The fag end of denial?


Since Marcus wrote his piece about climate change confusion merchants perhaps predictably we seem to have been swamped by these very characters. So be it. A good opportunity to re-iterate some basic, inconvenient facts, so listen up: for at least 118 years scientists have been warning the climate is changing. Let me say that again: One Hundred and Eighteen years. At least One Hundred and Eighteen years. In:

  • 1895, geologists warned of climate change drastically affecting crop yields
  • the 1920s, more stark warnings were made
  • the 1930s, alarm bells rang out from concerned climatologists as in the previous four decades
  • the 1970s, scientific journals and newspapers alike were full of evidence
  • the 1980s and 1990s, two decades of precautionary science emerged
  • the present era: 15, 16 years of it

Given this you’d be forgiven for thinking that denying climate change is the sort of unending task everyone should by now have given up on. Sadly not. Climate sceptics instead take the changing focus of the warnings (now cooling, now warming) as a deal-breaking sign of inconsistency – ignoring the overarching story that lurching from one extreme climate pole to the other is exactly the problem. Why?

The answer is that this nitpicking works – at least as a delaying tactic. After all, they did it with tobacco. Yes, folks, many of the most prominent climate deniers were previously active in the tobacco wars and what they did then to muddy the waters about tobacco harm is exactly what they’re doing now to sow doubt about climate change. So while in:

  • 1863 the British Medical Association warned of lung harm through smoking
  • the 1920s, focus shifted to the throat, while the lungs were thought to benefit
  • the 1940s, lungs were back as the primary victim
  • 1972, lungs didn’t suffer, heart was improved, but leg veins were dangerously compromised
  • 1990s lungs and the respiratory system were affected once more 

..most sensible observers saw the wood not the trees, ignoring the changing nature of the risks and focusing on the overarching story of risk as a whole, while tobacco deniers dissembled with, oh, it keeps changing, why should we trust the medical establishment?

Well, as with tobacco, so it will be with climate. Denialism and delayism is always called out by nature in the end. We are fifteen years into a near catastrophic cooling trend: since 1998 rising temperatures have slowed down at an alarming rate. Trended forward to the end of this century such a relentless downward rate of cooling will lead to large chunks of continental Europe becoming frozen wastes, Canada’s agricultural system collapsing, with hundreds of major cities flooded and frozen in succession and hundreds of millions of people on the move just to survive.

Climate change is here, dear reader, it is with us, and we must act now if we want to go on in anything like our current civil guise.

20 responses to “The fag end of denial?

  1. Pingback: A Q&A with Tony Giddey | Live From Golgafrincham·

  2. I think the tobacco analogy may well be the strongest indicator of the way forward for the climate movement.

    The anti-smoking movement have managed to extend their franchise very successfully by introducing the concept of “secondary smoking”.

    Isn’t it time that “secondary” and even “tertiary” climate change were taken into consideration.

    I can think of loads of useful examples – i.e. – being hot makes you sweaty – being sweaty makes you smelly – being smelly severely reduces your chances of reproducing – so “tertiary climate change” could wipe out our species in no time.

    I can’t understand why the IPCC don’t spend there time on simple practical stuff like this.

  3. I hope Anthony’s not discriminating against me because he thinks I’m illiterate for using “there” instead of “their”.

    I always feel one of the major benefits of the IT revolution is that spellchecking has created a completely level playing field between illiterates and the rest.

  4. Can you give me an example of someone who denies that the climate changes, please?

    If in fact you are really referring to AGW scepticism, can you explain why you appear to believe that conflating such with Holocaust denial is permissible in polite debate?

    When will you lot begin to appreciate that you will have absolutely no chance of gaining support for your cause if your major technique is to insult both thei intelligence and their morality of anyone who might not be fully convinced?

    You see, it’s like this: if you call me a “denier” to my face, make absolutely damn sure your medical – especially dental – insurance is fully paid up.

    • The only holocaust I’m referring to is the holocaust of 1billion deaths from smoking in the 20th century. From either lung, leg, heart or neck problems.

  5. Another really good article on this site. The tide is really turning against the deniers, as the things they say and the positions they take are repeatedly shown to be ridiculous.

    As you say, Anthony, they focus on the short term things, such as the so-called “pause” but stupidly dismiss the overarching narrative, which is one of chaos, disruption and disruptive change.

    Warming is only a mere part of it, perhaps not even a very important part right now. Nature is out of joint – that’s something we’ve instinctively known for a long time, and humans are the cause.

  6. I agree completely with @GreenAngelChloe – whom I remember well from her dramatic interventions at Guardian CIF.

    Are you still teaching Chloe?

    You’ve hit the nail on the head, anyway, who the hell gives a sh1t (excuse me) if it’s warming, cooling, wet, dry, windy whatever.

    Forget all the endless arguing about physics, weather and gases of whatever colour – we know in our guts what the problem is.

    Some people just don’t care enough about stuff they should care about – and the planet is fighting back!

    You’ve only got to look around you to see them – fat, smug Tories with stripy shirts in big cars, with their Armani clad floozies – dropping off their precious little Tristrams and Matildas at the school gates as if they owned the f•cling place.

    No wonder the Earth is rejecting our species!

    • Exactly right. Nobody owns the fucling place (no need for the asterisk, foxgoose). A guiding principle of most civilised societies has always been that a man’s fucle is never his own, but only on lease.

  7. Anthony are you Prince Charles? If so I wish to object in the strongest possible terms about you calling me a headless chicken. If not, I wish to object in the strongest possible terms that my eyesight is letting me down.

    Is it ok if I fucle off now your royal highnessness?

    PS since I started typing this comment the climate has changed twice. No, sorry, make that three times (or thrice as I sometimes say if I am in racy company)

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