Harmless Sky is back!

Posted by TonyN on 18/05/2020 at 9:54 am Uncategorized Add comments
May 182020

Between January 2008 and January 2014 nearly 300 posts appeared at Harmless Sky, and these attracted over 21,000 comments.

It is probably fair to say that during this period attitudes to anthropogenic climate change were embedded in the minds of decision makers, the media, and the general public, and Harmless Sky was a significant player. The widespread impact of this developing apprehension was largely due to the alarmist and morally intimidating way in which the subject was presented by a group of vocal and very influential climate scientists, supported by belligerent activists who promoted their views and the mainstream media which was unwilling to apply normal standards of journalistic scepticism to a story with boundless possibilities. Questioning or dissenting from this new orthodoxy was widely portrayed as ignorant, stupid or just plain bad.

Meanwhile blogs such as Harmless Sky, Andrew Montfort’s Bishop Hill and Ben Pile’s Climate Resistance in the UK, and in North America Anthony Watts’ Watts Up With That? and particularly Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit, ensured that there was still a minority of well-informed sceptics standing out against a global movement that increasingly looked like hysteria.

But by 2014, opinions were so polarised that neither side seemed to be listening to the others arguments any more, and blogging was becoming dull.

I had probably contributed about a million words to Harmless Sky in the form of posts by then — the equivalent of four average length books — and the volume of comments that were posted, together with the site statistics, suggested that these had not gone un-heeded. But the expenditure in terms of time and effort — but not money of course — was enormous. The reputation of a climate sceptical blogger is permanently under heavy fire, and survival depends entirely on never making an error of fact, or putting forward a view that cannot be fully backed-up by credible evidence. Writing posts is only the tip of the iceberg; the submerged seven-eighths is sheer, dogged, time-consuming, bloody-minded, slogging, research.

So the debate had stalled, and my type of blogging, which concentrated on comment and analysis rather than breaking news, seemed redundant for the moment. A new approach was needed.

In my case this took the form of writing a book based on what I had learned about the role our highly privileged and influential national broadcaster, the BBC, had played in promoting alarm about climate change. This focused particularly on the way in which this immensely powerful organisation, with global reach, has exploited its reputation for impartial and authoritative reporting to the full in order to promote one side of a major controversy while denigrating or ignoring any opposing evidence and views. Once again, a huge commitment in time was required, but initially the outcome was gratifying: a fully referenced, evidence laden indictment of the broadcaster’s malpractice.

Two prospective publishers expressed enthusiasm at first sight, but on reflection both withdrew their offers of publication.

The first, a think tank with limited means, withdrew because it feared the reaction of the BBC. Of course there was no question of my text inviting an action for libel or defamation — as a blogger one is well used to avoiding such risks — but even dealing with a vexatious threat of action can be costly. Their concern was understandable as the BBC is inclined to be vindictive, and has its own well-staffed and funded litigation department.

The second publisher, with a reputation for shining light into corners that powerful forces would prefer to be left in darkness, withdrew even when a date for publication had been agreed. Very soon afterwards, the managing director, and the CEO of a think tank that was being lined up to promote the book, began to appear regularly on the BBC as pundits; particularly on Today and Any Questions. Such publicity has no doubt been most beneficial for both of them.

About eighteen months ago, the Harmless Sky website became inaccessible due to my failing to update obsolete software, and there was little incentive to rebuild it at that time. Now I have begun to do so.

I also decided to publish an Amazon version of my BBC book in the runup to the IPCC COP 26 conference in Glasgow this September, but that jamboree has been cancelled because of the Covid19 pandemic. It seems unlikely that anyone is now going to be very interested in predictions of a so-called climate crisis by the end of the century until economic recovery from the present very real global health crisis forces decision-makers into some hard choices. Do they make provision in the form of heavy expenditure for real threats, in the form of future and possibly even more lethal pandemics, or a putative crisis that is almost entirely based on the output of models?

Therefore publication must wait until climate change becomes a live issue again. In the meantime, as electronic publishing is new to me, I am revisiting some of the posts at Harmless Sky that seem to have withstood the test of time — not all of them about climate change — with a view to compiling them as The Harmless Sky Bedside Book, just as a practice run. For that reason, the blog needs to be back on its feet again, but perhaps more as an archive now than as an actively updated forum. The layout remains in its very dated 2008 format, but I think that, in spite of fashions having changed, it is still clear, easy to read and navigate, and easy on the eye to. In any case I have become quite fond of it.

If anyone has noticed this reappearance — welcome!

2 Responses to “Harmless Sky is back!”

  1. Welcome back Tony. There’s a lot I’d like to say (much probably nostalgic) but my Wi-Fi is down and I find it difficult to type on my ancient iPhone.

    But I’ll certainly be back.

    I hope you’re keeping well in this difficult – and extraordinary – time. Very best wishes.


  2. I’ve partly rebuilt the site, but there are still some problems and I hate to think how the ancient software that I’m still using displays on a phone. (No reception here, so we don’t have smartphones.)

    Your memories of the climate sceptic scene go back as far as mine and I wonder whether you think that it is over-optimistic of me to suspect that the tide is turning at last? Even if one discounts the ramifications of the present upheavals and the rebuilding of the economy that will be needed.

    All well here, as I hope things are with you.

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