The Great Danish Pastry Swindle

The climate conference in Copenhagen that ended this week produced a barrage of startling headlines, many of them from just one man.

On Tuesday, the Guardian’s junior climate alarmist, David Adam surprised us with an uncharacteristically non-doom-laden article:

Greenland ice tipping point ‘further off than thought’

The giant Greenland ice sheet may be more resistant to temperature rise than experts realised. The finding gives hope that the worst impacts of global warming, such as the devastating floods depicted in Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, could yet be avoided.

That evening, David’s mood soured:

Global warming may trigger carbon ‘time bomb’, scientist warns

Even modest amounts of global warming could trigger a carbon “time bomb” and release massive amounts of greenhouse gases from frozen Arctic soils, a new study has warned.

By Wednesday, David’s gloom reached unprecedented levels:

Caught on camera: The Greenland tunnels that could speed ice melt

The Greenland ice sheet is riddled with channels that could quicken ice loss and speed sea level rise, a new study has revealed.

That afternoon, David’s gloom was worse than previously thought:

Sea level could rise more than a metre by 2100, say experts

Global sea levels could rise much higher this century than previously projected, raising the threat level for millions of people who live in low-lying areas, new research suggests. Scientists at a climate change summit in Copenhagen say changes in the polar ice sheets could raise sea levels by a metre or more by 2100. The implications could be severe.

On Thursday, David’s gloom exceeded even the worst projections.

Severe global warming will render half of world’s inhabited areas unliveable, expert warns

Severe global warming could make half the world’s inhabited areas literally too hot to live in, a US scientist warned today.

By that afternoon, things had passed a tipping point:

Europe ‘will be hit by severe drought’ without urgent action on emissions

Europe will be struck by a series of severe droughts that will make life “hell” for hundreds of millions of people unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, a new study shows. … Spain, Portugal, southern Italy, Greece and numerous other countries would be turned to semi-desert as climate change turned off their rainfall… Asked what life would be like there, Warren said: “Hell, I should think. It is incomprehensible to imagine adapting to that level of drought.”

Adam operates on the principal of one article per scientific paper. We’ve mentioned this ‘tyranny of the news peg’ before. It reduces the scientific process to a rolling news service devoid of context and analysis, allowing Adam to report, on consecutive days, that Greenland ice melt is, respectively, less and more imminent than previously thought. It is as if scientific truth equals the sum of all the papers produced on a scientific subject divided by their number, and that for truth and democracy to triumph, he just has to precis a sample of them, and distribute them between the categories of ‘worse…’ or ‘better than previously thought’, so that our minds can be made up by the law of averages. But if he does see his role as a passive conduit for information, he misunderstands both the workings and the function of both science and journalism.

A further caution that Adam throws to the wind is that much of the new research he reports on will not yet have been published in the peer-reviewed literature. Conferences are like that. They are a platform for scientists to present more tentative results, hypotheses and interpretations. We could find no sign in the literature of any of the studies Adam mentions. And many of them will not make it through the review process, or will only do so having been revised beyond recognition in terms of their scientific and/or political content.

Of the hundreds of papers that were presented at the conference – many of them in poster sessions [PDF] – Adam has selected just a tiny handful: the most salacious, sensational, and terrifying (or that can be billed as such) at the expense of investigating the nuances to the arguments about what is or isn’t true, and what to do about it, and presented this highly polarised perspective as an account of what ‘science says’.

To pluck just one of Adam’s stories from the pile, on the Thursday he was claiming that ‘severe global warming could make half the world’s inhabited areas literally too hot to live in’ and that ‘people will not be able to adapt to a much warmer climate as well as previously thought’. The story was based on a paper presented by Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales, who adds human physiology into the climate models to suggest that ‘physiological limits of the human body will begin to render places impossible to support human life if the average global temperature rises by 7C on pre-industrial levels’. While predictions about the physiological constraints on our ability to tolerate high temperatures might be very useful, in itself, it says nothing about our ability to inhabit these places – and even less about our ability to ‘adapt to a much warmer climate’. After all, here in Northern Europe we wouldn’t survive the winter if we didn’t have homes to go to. We don’t know whether Sherwood made these claims, or if they are Adam’s own original contribution to ‘the science’, but either way it demonstrates a complete failure to scrutinise and question what are preliminary research findings.

By Friday, David had decided to speak for scientists on the Guardian’s podcast.

Climate change warning: ‘We’re sick of having our messages lost in political noise’

The message might sound familiar is that we have to act, and that we have to act now. But I think the scientists, they have been saying it for a while, and we’ve been saying it in the media for a while… but I think the scientists have lost a little bit of patience almost. I mean one said to me here that we’re sick of having our carefully constructed messages lost in the political noise. You know this is the scientific community standing up and saying enough is enough, we’ve lost patience, get your act together.

We have to take David’s word for it that he wasn’t one of those people losing the ‘carefully constructed messages’ in the political noise. We’ve said it before, the likes of David Adam, who aren’t scientists and clearly have a lot of sympathy with environmentalism, like environmentalists, don’t recognise their own noise as political. It is curious that none of the 2,500 attendees – natural scientists, social scientists, activists, dignitaries, corporates and journalists – had lost sufficient patience to go on the record to evince their frustration and impatience, and the only people he can get to confirm his message are Nicholas Stern and Rajendra Pachauri – neither of them climate scientists.

One climate scientist who does make a distinction between science and political noise is Professor Mike Hulme. Writing on Roger Pielke Jr’s Prometheus blog, Hulme wonders about the kind of ‘action’ that Adam was calling for on behalf of scientists:

What exactly is the ‘action’ the conference statement is calling for? Are these messages expressing the findings of science or are they expressing political opinions? I have no problem with scientists offering clear political messages as long as they are clearly recognized as such.

David Adam might want to reflect on his own words more carefully. Perhaps the frustrated scientists he was taking evidence from were talking more about him, than to him. Hulme continues:

But then we need to be clear about what authority these political messages carry. They carry the authority of the people who drafted them – and no more. Not the authority of the 2,500 expert researchers gathered at the conference. And certainly not the authority of collective global science. Caught between summarizing scientific knowledge and offering political interpretations of such knowledge, the six key messages seem rather ambivalent in what they are saying. It is as if they are not sure how to combine the quite precise statements of science with a set of more contested political interpretations.

These six statements were issued after the conference by its organisers. Clearly they moved David Adam, but not Mike Hulme, who points out that the authors are not qualified to speak for the conference as a whole, and that no synthesis was produced, and nor was the conference capable of producing a synthesis.

It therefore seems problematic to me when such lively, well-informed and yet largely unresolved debates among a substantial cohort of the world’s climate change researchers gets reduced to six key messages, messages that on the one hand carry the aura of urgency, precision and scientific authority – ‘there is no excuse for inaction’ – and yet at the same time remain so imprecise as to resolve nothing in political terms.

It’s worth reading Mike Hulme’s post in full, rather than reading snippets that we’ve borrowed in order to illustrate David Adam’s ridiculous alarmism.

Hulme qualifies as neither a ‘sceptic’ nor a ‘denier’, and sensibly advises that science and politics are not the same thing. This nuanced argument is lost on David Adam. The problem is that throughout his prose is the theme that the images he presents and studies he cites are instructive… ‘we have to act, and we have to act now’. This urgency is also the theme of so many climate activists, politicians and commentators.

Adam’s alarm is premature, and it stems from an expectation of science that it simply cannot live up to. As Hulme puts it:

A gathering of scientists and researchers has resolved nothing of the politics of climate change. But then why should it? All that can be told – and certainly should be told – is that climate change brings new and changed risks, that these risks can have a range of significant implications under different conditions, that there is an array of political considerations to be taken into account when judging what needs to be done, and there are a portfolio of powerful, but somewhat untested, policy measures that could be tried.

The rest is all politics. And we should let politics decide without being ambushed by a chimera of political prescriptiveness dressed up as (false) scientific unanimity.

It is striking that while – judging by his podcast – Adam seems to have picked up on the frustrations expressed by certain scientists about the lack of nuance, he hasn’t the faintest clue what it means. He hears murmurings about the messy overlap between science and politics, and yet seems so immersed in his model of the world as one that will be the death of us all that he doesn’t know what to do with that information. He ends up interpreting the frustration about lack of nuances as a signal that everything should be blacker and whiter – as if the nuance that has been lost from the debate is that we are all going to die. Adam wants science to settle the political debate, and he wants it now

And here is where we think Hulme’s otherwise excellent observations stop short. He doesn’t attempt to explain why politicians, activists and journalists like Adam have such expectations of science.

As we have argued previously, the dynamic driving the climate debate is less about what has emerged from climate science, and more about what appear to be political agendas. As Hulme observes, in many instances, politics is prior to science in the debate. But it might be truer to say that it is a lack of politics that is prior to the science. Science – or rather images of catastrophe given scientific credibility – fills the void. It re-orientates the disoriented, gives moral purpose in a world beset far less by climate problems than moral relativism, and gives political significance to causes that have long lacked rebels.

No field of science is immune to being used to fill politics-shaped holes. Science is seen less as a valuable tool with which to improve humanity’s lot and open our minds, and becoming a blunt instrument with which to beat the opposition. Campaigners on all sides of abortion debates increasingly fall back on science to make their moral case. The fact of evolution by natural selection has become almost synonymous with atheism. Depending on who you talk to, genetic technologies will feed the world or turn it to grey sludge. But it is environmental science – and its resonance with our sense of futility – that has gained by far the most political purchase.

David Adam’s work typifies this symptom. Being able only to see the world through the prism of climate change represents a failure to sustain a coherent analysis and a lack of confidence in even his own subjectivity – hence appeals to scientific authority. For Adam, climate change distinguishes right from wrong, left from right, good from bad. Just as each major UK political party has absorbed environmentalism into its manifesto, so too have journalists used it to inform the entirety of their own perspective on the world. This limited form of discourse is not about engagement with or criticism of the decision-making processes and the direction of society, it is about causal inevitabilities and moral imperatives issued by ‘the science’. ‘Science says…’.

The result is politics, ethics, democracy stripped entirely of their human meaning. Climate change rescues mediocrity and intellectual poverty from obscurity, and puts them centre stage, dressed as a super-heroes. As Adam shows, writing ‘worse than previously thought’ often enough turns you into a full time employee of the Guardian, and turns climatology into ethical and political science. If climate change didn’t generate moral imperatives, it would leave room for debate. And debate is for the ‘deniers’, who want to profit from the end of the world, or something.

In his most recent article, Adam entirely uncritically quotes the economist (and not climate scientist) Nick Stern:

Speaking after giving a keynote speech, Stern said he feared that politicians had not grasped the seriousness of the crisis. “Do the politicians understand just how difficult it could be? Just how devastating four, five, six degrees centigrade would be? I think not yet. Looking back, the Stern review underestimated the risks and underestimated the damage from inaction.”

Just a few decades ago, World Bank economists, even ex-world bank economists (such as Stern) were just about the epitome of evil for radicals, liberals, and leftists. The World Bank served Western corporate interests at the expense of developing nations. Today, Stern is celebrated by radicals, liberals and lefties, while he advances the climate change cause, and positions himself to take financial advantage of the carbon markets created by the regulations that he was instrumental in devising, which foist ‘sustainability’ on both the developed and developing world. Stern knows full well that governments have not failed to act. His own government, for example, has committed the UK to an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050, and the US is on course to do the same.

With all countries apparently committed to ‘action’ on climate change, the rhetorical escalation emerging at this conference is perhaps puzzling. What country is standing against an agreement at the next climate talks in Copenhagen?

We have previously speculated that the preparedness for an international deal on climate change presents campaigners with a problem. If everyone agrees, what role do you play, as an activist/scientist? By achieving an agreement, you undermine your role. Adam, who saw the world through the prism of climate change, no longer has a footing. Like Stern, he therefore has to reinvent his position. It’s ‘worse than previously thought’ and ‘governments don’t understand’. Because in a world defined by, and seen only through the climate change debate, once the principal debate is over, you also lose your orientation and perspective. If everyone is committed, you cannot tell good from bad, right from wrong, because the debate is no longer polarised. Eyes that are filtered green, cannot see anything in a world that is entirely green. They are blind.

It seems that the alarmism issued by the likes of Adam, Stern, and the conference organisers’ six statements represent a bizarre rear-guard action, not against prevailing forces of inaction, but their own blindness, and their own redundancy. They are fighting their own success.

There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches ? economic, technological, behavioural, management ? to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.

Previously, Professor Hulme has spoken about ‘climate porn’ – the tendency of activists, journalists and politicians to use the most distressing images, worst-case scenarios, and single studies stripped of their caveats and cautions. But there is another sense in which this expression illuminates the climate debate. Climate porn is to debate what porn is to human relationships. It simulates drama and engagement by crudely satisfying base lusts and fantasies with explicit images without the danger of rejection. But it is principally an inconsequential solo pastime in which understanding and negotiation with anothers is avoided. It achieves no resolution or synthesis, and objectifies humans, their ambitions and desires. Worst still, to paraphrase what the adage warns, climate porn will make you blind.

33 thoughts on “The Great Danish Pastry Swindle”

  1. I have a soft spot for David Adam, every since the “The Great Global Warming Swindle” was shown on Channel 4.

    The following day he was in the Guardian, with a highly critical review – as you’d probably expect from him. Half way through, though, he admitted that he hadn’t actually watched any of the programme at all, because if he had he knew he would have thrown a flowerpot at his TV, such would have been his rage.

    Now that’s what I call balls – admitting in the middle of your review, in print, for all to see, that you hadn’t actually watched the programme you’re reviewing!

    As this is my first post here, can I say how much I enjoy visiting the site (which I do now, regularly, every day). I look forward to reading your thoughtful comments nearly as much as I do to receiving Benny Peiser’s daily newsletter.

  2. I agree with xj550. You beautifully skewer the climate alarmists pornographic approach to all things ‘climate change’. My concern is that “climate scientists” as scientific specialists are so compromised, and playing the political piper’s tune, that the only realistic thing to do is to start climate science again. It won’t happen soon but, if the solar scientists are right, and we get two or three (or more decades) of a much colder world, ‘climate science’ is likely to go the way of Lysenkoist plant breeding – into the dust-bin of history. Good riddance.

  3. I would also like to say thanks for a brilliant article. You make an excellent point that the alarmists are now fighting their own success. It is starting to look like beating a dead horse when “deniers” are blamed for any apparent “inaction”, when it is becoming obvious to anyone now that every public voice heard — political party, religion , business interest, whatever, indulges in the correct language when speaking about the environment. I suppose the natural progression is to is to see ever more frequent accusations of ‘greenwashing’, whatever that means, whoever decides what it is, and see where that leads.

  4. You say of Adam’s reporting of the Copenhagen conference:

    “ … if he [sees] his role as a passive conduit for information, he misunderstands both the workings and the function of both science and journalism”.

    It depends on the subject. A Court Reporter or Chess Correspondent is expected to be a passive conduit for information. A sports writer may legitimately sex-up his dossiers, but we expect him at least to report the result of the match correctly. A political commentator is judged precisely on his ability to render sexy the boring daily grind of democratic politics. The one rule he must follow is that in politics there are two sides to every question. The rule for a Science Correspondent is no doubt slightly different – that no conclusion is final, perhaps. If Adam wants to report the Copenhagen Conference as if it were a tennis tournament, I don’t see anything wrong with that, a priori. After all, the organisers of the conference made no secret of the fact that they were seeking publicity, not truth.

    The problem surely comes further up the hierarchy, when editors and opinion formers propose political action based on what they interpret as unassailable scientific truth. Adam can legitimately claim he truthfully reported what the scientists said. The anonymous editors of today’s Observer have no such defence when they write:

    “If we continue to pollute the planet at our current rate, terrible consequences will follow. The evidence is there. But our leaders cannot find the will to do anything about it.
    No wonder the scientists are frustrated. At a meeting in Copenhagen last week, leading researchers called explicitly for more government action, breaking the taboo that has traditionally held scientific inquiry above the political fray.”

    I count one lie per sentence in the above. This is not written by some junior reporter eager to please his boss or readers; nor by some short contract university researcher trying to attract funding; this is the considered (?) opinion of some anonymous pillar of the establishment who hobnobs with university chancellors and government ministers. Adam is the messenger, the simple footsoldier. The message from Copenhagen (all thousand plus papers plus presentations!) needs criticising (but who could do it before the big end of the year conference?) But the big subject is surely further up the political food chain.

  5. Geoff, no doubt there are things ‘further up the food chain’ worthy of discussion.

    But we were looking at Adam and his reporting of the Copenhagen meeting, not the output of the Guardian and its editorial policy. For a broader look at the ideology of environmentalism operating in public institutions and the media, check out some of the other 220 posts on this blog.

    Adam takes liberties with the scientific literature, and removes it from its context, depriving his readers of the caveats, scope, and actual meaning of the research he reports on. Tennis matches, by contrast, can be understood by their scores. You wouldn’t take a player’s run of good performances to calculate that, by 2050, every single tennis match in the world would be won by that player.

    Adam is not scientifically illiterate – he has a PhD in chemistry. He knows that what gets presented at conferences are hypotheses and prelimanry research prior to publication and peer review, and he knows they need to be treated with caution. He ignores it, because he beleives it makes the case for the political argument. Hume points out that there was no resolution from the conference and that the impression of ‘unity’ given by the six statements that were published are illegitimate.

    Adam may be more instrumental in the Guardian’s editorial policy than you give him credit for.

  6. I agree Adam’s journalism is unworthy of a serious science correspondent, and he is therefore partly responsible for the distortions which seem now to be established Guardian policy. I overstated my case, as usual. My apologies

    What I wanted to point out was the difference in kind between the distortions practised by Adam and those practised by the Observer editorial I quoted. Adam reports the highlights of the Copenhagen conference as if he was picking out the best acts at a pop festival, and – as you rightly point out – he thereby “removes it from its context, depriving his readers of the … actual meaning of the research he reports on”. He gives a one-sided and therefore false impression of the state of science, without actually uttering any falsehoods. On its own, this seems to me no worse than your average report on cosmology research – “scientists mystified by new mystery of the mysterious universe” stuff. It’s basic man-bites-dog hack journalism – only with graphs.

    But of course, Adam is not on his own. His “10 all time best disasters” compilation approach to science reporting is used by the editors (of the Observer, but they share their environment website with the Guardian) as the “factual” basis for an editorial which is frankly a series of lies. Look at the first five sentences I quoted above:
    “… terrible consequences … The evidence is there … our leaders cannot find the will to do anything about it … scientists are frustrated … the taboo that has traditionally held scientific inquiry above the political fray.”

    This deliberate falsifying of reality goes far beyond Adam’s selective vulgarisation. The purposes are complementary. Adam titillates readers, while providing the raw material on which the editors can base a totally false analysis, in order to influence opinion leaders, and eventually government.

  7. Of course David Adam’s own profile on the Guardian website sheds some light on his ‘science credentials’.

    “He decided on a career in journalism after a PhD in chemical engineering convinced him it was more enjoyable to write about other people’s research than to carry out his own.”

    Shame he hasn’t learnt how to write decent scientific articles either.

  8. There are web sites to discuss the science, either testing the Team’s bogus statistics, or presenting alternative views.

    This site provides a great insight into the politics and sociology of it all.

  9. Good post. It’s not even April yet, and we have another 10 months or so before the attempted launch of Son of Kyoto. I’m wondering just how much worse the predicted fallout from climate change will get by December. Much much worse, I’m sure, than anyone has ever thought! Worse than that, even!

    What interests me is how David Adam and others will behave after Copenhagen. I don’t think any agreement the combined governments of the world will reach could ever satisfy those who are calling for an urgent, heroic, massive World War II style total global war on carbon emissions.

    So what then? George Monbiot in a recent blog post tells his readers that “we cannot afford to surrender”, even though it may be too late to save the world.

    In the face of World War III not taking off quite as planned, what next for the proponents of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming?

  10. Just re-reading my comment and thinking a bit, it’s actually more like 8 months than 10 months – more urgent than I thought! No wondering the rhetoric is getting warmer.

  11. Like Alex Cull, I enjoy mulling over the future. Let’s hope for a lousy summer, and that politicians catch the public mood sufficiently well to decide at Copenhagen to do nothing. One good heat wave, or a wiggle on the Arctic ice coverage graph, and it will be pressure on India and China to rein in their industrialisation, and the battle lines will be drawn for the World War which will solve our economic problems.

  12. This whole post is very interesting but assumes David Adam is just a journalist who has confused science and politics.

    Adam is a propagandist; there is no unintentional confuision. He writes for political purpose. He is writing in support of a watermelon agenda.

  13. The advertising genius David Ogilvy once said that there are two best words for any slogan are “new” and “free”. And, while you can’t always say “free”, you can always find something that is “new”.

    Now, with Global Warming Alarmism, the tag word is “science”. Science in GWA is no longer “Science” as we know it or were taught in school. “Science” is a word they throw in every third sentence to scare people into not questioning them.

    So, none of this is real “science” and in fact, even their adherents have pretty much conceded that it’s a business and the business is alarmism. And it’s on a downhill rollercoaster — bigger, more threatening, more imminent “predictions” get the front page and the Global Warming leaders are in a stag fight to come up with the direst of the dire to make tomorrow’s headlines.

    In today’s economic climate, I’m almost willing to let them keep going, since it seems to sell and not much else is these days.

  14. Robert worries that we assume that ‘David Adam is just a journalist who has confused science and politics.’

    Robert, you appear to have missed the point quite comprehensively. That Adam confuses science and politics isn’t an unintentional consequence of our argument. The question we attempt to address is why, and how.

    Of course the narrative of doom, given the credibility of scientific factoids plucked from unpublished, speculative, non-peer-reviewed studies is propaganda. But ‘propaganda’ by itself is not a Bad Thing, if what we mean by it is ‘arguments intended to persuade others’.

    Even if we take the view that ‘propaganda’ isn’t a value-neutral term, e.g. ‘lies and distortions intended to coerce’, we leave ourselves in need a word which captures our own efforts to influence the debate. What is it? ‘Careful argument’? Well, we hope so, but everybody in every political debate believes himself to be the one in possession of the best argument. If we don’t give our opponents the benefit of the doubt in this respect, then we cease to attempt to understand their arguments in favour speculating about hidden agendas. Rather than explaining the debate, this merely confuses it.

    ‘Propaganda’ should not be used as a pejorative in this case. Of course what Adam writes is propaganda.

    But so too – and perhaps more so – is the term ‘watermelon’. It is intends to capture the terror of a long passed political moment, and to imply that there is continuity between the historical movement, and a more contemporary one.

    But there simply isn’t continuity between red and green. As much as some reds have attempted to reorientate the Left on environmental terms, so too have much of the Right. If you think that bourgeois institutions and bureaucracies haven’t been given new life by environmentalism – which even Greens recognise – then you are also blind to context of the climate debate. This kind polarisation is exactly what we accuse greens of doing, when they say that climate change denial is ‘ideologically-motivated’. (See, for instance, Naomi Oreskes ‘tobacco strategy’.)

    The two sides of the argument – ‘you’re ideologically-motivated’ vs ‘no, you’re ideological motivated’ – deserve each other. Both… all ‘sides’ are ‘ideologically motivated’, even those who presume to sit above the argument with a copy of Hayek in their hand, or on the other side, IPCC WGI AR4 Synthesis Report. Both sides have convinced themselves that they are in possession of an argument that transcends mere politics. Both arguers forget themselves as propagandising ideologues.

    What we have long argued here is that nobody should be ashamed of making political arguments – Left or Right, if that is what they are – in the climate debate. The fact that people are reluctant seems to us to be one of the fundamental reasons for the ascendency of environmentalism. That is why we have appeared to ‘defend’ groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute against Greenpeace and the WWF’s vapid arguments about ‘secret Exxon funding’, and that is why we have criticised arguments from the putative ‘Right’ that environmentalism is reformatted Marxism. And that is why we argue that the scientific proof of anthropogenic climate change isn’t instructive, and that, otherwise, the debunking of climate change science isn’t going to be decisive… The hollow politics of either side will remain.

  15. I’ve been reading C-A for over a year, and admire it for its careful analysis of media and establishment AGW scaremongering, and for the importance of your basic insight into the way the AGW story is filling a gap in today’s directionless politics.

    The one aspect I have never understood is your acerbic replies to us readers. Robert Wood is the latest victim. His suggestion that David Adam is not “just a journalist who has confused science and politics” but “a propagandist … writing in support of a watermelon agenda” seems to me basically sound and in agreement with your analysis.

    I don’t like the watermelon label either. Like all labels, its a lazy way of avoiding analytical thought, and insofar as it suggests that all greens are closet reds, it’s obviously false. (It also tends to be used by American conservatives who see no difference between Marx and Obama, and for that reason alone, should be avoided by anyone interested in serious political analysis.)

    But in your reply to Robert, you seem so intent on proving that he has “missed the point quite comprehensively”, that you seem to end up defending Adam’s right to indulge in propaganda (given that the global warming debate is essentially political, and propaganda – interpreting the word in a non-pejorative sense – is legitimate in political debate). Have I correctly interpreted your argument?

    I agree – as I imagine would most regular posters here – with your central point that “nobody should be ashamed of making political arguments … in the climate debate”. But this is about the science correspondent of a major newspaper. I made the point in a previous post that journalism doesn’t have one set of rules for all practitioners, but, however you define the role of a science correspondent, Adam’s articles are a travesty, and doubly so because the editors of the Observer / Guardian play upon the ambiguity of his role as propagandist / reporter-of-objective-science in order to justify their own unsupported positions.

    The point I’m making about the debasement of journalistic standards apparently as a matter of editorial policy, is I think complementary to your point about science filling the political vacuum. No doubt I’l get my knuckles rapped, but I do think you’d do us humble posters and yourselves a favour if you could couch your criticisms of our (sometimes critical, but always supportive) remarks a bit more diplomatically. We are sensitive souls.

    Oh, and “climate porn” is at least as unacceptable as “watermelon” as a term of debate. And I speak as someone who regrets having once used “eco-fascist”.

  16. Paulus made a good point about Adam’s response to TGGWS in the Guardian. I remember that too.
    I also remember his coverage of Bali and his lionising of Rudd which really looks a bit stupid now.

    Ok , I understand that Adam can’t be a public educator like Feynman, Dawkins, Medawar or Dyson But this is not merely about an example of a latent left/right POV gently shifting the breeze where doubt lies.

    This seems more about the end of science. The standard model was done and dusted in the 70’s (until maybe they get their magnets sorted), genetic science – is now genetic engineering.
    “Engineering” engineering is hard but “Social” engineering is just two steps from Alan Rushbridgers office…
    What is now called science, is, mostly presented to the public as “Global Warming”.
    And you don’t need to ask Naomi Oreskes to go and Google this to work that out
    I have to ask why anyone could not expect such a powerful pseudo-holistic thought process could not get so much coverage and take over?

    I personally think climate chaos is an intrinsically boring concept and don’t understand the excitement in this. Anyone of intelligence should know that Engineers can always mitigate. Maybe I am wrong, but my feeling is that any excitement conjured in AGW, is purely designed to enliven inadequate western humanities students who are now taking over the reins of power and now need motivation to govern the new boring iPod world they find.

  17. Geoff/Robert Wood,

    Apologies if our replies have appeared aggressive. They aren’t intended to be, but often they are written in a hurry – and we’ve been very short of time recently, hence the lack of posts. It is also difficult to switch from one mode of writing to another – combative and forensic to diplomatic. Our bad. Sorry.

    Geoff. We only defend Adam’s right to propagandise to the extent that we say propaganda is neutral – there’s nothing wrong with propaganda per se. The use of science in that particular process is probably bad science, and it is conceivable that it is illegitimate. But it misses the point. Adam and his editors aren’t necessarily aware that politics is prior to the science. Adam’s failure is not necessarily that he plots a way of deceiving people – even if it is conceivable that he does – to coerce and distort. His failure is in not reflecting on his own position. Ditto his editors.

    As you know, our interest is not what might be motivating Adam as such, in terms such as financial gain, or being patsy to some political conspiracy. Nonetheless, we still need to explain why it is that Adam can’t reflect on his own perspective. This failure is consistent with the vapidity of today’s political discussion, as you mention. This relates to another point we have stressed before, and which (I think) you’ve taken issue with: that climate sceptics – left and right – need to take responsibility for the ascendency of environmentalism. That is to say that the green movement exists within – is a symptom of – a wider phenomenon. It is just one expression of it. Criticism is often just as empty as its object. For instance, water melons…

    If there are watermelons in this debate, then they are hollow. They look as though, when you cut them open, they will reveal red flesh. But before you’ve even attempted to slice them open, they disintegrate. If it really was communism or Marxism under that green skin, it would be a good thing, even for conservatives, because it would mean that there was at least some intellectual substance and some methodological framework to take issue with, instead of nebulous ‘ethics’ constructed from disaster scenarios.

    At the same time, the environmentalists’ claim that scepticism is synonymous with the political Right and corporate power is equally fragile and cannot stand any pressure. It seems that today’s mutual negative definitions rest on mere balloons, that shift and float away, or just pop, rather than tolerate being part of a coherent structure. Greens that identify as not-Right, and conservatives that identify as not-Left-and-therefore-not-green are embraced in an infinite regress. Truly, it’s hard to know where one begins and the other ends, and if either didn’t exist, the other would have to invent it. And that’s precisely what they have done.

    Science, of course, rescues this process from total breakdown. But if you can’t conceive of politics being prior to science, you can’t reflect on how you are being influenced. At the same time, that realisation undermines the perspective of anyone who clings to vapid environmentalism.

    Re ‘climate porn’: isn’t that just a snappier way of saying eco-catastrophism or whatever? Unlike the watermelon, there is no implicit judgement about the underlying politics. We have our ideas about the underlying politics, of course, but they are not necessary to understand the meaning of the term. And we rather like your ‘eco-fascism’, but that’s largely because we agree with the implicit judgements… paramilitary organisations operating at street-level, engaging in coercion and occasionally violent intimidation, the merging of state and corporate power, and a cultish mythology… and because we are not as consistent as perhaps you would like us to be.

  18. cripes, this must be why my cyber-ears are burning. i quite like ‘junior climate alarmist’ though, that’s one of the more polite ones.

    i have a policy of not responding to criticism that I don’t understand, so you’ll excuse me if I leave

    “David Adam’s work typifies this symptom. Being able only to see the world through the prism of climate change represents a failure to sustain a coherent analysis and a lack of confidence in even his own subjectivity – hence appeals to scientific authority. ”

    well alone, though it looks mighty clever, which i guess is the point.

    just to address some of the more direct criticisms of my reporting:

    you say

    “…allowing Adam to report, on consecutive days, that Greenland ice melt is, respectively, less and more imminent than previously thought.”

    er, no. did you read the stories? the first

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/10/greenland-ice-sheet-climate-change

    talks about the point at which the melting of greenland could become irreversible

    and the second

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/11/greenland-channels-ice-loss

    describes video footage inside greenland, that shows tunnels that could speed up ice melt

    while the third

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/11/sea-level-rises-climate-change-copenhagen

    barely mentions greenland, except to say that it could be contributing more to sea level rise than the IPCC accounted for

    the two concepts are not contradictory. greenland can melt faster and yet the point at which that melt becomes irreversible can be postponed. that’s pretty simple stuff, i’m surprised you were confused.

    You also say:

    “To pluck just one of Adam’s stories from the pile, on the Thursday he was claiming that ’severe global warming could make half the world’s inhabited areas literally too hot to live in’ and that ‘people will not be able to adapt to a much warmer climate as well as previously thought’. The story was based on a paper presented by Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales, who adds human physiology into the climate models to suggest that ‘physiological limits of the human body will begin to render places impossible to support human life if the average global temperature rises by 7C on pre-industrial levels’. ”

    and

    “We don’t know whether Sherwood made these claims, or if they are Adam’s own original contribution to ‘the science’, but either way it demonstrates a complete failure to scrutinise and question what are preliminary research findings.”

    Couldn’t you have used your powers of freelance science journalism to hunt out this publicly available abstract of Sherwood’s talk?

    http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/1755-1315/6/52/522006/ees9_6_522006.pdf?request-id=214c82eb-cdce-47c5-90a6-3e973d11fed1

    in which he says

    “7C would begin to create zones of
    uninhabitability due to unsurvivable peak heat stresses”

    You also say:

    “We have to take David’s word for it that he wasn’t one of those people losing the ‘carefully constructed messages’ in the political noise. It is curious that none of the 2,500 attendees – natural scientists, social scientists, activists, dignitaries, corporates and journalists – had lost sufficient patience to go on the record to evince their frustration and impatience, and the only people he can get to confirm his message are Nicholas Stern and Rajendra Pachauri – neither of them climate scientists.”

    Er, no. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can read the following story.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/13/stern-attacks-politicians-climate-change

    which includes the following quotes

    Kevin Anderson, research director at the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said: “The scientists have lost patience with our carefully constructed messages being lost in the political noise. And we are now prepared to stand up and say enough is enough.”

    Peter Cox, a climate expert at Exeter University, said: “People have been saying this individually for a long time. This is just a much louder and concerted shout from our community.”

    And finally you say:

    “A further caution that Adam throws to the wind is that much of the new research he reports on will not yet have been published in the peer-reviewed literature.”

    Fair point. Conferences like this put journalists in a difficult position, especially so as most of the scientists didn’t want us to even mention the journals that the work was being sent to. I probably could have stressed the preliminary nature of the studies more, but then the references I did make tended to be subbed out. Still, it’s refreshing to be discussing the merits of peer review with climate change deniers. I assume, for all the faux-analysis and posturing about ‘politics shaped holes’, that’s what this is about, yes? Well, good luck with that one!

    Cheers
    David Adam
    The Guardian

  19. David,

    i have a policy of not responding to criticism that I don’t understand, so you’ll excuse me if I leave
    “David Adam’s work typifies this symptom. Being able only to see the world through the prism of climate change represents a failure to sustain a coherent analysis and a lack of confidence in even his own subjectivity – hence appeals to scientific authority. ”
    well alone, though it looks mighty clever, which i guess is the point.

    Fair enough, you don’t get it. Did you read to the end of the paragraph? Maybe you did and still didn’t get it. Again, fair enough. It’s a theme we return to often, and don’t spell it out afresh every time. And it’s probably safe to assume that you’re not a regular visitor.

    Anyway, perhaps we can help. We are suggesting that the objectivity of science is appealing to commentators/journalists/politicians who would otherwise lack a means to express or justify their perspective on the world. It cannot have escaped your attention that the language of ‘climate’ is becoming increasingly dominant in all forms of criticism and analysis of what happens in the public sphere. We have philosophers inventing special ‘climate change ethics’, for instance. The social sciences have refocused their attention on how best to promote climate-friendly behaviour among the masses. Psychologists have become keen to offer their insight into what the damaging consequences of a lack of exposure to nature might be, and to explain what pathological mechanisms might be behind people’s failure to observe the tenets of environmentalism. And so it is with politics. What remains of the Left has abandoned its attachment to materialist frameworks. Capitalism is no longer criticised on the basis of the antagonistic social relations it produces. Instead, the antagonism is with Mother Nature, and anyone who disagrees is ‘Right wing’, in spite of the fact that so much of this outlook has its origins in the writing of Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith, and plenty of the Right embrace Green ideas. And so it is with journalists. All this criticism hangs on the one sole claim: climate change will be catastrophic. This gives commentators a moral direction from which to aim their criticism of governments; of the dirty masses with their filthy diets and their cars; of opposing political positions. In short: naked prejudices are given the appearance of objectivity by scientific authority.

    The problem this creates is that those who have absorbed the idea that they are in possession of the objective ‘facts’ seem to find it very hard to reflect on what might be influencing them. They don’t recognise their position as political and subjective – they can’t, they are being ‘objective’ after all.

    Feel free to disagree. Or to take the piss.

    the two concepts are not contradictory. greenland can melt faster and yet the point at which that melt becomes irreversible can be postponed. that’s pretty simple stuff, i’m surprised you were confused.

    It is very easy to be confused if you rely on Guardian environmental coverage. But our point is not that these stories are contradictory, but that the presentation of a week’s worth of the most salacious stories of the day contributes nothing to the public understanding of either the science of climate change or how we should respond to it politically.

    Thanks for the link to Sherwood’s abstract. But, as we suggested in the piece, who made the claim is irrelevant to our argument. Our point is that, whoever made it, it is a silly claim that is taken seriously only because it can be dressed up in the language of science. It is as silly, we’d suggest, as ‘scientist says naked man wouldn’t last long at the North Pole’. Much of the inhabited world is already uninhabitable were it not for the conveniences of modern civilisation. It is newsworthy only because someone has attached some numbers to it and used it to bang home the message that we’re going to hell in a climatological handcart. What is lacking is any hint of a raised journalistic eyebrow. In our opinion, your willingness to parrot ‘the science’ as ‘reported’ by scientists is a graver error for the fact that you recognise the tentative nature of conference presentations. You can blame it on the subs if you like, but it’s your name on the by-line.

    And thanks for your article about Stern. We were going on the podcast.

    It is striking that you have chosen not to respond to any of our wider criticisms. Do you object, for example, to the suggestion that your role – perhaps unspoken – is to seek out the most salacious stories, on the most salacious topics, with the most salacious accompanying visuals? Do you disagree with our one-news-story-per-paper characterisation of science journalism? Or with our suggestion – and Mike Hulme’s – that the politics of environmentalism is routinely passed off as the science of climate change?

    Still, it’s refreshing to be discussing the merits of peer review with climate change deniers. I assume, for all the faux-analysis and posturing about ‘politics shaped holes’, that’s what this is about, yes? Well, good luck with that one!

    See, this is where your response starts getting interesting. Because it’s where your mischaracterisation, or misunderstanding, of climate change debates is exposed. What makes you think we are climate change deniers? Indeed, what is a climate change denier? Is it someone who thinks there is a debate to be had when you know it’s done and dusted? Is it someone who denies that humans and their CO2 have much to do with recent warming trends? If so, please point us to where we have made that claim. We just happen to think that that observation is rather more mundane than ecotastrophists would have us believe.

    Is it someone who criticises the prevailing climate orthodoxy? We certainly do a lot of that. Should the phenomenon of climate change – or its representation in the press – be above scrutiny?

    Or is a denier someone who disagrees with you politically? To return to our answer to your first point, it looks to us that the term ‘climate change denier’ is a useful way of avoiding exposing an inability to respond to political ideas. As we have put it previously: ‘science’ is environmentalism’s fig leaf, it hides an embarrassment of bad faith and bad politics. The result is that those who talk of ‘deniers’, can’t tell the difference between the perspectives offered by Lord Monckton of Brenchley and Alexander Cockburn. Lumping them together into a convenient category – denier – only really demonstrates a shallow understanding of the debate… ‘it’s all about the science’. We don’t happen to agree with either on many of their political and scientific arguments. Yet it would seem that we are in the same category.

    Our view is that the war on CO2 is better explained by politics than by scientific insights. We believe that no amount of ‘study says…’ stories will help us make sense of an uncertain future. That is not to say that the science is irrelevant or unimportant, just that it does not determine by itself the best course of action. As we say, science isn’t instructive. It doesn’t issue moral imperatives, and it doesn’t create good politics.

  20. “Our view is that the war on CO2 is better explained by politics than by scientific insights.”

    So it’s all a commie plot? Sheesh, even the hardliners in the US oil industry have moved on from that one.

    Like I said, good luck.
    David

  21. David, with that empty sarcastic response, you have brilliantly captured Ben’s point. Well done! And good luck with your journalistic training. Another couple of years and you might have got the hang of it.

  22. David, you obviously didn’t read what the editors wrote above about the “watermelon” hypothesis.

    (As an aside – did you know that the watermelon metaphor was first used in Japanese militarist propaganda attacking Esperantists? Green is the colour of Esperanto…)

  23. If we were saying that there was a ‘commie plot’, David, we would say ‘commie plot’. In fact, we frequently take issue with those who do describe it as a commie plot. We have argued many times on these very pages that treating environmentalism as a form of communism doesn’t bear scrutiny. We’ve had many arguments with many people commenting here on this very topic. (See comment #16) Even in our reply to you, we have just said that ‘Capitalism is no longer criticised on the basis of the antagonistic social relations it produces’. Did you miss it, or just not understand it?

    Even if it were some kind of crypto-communism that is driving the environmental agenda, our point is that it expresses itself in environmental ‘scientific’ terminology, not on its own terms – as communism would, necessarily. As we point out, all political perspectives are increasingly being expressed in the language of ‘environment’. So if it’s a commie plot, it’s also a ‘Rightie’ plot. Across the spectrum, there is a failure to sustain coherent political perspectives, and so the language of environmental crisis fills the void. Same with the pages of the Guardian.

    If you can’t follow a nuanced argument, it is no wonder that your articles are so full of contradiction and alarm. You propagate your confusion and disorientation because you conflate climate science and climate politics.

  24. That’s the problem, I can’t follow your argument. I can barely make one out through the rhetorical fog and linguistic gymnastics.

    “Across the spectrum, there is a failure to sustain coherent political perspectives, and so the language of environmental crisis fills the void. Same with the pages of the Guardian.”

    What does that even mean? That’s not nuance, it’s gobbledegook.

    I could be wrong, but such obfuscation is usually a tell-tale sign of 100% proof climate change denial, by which I mean making perverse challenge to scientific evidence driven by political, economic or pathological motives. Please, make it simple for me. What part of the climate orthodoxy do you want to resist? That greenhouse gas emissions are driving up the temperature? That as emissions continue the temperature will continue to rise with uncertain, but probably very serious impacts for millions of people? That reducing carbon emissions is the most obvious way to reduce those likely impacts? That cutting carbon emissions will require change in policy?

    David

  25. It seemed to me an excellent thing that David Adam should deign to join the debate on the rôle of catastrophic climate change alarmism in modern politics – something which his colleagues Monbiot, Vidal, and Randersen have always refused to do. And in his first comment at #21 he seemed to be making a real attempt to understand the criticism in the article (justifying my defence of him at #8 as “only obeying orders doing his job”). Alas, at #28 he shows advanced symptoms of CiF-ilis with his argument: “I can’t understand what you’re saying , so you must be a denier”.

    The most interesting part of his argument is surely his definition of climate change denial as “making perverse challenge to scientific evidence driven by political, economic or pathological motives”. Why should anyone engaged in an argument (any argument) feel it necessary to offer a definition of what it means to take an opposing position?

  26. “Across the spectrum, there is a failure to sustain coherent political perspectives, and so the language of environmental crisis fills the void. Same with the pages of the Guardian.” – What does that even mean? That’s not nuance, it’s gobbledegook.

    Okay, maybe we’ve overestimated you. Let us try a comparative example.

    Many of the critics of the War on Terror have pointed to the failure of the Neo-conservative movement to sustain the legitimacy of their agenda as a driver of the Gulf intervention. Neo-conservative ideas weren’t capturing the public’s imagination. When the basis for a war turned up, it justified their functions: aggressive foreign policy and their failure to deliver domestic progress could now be explained. The emphasis that the hawks were making was on ‘security’. The same happened here – we were lead to believe that there was such a threat to Western civilisation itself that we needed to suspend our normal aspirations for the sake of survival. (This thesis is explored in Adam Curtis’s excellent series of films, The Power of Nightmares.)

    We suggest on this blog that this ‘politics of fear’ is not unique to the WoT, and that it operates across the political spectrum – that all political parties have lost touch with their traditional political philosophies and accordingly lost touch with their traditional constituencies. Labour no longer represents labour, for instance. The political establishment – including all the main political parties – seem to be unable to sustain perspectives with which to engage the public. How can they? Losing touch with their political philosophies is equivalent to losing their identities – they appear increasingly indistinct. The possibility of ‘catastrophic climate change’ operates in this political environment in the same way as does the possibility of stone-age Jihadists exterminating the West. Conventional politics is thereby suspended for the necessity of surviving the crisis. (You may say ‘but climate change is real’. But so too could it be said that ‘terrorism is real’. The question is less about how ‘real’ the object of the political response is, and more about what is being brought to the process. What we argue is that politics is prior to science, and so it is essential to understand what prejudices and expectations we have of science before we attempt to understand what science is supposed to be ‘saying’.)

    An example might be useful here. We’ve looked a lot at what emerges from Caroline Lucas’s campaign. Just today, for instance, Lucas argues today that intensive farming may have been responsible for the outbreak of bird flu, and now swine fever. Maybe so. But Lucas’s argument is premature. First, it is worth pointing out that neither viruses have manifested as ‘pandemics’ – normal flu kills many more people than either of these viruses have. Second, it is not as if aggressive viruses do not emerge from the ‘natural world’. HIV, Ebola, etc. Compared to problems the world faces from many other risks (malaria, for example, or even just crossing the road), the dangers so far evident from these viruses is minimal. Yet Lucas uses their potential in our imagination to make a case for her wider agenda. And she does so in the name of science. This is something she does with surprising regularity. For instance, we have found her, on two occasions using very dubious statistics linking ‘chemicals’ to instances of cancer on the basis that ‘Around 75 per cent of all cancers are caused by environmental factors, mainly chemicals…’. As a trained scientist, you will no doubt appreciate the absurdity of her wildly premature claims. At best, what she says is meaningless. But it is in fact highly emotive, amounting to a slogan – ‘vote for me, or get cancer’. All that Lucas’s political vision offers is survival in a hostile world, in which risk from industrial society is minimised at the expense of its benefits. If the war on terror reduces to an absurdity – a war on a concept – Lucas’s war is no more rational: it is a war on unquantified… unquantifiable… risk.

    We find it interesting that the Guardian is rather keen these days on exposing Bad Science. And yet it is happy to indulge in its own BS, and to parrot others doing the same, while ignoring the rubbish spouted by the likes of Lucas, when it is politically expedient to its editorial agenda. And of course, Bad Climate Science is politically expedient. ‘Doing something’ about climate change is – for some strange reason – regarded as politically progressive. We don’t believe that this process of filtering good Bad Science from bad Bad Science is necessarily a conscious one. It is simply the result of passing off one’s political opinions as being justified by ‘the science’.

    That is, we argue, because there is no human measure of progress operating in any of the political ideas in circulation – the desire is for measures of progress which are ‘objective’. Social progress is now measured in terms of its ‘sustainability’, for instance, not in terms of higher standards of living. Development is sacrificed for stability.

    That is why we jumped on your coverage of the Copenhagen conference. We thought it a perfect example of how science journalism is less about informing an audience about developments in science, and has become more another means of promoting the idea of catastrophe.

    We’re certainly not the only ones criticising the emphasis on catastrophe in science reporting. The Tyndall Centre’s Mike Hulme – an eminent and high-profile climate scientist, and certainly no ‘denier’ (although we wonder how long it will be before he is labelled as such) – has been saying it loudly for a year or two. In his new book, he also laments how political ideologies, beliefs and arguments hide behind science in climate debates. This is one reason we are so surprised that this all comes as such a surprise to you.

    You suggest that we may be ‘making perverse challenge to scientific evidence driven by political, economic or pathological motives.’

    The problem with this statement is that you make it as though you yourself were free from ‘political, economic or pathological motives’. As we try to explain above, you’re just not, and the only person who believes that you’re not is you. As we explain, hiding your subjective view of the world behind the objectivity of science merely betrays your inability to understand it and to make sense of it. The sense of impending doom may therefore be prior to anything that emerges from science, and owe far more to the fact that you appear to be looking so damned hard for it, to the exclusion of considering anything that might unsettle the certainty of imminent doom. So who is the ‘denier’?

    And it’s exempified in your question ‘What part of the climate orthodoxy do you want to resist?’…

    That greenhouse gas emissions are driving up the temperature? That as emissions continue the temperature will continue to rise with uncertain, but probably very serious impacts for millions of people? That reducing carbon emissions is the most obvious way to reduce those likely impacts? That cutting carbon emissions will require change in policy?

    See, you’re doing it again. The climate change orthodoxy is a strange mish-mash of the scientific and the political. And, right on cue, here you flow seamlessly from one to the other. That is what we want to resist. We have already stated flatly that we have little problem with the scientific observation that the world has been warming up a bit and that anthropogenic CO2 probably has much to do with it. We’d agree that reducing carbon emissions is the ‘most obvious’ way to reduce likely impacts. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best, or the only. As for ‘very serious impacts’, our stance would be that science has very little to say on the matter. Because how climate effects turn into social effects relate more to political questions. Our political response should be informed by science, yes, but not flow from it – science doesn’t generate moral imperatives. There’s a multitude of possible political responses. It’s just a shame that we’re not in a position to choose between alternatives. We’d go as far as to say that policy changes might well be needed. But you provide little choice over the nature of that political response – no choice, in fact. Only statements about catastrophe. Our objection is that all these points get packaged into the same bundle that you have packaged them into by all the political parties of all political persuasions – not to mention science journalists – and that to criticise it is to be in denial of ‘the science’.

  27. Here’s what made me suspicious about the whole global warming thing:

    Why isn’t the government building nuclear reactors (which produce huge amounts of energy, without CO2 emissions) as fast as possible under emergency conditions, with a shoot-to-kill policy against any anti-nuclear protesters who try to get in the way?

    If the alarmists were right about CO2-driven climate change it would be the obvious thing to do. Even if the reactors were very shoddily constructed, the alleged consequences of climate change are so cataclysmic that even multiple Chernobyl-level disasters per year would be peanuts in comparison.

    This implies that either AGWCC is a hoax used as an excuse to micromanage people’s behaviour, or that our governments are dominated by evil cocksuckers who actually want a Malthusian catastrophe.

  28. If your argument is only that politicians will exploit and even exaggerate the threat when it suits them then I agree with you. Such is life. Politicians do politics.
    But, as I think you do, you want anyone to take seriously the argument that tackling climate change has somehow been constructed as a trojan horse through which politicians achieve goals or promote agendas by proxy, then you’re going to have to come up with some stronger examples that some critiques of newspaper articles on climate science. That’s just standard climate change denial.
    You betray your true motives when you argue that you wish to prevent the “seamless flow” from scientific evidence to evidence-based policy making.
    This is my last contribution to this discussion btw. I have junior climate alarmism to be getting on with.
    Either climate change is a serious problem that requires a serious political response, with all of its failings, to address or it’s not. I think it is. You seem to think not, fair enough. Like I said at the start, good luck.
    Cheers
    David

  29. climate change has somehow been constructed as a trojan horse through which politicians achieve goals or promote agendas by proxy…”

    You missed the point rather…

    A quick look at your profile at the Guardian reveals a series of articles, all of which are clearly designed, not to report on scientific discovery, but to rally support for environmentalism.

    For example ‘Climate change experts reveal their hopes and fears’ – an attributed list of anonymous ‘scientific’ opinions about how soon the world will end. Unless we do… something…

    Or, on the same day, you wrote that ‘Almost nine out of 10 climate scientists do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed’ – which is a bullshit way of producing salacious copy, and its the worst possible form of bad science reporting.

    More headlines:
    -“Climate change experts call on G20 members to commit to action”
    -“Green spending in UK economic rescue package ‘negligible'”
    -“State intervention vital if Britain is to meet its green energy targets, says former BP boss”
    -“National Grid chief calls for more renewables subsidies”
    -“UK needs urgent ‘master plan’ on renewable energy, warns National Grid”
    -“Warning over renewables as economic crisis leaves funding gap”
    -“Leading climate scientist: ‘democratic process isn’t working'”
    -“West Antarctic ice sheet could melt – again”
    -“UK government carbon targets ‘too weak’ to prevent dangerous climate change, scientists say”
    -“UK economic rescue plans ‘must be greener’, MPs say”
    -“Climate change warning: ‘We’re sick of having our messages lost in political noise'”
    -“Stern attacks politicians over climate ‘devastation'”

    You are the proxy, it seems. Article after article after article of ‘scientists say…’, ‘experts agreee…’, ‘doesn’t go far enough…’, ‘politicians are wrong…’… Crisis. Crisis. Crisis. No Crisis, no story, no David Adam.

    We weren’t in fact drawing a distinction between politicians and journalists. It’s the same process – both are disoriented and struggle to make sense of today’s world. There is a Caroline Lucas for every David Adam, and she probably reads his stories.

    …you’re going to have to come up with some stronger examples that some critiques of newspaper articles on climate science

    Let us make it clear…

    1. You do not report on climate science. You make up alarming stories based on what a worst-possible-case implication of an unreviewed, single study might be – a crisis. You report opinion as fact without a hint of caution.
    2. There are 241 other posts to this blog. Some of them look at how the media treat the climate debate. Some of them look at how politicians responded. Take your pick.
    3. The problem is that you do not reflect on what you might be influenced by, and what kind of politics the disaster narrative is creating.

    Either climate change is a serious problem that requires a serious political response, with all of its failings, to address or it’s not. I think it is. You seem to think not, fair enough. Like I said at the start, good luck.

    You make it sound like ‘I like lemonade, you like tea’. But at least you finally seem to be twigging that your politics is prior to the way you report the science.

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