Gareth Morgan is an economist and businessman, with a very high public profile in New Zealand, and who has waded into the climate change debate. It was just over two years ago that I saw a tour made by Gareth and his wife, in which they discussed climate change. He had asked for two groups of scientists to provide arguments; one from the alarmist side, and one from the skeptic side. In his presentation, although he lent towards the ‘warmist’ side of the argument, overall he tried (or so it seemed) to take a balanced view. Again, if memory serves me well, he also included some anecdotes about his own experience of climate change in his travels, which was not such a positive approach. Notwithstanding this niggle, although disagreeing, I was generally impressed that he was willing to countenance the opposing arguments (admittedly, it is a little sad when this becomes impressive).
Since watching the tour presentation, I did not follow Gareth’s views on climate change, assuming that he would retain the moderate and (apparently) open-minded stance that I originally saw. However, in browsing the NZ Herald (for a different reason) I stumbled on an article by Gareth, and hence the title of the post:
Yesterday, we looked at how the race for resources is heating up in the Antarctic. That’s not the only thing getting hotter. In our 2009 book Poles Apart, written with John McCrystal, we surveyed the evidence for global warming. The balance of evidence points to warming as a result of burning fossil fuels.
To our far south lies Antarctica, a laboratory made in heaven for the study of climate change. The relatively untouched, icy environment is perfect for researching how the climate has changed in the past, as well as measuring the pace of change now under way. Nowhere on Earth is as sensitive to climate change as the polar regions.
Climate change deniers have enjoyed pointing out that, unlike the Arctic, Antarctica has not warmed much overall. Average temperatures across the continent haven’t really budged as yet, and in some areas like our own Ross Sea the extent of sea ice is actually increasing.
There it is; the expression ‘climate change deniers’! With this expression any semblance of balance or open mind is flung out of the window. His tour was accompanied by a book, which I will confess that I didn’t read. I took his position from the presentation he gave and, as I said it appeared balanced. I rooted around a little, and found an article from when his book was released, and it is interesting to see what he had to say at that time:
Gareth Morgan is alarmed at the level of vitriol being lobbed at him over his new climate change book. He says both sides are prone to losing their objectivity but this emotional outpouring shows exactly why it’s important to open up this discussion right now.
“We say in the book that the subject just gets peoples danders up and sure enough I’m getting it in the neck, again, from both sides,” says an exasperated Morgan.
“Still, at least when you’re getting it from both sides, you know you’re being balanced.
“Furious emails and blogs started coming through before the book was even out so I have no idea what they were basing their anger on. The alarmists are outraged because we, as lay people, have even deigned to wade into the debate. Aren’t we cheeky?
“You should see what’s on the blogs and the emails we’ve been getting. I’ve even lost a couple of KiwiSaver clients because they’re so brassed off with me. What’s that about? Where are their heads you may well ask. The emails to the TVNZ Sunday programme in response to their story were apparently toxic.
So here you have it; a claim of balance, claims that the debate is toxic, claims that he stands above such behaviour, and yet the use of the expression climate change denier. It doesn’t add up, does it? I am unaware of any serious skeptical argument that ever denies that the climate changes, but nevertheless this is how Gareth portrays the views of skeptics; it is an ugly term linked to holocaust denial and is fundamentally inaccurate and malicious.
The sad part is that, provided people keep open minds, and look at the evidence, and make their best judgement, it is easy to take the person as acting in good faith, and at least accept their point of view. However, when a person trots out expressions like climate change denier, it is only possible to conclude that they have no interest in seeing the other side of the argument, and that they have replaced reason with rhetoric, and debate with ad hominem attack. As such, I must sadly conclude that one of the people I viewed as one of the good guys in the debate, is sadly a disappointment.