Good morning. It's Christmas Eve and an appropriate time for this story. I feel privileged to have been offered the following two part fable (it's too long for one post) from the Reverend Philip Foster. Regardless of where you stand on the climate change debate, I'm sure you will find the story enjoyable. Philip tells me what inspired him was a bizarre report on WUWT about a climate scientist who apparently likes to converse with ghosts!
A Climate Carol
A fable for Christmas
The Great Guardian Environment Correspondent sat in his office late at night on Christmas Eve in 201.... He was known as 'Scrooge' to his colleagues (behind his back of course) after he had once declared that sending Christmas cards caused sea-levels to rise.
Snow was falling, muffling the traffic in the streets. The building was quiet; only the desk light in his office was on, just enough light to see by. A buzzer sounded.
"There are two gentlemen to see you, Sir." said the night porter.
"Send them up."
Some minutes later the men arrived. They introduced them-selves as working for a charitable Trust, Fuel for Africa. "We are hoping to get the oil and coal in Africa used for generating electricity, for indigenous industry and transport so that they can have clean water, health care and a better standard of living."
"Stop there!" said Scrooge. "Are there no wind turbines? Are there no solar panels?"
"Yes there are but they hardly...", Scrooge interrupted them.
"Climate Deniers! Bah! Humbug! Get out of my office!"
They retreated hurriedly. Scrooge sat and meditated. The brazen effrontery of the oil industry to sponsor these stooges, didn't they know that saving the planet was all that mattered? The buzzer sounded again. It was the night porter. "I'm going home now, Sir."
"Make sure you turn every light out and walk home - don't use the bus; think of your carbon footprint."
"Yes, Sir." said the porter despondently.
It was quiet again. Scrooge nibbled an organic oat cake and a piece of cheese for his late supper; he would sleep on his office couch tonight, he thought.
Just as he was settling himself, the air was rent with a piercing shriek that set every hair on his body on end and a shiver down his spine.
His desk light flickered and went out, on and out again, the buzzer sounded and sounded, his computer awoke and started flashing strange pictures, then streams of data flowing up the screen with flashes of 'error', 'error', 'error'. Scrooge sat bolt upright. Was he dreaming? Was it the cheese?
The sounds now changed to a terrible clanking and banging which seemed to be coming straight towards his room. The door flew open and there stood a spectre looking horribly like Professor ——, that great climate scientist, who had recently died from an untreated hyper-active ego. But what was he dragging? Iron objects, tied together with barbed wire trailed behind the spectral figure. Closer inspection showed they were giant hockey sticks made of metal. The Spectre spoke:
"I was once what you are - I too thought people were a disease on the planet. I too believed the planet must be saved from man-made climate change. I too began to lie. I too gained power, money and prestige. But now I am condemned to drag around for ever these chains I built for myself. At midnight three Spirits will visit you."
With this the spectre turned and, dragging his chain of hockey sticks with him, disappeared through the WWF wall poster showing polar bears drowning.
His desk light came on again, his computer went off, and slowly Scrooge's heartbeat began to return to normal.
As he tried to collect his jangling nerves he decided that it was some trick played by those two men - typical of the denial industry to try and frighten him like that.
Listening to Big Ben's chimes, he was composing himself for sleep and was just reaching for the light switch when the light extinguished itself, and the door of the room burst open with a blast of warm air followed by a chilly wind carrying snowflakes. A huge figure stood in the room, curiously disfigured because one side was fat and the other thin, one side dressed for summer, the other in furs for winter.
"Who... What are you?" croaked Scrooge, his mouth dry and speaking for the first time since sending the porter home.
"I am the Spirit of Climate Past."
"Oh, I know all about the past climate, as did Prof. ——." (his heart, however, took an fearful leap at this name).
"Quiet!" said the Spirit, raising his arm, and Scrooge fell back on the couch, breathing hard. "You know nothing of the past."
The Spirit's huge arm then reached out and seemingly plucked Scrooge from the couch. "Come! You shall see for yourself."
The room appeared to shrink away and they were floating above the city of London. But the city was changing before his eyes. Canary Wharf vanished and was replaced by ruined warehouses, then flashes and fire, then warehouses again, this time intact. Steamers, then tall masted ships, flickered in their hundreds along the docks; the Thames froze over and melted rapidly many times; St Paul's vanished and there was another brief flash of fire, then their journey seemed to halt.
It was bitterly cold, the snow lashed his face. The Thames was frozen over and a few black figures were picking their way across it. Glancing around, the people he saw were weary, pinched; they looked ill-fed; one person, huddled in a ragged cloak, tripped, fell, vomited and then lay motionless. Was this the Plague? thought Scrooge with a shudder.
"Yes." said the Spirit. "After three centuries of cold the ordinary man is weak and malnourished, crops are poor, food is scarce and expensive. This is the Little Ice Age which both Prof. —— and you dismissed as fiction. Come! We must go further back."
The ships got smaller and the docks shrank, bridges familiar to Scrooge had long vanished leaving only one bridge crowded with houses, then the Thames flowed free of ice through a diminished London of mostly wooden houses with just a few landmarks, such as Westminster Abbey, smaller and starker in outline.
The dizziness stopped and he found himself standing on a hill overlooking the Thames with London nestling mostly on its northern bank. The breeze was balmy and he immediately regretted that he was still wearing his longjohns. It was warm. He looked about him. What he took for peasants were going about their daily business; there was a cart trundling down the road towards London laden with barrels. Salted fish? thought Scrooge; it was clearly a medieval scene. Just then the cart hit a rut and a barrel bounced off and, crashing to the ground, burst open; the peasants cursed. Its contents spilled red along the ground - wine! Going to London? thought Scrooge in great surprise. "Yes, from Yorkshire." said the Spirit, answering his thoughts. To Scrooge's left was a building site - it looked like the beginnings of a church or perhaps an abbey with a merry gang of masons and builders at work. He was surprised to see how well fed most people looked.
"Come, there is more to see in the past." said the Spirit. Once again the sense of dizziness began, as they spun back in time. The warm verdant landscape flickered more and more between green and white and then the white appeared less frequently and faded: just green and brown. They stopped and again Scrooge beheld the valley of the Thames. A yet smaller London, laid out in a more geometric pattern lay before him. The road beside which they stood was paved and with a surprising amount of traffic: carts and people, even some soldiers - whose appearance immediately told him that this was Roman Britain. Scrooge was now really regretting his longjohns as it was warmer than their previous stop. Scrooge noticed one of the carts was carrying amphora with the letter V on them. "Five what?" he thought. "No, VINUM, wine" said the Spirit, "from the south lands of the Picts beyond the Wall."
"We must go yet further back." said the Spirit. Onward they went with the uncomfortable sense of dizziness assailing Scrooge. Green and brown, green and brown, as the years slipped back, seldom broken by more than an occasional touch of white, then almost suddenly the green and brown changed to green and white then brown and white and then white and, even at the speed they were travelling, Scrooge became glad of his longjohns. There was one more brief flicker of green before the white seemed permanent. And he felt himself being pushed upwards by the very ground beneath his feet: but it wasn't ground, it was ice and snow.
The Spirit spoke again, "When it is warm, people are happier and wealthier - they eat better and have time and energy for great projects; churches, abbeys and cathedrals. Yet you, Scrooge, make your money by telling people to fear warmth and you urge them to try and stop it. Look around you now. What do you see?"
"Ice and snow as far as the horizon." said Scrooge.
"Do you see any people?"
"No." said Scrooge.
"Think on what you have seen, and learn." said the Spirit.
Then there was a starburst in his head and sound like a hurdy-gurdy and he found himself lying on his couch - soaked to his knees. Big Ben was striking the hour. He started to count the bongs, if only to calm himself; one, two, three, four. Suddenly the door swung open and a second spectre stepped into the room. Scrooge's heart leapt into his mouth, "What now?"
"I have come!" said a voice with an antipodean flavour to it, Scrooge trembled as somehow the voice was familiar and it unnerved him.
"Who are you?"
"I am the Spirit of Climate Present."
Part 2 is here.
Part 2 is here.