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.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The dark side of Our Polly.....

In one way, I am delighted that Polly Toynbee has written such a dire and disgraceful piece in today's The Guardian: 'Countryside alliance' (The Guardian, August 13).

I am delighted because this is a comment of such pure hatred and unsupported ranting that it reveals the secular religion of the left-wing 'global warmer' in all its twisted bitterness. One hardly need comment. Please, just read the diatribe for what it is. The article is brimming with old-fashioned class hatreds, with an urbanite's and metropolitan loathing for the countryside and for its people, and with false dichotomies and non sequiturs.

I say that I am "delighted", and, indeed, I am that such bile has been exposed. But, of course, coming from the left politically myself, I despair that we are reading yet again the redundant rhetoric of class hatred, acrid wells from which I thought we had drawn our last draughts some time ago (except, perhaps, in 'You-know-where!').

A few brief observations will suffice to deconstruct this ugly and tawdry piece:

(a) "Behind the rural nimbyism of the protests against wind farms is the sinister presence of the nuclear lobby."

The nuclear lobby isn't 'sinister'. It is open and fighting its corner like every other form of energy. And what about Enron, which supported wind farms? Moreover, a large number of wind-farm protesters are equally strongly opposed to nuclear power or are neutral/pragmatic about its potential role. This is gratuitous nonsense;

(b) "The weather should be making more news as searing heat, torrential storms and floods make strange changes all over Europe."

The weather this year is normal in the changes that affect climate year-on-year. Indeed, recent research has shown that we have not been experiencing extreme weather events;

(c) "That word 'cataclysm' will have pencils sharpening among the usual handful of professional climate-change deniers, either flat-earthers or paid agents of various energy interests, with their plausible myths and factoids at the ready."

First, what precisely are 'professional' climate-change deniers, Polly? Secondly, I know of nobody who denies climate change. Indeed, the so-called 'climate-change deniers' accept climate change as the norm. And how, for example, would yours truly fit into this paean of spleen? I believe passionately in climate change; I am not paid to hold my views by any professional body (though I have written, on occasion, for The Guardian, etc.); I have no links whatsoever with any energy industry, financial or otherwise; I am entirely independent in my assessment of the science and of the economics; I believe humans are having a complex influence on climate, but I also think that 'global warming', as presented by you, Polly, is a classic Barthesian myth; and what is wrong with facts, or factoids? Some of the most recent facts have brought the idea of 'global warming' into serious question. Where are Polly's 'factoids', for that matter?

(d) "Meanwhile, the anti-wind farm campaign pours out torrents of falsehood about the ineffectiveness of wind energy."

The criticisms concerning the effectiveness of wind farms come from some of the finest engineers and scientists in the country!

(e) "The wind farm objectors are a microcosm of the Conservative party - small, selfish and short-sighted, but noisily influential through the unrepresentative Tory press, commanding attention disproportionate to their support. So it is no surprise to read the breathless Sunday Telegraph front page: 'The Telegraph can reveal that Prince Charles has told senior aides that he wants no links with events or groups that promise onshore windfarms.' He calls them 'a horrendous blot on the landscape' and is considering coming out against them in public."

Well, I'm Labour for one, Polly, and I know a lot of others who are also. I am further no country toff, I can assure you - "Ah wer' born reet in Owdham, lass!" This is class hatred of the cheapest kind. And how about the "unrepresentative" ranting Guardian, the sales of which have been falling dramatically over the last two years? Between April 2003 and April 2004, the daily sales of The Guardian fell by 17,357, or -4.35%. The average daily sale in April was only 381,449, which is but 14.32% of the quality national daily newspaper market, or a minuscule 3.14% of the total daily national newspaper market. Yes, highly representative, Polly!

(f) "If only there were space here to give the full heartrending succession of Telegraph wind-farm sob stories, such as Anne Hassan-Hicks, who fears her 18th-century house in Tennyson country may lose £100,000 in value as it looks on to farmland due to sprout wind turbines."

No comment needed. This is just pathetic. Many protesters are doing us all a favour by opposing the desecration of some of our last remaining wilderness and sensitive ecological habitat.

(g) "Carbon sequestration is the other option - burying carbon gases in the empty caverns left by North Sea oil and gas extraction - but that risks encouraging short-term complacency about developing alternatives to fossil fuel burning."

Now this little passage is a real giveaway; notice that the last thing Polly wants is a solution to 'global warming' that might allow growth and development to go on as usual. That just won't do for the hairshirt brigade and for the puritan pontificators. What they really, really want is for YOU to change your evil ways.

(h) "But for now, the politics of climate change has settled on the wind-power dispute. Yesterday the Environment Agency warned extreme weather would worsen unless more action is taken. Seeing off Prince Charles and the rest is just round one: future political decisions will be far harder."

Does Polly really think that UK wind farms will affect climate change one jot? Please read the telling calculations of Dr. John Etherington (a fine independent ecologist and scientist, Polly) below (blog, August 1).

I enjoy much of Polly's writing, especially her well-founded material on social justice. This, by contrast, is choleric cant and it is unworthy of her.

Nevertheless, I think we should be grateful to Polly - she has revealed how much 'global warming' is truly 'Pollytics'.

Philip, "Let's all have some tea!"

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

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