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The common sense majority is being cowed into silence by activist zealots

Red robed protesters from Extinction Rebellion take part in blockading the oil rig maintenance facility at Cromarty Firth Port Authority
Red robed protesters from Extinction Rebellion take part in blockading the oil rig maintenance facility at Cromarty Firth Port Authority

Last winter there was misery in the Alps. A shortage of snow led to predictions of a disaster under such headlines as “Is this the end of skiing?” They were accompanied by photographs of thin strips of artificial snow on slopes usually buried under feet of the white stuff. Over the New Year, parts of north-west Switzerland recorded temperatures close to 20C.

The BBC reported: “Many resorts are aware that they only have two options: close or adapt their business model to cope with mounting climate threats.”

Well, this year the northern Alps have more pre-season pistes open than at any time in recent history after days of heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures.

The point of this story is not to deny that there is a global warming trend, but not to confuse weather with climate. Nowadays, every storm, blizzard, flood, dry spell, forest fire or deluge is attributed to climate change.

This means it is often hard to discern a long-term change from a short-term event. When fires in parts of the world where they have been commonplace for centuries – and are key to plant growth – are said to be solely the consequence of warming, people are being deliberately misled. This apparent inability to distinguish between the vagaries of the weather and climate change does not help in the debate about what to do about it.

Neither, in truth, do the annual jamborees organised by the UN for the past quarter of a century and whose latest iteration starts in Dubai tomorrow. Most people would regard a refusal to see every unusual weather event as a symptom of global warming as common sense. It is possible to acknowledge long-term trends without seeing normal autumn gales and winter storms in the context of climate change.

But the zealots think differently. A group called Climate Genocide Act Now, which is linked to Extinction Rebellion, is planning legal action against this newspaper for what it calls misleading and inadequate coverage of climate change. It wants the case heard, believe it or not, in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and says it has a professional legal opinion noting that policies causing climate change can be prosecuted as crimes against humanity.

This includes questioning the cost of getting to net zero, challenging the timetable for introducing electric cars and reporting on the difficulties of installing heat pumps. The failure to connect weather events like the recent Storm Ciaran to the broader narrative of climate change is another point of criticism, as are adverts encouraging people to take a foreign holiday.

“We’re planning to get a dossier of evidence covering six months, and submit a case to the International Criminal Court to say that this is evidence of incitement of crimes against humanity. We think we’ve got a chance of getting there,” the group’s leader said. At least it will be good work for the lawyers.

This is clearly a tiny group of fanatics, and yet such people increasingly wield an inordinate amount of influence in many walks of life, not least the arts world. Ahead of the Cop28 conference in Dubai, the actress Olivia Colman is appearing in a campaign video dressed up as a latex-clad oil executive, criticising the relationship between pension funds and the fossil fuel industry.

“The cash from your pensions has helped us dig, drill and destroy more of the planet than ever before. We’ve even managed to build a few little wind turbines to keep Greta and her chums happy,” she says. “Every little drop from your precious nest egg adds up, so while the global temperature may go up a teensy, weensy degree or two our profits are literally soaring.”

When it comes to misrepresentation, there is quite a lot in that statement. We have built more than a “few little wind turbines” and we need oil and gas to keep the lights on, so either we import it or extract it from our own territory. Our pension funds need to be profitable to sustain an ageing population. But I suppose these considerations don’t matter to the eco-fanatics, not least when the Bank of England itself has a specific climate change remit.

We give too much credence to these small but very vocal campaign groups. One of the most potent is Stonewall, which seems to have managed to bludgeon the public and corporate sectors into spending vast sums to conform to its demands for diversity and inclusivity. Most major companies employ people whose only (well-paid) job is to impose a particular ideology on its workforce.

The NHS, struggling to clear a record backlog of cases, employs hundreds of diversity officers while many businesses covet Stonewall’s imprimatur as a diversity champion. Schools and colleges still seem to be enrolled on Stonewall programmes to promote transgender inclusion. But its reach is wider still. Yesterday, we reported how the UK’s human rights watchdog, the EHRC, could be blacklisted by the UN apparently after Stonewall objected to the way the organisation defended biological sex.

Why do we allow these pressure groups so much influence? The guilt generated by Black Lives Matter, an anti-capitalist movement that wanted to dismantle the police, has caused normally rational people to hand over their life savings to atone for their family involvement in slavery hundreds of years ago.

Universities ban speakers because they refuse to say a man can menstruate; the police arrest preachers for saying something disobliging about Pride marches; teachers are unwilling to tell parents that their eight-year-old boy wants to be a girl; and we are accused of genocide because we point out the cost of heat pumps.

It is telling that these pressure groups never take their climate change campaign on to the streets of Beijing or protest for trans rights in Jeddah or demand reparations for slavery from the oil-rich Arab nations. They target the West because it provides them the latitude to make a very nice living from their insidious social engineering while the majority is cowed into silence.

I hesitate to say this, but there is a small chance it might snow here in the next few days, which is unusual this early in the winter though hardly unprecedented. That’s another offence to be taken into consideration by the ICC in The Hague.

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