My resolution this year is to be much more diplomatic and emollient and generally more sympathetic to the other point of view.
Naah. Just kidding.
But what I did think would be a good idea at the start of yet another year’s blogging is to remind ourselves where we’re at and why it is that I do the things I do, write the things I write, and say them in the uncompromising, no-prisoners-taken way I say them.
You might think it was because of people like this man – Richard Parncutt, Professor of Systematic Musicology at the University of Graz in Austria, who argued on the university website (till he was embarrassed into taking his comments down) that all climate sceptics should be executed. Since I’m one of those on “ze list”, I suppose I should be quite exercised by this. But to be honest I’m delighted and feel I owe Herr Throatcutt a huge debt of thanks. He has done probably more to discredit the cause of climate change alarmism than perhaps anyone since Richard Curtis’s infamous “No Pressure” film – aka Splattergate.
No, the bigger problem are not the out-and-out eco-fascists but their useful idiots among the broader populace. Mild-mannered and reasonable-seeming people like this kindly gentleman, one Dr James Willis, who emailed me over Christmas thus:
This is the text of my new year email to quite a lot of people, sadly the lovely pictures don’t work in this text box. Email and I will gladly send them:
On 6 June 2006 our youngest grandchild was born in Oxford. This was the photograph I took that evening:
Inline images 1
That same morning I was giving the opening keynote address to the North European Conference on Travel Medicine (NECTM 2006) in the great hall of the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh. My subject was the urgency of facing down the denialists who were delaying remedial action to mitigate the worst effects of man-made global warming. You can read the address here: www.bit.ly/SYAwCR
Since then the predictions of mainstream climate science have been been shown to be, if anything, conservative. And the denialists, with a few exceptions, have become even more entrenched, and even more influential. The general public continue to think, contrary to the overwhelming weight of evidence, that the science is still in some kind of doubt.
That baby is now nearly seven and here is the picture I took recently of him playing the one-string guitar he says I helped him to make:
Inline images 2
Since 2006 I have completed a BA Humanities with Literature First Class from the Open University and done a lot of acting and singing. In other words, I am not an ‘environmentalist’. Certainly no more than I am a ‘photographer’, or a ‘woodwork hobbyist’, and certainly much less than I am a grandfather, father, husband… In fact I am an ordinary human being who is desperately worried that we are missing our chance to save humanity from a terrible danger.
What I have decided to do is to hire the main hall at Alton Assembly Rooms for 7.30pm on Wednesday 16th January 2013 when I will repeat the talk I gave on the little boy’s birthday, word for word and slide for slide. Lesley and I are paying all the expenses it will be entirely free. Do come, and do read the talk first if you want to. I read it from time to time myself and stand by every word. I am also going to send invitations to as many celebrity denialists as I can think of. I don’t suppose they will come, because I don’t suppose they think we are very significant here in Alton.
I would like to prove them wrong about that.
Now the reason I quote Dr Willis’s letter because it contains so many of the tropes and rhetorical fallacies to which the climate alarmist movement is prey, all of them wrapped up in a blanket of warm caringness and noble altruism. To whit:
1. The copious cloying references to his grandson. Climate true believers think they have a monopoly on compassion. They think they are the only people who love their children and grandchildren or even stop to consider the plight of “future generations”. This gives them the moral authority to write surreptitiously malevolent, passive-aggressive emails to people they’ve never met and whose opinions they’ve never troubled to understand, accusing them of being “celebrity denialists.”
2. “Denialists.” I emailed Dr Willis to ask him what it was that these “denialists” were denying. I pointed out that this inflammatory term had been quite deliberately chosen by alarmist propagandists to equate scepticism about climate “science” and policy with Holocaust denial. Dr Willis replied: “I use the term denialist in the usual sense to denote someone who denies something. Not really very inflammatory, or puzzling.” So I wrote again to ask what exactly these “denialists” were denying. He replied: “Oh dear. I think you know exactly what I mean, James.”
3. “That same morning I was giving the opening keynote address to the North European Conference on Travel Medicine (NECTM 2006) in the great hall of the International Conference Centre in Edinburgh.” Read the speech – if you can bear it. As Dr Willis makes clear he has no specialist expertise in this field. But that’s not necessarily a problem – think mining engineer Steve McIntyre; think economist Ross McKitrick; think ex-banker Nic Lewis: many of the biggest most recent advances in our understanding of climate science have come from non-climate-scientists. What is more worrying, though, is how cursorily Willis has looked into the subject on which he presumes, nonetheless, to deliver a keynote lecture at an international conference. His sources? Wikipedia; the Independent; the BBC.
4. “Since then the predictions of mainstream climate science have been been shown to be, if anything, conservative…” etc Evidence???
5. Well, you get the idea.
If only Dr Willis were just another harmless, elderly eccentric who’d got the wrong end of the stick. Problem is, I suspect he’s a lot closer to where the public still is in its understanding of “climate science” than I am. And if you want to know why that is, you only have to look at their sources of authority.
Here are two of them – TV’s perma-pout, smiley-boy astronomer Brian Cox and “comedian” Robin Ince (H/T Bishop Hill) – writing a New Statesman editorial explaining why we should trust the scientists who gave us the Hockey Stick, Glaciergate and 4-degrees-C-rise-by-the-end-of-the-21st-century computer model – and completely ignore all the evidence which contradicts them. But Cox and Ince are not alone. With them are: the BBC; the Independent; the Prince of Wales; Walkers Crisps; the Guardian; the New York Times; the Royal Society; Simon Singh; Ben Goldacre; every stand up comic apart from possibly Al Murray; every pop star; 99.9 per cent of all other celebrities; the Times; the Sunday Times; ABC; NBC; the CSIRO; the Australian government; Tim Yeo; Lord Deben; the UK government; the EU; the UN; the Obama administration; Big Wind; the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors; RIBA; London Zoo; the British Antarctic Survey; the National Academy of Sciences; Sir Paul “Pnurse” Nurse; Ed Begley Jr; Galadriel from Lord of the Rings; Leo Di Caprio; Knut the dead baby polar bear; the Sierra Club; Coldplay; the WWF; Glastonbury Festival; George Soros; Richard Branson; Tim Flannery; David Suzuki; Michael Moore; Radiohead; Mackie’s ice cream; Alex Salmond; Mikhail Gorbachev; the Hon. Sir Jonathan Porritt; Julia Gillard; Build-A-Bear; your kids’ schoolteacher; my kids’ schoolteacher; the Miliband bros; Springwatch’s Chris Packham; Wikipedia; everyone in DECC save John Hayes; everyone at DEFRA save Owen Paterson; Dara O’Briaaiaann; Richard Bacon, PhD.
Not one of the people or institutions on that list above, I think it’s accurate to say, has the remotest understanding of what it is that climate sceptics think or why it is that they might have very excellent reasons for thinking it. This, I would suggest, means we have a very serious problem on our hands.
On a personal level, it’s a problem for us climate sceptics because it means we find ourselves continually being vilified – and denied airspace or funding or preferment – on the basis not of what we actually believe and say but on a grotesque caricature version thereof, whereby we are made out to be somehow anti-science or corrupted by money or ideology. (I think the technical term for this is “projection”)
On a broader, economic, socio- and geo-political level, it’s a problem because it means that public policy continues to be hijacked by environmentalist ideologues who have successfully foisted their junk-science, anti-capitalist, self-loathing, misanthropic, hair-shirt propaganda on a credulous public – with results that are already proving disastrous for us all.
Am I angry with these scumbags? You bet I am. Do I think they deserve the unpleasant epithets I cast at them? Absolutely not – they deserve insults far nastier and more graphic than I could ever get away with delivering in a family newspaper.
Yes, I know there are those who think I sometimes go over the top in the way I sledge the opposition. But this is not a criticism I’m going to buy – or ever will buy. Did Churchill ever issue a wartime directive that, following complaints submitted by the German embassy in Dublin, soldiers should refrain from singing hurtful songs about Herr Hitler’s monotesticular status? Not as far as I can recall. In war, all is fair game. When the other side behaves badly, it deserves to be called on it – in the most explicit terms possible – not excused on the dubious grounds that if we’re a bit nicer to the Imperial Japanese Army and don’t draw any nasty cartoons depicting them with buck teeth and thick spectacles maybe next time they’ll desist from tying wounded prisoners to trees and using them for bayonet practice.
As I argue at the end of Watermelons, there’s only one side in this debate which considers it acceptable or desirable to:
Rig public enquiries, hound blameless people out of their jobs, breach Freedom of Information laws, abuse the scientific method, lie, threaten, bribe, cheat, adopt nakedly political positions in taxpayer-funded academic and advisory posts that ought to be strictly neutral, trample on property rights, destroy rainforests, drive up food prices (causing unrest in the Middle East and starvation in the Third World), raise taxes, remove personal freedoms, artificially raise energy prices, featherbed rent-seekers, blight landscapes, deceive voters, twist evidence, force everyone to use expensive, dim light bulbs, frighten schoolchildren, bully adults, increase unemployment, destroy democratic accountability, take control of global governance and impose a New World Order.
And it most definitely ain’t the people on my side of the argument.