Johann Hari writes for the left-leaning Independent and frequently turns up at the equally left-leaning BBC. He is the person for whom the descriptor ‘bleeding heart liberal’ must have been coined. He is infuriatingly and narcissistically wet, completely self-absorbed in his precious, politically-correct metrobubble – so much so that I am driven to shout obscenities at the screen as he drivels on and on in his whiney tone delivering ghastly, florid prose that would shame a teenage girl (or boy if you could drag him away from his XBox for long enough to write anything).
Unfortunately, I think I must have a masochistic streak and on stronger days, like a moth to a flame, I feel compelled to read his articles just to enjoy a few hours of splenetic rage. Judging by the comments he receives, I am not alone. He reserves his extra-special brand of awfulness to witter hysterically about climate change. I’m not going to suffer alone – here’s his latest missive.
Johann Hari: A turning-point we miss at our peril (dum de dumdum..)
Sometimes, there are hinge-points in human history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy (that would be the useless windmills, I guess), and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out (burn coal, says the Time Traveller!). Usually, we can only see them when we look back from a distance (but on this occasion, anybody with half a brain sussed the con from the get-go). In 1793, the great democrat Thomas Paine said the French Revolution shouldn’t betray its principles by killing the King, because it would trigger an orgy of blood-letting that would eventually drown them all (but if he were alive today, I think Tom Paine would have largely approved of the resultant French Republic, Johann). They threw him in jail. In 1919, the great economist John Maynard Keynes said the European powers shouldn’t humiliate Germany, because it would catalyse extreme nationalism and produce another world war. They ignored him. In 1953, a handful of US President Dwight Eisenhower’s advisers urged him not to destroy Iranian democracy and kidnap its Prime Minister, because it would have a reactionary ripple effect that lasted decades. He refused to listen. (But the whole world listened to Al Gore. Irony eh?)
Another of those seemingly small moments with a long echo is happening now. A marginalised voice is offering us a warning, and an inspiring way to save ourselves (oh no, not another rapture prediction) – yet this alternative seems to be passing unheard in the night (poetry dear Reader, sheer poetry). It is coming from the people of Ecuador, led by their President, Rafael Correa, and it would begin to deal with two converging crises (I repeat – dum de dumdum).
Are you sitting comfortably children? Then Johann will begin..
(Once upon a time), In the four billion years since life on Earth began, there have been five times when there was a sudden mass extinction of life-forms. The last time was 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were killed, probably by a meteor. But now the world’s scientists (not all of them, just the Harold Camping followers amongst them) agree that the sixth mass extinction is at hand. Humans have accelerated the rate of species extinction by a factor of at least 100, and the great Harvard biologist EO Wilson warns that it could reach a factor of 10,000 within the next 20 years (hmmm… note the evasive ‘could’. Is there any concrete evidence? We keep hearing stories about species being found that were thought to be dying out or extinct – this is just the latest – and we are also constantly reminded that there are species out there that we know nothing about – as in this recent story. In light of these two factors, it is impossible to derive any truth from modelled extinction rates – especially when greenie distortions enter the equation: polar bears, for example, are considered to be endangered even though their numbers have increased five-fold in 30 years). We are doing this largely by stripping species of their habitats (especially in Indonesia where the greenie-inspired obsession with biofuels has led to the widespread destruction of the orangutan’s only habitat). We are destroying the planet’s biodiversity, and so we are making the natural chains that keep us alive much more vulnerable to collapse (actually, Johann, most of us owe our lives to the advances in science and technology made possible by the availability of the cheap and plentiful energy that you so despise). This time, we are the meteor.
At the same time, we are dramatically warming the atmosphere (now Johann, that’s a bit of a fib isn’t it? We warmed up a teensy weeny 0.7ºC over the 150 years to 1998 but most of that increase has been wiped out since then hasn’t it? Had you forgotten that we’ve been naturally warming since the Little Ice Age? And it’s still not as warm as the Mediaeval Warm Period, is it? I know your models say something different but they were designed by people who don’t understand the climate – none of us do, so don’t try to argue otherwise. Don’t forget that we also modelled our economies – where far fewer variables are involved – and you know how well that worked out for the world… And when you say that we’re responsible, you’re overlooking the CO2 causation dispute.. and the solar/cosmic ray theories. You’re not telling the whole story are you. Johann? Do it again and I might have to tell your mother..). I know it has become terribly passé to listen to virtually all the world’s scientists (virtually all of them, Johann. Really? How many would that be then?), but I remember (hyperbole alert!) the collapsing glaciers I saw in the Arctic, the drying-out I saw in Darfur, and the rising salt water I saw in Bangladesh (I know that you’re still a little wet behind the ears Johann and you won’t have too much personal experience to draw on but you’re supposed to be a journalist for heaven’s sake. Don’t you do any research? All of these things have always happened – here, here and here for example). 2010 was the joint-hottest year ever recorded, according to Nasa (but not everybody agrees do they Johann? In fact, it looks as though a little fixing was organised given that the year started and ended with two, long, cold winters). The best scientific prediction is that we are now on course for a 3ft rise in global sea levels this century (no, the best scientific prediction would be based on the observation that the sea rises at a steady 1.8mm or so per annum and has done so for at least a century and a half. That would equate to a rise of 16cm – 6.5 inches – by the end of the century. And if you consult Dr. Nils-Axel Moerner, a real expert on sea level rise, he will tell you that even this figure is likely to be an exaggeration). That means goodbye London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai (You’re always telling us this sort of thing. The Maldives are a few inches above sea level and you once repeated their government’s assertion that they were going to be inundated. Do you remember? I asked you that if this was the case, why they were building new airports. You never answered me, did you?). Doubt it if you want, but the US National Academy of Sciences – the most distinguished scientific body in the world – just found that 97 per cent of scientific experts agree with the evidence. (Let’s just look at the details of this typical warmist abuse of the statistical process. First of all, the NAS has not ‘just found’ this information; it’s a year-old ‘survey’. Secondly, the ‘scientific experts’ were selected climate researchers, in other words, people whose livelihoods are dependent on shoring up the predictions of thermageddon. And the 97% were a further sub-set in that they were ‘climate researchers most actively publishing in the field‘. More to the point, of the 100s of 1000s of scientists worldwide, there were only 1372 carefully selected ‘scientific experts’ to begin with. And this is the real killer: according to the abstract here the 97% refers to the ‘scientific experts’ who “support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. Of course they support the tenets but we were under the impression that we were supposed to be dealing with science, not religious conviction).
So where does Ecuador come in? At the tip of this South American country there lies 4,000 lush square miles of rainforest where the Amazon basin, the Andes mountains and the equator come together. It is the most biodiverse place on Earth. When scientists studied a single hectare of it, they found it had more different species of tree than the whole of North America put together. It holds the world records for different species of amphibians, reptiles and bats. And – more important still – this rainforest is a crucial part of the planet’s lungs, inhaling huge amounts of heat-trapping gases (no Johann, they survive and grow by absorbing benign carbon dioxide) and keeping them out of the atmosphere.
Yet almost all the pressure from the outside world today is to saw it down (Well, I’ve not been pressuring them. Nor’s Doris from next door. Most importantly, USAID is actually trying to protect Ecuador’s environment. Are you sure you’ve got this right?). Why? Because underneath that rainforest there are almost a billion barrels of untapped oil, containing 400 million tons of planet-cooking gases (Reader, I warned you that he could be a bit hysterical). We crave it. We howl for it (break out the ketamine!). Unlike biodiversity and a safe climate, it’s tradable for cash. (Johann, dear boy; I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but your idea of a safe climate is resulting in the trading – and waste – of squillions in cash. You and your kind have introduced the most corrupt form of capitalism we’ve ever known. And you know that oil drilling doesn’t require widespread forest clearance don’t you? Probably less than for a few windmills…).
Here is a textbook example of what is driving both the sixth great extinction and global warming (that textbook being “1001 ways to frighten the bejesus out of gullible people and part everybody from all their money”). We have been putting short-term profits for a few ahead of the long-term needs of our species (Oh, Johann. If only you had ended that sentence with ‘the many’ rather than ‘our species’, I could have agreed with you. But the long-term needs of our species include shelter, food and warmth.. and all of those depend on technology and plentiful energy.. and you don’t want those, do you?). Every rainforest on Earth is being reduced to the money that can be stripped from it (for your preferred bio-fuels, as I’ve already said): yesterday, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies voted to slash the amount of the Amazon that must be preserved by landowners (hang on a minute; Brazil’s own politicians: not the US or the greedy western corporates? Shome mishtake, shurely?). Except this time, for the first time, the people of Ecuador have offered us an alternative – a way to break this pattern. Alberto Acosta, the former energy minister who drew up the plan, calls it a punto de ruptura – a turning point (I think it means ‘breaking point’, Johann), one that “questions the logic of extractive development” (that’s mining to we ornery folks) that drilled us (do you see what he did there?) into this species-swallowing hole (OK, I think you’ve tortured this
hopeless helpless metaphor just a little too much now).
Here’s the offer. The oil beneath the rainforest is worth about $7bn (Oh-oh. I sense a less-than-inspiring bung brewing). Everybody knows that a stable climate, biodiversity and functioning lungs are worth far more than that (I’m a Brit and a grown-up, Johann. I expect my climate to be unstable). But until now, nobody has been willing to pay (ah-ha!). Ecuador’s democratic government says that, if the rest of the world offers just half of what the oil is worth – $3.5bn – they will keep the rainforest standing and alive and working for us all (round of applause, I think. In other news, send me £29.99 and I’ll keep my garden working for the world). In a country where 38 per cent live in poverty and 13 per cent are on the brink of starvation (none of whom would see a cent of this money), it’s an incredibly generous offer, and one that is popular in the rainforest itself (no excrement, Holmes!). As one of its residents, Julia Cerda, 45, told New Internationalist magazine: “With oil, the government just sells it to richer countries and we’re left with nothing, no birds or animals or trees (just jobs and an income – you’re supposed to be on the brink of starvation, if you recall).”
No country with oil has ever considered leaving it in the ground because the consequences of digging it up are too disastrous (I think, Johann, the full stop should have been more accurately placed 10 words ago). This is a startling attempt to reverse one of the greatest dysfunctions in the global economic system (that’s ‘startling’ in the con-artist’s demanding money with menaces sense of the word). The market considers things like species diversity, the climate, and the rainforests to be “externalities” – factors not affected by the price and profit mechanisms, so irrelevant, and dispensable (OK, Johann, now you’re talking utter spheroids. The market is currently dominated by your so-called externalities. My utility prices are being driven up by them, the fuel in my car has been driven up by 50% because of them, we’re paying for renewables obligations certificates, recycling taxes and higher food bills because the stupidity of you and your fellow greenies has caused the world to convert food to fuel. So don’t try your pathetic sob story on me). It’s a system that, as Oscar Wilde put it, “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing” (he also said “Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong“). The people of Ecuador are trying to find a way to get us to see the value of some of the most important things on Earth (or President Rafael Correa’s bank balance, at least).
They first made this offer in 2006. So how has the world responded? Chile has offered $100,000. Spain has offered $1.4m. Germany initially offered $50m, then pulled out. Now President Correa is warning that they can’t wait forever in a country where 13 per cent are close to starving. If they don’t have $100m in the pot by the end of this year, he says, they will have no choice but to pursue Plan B – the digging and destruction of the rainforest (TIMBER!).
If one rainforest seems a small matter to you, remember that the head of one deposed French king, the punishment of one broken country and the deposing of one Iranian prime minister seemed fairly minor once. (But remember, Johann, the alarmist tales of Y2K, global cooling, swine flu, SARS, acid rain, the ozone layer, bird flu, BSE, human variant CJD, AIDS and witches all of which seemed fairly major once..).
This, too, could be a moment where history branches into two directions (on a point of order Johann, I think you’ll find that history only has a single direction although you and your fellow alarmists are doing your best to divert the course of the temperature record. However, the potential paths into the future are infinite). On the path to the right, we turn down the chance to restrain ourselves, and decide with a shrug to burn all the oil left in the world’s soils (if there’s oil in the soil, burning it would be for the best), and hack down all the remaining rainforests (hmmm. I think they are more likely to survive if we use coal and oil rather than biomass and biofuels). Professor James Hansen, the Nasa climatologist (he’s actually an astrophysicist and an environmental activist. It has to be said that his record on climate prediction would have been improved with greater reliance on seaweed), explains where this ends: “We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with a sea level 75 metres higher (by your own alarmist calculation above, Johann, you have to realise this is going to take another 75 centuries or so. Don’t you think a proper scientist would suggest that a few more decades of research might be preferable to swilling away trillions on an unproved – and, frankly, unlikely – hypothesis? If you consider the progress we’ve made in just 150 years, we’re likely to be living elsewhere in the universe long before those 75 centuries have elapsed). Coastal disasters would occur continually (he’s obviously visited my home town..). The only uncertainty is the time it would take for complete ice sheet disintegration.” (And if we don’t know that, we cannot know that it will happen at all).
But there is another path (is that a heavenly choir I hear?), where we choose to protect humanity’s habitat (it is!) – and are prepared to pay for it (my mistake; it was the chorus of usurers humming ‘Money for Nothing’). If our governments won’t accept this offer, at this late moment in these ecological crises, what are they saying about themselves – and about us?
Now that last is very good question Johann. What does it say about the strength and spread of the green cause if after 5 years, it hasn’t been able to raise that sort of money for such a humanity-saving project? $3.5 billion is about 50 cents a head if everybody contributed. Obviously, people like me wouldn’t help and lots will be too poor but professional greenies like you, Monbiot, Romm et al could afford a few dollars more and the likes of Gore, Schmidt, DiCaprio, Gates and Charlie Windsor could probably sponsor several million between them. You should certainly be able to raise the requested $100 million by the end of this year shouldn’t you? It’s not a lot for all you fervent believers, is it? So instead of whingeing at us to create your utopia, why haven’t you done it?
Is it that you know that once you’ve handed over the money, there’s no way of guaranteeing that the forest will remain untouched? Is it the knowledge that USAID has been pouring millions of dollars of aid money into Ecuador for so-called habitat protection since 2006? Perhaps you are just an unrepresentative minority?
Or could it be that none of you really believe your rhetoric any more than we do?