"Then it is dark; a night where kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains." - John Cheever

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Warmer, Warmer

I know I'm always posting about this stuff (maybe we need a sister blog just for global warming doom-mongering), but there's an excellent piece by the ever-reliable John Lanchester in the current LRB: Warmer, Warmer.

"I don’t think I can be the only person who finds in myself a strong degree of psychological resistance to the whole subject of climate change. I just don’t want to think about it. This isn’t an entirely unfamiliar sensation: someone my age is likely to have spent a couple of formative decades trying not to think too much about nuclear war, a subject which offered the same combination of individual impotence and prospective planetary catastrophe... I suspect we’re reluctant to think about it because we’re worried that if we start we will have no choice but to think about nothing else."


Tom said...

Ha! I logged onto the Fitz with the intention of making the same post, having read the LRB article earlier today.

From a cultural/personal (as opposed to scientific perspective), it's one of the best things on global warming I've read. Lanchester brilliantly captures how immense the problem is, and how this lead to a sense not of action, but rather impotence, helplessness and denial.

It's also pretty frightening. One of the things I wasn't aware of until I read this article is that lots of the models scientists are using explicitly exclude positive feedback effects because they're too difficult to calculate accurately.

john said...

Good article.

It should be born in mind that Lovelock's "small number of breeding pairs" prediction is seen as overly pessimistic by most of the Real Climate crowd. I also note that Real Climate say that the Gulf Stream shutting down scenario (posited by Lanchester) is extremely unlikely.

Colin said...

True, but he does write well. As Matthew Norman points out in the Independent today, journalists aren't best qualified to comment on this stuff, whether believers or the "anti-climate change warriors of Fleet Street - men and women of such natural intellectual power that they have become far more knowledgeable than the world's leading climatologists despite mustering barely a science O-level between them". The latter include Tom Utley of the Daily Mail "who so majestically put to bed all the alarmist nonsense about rising sea levels by pointing out that, when the ice in his gin and tonic melts, the liquid doesn't spill over the top of the glass".

I also notice that Channel 4 are going to screen a debate in response to the global warming swindle programme - although they also complain that of those who contacted the channel about the programme, 6 to 1 were in favour of it. People just believe what they want to believe.

By the way, did you know that emissions from planes don't count towards the UK's carbon output measures?

Colin said...

claim, not complain

john said...

Think I knew that about planes. I'm not sure that aviation is the real issue though - it's power generation that's pumping all the CO2 into the atmosphere isn't it?

A good writer as you say - I'm not that keen on the way he slags off Detroit however ;-)

Tom said...

You're right - people believe what they want to believe, and no one really wants to come to terms with the fact that foreign holidays, big cars and excessive consumption will all have to stop.

As John Lanchester says, convincing people to give up all this on the basis of scientific theory and computer models is going to be a big ask. It's incredibly tempting to instead believe that it's all a scientific conspiracy. I wish it was!