The [London] Times newspaper’s coverage of the climate change debate is far too balanced and if it prints any more articles written from a sceptical point of view it will become a laughing stock.
So runs the threat in a menacing private letter to the Times‘s editor signed by no fewer than 13 members of Britain’s House of Lords, including the Bishop of London and the former Astronomer Royal.
Even by alarmist standards, its tone of shrill petulance, bullying intolerance and aggrieved self-righteousness is quite deliciously excruciating.
As Editor, you are of course entitled to take whatever editorial line you feel is appropriate. Are you aware, however, that you may seriously be compromising The Times‘s reputation by pursuing a line that cleaves so tightly to a particular, and which is based on such flimsy evidence?
The letter bears the hallmarks of Richard Black, formerly a BBC Environmental correspondent, who now runs a well-funded climate lobby group with links to the European Union. Many of the letter’s signatories are also patrons of his green propaganda non-profit, among them Lord Chartres (the Bishop of London), Lord Rees (formerly the Astronomer Royal), Lord Puttnam (a film producer) and Lord Oxburgh (former chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology committee).
It is also signed by Lord Krebs (former chairman of the Food Standards Agency) and Lord Stern (the accountant behind the multiply discredited Stern Report).
What’s extraordinary about the letter is the way it makes so much fuss about so very little. The Times once ran an editorial (about the Rolling Stones drug bust in the Sixties) titled “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” This is exactly what Black and his pliant menagerie of peers are doing here.
The letter accuses the Times of having become a “laughing stock”, and of “systematically [undermining] the credibility of climate science”, and of running “substandard news stories and opinion pieces.”
But when you examine the articles these lords claim to have found so outrageously offensive, you realise that they are perfectly accurate and sensible pieces of reportage.
One article, as Christopher Booker has noted, “reported on a very measured, technical paper written for the Global Warming Policy Foundation by an eminent professor of statistics, an expert on computer models, questioning the reliability of the models officially used to predict future global temperatures, which have so consistently been proved wrong.”
Another concerned a dry-as-dust metanalysis, by one of the world’s leading marine scientists, expressing doubt about the phenomenon of ‘ocean acidification.’
Another mentioned Climategate which apparently – at least as far as Black’s letter to the Times was concerned – never happened because it had been disproved by “three separate inquiries.”
Only the most bone-headed, out-of-touch extremist could possibly imagine any of these articles to be out of keeping with the Times’s measured, authoritative and slightly dull reputation.
Indeed, the letter reflects so poorly on the cause of environmentalism that it’s amazing the Guardian thought it would be a good idea to make it public via its website. It reads like a classic case of what psychoanalysts call “projection”: that is the people who wrote and signed it are mire-deep in the faults they presume to see in others.
For example, the letter bleats about research performed by someone who is “not a climate scientist.”
Well nor are any of the people who signed the letter. One – Lord Puttnam – became famous for producing a movie about Olympic athletes in the 1920s; one – Lord Deben – is still better known under his old name John Selwyn-Gummer for the occasion when, to demonstrate that we weren’t all going to die of a terrible, meat-borne brain disease called BSE he publicly fed his young daughter a greasy burger; and the name of lead signatory – Lord Krebs – will forever live in infamy because he was the man who hideously botched Tony Blair’s terrible handling of the Foot and Mouth outbreak, which resulted in millions of healthy cattle being needlessly put to death.
Not only are these Lords (and Lady) eminently unqualified to comment with such intemperate confidence on the climate issue, but in several cases we have reason to take their views with the most massive pinch of salt because they have strong vested interests in climate change scare.
Lord Oxburgh, for example, is president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and has business interests in a number of renewable energy company. That’s why, when he was appointed in 2010 to head one of the three inquiries into Climategate, it was described as “like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”