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.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Jackie Ashley, please note - 'global warming' isn't 'climate change'.....

‘Global warming’ is one of the grand narratives of the new Millennium, especially among the ‘citizen scientists’ of the countries of the North. The narrative comprises a number of constituent units of mythical discourse, or mythemes (Barthes 1966; Lévi-Strauss 1977), including limits to growth (Meadows 1972), sustainability (WCED 1987), neo-Malthusian constructs of population (Ehrlich 1990), pollution (Carson 1962), anti-corporate Americanism (Reich 1970; Callenbach 1975), and human sin and greed disturbing the ecological 'harmony' and 'balance' of the Earth and its systems (Gore 1992). The narrative was invented in 1988 when the phrase was coined. It replaced two earlier, and contingent narratives, namely an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of a nuclear winter.

Initially, the ‘global warming’ narrative was embraced by both the right and the left politically. The right was concerned with breaking the power of traditional trades unions, such as the coal miners - the labour force behind a major source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions -, and promoting the development of nuclear power. The left, by contrast, was obsessed with population growth, industrialisation, the car, development, world capitalism and, more recently, globalisation. Today, the narrative has evolved into an emblematic issue for authoritarian ‘Greens’, who employ a form of language that has been characterised by the physicist, P.H. Borcherds (1999), as ‘the hysterical subjunctive’, and this is vehemently opposed by neo-libertarian economists typical of the administration of George W. Bush.

The grand narrative of ‘global warming’ has always been legitimised primarily by the social bond. The narrative, or consensus, normally precedes its legitimising science, and currently the science that supports the narrative is legitimised in turn by the mythmakers. It has become somewhat axiomatic that much of the British media, such as The Guardian and The Independent newspapers, tend not to report science which questions the grand narrative, or which undermines the certainty of the processes of circular legitimation.

But this is now becoming worrying for socialists. Today, for example, Jackie Ashley ('It's time to call time on our cheap flight hypocrisy', The Guardian, April 15) takes up the increasingly shrill cry of the metropolitan elite, namely that anything which is cheap, such as cheap air travel, must be changed at once.

Coming from the left politically, I despair when I read such nonsense, which employs the rhetoric of 'global warming' (under the guise of 'climate change') to curtail the options of the poor. There is only one thing to be said about climate change. If we crushed every car and plane, closed every factory, shut down every power station, and put 4 billion people worldwide out of work, climate would still change, and often dramatically. Unfortunately, we would then be all too poor to adapt.

The real left should be increasingly wary of 'Green' politics and agendas. They are, at heart, intrinsically elitist and neo-colonial.

Philip - about to entertain his grandson! Help!

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

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