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The tradecraft of propaganda
Hearing about a story concerning my father in The Independent, London (2 June), I’ve now seen that the professor of journalism at the University of Kent, Tim Luckhurst, describes him as a “war hero”. That’s for Ritchie Calder’s candid newspaper reports of the chaotic responses to the bombing blitz on London, 1940-41. The article is here:
As Luckhurst says, he faced accusations of “giving comfort to the enemy”. Yes, as a child I heard him telling my mother at the door that he’d be “home by eight if I’m not in Brixton Prison”. But although Luckhurst mentions a later involvement in propaganda, he doesn’t explain that the government silenced Calder’s troublesome reportage of the air raids by shanghai-ing him into the top-secret Political Warfare Executive, formed in August 1941.
My aim in this blog is to stick to science and shun the politics. My Dad was more politically minded and finished up as a Labour peer. But I share his readiness to defy officialdom and, when the facts serve, to cock a snook at bigwigs of any kind.
What Ritchie Calder told me about wartime propaganda against the Nazis has helped me to understand how a few scientists and politicians have persuaded governments and the docile media about a danger from man-made global warming that goes far beyond the real facts.
While not exactly scientific, the tradecraft of propaganda can be considered technical, so I’ve decided to post here the text of a talk I gave on the subject in London 18 months ago. It’s lightly edited to remove one comment about an individual and to correct one historical over-simplification, but I’ve not bothered to update remarks corresponding to the time of delivery of the talk. [On 8 June, I've added some pictures, which I didn't use in the talk, to break up the long-winded text.]
Global warming is just propaganda
Talk by Nigel Calder, Savile Club, London, 9 Dec. 2008
© Nigel Calder 2008
Let me start by mentioning two members of your club, my brother Allan here tonight, and our late father, Ritchie Calder. When Allan was six weeks old a damaged German bomber was about to crash in Surrey. It jettisoned its bombs and one hit our family home. There was a kerfuffle in London when it turned out that the German pilot had in his pocket a British propaganda leaflet produced by our Dad. Had there been a breach of security? Had his house been targeted? No, of course not. It was just a grisly coincidence.
Ritchie Calder was an ace science reporter, whose scoops included the splitting of the atom and the structure of DNA. But during the Second World War he was director of plans and campaigns in the Political Warfare Executive of the Foreign Office. In plain words, he was making propaganda. He later told me quite a lot about the wartime tradecraft. And now it dismays me to see the very same techniques being used to propagate the myth that we are in the grip of relentless global warming driven by manmade emissions of carbon dioxide.
Like my Dad before me, I’m a science writer. And I’m a a trained sceptic. As a physics student at Cambridge I was told to mistrust what the professors told me. If the top experts had everything done and dusted, there would be no big discoveries remaining to be made. Luckily the top experts are usually wrong. Surprising discoveries keep coming along. Science thrives
And I was also groomed as a sceptic as an apprentice journalist. I was told that all governments lie and that anyone who comes to you with a story has an axe to grind. If you want the real stories, you must go out and look for them for yourself.
So I’ve had 50 years of fun, hunting down the young men and women making the biggest scientific discoveries. The game was to put them on international television long before they won their Nobel Prizes. When telling the public about new wonders of Nature, I often got a lot of flak from the top experts of the time. For example, I was rebuked for reporting that there are big black holes in the sky, that continents drift around the world, that wobbles in the Earth’s orbit set the rhythm of the ice ages, and that the dinosaurs perished when an asteroid or comet hit the Earth. There were always top experts despising the discoveries, all of which are now accepted as correct.
The dust usually settled on those spats within a few years. But about 12 years ago I reported a new wonder of Nature concerning climate change, which is still rejected by the top experts. So instead of moving on to fascinating new subjects (of which there are plenty) I’ve had to keep hammering away about the same climate story. Try as I may to stick to the science, and steer clear of the politics, there’s no avoiding a propaganda battle. It has corrupted the science to a degree not seen since the Soviet Bloc made the political decision that Western genetics was wrong, and went ahead and ruined their agriculture.
A discovery that’s not politically correct
My story was about a discovery in the physics of the weather. To find anything comparable you have to go back to the 18th Century. That was when the postmaster of Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin by name, flew a kite in a thunderstorm. He proved that lightning is just a big electric spark. To be precise, he described how to do the experiment, and let the French try it first. They lived to tell the tale, so Franklin repeated it for himself. A very prudent postmaster.
In 1996, in Copenhagen, the climate physicist Henrik Svensmark made another discovery just as amazing. He found that the everyday clouds we see in the sky take their orders from the Sun and the stars. I wrote a book about it, called The Manic Sun. Nobody paid much attention, but the scientific evidence went on piling up and last year Henrik and I together published a second book called The Chilling Stars. A second edition, updated, came out this year, and the discovery has also featured in a few TV programmes.
In a nutshell, atomic particles coming from exploded stars, called cosmic rays, help to make invisible specks floating in the air, on which water vapour condenses to make cloud droplets. When the Sun is most active, magnetically speaking, it repels many of the cosmic rays and there are fewer clouds. During the 20th Century the Sun’s magnetism doubled in strength. With fewer cosmic rays, and with fewer low clouds blocking the sunshine, the world warmed up.
The other disputed discoveries that I mentioned were controversial only among scientists. This new wonder of Nature is not politically correct. A bunch of computer model-makers, using a much more speculative theory, want to say that the global warming is our fault, due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases put into the air by human activity. And they’ve persuaded many politicians that it’s going to get much worse unless we mend our ways.
During the 20th Century, the world’s average temperature rose by less than one degree Celsius. That’s not at all remarkable compared with other changes of climate over the previous centuries and millennia, and there are two explanations on offer. Despite anything you may hear to the contrary, the cosmic-ray story is fully supported by the evidence of observations and experiments.
The manmade global warming story has no such support. Quite the opposite. The very mechanism for the supposed greenhouse warming, reinforced by that extra CO2, requires tropical air temperatures to rise faster at high altitudes (6 miles above the ground) than they do lower down. Weather balloons routinely carry thermometers to those heights and beyond. They have shown no such trend over recent decades.
The glory of science is that in the end the correct story prevails. When my friend Henrik Svensmark’s does, I don’t suppose Al Gore will give back his Nobel peace prize. But what I do foresee is a hundred PhDs in political history and scientific history, as people try to understand how science and public policy got into such a mess. And a large part of their task will be to disentangle the science and the propaganda. Which brings me back to Ritchie Calder, and my comparisons with the wartime propaganda of the 1940s.
Dirty tricks in the US Senate
I mentioned leaflets. Billions of them were scattered on German cities and on the front lines. One of the best of these paper weapons, so my Dad told me, was a pamphlet written by a doctor explaining to German troops how to fake illnesses so they’d not have to fight. Rule number one: pretend to be desperate to get back into action. Rule number two: report the symptoms as explained in the booklet, but pretend you’ve no idea what disease they might represent. It was so effective that the Germans translated the pamphlet into English and redirected it at British and American troops.
Although the malingerers’ handbook told no direct lies, it fell in the category of ungentlemanly behaviour, which was Foreign Office parlance for dirty tricks. Now you might not think a fine fellow like our Nobel peace prize winner Al Gore would ever resort to dirty tricks. Well think again.
An early event in the politicization of climate science was a US Senate hearing organised by Al Gore in 1988. It was for his Svengali, or Savonarola if you prefer, Dr James Hansen of NASA. On US public television last year, a colleague of Gore’s confessed what happened. I quote from the transcript.of Senator Timothy Wirth.
We called the weather bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. … So we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. … What we did is that we went in the night before and opened all the windows – I will admit that, right – so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room. And so when the hearing occurred, there was not only bliss, which is television cameras in double figures, but it was really hot. … The wonderful Jim Hansen was wiping his brow at the table at the hearing, at the witness table, and giving his remarkable testimony.
That was when Hansen claimed, 20 years ago mark you, that global warming was already large enough to ascribe, with a high degree of confidence, a cause-and-effect relationship to the greenhouse effect.
Exaggerations and false trails
A well-known ploy in propaganda is to seize on small facts and exaggerate them mightily. During the war, the finest example was V for Victory. Word came via a listening station that someone in occupied Belgium was chalking V on public walls. Being Flemish, the graffiti artist meant V for Vrijheid or freedom. But London cleverly announced that in occupied Europe people were writing V for Victory everywhere. So people tuning in secretly to the BBC went out and did just that, to infuriate the Germans and hearten their neighbours.
Da da da daaah – the morse code for V, in Beethoven’s Fifth – became the signature tune for BBC broadcasts to occupied Europe. The only real problem was coaching Churchill to hold his hand the right way round when he made the V sign.
For a small fact blown up out of all proportion by the global warmers, here’s the most remarkable case. Some years ago, a small family of polar bears was caught out in a violent storm, when swimming. They drowned. That could have happened a hundred or a thousand years ago. But no, we’re told a Walt-Disney-like tale, that bears are drowning because the Arctic ice is melting. Total rubbish, because the polar bears are terrific swimmers. And they’re thriving. Their numbers are growing, not shrinking.
But I must admit, poor little drowning bear cubs make dazzling propaganda, of a kind to which schoolchildren in particular are vulnerable. In that connection an English high court ruled that Al Gore’s sob story about the polar bears, in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, was groundless. It was one of nine misleading claims that the judge said must be pointed out to all teachers showing that film in school. Yet people still wring their hands about the polar bears, don’t they?
On the cover of Al Gore’s DVD, the hurricane Katrina, which battered New Orleans in 2005, comes out of a chimney stack. That takes my mind back to the wartime device of laying false trails. In 1944 the German’s launched flying bombs against London, V1s. Nasty things. Pup-pup-pup-pup – silence – 15 seconds later, bang. They were well aimed, with dreadful and demoralising hits on central London. But the British reported that Middlesex [north-west of London] was suffering particularly badly, so that the Germans would believe they were overshooting the capital. The V1 battery commanders shortened the range. It was a shame about Maidstone, but many of the missiles fell in open country in Kent.
A modern false trail concerns the trajectories of hurricanes supposedly targeted on the USA. Prompted by global warming scientists, a typical claim by ABC News in the aftermath of Katrina said “Major storms have increased in intensity and duration by a whopping 50 % just since the 1970s.” That’s simply untrue, but all the media were saying similar things.
In 2008, after a careful study of all hurricanes since 1900, Chris Landsea of the National Hurricane Center in Miami declared: “There is nothing in the US hurricane damage record that indicates global warming has caused a significant increase in destruction along our coasts.” Taking account of the changing value of the dollar, Landsea and his colleagues found, for example, that the 1926 Miami hurricane was twice as costly as Katrina. Putting aside climate change, any impression that things are getting worse can be explained by better tracking of storms and more seaside real estate. Physically there’s been no increase in the frequency or violence of the storms. Although Landsea made his reassuring declaration in a press release from NOAA, the US weather bureau, and although Reuters picked up the story, it was reported in only one major newspaper (USA Today).
Airbrushing scientific and climatic history
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith’s job was to keep revising official history so that Big Brother would always appear omniscient and wise. That was based of course on what was common practice in the dictatorships of Europe. But in 1941, when the Soviet Union suddenly became our gallant ally against Hitler, British propaganda itself had to airbrush history. The role of cuddly Uncle Joe Stalin in the invasion of Poland in 1939, which precipitated the Second World War, could not be mentioned any more.
And now the history of climate science has been airbrushed too. You’re not supposed to remember that in the 1960s and 1970s the top climate experts were predicting global cooling. A little ice age, or even a big ice age. They’ll try to tell you that this was just a scare got up by the media, but again that’s simply untrue. An advantage of old age is to have lived through various climate changes and the theories about them. For example, I was present in Rome in 1961 when UN agencies convened a conference of climate scientists, who discussed the dreadful effects that the all-too evident global cooling was going to have on world food supplies.
It’s not just the history of climate science that gets airbrushed, but the history of the climate itself. Most of the cathedrals of Europe were built in a time of great prosperity called the Medieval Warm Period, when French wine producers were lamenting the competition from the English vineyards. All around the world, temperatures were at least as warm as today or even a degree or two higher. But that was before the industrial revolution, and manmade carbon dioxide was insignificant.
“We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period,” the global warmers said. That’s a direct quote from an email sent in 1995 to a climate scientist at the University of Oklahoma. Supporters of the manmade warming hypothesis got busy with masses of data on past climates and in 1998 they came up with a revised temperature graph for the past 1000 years. Because of its shape, it’s called the Hockey Stick. It showed temperatures pretty flat until the past 150 years, when they suddenly shot up steeply till now. The Medieval Warm Period had vanished. Dispassionate experts showed that the Hockey Stick was a statistical mishmash and not to be trusted, but the global warmers still display it like a totem at every opportunity.
Hushing up unfavourable news
When facts and opinions are at odds you have to be careful what you say, and coordinate your stories. For example, during the war you couldn’t complain about the wickedness of U-boats sinking allied merchant ships, because our heroes in British and American submarines were busy decimating the merchant fleets of Italy and Japan.
My friend Henrik Svensmark was having coffee in Rome one day, at a meeting on climate change organized by the Vatican. At the next table there was a group of global-warming scientists from various institutes. They didn’t notice Henrik sitting there or they’d have treated him like an enemy spy. As it was, he listened in amazement as they carefully adjusted what each of them should say in the meeting, to avoid any hint of a contradiction.
This wasn’t normal scientific behaviour. Usually a scientist wants to push his own hypothesis and present his evidence, wherever it leads. Mismatches of theories and data drive the jet engines of science, propelling it towards surer knowledge. What happened in the Vatican coffee bar wasn’t science, it was the coordination and fine-tuning of propaganda, aimed at persuading the Pope’s advisers that manmade global warming was confirmed as a terrible threat.
Hushing up unfavourable news was routine in the Second World War. In November 1941 the British battleship Barham was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. She blew up with loss of more than 800 men. But the Germans didn’t know that, so the news was censored. When the next of kin were eventually told some weeks later, they were ordered to keep it secret. But a medium, Helen Duncan, claimed to have heard the news from a dead sailor. She became the last person in England to be imprisoned for witchcraft. I’m not kidding.
For a modern parallel, take the news about the polar sea ice. Last year  you were told – shock, horror! — that Arctic sea ice was at its lowest extent since satellite measurements began. How that news was trumpeted on television and radio and in all the newspapers! What went completely unreported was that simultaneously, at the other end of the world, Antarctic sea ice was at a record high. Although the big freeze in Antarctica was again plainly announced in a press release from the US weather bureau, NOAA, not a single newspaper in North America or Europe carried this news unfavourable to the global warming brigade.
The collusion of my fellow journalists in this protracted deception is disturbing but not surprising, I’m afraid. Unfortunately only 1% of the huge number of articles on global warming in the posh London newspapers deviate from the official line of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s not my reckoning. It comes from environmental researchers, at Oxford University if you please, who complain about the more balanced reporting in the not-so-posh papers, with a deviancy rate of 23%. They say it has “skewed public understanding of human contributions to climate change”. In other words, kindly abandon the journalistic principle that different points of views should be heard on controversial matters, or else a lot of dreadful people out there (you or me) may not truly believe that climate change is their fault.
Some American journalists boast openly about their bias. Ross Gelbspan, former editor of The Boston Globe, said “Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming, they have a responsibility not to report what these scientists say.” Charles Alexander, science editor of Time magazine said, “I would freely admit that we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”
Gagging the opposition
In wartime most newspapers here were pretty passive. It was patriotic, as they saw it, to toe the official line. But the Evening Standard and the Daily Mirror were critical of the conduct of the war, so their editors were simply conscripted into the army. When Ritchie Calder reported the opening stages of the Blitz on London, in the Daily Herald, he complained about bureaucratic muddles that often left survivors uncared for, without food, water or medical attention. That counted as giving comfort to the enemy. The government shut him up by shanghai-ing him into Political Warfare.
Gagging the opposition isn’t possible in peacetime, is it? You’d be surprised. I know two American solar physicists who have been warned that they’ll lose their university jobs if they go on publicly claiming that the Sun drives climate change. When Danish TV broadcast a film sceptical about the manmade global warming story, a senior government official in Copenhagen told the producer that he’d never work for Danish television again. Here, the botanist David Bellamy, well known as an environmental broadcaster, was simply dropped from the airwaves by the BBC when he rashly mentioned his doubts about global warming.
Evidently uneasy about the attitude, the BBC newscaster Jeremy Paxman wrote in 2007, “People who know a lot more than I do may be right when they claim that global warming is the consequence of our own behaviour. I assume that this is why the BBC’s coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago.” The BBC Trust tried to intervene. In a hard-hitting report on “safeguarding impartiality”, it singled out climate change as an area of special concern. “Dissenters,” it said, “cannot be simply dismissed as ‘flat-earthers’ or ‘deniers’, who should not be given a platform by the BBC. Impartiality always requires a breadth of view.”
And glory be, when that report came out, the BBC granted a few dreadful people like Henrik Svensmark and me, two minutes here, three minutes there, to explain why we dissented from the manmade global warming story. But that lasted only a week, before the normal partiality returned.
Channel 4 was braver. It broadcast a film with the scandalizing title The Great Global Warming Swindle. Dozens of global warming scientists promptly weighed in with detailed complaints to the regulator Ofcom, running to about 200 pages. All they could extract from Ofcom were minor rebukes to Channel 4 about unfair treatment of three of the complainants. On a personal point, Ofcom rejected a claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (no less) that Nigel Calder had told lies in the Swindle film.
Remember I mentioned the high court judge who identified nine misleading claims in Al Gore’s movie? Well, after a year of forensic scrutiny, Ofcom concluded that the Swindle film did not seriously mislead viewers, and affirmed that such challenging programmes should indeed be made.
It’s notable that when lawyers look coolly at the evidence, they can be more objective than some people who call themselves scientists. And not just lawyers – hardnosed fighting men too. The US Joint Forces Command has just reported on the national security implications of climate change. There’s outrage among the global warmers because the report says, “In many respects, scientific conclusions about the causes and potential effects of global warming are contradictory.”
The scientific establishment in Denmark has always tried to silence Henrik Svensmark by starving him of public research funds. When the independent Carlsberg Foundation gave him a research grant, a senior civil servant wrote to the foundation demanding that the grant be withdrawn. And Henrik had to wait four years to gather enough money to build and operate quite modest equipment for a key experiment that revealed the chemical way in which cosmic rays help to make clouds.
With his team’s successful results written up in a scientific paper, journal after journal turned it down until, after another 16 wasted months, it was finally accepted by the Proceedings of the Royal Society – so it was by no means a silly paper. Henrik wrote a follow-up article for a magazine of the Royal Astronomical Society, but the editor found herself still being criticized 18 months later for publishing such politically incorrect stuff.
Luckily Henrik has the broad shoulders and cheerful disposition of a Viking warrior. He needs them. Just a couple of days ago, he gave a talk about cosmic rays and climate at Oslo’s natural history museum. Before he even arrived, the director of Norway’s climate centre demanded that the director of the natural history museum should resign, for his gaffe in inviting Henrik to speak.
If the Svensmark hypothesis were stupid, people would just forget about it. Instead, over the years, the personal attacks on Henrik have become shriller and shriller. To me that’s a sure sign that his discoveries are beginning to bite. He has the global warming fraternity worried now. And as I’ll explain, Mother Nature is giving them big problems too.
“Lie big, and stick to it”
Adolf Hitler, poor chap, lost a testicle during the Somme battle in the First World War. As a result one of the great British morale boosters in the Second World War was the marching tune Colonel Bogey. Every serviceman and all but the primmest of civilians knew the words that went with it, written by an anonymous propagandist of some genius. The words were considered too ripe to be sung in the opening sequence of the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, so we had only the tune of Colonel Bogey. But, ladies and gentlemen, if you happen to know the words, please join in.
Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler is fairly similar,
But Goebbels has no balls at all.
As Hitler’s propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels was my Dad’s chief wartime opponent. Among many meditations on his tradecraft, Goebbels wrote, “The English follow the principle that when you lie, you should lie big, and stick to it.” And of course Goebbels did the same himself – most wickedly in the case of the Jews.
One of the biggest wartime lies from the British side was about setting the English Channel on fire. By chance, a bomber raid on the barges gathered in French ports for the invasion of England caught a battalion of German troops who were there only to learn about the barges. Some of them finished up in French civilian hospitals with dreadful burns from the incendiary bombs.
So British agents in France were instructed to spread the rumour that the German army had tried to invade England but had been repelled with massive casualties. The British spread fire on the sea, in the Byzantine manner. They had reinvented Greek fire, but the weapon was so secret that the BBC wasn’t allowed to report the victory. The rumour was widely credited, among French civilians and German troops. Many people believed that big lie right till the end of the war.
Some attempts at big lies from the global warming camp are almost too footling to bother about. “The science of climate change is settled,” they say. If you know anything at all about science, that’s as daft as saying that poetry is settled or music is settled. For goodness sake, the theory of gravity isn’t settled, 300 years after Newton.
Just a shade more subtle is the claim that only a few ignorant scientists question the global warming scare. If so, why were they so annoyed about all those experts in The Great Global Warming Swindle? Participants in the film included the professor of meteorology at MIT, the founding director of the International Arctic Research Center in Alaska, the founding director of the US weather satellite service, and two physicists who won a medal from NASA for measuring Earth’s temperature from space. Other eminent sceptics, by the way, include the present director of Russia’s Global Climate Institute and the former heads of both the Australian and the Dutch climate centres. The Dutchman, Henk Tennekes, famously said, “Kyoto is onzin”. Kyoto is rubbish.
Yet another variant of this feeble lie is that “2500 scientists agree that humans are causing a climate crisis”. These are folk listed as reviewers in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Look at the list closely and you’ll find that not many of them are climate scientists. There are economists, ecologists, geomorphologists, medical doctors etc. etc. Included in the list are many people who disagreed with the report and whose comments were ignored.
What’s more, 2440 of the 2500 reviewers were never asked to agree that humans are responsible for climate change. Only 62 experts vetted the chapter where the key claim is made that “Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years.” Most of those 62 were chums of the scientists who wrote the chapter. Several of the others were highly critical of the chapter, but their names still appear among the famous 2500.
So none of these rather desperate claims, about the overwhelming authority of global warming science, begins to compare as propaganda with setting the English Channel on fire. Lie big and stick to it, like Goebbels said? Well the lie that tops my list, in global warming propaganda, is suitably breathtaking in its audacity. It says that because of all that manmade CO2 the world is getting hotter and hotter, and faster and faster.
We’ve come to a parting of the ways. Until a few years ago, it was customary for us, the sceptics, to say we didn’t dispute the fact of global warming, during the 20th Century. We just had other explanations for it, with natural drivers of climate that were more important than human activity. Both sides agreed that one natural driver, an exceptional warming of the East Pacific, caused a brief peak in the global temperature in 1998, which could be left out of the argument. But a few years ago, on German television, I caused hilarity and outrage by suggesting that global warming had stopped. Perhaps I was a little premature, but now it looks as if I was right.
The latest data on global temperatures up to November 2008 confirm that 2008 has been much cooler than 2007. It’s fair enough to argue about whether the Earth’s temperature has stopped rising, or merely paused, or gone into reverse. But the key fact is that, despite all that extra CO2 that’s appeared in the air in the past 20 years, the world this year  is no warmer than it was in 1988, when the US Senators played tricks with the air conditioning and Dr Hansen sounded the alarm about global warming.
There’s now panic among the global warming scientists. They want to blame the lack of warming on natural factors affecting ocean temperatures. It’s funny how they’re always glad to let nature explain a cooling trend, while dismissing any suggestion that previous warming trends could have been natural too.
Be ready for a cooling
Earlier this year, in the updated edition of The Chilling Stars, Henrik Svensmark and I said we were advising our friends to enjoy the global warming while it lasted. At present we have an alarming lack of dark sunspots, which are a symptom of the Sun’s magnetism. If Henrik’s theory is right, the world will now get cooler. I fear that the scientific argument may have to be settled that way, rather than by rational discussion of the rival theories. It’s a pity, because global cooling will be bad news for the world’s food supplies, just as the experts were warning, back in the 1960s.
If there are any yachtsmen here, I’m sorry about the atrocious summer of 2008. When I listened to the shipping forecasts telling monotonously of gales in Shannon, Rockall and Malin, I remembered how, in 1588, the Spanish Armada lost two dozen ships wrecked in late summer storms on the Irish coast – more than they had lost in the Channel fights. As England’s Armada Medal put it, “God blew and they were scattered.” With hindsight, that was another occasion when the Sun was turning lazy, cooling was setting in, and the price of wheat was going to treble in 50 years.
And any skiers among you will have been aware of all the doom-mongers predicting hard times for your sport. For example in 2003 The Independent in Londonproclaimed that “Many of Europe’s most popular skiing resorts face extinction because global warming is making snowfall increasingly unreliable.” This year, with generous snow falling in Europe and North America, in below normal temperatures, resorts started their ski season early in the expectation of bumper trade. The other day, Cortina had five feet of snow in 48 hours – enough to last the Dolomites for the entire ski season.
Finally, any gamblers here? Back in the summer, Ladbrokes were offering odds of 7-1 for bets on a white Christmas in London. You’re too late, I’m afraid, because tough-minded bookmakers have not yet succumbed to the global warming propaganda. They’ve shortened the odds to 3-1.
© Nigel Calder 2008