Philippe Sands and climate dissent.

Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise has been publishing on Big Picture News, her blog, a series of articles showing how the international establishment is working to silence free speech on the subject of climate change. The latest of these articles, Silencing Dissent via the Courts, described a lecture by Philippe Sands QC at the UK Supreme Court last week. Laframboise suggests with some justification that Sands is seeking to make it internationally unlawful for anyone to express an opinion on climate change that is contrary to the Establishment line.

Personally I am alarmed that lawyers get involved with the expression of any opinions – particularly scientific ones. If someone wanted to question the existence of gravity, for instance, I’d be outraged if a court tried to stop him.

In the case of climate change this lecture looked to me like just another precursor to the attempted United Nations power grab that the December climate conference in Paris will represent. If the proposed treaty goes through the world will, for the first time, have an unaccountable global supranational power ruling over it. And that’s not a crackpot theory, but documented under UN imprimatur. Climate change has been an extraordinarily convenient instrument with which the UN has been able to crank up its grip on world affairs over the past twenty years. That is why politicians and prelates pronounce their conviction at a volume that varies in inverse proportion to the validity of the evidence. The UN is become the fountainhead of authoritarianism.

Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming began as a tenuous theory, backed up by little more than computer models making predictions. The globe has refused to cooperate with those predictions. You would be hard pressed to find a single one that has been realized by actual events, even though we are already a long way beyond the computers’ projected timetables. Taken from official data, there has been no increase in global temperature for nearly nineteen years, no abnormal rise in sea levels, no reduction in net polar ice, no increase in severe weather patterns, and five times as many polar bears as when I was a boy. That is not to say that the theory is necessarily wrong, but it does increase what have always been serious doubts. Let us see to what extent Philippe Sands QC acknowledges those doubts.  He begins at 8:05

If you are a lawyer you may find this riveting. If not you may not. I am not a lawyer. The etymology of the word ‘lecture’ decrees it to be a reading. This is a reading. The quality of Sands’ delivery notwithstanding, the people in the room seem to be staying awake; but I would rather be at home with a good book – or even a bad one.

After some preliminary niceties he begins with an account of some meeting some years ago in the UN whereat the islands of Palau were making a noise about imminent submerging under rising sea levels. Interestingly, although he does discuss in detail the legal ramifications of all this, he never actually tells us whether sea levels were rising or have since risen or whether the islands have in the mean time gone on their own sweet way. Having just googled them I can tell you that the indications are the last.

And this sets the tone for the entire lecture. Nowhere does he actually supply any hard evidence to support the climate change theory, merely protesting in impenetrable legalese that international courts have no proper influence over the matter.

The nearest he comes to evidence is an extended argumentum ad verecundiam beginning around the 17 minute mark. He extensively quotes the IPCC. As far as I could tell he quotes no actual data.

The Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change was founded in the ’90s under the auspices of the UN. Let us note the words ‘climate change’ in its name. Why is that significant? Because if there is no climate change there is no IPCC. Its existence and a large number of taxpayer-funded jobs depend upon a presumption encapsulated in its name. Over the years several venerable scientists have left it, protesting that they have been misrepresented. Nevertheless, though independent organisations sent in to audit its work have been critical of its being a political rather than a scientific body, the IPCC has produced five assessment reports, each accompanied by a summary for policymakers. The latter begins life as a draft produced by the IPCC and is then for several days subjected to phrase-by-phrase editing by a huge international panel of political beings ensuring that the summary follows the political narrative they wish to pursue. Therefore what began as a political bit of purported science becomes further politicised out of all recognition. And that’s the authority that Sands quotes. Again I say argumentum ad verecundiam, and pretty shoddy verecundiam at that.

At 43:00 Sands says, “the room for real doubt has disappeared”. He is a Professor of Law. I wonder what terminology he would deploy to tell a student, whose research was as shallow as quoting a single and interested source, that he’d been inexcusably idle.

He continues till 56:22; and essentially he has called for the International Court of Justice via the evidence of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be granted extraordinary powers over matters of scientific opinion, in order to facilitate the signing of a treaty in December which would give the UN unaccountable powers that no body – elected or otherwise – has ever had before.

Both the ICJ and the IPCC are UN bodies. All are impervious to the wishes of any electorate. What was it someone once said about absolute power?

Christopher Monckton’s speaking imperfections

My previous posting dealt with a very good speech by Lord Monckton, and I ended  with a commitment to return to him “very soon”. When someone has worked this hard on a skill he is evidently striving for perfection, so my way of paying homage is to deploy my finest nit-picking tweezers. At the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change, that took place in July of this year, Monckton delivered a keynote speech.

We join just as James Taylor leaves the podium after delivering an introduction that was deliberately over the top. I know this, because I have viewed much longer video material from which this was taken. To give you a flavour, Taylor began with, “AAAAND NOOOOW …” I’m sure you get the idea: unrestrained hilarity was promised. You may also notice that some members of the audience are climbing to their feet before he has even started. It is not given to many to receive standing ovations before their speeches. Monckton, it is fair to say, is among friends.

I mention all that in order to preface a stricture that is well established in showbiz… Do not believe your own publicity.

I shall add some rules of my own shortly, but first let me specifically address what I regard as Monckton’s key weakness. Having a natural flair for humour he has tasted the most seductive fruit known to speakers – it’s called laughter. His throw-away humour is good, and nearly always works. When it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter because he threw it away. Where he starts to fall apart is in trying to give comedy centre stage. That is an activity to be left exclusively to standup comedians, who had to go through an apprenticeship you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Here are some of my rules for humour, and he breaks all of them in the first thirteen and a half minutes of this speech.

  • Don’t repeat a gag: it’s never funny the second time.
  • Always keep humour subservient to your message.
  • With throw-away humour you maintain strength: when it becomes overt, humour begins to beg laughter; and a craving for baksheesh is inherently weak.
  • NEVER try to spoof a famous comedy sketch, least of all one from Monty Python.

It is at 13:30, or very shortly after, that this speech gets going. Humour, now relegated to secondary status, gets funnier and the speech gets very strong. There’s a clear moral. Avoid being seen to be trying to be funny. Make humour seem almost accidental.

One further little observation that is pertinent at 30:10 – instead of asking for a round of applause for yourself, learn some claptrap techniques.

I don’t suppose Monckton has received, for many years, so much criticism on his speaking. It’s his own fault: he shouldn’t be so good.

 

Christopher Monckton shows his workings

In March 2012 Christopher Monckton spoke at California State University in Bakersfield. His talk was entitled Fallacies about Global Warming.

In July, in a posting concerning a speech by Patrick Moore, I devoted my second paragraph to observing the puzzling detail that warmists (who claim to be championing The Science) seldom show much science, whereas sceptics (who the warmists claim to be anti-science) show abundant scientific data and workings to back up their contentions.  Earlier this month we looked at a speech by arch-warmist, Lord Deben, in which I defy you to find any science at all. Today let’s look at a speech by a very high-profile sceptic.

The gathering was hosted by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove whose introduction saves me having to labour the point I made the previous time Monckton was on this blog. Monckton is so formidably well prepared, well briefed and well researched that no warmist dares face him in debate. He has challenged Al Gore repeatedly, to be met with progressively lame excuses.

I suggest that you listen to Grove’s introduction twice, once to absorb what she has to say and again to watch Monckton while she is saying it. He never stops looking around the audience, and not just idly gazing but unobtrusively looking intently, summing up, evaluating, taking measure, analyzing that audience . The man is a pro.

Monckton begins speaking at 4:15. His opening is almost verbatim the one he used the previous time he was on this blog. I have no quarrel with that: if J.S.Bach could recycle good ideas it excuses the rest of us. Nevertheless I remain uneasy over the flaunting of his title.

I know why he does it. Thanks to politicians’ changing of the constitution of the House of Lords, he is no longer eligible to sit in the House. This has caused some of the Westminster mediocracy to claim that he is not a Lord. His passport gives the lie to that. He is a viscount by birth, and understandably enjoys waving that under the noses of the naysayers. Flaunting a title is faintly tacky. He knows this, and has clearly made a policy decision that the joy of cocking a snoot at snotty bureaucrats justifies a touch of tackiness, Not only does he flaunt his title in his opening he brands his slides with a coronet, and even sometimes the Parliamentary portcullis. I understand and sympathize, but I remain uneasy.

After some bits of fun at the beginning he gets down to cases at 6:15, and immediately he addresses one hugely important fact. There has been warming and we contributed to it. I know of no one who disputes that. The scepticism is in how much warming there has been, will be, how big our contribution, and therefore whether the recommended changes to our behaviour can reap any discernible benefit or will ruin the world’s economy to no purpose. There are other ancillary matters, but that is the essence.

Up come his graphs! He very skilfully handles them in language that is as straightforward and simple as possible. Those of us less numerate can still get a little addled at times, but stick with it: the really important bits are clear as crystal.

He delivers a surgical dismantling of the global warming scam, with all the workings you could possibly want. I have read quite a lot on the subject so most of it doesn’t surprise me. If you haven’t you could get angry. I part company with Monckton in one little detail. At 27:00 he suggests that climate scientists played their naughty games to confuse bureaucrats and politicians. I believe that those politicians and bureaucrats specifically commissioned those results from the scientists. Cui bono.

Now you know why Al Gore scurries away and hides at any suggestion of a debate with Monckton. He’d be ignominiously annihilated and he knows it.

Monckton is outstandingly good, but he’s not perfect. Anyone who works this hard at a skill wants to be perfect. Very soon – possibly in my next posting – I shall examine his imperfections.

Robert Carter frustrates with brilliance.

The Heartland Institute hosted ICCC9 – the ninth International Conference on Climate Change – in Las Vegas from 7–9 July 2014. On 8 July, Prof. Robert Carter delivered a talk entitled Why NIPCC Matters.

As far as I am concerned, NIPCC matters because it shows its workings. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you didn’t read my previous posting.

In my late sixties, I still have a full head of hair. Sometimes I wonder why. Too often I am faced with something that fills me with hair-tearing frustration. This brilliant speech is just such an example.

It is persuasively, authoritatively and articulately argued. He backs up his arguments with chapter and verse. He has structured it all around a beautifully conceived narrative theme of pieces of legendary art, ranging from Salvador Dali to Antony Gormley. He delivers it all with a voice that is clear, expressive and confident. As far as I can establish, he has no paper on that lectern. And yet…

Well, just look at that ‘still’ from the video! That picture shows you two of the three things that have me writhing. In that previous paragraph I very carefully implied – but did not say – that he has no script. He does have a script.

It’s on his bloody slides! 

What is worse he has no slave screen in front of him; so he has to turn away from the audience in order to read all those bloody words off the bloody slides on the bloody wall behind him. Ye Gods!

And the missing thing? – the other irritant that causes me to writhe, the third one that the picture doesn’t show? He is popping. Every so often an explosion detonates as he speaks directly into the microphone. It almost makes me want him to turn his head back towards the wall. And as if that weren’t enough, a hand periodically collides with the microphone to make a still louder noise.

Let us be clear here, and give credit where it is due. This is a brilliant and important speech, delivered by a man who oozes learning, sincerity, charisma and a wealth of obvious speaking ability. The concept of using examples of art to illustrate points is elegant and inspired. The structure of the speech is somewhere between good and very good. The ending perhaps needed something more – and not the final crash from the microphone.

But the staging of this wonderful speech is an abomination! Any trainee of mine watching it would be in hysterics. They have all had paper torn from their hands and verbiage torn from their slides. I know some that have virtually sworn off slides altogether (though Carter definitely needs some slides, if only to show his pieces of art.) They have all experienced the liberation of facing nothing but their audience and breathing the oxygen of that connection.

Getting rid of the microphone problem is slightly more complicated. A clip-on radio mic would have removed the popping; but the unruly hands that sometimes hit the microphone are part of his ebullient personality. An ebullient personality is something you monkey with at your peril. I can’t come up with an answer to that at this distance.

Oh how I’d like an hour alone with him!

Lord Lawson reads what needs to be said.

At the end of April 2014, Lord Lawson of Blaby gave a speech to the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath, in England. His being the Chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lawson’s pronouncements on the subject of climate change usually excite a degree of interest, and this occasion was no exception.

You should not be too alarmed by the indication at the foot of the video that it lasts for nearly an hour and a half. Lawson’s speech ends at 46:30, and the rest is questions – quite robust ones by the way.

At the outset, Lawson asks for his briefcase, which had been placed in the care of someone else. He is duly delivered his script, from which he reads the entire speech. Some might say that he is not making a speech so much as presenting a paper, and I would tend to agree. The process that we witness is in every sense that of a talking head. We would get more out of it if we each were to read that paper to ourselves (till the onset of the questions). That way our minds would process the information at our own pace and rhythm, rather than his, with consequent greater understanding of what is argued. It’s the same phenomenon that makes the film of a book almost invariably inferior to the book.

If you would rather read it yourself, here is a transcript.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I would greatly prefer him not to have used a script. Using paper, even if as skilfully as Lawson, instantly robs your delivery of a substantial part of its persuasiveness.They will also expect me to claim that I could have enabled him to have dispensed with it, though they might not believe it.

One man, who would probably not have believed it last Wednesday, did a course with me on Thursday. He is a senior executive in a well-known British company. On Saturday he sent me an email. I have not sought his permission to identify him so I shall not do so.

What I failed to highlight on Thursday was that on Friday I was hosting an all day workshop with senior members of the xxxxxxxx team.  I had been having kittens for weeks.  Through the time in your course I was mentally whittling down the workshop from 20 slides, to 6, to 2.  That’s what I slept on, and eventually I conducted an 8 hour workshop with no slides and no notes.  I launched the day with a James Bond opening (an icebreaker) followed by a 15 minute speech on why we were there.  A speech with purpose!  What followed was a very lively and interesting workshop. I could not have done it without you.  You switched a light on, and I hope I can keep it alight in future presentations.

He will!

Patrick Moore – The Sensible Environmentalist

At a TEDx gathering in Vancouver in November 2009, Patrick Moore was one of the speakers. If you have clicked the link on his name, or looked at the picture below, you will know that we are dealing here not with the late, English, wonderfully eccentric, amateur astronomer and xylophone player, but with the Canadian environmentalist, the co-founder of Greenpeace who left that organisation in disgust when it conspicuously lost its way a few years ago. He now calls himself The Sensible Environmentalist, and spends much of his time campaigning on behalf of Golden Rice.

I am not an environmentalist but I have read a few books on the subject, been around the block a few times, and watched enough speakers to have developed a nose for, and allergy to, bullshit. The field of environmental activism tends to be so deep in the steaming stuff that in order to critique most speeches I’d need to be equipped with a JCB. So I usually don’t. Let’s see whether I was justified in hoping that Moore would be worth my making an exception in his case.

There’s something that bothers me about his voice and the manner of his speaking. The urgency he conveys is not a problem for me because it indicates a willingness to get into the driving seat. It’s not exactly the speed with which he speaks, because it doesn’t feel like undue nervousness. It is as if he were driving in too low a gear: the voice is working too hard. I bet he gets sore throats after big presentations. If so, it’s absurdly easy to prevent it.

At 2:35 there’s a lovely catalogue of names. If you don’t understand why I like it, you have neither had a course with me nor read The Face & Tripod.

There are a few occasions when he stumbles and momentarily loses his place. Some might blame this on his shooting the speech from the hip, but a couple of small stumbles are a tiny price to pay for the audience engagement that goes with being paper-free. The stumbles don’t bother me, and I’d lay money that they don’t bother his audience; but if they trouble him, there are a few improvements that could be made to his structure to make the mind-mapping easier.

I enjoy his summary dismissal of fallacy after fallacy connected to the global warming scam. At the time of writing we have just been treated (if that’s the word) to mounds of garbage in a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Proper scientists having over the years deserted the IPCC in disgust over being misquoted, it is now mainly a nest of political activists still trying to masquerade as scientists. The main-stream media, either too idle to check or in politico/economic thrall to the alarmist nonsense, make up an eager team of cheer-leaders. I’m old enough to remember when the BBC, for instance, was a respectable organisation employing proper journalists. Others of a similar age who seem to swallow this tripe show themselves too trusting or too busy to check any details. At least I hope that’s the case: the alternative is too depressing.

The most depressing thing is when people start clamouring for ‘deniers’ to be silenced, sectioned, or imprisoned. They might as well burn books like they did in Berlin in 1933. People behave like this only when they know their own argument to be weak. It is weak because its scientific basis is flimsy, and was always actually political rather than scientific.

If you want one reason why I believe this, just go and see how many attempts by sceptical scientists to join in public debate with warmists have had the warmists scurrying for cover. Christopher Monckton has repeatedly challenged Al Gore. Gore has made increasingly pathetic excuses; and who’s to blame him? He’d be slaughtered.

Watching this speech, I find myself wanting to endorse Patrick Moore’s description of himself as The Sensible Environmentalist. He could easily be a better speaker, but meanwhile he’s quite good enough for most markets. And what he says is suitably coloured with doubt as to persuade me that he is a genuine seeker after truth.

Dr Roy Spencer becomes a voice-over

If the still picture on the video window below looks startlingly similar to the one on my previous post there’s a good reason. It’s the same video. A rare and welcome climate debate was held by The Heartland Institute on 7 July, 2011. Previously we looked at the opening speech from Dr Scott Denning: today the floor is given over to his opponent, Dr Roy Spencer. If you want to grasp the significance of Spencer’s opening statement, you want to watch from 15:50.

One minute into this speech Spencer looks at his watch, thus answering a question I have previously raised. There is apparently no clock visible from the lectern. He looks at his watch again a couple of times in the speech, before over-running by just over 3 minutes. (He finishes at 29:15: all the rest of the video is devoted to questions, I think – I didn’t stay to watch.)

Calling all conference organisers! Come on, Guys! Installing a clock for the guidance of the speakers costs effectively no more than a little thought. It might even save consequential costs when they over-run less often.

There’s another error here, and Denning had it too. There’s no ‘slave screen’, a small monitor in front of the speaker in order that they might see the slide on display without looking up at the big screen. There merely needs to be a vga feed for the speaker’s own laptop.

Every slide on the big screen robs the speaker of some of the audience’s focus (which is a very strong reason for a speaker minimising the number of slides used). Every time a speaker looks up at the big screen he compounds the felony by actively redirecting the audience’s focus away from himself and in the direction of the screen (look at the picture of Spencer above). The more he does it, the more he devalues his speech towards the role of voice-over for a picture show. Always use a slave screen!

At 23:30 Spencer puts up his umpteenth slide.  It is a graph, and he apologises for showing a graph. I gape in disbelief! A graph can save huge amounts of convoluted description and explanation, and therefore is an excusable slide. He should instead be apologising for all those slides of his that are covered in redundant writing. Without them he would have saved a great deal of tedious slide-changing and not over-run his time.

Can anyone explain to me why so many speakers stick up slides covered in words, and then proceed to read them out? Is there a research facility somewhere that claims to have established that it adds something to the impact of the words? If so, I’d like to have a hard look at their data, because all my study indicates the reverse. People have said that if the audience are given hard-copy of a deck of slides that tell a story the deck in its entirety needs to be included in the presentation.

Why?

Hasn’t it gone quiet.

Dr Roy Spencer is interesting and personable. His knowledge and understanding of his subject matter is a byword. This speech of his could very easily have been hugely absorbing. It wasn’t. What a pity!