Lomborg on climate catastrophe

It became clear from the very first paragraphs of False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg that I was going to have to start revising my prejudices about its author. If, later in this book, Lomborg ever tries to downplay the centrality to the climate argument of the claim that our planet is heading for a climate catastrophe, as opposed merely for a dose of mere climate change, and to deny the centrality of climate science to the climate debate, instead banging only entirely about mere economics, he certainly doesn’t start his book by doing anything like that. Quite the opposite (pp. 3-4):

WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF FEAR – particularly a fear of climate change. One picture summarizes this age for me. It is of a girl holding a sign saying:

YOU’LL DIE OF OLD AGE
I’LL DIE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

This is the message that the media is drilling into our heads: climate change is destroying our planet and threatens to kill us all. The language is of apocalypse. News outlets refer to the “planet’s imminent incineration” and analysts suggest that global warming could make humanity extinct in a few decades. Recently, the media has informed us that humanity has just a decade left to rescue the planet, making 2030 the deadline to save civilization. And therefore we must radically transform every major economy to end fossil fuel use, reduce carbon emissions to zero and establish a totally renewable basis for all economic activity.

Children live in fear and line the streets in protest. Activists are cordoning off cities and airports to raise awareness that the entire population of the planet is facing “slaughter, death, and starvation”.

Influential books reinforce this understanding. In 2017, journalist David Wallace-Wells wrote a lengthy and terrifying description of global warming impacts for New York magazine. Although the article was generally panned by scientists as exaggerated and misleading, he went on to publish the same argument in book form in The Uninhabitable Earth, which became a bestseller. The book revels in unabashed alarmism: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” Likewise, in his 2019 book, Falter, naturalist Bill McKibben warned that global warming is the greatest threat to human civilization, worse even than nuclear war. It could finish off humanity not with an explosion but “with the burble of a rising ocean.” A bookshelf would groan under the weight of recent books with deliberately terrifying titles and messages: Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change; Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity; The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable; and This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America.

Media outlets reinforce the extreme language by giving ample space to environmental campaigners, and by engaging in their own activism. The New York Times warns that “across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.” The cover of Time magazine tells us: “Be worried. Be very worried.” The British newspaper the Guardian has gone further, updating its style guidelines so reporters must now use the terms “climate emergency,” “climate crisis,” or “climate breakdown.” Global warming should be “global heating.” The newspaper’s editor believes “climate change” just isn’t scary enough, arguing that it “sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

Unsurprisingly, the result is that most of us are very worried. A 2016 poll found that across countries as diverse as the United Arab Emirates and Denmark, a majority of people believe that the world is getting worse, not better. In the United Kingdom and the United States, two of the most prosperous countries on the planet, an astonishing 65 percent of people are pessimistic about the future. A 2019 poll found that almost half of the world’s population believes climate change likely will end the human race. In the United States, four of ten people believe global warming will lead to mankind’s extinction.”

You can read the first twenty five pages of this book, including the above quote, here.

I am now about to test my Bjorn Lomborg prejudices

I recently got lent a copy of this book by Bjorn Lomborg:

But before getting stuck into it, I wanted to describe my prejudice concerning Bjorn Lomborg, based on such things as reading short articles by him and pieces by others about him. But then, when looking for something else in my old blog, I came across this posting from 2012 that already described my Lomborg prejudices, which started life as a comment on a Samizdata posting:

My prejudice about Lomborg (which is why I have not studied his thoughts in much depth) is that he doesn’t understand the argument he says he is in.

In particular, he doesn’t grasp that the essence of the Climate argument concerns whether or not there is going to be a Climate Catastrophe. If there is, then all Lomborg’s chat about merely improving the lives of the poor is just fiddling while Rome awaits incineration.

But if the evidence for a forthcoming catastrophe is no better now than at any other time during human history, then Lomborg’s arguments make sense, as do all other arguments about merely improving things. Economics, business, capitalism, etc. all make sense, and there is no excuse for global collectivism, because it only makes things worse. The only excuse for global collectivism is in preventing a global catastrophe that is otherwise unpreventable.

The climate argument is about climate science, not economics. But Lomborg, being an economist, can’t make himself accept that. He’s the bloke with a hammer to whom every problem must involve banging in a nail. But the whole reason they fabricated the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming was that they could then stop talking about economics, and switch to something else. They wanted to stop losing their argument to people like Lomborg, and instead to win it, in a field where, to start with, they had the advantage of being early adopters, and where their opponents literally did not know what they were talking about.

To be clear: these are just my prejudices, and they haven’t changed since 2012. But because of them I’ve basically ignored Lomborg, and that will now change. I hope now to discover if my prejudices have any solid basis or if they will have to be dumped.

Trumpism and the future of the world (and why I hope Trump wins)

Tucker Carlson is one of my favourite political orators just now. Go here, to see and hear him in typically fluent form. Carlson asks and answers the question: Why do Trump’s meetings attract Trump supporters in such vast numbers?

To put it another way: If – if – Trump wins re-election, how will that have happened?

Trump loves America, and all the actually existing Americans who also love American. (If he doesn’t love America, he does a hugely impressive job of pretending to.) Millions of Americans understandably agree with Trump’s American nationalism.

But there is more at stake than merely the future of America. There’s a whole world out here to be considering.

Since the late eighteenth century, the world has been progressing in a spectacular way, despite all the bad stuff we all know about. Around 1780, there was this kink in all the graphs measuring human creature comforts, and things started getting rapidly better, and this fine trend in human affairs has continued ever since, with many interruptions in such places as Russia and China, but nevertheless unmistakeably. Everyday life, for everyone, even and especially for the very poorest people in the world, continues to get better and better. But will that continue? Might this excellent trend even go into reverse?

The best book I have recently read that grapples with those sorts of questions is The Wealth Explosion by Stephen Davies. Davies argues that what kicked off this spectacular explosion was that, when and where it happened, in Europe in the late 1700s, Europe was not politically unified. That meant that when the materials that went into the explosion began to be assembled – progressive technology and all the thinking that went into it, basically – there was nobody in Europe willing and able to stop this. On the contrary, because the various rulers of Europe were all quarrelling with one another, they all had a powerful incentive to stay ahead of one another in this race. In the world’s other civilisations, that didn’t happen, and technological stagnation ruled.

But Davies’s book is not only about the past. In it, he also ruminates upon the future. The big question for him is: What is modernity? Because if we know what it is, we may know better how to keep it in being.

He identifies several processes that might bring modernity to a halt and turn the last two hundred and more years of technological progress into a mere passing phase, like an earlier progressive episode that had happened in China. That episode was ended by a combination of military disaster and a subsequent Chinese ruling class decision to end it. Technological progress was quite consciously and deliberately stopped in its tracks.

One threat to modernity might, Davies speculates, be nationalism, and its associated fixed sum economic fallacies. By reversing international economic cooperation, such nationalism might throw progress into reverse, in the same kind of way that it did when the Great Depression got started, only more so. Trade war, and then perhaps even consequent actual war. That kind of thing. For Davies, good libertarian globalist that he is, Trump and all he stands for looms like a menace to everything good in the world and in its future.

But another threat to progress that Davies mentions seems to me at least as plausible, which is that globalisation will intensify, and create a global ruling class that will then, in the manner of the rulers of Imperial China, all agree that progress, because it is unsettling for the world and in particular for them, is bad and must be stopped. This ruling class might, in contrast, continue to pay lip service to the idea of progress, but will end up stopping it by mistake, in their efforts merely to improve and domesticate it.

I regard the second of these scenarios as a far greater threat to the world than the first. After all, does not Davies himself tell us that it was European “nationalism” that allowed all of this progress to get started in such a big way, back in the 1780s? If the world were now to unify, might that not prevent progress from happening, just as it prevented it everywhere else in the world outside of Europe (with the exception of Japan (which instead became a sort of honorary European country)), at the time when Europe itself was bursting forth into modernity? Ask questions like that, and Trump ceases to be a menace and becomes instead a protector and provoker of continuing global economic dynamism. He is now keeping the world un-unified, by refusing to let America become an outpost of a globalism dominated by quite different impulses centred around places like China and Russia, impulses that could switch off modernity far more thoroughly than continuing national rivalry ever could.

Trump, it seems to me, is a force for continuing global economic dynamism.

Meanwhile I sure hope Trump wins his election. I have no idea what the result of this election will be. I wish I could tell you this beforehand, but I cannot. I can only tell you what I hope, which is that Trump wins it by a stonking majority, so stonking that all those idiot left wing rioters are reduced to a state of spified shock and immobilised immiseration, sitting in their parental homes gibbering with incomprehension, and not a few of them obliging us all by committing suicide, and so stonking that the more civilised Democrats, the sort who prefer indoor corruption to outdoor looting, all decide that they must become Trumpists themselves.

If Trump wins like this, he will also speed up Britain’s escape from Lockdown, because a stonking Trump victory will, among other things, be a victory for anti-Lockdownism.

Like I said, not a prediction, merely a hope.

Driving away from poverty

Helen Dale, in the course of a review of Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works:

It is telling that Soviet authorities allowed the 1940 film Grapes of Wrath to be released in the country as a propaganda exercise. However, cinemagoers were amazed how in America people fled poverty in a car. In Soviet Russia, you hoofed it. The movie was withdrawn.

The point being that a lot of innovation happens when less educated people have just enough affluence, which includes having just enough time, to tinker with stuff, and thereby accomplish things that the educated people all agreed couldn’t be done.

BMNB SQotD: Robinson on talking to Sowell

Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, towards the end (48m 20s) of talking with the relentlessly illuminating but relentlessly pessimistic Thomas Sowell:

“You know, I love talking to you but I really don’t know why.”

It’s the relentless illumination.

Car seat laws as contraception

I love the animal tweets that Steve Stewart-Williams does, but a lot of his non-animal tweets are excellent also.

For instance:

OK, I wasn’t expecting that: Car-seat laws function as contraception. They raise the cost of having a third child, because most cars can’t fit three car seats in the back. In 2017, the laws saved 57 lives in the US but led to 8,000 fewer births.

That’s been open on my computer for the best part of a month, but it refused to allow itself to be deleted. Too interesting.

Elon Musk on the difficulty of getting from prototype to mass production

Elon Musk:

The extreme difficulty of scaling production of new technology is not well understood. It’s 1000% to 10,000% harder than making a few prototypes. The machine that makes the machine is vastly harder than the machine itself.

Musk said this in connection with the battle he is now having to mass produce batteries.

This is a point that Matt Ridley, in his recently published book about innovation, also makes very forcibly.

Another illustration of this that I am a little bit familiar with (in the sense of having read about it) is that getting from a prototype to the mass production of the famed World War 2 bomber, the Avro Lancaster, took more than a year. This at a time when pressure to get the Lancaster flying and bombing in numbers could not have been more intense or more nationally prioritised. A prototype Lancaster first flew in January 1941, with great success, so there was not, on the face of it, a lot of trouble that needed shooting, so to speak. Yet it was over a year after that before the first RAF bomber squadron was able to switch to flying Lancasters in anger.

LATER: As I should have mentioned earlier, I got to the above quote by being told that Starlink (mentioned in this Michael Jennings comment here), which is intended to supply cheap and speedy internet connection in unpromising places, like disaster areas and very poor countries, is now being rolled out, despite whatever difficulties they had to overcome before they could start mass producing (and mass launching into space) all the kit for that.

Trump did this good thing, but …

Ronald Forbes, for The Conservative Woman:

WHY is it that almost every conservative defence of Donald Trump begins by disowning him personally like a distasteful object held at arm’s length?

Sure, they say, Trump gave the economy and the job market an electro-shock that Obama said wasn’t possible and didn’t even try, but …

Sure, Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement designed by liberal greenery to throttle Western economies and living standards and also out of the mad deal that freed Iran to go nuclear by the mid-2020s, but …

Sure, Trump rolled back Obama’s kangaroo courts on campuses, stemmed the immigration free-for-all, took on China’s communist bullies, read the facts of life to free-riding European partners in Nato, started a historic normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab states, but …

Sure, Trump nominated Supreme Court justices dedicated to the strange idea that the constitution meant what it said rather than what liberal judges would prefer it to say, but …

Well said mate. I like this Donald Forbes man. Who is he?

Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

A background well suited to make a man understand the vast moral chasm that separates being an evil piece of tyrannical shit from being a great man and a great guy, who has his hair done in a rather strange way.

But reading this excellent piece caused me to suffer a spasm of selfish worry. Patrick Crozier and I recorded a chat about Trump, a couple of years back. Did either of us do any of this distasteful-object-held-at-arm’s-length stuff when we talked about Trump? I listened to what we’d said again this afternoon, just to check. Happily, there was hardly anything like that. I once mentioned that picking a President was not the same as picking a father-in-law. (I would now love to have Trump as a father-in-law.) But that’s as near as either of us got to any pre-emptively grovelling (to the evil piece of tyrannical shit tendency) stylistic criticism of Trump. There was some analysis of Trump’s personal style. (He is a Rat Pack fan, basically.) Plus, there was lots of interrupting, and hesitating and mumbling, and general conversational incompetence. But, I’m proud to report that both us talked of Trump’s style and personality only to tease out why it was working so well, and that I for one repeatedly called him a great man. Okay we missed a few of the great things Trump had already done even then, but he’s done so many great things and that’s easily forgiven.

While I’m boasting about my past pronouncements (if I don’t who else will? (the particular bit I’m thinking of is at the end of that which I am about to link to)) see also, on the subject of the difference between mere stylistic impropriety and gigantic moral evil, this.

Architecture for dogs

I get daily emails about “new london architecture”, and from Dezeen, the design website. From these emails alone, it is clear that the profession of architecture is in a bad way just now. Big new buildings just aren’t being built in anything like the numbers they were a few years ago. Even Zaha Hadid, who have been continuing to build big stuff in China, are being flattered by journos eager to keep in with them, not by plugging their latest Big Thing in China, but by writing about that space ship house that the late Zaha Hadid herself designed, several years ago.

The latest Frank Gehry project to get a write-up in Dezeen is a perfume bottle.

But of all the stories that speaks to this architectural go-slow, the one that I find most divertingly bizarre concerns an exhibition in London, organised by some Japanese goofballs, concerning architecture for dogs. Dezeen has noticed this, what with their being so little else of an architectural sort to be noticing, with a story about an architect who has done a sort of table thing that dogs can occupy, or something.

Dogs will get enthusiastic about anything their human bosses tell them to enthuse about. They’ll do anything to oblige. So they happily go along with this nonsense. But really. Could the world of “design”, all cool and calm and sophisticated and minimalist, be more completely at odds with the world of dogs, all enthusiasm and rushing about, sniffing each other’s arses and generally making a totally undignified spectacle of themselves and not caring a toss? To me, it all smacks of desperation. You can hear the wailing at Dezeen: What the hell else is there to write about? Well, I guess it’s dogitecture again.

Beatrice and Titania

Badly needing to get out and exercise, so quota photo, of the above mentioned ladies:

Photoed with my old Canon A70, way back in 2003. Behind the two yellow ladies, you can just make out the Wheel.

I do miss them, and their various Shakespearian sisters. They were driven out of business by the Big Sewer.

This photo already had a name in my archives, so I wondered if I’d shown it here (or here) before. But all I found was mention of a Beatrice (Rana) who plays classical piano, one of many.

See also this recent posting, for my take on why you don’t often see boats with wheels, even though this is technologically very easy to contrive.