Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Try Climate Journalism

We’re publishing a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison on this year’s recipient of the Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication, a prize worth €100,000. And the winner is… Marlowe Hood, environment correspondent of Agence France-Presse.

It’s that time of the year when Spain’s second largest financial company uses it charitable foundation to give Euro 100,000 (yes, six figures, not a typo) to the tamest climate journalist in an already well trained pack. The award is given on an annual basis by the Foundation of the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), a company that made profits in the first nine months of the year of €3.1 billion and is heavily involved in funding decarbonisation and renewable energy projects. Past recipients of the money include Matt McGrath of the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

This year it is presented to Marlowe Hood who runs climate activism at Agence France-Presse. On his twitter feed, Mr Hood describes himself as the “Herald of the Anthropocene”, the latter being a political renaming of the Holocene Epoch, designed to emphasis human involvement in so far unobserved runaway global warming. Mr. Hood is fully signed up to Thermogeddon of course. In a recent tweet he noted, “65 countries will see GDP drop by 20% by 2050 even if global warming is limited to 1.5C.” The source for this fanciful statement – suggesting massive economic devastation from a small increase in air temperature – was a Christian Aid report written by a young researcher at Humboldt University who has a BA in finance management and a doctorate in philosophy.

Reporting on the guesses produced by inaccurate climate models is a speciality of activist journalists. In his BBVA commendation, Mr. Hood is praised for his ability to “synthesise complex scientific models and studies and explain them in simple terms”. Presumably not so simple that readers might come away with the idea that climate models results are little more than gigantic guesses and are often produced and publicised for political reasons.

The political agenda, which tolerates no argument, is that the world should divest itself of 85% of its entire energy supply within less than 30 years and replace cheap, reliable fossil fuels with unreliable, uneconomic renewable power. Of course, this project is only possible if drastic reductions in living standards are mandated and almost unimaginable sums of money are diverted via taxes and savings to bankroll new, untested, subsidy-hungry systems and technologies. Under global net zero, the suffering will be widespread across the world, but is unlikely to unduly inconvenience those in charge of state and private diversions of capital.

Last week the public prints were full of dire green think tank warnings of a 2.4C climate fireball. This headline-grabbing figure from Climate Action Tracker was invented by aggregating “climate action to the global levels, determining likely temperature increases during the 21st century using the MAGICC climate model”. No, again, not a typo. Perhaps a failure of the forecast might lead to a letter of dismissal similar to that sent by Kelvin MacKenzie to the astrology correspondent of the Sun newspaper that started: “As you already know…”

When it comes to the scrutiny of these ‘scientific’ policies, a lack of investigatory zeal is endemic across mainstream media. So far as most climate writers are concerned, the science behind the effect of human produced C02 is settled – it isn’t – and the only evidence required are the guesses made by climate models that have never produced an accurate forecast in nearly 40 years. Inconvenient facts such as the 25 year plateauing of global temperatures and actual marginal falls over the last seven are ignored.

Instead stories are written using almost any green source that promises Armageddon. Accepting the BBVA money two years ago, Matt McGrath noted that he defended the primacy of specialist journalism “that draws on sound scientific sources” in an era of fake news. Earlier in the year he presumably drew on these sources to write an article headlined “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”. Later in the year he used such sources to report the claim from a left wing think tank that 11,000 scientists were predicting “untold suffering” from the climate emergency. Any cursory look at the signatories would have found few scientists’ names on the dotted line but plenty of librarians, teachers and government inspectors. Moreover, the list was distinguished by the presence of Professor Mickey Mouse, Zoology professor Araminta Aardvark of the University of Neasden, and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

Low level “awards” ceremonies have been common in journalism for years. The writers concerned are able to call themselves Insurance or Holiday Homes Journalist of the Year. But the sums involved are dwarfed by the eye-watering cash on offer from BBVA and it begs the question: Should supposedly independent journalists be accepting this kind of largesse from those who stand to gain by influencing their work? Imagine the outcry from BBC and the Guardian if Shell “awarded” hundreds of thousands of pounds to MPs writing and talking about the oil and gas business. A massive conflict of interest would rightly be noted.

But huge amounts of green money are also available for the companies and corporations that employ right thinking journalists as well. It is estimated that the Bill Gates Foundation has spread $250,000,000 around various media outlets over the last few years. During the last decade, this Foundation has given $20 million to help fund the BBC World Service and £1.6 million for the Corporation’s Media Action charity. In that time the software tycoon has become a go-to source across the BBC for epidemics, vaccines and anti-meat diets while his recent climate change book was given five airings on Radio 4.

The Guardian has collected upwards of $20 million from the Foundation over recent years, starting with £6 million in 2011 for establishing a “Millennium Development Goals” feed that focuses on providing “compelling, evidence based content”. This content recently included an article from long time green activist Jonathan Porritt who spoke to a familiar Guardian theme by noting we should not miss the “glorious chance” provided by the Covid disaster “to address the climate and biodiversity”.

The protector of all virtue on the Guardian of course is the green activist George Monbiot who writes about “dark money” – a reference it seems to any money supporting political ideas that he disapproves of. The Guardian meanwhile proudly proclaims it is “available for everyone, funded by readers” – which is true, although Mr Gates’s voluntary donation seems a tad on the high side.

In academia there are huge and growing amounts of money for every climate project willing to stick to the correct political script. The green billionaire financier Jeremy Grantham has poured millions of pounds into funding three Grantham Institutes in U.K. universities. The Grantham at the LSE is headed by the long time climate doom monger Professor Nicholas Stern and also provides employment for Bob Ward, described as the ‘Communications Director’. Mr. Ward, it will be recalled, has been busy for years tying up investigative climate science journalists such as David Rose of the Mail and the late Christopher Booker of the Sunday Telegraph with numerous complaints to the Press Complaints Commission and now IPSO.

On the academic side, paid staff and Phd students provide a steady stream of climate emergency copy, with a particular focus on the need for large amounts of green capital. A recent paper, for instance, on “blended finance” noted that green investment can be too risky for private finance. It calls for blended finance – a combination of private and public money which, according to this academic, can be a “powerful means of rebalancing risk and enabling investment”.

If you are not a green, wealthy, private investor, other interpretations of “blended finance” are available.

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