Learning it’s not so cool to be a climate rebel
Published 09th December 2009 - 13 comments - 2210 views -
A few days ago a friend invited me to be a member of an audience for a panel show with the topic “The Copenhagen Conference: Last Chance to Save the World”. We were to meet at Turnham Green tube station before being shepherded to the studios, clapping a bit and offering our opinions when required (as you can see, since moving to London my life has become immeasurably more ‘glamorous’).
On arrival at the studios we were offered Jaffa Cakes and Capri Suns before it was revealed whose questions had been selected to be asked to the panel. Unfortunately, as their names were read out, it was apparent that only a fraction of the ten that were chosen had actually turned up to the filming. In that great television tradition of making things seem better than they actually are, someone from the programme asked for volunteers to read out questions as if they were their own. I felt my hand lift up before I’d really thought about it and all of a sudden was assigned a question and implied viewpoint of someone who hadn’t even bothered to turn up to the show.
Next we shuffled into the small, hot studio where we were told we had to sit boy-girl “because it looks better on screen” and those of us who had been selected to read out “our” questions were assigned certain seats suitably far away from each other for it to look natural and completely unscripted. Forum, hosted by Derek Conway MP, had managed to attract quite a prestigious panel which included Michael Meacher MP – the former environment minister who was involved in drawing up the Kyoto treaty in 1997 – and Peter Luff – a Conservative MP who has called climate change a “real and present threat”. Also on the panel were former BBC Science Correspondent David Whitehouse and Marina Pepper – a Lib-Dem councillor and environmental protestor.
Overall, what I found interesting about the debate was the general confusion about climate change and climate change issues that was apparent among the audience and some of the guests. For example, when one member of the audience said that the UK had not met its Kyoto targets and therefore there was no point in making targets at all, no one informed him that the UK had met its targets, albeit through dubious means. But what I found worse was that any dissenting voice was dismissed as a “bad person”. There was a feeling that Michael Meacher was being naively optimistic when he said the European Emissions Trading Scheme was a good thing. And when David Whitehouse (after proving himself incredibly well-informed with an articulate explanation of the difference between the hole in the ozone layer and climate change) said that he was not 100 per cent convinced by the arguments for global warming, the dislike of him within the room was palpable. This dislike was only increased by his opinions on nuclear power which resulted in the debate descending into Marina Pepper making personal comments about his appearance.
When did the debate about climate change become about “good” and “bad” people? I believe climate change is happening and we should all do our bit to cut down our personal carbon footprint and campaign to our governments to do the same on a larger scale. But science is supposed to cut out the emotion from the debate in the pursuit of the truth. I think it’s time to allow everyone to say their piece without fear of recrimination. Because it’s impossible to claim the moral high ground while hurling insults at other people.
About the author
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