Jonathan Cook’s “Rebuttal” of My Rebuttal

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The debate over the folly of climate alarmism vs climate change denial rages on, as Rusere Shoniwa counters Cook’s response to his previous criticism of Cook’s promotion of the anthropogenic climate catastrophe narrative. Originally published at A Plague on Both Houses.

Jonathan Cook has “replied” to my rebuttal of his climate alarmism. With the charming condescension of a mainstream progressive, he referred to me as “someone on Substack”, which I suppose is a significant upgrade from being “full of hot air”, so I am delighted with this elevation in his esteem.

Life is too short and generalities are much nicer than specifics

He began by saying that he wasn’t even going to try to address the specifics of my critique of his original piece. A quick reminder of those specifics. In his original piece, Cook claimed that the science was so settled that the entire planet should have been marching in lockstep with the IPPC by the early 1990s. I provided arguments by dissenting scientists that challenge the assertion that the science is settled and that there is a consensus. I argued that a real consensus did not exist but that a fake consensus has been constructed.

I challenged Jonathan Cook on his assertion that scientists have known since the 1950s that global warming was the big climate issue by highlighting how the climate science community became collectively possessed by the spirit of global cooling in the 70s.

I summarised good faith positions of dissenting experts who are not convinced that there is a correlation over time between global temperature and greenhouse gas concentrations to enable a conclusion that the contribution from humans amounts to a climate crisis. In light of that contention, I pointed out the irrelevance of accurate predictions of CO2 levels insofar as those predictions can be used to point to human activity as the prime driver of global temperature changes. Using the papers of credible dissenting scientists, I challenged Cook on his assertion that climate scientists have done a wonderful job of predicting real-world outcomes based on their theories and models.

Jonathan Cook made it clear that he wasn’t going to “get into the weeds” of all of that because “life is too short”. Instead he opted to make “a few general points” about why my critique “should not be taken seriously”. In other words, he told his readers to forget about the specifics of my critique; he wanted to focus on generalities.

He claimed that I had muddied the waters of his argument, which he reiterated as follows:

“…my central argument is that the current orthodoxy is designed to deceive us and make us do nothing to avert the climate crisis. Very belatedly, the BBC, along with politicians and the corporations, concedes that the climate crisis is real and we therefore need to invest in lots of new expensive technologies that are supposedly going to save us. I argue that the climate crisis is real and that the new technologies being so aggressively promoted are mostly not going to help, and that instead the climate-crisis discourse is being weaponised to make Big Oil and other corporations even richer, while nothing effective is actually done.” [emphasis added]

I did point out in my critique that, while Cook was correct to conclude Net Zero was a scam, he didn’t really appreciate why. I asserted that the promotion of a climate-crisis narrative not backed by science amounted to playing into the hands of global capital – the scale of whose ambitions in hijacking that narrative may not be fully appreciated by the likes of Cook. Suffice to say, I do not believe that I muddied the waters of his argument. In fact, Cook is now muddying the waters of his own argument, and here’s why.

The distinction he makes is neither here nor there in the context of my central challenge. Both he and establishment power structures are in agreement that there is a climate crisis when in fact that notion is hotly (!) contested. The fact that he disagrees with the course of action being taken to address the alleged crisis does not detract from the fact that, if there is no scientific consensus over the legitimacy of a climate crisis, neither his course of action nor anyone else’s is legitimate. Promoting a ‘climate crisis’ narrative in the absence of sufficient scientific evidence and then advocating for massive policy shifts is simply dangerous. Cook didn’t elaborate on the solutions that he would like to see in place but, for all we know, they may be far worse than the Net Zero agenda.

His main concern is that “the climate-crisis discourse is being weaponised to make Big Oil and other corporations even richer, while nothing effective is actually done.” Again, whether or not Cook thinks the powers that be are doing a bad job of managing the “climate crisis” is irrelevant. I am questioning whether it is sensible to uncritically embrace any narrative that there is a climate crisis and, on that point, Cook said nothing to unsettle my position. I take issue with the unscientific approach of seizing the reins of one side of a scientific debate in order to advance a narrative that appeals to an ideology of transformative societal change. And, I should add, this desired change — insofar as it is based on ‘decarbonisation’ and Net Zero agendas — is designed to simply boost existing power systems, not address or reverse ecological destruction.

The fact that global capital has outsmarted the regressive ‘progressives’ by weaponising the climate-crisis discourse to get even richer is the inevitable consequence of treating science as a childish consensus game rather than a dispassionate, iterative discourse that embraces uncertainty and welcomes all credible views. As I warned, Cook and his ilk were always playing into the hands of Machiavellian forces infinitely more wily and powerful than they are.

I also tried to emphasise the true scale of global capital’s ambition in hijacking this narrative, which is something Cook appears not to have grasped. It isn’t just to get richer, although that is part of the grand plan. They’ve set their sights on putting a price on Mother Nature, the very thing Cook wants to save, and then owning it lock, stock and barrel. If there is no climate crisis, then whoever is uncritically promoting the narrative is complicit in this heist. I will say a little more about how the ‘progressive’ left came to be an ally of crony capitalism a little later. The fact that most of them don’t know it doesn’t change that fact. It just confirms how thoroughly duped they are.

Cook went on to assert that I had failed to address “two tracks of history” that he regarded “as important evidence to make [his] case:

The first track of history Cook claims I ignored was that “the scientific principles behind global warming were understood very well back in at least the 1950s.” He goes on to say that the scientists “were soon able to make precise predictions – in secret, of course – about how much carbon would be pumped into the atmosphere and what effect that would have on global temperatures decades before those effects took place.” [emphasis added]

Any concerns that these predictions were made in secret? Don’t be silly! Of course this was done in secret! That’s how transparent scientific debate, the type you can absolutely rely on, is conducted. If it had been done out in the open, you’d have to be highly suspicious.

In any event, readers who engaged with my rebuttal will know that I did address this track of history very directly by citing evidence that the scientific community reversed course in the 70s into global cooling before reversing out again into global warming. I said that this strongly suggests that the principles weren’t so well understood over the time frame that Cook alleges they were. On the contrary, it suggests they were somewhat confused. I also pointed to evidence that not only might the carbon predictions be meaningless if man-made greenhouse gas emissions aren’t conclusively the dominant contributor to global warming, as many climate scientists contend, but that the scientists had also been consistently wildly out in their predictions about what those predicted carbon levels would do to global temperatures. I cited a tracker of their predictions compared with actual outcomes, which were off by grand orders of magnitude. I also cited the Happer-Lindzen paper, which in turn cited the work of John Christy, Ph.D., Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama, who applied the scientific method to 102 predictions of temperatures from 1979 to 2016 by models from 32 institutions and found that 101 of the 102 predictions by the models failed miserably to predict reality.

So Cook’s accusation that I failed to address his first track of history is not true.

The second track of history that Cook says I failed to address relates to how the fossil fuel industry, media and governments concealed the ‘evidence’ of a looming climate crisis for as long as they could and then climbed on board the climate catastrophe gravy train, but only to pay lip service to it.

Under the arguments I made, that track of history is a given and supports what I spent a lot of words trying to explain. To repeat: the most senior people in those institutions (the ones who direct policy) are only paying lip service to the climate-crisis narrative because they don’t believe it. That is the explicit meaning of the expression: to pay lip service. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – they are taking Cook and his followers for a ride. They are saying, “You want a narrative? We’ll give you one, and then some!”

He says that I’m offering “boilerplate climate scepticism”. He’s welcome to attach any label he wishes to climate scepticism, and I’m not in the slightest bit offended by the “boilerplate” label. As a layperson, I’m airing the views of good-faith dissenting scientists and asking Cook how he can be so certain that they should be dismissed. All I’m saying is: there are a bunch of climate scientists who say there is a climate crisis and there are a bunch of scientists who say there isn’t one. And the latter group isn’t getting a fair hearing. Given that there are credible dissenting arguments opposing the certitude of climate alarmism, it is your duty as a rational layperson to be sceptical, so my scepticism will never be a source of embarrassment for me. On the contrary, Cook’s certitude is anti-scientific and anti-intellectual. Worse still, it’s a position he’s proud of and he reinforced it at the beginning of his reply when linking to my rebuttal by stating that he was “loathe…to promote climate scepticism”.

Ideological contamination and ad hominem

Cook claims it’s telling that I rely “on figures like Dr Judith Curry who are quite open about their ideological opposition to climate activism.” I am not relying on Judith Curry; I cited her as an example, and I cited others too, like Dr John Clauser, last year’s Nobel Physics laureate. If he was so determined to generalise from the particular, why didn’t he pick him? What about all the other scientists who don’t subscribe to the climate-crisis narrative? Are they all in the Judith Curry school of ideology?

I await evidence from Cook that the IPCC camp of climate scientists don’t have an ideological bone in their bodies. The fact of the matter is that the IPCC itself is not a scientific organisation because it doesn’t engage in scepticism of its theories. It therefore eschews the scientific method that governs all science. It is a political organisation specifically set up to convince people that man-made CO2 is the primary driver of global warming and is therefore, by definition, ideological and not scientific.

Developing his theme of ideological contamination of climate sceptics, he turned to my Twitter profile. Seizing on my profile declaration that “there is no ‘greater good’ than personal liberty”, Cook exclaimed triumphantly that “It’s not even as though he is hiding his priorities.” I envy the satisfaction he derived from thinking he can settle a complicated debate by extracting eight words from my Twitter profile and concluding that was the entire basis of my position. But then, having decided not to “get into the weeds of my argument”, and instead opting to make “a few general points” about why my critique “should not be taken seriously”, what else could Cook do other than rummage through my social media profile like a desperate vagrant in search of his next meal?

So Cook used this morsel to make the point that climate sceptics “don’t like the implications of a climate crisis because it disrupts their political value system” and that the climate is merely responding to carbon cycles “independently of any of their or my belief systems”. And if I were inclined to scrape the barrel by resorting to Cook’s method of argument, I would simply say that climate-crisis promoters “don’t like the implications of the absence of a climate crisis because it disrupts their political value system” and that the climate is merely responding to myriad complex forces of nature “independently of any of their belief systems”.

I have no doubt that the climate doesn’t care about humanity’s belief system, but pointing that out is a smokescreen, and a pathetic one at that, to avoid addressing the simple point I made – how do we resolve the dispute between scientists about a point that Cook pretends is not in dispute, namely whether the climate is responding to current levels of man-made carbon emissions in a way that creates an existential threat to humanity?

Cook’s precautionary principle trumps rational scientific assessments

Cook falsely claims that I and other sceptics demand “that we wait and see how things unfold”. He then articulates a common but highly ignorant and dangerous notion of managing risk in which he posits that “even if you imagine there is some room for doubt, you should still be pushing hard for things to be done to minimise climate change and related ecological catastrophes if only on the precautionary principle”. [emphasis added]. So let’s deal with this.

First, the “wait-and-see” accusation is both false and irrelevant because it is intended to obfuscate the point I wanted to stress – it would be incredibly foolish to incur huge costs to avoid a crisis without sufficient scientific evidence for the existence of the crisis. The precautionary principle does not come without a price tag, and this is what Cook is trying to sweep away. You simply do not incur costs to avoid a crisis until you have compared those costs with the cost of the risk you are seeking to avoid. The methods for doing that are scientific, and they involve probability assessments of both sides of the equation. The sweeping application of the precautionary principle is the product of an asinine, bloated, bureaucracy-infested professional managerial class whose primary purpose is to justify its existence by manufacturing and then exaggerating risks to manage.

The costs involved in averting a ‘climate crisis’ are colossal. They involve choking the economies of the entire world. Depriving all economies, but especially poorer economies, of cheap energy and fertilisers that enhance crop productivity raises the very real prospect of killing millions of people already below the poverty line. How can any sane person be content with that horrific prospect, especially when the risk being avoided – the climate crisis – is not based on a ‘settled’ scientific proposition? I would never advocate for that position even if the ‘climate crisis’ were ‘settled science’, partly because ‘settled science’ is an oxymoron, but mainly because it can never be acceptable to kill one group of people in the expectation that you might save another group, now or in the future. That’s the alibi that has been used by every evil tyrant since the dawn of time, and it appears to be the stock-in-trade of ‘progressives’.

The necessary precursor to achieving grand projects such as ‘saving the planet’ is civilising the human race; but those ‘progressives’ blithely calling for choking human life in the name of unproven theories are testimony to nothing but human barbarism. Bear in mind Cook hasn’t outlined the magic solutions he has for simultaneously drastically reducing hydrocarbon usage while ensuring that people in poor economies are lifted out of poverty or at least don’t do worse. And there’s a very simple reason for that – he doesn’t give a flying fiddle for those people. He’s wedded to an ideology of ‘saving the planet’, and to hell with the collateral damage – human lives.

Cook added an update to his reply by inserting some thoughts on uncertainty, which he claims upend the risk management principles I articulated above. They do nothing of the kind because his theory presupposes that there is no or very little uncertainty about where we are on the man-made climate change trajectory. Again, everything he advances is predicated on this unscientific certitude. Cook reasserts: “the broad range of probability is that we are in serious trouble and that time is not on our side”. The expression “broad range of probability” is a nonsense because if the probability is within a broad range, it does not have sufficient precision to be used for forecasting. Put another way, saying that “the broad range of probability is that we are in serious trouble” is the same as saying “we don’t know if we’re in serious trouble”, because the probability of being in trouble is within a broad range!

His penultimate paragraph reinforces baseless certitude, and even more stunningly, includes a declaration that this certitude does not depend primarily on evidence:

“We need to stress too that conclusions about our direction of travel are not uncertain – and do not depend primarily on evidence” [emphasis added]

To conclude this section, I want to emphasise a point I made in my original rebuttal about the ‘progressive’ left being completely aligned with global capitalism. I am now drawing on an excellent essay by Dr Phil Bevan writing in UK Column:

“The revelation that climate activists are inadvertently pushing solutions with genocide-equivalent outcomes may shock some people, but it is entirely consistent with the origins and crony capitalist-driven history of the climate activist movement”.

To understand this history, please read that essay. It is a history in which climate activism and other social justice causes can be identified as a product of an NGO-intelligence complex. The exquisite irony, as explained by Bevin, is that “groups rooted in and arising from the NGO-intelligence complex wind up interpreting facts according to biases that happen to legitimise the agenda of empire and may pave the way for potentially ‘genocidal’ outcomes”. Hence, progressives seeking socialism through “the NGO-intelligence complex are unlikely to be successful in anything other than accommodating leftists to imperialist policies and practice.”

Yes, no, maybe, I don′t know…can you repeat the question?

Oddly, Cook’s final paragraph admits doubt, albeit strictly hypothetical. It’s worth analysis:

“Even were there no scientific data yet showing an impending climate crisis, even were there no real-world evidence that “normal” weather is breaking down – and there are both – it would still be clear that our actions are driving us towards a climate catastrophe. Why? Because our societies are committed by every parameter to endless growth – especially in terms of resource extraction and economic expansion – that conflicts in its very essence with a bounded, finite eco-system that has taken billions of years to find the delicate balance necessary to support us, a highly conscious life form.” [emphasis added]

Up until this point, Cook was oozing certainty with statements like: “things are unfolding as the climate experts warned they would”. But in this final paragraph, he introduces a purely hypothetical scenario in which the evidence for a trend supporting an imminent climate crisis does not exist. It looks like the light of scepticism entering through the tiny interstices of an otherwise certain mind. And what does he do with this scepticism? He shuts it out by saying it doesn’t matter because the catastrophe will happen anyway; just you wait and see!

By introducing the prospect of the absence of empirical evidence for a trend that demonstrates imminent climate collapse, he also unwittingly introduces the corollary to that – if you are being rational about that prospect, you shouldn’t advocate for massive, potentially hugely destructive policy shifts to deal with something that may not happen. But we know Cook doesn’t do rational science because in his world, a rational scientific approach is always trumped by the precautionary principle, which says: if something really bad could happen, you have to do something commensurate with the worst possible outcome that could crystallise under the risk you have conjured.

The other interesting thing about this paragraph is that although Cook remains completely wedded to a climate catastrophe, the precise cause is no longer clear. Is this CO2-driven climate catastrophe or is it an endless resource-extraction economic model colliding with a finite ecosystem? What I see here is a confusing elision of the CO2 monster with impending ecological disaster caused by our rapacious economic model. This conflation of CO2 and more general ecological catastrophe is more explicit in earlier sections of his reply:

“…it’s not even as though the climate crisis exists as a one-off…We have ecological collapse beginning on every front…What we truly need is an urgent debate about how the climate crisis fits into a much more general, even more terrifying, planet-wide ecological system collapse provoked by humans.” [emphasis added]

I’ll discuss the climate activists’ conjuring of terror, its purpose and origins in the last section of this essay. Suffice to say that Cook’s final paragraph of his reply is the pinnacle of his unstructured thinking about the ‘climate crisis’, and it confirms my suspicions of an ideological desire to put a stake through the heart of Big Oil and capitalism — irrespective of the costs to the poorest in society — by weaponising a narrative. If that narrative should run out of steam, no matter; there’s always another one. What Cook really wants you to know is that the end of the world is nigh and humans are the problem. Which leaves me wondering: what is Cook’s solution to the problem?

On the specific point of ecological disaster caused by our recklessness with the environment, I am inclined to agree with him! I have never denied the prospect of an ecological disaster, and I explicitly said so in my rebuttal piece. Nevertheless, Cook’s final paragraph, which guarantees climate catastrophe regardless of whether he’s right or wrong about the data, does not minimise the bankruptcy of his arguments about a CO2-driven climate crisis. It emphasises it. A valid concern about ecological disaster does not excuse the unscientific deployment of a climate-crisis narrative to stick it to The Man. I have no problem with sticking it to The Man. I actually believe I am more serious about that than Cook will ever be. But the ends do not justify the means. It isn’t acceptable to do the wrong thing for the right reason.

Proof of that is the seizure by global capital of the narrative, which is already having horrendous consequences. Aside from plans to enslave us in a digital, energy-rationed gulag, which Cook doesn’t seem to mind, we’ve now got global capital digging up 225 tonnes of earth to make one electric vehicle battery – doing nothing to limit the carbon emissions he unequivocally claims are the root of all evil while exacerbating the ecological disaster that we both agree on.

Defining the problem and its source is essential to solving it, and I see Cook’s final paragraph as an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility to correctly do so. Is it possible that Cook and his ilk have spent decades trying to define the contours of a fake problem in order to overthrow the capitalist system? And in so doing, have they facilitated the hijacking of this fake problem at the expense of devoting imagination and resources to solving the very real and far more easily definable problem of environmental stewardship, one that all of humanity would happily agree needs solving?

In any event, notwithstanding my agreement with him about humanity’s gross dereliction of environmental stewardship, I am not filled with the same sense of unavoidable doom as Cook. I don’t share his cataclysmic millenarian mindset because I refuse to join a death cult. If you go around propagating a narrative that we are inches away from a terrifying “planet-wide ecological system collapse” and that humans are the problem, then you are implicitly signing up to a death cult.

The religious certainty he exhibits about the trajectory of the ecological disaster is the same certainty he expresses about the climate crisis. But neither matters are ‘settled science’. Being realistic about a problem and realising the magnitude of it does not have to result in resigning oneself to cataclysmic millenarianism. This dark, apocalyptic ending is fed by certainty – a pessimistic certainty that shuts out the light. I am not certain about the Thermo-Ecogeddon Cook posits is nigh, but I do know we need to effect radical changes to environmental stewardship. I’m sceptical about paralysing, fear-driven, end-is-nigh narratives, and my distaste for doom-laden panic creates space for a more realistic assessment of the risks, and the positivity necessary for action.   

The climate activist and ‘progressive’ mindset

I’ll conclude by returning to Cook’s perverse delight in exposing me as an evil liberty-lover because it reveals far more than just a pathetic ad hominem stab. It shines a light on a dark mindset that Cook believes is totally free from ideological contamination but which I think is driven by pure ideology, bereft as it is of rational discipline.  

Cook’s objective in highlighting my love of liberty was to expose me as an ideologue who refuses to embrace his climate-crisis narrative because it conflicts with “personal ideological preferences”. However, individual liberty is a fundamental moral principle that is supposed to underpin Western democracy. The encoding of human rights into law was a momentous step to support the rights of the individual to liberty. Human rights and the individual liberty they are designed to protect don’t fit into an ideological framework. They are basic principles necessary for human consciousness to flourish. That Cook does not understand this is testimony to his own level of consciousness.

I refer to the climate-activist mindset as ‘dark’ because it consistently weaponises fear to galvanise action towards transformative social upheaval in the service of ‘progress’. This mindset is geared to animating terrible threats and then vanquishing them.

To succeed in rallying huge swathes of humanity around these dark visions, this mindset is prone to overhype the threat. Cook claims that if nothing is done, “we are about to set the evolutionary clock back by many tens of millions of years”. That’s an extraordinary claim, and the extraordinary evidence it demands is not there insofar as irrefutable proof of a CO2-driven climate catastrophe is concerned. Insisting the evidence is there while ignoring the disputes over the strength of the evidence is proof of the irrationality that is at the heart of climate activism. They aren’t doing science. They’re in the business of packaging dark visions in millenarianist ideology.

The climate activists demand that you share their visions and unite to vanquish them. Unite or die is the ultimatum. Bizarrely, death itself is baked into the plans for escape from catastrophe, though this prospect of death is always dwarfed, denied and justified by the ‘greater good’. It is necessarily omitted from the marketing brochure. However, loss of liberty is explicitly included in the marketing brochure. How else could they impose the sacrifices necessary to vanquish the dark visions? Cook leaves no doubt about the expendability of personal liberty as he explains that “continuing to trash the planet because doing something to stop it might infringe on our “personal liberty” seems short-sighted, to put it mildly.” [emphasis added]

Even assuming there was a crisis to avert, the idea that the curtailment of liberty is intrinsic to the solution is both the primary and ultimate disease of the climate-activist mind. On the one hand, you could argue that the climate-activist mind latches on to a narrative that uses authoritarian control as a tool in service of that narrative. But I argue that the innately authoritarian mind seeks narratives in service of its innate authoritarianism. Climate activism is just one of any number of narratives that can and have been drafted into the service of authoritarianism. Need I remind readers of covid tyranny, which is threatening to make a comeback using the same anti-scientific, fear-drenched narratives propagated in 2020-22?

This mindset occupies the lower levels of consciousness on a par with fear, guilt and shame, all of which are prominent in the climate-crisis narrative. It is also in the nature of lower levels of consciousness to foster simplistic dichotomies that ignore the complexities of a multifactorial world…and climate system!

And yet the simple truth is that not only is liberty compatible with crisis resolution, it is essential to it. The more difficult the problem faced, the higher the level of consciousness required to solve it. And restriction of human autonomy and freedom is antithetical to elevated consciousness. Once you accept that personal liberty is to be sacrificed to solve a problem, you are admitting into practice a host of measures such as censorship of dissenting views that are antithetical to problem-solving.

Another problem that besets the climate-activist mindset is that it is deeply conflicted by its alienation from nature. And to be alienated from nature is also to be alienated from humanity and ultimately from oneself because we are a product of nature. This alienation of the mind from nature and from itself is made manifest in constant threats of deprivation, not only material but also spiritual in the form of removal of liberty and autonomy. Paradoxically, in choosing nature as their ‘greater-good’ project, there is a tragic, unconscious recognition of their alienation from it. But it is this very alienation that then causes them to exacerbate it by advocating for further alienation through authoritarianism.

For all these reasons, to the extent that climate activism is dominated by the ‘progressive’ mainstream left in the West, the ‘progressive’ left is a threat to itself. If that were the end of it, its self-destruction would be a blessing. But sadly, their global ambition combined with their grip on the machinery of corrupt global institutions has rendered them a threat to all of humanity.

Encapsulating his doom-laden worldview, Cook admonished:

“Everything else looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Do it if it makes you feel better, but don’t ask me to join you.”

My answer to him is – wallow in your lower levels of consciousness steeped in doom, grief and fear if it makes you feel better, but don’t expect me to join you.

2 thoughts on “Jonathan Cook’s “Rebuttal” of My Rebuttal

  1. Yet another excellent article.
    As I explained on your previous article I have been following Jonathan Cook for a number of years due to his insightful analysis of the Middle East and have constantly argued with him about his global warming stance.
    I believe this is the nub of the problem he has with his “Climate Crisis” alarmism.
    The Middle East and particularly Syria have been partly destabilised by the efforts of Big Oil.
    Cook has seen this destruction and his hatred of Big Oil has clouded his judgement when it comes to Climate Change.
    He believes that ending the fossil fuel industry’s rapacious rape of the planet will somehow alleviate some of the problems in the Middle East.
    What better way to end Big Oil than jump on the Climate Crisis bandwagon.

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