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« The unbearable detachment of EU beings | Main | SciTech committee looks at public attitudes »
Friday
Mar012013

Deben in Veolia mode again

Oxford University has given a platform to Lord Deben to speak about climate change. Once again, the noble Lord's calls for action that strangely seems to coincide with the interests of Veolia UK Ltd, the company he chairs, and many of whose share options he owns.

In a speech given at the Oxford Environmental Change Institute, Deben sets about dissenters from the climate consensus with the gusto that is customary when there are large profits at stake. It is amusing also to learn about his concern over us sceptics' political and, erm, financial interests.

I don't think he says anything new, although he probably uses the d-word more than usual.

There's a report from the meeting and a podcast here.

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Reader Comments (41)

Gummer "is chairman of the UK's INDEPENDENT Committee on Climate Change". Independent of what?

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

Independent of the electorate. They are accountable to Veolia UK Ltd.

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:54 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Independent of the truth.
Independent of any morals.
Independent of logic.
Independent of sense.
Independent of the existence of scientific evidence.
Independent of the interests of the citizens.
Etc
Etc

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Independent of scrutiny
Independent of his culpability
independent of his egoism
independent of his egotism
independent of his rationale
etc
etc

Feb 28, 2013 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

But totally dependent on money screwed out of the taxpayer.

Feb 28, 2013 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

He starts off:

I’m not going to talk about the science. I think that one of our problems is that we don’t just say to people “The science is as certain as anything can be. And we’re not going to argue abut it.” Because that’s what they want us to do. They want us constantly to pick away at this or that or the other.
So belief in global warming isn’t a religion then. It’s nothing like scientology. It’s something much weirder.

Feb 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

calling Josh!

Feb 28, 2013 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Did Veolia recruit Gummer for his intellect, or did they recognize a useful idiot when they saw one?

Feb 28, 2013 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

Perhaps he ate his burger?

Mar 1, 2013 at 12:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Anybody wondering whether Deben/Gummer could be quite as corrupt as he seems should take a minute to review his MP's expenses history.

His gardener must have had quite severe cash flow problems - his receipt read:-

" "This is to acknowledge the receipt of sums in excess of £9,090.00 from The Rt. Hon John Gummer for outside maintenance, wood chopping and gardening at [address] during the year 1 April 2004-31 March 2005".

Turned out Gummer tended to make up his own receipts:-

"I have also had to go back to create receipts from the people who work for us in Suffolk as we have not previously had any such system."

For a dedicated environmentalist - he wasn't too kind to our little fellow creatures on the planet either:-

"Mr Gummer also received hundreds of pounds to meet the costs of "treating" moles, removing jackdaw nests, tackling insect infestations and an annual "rodent service" contract. He claimed more than £100 a year for the mole treatment alone."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5301734/John-Gummer-claimed-more-than-9000-a-year-for-gardening-on-MPs-expenses.html

I ask you - does this sound like the sort of chap who'd use a public position to feather his own nest?

Mar 1, 2013 at 12:19 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

It's been done before by Al Gore - According to the Washington Post -

"Fourteen green-tech firms in which Gore invested received or directly benefited from more than $2.5 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks, part of President Obama’s historic push to seed a U.S. renewable-energy industry with public money."

Mar 1, 2013 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

I wonder if he still feeds his kids horseburgers?

Mar 1, 2013 at 1:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

yea I agree with diogenes said... "calling Josh!" ^^

Mar 1, 2013 at 3:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgen Bola

In unrelated news, the Hafren Power shares now owned by Sancroft International aren't going up in value anytime soon.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-21617286

Gummer and Hain, crying into their beer.

Mar 1, 2013 at 4:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian

http://www.gizmag.com/saphonian-bladeless-wind-turbine/24890/

Yeo and Deben should have brought shares in this company instead

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Is there a quick and snappy rebuttal to the "doing X will create jobs" that is used so often to justify all kinds of dodgy schemes?

It's one of those cliches that seems compelling but does not stand up. Like "think of the children".

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

He lost me in the first paragraph - insurance, indeed. You can insure against a personal catastrophe, but you can't insure against a global one, because no one would be in a position to pay your claim. I just assume everything else he says is equally ilogical, self-serving, or both.

Can't we get a government that will repeal the Climate change act and get back to doing their job in facilitating the provision of low -cost energy ?

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobbo

“The science is as certain as anything can be. And we’re not going to argue about it.”

Then we should immediately cut our spending on climate research in the UK and put the money into causes/science where we've got work to do. Shouldn't we?

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:01 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Bish, where do you find all these? Is this type of piss poor climate speaking going on all the time?

Well I listened to whole thing. Pretty poor. Unfocused and rambling comes to mind - sometime shrill, the audience had that special echoing sound of the captive school assembly. Offering the occasional muted polite titter when the headmaster makes an overt joke with a pause for response.*

There is quite a lot to be examined here. Gummer keeps banging on about how he has no place to speak about the science, but this seems to only allow him to buttress his whole piece with the straw man that scepticism is purely about denying climate change.

We are warned against people speaking outside their field - with Matt Ridley quoted as prime example of being falsely presented as a "climate expert". Gummer informs his audience that Ridley’s doctorate is on the sexual selection of pheasants, and pauses for the inevitable mild tittering from the moron section in the audience, (reminds me that Steve Jones speciality is slugs but I would assume that is pretty laughable only when you are arguing ad-hom ;))

I think Gummer does bring something useful from his own field when he gives us some insight from his field of history when he talks about “Galileo syndrome” with examples:

In their day they were hailed by well-respected scientists, politicians and literary men who gave them that popular credence that enabled them to spread their theories throughout the world.
Now it may be very painful to the climate change deniers if I give two examples of this.

And then lists Phrenology and Lysenko. At this point I wondered if the audience may have felt uncomfortable, if they didn't see that the likes of Gummer are clearly in the ascendancy and in the position to “spread their theories throughout the world”, with scepticism actually having very little power.

But I remembered Gummer had used the phrase “Merchants of doubt” and tobacco industry, and realised he had stake his hope on the myth that all the scepticism he sees is a powerful organised undercurrent. Calling Lewandowsky! ;)

There is a lot more to pick through, I did wonder where he gets this figure from in this quote (and what he was offering) seemed to be some context missing

At present I am charging the average family about £60 on their fuel bills, to pay for their insurance against climate change. It will insure the decarbonisation of the electricity supply. That compares against £140 pounds we pay insuring our house against fire.

As I have said before - I think we should watch out for the troughers bulling us like this more often. Claiming the virtuous high ground and that the costs of living are only slightly effected by their subsidy hunting.

*The joke about Cliff Richard being a very good singer but not taking that to mean that makes his religious views any more valid, was Tory, fingers on the pulse, stand-up at its best. :)

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:37 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I've been thinking about how the start of a thread can affect its quality and this is an excellent example - thanks oakwood and his respondents.

This also amused me this morning:

UKIP's Nigel Farage said the surge in support for his party was not a "freak result", telling the BBC: "If the Conservatives hadn't split our vote we would have won."

Splitting the euro-sceptic and climate-sceptic vote isn't going to work so well for us in a general election however. Let's hope this result leads where it should in terms of electoral pacting, strengthening the hands of the good guys (or the repentant ones, like Carswell) against the likes of Gummer.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:47 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Probably not entirely OT, but when ever I hear reports about John Gummer (GumGum to his friend) I remember a time some years ago. I was sitting back, relaxing in my plane seat and I started to overhear the conversation from two guys in the row behind. They had been at school with GumGum, where he was regarded as the school twit and he was picked on his entire school life. (This was some time ago these things were entirely normal then). So perhaps a) GumGum is still the school twit and b) his actions are a result of an unhappy childhood. I leave it to you to make up your mind and to wonder how such an unpopular persons becomes one of our 'great' leaders.

For me it just taught me to be very careful what I say while seated in a plane.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterabout-to-retire

Remind me - what is Veolia's interest in this? They just make water meters, according to 'GumGum'...

Mar 1, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Veolia is the direct descendant of the Compagnie Générale des Eaux, which got big by a policy of bribery of local authorities. See the section “Water Makes Money” in the French version of Veolia’s Wikipaedia entry. Deben is just the person to chair its British arm.
I’m transcribing this for Alex Cull’s Mytranscriptbox. Has anyone poked around to see of there were questions after the speech, or any reactions?

Mar 1, 2013 at 10:08 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I spent some part of a sleepless night considering how best to encourage our children to learn to love wind power (I use the word 'power' advisedly!) and being cold and not having new clothes and probably growing up jobless, if they ever get past the age of 10 in our soon-to-be Brave New World and I decided that some new and frightening children's TV programmes were probably a way forward.
So far I have come up with Pinky and Perky in 'The Troughers at Number Three' (the DECC address being 3 Whitehall Place, and in 'Two Go Mad in Parliament'. There are various possible film adaptations including that notorious horror film The Trough (also 'The Trough 2', 'The Trough 3' ...) and the Harry Trougher series (good for at least seven offerings, I would think).
And then of course there's 'Animal Farm'.

Mar 1, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

John Selwyn Pipsqueak used to be my name for him. He used to be my MP.

Mar 1, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

....wonder how such an unpopular persons becomes one of our 'great' leaders.

It's called 'compensation'. History is littered with short people or failed painters starting wars which devastate Europe.

What surprises me is that none of the Green/Left activists seem to have heard of the 'deficit model' -- a discredited theory which could be summed up by: "If they had the knowledge and understanding of this issue that I do, they would see that I am right."

The corollary to this is the idea that skeptics who do not accept the 'consensus':

1) have not had the communication delivered in the correct way
2) must have been bribed or corrupted (by Big Oil, or nutjob Right-Wing Think Tanks)
3) are incredibly stupid

The deficit model makes no allowance for predisposition towards certain attitudes.

For example, everyone knows exactly what Climategate was, but attitudes towards it vary enormously based on an individual's politics, culture and mores.

Take an even starker case: the Met Office reports no warming in 16 or 17 years. Observed fact. Yet interpretations of that fact vary widely.

But in all their agit-prop, the Green/Left simply can't grasp this reality, no matter how many struggle meetings they convene.

Mar 1, 2013 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

It is the interesting mix of arrogance and cowardice that makes the Deben's of the world so fascinating.
The obvious conflict of interest he uses this shallow combination to distract from is rather pedestrian, however.

Mar 1, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

^^
Quite. And so it becomes clear that "There is no debate" is the arrogant/cowardly shorthand for "we don't know how to debate".

Mar 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

"regarded as the school twit and he was picked on his entire school life"

If I ever have the misfortune to bump into him, I shall slap him heartily on the back and announce: "Hello GumGum, how the devil are you - no hard feelings, eh?"

Mar 1, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I can make no sense of Deben’s reasoning. What can anyone make of this, for example? What’s he talking about?

So don’t let people get away with the Galileo thesis. Because of course it leads you to an impossible position. It leads you to the position in which you say it is better to follow that whch is least likely than to do things on the basis of the most likely. That is not a sensible way to proceed. Now that doesn’t mean to say that we should not consider the Lindzens and the Stotts of this world seriously. What it suggests is that it’s no bad thing to assume that in general the corpus of scientific evidence is a better guide to action than particular detached theories held in isolation from the main body. I don’t want to make a religious parallel but I think that there is a very clear one.
Is he suggesting that we should believe the IPCC and not Lindzen for the same reason that we should be Catholic and not CofE?

Mar 2, 2013 at 7:33 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

By the great paps of Gaia! I see from Wikipaedia that Gumgum is the son of an Anglican canon and has converted to Catholicism. No wonder he has ambivalent attitudes towards authority figures like Cliff Richard.

Those people who are expert in some field, but then think that they can transfer that, without proper use of the scientific method to some other field which they know nothing about any more than anyone else knows is, it seems to me, to cloak, um, their attitudes in an unacceptable academic guard - garb. I think the parallel is simply this. I’m sure that Cliff Richard is a very good singer. I don’t take his religious views any more than I take anyone else’s religious views. And yet, if you do the parallel with the climate change you put him on a platform with a bishop. On the basis that they’re both experts. I find that unacceptable there, and I don’t see why we should put up with it in the area we’re talking about today.
He’s also written a book called “When the Coloured People Come”. Is it one of those Pachauri-type thrillers?

Mar 2, 2013 at 8:08 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Mar 2, 2013 at 8:08 AM | geoffchambers

Gummer:

It leads you to the position in which you say it is better to follow that which is least likely than to do things on the basis of the most likely.

Yeah he lost me and I found him rambling there, but it looks like starker nonsense now you have written it out.

He has already made out he is not there to make scientific points, and then using this pseudo reticence to insult the intelligence of the audience by claiming many straw men points about the scientific worth of the sceptics.

Here he “doesn’t want to make religious parallel’s” leaving the listener hanging and confused as to just what the hell he means. I fancy I heard feet shuffling and the kids in the assembly wanting to just go home at that point ;)

I think that news about him having moved from Protestantism to Catholicism is relevant. I’m a staunch atheist (can you be staunch?), so I always find the concept of moving in the direction of a the more orthodox quite interesting and revealing. Like Blair there seems to be a need to be seen to be more strictly obeying God and show a more overt pious posture (unfair I guess to generalise but for these two...).

Have you managed to transcribe the whole thing?

I think it would really be worth people examining the poverty of Gummer’s intellectual stance by reading through it. I found it really a pain to listen to (serves the pious audience right, ha!) did you?

The condensed report on the link flatters Gummer by picking out the main troughing point he obviously had bulleted. It really would save a lot of listening pain but worth them examining the full intellectual poverty of Gummer ideas.

In it I think people will see Gummer revealed as a low wattage, posturing pseudo intellect.

Mar 2, 2013 at 8:59 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Leopard
I’m only halfway through transcribing. It was very boring at first, but as I’ve said elsewhere, transcribing is like slow-motion psychoanalysis, and you get to know your subject more intimately than you’d like.
Gummer’s father, the Reverend Selwyn Gummer, generously gave his son both his names, and sent him to Selwyn College, Cambridge. Becoming a Catholic can be read as a reproach to his father (a man of the cloth) that he was not also a Catholic, an unconscious projection of his father as an asexual being which would put his own existence in doubt, and would therefore naturally be felt as life-threatening.
In the section you quote where he makes and then retracts a religious allusion, he says “it’s no bad thing to assume that in general the corpus of scientific evidence is a better guide to action than particular detached theories held in isolation from the main body.” - an odd expression which, to the Freudian mind, immediately suggests fears of castration.
I’m taking a leaf out of climate psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe’s book and will be writing up my analysis of this fascinating case for posterity. It’s rather disturbing to find that a man who has the future of the country’s energy policy in his hands has a fixation on Cliff Richard.

Mar 2, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Debenture:

A type of debt instrument that is not secured by physical assets or collateral. Debentures are backed only by the general creditworthiness and reputation of the issuer. Bond buyers generally purchase debentures based on the belief that the bond issuer is unlikely to default on the repayment. [Investopedia]
Ideal for a scam.

Mar 2, 2013 at 3:35 PM | Registered CommenterJane Coles

Only slightly on topic: what is the lowest output anyone has seen from our fleet of doughty windmills? At the momment it's at .08 GW, 100th of its plated capacity and a tad more than 1/600 of what we are using.

JF

Mar 2, 2013 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

0.07 now. A tenth of one percent of demand.

Mar 2, 2013 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Near the end of his speech, Gumboil makes the extraordinary claim that he is personally responsible for slapping a £60 insurance premium on your fuel bills, and that you can’t expect to ever make a claim on the policy. He says:

At present, I am charging the average family about £60 a year on their fuel bills to pay for their insurance against climate change. It will ensure the decarbonation, decarbonisation of the electricity supply... Of course, it’s only third party insurance, because others besides ourselves are contributing to climate change. It therefore properly respects our responsibility and our duty.
“..it’s only third party insurance” sounds like an official admission that there’s absolutely nothing in it for the British taxpayer except a sense of moral superiority.

Mar 2, 2013 at 9:09 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

0.04. It's like owning a McLaren and driving at walking pace. Just as well we've got a Rayburn.

JF

Mar 2, 2013 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

While I'm at it, I've just had a look at the synoptic charts (sorry, sorry, I remember when they were called that) for Europe. I wonder what the entire EU wind output has fallen to, it looks like very low wind from Denmark to Ireland to Spain.

JF

Mar 2, 2013 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

When the evidence against AGW is overwhelming it beggars belief that the students attending this function did not tear him to bits.
I am increasingly inclined to go for the jugular and attack from the off......Had I been in attendance it woul have gone something like this....If we were suffering from AGW there would be hotspots in the Tropical Troposphere but despite the best efforts of the Aqua Satellite and an estimated 28 million weather balloons nothing has been found.
In addition to this CO2's ability to create heat is logarithmic not linear and the IPCC scientists are having to admit this and factor in accordingly.....I could say an awful lot more.

Mar 3, 2013 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Griffin

Geoff:

By the great paps of Gaia! I see from Wikipaedia that Gumgum is the son of an Anglican canon and has converted to Catholicism. No wonder he has ambivalent attitudes towards authority figures like Cliff Richard.

Lol. That's for every sentence there and many elsewhere. Sorry to be late to this but many thanks, Chambers and Leopard (and doesn't that sound like a great law firm?)

Lindzen as Cliff. They've both been going about as long. May the MIT man get the number one in this decade for which we're all rooting. We Richards must stick together.

What do the two men have in common? Courage, from the earliest stage. Going public at that Billy Graham event early in the 60s wasn't ever gonna to be easy for the English Elvis. Come 1988, Hansen and Gore, it was time for a real climate scientist to man up. And hasn't he done so, more than anyone.

Conversion to Catholicism is relevant, on that I agree. (Not that I'm against all Catholic individuals.) The fear of castration Geoff diagnoses sounds painfully hilarious. Taking refuge in another obscurity, who would the Anabaptists stand for? The mad, murderous ones the Slayers, obviously. The devout, peaceful deniers of the very idea of state church, killed in thousands by Catholic and Protestant power seekers? That should be easy enough to work out.

Mar 3, 2013 at 10:12 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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