Richard is prosecuting a case in court, this time with a good chance of winning. But he is not happy. He has to prosecute his climate scientist hero Tim Coghburn for assault, after Coghburn punched a persistent climate denialist, James Watt. Watt is an annoying gadfly and Richard detests all he stands for. And the fiasco is made worse when Richard sees Coghburn is being represented by Richard’s old, much admired law lecturer. Richard makes a stuttering start in court, and the defence QC makes Watt look unreliable and a bit of a goose. Part of Richard wants to lose because of his environmental concerns, but part of him needs a win. Richard finally cross examines Tim Coghburn and gets to reconcile his needs. He leads Tim through a series of questions as put by James Watt and his ilk, stirring Coghburn’s anger as he airs the simple rebuttals. Eventually Tim blurts out that yes, he did hit James Watt, and it felt great. Richard has his win, Tim is fined, and Watt still comes out of it looking like an idiot.
If it were England, a trip to the defamation court would have been in order.
Anyway…a filmed story that has no connection with reality and portrays the “villain” using basic, demeaning stereotypes? Where did we see that already…
We’re coming to the conclusion of a time of record-setting September and October high temperatures in several parts of Europe, England included. It’s news, and of course it is. However, keen readers of the local docufiction that passes for British news articles may have noticed something very odd about the latest heatwave.
Over the short term the weather is caused by currents over the land and oceans. This week’s high temperatures were caused by high pressure over central Europe sucking warm wind up from the Mediterranean.
This week’s record temperatures have been caused by an area of high pressure, anchored off the east coast of the UK, dragging in warm, dry winds from the Sahara. Records have already been set for the hottest 29 September – breaking one set in 1895 – and 30 September
This is so much different than with previous heatwaves. In August 2003 the British newsmedia seemingly couldn’t avoid mentioning global warming and climate change whenever possible. This is from the Aug 13, 2003 transcript of a BBC radio broadcast with Dr Chris West, “Director of the UK Climate Impacts Programme”
[…] Temperatures are approaching 30C plus, and the hot spell is expected to last into next week. The heatwave could be a sign that global warming is speeding up, according to Professor John Schellnhuber at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. […] What’s causing the extreme weather? Is global warming accelerating? What are the consequences for the UK? […]
Dr Chris West: […] So I think this is a blip yes maybe but it’s a good warning that this is the sort of thing we can expect more of. […]
Two days earlier there was Nigel Reed, “the Met Office’s chief weather forecaster” again on the BBC:
He said the recent hot weather was “consistent” with global warming, although it was impossible to prove an exact link. Summers this hot or hotter may even become fairly “routine” within 50 or 70 years, he said. “In the years to come, as the earth’s atmosphere does heat up through global warming, we would expect to see these hot weather events happening with greater frequency,” he said.
One heat wave does not prove that the world is getting hotter, but this week’s weather fits a global trend which has seen previous records shattered with increasing regularity. In nine out of the past 12 years, average temperatures worldwide have been higher than at any time since records began in the 19th century and it is very likely that the 1990s were the warmest decade for 1000 years.
It took two at the Independent to write the same claims on Aug 11, 2003:
Although there can be no direct proof that yesterday’s record temperature was the result of climate change, many observers see it as part of a steadily warming pattern affecting the world, not least because of the margin by which the previous UK record was broken – nearly a whole degree centigrade and nearly a degree-and-a-half fahrenheit.
As for this month’s heatwave, physicist Prof John Schellnhuber, research director at the Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia, believes it could fit the medium predictions of climate change but might signal warming beyond IPCC estimates – up to 9C. “It could be an extreme expression of moderate global warming, or a standard feature of accelerated global warming.”
Research that backs this view was published recently in the journalScience from Dr Peter Stott at the Hadley Centre, which has investigated if global warming also works at the continental level. This shows that the rising temperatures in Europe must be partly due to man-made pollution, though falls short of blaming all the warming over the UK on human activities.
Out of competition, who else, George Monbiot in The Guardian, as usual (Aug 12, 2003):
Of course, we cannot say that the remarkable temperatures in Europe this week are the result of global warming. What we can say is that they correspond to the predictions made by climate scientists. As the met office reported on Sunday, “all our models have suggested that this type of event will happen more frequently.”
Can we attribute the difference in reporting between 2003/2005 and 2011 to an increased awareness about British journalists that weather is not climate, maybe as a result of spectacular advances in scientific communication thanks to the IPCC? I think not.
As recently as last year, the BBC and the Met Office were not shy of linking warm weather to climate change. Here’s a report dated August 10, 2010 by Katia Moskvitch, a presumably rather local-minded science reporter, about the Moscow heatwave:
Global climate change is partly to blame for the abnormally hot and dry weather in Moscow, cloaked in a haze of smoke from wildfires, say researchers. The UK Met Office has said there are likely to be more extreme high temperatures in the future.
The inference that any day’s weather is related to the slow progress of global warming is one of the things that scientists find most frustrating – although comedian Bill Maher probably expresses that frustration more pithily than most scientists, commenting that not believing in climate change because it’s snowing “is like saying the Sun might not be real because last night it got dark”. […] From an individual weather event, the impact is small; but heatwaves are projected to become more frequent in parts of North America where they already occur as the global average temperature continues to rise […]
In fact, there is a more mundane explanation to Monbiot’s newly-found climate reticence alongside pretty much all of his colleagues’. It’s all due to pleasantness: not on their part, of course, but on the weather’s.
There is simply no way to present the recent heatwave in a negative light.
Not even the BBC was able to manage to do that, in the absence of buckled trainlines or homes without electrical power or square miles of burned forests or queues of distressed elderly at A&E departments. Because (and of course) if Britain were to become hotter than it is now, nobody would complain. You can’t scare people in acting against a change that feels, sounds, looks and is pleasant.
The problem with persuading people in the UK to take climate change seriously is that, as far as we are concerned, it sounds quite attractive. The government’s new climate projections predict drier summers and a possible 5C temperature rise in the south of England by 2080. Isn’t this what we have spent our lives hoping and praying for?
It’s a situation I described a few months later as the “Attach of the Killer Orange Groves” or “The Day of The Palm Triffids”, in a post titled “The National Trust Wants You To Emit Greenhouse Gases“. It goes without saying that the landscape changes expected by the National Trust would not horrify anybody, and might even entice people to pump more CO2 in the atmosphere:
Paradoxically then, and quite ironically, our beloved (?) reporters are forced during a heatwave to admit defeat or ignore “climate change”, losing the chance of driving the climate-is-dangerously-warming message home.