Imminent Catastrophe: a poem by Clive James

The imminent catastrophe goes on

Not showing many signs of happening.
The ice at the North Pole that should be gone
By now, is awkwardly still lingering,

And though sometimes the weather is extreme
It seems no more so than when we were young
Who soon will hear no more of this grim theme
Reiterated in the special tongue

Of manufactured fright. Sea Level Rise
Will be here soon and could do such-and-such,
Say tenured pundits with unblinking eyes.
Continuing to not go up by much,

The sea supports the sceptics, but they, too,
Lapse into oratory when they predict
The sure collapse of the alarmist view
Like a house of cards, for they could not have picked

A metaphor less suited to their wish.
A house of cards subsides with just a sigh
And all the cards are still there. Feverish
Talk of apocalypse might, by and by,

Die down, but the deep anguish will persist.
His death, and not the Earth’s, is the true fear
That motivates the doomsday fantasist:
There can be no world if he is not here.


clive james

Clive James’s Gate of Lilacs: a Verse Commentary on Proust will be published in April by Picador.

9 Responses to Imminent Catastrophe: a poem by Clive James

  1. Neville March 19, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    I’ve always had a lot of time for Clive and thought his UK interview shows were excellent. He has very politically incorrect ideas at times, so I suppose that’s a big plus for me as well . I love to hear him talk about growing up in Sydney as a young boy and later his Uni days etc. OZ then was a different world of course.
    BTW Jen have you read Willis’s ‘the warmer the icier” parts 1 and 2. About Antarctica and Greenland, just linked to them on the other post. A lot of food for thought and the data seems sort of counter intuitive at times. But the data’s the data.

  2. hc March 20, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    Clive can be so entertaining but here he is such a dill. He was never much of a poet. Representing the science of climate change as affection for disasters is foolish. There is no imminent disaster nor talk of such – there is a probability, that is non-negligible, that one will occur.

  3. Richard Erskine March 21, 2016 at 7:51 am #

    I have published an essay responding to this poem, which is in truth an opinion piece, masquerading as art, clouded by contrarian myths.

  4. John McRobert March 22, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Hello Jennifer. Here is one from my Anthology, The Versed Writing of Jock McPoet. This verse was composed in 1991 and has stood the test of time.

    It is of scientific interest to note that the earth rotates east-west, and that as a consequence, there is little interaction between the atmospheres of the northern and southern hemispheres. The billions of people who populate the earth, live mainly in China, India, Europe and North America. It stretches the imagination to accept that the much vaunted ‘hole’ in the ozone layer can be blamed on the indiscriminate use of underarm deodorant sprays by a handful of Taswegians.

    Sea Ode Two

    We think with each succeeding year
    Our worries are a new idea
    And chicks who think the sky is falling
    Keep cropping up at rates appalling.
    “Hold your breath” you hear them shout
    “And never let your methane out”.

    While the sheep are ruminating
    Here’s some facts for contemplating.
    Man’s CO2 (not many may know)
    Is swamped by every live volcano.
    Most chlorides come from nature’s stack
    To blame us then is pretty slack.
    The ozone hole down south of us –
    Yawns right above Mt Erebus!!!

    The sea will rise, the sea will fall
    There’s nothing surer – after all.
    That’s what was in days of yore
    And will be for ever more
    Despite our presence; and our fate
    Is micro in the macro, mate.
    This greenhouse panic now it’s clear
    Is nothing more than atmos-fear.

    Jock McPoet 1991

  5. hunter March 23, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    “His death, and not the Earth’s, is the true fear
    That motivates the doomsday fantasist:
    There can be no world if he is not here.”

    – Very much worth repeating and pondering.

  6. Mark M March 24, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    @Richard Erskine March 21, 2016 at 7:51 am #
    “I have published an essay responding to this poem, which is in truth an opinion piece, masquerading as art, clouded by contrarian myths.”

    Quite so you have published an opinion piece, masquerading as an essay, clouded by doomsday myths.

    “No self-respecting climate scientists has ever talked about “imminent” catastrophe.”

    Not sure what planet you are on:

    Climate Change Is Already Here, Says Massive Government Report

  7. spangled drongo March 25, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    Richard Erskine and those of the catastrophic [though maybe not imminent] warming persuasion never seem to be aware that there are almost certainly many more catastrophes looming on the horizon than AGW and with the degree of uncertainty of AGW we should be conserving every resource we have to deal with all uncertainty.

    But according to him it is OK to promote AGW catastrophe but don’t ever “poison the well” with rational optimism.

    Y’know, that RO that says that in tectonically stable areas, sea levels are not only not accelerating but are not rising at all. As in Sydney Harbour where they have risen at the rate of 0.65mm/year for the last century but the land has been dropping at the rate of 0.89mm/year.

    Climate sceptics realise that these possibly-not-imminent catastrophists would gladly white ant most of the framework of modern society as they are currently doing with the MDB irrigation system and their CAGW theory is their best chance since the invention of sandwich boards.

    BTW, Jen, congrats on your discussion on the MDB with Alan Jones:

  8. spangled drongo March 25, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    Some essential reading for Richard Erskine:

  9. Ian Thomson March 26, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    Hi Jen. Someone may come undone here. They just got TOO greedy and loud.
    Might be some of that here ?

    “The longstanding cozy relationship between grant-makers and grantees makes them blind to even the most obvious conflict of interest or incidence of double dipping. And when the government is driving the scientific research to reach a predetermined conclusion, as is the case with climate change, then no one is going to rock the boat. ”

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