Containment fanatics turn to climate change


Sir David King is a former UK chief science adviser to successive Neo-Labor governments and the founder of Independent SAGE, the self-appointed panel of experts providing scientific advice to the UK government and the public on how to deal with Covid . He has now announced that he will convene a new independent SAGE-type group, this time tackling climate – the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG).

According to Guardian, CCAG “will emulate the impact of independent SAGE” on Covid policy making and “advise, warn and criticize global policymakers on climate and natural crises.”

This undoubtedly means that the CCLS will attempt to do for climate change what Indie SAGE has done for Covid – that is, to bring fear-mongering into the mainstream public debate.

Indie SAGE wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. It was created by academics with government experience as a transparent and open alternative to government SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies). But he wasted the opportunity to carefully examine the government’s Covid policy making through his constant and relentless fear campaign. He did not try to open the debate on the response to Covid. Instead, Indie SAGE has exacerbated the threat posed by Covid, argued for earlier, harder and longer lockdowns, and accused the government of causing thousands of unnecessary deaths by dragging its feet. To the extent that this group had an impact on the debate, it was to help push the government toward semi-permanent lockdown.

Indie SAGE has also been totally intolerant of the debate. He scoffed at alternative perspectives on how to deal with Covid, such as that offered by the Great Barrington Declaration – which called for more targeted protection of vulnerable people while leaving more of society open until arrival a vaccine. “Great Barrington’s statement is anything but great”, tweeted King. “It’s alluring to many, but make no mistake, it’s dangerous.” Defamation and fear, not scientific debate, are Indie SAGE’s main weapons. And we can expect his successor organization, the CCLS, to use the same weapons in the climate change field.

On the announcement of his appointment to CCAG, Mark Maslin, professor of climate change at UCL, tweeted that the group would be “an independent international critical voice on how we manage our #ClimateCrisis”. It “will hold governments, businesses and international organizations to account,” he added.

Criticism and empowerment of power are vital practices. But the people appointed by CCLS are unlikely to do any of these things. Their “critical” point of view is alarmist without a critical mind and comes at the expense of nuance, scientific facts and debate. They will undoubtedly generate terrifying statistical models of our future and translate critics as “deniers” – just like Indie SAGE did with Covid.

Moreover, the independence of CCAG and Indie SAGE from the government and the political agenda is questionable. King himself is no stranger. He was the Government’s Senior Scientific Advisor between 2000 and 2007, then he was Permanent Special Representative for Climate Change from 2013 to 2017. By his side at CCLS is Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), the intergovernmental agency of the OECD. organization formally charged with analyzing energy markets and policies, but which has recently acted as a climate policy advocacy group. Likewise, CCLS’s Lorraine Whitmarsh, an environmental psychologist at the University of Bath, was part of a team of four academics and officials who convened the UK Climate Assembly for parliament last year.

These people are not independent of government and policy making. They are much more involved than members of the public and even more than most politicians. Indeed, they are already fully involved in the global and national climate policy agenda, within intergovernmental organizations and governments.

Given all this, how can its members claim to hold governments to account? Just as Indie SAGE crossed paths with the real SAGE – for example, Susan Michie, a member of Indie SAGE, is also a member of a SAGE subcommittee advising on behavioral sciences – the CCLS will simply join the many other undemocratic organizations and irresponsible people who make up the alarmist chorus around the government.

When I pointed out on Twitter that the CCLS did not have the status of an “independent” or “critical” voice, Michie replied, “It’s called democracy.” These are extraordinary words from a multimillionaire Stalinist whose concern for democracy extends to renting the Chinese Communist Party’s response to Covid, and suggesting that masks and social distancing policies should stay forever.

In truth, it is very difficult to “hold governments, businesses and international organizations to account” on climate change. The public received no votes on climate change policies, and no political party criticized climate change alarmism. Definitely don’t expect real criticism from CCLS.

But then maybe that is the purpose of the Indie SAGE or the CCAG – not to hold power to account, but to prevent the technocratic apparatus from being properly held accountable. For there is nothing that fear-mongering technocrats like King fear more than democracy – for it threatens to take away the power bestowed upon them by endless emergencies, be it Covid or climate change.

Ben Pile blogs on climate resistance.

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