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December 10th 2009 print

Peter Smith

ABC misses Climategate, finds Lesotho

The credibility of this segment of so-called news was zero to any intelligent person; even, I would hope, to those wedded to the conventional wisdom of man-made global warming.

Unseasonal weather in Lesotho  

After about six minutes of ABC television news on 7 December we were off to the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho in Africa where the locals claimed to be suffering from climate change. It is summer in Lesotho and it is supposed to be warm and dry. Instead it is very cold (‘plunging towards freezing’) and wet. This, apparently, according to the ABC, is more evidence of global warming; now, of course, popularly called ‘climate change’. 

Whereas cold and rain out of season in Lesotho some years ago might have passed without comment, and certainly without being reported by the ABC in prime news time, it is now all down to climate change and ‘ABC newsworthy’. In times gone by, the inhabitants of Lesotho may have cursed the perfidy of the weather and prayed to their god for relief. They would as well; I suspect, have resignedly accepted the difficulties that their weather brought them. Not anymore; not now that they have a man-made earthly culprit to blame. 

One young village chap of 17 years explained that he was afraid his animals and crops might suffer because of the cold. A member of the Lesotho royal family explained that the winters were now much colder than they used to be and summers dryer. 

This was all a bit confusing. How is colder weather evidence of global warming I thought; obviously unreasonably. And, if it was raining wasn’t this a welcome change from the dry summers the royal person was speaking about? 

Presumably, even to African correspondent Andrew Geoghegan, who filed this story, the facts were not fitting too well. I can only imagine that a large cue card was prepared and positioned behind the camera to prompt the royal person to add, at the end of his remarks, that the temperature in Lesotho these days was 3 to 5 degrees higher than it used to be. He did not explain how he had arrived at this startling conclusion. 

The credibility of this segment of so-called news was zero to any intelligent person; even, I would hope, to those wedded to the conventional wisdom of man-made global warming. Such is the chutzpah at the ABC that the segment was presented without a hint of embarrassment. 

I checked and discovered that the segment had previously been broadcast on PM where further value was added. According to a UN Development Programme spokesperson what was happening in Lesotho was representative of what was happening in the rest of Africa; ‘more drought’ and ‘more recurring floods’ and ‘heavy snow falls’. The UN spokesperson went on to say that natural disasters, health epidemics, conflict and social unrest may all result in Africa from climate change. 

It’s a complicated picture by all accounts. It can be wetter or dryer, or colder or hotter, or more or less snowier. It is all climate change. I suspect only global warmists can make sense of it. To them any weather, and certainly any change in weather, and lets face it unchanging weather is something of a contradiction in terms, is a symptom of too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being pumped out by the industrialised world. It’s a unifying theory. It’s the miasma of old brought up to date. Poisonous vapours causing all kinds and sorts of maladies. It’s salutary that miasma theory, as wrong as it was, lasted for hundreds of years from the Middle Ages up until the latter part of the 19th century. So error, unfortunately, is not necessarily an impediment to the conviction with which theories are held or to their longevity. 

The ABC story, though without a shred of credibility or respectability did illustrate an important factor in the global warming debate. That is the role that developing countries are playing, specifically those with little chance of joining the industrial league. Developing countries in this category are urging action – effectively from the sidelines – in part by playing the victim. Any future untoward weather, natural disasters, health epidemics, conflicts or social unrest will not be the fault of the fates or of their own misgovernment; it will be the fault of industrialised countries. Victims look for compensation and that is what these developing countries are looking for. If this thing goes as is planned, large amounts of money will be gained. What that means is that these developing countries will remain an extremely loyal part of the coalition of those urging action on global warming. Their influence in international forums should not be underestimated – they will weep and wail, as we have seen in Copenhagen; and, to boot, will get plenty of air time on the ABC.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics