A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Apologies - a little about me, but for a reason.....

If you want to feel the Savonarola-like force of 'global warming' gloom in full spate then you can do no better than read the Cover Story of this week's the New Statesman (what a dire weekly this has become!): 'Why we don't give a damn' (New Statesman, December 1).

You may be wryly amused at the description of yours truly as "Britain's leading climate-change denier" which appends the foot of this morbid masterpiece. Here, for the record, is a copy of the little letter I have sent to the Editor:

"Dear Editor,

I must protest! I am not a 'climate-change denier'. I believe passionately in climate change. Climate change is the norm, not the exception. Indeed, if climate were not changing that would be really newsworthy. However, I do not believe that we can manage climate change predictably by fiddling at the margins with just a couple of politically-selected factors out of the millions that drive climate - I trust a somewhat more nuanced position. This is why I make a clear distinction between the construct of 'global warming' and the complex science of 'climate change'. Oh! And by the way, I am purely pragmatic about nuclear energy and I just love organic yoghourt. A little more subtlety would be welcome in 'New Statesman' ad personam attacks. And before anyone says otherwise, I am passionately anti-tobacco. Thanks. Philip."

It will be interesting to see if the jolly old Staggers publishes this. I would also add that I am Britain's leading nothing. The tone of the piece, however, depresses me. The all-too-apparent eagerness of folk in the green movement to turn to ad personam, and normally ill-informed, attacks (usually damning by association) on every occasion when critics do not accept their entire environmentalist credo is one of the most unappetising aspects of the whole current debate on the environment. I care about the environment (only a fool wouldn't), but I am not a paid-up 'environmentalist', because, in my opinion, much of the environmentalist agenda is both scientifically wrong and ultimately dangerous for the environment itself, for people, and especially for the poor and for the developing world. I therefore make up my own mind on each issue and topic, as and when it arises, and I try not to temporise what I believe to be right for political reasons. Bad and uncertain science makes bad public policy.

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to make up your own mind on each issue. If you dare to disagree, even a smidgen, you just have to be: (a) a lackey of big business (I receive various green ink letters to this effect); (b) in the pay of the evil multinationals (I noticed rather sadly that this tack even cropped up in some of the posts about me in the usually more rational blog, Crooked Timber - e.g. "As for Prof. Stott’s site, something smelt wrong when I read it - having read the comments here I think I now know what it was - the smell of undercover corporate funding."); (c) aiding and abetting the evil Bush Empire; (d) an extreme right wing libertarian from Montana; (e) a supporter of big tobacco; (f) a Denier! It's pathetic.

I happen to be none of these (sorry!). I am just a curmudgeonly, fiercely independent, mildly left-wing academic, who, for over twenty five years now (help!), has been studying (deconstructing) the political and philosophical construction of environmental knowledges. I am funded by nobody for speaking my views (my wife thinks that this is a pity!) and my judgments, for good or ill, are entirely mine. I also hope that I am constantly open to new evidence and ideas, including from some of the great blogs that are now out there. Thank you guys - you are helping to create a truly democratic and quality virtual world.

So, if you ever read anything which says other than the above, please let me know and discount it at once. Let's always focus on the discourse and on the arguments, and forget the cheap and distorted ad personam comment. Such unsubtle jibes are nearly always shorthand for lack of careful thought and argument. It may come as a surprise to some that folk can arrive at different conclusions entirely honestly and for themselves.

Philip. I wish I could get this cold off my chest just as easily.......! Hacking on.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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