They appeared to be in a board room belonging to some multi-national. A couple of men in smart suits were talking. One clearly the boss, one equally clearly a young pink junior.
"Listen and learn." said the Spirit.
"Well, how's the campaign going?" said the boss.
"Pretty well boss, but..", said the pink young man.
"But what?" snapped the boss.
"Well, some ordinary people don't seem to be buying it."
"What do you expect? They don't know anything."
"But the deniers seem to be getting their message over, at least to the ordinary people. And, er, some of them do seem to know some real science."
"Hey! Look! Forget them, they're history, they're dinosaurs; we've got the politicians by the short hairs; we've got the media, the UN, the EU, the BBC and even the mainstream churches in our pocket - except for a few crazy journalists whom we call deniers anyway - along with any scientists who claim there's no problem with the climate. We've said they're in the pay of the big oil companies, and old Scrooge and the others in the chattering classes believe it."
"But boss, we are big oil aren't we? I mean we sell oil and gas."
"Hey kid, you'd better wise up here! Get this. Yeah, of course we're big oil; we drill the stuff, pump the stuff, refine the stuff and sell the stuff. But there's a problem, and has been for a fair while. There's too much of it. And what happens when there's too much product?"
"More people can have it?" said the pink guy hopefully, getting even pinker.
"No!" yelled the boss, "A thousand times, No! What happens is that it gets cheaper, you idiot; and if it gets cheaper, we make less profit, and that's bad for business, my business, that is."
"Do try and keep up!"
The pink guy wilted.
"Why do you think we logged onto this 'climate' scare in the first place?"
"Because it was true?" hazarded the pink guy.
"Of course not! What do you take me for? I learned real science when I was younger, when it was still being taught, and it can't possibly be true unless the laws of physics can change overnight. No, because of profits. Why do you think diamonds are valuable?"
The pink guy looked puzzled for a moment and then said,
"Because they're rare?"
"No, they're not particularly rare, but de Beers know that by restricting supply you can demand a very high price. Hence their mines are carefully controlled with very high security. It works a treat and diamond merchants are very rich men."
"But oil isn't like diamonds."
"Why not? It can be made to be. People must have it (which is more than can be said for diamonds) and we can restrict it - well, we can now. Before the climate change scare public pressure would probably have broken any attempt at a cartel, but now we have grabbed the moral high ground - thanks to Mrs Thatcher. By restricting supply and increasing the price we are 'saving the planet' - and getting very rich to boot!"
"But is that being honest, I mean if it isn't actually true?" said the pink person.
"Who cares about truth? Why, even the climate scientists, who push our line on our grants (sure - we pay the tax and tell the government to give grants to these guys), don't bother about honest science. No, they cherry pick their data, fiddle their computer models and call it 'post normal science' and the Scrooges of this world fall at their feet and worship!"
"But aren't they good scientists? Surely they wouldn't behave like that?"
"Ha! Look, these guys were always mediocre scientists scratching around for research grants to pay their mortgages and feed their families. Some third rate universities saw a market niche with climate in the 1980s and essentially cornered the research by giving their political masters the kind of answers they wanted; this brought more funding as alarm was spread among the population who expected their politicians to 'save' them."
"You know when 'Global Warming' become an issue?" went on the boss.
"No. It must have been before I was born."
"Around 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell and the 'Red menace' evaporated. Leaders always need hobgoblins to frighten the populace. The Reds were gone, so Climate Change was seized on."
"But what about places like Africa? Don't they need cheap energy?"
"I am sure they do, but let me tell you a secret. World leaders don't want Africa to develop."
"What? Why not?"
"A number of reasons. Firstly, look at China and India; their economies are burgeoning and they already pose a huge threat to the wealth of the West in particular. They now make most of the things we want but we have very little that they want. For Mike's sake, pretty well all America's credit is Chinese money - they own America! If another continent got its act together the threat would seriously intensify. Now the West could do little about China and India - they are too big, but Africa is divided and can be more easily suppressed.
"Secondly a surprising number of greens and leaders of opinion want the population of the planet greatly reduced."
"But aren't there too many people?"
"Oh yes, that's been the message for some years now: we put out the 'five planets' myth which has been very successful. But the truth is that the planet can support the current population and more - if countries are allowed to develop. Development tends to naturally reduce population growth in the long term anyway. Look at Europe: its population is falling. Look at the USA: its has become static. But many think it might be quicker to see large areas depopulated through war, disease and famine. So NGOs and governments give 'aid' to Africa, but ensure that the aid cripples their ability to self determination and development; banning DDT and frustrating their use of fossil fuels has most certainly helped."
As he listened, for the first time Scrooge felt a qualm. Did the people he supported in his articles really think like this? Worse, did he think like this himself? He had to admit that sometimes he did, but surely not in those cynical terms? With this thought he tried to reassure himself.
"Time is short." said the Spirit.
Once more a starburst in his head and he found himself on his couch. "Bong!" sounded Big Ben.
He caught his breath just in time, for the door flew open yet again. The third spectre swept into the room.
Tall, grey, hooded and cloaked, the Spirit looked strangely dignified yet somehow indistinct. A shiver went through Scrooge. He was not having a good night.
Tremulously, after a terrifying silence, Scrooge said,
"Are you the Spirit of Climate yet to Come? Am I to see what will be? Will I see if all those predictions we made of tipping points and runaway warming come to pass? Will the planet be unbearably hot?"
There seemed to be no answer. But a shiver ran through Scrooge as once more he was airborne with this new and frightening Spirit.
In a kind of shock he realised he was looking down on a new London. It seemed dim, few lights glowed in or above the blizzard-swept streets. Huddled figures shuffled through the snow.
Then they were plunging towards a garret; they were inside watching a old lady preparing, it seemed, for bed. The contents of the room were meagre and shoddy. A tin of cocoa and a quarter-full bottle of milk stood on a table near the woman's chair. The woman was wizen and aged beyond her years, with watery eyes, a rattling chest in which every breath seemed a effort. She was wrapped up in sweaters and a rug, which was hanging about her with a sort of carelessness that betrayed her frailty.
The woman was struggling to rise from her chair. After several attempts she stood up and, with a pitiful shuffle and a shaking hand, took a mug to a tap and filled it with water. Returning laboriously to the table she added a teaspoon of cocoa and a dribble of milk, as if eking it out, and slowly stirred it. Collapsing into her chair once more she set about trying to arrange the rug around herself. So difficult did she find this that Scrooge felt compelled, out of sheer pity, to try and assist her - but found he was paralysed and unable to help: he had to watch the excruciating slowness of these arrangements until at last they were done and shakily she reached for her cocoa, gasping for each breath and cupping the mug in her mittened hands as if for its warmth. But Scrooge knew it was stone cold.
Then it seemed as if the woman began to speak, her watery eyes seemed fixed on his, her voice, though weak, clear as crystal in Scrooge's head.
"I was still a teacher when they passed the first Climate Bill. We taught our children how bad the grown-ups had been in using coal and oil and how that must be stopped or all the fluffy animals would drown. Too many believed us. Carbon rationing was introduced. Gangs of youths we had taught prowled the streets, smashing windows of shops or of residents who were known 'carbon abusers' - often beating them up.
"Then came the round-ups of the deniers, mostly dissident scientists at first then anyone who expressed doubts. Children would tip the police off if their parents expressed doubts, an idea first sponsored in schools by N-Power. The prisons overflowed, so they had to build the camps to put them in. In some countries they began executing persistent deniers. Many died anyway in the camps as they lost their carbon rations, but the leaders didn't mind - they said they had committed crimes against humanity.
"What fuel there was became very expensive, only the rich could afford it. Electricity doubled in price every year as one by one the coal, gas and oil-fired power stations were closed down. The government said that wind turbines would easily fill the gap. They were wrong.
"Alas! The wind turbine catastrophe. 'Green jobs for British people' said the government. But there were none. The turbine companies discovered that it was far cheaper to have them built in China and shipped to Britain and even installed by Chinese labour. The Chinese had more or less cornered the market in the rare metals needed for magnets and bearings so there was little choice anyway. The weather deteriorated, winters got progressively colder. The turbines constantly broke down, parts were slow in arriving, and they were breaking down faster than new turbines could be installed or the old ones repaired. As the winters got colder, the turbines failed to work at all: they iced up, the blades broke and before long, on land and sea, there were forests of useless towers, like a scene of shattered trees from a World War One battlefield."
Scrooge seemed to hear the echo of his own voice saying, "Are there no wind turbines? Are there no solar panels?"
The woman continued, "Then China refused Britain any more credit and stopped supplying altogether. Britain's industry had long since evaporated, its infrastructure - drains, trains, water and hospitals, operated, when they operated at all, like in a Third World country.
"Long power cuts became the norm. A new campaign was introduced. It was called 10:10 - ten hours on; ten hours off - if, that is, you could afford it.
"The banning of the airfreighting of food from Africa (or anywhere) and the compulsory introduction of organic farming caused the price of food in Britain to sky-rocket. Farmers had little fuel and were forced back to using horses. Crops failed with increasing frequency as the growing season shortened. Once again the poor were the victims. If they didn't perish from cold, they starved to death".
"It has been getting colder now for thirty years. Still they told us that the bad weather was caused by Man-made Global Warming and yet more carbon cuts were required. Anyone who started having more than one child was forced to have an abortion - to save the carbon footprint - they said. Reports came from Africa that the closure of the farms with the collapse of the export market had been killing them in the hundreds of thousands, anarchy reigned unchecked. But nobody seemed to care anymore.
"Why had no one prepared us for the cold? Why have so many died before their time?"
Her eyes flashed at Scrooge.
"Because we believed the Climate alarmists; and soon after there was no one else left to challenge them. They had either been imprisoned or were dead."
The old lady's eyes seemed to bore into Scrooge. But suddenly her mug slipped from her hands and crashed to the floor, she gave a croaking gasp and light faded from her eyes.
A terrible sob which had been building in Scrooge burst out of him. He wept uncontrollably.
After what seemed an age, he turned to the Spirit of Climate yet to Come, and haltingly said, "O Spirit, who does not speak! Must these things be? Can't it be stopped?"
The Spirit gave no reply.
But with a flourish of the Spirit's cloak Scrooge found himself back on his couch. He was shivering, not just from cold but also from the horror and pity of what he just had witnessed.
On the floor by his couch lay an open book which Scrooge did not at first recognise. Closer examination showed it to be an old Bible. He must have had one in his shelves, but he'd never looked at it before tonight. He read the first lines on the open page:
"And Zacchaeus stood, and said to the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold."
And Jesus said to him, "This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
Gripped with a strange conviction, Scrooge leapt from the couch. "I can do something!" he said out loud. "Surely the Spirit showed me what might be, not what would be? It can be stopped. It must be stopped. I must get to work."
He went to his desk, grabbed a pencil and started to make notes:
1. Find out who those men were and see what can be done for their work.
2. My article for the day after Boxing Day? - with editor! - Cancel!
3. Write new article and send to editor - tell him it'll be a headline grabber!
He turned on his computer, opened a page and began to type:
I have an astonishing story to tell.
It was Christmas Eve...
With apologies to Charles Dickens,
who must be getting used to this sort of thing by now!
This story is a fable. But every statement about the climate issue, political or scientific is based on facts. Either the facts of climate and paleoclimate or 'facts' in the sense of public statements, in print or in public speeches, made by politicians, opinion formers, such as the IPCC and others in the public eye. Many of these people seem to live in a curious world where such outrageous statements and views are considered perfectly normal. Most of these people would be faintly surprised if their statements were challenged as being morally repugnant.
author While the Earth Endures: Creation, Cosmology and Climate Change