed feature in Earth’s climate – would be an intractable problem. The implications are profound – unpredictable shifts in temperature and hydrology every 20 to 30 years and the potential for major climate shifts in as little as a decade being just two…

    http://watertechbyrie.com/…/climate-chaos-the-once-and…/

    The bottom line is deceptively simple. We are changing the atmospheric composition with unpredictable consequences. The responses from the usual suspects seem utterly inadequate – but we can cobble together a sound response with a solid enlightenment underpinning, a theory of institutional design for managing global commons and effective use of a broad range of technologies.

    The top post here was written yesterday – https://www.facebook.com/Australian.Ecomodernism

    The direct link is here. – http://watertechbyrie.com/2015/09/28/a-classic-liberal-utopia/

    Reply
  14. Rezwan

    Great post, Mark!

    I’m all for depolarization (aka “depolarisation”). Your article is a bit light on specific action steps. My takeaway here is: “we need less name calling and demonic labeling”; we need to “move beyond ideological tribalism”; we should emphasize what we have in common; and we should to figure out how to deploy both renewables & nuclear power.

    If I may make a suggestion, perhaps a more active process to tackle polarization is what’s needed. Check out this proposal for renewable + nuclear living room conversations (#ReNuLRC) http://fp2w.org/index.php/blog/article/renewables-nuclear-conversation-its-time-to-talk This process can be applied to any issue.

    Would be happy to participate in one with you and friends across the aisle.

    Cheers,
    Rezwan

    Reply
  15. Barry Woods

    Hi Mark

    To be absolutely clear, when you were talking about ‘climate denialism’ – at the meeting, with Owen and Matt on the panel next to you.. you were NOT referring to them, or their position with respect to climate science?

    Reply
    1. Messi

      Don’t expect a reply from Mark, Barry – he’s gone quiet after sharing his platform with Matt and Owen. Neither Matt nor Owen are interested in cool, calm debate over climate science or biodiversity policy. Matt is a mover in the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is essentially aimed at totally discrediting all climate science (you know, ‘doubt is our product’), and Owen was responsible for silencing and sidelining science advice while minister in charge of Defra in the UK. As it happens I agree with at least some of what the ecomodernists say – I’m pro nuclear and don’t think that eating GM will harm human health (though the corporates in charge of GM surely will harm human development prospects and cause environmental damage in their rush to maximise profits – but that tendency isn’t confined to large agribusiness). Matt and Owen certainly aren’t ecomodernists – they’re ecoatangonists and bring nothing but toxicity. It’s a shame Mark Lynas has chosen to adopt their style.

  16. Ron

    The manifesto is ridiculously long. No way is the average person going to read it. I know I didn’t.

    Reply
  17. Scott

    Mark,
    Actually I am an ecomodernist. Here in the US though we generally identify ourselves as “crunchy conservatives” or ‘crunchy cons”. So the vast majority of the essay I can at least partly agree with.

    One huge glaring exception.is this quote: “An example is gaining an understanding of how agricultural modernisation can spare wild lands through land-use efficiency – if the world switched to organic low-yield agriculture, we would pay the price in lost rainforests.”

    My research is actually in agriculture, and I can assure you unequivocally that is NOT correct nor should it be part of any ecological movement, liberal or conservative. It is a myth that needs stamped out and destroyed wherever it rears its ugly head. Modern science based organic agricultural science and methodology is FAR FAR FAR more land use efficient than conventional agricultural methods. The article is comparing pre 1950’s traditional & subsistence farming and assumes the biological, soil, and agricultural sciences have not advanced since then. It is a categorically false assumption. The truth is that we could easily halve the land required for agricultural use simply by modernising to these new organic methodologies over the antiquated conventional models.

    Keep in mind though, I really and an ecomodernist. So I am not talking about going back to dogmatic liberal ideas of what “organic” should be. This obviously needs to be done including modern genetics for crops and livestock species, but raised in a way that actually increases the yields per acre over conventional models. Usually that involves stacking production models including livestock and crops, where the waste from one is the food/fertiliser for the other. A FAR FAR FAR more land efficient model than removing livestock production from the land and stacking it into CAFOs.

    Reply
  18. Bas Gresnigt

    “…the most environmentally friendly emissions reducing technology, nuclear power. So if the green left wants to promote wind and solar, and the right wants to push nuclear, that’s fine…”

    Two problems with this:

    1. Nuclear creates lots of new heat (a 1GW Nuclear Power Plant creates 3GW heat), so its far less climate friendly than wind+solar+storage.

    2. Nuclear Power Plants are base load plants, which cannot compete at all in an environment with substantial renewable share. Because wind+solar may at periods produce near all electricity which are needed, bringing whole sale prices down to near zero.

    That harms the profitability of NPP’s as those have high fixed costs (staff, capital). So the owners, utilities, do everything they can to stop (distributed) renewable.

    As NPP’s are build with high governmental support, those utilities have major influence in governments.
    In Spain they seduced government to introduce such high taxes and levies that the owners took their PV-panels off their roof. Even those with a stand alone installation!

    So it’s not fine as the two, nuclear and renewable (wind+solar), bite each other.

    Reply

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