Category Archives: policy

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.

Some Sense on the Kyoto Protocol?

For once, good news. This from the New Zealand Herald:

New Zealand will not sign up for fresh commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced yesterday.

The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.

Greenpeace is condemning the move as embarrassing, just as Australia is renewing its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer says that what is most telling is that our nearest neighbour Australia, a latecomer to Kyoto and a hugely coal dependent economy, is renewing its commitment.

So, the argument seems to be that, if Australia is doing x, we should likewise do the same in New Zealand. An interesting argument??? Or perhaps a hopeless argument; in particular, why follow Australia when other countries such as Japan set the opposite example to follow? In other words, New Zealand should follow its own policy, and do so on the facts of the case. The problem is that the so-called facts about catastrophic anthropogenic climate change are increasingly being challenged, and found wanting.

Perhaps this is the reason for the argument that New Zealand should follow the lead of Australia? In the meantime, Kyoto or no Kyoto, New Zealand continues to press ahead on policies that still rely on the fear of catastrophic global warming / climate change / ‘dirty weather’ / dirty catastrophic weather / nasty humans as infestations etc., and the cost to the New Zealand economy will continue to mount. As such, a small step forwards, but at least it is a step forwards……