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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Manic-depression and 'global warming' hype.....

I have already commented on the manic-depressive tendencies presented by participants and camp followers at major 'global-warming' meetings, such as those held in The Hague (2000), in Marrakesh, Morocco (2001), in Edinburgh around the G8 Summit (2005), and in Montreal (this month).

The 'meeting' is first reported to be 'failing drastically', with participants walking out or raising 'impossible' issues. The 'meeting' then extends into the early hours of the morning after the day on which it is meant to have closed, the host nation using every trick in the moral-blackmail book to achieve 'something' for home consumption. A bland agreement is cobbled together at the very last minute. Thousands of participants and journalists emerge from their fierce-small-world 'euphoric', tears are shed, and the 'success' of the meeting is overhyped and over-spun - "the world can breathe again". Then, inevitably, in the cold light of day, the euphoria turns quickly to angst and to bitterness as it becomes increasingly obvious that little-to-nothing has been achieved. The high is followed by a long depression.

If you examine carefully the symptoms exhibited following these repeated 'meeting patterns', while analysing in detail the changing media language involved, it becomes obvious that 'global warming' hype is leading to clinically-identifiable symptoms closely associated with those presented in 'mass psychogenic illness', or 'mass sociogenic illness'.

The following two excellent medical papers explain these syndromes, with detailed examples: (a) 'Mass psychogenic illness: role of the individual physician' [Am. Fam. Physician (2000) 62: 2649-53,2655-6], and (b) 'Mass psychogenic illness: a case report and overview' [Psychiatric Times, April 2000, XVII, 4]. Here is a key passage from (a):
"Mass psychogenic illness is characterized by symptoms, occurring among a group of persons with shared beliefs regarding those symptoms, that suggest organic illness but have no identifiable environmental cause and little clinical or laboratory evidence of disease. Mass psychogenic illness typically affects adolescents or children, groups under stress and females disproportionately more than males. Symptoms often follow an environmental trigger or illness in an index case. They can spread rapidly by apparent visual transmission, may be aggravated by a prominent emergency or media response, and frequently resolve after patients are separated from each other and removed from the environment in which the outbreak began. Physicians should consider this diagnosis when faced with a cluster of unexplained acute illness."

Both medical papers mention the effects of a high-school teacher, who noticed a gasoline-like odour in her classroom, on her class. The teacher developed headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Her students soon began complaining of similar symptoms. The school was evacuated, and emergency personnel from several counties responded. On the first day, 100 people ended up going to a local emergency department with symptoms reportedly related to exposure at the school. Five days later, the outbreak re-occurred. The school was closed on that day, and approximately 70 people sought emergency care.

Yet, physical examination and laboratory testing revealed no evidence whatsoever of a toxic cause for the symptoms.

Even more interestingly, such mass hysteria can spread rapidly to those who are distant from any original 'event'; in such cases, the response is known as 'mass hysteria by proxy'. One outbreak of 'mass hysteria by proxy', for example, has been documented, in which anxiety transmitted among parents led to reports of serious symptoms in students.

'Global warming' hysteria appears to be a classic example of 'mass psychogenic illness', which is triggered and fed by the regular world meetings mentioned above, but which is then transmitted globally through the media and Green pressure groups as 'mass hysteria by proxy'.

This is hardly surprising, as taking the temperature of the Earth every second of every day, and then reporting it uncritically and apocalyptically via 24-hour rolling news, constitutes the perfect trigger for folk with a predisposition to hypochondria, or, in this case, to 'ecochondria'. Manic-depression, or bipolar-disorder, then begins to exhibit itself, both in the individual and in the media.

The truth is, therefore, a serious one: 'global warming' hype is bad for your health. Yes, Green hype can be clinically damaging.

Of course, as the author of the above studies cleverly reminds us, the essence of all this was said by Jonathan Swift a long time ago (in 1710):
"Falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after; so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late: the jest is over and the tale has had its effect."

Philip, jolly glad he is no 'global warming' fanatic or obsessive. Time to pop a cork? Pomerol, or one of those gooseberry-rich English whites I bought last week at lovely Lamberhurst? Tough choice.

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

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