Bad journalism should not be mistaken for bad research. For example, via Brennig comes an instance of the BBC casually and cavalierly cutting and pasting from the inaugural speech. This is pretty low, but hardly a surprise. It’s certainly no lower than the levels to which the BBC, the Mail, the Sun or the rest of the national newspapers stoop on a roughly daily basis, as a cursory glance through The Sun: Tabloid Lies, Obsolete and Enemies of Reason would show. You might just as well pick Glen Jenvey’s failed honeypotting of online Islamic groups, passed off as radical Islam, or The Observer prostituting itself to Alastair Campbell over WMDs.
It’s also not an enormous perversion of Obama’s original speech, certainly not to the extent that the slightly feverpitched fisking on “Harmless Sky” might suggest. The original version does indeed stress the urgency of tackling climate change much less than an edit, but then that’s hardly surprising. Obama’s speech was aimed at a country which has had eight years of desperate denial of the overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change. It wasn’t aimed at the rest of the world, which has broadly accepted the scientific evidence to hand. He’s a unity candidate, was elected as a unity candidate, has never cast himself as anything other than a unity candidate.
You couldn’t edit him and have him be less controversial if you tried. To repeat, it’s terrible journalism on the BBC’s part, but to suggest that this somehow disproves, or greatly reduces the threat of, climate change is to live in cloud-cuckoo land. Is Obama not making a divisive inaugural speech somehow a more important indicator of the future of the world’s climate change than the results of climatological science? Is Obama not mentioning the absence of aliens evidence that aliens do indeed live among us?
Rereading that blog article a few times is like scratching an itch, and eventually the big red weals of David Icke start to appear: the vague atmosphere of obsession, the indication that Obama’s speechwriter’s priorities have empirical weight, and the intense and slightly unhinged deconstruction of Obama’s choice of the word “spectre”. You feel that it was only a matter of time before a 9/11 truther turned up and started talking about the World Trade Center, although they were fairly quickly batted down again. Still, you’d think that faith-based worldviews like geocaust denial might have died out by now, but apparently not, in the echo chamber that is online discourse.
Most climatologists—as opposed to politicians, journalists and half-cocked bloggers like Harmless Sky or indeed myself—see little further point in arguing about the existing broad (and quite solid) consensus on the plain fact of human-related climate change. This is similar to the same way that most geologists have stopped arguing about the flatness of the earth. That non-experts—politicians, journalists, bloggers—feel they still have to keep picking away at the issue, in blissful ignorance of both facts and theory, suggests a lot more about the politics and psychology of climate change than about anything else.