Global Warming/Climate ChangeSociety

Death Denial

Why the sudden surge in climate change denial? Could it be about something else altogether?

by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom

There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there’s solid evidence that the world has been warming over the past few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months(1). Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe that global warming is the result of natural causes (44%) now outnumber those who believe it is caused by human action (41%)(2).

A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that manmade global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled in 2008(3). The Science Museum’s Prove it! exhibition asks online readers to endorse or reject a statement that they’ve seen the evidence and want governments to take action. As of yesterday afternoon, 1006 people had endorsed it and 6110 had rejected it(4). On, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1,2,4,5,7 and 8 in the global warming category(5). Never mind that they’ve been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles. What is going on?

It certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years. If you don’t believe me, open any recent edition of Science or Nature or any peer-reviewed journal specialising in atmospheric or environmental science. Go on, try it. The debate about global warming that’s raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.

An American scientist I know suggests that these books and websites cater to a new literary market: people with room-temperature IQs. He didn’t say whether he meant Fahrenheit or Centigrade. But this can’t be the whole story. Plenty of intelligent people have also declared themselves sceptics.

One such is the critic Clive James. You could accuse him of purveying trite received wisdom, but not of being dumb. On Radio Four a few days ago he delivered an essay about the importance of scepticism, during which he maintained that “the number of scientists who voice scepticism [about climate change] has lately been increasing.”(6) He presented no evidence to support this statement and, as far as I can tell, none exists. But he used this contention to argue that “either side might well be right, but I think that if you have a division on that scale, you can’t call it a consensus. Nobody can meaningfully say that the science is in.”

Had he bothered to take a look at the quality of the evidence on either side of this media debate, and the nature of the opposing armies – climate scientists on one side, rightwing bloggers on the other – he too might have realised that the science is in. In, at any rate, to the extent that science can ever be, which is to say that the evidence for manmade global warming is as strong as the evidence for Darwinian evolution, or for the link between smoking and lung cancer. I am constantly struck by the way in which people like James, who proclaim themselves sceptics, will believe any old claptrap that suits their views. Their position was perfectly summarised by a supporter of Ian Plimer (author of a marvellous concatenation of gibberish called Heaven and Earth(7)) commenting on a recent article in the Spectator. “Whether Plimer is a charlatan or not, he speaks for many of us”(8). These people aren’t sceptics; they’re suckers.

Such beliefs seem to be strongly influenced by age. The Pew report found that people over 65 are much more likely than the rest of the population to deny that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, that it’s caused by humans or that it’s a serious problem(9). This chimes with my own experience. Almost all my fiercest arguments over climate change, both in print and in person, have been with people in their 60s or 70s. Why might this be?

There are some obvious answers: they won’t be around to see the results; they were brought up in a period of technological optimism; they feel entitled, having worked all their lives, to fly or cruise to wherever they wish. But there might also be a less intuitive reason, which shines a light into a fascinating corner of human psychology.

In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with “vital lies” or “the armour of character”(10). We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death. Over 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker’s thesis(11). When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their worldview, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it and increasing their striving for self-esteem(12).

One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death(13).

A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult for people to repress thoughts of death, and that they might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival(14). There is already experimental evidence suggesting that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption(15). Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.

If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven’t been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the past two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it?

With thanks to George Marshall


  6. Clive James, 23rd October 2009. A Point of View. BBC Radio 4.
  10. Ernest Becker, 1973. The Denial of Death, pp47-66. Republished 1997. Free Press Paperbacks, New York.
  11. Tom Pyszczynski et al, 2006. On the Unique Psychological Import of the Human Awareness of Mortality: Theme and Variations. Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 17, No. 4, 328–356.
  12. Jeff Greenberg et al, 1992. Terror Management and Tolerance: does mortality salience always intensify negative reactions to others who threaten one’s worldview? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 63, No 2 212-220.
  13. OT Ben-Ari et al, 1999. The impact of mortality salience on reckless driving: a test of terror management mechanisms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 76, No 1 35-45.
  14. Janis L. Dickinson, 2009. The People Paradox: Self-Esteem Striving, Immortality Ideologies, and Human Response to Climate Change.
  15. T. Kasser and K. M. Sheldon, 2000. Of wealth and death: materialism, mortality salience, and consumption behavior. Psychological Science 11:348-351, Cited by Janis L Dickinson, above.


  1. I’m tired of alarm bells and infighting.
    Haven’t we had enough of this for the last 30 (a go00000le etc) years?!

    It’s time for solutions people can digest. If you’re holding out for a ‘global agreement’ on climate change brought forth by ageing, but earnest politicians driven by the ‘will of the people’ who have all harmonised together in one great expression of concern born of an unshakable scientific reality, then keep dreaming! That would be the most laughable expectation anyone could invent!

    It’s just not on a human scale.

    But let’s address this. It is my opinion the denial phenomenon is the direct consequence of the forever diminishing faith people find in government ‘leadership’ on the issue. How could anyone expect the broad public to digest such a difficult reality when the official voices lack any cohesive path out of terrible peril?

    We don’t have leaders.

    What we have instead are ‘administrators’, whose primary programming is to perform maintenance of the status quo. So it is not surprising that something as threatening to ‘business as usual’ as climate change registers complete bewilderment in these functionaries. As a trickle down effect, the general population (which isn’t as stupid as many think) have therefore no psychological option besides denial to cope with this circumstance. Compassion begs us to understand the psychological response of denial in this context.

    It is the youth who have the courage and strength to deal with this problem in a real way. It is insipid of us to point the blame at an older generation who find their own strength waning just as they feel a growing sense of terrible vulnerability of what might come to pass. Now that the manure is truly starting to hit the fan, who wouldn’t suffer a denial response at 60 who wouldn’t rather be 30 if the situation were as bad as it is described to be.

    And this society makes 60 years old of most 30 year olds.

    It is not a question of winning a ‘proof’ game – of winning over public belief in climate change. This is a pointless pursuit rendered a complete waste of energy since we already find ourselves subject to the negative consequences of climate change and the curtain on this show has only just been raised.

    All energies at this point must be directed towards trumpeting the grass roots solutions to the problem. Solutions on a real human scale such as re-localisation and the retrofit of our chemical drug addicted food supply system towards a fertility building, carbon storing model. Food is the center of this.

    How we nourish ourselves will determine whether we live or die.
    Certainly not the decisions of our wildly delusional globalist sociopathic politicians clearly clouded in denial.

    Get real! Get busy…

  2. I’m wondering what anyone has to say about why all the other planets in our solar system are also experiencing global warming?

  3. Hi Jesh. I’d love to see evidence that “all the other planets in our solar system are also experiencing global warming”.

    If you’re going to, as I expect, suggest that the sun’s output is increasing and make solar-system-wide changes to temperature, this appears impossible in light of the fact it’s been repeatedly proven that the sun’s output has actually decreased since the 1980s, despite the earth’s temperature rising. And this earth/sun temperature anomaly has also occured despite global dimming, where our visible pollutants have been shading the earth from the sun’s rays and thereby reducing the full effects of the sun’s rays on our increasing greenhouse gas inventory.

    Warming has been noted on Mars, but not uniformly (regional, not global), and this appears to be well explained here.

    In order for the ‘other planets are warming’ theory to hold true, all (or at least most) of the other planets and moons in our solar system would need to be warming also. Uranus appears to be cooling, while others don’t appear to be experiencing any noticeable change in temperature.

  4. part of the problem is the lack of effort by commentators to de-polarise the debate. Not all denialists are right wing bloggers, and there are a number of scientists questioning or rejecting the climate change hypothesis. Adelaide hosts one of the leading denialists who’s perspective is shaped by geology and history. Fields he claims are more disciplined than the relatively new climate science. and then there’s denialism coming out of MITs very own climate department, google “Deconstructing Climate Change”, see how you go. I think permacultralists are the hope in all this, whether it be climate change or political manipulation of fear of it. but you should remain a quiet and considered voice, accepting feedback and valuing the edges. not fueling the polarisation by taking it for granted. I decided to listen to denialism for a while, after 12 months, ignoring the emotive and sometimes rabid outbursts, ive found there to be legitimacy to many of their concerns. It concerns me how unable those who I expected more from, are to listening as well.

  5. How to ‘de-polarise’ the debate, when it is inherently opposite, and de-polarising the debate is dangerous.

    The reality is if the weight of evidence we have today could be measured in sound, we’d have blood running out of our ears.

    I see too many people, sitting back hypothesising over whether climate change is merely a way for the powers that be to take greater control over the masses, etc. It’s the climate change conspiracy theory. If they could but see the reality, that economists and captains of industry have worked hard to build this wholly unsustainable ship we call free market capitalism, and they’re doing all they can to avoid a shipwreck, as all their profits are dependent on it staying afloat. For those in power, finding a way to preserve the status quo is the pressing need. Things like carbon trading, geo-engineering, biofuels, etc. are all attempted ‘patches’ on our systemically faulty system – a system that works well for the powers that be, but not for our planet and the majority of the people that live on it.

    The groans and complaints and reactions of nature to our treatment are more than inconvenient when billions of the world’s residents are funneling their labour into a system where the profits are happily continually harvested by those at the controls. Switch the machine off, and the profits stop. No, the economy must grow! If climate change is a conspiracy to control the masses, why is it that everything that today does control the masses (60 hour working weeks, centralised media and entertainment, and happiness indexes measured in consumption) is threatened by climate change?

    We’re currently witnessing, yet again, a complete failure of our global leadership to make effective decisions – yet again postponing any kind of significant agreement on climate change for another day – and why? Because to do anything to reverse climate change is to begin to reverse the industrial revolution. Corporate feudalism is threatened by the resurgence of regionalised feudalism (I fear both).

    Denying climate change is to postpone decisions that could see us move more intelligently onto a sustainable, relocalised platform based on participatory democracy. If we don’t make these moves in the immediate future, then the fears that people have of being ‘controlled’ will be sure to be realised, as when natural systems begin to unravel even more rapidly, and the ‘services’ we’re provided by those systems are withdrawn (like water, food, etc.), then anarchy will ensue. Anarchy will only be met with dictatorial, fascist responses from governments at a loss to know how to manage it otherwise.

    When you think of climate change, soil erosion, water overuse and contamination, peak oil and peak everything, economic nightmares, etc., be sure to recognise that these all equal one thing – social unrest like you’ve never seen before in man’s checkered and oft-unpleasant history. The movements, death and suffering associated with World War II and the Great Depression are nothing compared to what we’ll see if we don’t begin a rapid energy descent and at least some attempt at a harmonious, community based effort towards a low-carbon localised economy.

    Don’t underestimate how difficult and potentially deadly such a transition would be.

    Standing in a burning house, arguing over who lit the fire, or whether anyone did at all, is more than an untimely diversion from the urgent work at hand – that being moving to safety!! Unfotunately, I can’t make my exit without you. In our present situation, we all need to move in concert. Even without considerations on climate change, if you force me to ignore the overwhelming evidence I’ve been looking at for years, the other converging issues all, regardless, have the same root solutions. Join the dots on the issues, and you’ll see this clearly, and your place in this age will become clear.

    I can assure you, this place is not to lull the populace into thinking all is well with the world, and no action needs to be taken.

  6. Considering that this blog post references statistics indicating that approximately 50% of the general population are not convinced of the climate change hypothesis, your calls for leadership sound distinctly authoritarian. Its at this point I sadly dissassociate from the permies and environmentalists.

  7. Your response came so fast I can understand why you didn’t manage to read it.

    I can’t see any calls for leadership – only observations that we don’t have any, and calls for ‘we the people’ to get on with the work of transitioning, before it’s arbitrarily forced upon us by those who, by the specialised nature of their work, don’t even understand what we should be transitioning to, and if they do, have a vested interest in our not getting there.

    Your intended hasty exit from anything environmental further extends my point. Denialists, like politicians and corporate captains, just want to persevere with the status quo, and anything that threatens that should thus be sidelined and ignored. De-polarising the debate, as you put it, really means watering down what is already a belated and muted message. By all means, focus on climate change and hold it up as a straw man. Just know that in doing so you ignore a myriad other issues that all have the same root solutions. If you have no interest in grappling with these realities, and prefer to make light of them, then your disassocation might be better for those who are. Not having the distraction will be better as we try to build the world you need for you.

    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. – H.G. Wells

    Again, you’re concerned over ‘authoritarianism’ – not recognising that apathy and lack of concerted action will make this inevitable.

  8. One of the major reasons why dealing with both the energy and the climate crisis seems so difficult at present is that these are just symptoms. The important really question is: what did get us there?

    Here, as well as with a number of other serious problems, such as soil erosion, my impression is that the dominant culture (“western civilization”) has a rather strange idea about dealing with negative feedback. While pretty much all of the somewhat decent people at some point realized (at least to some extent) that we all are bound to make mistakes, and it is better to learn about having made a wrong decision early on and correct it before it starts to hurt, we seem to have serious problems with such a concept.

    Yes, the proverb “He that will not hear must feel” indicates that we actually also, in theory, do know about such a concept. But why then on earth is such a widespread reaction in our culture to ANY feedback of the “hey, this seems to hint at us seriously screwing it up” form to come up with excuses for ignoring such a hint? I mean, if we were as intelligent as we like to believe, would not a much more rational, reasonable, reaction be “hey let’s take a close look at this – IF there is something to it, we should better address it now rather than having to face the unpleasant consequences later. And we only can know if we invest some effort in trying to find out.”

    It’s not as if nature were not helpful in trying to educate those who are willing to observe on when they are on the wrong track. Normally, when we get feedback on something, we get it in multiple ways. So, I would like to pose two questions to anyone who considers anthropogenic global warming “junk science”:

    a) One way or another, much is at stake here. If we dramatically reduce our CO2 output, that will dramatically transform society. If we don’t, and our CO2 emissions actually do affect our climate, the results can easily be catastrophic beyond imagination. So, have you spent enough time on learning about the basic issues to be able to make a responsible decision on how to deal with that? Note, “responsible” includes awareness of one’s responsibility towards other people.

    b) If we approach something the wrong way, we normally get feedback about this in more than one way. It’s like assembling a jigsaw puzzle: if a piece does not fit, it’s not just shape or color that tells you so, if you pay attention, you will be told so in multiple ways. So, concerning our CO2 emissions – if we ignore the issue of climate change for a moment, what about oceanic acidification? Remember, the pH scale is logarithmic, so a 0.1 decrease in pH corresponds to a 25% increase in the concentration of acid (H+) ions. Can you credibly brush away this independent feedback from nature as well without raising serious questions about your sincerity to take a close look into matters of gravity when indications are you really should?

  9. I think that’s a good comment Thomas. I was agreeing with the sentiments, but consider the likely human suffering and minority empowerment as a result of a Mega carbon economy as equaly catastrophic as the weather forecast. The details under each scenario need closer attention, and is probably where we’ll find a lot of common ground. I reckon permaculture and transition does just fine without associations with climate change and carbon regulated economies, and has a whole lot more to offer all those issues getting sucked up into the polarization.

  10. Leigh,

    above, you write in reply to Craig:

    “your calls for leadership sound distinctly authoritarian. Its at this point I sadly dissassociate from the permies and environmentalists.”

    Actually, what Craig wrote above reads:

    “a sustainable, relocalised platform based on participatory democracy.”

    I *really* have serious difficulties seeing an “authoritarian” attitude in a call for structures based on participatory democracy (which, sadly, really is not what we have at the moment).

    So, your post really does create the impression you did not bother to read what Craig wrote above.

  11. Environmental damage, toxic food, toxic planet, peak oil, peak soil, peak water; these are very real dangers that threaten us that permaculture has the solutions for. But there are very good scientific reasons to seriously doubt the so called truth of global warming. Global warming is a loosing issue.

  12. Pete,

    can you please give a specific convincing source for the claim that “there are very good scientific reasons to seriously doubt the so called truth of global warming”?

  13. I’m trying to get the point across that as society begins to come unglued, governments will begin to take a more dictatorial/fascist role, bolstering their military in a bid to keep the commoners in control. In other words, where so many denialists keep saying that climate change is a hoax perpetrated to gain more control over the masses, I’m trying to say that as they (government) and people stand by and let climate change rush upon us, we’re actually setting ourselves up for the very situation these denialists seem to want to avoid – totalitarian rule.

    This post ably demonstrates the point I’m trying to make.

    Rather than invent it, governments have been doing their very best to ignore the climate change issue, as to spend thought, energy and money on it means to stop pampering their favoured child – economic growth.

    A coordinated move towards participatory democracy today can help ensure some social stability in the future. This coordinated move will never come if people ignore the converging issues we face, and lull the world into apathy with the words – “it’s a hoax.”

    Essentially, we need to de-centralise. Intelligently, but fast. When climate, water, soil, and energy issues intensify, centralised control with a populace with a ‘dependency’ mindset (who wish the problems would just go away so they can get back to their 9 to 5 and their Xbox – but who begin to take to the streets in protest when they discover their cheesecake and beer can no longer be found on the supermarket shelves), will result in draconian measures being applied.

    How ‘authoritarianism’ can be read into any of this is beyond me. I’m trying to ensure it doesn’t happen.

  14. Thomas, Craig’s post, paragraph 5. sorry Craig if you did not mean to imply we must act regardless of how many agree to the plan. It read like that to me, still does.

    I agree with Pete, and there lies a ground on which permies can focus. Aligning with climate change and global economic measures, risks undoing the good work imo. Its a shame we have allowed all these issues to be spoken for by climate change theories, and its worrying sollution.

    I might also ask that if we who reject climate change are being asked to cite references, I think it only fair that those who support it should also. I have roughly cited 2.. (I’m on a mobile so is difficult to paste links) no one has checked? The geologist in Adelaide should be easy for you to dismiss. But the MIT Prof… hope you dont mind using google for me. Recent news in the states reports 700 more peer reviewed scientists recently signing on against climate change. I read yesterday that the IPCC report had less than 60 peer reviewed scientists and that claims of more were false…

  15. What governments Craig? The US is taking serious leaps to adress “climate change” as is Australia. Granted, they weren’t before, because they were skeptical (or had yet to work out how to play it in there favour). What do you make of this point by point rebuttal of Kevin Rudds recent remarks against skeptics?–Climate-Depot-Responds

  16. Leigh,

    You mean, “we don’t have leaders” – I would call this a pretty accurate description of the situation, but I would word it differently, e.g. “Believing in our ‘leaders’ to lead us is probably delusional.”

    I must ask you to be a bit more specific with your references. “The geologist in adelaide” doesn’t do it for me. If I google “climate change adelaide”, that does not bring up anything useful. Googling “climate change adelaide geologist” brings up a reference to Ian Pilmer. Do you mean him?

    Also, if I google for “deconstructing climate change”, I get a link to “deconstructing climate change legislation”, one to “the commons blog”, one to “deconstructing climate change denialism”, then “deconstructing climate change policy and politics” – likewise with other search engines, so, what on earth do you mean here specifically?

  17. Leigh,

    if your underlying fear is that addressing climate change will be abused to install totalitarian control, then by all means, say so!

    There is an interesting parallel with the financial crisis: there, things have hit the wall, at full speed. Now, it is pretty much evident that we cannot continue doing business as we did it in the past. And of course, some do sense the danger that those who actually caused the crisis now use it to their advantage as an instrument to increase their power even further. (I would say that such concerns are actually not totally unjustified.) The issue here is: now, no one can deny anymore we’ve got a serious financial crisis at our hands. But the interesting question is: back when it was still possible to deny the possibility of financial turmoil, did some actually do so driven by a deep inner fear that all measures to address the upcoming crisis were actually just thinly veiled plans for (financial) world domination…?

  18. Leigh, the ClimateDepot article talks of “politically motivated science…” Again, am trying to understand how science that threatens everything governments have been building (centralised, fossil fuel based, exponential growth economies) could be ‘politically motivated’. The reality is they’ve been doing their best to ignore it for decades.

    And “skeptics constitute a powerful force for scientific truth and morality based vibrant energy expansion to the developing world’s poor”. You’ve got to be kidding me. Exactly where is that energy going to come from? The polluted, chemical laden world we have today comes from just a small percentage of the world trying to live an impossible dream. Transferring this ridiculous lifestyle to every corner of the globe is an ecological impossibility. If “skeptics constitute a powerful force for scientific truth and morality based vibrant energy expansion to the developing world’s poor” they truly are the enemy of the planet and everyone on it – and their ignorance defies belief.

    In regards to “what governments?”. These governments – who are all struggling with the contradictions of having to restore economic growth, while making substantial steps to address greenhouse gas emissions.

    Leigh – rather than spending your energy discouraging change (the link you sent quotes Monkton with “Climate change is a non-problem. The right answer to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.”) how about encouraging people to put carbon back into soils (which means fertility to stop and reverse desertification and feed our burgeoning population, and that will simultaneously hold, filter and conserve water, and stem the tide of pesticides born out of imbalance, etc. etc. etc.).

    It’s this ‘do nothing’ battle-common-sense crowd that are going to ensure a totalitarian world.

  19. Increase in Human induced Climate change? Maybe they figured out that the Vikings named Greenland. When that fact appears my logic tells me, end of argument.

  20. Wikipedia:

    The name Greenland comes from Scandinavian settlers. In the Icelandic sagas, it is said that Norwegian-born Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murder. He, along with his extended family and thralls, set out in ships to find the land that was rumoured to be to the northwest. After settling there, he named the land Grœnland (“Greenland”) in the hope that the pleasant name would attract settlers.[37][38] Greenland was also called Gruntland (“Ground-land”) and Engronelant (or Engroneland) on early maps. Whether green is an erroneous transcription of grunt (“ground”), which refers to shallow bays, or vice versa, is not known. The southern portion of Greenland (not covered by glacier) is indeed very green in the summer and was probably even greener in Erik’s time during the Medieval Warm Period.

  21. Daryl,

    I am frequently reminded of an Eric Arthur Blair (“George Orwell”) quote these days:

    “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, whene we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, is possible to carry this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

    Now, lets take that passage from

    Imagine how wonderful the world would be if man-made global warming were just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. No more ugly wind farms to darken our sunlit uplands. No more whopping electricity bills, artificially inflated by EU-imposed carbon taxes. No longer any need to treat each warm, sunny day as though it were some terrible harbinger of ecological doom. And definitely no need for the $7.4 trillion cap and trade (carbon-trading) bill — the largest tax in American history — which President Obama and his cohorts are so assiduously trying to impose on the US economy.

    Imagine no more, for your fairy godmother is here. His name is Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at Adelaide University, and he has recently published the landmark book Heaven And Earth, which is going to change forever the way we think about climate change.

    Now, deceiving oneself is one thing. But actually doing so while openly ADMITTING IT certainly is even quite a step beyond that.

  22. Thomas,

    There are a number of scientific theories that better explain the trends of global temperatures than the problematic CO2 theory. Chief among them is sunspots and the sun. But also there are the observations of various global cycles such as the Pacific 20 year cycle and the 1500 year cycle. Plus there is the very problematic observation that it has been warmer on this planet both within written history and also in the long term record (via ice cores and what not) and you can’t blame humans for those warm events.

    Anyway, trends indicate we’re going into a cooling period and if that pans out those who heard permaculturists spouting the imminent threat of global warming will seriously doubt the truth of anything else said about permaculture.

    But to return to like I said. There is much popular and scientific debate over global warming. Things like food toxicity, environmental damage, top soil loss, drought, and arguably peak oil are all much more settled issues.


  23. Guys, enough is enough, this is all very fascinating debating, but I think you need to take it outside now. While you are out there, have a look around, the world is changing, for whatever reason. Start telling everyone what you are doing about it, please!
    Carolyn Payne

  24. Thomas, on a computer now.

    Please be assured that I do encourage and take action on similar lines of change I am guessing you follow (this being a permaculture forum). If you’re doubting my motives, I started the Permaculture Design course in Dunedin, the Permaculture Design book in Wikibooks (would love people to come in and help with that one), and try as hard as I can to develop subsistance living in rental property.

    The links I mentioned.

    Adelaide geoligist: Ian Plimer
    MIT climate scientist: Deconstructing Global Warming R Lindzen & A Sloan Prof of Atmospheric Sciences MIT.

    And some interesting neuroscience in relation to polarisation: More proof that emotion is a powerful force in making sense of information

  25. Lindzen? (Your link gives me a 502 Gateway Error btw).
    The guy who offered to take a bet only at 50:1 odds? Fine, that means he’s got 2% of an opinion on the subject then. Why does he get that much attention for it then?

    Plimer? Factually wrong on a number of things.

    Can we please switch over to discussing the physics, rather than just dropping round names?

  26. I agree Thomas.

    If I can take your thought one step further, and focus on a central concept in the whole ‘argument’, I’d like someone to explain to me how CO2 DOESN’T cause increased trapped heat in our atmosphere. It’s been consistently shown, through empirically grounded peer-reviewed studies that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The physics and chemistry of this simple base issue is understood and consistently replicable. It’s also been proven that CO2 levels have risen from 280ppm in pre-industrial times to 384ppm today, and that human activities have caused this increase. If someone could explain the physics of HOW a forty percent increase in CO2 levels is NOT linked to our last century’s 0.8’C globally averaged temperature increase, I’d be all ears. Otherwise the conversation is just ‘academic’, but valueless.

    And, whilst I am always of the mind that all the other issues (soil erosion and desertification, water contamination and overuse, peak everything, etc.) should be recognised, along with climate change, as having the same root solutions (a return to relocalised, ethically grounded and dynamic, practical communities getting back onto the land to develop small scale food/clothing/shelter/education systems that put carbon back where it belongs – in building soil fertility), we must also keep in mind that to ignore the climate change issue is to ignore what could make all the other issues pale in comparison, taking each individual issue and making them, respectively, each a whole lot worse.

    If the science is correct (again, tell me how increased CO2 levels DO NOT increase atmospheric temperature) then we’re heading towards global temperatures never seen at any time while humans have been practising any form of agriculture. It is clear that plant productivity decreases as temperatures rise. It is clear there is more evaporation, wilder weather extremes, etc. We face a century with up to 9.2 billion people by 2050, whilst desertification from mismanaged soil is shrinking the available growing area significantly. This will place remaining lands in the unenviable position of needing to produce even more, thus speeding up desertification on remaining lands, and so on until the world looks like the Easter Island microcosm.

    Again, start with CO2 (and methane and nitrous oxide, etc.) and look at the physics/chemistry of it. Prove why it doesn’t trap additional heat in our atmosphere. If you can’t, then perhaps step back to look objectively at your position. Be sure you’re not being an obstacle to global awareness on what could be the planet’s defining issue.

    And, again, people keep saying climate change is politically motivated, but fail to explain what politicians get out of it besides an embarrassing narrative from people like me showing how they’re doing absolutely nothing to tackle the issue they supposedly manufactured. The reality is their interest, and the interest of the corporate captains who have these politicians in their pockets, is to ‘grow the economy’ and manage it as profitably to themselves as possible. Climate change, with its resulting necessary shift to relocalised economies is not only a hindrance to what they’re tryng to achieve, it would in fact positively dismantle the whole capitalist house of cards they’ve been constructing over the last century.

  27. In reply to Craig’s last message, I would like to add one thing:

    We are in a mess, in many different ways. So, how did we get there? The more I study this question the more indications I find that all point in the same direction: our past decision-making strategies were based on extremely poor observational skills. Nature does try to teach us how to do things right, but as she uses methods that are very different from those employed in our schools, we by now have serious difficulty paying proper attention to what she tries to tell us – because it by now is so different from what we recognize as “teaching” and “education”. But that is mostly the fault of our educational systems.

    Essentially, a key insight is that a shrinking energy base means that we no longer can go on mis-declaring symptoms as problems and “solving” them by just throwing more energy at them – causing stronger, but different, symptoms which then need new “solutions”. Instead, we now find ourselves forced to dig down to the root of each problem and re-think our basic approaches to problems.

    I like to use the jigsaw puzzle as a metaphor for working with Nature: by paying attention to minute details (here: shape, colour, patterns, etc.), one can derive clues about how things are supposed to fit together. And, miraculously, if some of these clues turn out to be right, you will find that other things you did not take into account before quite “magically” will suddenly fit as well. It’s just the same with Nature: the reason why we can expect a synergistic response that gives us more harmony than what we consciously took into account initially is just the “co-evolutionary context of species”. Our conscious mind may be way too primitive to comprehend the full picture of interactions that go on in a natural system simultaneously – but just like with a jigsaw puzzle, if you get some clues right, that will get you going in the right direction. If you ignore them, however, that will just trigger a stronger response telling you you are on the wrong track further down the road.

    So, just ask yourself: Does Nature try to tell us that we have to seriously cut back our abuse of fuel and rather start making a serious effort to *solve* problems rather than just messing around? I do identify multiple independent clues that all point in that direction. So, wouldn’t it just be stupid not to act accordingly?

  28. I like the zigsaw analogy Thomas. Good imagery for my thoughts on the topic.

    I don’t agree with everything Lovelock has to say about the world, but am in full agreement with his (Gaia) understanding that the world’s complicated systems interact with each other in a way that enables life on earth to continue, and, potentially, prosper (in the true sense of the word). In history we (many cultures, but technology has enabled the conquering industrial white man in particular to really speed the process up) have endeavoured to control nature, rather than find our place as stewards/guardians of it.

    A quote I used in a big post I did on soil a while back sums it up well I think, and is along the lines of what you’re saying:

    Working with living creatures, both plant and animal, is what makes agriculture different from any other production enterprise. Even though a product is produced, in farming the process is anything but industrial. It is biological. We are dealing with a vital, living system rather than an inert manufacturing process. The skills required to manage a biological system are similar to those of the conductor of an orchestra. The musicians are all very good at what they do individually. The role of the conductor is not to play each instrument but rather to nurture the union of the disparate parts. The conductor coordinates each musician’s effort with those of all the others and combines them in a harmonious whole.

    Agriculture cannot be an industrial process any more than music can be. It must be understood differently from stamping this metal into shape or mixing these chemicals and reagents to create that compound. The major workers – the soil microorganisms, the fungi, the mineral particles, the sun, the air, the water – are all parts of a system, and it is not just the employment of any one of them but the coordination of the whole that achieves success. – Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower, p.3, 4.

    This quote is garden scale. And its in garden scale that all our problems are solved – environmental, social, political, etc.

    Our modern reductionist scientists have pulled everything apart, and are examining and manipulating individual actors in the system, but in doing so can no longer see the connections, the patterns, and in their manipulations the individual elements are getting completely out of balance in the system. The system thus starts to unravel.

    If they could join the dots again, then one picture becomes clear.

    Harness biology, I say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button