Climate

Pascal Bruckner: The Fanaticism Of The Eco-Apocalypse

Financial Review, 20 October 2012
Pascal Bruckner Photo Miguel Medina
“The planet is sick. Man is guilty of having destroyed it. He must pay,” is how Bruckner caustically portrays the received wisdom on environmental “sin” and damnation in his latest book Le fanatisme de l’Apocalypse (The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse).
“Consider . . . the famous carbon footprint that we all leave behind us,” he writes in his introduction. “What is it, after all, if not the gaseous equivalent of original sin, of the stain that we inflict on our Mother Gaia by the simple fact of being present and breathing?”
Subtitled Sauver la Terre, punir l’Homme (Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings) the book rails against a peculiar Western malady. Yes, concerns about the environment are legitimate, Bruckner asserts, but catastrophisme is transforming us all into children “put in a panic in order to be better controlled”.
It is a feistier-than-usual polemic for Bruckner, a leading member of France’s “new philosophers” who emerged from the 1970s left with searing critiques of Marxism. Later this year, it will be published in English as Fanaticism of the Apocalypse by Polity, Cambridge, translated by Steven Rendall.
As the Jesuit-educated philosopher sees it, extreme climate change alarmism, with its warning bells chiming “The end of the world is nigh, repent ye”, represents a worrying new doctrine of ideological purity that even has totalitarian overtones.
Worst of all, Bruckner argues, these “political commissars of carbon” have “betrayed the best of causes” and turned the discourse of ecological terror into the “dominant ideology of Western society”.
Dividing his argument into three sections, provocatively titled “The Seduction of Disaster”; “The Anti-progress Progressives”; and “The Great Ascetic Regression”, Bruckner scorns the peddlers of the “propaganda of fear”.
It is a muscular thesis delivered in typical elegant Bruckner style, citing philosophers, playwrights, novelists, political theorists and green activists from Martin Heidegger to Goethe, Moliere, Gustave Flaubert, Hannah Arendt, and France’s Yves Cocher.
However since the book appeared in French late last year, Bruckner has been pilloried in certain quarters as a reactionary turncoat aiding the worst climate change deniers. He has seen some publications that traditionally laud his work decry Fanaticism of the Apocalypse as hedonistic, deluded and dangerous.
Le Monde devoted four pages to say to what extent my book was bad, false and full of lies, which is rather curious,” Bruckner says, with a slight edge to his voice, as we are ushered into an upper room in his local cafe, Le Progres, in the Marais neighbourhood of Paris. When his last book, The Paradox of Love, a reflection on the vicissitudes of the modern God of “Amour”, was released in 2009, it was critically acclaimed and became a bestseller.
“But I took a risk,” he explains of his latest controversial work. “It was [written in] a fit of anger. I went against today’s dominant ideas. There is widespread ‘greenwashing’ including in our thinking. The dominant passion of our time is fear.”
One blistering assessment, in Liberation newspaper, was headed “The Fanaticism of Denial”. The article accused Bruckner of being a pleasure-addled baby boomer stuck in pre-global warming nostalgia for the insouciant Trente Glorieuses, the 30 years of postwar French prosperity before the 1970s petrol shock.
The philosopher insists he cannot be classified as a climate change negationist – in fact the opposite, because he decries the virulent strain of denial among US Tea Party radicals and even mainstream Republicans.
“I do not attack ecology per se,” Bruckner says of his book. “I attack that degraded religion which emerges from it and turns into a culture of fear, hatred of progress and well-being.
“Why must we renounce all the joys of life under the pretext of global warming?”
While Bruckner fights off multiple critical assaults, he is still held in high regard by French critics and the reading public for his multidisciplinary dissertations on the dilemmas of modern Western life.
He is well known in the English-speaking world for his philosophical explorations of notions of happiness: Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy, and The Utopia of Love (an English translation of his 2010 essay Has Marriage for Love Failed?) is expected to be published soon.
His award-winning novel Bitter Moon was translated into 20 languages and turned into an acclaimed film by Roman Polanski, with Hugh Grant and Kristin Scott Thomas.
The author’s special “passion” is, he says, Western guilt. Tears of the White Man, published in 1983, explored culpability regarding our colonial past, and in The Tyranny of Guilt, published in 2006, Bruckner examined the burdens of contemporary “penitence” about Western power and influence.
But as Bruckner judges it, a panic is now gripping Western elites, as they rapidly lose power amid the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil.
“Since we no longer dominate the world, we live in a permanent terror film and every day they [ecologists] explain to us that it is a miracle that we are still alive.
“The absurdity of this propaganda of fear – which recalls that of [former US president] George W. Bush regarding terrorism – is that we have never lived so long.
“We are living in a post-technological Middle Ages. Our mentality is that of the medieval peasant serf who sees maleficent forces in nature.
“Everything is dangerous. Simply to live has become an impossible task.
“We are afraid of everything – of mobile phones, of food, of dummies, of nappies, of antennas. We are living in a society which has a horror of risk and therefore is afraid of its own shadow.”
Intelligent responses to environmental degradation are therefore required rather than radical “belt-tightening” and “privation” in the form of a retreat from nuclear power and even domestic heating.
“There is this famous notion defended by the ecologists of ‘negawatts’: the best energy is that which we don’t expend,” the philosopher almost sneers.
“Yes, we need to make some savings. But wealth reproduces itself and life cannot simply be a subtraction. It is like saying ‘the best life is the life we don’t lead’. This is a kind of neo-Malthusianism.”
The love affair between Bruckner and the French intelligentsia stretches back to his electrifying arrival on the Paris ideological scene in the mid-1970s.
Alongside Bernard-Henri Levy, Andre Glucksmann and Alain Finkielkraut, he was a member of the nouveaux philosophes, a bunch of dashing, idealistic young thinkers who urged a break with the Maoist and Marxist left.
In a nation that reveres philosophers sometimes as much as its film stars, the prolific and eloquent Bruckner soon became a bona fide celebrity.
He even played himself on film this year, taking a cheeky cameo role alongside Finkielkraut in the romantic comedy L’Amour dure trois ans (Love Lasts Three Years).
During last year’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, he flattered the French with his notorious evisceration of puritanical Americans.
Laughingly categorising himself an “old new philosophe” (he is 63) Bruckner is a self-described optimist who believes in progress, enterprise and the market. This makes him a rare breed of intellectual in gloomy France, and sometimes gets him into difficulties with his home-town audience.
“I think I touched . . . a faith and a belief in the goodness of nature, in the noxiousness of progress and in the just case of ecologists,” he says of the outrage generated by Le fanatisme de l’Apocalypse.
“I put into question a certain number of dogmas and they do not forgive me.
“But they [political ecologists] are crazy. They propose nothing and are opposed to everything – the car, the TGV [French high-speed train], the atom, i.e. nuclear power, petrol, coal, natural gas. At the end there is nothing left!”
Bruckner enthusiastically describes himself as a “left-leaning liberal” with a proud attachment to the “Anglo-Saxon” outlook.
Until now, such affiliations rarely posed problems for his compatriots.
“The problem with people on the left is that as soon as you start to reflect a little on the impasses of the left, you are labelled a reactionary,” he says.
He speaks warmly of his annual trips to teach in American and occasionally British universities, confessing he has always appreciated “this sort of confidence in man which we have lost in France”.
“In France there is a scepticism with regards to progress in general that we do not find in either the US or England,” he says. “So I am a mix of the two [French and Anglo-Saxon].”
Still, Bruckner detects suspicion about the merits of industrial progress not only in France but across the Western world, wherever extremist environmental politics has taken hold of public debate and even language.
The credo consists of saying to developing countries “stay poor because we became rich, we did evil to the planet and therefore everyone must impoverish themselves”.
“This discourse is a smokescreen to hide the anxiety of Westerners who have lost their supremacy in the world,” Bruckner retorts.
“Ecology is a means for us to say to these emerging countries ‘stay in the mud, remain broke, and moreover do not try to equal us because the industrial adventure is a failure’. In this sense the discourse is perfectly scandalous.”
– See more at: http://www.thegwpf.com/pascal-bruckner-the-fanaticism-of-the-eco-apocalypse/#sthash.cFBm11fX.dpuf

French writer Pascal Bruckner poses during the "Monde des livres" (World of books) meeting, on October 3, 2009, at the Le Monde hall in Paris. This event, gathering various writers, is aimed to "promote an attractive view of texts and authors and to contribute to the reinforcement of the intellectual debate." AFP PHOTO MIGUEL MEDINA

French writer Pascal Bruckner poses during the “Monde des livres” (World of books) meeting, on October 3, 2009, at the Le Monde hall in Paris. This event, gathering various writers, is aimed to “promote an attractive view of texts and authors and to contribute to the reinforcement of the intellectual debate.” AFP PHOTO MIGUEL MEDINA

The Age of Stupid

A well known local environmentalist who is convinced that humans are causing the Earth to heat up catastrophically asked me to view the AGW propaganda film “The Age of Stupid” and let him know what I thought of it. It seems he fully expected me to so impressed by the film that I would convert and henceforward carry the AGW flag. Here is the letter I wrote him after watching the programme.
Footnote: I did lend him my copy of The Great Global Warming Swindle, but perhaps unsurprisingly, he did not do me the courtesy of watching it, and it was returned to me pristine and unviewed. Belief! Eish…

A review of “The Age of Stupid”

Chamonix in 2007. Compare this with the snowless images in "The Age of Stupid".

Chamonix in 2007. Compare this with the snowless images in “The Age of Stupid”.

 

Well, I have after trial and tribulation managed to watch all of “The Age of Stupid”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a free download site that offered the entire movie in one chunk, so ultimately I resorted to YouTube and watched it in 9 episodes. Given the emotional style of the production, which requires uninterrupted flow to carry the feelings in the intended way, this was not ideal, but perhaps, in a way, it gives me an objective advantage – the fragmentation breaks the subjective grip, and lets one more freely examine the facts without syrupy emotional overhead. The Great Global Warming Swindle is by contrast produced entirely differently, and is much more satisfying to the objective investigator, regardless of ideological persuasion. Of course, both movies strongly express a particular point of view, that’s given, but by and large, one of them relies on tears and the other on data.

 

Honestly, I had mixed feelings about this production. There is no question that it is technically excellent as a movie, and makes its point with both vigour and subtlety, but as a scientist seeking the truth, I don’t like the style of presentation at all – “Methinks they protesteth too much!” It definitely doesn’t let the facts stand in the way of a good cry.

 
Right at the beginning, we meet the alpine climber who, in his 80s, laments global warming. Pretty soon his eyes glisten with tears, and the scene of barren rock where the Chamonix ski slope should have been is overlaid with “Here at Chamonix, it’s December and there’s no snow at all. It’s a glimpse into the future.” I don’t know when that scene was shot, but in 2008 and 2009 there was record snowfall at Chamonix, so heavy in fact that for most of December both years skiing was considered dangerous. The bias is painful.

 
Then we have the chap who was overwhelmed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He too had tears in his eyes as he told of rescuing a baby from the rising waters. Then we have a TV presenter laying the blame: “Intensity of hurricanes is related to surface sea temperatures. So increased intensity of hurricanes is associated with global warming.” What utter nonsense! There is no connection whatsoever. Hurricane intensity as far as we know is most likely related to polarity, both of the electromagnetic sheath vortex, and of the differential in temperature between the basin beneath the axis of spin (warm) and surrounding water (cold). Another factor is wind shear above warm spots, which actually weakens hurricanes. It has nothing to do with global warming. Also, the catastrophe in New Orleans was not the result of an abnormally fierce hurricane, but because of that city’s below-sea-level vulnerability and dependence on poorly constructed and maintained levees. The incidence and strength of hurricanes in 2006, as well as their landfall percentage, were well below average. The figures are freely available. Was that caused by global warming?
So I didn’t get off to a good start with this movie, but heck, I stuck it out. Well, it didn’t get better. The images of poverty and disease, corruption and barbarism, of millions struggling for food are emotionally deeply compelling. It certainly makes me sad to see evidence of the human and environmental conditions that result from the greed and megalomania of individuals who exert physical dominance over their tribes. But how on Earth is human nature a consequence of man-made climate change? Where does global warming fit in? And how will carbon caps alleviate mass hunger and endemic disease; how could massive industrial rollbacks possibly increase production so the hungry can eat? The Niger Delta scenes are such a mixed message. Corrupt, power-mad people will opportunistically use whatever currency is to hand—witness Gore’s use of AGW—whether it is opium poppies in Afghanistan or oil in Nigeria, it’s just what the Earth offers up in a particular region. We have to deal with human population pressure. We can’t just say “It’s their fault for having children so let them suffer.” It’s energy consumption versus output productivity. The granaries of the world use more energy and produce more food. It seems to me the Age of Stupid belongs to a school of thought and an ideology that is really just anti-capitalist when you boil it down, and we’ve seen how well those schemes have worked in the past. What we really need to do is let pragmatism rein in this rampant idealism. We have a job to do.

 
The aim of this movie as I understand it, its central message, is that we are corrupting the environment by our misuse of resources. I am wholeheartedly in support of that ethic. What I cannot tolerate is that blatantly false evidence is raised to create the popular impression that human activities control global temperatures, and that all environmental (and even many sociological) evils stem from this. The entire moral effort of a generation has been cunningly steered in a particular direction, and it has been infused with a self-satisfying moralistic anger that defies logic. While this is going on, Gore, Pachauri, and their henchmen are pocketing personal profits amounting to many millions of dollars. Our environmental conscience has been hijacked by greed of another persuasion, but greed it certainly is. This has been achieved by superbly crafted propaganda, and The Age of Stupid is perhaps the best of the lot.

 
By the time I reached the credits at the end of The Age of Stupid, I was as despondent as I would imagine most people are who are exposed to this sort of message. In my case though, I was most saddened by the power and effect of carefully constructed propaganda in determining, or at least reinforcing what people want to believe. It has nothing to do with the data or the measurements. An Inconvenient Truth presents 35 main scientific arguments to support Anthropogenic Global Warming. Guess how many were falsified by comparison with the measurements? 35! But pathetically few people who carry Gore’s banner ever bother to check his facts, and indeed, when faced with them, simply write them off as “denialism”. If we create a human desert in years to come—and we might—it will be because we put all our ecological effort into uselessly fighting carbon when all the while the real environmental issues, the ones that can really make a difference, are ignored. With our conscience appeased, we will go to sleep thinking we have done the right thing, and we may never wake up.

 

So I guess we are both depressed by what is going on. I just don’t see the moral justification in lying about it. I look forward to hearing your reaction to The Great Global Warming Swindle. I have the DVD if you’d like to organise a viewing.
Best wishes
Hilton

Neutrinos, Nautilus, and the Notre Dame, by Hilton Ratcliffe

First and foremost, for me, knowledge is a journey, and I’m happy to hang around with people I can learn from. I prefer to do this in a pleasant way, hence the preference for comfortable chats over a cup of tea. My mother was a veritable teapot, and my late academic advisor, Professor Tony Bray, conducted all our research fuelled by tea and scones. It involves respect, courtesy, charming etiquette, and admission of our own ignorance.

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Tony once described what I do as “agricultural astrophysics”. I try not to be disparaging about particle physics because a) I don’t understand it, and b) it sometimes does something useful (or so I’m told). In the field of experimental particle physics, I probably come closest to a glimmer of understanding when I’m thinking about neutrinos. An extra, distinct energy transport mechanism (besides light) was needed to explain conservation of energy and momentum in chemical reactions, so neutrinos were predicted, along with a means of detection (they are optically invisible). When a neutrino impacts an atomic nucleus (preferably a single proton), it emits a flash of mauve Cherenkov light (which is optically visible) aligned with the source. When large bodies of interactive material with prominent protons (like heavy water) are put somewhere shielded from ambient radiative pollution, we do in fact see patterns of Cherenkov light apparently aligned with sources of radio activity.

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In order to make sense of this, statistical adjustments are made to get a fit with the model of the day. For example, although the neutrino flux density on Earth according to theory must be on the order of several billion neutrinos per square millimetre per second, neutrino observatories like Sudbury typically see less than one Cherenkov flash per hour. From that they extrapolate a beautiful, complex sub-model like flavour-changing. All this is accomplished without yet dealing with antineutrinos. When matter particles meet antimatter particles, they tell us, there is an energetic explosion and both are annihilated. Well don’t hold your breath! Not a single explosion has been observed, although, they tell us, the neutrino-antineutrino blizzard is thicker than Scotch broth by orders of magnitude.

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Nor does something need to be seen to qualify as “observed”. The tau neutrino is listed as the latest addiction of “directly observed” particles in the Standard Model of Particle Physics, and likewise, the MSW effect (oscillation between types of neutrinos) is credited in the literature with having been “directly observed”. With respect, in both cases what was actually observed was the mathematical formalism.

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I don’t think it’s hard to see why I plough the fields of science with a tractor I can sit on. These guys just don’t make sense to me. I’m glad they don’t build bridges!

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The principles I am following (and which seem to appeal to your sensibilities) are that 1). Physics is a branch of science that deals with quantities that are measurable. 2.) All measurements in physics can be made in four basic dimensions – mass, length, time, and polarity (charge). With these we understand distance and time, and therefore speed and acceleration. Thus we understand the effects of force, and consequently projectile motion, ballistics, friction, optics, and action-at-a-distance (like orbital motion and magnetic fields). Motion can be expressed differently depending on the co-ordinate frame preferred, and that is what we call relativity. Tie physics in with chemistry, and we have a coherent, empirical explanation of our physical neighbourhood. No hocus-pocus. In my view, any theory concocted outside of these (physical) principles is just a mind-game, and falls into the category of “green elephant theories” (after the guy who famously offered US$100,000 to the first person who could disprove his theory that the Universe propagates by green elephants laying speckled eggs in Black Holes. Of course, his money was safe).

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Common sense tells us that when we weigh an elephant, we must take into account the creature that rides upon its back and subtract it to get the correct weight for the elephant; quantitative observation tells us that the creature is in fact a flea and that we needn’t bother because the difference is insignificant. Studies involving fine measurement indicate that anthropogenic carbon emissions are a flea on the climate’s back, and spending billions on trying to cut that little flea in half will do nothing but make the poor poorer. The fact of the matter is, we cannot significantly control the climate, for better or for worse. Global warming, when it happens, is a completely natural, inevitable, solar-driven cycle. If it were not for global warming, without any input from mankind, then we would not have emerged from the last ice age. The major problem facing our terrestrial environment is human over-population. If we could cut the population density, then the waste products of human enterprise, including carbon and DDT and methane from sheep, would be cut along with it. That’s the core of the problem, the actual cause of our headache, and taking an aspirin doesn’t cure it. Anthropogenic Global Warming is a myth feeding off our collectively guilty political conscience.

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Firstly, on the question of bias, we all have bias. As soon as one has an opinion, one has bias. It’s as natural as having an ego, which after all is just the apparent identity of our consciousness. Both ego and bias are necessarily part of a healthy psyche, unless and until they dominate our personalities. Then we become a right old pain to deal with! Our job as scientists is characterised by a battle to see the results of experiment and observation without the taint of bias, or with as little of it as possible. In a perfect world (which I believe is what we strive for, although it is unattainable), we would let the facts fall where they will, and follow the clues wherever they might lead. I think the first step in this direction is to do the primary analysis of any data set without reference to any particular model. We should look at solar data without first marshalling them into the corral of the Standard Solar Model, and we should look at cosmological data quite regardless of Big Bang Theory. That way we significantly reduce the effect of user bias on the object of observation.

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The stars are what they are irrespective of the opinions expressed in the field of cosmology. It amazes me that pronouncements are made about distant objects with such unshakeable certainty when in the cold light of day the reach of verifiable science is not nearly so self-assured. I am reminded of Al Gore’s brazen assertion that “the science is settled” in climatology, a field which rivals cosmology in chaotic outcomes. The most daunting challenge facing space science is that of scale. In an infinite Universe, we will always be infinitely more ignorant than we are wise. In my view, we have more than enough to keep us occupied in the celestial neighbourhood, and would do well to take things one step at a time. Compare the science proposed in Hannes Alfven and Gustav Arrhenius “The Evolution of the Solar System” with Alan Guth’s pronouncements on Inflation Theory, or George Smoot’s take on the CMB, or indeed, even the core principles of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The question I like to ask myself is “How does this theory connect to observed reality?” In a sitting room conversation with Halton Arp a few years ago, the late Fred Hoyle said, “I suppose that in the end, Chip, the Universe will have its say.”

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The shocking reality is that research is done for money, not in pursuit of truth. The Theory of Everything which will no doubt be pronounced by high-energy physicists in the not-too-distant future will, I fear, be a set of mathematical sentences so arcane that none could render them false, and they would in any event be based upon experiments that have no intrinsic meaning discernable to scientists in more general research. In short, the magic will be witnessed and explained exclusively by the conjurors themselves, and we will have to decide on blind faith alone whether we believe them or not. What really happens in the Large Hadron Collider remains for the vast majority of us nothing more than conjecture, and I suppose their conclusions are inevitably going to form the basis of a large chunk (or even all) of cosmology. Astronomers will play no part in where astronomy is going.

THE GREAT 21st CENTURY MYTH: “FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE.”

 

I am often confronted by well-meaning environmentalists with questions along the lines of, “Even if the AGW model is scientifically untenable, if it causes industry to cut pollution, what’s the harm? Surely it is a good thing?”

There’s no concise way to answer all the implications in those questions (for a start, CO2 is the very opposite of a pollutant). This morning I found a reasonable way of replying. I started to watch a very disturbing programme on BBC illustrating the imminent demise of various species, including several kinds of tiger and leopard, and that is something that really tugs at my heartstrings. I care about threatened species. A lot. But I had to change channels. You see, the message of this documentary was in essence twofold:

1. Tigers are threatened almost exclusively by climate change.

2. If we follow the guidelines set out by the proponents of anthropogenic global warming, we will not only correct the climate so that it becomes more comfortable for all creatures of the Earth, we will save the tigers from extinction too.

That sort of message is so wrong, it’s criminal. And totally immoral. There is absolutely no hard evidence that the AGW corrective measures have any effect on the climate, for better or for worse. “Fighting climate change” has become the mantra of environmentally concerned citizens, who believe that the IPCC is going to save the planet and cure all the ill effects of nature. And save the tigers and polar bears from extinction. The AGW movement is immoral in that it satisfies the environmental conscience of millions of people while having no reason to feel pleased with themselves other than that their climate model has convinced so many people to support them.

“Fighting climate change” is not going to save the tigers, ladies and gentlemen. I am certain of that, for three main reasons: Firstly, the model is not supported by the data, in other words, we have no unambiguous evidence that it does what it claims to do. Secondly, it is prohibitively expensive, and that has obvious consequences for the economies of the world in their efforts to produce enough wealth to pay the taxes AGW brings to bear, and reduces the surplus from which real environmental conservation is funded. Thirdly, tigers are not threatened by climate change. They are threatened by human beings.

We really need to get our feet back on the ground.

The Paradigm Shift Is Upon Us!

My monthly astrophysical column written for the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa.

June 2012

I have regrets; not overwhelming, psyche-twisting regrets, but nevertheless there are things in my life that I wistfully wish could have been played otherwise. One of them is that I missed (due to a persistent and mysterious viral infection of my inner ear) Prof Mike Watkeys’ talk at the May meeting of our society. From what I understand from friends who attended, Dr Watkeys nailed his colours to the mast: There is nothing we can do about climate change.

Read More…

The Myths of Man-made Climate Change

by David Raal, Professor of Chemistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Tony Carnie’s articles (“We’re losers if we don’t save the planet”, The Mercury August 25, “City must aim to be low carbon”, mercury August 24) must not go unchallenged. The near-hysterical doom warnings by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), with active support by the UN and now also many misled governmental bodies, is becoming a new dogma based on false science and misleading information. It is all blamed on an innocent little trace gas, carbon dioxide.

Read More…

Urgent Submission to the SAICE Council on the Likelihood of Severe Water Resource Droughts

WJ R Alexander, Pr Eng

Honorary Fellow, South African Institution of Civil Engineering

Professor Emeritus, University of Pretoria.

Summary

Civil engineers and climate change scientists are on a collision course. The outcome could have very serious, nationally important consequences. These differences should be resolved as a matter of urgency.

In this submission it is demonstrated with a very high degree of assurance that southern Africa, and possibly the rest of the world as well, is about to enter a period of severe droughts commencing within the next twelve months. There is an estimated 20% likelihood that they will be as serious as the Great Depression Drought of the early 1930s. These drought sequences could have disastrous consequences for South Africa if the authorities are caught unawares.

Read More…

Neutrinos, Nautilus, and the Notre Dame

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

First and foremost, for me, knowledge is a journey, and I’m happy to hang around with people I can learn from. I prefer to do this in a pleasant way, hence the preference for comfortable chats over a cup of tea. My mother was a veritable teapot, and my late academic advisor, Professor Tony Bray, conducted all our research fuelled by tea and scones. It involves respect, courtesy, charming etiquette, and admission of our own ignorance.

Read More…

A Review of the “Age of Stupid”

Well, I have after trial and tribulation managed to watch all of “The Age of Stupid”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a free download site that offered the entire movie in one chunk, so ultimately I resorted to YouTube and watched it in 9 episodes. Given the emotional style of the production, which requires uninterrupted flow to carry the feelings in the intended way, this was not ideal, but perhaps, in a way, it gives me an objective advantage – the fragmentation breaks the subjective grip, and lets one more freely examine the facts without syrupy emotional overhead. The Great Global Warming Swindle is by contrast produced entirely differently, and is much more satisfying to the objective investigator, regardless of ideological persuasion. Of course, both movies strongly express a particular point of view, that’s given, but by and large, one of them relies on tears and the other on data.

Read More…

A Letter to a Reader of The Virtue of Heresy

The stars are what they are irrespective of the opinions expressed in the field of cosmology. It amazes me that pronouncements are made about distant objects with such unshakeable certainty when in the cold light of day the reach of verifiable science is not nearly so self-assured. I am reminded of Al Gore’s brazen assertion that “the science is settled” in climatology, a field which rivals cosmology in chaotic outcomes. The most daunting challenge facing space science is that of scale. In an infinite Universe, we will always be infinitely more ignorant than we are wise. In my view, we have more than enough to keep us occupied in the celestial neighbourhood, and would do well to take things one step at a time. Compare the science proposed in Hannes Alfven and Gustav Arrhenius “The Evolution of the Solar System” with Alan Guth’s pronouncements on Inflation Theory, or George Smoot’s take on the CMB, or indeed, even the core principles of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The question I like to ask myself is “How does this theory connect to observed reality?” In a sitting room conversation with Halton Arp a few years ago, the late Fred Hoyle said, “I suppose that in the end, Chip, the Universe will have its say.”

Read More…