Letter to a lady

The Guardian’s new editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, has been doing the rounds, meeting people and listening. And she finally got to me… well, us — the readers. “Send me your thoughts,” she said. As you can imagine, I didn’t need asking twice. Especially since I’d recently flashed my long-suffering Visa card to contribute to the Graun’s latest revenue stream: membership. I am now a Patron of The Guardian and, I must admit, I’m rather proud of that. To paraphrase Mrs Pankhurst, put your trust in the G, childers. She will protect you!

This is what I wrote to the lady:


Hi Kartharine – and welcome aboard!

I “borrowed” this image from sciencedaily.com. Many thanks.

I was already a Guardian reader when you were born. One of my proudest possessions is a note from Peter Preston saying, “Thank you for your [piece on Mitterand’s death]. It read well. Unfortunately it overlapped with our own coverage.” Rusbridger did a brilliant job of bringing the “paper” through the digital revolution, and earned my undying admiration. But he didn’t spot the importance of climate change till it was too late. You’re going to have the toughest job of all: you’ll have to have to deal with the growing realisation that humanity has fouled its own nest and has nowhere else to go.

Rusbridger made the point that it’s not a newspaper’s job to campaign: a newspaper reports and comments on the news. Fair enough – up to a point. But the total disruption of Earth’s climate plunges us into a desperate struggle for our very existence. Humanity has never had to face a challenge of such gravity, and — in all likelihood — never will again. This is unique and needs to be treated as such, even if that means ditching sacred cows by the cartload. The Guardian has great influence and you must not be afraid to use it. “In the bowels of Christ, I beseech you,” — use it! Preserving the Guardian and its reputation makes no sense if civilisation dissolves around it.

In general terms, then, you must turn the Guardian into a weapon for shooting down climate crap. Don’t be afraid to call a lie a lie. You must refuse to be intimated – we wouldn’t be where we are today if the media hadn’t allowed themselves to be browbeaten into accepting the “equal coverage” fallacy. Climate change has to be up there on the front page, day after day. Get the numbers up there! Hardly a day goes by without new research confirming that the IPCC’s worst case scenario was hopelessly optimistic. Divide the front page and the website screen in two: “Climate change” and “The rest”!

More specifically, there is a battle to be fought over COP21.

There can be no doubt that the bad guys are planning something for COP21. I care about the world and its people. I care about the extraordinary beauty we humans are capable of creating, and the values that the best of us share. So the bad guys really piss me off. And they will be keen to sabotage Paris like they did Copenhagen. Whatever they do will be based on lies and false allegations, as usual, but it will be expertly and ruthlessly PRed and public opinion will buy it. Unless we, the good guys, are ready for them.

What might that readiness entail? The Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, Lawson’s über-pompously named Global Warming Policy Foundation and all the others will roll out their fake scientists and make sure they get maximum coverage from the media. We must be ready to strike back – or even better, pre-empt them – with a major campaign by real scientists.

Better still, we should be preparing a coup of our own: something easy to understand and really scary. And for that I have an idea.

The IPCC’s numbers for rising temperature are the result of a statistical device that calculates decadal averages. That is good, because temperature rises slowly and the data cover a long period of time. Decadal averages do a good job of ironing out the anomalies and emphasising the long-term trend. But applying the same method to melting ice caps doesn’t work, because the situation is evolving rapidly and the data cover a relatively short period of time.

If, on the other hand, the IPCC were to calculate decadal averages for ice melt year on year the numbers might be a whole lot more interesting. They would still have built-in protection against anomalies, but you’d get one data plot per year over a 25-year period. I’m pretty sure that graph would reveal the existence of another “hockey stick” – an exponential curve that would scare the shits out of every politician in town. And if that bomb were to burst in the media in November…?

I’ve already asked the IPCC for that recalculation, but I got no answer (there’s a surprise!). It occurs to me that the question might carry more weight coming from you. And maybe the guys to ask are Drs Chris Field and Vicente Barros, co-chairs of Working Group 1.

Get to work, Kate!

Bon courage


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