MURIEL NEWMAN: Questioning Climate Change
On June 22, 1633, at a time when heretics were being burnt at the stake, Galileo, the Astronomer, Physicist, and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pisa, was charged by the Inquisition with heresy for writing a book that claimed the earth orbited the sun. Having been warned 18 years earlier against promoting such views, he was ordered to recant:
“I, Galileo Galilei… of Florence, seventy years old, arraigned personally for judgment, kneeling before you Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals, Inquisitors General against heretical depravity in all of Christendom… whereas, after having been judicially instructed with an injunction by the Holy Office to abandon completely the false opinion that the sun is the center of the world and does not move and the earth is not the center of the world and moves, and not to hold, defend, or teach this false doctrine in any way whatever, orally or in writing; and after having been notified that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scripture; I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, namely of having held and believed that the sun is the center of the world and motionless and the earth is not the center and moves…. …with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the abovementioned … I wrote and published a book in which I treat of this already condemned doctrine… I, Galileo Galilei, have abjured as above, by my own hand.”
Renouncing his own scientific findings, Galileo was sentenced to house arrest, where he stayed until his death in 1642.
According to the New York Times, it was not until October 31, 1992 that the Catholic Church officially recognised its wrongdoing: “Moving formally to rectify a wrong, Pope John Paul II acknowledged in a speech today that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in condemning Galileo 359 years ago for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The address by the Pope before the Pontifical Academy of Sciences closed a 13-year investigation into the Church's condemnation of Galileo in 1633.”
Today the religious order is climate change and the public denunciation of National MP Maureen Pugh came from her leader Christopher Luxon. Her offence was daring to ask Climate Minister James Shaw for evidence that Cyclone Gabrielle was caused by man-made climate change.
The heresy arose when MPs were asked by the media whether climate change had made the recent cyclones and flooding more extreme.
Maureen Pugh said she believed in climate change, but was yet to be convinced human activity was a contributor: “It's not what I think, it's what I can prove. I have yet to see the evidence from Climate Change Minister James Shaw where one of our local councils wrote to him and asked him for the evidence. I'm not denying climate change, I've seen the evidence of it, we have cooled and warmed, cooled and warmed over millions of years.”
Her statement that she wanted to see the Minister’s evidence that human induced greenhouse gas emissions had contributed to the extreme weather events was perfectly reasonable given that most of the areas that flooded, had a history of flooding - including prior to intensive industrialisation - with some records dating back to the 1800s.
This is especially the case with the Esk Valley in the Hawke’s Bay, where significant resources have been ploughed into flood protection measures over the years, with on-going recommendations strongly advising against residential development in flood plain areas.
James Shaw responded to Maureen Pugh’s question with evasion: “I am honestly not interested in wasting time responding to people who don't believe in science”.
But rather than holding the Minister to account for his failure to provide the evidence, the media turned on the MP who had the temerity to ask the question they should have been asking – and her Party.
Instead of batting away the resulting media attack, by explaining that National is a broad-church party that believes in the fundamental importance of the freedom of expression, Party leader Christopher Luxon threw his MP under the bus, publicly belittling her and forcing her to recant.
Like Galileo, Maureen Pugh retracted: “I regret that my comments were unclear and would have led some to think that I am questioning the causes of climate change. That is clearly not my position. I accept the scientific consensus that human induced climate change is real and there is a need to curb greenhouse gas emissions. We are seeing the impact of climate change in the cyclone that has devastated so much of New Zealand.”
Unlike Galileo, Maureen wasn’t placed under house arrest, but was instructed to “re-educate” herself by reading books advocating anthropogenic global warming.
In his haste to condemn his MP, Christopher Luxon missed a crucial point: Maureen Pugh was speaking for many people when she asked James Shaw for evidence.
In fact, a growing number of New Zealanders are now challenging the alarmist prophecies of the global warming priesthood – as noted by left wing political commentator Chris Trotter: “It is only slowly dawning on climate change activists that the fight against global warming is lost. Locally, Cyclone Gabrielle has rendered their cause hopeless. By insisting that Gabrielle is slam-dunk proof that climate change is real, and demanding immediate action to mitigate its impact, the activists have, politically-speaking, over-sold their case. The idea of mitigating a weather event as destructive as Gabrielle will strike most people as nuts. If this is what global warming looks like, then most New Zealanders will want their government to help them adapt to it as soon as humanly possible. Increasingly, politicians and activists who bang-on about reducing emissions and modifying human behaviour will be laughed-off the political stage. It will be the parties that offer the most practical and responsibly-funded adaptation policies that win the elections of the future – including the one scheduled for October 14 2023.
“The other, even bigger, problem facing the mitigators – especially in New Zealand – is this country’s infinitesimal contribution to climate change. Kiwis and their industries pump out just 0.17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and yet the mitigators keep telling them to completely change their economy, and the lifestyle it funds, so as to keep some barmy promise that all the largest greenhouse gas emitters are happy to break every single day. Since the Paris Climate Accords of 2016… the human species is burning more coal, more oil, and more natural gas than ever before. So, how likely is it that New Zealand pulling on a metaphorical hair-shirt and crying ‘Follow our mitigation example!’ is going to stop them?”
Climate commentator Ian Bradford also weighed into the debate with article explaining how cyclones form, that cites NASA to make the point that Cyclone Gabrielle was a one-off weather event, not an example of climate change: “No weather by itself is evidence of global climate change as the test is whether the weather adds to a new weather pattern over many years or even millennia.”
Ian also describes what happens to those that challenge the climate religion and the gravy train it has spawned: “We have just seen an example of what has happened all around the world when someone - usually a scientist, dared question the so called ‘settled science’ that humans are responsible for climate change. By now, thousands of honest scientists have lost their jobs, been victimised, and bullied because they have dared to speak out. After Maureen Pugh wanted to see the evidence that humans were causing climate change, she received the same treatment from a range of Parliamentarians who haven’t an ounce of science between them. Then the science illiterate media got in on the act too.”
Like many New Zealanders, journalist and former newspaper editor Karl du Fresne was incensed at the way National’s leader treated his MP - but he believes fear of the media is at the heart of this debacle: “When confronted by scalp-hunting political journalists about Pugh’s supposed climate-change heresy, Luxon could have casually waved it away. But he didn’t. He responded exactly as the media hoped and gave them the ‘Gotcha!’ moment they wanted.
“I think the underlying problem here is that Luxon is scared of the media and allows himself to be intimidated. Political journalists play him like a fiddle and end up effectively dictating the political agenda. This is no basis for a healthy democracy. Luxon seems to lack the guts or confidence to stand up for principled conservative positions, fearing that the left-leaning media will punish him.”
The extreme left-wing bias of the media and the fact that most politicians are not strong enough to stand up to them is indeed a major problem for New Zealand.
In his analysis of last year’s Massey University “Worlds of Journalism Study”, political commentator Frank Newman pointed out that journalists no longer see themselves as “non-biased neutral observers”, but instead believe “their role is to change the opinion of their audience”. He explains that about a third of journalists admit to having “hard-core left-wing beliefs”, which shows the “industry is now highly populated with extreme socialists intent on re-educating their audience towards their form of left-wing ideology”.
In his analysis of the politicisation of climate change, this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, the former Judge and Law Lecturer Anthony Willy, outlines the damaging consequences of the National Party’s Inquisition of Maureen Pugh:
“Social media has been alive with this issue and the response has been uniformly critical of the modern- day Inquisition. The commentary has been articulate and considered and one can fairly suppose that many of the contributors are heartland National voters. The word on the street is unanimous, they will vote for their National member but their Party vote will go elsewhere probably to ACT.
“It is unimaginably stupid for National to find itself in this position over such a fundamental matter as freedom of thought. Not only is Maureen’s response protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights but her right to express her opinions are part of National’s raison d'être. The election is theirs to lose - very few voters want a return of the tribal Marxists, but neither do they want such a heavy-handed medieval response to freedom of speech in such a contestable matter.”
Ignoring the fact that only three percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is produced by mankind, while ninety-seven percent comes from natural sources, National’s leader Christopher Luxon is on record as saying, “You can't be living in the 21st century and deny that human-induced climate change is real.”
He doesn’t seem to understand that “climate change” is a Trojan Horse that is being used by the left to undermine the free market economy – as Chris Trotter points out: “It has not helped the mitigators’ cause that so many of them seem to be located on the left of the political spectrum… for them global warming has always been the most wonderful excuse for imposing the sort of regime that nobody who believes in individual rights, private property, and the Rule of Law would ever willingly submit to. For far too many climate activists, mitigation has always been a Trojan Horse.”
With Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also declaring that climate change is “absolutely man-made”, through his woke virtue signalling Christopher Luxon is failing to differentiate National from Labour on a range of key issues.
By attacking Maureen Pugh instead of defending free speech and criticising the Climate Change Minister, National is in danger of sleepwalking their way to another three years in opposition. Not only that, but they are leaving the door wide open for sensible politicians to explain to New Zealanders that Labour has pushed the country too far down the climate mitigation rabbit hole, and that what the cyclone and the floods have shown us only too clearly, is that as a nation, our focus instead should be on adaptation, so we can build greater resilience to the natural disasters that will undoubtedly confront us in the future.
Dr Muriel Newman established the New Zealand Centre for Political Research as a public policy think tank in 2005 after nine years as a Member of Parliament. A former Chamber of Commerce President, her background is in business and education.