Why Oh Why

I find some things hard to understand so perhaps someone would explain them to me:-

  1. Why the fear of losing some economic prosperity is more important than the reality of losing democracy and freedom.
  2. Why Members of Parliament feel free to act against the wishes of the majority of people in the UK having previously promised faithfully to put into effect the wishes of the majority.
  3. Why Parliament feels justified in enacting legislation that significantly weakens the UK’s position in negotiations with the EU.
  4. Why it is inaccurate to describe the legislation in 3 above as an act of surrender.

A Very Ugly Movement

What is the point of Extinction Rebellion? In London there has been demonstrations, arrests, people chaining themselves to objects and similar stunts because Extinction Rebellion wants governments to declare a climate emergency. Extinction Rebellion proposes to persuade governments to do this by non-violent civil disobedience. The movement (and the demonstrations) have been supported by actors actresses, models and other well-known people who all believe that the democratic process has failed to deal with climate change and therefore other measures are required.  

Non-violent civil disobedience is an important tradition of protest. Henri Thoreau refused to pay a proportion of taxes that was used to finance an unjust war. Ghandi use it to bring independence and democracy to India.  Extinction Rebellion is apparently using civil disobedience to achieve three demands:

  1. Governments around the world tell the truth about climate change; this demand is impossible to meet because what is the truth about a topic that is probably the most complex (scientifically) known to humanity?  I expect what Extinction Rebellion really mean is that governments should adopt what Extinction Rebellion states is the truth.
  • Governments must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. There is no hint of how governments are to do this. Does anyone know how this can be achieved short of wiping out, directly or indirectly, most of humanity?
  • Governments must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens Assembly on climate change and ecological justice. I find this demand rather chilling and very frightening.  This reminds me of the justification of all tyrants who have displaces the democratic process. Fulfilment of this demand would mean denying the democratic process and giving power over our lives to Citizens Assemblies, no doubt made up of members of Extinction Rebellion.

Extinction Rebellion seems a very ugly movement.

“NOT ME”

It is now officially recognised throughout the developed world that we must do something about climate change.

Farmers in the Netherlands have been protesting because, as I understand it, they are blamed for most of the Dutch nitrous oxide emissions and they believe there is a threat to their livelihoods fearing there are plans to cut pig, beef and chicken production by half for environmental reasons. These threats are not made by the Dutch Government but by opposition parties anxious to be seem to do something about climate change; such is the sensitivity of people in the climate change debate that traffic was badly disrupted by the tractors (which in turn must have created excess emissions) that the farmers took to the street protesting about the possibility of their incomes being slashed in the name of climate change. Climate change is serious, as all farmers know and have experienced, but when it comes to doing something about it “not me” is the cry.

It is a feature of modern life that almost everyone agrees that climate change is a threat and should be mitigated in some way, but almost everyone thinks that the mitigation should be at the cost of somebody else. “Not me!” Blame China for climate change, blame India, blame the USA, blame Brazil, blame the government, blame industry, blame capitalism, blame socialism, blame the wealthy, blame the poor, blame whoever, but don’t blame me.

Wealthy people who fly around in private jets and lead lifestyles that create far more emissions than the average person in their community feel qualified to lecture us on the dangers of climate change. “Someone should do something about it, but not me” is the message, “not me”.

“Not me” has become the real response to climate change by humanity, and such a response is inadequate, as humanity will learn to its cost.

The Big Lie of 2019

There are lies, damned lies and statistics, we are told but there is another kind of lie – the Big Lie – one which attracts credence by repetition and one which has caused humanity to undertake some of its most devastating follies.

The Big Lie doing the rounds in 1914 was “Dolce et decorum est pro patria mori” – which Wilfred Owen called “the old lie”. It took the deaths of millions to disprove the lie over the next for years and the deaths of tens of millions more twenty or so years later to show that things were far more complicated than simply discounting the old lie.

But politicians seeking power have never avoided the Big Lie. It is far too an important weapon in their amoury to leave behind. The Big Lie seeks to instill fear in the minds of the people, usually fear of the unknown or unfamiliar. The Big Lie gains traction by repetition until it has been repeated so often that most accept it to be true. It works best in times which are eventful, uncertain and when the political balance of what has gone before is rapidly changing into chaos.

The Big Lie is used as a justification for all sorts of behaviour which in quieter times would never be tolerated. When the Big Lie gains hold it is unchallenged. When a Big Lie is unchallenged it becomes impossible to debate issues rationally.

The Big Lie of 2019 is that Brexit without a deal would be a disaster. Now it may be one, or it may well be the best thing that the UK has had for a long time. It is impossible to describe the Big Lie of 2019 as a truth because no one really knows.

Big Lies give justification in the minds of those who promulgate them into acting in ways that are not democratic and so it has been with the Big Lie of 2019. Parliament has passed laws to prevent a no deal Brexit on the strength that the Big Lie of 2019 is the absolute truth and thus provides the justification of going against the wishes of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom.

When power is up for grabs the Big Lie comes into its own.

I find it terribly sad and frightening that the Big Lie of 2019 is now treated by journalists who should know better as a statement unworthy of challenge.

The Supreme Court’s Judgment on Prorogation

My prediction that the Supreme Court would decide that Government’s prorogation of Parliament was entirely wrong. I do not understand the reasoning of the decision.

In this case several features stand out.

  1. The eleven justices all made a single judgment; there was no dissenting opinion, which is odd considering that equally senior judges including the Lord Chief Justice, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and the Master of the Rolls already made a decision which was precisely the opposite of that of the Supreme Court decided. It may be that the Supreme Court judges decided that because of the constitutional importance they had better put dissent to one side an publish a single decision even though some of them may have disagreed with it.
  2. The judges stressed that the case was not about Brexit. They were wrong. The case was entirely about Brexit. Those opposing the prorogation did so not because they were genuinely opposed to a five week prorogation during the party conference season, but because they wanted to hinder the government’s efforts to improve the deal negotiated by Mrs May and/or to prevent Brexit at all. Their best means of hindrance was to keep the Parliament open so that the sound bites of those opposing Brexit would continue to criticise the government and that criticism would receive all due publicity. It was not about Parliamentary scrutiny – the intended prorogation had left sufficient time for that – it was about preventing Brexit and/or embarrassing the government who cannot now govern at all because of the way in which the House of Commons will continue to prevent the government from doing virtually anything.
  3. The judgment recognises the principle that parliament is sovereign over the government but reduces the government’s powers to prorogue which most constitutional lawyers believed that the government had to prorogue Parliament for short periods in times of crisis.
  4. The judgment fails to recognise that the people are sovereign over Parliament.
  5. The judgment did not fairly reflect that this was a new area of law upon which there had been little precedent and therefor different opinions about the law were not only possible but to be expected. The words of Lady Hale gave the impression that the government had knowingly acted unlawfully. This was unfair, especially as she had described the case as “a one off”.
  6. The heart of the decision of the supreme Court is, in my opinion, contained in these words Prorogation “will be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive. In such a situation, the court will intervene if the effect is sufficiently serious to justify such an exceptional course. 51. That standard is one that can be applied in practice.
  7. The court, having set the standard (for the first time) measured what it knew about the government’s decision and measure it against that standard. It found the government wanting. This inevitably means that any future government of any hue will find the exercise of any prerogative power being examined in court at the behest of their political opponents. It is not a consummation that we would find helpful, democratically or politically especially when the meaning of “without reasonable justification” is ligated time and time again, as it will be in future.

Parliament re-opened today in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court. As far as I can see no time was spent on scrutinising legislation but on hurling insults and criticism across the chamber. I expect this to continue for weeks to come.

Rising Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

In August of this year the monthly average of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured at Mauna Loa was 409.95 parts per million, an increase of 3 parts per million in the past twelve months. In 1992 the concentration was 367 parts per million. In 1950 it was 310 ppm.

Mauna Loa is a good place to get accurate CO2 measurements; It is 3,400 meters high in the middle of the ocean, so it can sample an air mass that has already been fully mixed from the inputs and outputs of CO2 far below its summit and far away from it. It is surrounded by many miles of bare lava, helping to eliminate variations in the measurement from the respiration of vegetation.

The wheels of climate change throughout history have ground slowly, but those wheels are beginning to turn more rapidly now, as humanity increases its numbers, its industrialisation and its emissions.

Protests about climate change

On Friday many school children gave up a day’s worth of education to protest that governments are not doing enough to combat climate change. It is an odd thing to do.

First and foremost these school children only learned about climate change from their education. To give up a day’s worth of learning is an odd sacrifice to make, if it was regarded by the school children as a sacrifice. Giving up a day’s schooling is not hard work – when i was at school I would have welcomed it, not looked on it as a sacrifice.

If the children gave up a day’s holiday to protest about climate change I could understand that as a possibly worthy sacrifice but I have doubts about the effectiveness of protest and it is clear that most forms of protest, such as trying to close the port of Dover, will create more emissions than if they let the port alone.

I would be impressed and appreciative if the children gave up a day’s holiday to take measures personally to reduce rapid climate change and environmental damage, such as planting trees, or picking up plastic from beaches, rivers, watercourses and sending the plastic to be recycled, spending their holidays thinking about solutions to prevent the climate extinction they fear, instead of protesting that politicians and others are not doing the thinking for them.

Planting trees and cleaning up is harder work than joining a protest.