I haven’t posted for a while. Quite frankly, I’ve been horrified over the BP disaster and have felt that arguing with septics and contrarians is not doing much good in the greater scheme of things.
However, I did stumble across the Hartwell Paper and couldn’t restrain myself. I shuddered while I read “The Hartwell Paper: A new direction for climate policy after the crash of 2009”. I don’t know what it was — perhaps it was the past few months I’ve spent reading science papers in which empirical evidence is analysed [rather than the puffery of pomo pono types]. Perhaps it’s working in a policy job in which I see just how policy is actually made. When I thought of what the Hartwell Paper advocated, the only word that came to mind again and again was this: capitulation.
Whatever it was, I had a very hard time swallowing the dreck contained within this paper. In fact, there were several shake-the-head and face-palm moments. At one point, I put the paper down and considered if my cartooning skills were up to it for all I could think of was comedy whilst reading the paper.
Since my cartooning skills aren’t quite up to it, picture this:
A man cowers beneath an umbrella with the caption “The Hartwell Paper” written on its face. Moving towards him from the southwest is a helluva dark storm with a huge wedge twister spewing debris in its wake. Inside the storm are the words “global warming”.
A cartoon is the appropriate response to this package of postmodern postnormal [postrational] nonsense.
I came across the reference to the Hartwell Paper over at CA. It seems that McI has done a couple of things that surprised his readership lately. One was to criticize Cuccinelli. Wow — did that have some of his supporters in a tizzy! The other was to post a link to the Hartwell Paper.
I won’t comment on those posts except to say that I was surprised. It doesn’t change my view of him. When the history of this sorry era is written, McI’s name will be key among those who are judged to have contributed to the delay in responding to the threat of global warming. I hope feeding his audience is worth that future notoriety.
So, what is the Hartwell Paper? Put it simply — pomo pono rubbish.
Is there nothing good I can see in it? What about the call to take heed of the energy needs of the bottom billions in the world? Surely a liberal bleeding heart like myself must be swayed by its call to “raising up of human dignity via … energy access for all”. How could not the very fibers of my liberal being not quiver at those words?
They don’t. I seem to recall some coal company arguing the very same thing in some greenwashing advert on the tube.
It’s what is called a “lost leader” in marketing. It’s the sleight of hand that hides the card up the sleeve in the game of chance in the back alley. It’s the wiggling lure of the angler fish drawing the unsuspecting in.
According to the authors, the three-pronged approach adopted in the paper “explains the radical and practical ways to reduce non-CO2 human forcings of climate.”
Non-CO2 human forcings of climate?
That’s like fussing over the zit on the end of your teenager’s nose whilst ignoring the huge cancer growing in their belly. It’s so much bunk its not worth my time to do a thorough debunking. So I won’t. But I will point and laugh.
Here’s a line I like:
“The Hartwell Paper follows the advice that a good crisis should not be wasted.”
Hmmm. That reminds me of Condy Rice’s famous words about how 9/11 was an “enormous opportunity” and that America and its friends must “take advantage” of the “new opportunities” it presented — an opportunity to move in and take out Saddam, alter the balance of power to favor American interests, and it would pay for itself!
In a similar vein, I can’t help but see the pono pomo crowd viewing the failure of Copenhagen and the CRU emails as an opportunity to move ahead on their agendas, which don’t include, apparently, acting on the main driver of global warming — CO2.
The authors reject the head-on approach of previous climate policy to decarbonize the economy via the UNFCCC/Kyoto process. They argue that the carbon issue has been overloaded with the baggage of other “framings and agendas” such as environmentalism and the like.
Here’s a snicker-inducing quote:
“The oblique approach which we advocate may appear at first [and second, third and thirty-fifth] glance to be no different because it adopts multiple framings and agendas as well. But that would be a mistake… Our approach is actually the opposite: multiple framings and agendas are pursued in their own right, and according to their own logics and along their own appropriate paths. Decarbonization is a contingent benefit, not an encompassing one. This is the radical difference: indeed, an inversion.” [my sarcasm]
In other words, we will fight to ensure the poor get access to energy, that non-CO2 emissions and pollution are reduced, and that we prepare for the inevitable warming.
Obama’s slogan in 2008? YES WE CAN!
The Hartwell authors’ battlecry? NO WE CAN’T!
It’s a total cop-out to use outmoded lingo. It’s capitulation. It’s slimy policy academic lackeys bowing to power rather than speaking truth to it. If anyone should have the freedom to speak truth to power, it should be the ivory towered crowd with tenure and nothing to stop them from telling it like it is. But I guess that’s not this crowd. Maybe I’m too idealistic. Why have ivory towers if people can’t stand atop them and pronounce against the current power structures?
The thing is that pomo has taken over academe and they are the last group to challenge the powers that be.
Here’s a quote:
“Rather than being a discrete problem to be solved, climate change is better undertood as a persistent condition that must be coped with and can only be partially managed more — or less — well.”
It’s what the authors call a “wicked” problem. Yeah — that’s right. No slacking on the technical terminology in this work. In other words, its intractable.
What is most cringe-worthy is the use of “Capability Brown’s dictum. As I sat, dropped-jaw, reading the section discussing Capability Brown, I thought, where on Earth did they get this?
Then I read the list of authors and saw that some of them were cultural studies types. Bingo.
Lancelot “Capability” Brown was an 18th Century landscape gardener. His gardens did not take the visitor straight to the stately home via a driveway lined with trees and gardens, which would be fast and direct, but instead, they meandered, wandered, veered, through woodlands, groves, and other distractions, until the visitor arrived at the home in a relaxed state of mind.
Here’s an excerpt describing Capability Brown’s technique and its value:
“That displays a subtle skill which has manifest political value: the capacity to deliver an ambitious objective harmoniously. “Capability” Brown might be a useful tutor for designers of climate policies. His advice would be to approach the object of emissions reduction via other goals, riding with other constituencies and gathering other benefits.”
So instead of marching headlong towards emission reductions and decarbonization of the economy as existing climate policy would demand, in order, you know, to prevent dangerous warming of the climate, the Hartwell folks would have us pursue other agendas and engage other constituencies, arriving at our goal eventually but also harmoniously. I can just hear the babbling brook burbling in the background…
Cultural studies types like looking at landscapes and space for inspiration and for help in understanding society. Why not compare climate policy to landscape architecture? In pono pomo, it’s all good.
Yanno, it’s really just a load of horse hockey.
What is it with these post-normal types? They don’t want to speak truth to power — they want to paint its toenails and sprinkle aromatherapy around it to make it more palatable. I’ve always been suspicious of post-modernism’s take on politics and I think I’ve been justified.
Put it simple: there has been no real action on climate change, not because it’s a “wicked problem” that has no “stopping rule” or is intractable, or that it’s been improperly “framed”, but because there are too many powerful interests involved who have enormous influence over the political process. FULL STOP.
None of the actions the Hartwell folks want us to take are, in themselves, bad. It would be great to reduce black carbon for it has a significant role to play in arctic warming. Reducing non-CO2 gasses would be a benefit, no doubt. Ensuring access of the world’s developing nations to affordable energy is the right thing to do from a moral and ethical standpoint.
However, what the Hartwell folks have done is capitulate. Their approach will result in further delay in action that is necessary to forestall or mitigate climate change. We will have to adapt to some degree of warming: the question is how much?
If the Hartwell group win the ear of politicians — shudder the thought — I suspect it will be more rather than less, and that is the real danger of this kind of nonsense.