Wednesday, April 8, 2020
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Silenced by the eco-warrior establishment

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BEN Heard, an Australian campaigner for nuclear energy, has been describing how he is hounded by environmental organisations, in particular Friends of the Earth, because of his views.

‘I have been called a racist,’ he says. ‘I have been called corrupt. I am constantly called a lobbyist, which I am not . . . I receive thinly veiled death threats.’

Whenever he is invited to speak on the airwaves, the immediate response is a series of attempts to prevent him appearing: ‘Before pretty much every second public appearance he agrees to, the organisers express second thoughts after lobbying by Friends of the Earth or others.’

Heard is a fairly mainstream environmentalist; indeed, he has a Master’s degree in sustainability to his name and is fully signed up to the (alleged) climate emergency. He just thinks that part of the response is nuclear energy.

Of course if you are not fully signed up to the climate emergency – if you think, for example, that the Earth is doing rather well, that the atmosphere is warming more slowly than scientists feared, that crop yields are breaking records every year, that the planet is greening, that polar bears numbers are shooting up, Heard’s problem – a demand for a ban before every second appearance – is just a distant dream. If you believe any of these (entirely true) things about the environment, then the phone call to the producers will happen every time you are in danger of appearing on air.

It’s particularly bad on the BBC. The bigwigs at the corporation accept the existence of a climate emergency, and have introduced a policy that no scientist should ever be challenged on the subject, and that those who do not agree should not appear on air unless faced by an environmentalist (the wilder the better, or so it seems). On the ground, this gives journalists trying to make interesting programmes a bit of a problem, since the Greens have an effective veto: by refusing to appear opposite a sceptic, they can prevent the coverage going ahead at all. After several years of struggling with this kind of thing, journalists seem mostly to have given up and now almost always allows environmentalists to appear unopposed and unchallenged.

That those running the BBC are in bed with environmentalists is not news. But it seems that the tentacles of the Green blob may now extend even further – worryingly so. Another Australian, the science writer Jo Nova, has been describing how she was invited to speak at the Christmas function of an obscure technical club for petrophysicists, the Formation Evaluation Society of Australia.  A few months later, her invitation was withdrawn after the society’s committee meeting was hijacked by an outsider from the major liquefied natural gas (LNG) firm, Woodside, who threatened to withdraw all support for the society’s work if Nova was allowed to appear.

As Nova points out, it is remarkable that a vast corporation should go to such lengths to prevent an unpaid blogger speaking to an obscure scientific club. She comes up with two possible explanations, one relatively innocent and the other deeply disturbing. It is possible that a green-minded manager at the company has simply gone far beyond his or her remit; in other words, the intervention by the company is an administrative cock-up. However, there is a more sinister possibility. She asks: ‘Is Woodside just running chicken itself? Scared of the Western Australian EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], which is currently calling for submissions, and promising draconian guidelines that threaten to kill off the industry? Woodside need the EPA to approve all their new projects.’

If this turns out to be correct then it is genuinely worrying. It has long been clear that environmental regulators are recruited almost exclusively from among the ranks of the eco-warriors. In fact, most Whitehall pen-pushers seem to be cut from the same green cloth. This of course means that there is going to be considerable bureaucratic resistance to any policy that does not move the country and the economy back in the direction of the late Middle Ages. But governments still have power to change things, and one can imagine a reforming prime minister taking an axe to the whole apparatus. However, Jo Nova’s experience suggests that the regulatory state may also be moving us in the direction of a society in which ideas can no longer be freely exchanged, and that is a society in which change is much harder to bring about. As Nova herself puts it, ‘The Administration State has a billion reasons to silence independent thought. When the government gets too big there doesn’t need to be an edict to quash dissent. People silence themselves.’

Let us hope that it’s just an aberration.

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Andrew Montford
Andrew Montford
Andrew Montford is Deputy Director of the Global Warming Policy Forum

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