The Hedgehog and the Elephant

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Yet Archilochus didn’t mention the elephant. What’s the point of knowing many things if you can’t remember them?

Elephant Man

Two days ago I remembered one big thing: that today was going to be the ten year anniversary of my blog post four numbers that tell a story. It’s free to read even now, albeit on GitHub Pages, not the original defunct blog platform I chose, then regretted choosing. There’s no way to add comments but it’s there. And it marked the moment where I became a hedgehog about the infantile debates we sceptics were having to endure about the ‘climate crisis’.

Here’s the graph that matters, as of December 2011.

And here’s an update with some smoothing, courtesy of Bjorn Lomborg, that I used in January 2021:

Here’s my view at the end of 2021. If someone doesn’t at once realise that the climate crisis is a fantasy on viewing this graph then it’s not worth arguing further with them.

Search for @rdrake98 deaths extreme events on Twitter to see me banging on about this point, when I was still willing to add to the Twitter network effect. (That ended on the day of my tweet above. No going back.)

Displacement Activity

Here’s Christopher Booker writing in the Daily Telegraph at the end of December 2008:

As 2009 dawns, it is time we in Britain faced up to the genuine crisis now fast approaching from the fact that – unless we get on very soon with building enough proper power stations to fill our looming “energy gap” – within a few years our lights will go out and what remains of our economy will judder to a halt. After years of infantile displacement activity, it is high time our politicians – along with those of the EU and President Obama’s US – were brought back with a mighty jolt into contact with the real world.

And here’s Bryan Appleyard writing about outstanding climate sceptic Clive James and his recently published book Cultural Amnesia, in or before February 2009. (The web page has long since disappeared and for some reason wasn’t archived by Wayback Machine but I have a local copy of an excerpt.)

The problem is, he thinks, that the horrors of the 20th century were such that they have become all but impossible to contemplate. “There is this wilful ignorance about the import of the recent past. I did an essay on Isaiah Berlin, saying that not even he could face the facts about The Holocaust. There’s a displacement activity that shifts your capacity away from the horrific and incomprehensible to something more comprehensible.”

Note the irony of James mentioning Berlin, given our first sentence. But the imaginary climate crisis and all that is said to follow from it is for me the ultimate displacement activity that allows shallow people not to face up to humanity’s much deeper problems.


The fall of Kabul this year really got to me. I was already thinking of the suffering of various poverty-striken and war-torn landlocked countries as I took a gap from Cliscep. This was after falling out with Jaime Jessop about her use of Nazi analogies to do with Covid. There was nothing to be self-righteous about, I felt. Where is that kind of suffering today? How can I even begin to think about helping?

(I was also engaged at this time to tutor a teenager in coding in Python. She was attending a school in London but I knew her family was from Kazakhstan. It turned out when we set up the Zoom sessions that she wasn’t in London, as I had thought, but Almaty. The technology worked that well! That also led me to learn, as a rookie fox, despite my hedgehog tendencies, that Kazakhstan was the biggest landlocked country of them all, by area. And of the others in the top ten. See the graphic at the top of the post.)

It was in that context of the humanitarian disaster that had befallen Afghanistan, and that context alone, that I referred to some of our concerns as climate sceptics as nitpicking in August. All respect to those that have paid the reputational price for this genuine concern for truth. And a very happy new year to all.

via Climate Scepticism

December 31, 2021 at 05:44PM

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