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« Off the agenda | Main | Tamsin on climate sensitivity, lukewarmers and what we risk »

Creating distance

On the previous thread, Richard Betts argued that nobody was arguing for shifting resources from dealing with the problems of the present and towards the (hypothetical) problems of the distant future.

As evidence to the contrary, I give you firstly the reaction to Bjorn Lomborg's arguments - namely that we should focus on problems like clean water, malaria and access to energy in the developing world today. For this he has been subject to what can reasonably be characterised as a hate campaign by environmentalists.

Secondly I give you Bob Ward, who described a Matt Ridley article calling for a focus on energy access for Africa as "extreme nonsense":

.@montie It is extreme nonsense from @mattwridley who denies the harm to poor people from coal through climate change and air pollution.

— Bob Ward (@ret_ward) May 1, 2015

Ward's views were echoed by author and environmentalist Gregory Norminton

.@montie Tim, as long as you side with climate cranks your whole 'Good Right' project will have zero credibility. Plse speak to @MLiebreich.

— Gregory Norminton (@GDRNorminton) May 1, 2015

Richard Nourse, the founder of Greencoat Capital actually called for people to distance themselves from Ridley's sentiments.

Spot on. Tim - time to distance yourself on this from @mattwridley and @aDissentient

— Richard Nourse (@RichardHCNourse) May 2, 2015

...and lest you think this was just an aberration, he was retweeted by Nick Mabey of major green NGO, E3G.

So I don't think anyone can reasonably argue that greens are not advocating treating today's problems as being of secondary importance. Indeed, the treatment of Lomborg suggests that there is a consensus among greens and many academics that addressing these problems now is wrong.

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Reader Comments (65)

Facts are stubborn things, Dr. Betts.

May 3, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterManniac

Because they don't believe that the future problems are hypothetical. They believe that they have been proven by their computer models.

We're talking about faith and vested interests. Imagine how the funding which pays their salaries would evaporate if they admitted the truth and how far away from proof they are.

May 3, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

Resources are finite, there is no bottomless well, when you press for expenditure on one project then other projects must suffer. I like all this fingers in ears and shouting loudly approach as it means they understand what they are being accused of but can't work out a way to defend themselves and so are admitting they have a problem privately.

May 3, 2015 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

When the charities like WWF, Oxfam and Christian Aid campaign on CO2 reduction it's time and money not spent on practical activities. When asked to donate to those charities I tell them that the money is going to their number one concern. So far they've funded my insulation, boiler and new double glazing. I've been very generous and plan to buy a new efficient freezer on their behalf very soon.

"Nigerian cardinal says rich countries should not preach environmentalism to poor countries"

Even this guy can see what's happening. I'm sure that there will be no intention of making the poor the scapegoat for reducing CO2 but you have to know it will happen. They're the line of least resistance. And we all know about biofuels and their unintended side effects.

May 3, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Roger Bolton, on the 'Sunday' programme on R4 this morning, had a piece about the churches divesting themselves of 'fossil fuel' shares with a couple of spokesman agreeing that it was the 'moral' thing to do. Being the BBC, there was no balancing view, or even the suggestion that such a thing might exist.

I really think they would be shocked to learn that there is an unexpected and morally indefensible consequence to their actions.

May 3, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

basically greens want to save people from overpopulation...we need less people so more people can live...

they say they are able to produce renewable energy , as much as you need...but they think too they know what you actually needbetter than you do..

so rule number one greens are always right , rule number 2 if they are wrong see rule number one.

May 3, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterlemiere

Your link leads to a paywall.
I am in no way surprised that an African cardinal should be taking that stance and I am keenly awaiting the next papal election when I think the reaction to Francis will give the Church someone considerably more in tune with traditional Catholic thinking* and the most likely candidate will be an African.
Some of the brightest and best of the Church's senior prelates are coming from Africa. Imbued with a lot of common sense most of them as well, or so I'm told.

* By which I don't mean contraception, abortion, and divorce which seem to be the only things that non-Catholics appear capable of getting their heads (or some other part of their bodies) round!

May 3, 2015 at 12:08 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

'Richard Betts argued that nobody was arguing for shifting resources from dealing with the problems of the present and towards the (hypothetical) problems of the distant future.'

Lots of resources, such a recent has 97 million, that could have been used to deal with current problems has indeed flowed into 'modelling the climate , without any improvement in any actual predictability , which could suggest its rather wasted money in practice. Now remind me again what is it Betts does for a living ?

There is no blame but lots of reality in saying that if you know a change of policy means that money that flows into an area in which you currently work will flow somewhere else then you may take the view that the current policy is fine and does not need changing .

May 3, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

Mike Jackson, I always try to close a registration pop up to see if it will let me in anyway. Sometimes it works.

May 3, 2015 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Green and Consensus are two words to raise fear and panic. Bob and Ward are similar.

None are backed up by anything reliable, apart from other people's money.

May 3, 2015 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Trillions of dollars have been squandered on climate change, none of it well spent.

May 3, 2015 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

@Mike Jackson

TinyCo2 link is not paywalled, it's just a pop-up asking if you want to subscribe, with an X to close it.

Must try harder :-)

May 3, 2015 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

When all the lemmings are flinging themselves off the cliff, we know we have reached Green Nirvana**!

** Green is the new Black; Maximum CO2 CS is ~ 0.2 K.

May 3, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Thank you. Glitch at this end. Fixed.

May 3, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Secondly I give you Bob Ward"

Please - no!

May 3, 2015 at 1:27 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

It is curious. Consider those in 1915 who, between bouts a seriously trying not to get killed or injured, might have pondered what the end of the century might be like. I think that we can all agree that it turned out beyond their wildest imaginings, with travel to the most far-flung places being achievable within a day, human footprints on the Moon, a network of satellites (in space!) enabling us to talk in an instant to people on the other side of the world, no matter where you were (so long as you were not inside a hypermarket or shopping mall – another two concepts beyond their ken) and to view entertainment from wherever you wanted, wherever you happened to be, and you and your family could hop into a car in Birmingham and travel to see Aunt Agatha in Bognor at a moment’s notice, and be there within a few hours, enjoying sights and wonders no-one had yet thought about along the way.

Back in 1915, they might well have thought that they were near the pinnacle of civilization, and there were just a few more tweaks (such as stopping the Hun, and getting universal suffrage) before the world became Utopia. Now, in 2015, the general impression given is that we are near the pinnacle of civilization, there being just a few tweaks to be applied (such as stopping global climate changing, and reducing the human population – oh, and basically destroying virtually any advancements made to date) before the world becomes Utopia.

How the world will be in 2100 is a total mystery to us, but consider this: what would the world have been like in 2000 had there been similar alarmists in 1915, who felt that the world was already over-populated, and any technical advancements be severely restricted, if not curtailed altogether?

May 3, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

I doubt there is a true desire to solve the "World's" problems. Agenda 21. The objective is Global Socialism & a guvment run by it! All else is secondary, hunger, poverty, disease, energy. They are simply seeking to hold all the cards for energy & intend to ration it as they see fit. The talk when I was young was of Big Oil running the World. AGW was the prefect vehicle & device to achieve the Club of Rome's objective, there was no longer the need to "convince" the population that socialism was the correct path to walk down. "Politics" was essentially removed from the equation, what is more frightening than the spectre of the end of the World as we know it? I suspect the "elites" & intellectuals are driving much of this policy, so that they can feel good about themselves.

May 3, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

It is extreme nonsense from @mattwridley who denies the harm to poor people from coal through climate change and air pollution.

— Bob Ward (@ret_ward) May 1, 2015

But the harm to the poor in Africa who have to cook on wood or dung fires doesn't matter. When so much of the UK's electricity is generated in coal fired stations, it's amazing how clear our air is if you were to believe Bob Ward.

May 3, 2015 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

I fell for the global warming horror stories, told by climate science.

Now that I realise climate science is a horror story, I am so much more calm and relaxed.

Global warming alarmists ought to try it.

(nb, they may become very cynical about those still trying to publicise failed science, based on false fears)

May 3, 2015 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Betts would have been right if the genealogy of climate concern lay in science, if scientists had made some fundamental discoveries that led to concern which then climbed the global agenda ladder. History says otherwise.

May 3, 2015 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered Commentershub

Point being, the greens are not raving loonies. Their disregard for the present poor is the only logical outcome of their way of thinking. Therefore all scientists who don't distance themselves from the greens are aiding and abetting the disregard of the present poor.

May 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

After considering all of the above, Richard betts, could you please reconsider that 'odd' question I asked you?

May 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

Surely we are already shifting resources into fighting Climate Change? What is a a feed in Tariff or a subsidy to green schemes other than a tax? All taxes are shifting resources which would have been spent elsewhere.

I think Richard Betts is living in a different world from me.

May 3, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

...On the previous thread, Richard Betts argued that nobody was arguing for shifting resources from dealing with the problems of the present and towards the (hypothetical) problems of the distant future....

I don't think he really did. That would be an indefensible position. What he said was a throwaway line, intended to minimise the issue. The aim was to suggest that there is no big obvious current project being halted 'because the money had gone to climate change' - so therefore there was no real problem. It's a simple debating trick.

This is the problem with almost ALL of the 'climate change debate'. The warmists are not in the business of dispassionate discussion - they are defending a political position, and are happy to use all the propaganda tricks in the book to defend it.

Let us say that a study comes out with a certain finding which tends to support the sceptic rather than the warmist position. How often have you heard the response "That person's a physicist, not a qualified Climate Scientist!" or "That person used to have a grant from an Oil company!"?

Betts is not conducting a scientific discussion. He's trying to defend a political position. The two are different.

May 3, 2015 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Another thought isn't taxpayer funded Climate Change research at the MO diverting funds from other research which could provide solutions to more pressing problems such as antibiotic resistant bacteria?

May 3, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

World bank to focus future investment on clean energy

World Bank will only fund coal projects in cases of ‘extreme need’ due to the risk climate change poses to ending world poverty, says Jim Yong Kim ....
“It will only be in circumstances of extreme need that we would contemplate doing coal again. We would only contemplate doing [it] in the poorest of countries where their energy transition as part of their low-carbon development plan means that there are no other base load power sources available at a reasonable price,”

Which is code for 'we won't say no, we'll just keep sending your plans back for ammendments until you see sense and order something greener.

May 3, 2015 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Could we try the next 30 years without any climate science funding, and see if anybody notices?

May 3, 2015 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The economic concept Betts failed to grasp in the last thread is opportunity cost.
Any expenditure on something is a decision not to spend on something else. Unless you assume resources and finance are limitless. Spending now (subsidies, higher electricity rates) on renewables to mitigate possible future harm means that government is more indebted and not be able to spend in the future (barring Argentine/Greek solutions), or not spending on something else now (like your National Health, or whatever), and also that households have less to spend on other things now because spending more on energy. The elderly warm/food tradeoff.
There is no escape from opportunity cost in a constrained world. To think the world is not constrained is delusional.

May 3, 2015 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Anthropogenic climate science is wrecking lives now.

Traffic Wardens were created to keep traffic flowing. They have now become fee earners for local government.

Traffic Wardens do still have some useful purpose, but not when serving a political agenda.

Any similarity between Climate Scientists and Traffic Wardens, is entirely the fault of Climate Scientists and their political agenda.

May 3, 2015 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Could we try the next 30 years without any climate science funding, and see if anybody notices?
-- golf charlie
Job Centre staff might.

May 3, 2015 at 5:06 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Yup, Rud, and lost opportunity costs compound. We have already damaged our descendants' opportunities with this descent into madness. Richard would accelerate the descent, and for what?

May 3, 2015 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"To think the world is not constrained is delusional." Rud Istvan

Or working out of the magic bottomless public purse.

May 3, 2015 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2


Unless Betts is asleep on the job I'm sure he knows all of the statements you quote since his Met Office cv has the banner headline:

"Dr Richard Betts

Leads Climate Impacts area, specialising in ecosystem-hydrology-climate interactions but also overseeing work on urban, health, industry and finance."

May 3, 2015 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Beat me to it Rud. The concept of Opportunity Cost is hardly difficult to grasp is it. Yet in this and the recent African threads it seems beyond the insular climate crowd.

Richard and Tamsin need only look in the mirror each morning to see it in action. Strip away the faith and the understandable groupthink and they both come across as competent likeable characters that would prosper in many other productive walks of life. Instead they've dedicated their lives to this blind alley boondoggle which has advanced mankind not a jot. Personally I'm sure they've done OK but what a waste from society's point of view. If only they had a tutor that taught them the limitations of unvalidated computer models or they had forgotten to send in that Met Office application.

Where are our strong leaders to have the guts to call BS on this and defund both the Met Office and the 3rd rate Unis studying this nonsense. Judging from the recent TV debates, nowhere to be seen; they prefer to compete to promise to hand out sweeties from an empty sweet shop.

And to top it all we are still giving gongs and awards to those behind this massive squandering of resources like the Chief Climate Clown Julia Slingo. So don't expect change any time soon.

May 3, 2015 at 5:49 PM | Registered CommenterSimonW

For example, the RSPB, the National Trust, have (had) specific roles to play. For which they are entrusted with funds and assets.

Yet those two organisations believe something that may occur 100 years down the line should receive their funds and energies now, rather than on their "chartered" areas. They are funded directly by society members to cut through the lethargy, latency and vested interests of the political system. Yet they enter the political affray without recourse to their founding and guiding principles.

These are clear examples of the momentum that BH is highlighting.

May 3, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMedia Hoar

In the previous thread Dr Betts did draw a distinction between climate scientists and greens, which I think is a valid point.

May 3, 2015 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Mike Fowle, no he didn't. He didn't identify how much of an overlap there is between he two, so theoretically it could be 97%.There's never been an attempt to determine the amount of bias in climate science or even set any ground rules about activism. Their collective silence at blatent bias indicates where most climate scientists opinions lie.

May 3, 2015 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Too late, Richard. You've been subverted. It's kinda sad to see you realizing it tardily.

May 3, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Another thought isn't taxpayer funded Climate Change research at the MO diverting funds from other research which could provide solutions to more pressing problems such as antibiotic resistant bacteria?

May 3, 2015 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

SandyS, I would like nothing better than to be back in the lab, designing and making potential antibiotics, anti-cancer molecules, and novel approaches to the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. But perhaps it just seems to be a bit too 'chemical' for politicians who would rather spend public monies on climate Cassandras, many of whom hail from beyond the epicentre of weather modelling.

To my mind, the most dispiriting thing is the apparent lack of realisation that if you persistently fund people to answer their pet question such as "Are the polar bears doomed?", then the answer you are most likely to persistently get is "Yes" because that reflects the mindset of many who enter the field.

In itself, answering such questions creates virtually nothing of lasting value. Even if it was true, it would only need to be funded once. A person who found a swift cure for Ebola would only expect to be funded to do it once. Yet the airwaves are full of people who have seemingly all been repeatedly funded to predict the end of the world due to carbon dioxide.

May 3, 2015 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Apr 17, 2015 at 1:11 PM | Registered Commenter Richard Betts:

"I'm afraid I don't comment publicly on specific policies - that would be against civil service protocol, especially in this period of "purdah" in the run-up to the UK General Election."

No disrespect intended, but you seem to have a lot to say on this matter, which appears to be as much a "specific policy" as the one on which you made the comment.

May 3, 2015 at 8:38 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian


There's never been an attempt to determine the amount of bias in climate science or even set any ground rules about activism.
I'm sure that I read somewhere, and I now can't remember where except that it was in the context of Climategate, that some of the UEA scientists involved were, or had been, involved with one or other of the green activist groups.
Normally I would be one of the first to say that this is irrelevant to their work in exactly the same way that I defend any honest scientist against the accusation that his research is skewed by who pays his salary but on the strength of what I know about environmentalists and the extent to which even the scientists assume that skeptics are only skeptics because they are paid to be I wonder just how objective some of these people really are.

May 3, 2015 at 8:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

jamesp 12.01 pm

Hate to be a pedant, but it was Edward Sturton, not Roger Bolton.
Roger is a good Cumbrian lad who would never spout such nonsense.

May 3, 2015 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterold grumpy

Mike Jackson, there's nothing wrong with activism unless everyone is from the same side of the debate. Climate science has greens and closet greens and those who lean towards green. The subject matter is probably even self selecting, especially now. Their perception of the middle ground is skewed. However it wouldn't be hard to form a balancing set of auditors. Just no desire.

May 3, 2015 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

" But squirrel through the Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth websites for data on diesel and you find almost nothing.

So why the easy ride for a fuel which we know kills, by groups who have devoted millions in campaigns against GM foods which we know have never harmed anyone?

The reason is simple: diesel has been sold as a “low-carbon” fuel. Historically, diesel engines emitted slightly less carbon dioxide than petrol ones, and carbon dioxide causes climate change and climate change is all that greens care about. This meant that diesel trumped petrol every time.

According to Friends of the Earth, the priority is climate change-friendly fuel. "

"t’s all a reminder that being 'green’ often has little to do with logic. Diesel is about public transport, and to a green the bus is totemic. Never mind that a fleet of petrol Ferraris will create far less pollution than a single London bus (buses and trucks can run on natural gas, as they do in many US cities, but here the industry’s investment is almost entirely diesel-focused).

May 3, 2015 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, when you're dealing with a corrupted narrative, there are a multitude of detailed perversions.

May 3, 2015 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Ahem, sorry to put a contrarian line in here, but I don't believe clean water projects etc. will necessarily help Africans, it will just alleviate their current suffering, be a plaster on the wound. What Africa needs, and I have the whole sweep of the history of the 20th century to support me in this view, is widespread capitalism, industrialisation and democracy. It needs to be the new China, or India (yes I have noticed that China doesn't have the third leg, for the time being...), exploiting the talents of its people and the riches of it's countryside.

Sharing the cake never works, (you'll note how arch-socialist Tony Benn arranged his affairs so that none of his cake was shared with anyone on his death), so the only way for the little people to get a share of the cake is to make it bigger and that means industrialisation. For that to happen on a wide scale considerable changes need to be made in Africa in terms of education and the fight against corruption, without them, we can help, but we'll never solve the problem until Ford and BMW are making cars in Rwanda.

May 3, 2015 at 10:26 PM | Registered Commentergeronimo

O/T but a quick heads up to the Bishop; BBC's Roger Harrabin has gone on a lovely jolly to the Arctic to see 'the consequences of the melting ice'. He's reporting each night on the unfolding catastrophe, and yes, tonight's starter report got off on a suitably alarmist footing. More excitement to come all week! May be worth following to see his and the BBC's version of events.

May 3, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered


If nutty Nige and the kipperheads succeed in getting rid of the TV License fee, and making the BBC pay its way, I would be perfectly happy to pay for view to watch Harrabin being eaten by hungry Polar bears

May 3, 2015 at 10:46 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Never mind today's problems. Tomorrow's problems will be much graver; take my word for it. 97% of climate scientists(?) agree with me. And contribute financially to The Cause.

This is NOT an excerpt from Dr. Goebbels, but in substance (not in form; I am no match for the Master) it comes close.

May 3, 2015 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurious George

“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well.”
― Mark Twain

May 3, 2015 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas

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