McKibben can revive moody Monbiot

The resurgence of so-called climate change scepticism has plunged our old friend George Monbiot deep in the existential mire.

Having built his reputation as a forensic journalist on the solid foundation of a science degree, he despaired recently that “the detail of modern science is incomprehensible to almost everyone.” Science has become a blunt weapon in Monbiot’s environmental crusade.

I would have forgotten the article had it not been for a couple of phrases in Bill McKibben’s arresting presentation of the 2010 plans of the climate campaign,, released this week. After a roll call of the impressive global demonstrations last October, he says:

This huge outpouring proved to us….that people are completely able to deal with the science. In fact the science made it easier for them to tell their leaders what needed to be done.

This makes sense to me; it’s the sloppy use of climate analysis that provokes scepticism as much as the science itself.

(incidentally, McKibben’s slideshow is an immensely effective communication, achieving impact through the old-fashioned virtues of quality photographs and script)

I suspect that George Monbiot might concede that his faith in science has become a sacrificial punchball to work off the frustration of recent events. But he would surely give no ground on the second fatalistic theme of his article.

People and politicians wouldn’t allow a better grasp of science to shake up their beliefs anyway. Monbiot suggests that new reports are processed through “ideological filters”, serving only to reinforce existing prejudices.

A similar view was expressed this week by Armando Iannucci, in an interview with OneWorld’s Director, Anuradha Vittachi. Discussing his political satire, In The Loop, Iannucci observes how the “arrogance” of the perpetrators of the Iraq war tossed aside doubts expressed in technocratic reports on the existence of weapons of mass destruction. The political ideology was set in impervious stone.

As Anuradha points out, fast forward to the Copenhagen climate conference and we find the same flagrant disregard of evidence from the architects of the toothless Accord.

Iannucci also observes how the media failed to meet forensic standards of analysis in the Iraq debate. The media is seduced by conflict, whether it’s war in Iraq or polarisation of the politics of climate change.

Come back George, we need you more than ever. Take a holiday in Vermont with a few days of therapy in the company of Mr McKibben.

Study his inspiring photographs of the 2009 International Day of Climate Action. Then return with your pencils sharpened for battle.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK