(This article was first published on 7 April 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)
Cape Town’s former deputy mayor Grant Haskin has been roasted online for posting fakes news about climate change and denying its existence yesterday.
Haskin posted an article titled “40 New Scientific Papers Say Global Warming Does not Exist” via the website YourNewsWire yesterday morning.
He wrote a message with his post on his Facebook profile: “Hundreds of scientists involved in 40 recent scientific papers say the scare about global warming is based on hysteria and false science”.
But the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) politician deleted the post soon after it was pointed out to him that it was fake news. This has not altered his denialism of climate change though.
Haskin said in an interview with Weekend Argus yesterday that climate change supporters needed to “grow up” and were “barking up the wrong tree” after attacking him online for refusing to accept their position.
“I wonder why these people are so rabid. The type of reaction was immediate. These people are barking up the wrong tree if they want to blame me for not accepting the term. They must all grow up,” said Haskin.
He added: “Climate change as a term, I am not one of those who uses that term. I don’t think it has the type of consensus that is claimed. I’m skeptical about that.
“I found this view comes with a backlash from those who have embraced that terminology. They (who believe in climate change) are completely and utterly intolerant and want to burn you at the stake if you don’t agree with them.
“Somebody feels cold in the morning and they blame it on climate change. What nonsense is that? This is how things have been. Really, come on.”
Ryan Fortune, spokesman for the African Climate & Development Initiative (ACDI), accused Haskin of being “irresponsible”. ACDI is the University of Cape Town’s “active response to the climate change and development challenge”.
“He represents a political party which has followers. He has a responsibility that what he puts out there is based on scientific fact. He is in leadership and says that human-based climate change does not exist, which is exactly what (US president) Donald Trump is saying,” said Fortune.
Fortune said it was also irresponsible to “stir doubt” about climate change while Cape Town was experiencing drought.
“We are dealing with rainfall patterns disrupted, water shortages and farmers needing to plant crops in different seasons. Climate scientists have been looking at these patterns over decades and have been warning us of changing weather patterns,” said Fortune.
“We don’t even know if we will get rain this winter to boost dam levels. We have had drought over the last three years and it looks likes chances of us not getting rain this year is high.”
Haskin, who is the ACDP’s caucus leader in the City of Cape Town council, meanwhile said his views on climate change aligned with his party.
“The ACDP has a position on climate change. We don’t believe it is man made. The ACDP believes the climate s cyclical. There’s doubt around as to whether climate change is man made and its extent and harms,” he said.
“I don’t agree that climate change is the cause of our drought. We have had water shortages and droughts in the Cape… recorded ten years after (Dutch colonizer Jan) van Riebeeck landed in the Cape. None of these were blamed on climate change.”
Fortune said Haskin presented the classic “cycles of denialists”.
“They quote a couple of studies that say the climate has always been changing. Then they have this position that there’s no consensus on climate change. They don’t want to disprove it,” said Fortune.
“They want to simply create doubt so that policymakers don’t deal with the problem. And them companies get more leeway to abuse the environment. It’s dangerous to ourselves and future generations. We need to challenge this.”
Despite being a climate change denialist, Haskin said he was a staunch environmentalist.
“Everybody’s effort is to reduce the population’s impact on the earth. We are all looking at alternative power and modes of transport and how we need to reduce the impact of gas guzzling vehicles on climate and the atmosphere,” he said.
“We are all saying the same thing. It’s not sustainable and we all need to work together. For people to now be pointing fingers at me because I don’t agree with a term that people are using is irrelevant.”
By late yesterday various voices had become drawn into the climate change debate online. Most comments were aimed at debunking Haskin’s denialist claims.
Tasneem Essop, a former provincial environment minister, told Haskin to “open your mind to the evidence and refrain from referring to climate change as mumbo jumbo”.
“I would argue that a public representative should not be promoting dogma nor peddle falsehoods, but rather be open to evidence-based conclusions. And the science is clear about this,” she said.
“The problem with your approach is that it does an immense disservice to the millions and millions of poor and vulnerable people across the world who are and will be bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change… just look at the physical evidence already.”