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« Matt Ridley on wind | Main | Cuccinelli falls at final hurdle »

Pointman on the climate wars

Here is a very interesting essay by the blogger Pointman, about the asymmetrical nature of the climate wars:

The problem the alarmists had, was that there was never anything substantial to hit back at. They had the equivalents of the big guns and the massive air support but there never was a skeptic HQ to be pounded, no big central organisation, no massed ranks of skeptic soldiers or even any third-party backing the resistance. Every one of the skeptics was a lone volunteer guerilla fighter, who needed absolutely no logistical support of any kind to continue the fight indefinitely. The alarmists never understood this, preferring to think that there simply had to be some massive hidden organisation orchestrating the resistance. While they wasted time and effort attacking targets that only existed in their head, each of the guerillas chewed on them mercilessly in their own particular way.

H/T Ross McKitrick.

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Reader Comments (79)

Cumbrian Lad, Patagon. "The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it".

Mar 4, 2012 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered Commentersimon abingdon

Don Pablo:
“you can get your ass kicked by a bunch of disorganized impoverished Afghans”
They may seem disorganised to us, but their whole culture since the beginning of time is organised around repelling invaders. Pashtun society is anthropologically structured to kick Western ass.
Many commenters on libertarian blogs like this seem to suffer from the Thatcher Fallacy - the idea that society is no more than a bunch of disparate individuals. Stick with your guerrillero fantasy if you like, but very few guerrilla armies have ever won wars. The Viet Cong got rather more help from the Russians than we are getting from Big Oil. The Namibians beat South Africa with the help of Cuban Migs. In Angola they only won when a revolutionary Portuguese Colonel destroyed his own Air Force. It would be like Professor Betts revealing the code of Met Office Climate Models. (Well, we can dream...)
If we were guerrilla fighters, journalists from the mainstream media would be all over us. Our photos would be on t-shirts, and on banners in every student bedsit.
We’re lepers. The only discussion around scepticism is how to eradicate it; whether to isolate us from polite society or try to cure us.

Mar 4, 2012 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The "Thatcher Fallacy" is that she actually said or believed that society was no more than a bunch of disparate individuals.
Read what she said in the context she said it rather than what the Daily Mirror reported, leaping gleefully on seven words of her interview with Woman's Own.
Try this link.
I'm not saying she couldn't have said it better and that particular sentence wasn't a hostage to fortune but read it in context and tell me that not only was she not wrong but very, very right. Look where we are now as a result of the very attitude she was criticising!
I was never a fanatical supporter of the woman but likewise I never suffered the Left's manic (and blind) opposition to virtually anything she did or said.

Mar 4, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I think a number of commentators on this blog are looking at the "war" through rose tinted glasses. For AGW to be considered irrelevant many things have to happen. To pick just a few:

1. The IPCC must be disbanded and the Nobel Committee rescind the award of 2007.

2. The CCA in the UK [an equivalent Acts in other countries] must be repealed.

3. The DECC must be shut down, with many civil servants being made redundant. The Energy policy issues go to the Business Dept.

4. Many prominent alarmists lose their jobs or emeritus status. Michael E Mann takes a job at Starbucks that allows him plenty of time to indulge his new hobby of taking tree core samples.

5. WWF and Greenpeace lose their charitable status and get a retrospective tax bill for £100 billion each to be used for providing water and crop development in Africa.

6. Steve McIntyre is awarded the first Nobel Prize in Statistics

7. Our host gets a knighthood for services to literature.

We are nowhere near "the end of the beginning" even. This saga has many years to run yet.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hewitt

Mike Jackson
Thanks for the link. She said exactly what I thought she said. Granted, she then contradicts herself when she adds:
“There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation." - a statement which is open to objection, but at least recognises that society exists, beyond individual men and women.
My point is not to attack Thatcher, but to criticise a rather naive view of society, as a band of isolated individuals who can change the world by sniping from the sidelines, or by banding together to form a 51% majority who will then impose their point of view on the other 49%.
Anglo Saxons, with their loose family structure and high evaluation of personal liberty, are particularly prone to this way of thinking. Other Europeans, including Celts, have more complex family structures, and are therefore less prone to the guerrilla fantasy - the idea that a loosely organised band of brothers fired by truth can overturn the complex structures that form our society.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Late last night I followed several different leads starting at the Pointman article. this led me eventually to this item by John O'Sullivan and I hope that y'all will find it as interesting as i did:

Split Court Decision for Michael Mann in Global Warming Legal Battle

Virginia Supreme Court renders a verdict that permits continued suppression of evidence in the Michael Mann ‘hockey stick’ graph controversy – but only just. One dissenting judge scuppers the climatologist’s hopes of yet another global warming whitewash and skeptics remain upbeat.

The latest decision (March 2, 2012) in the Cuccinelli vs. University of Virginia. (UVa) case determines that the university is not a “person” subject to a “Civil Investigative Demand” (CID) from the attorney general. This means UVa won’t have to hand over Michael Mann’s Climategate e-mails and documents to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (at least - not for now).

With Justice McClanahan dissenting on the “with prejudice” issue this is not the 'get out of jail free' card that Michael Mann hoped for.

Legal Precedents May Assist Attorney General’s Gambit

Legal analysts will read with interest dissenting McClanahan’s opinion that affirms Cuccinelli was correct on the point that UVa is not exempt from the Attorney General's authority to issue CIDs pursuant to Code § 8.01-216.10. As such Justice McClanahan believes the taxpayers’ champion, Cuccinelli, was authorized to issue CIDs to UVa. This offers Cuccinelli some wriggle room to mount a legal challenge on the basis that the 'with prejudice' component of the decision may be viewed as:


Excessively heavy-handed and thus contrary to the best interests of justice i.e. Cuccinelli should reasonably be permitted to amend and perfect his CID. Thus he might overcome the issue that his original submission "did not sufficiently state what the Attorney General suspected Dr. Mann did that was "false or fraudulent" in violation of Code § 8.01-216.3(A)"


Falling foul of recent “personhood” case law, particularly as to its applicability to organizations and corporations. Cuccinelli may find some joy here by applying Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), 558 U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 876 (January 21, 2010).

Many with legal training in the skeptic camp may deem the ruling to be politically motivated (see from page 5 for the “Person” analysis in the opinion).

Focus Shifts Inexorably to Canada Court Case

So while we may rue a battle victory to Mann the war goes on. If Cuccinelli fails to resurrect his case in Virginia this will mean supporters of transparency and accountability in climate science will turn their attention to events in the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Vancouver).

It is there that Dr. Mann is fairing less well in his libel suit against Canada's ever-popular skeptic climatologist, Tim Ball. Dr. Ball’s legal team is correctly demanding the full disclosure of this very same hidden evidence. As Mann is the complainant - and B.C. jurisdiction provides Ball the right to motion for full disclosure - it is far trickier for Mann to hide his numbers here.

With great confidence that Ball’s jibe that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State” will be shown to be accurate, some of us have literally bet the farm that Mann will lose. Thus mishaps in Virginia won’t necessarily delay Mann’s ultimate downfall. So please donate to Tim Ball’s legal fund today.


John O’Sullivan is Legal Counsel and Co-founder and Coordinator of Principia Scientific International

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

I fear any excitement is premature. A few climate activist scientists with egg on their faces won't be enough to make the religion unravel, particularly when it is only honestly reported in blogs like this. People who think the skeptic view is 'winning' are being naive.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

johanna (Mar 3, 2012 at 8:13 PM): "Maybe nature lovers should try to take back WWF et al. Maybe they should start new organisations. [...] When millions of people believe in something (at little, if any cost) 'for the grandchildren', it is not enough to wave graphs at them. ..."

You make powerful sense, Johanna. I'm listening. I believe many others will also be. Yours is a message to spread.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Many people who are opposed to lunacies such as the climate change act are actually keen on supporting the environment. Those of us in our 60s and older are glad that air quality in many towns is better, despite the growth in traffic, than it was in the 50s when chimneys were emitting clouds of smoke from every building. Water quality in many rivers is better than it was a few decades ago (although the growth in "gender bending" chemicals in the water supply should be a cause for concern).

We are also keen on preservation of the countryside, our coastline, and, within reason, the green belt around cities. We are opposed to many large-scale wind turbine developments not only on grounds of their inefficiency but also because they, and the associated pylons, disfigure the countryside. "Green" aims like conservation and improvements in the efficient production and use of energy are also highly desirable.

The "Greens" made a major blunder by uncritically accepting the catastrophic global warming scare, trying to boost their own importance by convincing themselves that they could and would save the planet, and threatening the well-being of billions of people around the world by persuading governments to adopt enormously expensive policies to combat climate change.

Mar 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

I think we are on the same wavelength here. It's just that it is one misinterpretation that happens to make me see red. By coincidence I had read the interview and could almost "hear" the quote marks round the word 'society', and I knew exactly what she meant which, ironically enough, is almost the opposite of the words she actually used.
The point I think is that society is a collection of disparate individuals all of whom need each to other to survive! If your very first reaction when anything goes wrong is "they" ought to do something then you are in a sense opting out of society because as well as being "you" you are also part of "they". Society only works if individuals initially take some responsibility for themselves.
Perhaps we'd better get back on topic before his grace catches us!

Mar 4, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

The Malayan (Malaysian) government defeated the Malayan insurgency because the insurgents were of Chinese origin and did not have popular support. Vietnam was different.

CAGW activists will never be defeated by science/logic because that is not the battlefield. The consensus requires an influential majority who are entirely non-productive. The coalition comprises non-productive public sector employees living off taxes (of course) supported by a (non-productive) finance sector getting rich from (non-productive) carbon trading and a (non-productive) political class getting off on power.

What it will take is the Greek solution. When the economies of the developed western nations collapse under the weight of parasites, there may be progress. This is going to be painful and messy, but it seems to be impossible for some to understand that salaries, pensions, food on the table and heat in the winter require that someone, somewhere does work.

I'm happy to have left Europe for Japan. It's a society where the practical and pragmatic skills of growing food and making things are regarded as honouable.

Mar 4, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

CAGW is not a war but a skirmish in the war to make *consensus* the only legitimate reason for political action. The manufacture of consensus avoids debate, legitimises indoctrination and by-passes democracy on route to its ultimate goal of subverting the free market. Consensus requires me to partake in the informal fallacy of 'with us or against us' even though I may well be disposed to not giving a shit. Having been forced to state my preference, my answer is and always will be that I am against you.

Mar 4, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

I agree with those who disagree with Mike Haseler's view that "we have beaten them". Although we're getting there, we're a long way from that. However, victory need not entail abject surrender: IPCC disbanded and the Nobel prize rescinded, prominent alarmists lose their jobs, WWF and Greenpeace lose their charitable status, etc. These things are not going to happen. Nor need they - it would be sufficient if the "established" view (i.e. the consensus of leading politicians, the MSM, prominent commentators, scientific institutions etc.) were to gently be adjusted to something on the following lines:

1. The world has been warming for at least 160 years.

2. Human activities have contributed to that.

3. Whether the warming trend will continue and whether, if it does, it will be dangerous or even beneficial are matters of considerable uncertainty.

4. What is certain, however, is that the climate changes (it always has) and that historically mankind has been successful in adapting to such change.

5. The key to successful adaptation is a strong global economy.

There are, I think, signs that elements of this attitude are being tentatively adopted: Paul Nurse's Dimbleby lecture for example.

Mar 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

I can't say I approve of the term "war" and related analogies being used by either side in this debate.
I share Richard Betts's concern about rhetoric getting overheated.

Regarding who is "winning", I share the view that those who think the sceptics are on the brink of "victory" are fooling themselves.

Mar 4, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Religion, despite zero evidence, is still ruling the lives of billions. Agw is a religion. It will last a while yet.

Mar 4, 2012 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterjason

Club of Rome, 1991: In searching for an enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill ...all these dangers are caused by human intervention...the real enemy, then, is humanity itself. This is not only sick it is also seriously misleading in hinting that these things are only due to 'human intervention' - it is easy to think of natural causes for pollution, drought, famine, and indeed global warming, and to note how 'human intervention' has been dramatically successful in reducing the occurence or the consequences of all of them, except for the warming which has been beneficial as has the increase in ambient CO2. Whoever 'us' is, and I presume it is a bunch of like-minded rich people severely alienated from the rest of our species, they were certainly very successful in making an impact with their global warming escapade. I think they have lost the intellectual and moral aspects, but then these were clearly never priorities when dealing with the 'real enemy'. But they have surely won the political and financial aspects. The scientists at the heart of the IPCC plot may well have served their purpose now, and if so can be thrown under the bus. Indeed some seem determined to throw themselves there, while others will be ready to retire to the country like John Houghton did quite a while ago. It is hard to believe they will be replaced by others with quite their degree of careless enthusiasm for their invented alarm over CO2. At every turn, their case is weakened by observations, by critical review, and by exposure of their various devices to make the most of whatever they were able to come up with - including silence when their occasional cautions about uncertainties were brushed aside by influential others such as Al Gore or Rajendra Pachauri.

There is still more technical work to do, of course, to finally scotch the snake of overblown alarm about CO2. There will no doubt be many years of work, and possibly even a lot of pastoral care, to ameliorate the damage done to children and educational practices and materials which do indeed tell them that they and their parents are 'the enemy'.

I presume the plotters against humanity are busy moving to a 'take it for granted' phase re AGW, with admissions that alarm is a bit over the top. Thye must do so in order to deal with the contrary movements recently of storms, polar bears, ice, sea, snow, and so on. A fluctuation of any back in the 'right direction' would no doubt be taken advantage of for more scaremongering, but in the meantime I guess the message is 'ease off on that stuff, it is getting counterproductive'.

They have been smart in their war against the 'real enemy' so far, and winning more power over it. I would think it is premature in the extreme to think of victory over them at present. A great more insight into their attitudes and procedures and objectives needs to be so widely shared that they will lose power in a big way. Just who exactly 'they' are is also to be established!!!

Mar 4, 2012 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

It's very easy to think of us being in some sort of zero-sum conflict, with one side "winning" and one side "losing".

But I think this is inappropriate: THEY are without doubt losing - but that doesn't mean that we are "winning".

After all, what would "winning" mean for us? That Dr. Michael Mann admits in public that's he's not the saviour of the planet, and that he's been a very, very, naughty boy, for example? Ultimately, would anybody care that much if he did? Who would care if we were to "win" in some other way, then? Would anybody notice?

I would suggest that to ask "are we winning?" is to ask a question whose answer is ultimately of little interest or significance.

They gave us their best shot, and it wasn't good enough. Everywhere you look they're being pushed back now, slowly but surely - even at the BBC, even at the Royal Society it would appear. OK, perhaps not at The Guardian just yet. But they've failed. The public is losing interest and moving on, and when that happens the politicians won't be far behind. Just give 'em a bit of time.

Mar 4, 2012 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Boyce

Well, I'm going to shove in my tuppence worth.

There's a familiar pattern on this blog: "We've won, we've won!" followed by a chorus of "oh no we haven't!"

I'd say we haven't won - it's just that we were right. And luckily, I think that's enough for this whole fiasco to eventually go away. When the model predictions and reality finally are seen to be going their separate ways the jig will be up. Though, it'll take a long time for all of this to get sorted out. Organisations up and down the country (including the government) have put in place ludicrous strategies to deal with climate change. It'll take many years for all of those to be quietly ditched.

But anyone can see that the CAGW movement is running on empty. It's intellectually and morally bankrupt.

Mar 4, 2012 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

While the sceptical community might despair at the gross disparity between its resources and those deployed by the alarmist camp can we not draw some comfort from the figures ? Estimating future trends is a hazardous process but surely we can say with some confidence that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions will grow over the next few decades no matter what efforts are made by developed countries to curb their contribution. They will be driven largely by the remarkable growth in the economies of China, India and Brazil. Prosperity in an industrial age is built on increased energy use and that energy will be derived mainly from fossil fuels. On that basis we can expect ,with great confidence, that Carbon Dioxide levels to reach 400 and 450ppm quite rapidly.
The alarmists' totem is the average global temperature measured against a 30 year average. Putting aside questions on whether this is meaningful and conscious that obtaining such a measurement is like trying to pick out a tune on a piano while wearing boxing gloves we can graciously allow the alarmists to continue their efforts to match the rise in CO2 against the average temperature. That comparison has become less and less comfortable for them over the past ten to fifteen years. if the average global temperature continues to bump along as it has done since the beginning of this century then the divergence will become all the more apparent and David will be returning to the fight with Goliath carrying a weapon that improves year by year. At some point the politicians will become restless as indeed will the more disinterested members of the scientific community. I think we can see stirrings already.The other great ally which the sceptics have (and this is an entirely political argument not a scientific one ) is that their solution is cheap (this is a non-problem or , at worst, a modest problem to be handled in an extended time frame) the alarmist solution is horrendously expensive.As more tax payers money is siphoned into meeting the requirements of our current policies the politicians will be bound to become more anxious for assurance that all this pain is necessary.If the graphs continue to diverge and if the rest of the world goes merrily on its way consuming larger amounts of carbon based fuel that assurance is going to be provided with less and less certainty. George Osborne's recent remarks about not ruining British competitiveness in an effort to save the world is , I believe, a straw in the wind.

All of the above depends on developing countries continuing their growth to prosperity on the back of fossil fuels and the temperatures remaining unremarkably similar despite the expected increases in CO2. I am admittedly begging the question but I am comfortable with my assumptions given what we know about the way the climate has responded to the increases in carbon dioxide which we have already seen and what we know about the relative costs of energy sources and the path of economic development from a peasant to an industrial economy. To change the imagery from David and Goliath, I would be more at ease backing this horse than I would the one the government is currently riding. Though there is a great disparity between the power and the wealth of the alarmist orthodoxy and the sceptical camp I sense time is on our side because events are proving to be on our side. "Say not the struggle naught availeth".

Mar 4, 2012 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Petch

"The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play"

Mar 4, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterorkneylad

The technological catastrophe which has been made by the past and the present government in their push for the windmills is exemplified in Matt Ridley's report in The Spectator:

'Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine — despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.....

The total carbon emissions saved by the great wind rush is probably below 1 per cent, because of the need to keep fossil fuels burning as back-up when the wind does not blow. It may even be a negative number.....

There were too many people with snouts in the trough. Not just the manufacturers, operators and landlords of the wind farms, but financiers: wind-farm venture capital trusts were all the rage a few years ago — guaranteed income streams are what capitalists like best; they even get paid to switch the monsters off on very windy days so as not to overload the grid. Even the military took the money.'

The reality is that above a critical penetration, the decreased thermodynamic efficiency of the fossil standby plant and the short life of the wind turbines, especially the offshore ones which may last ~5 years if we're lucky, no CO2 is saved and indeed, more is probably produced. This has been an outbreak of mass hysteria by stupid politicians.

[I know it's tautology but I had expected better of the Cleggerons who didn't seem to be idiots with all that expensive education, but then we have the commercial gain for the family members, and it looks like old-fashioned greed.]

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

OT: UEA defends its record on cheating:

Fish rots from the head.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterstopcpdotcom

The public may reject AGW within the next few years, but that means nothing until (a) scientists admit their faults and apologise (b) politicians report that it is over (c) the EU disintegrates and is disbanded (d) developers admit their greed and offer to remove wind turbines (e) Green activists admit they got it wrong (f) the Team offer themselves for up for trial (g) Governments stop green taxation (h) the UN disbands the IPCC. You can add your own conditions until the end of the alphabet and beyond.

Don't hold your breath.

Mar 4, 2012 at 10:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Given Pointman's epiphany :

"attacking targets that only existed in their head, each of the guerillas chewed on them mercilessly."

no wonder they're called climate zombies.

Mar 4, 2012 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

o/t Please help protect free speech in Australia

Mar 5, 2012 at 12:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred


Many people who are opposed to lunacies such as the climate change act are actually keen on supporting the environment. Those of us in our 60s and older are glad that air quality in many towns is better, despite the growth in traffic, than it was in the 50s when chimneys were emitting clouds of smoke from every building

Agree with you completely. I remember going to college in New York City during the early 1960's and looking out over the quad through yellow air. Things are much better today and I for one want to keep it that way.

Mar 5, 2012 at 4:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo de la Sierra writes: "... New York City during the early 1960's and looking out over the quad through yellow air. Things are much better today and I for one want to keep it that way."

     Which is the critical point purposefully overlooked by the extremists. People do care. People have done wonderful things in both protecting and enhancing our environment and will continue to do so in spite of extreme demands, and therefore hijacking becomes a legitimate descriptor of those who swarmed the natural caring for personal gain.
     "Cynical" is too kind a word to describe them; "evil" is closer... but really not quite evil enough...

Mar 5, 2012 at 5:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Question.....If you had all the Empirical Scientific Evidence supporting AGW in one hand, and a cube of Sugar in the other hand, and you clapped your hands, what would you have ?

Answer........Sweet Fanny Adams, Sweet FA or Sweet Nothings.....Take your pick.

Mar 5, 2012 at 6:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount

Someone in the comments on the Pointman essay used the analogy of Stalingrad, and I concurred. The AGW 'war' has been going on for c.15-20 years, and we are about halfway through. The Climategate emails and the Gleik affair are the turning point. Before it the AGW crowd were always on the advance, convincing politicians to create new laws, and fund new bureaucracies to advance their philosophy. After it the death by 1000 cuts will start. No bureaucracy ever just ups and abolishes itself, nor do they do sudden U turns on matters of such importance. They turn slowly. One has to wait for the Head of Dept to retire so that the new one can start to change direction. It will take another 15-20 years for the whole scam to die down, as the main protagonists retire, and finally be condemned to the dustbin of history, to be studied just as we study other older examples of mass delusion today.

But be assured, the Skeptics have won, or rather will win. You can see it in subtle repositioning by some players, the ever so slightly inching away by the moderates from the fanatical elements. Slowly that inching will become a gap, and then a fully fledged split. There is much hard pounding to come, be assured, but the very momentum of it all has fundamentally shifted.

Mar 6, 2012 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJim

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