Behind the climate of abuse

When there is no coherent argument, and thinking takes too much time, abuse comes easily to the editorial pen. Which explains why the Norwich-based Eastern Daily Press is happy to describe those who challenge its views on climate change as “fools and extreme reactionaries”. This immoderate language is not typical of the paper when it is discussing anything other than climate change, but the politically correct view of that subject seems close to an article of faith for the editorial movers and shakers at Prospect House. Hence the reaction to any other possibility as if it were blasphemy.

We are used to seeing one-sided coverage of the subject in the EDP, together with apparent ignorance of the distinguished scientists – many of them climate scientists and meteorologists – who doubt the extent of human influence on the climate that is conveniently accepted by politicians. The paper does have an environmental specialist, but if she has done any serious research into the subject, it doesn’t show.

The paper gives opportunity to various environmental activists to propagate their views without allowing any effective response: handily, it has a policy of using very short letters to the editor, which gives it the opportunity to cut any reasoned argument right down. This was once described to me as “the rough and tumble of debate”. One of its sister weeklies recently axed discussion of a lively debate on wind turbines abruptly at a point when a particularly weak argument in favour went unanswered, leaving the impression on non-experts that it was unanswerable.

The EDP itself gives frequent opportunities to a local professor and city councillor who has no qualifications in climate science – or anything closer to it than Wittgenstein – to launch attacks on those who want a serious debate. He doesn’t even think the term “climate change” should be used, instead painting a picture of imminent catastrophe and wanting to charge all the expense of putting it right to the energy companies through a retrospective tax.

Retrospective tax is always wrong. It’s like setting a new speed limit and then fining people for exceeding it last year. It is the kind of thing dictators do, especially when they themselves decide what “putting it right” involves. Such people tend to have a particularly frail grasp of what “right” is. Or what climate change involves.

I have not seen any report in the EDP on the 40-page report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which concludes that “nature, not human activity, rules the climate”; nothing about the fact that global temperatures for the last year have fallen by more than half a degree Celsius; nothing about the effect on climate change of cosmic rays, clouds and sunspot cycles, all of which have serious scientific support. Or maybe those who research these things are all fools and reactionaries? How useful to be able to write them off like that.

I would suggest to the EDP, of which I am fond, having been employed there for 30 years, that they get a grip. If they stepped back for a better view, they might be surprised to find out just how many of their readers find their views on climate change, and blind acceptance of the government line on similar issues, to be quite repugnant. Circulation is falling: could that be one of the reasons?

They should concentrate a bit more perhaps on the basics of accuracy, as well as grammar. Recently they published a picture of the Bishop of Norwich in place of a murderer, which the Bishop took with characteristic good humour. Others might have required huge financial compensation. Today we have the punchy headline “Where us law-abiding people fear to tread”. Do us really? Us should take steps to improve.