Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Beware climate change denial dressed up as ‘commonsense’

Posted on 21 November 2009 | 12:11pm

If you need any reminder of the challenge facing Ed Miliband as he works for a deal at the Copenhagen climate change summit, look no further than today’s interview in the Financial Times with the elected mayor in Ed’s Doncaster seat.

Peter Davies surprised even himself when he was elected mayor standing for English Democrats, winning support for his anti-European, anti-immigration, pro-capital punishment views. The fact that he will not have the power to bring back the death penalty for pro-European immigrants in Doncaster is neither here not there. He was elected and now has considerable powers to make life better or worse for the people of Doncaster.

It is his views on the environment that show how far Ed has to go before building a consensus view on the importance of tackling climate change. Davies is seeking to reverse a policy of encouraging more people to use public transport, by getting rid of the town’s ‘quality bus corridor.’

In tones reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s view that if you were still using public transport over the age of 30, you’d failed in life, Davies says ‘People in cars spend more than people on buses. Why wouldn’t we want them?’

Seeking to portray himself as the underdog, he says the shift will not be easy because ‘we have arrayed against us the climate change alarmists and green fools, who want us all to eat lettuce and live in caves.’

Beware politicians who portray themselves as ‘only speaking commonsense’ and then talk utter bilge. Let me just repeat his line … ‘climate change alarmists and green fools, who want us to eat lettuce and live in caves.’ A nice line for a climate-change denying colimnist in a right-wing tabloid maybe, but as the intellectual basis for an important policy choice, I’m not sure is stacks up.

Elsewhere in the FT, their Weekend Magazine front cover story is based on interviews with climate change scientists, and one sceptic who thinks, as Davies appears to, that the whole climate change argument is a con.

The views of the other scientists are worth reading. At least, unlike Davies with his lettuce and caves, they are based on research and fact, not prejudice and anecdote.

And whilst I imagine the people of Cumbria have more pressing things to do with their time today than put up their feet and read the FT, the link between what they are having to cope with post-flood, and the arguments put forward by some of the scientists, seems pretty compelling to me.

So my good wishes remain with Ed Miliband as he strives for progress at Copenhagen. And with the people of Doncaster that they don’t regret too much the choice they have made.

  • Patsy Hills

    Interesting article in The Guardian too, the reporter shadowing Miliband in the discussions leading to the summit. It underlines how hard it will be, and also how hard the politicians and their staff have to work to make progress. I agree the debate is not helped by idiotic statements by people reaching for the lowest common denominator. People can argue about detail and scale but they cannot deny there is a problem and we all have a responsibility to change

  • David Young

    I was shouting at the news last night – where was Gordon Brown? – so was glad to see he has gone there today. In some ways it does not add anything, but I think people in times of real shock want to see their leaders understanding the gravity and seeing for themselves if anything extra needs to be done

  • Keith Lawrie

    The Financial Times is the last remaining serious national newspaper in Britain. The rest are comics

  • Mal K

    I cannot believe the devastation in Cumbria. Is it really a once in 1000 years event, or do we have to expect more such tragedies in more parts of the country?

  • Marion

    Climate change is a reality. Extreme weather events are occuring all over the planet with increasing frequency. While I find it understandable (though not excuseable) that people in Europe ignore the rapidly expanding Sahara Desert because it isn’t on their doorstep, and therefore someone else’s problem. I can’t understand how the general populace can still question climate change when it IS on their doorstep, like the flooding in Cumbria. I guess it is because the only true way to make a difference is everyone making a personal committment to use our Earth’s resources sustainably. Sadly, by the time the nay-sayers and English Democrats get out of their cars, it will be too late for those who scratch a living farming the Sahel.

  • cassander

    Dear Marion,

    “Recent signals indicate that the Sahara and surrounding regions are greening due to increased rainfall. Satellites show extensive regreening of the Sahel between 1982 and 2002, and in both Eastern and Western Sahara a more than 20 year long trend of increased grazing areas and flourishing trees and shrubs has been observed by climate scientist Stefan Kröpelin.”

    This is from Wikipedia – so by all means be sceptic about it.

  • Alan Quinn

    Alastair, the loony mayor in Doncaster will probably make life worse for its residents but that’s politics, they’ll only have themselves to blame for voting for him (or not voting full stop).

    On climate change, Ed Milliband will no doubt work hard for a deal but if one can’t be reached the only thing we can do is within Europe itself. That’s why we must go for more renewables, energy security as well as flood defences.
    Sadly the evidence on climate change is growing with the floods in Cumbria and our new seasonal changes, ie a glorious week in May/June then the British Monsoon .
    The only person living in a cave is in Doncaster and the cave is his mayoral office.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Recently I re-encountered some Maoist Left activists I had known quite well in the 60s and 70s during the anti- Vietnam war years. They had been instrumental in running the university teach-ins in Australia at the time. One of them had started a second family, and I was intrigued when they told me they had taken their children out of school and were schooling them at home because they objected to the “irrational, illogical climate change RELIGION being stuffed down their kids throats”.

    Myself have always wondered why, if one accepted the climate change science, the governments of the world were not fast-traking a switch to nuclear power as a stop gap measure? Seemed to me would be the only logical way to make a dent in human produced carbon emmissions by 2050. The fact they were not led me to wonder if the whole thing might be a load of post modern alarmist bullshit, to use an Australian term. But I never even suspected it might be an outright, knowingly perpetrated fraud!

    Your post today, Alistair, comes just as this major scandal is breaking out from the University of East Anglia. If these documenrs and emails are genuine, and so far the participants have only admitted their authenticity, I think we will see a large number of scientists coming out of the woodwork and making further revelations. This whole issue might become the greatest scientific fraud ever perpetrated. Unreal.

  • Wyrdtimes

    I certainly don’t go along with all of Peter Davies’ views but a lot of normal folk seem to like him and his straightforward approach, they also seem to like someone who is prepared to stand up for England and the English for a change. It’s all a world away from the spin, lies and betrayal of Labour.

    With a bit of luck the people of Doncaster will realise the power they have come the general election and do themselves (and the rest of the country) a huge favour by voting out one of the slimy Millibands.

  • Hazico

    I like your write up today Alistair.

    I have a hunch that there is a right wing agenda somewhere out there in the blogisphere- and it’s prolific and powerful.I hear the influence of it all the time via letters and blogs in our local press (East Midlands.)
    Maybe it has proliferated so much more since Labour has been in power the last 12 years?

    It almost sounds like a mantra, whether the subject be immigration or climate change.Some of it is very dodgy and extreme.Maybe it starts out in the tabloid media- I don’t know- as I don’t read it! But it’s certainly emanating, a bit like swine flu…

    I think Labour needs to cut through all this nonsense and state its aims and values crystal clearly.The policies must laid out transparently, and delivered with complete honesty and passion.

    The public have become jaded and tabloid media weary- no wonder there is such indifference and ambivalence to vote or have faith in any party!

    Somehow there has to be a reignition of people’s better nature- as was seen during the Obama campaign…we all need to believe we call contribute to improve our lives, and the state of our neighborhoods and the country.

    As for challenging the Tories- well, I would have thought the lack of clear policies would be an easy thing to expose!
    If the public have no great desire to vote Tory, other to bring about change- then surely this is the golden opportunity to lay out Labour’s policies clearly and simply- and to inspire!!

    However- I think negative campaigning turns people off…

    So,I think there’s still everything to play for pre election, and we must all get on board- public and politician.There are many ideas and talents out there that need to be harnessed.

    PS.So glad Gordon Brown came to Nottingham yesterday- but we missed him, as didn’t know!
    Sounds like a highly successful visit though.

    Good luck to all- am keeping an eye on the stories and blogs on Labour List; the local press can be just too depressing…

  • Gaius_Magnus

    The trouble today is that the politicians have become totally detached from the people. I travel the country and you know what? Everyone I talk to sounds like Peter Davies! What they want is massive reform and politicians who will go out and talk to the public. (By the way, Davies spends about 50% of his time on the street talking to people!)

    Climate Change? Yes something is happening but what is the cause? Just before the Global Warming issue, scientists had us believe we were entering an ice age! Scientists told us butter was killing us then killed thousands by suggesting we all at margarine. Aspirin was great for us in small quantities – now it’s not – it could kill us with internal bleeding. I believe that in many matters our scientists are like two year olds sat in the seat of a Eurofighter trying to take off.

    As a previous commentator mentioned, if Global Warming is as dangerous as our politicians would have us believe, where is the sprint to nuclear? In many ways the signals being sent do not resonate with many of the messages.

    What’s more, the people who I meet on the peripherals of the scientific community will tell you quietly that they question much of the research – it’s just that Global Warming is now a religion and they don’t want to be burned at stake.

    I recall the collecting of railings in 1940 to make Spitfires. They knew they could nothing with the poor quality metal they collected, but it helped boost morale in the face of severe difficulty!

    Either way, we are facing a tsunami of CO2 from China and India; far more than we can ever compensate for, so let’s hope it is sun spots and not CO2 that’s the cause.