Dr David Adam, Environmental correspondent at The Guardian newspaper, the “home” of the political Left and Liberal in the United Kingdom, was disappointingly pacifying at the “Sceptic Backlash” event in London yesterday evening.
“Please don’t over-estimate the damage being done by Climategate”, he urged the audience, comparing the sceptic bug-bear to the Bush-and-Cheney narrative about dangerous terrorism which used to get people so worked up, (riled enough, remember ?, to sacrifice their youth and their entire Economy to the new American project of killing innocent women, children and men in the Middle East. Such a good decade for Big Business !)
I read that David Adam used to write about scientific research in Nature magazine before he became Science, and then Environment correspondent at The Guardian.
Funnily enough, I seem to recall meeting somebody who could well have been David Adam in First Class on the Eurostar train service from London to Brussels some time in the late 1990’s. If it was David Adam, his declared profession had nothing to do with journalism, or even chemical engineering (which David Adam studied). I can’t be sure. I don’t always remember faces from more than ten years ago, especially people I have only met once, but his expressions and mannerisms when I saw him yesterday triggered the same reactions in my mind. How strange…but anyway…
I was incensed. Outraged. Deflated, by David Adam’s liberal dismissiveness of the power of Climate Change scepticism, to divide a nation, to cause countless arguments – classic divide-and-rule tactics.
Here are his comments, as I noted them (corrections, welcome) :-
– Just how pleased I am to be in the G2 lecture theatre – The Guardian is obviously wealthy enough to sponsor education.
– I feel like I am in the position of King Canute – that I am somehow expected to stem this tide of Climate Change scepticism [notes that King Canute got his ankles wet in order to demonstrate to people that he couldn’t actually control the waves of the sea, but that is easily forgotten.]
– “Rising tide” is a useful analogy. Climate Change scepticism is cyclical. To an degree it’s unstoppable. It’s been going on for five or six years like this. I know people did it in the late 1980s…I spoke to Al Gore about it in the 1990s…
– “Sceptic season” has taken over again. Yet the situation is [markedly different] from ten years ago. We have the Climate Change Act – and all the leaders talking about Climate Change as a problem.
– As I’ve said before [and got into trouble for it] the bad people have now largely left the sceptic movement – and we are left with the mad people.
– The leaders of the sceptic movement are now journalists – not scientists.
– I don’t believe there has been a collapse in public opinion.
– I didn’t cover Climategate – my wife’s baby was due on 19th November.
– [When people asked me about Climategate] I didn’t even need to know what was in the e-mails – as soon as I heard it was CRU [Climatic Research Unit] I said this is the Freedom of Information [FoI] story – we are aware of this – it’s a longstanding issue – it’s very heavily spun – be careful. I think we did a sober reporting job of it compared to other people.
– It raises the question – how to you engage with a story without adding [weight] to it ?
– Ben Goldacre stopped writing about the MMR vaccine [non-]scandal – he thought that writing about it gave [the myths] legitimacy – giving it “legs”.
– We should be careful about investing too much importance in what is reported. It’s a Media issue – not a political issue, or a science issue.
– These guys used to own the White House. Now they only have the Media – we give them power by writing about it.
– Part of the [generalised] reason is a rising tide of ignorance. Because Copenhagen was billed as a great moment, and when that didn’t happen people were disappointed, news editors felt the gap, there was still an appetite for news on Climate Change, but there was no happy ending. Into that vacuum poured the Climategate story. And the very cold Winter.
– Most people’s experience of Climate is Weather. [Campaigners scorn sceptics who say that cold weather is a sign of cooling, but are very fast to say that hot weather is related to Climate Change].
– I think the University of East Anglia (UEA) should have done more.
– I was crying out for the Royal Society to step in – they stayed [distant and] silent.
– [As a journalist] the second loneliest place in the world is where you don’t have a story and everybody else does. The loneliest place in the world is when you have a story and everyone else ignores you.
– This story was about the “Establishment” making a mistake – this tipped the news editors [into covering it].
– Most news editors who think that Climate Change [is bunkum] haven’t read the Science – they’ve seen [the coverage of Climate Change] in other Media.
– I know colleagues who were told “you have to go out and get the sceptic viewpoint on it.”
– There’s a pack mentality in journalism – far stronger than you may realise.
– After Amazongate [the myth that the Amazon would not suffer from Climate Change] it became an obsession to find out what the next science [crisis] would be.
– The BBC recognised the Glacier problem (as known as Glaciergate) before the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference – but everybody ignored it.
– [The message from news editors was] you’ve got to find out what the next thing is going to be. The Sunday Times is leading on it [we have to follow].
– I checked it out and I said it’s just not true. I got interrogation as to why we didn’t have the story. Whether journalists want to get it right or not, there’s a pressure to get the story [out].
– Please don’t over-estimate the damage being done by this [comparison to the hyper-inflationary panic about terrorism].
– The public is a bit more savvy that you give them credit for. Those who think that Climate Change is not a major problem are always less than 50%. Yet, those who want action are 70% (poll statistics – made up on the spot).
– The message has got through and it is out there and the Media is responsible for that. [We’re not] pantomime dummies in this.
– [Climate Change] is now getting the “Media treatment”. The Media can do damage. [Science, especially Medical Science] has been misrepresented for years. It’s not a new phenomenon.
– There’s a risk of raising doubt by [writing about Climate Change Scepticism and] having meetings like this.