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

4 comments on “The Age of Stupid

  1. Steve Garcia

    Hilton –

    I have not watched this movie, but have watched a few. I don’t know if I made it through all of an of them, though. You have more patience than I have, perhaps.

    The Age of Stupid? I call them “sloppy thinkers”, both the purveyors and the audience. Not having paid any attention in their science and math classes in shcool, many if not most people never learned how to put 2 and 2 together or two facts together without coming up with the wrong next step or answer. Later in life, then, they are what PT Barnum called “suckers” who were born every minute.

    If one wants to lead people around by the nose, it isn’t hard. Simply control the dialog, make assertions in the right sequence without giving the audience time to critique them, and then throw in plenty of emotional dialog, and Viola! you have a convert or ten.

    I’ve had people send me videos on 9-11 and a couple of other things, just like this friend of yours did. I had the very same experience you had, too. Unsupported assertions, illogical and premature conclusions, ignorance of the actual science, no INTEREST in the actual science behind what the video shows . . . on and on, I could list the fallacies and errors, in particular or in general, but I chose not to here.

    Then when my friend insisted that I watch the entire thing, I pointed out that I had rebutted everything in the first 2 minutes. He said that wasn’t fair. So to please him I started again – this time listing my rebuttals. After 2 hours I had typed up 4 pages and I had only gotten 1:45 into the video. I sent him what I had and said that I could not spend any more time on it. He accused me of being closed minded.

    Another friend (now deceeased) had things sent to him once in a while – people who had ideas about various scientific subjects from an alternative viewpoint. I LIKE alternative reseearch, if done well. Over maybe 3 years there were about 20 of these things sent to my friend that he asked me to vet for him. I agreed to each one, and sent him my take on them. ALL of them were really, REALLY bad science. And I told him this.

    There simply are people out there who get interested in some of these “mysteries” and who think they can solve them. Most of them grab hold of the first idea that pops into their heads and thikn two things:

    1.) That no one in the world had thought of these possible solutions before, and
    2.) That THEY had solved what no one else could solve. On the first try.

    These may or may not be the very same people who believe in global warming. I couldn’t say. But they certainly are sloppy thinkers and don’t know enough about the subjects to have worked out the science at all.

    On the occasions when I’ve discussed the global warming issue with people, I have yet to run into anyone who has the slightest experience looking into the science. They have accepted the assertions in the popular press and gone no further in looking at what is behind the assertions. When I quote research papers, or when I throw at them facts about hurricanes or sea levels or tree-rings or ice cores, their eyes fog over. As a last resort, they come up with the Precautionary Principle and say something like, “Well, isn’t it better if we go ahead and do what they say, just in case they are right?”

    As if doing what they say has no costs.

    And you nailed it all when you said, “anti-capitalist”, though I would agree with Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore in using the term “anti-industry” instead. The very first document I found on the IPCC’s website about 12 years ago was a Preamble (which I can no longer find), and in that Preamble they stated a desire to reduce carbon emissions in the world to zero. ZERO!

    My reaction to that was thinking about what would be done for the people who would lose jobs – not only in the energy sector, but in manufacturing, in food distribution, etc. And then how many people would starve for lack of food coming into the cities. Over 50% of the people in the world lives in cities, so this is no small concern.

    Like Patrick Moore, I think these folks want to take us back to a pre-Industrial Revolution time, and they think everyone can live like John Keates and Percy Bysshe Shelley, longing around and eating grapes all day. I thought of the fact that even in the year 1900 90% of the workers in the USA (even then perhaps the most advanced in the world) worked on farms. Today 1% do, in the USA. This is a worse idea than Mao and his Cultural Revolution which sent city-dwellers to the countryside to work on farms. This is a REALLY bad idea. My guess is that 3/4 or more of the population of the world would starve to death in order that 1.5 billion people could farm in compliance with the global warming people’s wishes.

    *** There is little to no indication that the late 20th century warming was anything but part of natural cycles. We ARE, after all, coming out of the Little Ice Age, and any sane person would expect temperatures to rise during such a period. To that, add the arbitrary adjustments made by the climate scientists. No one has proven at ALL that other causes than CO2 are behind the apparent warming. I know: I’ve looked for such proof, and it simply doesn’t exist.

    In other words, the science is weak, at best, and BAD in all probability. I tell people that the science just isn’t there. And, yes, they look at me like I am a grandkid killer or a planet hater.

    I could write for days on these subjects, but will stop there…

  2. Skywalker Post author

    Thank you very much for your comments, Steve. We’re totally on the same page: pro-science, anti-ideological frenzy. Cheers mate.

  3. Steve Garcia

    Cheers to you, too, Hilton.

    Another thing. . .

    Recently in blog comments somewhere we were talking about archeology and anthropology (as I recall), and someone close to one of those fields was arguing as if the whole subject of the blog (astronomy and geology) were a debating society. I hadn’t put the term “debating” to it all, but someone else chimed in and observed that there is a big difference between fields. In some fields, he said, arguments ARE like debates, because the whole field is opinions, and one opinion against other opinions, so debating strategies are prominent, if not preeminent, in those fields.

    This was very pertinent at the time, because the researchers we were discussing had all sorts of what I refer to as scientific forensics – lab tests, measured quantities, charted data – real quantitative science. And the other person arguing from the archaeological point of view (on reflection) simply was treating the data as if it was an opinion, as if one could argue the data away.

    That was on the topic of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis. The scientists researching it are collecting field samples very carefully and are finding all sorts of “impact materials” – shocked quartz,elevated levels of Iridium, etc. – and doing lab tests on the samples. There is a small(er) group of scientists who are not doing field work, and not doing lab tests, and who are commenting and disagreeing with the clear understandings of the lab results. In short, they are basically kibitzing on work by others, without doing their own field work (with one weak and error-filled try) to rebut with words what the lab results say. The one attempt to refute with field work did not follow the protocils set out in terms of sample layer thickness, so all of their results were watered down and thus missed a very large spike that is in a very narrow time range (i.e., a very thin layer). In addition, they took the samples in the wrong location, to boot. Outside of that one effort, almost all the skeptics arguments are verbal debate and appeals to authority. One skeptic who models physics takes his small area of expertise and asserts that it is the only “solid” evidence. Models are not arguments. They are not even real unless every bit of code is vetted against reality (such as in engineering applications). Models depend 100% on the assumptions made that underlie the code.

    The main point here is between hard science (quantitative) and soft science (qualitative) – and words versus data. Those in the qualitative fields actually think that their words are on an equal footing with measured lab results. Such is NOT the case. Even the judicial courts have come to put evidence into a hierarchy, with forensics and documents at the top of the pyramid and human observations (eyewitnesses) at the bottom. Lawyers may attempt to scam the system with slick words and misdirection, but in the end it is the lab-tested and measured evidence that carries the most weight.

    Thus so with science. Or so you and I think it should be.

  4. Steve Garcia

    A quickie…

    I am not sure that last was clear. The overall was that people who argue with words maybe don’t even SEE that lab results count more than words, and thus can be rebutted – so they think.

    The reason this came to mind originally was that the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis researchers keep putting out papers with volumes of lab results and very technical evidence, and they don’t seem to be making a dent in the minds of the skeptics of the hypothesis. The skeptics keep coming back with feeble word arguments that they THINK are rebutting the hard evidence.

    How many times do people have to present quantified evidence to people who can’t recognize it as actually evidence?

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