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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Where are the moderate Tories condemning Zac Goldsmith’s campaign?

Conservative MPs are reluctant to criticise the London mayoral candidate’s dogwhistle rhetoric.

Very few Conservative politicians have criticised Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to be elected London mayor. And, amid repeated accusations of racial profiling, Islamophobic undertones, and patronising London’s Indian communities, there has been plenty to criticise.

Ever since describing his rival, Sadiq Khan, as having “radical politics” at the end of last year, Goldsmith’s campaign has come under fire for attempting to sound a dogwhistle to voters for whom racial politics – and divisions – are a priority.

You may feel it’s naïve of me to expect Tory MPs to join in the criticism. Presumably most Tory MPs want their party’s candidate to win the mayoralty. So it is unlikely that they would condemn his methods.

But I’d argue that, in this case, we can’t excuse dodged questions and studied silence as good clean tribalism. Granted, Conservatives only want to see their party make electoral gains. And that is understandable. But trickier to explain away is how willing all of the party’s MPs – many of whom are as moderate and “cotton-wool Tory” (in the words of one Labour adviser) as we once assumed Goldsmith was – are to ignore the campaign’s nastier side.

Why aren’t the Cameroons (or neo-Cameroons) who wish to further “detoxify” the party speaking out? There are plenty of them. There is more enthusiasm on the Tory benches for David Cameron than is generally assumed. Many of the 2015 intake are grateful to him; those in marginal seats in particular see him as the reason they won last year. And in spite of the grumbling nature of the 2010-ers, a number of them are keener than appears on Cameron. After all, plenty wouldn’t be in parliament without his A-list and open primaries (a time when the party was supposed to be opening up to candidates of different backgrounds, something Goldsmith’s rhetoric could threaten).

And we know it’s not just Labour whining about Goldsmith’s campaign. It makes Tories uncomfortable too. For example, the Conservative Group Leader at Watford Council Binita Mehta, former Conservative candidate Shazia Awan, and Tory peer and former minister Sayeeda Warsi have spoken out.

And it’s not just non-MPs who are riled by Goldsmith’s rhetoric. Behind the scenes, Conservative MPs have been muttering for weeks about feeling uncomfortable about the campaign.

“There has been a sense that this is a bad dogwhistle, and it’s a bit of a smear,” one Tory MP tells me. “I don’t think Sadiq Khan’s a bad man at all – I think his problem is, which happens to all politicians, is some of the platforms in the past and the people he shared them with, and maybe he didn’t know – I mean, the number of times David Cameron or Gordon Brown or Tony Blair were shown at some fundraising thing, or just visiting somewhere, shaking hands with somebody who turns out to be a crook; that’s the nature of mass politics.”

There is also a mixed view among London’s Tory MPs about the tone of Goldsmith’s campaign generally. Some, who were frustrated in the beginning by his “laidback, slightly disengaged” style, are simply pleased that he finally decided to play dirty with the more energetic Khan. Others saw his initial lighter touch as an asset, and lament that he is trying to emulate Boris Johnson by being outrageous – but, unlike the current London mayor, doesn’t have the personality to get away with it.

One Tory MP describes it as a “cold, Lynton Crosby calculation of the dogwhistle variety”, and reveals that, a couple of weeks ago, there was a sense among some that it was “too much” and had “gone too far and is counterproductive”.

But this sense has apparently dissipated. Since Labour’s antisemitism crisis unfolded last week, moderate Conservative MPs feel more comfortable keeping their mouths shut about Goldsmith’s campaign. This is because racism in Labour has been exposed, even if Khan is not involved. Ironic really, considering they were (rightly) so quick to condemn Ken Livingstone’s comments and call on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MPs to speak out against such sentiments. It’s worth noting that Labour’s moderates have been significantly less reluctant than their Tory counterparts to call out such problems in their own party.

There is also the EU referendum to consider. Tory MPs see division and infighting ahead, and don’t want to war more than is necessary. One source close to a Tory MP tells me: “[Goldsmith’s campaign] is uncomfortable for all of us – it’s not even considered a Conservative campaign, it’s considered a Zac Goldsmith campaign. But [we can’t complain because] we have to concentrate on Europe.”

So it makes sense politically, in the short term, for Tory moderates to keep quiet. But I expect they know that they have shirked a moral duty to call out such nasty campaign methods. Their calls for Labour’s response to antisemitism, and David Cameron’s outrage about Jeremy Corbyn’s “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah, are simply hollow attack lines if they can’t hold their own party to higher standards.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.