On 15th September 2021 the Guardian (whose address is King’s Place, London, since it decamped from Manchester) published an article with the bizarre title “‘Cake’ mentioned 10 times more than ‘climate change’ on UK TV – report”i. It was an article about a ”report, from albertii, a Bafta-backed sustainability project”, which, almost incredibly (given that climate change is unrelentingly rammed down our throats on TV morning, noon and evening) was bemoaning the fact that climate change and “climate change solutions” are not mentioned nearly enough on TV. That’s a matter of opinion.

The problem is, at the Guardian, opinions aren’t welcome, not if they run counter to the prevailing narrative. Shades of grey don’t exist. You’re either with them or against them. Perhaps “albert” could carry out a survey of the Guardian’s website to see how often the words “denier” and “fear” (and variants thereof, such as afraid, frightened, worried, terrified, scared, etc.) in the context of climate change appear there year after year? So often, I would warrant, that their computer wouldn’t be able to cope.

What would it take for antivaxxers and climate science deniers to ‘wake up’?

This was the heading to an articleiii that appeared in the Guardian on 12th September 2021. It bore the sub-heading “Facts are puny against the carapace of denial when people’s sense of self is at stake. However, in the case of Covid deniers, imminent death seems to do the trick”. Never mind the contents of the article – it’s all there in the heading(s). Loathing of those it disagrees with. Conflating climate sceptics (“climate change deniers”) with anti-vaxxers (“covid deniers”). Sneering at their stupidity (the prospect of imminent death is apparently the only thing that brings them to their senses).

Linking the two types of ”denier” is the theme that runs through the entire article. I assume that this was considered a marvellous way to discredit climate sceptics, since many reasonable people are, to say, the least, a little perplexed by strident “anti-vaxxers”. The problem, of course, is that many people raising questions about the full extent of the vaccination programmes and the uses to which they’re being put, have understandable worries about the potential harms to society of certain aspects of the programmes, without seeking to deny the general efficacy of vaccination programmes to date. Just as many people raising questions about the policy decisions relating to climate change have understandable worries about the potential harms to society of certain aspects of those policies, without seeking to cast doubt on climate science.

I don’t wish to re-open the can of worms that is the covid debate. I would simply point out that debate can – and often should – be nuanced. That there can be shades of grey. Not everything is black and white. I’m not an anti-vaxxer – far from it. I’m grateful to the state and to my parents for ensuring that as a child I received the full range of vaccinations that protected me from the illnesses that blighted the lives of our forebears (for example, two of my grandmother’s grandparents died of TB – consumption, as it was then often called – late in the 19th century, both aged just 40). Whenever I have had an exotic holiday (sorry, Greta), I have cheerfully headed to the surgery and ensured that I received the vaccinations that offered protection against tropical diseases I might encounter along the way. Last year and this (already) I have dutifully had my autumn flu jabs. And in the spring of this year I was very keen to have my covid vaccinations, calculating that as I reach late middle age (perhaps I flatter myself) the risks to me from covid are significantly greater than the risks from covid vaccinations. When I’m offered it, I will also happily have my covid booster shot.

However, whilst accepting the undoubted benefits to humanity from vaccinations over the last two centuries or so, I nevertheless recognise that there are possible issues. For instance, I wonder whether we should really be vaccinating 12-15 year olds against covid, just because we can? The JCVI thought the decision was too finely-balanced for them to make a recommendation to that effect, and they are – after all – the “experts”. And it has been said (whether rightly or wrongly I lack the expertise to say) that for this age group the risk of myocarditis alone is greater than any potential benefit of being vaccinated. If there is even the possibility of this being the case, surely it’s not unreasonable for fully signed-up vaccine fans like me, and parents, to seek clarification before allowing children to be vaccinated? And yet, to some people, parents hesitating about the vaccination of their 12-15 year olds, and those like me who wonder if we shouldn’t slow down and make sure of the evidence before proceeding, will simply be beyond the pale – anti-vaxxers, covid deniers.

And so it is with climate scepticism. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t challenge the science behind climate change concerns. However, I do query an increasingly strident narrative that sees only chaos and crisis, and allows of no possible benefits from climate change. I also question the wisdom of the UK plunging head first into “net zero” policies, almost alone, while much of the rest of the world stands to one side and says “after you”. Rendering our energy supply expensive, unreliable, and heavily dependent on foreigners, whilst despoiling our wild places in the process, seems to me to be a policy that does at least deserve to be debated, especially since it can’t make a jot of difference to the climate if Russia, China, the Middle Eastern oil states, India et. al. don’t join us in our journey over the cliff. No doubt that makes me a climate science denier, or (more commonly) a climate denier (whatever that is).

And so we find paragraphs such as this in the Guardian:

When cornered, antivaxxers say they are just posing questions. In the same way, when the Australian is called out for giving a platform to climate change denialism, they say they are just contributing to debate.

And:

What would it take for antivaxxers and climate science deniers to “wake up”? Studies have shown that facts are puny against the carapace of denial when people’s sense of self is at stake.

However, in the case of antivaxxers, imminent death seems to do the trick. In the US, the death-bed conversions of a number of high-profile anti-vaxxers who caught the virus has attracted attention, and mockery.

Climate science deniers are less likely to experience such conversions. Even during the horror fires of Black Summer, deniers in towns ringed by inferno were still insisting the fires were a natural event.

Were they really? So far as I am aware, many sceptics point out that fires have been worse in the past, that many are started by arsonists, that a decline in good forest practices such as brush-clearing, and so on, have made the situation worse than it might otherwise have been. Such arguments are brushed aside by the climate-concerned, who deny there could possibly be anything in them, since it’s obviously climate change that’s at the root of all this. Perhaps the Guardian is correct after all – facts are puny against the carapace of denial.

Climate change deniers are as slippery as those who justified the slave trade

This was the title to an article which appeared in the Guardian on 4th September 2021iv. It struck me as a new low and a particularly unpleasant piece. Use of the denier word, with its connotations of Holocaust denial, is now commonplace, albeit still offensive. Conflation of climate change scepticism and anti-vaxxers is a new strategy, but never did I think that sceptics humbly questioning the extreme end of climate alarmism and musing on the unwisdom of imposing expensive and unreliable energy on the UK populace if it won’t achieve anything climatological would be likened to those who justified the slave trade.

The sub-title is almost as bad – “Global warming sceptics should be hiding in corners. But still some defend the indefensible”. At least this ditches the D-word and allows us to be labelled as what we are – sceptics – but now I learn that I should be so ashamed that I should be hiding in a corner somewhere.

Every argument they advanced has been disproved, as much by the experience of everyday life as science. Journalists are advised: “If someone says it is raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out [sic] the window and find out which is true.” The world only had to look at the weather outside to know who was trying to fool it.

I suppose a lot depends on who “they” are. Many of us sceptics don’t say the climate isn’t changing, nor do we deny that humankind is contributing to that change. So if I’m not included in the apparently egregious “they”, then maybe I can stand down and calm my ruffled feathers. Still, it all seems a bit much when one considers what follows in the article:

Glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking and the seas are becoming more acidic.”

It is worth pointing out that some of the retreating glaciers are revealing the remains of forests that were overwhelmed last time the glaciers advanced, which suggests that what we are now witnessing is not unprecedented, and not irreversible, as the alarmists so often claim. Nor are the seas becoming more acidic – they are becoming ever-so slightly less alkaline. Still, “acidic” sounds so much more nasty, doesn’t it?

It is not “erroneous” to assume that humanity is driving the climate catastrophe…”

“Climate catastrophe”. A phrase much loved by Guardian journalists, but is it really justified? Many of the extreme weather events seized on by catastrophists as evidence, nay proof, of CAGW, are simply modern examples of things that have happened in the past. Shortly before writing this, I spotted a short article on the BBC website headed “Turkana: The front line of climate change”v. It solemnly assured me that:

There are few places in the world where the consequences of a changing climate are as plain to see as in Turkana, in northern Kenya.

The pastoralist communities who live there have been buffeted by recurring droughts, as inadequate rainy seasons become a normal part of life.

Now the land is so dry, some people are forced to spend their days simply searching for water.

As world leaders prepare to meet in Scotland this October to discuss climate change, the Turkana community say they need help now.

Clearly such droughts must be unprecedented, to link them so explicitly to climate change. And yet it took me a few seconds to search the internet and findvi:

The Aoyate drought was an acute meteorological drought that according to Turkana tradition affected much of the Rift Valley region of Kenya during the late 18th century or early 19th century…

…The various narratives, records and reports thus point to a long dry period starting about 1800 seemingly peaking with an intensely arid time during the mid-1830s. This would be congruent with Krapf’s (1860) mention of a “great famine of 1836″

There are a number of oral traditions from various communities across much of southern Africa that point to the region having experienced declining rainfall levels from about 1800 to about 1830. This saw the progressive desiccation of lakes, rivers and springs, a phenomenon observed by an employee of the East India Company in the 1820s who noted;

in many parts of the interior of the country the springs and rivulets are drying up and annual rains become more scanty and irregular. The traveler often meets with houses and farms that have been deserted by their owners on account of a permanent failure in the supply of water which they once enjoyed.

So, certainly not unprecedented, and therefore not the front line of climate change at all. Does pointing out this simple truth make me a denier? Should I skulk away in a corner and hide my face in shame?

What else does the Guardian article tell us? Well, there’s this:

The pace of man-made climate change is faster than anything in the Earth’s history and all attempts to invent other explanations have failed.

Am I a denier if I point out that this might just contain a teeny-weeny bit of exaggeration? Nothing faster than this has been seen in the last 4.5 billion years? Seriously? I very much doubt it.

What else?

Viscount Ridley, who presided over the collapse of Northern Rock, and now dismisses the collapse of the planet in the pages of the Times, said climate change was doing “more good than harm”. We should adapt to a warmer Earth and celebrate the reduction in deaths from the winter cold.

Well, nothing like playing the man, not the ball, is there? The only snag with this contemptuous dismissal is that Viscount Ridley has a point. As I’ve mentioned in “Losing the Plot”vii, the study (mis-)quoted by the Guardian does make it clear that far more people (close to ten times as many) die of extreme cold than extreme heat every year, and the modest warming of the planet in recent years has reduced, not increased, the number of deaths from extreme temperatures. Who’s the denier now?

But the best is yet to come:

The lights did not go out as we switched to renewable energy, as so many pundits said they would.

Those words were written just a few short weeks before the UK National Grid (and much of Europe, come to that) found itself under desperate pressure with massively rising energy prices, as it struggled to keep the lights on. Much of the rising energy costs are attributable to rising gas prices, but they are in turn a function of massively increased demand, and shortage of supply, due to the fact that the wind largely stopped blowing, so that renewables generation collapsed. We had to turn to gas (and coal) to keep the lights on, but it’s in short supply in the UK, since the climate alarmists have ensured that we can’t frack for gas, even though we have plenty of it. Perhaps the pundits were right. Who’s the denier now?

Despite being wrong about so much, the Guardian goes on to reiterate the “climate denier”/slaver comparison:

The comparison isn’t harsh. One day, the attack on climate science will be seen as shocking as the defence of human bondage.

Children already have the facts. Now they need the tools to fix the climate crisis

This was the name of an article that appeared in the Guardian on 16th September 2021viii. The heading alone bothers me. First of all there is the compulsory (for Guardian journalists) reference to the “climate crisis”. Then there is the implication that if you give children the tools, they (on their own, apparently) can fix it. I’m not sure what those tools are – the article reads as though brainwashing is all that is required:

It was only during lockdown that I got a sense of how powerfully dominant, in education, the drumbeat of climate catastrophe is….It was not unusual for them to have four consecutive classes that inevitably were about the environment: a geography lesson on the crisis in the oceans; design technology on the devastating life-cycle of the plastic bag; a science lesson on the feedback loops that accelerate CO2 emissions; and, finally, some post-apocalyptic literature in English.

That bothers me greatly. As does much of what follows, including this:

If kids are going to be presented with the facts [sic] of the climate crisis [sic], as they must be, that cannot be counteracted with loving boosterism. You need to teach them how to harness and act on their own political power. You need to teach them how to build those resistance movements that are all that’s standing between us and Earth’s galloping instability [sic]. You cannot educate a generation on the dangers posed to them without giving them the political tools to respond.

It seems it’s not about education, it’s not about teaching children how to think. It’s about making them afraid (and probably also to loathe people like me) and turning them into political activists. The conclusion to the article spells it out:

The urgent, meaningful work is to politicise the curriculum.

Conclusion

The Guardian has made it clear for some time that it regards climate change as a crisis, and it is proud to have made “climate crisis” part of the language of everyday discourse. That’s fine, since the people behind the Guardian clearly believe passionately in the message. However, I do struggle when a newspaper that I used to read for its liberal values behaves in ways which I regard as so illiberal. How can it be right to denigrate so viciously those who disagree with you, however mildly? To (by implication) compare them to Holocaust deniers? To (expressly) compare them to anti-vaxxers and apologists for the slave trade? How can it be right to shut down debate? How can it be right to politicise the school curriculum and turn children into political campaigners?

Fear and loathing? I fear what the future holds for our children, but my fears differ from those of the Guardian. I don’t loathe anyone in the way some journalists at the Guardian seem to do, but I do have deep misgivings about the way in which they are conducting what I regard as a deeply illiberal campaign.

Endnotes

i https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/15/cake-mentioned-10-times-more-than-climate-change-on-uk-tv-report

ii https://wearealbert.org/

iii https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2021/sep/13/what-would-it-take-for-antivaxxers-and-climate-science-deniers-to-wake-up

iv https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/04/climate-change-deniers-are-as-slippery-as-those-who-justified-the-slave-trade

v https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-africa-58598819

vi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aoyate_drought

vii https://cliscep.com/2021/07/08/losing-the-plot/

viii https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/16/children-facts-climate-crisis-poll-anxious-planet

10 Comments

  1. Mark,

    You cherry-picking reprobate. You’re just playing the victim card when you know that the children are the real victims. As for your alleged open-mindedness, we all know that it is just vile anti-science denial nourished by the darkest possible intriguing.

    That should just about cover it. 🙂

    Actually, it never ceases to puzzle me just how much effort these people go to in order to denigrate a group that is supposedly so irrelevant.

    Like

  2. Mark, I over the years we two have disputed matters Guardianesque. I give in, the Guardian has now gone well beyond the Pale in its treatment of those that disagree with it, as you so ably substantiate with this article. Do you think its change of emphasis is a result of the proximity of COP 26, or fear that this will fail ?

    I anticipate similar treatment from you being handed out to the BBC. You probably have plenty of ammunition.

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  3. Mark, you (and the rest of us generally) are far too polite about the alarmists. Actually I’m beginning to think that “alarmist” is no longer the right name for them, but what I would like to call them at times is unprintable. These occasions are when they (I am wrong to treat them as a lumpen singular, but still) say things that are bovine, vile, self-assured and shiny with a sickly sheen of sanctimony – just as in some of your examples.

    I suppose I should relax, knowing that we are right and that in the end things will inevitably swing around behind us. No doubt the same shrill voices will by then be denouncing those who tried to steer us down the Net Zero path, the road to nowhere. Whether many of us are left by then I do not know. Nor do I know what criterion I will use to judge that the corner has been turned.

    Today’s Guardian, page 2:

    “Upcycled Wombles ‘may give the wrong message'”

    … not everyone is convinced that their [the wombles’] advocacy gives the right message. Prof Julia Steinberger, a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the government’s failure to act decisively on the climate crisis by continuing to extract and subsidise fossil fuels was a “direct threat” to the life chances of British children.

    “Reviving the beloved Wombles to deflect responsibility away from themselves and towards blaming individual citizens marks the UK government as deceptive and untrustworthy on this most important topic,” she said.

    The article then goes on to discuss how children’s TV is being used to indoctrinate the young, from Octonauts (dealing with rising sea level) to the Go Jetters (saving polar bears from melting ice).

    There is no world in which people with the opinions of the good prof should be lead authors for the IPCC. Maybe she could get a gig writing storylines for the Octonauts.

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  4. Alan, rather insidiously, the BBC News website now has a dedicated Climate section. The order of importance is, from left to right:

    Home – Coronavirus – Climate – UK – World – Business – Politics – Tech – Science – Health – Family & Education

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  5. John, did you have to blow my cover? 😉

    Alan, sorry to have crushed your last vestiges of faith in the Grauniad. Actually, if it helps, I read an article there yesterday which I thought was excellent in every way. Good journalism still exists at the Guardian. Just not, IMO, when it comes to anything to do with climate change. I think I’ve thrown enough mud at the BBC recently, and have no plans to produce an article vilifying them again. Then again, as with those articles in the Guardian, sometimes they print stuff that riles me so much I can’t myself, and I have to say something about it.

    Jit, thanks for your thoughts. I love the optimism that we’ll be proved right (having said that, while I don’t want to see blackouts, I think this winter might well put the net zero crowd seriously on to the back foot). I happen to agree (sort of) with Prof Steinberger regarding the use of upcycled Wombles – I think it’s truly risible. Whatever we think of COP 26, it’s supposed to be a serious conference. It’s already in danger of turning in to a farce. It could be fun if the electricity failed in Glasgow while it was going on (but then again, they’ve probably got back-up diesel generators, just in case).

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  6. I am not going to comment on the individual points as I agree with them and that would be duplication.

    I do think that he has missed the main point. To begin with climate change was viewed as a temperature issue (maybe that was a front). Now it is about societal change – Marxism and Socialism.

    If scientists developed cold fusion that gave the planet a reliable, safe, cheap source of power they would not welcome it: because that is not what they want.

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  7. Mark,

    If you are sceptical about man-made climate change, despite it being the accepted position of (allegedly) most scientists, why may I not be sceptical about the efficacy or advisability of vaccines, despite their being accepted by the vast majority of the medical profession and most members of the public?

    My position on this is just as sincerely-held, and (I would respectfully suggest) as well-informed as yours on climate change.

    If you disagree with me on the issue, that’s fine of course, but I take issue with your lumping what you call “anti-vaxxers” together with apologists for the slave trade, just as you are offended to be lumped together with “holocaust deniers” (as I also would be).

    I’m not a right-wing Trump-supporter, BTW (quite the opposite), or a JW.

    Like

  8. Mike E,

    I think you misunderstand what I was arguing in this article – or alternatively I haven’t expressed myself as clearly as I wished. I think this is the key paragraph regarding your point:

    “Linking the two types of ”denier” is the theme that runs through the entire article [i.e. the Guardian article to which I was referring]. I assume that this was considered a marvellous way to discredit climate sceptics, since many reasonable people are, to say, the least, a little perplexed by strident “anti-vaxxers”. The problem, of course, is that many people raising questions about the full extent of the vaccination programmes and the uses to which they’re being put, have understandable worries about the potential harms to society of certain aspects of the programmes, without seeking to deny the general efficacy of vaccination programmes to date. Just as many people raising questions about the policy decisions relating to climate change have understandable worries about the potential harms to society of certain aspects of those policies, without seeking to cast doubt on climate science.”

    Personally I disagree with people who are opposed to vaccinations full stop, without more ado. However, it was not I, but the Guardian, who was contemptuous of them. Actually, nobody has lumped anti-vaxxers together with apologists for the slave trade. The Guardian was lumping climate sceptics (evil “deniers”) together with anit-vaxxers, and the Guardian was lumping climate sceptics (again, evil “deniers”) together with the apologists for the slave trade.

    However, as I argued in the article, there may well be legitimate doubts about the use and/or efficacy of certain vaccinations in certain situations and with regard to certain classes of people. The whole point of what I was arguing is that the Guardian has become an increasingly dark, illiberal, indeed intolerant place. I respect your view to be opposed to all vaccinations (if that is your position) while disagreeing with it. I suspect most of the writers at the Guardian would hold you in utter contempt. as no doubt they hold my climate sceptic views in utter contempt. They no longer seem to understand that arguments can be nuanced, that there can be shades of grey, and that being liberal means respectfully listening to other points of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mark,

    Thanks very much for coming back on this. I may have somewhat misunderstood your argument. I think we can at least agree about The Guardian, which is why I long ago gave up attempting to use their comments facility (available for fewer and fewer articles these days anyway), and in fact, nowadays barely read it, although we still buy it, as others in the household still largely value it.

    QUOTE: ” I respect your view to be opposed to all vaccinations (if that is your position) while disagreeing with it. ”

    Thanks for that, although that would be a very over-simplified and incomplete description of my position. However, I don’t think this is the place to take further that sort of discussion, so respectfully I won’t comment here further on the issue.

    Do you know about off-guardian.org? It’s a great place for people disgruntled about The Guardian to let off steam, and there are some very good articles published there. You may not agree with everyone’s views there on vaccinations, covid, or health matters generally, but you will find some climate sceptics and other sorts of sceptic. I comment there occasionally under my own name.

    It is moderated, but the moderators pride themselves in not censoring people (unlike The Guardian), unless they are really taking the p— or obviously trolling / spamming. Having said that, the admins / moderators are taking a break until 18th October, so commenting has been suspended. (I hope it all does come back successfully on/after the 18th, and hasn’t been hacked or fallen victim to a total denial-of-service attack – as they say, you get the most flak when over the target).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mike E, thanks for the feedback, and for the heads up about off-guardian.org, which was new to me.

    Despite being frustrated on a daily basis by what the Guardian has become, I must just add that most days I can find an article that is well written and thought through by a journalist who I can still respect – the Guardian has a handful of these, still, so far as I am concerned.

    Finally, yes, the thrust of my argument wasn’t about covid and vaccinations, so I’m grateful to put that to one side, but also pleased to note that your position on vaccinations isn’t so simple and straightforward as I perhaps portrayed it in my last comment.

    Like

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