• Media robotically attributing extreme weather to climate change.
• Sloppy attributions undermine the cause.
• Climate change alarmism has become a mania.
Lionel Shriver wrote an excellent column in Saturday’s Times about the frequent use of the phrase “scientists say” to explain extreme weather and wildfires to climate change. She argued that the media is no longer obligated to consult “said ‘scientists’ to ascribe every planetary unpleasantness to the burning of fossil fuels”. Instead, they use the phrase robotically and without evidence. Shriver suggested that news outlets should occasionally explain when an event is not related to climate change, in order to make the alarmist stories more reliable. She also warned that overusing the phrase “climate change” can have a desensitizing effect on the public. Lastly, Shriver likened the mania around climate change to the other international social manias of the last decade, highlighting that dissent is not allowed and anyone who differs is denounced.
Overall, Shriver argued that the frequent use of the phrase “scientists say” is lazy journalism and potentially damaging to the cause of climate change.
Lionel Shriver wrote an excellent column in Saturday’s Times, pinch-hitting for Matthew Parris. She takes issue with the lazy journalistic habit of using the phrase “scientists say” to justify the attribution of extreme weather and wildfires to climate change, among other things. Here’s an extract:
The media, including the BBC, now robotically tack on to every story about a geological event or bad weather (all weather stories are bad stories; a good weather story is just a nice day) that “scientists say” the phenomenon is due to human-induced climate change. It’s obvious, too, that news gatherers no longer feel obliged to consult said “scientists” to ascribe every planetary unpleasantness to the burning of fossil fuels, because the “scientists say” mantra is trotted out with the unthinking habituality of “that’s all for tonight”. So we’re told the wildfires in Canada (also explained by other factors) and southern Europe and the heatwaves in Spain and the southwestern US are all caused by climate change, though you can be sure that if these same regions were unusually cold this summer that would be caused by climate change as well. There are even outliers determined to pin volcanoes and earthquakes on climate change. Any day now I expect to hear that soaring rates of gender dysphoria are caused by climate change.
Does this knee-jerk allegation, often unsupported by evidence, really serve the cause? Sloppy attributions on a daily basis sound like propaganda — because that’s what they are. Surely these reports would be more persuasive if a news presenter occasionally announced, “Scientists say that the wildfires in Maui may have little or nothing to do with climate change”. Wouldn’t that make the alarmist stories seem more reliable? Doesn’t this numbingly predictable and doctrinally partisan assertion regarding every event under the sun sneakily undermine the save-the-planet message with its suspicious consistency? While we’re at it, too, “the planet” doesn’t need saving. If the activists are right, we need saving. “The planet” will be happy as Larry, even if our species disappears.
The movement’s breathless hyperbole backfires as well. “Global warming” becomes “global heating” becomes, according to the UN secretary general, “global boiling”. “Climate change” becomes “the climate crisis” becomes “the climate emergency” becomes “climate breakdown” becomes “climate collapse”. Oddly, the effect is to have, increasingly, no effect. “Climate inferno”? “Climate whole-earth nuclear mushroom cloud”? Ho-hum.
In the past ten years, we’ve suffered no fewer than four international social manias: the transgender craze, #MeToo, Covid lockdowns, and post-Floydian Black Lives Matter. Having accelerated from scientific hypothesis to fever dream, climate change apocalypticism now displays all the markers of another mania. Suddenly everyone thinks the same thing and says the same thing. The media, politicians, celebrities, the arts — they’re all in tell-tale accord. No dissent is allowed, and the few kooks who differ are denounced as murderous heretics who must be silenced or imprisoned. There is only one “truth”. Ironically, governed by an extreme, emotive, absolute “truth”, some politicians, journos, and experts just start making stuff up. The governor of Hawaii claimed that thanks to climate change Maui was subject to a “fire hurricane”. There’s no such thing as a “fire hurricane”.
Worth reading in full.