« Like the great moral catastrophes of the twentieth century, the major catastrophe that bars our horizon will be less the result of men’s malignancy, or even their stupidity, than of their absence of thought. »Jean-Pierre Dupuy(1)
This was to be expected. On the eve of COP 21, the climate skeptics(2) tried to make their voices heard again, fortunately with less efficiency than during the previous COP. However, to call them that is a disservice to skepticism, which in itself is a testament to a healthy critical mind. But since the expression is well established, let’s use it. With these people, it’s something else. In the best of cases, of a scepticism of bad temper — « It is not serious to doubt in certain cases », said Wittgenstein; or a form of denial that » consists in the individual taking advantage of his ability to deny the truth, even if the society of which he is a part suffers as a result ».(3)or worse, it is simply intellectual dishonesty. All of them swear that their contradictory research is conducted sincerely and not biased by the powers that be (political, economic, financial). With George Orwell, let us remind them that truth is « something that exists outside of us, something that is to be discovered, not something that can be manufactured according to the needs of the moment « (4). Who did we hear speaking in the media at that time? The soon to be octogenarian Claude Allègre and his colleague Vincent Courtillot, heralds of the first hour, seem to have handed over to new apprentices who are just as motivated and virulent, but who are not climate scientists either (see below). In order to be more effective, the climate skeptics have refined and diversified the angles of attack and allow themselves all the twists and turns. The ultras, like Christian Gérondeau, question the very reality of global warming. But as we live in a democracy, we can’t prevent anyone from continuing to believe and say that the Earth is flat… Others recognize the reality of global warming, but deny or minimize the anthropogenic aspect and attribute it to solar activity. So what? We will answer that it would not change much to the case, insofar as humanity will take anyway the numerous disruptions of the climate in the face. It is interesting to note that the skeptical prurience comes from presumably narcissistic individuals who present themselves as independent of the powers that be, coming from both the right (liberal or extreme) and the third-world left. The first accuse the media and the IPCC of fomenting a plot against the economic interests of companies; the second accuse Capital, through its IPCC tool, of fomenting a plot to thwart the access of the peoples of the South to development and consumption. The « don’t touch my business » is next to the « don’t touch my (future) car ». All these interests should obviously not be curtailed for any reason, even the survival of humanity. Hubris - the ancient Greek word for excess — still has a long way to go.
On October 6, 2015, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a prominent member of the Les Républicains (ex-UMP) party, had called climate skeptics « assholes » on Canal+‘s Grand Journal. Two weeks later, she bravely reiterated on BFM TV. For a right-wing politician, her gesture deserves to be saluted by the ecologists. But his frankness had incensed one of our worst polemicists, the philosopher and jurist Drieu Godefridi, member of the very liberal Hayek Institute(5). Rather than discussing global warming itself, he castigates the IPCC, which he accuses of distorting the scientific process and attempting to put politics under the tutelage of science. According to him, « tens of thousands of scientists around the world question the scientificity of the IPCC reports ». Really? Where are they? The confused philosopher would have « demonstrated that the IPCC is a political organization through and through »(6). He should read one of his predecessors, Hans Jonas, who had perfectly assessed the issue: » The philosophy [Editor’s note: so the policy] can only approach its new mission by keeping the closest contact with the natural sciences, because they tell us what is the corporeal world with which our spirit must conclude a new peace(7) « . The IPCC is primarily a scientific organization (in groups 1 and 2) that also makes policy recommendations to decision-makers (in group 3), and that is fine. Mr. Godefridi also tells us that the UN agency is committed to degrowth. If only it were true, if God could be almighty! He adds that degrowth is an « ultra-minority and genuinely anti-humanist ideology ». The decreasers have nothing against humanism, except when it is equated with prometheism, the total domination of man over nature. We therefore ask the Hayekian sophist to reconsider his copy and to reflect, for example, on the Jonasian notion of « bio-centric humanism ».
Parity obliges, let’s move on to Anne de Marcillac, the new climatosceptic muse and obscure agronomist in search of distinction, who had also fallen on the saddle of poor NKM(8). Unlike Mr. Godefridi, she does not discredit the work of the IPCC too much, even citing it in some places. But, like him, his first tactic is to claim that climate skeptics are « a lot of people »… when in fact they are in the minority. Like those politicians who jump for joy when they announce that unemployment fell by 0.2% last quarter, Ms. de Marcillac is delighted that temperatures have been stagnant since 1989. Phew, we are saved! Based on this misinformation, she naturally concludes that » there is no danger in the house, as far as the climate is concerned ». Here is the unrealistic optimism that nevertheless appeals to the » rationality » that should be applied to a » still young science « . Moreover, our agronomist is fond of economics: « What would be fundamentally dishonest, even irresponsible, would be to continue along this path as if nothing had happened, given the economic consequences of such an approach. It had to be said right away: the economy first, then humanity and nature, and so much the worse for the precautionary principle, which is minimal and unsuited to the issues at stake, but still too restrictive in his eyes(9). And of course, one guesses that dishonesty and irresponsibility are to be found among environmentalists, climate scientists or politicians, but not among entrepreneurs.
How can you hold your position in the face of these repeated attacks? Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s theory of » enlightened catastrophism » helps us to do this(10). To hold the absolute catastrophe for certain is paradoxically what could keep it away from us. Conversely, repressing or denying it is the surest way for it to happen. But we have a problem with our beliefs. We do not believe what we know from scientific research (thanks to the IPCC, among others). However, « our climate future, and therefore our future in general, depends at least as much on the cognitive mechanisms of belief formation as on the physico-chemical laws that govern hydrological or upper atmospheric phenomena »(11). Dupuy adds that our incapacity to think is structural and that we are wrong to rely on technology to remedy the irreversible processes (on a human scale) that it has triggered in nature. What can we learn from this in our case? Although the work of the IPCC, because it is scientific, is subject to discussion or refutation, we must a priori take it as true in order to try to stop the infernal megamachine. Jonas said that it is always better, as a matter of prudence, to give preference to pessimistic hypotheses. Although more tolerated than the Type I error (holding as true what is false), the Type II error (holding as false what is true) is an equally serious conceptual error, which can have disastrous practical consequences. For this reason, it is more than a mistake: it is a fault. A half-truth can sometimes be useful to get us out of a bad situation, even if the feared misfortune did not occur. This is pragmatism. Tactically, Cassandra is always right.
- Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Petite métaphysique des tsunamis, éd. du Seuil, 2005, p. 102.
- Qu’il vaudrait mieux, dans certains cas, appeler « négationnistes du climat ». Cf. note suivante.
- Florence Leray, Le négationnisme du réchauffement climatique en question, éd. Golias, 2011, p. 50.
- Emmanuel Roux, George Orwell, la politique de l’écrivain, éd. Michalon, 2015, p. 59.
- http://www.lalibre.be/debats/opinions/non-nkm-les-climato-sceptiques-ne-sont-pas-des- connards-5614ca8335700fb92f7fa150.
- Quel rôle M. Godefridi tolère-t-il finalement pour la science et la politique ? Il me semblait, quand on est hayekien comme lui, que ni l’une ni l’autre ne devait venir perturber l’ordre spontané du marché (ou catallaxie)…
- Hans Jonas, Pour une éthique du futur, éd. Rivages Poche, 1998, p. 53.
- http://www.latribune.fr/opinions/tribunes/lettre- ouverte-des-connards-de-climatosceptiques-a- madame-kosciusko-morizet-514237.html.
- « Comme le sacré avant elle, l’économie est en train de perdre aujourd’hui sa capacité de produire des règles qui la limitent », in Jean-Pierre Dupuy, L’avenir de l’économie, éd. Flammarion, 2012, p. 61.
- Cf. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Pour un catastrophisme éclairé. Quand l’impossible est certain, éd. du Seuil, 2002.
- Ibidem, p. 117.