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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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser