Despite the fact that there are only about five (and dropping) Climate Change “sceptics” in the British Parliament; and despite the fact that all major scientific and academic bodies, institutions and societies all declare their support for cuts in Global Warming pollution; the Media are still galumphing about in the murky mud of the 1980s in terms of public psychology.
It is essential that there is meaningful debate in the public realm about what Climate Change is doing to our world, and how we can control emissions and work to protect against damaging outcomes.
The evidence is all around us. And gradually, increasing numbers of people are adjusting their mental aerials to tune into the greater ideas and the bigger picture. What we don’t need just now are obfuscation and turbulence and gleeful mischievous wreckers.
Newspapers can be fun. Some of the writers and web loggers raise genuinely thoughtful issues in a lighthearted style. Some commentary is necessary to point out inadequacies and inconsistencies in policy and personalities.
But whatever they believe, there is no justification for deliberately confusing and misleading people. Yes, we have strived for centuries for the privilege to be able to speak our minds freely, but that gives us an onerous responsibility, to be as truthful and useful as we can be.
James Delingpole has been rising up the charts with his little Daily Telegraph web log :-
At first, I did the equivalent of ruffling his hair : he is, after all, young and benighted, he doesn’t know any better. We can all laugh gently and affectionately at his “libertarian” views on Global Warming, quoted verbatim from a number of cracked pots.
Sooner or later he will work out that his editors encourage this kind of writing purely for the ratings. It might come about that the Conservative Party ask him to quit his membership or public support if he carries on like this. All quite humourous, if tinged with a little regret.
But this week, it has all gone beyond a joke.
Dear James has written a review in The Spectator (that known organ of sense and rectitude) of the book written by Ian Plimer :-
“James Delingpole talks to Professor Ian Plimer, the Australian geologist, whose new book shows that ‘anthropogenic global warming’ is a dangerous, ruinously expensive fiction, a ‘first-world luxury’ with no basis in scientific fact. Shame on the publishers who rejected the book : Imagine how wonderful the world would be if man-made global warming were just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination. No more ugly wind farms to darken our sunlit uplands. No more whopping electricity bills, artificially inflated by EU-imposed carbon taxes. No longer any need to treat each warm, sunny day as though it were some terrible harbinger of ecological doom. And definitely no need for the $7.4 trillion cap and trade (carbon-trading) bill — the largest tax in American history — which President Obama and his cohorts are so assiduously trying to impose on the US economy. Imagine no more, for your fairy godmother is here. His name is Ian Plimer, Professor of Mining Geology at Adelaide University, and he has recently published the landmark book Heaven And Earth, which is going to change forever the way we think about climate change…”
He then goes on, in a similar vein, to assert Ian Plimer’s views; with dashes of surprise, admittedly, but still promulgating the “discredited” geologist’s ideas on Global Warming as if they are established fact. Which they are not.
George Monbiot immediately denounced this book review :-
“Spectator recycles climate rubbish published by sceptic : Ian Plimer’s work of climate fiction is riddled with schoolboy errors the Spectator appears prepared to believe : Seldom has a book been more cleanly murdered by scientists than Ian Plimer’s Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth, which purports to show that manmade climate change is nonsense. Since its publication in Australia it has been ridiculed for a hilarious series of schoolboy errors, and its fudging and manipulation of the data. Here is what the reviews have said. Professor David Karoly, University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences: “Given the errors, the non-science, and the nonsense in this book, it should be classified as science fiction in any library that wastes its funds buying it. The book can then be placed on the shelves alongside Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, another science fiction book about climate change with many footnotes. The only difference is that there are fewer scientific errors in State of Fear.”…Delingpole takes the opportunity to cite the usual conspiracy theories about the “powerful and very extensive body of vested interests” working to suppress the truth, which presumably now includes virtually the entire scientific community and everyone from Shell to Greenpeace and The Sun to Science magazine. That took some organising. I have come to expect this sort of rubbish from Delingpole but I’m amazed that the Spectator is prepared to run a story like this on its cover when a quick check would have shown that it’s utter nonsense. What this story shows is that climate change denial is a matter of religious conviction. The quality of the evidence has nothing to do with it. It doesn’t matter how comprehensively the sources have been discredited, or how ridiculous the claims are. People like Plimer and Delingpole will cling onto anything, however improbable, that allows them to maintain their view of the world.”
And what did The Daily Telegraph do ? Claim James Delingpole was writing in jest :-
“George Pitcher is Religion Editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. He was ordained priest in the Church of England in 2006 and is Associate Priest at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, in London – the “journalists’ church”. : Religion isn’t as mad as climate-change denial : By George Pitcher UK Last updated: July 10th, 2009 : My colleague James Delingpole has produced a fantastic satire of climate-change denial in this week’s Spectator, pretending to be duped by Professor Ian Plimer, whose new book Heaven & Earth re-hashes bad science and flawed evidence to claim that “anthropogenic global warming is a dangerous, ruinously expensive fiction.” Playing it with a straight face, the sly Delingpole’s real intent was clearly to wind up the lefty, po-faced eco-intelligentsia. George Monbiot duly obliged in the Guardian today, exposing Prof Plimer’s transparently weak thesis. Monbiot explodes like a volcano, with clouds of noxious derision and lava-streams of counter-evidence. All the more fool him, for taking Delingpole seriously. And in his outrage, Monbiot makes his own mistake: He concludes that “People like Plimer and Delingpole will cling onto anything, however improbable, that allows them to maintain their view of the world”. So, for Monbiot, “what this story shows is that climate change denial is a matter of religious conviction.” Don’t be silly, George, religion isn’t that mad and stupid.”
The trouble with James Delingpole’s position is not what he actually believes, or what he was attempting to provoke with his attempt at either satire or exposé.
The problem is that he has been effectively inciting all the Climate Change deniers to keep on hammering and stamping. This creates shockwaves of division amongst the population, who are only too ready to be cynical.
The more that the Climate Change denier myths and non-science get repeated and propagated, the harder it is to build a democratic response to Climate Change.
So, regardless of James Delingpole’s actual position (which doesn’t appear to be scientifically informed), his writing is damaging.
James Delingpole isn’t funny. He has been manipulated. Climate Change is not a game. It’s deadly serious.
This kind of fake “debate” stuff should have been put in a lead casket with a stake through the heart in the 1980s, back when it stopped being fashionable to try to sell newspapers through stirring up fake controversy.
Writing about Climate Change is not like taking pot shots at a public person’s dress sense (or not). It’s not like laughing about some architectural monstrosity, or commenting amusingly about those in public life who speak critically about architecture (especially those with challenged dress sense).
Getting cohesion on what Climate Change really is, what it’s already doing, and where it’s probably leading, is really deeply vital.
The Media should be helping, not throwing spanners in the works.
Media Suggestion Number 1 : How about employing some people with actual scientific knowledge and experience to write about Global Warming ?
Media Suggestion Number 2 : How about sending all Media journalists on a training course in Climate Change ? I can give you some names of reputable people, telephone numbers and web addresses to check.
Media Suggestion Number 3 : Even if you don’t believe that Carbon Dioxide emissions are accumulating in the atmosphere at a huge rate owing to humankind’s activities and thereby causing dangerous added Global Warming, at least you could look into the problem of increasing acidification of the oceans from excess Carbon Dioxide and what it’s doing to marine life. Clue : mass extinction.