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Mike Hulme on ABC

This lecture by Mike Hulme is interesting, if slightly drawn out. It is also frustrating not being able to see the slides. I liked the bit where he recalls rediscovering his former activism in support of the Kyoto protocol through reading the Climategate emails.

As he lists all the damage done by global warming activism, it's hard to avoid a certain feeling that the taxpayer would be better off without funding all these people paid to research climate change and promote "solutions".

(Tip of the hat to Shx)

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Reader Comments (23)

Jeez ...what a boring speaker!

Is there a real point in watching to the end? I don't suffer from insomnia. Could a kind reader highlight the times when it is worth watching?

More general academics get any training at all in public speaking and presentations before they are allowed out of their ivory tower? If not, why not? Few of them rise above the mediocre as presenters. Including this guy.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterStirling English

I watched 5 minutes before being turned off. Life is too short to listen to the incomprehensible jumble of words.

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Hi Could someone tell me the time that he menrions his activism around the Kyoto protocol.. This links into something I've been working on for WUWT, unfortuanetly I have very little time this week

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I think this is definitely worth watching. The tone is non-confrontational, and the message a very reasonable push for adaptation measures and energy technology research - supported by a small carbon tax in countries that want to do the research. At face value these seem perfectly sensible suggestions to me, I can't see that they will lead to UN power grabs or cause economic damage or ruin the countryside. Probably, they are worth doing whatever the actuality of climate change. Surely it is the RC/RS/NGO lobby that will cause (are causing) the harm and confusion. Given that, Hulme's arguments are far more helpful than not IMO.

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip


Starting at 9:50.

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Yet again, a climate change campaigner flies to the other side of the world to give a lecture - in the interests of protecting us all. Something that could have been done by Webex, which going by this example, could not have been any more dull.

So, if we must cut our CO2 emissions by 50% or 80%, who does this actually apply to? If not to someone popping flying round the world for a one hour lecture, then who?

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

We get a part answer (to why he can keep flying) at about 1:02:30 (in response to an audience Q). 'We should not focus on reducing emssions of a certain percentage by a certain date, but instead expect to rely on technological innovation.' Thus, he is pressumably expecting airline engineers to come up with a plane that will emit 80% less CO2. So, it will all be about painless adaption (with good business for those developing 'green' energy technology).

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

BH writes:

I liked the bit where he recalls rediscovering his former activism in support of the Kyoto protocol through reading the Climategate emails.

Yes, although I find it somewhat hard to believe that he had (as he claimed in this lecture) completely "forgotten" about his role. But then, perhaps he's just an absent-minded professor:-)

Incidentally, it was Hulme's contribution to this 'consensus by chain letter' - in combination with his Dec/09 piece in the WSJ, in which he had declared:

"It is a false hope to expect science to dispel the fog of uncertainty so that it finally becomes clear exactly what the future holds and what role humans have in causing it."

- that precipitated my decision to cast my thoughts to the blogosphere!

Hulme certainly is not the most polished of speakers ... but I did listen to the whole thing (OK, so I'm a beggar for punishment!) If he would learn to curb his enthusiasm for the multi-syllabic neologisms with which he pads and peppers his points, he could get his message across in a quarter (well, at least half) the time.

The approach he's recommending these days is basically the same as Pielke Jr's, and was pretty much covered in last year's Hartwell Paper: let's have a non-punitive low carbon tax to finance "energy innovation"; and it should not be "global". Targets and timelines are not the route to go.

I found it interesting that he seemed to mention the UNFCCC (and its "mechanisms") far more often than the IPCC; although I'm not so sure that Figueres would share his very strong suggestion that "climate change" be moved to second-fiddle, so to speak.

Hulme seems to have ditched the precautionary principle, but he still talks about "climate risk" and "climate danger".

To his credit, though, he did straighten out one person who was oh-so-concerned about the "100 million climate refugees as a consequence of 1 meter sea level rise" ... he pointed out that this number is not a fact, merely an "interpretation of a projection"!

He also pointed out that if the "policy goal" is to "stop climate change", it's not going to work!

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Here is a link to the paper discussed in the video (it is about a year old):

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I’ve got to say, that whilst somewhat boring, it was the most eloquent discussion of climate change I have heard to date. I think his policy position makes sense from a precautionary principal perspective, and there is no arm waving for once, a real breath of fresh air
The only negative was the downplay on climategate.. but I can let that pass

Jun 27, 2011 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavidf

I watched the whole thing.

I can't express how much I detest the overly general, faux inclusive, faux multicultural, meaningless way in which these people talk.

The good thing is that Hulme is an expert in speaking their language while at the same time telling them that pretty much everything they hold dear is bullshit:

- CO2 is far from the only problem, everyone is ignoring more than 50% of the human forcings when they concentrate on C02.
- you're not going to be able to reduce CO2 in a meaningful way anyway.
- decisions to reduce by X% by the year Y are useless, won't happen, and wouldn't do any good even if they did happen.
- projections of things such as the 1m sea level rise by 2100 are highly uncertain, quite likely won't happen, but i they are going to happen then they are going to happen no matter what we try to do about it, so better figure out ways to adapt to it.

Jun 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

Oh, one interesting thing that I didn't hear the start of is that apparently funds exist or are being created to compensate people for losses caused by human-caused weather events, as opposed to naturally-ocurring "tough luck" weather events.

He raised the unintended (but of course perfectly foreseeable) result of this: that people will then have an incentive to claim/prove that everything bad that happens to them is the result of man-made climate change.

What he didn't mention is that government will then have an incentive to *deny* that anything is the result of man made climate change!

Jun 27, 2011 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

ABC Big Ideas web page offers other options for download. One doesn't have to actually watch the speech; there are other things one can do while listening to it. It is indeed perfectly safe for the insomniac, but definitely not recommended for the narcoleptic.

Mike Hulme is one of the most sensible players in the climate debate. He is a scientist but, unlike many other street-fighting scientists on his side of the debate, Hulme is a diplomat. He doesn't speak the sharp agitated language of an activist-scientist. His articles and speeches may come across as dull and droll, but that is a virtue in politics and international diplomacy. What matters is the substance and in that speech, substance is aplenty.

Sceptic blogs ought to keep a better tab on what Mike Hulme says. Hulme will very likely play a greater role in climate policy debate in coming years. He seems to possess the skills and the temperament necessary for a politically sensitive task, so he may even be appointed by the UK government to a position of authority.

For those CAGW activists who want to climb down the trees, Hulme offers a safe pair of hands and a dignified exit.

Jun 27, 2011 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

And that of course was my first ever hat tip from Bishop Hill.

I am lost for words.

I'd like to thank my mother, father and my barber.

Jun 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I liked his definition of climate change being akin to democracy. That makes sense to me but I was dismayed by his dismissal of climategate as being insignificant. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth so one of us has got it wrong.

Jun 27, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

That was so funny, sHx! ;-)

Jun 27, 2011 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

agree with Bruce that it is well worth the listening (with his caveats) and think that Bruce's precis is very accurate..also h001's comments. Yes, he downplayed Climategate. I was hoping for : "they may not have broken any laws technically, but they sure have their heads up their a*ses as far as openness, transparency and the scientific method is concerned" only stretched out over 10 minutes with lots of diplomatic multi-culti speechisms. I sensed it was a very polite but an all-on- the- CAGW-bandwagon-financially audience. He did attempt to weaken some of the pillars of their thought - i.e. what Bruce said in his bullet points. Taking in consideration Rome wasn't built in a day, don't want to shake their world too much as it could have caused mass psychosis in the room, etc etc. a good presentation.

Jun 27, 2011 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterconiston

@sHx Jun 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM

Sceptic blogs ought to keep a better tab on what Mike Hulme says.

But he's not an easy chap to keep tabs on! One of the things I've noticed about Hulme is that while he does not display any outward indications of ultra alarmist/activist credentials, the prophets of doom always seem to give him a "pass" - as though he's coated in teflon.

I often wonder why it is that the words of (for example) Judith Curry, or more recently Mark Lynas, should result in storms of protest from the defenders (Mann, Romm along with their acolytes and lesser lights) of the activists' tenets; yet Hulme never seems to register on their heresy-meters - not even when he "shrunk the consensus" about a year ago.

And he does tend to contradict himself; for example, as davidf notes above, at the beginning of his lecture, Hulme did "downplay" Climategate. Yet considerably later, he said 'the events of November and December 2009 have changed everything' (OWTTE). Similarly, a few days after he had shrunk the consensus, in a "further clarification" to a "clarification", he re-affirmed his "belief" in the IPCC party line.

Hulme's roots in post-normal science have long been well-established. And perhaps his kinder, gentler ways are indicative of the new, improved "post-normal".

He definitely bears watching, but I, for one, shall continue to do so with a somewhat skeptical eye.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterhro001


Hulme is doing the best he can to promote reasoned debate. Surely we should focus on the positive?

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

This is a boring, rambling, semi-coherent act of self-aggrandisement and self-justification for bad acts of the past. At 5.47, the concept of climate change being an idea like "prophesy" is ludicrous. Who can relate to a speaker who forgot that he pleaded for countries to adopt the Kyoto agreement? What else has been forgotten?

Par for the course, the monologue of replete with 'it appears that' and 'experts seem to agree' types of indefinite statements that invite one to think that they have substance.

In the realist world, climate change is a movement of the accumulation the numbers mankind measures about the weather.

If he was in Australia, he might be invited to watch the movie 'The Castle', both for its lessons on property rights and for its memorable use of the word 'dreamin'.'

End of story, end of lecture.

Jun 28, 2011 at 3:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington


I'd really like to focus on the positive. But, to be quite honest, I didn't hear any calls for "reasoned debate" in Hulme's talk. Which isn't to say that he didn't make such a call (it's not beyond the realm of possibility that I might have missed it in the monotony of his monologues).

However, I did hear him suggest that "sterile" debates about "the science" were not helpful; nonetheless, the impression I was left with is that his recipe for resolving the problems of "climate risk" and "climate danger" [his phrasing not mine] is 'let's have an hypothecated (but initially modest) carbon tax to fund innovative and creative solutions to the energy problem"; these will help us "adapt" and we'll all live happily ever after (well, no he didn't say that!)

You know, perhaps if Hulme had gone a few steps further and suggested first redirecting all the funds that are currently being expended (on "climate research", lobbying loops, global reporting mechanisms & money-gathering regimes and schemes, wind farms, solar panels etc. etc. - not to mention the propaganda machines) towards funding these "innovative and creative solutions ..." and then, if needed and warranted, consider a carbon tax down the road ... i.e. carbon tax if necessary, but not necessarily carbon tax, I might be inclined to cut him some slack.

But he didn't. Instead he waxed on about new alliances of stakeholders, the common good (although I believe he used different phrasing) and all that stuff.

Sorry, BBD, but considering the above - along with his history - I'm still going to watch him with a somewhat skeptical eye :-)

Jun 28, 2011 at 3:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, bish, wake up and crow the Jones.

Jun 28, 2011 at 4:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Dull as f*ck with some interesting stuff embedded as others have said. I loved Hulmes look/reaction to the bit were the old darling asked what it meant for the "100 Million" displace by the century end sea level meter rise and for the subsequent 100 million for each subsequent metre rise. He kind of almost seems to be on the point of saying something interesting/cutting and disparaging (that immediately occurred to me*) but visibly he seems to reel himself back to boring engagement mode ;). I think I believe him when he says he revisits his old climategate emails and says he doesn't recognise himself -Remember "Future Bubble" cogitative dissonance ;)

*If you believe that for each 1 metre = 100,000,000 displaced, this must mean you are an idiot who thinks people will stick around like statues from Narnia for the next 100 years !?

Jun 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

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