The Risk-Monger

The Climate opportunists are showing up all over Durban for the COP 17 UNFCCC Climate Conference. Not only are there clopportunists from the environmental NGO world … who have all found the budgets and the carbon offsetting to fly to South Africa (in order to complain about how so few others are attending). Some clopportunists are walking around Durban passing out business cards from new organisations and consultancies that are dedicated to feeding off of the climate industry. We should therefore not begrudge developing countries for having rejigged their development aid needs to meet the demands of the coming catastrophe.

Aid strategies have always followed dominant narratives in society and countries or regions in need should not be belied for their attempts at issue manipulation. From the Cold War to the famine politics to pandemic crises, international aid has always found its maximisation context. Sadly, as our attention has been distracted by effective campaigns of environmental activists towards a fictitious war on climate, aid distribution has now shifted from societal and economic development and empowerment projects for those truly in need, towards funding for “saving the planet” and preparing for ill effects that time and time have proven to be false.

There has been a rich history of appeals for funds to compensate the suffering that developing countries have or will likely endure from the western world’s CO2 emissions. Island states from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean have been regularly tapping funds to prepare for their expected evacuation. How can we forget the IPCC’s dire warnings of the hoards of climate refugees escaping to Western shores because of the unmitigated effects from the climate models (estimated date of arrival of these refugees is … 2010 … Ooops!).

The prize in Durban so far for the best appeal for urgent funding to fight global warming goes to the Congolese army (and kudos to the BBC for their journalistic integrity in reporting this as a climate story). It seems the army is having a hard time in the battle against militias and insurgents in the Congolese jungles. Representatives from the Congo are at COP 17 urgently requesting funds to help their military protect the rainforest (as these insurgents, if they get the upper hand, might cut down trees). I don’t hold anything against Congolese officials for creativity in reading the present aid narrative – as anyone who lives in certain quarters of Brussels knows, they have always had great success in wresting international aid for ethereal programmes. But I can only mock the BBC for taking this proposal seriously in their news fabricating process and the more I watch their report, the more I mourn their loss of journalistic integrity.

Certain countries are beginning to circle the climate honey pot, staking out positions and guarding against threats (India was yelped at in Durban for trying to sour the anticipation of climate aid). This is the final frontier of the climate debate (IPCC’s Pachauri’s promised showdown of wealth redistribution and climate justice). But why is this Hail Mary card being played so soon? Is it because more countries are starting to walk away from the table? Is it because the recent IPCC ‘managing the risks of climate change’ report admitted that climate evolutions over the coming decades would not be influenced by human activity? Is it because the polar bear population is not going extinct, but to the contrary, is thriving and expanding (much to the misfortune of baby seal populations and WWF’s ego)? Is it because the scientific inaccuracies, political manipulations and poor models have largely diminished public concern over climate change? Or is it because the Chinese have sent their largest COP delegation ever to South Africa?

As European finance ministers know very well, when Chinese diplomats arrive with big expectations, it is understandable to find ourselves getting weak in the knees, lowering our standards and losing our integrity.

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  1. Hi Risk-monger,

    I appreciate alot of what you have to say, about a range of risk issues. (Background: I just wrote a Master’s thesis on nanotechnology as part of an MA in the History and Philosophy of Science). However, I think you go a little over the top on some climate change/global warming matters. E.g. referring to it as “a factitious war on climate”, and stating that public concerns “have largely diminished” (latest Nielsen survey across all major continents found that, globally, 69% of people surveyed in 2011 are concerned about climate change Vs 66% in 2009 [UP 3%]; but concern has decreased in some Western countries like USA and Australia).

    Perhaps you are also prone to exaggerate to make a point (and be noticed making this point – that is often half the battle), much like others?

    Yes there are lots of people on the “climate circuit” (I know some of them) – perhaps too many – but most are genuine and could actually be making much better money doing other things (again, I know some of them so can provide a grounded perspective). Aid budgets are another thing, I’ll give you that.

    Appreciate any further perspectives/comments you have to offer on this.

    Regards,

    Stephen
    Melbourne, Australia

    1. Thanks for your comment Stephen. I can support a war on poverty. I believe we can easily win a war on curable diseases that kill millions every year. But for man to wage a war on climate (to battle the warming effects of the sun and the oceans)? Not only is that utter nonsense, but as our attention is moving away from things we can change to expensive programmes that will suck up all of our resources into something absurd but cleverly communicated, well I also find that immoral. That people are profiting from it (researchers, NGOs, industry retooling to a smart grid, climate policy experts for newly formed climate consultancies …) while developing countries have to find climate related needs in order to avail of aid programmes), …. I also find that shameful and disgraceful. So you are right, perhaps I do sometimes go over the top, but sadly the only way to shut up people who use emotion to manipulate ungrounded arguments is to bring in other emotions – facts don’t matter in this debate (in connection to your studies, I hope you had a chance to read David Hume).
      I wrote this blog after attending a talk by Richard Dawkins at a European Commission conference on innovation. He pooh-poohed the debates on climate and GMOs as a few scientists influenced by commercial interests. Needless to say this “commonality” perspective annoyed me – to see somebody with such an esteemed reputation going with the flow of what everybody else seems to be saying. Today I see far more commercial interests tied into the climate machine (what I, in albeit paranoid fashion, call the environmental industrial complex) and it will take a lot of facts to unwind the commercial rhetoric and political posturing (my money is on solar cycle 25, but it will take between five to ten years).
      I am the first to admit that I am offensive (often I offend myself with things I write!), but if it will wake people up to consider something counter-intuitive, then I am pleased to be guilty as charged.

  2. Hello again,

    Thanks for your reply. It’s fascinating. So your core concern about ‘climate war’ is that it distracts from other more pressing/important causes, not the validity (or otherwise) of the sciece of climate change? I guess I don’t see things so separately – many of the poorest poeple are the most exposed to changes in climate and who have the least capacity to adapt to such change. Environmental problems can cause/worsen social problems so they need not be seen to be in such competition, as you see it.

    Another, far broader, reflection on your reply is that there is nothing wrong with “going with the flow of what everybody else seems to be saying” if you judge the knowledge informing the majority view to be valid etc. There is not great honour in taking contrary positions just for the sake of being a contrarian! (A lot of climate denialists embrace this as if their rejection of rational arguments and logic is somehow more honourable and courageous than confronting challenging facts the science presents to us).

    Regards,
    Stephen

    P.S. Unfortunately I didn’t read David Hume – what’s his perspective on/relevance to nanotechnology

  3. In the age of printing money, we have forgotten that resources are finite, and frankly pretty scarce at the moment. I have witnessed village empowerment programmes in the Philippines scrapped because the organisation (I won’t mention the name) made a conscious decision to concentrate on global warming based projects that were of no help to the women on the ground (incentives from the home government to divert funds that could fall under their country’s climate aid contribution).
    I am not a climate denialist – just not so bold as to make politicised statements under the name of science and then pretend that man can reasonably engage in battle with the sun and oceans. See my Climate ninnies blog.
    David Hume, in the 1770s, argued that reason is a slave to the passions – essentially that facts don’t matter – and then looked at how our perceptions influence us. I think he would have loved the nano debate.

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