A disappointing presentation


in Politics, Rants, Science, The environment

If it had been an intellectual argument, Professor Timothy Luke‘s presentation on climate change tonight might have been subject to some strong criticism. As it was, it was essentially a smug collection of sniping ad hominem arguments directed at Al Gore, Nicholas Stern, and the concept of liberal environmentalism generally. He made clear that he holds these people in contempt – using a mocking tone of voice while quoting their work – but never really explained why, beyond some vague suggestions that ‘ecopopulism’ would be superior, and how the powerful and the plutocratic are aligned to remain in control. The idea that grassroots organizations will somehow directly access environmental science, then manifest their new preferences through the popular alteration of the political dialog seems rather unlikely. While you can certainly engage in argument with knowledge brokers like Nicholas Stern and Al Gore (starting that argument is much of the point of their work), simply attacking them for being part of existing governmental and economic systems carries little water.

One can hardly expect leaders of politics and industry to abandon their power and the standard economic system. That is especially true when you don’t seem to have any well-formed idea about what the alternative might be. By nor following up his scorn with substance, Professor Luke left us with little value for our time.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 1, 2007 at 7:52 pm

Ouch. Where was this presentation given?

Milan March 1, 2007 at 8:13 pm

It was one of the Linacre Lectures, hosted by the Oxford University Centre for the Environment.

Anonymous March 1, 2007 at 11:04 pm

He has clearly written his own Wikipedia entry, if that’s any indication of character.

Edward March 2, 2007 at 5:33 pm

Milan, I have nothing of substance to add to this discussion, but I was wondering if you could comment on, or blog about, the most logical argument that has been made against the problem of climate change: that although the science seems to suggest that global warming is occurring, there is no evidence to suggest that this would have any impact on human life or existence. It seems to me that this is an infallible argument in that science has no real way of readily disproving this. So, although scientist can show, and have been showing, that global warming is occurring (beyond reasonable doubt, in my opinion), it has been difficult to ‘prove’ (rather than simply handwavingly hypothesize) that it will really matter to human survival.

I know shockingly little about the global warming debate, and although I happen to support taking measures to reduce carbon emissions (as well as other emissions), a little education on the matter (and/or reading your opinion about it) would probably be a good thing :)

Milan March 2, 2007 at 5:34 pm

From the Stern Review, executive summary:

“Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world –access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.”

“Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.”

“If no action is taken to reduce emissions, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could reach double its pre-industrial level as early as 2035, virtually committing us to a global average temperature rise of over 2°C. In the longer term, there would be more than a 50% chance that the temperature rise would exceed 5°C. This rise would be very dangerous indeed; it is equivalent to the change in average temperatures from the last ice age to today. Such a radical change in the physical geography of the world must lead to major changes in the human geography– where people live and how they live their lives.”

“All countries will be affected. The most vulnerable – the poorest countries and populations – will suffer earliest and most, even though they have contributed least to the causes of climate change. The costs of extreme weather, including floods, droughts and storms, are already rising, including for rich countries.”

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