Triratna News

The Three Jewels meet the Climate Emergency

On Mon, 11 February, 2019 - 16:05
Sadayasihi's picture
Sadayasihi

In December the Bristol Buddhist Centre hosted a practice morning on the theme ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’. The event offered a space for the Sangha to come together to explore thoughts and feelings around the climate emergency, how Dharma practice helps with facing the reality of the situation, and what ‘taking action’ might look like in this context. This was followed by an action outside Barclays bank in the afternoon with meditation, leafletting and singing ‘climate carols.’

Listen to the guided meditation and talks from this event

Read more about the Triratna Global Emergency Initiative and get involved!

Amrtanadi was one of those involved in this event. Here is an interview with her about her involvement in climate activism, the event that took place in Bristol, and what she thinks the Dharma can bring to the table.

Do you have a background in activism?
One of the strongest guiding principles in my practice of the Dharma is my desire to live from love and to avoid causing harm. Making choices that minimise the harm I cause through contributing to climate change has been important to me for a long time - for example, around transport and where my food comes from.

But I’d never taken that further into collective action or activism - in part, because I didn’t quite know where to put my energy, and perhaps also because of a feeling of powerlessness, not having a clear sense of what I could do that might make a difference beyond my own individual ethical choices. I think this is a common response in the face of such a massive, complex and emotive issue as climate change. I very often hear from other people that there is nothing we can do, it’s all much bigger than us, a kind of collective sense of disempowerment, together I think with the emotional overwhelm that can quite easily arise when we try to take in the enormity of the situation that we face.

Something really changed for me when the latest IPCC report came out in at the beginning of October of last year which stated, in much more urgent terms than I had heard before, the need for us to act now. What really affected me about the report was the almost deafening silence that greeted it in the mainstream media, and life carrying on all around me as usual. I think it really sank in to me at that point just how much we really can’t take in what is happening and what the climate emergency calls on us to do. The group Extinction Rebellion (XR) rose out of this time, calling for mass civil disobedience to try and force the issue more into public consciousness and to make the government take notice and take action, spelling out in black and white the reality of the situation that we are facing: the potential extinction of much life on earth and a real threat to human survival. This felt like a much more real and congruent response to the IPCC report than the business as usual life I saw going on all around me.

I also began reflecting a lot on what it means to be a practicing Buddhist in this time, and what part we, as a Sangha, and as part of the larger faith community might play - and, perhaps, have a responsibility to play - in raising awareness and being part of the collective change that must happen.

I saw clearly that focusing on individual ethical actions is not enough in the face of the urgency of our need to act. It wasn’t that my, and our, individual actions and choices didn’t now matter - they do. But my perspective on my practice of the first precept, my sense of what it means to practice non-harm and take loving action for the benefit of all beings in this age of climate breakdown, expanded and deepened. It felt clear that this must include engagement with collective action directed to raising awareness and to systemic change to try and bring about the dramatic and urgent reductions in carbon emissions now needed.

So, from never having taken part in any activism, apart from a march or two over the years, I quickly found myself involved in many actions and events with Extinction Rebellion and the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE). It felt so helpful and important for me to make connections with others who are also in touch with the reality of the situation, to have a context to share our feelings, to be able to express them through positive action, and to experience a strong sense of solidarity and empowerment through coming together.

Who organised the ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’ event in Bristol and what was its purpose?
My friend Dayajoti, who has been involved with Buddhafield for many years, and I were talking about the IPCC report, Extinction Rebellion and activism on the way up to Bhante’s funeral and the idea to run an event at the Bristol Buddhist Centre came out of that conversation. We knew that many people had been affected by the report and wanted to offer a space where the Sangha could come together to share thoughts and feelings around the climate emergency, how our Dharma practice might help us engage and face the reality of the situation, and explore taking action as a part of our practice.

We asked Rowan, who is a Mitra who has asked for ordination with the Oxford Sangha, to join us and give one of the talks. Rowan has been very involved with XR and DANCE and activism around the climate emergency is an integral part of her going for refuge and expression of the Bodhisattva ideal. We also asked Taranita to give one of the talks, who had also been at an XR event I was at in Bristol, Beth, who had also become involved with XR, and Amaragita who has been involved with Buddhafield and activism for a number of years.

This was the first recent Sangha event exploring the issue – though we did run BAM (Buddhist Action Month) at the Bristol Buddhist Centre in 2015 on the theme of climate change. The climate emergency will also be the theme for this year’s BAM. Both Dayajoti and I are away from Bristol for 3 months until the spring so haven’t been able to run any follow on events, but hope to pick up some momentum again with BAM in June and will see if anything more ongoing may emerge from that.

What happened during ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’ event?
We began with Dayajoti leading a guided meditative reflection in the shrine room, inviting us to allow the issue into our hearts and notice our response. Myself, Rowan and Taranita then gave short personal talks on the climate emergency. We had space in small groups and then as a whole group to share anything that we wanted to in response, and ended in the shrine room chanting the Bodhicitta mantra together and transferring our merits.

Around 25 people came to the event. I was deeply moved by everyone’s honest sharing of their responses to the climate emergency itself and to the morning’s input. People shared their fears around the situation, sense of overwhelm and not quite knowing what they could do, but also hope, energy and enthusiasm to take action, a sense of empowerment, and a desire to try and stay open to the situation and to support one other in this. It felt that there was a strong sense of solidarity in the simple act of our coming together to engage with the issue with honesty and courage. Something in this that felt very significant, meaningful and necessary for all of us there.

Some of us helped organise a separate action after the morning event at the centre under the DANCE umbrella. DANCE and other groups, including Greenpeace, have been holding actions calling on Barclays Bank to divest from fossil fuel projects and companies for some time. Our action involved a sitting mediation protest outside the main branch of Barclays in Bristol and singing ‘climate carols’, with posters calling on Barclays to wake up to the climate emergency and divest from fossil fuel projects. We gave leaflets and explained the issue to members of the public who were interested in what we were doing. Around 10 of us took part in the action, and there was a collective sense of it being helpful and important to take the energy of our contemplative and discursive morning into action on the streets. I found it particularly meaningful to be involved in helping to raise awareness with members of the public - many people I talked to expressed gratitude and support for what we were doing.

What do you think the Dharma can bring to climate activism?
I think the Dharma can help us to try and make some sense of the climate emergency and our collective inability to really know its truth and take action. The Buddha named the roots of our own personal suffering as greed, hatred and delusion and, as well as manifesting in us individually, these roots will of course manifest in the structures, systems, behaviours and values of the societies and cultures we create collectively.

Delusion at heart is ignorance of our interconnectedness. We are intimately interconnected with the earth, her living systems and the other species and human beings we share this beautiful planet with. Our actions have consequences throughout the web of life, and these consequences are becoming increasingly destructive and dangerous to life on this earth. However, our belief that we are separate, autonomous selves is much more alive and real to us, and individually and collectively, we don’t live from this place of deep interconnectedness.

This not seeing, this ignorance, is, of course, basic Buddhism. It is perpetuated by our tendency to pull towards us that which makes us feel real and secure. This is the same pull that drives the entire, deeply damaging, consumer culture that we are part of, and also leads us to hold on to the normality of business as usual, the belief that ‘perhaps climate change isn’t real after all’, or ‘it won’t affect me and what I love’.

And, we’ll also push away that which threatens us or our sense of self, which in relation to climate change may include the unease and fear that all of us must surely on some level feel, the reality that our way of life must and will radically change, as well as our pain and grief about the situation.

Knowing the depths of the roots of the poisons in myself helps me to understand the very surreal situation of ‘business as usual’ and helps me to avoid falling into judgement, anger and blame around what is happening to our planet and our collective inaction. And I think that the reality of the climate emergency can be an urgent, potent and positive ethical challenge to wake ourselves up more and more to the reality of our own interconnectedness and to our delusions. We are not separate to the collective karma that has created the situation we are in, nor to what we collectively are called to do.

This understanding and perspective is something that the Dharma and we, as practicing Buddhists, can bring into climate conversations and actions to help guard against the danger of polarisation. Hopefully we can also bring awareness of our own motivations and views and a commitment to try to act from loving-kindness and in a way that supports harmony and understanding. It’s so easy to fall into seeing, for example, politicians, fracking or oil company executives, or people who seem to act as if they don’t care about climate change as ‘other’ than us, to see the problem as ‘out there’ and to set ourselves apart, taking ourselves out of the web of interconnectedness; in short re-creating and perpetuating the very tendencies that have led to this situation in the first place.

The Metta Bhavana can be a fantastic tool for helping to guard against this, something we can take into our actions and offer to others. I introduced the practice at a day in London organised by DANCE to support XR activists, including how it can help us to avoid falling into polarisation - as well as helping us to remember self-care - as we try to hold the reality of the situation we are in and take action. The response was very positive and affirming, with people expressing how important they felt it was to have tools to support them in this way.

Our practices and the teachings of the Dharma can help us and others stay open and in touch with the the climate emergency and all the feelings that that may bring up for us, whether that might be grief, anger, fear, despondency, complacency or something else. From my own experience, it can be very hard to stay open, and not to fall into overwhelm or shut down. What we are called on to do, to hold in our hearts and minds, in this era of climate breakdown is huge. I feel an important part of what is needed is to grow our collective capacity to stay open, to stay engaged, to stay in touch with the reality and with each other as we face it. All of the practices that help us stay centred, positive, open-hearted, resilient, in touch with the beauty of life and our gratitude for what we have, and open to a bigger perspective are an essential part of this. And, of course, we need to do this together, in open, supportive communication and solidarity with others.

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Responses

parami's picture

Great to read this

thanks 🙏🏼 Parami

Tejopala's picture

Really wonderful to read this, and to listen to the talks. Thank you!

Munisha's picture

Hi,

Those of you in Britain may be interested in the UK Buddhist Climate Action Training day taking place in Brixton, South London on 23rd February.

It’s being run by Religions for Peace, GreenFaith, and the Faith for the Climate Network, with the support of the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK.

All Buddhists welcome. More details here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/391857518026545/

Metta, Munisha

Amarapuspa's picture

Thanks for this Munisha. I am spreading the word locally in the Brixton. 

saravantu's picture

Thank you Amrtanadi for such a beautiful, heartfelt and clear piece. So inspiring to hear about you teaching the Metta Bhavana to activists. Helping people deepen self metta and not demonise others feels such a vital contribution. 

Much love

Saravantu x

james murphy's picture

Sorry, what emergency? No-one weeps more than me for the rape of the rain forests and the pollution of the oceans, and I give charitably to fight these disasters - but manmade global warming? No - despite the mainstream belief, it has not been proved anywhere near beyond a shadow of a doubt that Co2, whilst undoubtedly a greenhouse gas, contributes to global warming to anything like the catastrophic degree projected. Time and again, the IPCC has proved itself a massively fallible body, prone both to venality and poor science. Given the almost infinite complexity of the data, their computer models have at times proven hopelessly simplistic and just plain wrong. How many times have we been told the end of the world is nigh - in ten years.. whoops, twenty… whoops, we meant another ten?! I’m amazed and profoundly disappointed (not to day dazed and confused) that Triratna sees fit to endorse far-reaching globalist actions the science behind which is so manifestly myopic. Some IPCC policy will seriously damage development in the so-called 3rd world - and all because we in the west have wisely decided they can’t use fossil fuels. It’s blinkered and selfish beyond belief. Of course, my views will be rejected and rebutted by most of you within Triratna, who remain, it appears to the outside world, increasingly dogmatically within a leftist worldview bubble, nor is it my purpose or desire to engage in what is, I know, fruitless debate with anyone on this platform; but I am deeply disillusioned that Triratna sees fit to abandon its position of neutrality on issues such as this, becoming more and more a sort of “socialist party at prayer” (to coin Johnson’s phrase about the C of E and the Tories). Bhante would surely be turning polemically in his grave, were he not probably already suitably and deservedly at his temporary ease in the Tushita heaven…

dhsubhadra's picture

James, I entirely agree. I used to be a fervent warmist, but there are too many problems. Climategate, for one. The man made global warming scenario seems more of a political thing than a scientific one. Sea levels are static, the ice at the poles is still there and even increasing at Antarctica, polar bears are thriving, and after 20 years of no increase in the global temperature, NASA recently said the planet is cooling. But for the true believer in the Holy Church of Climate Change, Cooling is actually Warming.  I got a mauling recently on the Facebook Climate Emergency page for blaspheming like this…it really is a religion, in the pejorative sense of the term. And yes, I too care deeply about the planet.

Yogaratna's picture

Wonderful interview, thank you!  Very clear about the Dharma and climate breakdown.  I was particularly struck by:

“our belief that we are separate, autonomous selves is much more alive and real to us, and individually and collectively, we don’t live from this place of deep interconnectedness” 

We know intellectually that we live on a planet, with 7b people and so on, but the way we live doesn’t reflect that reality…

Advayacitta's picture

As someone who once believed in anthropogenic global warming, but who has become much more sceptical, I think certain points should be made clear. I would also like to ask some questions.

Firstly, I wish to point out that any claims about contemporary climate change need to be understood in context.  That context is the history of the earth’s climate, and climate change, over the last half million years or so, as well as its history in the last eleven thousand years. The important first question is: ‘what is the pattern of the Earth’s climate (and climate change) over these timescales?’ Only when one understands what this pattern has been can any discussion of possible anthropogenic effects be sensible.

To get an idea of this history, go to the website www.climate4you.com and then to its first section ‘an overview to get things into perspective’, especially figures 2 and 3.

To summarise, over the last eleven thousand years the Earth has been in an ‘interglacial’ period.  These are relatively short-lived episodes that contrast with the intervening glacial periods (when glaciation covered much of the currently populated northern hemisphere).  Question: would you like the interglacial period to end (as they have done before) and the Earth to return to a glacial period?

Estimates of global temperature (obtained from ice core data) for our current interglacial period are lower than for previous interglacial periods, when there will have been no significant anthropogenic effects on climate. (Moreover, despite that higher global temperature, this did not prevent the return of glacial periods.)  Also, if you look at the graph for the last eleven thousand years, the estimated global temperature goes up and down. If the global temperature is going up at present, that is nothing new. Question: what is the evidence that the current/recent rise in global temperature (assuming that it exists) is due to carbon dioxide? Further question: why cannot this rise be due to natural factors that produced previous rises in global temperature?

With regard to the effects of carbon dioxide, I will quote first from a book on climate that I bought in the late 1990s – ‘Atmosphere, Weather and Climate’ (seventh edition 1998) by Roger Barry and Richard Chorley: “…the effect of CO2 is related to the logarithm of the concentration’ (p40). The authors did not explain what this means, and when I first read it I put a question mark against it.

What it actually means, is that the incremental effect of increasing CO2, on atmospheric temperature, gets smaller and smaller, and eventually tails off.  In other words, increasing CO2 levels bring smaller and smaller effects on atmospheric temperature. This is something typically not mentioned when people express their anxiety and alarm about CO2 in the atmosphere and the supposed need to reduce it. Given that policies to reduce CO2 can have major negative effects, this omission is noteworthy, to say the least.

So, I would like Sadayasihi, or other proponents of ‘climate emergency’, to explain clearly here, with sufficient, good evidence, and taking into account the Earth’s actual climate history, how exactly any apparent ‘climate change’ happening now is different to before, and how it is due to anthropogenic effects. 

james murphy's picture

Hear. Hear. There needs to be much more frequent and honest debate of what has sadly become for many a quasi-religious, contentious issue. Contrary to the current dogma, the science is very definitely not settled. There is considerable, seriously reputable, peer-reviewed opposition to the ‘end-is-nigh’ pedlars of doom, but their research doesn’t suit the current age’s endless appetite for self-righteous outrage - and is, therefore, at best, never reported; at worst, consciously suppressed. Indeed, what has distressed me is the way the mainstream narrative has been unquestioningly adopted and touted as THE Triratna viewpoint (as if such a thing could ever exist in an essentially spiritually motivated assembly of people). Triratna really must avoid the fatal  pitfall whereby it begins to identify itself as just another power group rather than as a spiritual assembly or community of individuals.

Advayacitta's picture

‘Triratna really must avoid the fatal  pitfall whereby it begins to identify itself as just another power group rather than as a spiritual assembly or community of individuals.’ I very much agree.  I would add that it is vital for any spiritual community, whether now, in the past, or in the future, to be aware of, and guard against adopting, the dominant religious/philosophical/political viewpoints of the time. I would further add that the mainstream narrative is so broken and corrupt these days that I do not trust it about anything.

Bhadra's picture

As this post came out of an event at the Bristol Centre I think it is important to say a little about its broader context. I think it is worth reiterating that as Amrtanadi explains, there was an event run at the Centre in the morning which was then followed by a separate event unconnected to the Centre organised by DANCE to which Amrtanadi invited those present to attend.  The DANCE event was not promoted by the Centre in any way.  The event at the Centre was agreed after considerable discussion in the Centre Team, with the Trustees and those who wanted to offer the event. Through discussion we reached agreement that the most important thing we do as a Buddhist Centre is to share the Buddha’s means to end suffering. This meant we had to discuss how to facilitate and promote such events whilst keeping the Dharma to the fore. We were particularly keen to discover how such events could most helpfully be framed so as not to conflate the Centre with any particular social or political position. This was discussed because we considered it wasn’t appropriate for any event in the Centre, or any media we have responsibility for, to be used to promote specific responses to ‘climate emergency’, ‘species extinction’, or any other manifestation of the kleshas.  

However, we did, and we do, think it important that we make space in the Centre for those in the Order who want to facilitate discussions for the Sangha regarding Dharma practice in relation to any issue that is pressing for them. The event described by Amrtanadi takes place within a whole year of activity where the overarching theme of the year is “Awakening the heart in a suffering world”. We are pleased this gives us many opportunities to attempt to bring the Buddha’s example and teachings in relation to different factors creating suffering in the world.  

We are clear that our role as a Centre and as a public media presence is to communicate the Dharma as clearly as possible and allow individuals to apply it in the world as they choose.  However, it does not follow that therefore there is not a place in the Centre to look at specific difficulties in the world and open up a Dharma discussion in relation to them. As a thriving Buddhist Centre it is our responsibility to maintain an emphasis and focus on the Dharma as the medicine to treat the sickness, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t helpful to shine the light of the Dharma onto what, for some, are very pressing and complex issues.

What surprises me was the level of energy these particular topics evoked during our Council and Team discussions. For me it gave rise to a personal question which relates to the area of faith in the Dharma. It is something like, is placing my focus, time and energy on practicing and sharing the Dharma, a sufficient or appropriate response to the immediacy of the suffering of the world? I don’t have a clear answer but I think it is of value to live out of this question whilst noticing when and from where any heat or grip amongst my responses arise.

Vidyaruchi's picture

Like Advayacitta I am a former believer in anthropogenic global warming. In fact I have been one of the most scrupulous people I know as regards minimising my CO2 emissions. But for the last three months or so I have been trying to learn about the climate debate from both sides, and I am finding myself generally more convinced by the sceptics. There is much that I am still unsure of, but here are a few things of which I am reasonably certain: 1) The science is not settled. If anyone tells you it is they have departed from the realm of science and are probably either frauds, politicians, ideologues or ignoramuses. 2) There is no consensus. There is in fact a raging debate, and the sceptics community contains some of the most eminent scientists in the world. 3) Media representation of the issue is atrocious. This includes Al Gores movie An Inconvenient Truth, which is demonstrably junk-science. The fact that he won a Nobel Peace Prize tells us a lot about the state of the climate debate. Anyone who knows anything beyond the absurdly simplistic narrative that the media feeds us will know that Gore’s movie is deeply flawed. It would be quite easy to explain why, but instead I will ask a few questions: Do you know what I am talking about? If not, do you think you know enough about this issue to take a position on it? If not, should you be advocating political activism in relation to it, especially if that involves breaking the law? 


I do understand people’s concern – after all, I have myself been concerned about climate change for most of my life. And I can respect anyone who makes a substantial effort to understand the issues in a balanced way and concludes that action is required, even if I end up disagreeing. But there should be no question of there being an official position within Triratna, and we should be careful about how we present ourselves in this regard.  

ratnaguna's picture

I’m very pleased to see that there are some dissenting voices in the responses to this article, many thanks to James (a very brave and stalwart advocate for truth), Advayacitta, Subhadra, and Vidyarucci. I agree with them that the science is not  settled, and I agree that we as a Buddhist movement should not engage in climate change activism. I certainly doubt very much that there is any kind of emergency right now.

If you are surprised that I and others disagree with the prevailing view, you may want to look into the alternative view (or views, there are many), and I would suggest that you begin with Judith Curry, an American climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She resigned from that position because of what she saw as the politicisation of science in the climate change debate. See, for instance, https://judithcurry.com/2018/06/12/the-debate-mann-titley-moore-curry/ 

I would also recommend going to Anthony Watts (meteorologist) website: https://wattsupwiththat.com/

If you prefer to watch and listen than read, try the 50 to 1 Project interviews on YouTube. I would suggest you begin with the one with Fred Singer (atmospheric and space physicist):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G9mWL4nH00

And then the one with David Evans, former modeller for the Australian Greenhouse Office:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI3doCKhI7Q

And then just follow your nose. I think if you look into this with an open mind you will begin to question the prevailing view and come to a much more informed and nuanced one. Obviously it is not simple, climate is a very complex phenomenon, and there are many differing points of view. It can be very confusing. But if you are a climate change activist or thinking of becoming one you really do need to look into this in depth, including listening to those scientists who disagree with the idea that humans are causing the world to warm dangerously.

Gunopeta's picture

It’s reasonable to be cautious about blindly signing on to climate change catastrophism, but it’s vital not to be unreasonably skeptical of the ever-stronger evidence supporting human-caused global warming and its cascading impacts.

I am not a climate scientist and won’t try to offer the explanations that Advayacitta asks for in the last paragraph of his comment.  For these, start with https://www.skepticalscience.com/.  This site catalogs, categorizes, and rebuts a host of arguments offered by climate change skeptics and, unlike some “denialist” sites, is transparent about who runs and writes for the site and their backgrounds (https://www.skepticalscience.com/team.php).

The climate4you site that he quotes from is run by Dr. Ole Humlum, a professor of physical geography at The University Courses on Svalbard (UNIS) in Norway.  According to https://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=670, the site misuses data to suggest that current warming is nothing out of the ordinary.

Go to https://www.skepticalscience.com/C02-emissions-vs-Temperature-growth.html for an explanation of why, despite the logarithmic relationship between C02 and temperature, we can still expect surface temperature to increase by more than 4ºC over pre-industrial levels by 2100 if the current exponential growth in CO2 emissions continues.

CO2 also has a logarithmic relationship to acidifying oceans, and not in a good way: “Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the pH of the ocean’s surface waters has dropped from 8.21 to 8.10… A drop of 0.1 may not seem like a lot, but the pH scale is logarithmic; a 1-unit drop in pH means a tenfold increase in acidity. A change of 0.1 means a roughly 30% increase in acidity. Increasing acidity interferes with the ability of marine life to extract calcium from the water to build their shells and skeletons.” (https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide).

I have lived in the same rural location in eastern Maine for almost 40 years, and in that time I have begun to see the effects of climate change (as opposed to normal variations in weather) all around me, including: milder winters; more erratic precipitation/drought patterns; longer but hotter and drier growing seasons; changes in disease vectors (notably increased winter survival of disease-carrying ticks); and changes in bird populations as southern species move north and northern species retreat.  I live on Cobscook Bay, which connects with the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans due to changes in ocean currents and longer, hotter summers, with a concurrent change in marine life (lobsters, for example, have increased greatly but, as local fishermen understand, further temperature increases will lead to drastic population declines).  While these observations are local, they conform to the larger patterns predicted by climate science and cannot readily be explained away as non-anthropogenic in origin.

Because of what I see all around me, the science that best explains it, the way it fits into the global picture, and humans’ apparent inability to respond adequately and timely, I agree with those who see the future as one of increasing dislocation, turmoil and, quite possibly, catastrophe – human-caused climate change being not the only, but perhaps the greatest and most intractable, of the causes.  I hope that, individually and as a movement, we can respond with vision, skill and compassion.

Metta, Gunopeta

Advayacitta's picture

Hi Gunopeta

Many thanks for your reply. I have actually looked at the ‘skeptical science’ website before.  My first impression was that it was good, but then in reading it on specific topics I gained the impression that it could be rather selective in its arguments, and could present data in ways that deliberately visually enhance the immediate impression one gets, so that that impression is in line with their argument. They also refer to things as ‘myths’ that are legitimate questions to ask.

I note the correction it makes to the end point of the graph that I referred to.  However that in no way gets away from the previous evidence of rises and falls in temperature, and the visually more flat line version of CO2 over the last 11,000 years, that they give, actually contrasts markedly with the rises and falls in estimated global temperature.  That brings me back to my original request, for someone to give us here a well-argued case for anthropogenic temperature rise, based on good evidence, that takes into account the rises (and falls) in previous temperature of the atmosphere, and shows us clearly that any more recent rise in temperature is actually due to rise in CO2 and not just a coincidence (and due actually to a recurrence of those previous causes of temperature rise).

I have also seen discussions of the logarithmic effect of CO2 that give lower estimates of the remaining incremental effect, and which also state that the IPCC models, in their estimation of the effects of CO2, include a secondary factor, concerning water vapour in the atmosphere being affected by the increase in CO2.

I was interested in reading about your observations of your local area, and the changes there.  I originally wondered whether the climate was changing when, on an August day in the nineteen eighties, I drove home across southern England and the cloud pattern in the sky (dense, dark clouds from horizon to horizon) seemed different to any summer sky in England I had seen before. That was before I had heard of any ideas about ‘global warming’ or climate change.  These began to be proposed not so long after I had made that observation about summer cloud cover. I therefore took them seriously.  The late nineteen eighties hurricane hitting southern England also reinforced by concerns. The growth of thinking in the nineties about ‘chaos theory’, i.e. non-linear systems and the possibility within them of small factors having potentially major consequences, also increased my concerns. Later on, I recommended that Padmaloka retreat centre be sold and relocated at a higher elevation above sea-level, after learning that glacial periods had ended very quickly, with significant rise in sea level, and that melting of current land ice would also greatly increase sea level.  However, since then, I have become more sceptical.

Addendum: I have just been sent two links, re the ‘97% consensus’ in climate science. The first is from the skeptical science site, arguing for the existence of 97% consensus, and the second from another site debunking this:

https://www.skepticalscience.com/debunking-climate-consensus-denial.html

http://www.populartechnology.net/2014/12/97-articles-refuting-97-consens…

Jinapriya's picture

I guess it was only a matter of time before the subject of climate change appeared in these pages. For obvious reasons it is a subject that is bound to arouse the interest of most if not any intelligent person.

I make no claim to have anything approaching an informed opinion on the truth or not of human made changes to our climate, and therefore am not going to present my version of one or other side of the discussion, in an attempt to offer the best evidence.

I want just to take a what we might call a “principial position” as to the nature of the discussion we are having, which I might make some claim to have some kind of more informed opinion on than climate change, though of course others may, and quite freely so, choose to deny that of me.

In a nutshell it appears we have two sides of an argument here both of which deny the integrity of the data and indeed premises used for the conclusion of their opposite numbers position. Given, I have no reason to disbelieve in the personal integrity of anyone on these pages and completely believe they are trying to tell the truth to the best of their abilities, nonetheless, we are in an epistemological enpasse.

Given all of our background in Buddhist training I’m sure there is no difficulty in everyone excepting that it is not possible to actually “do nothing” as whatever happens be it via “commission” or “omission” will have consequences. It occurred to me therefore that perhaps the only reasonable course of action would be to take “Pascal’s Wager” as any possible resolution to the present conundrum about climate change that is before us.

Obviously as Buddhists we will not accept the existence of God as the basis for our extrapolations, however I would have thought it’s pretty obvious that some of the remaining parallels still stand. Interestingly though, as the existence or nonexistence of God seems beyond the power of human beings to actually prove or disprove, and because of each side of the climate debate mistrusts the “evidence” of the other side — we find ourselves (albeit unwillingly — to be sure) in a situation of “faith”. I say position of faith, as each side — it would seem — appears to see their opponents as “believers”.

I have quoted below the introduction from Wikipedia on “Pascal’s Wager”, for those not familiar with it. And so I leave it here as I’m sure you will now get my drift.

“Pascal’s Wager is an argument in philosophy presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–1662).[1] It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell).[2]

Pascal’s Wager was based on the idea of the Christian God, though similar arguments have occurred in other religious traditions. The original wager was set out in section 233 of Pascal’s posthumously published Pensées (“Thoughts”).”

For good measure this is the URL for Wikipedia’s piece on the Wager:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager#The_Wager.

Thank you, and may all beings be happy
and wisdom and compassion shine through in all that we do.

Jinapriya.

Vajrashura's picture

I agree with Advayacitta that we should guard against adopting, the dominant religious / philosophical / political viewpoints of the time, but would add that sometimes the prevailing viewpoints can be correct. For example:

  • The bad effects of tobacco.
  • How damaging CFCs are for our ozone layer.
  • The detrimental effects of burning coal in city centres for heating houses.
  • The incredible success of vaccinations for preventing plagues.


Though all these things, common sense as they seem to me, have their detractors, much of it reliant on anecdotal evidence. A person lives to 100 after smoking 20 cigarettes a day, and then claims that the science of nicotine causing cancer is junk, for example.

I would add that most of the information being added here which is sceptical of man-made climate change is, at best, anecdotal, and unreliable. As someone who has trained as a scientist myself, it makes me cringe to see how people are interpreting information in this way.  The conclusion I have come to is that the vast majority of people speaking here simply do not know how to analyse scientific data, and how scientific consensus comes about.

I’m not meaning to have a go at people personally here, but there are dangerous levels of mis-understanding on display here which need to be challenged.

Firstly there’s things that are simply factually inaccurate. No Subhadra, the sea levels are not static (Nasa currently is charting a 3.2mm per year rise since the 1990s), the ice poles are reduced (From IPCC 5: “It can be said with high confidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass in the last two decades and that Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent”, and this video is interesting too, and based upon actual measurements),  polar bears are in decline (see this link for scientific studies complied by New Scientist, a highly reputable science magazine), and Nasa has not said that temperatures are cooling, quite the reverse in fact (“there’s no part of the last 10 years that isn’t warmer than the temperatures we saw 100 years ago”). So those are some responses to the factually inaccurate statements.

Next is just vague “they’re all just wrong statements” like those of James and Vidyaruci. I’m not sure what else can be said except go and do a course on the science of climate change, and don’t just rely on individuals on the internet. Find out what conclusions the vast body of scientists have come to. I did such a course with the World Bank (of all people!) a few years ago and it was very illuminating.

After that, there’s websites quoted by Advayacitta and Ratnaguna, such as climate4you.com or Judith Curry’s website. Again, these are not reliable scientific resources.

Scientific consensus comes about through rigorous research, with first hand data from scientists on the ground. Then the evidence is carefully analysed, debated, tested; then provisional conclusions distributed, tested by others, challenged, peer reviewed, published in scientific journals, and then if necessary rebutted. The two most important factors here are the first hand data, e.g. from satellite information or ice-core samples, and peer-reviewed, which is usually incredibly thorough. (I would rarely trust a lone scientist working against the scientific consensus, who is using other people’s data, for example, their conclusions almost invariably involve cherry picking.)

And, very importantly, all this is done with large numbers of studies and publications.

You can learn more about how scientific consensus is reached here. One of the most important statements here is that “communicating to outsiders that consensus has been reached can be difficult, because the ‘normal’ debates through which science progresses may seem to outsiders as contestation”. This layman’s article is useful too.

And you can see the current climate change scientific consensus summarised here.

Again, a lone writer or two simply isn’t science! If you think it is, then you’re not a scientist and you don’t understand science. And not only is it not science, but making your own personal statements and interpretations based upon a single book, as Advayacitta does, about CO2 levels falling off, is even worse.

How do I know what to believe?

Have I done the research myself? Have I gone out and drilled ice-core samples in the Artic? Have I sent up my own satellites to measure differences of ocean temperatures over twenty years?

Of course not! I don’t have the time or the resources. And in any case I’m too busy working for the Dharma.

But if my doctor tells me that I have a pre-cancerous lump in my body, I’m not going to conduct tests myself on it at home with magnifying glass and a brillo pad; I’m going to take the medical expert’s advice on it and get it removed.

The science, fellow Dharma practitioners, is in. There is a deep consensus about man-made climate change, with 97% or more of the world’s actively publishing scientists agreeing that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities”.

And I’m increasingly uninterested in replying to people who do not accept it. The conversation has moved on a long time ago, and now we need to talk about what to do in response.

Also, this consensus is in the face of incredible political resistance to having to change our carbon-fuelled economies, not the politicialisation of science. If Nasa, under Trump’s government and years of Republican and media scepticism, is saying this, that’s quite something.

Some Thought Experiments

Anyway, phew, that was intense! To lighten the mood, let’s do some fun thought experiments. We can even call them science if you like.

Let’s say that you really like to eat a certain food, let’s say a burger. It can be vegetarian or vegan, depending on your preferences. Perhaps it’s the highlight of your week, food wise.

But then, unfortunately, it seems that some serious concerns are raised about it. Let’s say that 97 of the 100 experiments done on it by food scientists seem to indicate that it will cause you cancer in a few years’ time.

What would you do? Would you stop eating it? I certainly would… What if it was only 90 of the 100 experiments? Or 70? Or even 50 of the 100 experiments?

Let’s take another example. Let’s say that an eagle-eyed astronomer (hey, these scientist guys seem to pop up everywhere!) spots a large comet coming towards the Earth. After much discussion, 97-98% of scientists felt there was a very good chance it would it Earth, and cause huge devastation and suffering.

But, they said, if we took action now, it could be averted, diverted. We could all pull together, make a concerted effort, and launch a space ship to divert it so it doesn’t hit the Earth anymore. But it would be a massive effort! Would you want to see this done, or would you be happy to take a chance by not doing it?

What if it was 80% of the scientists? Or even 50%?

Or we could leave it till it’s become clearer it is going to hit, say 99% of scientists convinced, but by then it could be way beyond our capacities to divert.

Here’s another, more down-to-earth experiment I’ve been reflecting upon. Would you buy, if you had the money, a house on the sea-front which was only a little above sea-level? Currently the sea-level is fine for this house, and there’s no flooding. But it’s only, say 1m above the current high-tide. Would you buy here, or somewhere inland on a hill? I know which I’d do…

The Opportunities here for Buddhists

I do wonder what kind of world we’re going to live in if the predictions of the current models are correct. I especially worry about large-scale human migration from climate-change-influenced events causing massive societal disruption. And the political extremism that this will cause in response.

All this could be very disruptive for our efforts to spread the Dharma – I have a very real fear that our countries will become ‘barbaric hinterlands’ again, and not be conducive to Dharma practice.

But leaving this aside, how does the environmental crisis impact upon us as Buddhists? I totally agree that environmentalism shouldn’t be an ideology in our centres, and we should be very wary of making it the centrepiece of our teachings. We have the Buddha’s Dharma, as expressed by Bhante, and that is what the world really needs, I deeply believe.

But it’s also very important to remember that many of the things causing this environmental crisis are also things that can make us quite unhappy, that cause us dukkha. One of the greatest evils today is rampant consumerism, which is one of the leading causes of dukkha and also one of the leading factors in CO2 emissions.

Sometimes when I hear people talk about what we have to do to stop climate change, it seems the only solution communicated is for all of us to be living in a cave, wrapping ourselves in bubble-wrap and sheep-skin to stay warm, and living off half-raw potatoes, and feeling guilty for the methane that our potato farts are contributing to greenhouse gases.

Obviously I’m hamming it up here, but in very few places in mainstream media do I come across a positive vision on offer to tackle things. Though this is thankfully changing with things like the Green New Deal in America, etc, which is very interesting and presents a somewhat positive vision.

But what Buddhism does have to offer, however, is a deeply positive vision of how we can live on this Earth together. It offers a vision of a positive simplicity, for one. As Bhante says:

The truly simple life glows with significance, for its simplicity is not the dead simplicity of a skeleton but the living simplicity of a flower or a great work of art.

We can show how the Buddha lived – communally, sharing possessions, simply, “happy among the unhappy”.

We can show how much people come together to form communities (in both the broad and the narrow sense of that word) when we are presented with opportunities to work together for a cause that goes beyond the individual. I would argue that this is what we’re doing all the time in our Sanghas already.

We can offer an alternative to the destructive nihilism on offer today, and especially its most terrible offspring, consumerism. The Dharma has a radical response to consumerism and its nihilistic offspring.

Samsara will always be samsara, but as trainee Bodhisattvas we keep meeting it and bringing them Dharma out to it – not the Dharma as watered-down niceness or political correctness, but the Dharma as a radical alternative to a lifestyle that’s brought the world to the edge of destruction already, and in which we have little time to turn things around.

That’s what I’m interested in, and it’s from that perspective that I’m particularly interested in how we respond to climate change.

And if it turns out that we’re wrong about climate change, well, all we will have done is make the world a better place.

samudradaka's picture

Thank you Vajrashura for this clear, informative and inspiring piece of writing. It’s great to hear you took the time to do a climate change course, and I appreciate the fruits of your labour! I concur that it is important that we don’t just rely on the findings of single scientists to form opinions but as you say look to the results of scientific consensus.

Advayacitta's picture

Hi Vajrashura

One reason I requested a well argued, evidence-based argument about climate change was very much because I have been struck by the lack of suitably adequate, well argued, evidence-based arguments when I have read people arguing for the existence of anthropogenic climate change.  Typically, the arguments and evidence presented are at best partial, in what is actually a very complex area, and the citing of other academics’ work is often just appeal to authority instead of adequate argument.

With regard to myself you write:

“And not only is it not science, but making your own personal statements and interpretations based upon a single book, as Advayacitta does, about CO2 levels falling off, is even worse.”

That is a complete misrepresentation of what I wrote, and of the basis upon which I wrote it.

For your information, I am a clinical psychologist with a research-based doctorate, familiar with the scientific method used in psychological research. Prior to taking up psychology as an undergraduate I obtained first class honours at Part 1 of the undergraduate Tripos, in mathematics and mathematical physics. I have also studied formal logic, as well as informal logic (i.e. the logic of argument through debate).  As well as that, I have been a psychological expert witness in over two hundred cases, so I am very familiar with forensic issues, and the difference between well-constructed arguments, based upon good evidence, and poor arguments with inadequate evidence. (Barristers are trained to demolish poor arguments and inadequate evidence).

You have not responded with the well argued, evidence-based argument I requested. Instead, whilst stating that “I’m not meaning to have a go at people personally here” you have employed ad hominem arguments against people who have expressed scepticism of anthropogenic climate change. You also employ the logical fallacy of ‘appeal to authority’ in your argument about scientific consensus.

Unfortunately, peer review and consensus in the academic world does not guarantee that the consensus is correct (as recent hoax papers in ‘grievance studies’ indicate).  Whilst I would expect it to be more reliable in the physical sciences, it is naïve to consider it guaranteed, when factors such as the need for continued employment, and keeping in with one’s group, are at play.

I am also aware of the influence of past pseudo-science upon history. Having studied ‘social-Darwinism’, and its effects upon political thinking (across the political spectrum), I understand only too well that what people believe to be scientific, in a widely agreed consensus, can be not only wrong but very harmful.  There is also a similar lesson to be learned from the harmful consequences of the apparently very logical argument by Malthus (in the late eighteenth century) about welfare for the poor.  A question – is contemporary climate anxiety a similar phenomenon to Social Darwinism and Malthusian beliefs?

Vidyaruchi's picture

It is a little hard to know how to respond to someone who has just said ‘I am increasingly uninterested in replying to people who do not accept [anthropogenic global warming]’ but has nonetheless virtually written an essay doing just that! But I’d be grateful if you could clarify what you mean by ‘Next is just vague “they’re all just plain wrong” statements like James and Vidyaruchi’, as this is by no means clear to me. I haven’t said that they are all just plain wrong, I have said that Al Gore’s movie is demonstrably junk-science. I am not saying that settles the debate either way; I am saying it typifies the shallow misinformation about it that comes through the media.

Tejopala's picture

Thank you, Vajrashura, for this excellent response. I was wondering whether I might need to write something like that myself. It must have taken a lot of work and I appreciate your sterling efforts.

I would like to add a few comments, however, since this is a public-facing page, and a reader might form the erroneous impression that there are many climate change skeptics in the Triratna Order or community and be rather put off. In my experience there are very few indeed. I have been raising this issue within Triratna for about twenty years. In 2016 I gave a talk at the International Order Convention on it. The vast majority of the views I have ever encountered have been those of real concern. I am not trying to ‘speak for the Order’ by saying this; I am simply trying to convey what my experience tells me. All religious communities have some climate skeptics. I think we can count ourselves as very fortunate in Triratna as the number appears to be very small in ours. The vast majority of people I have ever encountered in our community have been very concerned and have simply wanted to know more about what we can practically do.

I don’t think it is worth responding to those in our community who don’t think the science is settled on this issue. Let’s not bother beyond what Vajrashura has already so ably done. There is no time to waste on this when there is so much to be done. I have nothing against debate per se, but it is pointless debating whether the house is on fire when it plainly is and you need to do something about it right away. 

Of course there may be those who are genuinely not sure of where they stand on this issue. If that describes you, please follow Vajrashura’s excellent advice and read the science. You could read any report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or go to www.skepticalscience.com

A more common view that one can encounter in Triratna is that climate change is indeed real but that it’s somehow not our concern as Buddhists, as we should be practising ‘the Dharma’, as if this were a thing that took place in a contextual vacuum. This is a debate that I would welcome, as it is one I think we need to have. Even this is, as far as I can tell, the view of a relative minority.

Anyone who does wish to get involved in doing something about this most serious problem, and who would like to do so with other Triratna Buddhists, there is a new initiative underway along these lines. Please do contact me on tejopala [at] gmail.com 

Whatever you think, please let’s bear one another in mind with love and respect. I certainly mean no ill towards those who think climate change is not real, or not caused by human activity, or not serious. My own public preceptor fits that description. I don’t know the current views of my private preceptor but a week a two before he ordained me in 2006 he asked me whether climate change was indeed real. I have immense respect and gratitude for both men. 

That said, if anyone contacts me who wishes to debate this issue, I’m sorry but I won’t reply. I am too busy working on putting out the fire by working as a climate activist for the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC).

You may like to know that I wrote Bhante about this when I was part of a religious delegation that met with Australia’s then Minister for Energy and the Environment, Josh Frydenberg, in 2017, to ask him to cancel a proposed new coal mine. I wrote about it in the Guardian. Mahamati read the article to Bhante and wrote back saying that Bhante had found it “informative and inspiring.” I also wrote to Bhante in 2016 prior to speaking about this at the Order convention asking him to write something about his views on this issue. He wrote back as follows:

Dear Tejopala,
Thank you for your email dated 12th August. I very much appreciate your work in connection with the issue of climate change and your request that I make a statement on the subject for you to read out at the Combined Convention. However I am unable to make such a statement, as the issue is too complex to be condensed into a few sentences, as your own letter makes clear. Naturally I have my own feelings on the subject and have given expression to them in my own way in my poem, if I can call it that, ‘An Apology’. I would be happy for you to refer to this poem in the course of your talk or, better still, for you to read it out to your audience. You may be interested to know that it is sometimes read at funerals and at Triratna gatherings of other kinds.

With much metta,
Sangharakshita 

ratnaguna's picture

This comment has been removed by the person who posted it.

ratnaguna's picture

Vajrashura’s response to the sceptics posts is rather long and it would take me a long time to respond to the whole of it. And anyway even if I did I suspect most people wouldn’t read the whole thing. So in order to keep this short and snappy I’ll just take one paragraph from his post and comment on that.

Firstly there’s things that are simply factually inaccurate. No Subhadra, the sea levels are not static (Nasa currently is charting a 3.2mm per year rise since the 1990s).

Yes indeed. The question is, has that rise in sea level been caused by CO2 emissions? To quote the IPCC AR5: “It is likely that similarly high rates of global averaged sea level rise occurred between 1920 and 1950.” As CO2 emissions were nothing like as high at that time as they are now, we cannot therefore assume that the current rise in sea level is due to CO2.  To quote the IPCC AR5 again “… the Detection of the impact of climate change in observed changes in regional sea levels remains challenging”.

… the ice poles are reduced (From IPCC 5: “It can be said with high confidence that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass in the last two decades and that Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent.)

That seems to be not completely true. To quote from the NASA website: “A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.

“The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.”

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-study-mass-gains-of-antarctic-…

… polar bears are in decline (see this link for scientific studies compiled by New Scientist, a highly reputable science magazine)

I followed the link Vajrashura helpfully supplied and I found that the author actually wrote this:

“There are thought to be between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears in 19 population groups around the Arctic. While polar bear numbers are increasing in two of these populations, two others are definitely in decline. We don’t really know how the rest of the populations are faring, so the truth is that no one can say for sure how overall numbers are changing.” (My italics).

Rather different to what Vajrashura said isn’t it? The Polar Bear Science website (yes, really!) has this to say: “In scanning comments generated by the recent flurry of internet interest in polar bears and blogs I noticed that a good many people, fed alarming media stories, are still convinced that polar bear numbers are declining rapidly when nothing could be further from the truth.”

The author cites a number of studies on this which you can see if you go to the website - https://polarbearscience.com/2018/01/21/polar-bear-numbers-not-declining…

… and Nasa has not said that temperatures are cooling, quite the reverse in fact (“there’s no part of the last 10 years that isn’t warmer than the temperatures we saw 100 years ago”).

Yes, the world is definitely warming, it has been for a long time (although It hasn’t warmed in the last 15 years), the question is not whether or not it’s warming, but why it’s been warming. The IPCC (and the consensus, if you will) says that CO2 emissions is the main cause of this warming, but other scientists dispute that. They may well be in the minority, but that doesn’t necessarily make them wrong. Tejopala says in his post ”I don’t think it is worth responding to those in our community who don’t think the science is settled on this issue” and Vajrashura says “I’m increasingly uninterested in replying to people who do not accept it”.

That’s disappointing because climate sceptics think that there is an important issue here that has not been sufficiently addressed  by the IPCC, or other proponents of the AGW position. And it’s a very important issue. It’s all very well to keep telling us that 97% of scientists agree, but that doesn’t answer the question. So I will repeat Advayacitta’s request: please (anyone) “explain clearly here, with sufficient, good evidence, and taking into account the Earth’s actual climate history, how exactly any apparent ‘climate change’ happening now is different to before, and how it is due to anthropogenic effects.”

Vajrashura's picture

Hi Advayacitta.

In terms of what I said about your comment about CO2 emissions, I should have expressed myself more carefully, and I apologise for not doing that.

It’s true that anything that is related to the logarithm of that larger and larger levels of that thing will mean smaller and smaller effects. But my issue with what you said is that you present it as a one of your main arguments to disregard the alarm about CO2 levels rising. And that this is merely one line taken out of a book that you’ve read, and jumps to conclusions that are not warranted, as Gunopeta has pointed out. This is, as I’ve said in my previous message, not good science for me.

In terms of the ‘appeal to authority’ fallacy which you seem to think I’ve fallen into, I agree that this can happen in research, and agree it would be naïve to dismiss it. However, with climate change I do accept the consensus, for the following reasons:

  • As you say, the physical sciences, in which my original training took place, generally are much more robust than other sciences, from which all your examples are given.
  • Climate change science is one of the most critically examined areas of science. In fact, I suspect, it’s likely the most examined and critically received publically known area of research these past couple of decades. Given the amounts of money and political interest that have been poured into denying climate science, over several decades now, it’s actually quite remarkable that scientific consensus has emerged in this way.
  • I’ve not come across convincing evidence the consensus is wrong. Every time I do have some such evidence pointed out, it tends to be an energy company funded think-tank, or a scientist cherry-picking, or junk-science etc.
  • On a more personal and day-to-day level, very little that I see in contemporary developments in the world today (e.g. more severe weather patterns) seem to contract this consensus. I realise this opens me up to ‘confirmation bias’ arguments, but I offer this point in conjunction with everything I’ve said above and in my other email.

I would also be genuinely curious to find out what examples there are in recent times – since 1970s say – of the fallacies you’ve described happening in the physical sciences, and which have made it intact through the usual peer-review process? Let’s say besides the argument for man-made climate change, which you are arguing falls into this.

As for your request for a clear, evidence based argument about climate change, I’d simply refer you (again) to the IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers, which clearly says in its:

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. {1}

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. {1.2, 1.3.1}

I’ve no interest in rehashing those arguments here again. As Tejopala said elsewhere, it feels abundantly clear that the house is on fire!

Metta,
Vajrashura.

Vajrashura's picture

Dear Vidyaruchi.

Hope you’re well, and long time no see!

What I meant was that when you say things like ‘the science is not settled’ and ‘there is no consensus’, all I can respond with is ‘no, there is consensus, and here is the consensus’. There’s not much more that I can respond with than that. That was my point.

x
Vajrashura.

Vajrashura's picture

Hi Ratnaguna.

Thanks for that. A few brief replies to the points you raise:

Subhadra said that ‘Sea levels are static’. I was responding to that simple statement of fact, not whether or not they were man-made levels. I know his previous sentence refers to man-made climate change, but I took his statement to stand on its own. To say that sea-levels are not changing is just factually wrong. The question of whether that one was due to man-made influences was not one I was responding to at that point.

In response to the ice sheets, that is an interesting study, but it’s not a very reassuring one!

If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years – I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.  

What it’s saying is that the snow accumulation that fell there is adding to the ice levels enough to counteract the rapid increases in ice discharges from Antarctica. As they say - “We’re essentially in agreement with other studies that show an increase in ice discharge in the Antarctic Peninsula and the Thwaites and Pine Island region of West Antarctica” but that in certain areas there is “an ice gain that exceeds the losses in the other areas”.

And it doesn’t dispute rising sea-levels:

But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.

Finally on this one – it is just one report, and they themselves admit that measurements are ‘extraordinarily difficult’ and require more independent (i.e. of their project) research. This is why to base a final argument, as you are doing, on this piece is not good science. It needs to be part of a more fully explored and reached consensus, which are what the IPCC reports are. And I note that you have not disputed that the Artic ice-levels are shrinking too.

About the polar bears article I quoted, fair enough! Mea culpa - that was clumsy of me and I should have been more diligent there. I’m pleased to see that their numbers are at least stable, at least, though what the article says is that nobody really knows. [Edit] Which would indicate that Subhadra’s initial comment may not be true. [end edit] I’m not sure how much store I would put in polarbearscience.com, I have to say! I’d rather go to the official IUCN Red List, which says of polar bears:

In light of the significant probability, across scenarios, of a reduction in mean global population size greater than 30%, and the relatively low probability of a reduction greater than 50%, we conclude that Polar Bears currently warrant listing as Vulnerable under criterion A3c (IUCN 2014).

But leaving these aside, I still don’t think you really understand how consensus around the climate works. The 97% refers to those who agree with the findings of the IPCC, which very clearly answers the request you and Advayacitta makes, with a huge volume of evidence to back it up. Here’s the IPCC AR5 Summary for Policymakers again:

Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. {1}

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. {1.2, 1.3.1}

(Note: ‘Extremely likely’ = 95–100 % probability.) I don’t think it can be clearer than that! And that’s why I said that I’m increasingly unwilling to engage with debate about whether the house is on fire or not (see my reply to Advayacitta above too).

x
Vajrashura

ratnaguna's picture

Hi Vajrashura,

Thanks for trying to show the evidence that current warming is caused mainly by human CO2 emissions. But what you’ve presented is not evidence, it’s merely an assertion. You write:

I still don’t think you really understand how consensus around the climate works. The 97% refers to those who agree with the findings of the IPCC, which very clearly answers the request you and Advayacitta makes, with a huge volume of evidence to back it up.

OK, but where is that huge volume of evidence? You’ve been asked to show it to us, but all you’ve done so far is say that it exists. I suspect it’s a theory rather than a proven fact. Can you show me that I’m wrong?

And just to be clear about this “extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”  - the IPCC assessment report says it is ‘extremely likely’ to be ‘more than half’ (of the observed warming etc).

Advayacitta's picture

Hi Vajrashura

Thanks for the apology. However you go on to write: “But my issue with what you said is that you present it as a one of your main arguments to disregard the alarm about CO2 levels rising. And that this is merely one line taken out of a book that you’ve read, and jumps to conclusions that are not warranted, as Gunopeta has pointed out. This is, as I’ve said in my previous message, not good science for me.”

Again, this is making interpretations of what I wrote.  I will spell out what I was doing and why:  firstly, I was bringing to people’s attention that pre-industrial patterns of climate, and particularly temperature, (both in the current inter-glacial period and in the longer ice age of which it is a part) need to be considered when contemplating the question of whether current warming is due to CO2 or not.  I referred to two figures, from a particular website, because they give a quick indication of the pattern of temperature in the current inter-glacial period, and during the overall ice-age of which it is part.  Also, those figures came from a section of that website which gives one an introduction to the complexity of climate patterns over the Earth’s history.

I will go more into the reason for bringing up the issue of past patterns of climate and temperature further on.  Before doing that, I will state that I also quoted, from a textbook on weather and climate, the point that the effects of CO2 on atmospheric temperature are logarithmic.  I did that because I wanted to draw people’s attention to that issue, which I consider important, although it is typically not discussed.  I also referred to the rather ironic fact that the textbook had itself not explained the significance of that issue. (I wonder how many people doing climate science have used that textbook over the years – I was quoting from its seventh edition.)

With regard to the pre-industrial history of climate and temperature, I think that it is scientifically completely necessary to consider this, when considering industrial era temperature rise.  Why do I think that? To explain this, I will start with an analogy from my own field, clinical psychology:

Suppose someone was trying to assess the impact of a specific psychological therapy on aspects of people’s mental states. It would be standard practice to assess those aspects of peoples’ mental states both before they began therapy and upon its completion (as well as later on, If possible). This would be to assess whether there has been improvement during the course of therapy.  However that, by itself, is inadequate. Why is this? Because people’s mental states can vary due to other factors than therapy. Because of this it is also necessary to have a ‘control group’ of similar people who are not given the therapy, and give them the assessments of mental state at similar time intervals to the treated group. 

This means that any changes in mental state in the treatment group can be compared with the changes in mental state occurring in the control group.  This is a very important comparison to make. If you do not have a control group you are in effect implicitly and incorrectly assuming that peoples’ mental states do not change due to other causes.  If you do not have the control group you can get an incorrect and inflated impression of the effectiveness of the therapy.

Let us compare and contrast that psychological research with the study of the contemporary climate of the Earth, in particular of global temperature and how this may be affected by the anthropogenic increase in CO2.

First of all, we have only one contemporary Earth climate to study, not many – in contrast to the many people being studied in the treatment group.  Also, we have no ‘control’ group of other planets’ contemporary climates with which to compare it.   So how could we possibly take into account the vital question of the influence of other factors on global temperature? If we do not explicitly take them into account, then we are implicitly assuming in our research that there are no such factors, and that all the measured temperature increase must be caused by anthropogenic CO2. This is unscientific, especially as the earth’s climate is a highly complicated system and we have evidence of significant global temperature variations that could not have had an anthropogenic cause.

How could we overcome this problem? Well, one way to attempt this, is to look at the past history of the Earth’s climate, and explicitly take it into account when considering the contemporary period – and take into account both its overall pattern of temperature (and other aspects of climate) and how the factors bringing that about are affecting us now. I emphasise that I consider the failure to do this to be unscientific, because without it one is making an implicitly invalid comparison.

This is the reasoning behind my first post.  I will look at other issues you raise, in further posts.

Vajracaksu's picture

Here is Peter Hadfield (aka Potholer) in a 16 minute video on youtube providing evidence for climate change without computer models or very much reference to the IPCC

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ6Z04VJDco&t=631s

 

saccacitta's picture

I am happy for environmental activism to be associated with the Triratna as long as the “climate sceptics” are taken into account and not branded an ignorant, unethical, unconcerned fringe (as has been happening of late).

I am a scientist by profession, but not a Climate Scientist. I analyse biological data in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health (University of Manchester) and co-author approximately 5 papers in high impact science journals annually and am acknowledged on a further 5 (Google Scholar search me as “Leo Zeef”). I am not a climate expert, however after 30 years in the profession I intimately understand how scientific research works. As a scientist my concern is that a minority of climate scientists may have played an unethical game for decades to capture available public money set aside for funding research in general. Most lay people are not aware of the iron-fisted financial discipline imposed on scientists who are therefore not free to research whatever they like. There is a limited amount of research money available and so it is up to each scientist to apply for these grant funds and make a case for the significance of their research. So it should be clear that if the idea of climate disaster can make the press headlines then funding streams can be captured more effectively. Funding panels can’t divorce themselves from public opinion, political power is ultimately in charge. Scientists who don’t play along won’t get funded and a Darwinian selection system means they are forced to apply their talents in other careers. If a climate scientist goes to private funding then they get accused of being in the pocket of polluting industries and their work doesn’t pass peer review (by peers who want the severity of a climate emergency exaggerated to help their own careers). The extent of how unethical this is was highlighted to me this week, when children who had been driven to such levels of anxiety with this propaganda left their classrooms to protest.

I don’t deny that we have an environmental emergency. However, this is mainly due to habitat destruction, not climate change. Scientists working on habitat destruction are underfunded because public money goes to climate change instead. I suspect habitat destruction is the lay person’s main concern. However, climate change has cynically grabbed the headlines and so activism gets directed at that instead.

So I do sympathise with people’s concerns, and I believe these are ethically based (unlike some Climate Scientists). Ten years ago I had a serious argument with my in-laws on this subject and so have had to learn to live with people’s concerns, even if they are not scientifically sound. However, for us scientists it would be easier if people were more clear about their motives though. Is your concern mainly about unbridled consumerism and the cost that it is having on our environment? Is your underlying philosophy Romanticism, i.e. that modern values serve materialism but provide us with no lasting happiness and spiritual satisfaction; in fact simply trap us in a cycle of debt and estrange us from natural beauty? I think if this was clear then it would be easier for the Triratna to remain united in this area. However, if hysterical climate emergency keeps being propagated then some of us will need to keep opposing you with “not in my name please”.  

Achara's picture

That’s a very helpful post Saccacitta, and good to hear from a trained and working scientist.  I guess it makes it more possible to determine when science has become corrupted with politics, and therefore largely falsified.  

I appreciate your final comment, “However, if hysterical climate emergency keeps being propagated then some of us will need to keep opposing you with ‘not in my name please’. “

Kofi Annan of the UN said;

‘Climate change is a silent human crisis. Yet it is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time. Already today, it causes suffering to hundreds of millions of people most of whom are not even aware that they are victims of climate change. We need an international agreement to contain climate change and reduce its widespread suffering’ 

So here is a question for those who want to assess the extent of the emergency…

What has been the trend of climate related deaths (including extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, storms and extreme temperatures) from 1900 to 2019?

A Climate related deaths have increased more than ten times

B Climate related deaths have more than doubled

C Climate related deaths have stayed the same

D Climate related deaths have declined ten percent

E Climate related deaths have declined more than ninety eight percent

For those who are moved to investigate this question, the best data is available on the EM-DAT’s International Disaster Database.  It collates data on deaths from all climatological, meteorological and hydrological events for each year from the year 1900 

saccacitta's picture

I guess D?

saccacitta's picture

Hi Achara

I have a question for you too. Approximately 500 animals (birds, reptiles and mammals) are known to have gone extinct since 1900. How many of those are known to have gone extinct due to climate change?

A 100

B 10

C 1

D 0 

Achara's picture

The answer to my original question?  You guessed D.  It’s E…  Climate-related deaths have fallen by over 98%.

You are making me nervous when you ask me a question in public.  I don’t have data on animals, but I’m guessing zero… D?

saccacitta's picture

Wow (with regards climate related human deaths)

As regards animal extinctions you were close, even without time to do your research which I know you prefer. There has been a first claim this week. The Australian government decided to list the Bramble Cay melomys as extinct and the first extinction due to climate change. It was a rat-like rodent that lived solely on a tiny sand island in the Torres Strait, near the coast of Papua New Guinea. So it would have been vulnerable to a small rise in sea levels (if we could get agreement on that because of course it is an extremely hard thing to measure).  

Achara's picture

Mmmmm really.  Does a rat population get killed by a temperature change that’s smaller than the inaccuracy/error-bar of the measurement instruments?  The rats can cope with a yearly variation of the temperature of tens of degrees, but a change in temperature that nobody can detect without an instrument killed them?  Somebody in the Australian press needs to talk me through that one…

Or was it an alleged few millimetres of water rise that did it? 

I might stick with my original answer and put it to an adjudicator.

saccacitta's picture

A state government report said it was almost certainly caused by “ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals”.

More generally (now with my biologist’s hat on) animals on islands are extremely vulnerable to extinction events because of small population sizes and limited niches. In the Galapagos Islands there is a dramatic climate change every 7 years cause by El Nino which leads to population collapse for the majority of creatures. As a result evolution there is very rapid, as Charles Darwin discovered, and this observation was  key to him formulating his Theory of Natural Selection.

So nature responds to climate change with more rapid evolution. This also needs to be borne in mind when we read about coral bleaching etc. As one species disappears another gets a chance to evolve and colonise that niche. So whereas I am a climate sceptic both ways, unsure that human-caused climate change is a cruel a hoax or a major feature in future, I am not filled with terror because as a Biologist I know nature adapts. However, when habitats get destroyed by humans to grow food, obviously this can’t happen. Or if humans eat everything that moves, oceans get over-fished etc, evolution doesn’t function efficiently.

I am not more informed than the average person on the human sociological consequences of a potential global climate change. However, Achara, your statistic above speaks volumes of humanity’s growing capacity to help each other in the face of climate change (which will happen if we leave all the gas, oil and coal in the ground or not, judging by the climate changes of the past few million years).

Vajracaksu's picture

Hello Saccacita,

Can I speak to you with your scientist hat on? How important, how reliable, do you think peer-reviewed scientific literature is?

Kind wishes

Vajracaksu

saccacitta's picture

Hi Vajracaksu

It is how the scientific research system works, and it is essential to have independent reviewers that are experts in that field. In general it is reliable when kept within the scientific community. There are isolated problems, petty issues of a referee picked for peer-review because they have appropriate expertise, but then are too closely related to a competing project. So basically this would be conflict of interest, and that referee might slow things down, ask for more revisions etc to let their side catch up. Picking the appropriate referee is the responsibility of the editors of the scientific journal, and there are usually 3-4 referees per paper. Editors would be checking for conflict of interest, though of course one can’t be sure because unpublished research is confidential. The final decision to publish lies with the editor, so not all referees need to agree. As a scientist if your paper is rejected you might rewrite it, or do some more experiments based on reviewer criticism and resubmit to another journal, typically with a lower impact factor.

These examples are not the main problem we are concerned with here in climate change research though. In this case we are concerned about pressure building up outside the scientific community, which then pressurises scientific funding bodies, journal editors and the whole scientific community becomes compromised. This was done through alarmist press releases outside of scientific journals.

This has happened before of course. I was personally involved when there was a Frakenstein-foods furore in the press around 2000, you may remember it? At the time I was working in the lab on transgenic methods in plants and was quite inspired about what benefits it would offer the world. My personal dream was to eventually enable all crop plants to fix their own nitrogen (like legumes) thus eliminating the need for N fertlizers which pollute ground water, rivers and seas. Lokabandhu invited me to debate transgenic research at Buddhafield around this time, and I have good memories of that, people were polite and interested, I wasn’t even tarred and feathered!

Anyway funding for transgenic crops pretty much dried up as a result of the press assault and we humans have lost 2 decades and counting as a result. I was quite disallusioned by it all and gave up science for a while, and then retrained in data analysis. I can’t think of another example right now to equal climate change though in terms of the longevity of press and political influence. Perhaps the level of anxiety it produces has always made “good” press news? I really don’t know. There is a lot of info online about how this all came about. Who knows what is true.

Anyway sorry for the diversion. Hope my answer to your question about peer-review was clear?

Best wishes

Saccacitta

saccacitta's picture

PS: I suspect at least some people are pleased that my adventures in transgenic research were curtailed. This raises a whole debate about where science meets society and ethics. I get that, I get that science needs to be answerable to society. Furthermore everyone has the right to an opinion on that, and where the lines should be drawn. However, when non-scientific pressure compromises funding so that there are no climate sceptic scientists left, then one can’t go back to saying the research has been objectively peer-reviewed can we, after we have already weeded out the independent critics? 

Vajracaksu's picture

Thank you very much Saccacita for that fulsome response. I was living in the UK in 2000 but I’m afraid I’m not aware of the Frakenstein foods thing that you refer to. I’m sorry about your disillusioning experience.

Yes, your reponse was clear but I still have 2 questions, if I may take more of your time and thought.

Firstly, of those 3-4 referees per paper, do they remain anonomous to the actual author of the paper? I can’t help feeling this would be better.

Secondly, given everything i.e the within & outside factors that you mention above how much confidence would you place in a scientific paper on climate change that did not go through this peer-review process? Or, to put it differently, would you still on balance have a lot more confidence in the reliability of climate change peer-reviewed literature, than literature not peer reviewed?

These are not urgent, I man there’s no hurry to respond, if you do plan to respond.

Kind wishes

Vajracaksu

 

saccacitta's picture

Hi Vajracaksu

Thanks. Those are straight forward questions.

1. Firstly, of those 3-4 referees per paper, do they remain anonomous to the actual author of the paper? I can’t help feeling this would be better.

Answer. Yes very much so, referees identity is kept anonomous. However, their comments are passed onto the author. In very small scientific communities that I often work with, say “evolutionary adaptations in yeast”, the community is so small that everyone has met at international conferences many times through the years and know each other. So guesses can be made from referee comments as to who it was who rejected your paper! All quite amusing from one perspective, but extremely serious for the authors because getting papers published in a high impact journals is a sink or swim issue, career wise.

2. Secondly, given everything i.e the within & outside factors that you mention above how much confidence would you place in a scientific paper on climate change that did not go through this peer-review process? Or, to put it differently, would you still on balance have a lot more confidence in the reliability of climate change peer-reviewed literature, than literature not peer reviewed?

Answer: I would certainly place a lot more confidence on climate change peer-reviewed literature, than literature not peer reviewed.

One further point. A lot of science is driven by technology developments. So lets consider that there might be a new satellite that can measure sea levels more accurately. Given that this would be very expensive, a collaborative consortium of scientists would apply for funding for this satellite. If successful, the funding is granted for the satellite and resources to store and analyse the data. Perhaps a 5 year grant funding. So, satellite goes up, starts producing data. Public funds have been used to pay for all this, but the current norm (in all areas of science) is for the data to be held private by that consortium of scientists until publication.  

In addition to peer-review, good journals now insist on the data being made public in independent data repositories (once deposited in a repository that data can no longer be altered, or it would get a new version number). This means in principle, another independent scientist should be able to analyse that data to make sure the conclusions drawn are sound. So peer-review, and raw data made public in a repository (preferably run by a third party), is now the norm in good scientific literature. I have no reason to assume things are different in climate science. My concerns are limited to politicisation as I’ve explained. 

Best wishes

Saccacitta 

Vajracaksu's picture

Thank you Saccacitta for that, for your time and thought.

Kind wishes

Vajracaksu 

Vilasavajra's picture

Many thanks for posting this discussion all.  To pick up on one point from my friend Ratnaguna, he writes that the world hasn’t warmed in the last 15 years. Much as I would like to be reassured, I wonder if Ratnaguna is perhaps thinking of the debate about whether the rate of warming slowed in the early 2000s? 

By contrast, earthobservatory.nasa.gov wrote this month: “The past five years have been the warmest years in the modern record, and 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2000.”

ratnaguna's picture

Hi friend Vilasavajra,

I no longer remember where I got that from, and so it was rather lazy of me not to have checked it out before posting. Also, I should have mentioned that a 15-year time span is not significant in terms of telling us whether or not the world is warming. So I’m sorry if you felt reassured, only to be disappointed.

Here is something that almost backs me up (little or no warming over past 18 years),  http://www.globalwarming.org/2015/05/05/independent-satellite-records-ag…

This is an article about the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Earth System Science Center recently released Version 6 (V.6) of their global satellite temperature dataset, by Roy Spencer, John Christy, and William Braswell. Here is a chart from that paper showing global average temperature variations for for atmospheric layers from 1979-2015:

http://www.globalwarming.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Christy-version6…

But there are other studies that contradict me. The best thing to do is look directly at the data, although as a layman I find it hard to interpret it. Here is a page with most, if not all of the data: https://wattsupwiththat.com/global-temperature/

It’s on Anthony Watts’ website/blog, and Watts is a sceptic, but I don’t think you need worry about bias, because it’s simply a compilation of all the charts - regularly updated - of the various temperature anomalies (I don’t know why they’re called that). The one at the top of the page - UAH Lower Atmosphere Temperature Anomalies – 1979 to Present - is from the above mentioned paper. If you click on that chart you get a bigger version of it, and you can see that the red line (average) in 2003 is at just under 0.2, whereas in 2018 it’s at about 2.5.

But I must admit that as I scroll down the various charts I can see that on the whole they do show a rise in temperature in the last 15 years. So I apologise about that.

The NASA piece you mentioned on “The past five years have been the warmest years in the modern record, etc” is open to dispute I think. Here is Judith Curry, speaking at the Climate Science Hearing, responding to NASA’s claim that 2014 was the hottest year on record: https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwBVqLXDvNGfsktSWLqgWssq…

You only need to watch from 0.00 - 1.18. (If you do watch a bit more, be warned that the questioner, Senator Ted Cruz, is a well known sceptic, and he is very biased. Judith Curry is not though. Vajrashura said in his first post that Judith Curry’s website is unreliable, and I don’t know why, she has a deep and extensive understanding of the climate.)

Guhyavajra's picture

That’s set the cat amongst the pidgeons hasn’t it. Interesting thread.

Can’t say I’m particularly bothered by the impending global warming catastrophe. There have been people standing on speakers corner holding up ‘the end is nigh’ signs for at least two hundred years. In 1974 my mates and I bought 500 acres grid acres of land in Takaka New Zealand, 90 % gorse. 3.2 kilometres long and a kilometre wide with one of the most beautiful rivers on gods earth flowing along its foot. Forty years on and it is a prime piece of native bush, beautiful. That’s where my meditation hut is. Did back to the land, organic gardens, all that stuff.

Then Triratna. Have spent 28 years of my life since 1978  living in Triratna communities, mostly mens communities. Very ecological!

2003 to 2013 I ran an ecological building business in the UK. Mainly because people were wanting to go green and no one could figure out how to integrate the various systems. Well we did and started doing quite a lot of it. I did a development in Hardingham Norfolk turning a barn complex into 3 large eco barns with gardens, victorian garden walls, a lake, woods, fields etc.  

At the start I was a fully paid up card carrying member of the eco community but began finding things out as I went along. Let’s assume that for arguments sake that the alarmists are right. We are all doomed unless we revolutionise society. OK so whose revolution is it going to be?

For a start it is mostly rich people do the good eco work, because they can afford it. That’s my experience. Fossil fuel economy is the basis of our wealth and affluence. If we deconstruct our economy where is the money going to come from for the eco stuff. In my experience while some of the green technology is very good and has potential, a lot of it is rubbish. We developed a term after a few years called greenwash. I’m unconvinced about the economy of the green revolution especially if it is prosecuted by a centralised political class.

In the early 2000’s we as builders just got on with it and there were some very good eco companies emerge. By about 2006 the suits in white hats with data coming out their ears also began to appear on the scene, the eco engineers. The odd one was very good, but mostly a waste of space. One guy couldn’t even understand that different materials in a wall meant a different thermal rating. Then they got into local government, and it became even more expensive.

I could say a lot, I had an eco barn, glass houses, organic gardens, a wood, a lake, ran my heating off wood splitting 8 cord of wood every year, mostly living out of the garden; fruit trees all that stuff. Built it myself with friends. I went forth from it all in 2014 like the kovilara tree shedding its leaves. You know it just wasn’t radical enough, I still felt a mainstream part of the problem. Moved back into a mens community and Triratna life style, no money no security.

So OK what to do about the crisis. Drive an electric car. Electric cars don’t come into carbon plus until 114 000 kms, and probably longer depending on the source of electricity. Also if everyone starts driving electric cars then Britain needs to build 6-9 new power stations.

What about renewables though. We don’t know how to store electricity. Renewables provide an unreliable spikey supply that can’t be stored. The national grid has what is called a base load so that when everyone turns their kettle on 7.00am there is enough juice so the system doesn’t collapse. That’s coal, gas, oil and nuclear. Once we work out reliable electricity storage then renewables take on a new light. (sic) But until then…

Travel by train instead of flying? Flying is 2-4% of the carbon footprint, pay more and travel with a new air fleet it is about 3%. The question arises as to how the carbon footprint is calculated.  You have to take into account the infrastructure servicing a system of transport, communication etc. In the case of rail high speed trains, rails, girders, power lines. etc, all use high quality steel What makes steel different from iron is coke. Coke is coal basically and so far we don’t know how to make steel without coke. People are working on it with so far limited results. How many trains, bogeys, steel rails etc are in Europes’ train network; all heavy industry. Do the sums.

Mobile phones? Satellites, rockets, fuel, big electricity, rare minerals etc. Asphalt for the roads: oil – bitumen. Vegetarian probably quite good. But the list goes on and on. So what is the solution going to be? Energy saving light bulbs, recycling egg boxes. Destroy our economies?  Run lots of earnest conventions aimed at making people behave in certain ways, terrify our children with portents of certain doom.How is the plan actually going to work. More people sitting around bonfires eating roadkill?

I’ve kept an eye on IPCC literature over the years and couldn’t help forming the impression that Global Warming is the shop window for a new political culture shall we say. I recently befriended a women in Stockholm coming along to the centre, mid 50’s worked at a high level in the UN and now with SIDA ( Big Swedish government aid agency) working at a high level there. Chatting one day she informed me that they, the UN mandarins, realised some years ago that global warming was their one opportunity to change the system, i.e. the free market capitalist system. Listening to an interview with Noam Chomsky from 2011, one of my left wing heroes, he says the idea of the politicisation of IPCC is a right wing campaign to discredit the IPCC. Very interesting. Weighing it up my view is that the IPCC is politicised and that is where the argument was lost for the climate alarmists. Loads of people just don’t believe the ideologues, don’t trust the media, experts even less and are generally resistant to the insufferable arrogance of the political class and educated intelligentsia.

Question is how is this going to work in Triratna. Do we become an obedient left leaning progressive social action group spouting our goobledeegook like good spooks, saving the world with preternaturally serious stifled hysteria???.

What ever happened to living in communities, becoming celebate, starting ethical right livelihoods, renouncing  government funded jobs and pensions, doing truckloads of meditation in jungles and along wild coast lines, living in poverty, practicing puja, living in caves, super solitaries, serving the spiritual community. Practicing ethics indexed to our order chapters and so on. Does anyone think that this might have a social affect?

Seems to me there is enough reputable evidence to question the approach of the climate alarmists. May not matter anyway inasmuch as we probably won’t have a habitat to live in a before long, if we don’t blow ourselves up with atomic bombs in the mean time. I recall doing a 3 month solitary on my land in New Zealand a few years ago during which my staple diet was rice, imported from Argentina. My friends in the area who live out of their organic gardens and off carbon zero beef, apart from a few incidents of bovine flatulence, had plenty to say about that. Well…I had to think about it as they had a point. Concluded that the most important thing for the planet in my view was to stop killing every thing that lives, walks, runs, crawls, swims and flies. I guess that is where the Dharma comes in.   

Advayacitta's picture

Vajrashura, in a response to me has reiterated what he sees as the importance of the ‘consensus’ on climate change.  He also, in a reply to Ratnaguna, mentioned the ‘97%’ consensus. Yesterday, someone following this debate sent me an email of a link to the ‘skeptical science’ website, about his 97% consensus:

https://www.skepticalscience.com/debunking-climate-consensus-denial.html

They mentioned that the piece seemed convincing to them, and asked me for my comments. I will quote the piece first:

“Communicating the expert consensus is very important in terms of increasing public awareness of human-caused climate change and support for climate solutions.  Thus it’s perhaps not surprising that Cook et al. (2013) and its 97% consensus result have been the subject of extensive denial among the usual climate contrarian suspects.  After all, the fossil fuel industry, right-wing think tanks, and climate contrarians have been engaged in a disinformation campaign regarding the expert climate consensus for over two decades.  For example, Western Fuels Association conducted a half-million dollar campaign in 1991 designed to ‘reposition global warming as theory (not fact).’

The 97% Consensus is a Robust Result

Nevertheless, the existence of the expert consensus on human-caused global warming is a reality, as is clear from an examination of the full body of evidence.  For example, Naomi Oreskes found no rejections of the consensus in a survey of 928 abstracts performed in 2004.  Doran & Zimmerman (2009) found a 97% consensus among scientists actively publishing climate research.  Anderegg et al. (2010) reviewed publicly signed declarations supporting or rejecting human-caused global warming, and again found over 97% consensus among climate experts.  Cook et al. (2013) found the same 97% result through a survey of over 12,000 climate abstracts from peer-reviewed journals, as well as from over 2,000 scientist author self-ratings, among abstracts and papers taking a position on the causes of global warming.”

This is what I replied to the person sending me the link:

“It looks highly suspicious to me. The very fact that the different studies give such close agreements to 97% looks very fishy to me. One would expect some natural variation. Of course, to the extent that Saccacitta is correct about the selection process for who gets funding, and the issue of biased peer-review, then that will bring about an unnaturally high consensus.  It is interesting to compare and contrast it to the area of science I am currently reading about - fundamental theories of physics that try to go beyond the limitations and contradictions between general relativity and quantum mechanics. There are different schools of thought among theoretical physicists - those that follow string theory, those that propose loop quantum gravity, as well as other individuals proposing things like twistor theory. That divergence of opinion seems healthy to me. If there really were a 97% consensus, in such a complex area as climate theory, this in itself rings alarm bells.”

Sometime later they sent me another link, that was about the 2013 study by Cook et al mentioned with approval on the Skeptical Science website: 

http://www.populartechnology.net/2014/12/97-articles-refuting-97-consens…

This includes the following quote about the Cook et al. study mentioned approvingly on the Skeptical Science site:

“The ‘97% consensus’ article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country [UK] that the energy minister should cite it.”

- Mike Hulme, Ph.D. Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia (UEA)

Then it goes on:

“Summary: Cook et al. (2013) attempted to categorize 11,944 abstracts [brief summaries] of papers (not entire papers) to their level of endorsement of AGW and found 7930 (66%) held no position on AGW. While only 64 papers (0.5%) explicitly endorsed and quantified AGW as +50% (humans are the primary cause). A later analysis by Legates et al. (2013) found there to be only 41 papers (0.3%) that supported this definition. Cook et al.’s methodology was so fatally flawed that they falsely classified skeptic papers as endorsing the 97% consensus, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors. The second part of Cook et al. (2013), the author self-ratings simply confirmed the worthlessness of their methodology, as they were not representative of the sample since only 4% of the authors (1189 of 29,083) rated their own papers and of these 63% disagreed with the abstract ratings.

Methodology: The data (11,944 abstracts) used in Cook et al. (2013) came from searching the Web of Science database for results containing the key phrases “global warming” or “global climate change” regardless of what type of publication they appeared in or the context those phrases were used. Only a small minority of these were actually published in climate science journals, instead the publications included ones like the International Journal Of Vehicle Design, Livestock Science and Waste Management. The results were not even analyzed by scientists but rather amateur environmental activists with credentials such as “zoo volunteer” (co-author Bärbel Winkler) and “scuba diving” (co-author Rob Painting) who were chosen by the lead author John Cook (a cartoonist) because they all comment on his deceptively named, partisan alarmist blog ‘Skeptical Science’ and could be counted on to push his manufactured talking point.

Peer-review: Cook et al. (2013) was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters (ERL) which conveniently has multiple outspoken alarmist scientists on its editorial board (e.g. Peter Gleick and Stefan Rahmstorf) where the paper likely received substandard “pal-review” instead of the more rigorous peer-review.”

Assuming this is accurate, it is a serious indictment of the study, as well as the Skeptical Science website, of whom Cook is himself a leading member.

Vajracaksu's picture

It’s not the first time that I have come across a piece that has criticised the methodology of Cook’s study. A leading climatologist sceptic who Ratnaguna quotes above, Dr. Roy Spencer, complained in one video that he was included in this 97% figure…As I recall he thinks that the man made contribution to GW is between 10-90%, that’s a very, very almost meaningless broad band!

And I noted another vague assertion by Dr. Judith Curry in 2018 that she thinks the man made contribution is ‘less than 50%’. For a sceptical position I thought that was a very high percentage, especially if it was in the high 40’s!

In terms of the scientific consensus, just to break the mold of the 97% figure, in a study of peer-reviewed climate science authorsfrom 2012-2013 99.9% of  (i.e. 9,135 climatologists) accept AGW. That’s extremely high!

https://www.desmogblog.com/2014/01/08/why-climate-deniers-have-no-scient…

 

ratnaguna's picture

Hi Vajracaksu,

On Judith Curry and her ‘sceptical position’. There isn’t one sceptical position, there are a whole range of views that represent different types and levels of scepticism. In a  PowerPoint presentation (and this may be where you heard her statement about ‘less than 50%) she asks the question:

“To what extent are man-made CO2 emissions contributing to climate change?”

And she replies “The short answer is:  ‘we don’t know.’ The reason is that we don’t know how to disentangle natural internal variability from the effects of CO2–driven warming”

She continues “The most recent IPCC assessment report says it is ‘extremely likely’ to be  ‘more than half.’ ‘More than half’ is not very precise…

“So here is my personal assessment, using the jargon of the IPCC:  Man-made CO2 emissions are as likely as not to contribute less than 50% of the recent warming.”

So I think in this context at least she was being a little ironic.

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