Fraser Nelson's climate change denial

Why doesn't the Spectator "get" global warming?

The Monbiot/Spectator row over that magazine's ludicrous coverage of the greatest challenge facing mankind this century -- that of anthropogenic climate change -- rumbles on. Monbiot used his Guardian column this week to accuse the Speccie of publishing a cover story ("Relax: global warming is all a myth") "grounded in gibberish". The Spectator's resident controversialist, Rod Liddle, responded to Monbiot's claim, on his new blog, in a typically reasoned and reasonable manner: "You pompous, monomaniacal jackass."

So where does the new Speccie editor, Fraser Nelson, stand on the row, inherited from his "mischievous" predecessor Matthew d'Ancona? In a recent post pointing out a "spectacular U-turn" by the magazine on a critical climate-related issue -- the level of Arctic sea ice -- Will Straw's new Left Foot Foward blog asked: "Are we witnessing a new editorial line on climate change . . . ?"

Judging by Nelson's post on the Coffee House blog yesterday -- "An empty chair for Monbiot" -- the short answer is "no". He refers to climate-change deniers as advocates of "global warming realism". He also poses the following question:

I wonder what he [Monbiot] makes about this US Senate list of 700 scientists who dissent over man-made global warming -- are they all bonkers?

They're not "bonkers", Fraser, they're simply wrong, in a tiny minority and not even qualified to proffer an opinion on the subject: the vast majority of them are not climate scientists, nor have they published in fields relevant to climate science. The list of "700 scientists" Nelson refers to has been subjected to extensive examination by the Centre for Inquiry think tank in the United States, and it reported in July:

After assessing 687 individuals named as "dissenting scientists" in the January 2009 version of the United States Senate Minority Report, the Centre for Inquiry's Credibility Project found that:

- Slightly fewer than 10 per cent could be identified as climate scientists.
- Approximately 15 per cent published in the recognisable refereed literature on subjects related to climate science.
- Approximately 80 per cent clearly had no refereed publication record on climate science at all.
- Approximately 4 per cent appeared to favour the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not have been on the list.

The report also adds that some of the scientists "were identified as meteorologists, and some of these people were employed to report the weather".

The author of the report, Dr Stuart Jordan, retired emeritus senior staff scientist at the Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre, concluded that the much-vaunted Senate list "is one more effort of a contrarian community to block corrective action to address a major -- in this case global -- problem fraught with harmful consequences for human welfare and the environment".

It is a "contrarian community" which, sadly, now includes the educated and intelligent journalists of the Spectator. But there is a bigger question here. "Why is this issue," as Monbiot asks in his column, "uniquely viewed as fair game by editors who tread carefully around other scientific issues for fear of making idiots of themselves? And where is the mischief in doing what hundreds of publications and broadcasters have already done -- claiming that man-made climate change is a myth?"

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear