Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Adopting the spirit of Chairman Mao, let us eliminate the impact of climate change with the help of Chairman Berg ...

(Above: eliminating the last sparrow. Click to enlarge. And a few more posters here and here).

To paraphrase a wag joking about his cock, the pond would rather get its tits caught in a revolving door than debate climate change with representatives of the IPA.

Some keep trying. The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, for example, has prepared answers to Plimer's 101 climate questions, designed for students seeking to get expelled from schools for climate denialiam, and thoughtfully circulated to schools by the IPA.

You can a copy of the pdf here, or read more of the IPA's disingenuous claptrap at Crikey's report on the fuss here. Yep, it's the same old 'print the controversy' routine:

“School kids are being indoctrinated by teachers every day. There should be two sides to the story and the science is far from settled.”

You know. School kids are being indoctrinated by teachers every day. There should be two sides to intelligent design, creationism, the intimate relationship between dinosaurs and Raquel Welch, and the science is far from settled ... especially as somehow Ringo Starr also turned up amongst the dinosaurs.

So if teachers are indoctrinating kids, what's the IPA doing? Cult busting? Or treating science as a kind of counter-indoctrination process? Forget the actual science, let's just get on with showing how the theory of evolution makes a monkey's uncle of you, and tobacco smoke is perfectly harmless.

Which is, in a way, the entire dissembling point. It's treating the science as a kind of political ideological process, right up there with the loonatic thinking of extremists who have the barest nodding acquaintance with scientific methodologies. (And speaking of extremists what fun you can have with the Heartland Institute and Anders Breivik here).

There's no better example of this sophistry, than the devious rhetorical tricks practised by arch-sophist Chris Berg, yet again given a platform to bang his drum at the ABC with We can't stop climate change - it's time to adapt.

sophistry (ˈsɒfɪstrɪ)
— n , pl -ries
1. a. a method of argument that is seemingly plausible though actually invalid and misleading
b. the art of using such arguments
2. subtle but unsound or fallacious reasoning
3. an instance of this; sophism (here)

So let's cut to the sophist chase, because Berg's solution is to waltz pass the science altogether:

... emphasising adaptive capacity and resilience is a good thing, regardless of whether climate change is a naturally occurring phenomenon or the result of human recklessness. Wilby and Dessai call adaptation measures "no-regret" or "low-regret". The PC calls them "win-win".

Hang on, hang on, let's just back that one up a little.

We should be making adaptive adjustments to the significant impacts of climate change, even though in another breath the IPA is handing out to schools a book by Plimer that contends climate change science is a fraud, a mirage and a fiction.

And it doesn't matter whether it's a naturally occurring phenomenon or the result of human recklessness? The science doesn't matter but we should do something?

Ouch. There goes the tits in that revolving door again.

There's a problem, but there's not a problem, and we should do something even if we need to do nothing? Because that's a win-win?

Suddenly we're in to risk management, a position and an attitude routinely decried by the IPA?

Lordy, lordy was it only a few weeks ago that Berg was advising WSJ readers that:

All too often, once government takes over, what was private risk management becomes regulatory compliance.

Not to worry, he's still beating the same drum:

As the PC says, regulations can make the economy inflexible. They make it harder for us to adapt to change. After all, individual regulations are written with certain circumstances in mind. When those circumstances change (as they would in a world with a shifting climate) the existing stock of regulations can add friction to adaptive action.

Uh huh. That'd be the adaptive action to a non-existent problem, produced by the private sector without reference to bumbling restrictive government, outdated regulations or actual science.

You can see where this is all heading. This bizarre form of risk management involves abandoning any idea of mitigation, and certainly any idea of regulation, and on we plough with not a care in the world about the lifeboats on the Titanic or the iceberg up ahead, because we'll suddenly be infinitely inflexible in a deregulated way (and of course the IPA's client base can go on pillaging and looting in the usual way).

Yes, in a vision as grand as chairman Mao's desire to use local initiatives and communities to combat the four pests - who can forget Mao's valiant bid to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, rats and sparrows in his four pests campaign - Berg envisions a bottom up strategy to solve any minor problems with the climate or the world:

Rather than focusing on a single, over-arching, world-historical goal (achieved through unprecedented consensus and political action at the national and international level), adaptation focuses on process, institutions, and diversity. It asks: what makes communities most flexible, resilient, and responsive to environmental change? It's about developing strategies to deal with uncertainty, not politics to achieve global reform.

Yes indeed. Now you might think that it might be handy at a societal level to tackle some of the implications of climate change, but really, there's nothing a government can do that a sturdy band of individuals working at the local level can't manage:

... a bottom-up approach focuses on how communities adapt to local pressures, not global ones. After all, it isn't the United Nations that will adapt to climate change. It is individuals. This approach is less flashy, but then, why should climate policy be flashy?

Yes, that's a great idea for the people of Bangladesh. All they need to do in the next flood is invite some Australian specialists over to develop an Australian crawl which will see them reach higher ground in licketty-split time.

Surely individuals can also play a huge role in combatting the acidification of the oceans. On an individual level, the pond proposes that seaside communities pour a little sodium hydroxide into the ocean on a daily basis. Now sure it won't look flashy, but why should climate policy be flashy, or even sane, or sensible?

There's nothing like a little Drano to sort out the oceans and make the sea water safe for crustaceans.

Oh the chairman Mao dream is alive, and not just in Portland, but in the IPA ...

Now you could go on endlessly making suggestions where a little local initiative could change the world, not in a flashy way, but who needs to be flashy. Plant a tree in your backyard, and that will certainly balance the butchering of rain forests around the world ...

Why you could have your own private Amazon in Adelaide.

It reminds the pond how successful the campaign was to stop fluorocarbons ruining the ozone layer ... simply because people refused to use their fridges. Nothing to do with governments or regulations or unseemly bannings or international action. It was people power.

What's that you say? Without the sparrows there was a plague of locusts, helping to kill off the thirty million who died in the great famine arising from Mao's peculiar idea of how to improve agriculture? (here).

You think the pond should retreat a little from the proposal to build sea walls out of the bones of climate science deniers?

Steady, individual action isn't for the weak or the faint-hearted:

... the arrogance now rests with those who still believe they can coordinate massive, immediate global political action towards a single goal.
It is, surely, time to face up to the demands of adaptation.

Uh huh, that arrogance is completely unlike the delusional Berg insistence that a little local individual action will sort things out. At last a use for Tony Abbott's 15,000 strong green army.

And would said arrogance have anything to do with the need for the IPA's client base to go about its plundering business as usual? Fortified by the bizarre notion that we must now as individuals adapt to climate change, even though it isn't happening, as any reader of Plimer's 101 questions can tell you?

Now here's a more interesting question.

Who's the bigger fool? Chris Berg for scribbling this tosh and expecting people to swallow it?

Or the pond for reading it, and once again getting tits squashed in revolving door?

Yep, if it's up to individual action on a global level, while the IPA's clients go on making out like bandits, the world is fucked ... but is it an insight to say it, or just another day on the pond with the loons?

The point of course is that science matters. If climate science is accepted (let's leave belief to the church), then it has implications, which can't be swept under the carpet with a "doesn't matter, who cares" shrug of the shoulders. It does matter how and why the climate is changing, and to what extent, because embedded within that knowledge are the policy responses that could or should be deployed.

Berg should give up sophistry and try a little science. He might then have the first clue about the policy implications of the science.

Is it a fair guess that there are plenty of other punters who, like the pond, get sucked into reading this sort of drivel, as opposed to thinking intelligently about issues like climate change, or how to make sure there are enough lifeboats on the Titanic?

Once again, Chris Berg spreads the fog of confusion. He should have got a job with Robert McNamara, because the fog of war would have been a lay down misere ...

(Below: working diligently together with Chairman Berg and the IPA to seek new ways forward).


  1. Well, there's sparrows, and little brown birds. But who gives a shit for details? And, "trees"? Let's not get bogged down in the tedious rigmarole of ecological niches. Not when property values are at stake.

  2. Interesting comparison with the ozone layer situation.
    At first it to was denied. The British scientists who discovered it were contradicting evidence from the observations by NASA satellites, until it was found the the satellite were rejecting certain observations as being junk data, when there were reporting the reality.
    With the ozone layer problem there was a simple, straight forward solution and luckily, DuPont had just invented a substitute product for the ozone destroying refidgerants.
    If the solution to global warming was as simple then the science would be more readily accepted. It is the complexity of the problem and the perceived disruptions of the solution that makes people hope that if they ignore it, it will go away.


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