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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Want to beat Theresa May? First, accept that she's popular

The difficult truth for the centre and left, and advocates of a new party, is that people don't "vote for the Tories reluctantly".

An election campaign that has been short on laughs has been livened up by a modest proposal by an immodest man: the barrister Jolyon Maugham, who used to write about tax for the New Statesman as well as advising Eds Miliband and Balls, has set out his (now mothballed) plans for a new party called Spring.

The original idea was a 28-day festival (each day would be celebrated with the national costumes, food and drink of one of the European Union’s member states) culiminating in the announcement of the candidacy of Spring’s first parliamentary candidate, one Jolyon Maugham, to stand against Theresa May in her constituency of Maidenhead. He has reluctantly abandoned the plan, because there isn’t the time between now and the election to turn it around.

There are many problems with the idea, but there is one paragraph in particular that leaps out:

“Like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, Labour’s left and moderates are bent on one another’s destruction. No one knows what the Lib Dems are for – other than the Lib Dems. And we vote for the Tories reluctantly, lacking an alternative.”

Even within this paragraph there are a number of problems. Say what you like about Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty but it seems hard to suggest that there is not a fairly large difference between the two – regardless of which one you think is which – that might perhaps be worth engaging with. There are fair criticisms of the Liberal Democrats’ uncertain start to this campaign but they have been pretty clear on their platform when they haven’t been playing defence on theological issues.

But the biggest problem is the last sentence: “We vote for the Tories reluctantly, lacking an alternative”. A couple of objections here: the first, I am not sure who the “we” are. Is it disgruntled former Labour members like Maugham who threw their toys out of the pram after Corbyn’s second successive leadership victory? If you are voting for the Tories reluctantly, I have invented a foolproof solution to “voting for the Tories reluctantly” that has worked in every election I’ve voted in so far: it’s to vote against the Tories.  (For what it’s worth, Maugham has said on Twitter that he will vote for the Liberal Democrats in his home constituency.)

I suspect, however, that the “we” Maugham is talking about are the voters. And actually, the difficult truth for the left and centre-left is that people are not voting for Theresa May “reluctantly”: they are doing it with great enthusiasm. They have bought the idea that she is a cautious operator and a safe pair of hands, however illusory that might be. They think that a big vote for the Tories increases the chance of a good Brexit deal, however unlikely that is.

There is not a large bloc of voters who are waiting for a barrister to turn up with a brass band playing Slovenian slow tunes in Maidenhead or anywhere in the country. At present, people are happy with Theresa May as Prime Minister. "Spring" is illustrative of a broader problem on much of the centre-left: they have a compelling diagnosis about what is wrong with Corbyn's leadership. They don't have a solution to any of Labour's problems that predate Corbyn, or have developed under him but not because of him, one of which is the emergence of a Tory leader who is popular and trusted. (David Cameron was trusted but unpopular, Boris Johnson is popular but distrusted.) 

Yes, Labour’s position would be a lot less perilous if they could either turn around Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity ratings or sub him out for a fresh, popular leader. That’s one essential ingredient of getting the Conservatives out of power. But the other, equally important element is understanding why Theresa May is popular – and how that popularity can be diminished and dissipated. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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