Let there be no doubt, the world’s climate change deniers have been waiting for years for an opportunity to severely disrupt global action on climate change. When you look at what many of them have actually been saying, it becomes quite obvious why, up until now, they haven’t stood a chance. They have managed to delay action of course, but not entirely stop it. However, the world is now reeling from the effects of Brexit, the decision by the citizens of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union.
More of that later, but for now, who are the main culprits in the sorry saga of, thus far, completely thwarted attempts to disrupt global clean energy deployment?
Donald Trump is arguably the man with the greatest chance of throwing a spanner in the works, if he wins the US Presidency that is. Trump’s climate change denial has been waved in front of the global audience on several occasions for all the world to see. For example, he called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese, he implied on Twitter that New York being “really cold” was evidence that global warming isn’t happening and he’s also called anyone and everyone who accepts the science of global warming “hoaxsters”. However, alongside his threats against clean energy, he has also vowed to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement. Well, he could actually do that as an act of sheer stupidity, but as for cancelling the Paris Agreement completely, no chance, thankfully.
The Koch Brothers have long been known for trying to delay and destroy the advance of clean energy across the US, particularly in southern states such as Florida. However, the industry has consistently fought back and this has been so effective, assisted as it has by President Obama and state governors across the country, that Texas, for example, is rapidly becoming more well known for its wind power than it is for its oil.
Exxon is the big multinational corporation with the reputation for funding climate change denial, even though the company knew as long ago as the 1970s that the science of climate change is sound. However, as the evidence has mounted, attorneys general across the US, notably New York, have taken them on with investigations into the corporation’s conduct over the years. This is still at an early stage, so expect to hear more about this in the near future.
Nigel Lawson is a former British Tory MP who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. So far, this list of the climate change denying ‘bad and mad’ has been arranged roughly in descending order according to potential influence. With Nigel Lawson, this list has now moved into the area of those deniers that most sensible people generally scorn and laugh at. In Lawson’s case, this is largely due to his ‘think tank’, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, has been disseminating information on climate change since it was established in 2009. A great deal of that information has been shown to be demonstrably inaccurate.
Danish author Bjorn Lomborg is a tricky one, since he doesn’t actually deny climate change so much as playing down the risks. Even so, his evidence is full of errors and has been shown up to be so on several occasions.
With James Delingpole, the climate change denial starts to morph into potential lunacy. Delingpole is particularly well-known for his rants about ‘Climategate’, in which various research establishments, such as the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit are supposed to have falsified emails, and claims of an 18-year ‘pause’ in warming. Both these claims have now been thoroughly discredited, although Delingpole continues to spout them. The Climategate controversy was generated by hackers who then compounded their errors by failing to recognise or accept that they had simply misunderstood the colloquial scientific terminology used by climate change researchers. As for the idea of their being a pause in warming, repeated studies have shown that the whole idea is just bunkum. Delingpole himself has been publicly humiliated on live TV on at least two occasions. First by author and environmentalist George Monbiot on The Daily Politics in 2010 and then again in 2011 by Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel Prize winning President of the Royal Society, in an interview in which he was forced to admit that he doesn’t read peer-reviewed papers on climate science. Enough said really.
Christopher Monkton is another denier whose evidence has been routinely debunked by professional climate scientists, while Christopher Booker, a columnist for The Telegraph, makes so many errors that George Monbiot once found it almost impossible to believe that one man could “make so many superhuman cock-ups”.
So why do they do it? There’s been whole tomes written on this, including by major psychologists, but a very short but succinct answer seems to be that climate change deniers are primarily concerned about the threat of climate change, not to human society and the planet, but to global free market capitalism. However, this line of thinking is, in essence, the biggest flaw in their argument, for the simple reason that global free market capitalism is now firmly in the driving seat with regard to expanding clean renewable energy across the world. The world’s largest companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Walmart and IKEA, are now deploying clean energy and driving it forward, not only because of the risks from climate change, but also because it is sound business sense to do so.
It was all looking so good, but then came Brexit.
This might sound a bit like a conspiracy theory (which it isn’t), but here’s a question. If global capitalism itself is driving forward action on climate change, if you’re a climate change denier, how do you stop it?
Simple. You disrupt the global economy. And now, Brexit appears to have done just that.
Or has it….?
In March 2016, Lord Deben, the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the UK Government on climate change and clean energy, warned that a vote to leave the European Union could present a major setback to the implementation of the Paris Agreement in Europe. Furthermore, the resulting financial chaos that has erupted in the wake of the decision to leave the EU has spread right around the world, wiping $2 trillion off global markets.
Of course, whether or not the world’s climate change deniers actively considered this as a viable tactic is just sheer speculation, and also ripe material for a conspiracy theory (if this appears on Facebook next week as a conspiracy claim, remember you heard it here first). However, you can be sure that some of them may have at least considered the possibility.
Fortunately, however, if ever that was the thinking in a climate change deniers mind, it hasn’t worked, and will not work, for the simple reason that the horse has already bolted. It will take much more than that to stop global growth of clean energy, if such a thing is possible anyway, and the indications are now that clean energy deployment is being advanced rapidly by nations all around the world as a major imperative.
Indeed, outgoing UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, commenting at a press conference held four days after the referendum result was announced, assured the global community that by now, worldwide deployment of clean energy is basically unstoppable. She also said that although there may well be some readjustments to UK policy and quite a bit of volatility and uncertainty in the markets for about two years, there is no long-term need to ‘upset the apple cart’ with regard to green energy and that the UK has a very important leadership position in this area which should be maintained.
So, if ever that was the last tool in the climate change denial box of tricks, it has now been expended. For them, at least, it’s now back to the usual tactic of sowing obfuscation and doubt.
The rest of us will carry on getting cleaner and greener as the technology advances steadily. But let’s just hope we’re in time, because we haven’t got a lot of that left.
I am an experienced freelance journalist with a wide and varied portfolio to my credit including web content, magazine articles, reporting, features, interviews, reviews and blogs. My special interests include environmental issues, particularly climate change, renewable energy, transport, green building and sustainable infrastructure. I have numerous secondary interests ranging from politics and current affairs to social justice, science, technology and innovation, historical topics and lifestyle subjects such as literature, psychology, contemporary spirituality and culture.