Climate Change and the Is/Ought Problem


In the 18th century David Hume posited the Is/Ought problem. Hume said there’s no connexion between something being the case and an action. That someone is drowning isn’t a reason in itself for attempting a rescue. If a rescue is attempted then it is for other reasons, which are separate to the fact of drowning. It might be thought that the only right thing to do, for a fellow human being, is to attempt a rescue. There might even be a sense of reciprocity at work: If I were drowning then I’d hope that someone would attempt to rescue me. Therefore:-

(1) Climate change is making the climate worse, and

(2) Something ought to be done to reduce carbon emissions

aren’t logically linked. Climate change activists assume it’s self-evidently true that emissions should be reduced because the climate is being damaged.


Climate change activists propose a global response to constantly rising carbon emissions, hoping to avoid a catastrophe. They prophecy climate change is a change for the worse. Whether change will be worse is an untestable value judgement. The counter-proposal that climate change is a change for the better is also untestable. There’s no possible resolution between these incompatible positions as both value judgements are held without evidence. There is overwhelming belief in the theory that climate change is a change for the worse. That a there’s a majority doesn’t add to its validity as an argument.

Climate change activists believe there will be a dystopian future. Activists say, ‘Life will be impossible’ subsequent to climatic change. Taken literally, this means an uninhabitable earth with humanity eliminated in an act of collective suicide. This apocalyptic scenario is implausible because there’s sufficient wealth, ingenuity and desire to avoid the slowly evolving cataclysm.

Suppose there are future unborn generations. Why should I sacrifice anything for unknowable people in the distant future?

Climate activists are demanding global society act altruistically by investing resources for the benefit of future generations. Unborn generations don’t have a right to demand* sacrifices and they haven’t appointed delegates either. Climate change activists can’t know today’s sacrifices aren’t a mistake and unborn generations needed more climate change. Human effects on the world are a fact but we don’t know whether they’re benign or not. We don’t know because the future is unknowable. We can only say that change means things will be different. That a change means things are different is trite but is the limit of the evidence base.

Climate change activists see norms being shattered and say, ‘Life will be impossible’. What they mean is current life models might impossible. This is a conservative viewpoint. To claim, ‘Life will be impossible’ is Liebnizian. He postulated that his world was ‘The best of all possible worlds’ (see addendum) and climate activists have a desire to continue our world because they feel positively towards it. They may even believe it’s perfect. A dose of Voltaire (see addendum) would cure that belief.

The ‘evidence’ activists use is evocative. Starving polar bears, flooded cities, savage droughts, storm damage and so on. Worse: people starving after crop failure for whatever reason. This is extrapolated forward as if it was evidence of systemic failure. Let’s suppose it is. In the aeons of time unfolding it might be that these events are seen as trivially contingent and unimportant. Let’s suppose that they’re real and important. And that that is the world they’ve inherited. So what?

Current generations can chose, or not, to rectify the damage (if it is damage) that’s been caused by a fossil fuel based society. We don’t know how unborn generations will live, or what they will need to live, or even if there will be any unborn generations. We do know that we can mitigate what is considered, by a majority of educated opinion, to be a disaster. Only unborn generations will know whether climate change is a disaster. In the meantime we make a Leap of Faith which reflects our belief in a continuing world and try to mitigate the changes our use of fossil fuels is causing.


Leibniz (d. 1716) formulated the concept ‘The best of all possible worlds’ in his attempt to prove that God created a perfect earth. Voltaire (d. 1778) satirised Leibniz with his character Dr Pangloss who resolutely ignored hideous events in his maintenance of the concept.


* How can they demand anything: they’re unborn.


For the Is/Ought problem see

For the cost of mitigation of climate change see This is only for the UK

For Leibniz see especially 7.1.1

For Voltaire’s Dr Pangloss see

For the possibility that there will be no world for unborn generations to live in see Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979) A wonderful SciFi comic novel

For a Leap of Faith see

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Boris Johnson meets Monty Python

Just when everyone thought satire was dead the UK’s morbidly obese Prime Minster decided to lead an anti-obesity campaign. It had taken a near-death Covid-19 experience to convince him that being morbidly obese was unhealthy. A quick learner with an eye for detail!

I thought that if he’s into satire he might like the Four Yorkshiremen sketch by Monty Python to provide him with more ideas. Perhaps how hard it was to be brought up in a world of privilege by his multi-millionaire parents?

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Book Review: Ted Lewis ~ GBH (1980)

Until I’d read this book I hadn’t appreciated how tame police procedurals novels are. The maverick Detective Inspector heroically cuts corners. There’s always a common-sense explanation, which everyone except the bureaucratic Assistant Chief Constable accepts. He’s standing in the way of real policing. The DI is a Goodie. A A Dhand’s principal character, Harry Virdee, has moral ambiguity, which is charming, but ultimately there’s a whiff of righteousness hanging in Bradford’s air.

Ted Lewis is a c rime write who invented Brit Noir.* He doesn’t do nice. If you buy his book you’re getting blood soaked crime hence the unambiguous title – GBH. You enter a world of extreme violence executed with ruthless efficiency: sadistic ruthless efficiency.

Mr Fowler’ is how we first meet George Fowler. He and his wife, with principal accomplice Mickey Brice, torture a man in the living room of an associate. A living room! A truly horrible touch by Lewis. From then on we see Fowler’s descent into alcohol and violence fuelled insanity. He enjoys violence too much, which clouds his judgement. His associates see he’s a liability and plan to do the obvious thing. He escapes to Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire and the parallel story.

Lewis’ s GBH is two novels woven together. The first is of a sadistic killer and the second is a man desperate to carry on living. Chapters are interwoven, which makes for an interesting read. This review offers a blatant health warning but if you still fancy it it’s an excellent read.

* The film Get Carter was based on one of Lewis’s books.

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People are so untrusting

People are so untrusting aren’t they?

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A cunning sales manager

My sales manager pulled up in a new Tesla Model S and I complimented him on it. 

He said, “Well, if you set goals, you’re determined, and you work really hard and put in long hours, I can trade up to a Model D next year.

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Sir Philip Magnus School: The 1950s weekly games lessons appraised

I’ve written how I truly hated the weekly sports lessons on a previous occasion.* Summer was bad enough, with cricket and its incomprehensible rules. Winter was worse. Every week I waited, for the coach to turn up. Often I stood in drizzling rain, snow or freezing wind, which was no obstacle to “The Polly Boys”. The hour it took to get to Friern Barnet could have been bearable, except for my other class mates. How could they possibly enthuse about football, for so long, was a mystery to me. The banal chatter was sheer torture, especially, if they’d actually been to a match the previous Saturday at Tottenham or Arsenal. Then of course, the whole coach were treated to a minute by minute replay of those historical events.

My mate Brian felt the same as me about Wednesday’s torture and said so. His comments weren’t appreciated. Brian was a big lad and known for his ability to fight and to actually seek out confrontation. So he was left alone. When players names were dropped into the conversation, as though they were personally known, Brian got really irritated. Once a footballer called Charlton was mentioned, linked to something called “dribbling the ball”. Not thinking, I confused ‘Charlton’ with a famous film star. I said, “I bet he dribbled on Tony Curtis, when hanging upside down when they made the film Trapeze”. Brian thought it was funny and repeated it loudly. Mixing up ‘Charlton’ with ‘Charlton Heston’ wasn’t appreciated.

Worse the teacher in charge was deranged. Not a big man he enthused and interrupted any conversation with gusto, as if he’d also attended the game. Except for Brian and me everyone seemed to know everything about the players and the rules. A huge amount of inconsequential detail was spouted, which was absolutely boring and trivial. The teacher attended the weekly sessions dressed like a sportsman. He couldn’t get to the destination quick enough.

Once the coach was parked, he ran straight to the changing rooms. Shouting at us, “To follow him” and stop wasting time. He constantly reminded us how precious it was to get out on the field and enjoy ourselves. He was the epitome of a man devoted to and infatuated with sport. I know he would chunter on for hours about his obsession to anyone gullible enough to encourage him. There’s no doubt he was fit as he was well past forty. How he managed to run the length of a football pitch, time and time again, whilst blowing his whistle and shouting at boys was a memorable.

It really is quite a pity that I never liked or respected that teacher. He was hapless and was paid to teach geography, but his heart was elsewhere, usually on a cold, wet, muddy, patch of soil in north London.


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Three Countries: One Story

Apartheid – South Africa

Naziism – Germany

Non-Jews only

Segregation – USA

Separate facilities for black-Americans

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Book Review: James Hawes ~ My Little Armalite (2008)

I wrongly believed that this would stand in the tradition of Tom Sharpe and so looked forward to slap-stick humour. It isn’t Sharpe it’s a biting satire with lots of black humour.

John Goode is a 45 year old university lecturer in German studies at UCL – a prestigious university of London college. It’s prestigious but doesn’t pay very well. He bitterly resents this betrayal, as he sees it. An over-whelming sense of entitlement makes him rage against the world with rants against chavs, estate agents, the media and the cruelty of academic competition. He aspires to be a member of the bourgeoisie but knows it’s a remote possibility.

In a rare but glorious Tom Sharpe moment he finds an Armalite gun. This empowers him. Instead of being a rabbit with a huge mortgage and panic attacks about the schooling of his children he becomes a warrior. Like all good warriors he emerges wounded and triumphant. He hangs on to his liberal beliefs and is still more-or-less the same man. Richer, living in a better neighbourhood without a mortgage ‘a media tart’ and still working in a university department but the same man.

A pacey read which offers some lovely zeitgeist moments of middle-class hatred.

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On a Summer day

Almost forgotten pleasures of feeling
Sand squelching, between my toes
The sound of sea rolling, to its
Ebb and flow, of ceaseless time.

That one moment, to remember
A holiday of happiness, with family
Bright sunshine, the beach hut
On the concrete esplanade at the base of the cliff.

At the end of the mock Tudor huts
The beach shop, ice creams to beach balls
Dad took a penny, from his pocket
Scratched a small cross on the concrete.

He placed the penny five foot from each of us.
“With this tennis ball, if you hit the penny
Is yours, If I hit it, it remains mine”
For a long time, we threw that ball.

Time and again, that penny went down
Shirts off, we played, until late
Camomile lotion soothed the burning
That night, before sleep slipped in.

Staying in Aunty Madge’s house
Whilst they went to France

The days past, in wonder
A bedroom each, I was in the box room.

The wooden Ottoman held treasure
Their son, then at Cambridge, hoarded
Underneath wardrobe clothes was a shot-gun,
My brothers were jealous, when I showed them.

Last week in June the first in July
Absent from school, that year was precious to unfold
Outings to the Kent countryside
In the hired car with leather seats.

Those dear people are all dead now
I’m the only one left, but still remember
A simple walk on that sandy beach
When life was so simple, my soul sang.



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A Labrador applies for a job at the FBI

A Labrador responded to an FBI advert.

Well,” said the personnel director, “you’ll have to meet some strict requirements. First, you must type at least 60 words per minute.”

No problem.”

Also, you must pass a physical and complete the obstacle course.”

The Labrador finished the course in record time.

There’s one last requirement, you must be bilingual.”


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