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Fw: Beware the Fossil Fools

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  • P. Neuman self only
    ... From: harelbarzilai To: powertothepeople@yahoogroups.com Date: Sun, 02 May 2004 03:27:35 -0000 Subject: [powertothepeople]
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2004
      --------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: "harelbarzilai" <harelbarzilai@...>
      To: powertothepeople@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Sun, 02 May 2004 03:27:35 -0000
      Subject: [powertothepeople] Beware the Fossil Fools
      Message-ID: <c71pr7+igj4@egroups.com>

      Beware the fossil fools

      The dismissal of climate change by journalistic nincompoops is a
      danger to us all

      George Monbiot
      Tuesday April 27, 2004
      The Guardian

      Picture a situation in which most of the media, despite the
      overwhelming weight of medical opinion, refused to accept that there
      was a connection between smoking and lung cancer. Imagine that every
      time new evidence emerged, they asked someone with no medical
      qualifications to write a piece dismissing the evidence and claiming
      that there was no consensus on the issue.

      Imagine that the BBC, in the interests of "debate", wheeled out one of
      the tiny number of scientists who says that smoking and cancer aren't
      linked, or that giving up isn't worth the trouble, every time the
      issue of cancer was raised.

      Imagine that, as a result, next to nothing was done about the problem,
      to the delight of the tobacco industry and the detriment of millions
      of smokers. We would surely describe the newspapers and the BBC as
      grossly irresponsible.

      Now stop imagining it, and take a look at what's happening. The issue
      is not smoking, but climate change. The scientific consensus is just
      as robust, the misreporting just as widespread, the consequences even

      If it is true, as the government's new report suggested last week,
      that it is now too late to prevent hundreds of thousands of British
      people from being flooded out of their homes, then the journalists who
      have consistently and deliberately downplayed the threat carry much of
      the responsibility for the problem. It is time we stopped treating
      them as bystanders. It is time we started holding them to account.

      "The scientific community has reached a consensus," the government's
      chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, told the House of
      Lords last month. "I do not believe that amongst the scientists there
      is a discussion as to whether global warming is due to anthropogenic

      It is man-made and it is essentially [caused by] fossil fuel burning,
      increased methane production... and so on." Sir David chose his words
      carefully. There is a discussion about whether global warming is due
      to anthropogenic (man-made) effects. But it is not - or is only seldom
      - taking place among scientists. It is taking place in the media, and
      it seems to consist of a competition to establish the outer reaches of

      During the heatwave last year, the Spectator made the case that
      because there was widespread concern in the 1970s about the
      possibility of a new ice age, we can safely dismiss concerns about
      global warming today.

      This is rather like saying that because Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's
      hypothesis on evolution once commanded scientific support and was
      later shown to be incorrect, then Charles Darwin's must also be wrong.

      Science differs from the leader writers of the Spectator in that it
      learns from its mistakes. A hypothesis is advanced and tested. If the
      evidence suggests it is wrong, it is discarded. If the evidence
      appears to support it, it is refined and subjected to further testing.
      That some climatologists predicted an ice age in the 1970s, and that
      the idea was dropped when others found that their predictions were
      flawed, is a cause for confidence in climatology.

      But the Spectator looks like the Journal of Atmospheric Physics
      compared to the Mail on Sunday and its Nobel laureate-in-waiting,
      Peter Hitchens. "The greenhouse effect probably doesn't exist," he
      wrote in 2001. "There is as yet no evidence for it." Perhaps Hitchens
      would care to explain why our climate differs from that of Mars.

      That some of the heat from the sun is trapped in the Earth's
      atmosphere by gases (the greenhouse effect) has been established since
      the mid-19th century. But, like most of these nincompoops, Hitchens
      claims to be defending science from its opponents. "The only reason
      these facts are so little known", he tells us, is (apart from the
      reason that he has just made them up), "that a self-righteous love of
      'the environment' has now replaced religion as the new orthodoxy".

      Hitchens, in turn, is an Einstein beside that famous climate scientist
      Melanie Phillips. Writing in the Daily Mail in January, she dismissed
      the entire canon of climatology as "a global fraud" perpetrated by the
      "leftwing, anti-American, anti-west ideology which goes hand in hand
      with anti-globalisation and the belief that everything done by the
      industrialised world is wicked".

      This belief must be shared by the Pentagon, whose recent report
      pictures climate change as the foremost threat to global security. In
      an earlier article, she claimed that "most independent climate
      specialists, far from supporting [global warming], are deeply
      sceptical". She managed to name only one, however, and he receives his
      funding from the fossil fuel industry.

      Having blasted the world's climatologists for "scientific illiteracy",
      she then trumpeted her own. The latest report by the Intergovernmental
      Panel on Climate Change (which collates the findings of
      climatologists) is, she complained, "studded with weasel words" such
      as "very likely" and "best estimate". These weasel words are, of
      course, what make it a scientific report, rather than a column by
      Melanie Phillips.

      If ever you meet one of these people, I suggest you ask them the
      following questions: 1. Does the atmosphere contain carbon dioxide? 2.
      Does atmospheric carbon dioxide influence global temperatures? 3. Will
      that influence be enhanced by the addition of more carbon dioxide? 4.
      Have human activities led to a net emission of carbon dioxide? It
      would be interesting to discover at which point they answer no - at
      which point, in other words, they choose to part company with basic

      But these dolts are rather less danger ous than the BBC, and its
      insistence on "balancing" its coverage of climate change. It appears
      to be incapable of running an item on the subject without inviting a
      sceptic to comment on it.

      Usually this is either someone from a corporate-funded thinktank (who
      is, of course, never introduced as such) or the professional
      anti-environmentalist Philip Stott. Professor Stott is a retired
      biogeographer. Like almost all the prominent sceptics he has never
      published a peer-reviewed paper on climate change. But he has made
      himself available to dismiss climatologists' peer-reviewed work as the
      "lies" of ecofundamentalists.

      This wouldn't be so objectionable if the BBC made it clear that these
      people are not climatologists, and the overwhelming majority of
      qualified scientific opinion is against them. Instead, it leaves us
      with the impression that professional opinion is split down the
      middle. It's a bit like continually bringing people on to the
      programme to suggest that there is no link between HIV and Aids.

      What makes all this so dangerous is that it plays into the hands of
      corporate lobbyists. A recently leaked memo written by Frank Luntz,
      the US Republican and corporate strategist, warned that "The
      environment is probably the single issue on which Republicans in
      general - and President Bush in particular - are most vulnerable...
      Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are
      settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.
      Therefore, you need... to make the lack of scientific certainty a
      primary issue."

      We can expect Professors Hitchens and Phillips to do what they're
      told. But isn't it time that the BBC stopped behaving like the public
      relations arm of the fossil fuel lobby?







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