The global warming lobby, and the terrier who won’t let go two lines
If the devil is in the detail then Satan’s foremost emissary on earth must be Christopher Booker. The Booker does the kind of proper, old-school things that journalists hardly ever bother with in this new age of aggregation and flip bloggery: he digs, he makes the calls, he reads the small print, he takes up the cause of the little man and campaigns, he speaks truth to power without fear or favour. In my eyes — admittedly biased because he has become a bit of a mate — Booker is way more significant and heroic a journalist than that fellow Old Salopian hack (and tedious leftie) Paul Foot. Indeed I’d rate him among the greatest of the age.
Like all prophets without honour in their own country, Booker doesn’t have many laurels to show for his efforts. Sure his Sunday Telegraph column has an enormous, dedicated following (as the occasional new editor has discovered when he has made the mistake of trying to sack him) but in Fleet Street (or whatever we call it nowadays) he’s still generally considered a bit of a maverick: swivel-eyed, eccentric, obsessive, probably quite good at what he does — and a jolly nice chap, by all accounts — but definitely not a part of polite journalistic society. When a new Booker book is published it isn’t an event. In fact he barely even gets reviewed.
His new book The Real Global Warming Disaster (Continuum) probably won’t either. Yet like his earlier works (mostly co-written with the similarly magnificent Richard North), it’s another of those classics which any even vaguely intelligent person who wants to know what’s really going on needs to read.
The Great Deception is the first and only book properly to examine the conspiracy behind the European project. Scared To Death was a rigorous analysis of the way scare stories — from BSE to the millennium bug to satanic ritual abuse — are magnified by the media and campaigning groups, causing government to overreact, leading to economic damage out of all proportion to the original (mostly non-existent) threat. And his latest book The Real Global Warming Disaster is, of course, about the biggest scare story of them all.
None of these books are bath reads. Or even downstairs bog reads. Though Booker is often confused with a whacko polemicist, his books are much drier, more weighty and rigorous than that. This isn’t to say he doesn’t make jokes and wry asides, nor that he is unreadable; only that his books are very, very thorough, aren’t afraid to explain complicated issues in some detail, and therefore require a certain amount of concentration.
But this is exactly what makes them so indispensible. I’m about to give you some examples from the book of truly fascinating stories which will give you a completely new insight into the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) conspiracy. Had you trawled hard enough, you could have probably found them a while ago on the internet. But the point is you didn’t and Booker did. He’s the terrier that won’t let go.
The first story concerns the Senate hearing at which the great global warming scare was born. This was in June 1988, when global warming was little more than a gleam in the eyes of Al Gore and his even more fanatically parti pris senate colleague Tim Wirth. They’d found a tame scientist — NASA’s Dr James Hansen — prepared publicly to voice some suitably scary scenarios. But still, what they needed to engage the interest of the jaded press pack was a little drama. And this is how they did it.
First, they called up the weather bureau to find out what was likely, historically, to be the hottest day of the summer, and scheduled the hearing accordingly. Then, the night before the hearing they opened all the windows so that on the morning of the hearing the air-conditioning wasn’t working. This meant that when Hansen was filmed giving his statement that he was ‘99 per cent certain’ that man’s contribution to the greenhouse effect was the driver of rising temperatures, sweat was pouring off his brow in the 95°F heat, and the reporters were melting in their seats. Congressional records show that in fact Hansen had delivered similar testimony — though in denser and more technical language — to the same hearing committee seven months before. But that had been in winter, when the special effects were less impressive and the story went unreported.
What I like about this story is the way it gives the lie to a worryingly common public misconception about the scientists and politicians pushing AGW: that they are merely disinterested seekers after truth, who would never dream of tinkering with reality to suit their ends. As Booker shows time and again in his book, this is most definitely not the case.
Probably the most notorious example of this is the ‘hockey stick’ curve, brandished by the warmist lobby for several years as ultimate proof that the global climate was becoming dramatically and dangerously overheated. But then two independent researchers examined the data and methodology and found both quite embarrassingly flawed. They discovered that no matter what random, meaningless data you fed into this particular computer modelling program (and they did this 10,000 times), it would always come up with that same thrilling hockey-stick-shaped graph, because an algorithm had been put into the computer model expressly to look for that shape.
My other favourite story — again surprisingly little publicised — is the hilarious tale of the British delegation, led by Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser Sir David King, to a conference organised in Moscow in 2004 by the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Russians (like the Chinese) have always been much more sceptical about AGW than their Western counterparts, and they compiled a list of ten questions demanding what evidence there was to support King and co’s extravagant claims.
When King saw that the conference featured just as many sceptics as warmists, he attempted to have the sceptics silenced. The postmortem report by the conference chairman — Putin’s chief economic adviser Alexander Illarionov — is quoted at length by Booker. And understandably so, because it is both refreshingly outspoken and quite hilariously damning towards Sir David King and the AGW lobby.
‘In our opinion the reputation of British science, the British government and the reputation of the title “Sir” has sustained heavy damage,’ Illarionov wrote. What particularly disgusted him was the British delegation’s walkout during a speech by the dissenting scientist Professor Paul Reiter. Reiter had had the temerity to contradict King by pointing out that the melting of Kilimanjaro’s snowy cap was not due to ‘global warming’ but deforestation.
In conclusion, Illarionov said that the AGW lobby had an ‘ideological base’ comparable to the ‘man-hating totalitarian ideology with which we had the bad fortune to deal during the 20th century such as National Socialism, Marxism, Eugenics, Lysenkovism and so on. All methods of distorting information existing in the world have been committed to prove the alleged validity of these theories. Misinformation, falsification, fabrication, mythology, propaganda. Because what is offered cannot be qualified in any other way than myth, nonsense and absurdity.’
Strong stuff indeed from a member of the former Soviet Union. But did you ever see this story reported in the mainstream media? And if it hadn’t been for the mighty Booker, it would have gone unreported still.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated October 31, 2009