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Sunday 12 June 2011

Return Of The Quack Doctor

Last December, as the UK experienced an unusually cold spell of weather, the climate change denial lobby was in full flow, especially the Maily Telegraph’s self proclaimed expert Christopher Booker. It was cold, ran his argument, so climate science was rubbish. It was a more upmarket version of “It snowed in Houston, so there’s no global warming”, the mantra of professional loudmouth Sean Hannity, “star” of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

Connoisseurs of Booker’s ranting style could marvel at his inability to tell how many recent severe winters there had been (three in one article, four in another), his smearing of those running the Met Office (and the IPCC), and the veritable tsunami of pejorative language (“consistently at 180 degrees to the truth”, “obsession with global warming”, “warmist gospel”, “cloud-cuckoo-land”, “zealots”, “dotty belief system”, “colossal diversion of natural resources”, and the inevitable “greenie make-believe”).

Then the cold snap ended – at the end of 2010 – and the temperature anomaly for the entire winter, at -1.3 Celsius, meant it was only the fifteenth coldest in the last century, and not as severe as 2009-10. Worse for the denial lobby, April was the warmest such month for over a century. Booker’s weekly column moved on to other topics.

But now, coincidentally with a cool and wet start to June, he’s back: today’s Booker blast is on the supposed economic impact of climate change policies. In support of his argument, he cites the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a denialist lobby group which has declined to reveal who funds its activities.

In particular, he commends a paper published by the GWPF written by former career civil servant Andrew Turnbull. And here Booker’s double standard enters: IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri he dismisses as a mere “railway engineer”, Royal Society head Paul Nurse is dismissed as only ageneticist”, and a NASA scientist as “only a specialist in ice studies”, yet a former civil servant with no scientific background whatsoever is lauded as “magisterial”.

But then, this is par for the course for Booker, who has repeatedly asserted that white asbestos is no more harmful than talcum powder, landed the Telegraph with a six-figure legal bill when he and collaborator Richard North libelled Rajendra Pachauri, and whose journalism has even been on the wrong end of a high court judgment.

And from that there can be only one conclusion: Booker is not a credible source on any subject – including climate change.

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