Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Fight Against Climate Science. Why is Italy at the Forefront of the Battle?

The Italian Right sees climate science denial as a political weapon

The full page of a few days ago of the Italian newspaper "Libero Quotidiano" with interviews with three Italian scientists (Crescenti, Scafetta, and Battaglia) opposing climate science. The title says "scientists rebel against the climate catastrophists." As a newspaper, "Libero" is probably at an even lower level than that of such wonders of the gutter press as the "Daily Mail" in Britain and the "National Enquirer" in the US. The problem is that what we read on Libero now may be the harbinger of worse to come

Sometimes, my American friends tell me how lucky I am because I live in a country where the top politicians haven't embraced climate science denial as they did in the US. It must be wonderful, they say, not to have a president like Mr. Trump, nor to have to expose yourself to the hate of the deniers for expressing your opinions on climate.

It is true that, so far, Italy has managed to escape the worst political monstrosities that took over the debate on climate in the US. So far, most high-ranking Italian politicians maintained a low profile, preferring to have climate science attacked by lower level henchmen of theirs. The same strategy has been used by most European politicians.

But, clearly, things are changing: climate is becoming a politically explosive issue. Some lobbies are starting to understand that they are going to lose big if something serious is ever done to face the climate crisis, and they react by anti-science propaganda campaigns. Even ordinary citizens are starting to perceive that their economic (maybe also physical) survival is at stake. Many of them tend to react with the first of the five stages of grief: denying the existence of the problem. And the right is starting to consider if they can profit from the situation to obtain political gains.

Italy seems to be at the forefront of the trend. Immediately after the recent regional elections, a setback for the right, the Italian Right-Wing Media started a new campaign that targeted climate science. Earlier on, they had managed to find a small group of scientists who were willing to declare that climate change doesn't exist, or that it is not a problem, or that it is an excuse to have us pay more taxes, you know, the usual arguments. A declaration in this sense obtained less than 100 signatures, mostly by retired geologists and people with no formal qualifications in science. It was diffused also outside Italy, where it gained some 500 signatures. (read here the details, in Italian).

This story is now all over the right-wing newspapers again, together with daily attacks against Greta Thunberg, part of an ongoing smear campaign against climate science. All this is remarkable: even in Trumpland, there doesn't appear to exist such kind of politically coordinated action against science that makes use of a group of elder scientists who, apparently, don't care about destroying their own reputations. So, why is this happening in Italy?

Right now, Italy could be defined as a backwater province of the Global Empire. But it is far to be a quiet backwater: quite the opposite. Social tensions are on the rise, the economy is not going well, unemployment is widespread, politicians are as bad as they may be, and struggling to become even worse. On top of all that, Italians score poorly with literacy and numeracy skills.  Most Italians can read and write, but their ability to understand a written text is low. In short, Italians are angry and they can't understand what's hitting them. They are the ideal target for the kind of hate campaigns that target someone or something as being the "enemies of the people" to be eliminated.

Several targets for a major hate campaign seem to be under testing: immigrants, Muslims, intellectuals, Communists, Angela Merkel, the Euro, the European Union, the banks, and more. And, of course, also climate science and climate scientists. The tests are being performed right in front of us and we'll see how effective the campaign against science will be. If it is successful, it may teach a thing or two to right-wing organizations in other countries.

There have been other occasions in history for Italy to be a laboratory to test new political ideas. It happened when Machiavelli experimented for the first time with the idea of a "citizen army," later on with Mussolini and his Fascist party, then with Berlusconi and his media-based political success, and more. So, it will be interesting to see how the climate debate evolves in Italy in the near future. And, as usual, living in interesting times is a curse.


  1. I am not seeing a coherent climate plan coming out of the movement. If the plan were sound then denialist would have a much harder time. In fact, I see denial out of the climate movement with their so-called solutions. Many of these claimed solutions are a scientific farce when reality tested with economics and systemness. The ecology of some of the plans is plain dirty and destructive. We have our best and brightest scientist proposing technologically dubious plans. These plans are pushing science that has not been proven. They are not realistic with affordability. The scale of these proposals is monstrous. The ideas of how humans should live in these new worlds is unrealistic.

    I will admit renewables have a place as an extender of our modern way of life. We can get greener with them. Please don’t tell me EV’s are green because they are not. You can’t green the car culture. Then there is the Degrowthers who speak about a circular economy. I love the idea of it but degrowth means collapse economically. How “collapsed” is a big question but there will be no circular economy except at very small scales. So, our climate lefties are plenty at fault for denial it is just on the other side of the discussion.

    Denying climate science is very hard to do and remain legitimate. Yet is it legitimate to dream up all kinds of wild solutions to the climate problems ahead? This is OK because it is said that we must be optimistic. We should be like they were in WWII with a Green New Deal and so forth. Let’s be like Kennedy and propose a moon landing. We can do it if we try type thing. Has anyone ever thought that maybe this is just digging the hole deeper? Finally, man has hit the brick wall but nobody will admit it. Will more techno solutions and more behavioral delusions going to make this tragedy better? I don’t think so.

    There is nothing I see out there that says we can cut emissions and clean up our activity by 2050 or even 2080. People like to think we can advance technologically and solve the problem because that is what we have done. How about just admitting defeat? Start outfitting lifeboats for adapting and mitigating the coming destructive period. How about hospices of meaning where people talk about decline and collapse? To be fair such discussions are not possible so I guess by default the climate movement wins. Yet, they do not win on merit but instead only default. Yes, climate deniers are wrong I agree but don’t tell me climate movement hype and expect me to agree. What happens if you don’t agree with these green radicals? If you don’t agree then they called you a climate denier or better yet a Trumper.

    I am outfitting my life for decline. I invested in solar and many other green strategies. I am also adapting behavior. I am doing it for what I feel is the right reason and that is green prepping. I want to live locally so I am investing in scalability of a way of life post peak modernism. I am a tree hugger and believe in localism but I do not care for the climate movement. They are barking up a tree like lunatics. They are better than the browns but not by much. This whole show is going to crash green or brown.

  2. While that might be true and regrettable, most italians really ignore their politicians as the corrupt crooks they are.

    So regardless of policies, it seems to me that actually Italy is not that bad in installing regenerative energy production, especially solar panels. Today 8% of italia electricity is PV-Produced. It could certainly be much more if politics would support it, nevertheless, 8% is not too terrible.

  3. Thanks for this ! I only note that DOING (progressing in industry, involving skilled workers and pushing private investment against some social dividend) is better than BEING STUCK, in the BAU. We need some adequate strategists (such as James Meade) to download the KNOW-HOW which is missing

  4. They can come to Italy too and than I would ask Italian scientists if there is climate change:

  5. I hope that the facts will be accepted by a majority of Italians, before anything like the fires in Australia happens to Italy...
    Thanks for the contribution and information.

  6. In Australia the facts are routinely dismissed by the conservative government/murdoch alliance as merely an opinion of tainted provenance.

    Having successfully demonised nature advocates as anti-humanity, for 40% of conservative voters any greenie association is now code for moron who caused the wildfires.

    Regarding facts, not to mention the contribution of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science research agency since 1916 or the Bureau of Meteorology - Australia's national weather, climate and water agency since 1955, witness a conservative government senator on national TV last Sunday:
    Liberal senator Jim Molan elicited howls of anger from the audience for saying climate change may not be caused by humans and he was keeping an “open mind”.

    “I accept the climate is changing,” Molan said. “It has changed and it will change. What it’s producing is hotter and drier weather and a hotter and drier country.

    “As to whether it is human-induced climate change … my mind is open.”
    Discussing whether climate crisis was human-induced, Molan uttered the line of the night: “I’m not relying on evidence”

    “And I respect very much scientific opinion but every day across my desk comes enough information for me to say that there are other opinions.”

    Macdonald asked him once again “what is the evidence you are relying on?” to which the Senator responded, “I’m not relying on evidence, Hamish”.

    ..and so to lift our mood, cartoon of the week ("First Dog on the Moon" is a long running political satire cartoon with a stoic ethos, this week promoting a rally at the national parliment.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)