08 January 2010

ClimateGate Gleanings III: Maybe Religion.

John Ray, the "father of English natural history," believed that the wisdom of the Creator could be comprehended by studying His Creation. Today, the John Ray Initiative seeks "to bring together scientific and Christian understandings of the environment in a way that can be widely communicated and lead to effective action."
Onward Christian Soldiers. Tim Mitchell was one of the graduate students at East Anglia responsible for the code discussed in the Harry_Read_Me file. As sleuthed by "Wearedoomed" (post # 832 at Tickerforum.org), Mitchell is a devout Christian who believes that doing the Lord's work necessitates participation in the fight against Global Warming. In an article published in Evangelicals Now, he wrote as follows:
"What can individual Christians do? ... [W]e all have the vote, and environmental issues ought to be among those that we weigh up carefully before casting our vote. We are also each responsible for a small part of the daily emissions of greenhouse gases. ... The government urges us to reduce our energy usage so that we may indulge ourselves in other ways, but we have a higher motive for reducing waste (1 Timothy 6.17-19). ... [H]uman pollution is clearly another of the birth pangs of creation, as it eagerly awaits being delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans. 19-22)." [Emphasis added]
That was back in 2000, and the article identifies its author as working "at the Climatic Research Unit, UEA, Norwich." Mitchell continued to publish in Evangelicals Now. In 2001, the identification changes to "Dr. Tim Mitchell, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research;" in August, 2004, to "Dr. Tim Mitchell, Climate Scientist;" in July of 2006, to "Dr. Tim Mitchell, formerly a scientist, now a student at LTS [London Theological Seminary (evangelical)]" and later that year, to "Dr. Tim Mitchell, Highbury Baptist Church." Evidently, Mitchell received his Ph.D. in 2001, worked at CRU for several years, probably as a post-doc, and then abandoned climatology in favor of a higher calling.

Immediate Controls. In 1997, Mitchell promoted a statement calling for immediate controls on carbon emissions. To Tom Wigley he sent the following request:
"Attached ... is a Statement, the purpose of which is to bolster or increase governmental and public support for controls of emissions of greenhouse gases in European and other industrialised countries in the negotiations during the Kyoto Climate Conference in December 1997. The Statement was drafted by a number of prominent European scientists concerned with the climate issue, eleven of whom are listed after the Statement and who are acting as formal sponsors of the Statement."
In Wigley, Mitchell apparently hoped to find a supporter for speedy action, and, in this, he would be disappointed. "Dear Eleven," Wigley wrote (Email - 880476729.txt) the statement's authors in a letter copied to Mitchell,
"I was very disturbed by your recent letter, and your attempt to get others to endorse it. Not only do I disagree with the content of this letter, but I also believe that you have severely distorted the IPCC 'view' when you say that 'the latest IPCC assessment makes a convincing economic case for immediate control of emissions.' In contrast to the one-sided opinion expressed in your letter, IPCC WGIII SAR and TP3 review the literature and the issues in a balanced way presenting arguments in support of both "immediate control" and the spectrum of more cost-effective options. It is not IPCC's role to make "convincing cases" for any particular policy option; nor does it. However, most IPCC readers would draw the conclusion that the balance of economic evidence favors the emissions trajectories given in the WRE paper. This is contrary to your statement." [Emphasis added].
One is tempted to say "bully for Wigley," until one remembers that, like the other Climategate principals, he wore multiple hats: scientist, IPCC poohbah, Lord knows what else.

Ironically, Wigley's present-day enthusiasm for the IPCC 's prescriptions is decidedly tepid. A decade after the exchange with Mitchell, he would argue (Pielke, R. Jr., Wigley, T. and C. Green. 2008. Dangerous assumptions. Nature. 452: 531-532.) that the IPCC had greatly understated the difficulties in achieving meaningful carbon reduction. Had this opinion already begun to form in 1997? And if so, was Mitchell aware of it? If yes to both questions, the latter's decision to approach Wigley would be explained.

The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation. Tim Mitchell isn't the only environmentalist inspired by Christian Faith. Another such individual is Sir John T. Houghton, presently chairman of The John Ray Initiative. JRI describes itself as "an educational charity with a vision to bring together scientific and Christian understandings of the environment in a way that can be widely communicated and lead to effective action." Houghton, a former professor of atmpspheric physics at Oxford, was the lead author of three IPCC reports and the former chief executive officer of the Met Office, which organization's "warm, warmer, warmest" forecasts were recently reviewed by Richard North. "From a fuddy-duddy organisation created in 1854 to provide a service to mariners, and then aviators when the aeroplane was invented," North writes, "the Met Office ... has since transmuted into a powerful advocacy unit that sees its main mission to convince the world that we are prey to 'dangerous climate change'. Much of this," North continues,
"is down [sic] to one man - John Houghton (now Sir John) who was the director-general and later chief executive of the Met Office between 1983 and 1991.

"It was he, way back in 1988, who attended the first World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto and later became the first scientific chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"It was Houghton who, with one of her senior advisers, Sir Crispin Tickell, convinced the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to fund a new Met Office unit called the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research. Opened in 1990, it is now based in Exeter and employs more than 200 staff, having become a temple to what many regard as the climate change 'religion'."
Houghton's take on climate change and the need for theologically-inspired activism is summarized in "An Urgent Call to Prayer" issued by himself and the Bishop of Liverpool. "There is therefore an inescapable moral imperative," they write,
"for rich countries to avoid further damage by rapidly reducing their carbon emissions and to share their wealth and skills with developing countries to enable them to adapt to climate change and to build their economies sustainably."
There follows discussion of the need to limit the rise in world temperatures to 2 deg. C., condemnation of America's lack of leadership and a consensus-view summary of the consequences of failing to act:
"By the second half of this century, there could be hundreds of millions of environmental refugees whose homes are no longer habitable either because of rising sea level, gross flooding or persistent drought. The impact on the world’s ecosystems will also be large. Many species are already threatened by the destruction of tropical forests; climate change is adding to this. Millions of species are likely to be lost in the coming decades. Even if the global average temperature rise is contained below 2 deg C the damages are likely to be serious. Above that target level, the damages will be increasingly more devastating in many parts of the world."
Nowhere in any of this is there mention of the chance that mainline climate scientists might just possibly have it wrong, of the fact that the last 8-15 (depending on how you count) years of stable / cooling temperatures were unpredicted in simulo, of the uncertainties surrounding paleo-temperature reconstructions, etc. Indeed, the authors' religious fervor is exceeded only by their faith in the infallibility of contemporary science.

Worth noting is the fact that JRI and its contributors do not shy from getting down to brass tacks. A recent post on their Forum Page links to Climate Prayer on Twitter, from which, I reproduce the following:
"Pray for a good energy & climate bill in US in 2010. Can loving our neighbours trump politics?"

"Pray birders realise impact climate change will have on birds. 'Some will run out of habitat'"

"Pray asset managers understand climate risks when investing. Report says many don't."

"UK government offers scrappage deal on household boilers. Pray many get new efficient boilers."

"Indonesia - 3rd biggest CO2 emitter - says will cut emissions by tree-planting. Pray their sums are right."
Amusing to this author is an exhortation to "Pray for China to take climate seriously." That the "60 year snow record," to which this suggestion also refers, may be a harbinger of things frigid to come seems not to have occurred to the supplicant.

Considerably less cause for mirth is the hope for a "good energy & climate bill in US." By this is meant legislation that cripples the American economy, puts millions out of work and, as I have written elsewhere, consigns the old and the infirm, to the mercies of Sarah Palin's "death panels." Already, pensioners in England are burning books to keep warm, the per pound cost of the printed word, at least when purchased second hand, being less than that of coal. And this circumstance, these people seek to export to "the Colonies" — thank you very much!

JRI takes its inspiration from the notion of "stewardship." As stewards of the earth, they believe, humanity has an obligation protect God's Creation — to leave the planet, if not in its pre-human condition, then at least as we, the present generation, found it. The earth in their view is a garden, which must be tended. "The Genesis stories," they write, "contain a beautiful description of this partnership when they speak of God ‘walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ (Genesis 3.8). We may wonder what God and Adam and Eve talked about on those evening walks. They would surely have talked about the garden and how humans were getting on finding out about it and caring for it." [Emphasis added]

A Supernatural Punisher. Whereas Mitchell and Houghton appeal to our better natures, Robert May contemplates the need for a harsher tack. May is the Baron of Oxford, the former Chief Science Advisor to her Majesty’s Government, former President of the Royal Society, current President of the British Science Association, etc. Arguably – they don’t do polls on this sort of thing – he is the best known and most influential scientist in Britain. By training a mathematical physicist, May switched fields in the early nineteen-seventies, thereafter becoming one of the world’s pre-eminent theoretical ecologists. More recently, he has been out-spoken on the issue of climate change, in which regard he holds human activity responsible for late twentieth century warming. Like other warmists, May predicts catastrophic environmental collapse absent the stabilization of atmospheric carbon.

Unlike, Mitchell et al., May is a self-proclaimed atheist: "I think I was eight years old," he reminisced, "when I first encountered, and was disturbed by, the biblical injunction, relating to the doubting St Thomas: 'blessed is he that seeth not, yet believeth'." May detests resurgent fundamentalism, which he regards as a threat to civilization generally, to the fruits of The Enlightenment, in particular. Nonetheless, as reported in the press, he has recently pondered the possibility that organized religion might be usefully enlisted to help make the world green."
"Religious leaders should play a frontline role in mobilising people to take action against global warming … [R]eligious groups could use their influence to motivate believers into reducing the environmental impact of their lives. The international reach of faith-based organisations and their authoritarian structures give religious groups an almost unrivalled ability to encourage a large proportion of the world's population to go green … ." [Ian Sample, The Guardian (7 September, 2009)] [Emphasis added]"

"Lord May ... said religion may have helped protect human society from itself in the past and it may be needed again. … [T]he committed atheist said … the world was on a ‘calamitous trajectory’ brought on by its failure to co-ordinate measures against global warming. ‘Maybe religion is needed,’ said Lord May … . ‘A supernatural punisher may be part of the solution. … Given that punishment is a useful mechanism, how much more effective … if you invested that power … [in] an all-seeing, all powerful deity … . Such a system would be ‘immensely stabilising.’" [Richard Alleyne, The Telegraph. (7 September, 2009)] [Emphasis added]
There are three reasons why May's views merit careful consideration and serious concern.
  1. He is terribly well connected, politically adroit and a prime mover in the world of science. When May speaks, others listen. More importantly, what he says usually represents the views of the community, dare I say, cabal, of elite scientists who control which papers get published in prestige journals such as Nature, and, more generally, which opinions are deemed "respectable." Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, scientists "move in herds." People like May, to a far greater extent than most on the outside imagine, determine whither the herds tend.

  2. He is no fool. The policies he endorses will cause pain, suffering and death on a planetary scale. His ruminations on controlling peoples actions via fear of a wrathful God should therefore serve as a wake-up call for just what the environmentalist community has in mind.

    Recently, Stehr and von Storch have written about the impatience with which climate scientists view the democratic process:
    "Within the broad field of climatology and climate policy one is able to discern growing concerns about the virtues of democracy. It is not just the deep divide between knowledge and action that is at issue, but it is an inconvenient democracy, which is identified as the culprit holding back action on climate change. As Mike Hulme [director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research and one of the Climategate correspondents] has noted, it can be frustrating to learn that citizens have minds of their own." [Emphasis added]
    Stehr and von Storch identify specific calls for carbon abatement policies by authoritarian fiat. Thus, while May mulls persuasion via the pulpit, important climatologists prefer the counsel of Smith and Wesson.

  3. The most important reason for taking May's words to heart is that they indicate the environmental movement's fallback position if the evidence goes against anthropogenic warming. In two recent addresses, the first to Autralia's Lowy Institute Institute for International Policy, the second to the British Science Association, May argues that climate change is a "multiplier" that exacerbates a more fundamental problem, which is that mankind's current "ecological footprint" exceeds the earth's biological capacity. "I find it astonishing," he writes
    "that more than half the atoms of nitrogen, and also of phosphorus, incorporated into green plants today come from artificial fertilisers (produced with a fossil fuel energy subsidies) rather than the natural biogeochemical cycles which constructed, and which struggle to maintain, the biosphere." [Emphasis added]
    "The planet’s biological capacity," he continues,
    "ultimately depends on the number of people multiplied by the average per capita footprint. It could thus correspond to more people each casting a smaller footprint, or alternatively to fewer people with larger footprints." [Emphasis added]
The alternatives (not mutually exclusive) that follow from May's analysis boil down to impoverishment (reduced per capita consumption), limits to procreation (reduced recruitment of newborns) and murder (accelerated losses, of the elderly and the infirm, for starters).

Coming soon to a planet near you. The environmental movement's real prescription for "sustainability."
Optimum Population. If the foregoing sounds extreme, check out the Optimum Population Trust [OPT]'s website. Here, we find the following:
"For a 'modest' world footprint of 3.3 gha/cap [global hectares per individual] (without allowances for biodiversity or change of biocapacity), the maximum sustainable population is 3.4 billion; the optimum population would be around 3 billion." [Emphasis added]
Of course, OPT would allow for biodiversity, but, on the scale being considered, that is a triviality. The principal point is this: Currently, the world's population is something in excess of 6 billion, and it will rise to around 9 billion by 2050 before beginning a slow decline in response to diminished fertility. What OPT is calling for is thus a two thirds reduction in the human population that will obtain absent intervention or catastrophe. For the present, I leave it as an exercise to calculate just how such a reduction might be obtained. But the qualitative conclusion is that, in the short-term (which I take to be decades), human numbers can only be reduced to such an extent by dramatic reductions in fertility and / or increases in mortality. Even though world fertility has now dropped below replacement levels, the simple fact is that humans live too long for natural mortality to do the trick on the time scale of interest.

This is the conclusion that few dare to speak, save by allusion to the need for third world "family planning." That it is nonetheless widely held, I would argue, explains much. It is the reason, I believe, environmentalists are untroubled by the possibility that climate scientists may be wrong, the reason they are are undismayed by the scandals of malaria control and prospective health care rationing, the reason they are uninterested in the use of nuclear energy. The countering arguments of course, speak to other things: scientific consensus, environmental degradation, etc. But the unstated commonality is that the diminution of humanity's numbers, by whatever means, is, in their view, a step in the right direction. Significantly, China is already demanding monetary compensation for souls not born — the result of its one child policy.
"'As a result of the family planning policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year,' Zhao [Vice-Minister of China's National Population and Family Planning Commission] said."
The next step down this road is the valuation (in global hectares, of course) of "life years" and monetary reward for their abbreviation. God save us all!

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