I’ve referred a few times to our esteemed French colleague Benoît Rittaud, and even translated an entire philosophic conversation in which he was roundly insulted by some professorial ignoramus on France Culture.
Tonight he was on French TV in a debate about the environment. It was originally entitled “What’s the Point of Nicolas Hulot?” (Hulot being being a kind of low grade French David Attenborough, eternal loser in the Byzantine politics of the French Green movement, and now Minister of Ecology and number three in the new government of President Macron) and was due to be broadcast last weekend, but was postponed due to the London terror attack.
We’re now in the sacred 24 hours before a parliamentary election, when any mention of politics is blasphemy, so the original title was dropped, and it became a debate about the environment, featuring Benoît the climatosceptique; a lady activist against cruelty to animals in abattoirs; a gentleman concerned about overfishing (and also about cruelty to fish, since apparently new methods of fishing by electrocution are resulting in marine introvertebrates suffering from intracerebral haematoma, which could ruin your prawn cocktail;) and Yann Arthus Bertrand (hereinafter YAB) famous environmentalist and film maker.
Benoît wisely kept off the subject of abattoirs and overfishing and so the debate was limited to one between Benoît, introduced as a “climatoréaliste,” and France’s favourite maker of somnolent documentaries about our fragile planet. The debate was directed by the delectable Audrey Pulvar, ex-mistress of the ex-Minister of Industry, ex-Great White Hope of the Socialist party, who unfortunately interrupted Benoît whenever he threatened to say something interesting. Still, at least he was allowed to appear on TV. Here are some key moments in the non-debate which he tried to have with one of France’s foremost environmentalists. I haven’t time to transcribe it all now. More when I get back from England in a week’s time.
Audrey Pulvar: You’re a member of the climate realist collective. So I’d like to start with you Monsieur Rittaud. Tell me what’s the difference between a climate sceptic, which we hear so much about, and a climate realist?
Benoît Rittaud: It’s a choice of words which is not necessarily the most important thing. We wanted to avoid the expression “climate sceptic” which has become rather suspect, so we adopted another name.
AP: So you believe in global warming, climate change?
BR: Well, Climate realist is several things. First it means looking at the real data and not confusing it with the projections made on the basis of the data. It means that when you look at the data you realise that the climate is not changing in any extraordinary way. Of course it’s changing, as it always has, but we’re not in a period of particularly significant climate change..
AP: …but you admit that man has an effect on the climate, or not?
BR: Yes at least on a local scale, that’s obvious. The main question is, do we have a major influence on a geological scale as is sometimes claimed? And that, on the other hand, has not been demonstrated, and what the climate models have suggested has not for the moment been confirmed.
AP: So do you agree with Donald Trump when he announced the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement?
BR: Well, that declaration show that no-one is completely wrong, and on this subject, he’s going in the right direction, even if when you look at the details in his speech, there are certain things which are problematic and which I don’t agree with, but in general that seems to be a good decision.
AP:Anyway, thank you for having accepted our invitation, because obviously you are in a minority in this studio, the other guests defending each in his own domain the responsibility of man for climate change. Let’s listen to what Emmanuel Macron the French President said, in his address to the American people and to the entire planet, and to Donald Trump:
Emmanuel Macron (in English): I call you to remain confident. We will succeed. Because we are fully committed. Because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make Our Planet Great Again.
[As I said, this programme was broadcast in the sacred pre-election period, when all political broadcasting is forbidden. But that doesn’t apply to statements by Our Beloved President, who is hoping to see his Party receive an Overall Majority in the Upcoming Parliamentary Election. Praised Be His Name.]
AP: So, “Make Our Planet Great Again.” Yann Arthus Bertrand, if I listen to Benoît Rittaud, when I look at the beautiful pictures of the planet that you regularly bring back back from your travels, the planet is already “great”?
YAB: It’s true, but I tend to believe the scientists. After all, I’m rather isolated. When Nature published thaat incredible article describing the Sixth Great Extinction of Life on Earth, signed by ten thousand scientists, it makes you think, doesn’t it? I don’t want to go into details, because it’s a bit like a religion, It’s a bit like – you believe in God, you don’t believe, I don’t want to..
AP: What’s more, Donald Trump says “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in global warming”..
YAB: I don’t want to join in this debate because I’ve been fighting so long… I talk to people, I am absolutely convinced, you know, that our human activity on earth, the fossil fuels, the carbon that we’re emitting into the atmosphere, it seems to me so obvious that I don’t even want to talk about it. There. For me, climate change is happening. Obviously due to human acitivity. We can’t stop it. That’s certain. There we are. We can’t stop it, because our civilisation is base on trade and on growth, and growth requires fossil fuels, there you are, so we have to adapt, so everything we do individually, each one of us can have a mitigating effect because it’s a good idea to do it, you know it’s good. It’s too late to be pessimist. We have to fight. And what’s more I’m ready to listen to your arguments, but it’s not like that in five minutes that we’re going to agree…
[BR nods agreement]
AP: But what the main consequences of the decisions of Donald Trump for you?
YAB: First, I”ve never…Lot’s of people believe in these big COPs. I’ve been to about ten COPs in my life. It’s these great meetings. Everyone comes by plane, in these big limousines, we eat huge quantities of meat, it’s rather contradictory – and I thing the important thing is us, you know. Today (?) but it doesn’t matter because there’s a COP coming up that will solve the problem, but don’t forget that when we signed the Paris Agreement, it begins in 2020, you know, and when we talk about the money which is going to be given to the developing countries who need it, you know, because they’e going to suffer the effects of climate change which we’re responsible for, Bangladesh, Bangladesh, you know the country the most populated in the world , if you put all the world’s population in the United States you’d still have a population less than that of Bangladesh who are squashed between the cyclones below, and when you go there a country of 160 million inhabitants, the climate warming, they know about it, they say, and for them they know perfectly well that there is an increase in catastrophes. It’s true it isn’t proved, but still there’s an enormous rise, there are enormously more cyclones which are much stronger. So there, so anyway, all those problems, today, I don’t want to discuss it any more… everyone, there are very very few people who believe in climate change [to Benoît] I think you believe it. You don’t believe it’s caused by man, but when you go to Greenland in a helicopter and you talk to the pilots, they tell you that in the ten years I’ve been flying here, it’s incredible the difference. As you can see in Al Gore’s new film, which we’re going to show on the 25th at the “Good Planet” (?) Foundation -, and everyone’s welcome to come and see it – there’s a moment where he’s flying over the Ant.. – the Arctic, and you can see the ice exploding. It’s incredible – the ice deserts and you see the ice – they had never seen that before. And all the glaciologists, after all, the glaciologists know that something’s happening – you agree with me? There aren’t any glaciologists who say, no…
BR: I’d like to reply
AP: Go on
BR: There’s a lot of things.. At least we’re not so far apart. At least one thing we agree on is about the COPs. It’s something that I’d like to add about Donald Trump. That his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a good thing, but it’s above all symbolic, because the Paris Agreement is essentially meaningless.
YAB: It’s a bad signal.
BR: There we are. OK, It’s a bad signal according to your point of view but to me – for you I understand that it’s a bad thing, but…
More tomorrow if I have the courage, and the time. You can see the whole thing at http://www.cnews.fr/magazines/vendredi-samedi-et-dimanche-pulvar/samedi-pulvar-1ere-partie-du-10062017-176483