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.

At the Royal Victoria Docks in March 2012

The basic reason I do personal blogging has always been that I don’t want any constraints placed by some agenda, in my case a political one, on what I consider to be interesting, or beautiful, or amusing, or interesting, or just likeable in some indefinable way. The rule I try to stick to is: Never, if I actually do not, say what I think or feel that I am supposed to think or feel. If that results in “contradictions” between things I consider of interest, so be it.

All of which is a preamble to saying that I hope I never stop doing postings like this one, with photos like this:

All of the above photos were photoed in March of 2012, on the way to (photo 1), on the way from (photo 28), or at or from (photos 2-27) the Royal Victoria Docks, which are out beyond Docklands. This evening, I came across a little directory, where I’d put them all, with something like this in mind. All the work of selecting had been done. So here they all are. And yes, you are right, I do have very conventional tastes in sunsets, with interesting things in the foreground. But if you ever decide to dislike something you like, because other people also like it, more fool you.

I love how shoving up great clutches of photos like this is so much easier than it was at the old blog, and that it is easy for you to click through them, if you want to, just as slowly or as quickly as you like, without a lot of backwards-and-forwards-ing. I don’t think that’ll ever get old.

Two Big Things were, at that particular moment, under construction. They were finishing up with The Shard, and they were building that weird cable car thing across the River, having, in March 2012, got as far as building the towers but being yet to attach the cables or cable cars.

One of my favourite Things at these docks is the new footbridge they built across it. It’s great to look at, and it’s great to look from.

I really hope that by the time half decent weather returns, some time around March 2021, I’ll be in a fit state to take advantage of it, and do more of this kind of photo-perambulating.

Antony Beevor omits any reference to the forecast for June 19th 1944

I did a posting here a while back about the weather-forecasting for D-Day (June 6th 1944), and also about the weather-forecasting for the day that would have been D-Day (June 19th) if Actual D-Day (June 6th) had been postponed, quoting from this book by Peter Caddick-Adams.

In that posting, I surmised that real D-Day experts would surely be familiar with the tale that Caddick-Adams told, about how, had the forecast weather for June 6th not been good enough, as it so nearly wasn’t, the attempt to do D-Day would have then happened on the 19th, and would have been a catastrophic failure.

Later, it occurred to me to delve into another D-Day book that I also possess, but have also only been dipping into. And on page 216 of D-Day: The Battle For Normandy by Antony Beevor, we read this:

The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself. Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’

Caddick-Adams makes no mention of this note, so score one to Beevor for that.

However, I searched before and after the above passage for any reference to what Beevor says the weather forecast had been for the 19th, and found nothing. Caddick-Adams quotes one of Stagg’s forecasters saying that all the forecasters had in fact forecast, very wrongly indeed, good weather for the 19th. Beevor, unless I am badly mistaken, makes no reference to this later and wrong forecast. He only needed to include about one more sentence to do this, but no such sentence is to be found.

Had the forecasters foreseen the dreadful storms of June 19th-22nd, D-Day (had they been contemplating it then) would surely have been postponed yet again, no matter what inconvenience and frustration that would have caused. But, they did in fact miss this storm, and would have missed it. So it’s a crucial detail.

So, I would say that in this particular engagement between historians, Caddick-Adams edges it.

Peter Caddick-Adams: If D-Day had been postponed it would have been a catastrophe

I have been reading the recently published book by Peter Caddick-Adams about D-Day, entiled Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day, the follow-up to Snow and Steel, which was about the Battle of the Bulge. James Holland, quoted on the cover of Sand and Steel, calls it “Magisterial”, which is his way of saying that it is a huge book, with a huge amount of judiciously presented detail. The book is, I’m afraid, too “magisterial” for me now to be ploughing through it from start to finish. What I am now doing is feeling my way into it by looking up, in the index of Sand and Steel, people involved in D-Day whom I already know a little about, and then seeing what Caddick-Adams has to say about them.

I already know, for instance, a bit about Captain James Stagg, the one who supplied Eisenhower with that famous weather forecast, of a break in the bad weather on June 6th 1944, which enabled Ike to say: Go.

Caddick-Adams disapproves of how a little too much honour for this has been heaped only upon Stagg. Stagg was not himself a professional weather forecaster. He did summarise and pass on to Ike what the real forecasters, half a dozen of them, were telling him. That is honour enough for Stagg, but the real hero was the elaborate system that gathered together all the relevant information. Also, the German forecasters told pretty much the same weather story to their superiors, contrary to what Stagg-fans like me had been assuming.

Caddick-Adams is very good about somewhat misleading tales of this sort. His passion for detail, and for tracking down absolutely everyone and anyone who could tell him those details, is all mixed up with him wanting to know what really happened, as opposed to the stories that some people have been in the habit of telling one another, in movies for instance. This great generation of warriors, you can hear Caddick-Adams insisting, deserves nothing less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That being why his books are typically so long. The whole truth of something like D-Day can’t be told in a hundred and fifty pages. Sand and Steel is one thousand and twenty five pages long.

Of a lot more interest, to me, than who exactly we should be praising for that most famous and famously accurate of weather forecasts, is what Caddick-Adams says about what might have happened if the weather on June 6th not been so favourable, and if Ike had consequently been forced to say: No. Not yet. Or for that matter if, given the forecasts he did get, Ike had simply said no anyway.

To know this, you have to know what range of dates the Allies considered suitable for the D-Day landings, weather permitting, and why. The relevant passage from Sand and Steel goes thus (pp, 346-347):

Given the specific moon and tidal requirements for the landing, Hogben recalled …

… Hogben being one of Stagg’s weather forecasters …

… they had just six possible days to invade in June: 5th-7th and 19th-21st. ‘We worked out the odds on the weather on any one of those four days conforming to our needs as being 13-1 against. So meteorologically, D-Day was bound to be a gamble against the odds.’ Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commanding the Western Task Force, recorded the factors that needed to come together for the invasion: ‘The night before D-Day had to be reasonably light so that convoys could keep station with ships darkened: he wrote. ‘Airborne operations also required this, necessitating a night with a full moon, or nearly so.’ Next, Kirk identified that ‘H-Hour needed one hour of daylight before the initial landings to enable bombarding ships to neutralise German batteries and drench the landing beaches’, but it needed to be ‘sufficiently before high water for the demolition parties to remove beach obstacles while still dry’.

However, it also had to be ‘sufficiently after low water in order to permit the landing on certain British beaches where sand bars prevented an assault until two or three hours later’. Ideally, the day would be fixed to ensure ‘a second high water in daylight to permit maximum unloading’. In conclusion, wrote Kirk, ‘the only dates on which all these factors were available were 21-23 May; 5-7 and 19-21 June, or 3-5 July’, though Stagg later observed that if they waited for the perfect set ‘it would take 140 years’.

So, if June 6th had not been the right day to be D-Day, what day would have been?

Here is what Hogben said about that (p. 351):

In speculating what would have happened if the poor weather had persisted on 6 June, leading to postponement until the nineteenth, the New Zealander Hogben stated, ‘As it happened, on 17 June, all six of us produced a forecast for the nineteenth for almost perfect conditions – the invasion would definitely have gone ahead, and would have been an utter catastrophe. Complete failure – for on 19 June the biggest storm of the twentieth century lashed the Channel and I doubt many landing craft would have even made it to the beaches. They would all have been swamped with the high winds. It does not bear thinking about.’

Says Caddick-Adams:

Recent statistical analysis supports this. The storm was a ‘once in forty years’ event, a tempest of slightly less ferocity having lashed the Calvados coast in February 1905, emphasising how lucky Eisenhower was to have opted to go on 6 June. …

Under a photo from his own (presumably vast) collection, of a huge wave crashing over the sea wall at Arromanches-Les-Bains, Caddick-Adams hammers home the same point (also p. 351):

The Overlord meteorologists were aware that violent storms often blew in from the Atlantic to batter the Normandy coast. Much documented was the hurricane of February 1905, which threw huge columns of water at the future invasion beaches and sites for the two artificial harbours. In June 1944, the Allied weathermen spotted a lull in the bad weather, but the tempest that began on 19 June replicated the violence of 1905. Postponing the invasion from 6 June to the nineteenth would thus have been disastrous for D-Day and the landings would have failed.

The point being, although the Allied forecasters got their forecast for June 6th right, they got the forecast for June 19th totally wrong, and unanimously so. They would definitely have said: Go. Ike would surely have concurred. And, it would have been a disaster.

The USSR conquering a whole lot more of Europe than it did. No President Eisenhower. Maybe the atom bomb being ready before the end of the war in Europe? The alternative history ramifications are endless.

Maybe D-Day buffs have long known about this June 19th aspect of the D-Day story, but it was all completely new to me.

Big Things across the River

There were statues to be seen nearby, but there were bigger things, Big Things, further away, on the other side of the River:

Photo 1 uses the clutter associated with getting on and off of a boat to frame the Wheel. All the rest are entirely of more distant stuff.

I like the colours, warm cream when the sun hits stone or concrete, dark glass, the perfect blue of the sky. My camera makes the dark glass, of such buildings as One Blackfriars (aka the Boomerang), all the darker by not wanting bright sunlight directly reflected to look too bright.

And once again with the shadow of the Wheel (for once London “Eye” works very nicely) on the Shell Building, but this time with the shadow seeming to be the wrong way round, as seen most clearly in photo 6 and also in photo 7. It is of course the shadow of the opposite side of the Wheel.

And in the further distance, in gaps, the Shard (photo 9), and a rather handsome view of 22 Bishopsgate (photo 5) looking like a more coherent shape than I am used to seeing, a bit like a ship, front on. Move along a bit, and we then see the Cheesegrater as well (photo 8).

These strange alignments all take a bit of getting used to when you first see them. This is because, like so many rivers in the middle of great cities, this river twists and turns, that being a big reason why the city got built here in the first place. By twiddling this way and that, the river brings valuable riverside spots closer to each other, and stirs up a lot more commerce than a straight river would. (See also: Paris.) But these kinks play hell with your sense of direction, or with mine anyway. I was on the north bank of the river, but, although I was looking straight across the river, I was nevertheless looking due east, rather than south. And back across another kink in the river again when seeing 22 Bishopsgate and the Cheesegrater, which are both part of the City Big Thing Cluster, which is on the north side of the river.

It is all part of London’s charm, and the charm of its Big Things. When out-and-abouting in London you can never be quite sure which Big Thing you’ll see next, through some gap in the foreground, or from what direction you’ll see it.

There are cranes to be seen, but very few.

Looking towards Vauxhall

I really like this photo, with its excellent detail in unpromising light, with its only occasional bits of colour and its big grunge boat in the foreground, by which I mean forewater:

St Thomas’s Hospital on the left. Westminster Bridge. Parliament on the right, with half of the still heavily scaffolded Big Ben on the right. And in the distance, the towers of Vauxhall, but with Millbank Tower at the right hand end of the distant towers, that being on the north bank. I know all those well.

It’s the latest photo posted to Facebook by Michael Jennings. Michael often says of his photos of London that all they are is photos of London: Michael Jennings – in London, United Kingdom. But sometimes, as with this photo, he has a little more to say:

The cluster of buildings that is growing between Vauxhall and Battersea Park on the south of the Thames really is quite something.

This cluster being quite near to where I live, I can confirm that Michael is not wrong about the scale of what is going on over there.

I can’t tell from the info I looked at what camera Michael used for the above photo. Another case (see also: this) of an iPhone?

How The Broadway is looking in the sunshine

A while back, I showed photos of The Broadway being built, which, because of the weather, looked like black-and-white photos. Here is that same Broadway last Wednesday, nearer to being completed, in sunshine, and therefore in colour:

Photo 1 is the first view of these new towers that I get when I walk along Regency Street and look towards Victoria Street. In that photo, and in photo 4, we clearly see those coffins, which I first mentioned here way back in July, near the bottom of one of these towers. Now, there are also coffins at the top of that same tower. Odd choice.

Photo 5 shows the games that light plays with the big sign facing Victoria Street. “A dynamic new residential quarter redefining …” what? I probably have other photos in my archive telling me what, but frankly, I don’t care and would be amazed if any of you did either. In photo 5, which is a detail of the same scene, you can see through this sign that 55 Broadway will, in you stand in the right spots in Victoria Street, be visible from there. Good. That’s now what happened when New Scotland Yard was in this same spot. The fake photo here shows this gap in The Broadway very clearly.

Photo 7 shows that the other two towers on either side of the coffin tower will sport a slightly different, although closely related, decorative plumage. Too thin to be coffins.

Photo 9: cranes. And in photo 9, I am looking back up Victoria Street from the other side of Parliament Square, at the same cranes, which look pleasingly tumultuous, I think. I really hope that the era of such tumultuous crane clusters is not about to end. Or, to put it another way: I wonder if these apartments will sell at anything resembling a profit?

Ghost apple

Weird:

“Ghost Apples” are an unusual phenomenon where freezing rain coats rotting apples before they fall, then when the apple turns mushy it eventually slips out and leaves the icy shell still hanging on the tree.

This is a really good metaphor for … I don’t know what, but something.

A gallery of mostly mundane things – unmundanely lit

As I spend less time accummulating photos and more time contemplating the ones I have, I more and more see that. for me, light is everything. Photography is, I find myself telling myself more and more often, light. For me, bad light equals bad photography, the sort of photography that involves lots of pressing of things like the “sharpen” button in my not-Photoshop programme. Good light presses that button for me.

October 21st 2018 was a good light day. In the days after it I did several postings based on photos I photoed that day. I did my favourite ever photo of Centre Point that day. I photoed how very blue the blue sky was that day. I photoed Bartok. I photoed Chinese lanterns. I photoed Compton.

I spent some of October 21st 2018 in the area around and to the north of Centre Point:

One of those photos, number 22 (of 25), requires a bit of an explanation. I like to photo the BT Tower. And I like to photo the reflection of the BT Tower in the big building at the top end of Tottenham Court Road. That photo is one of the few times I managed to photo both these things at the same time.

I think my favourite of the above photos may be number 2. Scaffolding, lit in a way that makes it, I think, downright magical. I also particularly like number 3, where you see both a reflection and a shadow, of the same pointy building.

f your are inclined towards enjoying such things, then enjoy. Click click click. It needn’t take you long.

Is “unmundanely” a word? It is now.

How we got another look at 55 Broadway

I literally only photoed two photos today, and when I say “literally”, I actually do literally mean literally, which is not how it often is these days. The first photo I photoed was of this taxi with advert photo, and the second photo was this:

My purpose in showing this photo is not just to show how what used to be known as “New” Scotland Yard has now been turned into flats for the well off. It is also to illustrate a common urban phenomenon, which is how building projects in great cities have a way of temporarily revealing great buildings. 55 Broadway was almost hidden by New Scotland Yard, which was a huge slab where the new towers now are. Now 55 Broadway is back to being almost hidden, by those new towers. My photo of the new towers does enable you to see 55 Broadway lurking in the back there, if you know what you’re looking for. But it makes little impression.

Here, on the other hand, is a photo I took of the same place a couple of years ago, with me standing a bit further down Victoria Street, which shows 55 Broadway much more clearly:

What that shows is what an impact this building had when it was first built. Time was when in was among London’s biggest Big Things.

It helps that the weather that day was a lot nicer.