B*llsh*t B*ll*cks Cr*p

Some journalists are supposed to be critical of government. It is their job. Some journalists are supposed to make arguments in favour of government policy. It is their job, even if the result is bland and inconsequential. Some journalists feign ‘balance’ by reporting what both sides of a ‘debate’ have to say.

It is easy to criticise journalists for their biases. But bias is part of the job of reporting. If journalists had no perspective to offer, there would be no point in the news.

But the BBC’s coverage of events is curious. It reported today that:

The chancellor has announced measures aimed at cutting the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions – as part of £1bn spending to tackle climate change.

The Budget commits the UK to cut CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020.

There is much to say about the Government’s campaign to make the UK greener. For instance, it could be asked what kind of legitimacy its policies have, since environmentalism has never been tested by the UK’s democratic process. Neither has it been established exactly whose interests green policies have been designed to serve.

These things don’t interest the journalists at the BBC:

Industry has pushed for the measures, saying it will allow them to invest in “greener” technologies, but scientists say the targets do not go far enough.

Which ‘industry’? When? More to the point, which scientists?

Environmental group Friends of the Earth said the emissions cuts were far too weak to allow the UK to “play its part in avoiding dangerous climate change”.

But Friends of the Earth aren’t scientists.

The New Economics Foundation dismissed the Budget as being “more beige than green”.

But the New Economics Foundation aren’t scientists either.

Christian Aid’s climate policy expert Dr Alison Doig said the UK and other industrialised nations needed to urgently commit to deeper emissions cuts ahead of a climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

Last time we checked, Christian Aid weren’t scientists.

The offer of taxpayer money to support carbon capture and storage would put pressure on government to make sure such projects were delivered on time to the benefit of the UK consumer, said Jim Fitzgerald, a director at Ernst & Young.

Ernst & Young aren’t scientists.

The article does not quote a single scientist.

This is the curious thing: the BBC reporter seems to imagine that these various special interest groups speak ‘for science’. Even more curious is that, in terms of ideological bias, neither the reporter, the Government, nor the interest groups represent opposing ‘sides’. The differences between them only amount to theoretical degrees of commitment to the same ideas. At the same time that the journalist has written an article critical of the government, he or she has written something that is sympathetic.

If you wanted to know what the NEF, Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth were saying about today’s budget, you’d have been better off visiting their websites. The BBC seemingly presents these activists’ views, not only as scientific authorities, but as though they – the BBC – had gone to the trouble of soliciting these organisations for their opinion, and that the quotes are responses to their own probing questions. And yet all the quotes are in fact simply lifted word-for-word from press releases. Not only does the BBC pander to the shrillest voices, but it apparently does so by design.

The anonymous BBC journalist hack gives the authority of science to these special interests, as though they were neutral, objective and disinterested observers of the government, not the ideologically-driven, unaccountable, and undemocratic activists which they are. This frames the debate as though it were itself between a government dragging its feet, and pure objectivity.

Even more curious, we’re supposed to think that a green budget would be a good thing, because it is something ‘industry has pushed for’, and the ‘scientists’ (aka activist organisations) have said that ‘the first ever carbon budgets is a ground-breaking step’. But what about you and I? When do our views on environmental policies get checked? Not at the ballot box. Not in Parliament. Not on the BBC.

The halfwit hack cannot even tell the difference between a scientist and a campaigning organisation. What hope has he or she of producing an informative article, with or without bias?

Messianic green activist Al Gore is credited with raising the profile of the ‘balance as bias’ hypothesis, which posits that the perception of the climate debate has been distorted by giving air time to ‘deniers’, giving the impression that there still exists a debate within the scientific community. Of course, it works the other way too, but Gore conveniently forgets that.

Let us propose another hypothesis. The bullshit-as-bias hypothesis. The perception of the climate debate is distorted by bollocks journalism, such as the BBC exhibits today. It cannot bring any intelligence to its reporting, cannot reflect critically on any of the opinions it reports, and is entirely credulous about whatever it sees or hears. It is the slack-jawed, hollow-headed cretin it imagines its audience to be. News: digested and delivered in exactly the way that excessive dietary fibre is. Complete crap.

The Modern Movement vs. the Miserable Moment

ATTENTION – VISITORS FROM CACC CAMPAIGN WEBSITES AND EMAILS.  ALTHOUGH IT IS SPELLED OUT IN WHITE AND BLACK, MANY OF YOU HAVE FAILED TO REALISE THAT WE ARE NOT THE ORGANISERS OF THE EVENT. THE DEMONSTRATION IS ORGANISED BY MODERN MOVEMENT. Thanks, the Editors.

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Modern Movement, who are mounting a stand to the bleak language of the environmentalists, are planning a demonstration in favour of the Heathrow Airport expansion, to counter a demo planned by opponents of the scheme.

Support Airport Expansion: Thursday 19 February, 17.30 -19.30 on Parliament Square, East Footway

The extension of flying to millions of people has been a liberation. Most of us can now afford to go on holiday and welcome the cheapening of air travel allowing us to fly abroad. The development of aviation infrastructure is crucial to allow ever more people to fly.

This is why Modern Movement will be holding a counter-demonstration at the same time as the anti-aviation groups to show our support for airport expansion and urge on the building of the third runway at Heathrow.

Join us in front of Parliament to argue for guilt-free travel, for ever-cheaper flights and for freedom of movement.

Modern Movement – Faster, Cheaper, Better Transport for All!

Banners, flags and posters welcome but not essential. Look out for the large Modern Movement banner. This demonstration has been authorised by the Metropolitan Police.

This comes in the wake of what seemed to be a call for movement to be rationed from the Climate Change Committee chair, Lord Adair Turner, who gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee last week,

If there has to be demand constraint, we will then bring in the analysis I mentioned earlier of where are these flights, and one of the questions we will ask is, “How many of the flights which occur are of sufficiently short distances either because they are domestic or they are London to the south of France, London to the skiing resorts, et cetera”, that there is a believable story that they do not have to be flights, they can be high-speed rail, or are quite a lot of them things where, realistically, it is never going to be competed by high-speed rail and, therefore, you actually have to say that we have got to constrain demand in an absolute sense and people just will not be able to make as many journeys as they would want to in an unconstrained fashion. That is the analysis that we are going to do.

If you’re near enough to London to be able to make it to the demo on the 19th Feb, please do.

activism.plc@gov.ac.uk

At the risk of getting all Exxon-Secrets ‘on yo asses’… Thanks to the reader who let us know about Bob Ward‘s latest career move. Ward, if you remember, left his post of director of communications at the Royal Society to join global risk analysis firm RMS as Director of Global Science Networks. It was a perfectly natural progression that allowed him to continue both his pseudo-scientific catastrophe-mongering and his crusade against Exxon and Martin Durkin. Which he did.

Ward now pops up at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, where he has taken on the post of Policy and Communications Director. The Grantham is chaired by Professor Lord Sir Nicholas Stern of Brentford, author of a rather influential report on the economics of climate change, and who stands to profit admirably from institutional environmentalism via his carbon credit reference agency. It is no surprise that Ward and Sir Nicholas find themselves in the same company department, given their shared interests. Stern is also Chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), which is funded by the UK government’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and which acknowledges that ‘Generous support for the Centre’s work is also provided by Munich Re’. Munich Re is the insurance giant that claims to know what the IPCC does not when it comes to the reality of climate change in the present.

Glancing down the profiles of Grantham’s management team, we spot another corporate Green to have found a new home among academic foliage. The last time we looked, Sam Fankhauser was Managing Director of IDEAcarbon:

IDEAcarbon is an independent and professional provider of ratings, research and strategic advice on carbon finance. Our services are designed to provide leading financial institutions, corporations, governments, traders and developers with unbiased intelligence and analysis of the factors that affect the pricing of carbon market assets.

IDEAcarbon’s parent company is IDEAglobal, where Stern is Vice President.

Fankhauser doubles up as a member of the Climate Change Committee, the ‘independent’ body set up by the UK government to advise the UK government on climate policies.

The CCC is chaired by Lord Adair Turner of Ecchinswell, a man whose CV includes stints of environmental activism as a trustee for WWF and membership of the Advisory Board of Climate Change Capital, a firm offering services as an ‘investment manager and advisor specialising in the opportunities created by the transition to the low carbon economy’.

After all this, we were slightly disappointed to gather that the Grantham Research Institute is not named after the birthplace of green pioneer Margaret Thatcher. That it’s named in honour of multi-millionaire sponsors Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham, whose Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment also supports such green multi-nationals as GreenpeaceOxfamWWF and the Union of Concerned Scientists, is no less appropriate, however.

Grantham’s raison d’être is, according to its Chair:

Professor Stern said: ’As scientists continue to play their role in analysing the causes and effects of climate change, it is crucial that social scientists take a lead in the building of policy. The Grantham Institute will produce high-quality, policy-relevant research, alongside a range of outputs designed to support policy development, raise public awareness and contribute to private-sector strategy formation.’

Climate Resistance would not stoop to suggest that the corporate and ideological interests of the Grantham Research Institute’s staff could conceivably influence the direction or quality of its research output.

In fact, it’s worth re-stating that we wouldn’t make so much of the financial interests of these folk were it not for the fact that Bob Ward and his cronies make so much about links with dirty oil money, as exemplified by Ward’s former boss at the Royal Society, Bob May, writing in the TLS:

Despite the growing weight of evidence of climate change, along with growing awareness of the manifold adverse consequences, there remains an active and well-funded “denial lobby”. It shares many features with the lobby that for so long denied that smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. […] Whoever got things started, this is a ball which ExxonMobile picked up and ran with, shuttling lobbyists in and out of the White House as it did so. Following earlier talks and seeking to exemplify its centuries-old motto – Nullius in Verba (which roughly translates as “respect the facts”) – the Royal Society recently and unprecedentedly wrote to ExxonMobile, complaining about its funding for “organisations that have been misinforming the public about the science of climate change”, and more generally for promoting inaccurate and misleading views – specifically that scientists do not agree about the influence of human activity on rising temperatures.

Likewise, we would be less interested in such dodgy dealings if it weren’t for the mainstream media’s tendency to decry Exxon funding as corrupting of the scientific method while deeming Munich Re’s pronouncements – let alone the pronouncements of those they sponsor – as above scrutiny. It’s also worth re-stating at this point that fear is to the insurance industry what oil is to Exxon.

The ESRC’s CCCEP is worthy of further comment. According to its home page:

Human-induced climate change could have enormous impacts on economies and societies if we persist with ‘business as usual’. This is the consensus view of climate scientists and one with which economists are increasingly finding agreement (eg The Stern Review). It is much less certain, however, that our economic, social and political systems can respond to the challenge. Will public, private and civic actors take action to create low-carbon economies? What emission reduction strategies will be efficient, equitable and acceptable? How much should we invest, and when, on measures to reduce vulnerability to climate change? Who will bear the costs and enjoy the benefits? […] The Centre is chaired by Professor Lord Stern of Brentford

So, Lord Professor Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on the economics of climate change is somehow representative of the ‘scientific consensus’, and he shall, therefore, chair the ESRC’s climate change body.

There was a time when the social sciences felt it necessary to scrutinise the natural sciences, on the basis that scientists weren’t quite as objective as they liked to think they were. They had a point, even if the scientists were probably more objective than the sociologists thought they were. It was a good fight. Now, however, the starting point of centrally-funded social science is that it accepts unconditionally that not only is there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but there is an economic one, too. Aren’t new-fangled scientific practices like consensuses and peudo-scientific creations like ‘sustainability’ precisely what the social sciences should be scrutinising?

The CCCEP assumes from the outset that it follows necessarily that something must be done – and, indeed, that is the duty of each of us to do something. From its mission statement:

Climate change and its potential impacts are increasingly accepted, but economic, social and political systems have been slow to respond. There is a clear and urgent need to speed up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to unavoidable climate change.

The Centre’s mission is to respond to this need by advancing public and private action on climate change through innovative, rigorous research.

This is not sociology as the study of social institutions. It is sociology as government department, scholarly discipline and activist group all rolled into one. As if the Science Wars never happened, ‘climate science’ is free once again to speak ‘Truth to Power’ unfettered. Except that now it is aided and abetted by those who would be scrutinising it were it not for the fact that sociology has lost any sense of mission, just as political parties, the media, environmentalist activists and a host of scholarly disciplines attempting to justify themselves in terms of ‘relevance’ have lost sense of their mission.

The environmental orthodoxy is a tangled web of corporate interests, policy-makers, -movers and -shakers, academics, NGO’s and activists – all pushing in the same direction. Which would be just fine if the idea had been tested democratically. But it hasn’t. We’ve said it many times… environmentalism has not risen to prominence through its own energies: it has not developed from a mass movement; it isn’t representative of popular interests. It is useful only to various organisations that have otherwise struggled to justify themselves over the last few decades. The political parties have bought it. Various ‘radical’ organisations have bought it. Large sections of the media have bought it. Academic departments and funding agencies have bought it. Little wonder that corporate interests have been able to jump upon the bandwagon and play their hearts out for personal financial gain.

Forget speaking ‘Truth to Power’. Today it’s all about speaking ‘Official Truth™ for Official Power©’.

Eco-Prophets or Eco-Profiteers?

Ben has another article about the Climate Change Committee on The Register today. 

There’s no doubt there’s money to be made from this new legislation, which was passed last week. A recent conference, given the title ‘Cashing in on Carbon’ was, in its own words, “aimed squarely at investment banks, investors and major compliance buyers and is focused on how they can profit today from an increasingly diverse range of carbon-related investment opportunities”.

Read on.

Coincidence?

Last week, the UK’s Climate Change Bill was passed, and became the Climate Change Act.

Today, the Climate Change Committee published it’s report, Building a low-carbon economy – the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change.

The committee were asked to give their advice to parliament before the publication of the report. That advice was that the UK should commit itself to reducing its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Almost without question, MPs in the House of Commons accepted the advice.

Yet the MPs could not have been aware of the basis for the advice, because it came before the publication of the report. How could the Climate Change Committee’s reasoning been understood by MPs in sufficient detail to commit themselves to nearly half a century of policy?

It cannot have been.

MPs have taken the advice of the Committee with no scrutiny of the CCC itself, its member’s interests, or the substance of its advice.

Also beginning today was The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland.

There is something fishy about the timing of these three events.

The CCC was conceived of just a year and a month ago. It was not formed until the beginning of the year, and did not start work until the Spring, possibly even the Summer. In less than 9 months, it arrived at a decision based on ‘facts’ about what the next 43 years of energy policy in the UK ought to be, behind closed doors, unaccountably, and without scrutiny. In spite of the ‘thousands of the world’s best scientists’, and the efforts of many many more all working in collaboration with economists, scientists, and other experts from all over the world, never before has any definitive policy been formulated from ‘the science’.

But suddenly, just 8 people, comprising just one climate scientist, one ecologist, and a handful of economists, were able to organise ‘the facts’ into unchallengeable, objectively sound, and robust policy recommendation.

In other words, where democratic processes have been unable to produce a political consensus on policy, in spite of ‘the facts’ represented by ‘the scientific consensus’, undemocratic, unaccountable bodies don’t fail. No surprises here. (That’s not a criticism of democracy, incidentally)

The point of all this is that the UK Government’s need to have successfully created a a strong climate law, in place by now, December the 1st 2008, is owed, not to the Government’s commitment to ‘saving the planet’, nor even the UK population, but to the designs its members have on being ‘world leaders’.

That is to say that the ‘climate crisis’ turns one of the least popular Governments ever into planet-saving superheroes. But if it couldn’t even sort out a Climate Change Act at home, how could it ever strike a pose on the World Stage, this week, in Poland?

There was only one problem for the Government – democracy. It needed to get its costume – the Climate Change Act – ready for this fancy-dress party. But as we pointed out, the other parties threatened to upstage the Labour Government at home, by committing themselves to greater emissions cuts than they had proposed. They wanted to be the superheroes.

Enter the CCC to save the hour. Not for the planet, but for the Government. In return, they and their associates will be entitled to the carbon markets that the Climate Change Act will create.

That is why, on the first of December, 2008, the UK has a Climate Change Act, a pointless and damaging document called Building a low-carbon economy, and a Government posturing in Poland. And that is why your future just got a little dimmer.

The real crisis, as we have said before, is not in the sky. It is at the heart of British politics.