Sunday, 2 February 2014

Lindzen and Delingpole - such a comparison of intellects

James Delingpole is a world renowned novelist and journalist.  There, I've said it. 

He has a new book out, The Little Green Book Of Eco-Fascism, which rather gives the contents away (and at 336 pages might contravene the trades descriptions act).  Anyway, as I write, it is at number 55,136 on the best seller list at, but (sharp intake of breath) number 3 in the category of environmentalist organisations.  At number 2 is Silent Spring Revisited, which examines the impact of Rachel Carson's seminal book on the effect of DDT on animal populations.  I just can't see anyone fifty years from now celebrating any of Delingpole's tomes in the same way.

So what has caused this little diatribe?

Delingpole, in his blog at the Daily Telegraph, repeats Richard Lindzen's comment made before the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee that:
"I've asked very frequently at universities: 'Of the brightest people you know, how many people were studying climate [...or meteorology or oceanography...]?' And the answer is usually 'No one.'"
The square brackets belong to Delingpole, I believe.
"You look at the credentials of some of these people [on the IPCC] and you realise that the world doesn't have that many experts, that many 'leading climate scientists'".
Was Lindzen suggesting, asked Tim Yeo [chairing the session] at this point, that scientists in the field of climate were academically inferior.
"Oh yeah," said Lindzen. "I don't think there's any question that the brightest minds went into physics, math, chemistry..."
 Far be it from me to say, but that's a bit harsh, especially as some of his students, that he will have chosen himself, will be working in the field of climate science.  Is it because Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist that he can have been so snobbish? 

I don't know, but snobbery about science is something that you could argue applies to Delingpole himself.  Son of a factory owner, educated at Malvern (as were TV gardener Monty Don, actor Denholm Eliott, TV hit man Jeremy Paxman and even a Nobel laureate in chemistry, Francis Aston) where, for overseas readers, parents cough up the cash themselves directly.  He went on to Christ Church, Oxford where, apparently, he sort of knew David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  The lack of a closer association would explain why Delingpole isn't in the cabinet.  Or perhaps I can think of another reason.

Now, if the best students go into physics and maths, the best English graduates (that's BA English, not born in England) surely do a bit better than a contrarian blog on a newspaper and a few fawningly reviewed but inconsequential books.  It is unlikely that Delingpole will be more than a footnote even in the climate change debate.  He is hardly central to it (and that footnote will be for coining the term "Climategate") and does not even claim to bother with the science itself. 
Sorry, couldn't resist.

So amongst the pantheon of great journalists, where will Delingpole rank when compared with Samuel L Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (who uncovered a proper conspiracy), Thomas Jefferson (yes, he was a journalist, amongst other things), Boz (the early pen name of Charles Dickens) and some we might not think of as journalists, like William Cobbett, Daniel Defoe and Tom Paine. 

So, sorry, James.  If you chuckle at Lindzen's comment on the destinations of the top science students, perhaps you could spare a thought for your destination.  Your style is described as sarky - well unless you can do more than just filter the opinions of others, unless you can do better than not reading the science, no real scientist is going to pay you more than the time of day. 

Maybe Lindzen is the greatest atmospheric physicist of all time.  On the page for atmospheric physics on Wikipedia, he doesn't get a mention, although others do.  It's one measure. 

Post script:
Those selected Delingpole Amazon rankings:
Little Book Of Eco-Fascism #55,136
Watermelons #132,403
Coward At The Bridge #282,556

By comparison
Michael Mann The Hockey Stick And The Climate Wars #78,489


1 comment:

  1. Delingpole's worse than that. His whole journalistic shtick is trolling for reactions and page views.
    But it seems he does believe his own myths himself; I recall that he actually emailed me to say "Nyah nyah you're wrong" when I posted on his blog to say that he was. Well okay those aren't the exact words, but the meaning is about right.
    Then it turns out he's a misogynist, or plays one so well that you can't tell the difference:

    Amazon rankings of course fluctuate a great deal, it's possible to be very high one day and drop off completely a week later.