Sunday, July 29, 2012

The castle walls are breached

The defensive walls of the Denier citadel were breached today by Richard Muller's announcement that he is no longer sceptical about climate science.
Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

This particular 'road to Damascus' moment carries weight because Muller was outspoken in his criticism of aspects of the temperature record and he attracted significant funding from the Koch brothers (fossil fuel billionaires who fund climate change deniers). Arch-denier Anthony Watts took the extreme step of cancelling his vacation and imposing a three-day silence on his blog in readiness for the BIG announcement. Perhaps he was preparing his next line of defence, or gathering forces for a new defensive position. He has already reneged once on his commitment to accept Muller's findings. This latest announcement backs him into an even smaller corner.

To many who work in the field, Muller's latest announcement merely brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s.
At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years!

This  event has me thinking of those wonderful defensive structures - the medieval castles of Europe and the Middle East.

Kidwelly Castle, Carmarthenshire, Dyfed, Wales, is a great example. Like most castles, it was constructed in a location with natural defences. Kidwelly was originally a timber castle built by the Normans about 1100 on a prominent ridge overlooking the river Gwendraeth.

Over the centuries it was rebuilt in stone and embelished with new defensive features.

For more than 400 years Kidwelly Castle provided a safe place for citizens to retreat when attacked and  housed garrison forces that could sally forth to attack mauraders and fight rivals. Its river, moat, steep berm leading to castle walls, towers, gates, parapets and other defensive features made it relevant and effective.

If an outer defence was breached, the defenders moved back to the next line of defence. If it came to the worst, defenders could withdraw to a single tower where they could hold out in the hope that relief forces would come to their aid.

Climate change deniers have the same approach to defending the Denier citadel. Here are the defensive lines around the citadel.
  1. The outermost defence is an earth berm where the mass of defenders rattle their spears and chant, "It's not warming! It's not warming!"
  2. The next line of defence is the moat where the defenders shout, "It's warming but it's not us! It's the sun! It's water vapour! It's a natural cycle! It's a squirrel!"
  3. Then there are the outer walls of the castle, where diminished defenders run to and fro shouting, "It's warming, we did it, but it's not a big problem. Warm is nice, CO2 is good for plants, Greenland was lovely in the medieval warm period."
  4. Then there is the inner wall of the castle, where the handful of remaining defenders stumble around muttering, "Yes, it's warming; yes human activity is the cause; yes, it will be horrible - but mitigation is too hard/expensive, so let's plan to adapt instead."
As each defense is breached, some of the defenders have their 'road to Damascus' moment and become advocates for action. Others fall back to the next line of defence. A few lost souls remain forever in No Mans Land crying in the wind, "It's not warming!" and "Look! It's a squirrel!"

Time passes and by 2050 the Denial citadel will be as irrelevant as the ruin of today's Kidwelly Castle. However, while Kidwelly Castle leaves a beautiful monument to the necessities of past culture, the relic of the Denier Citadel will be a monument to shame.

UPDATE: Anthony Watts's response to the Muller announcement was, "Look! It's a squirrel!" Maybe he thinks that's a useful tactic at any of the the defence lines - the berm, the moat, the outer and inner walls. Maybe he will still be shouting "It's a squirrell!" when the last defenders are holed up in the last tower. Or maybe he has joined the lost souls in No Mans Land, crying out for relevance.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's the latest snippet.  

Bangladesh is installing nearly one thousand domestic solar systems every day. Over nearly two decades Grameen Shakti has set up a rural network to supply and maintain small solar systems that are affordable. By the end of 2012 it will have installed a total of one million solar systems and has expansion plans to install five million systems by 2015. Source: RenewEnergy.


  1. Hello Gillian. There is one bit of advice I give to climate deniers who desire proof of the human effects on the enviroment.
    I say ; the next time you go to bed, ask your partner (it works best with a partner!) to duck under the blankets and when they do, hold the blanket down and give them a "Dutch Oven" can then time how long they will be able to tolerate human pollution in an enclosed enviroment.
    Needless to say, none have ever reported back to me with a "negative" result!

  2. Sorry, Gillian..I should have posted as ; "Jaycee".

  3. What about the estimable representative for the Sunshine Coast who disproved the greenhouse effect with his two eskies?

    Backyard scientists are a danger only to themselves, but when they are our elected representatives they become a danger to everyone.

  4. Hey! BTW... Thanks for your persistence!

  5. I'm glad I finally got it right!..I've had the same trouble over at the Independant Australian...would love to comment, but can't seem to get access!
    I have tried to get up a debate on the Political Sword about what I describe as the "Postmodern Left Greens" and the 'Postmodern right-wing Labor" AND the total collapse of Postmodernist ideology word-wide....but I haven't yet got a bite! I suspect this is because with the rampant advance in the eighties and nineties of such ideology, that dismantled and sold off too many Modernist financial houses and industrial structures along with the dumbing down to a bottom-line education syatem, there has been a generational loss of knowledge to implement Marxist/rationalist structures.
    Labor has been most guilty in embracing the loose/lazy intelectualism of postmodernism, while the Right-wing has adored and bowed at the feet of such approved Laissez Faire capitalism.
    Strangely, it seems no-one wants to mention postmodernism any more...even though it was and still is so prevalent in both the excuses and apologies for such chaos.

  6. Jaycee, I'm not sure what you mean by postmodernism in terms of politics/economics. I'm interested to know more.

  7. I interpret that while "Modernism" is an "evolved" system of both accrued knowledge and "learn-by-experience" practicalities, Postmodernism is an "inflicted upon" ideology that decrys history as a teacher and deconstructs stable but "slow" principles of advancment in both economics and education. In short; a sort of short-cut to a "just-in-time" solution.
    On Q&A last week we heard Christopher Pyne, the opp minister for education decry the teaching of the philosophy and history of education to student teachers, rather than a "three Rs" pragmatism. surely a postmodern principle?
    The recent voting with the opposition by the Greens on both the CPRS and the refugee situation, demonstrates to me a lack of system structural knowledge as in the problem to the Greens is not at the point of departure(re the "boat people"), but in the place of arrival..forgetting that in demanding "Onshore processing" (which is what we have now), the asylum seekers have to be first rescued from a risky boat OFFSHORE!...This demonstrates not so much a desire to help and assist, but to rescue after the event...surely lacking a logical solution. This segue by the Greens from "warm-fuzzy" to vitriol against those who oppose their policy shows an unstable and chaotic philosophy...postmodernism.
    In the Economic sphere, the dropping of a gold standard and the floating of the dollar, while initially giving flexibility to a tightly controlled banking system, controlled, by the way, not by govt' but by huge banking conglomerates, has ultimately led to cunning players who were not born or raised in the understanding of the systematic logic, the "why" of such fiscal measures to scour and plot through a now loosly regulated financial system , which,in short, led to the GFC. Of course, there are others more savvy in these areas, but that is my layman's interpretation.

  8. Lovely analogy, and I wish I'd published mine instead of hiding it in my Rants folder. May appeal more to Yanks, who are apt to think that the only history that matters is that of the United States:

    Climate-change deniers on December 7, 1941

    Nobody is attacking Pearl Harbor. This is just junk journalism, aimed at increasing government control of your life.==There is no climate change. This is just junk science, aimed at increasing government control of your life.
    The Japs aren’t hitting anything. More junk journalism.==It’s not caused by human activity. More junk science.
    Bombs are good for ships and sailors.==The more CO2, the better for crops.
    It’s impossible to beat the Japs.==There’s no substitute for fossil fuels.
    Fighting will interfere with our lifestyle.==Fighting will interfere with our lifestyle.

    Jim Nelson (not really anonymous, just don't belong to any of those accounts!)

  9. Jim... excellent analogy! Nice and clear...

  10. Jaycee,

    To ask a clarifying question --

    You see Postmodern Ideology as fostering the mutual interconnectedness of global relations (trade and political) with their multi-player interactions? It's a system that is inherently unstable and potentially chaotic?

    Here's a question --

    What do you see replacing it?

    1. At the moment?....absolute anarchy!!