03 November 2009

The FT is Drinking Climate Kool-Aid

The FT usually has cogent analyses of global issues, but its analysis of climate policy has fallen well short. Here is an example, which focuses on "myth busting" leading up to Copenhagen. I'd characterize it instead as pretty detached from reality. It looks like the FT has become a cheerleader rather than a critical observer.

On the prospects for a meaningful deal to be reached in Copenhagen:
Q. Blimey. So it looks like no deal at Copenhagen then?

A. On the contrary, the prospects for international cooperation on climate change haven’t looked brighter for more than 10 years.

Some of the differences in opinion are likely to be resolved as the talks enter their final stages. Although difficult sticking points remain, the basics for a deal are not so very hard to achieve.
It is hard to understand where this perspective is coming from. I agree that some sort of deal will be reached, the question is whether it will mean anything. The FT is silent on the substantive questions, instead suggesting rather glibly that:
If everything cannot be resolved at Copenhagen, countries may be able to continue to work on resolving some key issues into next year. And turning an agreement in Copenhagen into a fully articulated legal treaty is also a task that can be completed next year or in 2011.
How wonderful. I wonder what all the fuss is about then?

On India and China:
India and China have both begun to take many such measures, and they have pledged to increase these. In fact, if China is successful in meeting its own targets - as it has been in the past - then according to the IEA it will be the biggest single contributor to global emissions reductions by 2020.
As I've documented here on many occasions (e.g., here), both India and China claim to have now instantaneously increased their historical rate of decarbonization by as much as three times what they have achieved in the past. Maybe they have, but for the FT to report this uncritically is certainly not really telling the full story. What if China's and India's pledges are not as solid as claimed? Nothing from the FT (ever) on that question.

I am a big fan of the FT and read it daily, so it is disappointing to see its coverage of the climate issue so consistently lacking.


  1. For people that aren't fans of orange newspapers, perhaps you could expand the first instance of FT in the text body.

  2. If you translate the FT’s language from the politically correct back to the original words from the backroom planning sessions you might get something like:

    Ok so it looks like we can’t sneak the whole camel into the tent in Copenhagen, so, let’s just get the nose in and continue to work on the final solution. The good news is that China and India are supporting us in the press.

  3. The financial district of London will of course be the only ones to benefit from carbon trading. Having cheered on the banking idiocy that brought the current recession they now won't be happy until the UK is bankrupt.

  4. I have a similar reaction these days whenever I read The Economist. I love that publication for its impressive international coverage, its wonderful writing, and its usually rigorous and sensible analysis.

    But rarely a week goes by these days in which I don't encounter climate change alarmism being reported as fact - not to mention gratuitous remarks about climate change denial popping up in entirely unrelated stories (such as book reviews).

    It is the nature of public discourse that certain intellectual notions dominate for a time and then fade away into oblivion. One gets the sense that some of our most august publications have lost their sense of perspective.

  5. Fiona Harvey is a bit of a campaigner isn't she?

  6. Truly vast sums have been spent promoting AGW in Britain, particularly in the Guardian (much of it paid for by Shell Oil advertising), never mind the BBC and government campaigns.

    Britain is the world's first post industrial banking economy. It needs carbon trading and energy advantages for its Chinese investments to recover from the current slump which is unsusprisingly the deepest in the developed world.

    The problem is that the level of propaganda required to sell it arouses suspicion.

  7. Just to add that the propaganda has been spetacularly ineffective. Despite Environment minister Ed Miliband virtually pleading for a populist Sufragette style movement against his own government, it appears that more or less no one is stupid enough to take him up on it.

    Millions demonstrated against the Iraq war. Global warming is a total non event apart from a few activists. If it was generally believed the end of the world is nigh, there would be trouble. All that can be seen is a riot of apathy.

  8. I guess it's the lack of knowledge about climate science (opposed to financial affairs) that makes them take a safe PC climate position. Who wants to be accused of not saving the world?

  9. As one of the writers of the FT's energy and climate coverage, I naturally take a keen interest in your views of our reporting, even when - perhaps especially when - you disagree with us. I would encourage you to make your points over at http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/
    All the best