I’d wondered what to expect from this small group of climate science deniers, but the array of pamphlets laid out in the entrance hall gave me a very big hint.
‘Volcanoes rule’, said one. ‘United Nations climate liars’ screamed another.
The event, titled ‘The New Dawn of Truth’, had already been refused a room at University College of London once it dawned on the university just what kind of “truth” was on the agenda on 8 September.
The ICG, which counts ‘Lord’ Monckton among its steering committee, is much smaller than other groups that deny climate science, such as Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). In fact the GWPF has actively distanced itself from Monckton.
In the days leading up to the conference, there was a flurry of emails that urged attendees to stick to points such as “present climate change is beneficial and more CO2 is good for world humanity” and that when it comes to a changing climate, we should “just get used to it!”
But first there was the small matter of getting in.
Though I had press accreditation, my previous experience with climate science deniers taught me they can be unpredictable.
I told the man registering delegates that I was a journalist. He sardonically raised an eyebrow. “Well I hope you enjoy it,” he said, before waiving me through.
I took a seat in the main hall at Conway Hall in central London, which was populated by 60 or so men, mostly with grey or balding heads, a handful of women, and a chunk of empty seats.
From the participants list and later conversation I gathered that acolytes came from a range of backgrounds: scientists, a boiler mechanic, a UKIP supporter, a Masters student, a weather forecaster and several “wives of” other men.
Unfortunately, their honorary president didn’t show.
‘Not a Fringe Group’
As soon as the two-day conference began, it became clear this tribe detests being called anything other than ‘sceptics’. Yes, they deny that man has contributed to climate change, but they insist they are absolutely not climate change ‘deniers’.
“It’s only Ban Ki-Moon that calls us climate deniers,” proclaimed the event organiser Nils-Axel Mörner. Mörner, a former Stockholm University professor, is a founding member of the Climate Exit (Clexit) group led by Monckton. In his free time he enjoys denying that sea levels are steeply rising.
“I’m a very good scientist, I have worked in 51 countries and read very many books,” Mörner added. What does Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, know about the world anyway?
Sure, just three percent of all expert climate scientists question the science behind anthropogenic climate change. And sure, the event organisers summoned a grand total of about 70 people from all over the world for their international conference – compared to the 38,000 delegates that attended the Paris COP21 climate talks – but, no, they insisted they were not a “fringe group”.
Beware the Crumpet Catcher
Admittedly I was surprised how friendly most guests were. Some, perhaps, were too friendly.
Once I had stuck my journalist’s head above the parapet to ask a question, I was cornered during every interval by participants wanting sometimes to talk at, but mostly to hector, me. At one point three men lingered around me, edging closer until I was backed into my red plastic chair.
A red-in-the-face 70-something-year old interrupted a younger counterpart of his to bemoan the media’s “rubbish” reporting on climate change. I tried to ask him what he meant but he spoke over me before I could finish my sentence.
After prattling on about the problems with biomass chips, he suddenly pulled out his phone and flashed me a picture of his vintage red sports car, a Jaguar E-type. “That’s my crumpet catcher,” he said, grinning, eyes fixed on mine. And then he winked at me.
“Oh,” I said, words failing me for a moment, “and do you find it is successful?”
He replied: “Well, I have a ladyfriend… but she doesn’t like it much.”
“And how is the fuel consumption?” I asked. I was struggling to stifle my laughter, but he continued, undeterred.
“It does 17 miles to the gallon – but that’s not really the point,” he snorted, missing the intended irony in my question.
No Need to Worry – It’s Hot in the Loire Valley
During a talk on “tiny CO2 warming”, François Gervais – an emeritus professor at the François Rabelais University and expert on the ‘innocence of carbon’ – described how, since the acceleration of CO2 emissions, we have experienced a warming of 0.4 degrees Celsius.
Thankfully he then pointed out: “This is the increased temperature that we experience in the Loire valley on a beautiful sunny day in a quarter of an hour – and you know what, we survive!”
That is a relief.
Burning Fossil Fuels is Fine – Oh Wait No it’s Not
For two days the “scientists” discussed the many points on which they disagreed. It was difficult to digest some of their points, embellished though they were with cluttered PowerPoint slides and rambling explanations.
There is nothing wrong with burning fossil fuels, doing so can be completely “clean” and brings power and jobs to the needy, espoused the likes of Piers Corbyn. We absolutely “should not be mining out and burning up fossil fuels,” Peter Kirby, a local UKIP branch organiser told me later.
“The ice cycle regulates the temperature” believed some, while others argued the ice cycle “doesn’t regulate the temperature”.
It went on.
Indeed, they came to no conclusions, rather were merely encouraged that there were so many different interpretations of the science.
They’re Coming for You
Monckton’s henchmen wrapped up the second and final day with tips on how to talk to people who, along with the IPCC, China, USA and 193 other countries around the world that signed the Paris Agreement, believe that manmade climate change is real and is an issue worth tackling.
Dr. Peter L. Ward, a geophysicist who believes ozone depletion causes global warming, presented his top tips for speaking to such people, which included “suggest problems with ideas but never with people” and “be courteous”.
I hoped those I had encountered throughout the conference heeded this call. However, I was later informed that at the post-conference drinks I had been namechecked by one of the lackeys as a “malicious influence” and “enemy of the right”. Apparently he had decided against Ward’s advice.
They also celebrated the Brexit result and rallied behind calls for Clexit. “We must build Clexit worldwide in every country and town,” Piers Corbyn had enjoined the audience as he finished his talk that morning, to huge applause.
Another pearl of wisdom Piers Corbyn had shared was that “What you’ve got to do, the answer is you’ve got to enjoy life.” So that’s the secret then. We need to “stop feeling guilty”.
If only we’d known.