Sunday, October 13, 2019

Andrew Neil's interview with Extinction Rebellion's Zion Lights

The opposition are crowing at what they regard as a total victory for their Andrew Neil's BBC "victory" over Zion Lights, a speaker for Extinction rebellion. Their claims are of "deconstruction", "hysteria", "alarmist" and much related sneering. This is all par for the course. There is a huge volume of reflex criticism from the denial side of the conflict, and we do not have to concern ourselves with the noise, we only have to seek out the signal.

So let's have a look at the interview itself. You can watch it here, with the end cut off (where Zion makes stronger points and is invited back) :

In the first place, It is a David and Goliath situation. Andrew Neil is a big beast with decades of media experience behind him, and Zion Lights is a newcomer, and a woman. Some of us have a distinct impression that Neil is much harder on women and non-right wingers, although this needs confirmation by academic work on his Interruption Rates. I counted 8 minor interruptions by Neil here, which is less than I would have expected. On the other hand, Neil was firing his questions in bursts, and Zion was given no time to answer.

He challenges first on the "6 billion [of humans] may die" which has been made by Roger Hallam, one of the founders of #XR.

It looks at first as if Roger's claim of 6 billion deaths from climate change alone is unsupported by evidence.

There is an estimate that 6 billion people may be threatened [not killed] by Dengue fever in a warming world. Dengue is a mosquito borne viral illness which at present affects 4 million a year, and kills 22,000 a year.

Kofi Annan's think-tank claimed in 2009 that 300,000 people are dying a year in present times due to global warming, but it would take 20,000 years at this rate to reach 6 billion.

However, Hans Joachim Schnellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate change Research estimated in 2009 that the carrying capacity of Earth would be reduced to 1 billion humans in a 4 degrees C world. 

We we could arrive at this temperature in 80 years time, in 2100.

So Roger Hallam's 6 billion figure is not wrong, especially if we factor in a global nuclear war. Increased regional wars are a probable result of global heating (there is evidence that the present war in Syria may have been pushed forwards by a climate related long period of drought). If one of these wars goes nuclear, which is well possible it we have people like Trump in power,  6 billion deaths, and even eventual human extinction, is a possibility.

It should be noted that nuclear deterrence is not infallible, and should therefore be abandoned.

Surreal statistical calculations aside, the effects of global heating are bad enough. Zion manages to mention migration, coastal flooding, wildfires and weather extremes before Neil launches his second attack, on weather extremes.

Neil says that 100 years ago, weather disasters caused 500,000 deaths a year, and that now they cause only 20,000 a year. He is being completely disingenuous here. 100 years ago, homes were less substantial, and extreme weather warning systems were almost non-existent. Poor effort, Andrew.

Neil moves on to sea level rise. He quotes a median projected rise of 500 cm by the IP CC, and claims that this is "manageable". This betrays his ignorance. 30% of the world's food crops are grown on alluvial soil in low lying river deltas, which form just 3% of Earth land area. Neil is well wide of the mark to assert this is manageable.

Next point: XR demands that we go carbon neutral by 2025.  Can't be done, can it?

My response to this argument about whether the target should be 2025, 3030, or 2050 is this :


I leave the discussion of targets to academics. The job of politicians, of our representatives in Parliament and Government is that they should be implementing the Green New Deal in all its fullness and glory. Just do it. Create jobs, save energy, stimulate the Green economy, just do it. Get moving. Stop wasting time arguing about what is feasible and when.

Next, Neil hoists up the opposition's favourite  Straw Man: "You want to ration meat, confiscate our cars, stop us cooking on gas and all the rest of it".

This is so wrong.

We need to be starting a careful, national debate on what steps we need to take. The matter needs to be discussed in depth in a Citizen's Assembly. This kind of attempt at political point scoring is so pathetic and amateurish on the part of Neil. It is one of the reasons that creates the drive for direct action, because the BBC is so useless.

Finally. Finally. Neil makes his own unsupported claim:
"I'm not arguing about the consequences of Climate Change".

This is news to me. I have been watching his tweets and his broadcasts, and he has been firmly in the climate denier camp for years. It may be now that he is easing himself into the Lukewarmer camp that says "Yes, climate change is happening, but it will not be all that bad".

In conclusion, Zion did well, but the 6 Billion Deaths figure needs to be abandoned unless put in the context of a global nuclear war, and Andrew Neil's case that climate change is a pussy cat (if that is what he is arguing) simply does not hold water.

(This post was updated 15/10/2019)

No comments: