UKIP pledges to ban climate change lessons in schools

Derek Clark MEP (Image: Euro Realist Newsletter)

Derek Clark MEP (Image: Euro Realist Newsletter/Wikimedia Commons)

The UK Independence Party has promised it will ban the teaching of climate change in schools, if elected in May next year.

The party’s 2010 manifesto included a pledge to ban Al Gore’s Oscar-winning global warming documentary  An Inconvenient Truth from schools.

But this week UKIP Education spokesman MEP Derek Clark has said the party will go even further. Clark told Index on Censorship:

We will still ban Al Gore’s video for use in schools if I’ve got anything to do with it. I will not have much opposition within the party. It is, of course, not just this video which needs banning; all teaching of global warming being caused in any way by carbon dioxide emissions must also be banned. It just is not happening.”

Dr Nick Eyre, Jackson Senior Research Fellow in Energy at the ECI and Oriel College Oxford and Co-Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said of the proposal: “It is anti-scientific nonsense – as well as a worryingly repressive approach to education. The very strong link between climate change and anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is overwhelmingly accepted by the global scientific community, and has been for at least 25 years.”

A recent IPCC report shows that scientists believe with 95% certainty that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming. A 2013 study by UK Energy Research Centre, however, showed that 46% believe that climate change is ‘partly caused by human activity’, 22% believe that climate change is ‘mainly caused by human activity’ and another 6% believe that climate change is ‘entirely caused by human activity’. In total 74% of those surveyed believed that human activity is responsible for climate change.

This article was posted on 15 Jan 2014 at

An earlier version of this article stated: “95% of scientists believe that humans are the ‘dominate cause’ of global warming.” It has been edited to: “scientists’ believe with 95% certainty that humans are the ‘dominate cause’ of global warming.

This article was amended to include the total number of people in the UK Energy Research Centre study who believe that human activity is responsible for climate change.

Is Reddit censoring climate change deniers?


San Fransisco based made headlines when it allegedly banned climate change deniers from posting on the site.

UK-based freedom of speech advocate Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked magazine, claimed it had “shredded its own reputation” in a piece for The Telegraph, while James Delingpole, a right-wing commentator for The Spectator delivered a hot-blooded attack on the policy via Fox News website – “The greenies — and their many useful idiots in the liberal media — are terrified of open debate on climate-change because the real world evidence long ago parted company with their scientifically threadbare theory.”

Reddit is a huge online links directory and lively discussion board, with a reputation for scale, wit, lack of censorship and a strong sense of community. Over eighty million monthly unique visitors, two hundred and sixty million comments to date and a presence in one hundred and eighty countries are some of the stats that led Conde Nast to buy the company a year after it was launched in 2005. Last year, analysts valued it at over $200 million dollars. It’s no Facebook or Twitter in terms of publicity attracted, but it gets more traffic than CNN, and the’s monthly readership could fit into Reddit’s three times over.

It’s the famed lack of censorship that has lead opinion writers on both side of the Atlantic to point out this new policy on climate change denial.

For those who haven’t visited, the site is divided up into sub-reddits–links and discussions, which are classified according to themes, and run by unpaid volunteers.

“TIL,” shorthand for “Today I Learned,” offers obscure trivia and little known facts. “foreignpolicy” offers links and discussion on international relations, defence and diplomacy. “foodforthought” collates links to thought-provoking essays. There are subreddits for jokes, celebrity gossip, memes and funny videos – for agony aunts and video gaming.

In fact, rather than having banned climate change skeptics, it’s the moderators of the “/r/science” reddit who have instigated the ban. Run by volunteers, it collects links about new research and scientific articles.

“/r/science is not the beginning or the end of internet discussion”, defends Carl Ellstrom from Sweden – a reddit user, scientist and moderator of the science subreddit. “Users who are banned from /r/science are not banned from reddit, and can discuss their opinions in other subreddits.”

While it’s not the beginning or the end, /r/science still attracts millions of visitors each month. So the decision to ban climate change scepticism is of note.

Typical of their profession–other moderators backed up the decision by citing research–97% of climate scientists agree that man is changing the planet, according to a report from the respected Institute of Physics.

The move principally revolved around aggressive and repeated comments, which a small group of malicious users were posting on every article or piece of research concerned with climate change. Their allegations generally focused on conspiracy theories, didn’t address the article with constructive, focused criticism, were repetitive and, critically, had a disproportionate silencing effect on any discussion.

“These problematic users were not the common ‘internet trolls’ looking to have a little fun upsetting people,” explains Nathan Allen, a PhD chemist with a major chemical company and reddit moderator who wrote for The Guardian.

“These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking. They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong. They were completely enamoured by the emotionally charged and rhetoric-based arguments of pundits on talk radio and Fox News.”

Expanding on that last point Allen says the same comparison could be made with the climate change denial lobby in general, and their disproportionate influence on the press.

“Like our commenters, professional climate change deniers have an outsized influence in the media and the public. And like our commenters, their rejection of climate science is not based on an accurate understanding of the science but on political preferences and personality.”

He ends his piece with a deliberate challenge to the editors of the world’s largest websites

“If a half-dozen volunteers can keep a page with more than 4 million users from being a microphone for the antiscientific, is it too much to ask for newspapers to police their own editorial pages as proficiently?”

If Allen’s suggestion was ever to be noticed and accepted by editors–he ramifications for freedom of speech and media censorship would be radical. Editors might be forced to ignore lobbying from certain spheres of belief, or might miss out on important stories.

But UK research published earlier in the year, shows the disproportionate effect on distorting the truth that having a free and open press creates.

On average, Brits think teenage pregnancies are twenty five times higher than official estimates. The public think 31% of the population are immigrants–the reality is closer to ten percent. Welfare benefit fraud is thought to be 34 times higher than it actually is.

All of the misconceptions covered by IPSOS Mori, the polling company that undertook the research, have been central to political party manifestos and been aggressively pushed by their PR companies.

Or that journalists are too readily being made tools of political parties who want to get elected, who want the issues that they care most about continually in the press, hotly discussed and “on the agenda.” Perhaps we, as journalists, need to remain ever vigilant to the briefing of misinformation and our responsibility to the truth.

This article was published on 3 Jan 2014 at

Whatever happened to climate change?

If you look at a London newspaper from 200 years ago you find information about the war against Napoleon. That makes sense as Napoleon, a rampaging imperialist, was seen by most papers as a terrible threat, so naturally they wrote about him.

Two hundred years in the future, if there are still such things as historians, what will they think of us? We face a far graver threat in climate change, and yet our news media, vastly better equipped to report threats than their counterparts in 1810, are behaving as though it isn’t happening.

Global warming has virtually disappeared from the news pages and news bulletins. If you depend on conventional news providers for information about sea temperatures, CO2, glaciers and rainfall patterns, or about what might be done to mitigate climate change, then you probably know next to nothing about what has happened in the past year.

Stories such as the opening of the big Thanet wind farm are not told in a global warming context, and climate change is rarely linked, even in the most cautious way, to the weather and food disasters across the planet. We read about oil and gas in Greenland but not the shocking retreat of the ice.

In the past year, almost the only big climate change story was about the University of East Anglia’s half-baked so-called email scandal.

Whom should we blame? There are the vested interests: the corporations and conservatives who don’t want our way of life to change. They certainly have influence over our media. There are the deniers, mostly friends to the above. There are politicians, scared of hard choices and preferring to keep mum, and the climate scientists, no great shakes at getting their message across.

And then there are the news media, for whom, pretty shamelessly, climate change is yesterday’s story and has been overtaken by something to do with Lady Gaga.

No doubt the media could do much better, and have a responsibility to do so given how badly things are going wrong. The problem is that even for well-meaning journalists the established formulae of their work, its traditions and instincts, make that hard.

Even when you set aside commercial imperatives to sell papers or attract eyeballs, journalism is about reaching out to large numbers of people, connecting with them and informing them. If you fail to do that as a journalist, you are just having a private conversation.

With climate change in 2010, any journalist will find reaching out difficult, because in a sense it’s not news. Yes, deniers have muddied the water and confused people, but that is not the whole story. It is also the case that climate change is big, slow, amorphous, familiar, elusive and continuous — in many ways the antithesis of news.

It’s not like Napoleon in 1810. He was all drama and surprise, astonishing campaigns and high-stakes battles, and better still he was a gaudy, lurid, sensational personality. Now that’s news.

We can say it should be otherwise, and it certainly could be better. But this news factor makes a difference. There may, for all I know, be a conspiracy of silence about climate change, sponsored by vested interests who would undoubtedly be threatened by any effort at mitigation, but it is certainly not the whole story. Even journalists who are desperate to engage the public about the subject at the moment are struggling to do it.

How could this change? The gloomiest and most cynical and likeliest answer is calamity — a calamity so big, so immediate to first-world news consumers, and so unequivocally related to climate change that everybody, at every watercooler in every office wants to be told about it. That, unfortunately, would be news.

Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University