Your right to protest

FB_IMG_1713869916254 We citizens of comfortable liberal western democracies tend to believe that we have a "right to protest"1. But as someone who doesn't really like rights-based language I have different views, and feel the urge to write them down to general acclaim. Examples of the kind of thing I mean are Mass arrests made as US campus protests over Gaza spread; or back in Blightly, Extinction Rebellion: Seventy arrested at climate change protests.

Right to protest isn't the same as Freedom of speech, of course. The clue is that the words are different. If you're USAnian your freedom of speech is strongly protected from govt interference, and extends to things not obviously speech, such as burning flags. But only if you own the flag in question; burning someone else's flag is criminal damage. It extends to the inverse, no-forced-speech, which again extends to things not traditionally speech, such as not having to make cakes in support of causes you don't like. It makes sense to say things like I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It.

However, that doesn't transfer across into a right to get in the way of law-abiding citizens going about their law-abiding business2, no matter how passionately you feel about whatever it is you feel about. This is where thought is often replaced by emotive and disingenuous language. Preventing LACGATLB is non-non-violent, and pretending otherwise is lying.

How this all works out in practice is another matter. Laws don't prescribe exact behaviour and we don't want them to. There's always a certain amount of grey area in how far you can get away with getting in other people's way before people become sick of it. Govts, of course, are often the target of protests and so are often keen to crack down; at least in England the general mass of the population is fairly easy-going; but if the protesters are annoying enough the general public sentiment gives govt their excuse to pass more restrictions, and everyone loses. Protesters such as XR recklessly abusing the system are bad.


1. No-one in places like Russia or China believes that, or at least not for very long.

2. And a "right to protest" that didn't get in other people's way would just be a "right to go about your own lawful business" (see comments) which you have anyway and which doesn't need to rise to the level of a separate "right".


My Beautiful Bubble - Caplan.
Armed Men on Campus! - Pierre Lemieux


There is no human right to a safe or stable climate

FB_IMG_1713124662053 My title is taken from La Curry (arch); but apart from that I can't recommend her post; and sadly but predictably the comments are worthless1 and make no attempt to address the interesting issue; whether such a right does or should exist.

First some reference material: the judgement itself; press release.

As regular readers know, I dislike rights-based language. This case rather illustrates that: having found that those dastardly Swiss have failed to do <something or other>, there's no effective remedy. The Swiss are now obliged to do <something>, and perhaps in five years time we can look forward to another case complaining that <something> wasn't enough; and so on around, to solve what we're pretending is an urgent problem. By contrast, a proper "right" - something that forbids the state from interferring with you - does have an effective remedy. See e.g. Gay Cakes.

This problem was covered extensively by Alsup in what was once upon a time everyone's favourite climate case, before it got decided in a way that people didn't like. Doing something about GW is for the executive, not the courts. Interestingly, in all the reactions to the judgement I've seen, not one of these memory-of-a-goldfish people reffed Alsup.

Nominally, the evil Swiss have violated article 8Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. At a stretch, you could possibly consider that <not doing enough about GW> fails that, but you could just as easily if not more so argue not; and there's no real way to make any definitive judgement, so it is all rather meaningless. Clearly, GW was not in anyone's mind when the Convention was written so it was not anyone's original intent to provide a right to not-GW. The dissent says all this and more, but in nice legal words, as well as politely chiding the court for going off the rails.

A minor snark: the case was brought by "KlimaSeniorinnen" i.e. wrinkly folk who effectively argues that because they were frail, they were more affected. Which is an interesting inversion of the Photogenic Teens, who argued that they were more affected because they were young, and would be hit by future change. I think the the PT have a better case; the wrinklies will die off before they're too badly affected.

Another: the court rejected standing by individuals, but granted it to organisations. Despite this being against their usual policy. I can't work out why they did this; it makes no sense to me.


1. Sorry DA and RS. You can try again here if you'd like more intelligent conversation.


* 2021/11: Lust for suing.

* 2021/04: Yet moaah climate suing; and City of New York v Chevron Corp, again.

* 2020/06: Yet moah climate suing.

* 2019/12: Exxon Found Not Guilty of Deceiving Investors Over Climate Risks; and Historic Urgenda Climate Ruling Upheld by Dutch Supreme Court.

* 2019/02: Moah suing news.

* 2018/08: Yet more climate suing.

* 2018/06: Holy Alsup, Batman!

* 2018/03: A little bit more climate suing stuff.

Richard Ekins: Strasbourg’s absurd climate ruling will see environmental policy annexed by the courts.

The People Will Save the Planet, Not the Courts (arch).

We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution? and Words for the word god.

* Bruce Schneier points us to Dan Solove on Privacy RegulationMurky Consent: An Approach to the Fictions of Consent in Privacy Law. This gets one thing right: both the US version (by using this service you consent to our terms) and the EU version (a zillion cookie popups that everyone clicks through) are not "real consent". His answer is, astonishingly, more regulation, how could we possibly have guessed (Murky consent should be subject to extensive regulatory oversight with an ever-present risk that it could be deemed invalid: in other words, yet again, overturning contracts (see-also Sandel: Liberalism and the Limits of Justice) and thus providing more work for lawyers). A better answer is: yes, this is not real consent, but no-one gives a toss so just move on. There is general public apathy in this area, which is good grounds for believing that no new law is needed.

* Sabine has a video on the general subject but it is shallow; and she has forgotten - or never heard of - Alsup or the ex-photogenic ex-teens.


Retread: Lowell Ponte: The Cooling

Following Wood, 1909, continued I realise it might be worth putting up some of the other old stuff here; and since it came up, I present a retread of wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/ponte.html (arch). I'm not sure this gets reffed much nowadays; my last seems to be from 2022 whilst dissing Tim Ball. You get the full glory of my original page, lightly cleaned up, complete with <h1> tags. See at the end for bonus entries. I would have written this in... the early 2000s, I'd guess.

Analysis of Lowell Ponte: The Cooling

For many years I have been tantalised by quotes from the semi-mythical book "The Cooling" by Lowell Ponte. Now (thanks to the zShops second-hand booksellers program, a part of Amazon) I got hold of a copy, shipped across the Atlantic in little more than a week, for only $10.

The book is "popular science": as it says (remarkably) in the preface by Reid Bryson: "...There are very few pages that, as a scientist, I could accept without questions of accuracy, of precision, or of balance..." and any claim to utility it may have would have to come from bringing interesting ideas to the general public (of the time).

In this analysis, I'm interested in whether the book accurately reports the state of science as then known and what issues it chooses to focus on. Its also interesting to see what uses other people put it to, now. Its often cited in the "but 20 years ago people were predicting cooling" type pages.

Lets just prove that, shall I?

The cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people in poor nations... If it continues, and no strong measures are taken to deal with it, the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come by the year 2000. Lowell Ponte, The Cooling, 1976 (from http://www.princeton.edu/~strasbrg/ruseScare.html).

What global warming proponents don't want people to remember is that just 20 years ago, they were predicting that global COOLING would destroy the world. Lowell Ponte wrote The Cooling on the subject in 1976 (which incidentally, can be found in Hodges Library). The theory then said that particulates reflected sunlight into space, thus preventing heat from reaching the earth. Predictions of a new ice age abounded. Then the earth started warming up. Whoops. (from http://beacon-www.asa.utk.edu/issues/v76/n35/tipton.36v.html).

Book Structure

  1. Foreward (by US Senator Claiborne Pell)
  2. Preface (by Professor Reid A Bryson)
  3. Part I: Forces that change climate (3-76)
    1. Reports of decrease is sunshine / aerosol & dust / ice-albedo feedback
    2. Cooling interrupts predicted warming / "GH" effect & CO2 / CFCs and ozone / Heat pollution / Warming vs Cooling
    3. Some dodgy climatology / Why cooling might be accompanied by warming
    4. Milankovitch-y stuff / Sunspots / Gravity weakening!?! / "Summary"
  4. Part II: The human side of climate (77-176)
  5. Part III: Options in a changing climate (177-246)
  6. Appendices: (247-296)
  7. Back-cover quotes from Pell, and Stephen Schneider. Inside quote from Emilliani.
The "science" of the book in contained within part I, which I've read moderately carefully; I've skimmed parts II and III.

Ponte gets some points for noting (p13) that the "greenhouse effect" is misnamed. But that is the high point of his science.

Evidence for Pontes inability to tell sense from nonsense (or at least to check speculative results) is his assertion (p70) that gravity is weakening in the universe, and that this is proved by the moon moving away from the earth at 4 cm/year.

The first chapter starts off with stuff about decreases in sunshine (from few measurements from industrialised areas; I'd guess that was consistent with aerosols) then notes the Rasool and Schneider 1971 science paper (but only in passing. See main page for more on R+S). Ponte asserts that R+W estimate that man's potential to pollute will increase six- to eightfold in the next fifty years. I think this is wrong: R+S actually say it is still difficult to predict the rate at which global background opacity of the atmosphere will increase with increasing particulate injection by human activities. However, it is projected that man's potential to pollute will increase 6 to 8-fold in the next 50 years.... I think they are reporting other peoples estimates to use as feed for their model, not making their own.

Stephen Schneiders quote

The back cover of the book has this from Stephen Schneider:

The dramatic importance of climate changes to the worlds future has been dangerously underestimated by many, often because we have been lulled by modern technology into thinking we have conquered nature. But this well-written book points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face, and that massive world-wide actions to hedge against that threat deserve immeadiate consideration. At a minimum, public awareness of the possibilities must commence, and Lowell Ponte's provocative work is a good place to start.

I'd say this is a regrettable quote. But its not really the ringing endorsement that it is often presented as.

Reid Bryson's Preface

Bryson's preface is rather odd, because it indirectly contradicts much of what is in the "science" sections of the book. Lets read it, shall we:

The Cooling will be controversial, because among scientists, most of the matters it deals with are hotly debated. There is no agreement on whether the earth is cooling. There is not unanimous agreement on whether is has cooled, or one hemisphere has cooled and the other warmed. One would think that there might be consensus about what data there is - but there is not. There is no agreement on the causes of climatic change, or even why it should not change amongst those who so maintain. There is certainly no agreement about what the climate will do in the next century, though there is a majority opinion that it will change, more or less, one way or the other. Of that majority, a majority believe that the longer trend will be downward. Nevertheless, it is an important question, as this book points out, and it is time for some of the questions to be settled. Lowell Ponte has summarized the data and theories very well, and has reasonably concluded that a rapid change in Earths climate is possible, perhaps even likely, within the next few decades, and that this would have serious consequences for mankind.

OK, lets stop there for a moment and compare this to what Ponte has to say:

Opening words of chapter 1: "Our planets climate has been cooling for the past three decades. Most experts agree on this, for it has been carefully measured by scattered monitoring stations throughout the world. Climate in the southern half of our planet has been warming rapidly, according to the few measurements available. But in the hlaf of our world north of the equator, where most human beings live, the annual mean atmospheric temperature has plunged by 0.7 oC, more than enough to offset the southern warming and to lower the average temperature of the whole planet by 0.5 oC."

Some disparity with Bryson, I hope you can agree. Looking at Pontes words further, note how, despite asserting that there are few southern measurements, he is nonetheless happy to assert that the globe as a whole is cooling. Where he gets the 0.7 oC cooling is a mystery: he cites no source; the graph reproduced in appendix 1 of the book shows a cooling of possibly as much as 0.4 oC. [Somewhat later, p45, the 0.5 global warming is qualified as "according to available measurements".]

This failure to acknowledge uncertainty is not something trivial, to be passed over rapidly. It is crucial. Brysons central point, that people are not really sure whats going on, was a good one to make at the time and thoroughly justified by hindsight.

OK, on with the preface:

"There is surprisingly little argument among those who have actually studied climates over multi-millenial time scales that we will be in an Ice Age 10,000 years from now. There is, however, less agreement about how soon and how rapidly the transition from the present interglacial will take place...".

I quote that to point out that (AFAIK) it was indeed typical of the views of the time (at least amongst those that extrapolated the past into the future); that it is probably not accepted widely now [TS Ledley, 1995, ???]; and to wonder if "among those who have actually studied climates..." is a dig at some other group.

Skipping over, we come to: "...There are very few pages that, as a scientist, I could accept without questions of accuracy, of precision, or of balance... but he then goes on to say that the book is worth reading for its presentation of the arguments. I'm somewhat surprised the publishers let him keep that bit in, its not really very complementary.

Ponte's Misuse of the 1975 NAS report

Ponte says (p4) "Are we at the dawn of a new Ice Age? In 1975 the US National Academy of Sciences issued a report saying that if the present cooling trend continues, there is a "finite" chance an Ice Age could begin "within 100 years". How much chance? The NAS panel...set the odds of this happening at no better than one in 10,000. The number was not random [Oh good, thats a relief - WMC]. As their report noted, Earths climate in the past has tended to change in fairly regular cycles, and if the past patterns continue we should now be entering a 10,000 year period of cooling climate.

The NAS report was shocking...".

The NAS report was not shocking. Anyone reading it would be more likely to describe it as "soporific". See here for some notes I made from that report. But to quote some of it here:

  1. "The climates of the earth have always been changing, and they will doubtless continue to do so in the future. How large these future changes will be, and where and how rapidly they will occur, we do not know" (from the intro; note how how this resembles Brysons initial words)
  2. The recommendations were: Establish National climatic research program; Establish Climatic data analysis program, and new facilities, and studies of impact of climate on man; Develope Climatic index monitoring program; Establish Climatic modelling and applications program, and exploration of possible future climates using coupled GCMs; Adoption and development of International climatic research program; Development of International Palaeoclimatic data network. There was no recommendation for action.


It occupies pages 296-269=27, so there are 28 pages of bibliography.

I thought it would be interesting to look in Ponte's book to see which statements are backed up by which references. Its easy, after all, to stuff a bibliography full of references - but what matters is which statements are backed up by respectable scientifc references, and which are backed up by fluff from the newspapers. But (yet another flaw in Ponte's book), you can't do this, because the bibliography is just a "selected bibliography", *not* a directed source of references for particular statements. So its impossible to tell what statement a given reference is intended to support, or indeed which statements are supported by references, and which are fluff.

Anyway: the bibliography is largely non-scientific. Page 269 (the first page):

Science (ie, as in the prestigous mag): iii
esquire: i
science news: iiii
los angeles times: iiiii
fortune: ii
readers digest: i
n y times: ii
playboy: i
"african genesis": i
"the ends of the earth (asimov)": i
smithsonian: i
unesco courier: ii
time: i
"readings in man, the env and ecology": i
sci am: ii
"lao tzu": i
"western amn and env ethics": i
"harvest of the sea": i
and I've no reason to believe that untypical.

Lazy people have complained that one needs to index the whole bibliography to be sure of the sci/non-sci content. Are you one of these people? Then please do the said indexing and send it to me.

Misc bits: peoples use of LP's misquotes of NAS 76


In January 1975 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report entitled Understanding Climatic Change: A Program for Action. There is, it said "a finite possibility that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the earth within the next hundred years...


http://groups.google.com/groups?q=lowell+ponte+cooling&hl=en&safe=off&rnum=6&selm=3ra7gi%24bnt%40spool.cs.wisc.edu - post by mt.

http://groups.google.com/groups?q=lowell+ponte+cooling&hl=en&safe=off&rnum=7&selm=19960315.172700.862%40almaden.ibm.com - by jbs

Other text

A search of the citation indices reveals that the only other publications by Ponte, L were in Readers Digest, the most recent in 1991. Read something about him here. John McCarthy has a quote that he asserts comes from the book.

Here is some text I was mailed:

For nearly three years, Lowell worked as a futurist in the high tech think tank International Research &
Technology; Inc., as first assistant to Dr. William Van Leave (who later served as chief weapons advisor to
America's SALT I delegation and as chief strategic advisor to presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in

Lowell wrote a prophetic 1976 book about global climate change, The Cooling (Prentice-Hall; forward
by U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell, preface by Univ. of Wisconsin Climatologist Reaid A Bryson), which was
widely reviewed and went through five printings.

Bonus items on retreading

Here's the full foreward, as read by Google Lens:



The enormous power and capricious behavior of the Earth's environ- ment have amazed and terrified man throughout the ages. In various ways man has searched for methods to control the vast climatological and geophysical forces which have awed and ravaged him. Primitive sha- mans used incantations and talismans; modern scientists seed clouds and experiment with ways to produce geothermal energy.

Man's attempts to master and manipulate his environment have not always been for peaceful purposes, but it is only in the last several years that we have come to realize the potential horror involved in harnessing natural forces for hostile purposes.

Mr. Ponte's book is a fascinating and important contribution to the growing literature of what has come to be known as environmental modification, or Enmod in the acronymic vocabulary of the arms control bureaucracy. What distinguishes Mr. Ponte's work is his thesis, which is bound to be controversial, that changes in the environment-in this case the natural cooling of our planet's climate since 1945-can constitute a source as well as a means of conflict among nations.

If, indeed, the climatological changes which Mr. Ponte foresees do in fact take place that is if the cooling produces bad weather and wide- spread crop failures-then the world's leaders must come to grips with the real possibility, as Mr. Ponte contends, that food will very soon play a dominant role in world politics and that many of a cooling world's nutritionally disadvantaged nations will seek to develop nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, including environmental modification weapons, in order to increase their bargaining power in the struggle against famine.

Given our own government's recent saber rattling reaction to the prospect of another oil embargo, Mr. Ponte's warning is not as far- fetched as it may seem. Regardless of whether one finds the specific scenarios he develops to be realistic, Mr. Ponte has demonstrated that the provocative issue of environmental politics deserves further informed public debate and governmental attention.

In setting forth options to deal with the cooling phenomenon. Mr. Ponte sees possible salvation through further research and experimenta- tion, which may-if given priority attention by governments-suggest safe ways in which weather or climate can be changed for the benefit of all mankind. He warns, however, that the nations of the world may devote more energy to developing the destructive rather than the con- structive aspects of environmental modification particularly as the realities of the new "cold war" become more manifest. Thus this book is as disquieting as Silent Spring in its analysis of environmental hazards that can affect our future. If Mr. Ponte's worst fears come to pass. The Cooling could prove to be the most important and prophetic popular science book of the 1970s.

Even without such a cataclysmic stimulus, I find it troubling that environmental modification techniques have already been applied to warfare and that developments within the environmental sciences, par- ticularly in the field of weather modification, are rapidly narrowing the gap between fact and fiction. Deeply troubled by the implications of the Defense Department's weather modification activities in Southeast Asia, I urged as early as 1971 that the United States take the initiative in developing an international agreement banning all forms of environ- mental warfare. At the same time, I called for a more active role on the part of the United States in international cooperation for the peaceful uses of environmental modification. In my view, the military use of any environmental modification technique can only lead to the development of vastly more dangerous techniques whose unpredictable consequences may cause widespread and irreparable damage to the global environment.

Mr. Ponte has recounted my efforts in behalf of the development of the draft treaty banning environmental modification as a weapon of war which the United States and the Soviet Union tabled in August 1975 at the Geneva Disarmament Conference. If concluded and universally accepted, such a treaty would ensure a peaceful framework for the vital research into the future applications of environmental modification for which Mr. Ponte so persuasively argues. 

And the Reid Bryson preface:



The Cooling will be controversial, because among scientists most of the matters it deals with are hotly debated. There is no agreement on whether the earth is cooling. There is not unanimous agreement on whether it has cooled, or one hemisphere has cooled and the other warmed. One would think that there might be consensus about what data there is but there is not. There is no agreement on the causes of climatic change, or even why it should not change among those who so maintain. There is certainly no agreement about what the climate will do in the next century, though there is a majority opinion that it will change, more or less, one way or the other. Of that majority, a majority believe that the longer trend will be downward. Nevertheless, it is an important question, as this book points out, and it is time for some of the questions to be settled. Lowell Ponte has summarized the data and theories very well. and has reasonably concluded that a rapid change in Earth's climate is possible, perhaps even likely, within the next few decades, and that this would have serious consequences for mankind.

There is surprisingly little argument among those who have actually studied climates over multi-millennial time scales that we will be in an Ice Age 10,000 years from now. There is, however, less agreement about how soon and how rapidly the transition from the present interglacial will take place. One extreme view envisions a "snow blitz" beginning of the ice-age climate, only a few years long, and a rapid growth of continental glaciers. If this were true, response would be almost impossible. The other extreme is the opinion that climates change gradually and almost imperceptibly over many thousands of years, with plenty of time for adaptation by the ecosystems and man. My own opinion is intermediate that climates change by relatively abrupt small steps; that these small steps are important, for they can be disruptive to stressed ecosystems such as ours is now; and that man can prepare somewhat for their occurrence.

There is also a great deal of argument about the efficacy of various options in preparing for, or dealin divergent ophanging climate. After opteral decades there are still widely divergent opinions on the magnitude severaberate weather modification effects, especially as practiced or not practiced by the military.

rachere is no consensus about whether there is still time to let normal agricultural research develop crops and technologies that will "save the world from hunger." There is almost no question of the quality of the research, but a great deal of question as to whether it will be "too little and too late." Nevertheless, the problem is sufficiently important that all promising leads must be followed, and a number of them are outlined in this book.

Not everyone is enamored by the concept of caring for 10, or 20, or 30 billion people in a highly regulated technological society, even if it were possible. I'm not, and I'm not even slightly convinced that it is possible or desirable. I am convinced that there is very little in the way of human ill, ecosystem degradation, resource shortage, social stress, and interna- tional instability that would not be relieved markedly by having fewer people on earth than there are currently.

But rather than fewer people on Earth, we will have more. With population saturation, any climatic variation becomes important; any option worth considering. This book raises some of the questions, and gives us some of the possible ways that mankind might respond short of eliminating people.

When I first read the manuscript I started to accumulate large numbers of marginal notes. There are very few pages that, as a scientist, I could accept without questions of accuracy, of precision, or of balance. As 1 read on, I threw away my critical notes and started to record the points the author brought up that I had missed in my reading. Lowell Ponte's overall representation of the problem presents a reasonable picture of the hazardous possibilities we would face if Earth's climate changes signifi- cantly. Mr. Ponte has delineated the outline of the tangled jungle which mankind must chart to find a way to the other side. He has put the map of climatic arguments into a reasonable perspective. He has shown that there are potential solutions. I hope that scientists will read it as a thallenge to set their theory and analysis in order. I hope that all will read it as a serious and thoughtful analysis of a real and pressing problem