Two matters continue to puzzle me:

First, how can an emissions trading scheme – beloved by everyone from the conservatives to the greens – tackle the problem of global warming? If our mode of production, capitalism, is the ultimate cause of global warming, then how can a ‘market-based’ capitalist approach be the solution? It is like asking a financier to rebuild a firm with the same policies that caused its initial collapse – oh shit, they already tried that one. Better to dump the system that caused it in the first place.

Second, why do my ageing undies always creep up my right bum cheek? It matters not how I arrange my block-and-tackle, for the same side always heads north.

Or at least more silly than usual. First, Boris Johnson, mayor of London and socialite sex symbol, is aghast at the effect of the nuclear reactor disasters in Japan. Thinking he should jump in first to defend nuclear power against those who might have some legitimate concerns, the conservative fop writes about the ‘anti-nuke’ lobby:

These are the atomkraft-nein-danke brigade, who have always believed that any kind of nuclear fission – tampering with the building blocks of the universe – was an invitation to cosmic retribution. They will now do everything they can to exploit the Fukushima explosion and the difficulties being experienced in bringing a couple of plants under control. I don’t want in any way to minimise these problems, and we must hope they are sorted out as soon as possible with the barest leaks of radiation. I just doubt that there is any real read-across between the difficulties of nuclear reactors in a well-known earthquake zone, and the proposed nuclear programme in this country, which is becoming more essential with every day that passes.

Ah, Boris the greenie, waging a righteous campaign against all those nutters. But why do we get the sense that we are not being told what is really happening in those reactors at Fukushima?

And then Tony Abbott debates with himself over climate change. Back in 2009 he infamously stated that global warming is ‘crap’ and that the scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, are ‘alarmist’. But then he turned on himself to say that it was ‘real’ and that we need to do something about it. Then again, he countered his own argument by telling a community forum a couple days ago: ‘whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven … I don’t think we can say that the science is settled here’. But yesterday he rebutted his own argument, to say that ‘climate change is real’ and that ‘Humanity is making a contribution’.

Now, Abbott is a formidable and pugnacious opponent, as Gillard and Rudd before have found, but never quite as ferocious as when he is taking on himself. So what does Abbott believe? It looks like Jesus has the answer:

OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth,  the climate was considerably warmer than it is now. And then during what they called the Dark Ages it was colder. Then there was the medieval warm period. Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history. It is an open question how much the climate changes today and what role man plays.

Every now and then I wake up to find some enlightened and considerate individual has stumbled across an old blog post and been inspired to comment. As with my series on Tony Abbott, Nick Minchin (also here and here) and right-wing conspiracy theories concerning climate change science.

And so, months later comes a blast from a conservative think tank by a ‘Captain Reality’:

Nick Minchin is one of the only sensible politicians. He has seen through the lefty communist scientists who have taken over the world and are destroying our freedom.

When Mr Minchin comes to power the government will cut all funding to left wing scientists like climatologists and only fund real science like geology and chemistry which you need to mine and make refineries, which actually help people to live…

…unlike climate change, which is a lefty scientist LIE and BIG FAT TAX ON EVERYTHING and will kill billions with their TAX. Rudd is worse than Stalin.

P.S. I am not a crank =|:^0>
I am a patriot!

I love this stuff, gives me hope for Australian politics, for a real alternative … The Captain reassures us:

For those who are a bit slow, my previous post is a summary of the intellectual basis of today’s right.

I’m not sure what to make of this, but Nick the Nutter Minchin (the conservative pin-up boy) is not the only person to combine his climate change denying position with his denial that smoking is bad for you. I stumbled across one of those places you only get in the USA: The Heartland Institute. Not content with the usual stuff on climate change as a left conspiracy, along with the head-in-sand stuff about health care in the USA, they also have a Smokers’ Lounge. Here they don’t just blow a cloud of smoke at the problem of passive smoking, they take on smoking itself. Apparently, it’s not that bad for you. Why? The opposition to smoking is based on junk science:

Public health advocates who claim one out of every three, or even one out of every two, smokers will die from a smoking-related illness are grossly exaggerating the real threat. The actual odds of a smoker dying from smoking before the age of 75 are about 1 in 12. In other words, 11 out of 12 life-long smokers don’t die before the age of 75 from a smoking-related disease.

Don’t get me wrong, I love smoking, have had a few too many cigarettes in my lifetime for my own good. But I don’t do it now since it makes me feel so crap. But this stuff is off with the pixies. Or rather, it’s astute positioning, since those mega-bucks from the tobacco corporations need to go somewhere.

Gotta love the Vulgar Marxist, especially on Nopenhagen.

Ah. Goodwill. It’s like minor-level eco-bureaucrats from Norway and Nepal glancing at eachother across urinals. I admire your goodwill sir. In the spirit of Hopenhagen, I admire your goodwill.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that all those world leaders might just have once, even for a moment, glanced outside to see all what can happen in what is one of the best bicycle cities in the world. If those sexy Danes can do it, anyone can.

Scientists becoming politicians, politicians dabbling in science, believers, sceptics, deniers, Copenhagen, Hopenhagen or Nopenhagen … with all of the confusion, accusation and counter-accusation I pulled out my old copy of Thomas Kuhn’s well-known The Structure of Scientific Revolutions from 1962. Like all great works it has its flaws, but a few points are worth pulling out. Kuhn identifies the dominant framework in which science operates as a ‘paradigm’. Under standard conditions, ‘normal science’ works within a framework in which most, but not all questions, can be adequately covered. The anomalies are small in number, so we can keep on working, turning over clods on a corner of familiar field. But then the anomalies start building up, confusion grows, all sorts of proposals get thrown around until a breakthrough comes. Think Copernicus, Darwin, Planck, Einstein etc. It may take a while, but the new paradigm eventually gains consensus – a process Kuhn calls a ‘paradigm shift’ (heard that one before?).

If we grant Kuhn’s approach for a moment, it seems to me we have a massive paradigm shift under way, one that has spilled over from science into politics, culture, ideology and so forth. But now comes the punch: most scientists will see a breakthrough for what it is and leap after it, but some resist, attempting to discredit the new paradigm, making ad hominem attacks, desperately trying to plug the holes in the dyke of the old paradigm. Similar thing seems to be happening now with arguments that the world is actually cooling, or that a few degrees are a good thing, or that human beings are not responsible, or that its a socialist plot – contradiction is no hindrance to such moves.

A few of the more notable positions defended in the past in this manner include:

Miasma: a 19th century substance that brought on disease and carried by dust. In order to cut down miasma, houses were built back from the road, mangroves were cut down, swamps drained, one didn’t go out at night.

Aether: the substance through which the waves of light moved.

Phlogiston: a firelike element, contained in combustible bodies (like wood) and released when alight.

Phrenology: personality traits can be determined by the shape of the skull. Unfortunately, the Phrenological Society doesn’t exist any more.

Geocentrism: You know, opposite of heliocentrism; defended by those enlightened clerics in the church etc. Actually, one or two still hold to this well-founded position.

Flat earth: ‘nuf said, unless you want to join the Flat Earth Society.

OK, but now for the big question: what assumed paradigm will be seen as completely wacky in 50-100 years time?

Vulgar Marxism has a post on the predicted 50% of species that would disappear should the current deal in Copenhagen go ahead. What they have come up with would lead to a 3% rise in temperatures, which would have some pretty dire outcomes. However, if you had to choose which species should be given the flick, which ones would they be?

VM would like to see the end of skinny dogs with long snouts, like whippets. Others maybe cockroaches, or those massive mossies we have here, with tiger stripes and big dangling legs, or – my preference – those snotty, bratty kids you meet sometimes.

They call it B17B, or, as I prefer, BMFI – Big mother-fucking iceberg. It broke off from Antarctica about 10 years ago and is  about 140 km square, 19 km long and 8 wide. And it’s headed for Western Australia. WA? Icebergs? Part of WA is in the tropics – admittedly the northern bit. I bet the climate change deniers will use it as evidence that the world is cooling: lookie here, we’re getting icebergs in WA; it can’t be that hot.

(The legitimacy of this photo is guaranteed by its dodgy quality, although I must admit I didn’t take it)

A great ABC Four Corners program recently captures some absolute beauties from those nutters in Canberra:

Nick Minchin, Liberal Leader in the Senate: ‘For 10 years the left internationally have been very successful in exploiting peoples’ innate fears about global warming and climate change to achieve their political ends … For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion … I frankly strongly object to you know, politicians and others trying to terrify 12 year old girls that their planet’s about to melt, you know. I mean really it is appalling some of that that sort of behaviour’.

Cory Bernardi, Liberal Senator: ‘The earth is not actually warming, we have still rainfall falling. We have crops still growing. We can go outside and we won’t cook’.

Barnaby Joyce, National Party MP from Queensland: ‘They [farmers] just see it as this sort of socialist chardonnay rubbish that are dreamt up, that is dreamt up by people who are obviously have no real risk of having to pay for it … They’re going to have bring around this side of this peg, do a figure of eight back round that side of that peg, back through the gate’.

Wilson Tuckey, Liberal MP from Western Australia: ‘Leave me will you, I’m going to the toilet … I’m not talking I said I’m walking to the toilet’.

In the name of avoiding all the sentimental trash over children and animals and future generations and so on, I tend towards an eco-socialist position, but with the following qualifications:

a) Capitalism and the natural environment are inextricably linked with one another. This means that the simplistic point that the economy relies on nature needs to be dumped (in the recycling bin). Instead, in the same way that capitalism relies on the transformation of nature for its own continuance, so also does nature as we now know it rely on the perpetual transformation of capitalism.

b) This means that the end of capitalism will have significant environmental effects, especially in terms of agriculture but also for those zones ‘protected’ from intervention. Remove one partner from a symbiotic relationship and the other suffers.

c) However, the ‘end’ of nature will also have a deep impact on capitalism. This is where we face a second tension within the workings of capitalism (the first being the conflict between the forces and relations of production): unlimited capital on a limited planet:

i. capitalism requires ‘growth’ by definition. Note the effects of the recent economic ‘crisis’, in which most world economies went backwards – unemployment, loss of revenue, social stress etc. Only Australia avoided a recession. How? By selling environmentally destructive products to the Asian region, products that are deeply ‘natural’ such as coal (a further contradiction).

ii. However, it is impossible to grow indefinitely when you have ultimately limited resources.

iii. So at some point this contradiction, which has sustained capitalism for a few centuries now, must lead to its undoing.

d) All of which means that ‘green’ capitalism (apart from the green of money) is an oxymoron.