OPINION: by Nigel Calder.
Worldwide interest in my quite run-of-the-mill comment, on the need to debate the manmade global warming hypothesis, is pleasing but not surprising. It confirms that my fellow science writers have miscalculated badly. Most readers don't want endless scare stories about climatic doom, accompanied by authoritarian lectures about their carbon footprints. They're hungry for a variety of opinions.
Unfortunately only 1% of the huge number of articles on climate change in the posh London newspapers deviate from the official line of the Intergovernmental Panel. That's not my reckoning. It comes from researchers at Oxford University who complain about the more balanced reporting in the not-so-posh papers, with a deviancy rate of 23%. They say it has 'skewed public understanding of human contributions to climate change'. In other words, kindly abandon the journalistic principle that different points of views should be heard on controversial matters, or else a lot of dreadful people out there (you or me) may not truly believe that climate change is their fault.
Yes, you've got it. Man-made global warming is just propaganda. My father Ritchie Calder was a science writer too, but during the Second World War he played a leading part in Allied propaganda against Nazi Germany. He told me quite a lot about the tricks, employed in what was then a good cause. Now I watch them being used every day by the global wamers.
For example: exaggerate small facts. A brilliant wartime example came when someone in occupied Belgium was chalking V on public walls. He meant V for Vrijheid, or freedom. But London announced that in occupied Europe people were writing V for Victory everywhere. So people listening secretly to the BBC went out and did just that, to annoy the Germans and hearten their neighbours.
The polar bears qualify as a similarly astute exaggeration from the global warming camp. Some years ago, a small family of bears was caught in a violent storm, and drowned. That could have happened a hundred or a thousand years ago. But no, the Disneyesque sob story is put about, by Al Gore and others, that bears are drowning because the Arctic ice is melting. Total rubbish, because the polar bears are thriving. But it's dazzling propaganda.
Another technique is to hush up unfavourable news. In wartime that can mean not informing even the bereaved relatives if an important warship has sunk without the enemy knowing. Again the polar ice provides a modern parallel. Last year you were told – shock, horror! -- that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent since satellite measurements began. What went unreported was that Antarctic sea ice was simultaneously at a record high. The collusion of my fellow journalists in the deception is disturbing. Although the big freeze in Antarctica was plainly announced in a press release from the US weather bureau, NOAA, not a single newspaper in North America or Europe carried this unfavourable story.
My Dad's chief opponent was Hitler's propaganda minister Josef Goebbels. Among many meditations on his craft, he wrote, 'The English follow the principle that when you lie, you should lie big, and stick to it.' And of course Goebbels did the same himself – most wickedly in the case of the Jews.
One big lie about climate change is that man-made global warming is proven scientifically. Not so. On the contrary, any objective physicist would say that the evidence is strongly against it. The very mechanism for the supposed greenhouse warming, reinforced by that extra CO2, requires tropical air temperatures to rise faster at high altitudes (6 miles above the ground) than they do lower down. Weather balloons that routinely carry thermometers to those heights and beyond have shown no such trend over recent decades.
That negative result was an important element of what I had in mind when remarking, in my comment last Monday, that the scientific evidence is far stronger for a rival explanation of climate change. It's the discovery that the Sun controls the cosmic rays that help to make the Earth's clouds. The supporting observations and experiments are explained in simple terms by Dr Henrik Svensmark and me in our book The Chilling Stars.
The biggest lie of all, breathtaking in its audacity, is the insistence that mankind's misbehaviour means that global warming is getting worse. The measurements for August 2008 are just in, and they confirm the world is distinctly cooler this year than last. It's fair enough to argue about whether the Earth's temperature has stopped rising, or merely paused, or gone into reverse. But the key fact is that, despite that indisputable increase of CO2 in the air, the Earth is no warmer now than it was 12 years ago.
Besides being a former editor of New Scientist, Nigel Calder has written three books on climate change. His latest is The Chilling Stars (Icon Books) co-authored with the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark and described by The Times as 'the new totem of the climate-change sceptics'.
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