I had the opportunity to do some serious observation of various public figures on Thursday 26th March 2009 at the Tenalps Energy and Environment 2009 Conference at Church House in Westminster.
Dr Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre was particularly impressive. He is a beautiful man, and humourous and people-centred, and has a fantastic ability to understand the Big Picture as regards Climate Change and Energy policy.
Kevin doesn’t pull any punches with the data, which shows we are in a position of intense risk. Sometimes he finds it difficult to be so blunt, and seems to choke as he loads yet another disaster-and-chaos fact into his presentation.
People in the dwindled afternoon audience complained that Kevin’s presentation should have been in the morning to reach a larger audience, as what he had to say was the more important.
By contrast to Kevin’s expert seriousness and capable communication skills, the event was guest-hosted by John Vidal, the environment editor at The Guardian newspaper, who appeared to do a good impression of a louche lounge lizard with all the moral authority of the English upper classes.
That class of commentators who frequently water down serious problems and throw doubt on the clearest of messages. We don’t want to scare the horses, after all.
Journalists, whose expertise with massaging, reinterpreting and framing information does not give them the authority to negate or water down the expert statements and conclusions of others, in my view.
Reporters need to get more serious about what they are hearing and faithfully convey the tone. It’s actually panic stations out here in science and policy land. Get it to your readership straight.
Here for your amusement are some of John Vidal’s comments. There is a caveat and disclaimer here to avoid any legal repercussions. These quotations may not be 100% accurate as I cannot do shorthand and my handwriting is so bad sometimes I can’t read what I’ve written.
“The Guardian…We take the environment pretty seriously…our bread and butter.”
“Nuclear power is absolutely knocking on the door…questions…can they really deliver ?”
“Wind energy – rampant to get out there.”
“You guys are making decisions now…[ for ] the next 20 or 30 years. [ You need to ] get it right…pretty optimistic.”
“[ introducing Lord Ron Oxburgh ex of Shell headlining ] What we need now are wise heads – people who really know what they are talking about…One of those critical periods where Shell really understood…[ about Carbon Capture and Storage ] Greenpeace will say one thing. Lord Ron another…is it a solution or a distraction ?”
“Urgently need to do things; very very fast.”
[ regarding Maria McCaffery of the British Wind Energy Association and the push for ramping up Renewables for 2020 ] “…[ the ] speed and scale…can you really do this in 11 years’ time ? If if happens…extraordinary.”
[ regarding Marian Spain of the Energy Savings Trust ] “The Government doesn’t get the idea of behaviour change…not very complicated to reduce emissions – turn the heating down.”
[ regarding the Carbon Trust and the Energy Savings Trust ] “They try to make Climate Change exciting and accessible…get over the doom and gloom. Not working – what is the psychological problem with business ?”
[ introducing Tony Pryor of Halcrow ] “formerly in the MoD and construction – perfect business model – bomb the place to hell and then build it up.”
[ regarding Tony Pryor’s affection for new nuclear power ] “I have reservations about Nuclear power. He didn’t mention the nuclear waste, but I see Halcrow are into that [ as well ].”
[ regarding the recycling of packaging and waste when Marcus Gover of WRAP had spoken ] “We’ve got a heck of a way to go.”
Tony Pryor “We would love to run the Energy study for the UK”
John Vidal “The Government really hasn’t got much of a clue ?”
Tony Pryor “You said it.”
John Vidal [ about Kevin Anderson ] “one of the great communicators – just been to Copenhagen – most of it was pretty grim.”
[ regarding Andrew Troop who favours Nuclear Fusion ] “but if we can’t even support Renewable Energy…extraordinary – we can find trillions to bail out bankers, but…”
[ re a question from the floor “How do we communicate without them turning off ?” ] “I don’t know. We’re all environmentalists now. We’re all communicators. It’s going to take a new kind of media – everyone.”
[ about the G20 demonstrations and the G20 Climate Camp in the City of London ] “Any of you planning to camp ? I know there’s one of you out there…hands up…”
“We must do something fast…Urgency…I’m told that the French nuclear industry is going to provide drinks. Hurrah !”
All very funny and lightweight. Totally unsuitable for the subject matter. Do we blame the Media when the Planet roasts ?