Borisconi's leadership campaign has struck again, and the Telegraph's somewhat battered reputation for science reporting is again the first casualty.
The last time I covered Boris’s climate
unwinding, I may have implied that he was being economical with the actualite
in order to appeal to his party’s wrong wing - the Axis of Stupid formed by the
so-called ‘Tory Taliban’ (Christopher Chope, Peter Bone etc.) and the UKIP
insurgency. I now regret that snide innuendo.
This is an important issue, so let’s be completely clear – Boris is
deliberately lying to Telegraph readers.
It’s the usual list of
denialist nonsense about what ‘the BBC, and all the respectable meteorologists’
said about climate change, and I don’t think I really need to go through all of
his semi-jocular claims and debunk them. Well, OK then, just as an example,
nether the BBC nor any meteorologist ever said ‘we were never going to have
snow again’ – that was actually one Independent sub-editor misquoting a climate
scientist, a misquote endlessly recycled by denialists who can’t find anything
an actual climatologist actually said which serves their purposes. Nor did the
Beeb or the Met Office ever say any of the other nonsense about boules, pastis
and mandolins which Boris attributes to them.
Nor was there ever a
consensus that the UK would experience ‘long, roasting summers’. The consensus
has always been, and still remains, that if you put more energy into the
weather system you get more energy out – more floods, more droughts, more
extreme weather generally. The idea that Britain would have a delightful Mediterranean
climate was invented by the denial-o-sphere as yet another reason not to do
anything to stop carbon emissions. To quote the respectable meteorologist and
cockroach exterminator Dale Gribble – ‘That's code for UN commissars telling
Americans what the temperature's going to be in our outdoors. I say let the
world warm up. Let's see what Boutros Boutros Ghali Ghali has to say about
that. We'll grow oranges in Alaska!’
Climate scientists have
always been very clear on the fact that global warming would create more
extreme weather and a generally hostile climate. After all, would the likes of
Greenpeace and other ‘alarmists’ have been constantly accused of fear and/or
doom-mongering if we’d been predicting a Mediterranean climate? We’d have been
‘siesta-mongers’ or ‘sangria-mongers’.
But none of this is
particularly new or particularly interesting. What is interesting, as it might
be quite significant for the political future of the UK, is why Boris feels the
need to spout this particular variety of nonsense. He has to do this
because he has created an electoral base in London, which, whilst not exactly
left wing, contains a different kind of tory to those inhabiting the shires
where the majority of the party’s support is based. In order to appeal to
cosmopolitan, multicultural London tories, Boris had to look modern and
progressive (quite a challenge when your whole identity is an impersonation of
Rowley Birkin QC), and, to a degree, he managed it.
But this success has become a liability in his battle for the tory leadership,
where Cameron’s metropolitan modernism is the main reason for his unpopularity
within the party, and the restless backbenchers are looking for a more
traditional, hang-em and flog-em, nasty old-school tory. From the same old
school, of course, and the same university drinking club, but without all this
new-age guff about science and tolerance.
Boris is busy trying to undo all his previous good work, so that he can neatly
fit into the Cameron-shaped hole the tory right are digging. This requires
reversals on various dog-whistle issues - public statements which show that
Boris is indeed ‘one of us’, ‘us’ being the wrong wing. Climate change is one
of the few dog-whistle issues where it’s possible to take the wrong-wing line
in a national newspaper quite openly without being prosecuted for hate-speech,
and Boris is seizing the opportunity.
He’s learnt from the experience of having to throw the Borismobile into reverse
at high speed, and so you’ll note that the Telegraph piece preserves plausible
deniability. Should Boris become PM, and be forced to deal with grown-ups, he
can claim that these pieces are merely mischievous humour – obviously he never
really meant that swimming pool owners should actually sue the Met Office – the
whole thing was a joke! Can’t you take a joke?
Well, I try. But I’m a bit simple-minded, so for the sake of the hard of
thinking, I’d really appreciate it if Boris could make a clear, non-humourous
public statement of his views on this issue. Does he agree with the 97.4%
of climate scientists who make up the consensus, or does he agree with the 0.7%
of climate scientists who dispute it? It’s not just me who wants a bit of
clarity on this issue – I suspect that before they make him their leader, the
wrong wing will want to make sure Boris really is as clearly
wrong as they are.