Capability Brown’s oblique approach to climate policy

‘Remember, then, that scientific thought is the guide to action; that the truth at which it arrives is not that which we can ideally contemplate without error, but that which we can act upon without fear; and you cannot fail to see that scientific thought is not an accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human progress itself.’ William Kingdon Clifford, The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences (1885)

Damned lies and statisticians, politicians, lawyers, scientifically illiterate talking heads and philosophers. Human emitted greenhouse gases bias a chaotic system to a warmer state. There is implicit in chaos the risk of dramatic and rapid change in the Earth system – atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and hydrosphere. That much should be accepted as truth in line with Isaac Newton’s 4th rule of natural philosophy. There are of course those who don’t.

The range of models in the latest IPCC opportunistic ensemble is shown in blue and yellow. Above and below the mean of means. Some models are run in centres with large computing facilities. Models can be run many times with slightly different initial conditions and wildly divergent solution trajectories. Some have more modest origins.

Each of these models in the CMIP 6 opportunistic ensemble have an ‘irreducible imprecision’ or ‘evolving uncertainty’ – however one wants to put it. Below is an example of a single model run 1000’s of times. The rest is a work in progress. Yet they somehow continue to insist on the verisimilitude of models.

Source: Rowland et al 2012

Climate models have done one great thing – they introduced the world in the 1960’s to the third great idea of twentieth century physics – an idea that may still bring balance to the force.

Source: Sabine Hossenfelder & Timothy Palmer – Rethinking Superdeterminism

Climate science has been assigned a central role in a culture war that has been going on for a very long time between those who want a social and economic reset and those who instinctively resist change. Both sides feel empowered to tell themselves and others tales superficially in the dispassionate idiom of science. Both sides marshalling arguments that support the cause – certain of their moral and intellectual superiority and in arrogance, ignorance and conceit condemning the enemy in bitter animosity. It is socially corrosive and perhaps more worryingly undermines foundations of the scientific enlightenment. Moreover – the stalemate has stalled sensible progress.

‘If one seeks long-lasting impact, the best line of approach may not be head on. “Lose the object and draw nigh obliquely” is a dictum attributed to the famous eighteenth century English landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown.12 Brown’s designs framed the stately home at the entrance, but only briefly. After allowing the visitor a glimpse of his destination, the driveway would veer away to pass circuitously and delightfully through woodland vistas, through broad meadows with carefully staged aperçus of waterfalls and temples, across imposing bridges spanning dammed streams and lakes, before delivering the visitor in a relaxed and amused frame of mind, unexpectedly, right in front of the house.

That displays a subtle skill which has manifest political value: the capacity to deliver an ambitious objective harmoniously. “Capability” Brown might be a useful tutor for designers of climate policies.13 His advice would be to approach the object of emissions reduction via other goals, riding with other constituencies and gathering other benefits.’ The Hartwell Paper, 2010

‘The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause may be.’  op. cit.

I’m sure it will pass. Infrastructure security is best left to technically conservative engineers. I saw a snippet of video yesterday that showed a prospective urban development disappearing under water with sea rise of 1.8m – used as justification for the great reset. It is simply not true. Infrastructure is designed for extreme conditions in which sea level rise is included. There are some things that can’t be guarded against – sea level rise isn’t one of those. One cannot protect everything – for those events there are escape routes and protection of critical emergency services planned for.

My cultural bias is freely admitted. The rule of law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness), government size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom), open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). The rights bestowed on humanity by God. In concert they provide guidelines for human progress.

I have great hopes for the 21st century. What is central to renewal is an affirmation of the age old knowledge from the dawn of humanity. The collective, the tribe, the clan, the farmers cooperative is where the power for global ecological renewal is found. It is the space between governments and markets where landscapes flourish or decline. It is a profound reality that balancing the human ecology on a global scale can only be realised by working together on the ground we walk on. It succeeds with prosperous and resilient communities in vibrant landscapes. Technology we are good at. Technical innovation is the great strength of the technological monkey. It is puzzling that some seek to curtail energy technology at the level of the steam engine.

It needs only our passion for the great task of building the shining city in an Earthly garden. The blue, green, red and orange of Maree Faulkner’s Solar City signposts endless new possibilities for the human ecology. Great and shining cities rising in a song of renewal. A great, global spanning civilisation forged this century and nested in a profusion of nature. Populations replanting and replenishing in a triumph of human ecology in the Earthly garden – a sound foundation for our next steps to the stars. Great art and great music flourishing – song and poetry inspiring and amusing. Technologies proliferate and will be directed to the tasks of bringing our lives into balance with the world. The great task of renewing our world and empowering its peoples will bring a resolution that releases immense energies. What seem like dire and insoluble problems of the moment will fade like midnight forebodings in the morning light. Take heart and celebrate the advent of the shining city with laughter, songs and dance.

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1 Response to Capability Brown’s oblique approach to climate policy

  1. It’s been a while. ☺

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