I note that once again this morning we're all doomed. This is the view of a report that the UN has published by almost 400 of the great and good minds of science. As you'd expect the Indy has splashed it on the front page saying it's not just another environmental scare story (by implication suggesting the others it has run have been?), whilst the Times too makex it front page news and double-page inside coverage.
Amusingly the quotes from the report that have been used don't actually paint the picture of doom in quite such certain terms. They're all hedged. They say we 'may' pass on a bill to our children, or my personal favourite, that we must act now to 'avoid the threat of catastrophic consequences'. So that's not action to avoid catastrophy, but action to avoid the maybe/possibility of catastrophy. That's a bit like me saying that to avoid the threat of being conscripted in any possible future war I should cut off my arms and legs. Now there's a global policy to stop war if ever there was one. Amputation at birth to protect the children of the future from the horrors of land war!
The reporting also plays to the weakest of fallacious argument to bolster the importance and 'rightness' of the UN report. We are told that the top scientists in their field produced it. The subtle appeal to authority is clear. These people are experts therefore what they say must be accepted as right. Now I am not saying they are not right, but the appeal to their position in the body of knowledge is not what makes them right. The Science Editor of the Times however has based part of his commentary on such an appeal.
He argues that this is not just another agenda driven report from a green pressure group, but is instead a sound scientific one that operates by consensus and strict peer review. A group of 'top scientists' getting together and deciding that they share the same view does not however make their view correct. It is a cliche I know, but hundreds of years ago the experts all agreed the sun went around a flat earth. To base an argument on the fact that there is consensus and to claim that it is science is not science at all but a conflation with collective group think.
If you then throw into the mix a bit of politics it becomes clear from reading the excerpts of the report that this is not something free of value judgments. The end game of the report is the developed world is a nasty consumer whilst it allowed the developing world to lag behind with environmental consequence. The master/slave Hegelian world view, along with its Marxian extension based on exploitation and production shines through like the sun on our supposedly doomed planet. The idea that the report is agenda-free is - frankly - risible.
Again though I am not saying that the scientific knowledge that has formed the basis of such hedged predictions and clearly ideological recommendations is by necessity wrong. What is wrong is the way it is being presented to us. The hedged predicitons have become unhedged apocalypse. We're asked to accept it because the people involved simply know more than we do and they all agree with each other don't you know (some might call that a mob). And last but not least we're expected to ignore the ideological politics that run through its recommendations thanks to the appeal to fear about saving humanity from a fate equal to death.