I’m not a green futurist. I’d rather be right.

Since 1998 I have written and lectured occasionally on environmentalism and often criticise its green, pseudo-religious sub-community. I care about the environment just as greens are supposed to, but I see dogmatic, poorly thought through green policies as a big part of the problem facing the environment. With the greens as its friends, the Earth needs no enemies. Today, I read that solar companies are leaving Spain, where it is usually sunny, to come to the UK, where it usually isn’t, because our previous and existing governments were very keen to demonstrate their green credentials by subsidising solar power. Clarification: they are increasing installation in the UK instead of Spain. This is obviously counter-productive, as are many other policies thought up by the green community. 

So while many other futurists and futurologists advertise themselves as green, I am very proud to be on the other side, that of clear-thinking, full life cycle, system-wide analysis. I am certainly not a ‘green futurist’. I am an engineer and a proper futurist, looking at the future objectively and logically to try to work out what is likely to happen, not caring whether the news is popular or not. I’d rather be right. Of course I want to do my best to help ensure to a sustainable world and where a practice makes good sense I follow it. Greens are meant to do that but they often end up doing the opposite. Many greens think of science and technology as the problem. They want to go back to the dark ages, reduce standard of living, even reduce population. They advocate policies that disadvantage many of the world’s poor and prevent many from being born. I couldn’t ever live with such an ideology. I see advanced technology as the main foundation for living sustainably. As my own contribution to environmentalism and sustainability, as well as inventing quite a few things that can help, I also wrote a book last year on system-wide sustainability, where I contrasted the application of green dogma against the far better approach of positively applying science, engineering and logical systems thinking instead of negatively trying to undo progress. The book is called Total Sustainability.

Nor am I an AGW (human-caused global warming) catastrophist, also in contrast to many other futurists. I am not taken in by the poor quality spun science that suggests imminent AGW-based catastrophe. There is far too much deception in the ‘climate science’ and politics community which then recommends diverting trillions onto ineffective or counter-productive policies that could be spent far better elsewhere. The most important skill a futurist can have is the ability to distinguish between sense and nonsense. 

The climate has always changed, and always will. Humans have some impact, but not so far or likely to be a catastrophic impact. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, a warming contributor, but the CO2-centric climate models that have predicted catastrophe have almost all greatly overestimated warming to date, and none predicted the 17.5 years of no warming that we have now seen, so they are wrong. Much is made of arctic melting, but little is mentioned about the record ice in the antarctic. The theories about why this or that happens seem to change every month. In the UK, seasonal predictions using the same theoretical base have got it wrong almost every time for years. We are meant to listen to a group who tell us a very distorted picture of what is going on, who claim competence and understanding far beyond what they demonstrate. As any real scientist understands, if a theory disagrees with observation, the theory is wrong. We need a new theory. The fact the ‘climate science’ community conspicuously ignores that fact, and spends an enormous effort to make excuses for poor models, or even changing the data, rather than admit that they simply don’t know what is happening puts them in opposition to the most basic principle of good science. While a lot of good science is undoubtedly done, many others disqualify themselves by that principle, and that pollutes the entire field, bringing science itself into disrepute, and damaging the ability of future science and technology to help protect and improve the environment. So I am skeptical when they say the sky is falling. It doesn’t look like it to me.

Other scientists often suggest reasons why the models may be wrong – the full influence of various-term ocean cycles and the full effects on cloud seeding from sunspots via galactic cosmic radiation deflection. These are better correlated through history than the outputs of the models. Many factors that can influence climate such as agricultural practices and socieconomic reactions to trends or subsidies are not included in the models. Much of the warming we have seen can be explained mostly by natural cycles overlaid on the continued warming as we recover from the last mini ice age. Some, but we don’t know how much, can be explained by a wide range of natural effects that are poorly understood and quantified - soil chemistry; forestry emissions; biological, chemical and physical environmental feedbacks and buffers. Some of it, but we don’t know how much, can be explained by changes in human originated CO2, changes in high atmosphere water vapour from aviation and space missions, CFCs, black carbon, and dozens of other human contributory factors, which are still not fully understood or quantified. Now, as we head into a likely prolonged solar minimum, some scientists are suggesting that a lengthy cooling period now looks to be as likely a short to medium term trend as further warming. I don’t pretend to understand all the science, but I don’t believe the AGW catastrophe people do either. I am a skeptic. I don’t deny that CO2 is a problem, nor that we have had warming, nor even that humans may account for some of that warming, but I sure as hell am not convinced we’re all about to cook if we don’t do something really big really fast.

I am quite pleased with my track record on environmentalism and green stuff. In my 2006 report Carbon, I laid out some of my views and I still stand by them. In it I said that increasing CO2 is an important issue but not a reason to panic, mainly because it will eventually take care of itself. We are not faced with imminent AGW catastrophe. The default future migration to other energy sources as they become cheaper will limit CO2 emissions in the long term, so we will be absolutely fine, provided that the proven ongoing damage from green policies can be limited. I analysed a lot of policies advocated by greens and found them likely to be counterproductive. I have sadly been proved right on many of those, but thankfully, some of the engineering solutions I recommended have since gained traction. I was blocked from publishing my 2006 report since it was seen as too controversial at the time. I published it almost unchanged when I went freelance at the end of 2007. I later used much of it in my book.

You can read it here: http://www.futurizon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/carbonfeb08.pdf

Unlike catastrophic global warming advocates, I haven’t had to change my story every month. I first lectured at the World Futures Society conference on the pseudo-religious nature of green environmentalism way back in 1998 , and I am still saying the same now.

Green usually means wrong and usually means harming the environment by doing something that hasn’t been thought through properly but is based on dogma. I’d rather be someone who helps the environment and helps sustainability by doing proper engineering. I’d rather not have to make excuses in a few years when the historians analyse what was going on today and ask why so many people were taken in by predictions of AGW catastrophe, and why they advocated wasting so much money and impoverishing so many, damaging so many economies and so many lives to make so little impact on a problem that has in any case been exaggerated greatly.

I’m not a green futurist. I’d much rather be right.

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10 responses to “I’m not a green futurist. I’d rather be right.

  1. Hi Ian. So here’s where things get confusing – according to the NOAA we have had 333 consecutive months with world temps above the 20th century average (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/november-was-333rd-straight-month-with-above-average-temps-15361). Yet you say we’ve had 17.5 years of no warming. Can these two statements somehow be reconciled?

    • Yes, the two statements are entirely consistent with each other. What isn’t clear is why you think they aren’t.

      • “333 consecutive months of above average 20th century temperatures” seems like warming. That stat seems like it’s out on the tail end of the distribution. I’d be willing to bet that in the remainder of my lifetime we will not have 333 consecutive months of below average temperatures. You can pay the money to my estate.

      • Nobody has disputed warming occurred in the late 20th century, and that temperatures are still higher than they were. I certainly haven’t. Everyone accepts that. What is disputed is that warming is continuing. It isn’t. It has stalled, or paused. We don’t know whether it has just paused for a while and will resume increasing, whether it will stay as it is, or will start to decrease. Staying warm is not evidence that temperatures are still increasing. Let’s take a simple analogy. I recently went on a trip. I drove the first 100 miles at an average of 60mph. I then accelerated gradually over 10 miles as congestion gradually cleared and then drove at 70mph for 100 miles more. Are you really saying you think that the 70mph phase is acceleration? It isn’t. It is driving at a constant speed after an acceleration phase. Taking the analogy further, after the 100 miles at 70mph, I may decide to risk the police catching me and drive faster still, or I might hit more congestion, and my speed would fall. Both of those outcomes would be entirely consistent with the previous phases of the trip. Global temperature at the moment is pretty constant at a high level. It has not increased for 17.5 years and is not increasing now. It might start to increase again any time, or it may drop. We just don’t know. The only thing we can deduce with certainty from the ‘pause’ is that the climate models are wrong, because none of them predicted it.

      • Okay. I get it, I think. Global Warming HAS happened, but it’s currently holding steady, which hasn’t been expected or predicted. Is that it?
        Which suggests that the variables affecting planet temperature are many and more complex than we have so far determined, yes?

      • Yes, that’s right. It has happened, and might happen again, but at the moment we don’t know.

      • So, that makes Global Warming a lot like my increasing body weight for the last 17.5 years and 333 months! :-)

  2. You write: ” solar companies are leaving Spain, where it is usually sunny, to come to the UK, where it usually isn’t, because our previous and existing governments were very keen to demonstrate their green credentials by subsidising solar power.”
    But are you talking about where the companies have their HQ? Or their manufacturing facilities? Or their sales and installation? Or their own energy production? These are all different aspects of “companies leaving Spain to come to the UK”, some could be productive and some could be counter-productive.
    As the words stand, I don’t think they provide a credible start to a diatribe against government policies. Your comments on scientific developments and applications are crystal-clear and universally applicable. But don’t forget, your comments on UK politics are opaque (and therefore suspect) to those of us outside the UK.

    • You’re right Robin, I should have made it clear. It is the installations. They will install panels in the UK instead of Spain.

      Thanks also for your note on my political comments. I will take more care in future blogs to address my non-UK readership too.

  3. Anyone who thinks that average global temperatures are proof or not of global warming needs to do more reading.

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