Thursday, June 6, 2019

Mike Hulme gets lost in his Mindscape. An examination.

Last year I wrote an essay that looked at “The magisteria of Physical Reality vs the magisteria of our Human Mindscape.”  Yesterday I read an ATTP post about Mike Hulme’s controversial May 27th article, "Am I a denier, a human extinction denier?" It made me curious so I took a look.
I don’t know Hulme.  I do know his article did nothing to recommend him.  It was a contrived piece of…, of…, I don’t know, manipulative nothing.  A waste of time if constructive learning was one’s goal. 
However, it offers a great case study in getting lost within one’s own Mindscape and forgetting all about the Physical Reality ‘out there’.  That’s why I’ve decided to dissect it and add it to my collection.
In truth, I don’t know if Hulme considers himself a "libertarian" or not, I do know his words parrot "libertarian" arguments and logic so I’m comfortable assuming he is, until told otherwise.
@  |  27/05/2019
My intention is a review of ‘libertarian' deception in action

¶1  There has been a lot of talk recently about climate change and extinction.
¶2  It is undoubtedly the case that species go extinct.  And sometimes large numbers of species disappear together in mass events caused by the same physical stresses.  It is also true that at some point in the future the human species will go extinct, or at the least evolve into a new species partly of our own making.  
Hulme acknowledges that extinctions are happening then simply dismisses their significance: Heck, everything goes extinct at some point, no worries.
Trivializing makes it easier to disregard.
¶3  Yet I resist the current mood of ‘extinctionism’ which pervades the new public discourse around climate change.  Talking about the future in this way is counter-productive.  And it does a disservice to development, justice, peace-making and humanitarian projects being undertaken around the world today.
Hmmm, wow, this is sort of interesting, think back, first they were saying, “No Manmade Global Warming” - then it was “No Catastrophic Warming” - now we’re up to, “No Human Extinction” - anyone else notice a disturbing pattern here?
What about the disservice of ignoring down to Earth Physical Reality?
What about turning a blind eye to demonstrably existential threats, such as those facing our coasts, or Arctic Tundra?   That seems plenty existential threat to me, and we know its happening.  
But Hulme’s rather use his rhetoric to dismiss and ignore.  
¶4  A denier is a person who denies something, “… who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.”  If I do not believe that climate change will drive the human species to extinction, does that make me an extinction denier?  For I do not believe that there is good scientific or historical evidence that climate change will lead to human extinction.
Here Hulme’s sounds like a smart aleck brat trying to show his classmates he’s smarter than the professor.  Make a joke out it, call it a victory, move on to the next piece of deception.  
Such cute rhetorical games do nothing to inform anyone, but they are the mainstay of "libertarian" and GOP diversionary tactics.
¶5  And yet you would be led to believe that there is.  Last September the United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, made the bald claim, “We face a direct existential threat” from climate change.  Jem Bendell at the University of Cumbria warns, “There is a growing community of people who conclude we face inevitable human extinction”.  Bendell goes on to state that ‘Inevitable Near Term Human Extinction’ (INTHE) has become a widely used phrase for online discussions about climate-collapse.  And Greta Thunberg frequently claims that climate change “… is an emergency, this is an existential crisis.”
I’ll allow Greta to respond for herself:
Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’
Jonathan Watts  |  March 11, 2019

Guardian News  |  Published on April 16, 2019

TED   |   Published on Feb 13, 2019
Deep Adaptation to Climate Chaos | Jem Bendell
13 February 2019 

I’m in no position to pass judgement, but from a cursory look at Jem Bendell’s various writings, at least he is looking at what is actually physically being documented occurring on this planet, something Hulme does not do.
¶6  Across the Atlantic the American commentator Tom Englehardt has placed humanity on a suicide watch for itself.  “Even for an old man like me”, he says, “it’s a terrifying thing to watch humanity make a decision, however inchoate, to essentially commit suicide.”  And in David Wallace-Wells’ best-selling book, An Uninhabitable Earth, he claims that climate change is “much, much worse than you think”.
David Wallace-Wells: Author, 
"The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future”
Okay, listen to this Wallace-Wells.  Interestingly, he’s also talking about physical evidence and what we are witnessing unfolding in real time on our one and only Earth.  Perhaps you can argue with his extrapolations but Hulme’s argues ignoring him outright.
Listen to Wallace-Wells as he lays out his position and presents the background and evidence he bases his message on. 
David Wallace-Wells: Author, "The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future”

Three misconceptions: Speed - Scope - Severity
¶7  This rise in extinction rhetoric in (largely) English-speaking societies over the past 12 months is in part linked to the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5C Warming published last October.  The slogan “we have only 12 years left” has somehow been extracted from this Report and feeds the rise of climate clocks such as this one from the Human Impact Lab in Montreal.  But the IPCC Report offers neither scientific nor historical evidence for human extinction.
Hey Hulme, the IPCC Report wasn’t tasked with looking at potential human extinction. To say they presented no evidence for it is a disingenuous joke!  

To ignore the fact that trends point towards consequences is dishonest at best, profoundly stupid at worst.  

… “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner.  …
¶8  From this extinction fear arises the “panic” that Greta Thunberg has called for.  Panic demands a response and one response is to declare an emergency.  ‘Climate emergencies’ are now being declared in jurisdictions ranging from universities, the British Parliament and several local authorities in the UK. 
Problem is things have reached the emergency stage, ask America’s heartland farmers.  Yet, the powers that be continue ignoring underlying physical evidence and Hulme wonders why citizens are becoming more urgent.
¶9  But the rhetoric of extinction and emergency does not adequately describe the situation we find ourselves in.  Declaring a climate emergency implies the possibility of time-limited radical and decisive action that can end the emergency.  But climate change is not like this.
Declaring a climate emergency would be acknowledging our planet’s physical condition.  It would be preparing us for what’s coming at us.  
Why should the fact that there is no end to this make it okay to ignore?
What it is, is Physics!  Declare it anything you like, talk about it through all filters and distortion fields you can dream up, or ignore it altogether because it’s too big and terrifying, still the thing continues unfolding regardless.  
So what should thinking people do, pretend its not happening?
The historical trajectory of human expansion, western imperialism and technological development has created climate change as a new condition of human existence rather than as a path to extinction.
Here’s an example of being lost in one’s Mental Landscape.  
I wonder if Hulme has ever really contemplated the biosphere that has enabled the historic human expansion and our society’s amazing development.
Yes, we’re entering a “new condition of human existence.” 
The future is increasingly going to be all about dealing with ever increasing natural disasters and their cascading consequences.
All the rhetorical tricks in the world won’t alter what we have been doing to our Atmospheric Insulation and what that is doing to our Climate Engine, and how that dictates the type of biosphere Earth can support.
¶10  So here are five reasons why I am an extinction denier.
¶11  The rhetoric of climate change and extinction does not do justice to what we know scientifically.  Climate prediction science is fundamentally based on probabilistic forecasts which underpin the quantification of risk.  There is a range of possible values for future global warming.  It is as false scientifically to say that the climate future will be catastrophic as it is to say with certainty that it will be merely lukewarm.
NO!  Hulme’s you are lying to us!  

Or to put it another way, here Hulme’s reminds us that the "libertarian" narrative is dependent on deliberate deception.
What we know, goes well beyond what models tell us!  
It’s FUNDAMENTAL PHYSICS!  Certain as certain gets!  

Richard Alley - 4.6 Billion Years of Earth’s Climate History: The Role of CO2
¶13  Neither does it do justice to what we know historically.  
Hulme, I get the feeling you haven’t a clue what you're writing about:
The Last Time CO2 Was This High, Humans Didn’t Exist
By Andrew Freedman  |  May 3, 2013
Last time CO2 levels were this high, sea levels were 60 feet higher and Antarctica had trees
Study finds the Earth's climate is highly sensitive to "relatively small variations in atmospheric CO2."
JOE ROMM  |  APRIL 8, 2019

Looking more like a hockey stick all the time

Graphic: Carbon dioxide hits new high
Last time CO2 levels were this high, there were trees at the South Pole
Damian Carrington | April 3, 2019
Pliocene beech fossils in Antarctica when CO2 was at similar level to today point to planet’s future

Some like the American veteran journalist Bill Moyers have called for a war-like stance in relation to climate change, using the analogy of the late 1930s: “In the second world war, the purpose of journalism was to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it.  We must approach our climate crisis the same way”.  But as the historian and Liberal politician James Bryce explained in 1920, “the chief practical use of history is to deliver us from plausible historical analogies.”  We should beware of false or trite analogues.
Talk about trite.  Rhetoric about rhetoric - not a thought for what’s actually unfolding in real time upon our planet, nor the drama we humans are facing.
¶14  The rhetoric of climate and extinction does not help us psychologically.  
No it doesn’t, I agree.  
But what the hell does crafty and belligerent rhetorical denial help?  
Weather catastrophe victims are watching helplessly as their world’s disintegrate in front of them, “I could never have imagined such a thing,” is the lament repeated ad nausea.  Think that helps their, or our society's, psychological outlook?  
It’s precisely these sticky problems what keep Jem Bendell, António Guterres, David Wallace-Wells, Greta Thunberg and others up at night, while all "libertarian" types can do is offer what-ifs, ridicule and willful ignorance. 
It all too easily induces feelings of terror as Ed Maibach at George Mason University bluntly remarks, “As a public health professional (and as a human), I find the prospect of 3 or 4 degree C of global warming to be nothing short of terrifying.”  But inducing a state of terror generates counter-productive responses in human behaviour.
Sooo, we’re supposed to pretend it’s not happening Hulme?  
How is avoidance and creating scapegoats going to help us when we know for certain that these destructive weather events are going to be doing nothing but increase for the rest of human history?  Professor, once again it’s down to simple physics. 
 And yes, it is terrifying to allow all that to sink in.  But, it is what it is. 
¶15  Nor does the rhetoric of climate and extinction help us politically.  Simply ‘uniting behind the science’ or ‘passing on the words of science’ gets us no further forward politically.  Even if climate science predicted the extinction of humanity, as Darrick Evensen explains climate change “raises a host of ethical, historical and cultural questions that are at most tangentially connected to any scientific findings.”
Another example of being lost in our collective Mindscape.  The scientific findings are about down to Earth evidence, not about our preferences.
Geophysics doesn’t care about our cultural or personal machination - it may be comforting for us, but . . .
¶16  And finally the rhetoric of climate and extinction does not help us morally.  Even if we take these claims literally, the mere fact of human extinction by no means impels us to conclude that the correct moral response must be to prevent that extinction.  There may well be other moral demands upon us which take precedence, and yet which we ignore.  Why the human species above other species?  Why are the future unborn more morally demanding of us than the dispossessed victims of today?  Why is suicide the worst sin of all?
Hulme is switching to the God Mode here.  
Why are the future unborn more morally demanding than our current expectations and desires.  Guess that’s a personal thing.  
Basically what Hulme’s comes down to is: 
So What?  I don’t want to change, I don’t want to know, and I don’t give a damned about anything beyond my own immediate needs and expectations - a true libertarian declaration.
Fine, but realize you’re helping speed the human extinction you belittle. 
¶17  Despite what some claim, climate change is not a black and white issue.  It has many shades of grey.  By this I mean that interpreting the significance of the fact that humans are altering the world’s climate is not self-evident.  To believe that there is an absolute truth to be told about what climate change means, or what ‘it demands of us’, is misguided. 
What is this idiotic mumbo-jumbo?  How about settling for physical facts?  The physics of our manmade global warming certainly is black and white!  You want absolute truth, how about:
Increasing greenhouse gases increase atmospheric insulation.
Increasing atmospheric insulation, warms our global heat and moisture distribution engine.
Warming our global climate engine, in turn, warms and energizes global weather patterns.  
The state of the climate engine dictates the state of the biosphere it sustains. 
Radically warming our climate, as we are doing, cannot but radically alter our biosphere.
Humanity is dependent on the biosphere it developed within.
Ignoring that with rhetorical smoke screens doesn’t change physical reality. 
¶18  What climate change means is not ‘revealed truth’ emerging from some scientific script. 
NO!  It’s Revealed Physical Truth! 
Revealed thanks to a couple centuries of honest constructive scientific investigation by thousands of diligent scientists and technicians and support staffs.
CO2 Science - Blue team: "Pruitt, it's certain as certain gets! It's the physics! Don't you know?

CO2 Science - Pruitt, proof is in the pudding! Impossible Modern Marvels

Schooling Pruitt's Red Team about our planet and its climate engine (FCFP)
The political meanings and individual and collective responses to climate change have to be worked out iteratively.  They have to be negotiated within the political structures and processes we inhabit, negotiations that can’t be circumvented by an appeal to the authority of science being ‘on our side’.  (Of course this must also include the possibility of renegotiating some of those same political structures).
Again Hulme demonstrates that his thinking is totally divorced from Earth’s Physical Realities.  All the politics around it, has nothing to do with the fundamental scientifically understood reality, and everything with his biased Mindscape!  
¶18  Campaigning on the grounds that the human species faces extinction because of climate change—and declaring a climate emergency—is a superficial response to complex realities.  And it is talk that opens the door to one-eyed techno-solutions–such as envisaged by the putative Cambridge Centre for Climate Repair—and fuels the possible legitimation of dangerous solar climate engineering schemes
"Superficial"?  Hell that summarizes this article.
After a good half century of paying attention to climate science and the public dialogue, which has been increasingly divorced for the scientific fundamentals, I wonder if humanity is capable of anything other than superficial ineffective actions.  Then we’ll just suffer as nature takes it course.  Extreme Weather Roulette will become God's game of chance.  Pray hard.
¶19  The new condition of climate change is real.  Without being deferential or uncritical, we need to be cognisant of what science can tell us about the future.  We need more varied, and more active, voices in climate politics.  And it requires us to think through, argue and enact political projects and ethical priorities in different ways.
Professor, what sanctimonious tripe.  You start out so rational and noble sounding.  Then the third sentence hits the heart of the matter.
Allow every wannabe to second guess dedicated experts, sure professor that’ll help us arrive at solutions.  Lets waste yet more irreplaceable time.
¶20  But I will argue against climate politics henceforth being conducted under the restrictive conditions of emergency.  And I will deny that there is warrant to collapse the possibilities of the future to human extinction.
Yeah right.  Keep the debate alive, allow every crackpot the same deference one would to the bona fide experts, that’s the spirit.  Talk, talk, talk, run out the clock.
Written by Mike Hulme is professor of human geography (and self-delusion) at the University of Cambridge
27 May 2019  
Examination by Peter Miesler aka citizenschallenge
If you’re curious:
Missing Key to Stephen Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”

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