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When the ice age ended, how did the polar bears feel?

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Rupert Wright
The National

Monday, September 14, 2009

I can’t recall exactly when it became unfashionable to be sceptical about climate change. However, I can vividly remember where I was when just as I was giving my trenchant views that it’s all a lot of tosh, I looked around the table and realised that I had gone too far. “Still,” I said. “It’s clear that we must do something for the polar bears. Absolutely imperative.”

Secretly I remain a heretic: but if I hadn’t mentioned the bears the Climate Change Inquisition would have been round to the house quicker than you can say “ice cube” and started pulling out my fingernails until I recanted.

In a similar fashion, I suppose there must have been a time when one could have cast aspersions on The Beatles. “Stupid haircuts” or “can’t read music” or just “silly Scousers”. It didn’t last long. They would shortly sweep the world before them. Sometime later the Rolling Stones pitched up, and it was possible to prefer them. But it wasn’t until the timely appearance of Yoko Ono that one could freely badmouth the Fab Four.

However, it is hard to see what could possibly derail climate change. The masterstroke was of course changing its name from global warming to climate change. Tony Blair, the future prime minister, once fought his way through a blizzard to give a speech in Davos. “Why is it always snowing when I give a speech on global warming?” he joked. Answer: because perhaps it isn’t warming? Anyway, the spin masters moved in and redubbed it climate change and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.


The truth is that there has always been climate change. Imagine how glum the polar bears must have felt at the end of the Ice Age. Once they probably holidayed in the Mediterranean; now they are left with just a couple of icebergs.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

My problem is that I don’t think that just because everybody agrees there is climate change – and it’s all our fault – that they are necessarily right. Once upon a time everybody thought the Earth was flat. In the 19th century, collective wisdom agreed that cholera was caused by miasma or bad air. It took a maverick epidemiologist called Dr John Snow to prove that the disease spread not through air but via drinking infected water, originally through tracking the deaths caused by a pump in Broad Street in Soho, London.

Nowadays, climate change is to blame for everything. Friday’s edition of The National ran a story from our Kenyan correspondent. “Climate change, mostly caused by industrialised nations, is having a disastrous effect on Africa’s environment, turning once fertile farmland into barren desert.” Really? Nothing to do with overpopulation, deforestation, and the fact that Kenya has always suffered from droughts? Didn’t Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa, write that it was a “tremendous, terrible experience” to live through a season when the long rains fail? And that was in the 1930s, when there were hardly any cars in the world and most people got about on horseback or bicycles.

Full story here.

This article was posted: Monday, September 14, 2009 at 4:34 am

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