18 August 2010

Schellnhuber in Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel has a very interesting interview with Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the world's leading climate scientists, confidant of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the self-proclaimed father of the 2-degree temperature target (UPDATE: In the comments Richard Tol points to Schellenhuber's 2 degree target proposal, here in PDF.  Tol has written an excellent analysis of the 2 degree target as well, here in PDF.)

[UPDATE: This interview is also being discussed at Die Klimazwiebel.]

The interview provides a candid look into the thinking of a leading scientist who is very influential in climate politics.  I recommend reading the interview in full.  Below are a few aspects of the interview that I found interesting.

First, Schellnhuber seems to struggle with the questions about fairly representing climate science in public debates.  He first seems to say that he does in fact emphasize disproportionately dangers and risks:
As an expert, it's possible that I tend to point to dangers and risks more than to opportunities and possibilities -- similarly to an engineer who builds a bridge and has to make people aware of everything that could cause it to collapse. Warning against a possible accident is in fact intended to reduce the likelihood of an accident.
He then seems to blame the media for exaggerations of climate science:
Naturally, we have to be careful not to dramatize things. After all, scientific credibility is our unique selling point. But I do confess that when you have the feeling that people just aren't listening, it becomes very tempting to turn up the volume. Naturally, we have to resist this temptation. On the other hand, the media often portray my statements in one-sided ways…
Then he cites the political demands for certainty:
In climatology, it would be difficult, even just from a technical point of view, to conduct the entire scientific debate in full public view. That's because politicians and society want the clearest, most unambiguous answers possible. And if we can't provide those answers, many people simply stop listening to us. They're basically saying: Don't bother us with your models and counter-models. Get back to us when you have all the answers.
An interesting set of answers, no doubt.

When asked about the 2 degree target, he is not optimistic (understandably).  He explains that the target was created for political reasons and invokes the need for air capture technologies:
Technically speaking [the 2 degree target] is probably still just about possible. But in 10 years' time it'll probably be too late. After that, it could be that the only solution will be global carbon management, that is, the artificial removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, perhaps through reforestation of degraded areas of land or the direct filtration and permanent disposal of carbon dioxide. That's the ace up our sleeve, which we would then have to play. . .

Politicians like to have clear targets, and a simple number is easier to handle than a complex temperature range. Besides, it was important to introduce a quantitative orientation in the first place, which the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change managed to elegantly wangle its way out of. And let's be honest: Even if we aim for the two-degree target, we'll end up somewhat higher. Whenever there's a speed limit, most drivers tend to go a little faster.
Remarkably, he ends the interview where so many arguments from climate scientists end up -- in a need to reform democracy to be less democratic:
Ultimately only democratic societies will be able to master this challenge, notwithstanding their torturous decision-marking processes. But to get there perhaps we'll need innovative refinement of our democratic institutions. I could imagine assigning 10 percent of all seats in parliament to ombudsmen who represent only the interests of future generations.
Who, I wonder will these forward-thinking ombudsmen actually be?  I suspect Schellnhuber has some ideas.

54 comments:

  1. Schellnhuber is not the self-proclaimed father of the two degrees target. He is the father. See
    http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_sn1995.pdf

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  2. I didn't enjoy the interview.

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  3. If I'd have invented something as silly as claiming that man can somehow predictably adjust the Earth's temperature with a single factor out of many, I'd keep quiet about it.

    As for 'democracy,' current deeply flawed 'climate policy' has bypassed democracy - the electorate in the UK, for example, have not been allowed a referendum on our crazy unilateral, legally binding emissions targets. The UK government 'cabinet' of 29 ministers contains 23 millionaires with a total wealth of £60 million - they are insulated from the social, economic and financial effects of their loony 'climate' and 'energy' policies.

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  4. The Der Spiegel interviewer did an outstanding job. It is hard to imagone an interviewer being so - how to put it - skeptical amd blunt in the US.

    That said, boy Schellnhuber must have some information I do not have - given the underlying certainty he has. He also seems to be in love with renewables - which does not increase my confidence in his perspective.

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  5. This sounds like a scientist trying to reinvent the management of politics. It would be interesting to interview politicians on how they might reinvent the management of science.

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  6. claim: "our climate models show that the South Asian monsoon is becoming more temperamental as a result of anthropogenic changes to the environment."

    reality: "the summer monsoon, which affects half of the world's population, is little understood by climate modellers. In fact, says tree-ring expert Edward Cook, the models are poor enough that they don't even agree on whether global climate change will strengthen the Asian monsoon or weaken it. "That gives you an idea of just how difficult the problem is," he says."
    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100422/full/news.2010.196.html

    So what is the selection criterion for recognised "expert" and government advisor? The casual facility to just make things up as you go along perhaps? I don't want anyone like that as an ombudsman thank you.

    On the other hand a 2 degree limit will surely be easier to achieve than a 450ppm limit, judging by the comparison of the models to reality thus far.

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  7. Interesting tidbit here;
    "Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told me quite openly: We are looking forward to global warming. We won't need to heat as much, our fleet will be able to operate in an ice-free sea, and we'll have more fertile land to farm."

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  8. Roger, this really takes the cake.

    Your insinuation that desire for 'less democracy' is characteristic of climate scientists generally is quite offensive. I don't agree with Schellnhuber's (apparent) views on this and neither do any of the other folks I talk with about these sorts of things. This is no different that Anthony Watt's absurd musings on whether Joe Romm puts up a flag on the 4th of July.

    Please don't belittle me by trying to now claim you didn't say what I'm saying you said. I think what you say is very clear: "so many arguments from climate scientists end up..."

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    Eric Steig

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  9. -8-Eric Steig

    Thanks for your comment. This is not a new theme here. You may wish to have a look at this by Stehr and von Storch:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/01/inconvenient-democracy-guest-post-by.html

    or my review of Hansen and Scheneider:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7287/full/464352a.html

    Or recent debates between Tol and Tobis ... and I cite more examples in my book . . .

    I wouldn't say that it is a general attitude, but certainly more common than one would like.

    Perhaps you should direct your offense to people like Shellnhuber who advance anti-democratic views in the name of climate science, rather than those who point out the inanity of such views?

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  10. Also, Eric, not sure how good your German is but this has been discussed as well at Klimazwiebel:

    http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/08/schellnhuber-im-spiegel.html

    and a bit in English there also:

    http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2010/08/hj-schellnhuber-interview-in-english.html

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  11. I would add that most Americans don't understand how proportional representation election systems work in most European countries including Germany. You seem to be assuming that these 10% would somehow be appointed and unrepresentative. Unless and until he says how he thinks those 10% should be chosen, we don't know what it means for democracy. Maybe it is or isn't democratic.

    It would fit with the German mixed member proportional system to have a part of the ballot where all voters voted at-large on a non-partisan and non-geographic basis for a caucus of MPs who campaigned on some kind of future interest basis. Their ballot already has separate section for geographic and party votes that get combined in the vote-counting process, so it wouldn't be such an extension.

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  12. -11- Dean
    I think you are too kind to Schellnhuber. He may want to elect the ombudspeople, but only those that are vetted by a council of guardians.

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  13. -0- Roger
    That link is to Schellnhuber's paper on the two degrees target.

    My paper on that subject is here: http://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/enepol/v35y2007i1p424-432.html (The published paper is behind a pay wall, but there is a link to a freely accessible earlier version too.)

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  14. I was struck by Schellnhuber's comment about German forest fires:

    "Even though there are more forest fires here [the German state of Brandenburg] than in the past, due to global warming, ..."

    Perhaps you should send him your paper...

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  15. Roger, the link that Richard provided is not his analysis (it's here http://www.mi.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/fnu-files/publication/tol/RM7208.pdf), but rather the proposal for a 2 degree target by Schellnhuber et al.

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  16. -13, 15-Richard, Laurens

    Many thanks! Now fixed.

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  17. Just FYI ... I've disallowed a few comments on this thread.

    There is a thread available on this blog for deleted comments if you'd like to post a deleted one there.

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  18. Dr Schellnhuber as quoted in the interview
    ===========

    What's happening in Brazil is unbelievable. In 20 or 30 years, they could meet all of their energy needs from renewable resources. Perhaps we'll all be driving with sustainable biofuel from Brazil soon. And such bilateral projects will certainly help set the unwieldy behemoth that is the global climate treaty into motion.
    ============

    Is there any realistic chance that we will all be driving around in biofuel from Brazil. \And if we were, would environmental scientists be saying that it is sustainable?

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  19. -12- Richard

    I specifically said that I didn't know if his preference was more or less democratic - that we would only know if we got the details. Since Roger didn't quote anything about how to choose these people, I assumed it wasn't specified. I've seen a tendency in Roger's posts to go on the attack and use a lot of labeling of people that I consider unjustified, and this seemed to be just another example. If I am too kind to anybody, it is because of this tendency to go on the attack.

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  20. Roger,

    Why would the inclusion of people who have a mandate to consider future generations be necessarily anti-democratic? What if they were elected (like judges in the U.S.)? Personally, I find it to be a very intriguing idea and am less interested in the selection process than with how such a thing could make democratic systems more forward looking rather than reactionary (the 2yr congressional cycle being the most egregious example).

    Surely we can talk about reforms to democratic political institutions without the snide insunuations that Eric rightly called you on...

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  21. Roger-

    I've read the full interview, including that statement from Schellenhuber about refining democratic institutions.

    Am I missing something? I don't see Schellenhuber making anti-democratic noises here. He's not proposing anything that would take anybody's vote away or give a leader fiat. He's suggesting what sounds like a thought experiment and it's only 10 percent of the seats. (Perhaps it would be palatable if that ten percent were added, instead of taking existing seats away?)

    Additionally, the rest of his statement clearly advocates a pro-democracy stance.

    That said, I take your point about who gets to appoint those ombudsman.
    --Keith Kloor

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  22. "Who, I wonder will these forward-thinking ombudsmen actually be? I suspect Schellnhuber has some ideas"

    An ideal candidate would surely be the mother of global warming, the queen of glyceride monolayers, iron lady and wicked witch of the west, Margaret Thatcher Msc.

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  23. -Keith, Dean, Marlowe-

    In my course segments on democracy I emphasize that the concept does not have a shared singular definition. Indeed, "democracy" can be a bit like an inkblot test.

    That said, I am perfectly comfortable characterizing a proposal to take parliamentary seats that are now elected and converting them to ones that are "assigned" as being a move towards a less democratic system of governance.

    Whether such a move would result in improved governance is a different question. And yes, from the climate science community have come a range of such proposals.

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  24. -20- Marlowe,

    I suspect you mean "less accountable." In theory, this is what representatives should be doing. If they are prone to being reactionary due to the election cycle, reasonably, the only way to get people filling legislative seats to be less affected would be to avoid having those same voters elect the 10%.

    Honestly, I can't see any way that this is anything but removing these representatives an extra step from, well, representing the citizens. Making them "at large" would probably change the election dynamics (e.g., compare House vs Senate vs President), but of course there's no way force voters to judge based on some long term view, or even agree on what such a thing might be.

    This statement certainly fits the philosopher king mold, and seems to be a common enough sentiment among "Greens", which is not the same as saying that they all believe this. However, I think it's fair to interpret Schellenhuber's remark as being anti-democratic.

    So, I see two possibilities:

    1) A spoils system for whomever controls the ability to assign ombudsmen.

    2) A novel way to elect certain representatives, but that won't really change the focus to "long term" concerns any more than any other representative.

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  25. Marlowe:

    I would expect any elected representative has a mandate to consider future generations.

    Keith:

    what percentage of seats has to be un-elected before the system becomes undemocratic?

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  26. Let's begin with a few propositions and see where we diverge.

    1. The shorter the electoral cycle, the more likely it is that elected officials will focus on short-term issues where benefits accrue during their term in office (so they can justify getting re-elected).

    2. This focus occurs at the expense of issues whose benefits and/or costs occur further down the road.

    3.This I think can reasonably characterized as a shortcoming.

    4. On the plus side, the shorter the electoral cycle, the more 'accountable' the elected official is.

    5. AGW is a problem characterized by deep asymmetries where mitigation costs are short term and benefits (and impacts) are long-term.

    6. Most western democracies do not do a very good job at managing long-term issues.

    So, if it's Ok to elect supreme court officials for life (or Canadian senators for that matter), would it also be worthwhile to elect some long term MPs, congressmen, senators, etc. to sit in these houses to add more of a 'long-view' influence to the legislative process?


    Roger, given points #5&6, I think it's perfectly predictable and reasonable that calls for democratic reform along the lines that that Schellnhuber suggests come from the climate science community. Don't you?

    Gerrard, to your question about mandates of politicians. Their mandate is to do whatever they want/can until the next election. What they tend to do is whatever promotes their chances of re-election. Hence the problem...

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  27. The implication here is that some form of superior being is required to save the world from global warming. Superior to voters. Possibly individuals with an environmental agenda.

    The problem is that only 26% thought human beings were responsible for global warming in a BBC poll. Roughly the same percentage who believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That's what matters in a democracy, public opinion. Yet Britain is committed to an 80% reduction in Co2 by 2050. Anti democratic forces are far too strong already.

    I would like to hear the case that (for example) James Hansen, Sir John Houghton, Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann or Phil Jones would be superior guardians of the future of mankind to the average British voter.

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  28. -26- Marlowe,

    Frankly, I think life time appointments to the Supreme Court should be done away with, in favor of 18 year terms, with one coming up every 2 years.

    In any case, I disagree that longer terms necessarily lead to a focus on long term issues. Consider the US House vs Senate. The Senate as a whole (with only 1/3 up for election every 2 years) is less likely to be swayed by short term passions, but that's not the same as "long term thinking." At least, not as far as I suspect Schellenhuber would define it.

    I do think there is benefit in different terms and methods of electing representatives. But the key to Schellenhuber's argument, I think, is the importance of the long term focus. And he really means the same long term focus as he has, not some objective definition, I think.

    Applied, to say Climate Policy, consider two positions, opposed, but both based on long term thinking (in broad strokes):

    1) We must decarbonize to prevent the worst effects of AGW down the road.

    2) We have neither the technology nor the wealth to decarbonize. In the future, either we'll find a technology, or the economics will be more favorable to decarbonize, or we'll be wealthier (than if we decarbonized) and better able to adapt.

    There are certainly other "short term" reasons or interests that are compatible with either one of those. And anyways, how do we define long term? We can barely figure out what's going to happen next month, let alone 100 years from now.

    Sorry, the only conclusion I can come to is that he simply hasn't thought this through, or it's meant to be anti-democratic. Or both.

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  29. Marlowe:

    (1) How do you account, then, for the passage of health care reform, a long term measure, which actually passed more easily in the House (with its two year cycle) than the Senate, with a six year cycle. Is there any evidence in fact that the Senate is more far-seeing than the House?

    In fact, it appears the short/long attention span is a function of the electorate, not the representative body. Current attention to the deficit (a medium-to-long term problem) is driven by the populace, not either the House or the Senate.

    I would argue that in fact we do a better job of managing long term issues than we do forecasting them. We had all sorts of forecasts about the dire effects of population growth/resource depletion in the 70's; in fact, the forecasts themselves turned out to be wrong. Not doing anything was the right thing to do. Likewise, in the early 80s we instituted a reasonable fix to keep Social Security solvent into mid-decade. In the 80's, nobody forecast the growth or effects of the internet (well, maybe William Gibson did). In fact, free market forces managed it quite well.

    Before we set about reforming institutions to respond to forecasts, shouldn't we show first (1) that we're doing a decent job of forecasting and (2) that the system will not respond without governmental action?

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  30. Roger (23), Gerard (25):

    Sorry, I'm just not seeing the slippery slope towards an anti-democratic system. Also, in my prior comment, I specifically implied that I thought adding the seats instead of supplanting existing ones would be more palatable.

    Surely, people can reasonably discuss refinements to democracy without being accused of being anti-democratic. Here in the U.S., there's been plenty of tinkering with our system. Take the Congressional filibuster, a relatively new addition, which has been the topic of fierce debate in recent years, as to whether its been a force for good or bad. (Some green pundits, such as Grist's David Roberts, blame it for the collapse of the recent climate change bill. I don't necessarily agree with him, but nor do I believe he is advocating something anti-democratic.)

    --Keith Kloor

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  31. -30- keith,

    Adding appointed seats nevertheless dilutes the power of representatives actually elected. Of course, there's still the question of how they're appointed. The original way US Senators were appointed by state legislatures was not inherently anti-democratic, and IMHO, is probably worth bringing back. But still, the "long term" point does not seem to be satisfactorily definable, let alone enforceable. More like dorm room bull session.

    There's really nothing new about the filibuster, at least as far as the US Congress goes:

    "In the early years of Congress, representatives as well as senators could filibuster. As the House of Representatives grew in numbers, however, revisions to the House rules limited debate. In the smaller Senate, unlimited debate continued on the grounds that any senator should have the right to speak as long as necessary on any issue."

    It wasn't formalized until 1917, but it still existed in practice. What it is, is a check on the majority, which in general, I think, isn't a bad thing. Partisans alternatively cheer and jeer it, of course.

    Why should discussing "refinements" to democracy be immune from being judged as anti-democratic? That seems integral to the discussion.

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  32. Matt,

    I agree with you on the supreme court appointments.

    as to your two point construction, I'd suggest you're not framing it as most climate scientists would.

    1. the inertia ofthe climate system means that by the time significant impacts are felt, it will be too late avoid even greater impacts further along, no matter how much mitigation is undertaken. Adaptation can only take you so far and is a more costly action than mitigation (although it has the advantage of a more direct relationship between costs and benefits since it tends to occur regionally/locally. So long-term thinking when thinking about climate change is fundamentally about mitigation. However, to give Roger a bone :), it can equally be about long-term adaptation (e.g. don't subsidize development in flood prone areas, revise building codes, etc.



    Gerard,

    to your first point. fillibuster. without it the health care bill would have passed the senate long ago.

    what drives the attention of the public is an interesting question, but your example of the deficit is incorrect I suspect. do you have any polling data suggesting that public opinion about long term deficits is a top of mind issue?

    As to the rest of your points. frankly they strike me as the usual right-wing/libertarian/julian simon talking points wherein the free market solves all and climate science is a hoax. you'll have to forgive me if I disagree.

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  33. More context:

    http://www.goethe.de/ges/pok/zdk/en5930791.htm

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  34. -32- Marlowe,

    I'm sure a lot of my thoughts don't conform to how most climate scientists would frame them. :)

    I wasn't even trying to frame either from a "climate scientist" point of view. Just a "long term" point of view with respect to policies relating to climate change. I think my arguments would stay essentially unchanged if this were an economist telling us we need to have legislators responsible for future generations.

    And disagreeing with Gerard's "right-wing/libertarian/julian simon talking points" isn't the same as refuting them.

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  35. From Roger's link

    http://www.goethe.de/ges/pok/zdk/en5930791.htm

    "Here in Germany, however, we have had catastrophic experiences with political experiments relying on strong leaders with allegedly superior views and unlimited powers of enforcement. "

    The parallels are much greater. The Nazi project was based on fundamental environmental principles.

    "We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind’s own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. . .

    This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought."

    Ernst Lehmann, Biologischer Wille. Wege und Ziele biologischer Arbeit im neuen Reich, München, 1934

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecofascism



    "When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall."


    Adolf Hitler - Mein Kampf


    http://www.nazi.org/library/environment/


    The war machine was created to enforce Lebensraum.

    One of the most central "doctrines" or pseudo-doctrines to the Nazi Belief System was that of "Blood and Soil" or Blut und Boden. "Blood & Soil" was the foundational concept for other concepts such as "Lebensraum and was rooted in occultic philosophies prevalent in German mysticism and Ancient legend, which posited that German Racial Identity, was essentially tied literally and metaphorically to the land.

    http://www.shoaheducation.com/blut.htm

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  36. Roger (33):

    I agree with your general response to Eric Steig up thread--that there's been some weird talk from climate scientists on this issue.

    Hell, from some op-ed columnists too (on the left and right), as I've noted here:

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2009/09/09/anti-democratic-impulses/

    I just don't see the evidence for it in the statement you quote from Schellenhuber--and that's the focus of this argument, not what others have said.

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  37. I have been compared to Julian Simon. I can die happy.

    I don't blame Marlowe; the complete wrongness of the 70's era forecasts, combined with the utter assurance and invocations of scientific authority with which they were issued, are pretty corrosive to his position, and impossible to deny.

    There is a plethora of recent polls showing popular concern about the deficit. See for example a Pew Research/National Journal poll of early June, where it ranked second only to the economy/joblessness.

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  38. Roger,

    You wrote:

    "Perhaps you should direct your offense to people like Schellnhuber who advance anti-democratic views in the name of climate science, rather than those who point out the inanity of such views?"

    You cannot get off the hook by changing the subject.

    My complaint was not about your view of what Shellnhuber says (or what you think he says). My complaint was about your implying that this was a common or inherent view among climate scientists. This is plain and simple fear mongering, akin to claiming that "climate scientists are trying to destroy the American way of life."

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  39. -38-Eric

    I'm not sure what I am "on the hook" for ;-)

    I wrote: ". . . he ends the interview where so many arguments from climate scientists end up . . ."

    You can try to say that by this I meant "common" or "inherent" or "trying to destroy the American way of life" (seriously?) but I'd prefer that you just stick with what I wrote, which is what I meant, not those things that you wrote.

    Here is another one for you to parse out:

    Most climate scientists have excellent reading comprehension, but not all of them do ;-)

    The authoritarian impulse among _some_ climate scientists has been written about but many more people than just me. It is common enough to have raised some eyebrows among people who study such things. I am glad to hear that you are not among those climate scientists with such a view.

    Thanks.

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  40. Eric

    Here is one scientist's perspective.


    James Hansen recently endorsed an ecofascist book by Keith Farnish calling for the end of industrial civilisation.

    Farnish writes

    The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization

    Hansen

    Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the 'system' is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests - they will not look after our and the planet's well-being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort. --Professor James Hansen, GISS, NASA



    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Times-Up-Uncivilized-Solution-Global/dp/190032248X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265053838&sr=8-1

    Farnish again

    Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine. The process of ecological unloading is an accumulation of many of the things I have already explained in this chapter, along with an (almost certainly necessary) element of sabotage.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100023339/james-hansen-would-you-buy-a-used-temperature-data-set-from-this-man


    Hansen appeared along with a man of similar extremes, Zac Goldsmith, in a UK court to defend an 'act of of terrorism' against Kingsnorth power station that resulted in £30,000 of damage .


    Guardian

    Hansen, a Nasa director who advises Al Gore, the former US presidential candidate turned climate change campaigner, told the court that humanity was in "grave peril". "Somebody needs to step forward and say there has to be a moratorium, draw a line in the sand and say no more coal-fired power stations."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/11/activists.kingsnorthclimatecamp

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  41. Hmm. I'm not going to get into a debate about Jim Hansen, nor whether his views are representative.

    I think it is pretty clear, Roger, what the following means:

    ".... where so many arguments from climate scientists end up -- in a need to reform democracy to be less democratic:"

    'so many' means 'a lot' or 'a large number'

    Look it up.

    If you don't mean what your words means, then you should choose your word more carefully. you say, then you should say something else.

    My reading comprehension is just fine, thank you very much.

    Sigh.. why do I bother?

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  42. Why would the inclusion of people who have a mandate to consider future generations be necessarily anti-democratic?

    All elected people have that mandate. The issue is the manner of their appointment. Are they elected, or are they appointed?

    What if they were elected (like judges in the U.S.)?

    If they were elected, they are not being "assigned". Why would Schellnhuber suggest replacing elected representatives with elected representatives?

    Personally, I find it to be a very intriguing idea and am less interested in the selection process than with how such a thing could make democratic systems more forward looking rather than reactionary (the 2yr congressional cycle being the most egregious example).

    I'm intrigued that people feel that democracies are short-termist. You would struggle to prove that in any meaningful way.

    Dictators tend to be extremely short-term thinkers. They often go out of their way to provide no options to succeed themselves ever become available. They brook no dissent, most especially on social issues.

    The best way to prevent short-term thinking is to have strong political parties, which are not personal dictatorships. Parties think long-term, where people tend not to.

    One-party states can think long-term, but usually mostly about the survival of the party first, everything else second. Again the lack of dissent stifles innovation and thinking about alternatives.

    Party democracy is the best system, by a long way, for contingency planning, because it is the only system that encourages dissent and looking at unpleasant alternatives.

    Look around. It is the world's democracies which are taking Global Warming seriously - not the authoritarian regimes. Mann and Hansen would be in jail if they tried their political line in China.

    Yet the "solution", apparently, is to reduce the element of direct representation. To become less democratic! Weird thinking. Utterly weird.

    Surely we can talk about reforms to democratic political institutions without the snide insunuations that Eric rightly called you on...

    The "reforms" under discussion are means of getting less democratic representation. They are not "reform" of democracy, but a way to get rid of it. Albeit slowly.

    If you admire democracy, as you proclaim, you should be leading the fight to oppose such attempts to weaken it, not defending them.

    Yet time and again we see these weaselly attempts to distort our democratic institutions being defended by "the need to protect our future". As one perceptive poster pointed out, that's exactly what Fascists do.

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  43. -41- Eric
    Schellnhuber's position is clear: He proposes to reserve 10% of the parliamentary vote for non-elected ombudspeople. 10% does not sound much, but in a multi-party system like Germany, those 10% would often hold the balance of power. That's un-democratic.

    Reading that, one is reminded of other environmental scientists expressing similar views. However, that is an unrepresentative sample for two reasons. First, only a fraction of environmental scientists expressed an opinion on this in the media. Second, human memory stores events in a way that is meaningful to oneself. I don't care about clouds, so I only recall the bit of the interview about governance.

    That said, I share Roger's concern. All too often, environmental scientists slip into authoritarian language. When pressed, they often react with a "but that's not what I meant" -- but it is still worrying.

    To me, that implies that a course on environmental management and policy should be compulsory for geoscientists -- so that at least the next generation will know what they're saying. Such courses are offered in many programmes, but they are optional. I have taught them, and I spent a lot of time in class debating the merits and demerits of technocracy.

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  44. Come of think of it, a guaranteed 10% of the seats would mean that the Party of the Future holds the balance of power practically all of the time in a two-party system like the US'.

    Schellnhuber's main talent is to make the profound sound mundane (90% democracy) and the mundane sound profound (tipping points).

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  45. Regarding Hansen and representative view of the Earth sciences, I would say that he is NOT representative. HE engage far more from the culture of the environmental scineces and movement compared to a typical hard science earth stientist. But one needs earth sceince + environmental science culture to understand the frame of climate change. and ecnomomics + technology sciences to understand the frame of solutions.

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  46. More up to date material on the extreme right in environmental politics.


    The Goldsmith family are on the very extreme right of British politics. The modern green political movement grew from Edward Goldsmith's Ecologist magazine. His brother James (along with extreme environmentalist John Aspinall) was accused by former MI5 agent Peter Wright, of attempting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Harold Wilson. There is a BBC documentary of the events.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jan/09/politics.past

    This is what Dartmouth College environmental studies professor Michael K. Dorsey said about Edward Goldsmith prodigy Paul Kingsnorth's Black Mountain project in a Guardian comment.


    "Sadly, we have a great deal of evidence now, that such 'dark' tendencies have been built upon a legacy of misanthropic meandering, petty eco-fascism and immigrant bashing-- souped up in talk of waywardness from the "myth[s] of human centrality"--by the likes of Teddy Goldsmith, the gaggle of old Ecologist sods, inter alia, some of whom helped precipitate the Cornerhouse."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/may/10/deepwater-horizon-greens-collapse-civilisation?showallcomments=true#CommentKey:7d400bce-4a2c-4578-b079-351145ee98db

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_K._Dorsey


    George Monbiot called Edward Goldsmith a Black Shirt in Green Trousers because his overt racial agenda was so obvious.

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2002/04/30/black-shirts-in-green-trousers/


    New York Times journalist, Jonathan Freedland referred to the latest generation of the Goldsmiths, Zac in the following manner -

    "a Green & Blacks organic chocolate bar in human form"


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/09/smoothies-party-rich-tories-brand



    Ironically multi billionaire Zac Goldsmith is now a British MP and a likely candidate for environment minister in the future.

    Sir Crispin Tickell, Margaret Thatcher's ambassador to the UN and mentor to George Monbiot believes Britain population should be less than a third of its current level. Most of the high profile British environmentalists come from the ruling classes (including the royal family).

    George Monbiot's father was descended from French aristocracy, and a very right wing, anti democratic deputy chairman of the Conservative Party


    Raymond Monbiot was behind rule changes to exclude party members from voting for the leader

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4220346.stm

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  47. -41-Eric

    I understand your complaint. (Just wait until you read Chapter 8 of my new book;-)

    But do you have any concerns about any of Schellnhuber's comments (e.g., the political nature of the 2 degree target, to exaggerate/condense/whatever)? Or is your concern only with those who express some degree of critique?

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  48. As far as I can tell there was no democracy involved in the appointment of Holdren, Chu or Lubchenko, or any of the AGW-convinced scientific advisors now in government worldwide. I'd argue that they are rather more powerful than ordinary senators.

    In fact it isn't even a problem because it's a lot easier to be outside shouting "we need action" than being at the table discussing exactly what action would a) make any difference, b) wouldn't cost a fortune, and c) wouldn't do more harm than good. The result of the appointment of these "ombudsmen" has been pretty much zero action.

    But even Sarko couldn't get a miserly carbon tax through in France despite the other 19 taxes he had already introduced without any active opposition whatsoever. Gordon Brown was famous for stealth taxes and excessive fuel tax rises but he couldn't somehow manage to introduce a carbon tax. It's all a farce; an in-joke between hypocrites.

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  49. Can somebody please post a quote from Schellenhuber where he says he wants the 10% to be unelected? If that is done then I will accept that he supports an undemocratic change in the electoral system. Otherwise it is just more of the labeling and namecalling that I see so much here on this blog.

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  50. Bang up to date - this is classic romantic fascism.


    Time To Terminate Western Civilization Before It Terminates Us

    By Guy R. McPherson - professor emeritus at the University of Arizona - 18 August, 2010


    Get over it. This war has two sides, finally. This revolution needs to be powerful and fun, and we cannot afford to lose. We cannot even afford to worry about seeking credibility from those who would have us are having us murder every remaining aspect of the living planet on which we depend for our survival.

    Credibility? Respectability? It’s time to stop playing by the rules of the destroyers. We need witnesses and warriors, and we need them now. It’s time to terminate western civilization before it terminates us.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/mcpherson180810.htm

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  51. Apologies. That was eric 144.I logged into my alternative youtube account which has a wonderful video Neil Young doesn't want you to see, for some reason.



    Fred Pearce, New Scientist senior environment consultant on eco fascism.


    "Or take Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb from the same era. That book said the world could no longer feed itself and called for population control "by compulsion if voluntary methods fail."

    Meanwhile the British book Blueprint for Survival, published by The Ecologist magazine, sided with the demagogue-of-the-day Enoch Powell in calling for "an end to immigration". Far from being ostracised as a right-wing tract, its recipe was supported by Friends of the Earth and Peter Scott, the TV wildlife king and founder of the World Wildlife Fund.

    And this is not ancient history. Only recently, US groups opposed to all migration tried to get their policies adopted by the blue-chip environment group, the Sierra Club. To many they sounded like a fringe group. Actually they were an echo of the earlier mainstream.

    And the echo is becoming louder. We hear it in the climate change debate. No matter that the average European or North American has carbon emissions 10 times greater than the average Indian or African, somehow it is those pesky breeding foreigners who are really to blame.

    And now food shortages are growing and we will get more. Ehrlich, we are bound to be told, was right after all. You have been warned: green fascism could soon be on the march."


    http://www.newscientist.com/blog/environment/2008/04/green-fascism.html


    This is why I strongly support Roger's basic principle of developing new technology for a better, cleaner world with cheaper energy for all. Eco fascism is a very easy trap to fall into (for the best of reasons).

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  52. Can somebody please post a quote from Schellenhuber where he says he wants the 10% to be unelected?

    In the link at the top, we see he says:
    "But to get there perhaps we'll need innovative refinement of our democratic institutions. I could imagine assigning 10 percent of all seats in parliament to ombudsmen who represent only the interests of future generations."

    Now what do you image "assign" could mean? An "ombudsman" is an appointed representative in Germany. The language looks inescapable, though I suppose translation may be an issue.

    Half of the members of Germany's parliament are currently elected to non-territorial seats. There is no need to free them from the beholdeness to local interests that so bedevils US politics.

    This is a man who helped authored "World in Transition 2: New Structures for Global Environment Policy" so I think he cannot be taken for a person speaking off the cuff.

    Or this one:
    http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/201cclimate-change-means-cultural-change201d

    The man obviously is seeking radical change.

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  53. -49 Dean
    Schellnhuber's ombudspeople are to represent the interests of future generations, who are unlikely to be able to vote yet.

    Or perhaps he means young children. My daughter would vote for Peppa Pig.

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  54. -50 Sparebox
    True to form, McPherson strictly moderates that blog.

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