A penguin looks at the MV Akademik Shokalskiy carrying the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Photograph: Laurence Topham for the Guardian
Yes, yes, just to get the obligatory ‘of courses’ out of the way up front: of course ‘weather’ is not the same as ‘climate’; and of course the thickest iciest ice on record could well be evidence of ‘global warming’, just as 40-and-sunny and a 35-below blizzard and 12 degrees and partly cloudy with occasional showers are all apparently manifestations of ‘climate change’; and of course the global warm-mongers are entirely sincere in their belief that the massive carbon footprint of their rescue operation can be offset by the planting of wall-to-wall trees the length and breadth of Australia, Britain, America and continental Europe.
But still: you’d have to have a heart as cold and unmovable as Commonwealth Bay ice not to be howling with laughter at the exquisite symbolic perfection of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition ‘stuck in our own experiment’, as they put it. I confess I was hoping it might all drag on a bit longer and the cultists of the ecopalypse would find themselves drawing straws as to which of their number would be first on the roasting spit. On Douglas Mawson’s original voyage, he and his surviving comrade wound up having to eat their dogs. I’m not sure there were any on this expedition, so they’d probably have to make do with the Guardian reporters. Forced to wait a year to be rescued, Sir Douglas later recalled, ‘Several of my toes commenced to blacken and fester near the tips.’ Now there’s a man who’s serious about reducing his footprint.
But alas, eating one’s shipmates and watching one’s extremities drop off one by one is not a part of today’s high-end eco-doom tourism. Instead, the ice-locked warmists uploaded chipper selfies to YouTube, as well as a self-composed New Year singalong of such hearty un-self-awareness that it enraged even such party-line climate alarmists as Andrew Revkin, the plonkingly earnest enviro-blogger of the New York Times. A mere six weeks ago, pumping out the usual boosterism, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that, had Captain Scott picked his team as carefully as Professor Chris Turney, he would have survived. Sadly, we’ll never know — although I’ll bet Captain Oates would have been doing his ‘I am going out. I may be some time’ line about eight bars into that New Year number.
Unlike Scott, Amundsen and Mawson, Professor Turney took his wife and kids along for the ride. And his scientists were outnumbered by wealthy tourists paying top dollar for the privilege of cruising the end of the world. In today’s niche-market travel industry, the Antarctic is a veritable Club Dread for upscale ecopalyptics: think globally, cruise icily. The year before the Akademik Shokalskiy set sail, as part of Al Gore’s ‘Living On Thin Ice’ campaign (please, no tittering; it’s so puerile; every professor of climatology knows that the thickest ice ever is a clear sign of thin ice, because as the oceans warm, glaciers break off the Himalayas and are carried by El Ninja down the Gore Stream past the Cape of Good Horn where they merge into the melting ice sheet, named after the awareness-raising rapper Ice Sheet…
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, as part of his ‘Living On Thin Ice’ campaign, Al Gore’s own luxury Antarctic vessel boasted a line-up of celebrity cruisers unseen since the 1979 season finale of The Love Boat — among them the actor Tommy Lee Jones, the pop star Jason Mraz, the airline entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, the director of Titanic James Cameron, and the Bangladeshi minister of forests Somebody Wossname. If Voyage of the Gored had been a conventional disaster movie like The Poseidon Adventure, the Bangladeshi guy would have been the first to drown, leaving only the Nobel-winning climatologist (Miley Cyrus) and the maverick tree-ring researcher (Ben Affleck) to twerk their way through the ice to safety. Instead, and very regrettably, the SS Gore made it safely home, and it fell to Professor Turney’s ship to play the role of our generation’s Titanic. Unlike the original, this time round the chaps in the first-class staterooms were rooting for the iceberg: as the expedition’s marine ecologist Tracy Rogers told the BBC, ‘I love it when the ice wins and we don’t.’ Up to a point. Like James Cameron’s Titanic toffs, the warm-mongers stampeded for the first fossil-fuelled choppers off the ice, while the Russian crew were left to go down with the ship, or at any rate sit around playing cards in the hold for another month or two.
But unlike you flying off to visit your Auntie Mabel for a week, it’s all absolutely vital and necessary. In the interests of saving the planet, IPCC honcho Rajendra Pachauri demands the introduction of punitive aviation taxes and hotel electricity allowances to deter the masses from travelling, while he flies 300,000 miles a year on official ‘business’ and research for his recent warmographic novel in which a climate activist travels the world bedding big-breasted women who are amazed by his sustainable growth. (Seriously: ‘He removed his clothes and began to feel Sajni’s body, caressing her voluptuous breasts.’ But don’t worry; every sex scene is peer-reviewed.) No doubt his next one will boast an Antarctic scene: Is that an ice core in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?
The AAE is right: the warm-mongers are indeed ‘stuck in our own experiment’. Frozen to their doomsday narrative like Jeff Daniels with his tongue stuck to the ski lift in Dumb and Dumber, the Big Climate enforcers will still not brook anyone rocking their boat. In December 2008 Al Gore predicted the ‘entire North Polar ice cap will be gone in five years’. That would be December last year. Oh, sure, it’s still here, but he got the general trend-line correct, didn’t he? Arctic sea ice, December 2008: 12.5 million square kilometres; Arctic sea ice, December 2013: 12.5 million square kilometres.
Big Climate is slowly being crushed by a hard, icy reality: if you’re heading off to university this year, there has been no global warming since before you were in kindergarten. That’s to say, the story of the early 21st century is that the climate declined to follow the climate ‘models’. (Full disclosure: I’m currently being sued by Dr Michael Mann, creator of the most famously alarming graph, the ‘hockey stick’.) You would think that might occasion a little circumspection. But instead the cultists up the ante: having evolved from ‘global warming’ to the more flexible ‘climate change’, they’re now moving on to ‘climate collapse’. Total collapse. No climate at all. No sun, no ice. No warm fronts, except for the heaving bosoms in Rajendra Pachauri’s bodice-rippers. Nothing except the graphs and charts of ‘settled science’. In the Antarctic wastes of your mind, it’s easier just to ice yourself in.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 11 January 2014