A Climate of ‘Free Speech’

This is our truth; feel free not to tell me yours.

Tom Harris is worried about free speech. He believes we should all have the freedom to disagree with the science on climate change, without being boxed in by all those pesky fact things. After all, it’s not like he’s involved in any organisation that’s supposed to be based in science, right? Oh wait – he’s the head of three. All with suspiciously similar sounding names ending in ‘Climate Science Coalition’; he simply couldn’t make up his mind on where he’s representing, so he settled on International Climate Science Coalition. Which I’d say was a good choice – after all, if you’re going to cherry pick data and make questionably pseudoscientific claims about global warming, it’s best to at least imply you have some international weight behind you.

Mr Harris treats the unprecedented scientific agreement on global warming as if it were that guy in the pub who always knows what’s true because he once met a man who saw it on the Discovery Channel. Read more


‘It’s the end of the world as we know it / And I feel fine…’

Global temperatures are rising at roughly the same rate as global apathy to being told that temperatures are rising – it seems the more we’re told something, the less we care. ‘We get it; global warming is still a thing and we’re all going to die screaming. Ooh, have you seen this kitten video?’

February’s global temperature beat the previous record so comprehensively that it looks like whoever drew the graph developed a sudden twitch, leaving climate scientists scrabbling for any remaining synonyms for ‘shocking’ they can find lying around the office. The Northern hemisphere warmed by an average of close to 2C, something that was previously thought to be decades off at least, and even taking into account the warming effects of el Niño it’s looking like 2016 is going to be the hottest year on record. Again. So what can we do? Read more

Deal / No Deal

Why we might be better off with an imperfect climate deal

Depending on the grapevine you’re tuned in to, the Paris climate deal should have us cheering wildly for a historic deal that will save the world, or rioting in the streets for the moment we were let down by our world leaders when we needed them most. I say it’s the best of both worlds, and here’s why. Read more


I know the gigantic, crawling worm can this sentence opens but I’ll stand by it: the US would give more leeway to Mrs Clinton as first female president, just as it gave more to Obama as the first black president.

Obama rode a wave of progressive optimism so high that for a while it towered above his actions; many ignored the fact that he was stocking the White House with corporate-friendly staff, that he failed to close Guantanamo or end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that he stood by as banks got billions in bailouts while allowing God knows how many foreclosures. Would we have granted such elbow room to any other incoming president? The achievement peaked on the day of his inauguration, and though the first black president is a mighty achievement it shouldn’t be allowed to hide the fact that – when you get right down to it – he isn’t that progressive at all. My gut tells me Hillary would surf the same sort of wave: ‘First female president! She may be continuing business as usual but by God, she has no Y chromosome!’ Read more


Donald Trump is fascinating and disgusting in roughly equal measure, like finding mouldy food long-forgotten in the back of your fridge. A manically-coiffured barrel of bigotry and xenophobia, distilled through the years into some sort of Platonic anti-ideal for the right wing, he’s somehow risen high enough to at least be vaguely in the running for one of the most powerful jobs in the world. This should scare you.

Racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, extreme nationalism: these are common traits for those on the far right, but something tells me Donald’s mind contains a purer form of prejudice than most. Somehow he’s fashioned his subconscious into an ideological sump, a foetid low point for the world’s offensive ideas to seep into drip by drip. This would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact he’s bought himself a gigantic, gold-plated microphone and we’re listening to him. Read more


Paris, Beirut and the Tragedy Hipsters

The second most common question on the internet’s lips about Paris (right after ‘why, you fuckers?’) is ‘aren’t we going to talk about Beirut?’ The Lebanese capital was bombed 24 hours before France but received relatively little attention: why, cry the indignant of Facebook, are we not holding candlelit vigils for their dead? There’s truth here, as Beirut remains pretty dark from the media’s selective spotlight; all deaths are tragic, but some are more tragic than others.

But there’s also an element of one-upmanship, of trying to be the first to acknowledge the suffering of those in the darker corners – hipster grief, if you will. ‘Oh sure, Paris was tragic but everyone’s grieving for them. All the hip cats are reaching out to the Lebanese…’ To be fair, there’s a pretty sizeable number of people who simply think we should hold the same standards for everyone, that Middle-Eastern lives are worth the same as Western ones. But pointing this out should not involve glee, satisfaction or electronic auto-fellation. Jamiles Lartey called it: “some commentators today honestly sound like tragedy hipsters, ‘Bro- I care about tragedy and suffering you’ve never heard of’”. Read more


Where do we go now?

Paris will likely be the most mentioned city in the world in both November and December, for the series of vicious attacks that have shaken France and the upcoming climate talks. What matters for both of these is what happens next.

The bombings carried out by a group of extremists that have so far claimed the lives of 132 people are exceptional in that they are the worst terrorist attacks in Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid. They are, most unfortunately, not exceptional as far as killings go; as iamsyria reports, daily death tolls for the civil war are similarly atrocious. What sets apart the Paris attacks is that they are an example of targeted killings of a civilian population. [Actually let’s be clear: what sets these apart is that they are terrorist attacks in a Western country: the Khan Bani Saad bombing of an Iraqi market when an ISIL bomb killed 130 people received a fraction of the news coverage in July this year, and the Beirut bombing that killed 43 on Thursday – 24 hours before the Paris attacks – was covered but received far less attention.]

But returning to Paris, why there? ISIS’ statement that it is “the capital of prostitution and vice” along with their clearly cultural targets would suggest a group driven to lethal hatred of all things Western, but there’s more to it than that. Witnesses report attackers shouting “this is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world”, suggesting that this may be more due to foreign policy than cultural differences, however lethal their interpretation. Read more


…is dead, but will Canadian Tar Sands stay buried?

It’s rare to have genuinely good news in the environmental movement these days but last week qualifies as one of those. Keystone Xl pipeline is dead, and long may it stay in the ground. The plot was marked out and dug by environmental activists and First Nation groups in Canada, the US and beyond over years of tireless work; all Obama had to do was carve a name on its headstone, but unsurprisingly he’s being given a fair amount of credit for his troubles. Read more


Or How I Learned to Worry Quite A Lot about Nuclear Submarines

Each of our 150m long Trident class submarines is equipped with 16 nuclear tipped Trident II missiles, a Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor and, rather surprisingly, a letter from the Prime Minister. It is on his shoulders that the responsibility of firing the missiles ultimately sits and the contents of his letter are to be read upon the collapse of British civilization, measured (alongside many other factors, I hope) by whether Radio 4 is still broadcasting. Each incoming PM, according to their mood, may choose from the following options when penning their correspondence:

  1. We’re all gone; bomb the bastards back to the Stone Age.
  2. We may be gone, but have mercy on their angry souls and don’t retaliate.
  3. Buggered if I know, do as you see fit.
  4. Make an immediate course for somewhere foreign and hand over your deadly arsenal of death from below to whoever you think will take good care of it.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s apparently the gist. The fate of our world – or at least the populated places we consider to be Dangerous – is decided on the whim of someone on their first week of the job who may be slightly angry their boiled eggs were overdone at breakfast. This is a scary prospect indeed.  Read more


A review of Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall

“You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink / You can put a man through school, but you cannot make him think”

Ben Harper might as well have added ‘you can show a man the science but you can’t make him accept man-made climate change is a reality’, though it would have messed up the rhythm. The psychology of climate change is a surprisingly complex field filled with so much guilt, denial, bias and cheap metaphors you’d be forgiven for taking a few blowtorches to the glaciers to speed the process up a bit. But George Marshall has beaten his way through the field and come up with a book of really quite surprising depth and insight, and I don’t consider myself a man who uses the phrase ‘surprising depth and insight’ easily. Read more