models as fictions

In spite of its attractions for other sorts of physicists, realism seems to be an inappropriate way to conceive of climate physics: arguments regarding the truth content of our best models seem beside the point when one considers that the horizontal extent of every cloud in HadCM3 is some integer multiplied by its grid resolution 2.5×3.75°.

Rather than seeing models as describing literal truth, we ought to see them as convenient fictions which try to provide something useful. – Dr David Frame, climate modeler, Oxford University.

The Royal Society, Philosophical Transaction. August 2007 Volume: 365 Issue: 1857

In their own words

or – “I thought this was all about science.”


“It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention.”

“So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.”
Monika Kopacz, NOAA Program Manager 2009 – letter to The New York Times, Apr. 12 2009


“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony, there are still collateral environmental benefits to global warming policies… climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
Christine Stewart, then Canadian Minister of the Environment, speaking before editors and reporters of the Calgary Herald, 1998


“He [Al Gore] impressed us all at Deutsche Bank Asset Management. We invited him to an internal meeting in April 2007 during which we discussed the issue of climate change extensively.”

“A few months later, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment. We then created a fund that invests in companies that position themselves as climate-neutral.”

“Within two months almost 10 billion dollars flowed into this fund. Can you imagine? 10 billion! There has never been such an overwhelming success.”
Kevin Parker, Director of Global Asset Management, Deutsche Bank, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nov 15 2010


“Say that 30 years from now, science came back and said, ‘wow, we were mistaken then now we have some new information so we think it is something else’.”

In a world with nine billion people, even 10 billion at the middle of this century, where literally billions of global citizens will still have to get out of poverty and enter the consuming middle classes, don’t you think that anyway it makes a lot of sense to get more energy and resource efficient.”

“Let’s say that science, some decades from now, said ‘we were wrong, it was not about climate’, would it not in any case have been good to do many of things you have to do in order to combat climate change?.”
Europe’s climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, Daily Telegraph 16/9/13


“In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together.”

“But in designating these dangers as the enemy we fall into the trap which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”
Alexander King, founder of the Club of Rome environmental think-tank, advisor to the United Nations (1991), The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of The Club of Rome by Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider (Pantheon, 1991), p. 115


“On one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but—which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts.”

“On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination.”
“That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula.”

“Each of us has to decide what is the right balance between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” Dr. Stephen Schneider, former IPCC Coordinating Lead Author, APS Online, Aug./Sep. 1996


“Some colleagues who share some of my doubts argue that the only way to get our society to change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe, and that therefore it is all right and even necessary for scientists to exaggerate. They tell me that my belief in open and honest assessment is naïve.”

” ‘Wolves deceive their prey, don’t they?’ one said to me recently. Therefore, biologically, he said, we are justified in exaggerating to get society to change.”
emeritus professor Daniel Botkin, president of the Center for the Study of the Environment and professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Wall St Journal 17 Oct 2007


“Government in the future will be based upon (or incorporate, depending on the level of breakdown of civilisation) a supreme office of the biosphere. The office will comprise specially trained philosopher/ecologists.”

“These guardians will either rule themselves or advise an authoritarian government of policies based on their ecological training and philosophical sensitivities. These guardians will be specially trained for the task.”
Professor David Shearman, an Assessor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 3rd and 4th Assessment Reports -The Climate change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy. David Shearman & Joseph Wayne Smith (Praeger Publishing: Wesport, 2007). p134

“In short, Shearman and Smith argue that liberal democracy – considered sacrosanct in modern societies – is an impediment to finding ecologically sustainable solutions for the planet.”
[intro. p.xi]

“In chapters 8 and 9 we argue that authoritarianism is the natural state of humanity, and it may be better to choose our elites rather than have them imposed.”

“We analyze authoritarian structures and their operation ranging from the medical intensive care unit and the Roman Catholic Church to corporatism with the conclusion that the crisis is best countered by developing authoritarian government using some of the fabric of these existing structures.”

“The education and values of the new “elite warrior leadership” who will battle for the future of the earth is described.”
Intro p xvi


policy windows

The onset of more severe climate impacts overseas may also open up temporary opportunities, or “policy windows .” These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable… In effect, envisaged solutions can become rapidly translated into practical options for action following a major disaster or near-miss.
Foresight, International Dimensions of Climate Change, 2011, Final Project Report The Government Office for Science, London, p113. Foreword by Sir John Beddington, Head of the UK Government Office of Science.

didn’t quite get there…

The United Nation’s climate chief says that reordering the global economy to fight climate change is the “most difficult” task the international body has ever undertaken.

Christiana Figueres, who heads up the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, told reporters, “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.”

Figueres continued, “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.”, 11 Feb 2015

see also – in their own words

you can’t have both!

scalesBritish author Robert Newman states: “There is no meaningful response to climate change without massive social change. A cap on this and a quota on the other won’t do it. Tinker at the edges as we may, we cannot sustain earth’s life-support systems within the present economic system.”

“Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet… You can either have capitalism or a habitable planet. One or the other, not both.”
The Guardian, 2 Feb 2006

cat let out of bag!

On 1 June 2015, gave the Swiss daily paper a revealing admission of the former Swiss Federal Council (Bundesrat = Minister and President of the Swiss group occasional government) Moritz Leuenberger. The key quote in the article states: The climate summit in Copenhagen shortly before the vote for the reduction of CO 2 emissions was disastrous, Leuenberger admits now.

But then he did this deliberately not told the media and therefore lied, so that the Swiss would vote for it. Leuenberger: “Now I believe that lie is legitimate if it causes something good.” No tricks zone, 5 Jul 2015

you first!

“We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects. We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of acres of presently settled land.”
David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First! Source: This Land is OUR Land, by Tim Findley, Range Magazine, Fall 2003, page 36. Screencopy held by this website.

for new category – in their own words

…and the solution is?

The importance of the speed and magnitude of recent population growth in boosting future greenhouse gas emissions is well recognized among scientists… Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendents. Hence, the emissions savings from intended or planned birth multiply with time…

No human is genuinely “carbon neutral,” especially when all greenhouse gases are figured into the equation. Therefore, everyone is part of the problem, so everyone must be part of the solution in some way.
“Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate,” UN Population Fund, 2009

climate change as an imaginative idea

Rather than try to ‘solve’ climate change I suggest in Section 10.3 that we need to approach climate change as an imaginative idea, an idea that we develop and employ to fulfil a variety of tasks for us. Because the idea of climate change is so plastic it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve may of our psychological, ethical and spiritual needs This section offers four mobilising narratives to climate change; narratives rooted in our human instincts for nostalgia, fear, pride and justice.
Dr. Mike Hulme, Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 341

sudden sea level rise needed!

In an email exchange, I asked Dr. Somerville what he thought was needed in order to spark the changes the letter seeks.

He responded, “I think a dramatic shocking surprising climate event that is unambiguously due to global warming may be the only thing that motivates people and governments. Maybe a big chunk of ice sheet destabilizing and producing a significant sudden sea level rise. Unfortunately, then it may be too late, because it’s essentially irreversible; you can’t cool the world enough to make the ice re-form quickly.”
Richard C.J.Sommerville, a climatologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography near San Diego, New York Times, 9 Jan 2008

the only hope?

“What if a small group of these world leaders were to conclude that the principle risk to the Earth comes from the actions of the rich countries and in order to save the planet this group decided, ‘Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsiblity to bring that about?’”
Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme in a 1990 interview about a book he’d like to write – Environmentalism: Ideology and Power, Donald Gibson, Nova Science Publishers,Inc, 15 May 2012, p95

too many people

When it comes to climate change population matters, particularly for countries in South Asia, Africa and some Arab countries, says Prof. Khalid Rashid. A mathematician and physicist in Pakistan, he has long been studying the phenomenon of global warming and views the uncontrolled population explosion with much trepidation.

“Deep down human population is the main cause. If the world population would stay around 100 million, this population could afford an energy-intensive, yet sustainable, lifestyle. The effect on the planet would be small,” says Prof. Rashid.Inter Press Service, 31 Jul 2007


Jorgen Randers was a fresh-faced PhD student in physics at MIT when he co-wrote The Limits to Growth, the short but seminal work for the Club of Rome on resource depletion, spawning the sustainability movement.

In 40 ”deeply demotivating years” in academia, the professor of climate strategy at the Norwegian business school has lived every failed phase of the effort to inspire action to head off climate change and resource depletion.

Professor Randers supports ”eco-dictatorship” in the form of a global executive body with the authority to tell nations how much greenhouse gas they are permitted to emit.Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Nov 2012