15 DECEMBER 1990, Page 8


Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout


Iread about the recent cold snap sitting in the warm sunshine of the Tamar riviera in Cornwall on Sunday morning. Many newspapers treated it as the most impor- tant item of the day's news, despite the continuing threat of an atrocious war in the Gulf, mass starvation throughout the Soviet Union and the imminent arrival of some 20 million refugees at Europe's east- ern borders. From the Gulf we can expect nothing but disaster and humiliation, but I suppose there might be a silver lining to the crisis of communism if it does anything to relieve Western Europe's chronic servant problem. It will be some recompense for the virtual disappearance of caviar as a result of Soviet pollution of the Caspian Sea.

But instead of this, we read of blizzards howling across the country, a white hell blocking roads and cutting off towns, causing rail and air chaos. Birmingham was closed down; RAF rescue helicopters were working in a wind-chill factor equivalent of –20°C. A police spokesman said: 'Condi- tions are terrible. It's like working in the Arctic.'

Sipping a cool drink in the warm Cornish sunshine, I tried to work out which press- ure group or government press department was responsible for propagating these ob- vious lies. It is no good blaming the press. Since newspapers moved into the window- less bunkers of London's East End, repor- ters seldom emerge into the open air from the beginning of the day to the end. All information is fed to them by telephone and fax from the various government press departments, public relations consultants and the press officers of whatever pressure group is launching a particular campaign at the moment. Then they make whatever they like of it all: 'Scandal of deserted kittens: Nine out of ten voters demand tighter controls'; or 'Child poverty doubles in Thatcher decade'; or 'Maggie to lead Tories to fourth great victory at polls'.

As I continued to read about these blizzards leaving a trail of havoc — in North Yorkshire, police said conditions were the worst in living memory; a West Yorkshire police spokesman said condi- tions were diabolical: 'stay at home, even if your journey is necessary' — I reached two conclusions.

In the first place, since no pressure group or government department stood to gain by misinformation of this sort, one must indeed suppose that there had been scattered snow and gusty winds in one or two parts of the country, despite the beautiful tranquillity of the Saltash area, and it was receiving the traditional `AA Spokesman' treatment in the press, dating from the days before all our news was cooked up by lobbyists. This impression — that Fleet Street was back to its old tricks — was confirmed when I read that the present cold snap heralds a severe winter, which is itself the precursor of seven years of very cold weather. Those of us who remember the great Rees Mogg Ice Age of 1976 will sigh fondly.

My second observation was that the gigantic environmentalist industry has been extraordinarily quiet about it all. An article by two American astronomers in last week's edition of Nature pointed out that we are coming to the end of an 11-year period of exceptionally violent solar activ- ity, which may well explain the recent run of mild winters; their studies of other solar systems reveal that fluctuations of solar activity bring about climatic changes which make nonsense of the claim that our own are brought about by man's activity.

What price, then, the greenhouse effect, the billions of pounds of government money about to be committed to counter- ing its alleged effects, the prodigies of coercion proposed to prevent us driving our cars, the reports signed by a thousand 'eminent scientists' to the effect that if we do not change our entire life style and give billions of pounds to science, they will be growing mangoes in Grantham, harvesting spaghetti in Birmingham and swimming in Lincoln's Inn Fields?

A Greenist to whom I put my worries replied that it was never part of carbon pollution simply to give us milder winters; the greenhouse effect meant catastrophic changes of climate, from scorching to freezing. To this the only appropriate reply is 'bunkum'. The greenhouse effect, as advertised, promised a rapid warming of the earth's climate, melting of the polar ice-cap, flooding of all low-lying areas and a wholesale alteration of crop patterns in the northern hemisphere.

Should the entire greenhouse effect prove to be false or non-existent, it will undoubtedly have been the biggest lie yet foisted on us by the environmentalist in- dustry, although it has been preceded by some pretty big ones, like the lie about acid

rain threatening all our trees. This particu- lar lie was strongly reinforced by a UN report which declared that our 200 million oaks are in a critical condition, with two out of three being sick and one in five actually dying. All of which provided the Daily Mail with a Saturday's headline one July a year ago. It is the exact reverse of the truth. Our hardwood and broad-leaved trees are prospering as never before, according to the most knowledgeable tree man in the country, Alan Mitchell, with record rates of growth and luxuriance of foliage.

Perhaps it is unfair to talk of 'lies' in this context. People believe what they wish to believe. Even those who averred that they had seen humming-birds flitting around in the Somerset bracken may have thought they were telling the truth, or mistaken a moth for a humming-bird, in the way so many older people can.

I would suggest two existential (as opposed to self-interested) reasons for wishing to believe that the carbon monox- ide exhaust of internal combustion engines and the emissions from power stations and factories are causing grave damage to the atmosphere, which must be stopped at all costs. The first is honourable Luddite regret for the passing of a quieter world. The sights, noises and smells of a mobile, prosperous proletariat are indeed too horrible to contemplate. Sensible people hide themselves away from it as best they can. Others take refuge in pious platitudes about birth control and embrace the doc- trines of the environmentalists about pollu- tion, as if they offered any solution.

The second motive for welcoming the swallowing of all these lies about a green- house effect is less honourable or amiable. Politicians and would-be leaders see it as a wonderful opportunity to spend vast amounts of our money and stop us from doing things we would otherwise wish to do. They can also feed their self- importance by striking apocalyptic atti- tudes, but it is the joy of controlling the rest of us, more than the joy of spending £20 billion on coastal defences, which is the real lure. And in between, you have the poor boobies who will believe anything they are told to believe, and who genuinely feel that through their eager, misty spec- tacles they may well have seen humming- birds flying around in the Somerset countryside.