Matt Ridley is, once again, complaining that the climate change lobby wants to kill free speech (you can read it here). What it mainly seems to illustrate is that Matt Ridley doesn’t really understand the concept of free speech.
One example that Matt Ridley provides is a letter from some scientists in the House of Lords, to the editor of the Times. Matt Ridley says that this letter
denounced the two articles about studies by mainstream academics in the scientific literature, which provided less than alarming assessments of climate change.
One of the articles discussed this report which was so ridiculous, it was mocked on Twitter. Describing it as providing a less than alarming assesment of climate change is either wilfully disingenuous, or illustrates how clueless Matt Ridley really is (one should note that the report in question was funded by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, of which Matt Ridley is an Academic Advisor). It has also never appeared in the scientific literature; well, not what I would regard as the scientific literature.
He then goes on to promote the, apparently poorly funded, Global Warming Policy Foundation, saying
The GWPF often draws attention to the many studies ignored by greens that suggest climate change is not so dangerous, and to the economic and environmental harm done by climate policies.
When I cover this topic I am vilified as on no other subject,
Well, maybe what he said earlier illustrates why. If he wants to argue that reducing poverty and dealing with other issues in the developing world should be done by using cheap fossil fuels (as he does) he really should do so in light of all the available evidence. Cherry-picking evidence that appears to support his policy preference is something that – IMO – should be criticised. That the changes that could occur due to our continued emission of CO2 might produce less severe impacts than we currently think, is not really an argument for ignoring that the impacts may well be severe and that we should really consider doing something to address this.
You might argue that those who support climate action are essentially doing the same by focusing on the evidence that suggests that the impacts could be severe and damaging. Well, this seems pretty understandable; if there is a chance of bad things happening, the tendency will be to consider the probability of these outcomes, and whether or not we should do anything to minimise the chances of them happening. It’s not typical to argue that these bad things might not happen and that we should therefore base our actions on this possibility. There is only one actual future and the evidence suggests that the changes that do occur will likely be irreversible on human timescales; we don’t easily get to reverse them if the decisions we do make turn out to be less than optimal.
The rest of his article is just a repeat of pretty standard “skeptic” themes. People who criticise Ridley, and other “skeptics”, are apparently bullies who want to close down the debate. Considering that maybe what he’s promoting is, at best, a cherry-pick and, at worst, wrong, doesn’t seem to cross his mind. You really get the impression that he thinks that free speech means that he should get to promote his views without criticism; don’t those who disagree with him have the right to speak too? This is maybe the most irritating thing about his whole article. By arguing that those critical of what “skeptics” promote in public are trying to kill free speech, he’s essentially trying to deligitimise their arguments on the basis of them violating something that we regard as a fundamental part of our democracies. This seems to be much more of an attempt to kill free speech than anything those he’s criticising have done.