The dim and distant history of climate blogging

shiptoship1 There’s a thread on twitter, started by “‏@JacquelynGill” noting “The Day After Tomorrow”, “‏@ClimateOfGavin” replying that “it was that movie and lame sci community response that prompted me to start blogging”, and continuing “Spring 2004 was pre-RC, Scienceblogs, etc. Deltoid was around, Stoat, @mtobis + other sci.env ppl too. But very few.”

Gosh, those were the days. More than ten years ago. What can I remember?

[Update (I’ll put it here so you see it, maybe): David Appell remembers. Which reminds me of a story: somewhen we were all (on sci.env?) speculating about such-and-such a thing: had X really said Y, or whatever. And then I found a post on QS where DA had simply asked the relevant person, and got an answer. Oh, is that how you do it, I thought.

Eli has seen it all before.

As has James.

Also updated to add Coby Beck, Inkstain (John Fleck), PlanetFleck, and Prometheus.]

TDAT was May 2004 and predates “stoat”; the very first “stoat” was in July 2004 and contained, in its entirety, Do I really want to do this? I wonder. Still it may well be fun to try. My first edit to the wiki TDAT article was in early 2005: I replaced The film aims to dramatically depict hypothetical catastrophic effects… with The film dramatically but unrealistically depicts catastrophic effects… and there were all sorts of arguments about that over the years.

The first “stoat” of mine that I can see with any bearing on climate is Another post and advises people You should read this:
http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/science/mckitrick6.html
, which is TL pointing out McK’s degrees/radians error. If you look at Deltoid now, it looks like it has a contiguous history as scienceblogs going back to 1998, but of course it doesn’t; as TL says, he’s imported old stuff. Maybe I should import old sci/env stuff to stoat? I had a brief go at working out when it really started but failed; in December 2013 he mostly seemed to be assaulting the gun-nut Lott. Though its possible to find stuff if you know where to look.

[Update: as Eli points out, Deltoid’s first post on climate is at least as early as March 2004.]

Meanwhile, the first RC was Welcome to RealClimate in December 2004, and I think my first post there was Just what is this Consensus anyway?. There are some interesting bits of that post – notice how little I cared about exactly what the temperature trend was. So while “stoat” existed before RC, I’d written almost nothing on it by the time RC got going.

[Update: RC: Ten Years of RealClimate.]

Speaking of McK leads me to remember that 2003 was the year of the Hockey Stick Wars. Or at least one of the years. I can find my wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/mbh/, which is why the name McK meant something to me (I think it wasn’t clear that he was the monkey until later). Oh look, I even wrote a history page about it. Of course nowadays you’re better off reading [[Hockey stick controversy]]. There was some stuff about “climate2003” I think; ah yes, that was McI.

David Appell’s Quark Soup predated most other things I know about. Sadly the early site disappeared in some server crash or another; here’s an internet archive snapshot from 2005, showing archives back to March 2003. However, here’s March 2003 and its about politics and Star Trek. But I remember picking up early stuff on McI / McK from there.

Searching back through James’ Empty Blog I found Now you see it – now you don’t which refs First look at S+C’s MSU vn5.2? which is a reminder of one of the Big Things people used to argue about – how to reconcile the relative lack of warming / cooling shown by the satellite temperature record with reality. And the answer was a combo of: S+C had got it wrong, and the record was short. My recollection is that JEB first existed merely to make it convenient for James to post comments elsewhere; his hello world post in Jan 2005 just says “Well, everyone else seems to have a blog, so I might as well too. Will it be useful? I doubt it, but who knows…” Real posts seem to start with “betting on climate” in May 2005.

Michael Tobis, mt, didn’t start blogging till late I think. Eli was in sci.env under a pseudonym, but didn’t start blogging until September 2005.

So how did all that overlap with sci.environment? Quite a lot, I discover somewhat to my surprise. Here’s my last post there:

Following a long long period of disenchantment, and more importantly
the development of alternative fora, I’m leaving sci.env.
If the signal to noise ever improves, do let me know, I may take a peek.

The alternatives? Wikipedia; blogs (https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/ :-);
and http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/

-W.


William M Connolley | w…@bas.ac.uk | http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/met/wmc/
Climate Modeller, British Antarctic Survey | Disclaimer: I speak for myself
I’m a .signature virus! copy me into your .signature file & help me spread!

That’s from June 2006. Fitting in with the history thread is ANNOUNCING MODERATED GLOBAL CHANGE DISCUSSION FORUM globalchange.googlegroups.com from May 2006, which was a last-ditch and ultimately ill-timed attempt to create a moderated sci.env by a group of the sane: “James Annan, Raymond Arritt, Coby Beck, William Connolley, Michael Tobis”. It failed. But I see that early 2006, and certainly before, I was still pretty actively posting to sci.env.

Well, anyway, that’s some old stuff. There’s loads more I’ve forgotten and quite possibly stuff I’ve got wrong. Do feel free to comment, or if you write your own blog on the history, to link to it in the comments.

Latecomers

Errm, well. As in, people I didn’t cover in the first version.

Coby Beck, now scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/, started A Few Things Ill Considered at illconsidered.blogspot.com in November 2005, but didn’t get his first comment until 2006, so it was well stealthed to start with. the first post is worth reading because it confirms the “oh look there’s this thing called blogging starting to become popular and its better than usenet” type reaction. In Feb 2006 I welcomed him.

One I’d forgotten is PlanetFleck, which was a blog aggregator run by John Fleck. A sort of early google reader, but with fixed choice of blogs. Here’s an internet archive snapshot from 2005 featuring your favourites: RealClimate, Prometheus, Chris Mooney, Me, Tim Lambert, and other more misc ones.

John Fleck adds, in 2018, 20 years and 5,767 posts on, a thank you note to Inkstain readers.

Which of course reminds me of Prometheus: as I once said, once upon a time Prometheus bestrode the blogging world like a colossus. Here’s the opening post (cite). Although that says its the work of “Tind Shepper Ryen, Mark Lohaus, and Roger Pielke, Jr.” pretty soon it became RP’s. Reading a quasi-random post from 2004, Hurricanes and Climate Change: On Asking the Wrong Question it seems there is little new under the sun.

Atmoz appears to have been a relative newcomer: January 2007 is the first I can find.

John Fleck, at Inkstain, has some early history: he provided Thinking About Climate from April 2003. John nowadays blogs pretty well exclusively on water issues in his area. And of course he’s one of the joint authors on the seminal The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus paper. In fact, he’s the one that provided the flow and narrative cohesion.

Fergus Brown is a newcomer: Empty Cave is I think the first, from 2007(cite); that fits my recollections.

Refs

* THERE MUST BE A BOOK IN ALL THIS – HOW ABOUT CALLING IT says VVatts.
* Arthur Smith, in comments above, points us to worldchanging.com from March 2004.
* Doug McNeal’s list of climate-y blogs

I ought to leave you with some very vaguely appropriate picture.

2014-11-29 14.51.48

Help help I’m being repressed

10433202_10152850667551605_3472694221903309925_n So there I was happily making cow pies in a muddy field when some Arthur King comes along and I’m reminded once again of the violence inherent in the system.

[Update: and part 2, 2015/02.]

Which I think is about how seriously you should take Watt’s attempt to Godwin himself with the assistance of Ball. VVatts has a go, though. I’m with Sou re Betts etc.

Meanwhile, Bob Tisdale is a sock. He does assert directly its his real name; but I don’t trust him1.

The cartoon – with its implications of false balance – isn’t really appropriate; but I liked it anyway.

1 – I still don’t trust him, but his US copyright claim for Who Turned on the Heat? The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit–El Nino appears to identify by (presumably) true name and address.

goodgod

Refs

* UKIP warns of Schrödinger’s immigrant who ‘lazes around on benefits whilst simultaneously stealing your job’
* Court Filing: Tim Ball Not an “Authority on Global Warming” from QS.
* Eli has suggested a better image.

What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change?

Someone pointed me at Renewable energy ‘simply WON’T WORK’: Top Google engineers in El Rego, which is Lewis “you know you can’t trust me” Page’s take on What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change by Ross Koningstein & David Fork. Who they? Dunno, but you can read what they say about themselves: Ross Koningstein and David Fork.

Before I begin, a question: “why now”? The Rego article is clearly in response to the spectrum.ieee article, which is about “RE<C”, which died in 2011. Poking around I come to google.com/green/energy/investments/ which makes it pretty clear that google is still investing in renewables; so the “its all a waste of time according to google” spin is clearly nonsense. Looking at the google page on RE<C doesn’t help. So, I’m a bit puzzled. The article ends by saying that they “dedicate this article to the memory of Tim Allen” so perhaps he’s recently died, and that prompted it? Paging JM…

Anyway, back to RE<C, a project named in order to irritate people writing html. The goal was to produce a gigawatt of renewable power more cheaply than a coal-fired plant could, and to achieve this in years, not decades or something like that. Not surprisingly, they failed. Perhaps they did some good work along the way, who knows. But AFAIK everyone expects making renewables competitive in the short term requires carbon pricing – for example a carbon tax. Moreover, a carbon tax – or, if you must, near equivalent – is actually desirable from an economic point of view; so designing a techno-fix without it isn’t obviously a good idea.

However, the article then starts to go a bit odd: Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach. Which isn’t at all obvious. They don’t demonstrate – or really, make any attempt to demonstrate – that just standard plugging-away-at-it boring improvements in solar panel manufacturing won’t make such competitive in time, turning “today’s tech” into a solution without any fundamentally different approaches. And they rather shoot the whole thing in the foot – or allow Hansen to shoot them in the foot – by having him say: His climate models showed that exceeding 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere would likely have catastrophic effects. I can’t be bothered to look up if Hansen really did say this, or something that can be paraphrased as this, but its the sort of unhelpful thing that does get said.

So, meh. It all reads like excess techno-optimism, or perhaps like disappointed techno-optimism turned into pessimism. Consider Google’s approach to innovation… Wouldn’t it be great if governments and energy companies adopted a similar approach in their technology R&D investments? Hell, yeah! It would! And wouldn’t it be great if, like, everyone was nice to each other and wrote lint warning free code into the bargain? Well, tell that to the Russkies (the bit about being nice, not the bit about lint).

So what does combatting climate change need? I think sane government policy would go a long way – i.e., carbon tax instead of subsidising particular tech. It would certainly be cheaper than the current approach. And a variety of people, starting with the West, realising that their bloated consumerist lifestyles are pointless. But you could argue that’s about as likely as people being, like, nice to each other.

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Its bigger than it looks, as the Bishop said to the actress. The start of the Grawawand from the Grawagrubennieder (it seems to have multiple spellings; anyway, the pass from the Neue Regensburger to the Dresdener). Somewhere behind it is the RuderhofSpitze, but that’s another day. No, I didn’t try to climb it, I went around to the left.

Refs

* German plea to Sweden over threat to coal mines – the fuckwitted Krauts discover the downside of turning off their nukes.

Oh, lordy!

10653288_10152940756402259_6685811194719710723_n Mostly misc. I start with this erg screenshot, which I hasten to add is not mine, though that will be obvious to the cognoscenti immeadiately, or indeed to anyone who has sweated out 2k and got not even close to 6:06.8 – I can’t even quite manage 7:10 for 2k, let alone for three times as long. This one is by Eric Murray, and not only should you be admiring the raw score, you should also admire the amazing consistency.

Following the aquatic theme is Bantam IV by some narrow-boating friends.

Special late bonus item: Curbside, by Rich Puchalsky.

This page is intentionally left blank – a philosophical study.

Remember the Italian seismologists? They seem to have been cleared.

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag: Heinlein, before he got silly. For some reason I was reminded of that recently.

Now for the silly stuff. I just discovered a fun trick to play: this is a screen shot of WUWT: look, they really are wingnuts!

wuwt-funny

Yay. Of course, what happened is that I was searching for wingnuts a bit earlier. And I could have photoshopped it, but I didn’t. I tried to make it do “fruitcake” and “dildo” too, but that didn’t work.

I was looking for a lead-in to the utterly stupid, yet at the same time utterly banal, WUWT piece Cloud Feedback by Stan Robertson. Its completely broken, for reasons explained by Richard Telford (and which are even confessed in the comments of the WUWT piece; this one is so obviously broken even the Watties noticed) but its still, shamelessly, sitting at WUWT without any form of correction or notice that its wrong. Perhaps they’re taking lessons from Breitbart, or maybe its the other way round.

And lastly for my titular piece, something completely batshit: yes, its the Looney Lord again. Whining, yet again, about his arch-nemesis, Michael Mann. Its full of the fake legalese that we’ve come to know and love from the Good Lord, but cast that to one side and read

That Dr Mann’s own curriculum vitae lists him as having co-authored and thus, in accordance with academic norms, as having accepted full personal responsibility for the depiction on the front cover of the WMO’s publication with which in his brief to the court he denies all connection.

Ring any bells? Of course! Lord M’s own little bit of denialism: apparently, when Monckers publishes something with his name on it, he accepts no responsibility for the contents. Oh, its glorious.

Oh, and finally: if you’re thinking of getting killed by IS / ISIS / ISIL / whatever we’re calling them this week: do make sure you’re western. You’ll want your name in the papers, after all, not to just be one of a bunch of anonymous Syrians.

Refs

* Bold Sir Rylas – Spiers and Boden
* Famous flower of serving men – Martin Carthy
* On the merits of competition in government services – Timmy
* Fun Number: Apple Is Now Worth More Than The Entire Russian Stock Market

The politics edition

16395_10152458693736179_870729479636026355_n Time for some politics – it always provides cheap hits. I’ll start with this cartoon, which I found on facebook, promoted by various of the Good. But, its rubbish; its Wrong Thinking. Its a response to the US mid-term elections – or at least, I think that’s why its being reposted – and the message seems to be… well, actually, its hard for me to parse it. It seems to be a response from the Left / Democrat side of things, effectively whinging about the (marginally greater numbers of) voters who opted for what they regard as the Dark Side, who they apparently believe as asking for dirty air and water so that CEOs can make more money. A moment’s reflection shows that isn’t true; so what this cartoon really shows is that a lot of people on the Left just don’t understand, can’t even begin to understand, the thinking of the people who don’t want to vote for their side. It must because they’re silly, or corporate peons, of course. CIP has a better analysis, though not flawless, and I’m no student of US politics. CIP doesn’t like Eli’s economics, either.

Moving on to the vexed question of fossil fuel subsidies, I’m mostly with Timmy. It seems fairly… ironic..? That Saudi Arabia, a great place for renewables like solar, subsidises oil so much that they aren’t competitive there. [Update: see-also India’s Modi Does Exactly The Right Thing By Raising Gas Taxes As Oil Falls In Price.]

In the not-really-politics department we have KK versus Bill Nye on GMOs. I’m on KK, and Kevin Folta’s, side. [Update: A Victory for Anti-GMO Forces and a Blow to ScienceGreenpeace and the denialists in lockstep.]

Breaking-US and China Reach Agreement on Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions sayeth the Wabbit. Apparently China will cap emissions by 2030 or earlier and generate 20% of its energy without fossil fuels. The US has agreed to cut emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. I’m not sure how to read it. Has “the US” agreed? Or just the Prez? His word isn’t binding on the US, I think, and I also think this wouldn’t get through Congress or whatever. Its variously described as a “target” or a “goal”, or on China’s side as a “commitment”, so is this just mood music? Though even if it was just mood music, it would be heading towards the right mood (though in the wrong way; remember Carbon Tax Now). These are not rhetorical questions; anyone who thinks they know what “the US” agreement means is welcome to try to enlighten me. Ah, Mr. Obama could face opposition to his plans from a Republican-controlled Congress. While the agreement with China needs no congressional ratification, lawmakers could try to roll back Mr. Obama’s initiatives, undermining the United States’ ability to meet the new reduction targets from the NYT is useful.

[Update: from the comments, RA provides a cartoon we can all love.]

Stubai: Wilder Freiger by the Lubeckerweg

Next: September 8th: Sulzenau to Dresdener.

From the Wilder Pfaff and Zuckerhutl I went back to the Nurnberger, had a look at the (Aperer) Feuerstein and then went to the Sulzenau for a rest day. That concluded my first week.

Miriam (who has suddenly appeared in this tale, but I won’t mention her much) and I were off to the Dresdener in the afternoon, so I had all morning to do something interesting, which thing was to experiment with the Lubeckerweg up the Wilder Freiger. “But!” (You’ll complain) “You’ve already climbed the WF“. Well yes I have. But a mountain is a big place. I’ve descended the glacier part of today’s route, from the yukky col by the Mullerhutte, but the cables on that col are now removed. But that was in 2001 and the glacier can be quite different now (the route disappears off into the top left of that pic). As usual, today’s route is available as a GPS track. Note that while this post is written in the confident tone that only hindsight can provide, on the day I was quite uncertain as to whether the route was going to be plausible, either on the glacier or ridge sections.

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6:30 Kleines fruhstuck. Yes, that really is it, apart from the cup of coffee: dwarf bread, butter and jam. I packed my bag last night so get off early, for me, at 7. I’ve decided it would be an interesting experiment to take a pic every 10 mins on the way – perhaps it might give a better feel that the usual only-take-pix-of-the-interesting-bits, and give some idea of the slog of climbing up. So you’re not allowed to complain that some of them are a bit boring. Though today the weather is so good its a joyous route up, and makes up for any numbers of slogs on other days.

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Just leaving the hut. The usual helpful signpost and first path marker. In the distance the sun, so despite my vaunted “early” I’m actually fairly late. But I won’t need the extra time, and 6:30 was the earliest they do breakfast. In the distance – just above the signpost pole – is the glacier whose retreat I blogged a few days ago; and the waterfall falls from its lake.

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En route, with the mountains burnt out in the sun ahead. Sorry: but since I was breaking my march to take these, I didn’t stop for long enough to get the exposures exactly right.

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Higher. A lovely diagonal of darkness and a perfect blue sky.

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Looking back. It really was a mind-bogglingly beautiful day. The next one is pretty good too.

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Slightly cheating, because that’s off to the right not straight ahead.

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No longer cheating. The path and the path markers wend off into the distance, we’re climbing the rocks and moraines of the East bank of the glacier. A little higher up is a helpful reminder of the way back to the Sulzenauhutte.

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Still heading up the rubble. Snout of the Fernerstube appearing ahead; my old map shows it to be solidly connected to the Sulzenauferner, but it ain’t no more.

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On a level with the glacier now, and oh, is that a signpost I see just ahead?

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Doesn’t look too different to the previous one, but I promise you we’re 10 minutes further on. That’s (counts) 1:10 into the day; 500 m up.

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And on. the glacier is getting more snowy, and the path (always reluctant to venture onto glacier) is running out of places to go.

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This was quite amusing. Since I’d got off fairly early, and the sun was certainly nowhere near this ice, it was hard. And slippery. And just this insey once I’d decided, in the interests of lightness, not to take my crampons. So I was forced to cut steps across the ice, how antique. At least for the places where it wasn’t covered in rubble.

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Now I’m a bit higher, there’s a light dusting of hard snow on top of the ice, so careful edging is all I need and I can stop cutting steps, thank goodness. At this point I’m actually a bit puzzled about where to go. My map – and indeed my eyes – warn me that up ahead the glacier gets a bit steeper and a bit crevassey. Meanwhile high up on the rock to the left are the words “LUBECKER W F” painted in 6 foot letters on the rocks. But getting to those words doesn’t look easy.

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So I prefer to continue up the glacier and the scree, emboldened by the perfect visibility of the day. The total absence of any kind of path or markers concerns me only faintly.

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I’m getting somewhere. I’m above the steepening of the glacier, and the peak ahead is the Wilder Freiger, and running down from it to the left is the “climbing” section of the Lubeckerweg. I may or may not be on the sanctioned path at this point, but on a day like today that really doesn’t matter.

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A riverulet in the snow, though frozen at this time of day. And it looks like I may not have been the first ever to come this way, though I am the first today.

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Not along the route: looking South from where I am, across the glacier basin. The high point in the middle is pt 3228 behind which shelters the Mullerhutte. To its right (not left) is the Pfaffenneider 3149 which is the deprecated route down from the Mullerhutte; don’t go there, unless you really know what you’re doing.

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Getting closer to the start of the (NW) ridge, which now fills the skyline. Still a gorgeous day, though its clouding up a bit. I got decent views of the Wilder Pfaff from here; I’ve added them to that post.

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2:40: I’m on the ridge, woo, and all my photographic skills have deserted me. But in fact this is somewhat what it was like: squinting up into the sun to try to trace the line of broken ridge. Although there were some hints as to the correct route. Assuming this is the col, I’m at 3144. This is the start of the “climbing” section, and the Guardienne did tell me this was a climbing route, but scrambling is a better word. Of course, your mileage may vary.

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Looking back you can see my tracks, and other people’s. This is looking ESE over the Pfaffenneider in the middle to the Sonklarspitze 3467 which I have not yet climbed but its on my list. The ridge to the Wilder Pfaff rises off at the R edge. It is so nice to be able to see things when climbing.

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Every now and again there are cables. Always they are escapable. In fine weather, like today, and in ascent, I usually put the tiny effort in required to not use them. But in poor weather in descent they’re often a great time saver and reassurance.

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Looking back. Wilder Pfaff again to the L. To the R the Aperer Freiger living up to its name.

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Center of a zoomed version of the above. There’s a party of 4 who I watched, god-like, from above as they moved like ants over the glacier far below me. Oh, the joys of being early and fit.

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Are all these pix of the ridge starting to look the same to you? I can assure you I was still enjoying it.

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Now we’ve joined the SW ridge and can see the head of the Ubeltalferner to the R (I got this wrong in the first version of this post; this video at 8:50 corrected me). The ridge running out of shot to the R connects the W F to the Signalgipfel. Up ahead is a wooden signpost which I think is there mainly for those descending from the W F to the Sulzenauhutte, so they don’t miss the ridge branching off.

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Photographic skills once again showing the strain. On the skyline some handrails / cables on the SW ridge. From here I can look back down the ridge.

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Approaching the summit.

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3:35, so its now 11 am. And I’m there: 1200 m of ascent; 6.5 km horizontally. But where’s my sunshine? That’s about an hour for the “climbing” section. It was a bit snowier when I was last here only 5 days ago. I’ve signed the summit book but seemed to have copied the idiot before me and written it as the 9th. Somehow, I must have forgotten to sign on the 3rd? Or done it on the previous page? I’m not sure.

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That’s rather a lot of pix for one post, so I’m going to spare you all of the descent, lovely as it was: a circuit via the Seescharte and Grunausee. I will show you this: its taken from around about 2800 m looking SW back up to the WF summit (skyline, somewhat R of center). I mention it because I managed to stuff up, yet again, the correct line of descent. You (alright, I) need to stick fairly closely to the NE ridge line, until you descend the snow into this bowl and then follow the path. That’s easily done going this direction, in ascent: you just exit the bowl following the snow patches. Coming the other way, though, its tempting to let the broad snow on the far side lure you down too far. In which case you get to clamber over the rock shoulder connecting the two, which gets harder the longer you leave it. The broad glacier off to the left, bisected by cloud, is the Grublferner.

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To close: view NW down the Klein Grunauferner (which may not be a glacier any more, just neve perhaps) from the Seesharte (view back up). Further down is the lovely blue Grunausee. And so back to the hut, 6:30 total: its now 2 pm.

Or, you could take the video tour. Though these people start from the Dresdener, go over the Beiljoch-of-the-weird-cairns, descend to the glacier and are then on my route; then descend down to the Sulzenaualm.

Diary

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Hulme: In what ways is religious belief relevant for understanding climate change?

2014-11-09 14.05.49 For some time I’ve been concious of how lucky I am to live in Cambridge with its wealth of cultural opportunities, and dissatisfied with my own poor response: so often, its easier to follow routine. So last saturday, in the market square, amongst the poster for “Spem in Alium” and others I found this. And thought: I happen to be free on Monday. So along I went. Its one of a series, BTW, should you happen to be in Cambridge on the second Monday of the month.

I know I’ve read some of Mike Hulme’s stuff before, and not really liked it, but couldn’t remember exactly what. So that didn’t much affect my reactions to his talk. Looking now with the all-seeing eye I find this, from 2009 wherein I analayse two of MH’s texts, from whence I abstract the relatively polite this is excellent. How can one man write this, and then the tosh of the Beeb piece? Weird. That still largely fits.

Meta: audience, about 40, mostly older than me. In the lovely Wesley church on Christ’s Pieces (don’t you just love Cambridge names?). He’s a good speaker, careful and deliberate; unhurried. Perhaps 45 mins of talk and half an hour of questions. This post is written from the notes I wrote on a paper napkin; they kindly provide decent pre-talk food and tea. Hulme, perhaps unsurprisingly, turns out to be Christian. This isn’t entirely obvious straight away; he’s fairly careful to speak in terms of “faith communities” and such like terms that avoid expressions of belief; and most of what he said could have been said by an atheist professor of sociology. But not all of it. At one point he explicitly said his viewpoint was Christian, and one of the questioners was gauche enough to ask him directly if he was; he seemed somewhat taken aback to be asked so directly, but did manage a direct “yes” in reply. In the following, my interpolations are in []’s. Things in quotes are nearly-direct quotations from MH but I don’t claim to be word-perfect; my napkin was quite small. In a couple of places my notes are so incomplete as to be confusing; I’ve done my best.

There was no science in what he said. And not much religion. It was essentially sociology, and politics.

Intro: the IPCC barely mentions religion. Naomi Klein, ditto [in retrospect, it seems weird to implicitly equate the two in this way.] Why not? Fear of divisiveness? But religion provides no magic solutions. For example, from Christianity, compare the Operation Noah with the cornwallalliance.org [typically, he provided no judgement between these two viewpoints. Later on he provided more examples, which would lead you to believe that “pro climate change”, so to speak, was the popular or perhaps overwhelming viewpoint of religions.]

Somehow, he leaps to “religion is inescapably important”. Religions are relevant because:
– they influence believers cosmology
– they can mobilise their followers
– they have resources
– networks.

Slide (re: cosmologies): C. S. Lewis: the discarded image. Which I’ve not seen; it may well have been worth going to the lecture just to have that drawn to my attention.

Slides: the cute one of the guy sticking his head out (from here), and an IPCC-a-like flow diagram of the carbon cycle. Voiceover: the IPCC assumes a mechanistic world view with no place for religion. It does not recognise different cosmologies, e.g. Maori. But these have great power [we’re now heading towards Beyond the Hoax territory]. Slide: Domain of the Gods: an editorial essay, Simon D. Donner.

Quotes misc people (Marshall Islanders, Bishops) talking nonsense about climate change, but takes them seriously: ” a set of accounts being offered”. [For which I think I’d refer you back to my fulminations in this post: exactly how we expect the public to evaluate / believe the scientific research on GW is an interesting question]. “We have to understand climate change through this kind of analysis”.

Then, he actually speaks approvingly of Eco-Republic:What the Ancients Can Teach Us about Ethics, Virtue, and Sustainable Living by Melissa Lane: Eco-Republic draws on ancient Greek thought–and Plato’s Republic in particular–to put forward a new vision of citizenship…. Fuck me, has he never read The Open Society and Its Enemies? Come to that, has he never read The Republic? Has Melissa Lane? What kind of Green Fascist fuckwittery is this?

Calm down William. Deep breaths. Keep going. I didn’t, of course, have the full horror of Lane’s book available to me during the lecture.

Virtues traditions, barriers to religions being of use [I may be slightly muddled here, my notes are unclear]:
– eschatology [that handles the Southern Baptists, I guess]
– competing issues, e.g. the poor
– inadequate social critique
– conviction or motivation to act – value / action gap, aka Sin.

Ignoring religion is short sighted.

At the end, he put up a slide with misc books on, and a link to mikehulme.org. That includes a link to Five Lessons of Climate Change: a personal statement. That statement is somewhat typical of the style of talk and answers he gave today; not to my taste.

My own summing up of what he said: a lot of people profess religious faith, they amount to a powerful political grouping, and so shouldn’t be ignored. Implicitly (when he talked of different cosmologies) he asked for “the message” to be tailored to this grouping, and since he said this in the context of the IPCC he was, somewhat less implicitly, asking for the IPCC to “speak their message” in a framing that the religious would be comfortable with. I think this is bollocks.

There was a longish Q+A session afterwards, which I noted too:

Q1: the IPCC is a (fake) religion, sucking people in, leading people away from the core Christian duty of professing the gospels.
A: but the duty of ?explaining? climate change is entirely compatible with he gospels.

Q2: somewhat incoherent as a question – something like, there are lots of different religious groups, that don’t always know what the othwrs are doing. The questionner mentioned Earth Bible and I’ve guessed the correct link.
A: [this was the only Q to which I thought he managed a useful and illuminating answer] Indeed, religious groups are diverse and have diverse readings, in contrast to the IPCC, which pushes a “universal” science [he almost sounded disappointed by this].

Q3: IPCC / Klein are trying to achieve authority / status, but religion is diverse, so is it fair to criticse them for excluding religion?
A: can understand that thinking, but IPCC is trying to bring in the best sociology knowledge, yet ignores religion [this seems a weird perspective to me, who concentrates on the WG I stuff, which of course ignores sociology. If you’re off in the ghettoes of WG II or III, though, this might make sense.] NK is more polemical [oh good, he can tell the difference, when he tries.] But she ends by decrying the lack of a mass movement, so why not include religion?

Q4: Lovelock says, more Nukes. Do you agree?
A: yes, I agree he says that [you’re a pol!] Wurble. Don’t really want to go there.People will be influenced by their paradigms.

Q5: Christian?
A: yes.
Q5a: does it bother you to be flying, despoiling the sky?
A: no problem with being a mobile academic.

Q6: as a species, we’re good at solving problems. Why haven’t we solved this one?
A: we’re doing lots of research. But its not just tech, also attitudes / pol / social.

Q7: lots of conviction (on the issue of climate change being a problem) but not much energy on actually solving it. Why?
A: wurble.

Q8: Geoengineering?
A: Not a good idea, see my book.

Q9: can you say more about faith… do people need faith that climate change will happen [unless we do something about it]?
A: many of my colleagues would say its a matter of evidence, not belief. But he says there are issues of belief, and trustowrthiness [this could have segued into an interesting discussion of exactly or roughly how the public, or non-experts, or even experts, some to accept-aka-believe the evidence, but didn’t.]

A retiring collection. I gave them £5. Their egg sandwiches were good. You, by contrast, get this glorious picture free of charge, merely for having the patience to read to the end of my post.

DSC_4462

[Update. Thinking about this, there’s a possible bias in his thinking which I wish I thought of at the tie, and tried to ask him. Its this:

If you’re a Christian – in any sense that matters – then your faith is important to you. And you want that faith to affect your worldview. And hence, you want that faith to affect important issues of the day – war, peace, GW. But if you’re at all honest and a scientist, you’re also perfectly aware that your faith doesn’t affect the science at all – which is perhaps why MH steered so clear of it. But your faith can affect the interpretation and the communication – these are vague areas up for grabs by anyone.

So the question is something like:

Doesn’t your need to make your faith relevant and important in your life bias your view of how the science should be communicated?]

Refs

* I’m Afraid This Changes Nothing – mt on Klein’s latest.