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Ten Billion

The Guardian's science editor, Robin McKie, has been to the theatre. He went to see Ten Billion, a one-man show by computer scientist Stephen Emmott. This is slightly odd. The Guardian is losing tens of millions of pounds every year and yet this is their second review of the show. I wonder why they would be plugging it so much?

The answer, of course, is that it's a show about man's impact on the planet - it is in essence a lecture by a somewhat millenarian academic with no particular expertise in the area.

McKie seems very taken with the show, and you can tell that Emmott's work presses all the right buttons on a Guardian journalist:

We face a future in which billions will starve, he states. Britain, which could come off relatively lightly when 6C rises in global temperature take effect, will be turned into a military outpost dedicated to preventing waves of immigrants reaching our shores.

It's interesting to see Emmott still pushing 6 degrees as a plausible outcome. Even Mark Lynas - author of a bestselling book of that title - seems to have backtracked a bit, a sensible course of action given that any model prediction of 6 degrees of warming is now deep in falsification territory.

I was also struck my this remark by McKie:

[P]revious theatrical attempts to tackle the issues of global warming, rising sea levels and the ecological mayhem we face have been confused and tame. The National Theatre's Greenland, staged last year, was chaotic and unfocused, for example, while the Bush's The Contingency Plan, a double bill by Steve Waters, although highly enjoyable and intelligently written, only touched on the depth of the crisis we face.

It's funny, but I seem to recall that the Evening Standard award for best show last year went (jointly) to a play about global warming. It was called The Heretic. How odd that McKie should have forgotten about it.

Incidentally, don't get the impression that Emmott is a bad guy. According to Richard Drake, he has been trying to replicate a GCM:

Stephen Emmott, the Microsoft open science guy who spoke at the previous RS do at the Festival Hall, with Nurse and Boulton presiding, sure agreed that it wasn't trivial - in that he couldn't get the general circulation model (GCM) he'd chosen to study to work at all, due to bugs, despite the code being 'open'.

So long as someone is still asking questions, they're OK with me.

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Reader Comments (79)

McKie writes for the Observer. There are alrady two reviews at the Graun, by Billington on the theatre pages and Ian Jack on the Climate Change page.

There’s a live Q&A session with Emmott after the show at

At about 26’ a questioner asks if he isn’t reinstating Malthus with his talk of uneducated Nigerian women having too many children. Emmott says of course not, then goes on to agree with Malthus that at some time the population will outstrip the planet’s ability to feed it .
At 28’, Richard Bean twitters a question: “Why hasn’t this been published?” Emmott blathers, saying that this is an experiment and will be heavily revised to reach a larger audience. A talk he gave about the show produced thousands of blog comments, half of them interesting, and half just ranting. People ask him to adapt it so that every schoolchild can see it; others ask him to adapt it so that every politician on the planet is forced (!) to watch it. Others want to see it as a BBC or Channel 4 documentary.
In comments below the video Bean continues his criticism, pointing out an untruth in the very first sentence. Bean is the author of the sceptic play “the Heretic”.
It would be lovely to get hold of a pirate audio version. I bet someone’s got one - possibly Bean?

Aug 12, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Alex Cull and I have been discussing this in comments at
Note the fawning mentions of the presence of senior military officers at climate conferences, and the recommendation to teach your children how to use a gun. Frustrated Greens can get very nasty, at least in their fantasies.

Aug 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Seems a lot of media fuss for a show which has only managed to fill a venue the size of a small village hall.

Why are so many computer scientists afflicted with this apocalyptic garbage - and why do they feel so confident in proclaiming "great truths" in fields they have absolutely no expertise in?

Is it because their science has a unique lack of material evidence they can use as a reality check?

I always think a mass movement in entering its death throes when its adherents start talking about arming themselves to the teeth and heading for the hills.

That road leads to unpleasantness - like Jonestown.

Aug 12, 2012 at 2:21 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

It's all science fiction/fantasy as far as I can tell. Nothing wrong with that at all, so long as you don't believe any of it is necessarily real and actually will happen. It's a great way to explore possibilities rather than actualities.

If you replace the clichéd climate change sci-fi memes (eg. 6 degrees, sea levels, climate migrants, etc.) with some clichéd sci-fi/fantasy memes (aliens, viruses, triffids, zombies, vampires, comets, Xenu, etc.) it makes just as much sense, and may be just as likely to happen.

Climate change conferences are simply the "Star Trek convention" for that particular genre. But you get a better class of scientifically informed people at a Star Trek convention, plus all the benefits of William Shatner. I'm not sure how they compare with a Twilight convention.

Aug 12, 2012 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterReg. Blank

According to one reviewer, the only real solution Prof. Emmott offers is a totalitarian world government:

"His one possible solution sounds something like a single global crisis-government be formed, and that it be unelected, and that its power be supreme. He reasons that the changes which every government would need to make in order to prevent a global catastrophe are such that no one is ever going to vote for them. It's not often you see a piece of theatre which argues that only extreme environmental totalitarianism can save us."

Aug 12, 2012 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

"His one possible solution sounds something like a single global crisis-government be formed, and that it be unelected, and that its power be supreme."
Sounds so simple...what could possibly go wrong? ;)

Aug 12, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Emmott has hit the headlines once or twice before, even actively promoting the consumer society he now blames for sowing the seeds of our destruction.

Behold - his microwave oven with integrated web browser:-

Does "attention seeker" ring any bells?

I wonder what his new boss, Bill Gates thinks of his "supreme, all-powerful, unelected world government" meme.

I guess Bill would be OK with it as long as Microsoft ran it ;-)

Aug 12, 2012 at 3:32 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

In the original version of the fairy story, as told by that outstanding Christian, Sir John Houghton when he 'preached' in Great Malvern Priory (and probably elsewhere) on 'Christianity and Global Warming', it was India that would have to repulse all those cross-border 'Climate Refugees'.
As Bangladesh has resolutely failed to disappear beneath the waves it was probably less embarrassing to move the scene to Britain.

Aug 12, 2012 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

There’s a radio 4 inteview with the reverend Jones- sorry, Professor Emmott - at
in which the interviewer specifically says “this isn’t science fiction, but science fact”. Except that it isn’t. According to Bean, Emmott starts off by saying every dangerous trend is accelerating, when population growth is quite clearly decelerating, and has been for ages.
The show has already been to the Avignon festival, where reviews were less rave than in Luvvyland. Libération, the Gallic Guardian, compared the experience to a Scientology brainwashing session, or a fifties meeting of the Communist Party.

Death throes are what it’s about, but whose? According to McKie, Emmott has been bombarded with offers of TV documentary versions.This will be on telly soon, presumably played according to the new Steve Jones rules on partiality which McKie finds so appealing. McKie thinks the show works because:

there are no Paxmans to quibble over details and no climate gainsayers to make arcane or inaccurate objections. And that is the real lesson of Ten Billion. Without the clamorous voices of climate change deniers who constantly question the minutiae of scientists' research or cherry-pick data, Emmott has shown that it is possible to make a straightforward, telling demonstration of the dreadful problems we face.

Aug 12, 2012 at 3:58 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


Seems a lot of media fuss for a show which has only managed to fill a venue the size of a small village hall.
.. or the size of your average Munich Bierkeller.
Thanks Alex for digging out the solution - finally - that you knew just had to be in there, despite the fact that most reviewers stated that Emmott offered no solutions.
Since no text of the show is available (shades of Wittgenstein, and many another fellow with Messianic visions of themselves) we just have to go by passages quoted in reviews. One mentions weeing in the shower, another using two sheets of toilet paper instead of three as possible solutions, only to dismiss them as inadequate. (Funny how toilet training comes to mind when you’re talking about the need for massive behavioural change).
They all (except Aunty ofcourse) mention his punchline: “We’re fucked” and most get in his mention of the presence of the military at modern climate conferences. Could it be that Cambridge professors and London theatre critics share unconscious passive homosexual fantasies of being shafted by strong men in uniform?

Aug 12, 2012 at 4:36 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The Guardian also previewed it in July.

Aug 12, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Whenever I read these Guardian media bubble circle jerk reviews I just get the feeling I am overhearing children telling themselves ghost stories. It would be cruel to take away their fun so long as they keep it in their bubble and don't make a mess ;)

I found that Liberation article Geoff mentions. I think the Google translate extract below gives a good idea that their reviewer has a better understanding of what is on offer from Emmott than the cultists at the Guardian:

The problem is not so much the substance and form of discourse. Gradually, we have the feeling of attending a meeting of the Communist Party of the 50s or a brainwashing session of the Church of Scientology, which is to say being bombarded truths " irrefutable "- that is a scientist who speaks - which one has no choice but to join. If one has a minimum of evil spirit or simply critical sense - after all, is supposed to be in a theater, that is to say, in the place of questioning - was quickly want to screaming to indoctrination.

To his doom, Emmott concludes that the only thing to do is to teach his children to use a gun, touch of humor that is desperate to score even more minds. A pseudo-debate with the public concludes the show. But what when discussing any possible controversy is excluded (it should be possible to oppose other figures, other approaches "scientific")? There is room only for convinced the others appearing to be, Katie Mitchell and Stephen Emmott, unaware that dangerous. Naive? Manipulation? Embarrassment, anyway.

Aug 12, 2012 at 5:27 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Surely the man is a crank - or on drugs. Perhaps someone should tell him to stop taking the medication.

Aug 12, 2012 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

I can’t express (and anyway His Grace wouldn’t let me) how much I hate and despise these people. If you’re an unemployed failed painter with a war wound, you can be excused bearing a certain grudge against society. What’s Emmott’s excuse? What terrible trauma has he suffered that causes him to recommend arming your children? (What colour shirts should the kids wear, professor?)
What kind of a science correspondent can declare that science works best when no-one’s allowed to contradict it? What kind of society can produce an intellectual élite whose idea of a two-sided debate is “we’re fucked” v. “we’re not quite fucked yet?”
I’d like to share Foxgoose’s optimism that this is the death throes of a mass movement, but the signs are rather of the perversion of a science-based minority cult into one based entirely on millenarian fantasy. Population growth is decelerating. Bangla Desh is growing in size and its life expectation has nearly doubled in 50 years. Anyone pretending the contrary is a charlatan. Anyone paying to listen to him is a (words fail me and I don’t want to be snipped) .. a Guardian reader.

They told us we’d have to cut back on bogpaper in order to save the world, and we jeered them off stage. Now they’re back with a Microsoft Professor of Computing, telling us that cutting back on bogpaper is not enough.
A friend asked me what we should do. I recommended buying his children a pig’s bladder and teaching them how to blow raspberries.

Emmott performs the show on crutches, because of a slipped vertebra. The director told him to Break a Leg, and he couldn’t even get that right.

Aug 12, 2012 at 5:36 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

A good way to save toilet paper would be to use the increasing quantities of unsold copies of the Grauniad (see Private Eye passim). At last a proper use for that superficial and unquestioning rag.

Aug 12, 2012 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

The questions Foxgoose asks: " Why are so many computer scientists afflicted with this apocalyptic garbage - and why do they feel so confident in proclaiming "great truths" in fields they have absolutely no expertise in? Is it because their science has a unique lack of material evidence they can use as a reality check?" is significant.

I think it has to do with the rhetorical impact of computer generated graphics... presentation is everything. Al Gore was diverted (or perhaps not) from his Harvard goal of an English degree and writing novels, to Government and Media Studies by noting the critical effect of the set lighting in the Nixon/Kennedy TV debate.

In a 35 year career demonstrating audio equipment to potential customers, I learned over and over the power of print (via reviews) to convince customers that what they heard, was not what they heard, or even worse, what they agreed they liked, was wrong thinking on their part. "It says so in this (unbiased) magazine. The government would not let them print it if it were not true".

Climate Central in their (partly government funded) "TV Mets" campaign to "leverage the power of trusted messengers" by pressuring TV weather presenters to label and tie "extreme weather" to catastrophic climate change, is a good example.

Media love the "News, prepared, ready to heat and present" paradigm.

Salesmen are needed:

Aug 12, 2012 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetapug

I think it was 1968 when I walked out of the Royal Court's production of "The Three Sisters" after 20 minutes even though one of the sisters was being played by the exquisite Marianne Faithfull.

The West End audiences will enable us to have the last laugh, I suspect.

Aug 12, 2012 at 7:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Note that Emmott's background is unusual for a computer scientist: his first degree is in biology and he came to computing through ideas like DNA computing. See for a few details.

Aug 12, 2012 at 7:55 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

McKie is quoted:

"Without the clamorous voices of climate change deniers who constantly question the minutiae of scientists' research or cherry-pick data, Emmott has shown that it is possible to make a straightforward, telling demonstration of the dreadful problems we face."

The fundamental problem is the "we." I do not face dreadful problems. My nation does not face dreadful problems. As far as I know, my continent does not face dreadful problems. So, I am not part of McKie's "we." I think that "we" is that good old, all inclusive communist "we." I think that the only people who will be moved by the play are those that identify with that good old communist "we."

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Marianne Faithfull one of the sisters

She got heckeled "A Mars a day helps you ......"

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

The IPCC computer models are apparently designed to give the artefactual positive feedback.This comes from the 40% increase of energy, an imaginary 5 times increased IR absorption in the lower atmosphere offset by exaggerated cloud albedo. This surreptitiously exaggerates evaporation whilst temperatures appear to be OK: clever that, took 7 months to work it out this part of the scam.

As for the CO2-AGW, it appears that is cannot exist from two fundamental physical reasons.

1. The real GHE is probably the selective reduction of Earth surface emissivity in the GHG bands of IR self-absorbing GHGs.

2. MODTRAN shows that for >~10% RH there is no apparent increase of emissivity with change of [CO2] due to mixing effects ignored by the IPCC.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

The London Olympics is about to have its closing ceromony
Spice Girls,The Who and George Micheal might drive over.

Ironic that Rio home of all those Earth summits and the next Olympics.
And they will have another Olympic Flamming Cauldron we assume.
So will it be powered by Shale Gas?

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

That is not theatre. It is nothing but propaganda.

Aug 12, 2012 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

....his first degree is in biology and he came to computing through ideas like DNA computing. See for a few details.
Aug 12, 2012 at 7:55 PM Jonathan Jones

It's certainly a fascinating CV. Biocomputers were "the next big thing" when I retired from the computer chip business - but they don't seem to have got much nearer realisation.

Interestingly, he seems to share his neuroscience background with David Mackay - DECC's chief scientific adviser.

I think I've met a few people like Emmott in my time - usually doing "blue sky" research in industry & academia. They're always very clever and often work in highly specialised areas where they get used to being the brightest guy in the room.

If they also happen to be good communicators of ideas (a bit of a rarity) they're often invited to move out of their field of interest and apply their undoubted brain power to areas where they don't have specialised knowledge, which is where things can start to go wrong.

If you're a bit on the egotistical side; being invited by powerful people, who think you're much cleverer than them, to pronounce on difficult problems outside your field can produce a sort of intellectual "folie de grandeur".

IMHO Emmott's CV reeks of this, for instance:-

Some of our most important outstanding scientific challenges are: Understanding the scale, extent and consequences of current and future climate change; Understanding the extent and consequences of current and future loss of species, biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function; How to feed a global population of 10 Billion or more; How to power a planet of 10 Billion people or more; Developing the ability to predict, prevent, manage a global pandemic; Understanding how cells and multi-cellular systems work, and why and how dysfunction (disease) occurs; Understanding the brain; Understanding how the immune system works.
I have been fortunate to be able to establish a unique team and Lab and focus on developing new ways to tackle these problems. Principally, by developing a new kind of natural science, new kinds of computational methods and scientific (software) tools to underpin such a science, and a new generation of new kinds of scientists able to spearhead it.

He's a Yorkshireman of course, a race not greatly plagued by self doubt, but even so - this reads a bit like a job application for the position of God.

What puzzles me though is the same point Geoff has made. People who study population growth for a living have long since abandoned Malthusianism and realised that economic development produces a self-limiting effect - so global population is likely to peak around "10 Billion" and then decline.

You think somebody with his planet-sized brain could have figured that out.

Perhaps he did - but he needed the support of the massed Guardianista synchronised whingers to launch his showbiz career in fringe theatre.

Anyway, I agree with Geoff on the pig's bladder & raspberry approach - ridicule should be our weapon of choice.

If you feel intimidated by this intellectual giant, just remember - he's the guy who thought that a microwave oven with built in web browsing would be a sure-fire success.

Aug 12, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Cant be as bad as the closing ceromony of the Olympics
Guy that organised it has been sniffing from the gas bottle powering that Cauldren thing
Its dreadfull the atheletes are kettled down there nowhere to go to the toilet
Wondering who they re going to wheel out next.

Typical British knew we would screw it up in the end
The blogging guy at the Gaurdian having a right field day with it.

Just finish it off and Seb Coe do the hand over to Rio bit

Aug 12, 2012 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

The CV provided by Foxgoose, his manner on the Royal Court video, and his research into artificial photosynthesis makes me think he’s the model for the anti-hero of Ian MacEwan’s global warming novel “Solar”. If you haven’t read it, don’t bother, because I’ll tell you the plot. Famous scientist working on artificial photosynthesis confronts one of his wife’s lovers, who slips on a polar bear skin rug and kills himself. Scientist makes it look like it was murder committed by another of his wife’s lovers, who does time, then follows scientist to Arizona and takes his revenge by trashing his solar panels during the opening ceremony of his world-saving energy project.
And that’s it.
So famous scientist thinks “I could write a better plot than that” and goes on stage at Royal Court to tell how famous scientist saves ten billion people from certain death by forming world government consisting of himself and anyone willing to turn his play into a tv documentary.

Aug 12, 2012 at 11:17 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


Aug 12, 2012 at 11:40 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I grow weary of McKie's drivel, obviously he is driven because he plays the 'techie cross dressing maladroit', a buffoon as if he were born into the part, I always imagine his sophistry merits the role of a soubrette.
Emmott, needs to get out more and commence making contact with organic and not silicon dependent lifeforms, simples.

Recently, in the news, of the drought in the corn belt - is focusing attention once more in the CAGW corner of the biased left wing ecomaniacs' gutter press and concerning the Armageddon complex "we're all doomed" [surely..............not again?].
Enough, it is part of the human condition - and it ain't new either, as most of the learned people who contribute to this blog know full well.

What is very, very worrying, is that 40% of the corn crop will be wasted - thrown away............well nearly.

Processed, not as food but used on some stupid idea - that filling cars with corn distilled ethanol - instead of diese,l or petroleum was somehow going to save the world - irony of ironies - Obarmy will not accede to requests from many including the UN [no less!] to re-direct the biocrop to some more useful purpose ie feeding people - why isn't the Guardian making merry hell about that then??

With, world prices for maize and corn going through the roof and the subsequent 'knock on effects' on other food commodities, for the world's poor and in tandem with the financial crisis inexorably deteriorating - there are going to be many millions of people who will struggle just to stay teetering on the breadline and millions more who will starve.
Now, this is the law of unintended consequences, but even though Obarmy could do something, he needs votes more badly than saving Africa's starvlings - Greenest and now meanest Potus.

McKie and Emmott, when they've halted their mutual appreciation society, might do better to focus on what the world really needs - a little more humanity and less Malthusian lunacy - 10 billion is a drop in the ocean, the world hasn't scratched the surface yet - literally - we are only 'toe dipping' - at the frontier of exploring an infinity of possibilities.

Finally, one African country could be the richest nation [after Nigeria, DRC and SA] in Africa. It could feed a continent, it has vast rich arable plains, good hard working people and a climate that crops love....bananas over. Just one problem - it is run by a madman - McKie and Emmott would do well to start making noises about Mugabe's genocidal megalomania - but hey that would be real journalism.

Aug 13, 2012 at 12:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Stephen Emmott would be more informed on population if he looked at Hans Rosling stats on population growth.

But I guess Malthus' dire predictions better suit his message of 'Hey, yer need world government by us big brain shamen ter save the world and its 9, 999,.999,.999.9 idiot prols.'

Aug 13, 2012 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

haven't listened to this as yet, but thought u might be interested, bish:

(AUDIO)13 Aug: ABC Radio Australia: World going backwards on carbon reduction, says geologist
The former Chairman of the Shell Oil Company says a lack of political global will has set back carbon reduction efforts to a dangerous degree.
Lord Ron Oxburgh has been a distinguished Professor of Geology and Geosciences at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Defence Ministry and is a climate change advisor to the Singapore Government...
In 2006 he said the world had only ten years to make real progress towards a low carbon future.
Speakers: Lord Ron Oxburgh, Member of the UK Parliament's House of Lords

Aug 13, 2012 at 6:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

I'm very interested indeed in getting hold of a transcript of script for this show. From the above I understand that there isn't one generally available. But might there be one not generally available somewhere, lurking in hte corners?

Aug 13, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Worstall

Tim Worstall
If you look at the Royal Court video
at about 28 minutes you’ll see Emmott telling Richard Bean that the script won’t be published, at least until he’s revised it as a documentary for schools, television, or distribution to politicians.
I’ve written to a friend who’s an ex- writer in residence at the Royal Court, asking if he can get me a samizdat copy. (Another possibility would be for a brave citizen to screw his courage to the sticking point and attend a performance armed with a tape recorder). Whatever we can get our hands on, Alex Cull and I are planning to publish as widely as possible. I would imagine that, by expressing his intention to distribute the material in schools (and “force” the world’s politicians to watch it!) Emmott is waiving any copyright - does anyone have a useful legal opinion on that?

Aug 13, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

It's interesting to read of 'scientists' who, having accepted the 'consensus' but without thinking the physics out for themselves, no easy task, are now becoming media people. It was instructive yesterday to joust with two contributors to this blog who are also supporters of the 'consensus'.

Well, look at these data: .Zero RH data show the development of self-absorption in CO2-dry air mixtures. By 10% RH, there is no GHG effect for CO2. These data are in the HITRAN database of molecular absorbances. I repeat: By 10% RH, there is no GHG effect for CO2.

As in all science, never dismiss real data. It's a ling time since I did this but the experiment probably used a monochromator and you measure transmitted intensity with and without the gas mixture. What people of little brain, and that seems to include most academic specialists, forget is the gas radiates back to the source. This is exactly what happens with the atmosphere and the Earth's surface.

There can be no CO2-AGW. The GHE is set by the first few 100 ppm water vapour, This is exactly the same physics as Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy but in the IR. The IPCC has gone on a $100 billion wild goose chase because it has been led by incompetents and political activists. Time for real scientists to make a stand, and you do that by going back to the experimental bench and think it out..

Aug 13, 2012 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

The man is a clear egotist who has spotted the market that is crying out for fresh PhD's no matter what quality and where they come from. A market that needs comfort in its doom wallowing. I was hunting around for a transcripts (I too have a feeling his chunderings won’t survive scrutiny outside the idiot bubble) and the only quote I found was “that bloody Brian Cox”.

I think I detect some media science envy ;)

Another review too mentions his Cox envy.

Comparing the population crisis to a pending asteroid collision, Emmott scythes down everything from governments who refuse to take unpopular but necessary action to Brian Cox raving about the importance of the Higgs Boson discovery.

Imagine Emmott’s furious middle age angst building everytime he see the dashing Cox on endless BBC shows banging on about high energy physics, when all he has himself is his rusting internet microwave to offer? Then it dawns on him why not get on the climate doomsayers bandwagon? ;)

There’s an idea for a play if I ever heard one. A tragedy. ;)

Aug 13, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I would imagine that, by expressing his intention to distribute the material in schools (and “force” the world’s politicians to watch it!) Emmott is waiving any copyright - does anyone have a useful legal opinion on that?
Aug 13, 2012 at 8:39 AM geoffchambers

Not a lawyer, but IMHO it would be dangerous to rely on an "expressed intention" - especially since the material doesn't exist in its final commercial form.

He could argue that all the content is his copyright - and only he is entitled to decide what portion of it he circulates freely in due course.

By publishing covert recordings you are pre-empting that right.

Aug 13, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Imagine Emmott’s furious middle age angst building everytime he see the dashing Cox on endless BBC shows banging on about high energy physics, when all he has himself is his rusting internet microwave to offer? Then it dawns on him why not get on the climate doomsayers bandwagon? ;)

There’s an idea for a play if I ever heard one. A tragedy. ;)
Aug 13, 2012 at 9:24 AM The Leopard In The Basement

I thought the same - he's been watching the media profiles of people like Cox & Simon Singh and crying into his beer.

It's obvious from the PR he generated with the Beeb for his "web-browsing oven" back in '98 that he was a bit of a media groupie.

I think Freud would've described it as "cox envy" ;-)

Aug 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Cox Envy? How very Freudian. Doesn’t sound like a tragedy to me, more like a Carry On film. Leopard, Foxgoose, I suggest we start working on the script straight away, just as soon as I’ve finished transcribing Emmott’s post-show Q&A session.
Anyone got a photo of the web-browsing microwave? Does it do Nature tricks like reheating spaghetti?

Aug 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I note from the Royal Court Theatre page Emmott's production is in association with the European Commission Representation in the UK.(At the bottom of the page)

Aug 13, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Well, the UN IPCCs 50 million climate regugees into the PDR of EU are still awaited 5 years on & still no sign! Interesting though that several members of Team Somalia arrived in the UK allegedly to participate in what amazingly turned out to be the best Olympic Games to date, & promptly dissappeared overnight! (I must admit I thought Al Murray's Pub Landlord was going to be right, "their gonna be a bit shit!"). As I have said on WUWT, & argued with a couple of Wet Office "atmospheric scientists" over a pint or two, they "feed" into their puters that it must show varying amounts of warming for varying amounts added atmospheric CO2 based upon varying amounts of mystical radiative forcing, & they then proceed to claim that what they get out the "back passage" is proof that their models are right, how bizarre! Arrogance knows no limitations!

Aug 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

If this show ever gets near schools it ought to be bookended and interspersed with the 10:10 blowing up people advert.

Aug 13, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Alan the Brit; the MODTRAN data to which I refer above are added to here:

The comparison proved MODTRAN is accurate and that real emissivity of skies is <<1..This is because a spectrophotometer entry is a cavity so unlike the Earth's surface, does not interact radiatively. Also, the integrated spectrum is the same as what a a pyrgeometer measures. This is not an energy flux but 'Prevost Exchange Energy' [real DOWN flux is zero for a cooler atmosphere].

So, the climate models with their assumption of unit DOWN emissivity for 'back radiation' and UP IR from the Earth's surface are plain wrong as proven by top-notch experimental data. By heavily biasing GCM computation to oceanic evaporation, these assumptions lead to the imaginary positive feedback.

Aug 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

You beat me to it with the bad joke, I’m jealous.
But why should anyone envy the Life of Brian, now we sceptics are being financed by Big Kochs?
Interesting Euro connection. Nothing on the Commission Representation site about Emmott or the Royal Court, but lots of examples of artistic snouts in the trough. Here’s a European view of the Emmott show from a Dutch punter at

In the performance “Ten Billion” at La Chartreuse de Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Stephen Emmott, a scientist, performed a soliloquy about the state of the world and the environment. He took a message we already have known since the Club of Rome and rehashed that in front of a theater audience over the course of ninety minutes.
...Emmott did a reasonable Al Gore impersonation. He monotoned a large barrage of numbers supplemented by custom projections with moving graphics and graphs.... Emmott stood there saying mostly: “Look at me. Aren’t my numbers big!?”
...Targeting this kind of broad audience it turns out altogether too easy to fall into the trap of patronization... Scaremongering does not seem the best way to get more people to act where earlier scaremongering has failed... So the play consists of presenting an audience somewhat convincingly with a well-known fact and then not giving them an actionable solution in the hope that this will leave them so disconcerted that they will become more wholesale activists when they get home.

Aug 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


...I suggest we start working on the script straight away, just as soon as I’ve finished transcribing Emmott’s post-show Q&A session.
Anyone got a photo of the web-browsing microwave? Does it do Nature tricks like reheating spaghetti?
Aug 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM geoffchambers

Suggested title - "Carrying on with your Hockey Stick!"........Oooh Missus!!

There was a blurred pic of the PCC (Personal Calculating Cooker) in the BBC piece I linked too - but it looked suspiciously like any other microwave.

There's a better pic here:-

...... and some more hype from the genius involved

"If those fools Gates & Jobs hadn't interfered with their stupid toys - I could have conquered the world with my all conquering Calculating Cooker!"

Aug 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

“until he’s revised it as a documentary for schools”

So it’s not entirely accurate, then...

WRT a transcript, are words still copyright when they’ve been spoken aloud by the author to the public?

Aug 13, 2012 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Emmott’s “ten billion” is like one of those tantalising lost classical texts known only from fragments preserved on scraps of papyrus wrapped round some mummified pet crocodile.
From Ian Jack’s review in the Guardian:

… the only answer is behavioural change. We need to have far fewer children and consume less. How much less? A lot less; two sheets of toilet paper rather than three … that kind of sacrifice won’t really do it.
and Michael Billington, also in the Graun:
He tells us ... it’s not going to affect the world’s water supply if we wee in the shower rather than the loo. But at least every little helps.
What is it about wee and poo and the end of the world that makes Oxford professors want to abolish democracy? Will we ever know?

Aug 13, 2012 at 4:42 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The feebleness of his argument, and in particular of the connection between the science and the catastrophism, was shown up in the recorded talk after the performance, when Emmott was challenged by one questioner who reported on hearing a lecture by Sarah Harper, Oxford Professor of Demogaphy:

She ended up by saying “It’s a wonderful world for young people”, the complete opposite to producing guns ..
To which Emmott, clearly flustered, burbles:
By the way, I should say, ths gun thing, I was quite surprised when this guy in my lab said this, because he’s very very level-headed. And he said so because, you know, we have a lab of forty people working in this area, and you know, everyone shares the same view as he does, and it’s simply on the basis of a) the science, and b) if we’re heading for trouble, of some sort, the scale - I mean I basically reported the facts of where we are, and the science of where we’re going. It’s not my view [inaudible] you know, only the last two minutes were my opinion, you know, of what I think of the situation. Given all, given the science, he believes, and I believe, and everyone else believes that we’re heading for trouble, and we argue about the extent of that trouble. The issue is, if everyone were to behave rationally, [...] it’s possible that the worst [...] but neither he nor I think that people behave rationally. And he’s of the view that when trouble does come, he’s not going to be alive, in sixty years’ time, and his son is four, and I think he’s of the view that, you know, “I would like to know that if I’m not around, my son has been well-equipped to defend himself if he has to”, as an insurance policy, not someone advocating his son going out and killing people ...
So what the Oxford & Cambridge bleeding Professor down the Royal effing Court is saying about the future of the world is like, this bloke he knows see, his son, he’s four, like, and basically, if anything was to happen to him, like...

Gaia wept.

Aug 13, 2012 at 6:02 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

This is a rerun of the layer 1970s when incompetent politicians had also destroyed the economy and a Head of Department told me, seriously, where he was going to mount the machine guns to defend his house from marauding mobs.

The we elected a Thatcher. Perhaps the same will happen to us soon.....

Aug 13, 2012 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

... and Oxford dons got together with the editor of the Times and some generals to discuss a Government of National Unity. The enemy in the seventies were greedy trade unionists. Now it’s Big Oil-financed climate deniers and Big Mac-chomping chavs.
The enemy changes but the Oxford dons remain the same.

Aug 13, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

The enemy are the carbon traders using the Marxist Oxford Don pseuds as stooges.

Check links between those on the Committee for Climate change and Lehman Brothers putative attempt to control carbon trading....

Aug 13, 2012 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

If BS was TARMACADAM this guy would be a 10 lane highway from here to eternity.

Aug 14, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount

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