Saturday, May 7, 2016

Matt Ridley: The many attempts to stifle free speech on climate change

The editor of The Times newspaper received a private letter last week from Lord Krebs and 12 other members of the House of Lords expressing unhappiness with two articles by its environment correspondent. Conceding that The Times’s reporting of the Paris climate conference had been balanced and comprehensive, it denounced the two articles about studies by mainstream academics in the scientific literature, which provided less than alarming assessments of climate change.

Strangely, the letter was simultaneously leaked to The Guardian. The episode gives a rare glimpse into the world of “climate change communications”, a branch of heavily funded spin-doctoring that is keen to shut down debate about the science of climate change.

The letter was not entirely the work of the peers but, I understand, involved Richard Black, once a BBC environment correspondent and now director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, an organisation that spends more than £500,000 a year, largely trying to influence the media.

The ECIU is part of a self-described “climate change rapid response community”, which jumps on newspapers that publish anything sceptical about global warming. Another £330,000 was spent by Carbon Brief, led by another ex-journalist, Leo Hickman of The Guardian. (There’s a revolving door between environmental journalism and Big Green.) 

Then there’s the Climate Coalition, the Campaign against Climate Change, various publicly funded climate-communications groups inside universities, plus the green multinationals, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF, with their nine-figure budgets. And so on.

Against this Goliath, one little David stands alone: the Global Warming Policy Foundation, with its budget of about £300,000, all privately donated and none from the fossil fuel industry. (I am on its academic advisory council, but receive no pay and make no donations. I have income indirectly from unsubsidised coal, and have refused income from subsidised solar and wind power.)

The GWPF often draws attention to the many studies ignored by greens that suggest climate change is not so dangerous, and to the economic and environmental harm done by climate policies. Remember the consensus is that global warming is “likely” to be anything from mildly beneficial to significantly harmful (0.3-4.8C this century). And predictions of doom usually prove exaggerated: eugenic deterioration, dietary fat, population growth, sperm counts, pesticides and cancer, mad cow disease, the effect of acid rain on forests.

On Friday the BBC news report that nations had signed their non-binding climate promises made in Paris was followed by a report that diesel car makers had exposed millions to harmful air quality — a direct result of climate policies. In the name of preventing future dangerous warming, workers are losing their jobs, pensioners are in fuel poverty and Africans are suffering from malnutrition because of the diversion of crops into biofuels.

Climate policies are hitting mainly poor people while enriching mainly wealthy people. The lack of affordable electricity in poor countries is responsible for poverty and at least three million deaths a year from indoor smoke, yet western countries and international institutions largely refuse to support the cheapest source of electricity, fossil fuels. It is reasonable that journalists should occasionally report challenges to the evidence on which these policies are based.

Ironically, two days before the letter was leaked, Lord Krebs rightly denounced in parliament a ham-fisted new government rule on not using public money to lobby government, because it could effectively censor scientists from saying inconvenient things. Yet here he seems to be saying that The Times should censor inconvenient stories.

This episode is part of a systematic campaign. When I cover this topic I am vilified as on no other subject, and many journalists now steer clear of expressing any doubts. As long ago as 2005, the Royal Society wrote to editors “appealing to all parts of the UK media to be vigilant against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence about climate change”, by which they did not mean the cherry-picked data and inappropriate statistics just then being exposed in the “hockey-stick” and “hide the decline” fiascos.

In 2006 the BBC held a secret meeting, after which it decided to limit the airtime given to climate sceptics. It spent £140,000 on hiring six lawyers to avoid revealing that the 28 “best scientific experts” who attended actually included only a handful of scientists remotely connected with climate among mostly environmental lobbyists.

In 2013 Ed Davey, then secretary of state for energy and climate change, said “some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups”, by which he did not apparently mean The Guardian. In 2014 the BBC upheld a complaint against itself for allowing Lord Lawson to discuss climate change at all, commenting bizarrely that his views “are not supported by the evidence from computer modelling”.

The Climategate emails leaked in 2009 revealed intimidation against academics and journal editors who voiced doubts about the forthcoming Armageddon. When Lennart Bengtsson, a distinguished climatologist, joined the GWPF’s scientific advisory board in 2014, the pressure was so “unbearable” that he withdrew, worried about his health and safety, “a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy”. Some distinguished scientists continue to brave the bullies, such as Judith Curry, Dick Lindzen, John Christy, Nic Lewis, Michael Kelly and David Legates, but others tell me they dare not put their heads above the parapet.

In 2013 The Los Angeles Times said it would “no longer publish letters from climate change deniers”, in which category it included sceptics. The following year Professor Roger Pielke Jr quit Nate Silver’s 538 website following a campaign against him. Professor Pielke had argued with impeccably detailed evidence that, although he was no sceptic, “the increased cost of natural disasters is not the result of climate change”.

This month, the attorneys-general of 16 US states issued subpoenas against a think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in an attempt to silence its climate dissent. The Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle lambasted this decision, saying: “I support action on climate change . . . But that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to drive people who disagree with me from the public square.”

If peers demanded a newspaper stop covering studies that argue economic growth is going to fall short of the consensus, they would get short shrift. We can’t criticise Russia or Turkey for shutting down newspapers if we censor scientific doubters. Free speech matters.

Matt Ridley, a member of the British House of Lords, is an acclaimed author who blogs at


paul scott said...

Matt Ridley here refers to the attempts by the global warmists to close down all opposition, and all and any promulgation of ideas, which do not favour the climate change paradigm.
Closed minds see no room for science which questions their established but fake, rigged, and massaged hockey stick data. They label that as “settled science”.
Keep saying it often enough and you can maybe believe it yourself. Settled Science
In reality, unsettling and unscientific climate fever has captured zealots all over the world. In the USA some individuals like Al Gore wish to push skepticism into the camp of un American activities, from savage contrived accusations and criminal trials.

The scary history of climate zealotry includes here in Ridley’s article that disgrace where the BBC secretly closed out on reporting anything much on that which is seen as skeptical of the settled religion. That is the United Kingdom State broadcaster closing down science on political and social grounds.

People like Ridley face scathing and malicious psychological warfare because of their ability to see the world as it is with ever changing climate and natural evolution.
United Kingdom is now learning of the expensive and unreliable new Green energy.
Liberal democrat zealot Minister of Energy, a pathological warmist Ed Davey lost his parliamentary seat after two decades,last year, but his religion is unswerving.
David Cameron however is having to face a new reality.
People are seeing what the United Nations is; a New World Order. A gigantic Mammoth of stupidity which sucks taxes out of everything near it, for redistribution to a good completely unknown to any person who looks at the thing.examines it.

But back to our hero Ridley. As soon as the Pope gives me an interview I am recommending Matt Ridley as a Saint among venomous warmists from hell.

StevoC said...

After reading this article I can't help comparing this to NZs maori problem, whereby anyone that dares to suggest that maori are not indigenous or not deserving of breakfast in bed and a chauffuer driven limousine are treated with distain and contempt. It is truly amazing how these people/groups can force their unwarranted views on the rest of us, then whinge and complain when someone offers another opinion. One only has to take a look back in time to see very clearly the worlds climate has gone from warm to cold and back again several times, most of them before man had even started building fires to warm themselves. What makes these people think that all of a sudden it is not nature but mankind that is causing climate change is beyond me.

Samantha Bailey said...

Thank you Matt, for this great article. It reminds me of George Orwell's classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. For the public to do as they are told by the government, they must feel scared of something. I remember as a child being terrified of acid rain. I don't remember that boogey man ever coming to smoggy Christchurch. Now it is global warming, the war on drugs, terrorist strikes killing innocent civilians. All leading to the slow loss of liberty and rights to free speech.

What is truly frightening is the money invested to keep this spin-doctor Climate Change circus rolling. There are many special interest groups making a whole lot of money, and I guess too much to lose. I'm grateful for organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation, because if you rely too heavily on mainstream media all you are left with is the government/united nation's mouthpiece. Which might as well be the "Ministry of Truth".

Owen said...

There is nothing surer that a theory is bunkum than it needs supporting by censorship. If the warmists are right they have nothing to fear from the remaining scientists who can afford to stand strong to their beliefs that the global warming theory is heavily overstated. Most MSM in NZ will not accept articles and letters criticising global warming.

Anonymous said...

Anthropogenic climate change has little or no scientific basis. It is in fact a politically constructed myth to empower the unelected UN One-Worlders, who currently remain dependent on the USA for both the footprint of their New York headquarters and the lion’s share of their funding.

If America jerked the rug, the UN would be goneburger and the UN knows it.

The UN has floated a number of unsuccessful wheezes to become self-funding (e.g. a proposed tax on global air miles, the so-called Tobin Tax on international movements of capital, a tax on the use of the “global commons” to be levied on fishing in international waters).

All have come to naught because widespread member-state buy-in hasn’t been achieved.

“Global Warming” (which following evidence of a cooling trend since 1997 that couldn’t be waved away was renamed “Climate Change” to keep the scam going) is carefully crafted to promote the fiction that, to avoid a looming catastrophe, member states must act together in surrendering control over environmental matters to the UN.

Through the emissions trading scam, the UN intends set up a global welfare state in which “rich” countries are compulsorily soaked for the benefit of so-called “poor” countries, with unelected UN bureaucrats in the middle clipping the ticket.

The UN thus achieves its long-held goal of becoming self-funding, and its One-World agenda of progressively subverting the Nation State out of existence moves a step closer to completion

Charles said...

I have looked with interest at the business of global warming (the initial dogma) for 30 years and have come to the conclusion that indeed the planets atmosphere has heated up significantly over the past 5 years. Regrettably, this phenomenon has been created by all of the hot air coming out of the mouths of the climate change zealots.