Fraser Nelson

An empty chair for Monbiot

An empty chair for Monbiot
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Why do the high priests of climate change alarmism fear debate so much? Part of their litany is a desire to avoid coming face to face with academics or scientists who are specialists in their subject and might be able to debunk their prejudices. I actually didn’t put George Monbiot in that category, regarding him as an “informed” opponent of what I regard as global warming realism. One of the things I inherited as editor was an invitation for him to come and debate Ian Plimer, whom James Delingpole interviewed for our cover recently. Today, in what is an act of desperation for any columnist, he has published private emails showing an exchange he had with Matthew d’Ancona, my predecessor, asking if he might come to a Spectator debate. Rod Liddle has his own take here, on his new blog. But I’d like to add my tuppenceworth.

Monbiot seems to assume he is somehow exposing Matt – who comes across rather well, telling  Monbiot that he may well be right but what’s the harm in debating? Monbiot doesn’t really have an answer, setting prissy conditions for him to come on the debating floor. Grown-ups who are confident about their facts don’t send a list of demands before turning up on a public platform. They just debate. The problem, I suspect, is that the very notion of a debate offends Monbiot who seriously believes that only crackpots disagree with him. I wonder what he makes about this US Senate list of 700 scientists who dissent over man-made global warming – are they all bonkers? Monbiot has written a book about the subject and, even for those who disagree with him (myself very much included), it’s quite a good book. This, I suspect, is why Matt invited him. So surely he can handle himself on a debating floor?

If he hoped to scuttle our debate, and prevent anyone from hearing what Plimer has to say, then he can think again. The Spectator’s debate will go ahead – nothing surer. But what should we do about Monbiot? I’m tempted to plonk an empty chair on the platform, to signify part of this ‘debate’ which only dares to make its point from behind the shelter of newsprint.