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Extreme weather – and some thoughts about what publicity stunts do and do not accomplish

Earlier this year, we here in the UK had a spring that felt more like winter. Now we are enduring the frightful ordeal of a summer that is exactly like a summer, only more so. I don’t know about other UK-based Samizdatistas, but this current burst of local warming saps my will to blog. When it is this warm, my idea of fun is not sitting next to a typing machine that happens also to be a fan heater. But I will give it a go anyway, and in a way that doesn’t change the subject from the weather.

Last week, there was a publicity stunt by some lady mountaineers, who climbed up the Shard, to protest against oil and gas drilling by Shell in the Arctic. Measured with a tape measure and a stop watch, media reactions to this escapade say that it was a big success.

Nevertheless, the mainstream media angle on all this may have somewhat disappointed the lady mountaineers. It was: Does This Kind Of Thing Work? Does a bunch of women showing off their shapely bottoms on nationwide television by clambering up a rather irrelevant but shapely new London tower really do much to change opinion on such matters as Arctic oil and gas drilling? That was the BBC’s original slant on this, and I heard the same thing on the Channel 5 TV news in the evening. Maybe I am reading too much into this, but such questions suggest to me a slight pulling back from this argument on the part of the media people, a feeling that a whole generation of broadcasters is detaching itself from a previously definite point of view, the obvious truth of which would have been their starting point only a few years ago, but which they now regard as just another of those arguments that people have, which it is now their job to report rather than to take sides in.

The pessimistic line on this, from the anti-alarmist point of view, is that all that the media people were really asking was: How Can We Best Make Everyone Into Climate Alarmists? Will this stunt accomplish this, or do we need to try other methods? We. They are still all on side with the climate alarmists, but some of the climate alarmists, especially those in the media, are now starting seriously to fret about tactics. But even if there was a big whiff of that about the coverage of this stunt, does not the suggestion that these lady climbers might not actually have been persuading anyone to think differently at least suggest that maybe their team in this argument might be wrong about matters of far greater substance, such as – whisper it ever so quietly – the alleged scientific fact of forthcoming climate catastrophe?

What is not deniable, if you will pardon the expression, is that a libertarian, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, was asked to join in the coverage and say what he thought about it all,. You can listen to what Simon said here, and read Simon’s further thoughts on all this here. It was an email from Simon Gibbs that alerted me to this story. He knows that I am fond of the Shard.

My own opinion is that the climate alarmists are inexorably losing this argument, insofar as it is a mere argument, but that a colossal cleansing job, of insane bureaucracies constructed during the time when climate alarmists was winning, is only now starting to be embarked upon, and may never be entirely accomplished. At present the policy momentum is perhaps slowing, but it is still strongly with the climate alarmists. The alarmist policy momentum is certain still very strong in the UK.

Climbing up the Shard changes none of that, and may now even be harmful to the climate alarmist cause, because although this drama will delight the green faithful, it will only remind anti-green grumblers of what a racket they now think climate alarmism has become. It will also piss off Officialdom, whose continuing financial and political support for greenery is its main source of strength, the empowering of Officialdom being what climate alarmism is all about. This air of playing to the green gallery makes this adventure look like the latest version of gap year fun, rather than a serious attempt to right the wrongs of the world.

The biggest flaw in the climate alarmist array of arguments, apart from the fact that the alarmists are so unpersuasive and unreliable about the mere science of it all, is that they are clearly not now serious about suppressing CO2 emissions, worldwide. If they were, they would be spending far more of their efforts trying to get industrialising countries, in particular China, to industrialise differently. If they have any enthusiasm for this task, I for one have not noticed it. All I see is them trying to shut down the odd Western CO2 offender, and making Western taxpayers pay for pointless wind propellers and solar panels in a way that contributes a minus quantity of energy to the world and which drives energy bills upwards, in the already industrialised world. All of which suggests that the true purpose of climate alarmism now is to deindustrialise the industrialised world, rather than to save the world as a whole from the alleged menace of CO2. Perhaps they have in mind that the West will continue to lead the world, but this time away from industrialisation, by deindustrialising first, thereby capturing the high moral ground. If that is the idea, then it feels to me like Western Imperialism, repeating itself as suicidal farce.

Media stunts like this are most effective when they draw attention to some cause that until now had never been much heard of or much thought about. Similar escapades by various elaborately dressed Fathers For Justice, which, by the way, got a further dose of publicity during the coverage of this latest Shard-climbing stunt. Those F4J performances communicated how desperate the disenfranchised fathers of F4J were feeling, which was all part of their argument. We are victims, they were saying. We realise that this is daft stunt-mongering. But given that all else seems to have failed, how the hell else can we get some attention for our cause? And they got their attention. Now, whenever divorce law gets talked about, the Fathers For Justice point of view tends at least to get a mention.

But what of this Shard-climbing operation? Did that publicise a hitherto neglected argument? No. All who care already know what they think about climate alarmism. All that a stunt like this really accomplishes is to make a whole lot of people think, and say, more of what they already think, and have already been saying. Simon Gibbs, and I, and all others of our mind, remain unimpressed by the cause being publicised by the Shard-climbers, and we get to say so, again.

We also supply links to things like this Bishop Hill posting, which features video of the Bishop himself (aka Andrew Montford) and two others (Montford is the baldest of the three), taking it in turns to talk to some politicians. All concerned were bending over backwards to be sweetly reasonable rather than in any way vituperative. The other two are firmly in the climate alarmist camp, but you might not have known it just listening to them. Montford actually managed to land a few strong anti-alarmist punches, in his sweetly reasonably way. In other words, I think he did very, very well, not least in having contrived to get himself included in this event in the first place.

Looking back on his efforts, Montford says (with an added link from me) this:

It seems that the government is looking to find a way to persuade everyone that the science of global warming is solid so that we accept the IPCC report without question. I can’t see that happening. If you want to convince someone a report is solid, you really need it to actually be solid in the first place. There’s a long way to go before that happens.

I think I’m right in saying that this is the first time a sceptic has been heard in the SciTech committee since GWPF were invited to the Climategate hearings. I hope they learned something from it. Judging from the look on some of their faces when I was talking about sea ice, what I said was certainly new to them.

That sort of activity counts for a great deal more than Shard-climbing, I think.

I also recommend this earlier performance by Montford, which (because of writing this) I only now became aware of.

20 comments to Extreme weather – and some thoughts about what publicity stunts do and do not accomplish

  • [...] Brian Mickletwait points out, the slots did not directly address the issue being protested about. In fact it was very clear that the radio host did not want to focus on the climate issue. It was [...]

  • It was very clear that the radio host did not want to focus on the climate issue. It was made hard to talk about it.

    PS second radio slot is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01bn6nb . The Fathers for Justice guy who pink-powdered Tony Blair was also on that program.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Fathers for Justice: “Hear us”. Greenpeace: “Listen to us. Keep listening. You at the back, stop daydreaming!”

    I am not a supporter or an opponent by FfJ, but I would never even have heard of them had it not been for their stunts. I can and did get bored of them quite quickly, but what else did they have? Greenpeace had the entire modern establishment.

    Related: I think the current extreme heat (is it so extreme? I remember worse) is, rather than convincing people of global warming, actually reminding of how they were lectured in the last bout of extreme cold that “climate is not weather” which in turn reminds them of how they were told in the previous bout of heat that it was evidence of global warming, only to be told when it got cold that climate was not weather. Or, as it would have been briefer to say in the first place, this peak of the cycle is reminding them of the whole cycle. Of propaganda, as much as weather.

  • Fred Z

    Journalists, including bloggers, including these bloggers, need “News” to get paid in cash or attention. Obviously, they will do what they can to create News.

    People are easily bored, and are bored with AGW, climate change, blah, blah, blah. I’m bored even with reading your lovely blogging on it. Even the passionate lefties are losing interest. Monbiot dozes.

    You lot need some new News. I suggest involving the classic ingredients of religion, sex, violence and money. What new fad will excite the passionate lefties? Or, maybe, time for a new war, with profiteers and Mata Haris. A religious war!

    Where are the Germans when you need them? Perhaps we can convince all the Germans to convert to Islam. Being German they will then refuse to renounce pork or give up their schnauzers and will launch jihad against the rest of Islam with a fury that only a German driven mad by fanaticism can have.

    Man, I’m bored this morning.

  • Tedd

    I don’t have an opinion on whether, or how well, these tactics work, but they are about the only thing Greenpeace does that I like. Buildering and base jumping make being a Green look like fun! Mainly, I think some people have found a way to builder or base jump without facing prosecution, the way “normal” builderers and base jumpers do, to have their legal fees paid for them if they are prosecuted, and to get a kick of moral superiority, to boot. I’m surprised they don’t do it more!

  • Stonyground

    The current spell of hot weather merely reminds me how long ago it has been since the last one. Years ago, the Global Warming narrative would have us believe that such weather was to become more and more commonplace. Instead we seem to have gone about ten years without a decent stretch of summer weather.

  • Mr Ed

    I for one would be minded to support the death penalty for those vandalising art works in the name of a cause, I cannot see it being immoral or wrong to destroy those who reject property and civilisation, and seek to permanently damage particularly irreplaceable property for the sake of their own predatory self-importance. I shared a house at Uni with a bloke who said, without irony after a particularly nasty terrorist act ‘I hate fanatics, I think they should all be shot‘. He maintained, when I pointed out the implications, that his statement was self-exclusive.

    As for the climbers, I would suggest that it would be lawful to cut their ropes to end their trespass, violenti non fit injuria. It would be a matter of conscience for the building owner or the agent.

  • Midwesterner

    A couple of nights ago I was sitting at a table in a restaurant with some friends and casual acquaintances of mine. One teaches physics, one is finishing a PHD in engineering and the third one I’m not real sure except that he follows the pay offers between two mega-companies which most of us interact with daily, sometimes almost continuously.

    The PHD candidate talked about wanting to do a paper (a thesis?) on incorporating wind power into the electrical distribution grid. I made discouraging sounds and mentioned 14,000 abandoned turbines as an indication that it is only subsidies that explain their existence. I pointed out that wind power generation is just one more case of big corporations plundering the tax revenue stream.

    Remembering a recent Samizdata thread, I wondered if thorium might be a better energy solution. Immediately the physics teacher, who had apparently given the matter some thought in the past, spoke affirmatively and the mega-corp techno-geek (geeks don’t seem to show any external signs of geekiness anymore or maybe geek is the new cool) also agreed. The PHD candidate, being rather invested in the windmill idea at this point, resisted but eventually opened to some doubts.

    The cool thing was that at all times, it was a rational conversation about actual facts, not Green doctrine. This is in a hard left city. We’ve known that the Green/’Environmental’ movement was captured by interest groups some time ago. What is new is that realization is beginning to register among politically/economically disinterested people who really do care about the environment.

  • CharlieL

    How hot (representative temperature readings, please) was it?

    And as for Greenpeace, perhaps the “shapely bottoms” bought them some good will. I know they have frittered away enough of it, at least as far as I’m concerned.

  • Even the passionate lefties are losing interest. Monbiot dozes.

    Numquam titillare dormientem luna vespertilionem

  • RogerC

    Fantastic article, Mid. It points out, among other things, that we’ve been trying to do wind energy for over 30 years and it still doesn’t work. That’s damning. Converting motion to power is just the reverse of converting power to motion, which is the whole reason we generate electricity in the first place. If we can’t make it work after 30+ years of trying, we’re probably not going to.

    ~R~

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    John Galt

    …nam facit humida ac difficile accederet

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Oh dear. Back translating that one came out naughtier than I hand intended. For accederet read accenderet.

  • Natalie, not sure what you’re trying to tell me with your cod-latin translation of

    “moist and makes it difficult for coming”

    .

    If its any consolation, I bat for the other team.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    John Galt (and with apologies to Brian for completely disrupting the thread),
    – In Lord of the Rings an elf tells Frodo “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger”.
    – In mens’ lavatories (I am informed) there used to be signs saying, “Please do not throw cigarette butts in the urinals”
    – Underneath these signs (I am further informed) one would often see the handwritten addition, “…it makes them soggy and difficult to light”

    Robert Anton Wilson then combined these two streams (sorry) of popular culture in Masks of the Illuminati, where someone stumbles into a cavern of skeletons and sees a sign saying “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for it makes them soggy and hard to light.”

    You cannot be more keenly aware than I am that my ability to supply the above explanation is proof of a wasted life.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Your words concerning the bat of the moon were wise, and it was not meet to seek to add to them.

    I have just discovered that in Italian and quite possibly in Latin too, even accendere, the verb in my corrected version has, as well as its primary meaning “to ignite” also has the secondary meaning “to arouse”.

    Ponam super tunicam meam.

  • In Lord of the Rings an elf tells Frodo “Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger”.

    an elf!
    …an elf?!…

    That was not just “…an elf..” but Gildor Inglorion great-grandson of Finwë High King of the Noldor. Silmarillion much?

    …an elf…

  • Coming back to Brian’s original point, I suspect the general public is so disillusioned with the whole Warble Gloaming nonsense that such stunts to reawaken the proletariat to the screams of mother Gaia were, to a certain extent, just a matter of time.

    Certainly it is a generalisation, but the more shrill the hysteria from the Warble Gloaming alarmists, the more the British public will turn a deaf ear to them.

    Clinging to there beliefs against the fact that there has been no statistically significant warming in years and in the face of a series of wet summers and bitter winters is only exacerbating their already weakened positions.

    Once the Green policy induced brownouts and blackouts start rolling across the country in 2016 or so we will see British apathy turn to anger.

    A government which can’t even keep the lights on doesn’t last long as Ted Heath discovered. All these bird choppers and green issues will get dumped on the scrap heap of political hubris.

  • Mr Ed

    The FotE sorts should be asked at every point if they would confirm that they want people to have higher gas/electric bills even if renewables are more expensive, and if they wish to enforce a lower standard of living on the population. It has to be rammed home, BBC types are unlikely to put such questions, but the energy company talking heads should.

  • Wolfie

    There is a partial solution to the problem caused by the extra taxes on energy bills that go to subsidise the renewables – the German power companies are doing it – buy the cheapest, dirtiest coal available to power your power stations and keep them spinning to take up the slack when the wind stops blowing.