The ‘Panto Villain’ Narrative and Climate Change

A little while ago, there was coverage and publicity of Lucy Lawless and members of Greenpeace taking ‘direct action’:

Lucy Lawless and seven other Greenpeace activists today pleaded guilty over the occupation of an oil drilling ship in February in protest of planned oil drilling operations in the Arctic.

The New Zealand actor’s arrest and the subsequent court action received publicity from far afield, and was covered by global media giants including the BBC, ABC, Reuters, the Daily Mail and the Washington Post.

The huge media scrum outside Auckland District Court this morning also attested to the success of the protest.

It is just one example. It does not take much to find huge numbers of articles on ‘direct action’ by environmentalists. Many of these ‘direct actions’ involve breaking the law, and preventing people going about their perfectly lawful business. This is often wrapped up with the justification that the protestors are ‘saving the planet’. Reporting on such ‘direct action’ is often fawning.

I am not keen at all on ‘direct action’ that breaks the law. At least, not in countries in which there is freedom of speech and assembly, and where marches and other legal forms of protest are allowed. In such places, there are mechanisms for people to make their point, and to raise interest in their cause, and there is no need to break the law. Where these mechanisms are curtailed, this is a completely different story.

This brings me on to the latest news of Christopher Monckton, who has caused upset by having the temerity to push a button and talk at the Doha COP18 conference; the latest round of talks on establishing an international climate change agreement. This is his description of the incident:

I have been a bad boy. At the U.N. climate conference in Doha, I addressed a plenary session of national negotiating delegates though only accredited as an observer.

One just couldn’t resist. There they all were, earnestly outbidding each other to demand that the West should keep them in pampered luxury for the rest of their indolent lives, and all on the pretext of preventing global warming that has now become embarrassingly notorious for its long absence.

No one was allowed to give the alternative – and scientifically correct – viewpoint. The U.N.’s wall of silence was rigidly in place.

The microphone was just in front of me. All I had to do was press the button. I pressed it. The Chair recognized Myanmar (Burmese for Burma). I was on.

This is a video of the incident on Youtube:

As anyone who follows the debate on climate change knows, Christopher is firmly in the skeptic camp. Those who are skeptical are, just like the environmentalists, driven by concerns but the concerns are sometimes different. In the case of the environmentalists, the concern is often about saving ‘the planet’, albeit that they will also discuss the impacts of the climate on humans. It is often the case that the ’cause’ is abstract, and simply founded in a belief that humans are disease on the face of the planet. Or about the ‘good’ of ‘nature’.

In the case of skeptics, the concern is always human centred. I hope that I can speak for all, and am not being arrogant, when I say that everything I have read indicates that the skeptic position is driven by concerns that the policies of governments on climate change are economically damaging. It is a concern that is about human consequences. For example, when good agricultural land is turned over to provide material for bio-fuels, it is not being used for the growth of food. This means that the available supply of food in the world is diminished. With less supply of foods, it is basic economics to say that this will see increases in prices. Whilst this is not a problem for the richer people in the world, for those living on the margins, it is catastrophic. It can mean the difference between life and death.

And that is the point. In this one example, it is possible to see that the conversion of agriculture to foods is going to lead to the death of those living on the margins or, in many cases, malnutrition and disease. Other policies are less dramatic in their consequences. For example, the increase in the price of energy, even in rich world countries, resulting from mad schemes like wind energy, will see poorer people struggling to meet their bills, unable to keep their children and themselves warm in winter. For others, the increase in energy costs might see the loss of their livelihood, as their employer relocates in search of cheaper energy, where there is no policy to promote uneconomic energy. The consequences of policy to mitigate climate change have consequences; from death to destitution, to energy poverty to disease.

The environmentalists cloak their arguments in ‘righteousness’ and decry the skeptical camp as wicked. What they do not and will not accept is that there is a strong moral dimension in the skeptic camp. It simply does not fit their neat narrative, and their narrative dominates much of the discussion in the media. How noble to ‘save the planet’ echoes around the media. For those who seek to portray skeptics as wicked, this is a wake up call; we are driven by concern for the real consequences of the policies that you are promoting. Consequences that do harm to people.

Whilst the media and environmental movement cloaks direct action in the clothes of morality, they are unable to give credit to Christopher Monckton for doing the same. The point is this; the whole environmentalist movement seeks to turn their views into a simple black and white morality play. They want you to believe that they are the players with the white hats on, and we, the skeptics, are the people wearing the black hats. However, our aim is to prevent and reverse climate change policies. We do so, not out of wickedness, but out of concern for the real harm that ‘green’ anti-climate change policies do. The views of the green movement are best summed up by an article in the Guardian, in which Christopher Monckton is described as a ‘climate panto villain’.

And that is the story, the narrative, that is pushed forwards. We, the guys in the white hats, face down the ‘panto villains’. The problem with the narrative is that is simply a lie. In order to be a villain, you must act out of malice, with bad intent. It is quite the opposite of motives of the skeptical camp, who act out of concern and compassion. We do so in the absence of government grants, of government funded conferences to sunny climes, of prestige in the press. Indeed, vilification is often the reward of skepticism, along with damage to careers, and being treated as ‘panto villains’.

In light of this, environmentalists may wish to ask where the real nobility lies.

But they will not. They are blind to the possibility.

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11 responses to “The ‘Panto Villain’ Narrative and Climate Change

  1. Pingback: German Wind Energy | New Zealand Climate Change

  2. I was also interested to note that a poet was imprisoned in Qatar about a week for the conference. His crime – criticising the Emir. His punishment – life in jail

  3. Lucy Lawless and the other Greenpeace activists are just making fools of themselves. Extremists like Lawless (on the greenie side) and Monckton (on the denier side) are nothing but clowns that give newspapers something to write about.

    They move the focus away from the actual science.

    Monckton is a denier. He is not a skeptic. A skeptic is someone who actually looks at the evidence with honesty. A skeptic will come to accept AGW.

    Monckton is as much of a lunatic as the fringe greenie activists, if not more. After all, Monckton is the very same person who wants to test the entire population for AIDS twice a year, and lock them up, separating them from the rest of the population for life. Also, he brags about having invented a universal cure for all sorts of things.

    How someone can refer to this fascist clown with a straight face is beyond me.

    While Lawless makes green activists look stupid, Monckton is a good representative of the science denial community. He represents the extreme dishonesty of the denialist camp.

    I also find it interesting that the blogger frowns upon the greenie morons when they break the law, but are happy to promote Monckton’s fraudulent actions at COP18.

  4. It says something that there are only 18 comments on John Vidals article in the Guardian that you cite

  5. In the case of skeptics, the concern is always human centred.

    That may well be the case, but in the case of deniers, which you are Monckton represent, the concern seems to be purely ideologically centered. And profits, of course. The oil industry’s profits are threatened, so they spend vast amounts of money to spread science denial.

  6. Monckton seems to think that Clomate sensitivity to CO2 is around 1.2 degrees, using mainstream IPCC papers. Can you explain how this makes him a denier?

    • A good question. I noted that snerksnerk proposes that skeptics ‘will come to accept AGW’, proposing that those who do not accept this are ‘deniers’. I am puzzled about how this makes Christopher Monckton a ‘denier’, or for that matter Judith Currie (who in previous posts was also labelled a ‘denier’ by snerksnerk). The problem with this label is that, as far as I know, nobody argues with the idea that CO_2 will have a positive warming influence, including Christopher Monckton and Judith Currie. In fact, I would struggle to find any of the skeptics that might suggest that CO_2 levels do not influence the climate in a warming direction.

      Therefore, on snerksnerk’s current formulation of what constitutes a ‘denier’, snerksnerk would have to retract the labels of ‘denier’ that have been made in previous comments over previous posts for people who are not, by snerksnerk’s own definition, ‘deniers’.

      I can only assume that the what snerksnerk meant was that he labels those who do not accept catastrophic AGW as ‘deniers’. snerksnerk; please clarify, as I would not want to misrepresent your view.

    • I note you have posted since my last comment, but are oddly quiet on this clarification.

  7. The oil industry do not spend vast amounts of money on science denial. They are funding quite a lot of climate science institutions. They also have large interests in carbon trading.

    Jeremy Grantham, whose name is given to the Grantham Institute of Climate Change, holds a large portfolio of Exxon Mobil shares.

  8. Apologies, my follow up to snerksnerks lack of reply was posted on the wrong thread.

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