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Transition Horsham community forum • View topic - A reply to Philip Circus

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 Post subject: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Sat, 31 Oct 2009, 00:50 
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I can't resist firing off a response to Philip Circus's latest article in the County Times (October 30th, p9 - "Gatwick Airport expansion is key to our business prosperity").

Here is my draft -
So Philip Circus does "not believe in the global warming
bandwagon" ("Gatwick Airport expansion is key to our business
prosperity", October 30th) and he refers to "the bad science of global warming".

There seems to be much scientific evidence that global warming is
potentially a serious problem and that human activity is a major cause.
There may well be room for honest, scientific debate about the strength of
that evidence. I do not presume to take sides in that debate but Mr Circus
evidently does. It would be interesting to know what are his
credentials for doing so.

This is, of course, a field where nothing is certain. What would happen if
we passed certain "tipping points" and the global mean surface temperature
increased by 4 degrees celsius or more? Can we be confident that James
Lovelock, FRS, is wrong in suggesting that global warming could wipe out
80% or more of the human population? Presumably Mr Circus thinks that we will
not experience catastrophic climate change however much
carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. How do we rate the probability
that he is right and how do we respond to that probability?

For example, suppose we define climate catastrophe as global warming so severe
and abrupt that by the end of this century it kills off a billion or more people through drought, starvation, disease, war and rising sea levels - perhaps a modest catastrophe compared with James Lovelock's 80% cull. Suppose the mainstream
science were to indicate a one-in-three chance of such a catastrophe if we
allowed greenhouse gas emissions to go on rising for the next forty years.
Suppose also that we think Mr Circus has a one-in-two chance of
being correct in his rubbishing of mainstream science.
That implies a one-in-six chance that we would be killing off a billion
people by the end of the century. It is as if Mr Circus is inviting us to play
Russian roulette with our grandchildren.

To me this means that Mr Circus's arguments for Gatwick Airport expansion fall at the first hurdle. Whatever the economic benefits of airport expansion, the risks of catastrophic climate change suggest to me that we must fly less, not more.

End of draft

I'm not proposing to mention TH in this as I think the Transition movement is more about promoting positive responses to the threat rather than engaging in arguments with the deniers. I hope to revisit the draft over the weekend before I fire it off but you might like to comment in the meantime.

John


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 Post subject: Re: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Sat, 31 Oct 2009, 10:38 
Great polemical response John! Acknowledging the uncertainty demonstrates the logical action is to take the course that doesn't result in potential annhilation. I suppose you could add something on Stern's predictions of the economic cost of climate change but best to keep concise and punchy.


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 Post subject: Re: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Sat, 31 Oct 2009, 12:24 
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Clare - thanks - yes I side with the notion of keeping it as short and punchy as possible. Besides, I'm not comfortable with the idea of weighing economic costs against major loss of human life - though something like it sometimes has to be done. I think Stern has done a very useful job in getting economics-oriented people engaged with the climate-change issue. I think the main message I would want to push (but not here) is that gdp in the developed world is not closely linked with health and happiness.

Cheers

John


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 Post subject: Re: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Tue, 03 Nov 2009, 11:47 
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Frankly, I didn't think it was worth the effort, the man is clearly bonkers.
However an apology for associating opposition to a second runway with "Eco-Fascism" would be in order, wouldn't it?
Alan


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 Post subject: Re: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Tue, 03 Nov 2009, 15:00 
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Alan - Bonkers he may appear to be to some, but his local Conservative association selected him to be their candidate and his neighbours voted for him to be their councillor so his bonkerity may not be obvious to all. Besides, one can see from the blogosphere that lots of people regard human-induced global warming as something you "believe in", or "don't believe in". Perhaps I regard it as a personal mission to focus people's minds on the nature of risk. In this I was once inspired by Chris Rapley (now head of the Science Museum) who once asked a question along the lines "Would you put your granddaughter on a plane if there was a one-in-a-hundred chance that the wings would drop off during the flight?"

John


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 Post subject: Re: A reply to Philip Circus
PostPosted: Tue, 03 Nov 2009, 22:34 
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It's libellous to imply that a concern for environment is somehow associated with fascism. Where does the line between opinion and defamation fall, though?

The fascists were a clique of brazen and unprincipled politicians, rich industrialists and skilled propagandists, more in common with the modern Tory leadership than anyone I've met who opposed a second runway.

I would have objected to the editor of the WSCT, but have a letter in on another matter. Hope you or someone else has done. I suppose he could send a private letter to the idiot in question asking him to explain himself or apologise preferably publicly. I suspect that he'd enjoy the attention and I'd be wasting my time.

Alan


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