The press reaction to the annual GWPF lecture delivered by Matt Ridley at the Royal Society illustrates perfectly the insanity of the current state of discussion of climate change and all things environmental.
The rationally optimistic anti-green message transmitted by Ridley’s paper is derived entirely from the research conducted by Professor Ranga Myneni of Boston University, who has been publishing papers on detection of global vegetation cover since 1985. Matt Ridley has been writing about his work
for two or three years since January 2013. Four years after Professor Myneni first announced (in an informal presentation) that the world was greening due to anthropogenic causes (mainly directly attributed to increased CO2, but also to warming and increased precipitation) his results finally appeared in the scientific press in the form of a letter to Nature Climate Change (Zhu et al 2016) in April this year.
This is obviously hugely important news if true, and in the past four years, only one scientifically qualified journalist in the world seems to have noticed it – Matt Ridley. With hundreds of journals employing specialist environment correspondents, and thousands of green blogs run by activists, think tanks, political parties, renewable energy companies, charities, energy consultants, public relations experts, conscence-stricken millionaires and whatnot, you’d think someone would be interested in the unexpected appearance of a blob of greenery twice the size of the USA. Apparently not. All recent press interest has focussed, not on the state of the environment, but the state of mind of Matt Ridley.
I turned to Google to test world reaction to the scientific bombshell represented by Zhu et al 2016. Unfortunately there are many many Dr Zhus and Professor Zhus, so I tried googling “Professor Myneni” instead, and turned up just one hit in news outlets: an article attacking a different paper from the GWPF by the Guardian’s Dana Nuccitelli from a year ago which quotes Professor Myneni as saying:
If one were to interpret the greening of the Earth as a good or a positive development then one must also accept that the accompanying climate changes (global warming, for example) and its physical (sea level rise) and biotic impacts (polar bears) as bad or negative developments. Again, in my opinion, this benefit of greening is not worth price of all the negative changes.
You get the gist. Too much greenery is bad for polar bears.
Googling “Ranga Myneni” turns up 67 mentions in news outlets in the past four years, thirty of them in English (and some of those from Chinese, or German media.) An analysis of them all shouldn’t be too difficult, and I may have a go. To give a flavour, the top mention this morning was an article entitled: “We’re Fertilizing the Heck Out of Our Planet and That’s a Bad Thing”, but there are supportive articles too, by Delingpole at Breitbart, and Ridley himself at the Spectator.
However, on a quick scan, most of the articles seem to be devoted either to attacking Ridley or to warning us that a flourishing green environment is not necessarily good for the environment.
The attacks in the mainstream press concentrate, not on the science and the terrifying prospect of a greener, more productive world, but on the suspicion expressed by Ridley that publication of the results may have been retarded because they don’t accord with the green agenda. Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute has demanded apologies all round; Michael Mann has denounced Ridley as a denialist coal baron; and the Met Office has issued a press statement criticising misinterpretation of the paper, without actually mentioning Ridley or the GWPF or giving any indication where these misinterpretations are to be found.
And of course Dana Nuccitelli in the Guardian has an article which takes us through the usual SkepticalSpambot list of accusations (Gish gallop, cherry-picking..).
But the most telling attack is probably the one from Professor Myneni himself in which he states, of his own research demonstrating that CO2-induced greening has added the equivalent of a continent twice the size of the USA to the planet: “there is no evidence to count on CO2 fertilization benefit” and: “Personally, I would not buy the fertilization benefit for the price of global warming.”
Further clues to Professor Myneni’s views are provided in an article by Lubos Motl about a petition launched by the good professor three years ago, with the ambitious target of a billion signatures. The petition reads:
Dear Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, We, the People of the Earth, request You to act judiciously and expeditiously to protect the Earth from anthropogenic climate change. Respectfully, People of the Earth.
Lubos, in his usual tactful style, comments:
you can’t fail to notice the complete detachment of this psychiatrically ill man from the real world, his complete lack of common sense. …Almost everyone will agree that Mr Myneni is a loon if he really expects to collect one billion of signatures. But similar loons have actually begun to influence the economic and other policies of advanced nations in the world. They have no clue about anything but they are already (mis)directing billions of dollars. Instead, they should be hermetically confined in safe rooms of psychiatric asylums.
Professor Myneni has been publishing research papers on global vegetation cover since 1985. He is the co-author of 263 papers, the early ones in his own name, later ones in the names of his colleagues and doctoral students. So far this year he has co-authored Zhu et al., Mao et al., Choi et al., Park et al., Yan et al., Bi et al., Yang et al., Chen et al., and Catalano et al. (Spot the odd one out. Clue: he’s from Barcelona you know. Actually, no, he’s from Rome.)
And Dr Zhu, who features as co-author on many of the papers, is from the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth; the Center for Applications of Spatial Information Technologies in Public Health; and the Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, at the Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Science, all in Beijing, China.
The other 31 authors are from all over the place, but the first two authors are both from the Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Science, Beijing, and four of the first five are from the Sino-French Institute for Earth System Science, Beijing. Tucked away in the paper is the fact that, while most of the greening of the planet (up to 99%, apparently) is due directly to CO2, some, in odd corners of the Earth, is attributed to the warming caused by CO2. And one of those corners is the Tibetan plateau.
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Among the bits and bobs of pseudo-scientific cod psychological jargon the Greens like to cite (Gish gallop, Dunning Krüger…) when they’re dissing Ridley or anyone else who dares to step outside the consensus, one handy concept is significantly absent – Displacement Activity. This is what rats do in the lab when you mess with their heads by giving them conflicting signals. Unable to decide which lever to press to get at the cheese, they end up cowering in a corner scratching their bottoms.
Is this what our civilisation has come to? While the Chinese are poring over satellite maps wondering which bits of which continents to buy up to feed their population (and eventually, no doubt, the rest of us,) the West has been persuaded by environmentalism to indulge in a thirty year festival of mass bottom scratching.
*Greentrashing is like greenwashing, only dirtier.