Letter not published in New Scientist

In your special (21 May) report on denial you speak of “climate deniers”. This is a curious term  (who denies the existence of climate?) that appears to be deployed to smear reputable scientists who react sceptically to the “hockey stick” peddled by Sir John Houghton and  the IPCC.

You (Jim Giles page 42) ride to the defence of Sir John, former chair of the IPCC, who denies ever having said, “Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”. Apparently no one can trace the source of this quotation so you denounce it as a denialist smear.

Here are some things he has said, on a record (Sunday Telegraph interview 10.9.95) from which he has not resiled.

“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster.”

And who might be responsible for this disaster? Apparently not just us: “God tries to coax and woo, but he also uses disasters. Human sin may be involved; the effect will be the same.”

And “God does show anger. When He appeared to Elijah there was earthquake wind and fire.”

Perhaps your readers can spot the difference between Sir John Houghton’s non-alarmist scientific take on climate change and that of a Muslim cleric who was recently widely reported (e.g. Iranian cleric: Promiscuity, sin cause earthquakes but God may be holding his fire) to have attributed the risk of earthquakes in Iran to sin – in the form of loose women wearing short skirts.

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