The Australian publishes James Delingpole’s call for climate “alarmists” to face court with power to issue death sentence

James Delingpole

I IMAGINE only a small percentage of people reading this have had any journalism training, but don’t let that stop you from pondering the following ethical question.

If you read a newspaper story that included a direct quote from someone – let’s say, for instance, UK climate scientist Dr David Viner – would it be acceptable to put quotation marks on the headline of that story and claim it was a quote from Dr Viner? You can have a minute to think about it.

It might help you to know that the headline was not written by the reporter who interviewed Dr Viner and wrote the story, and certainly not by Dr Viner himself. In short, a third person – a sub-editor – wrote the headline.

You don’t need a minute? Of course not: it would be unprofessional, unethical and factually wrong to pass off a sub-editor’s made-up words as Dr Viner’s.

The Australian newspaper has just published a column from UK-based climate science mangler and anti-wind farm activist James Delingpole that tries to argue that Australia’s recent unprecedented heatwave and hottest month on record wasn’t all that hot and that global warming “alarmists” should be answering to a court with the power to issue a death sentence (no, I don’t exaggerate, but we’ll get to that at the end).

In the story, Delingpole says that Dr Viner had “famously declared” in 2000 that “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”.

But here’s the thing. Dr Viner never did utter those words. He was indeed quoted in a story in the UK’s The Independent newspaper which carried the headline “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”. But the headline was a gross over-statement: the first paragraph makes the  far more modest claim that a trend to warmer winters meant that  “snow is starting to disappear from our lives”.

The reporter, Charles Onians, quoted Dr Viner as saying that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. Note the absence of quote marks on the time frame being within a few years – they were Onians’s words, just as the headline was the sub-editor’s.

So Dr Viner’s actual prediction was that at some point in the future snow could become “a very rare and exciting event”. As well, the story paraphrases him as adding an important qualifier – that heavy snow will return occasionally and catch people unprepared. But Delingpole leaves this bit out.

Delingpole then uses the non-quote that Dr Viner didn’t say as a launchpad to ridicule him. “Viner has since become a legend in his own lunchtime, frequently quoted on the internet, sometimes having his name joshingly used as a synonym for snow. This isn’t because he got his prediction right, of course. It’s because, like Flannery, he got it so spectacularly, hilariously, hopelessly wrong.”

Hopelessly wrong, Mr Delingpole? What, like hopelessly attributing a quote to someone who never said it?

Delingpole is of course “reporting” from an unseasonably cold and recently snowbound United Kingdom, which the BBC reports has just experienced its second coldest March since records began.

Scientists are now reporting a link between the loss of sea ice in the Arctic – driven by human-caused climate change – and cold snaps in the northern hemisphere like the one experienced by the UK. A recent scientific paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explained the link.

Delingpole also says in the column that Australia’s recent record-breaking summer heatwave wasn’t that hot. “The thermometers were higher when the First Fleet arrived in the Sydney summer of 1790-91,” writes Delingpole, presumably having travelled back in time to check that the First Fleet thermometer was positioned within something resembling a Stevenson screen to ensure sunlight or incorrect air flow didn’t corrupt the reading.

It’s possible that Delingpole based his statement from this guest blog post by Australian MP Craig Kelly on Watts Up With That, where Kelly wrote that on December 27th 1790 one of these First Fleet thermometers near Observatory Hill in Sydney recorded a temperature of 42.8C.

It’s a shame that Delingpole didn’t check this figure. Four days after Kelly wrote that story, Sydney recorded its hottest day ever with 45.8C at Observatory Hill on 18 January – a full three degrees hotter than Kelly’s favoured First Fleet thermometer. Even The Australian reported it.

But in any case, Australia’s recent record breaking heatwave wasn’t a heatwave confined to one temperature reading in one place. As a Bureau of Meteorology special climate statement pointed out, “maximum temperatures over the period 1–18 January have been 6 °C or more above normal over a wide area of interior central and southern Australia and 45 °C has been reached at least once during the event over 46.9 per cent of Australia.”

You might think that The Australian would be wary about using Delingpole, after a recent Australian Press Council upheld a complaint about one of his previous contributions to Australia’s only national newspaper.

In that story in May last year, Delingpole quoted an un-named sheep farmer as saying that the wind farm industry  was “bloody well near a pedophile ring. They’re f . . king our families and knowingly doing so”.

The APC said this was “highly offensive” and “the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech”.

But rather than heed the blunt-toothed press council’s finding, Delingpole was given more space by The Australian to respond. He wrote: “I stand by every word of the piece – especially the bit about pedophiles. I would concede that the analogy may be somewhat offensive to the pedophile community.”

How could even Delingpole top this statement for offensiveness?  He has a prime contender at the bottom of his most recent column, where he writes: “The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.”

To those not au fait with the traditions of the English courts, black caps were only worn by judges when handing out death sentences.

By continuing to publish such low-grade and offensive polemics, in my view the only things hanging limp from the gallows are The Australian‘s credibility on climate change and its professional standards.

Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.

14 thoughts on “The Australian publishes James Delingpole’s call for climate “alarmists” to face court with power to issue death sentence”

  1. Brilliant response. Ultimately, i think that The Australian has shot itself in the foot on this one. Perhaps going down this road will make their inevitable reversal all the more dramatic.

  2. ‘It’s amazing how these thickos can’t understand that global warming means more snow and ice for the UK.’

    Do you include David Viner, James Hansen or even the UK Met Office among them?

  3. Thanks for highlighting this example of journalistic bullying, Graham. Despite what those who defend such journalism say, hyperbole like this is more than just a joke. It all adds up to a form of intimidation.

    Bullying isn’t straightforward though. When we ‘bully’ the planet, with catastrophic consequences for millions of people, perhaps Richard Parncutt is right to say we should consider harsh penalties for those that block action to save these millions of lives.

  4. Exactly.

    “GW deniers fall into a completely different category from Behring Breivik. They are already causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of future people. We could be speaking of billions, but I am making a conservative estimate.”

    “…some GW deniers would never admit their mistake and as a result they would be executed. Perhaps that would be the only way to stop the rest of them. The death penalty would have been justified in terms of the enormous numbers of saved future lives.”

    Courtesy of Richard Parncutt.

    Unlike catastrophic anthropogenic global warming scepticism, climate alarmism has already resulted in deaths.

    Rising electricity attributing to deaths in Britain, as a result of focusing on unreliable renewable tech.

    Farmers in the Honduras actually being executed by mercenaries that were hired by a corporation wanting their land to use for bio-fuel crops.

    African village burnt down. One that publicised anyway.

    “They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”

    But in this case, the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.

    The case twists around an emerging multibillion-dollar market trading carbon-credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which contains mechanisms for outsourcing environmental protection to developing nations.

    The company involved, New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad. Its investors include the World Bank, through its private investment arm, and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC.

    In 2005, the Ugandan government granted New Forests a 50-year license to grow pine and eucalyptus forests in three districts, and the company has applied to the United Nations to trade under the mechanism. The company expects that it could earn up to $1.8 million a year.

    But there was just one problem: people were living on the land where the company wanted to plant trees. Indeed, they had been there a while.

    When will temperature start tracking CO2 emissions? It’s been a while?

  5. @thicko redson
    Graham has covered the fabrication of the Viner quote. Do you have links for Hansen or the Uk Met Office or are you just another denier windbag?

  6. Really, these media gaffes are all about the failure of journalism in general and opinion writers in particular to maintain any standards of evidence in their scratchings. Only George Monbiot consistently provides references in his pieces,but in his case he is actually intellectually able and committed to factually based public discourse.

    The tabloid media’s repeated failure to make the grade in supplying quality information on science and society is handicapping our community in denying readers useful information. It is that bad.

  7. This article is an outright lie. People call right wingers fear mongers?

    Dude, you will fit in so well at the guardian. Nobody there cares for investigative journalism either. They just parrot what the government tell them to.

    I can’t believe that you are allowed to post outright lies like this.

  8. Dear oh dear. The warmists are getting desperate now, aren’t they? Viner might not have said “Snowfalls are just a thing of the past”, but he is quoted as saying “children just aren’t going to know what snow is”. Fast forward ten years and the UK is experiencing record and early snowfalls. Whoops.

    As for Delingpole being offensive, he is being tongue in cheek, as opposed to Richard Parncutt actually calling for “deniers” to be executed, or warmists adverts depicting children who do not subscribe to global warming being blown to bloody smithereens by their teacher.

    As Matt said, you’ll fit in well at the Guardian. Truth and objectivity is a stranger to them, as well.

  9. Matt, very droll, I hope you are joking….look,Delingpole is an idiot. Claim by claim he makes it up. For instance,the claim that it was hotter when the First Fleet arrived in Sydney is so ludicrous it should only have been made in jest. If he wasn’t joking,well,it speaks volumes about his technical cluelessness,and his credulity.

    The Viner quote is manufactured. So you apparently endorse claims based on simple demonstrated falsehoods.

    Delingpole’s campaign against wind farms contains a very large element of fear mongering. Alarmism. I would not argue that alarmism does not feature in some fringe AGW posturing,but it would be dishonest to be blind to alarmist distortion from anti-change promoters. Ya know,the ‘carbon price will ruin the economy’ types. If that is not fear mongering then what is it?

    Delingpole shouldn’t be permitted to write a column,as he has little regard for truth.

  10. The News Corp organisation is a global political lobbying organisation thinly disguised as a ‘Press organisation’.

  11. For all of your vicious rhetoric about the testimony of the “experts” Mother Nature is having her say today, 29 April 2013, by dumping a couple of feet of snow in Spain. The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain? The snow in Spain falls mainly in the Spring. As George Monbiot remarked “This is what ‘global warming’ looks like!”

  12. Graham –
    “I IMAGINE only a small percentage of people reading this have had any journalism training, but don’t let that stop you from pondering the following ethical question.”

    Since when did “journalism training” mean a solid basis for assessing an “ethical question”?

    By “any” I assume you mean a diploma from Preston Poly?

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