It’s interesting when a regular stringer known for a particular political persuasion or field of interest writes something which illustrates how they frame the dynamics of the debate with which they are engaged, or how they see themselves in the context of that debate.

George Monbiot, once a mainstay of this blog’s critique, has done just that in the comments section of this morning’s Guardian, in a piece titled defensively, “I’m not climate change’s Billy Graham.” (How dare someone suggest such a thing?!) It’s an illustrative little piece, written about climate change denial (the belief that climate change is not occurring).

First, Moonbeam lists some information which he implies should be enough to cause “deniers” to change their minds, and then gives the reasons he thinks they don’t: “You can argue that they are cherry-picking their experts and their data, but unless they have an understanding of the scientific process, they don’t see what’s wrong with that.”

Then, he ridicules the man who called him climate change’s Billy Graham, an audience member of a talk on climate change he had just given: “He pointed out that temperatures on Mars have risen: could that be because of all the people driving their SUVs there? Well full marks for originality: I haven’t heard that one more than 100 times since the Martian data was published.” He’s such a smart fellow, Moonbeam, in comparison to his audiences.

He then asked the guy, “What would it take to convince you that manmade climate change is taking place?” The man answered that nothing would convince him, since the climate has always been changing, and this is “just another natural cycle.”

It’s here that George betrays his understanding of the dynamics of the climate change debate, and the infallibility with which he regards his own position: “This, I suspect, must now be the position of most of those who still deny that man-made climate change is happening: that there is nothing – no evidence, however compelling, no scientific consensus, however robust – that could persuade them of the opposite case. Could there be a better definition of religion?”

Aha, see? It isn’t me that’s the Billy Graham of climate change, it’s you that’s the Billy Graham of Climate Change Denial! And what’s more, you’re not alone: every one of you are the same! Everyone who disagrees with me on this issue are merely evangelists of a pious religious movement, ‘the Deniers’!

I’ll leave aside Moonbeam’s obvious disdain for theism here. But it certainly is interesting to see how he’s pitched his own position against everyone who disagrees with him in such a straw man fashion. To adopt his theme, could there be anything more fundamentalist than to see things in such black and white terms? That he sees himself as the rational, consensus-derived standard, up against the zealots of the “opposite case” (his words), is truly indicative of his state of self-delusion on the matter.

Some months ago, I wrote an article I arrogantly purported to bring Rationality [to] the climate change debate. In it, I identified six ‘doctrines’ regarding climate change of which Moonbeam subscribes to all six. Moonbeam’s ‘straw man’ argument is that he frames this debate in terms of those who agree with him in subscribing to all six positions and pitches them up against those who, like the audience member he chose to pick on in this sorry article, subscribe to none. This approach completely (and conveniently) ignores the abundance of rational, sane, unreligious people who, like me, subscribe to two or three and remain agnostic or opposed to the others.

Moonbeam is supposed to be this journalistic heavyweight in the climate change debate. So when will he engage meaningfully with those who dare to disagree with him on what to do about climate change without being climate change “deniers”?

Such would be a more potent challenge for Moonbeam, and I think that’s the very reason he’s predisposed to ignore it.

John Wright