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 over a quarter of 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 too. In any case I have become quite fond of it.

If anyone has noticed this reappearance — welcome!

10 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.

  3. My memories go back to the New Statesman Whitehouse/Lynas thread in 2007. You may recall that there and particularly on the continuation of that discussion here, I developed a theme (especially in my exchanges with Peter Martin) that there was no serious possibility of major 'developing' countries agreeing to accept binding – or indeed any – emission reduction obligations. Over the years, that's continued to be my main contention re the climate change issue – I'm quite simply not qualified for example to make a useful contribution to debate about the science. You may be interested that I've today completed an article setting out my thinking on the developing countries / emission reduction obligation issue. In case you are, I'll send you an email (at the most recent address I have for you) with the article attached.

    BTW I'm looking for a home on the web where I can publish this. It occurs to me that Harmless Sky could be that home. Let me know.

    As for the tide turning, I'm dubious. It may turn out that, when politicians in the West begin to understand the huge problems with a 'green' recovery, they will change their policies. But I rather doubt it.

    My wife and I are keeping well (although I've developed an uncomfortable toothache) and we're both busy.

  4. A month later, I'd like to add my congratulations to Robin's on the reopening of this site. In a comment at BishopHill I once compared Harmless Sky to a gentlemen's club fitted out with comfortable armchairs, while Ben Pile's Climate Resistance was more like a University Junior Common Room, and Bishop Hill like a pub on Saturday night. I've thoroughly enjoyed my time wasted in all three places.

    TonyN can be proud of at least two major Quixotic victories in our long list of defeats:

    1) shaming the once proudly open-minded New Statesman by taking over their everlasting Whitehouse/Lynas thread. The NS, which resisted the pro-Soviet Groupthink in the 30s and 40s, succumbed to the climate groupthink in the noughties.

    2) by taking on the BBC (together with Andrew Montford of Bishop Hill) over their “scientific seminar,” they prodded Maurizio Morabito into discovering the truth: that the BBC lied and lied and lied again about the nature of the expert advice that served as input to their coverage of climate change.

    There are probably other victories I've forgotten. There are only so many of us who have been following the story closely. And it's not ended.

  5. Dear Mr Newbery

    I’m immensely pleased that Harmless Sky is back. I came to know this via the link to Mr Guenier’s piece from Paul Homewood’s place.

    Bishop Hill tended to be my first daily port of call until Mr Montfort went on to the GWPF, but Harmless Sky was always another bastion of common-sense and level-headedness in the face of the rising tide of alarmist hysteria. I rarely post anywhere, but these days read avidly on such sites as Climate Scepticism and Paul Homewood’s Not A Lot of People Know That. I’ve just subscribed to your email service, too.

    Like Mssrs Guenier and Chambers, both of whose comments (here and elsewhere) are invariably thoughtful, well informed and well formed, I’ve been following this farrago seemingly for ever – certainly for the past two decades. It was about then, perhaps earlier, that I distinctly remember being alarmed by a Sunday Times piece (I wish I’d kept the reference) on the threat to London from an ever-expanding Thames to be caused by rising sea levels, complete with Scary Graphic of famous landmarks half submerged! With some judicious research though, my alarm soon turned to scepticism, despite the ever-expanding torrent of hysteria. It is scepticism embellished with an increasing degree of indignation and annoyance as more and more scamsters pile on and more and more almost unimaginable amounts of ordinary people’s money is frittered away – to no end whatsoever.

    So welcome back indeed. I look forward to future posts.

  6. geoff chambers and David Bishop

    Very many sincere thanks to both of you for such kind words. Without getting sloppy, comments like that mean a lot.

    I have always been quite happy with Geoff’s description of HS, although I probably shouldn’t be if I had real killer instinct.

    And the Thames Barrier business could really do with re-visiting. The last I heard, the Environment Agency had accepted they were misled by alarmist sea level rise predictions, but a significant amount of land down river will still suffer planning blight until near the end of the century because it has been designated as the onshore locations for a replacement and no one dares say otherwise. Lack of ongoing planing to start work suggests that climate scepticism isn't entirely confined to the blogosphere.

  7. Hi Tony,
    Pleased to hear you are starting up the web page again
    Will keep coming back to check things out over the next few months
    Best wishes
    Neil Hampshire

  8. Neil Hampshire

    Many thanks for your good wishes. At the moment I'm editing posts for the forthcoming Harmless Sky Bedside Book, so probably nothing new for a while. But then …

  9. a very belated welcome back!

  10. Barry

    Many thanks, and it's good to see your name still appearing above comments here and there around the more grown up parts of the web.

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