The Global Warming Guerrillas

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Journalists
are wont to moan that the slow death of newspapers will mean a disastrous
loss of investigative reporting. The web is all very well, they
say, but who will pay for the tenacious sniffing newshounds to flush
out the real story? ‘Climategate’ proves the opposite
to be true. It was amateur bloggers who scented the exaggerations,
distortions and corruptions in the climate establishment; whereas
newspaper reporters, even after the scandal broke, played poodle
to their sources.

It was not
Private Eye, or the BBC or the News of the World, but a retired
electrical engineer in Northampton, David Holland, whose freedom-of-information
requests caused the Climategate scientists to break the law, according
to the Information Commissioner. By contrast, it has so far attracted
little attention that the leaked emails of Climategate include messages
from reporters obsequiously seeking ammunition against the sceptics.
Other emails have shown reporters meekly changing headlines to suit
green activists, or being threatened with ostracism for even reporting
the existence of a sceptical angle: ‘Your reportage is very
worrisome to most climate scientists,’ one normally alarmist
reporter was told last year when he slipped briefly off message.
‘I sense that you are about to experience the “Big Cutoff”
from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.’

So used are
greens to sycophancy in the television studios that when they occasionally
encounter even slightly hard questions they are outraged. Peter
Sissons of the BBC: ‘I pointed out to [Caroline Lucas of the
Green party] that the climate didn’t seem to be playing ball
at the moment. We were having a particularly cold winter, even though
carbon emissions were increasing. Indeed, there had been no warming
for ten years, contradicting all the alarming computer predictions…
Miss Lucas told me angrily that it was disgraceful that the BBC
– the BBC! – should be giving any kind of publicity to
those sort of views.’

Of course,
reporters have been going native for decades. The difference is
that they cannot now get away with it. When acid rain was all the
rage in the 1980s, I was a science editor and I relayed all sorts
of cataclysmic predictions from scientists and greens about its
effect on forests. (Stern magazine said in 1984 that a third of
Germany’s forests were already dead or dying and that experts
believed all – all! – its conifers would be gone by 1990.)
Today, we know that these predictions were wildly wrong and that
far from dying out, forests in Germany, Sweden and North America
actually thrived during that decade. I should have been more sceptical.

Yet, this time
round, despite 20 years of being told they were not just factually
but morally wrong, of being compared to Holocaust deniers, of being
told they deserved to be tried for crimes against humanity, of being
avoided at parties, climate sceptics seem to be growing in number
and confidence by the day. What is the difference?

In a word,
the internet. The Climate Consensus may hold the establishment –
the universities, the media, big business, government – but
it is losing the jungles of the web. After all, getting research
grants, doing pieces to cameras and advising boards takes time.
The very ostracism the sceptics suffered has left them free to do
their digging untroubled by grant applications and invitations to
Stockholm. The main blog used by the Consensus, realclimate.org,
exemplifies this problem, because it was set up by a PR company
and is run by an employee of Nasa, who ties himself in knots trying
to show that he does the blog in his spare time. It is also characterised
by a tone of weary condescension and censoring of dissent that you
do not find on most sceptic sites.

Contrast it
with wattsupwiththat.com, a site founded in November 2006 by a former
Californian television weather forecaster named Anthony Watts. Dedicated
at first to getting people to photograph weather stations to discover
how poorly sited many of them are, the site has metamorphosed from
a gathering place for lonely nutters to a three-million-hits-per-month
online newspaper on climate full of fascinating articles by physicists,
geologists, economists and statisticians.

Read
the rest of the article

February
9, 2010

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