Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cancun in context

Writing over at Spiked, Ben Pile supplies this excellent summary of the Cancun conference and what it reveals about the true status of concern over climate:
  • is a slow process; politics happens much faster. In the rush to get the most recent research under the noses of policymakers, those engaged in the climate debate show that climate politics exists before climate science has even got its thermometer out.
  • The trouble with evidence-based policymaking is that, when doubt about the evidence emerges, the policymaking grinds to a halt. In order to continue with the creation of environmental bureaucracies and political institutions, fresh certainty has to be supplied.
  • That’s not to say that ‘climate change isn’t happening’, nor to suggest that it won’t be a problem. However, the alarmist narrative which created the basis for international climate policy has exhausted itself. By over-stating things in the past, it created the conditions for its later embarrassment. In order to sustain the political momentum, science has had to do PR. And the effects are all too plain.
Some of the confused "victims" in all this are the many scientists who are not a part of the climatocracy but genuinely work through the scientific details of the dynamics of climate change.  They remain largely convicted about the basic science, tend to under-estimate the influence environmental alarmism has had on perception of their work and concomitantly, had placed too much faith on the authoritative nature of the IPCC as the definitive word on climate change.

As Pile states:
  • The problem is the broader expectation that science can be instructive; that ‘what to do about climate change’ can be simply read off from clear scientific evidence. The evidence isn’t clear. It is contradictory. It changes. Science is confused by the political demand for certainty, for the true story.
  • Science and policymaking are imitating the news. Rather than waiting for genuine scientific development, scientific organisations engaged in the policymaking process produce summaries of the latest speculation on demand. This speculation is intended to add urgency to the process by defeating the doubt that besets the policymaking. But it does so at the expense of a sober understanding of the climate and our relationship to it. This is acceptable under the rubric of the precautionary principle, which allows policymakers to aim to be safe rather than sorry by accepting approximations of ‘science’ in lieu of certainty. But this reveals that science – as an institution, rather than a process – is much less involved in discovery than in supplying climate politics and its bureaucracies with legitimacy.
When science adopts as a founding premise the precautionary principle it is no longer a neutral, objective search for truth. Adoption of the precautionary principle as a presumptive premise is the adoption of environmentalist ideology as the defining narrative for understanding, a predisposition for a particular political interpretation and determination of findings.  The science has become inherently politicized.

Update: so climate science becomes politicized, but why does politics need climate science as the latest symbol of environmental alarmism?  

As has been pointed out frequently over at Climate Resistance, the allure of climate as a defining narrative for politics is that it provides a moral imperative for a generation of politicians lacking a cause.

As Mick Hume writes, the ruling class are conformists without a cause, with the result that they have no real allegiance to the substance of any issue. About Nick Clegg, Hume writes:

  • one thing he is not is a traitor. To be a traitor to a cause, you first need to have one to betray. Clegg, like the other top parliamentarians of the age, is a conformist without a cause. 
  • ...this u-turn should have come as a shock only to those – many of them supposedly jaundiced journalists – who fell in wide-eyed wonder for the myths of ‘Cleggmania’ in the first place. Remember how, in the spring of the General Election campaign, the Lib Dems were supposed to stand for a new politics of honesty and principle, a fresh approach that would overthrow the discredited order at Westminster?
    His words echo those of Victor Davis Hanson about Barrack Obama. The names and places change, the meme does not.