Global warming

The world is ablaze – yet climate chaos still takes us by surprise

In the light of recent fire emergencies on the Greek islands and in the wider Mediterranean, this book has just acquired even more relevance. It centres on another catastrophe in May 2016, a Canadian inferno nicknamed the ‘Beast’, which has become the most expensive natural disaster in the country’s history. Within three weeks, Fort McMurray’s blaze had incinerated an area the size of Cumbria Within five days of its discovery, the blaze had forced the mass evacuation of 90,000 residents from the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta Province. In just three weeks, egged on by an El Niño cycle as well as fierce winds and record temperatures across America’s

The march of the larch: the Treeline is now encroaching on the arctic tundra

Covering 20 per cent of the Earth’s surface, the boreal forest is the largest living system, or ‘biome’, on land. It contains one third of all the planet’s trees and encircles much of the northern hemisphere in a halo of green. The northernmost extent of this forest, called the treeline, marks the point beyond which it is too cold for trees to grow. This is perhaps not where you’d expect to find Ben Rawlence, an author and journalist whose previous books have focused on humanitarian crises in Africa. But, as he explains in The Treeline, things are changing alarmingly fast in this biome: ‘The trees are on the move. They

Good luck enjoying eating salmon ever again

‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by cat videos,’ begins Henry Mance’s How to Love Animals, winningly. That is the paradox he sets out to unpick in this densely factual and intermittently horrifying book: how a world in thrall to cuteness, endlessly compelled to click on videos of kittens and owls having a special friendship, can remain indifferent to the suffering of almost all other animals, whether farmed, in captivity or in the wild. That’s a tough brief. I’m not sure it’s a book I would choose off the shelf, because the subject matter is deeply unpalatable. The facts and figures — intensely researched and carefully woven

The Spectator’s Notes | 9 August 2018

President Trump has ended US participation in the Iran deal and imposed sanctions. No doubt this is annoying to the British and other Europeans who mistakenly helped devise it, but why are they — especially we — clinging to it still? Without the United States, it cannot work. Trump’s move is supported by our allies in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Israel — who are constantly threatened by Iranian-backed terrorism. Inside Iran, once again (but little reported), people seeking freedom and work are protesting, yet we actively support a regime which has, for 40 years, been bitterly hostile to our interests and way of life. The

This silly season, why not panic about global warming?

It all started so well. When the BBC decided that the good weather had gone on long enough to make it newsworthy, they invited the Met Office’s Stephen Belcher on to Newsnight, no doubt hoping that he would fan the flames with some lurid claims about how we were all going to fry in years to come. They were therefore no doubt thoroughly disappointed by his rather measured response, and his suggestion that that it was ‘probably part of natural cycles in the weather, but… superimposed on [a] background of global warming’. However, as the warm spell has turned into a heatwave, environmental correspondents in the media have been unable

Hostile climate

The subtitle of Al Gore’s new film is ‘Truth to Power’, which is supposed to give the impression of brave old Al fighting for right against the mighty fossil fuel establishment. But it is somewhat ironic, given his response when the power being challenged is Gore himself. The former vice president was in London last week to promote his new film and I, along with the world’s press, was invited to a private screening before being allotted an entire eight minutes talking with the great man. An Inconvenient Sequel is an odd film. Billed as a film about global warming, it is really about Gore himself. It starts with him

The truth about the global warming pause

Between the start of 1997 and the end of 2014, average global surface temperature stalled. This 18-year period is known as the global warming pause, also sometimes referred to as the global warming hiatus. The rise in global temperatures that alarmed climate campaigners in the 1990s had slowed so much that the trend was no longer statistically significant. It has been the subject of much research and debate in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Then, in the spring of 2015, El Niño, a warm ocean phase in the equatorial Pacific developed. It rapidly drove up global temperatures by 0.5°C in less than a year. In fact, the 2015/16 El Niño turned out to

Letters | 22 June 2017

May’s convictions Sir: Nick Timothy seeks sympathy by revealing that his ‘loved ones’ are upset by the personal attacks to which he is now subject (Diary, 17 June). They could have been spared distress if he had not invited retaliation by swearing at senior ministers and civil servants who crossed him. How could a prim vicar’s daughter have allowed endless profanities from this ill-mannered man and his ill-tempered associate Fiona Hill? Perhaps Timothy’s most extraordinary claim is that ‘a return to traditional campaigning methods’ was planned but Lynton Crosby vetoed it. Traditionally the Tories did not contract out their campaign to consultants charging vast fees. The leader and party chairman

Oceans apart

Readers of The Spectator will be familiar with the argument that climate change, like Britpop, ended in 1998. Raised on a diet of Matt Ridley and James Delingpole, you may have convinced yourself that climate scientists, for their own selfish reasons, continue to peddle a theory that is unsupported by real-world evidence. You may also have picked up the idea that the ‘green blob’, as it has been called in these pages, is somehow suppressing the news that global warming is a dead parrot. That was the case made by Dr David Whitehouse, science editor of Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Forum in a Spectator blog in February last year.

Diary – 2 February 2017

 ‘A Bill to confer power on the prime minister to notify, under Article 50(2)…’. When it comes to the House of Lords, some of those trying to amend or delay the bill will be paid pensioners of the European Commission. Peers are obliged to declare any interest that ‘might be thought by a reasonable member of the public’ to influence the way they discharge their parliamentary duties — unless it is an EU pension. In 2007, a Lords subcommittee said that because their contracts oblige them to support the EU, an EC pensioner who made ‘intemperate criticism of the commission’ would have contravened their obligations under the Treaty of Rome ‘and

The green policies that kill what they’re supposed to protect

The politics of climate change will eventually turn, partly because the policies are often so un-Green in their effects. Wood-burning is not good for the environment. Nor is diesel. The government paid people to switch to diesel cars to help save the planet, thus damaging the breathing of thousands. At the Global Warming Policy Foundation last week, Fritz Varenholt, an environmentalist, scientist and SPD adviser in Germany, reported the increasing split between Greens and conservationists there. You can either have constantly functioning wind farms or healthy bird populations, but not both. The common buzzard and the red kite are now endangered in Germany. To get the amount of power generated

The death of the global warming ‘pause’ has been greatly exaggerated

The global warming ‘pause’ never existed, say the headlines. It’s a claim that has been made before, only to be refuted, yet now it’s back again. If there is one topic that sends a small subset of climate scientists’ temperature into the stratosphere, it’s the topic of the global warming ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’. This is the idea that global surface temperatures haven’t changed much for almost 20 years. Never in my experience of science have I come across a topic like it, and that’s because it means nothing, and everything. Global warming is about energy imbalance. Greenhouse gasses stop heat leaving the earth, so the planet is getting warmer. This is fundamental

Global temperatures have fallen – so why isn’t it being reported?

Remember how rises in global temperatures were reported earlier in the year? Here is a taste from the Guardian in July. Funny thing is, though, global temperatures are now falling equally sharply – and no-one, with the exception of the Mail on Sunday last weekend, seems to be bothered about reporting it. Not even Nasa seems interested in reporting its own data for global temperatures. Instead, Nasa last week put out a press release about a study which claimed to have found a reason to explain the hiatus in global temperatures between 1998 and 2013 – the conclusion of which was, in as many words: it was all an illusion.

The moral arc of the universe bends towards me

So I made £250 betting on Trump to win the presidency. It would have been more, except that every time I got close to topping up my stake, this boring, mimsy, responsible voice in my head kept saying: ‘Now, now James. Don’t be silly. All your sensible friends who know much, much more than you do about politics have been telling you that President Trump just isn’t going to happen.’ One of them was m’learned colleague Toby Young. Until recently we used to do a podcast together. Because it was partly aimed at a US audience, we’d usually chat about the presidential race and I’d go into my crazy spiel

The Spectator’s notes | 20 October 2016

Vote Leave was the most successful electoral campaign in British history. Against the opposition of all three political parties, it won, achieving the largest vote for anything in this country, ever. But voting to leave is only the essential start, not the fulfilment, and now there is no Vote Leave. After victory, the campaign’s leaders went their various ways. Some were lulled into a false sense of security by Mrs May’s clear declaration of Brexit intent, and by the fact that one of their top colleagues, Stephen Parkinson, is now installed in 10 Downing Street. Nick Timothy, now all-powerful in Mrs May’s counsels, was running the New Schools Network during

Climate of ignorance

Global greening is the name given to a gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet over the past three decades. The climate change lobby is keen to ensure that if you hear about it at all, you hear that it is a minor thing, dwarfed by the dangers of global warming. Actually, it could be the other way round: greening is a bigger effect than warming. It is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated. Four years ago, I came across an online video of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University in which he presented an ingenious analysis of data

The science – and politics – of climate change

Matt Ridley, well known to Spectator readers, is giving the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Annual Lecture on 17 October, at the premises of the Royal Society. The venue has annoyed New Scientist magazine. How dare the great home of science give house room to ‘those who deny climate science’, asks the paper’s ‘biology features editor’, Michael le Page. He hates the ‘false balance’ which presents opposing views. Revealing his own opinions to be more political than scientific, he cites the example of the US presidential election, where ‘the media’s abject failure to tackle Trump has let him get within spitting distance of the presidency’. Perhaps I am biased, since I

Why the FT’s Martin Wolf is wrong about the EU

Last week, I wrote about the fevered state of mind of the Financial Times as British voters threaten to throw off their EU chains. Here is another example. Martin Wolf, usually the best columnist in the paper, wrote a column giving ten reasons to remain. He said: ‘Above all, those promoting departure ignore what the UK’s European partners think about the EU. Their political elites, particularly of Germany and France, regard the preservation of an integrated Europe as their highest national interests. They will want to make clear that departure carries a heavy price, which is likely to include attempts to drive euro-related financial markets out of London.’ Those who

Acid trip

There was a breathtakingly beautiful BBC series on the Great Barrier Reef recently which my son pronounced himself almost too depressed to watch. ‘What’s the point?’ said Boy. ‘By the time I get to Australia to see it the whole bloody lot will have dissolved.’ The menace Boy was describing is ‘ocean acidification’. It’s no wonder he should find it worrying, for it has been assiduously promoted by environmentalists for more than a decade now as ‘global warming’s evil twin’. Last year, no fewer than 600 academic papers were published on the subject, so it must be serious, right? First referenced in a peer-reviewed study in Nature in 2003, it

The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Why does nobody seem to care?

We seem to be wilfully blind when it comes to nature. Right now, Australia is in the grip of an unprecedented environmental disaster. The largest living structure on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef, is mortally sick. Across hundreds of miles of ocean, from Papua New Guinea and all the way southwards along the east coast of Australia, the reef is dying. Famously, the GBR is the only living structure visible from space – almost two thousand miles long and about the size of Germany. It’s suffering what the scientists call ‘bleaching’, a process where corals eject the algae that give them their bright colours, and turn white. They do it