2011-02-19 12:17:26Another "State of Fear"? It's called "The Heretic" (I kid you not!)


Another work of fiction that might be every bit as damaging as an article, or worse: A British playwright is promoting skeptical perspectives in a way similar to Michael Crighton's novel, State of Fear. Here's a write-up on it from The Economist:


Cue rain, gales, apocalypse (maybe)

Climate change arrives on the London stage

Green theatre

THE frisson of Armageddon is again running through the stalls: London is awash with plays about climate change. At the National Theatre, “Greenland” gives audiences a stern warning against inaction on global warming. Meanwhile, at the Royal Court, “The Heretic” sketches the countervailing dangers of groupthink for an academic who disagrees with climate-change orthodoxy. “Earthquakes in London”, which prophesies climate-doom in the city, was a hit at the National last year; more environmental dramas are coming to smaller theatres soon.

Art has tackled man-made threats to the planet since the Old Testament. During the cold war, theatre learned to love the bomb and its moral complexities, in plays such as Sir Tom Stoppard’s “Hapgood” and Michael Frayn’s “Copenhagen”. Climate change has already established itself as a dystopic heir to nuclear war in cinema, in films such as “The Day After Tomorrow”. Dramatists seem to have been inhibited by the subject’s technical density. But now it has reached the London stage.

Some critics have complained that “Greenland” is hysterically alarmist. Matt Charman, one of its writers, argues that “Not engaging with the subject would be the real failure for a national theatre.” Throughout the evening, theatre-goers are lashed with rain made of paper (recycled), while characters discuss climate-change “denial” and rebuke the audience for its un-green habits.

The heretical Ms Stevenson

“The Heretic” is a rival to “Greenland” intellectually as well as politically. It opened on February 10th, starring Juliet Stevenson (pictured) as a professor doubtful about climate change, which puts her on the wrong side of received opinion in her department, earning the enmity of her ethically flexible boss and colleagues. A script full of digs at green complacency has delighted climate-change sceptics, who often complain that their case is denied a proper hearing.

Richard Bean, who wrote the play, has a record of controversy: his drama about racism, “England People Very Nice”, was denounced by some for reinforcing stereotypes rather than challenging them. Now he has courted another fierce argument. He says “The Heretic” is “meant to show how government and the mainstream media have adopted an unproven hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, as if it were undisputed.” The backlash was predictably swift: Fred Pearce, an environmental campaigner and author, damned the play as a “boorish and confected conspiracy tale”.

It turns out that theatre can make drama out of climate change. But it seems to generate more heat than light.


One doesn't know how successful this play will be; SkS readers will probably remember that Crichton parlayed his novel into a passport into the White House as the only global-warming expert that George W. Bush consulted. This play might deserve as much focused attention as Monckton.

Or maybe not: Maybe we should ignore it unless it gains some traction. It would be a new cultural dimension to consider. Probably some care would be needed: We would again have to focus on what he gets wrong in the science, not on his right to write it. 

(But, "The Heretic"? Give me a break!)


2011-02-19 12:43:01Pearce
Dana Nuccitelli
Boy if it's too denialist for Pearce, that's a bad sign.
2011-02-23 14:53:21
Andy S


I posted on this a few days ago  at DeepClimate.

Pearce's objection to the play has to be read in the context of the Guardian article. He hates the play because he thinks the real Judith Curry story is so much more interesting.

2011-02-23 18:51:11


Yes, probably the Judith Curry story is more interesting: I have a general sense, not based on anything very definite, that we are not going to be fighting over the science of AGW for more than about five years. That's soon enough that most of the characters will still be around. I expect:

- Lindzen will retire and disappear.

- Spencer and Christy will go quiet on controversy, but continue doing measurements.

- Singer: He will move on to the next anti-ecological issue de jour: Maybe on the exaggerated dangers of radwastes?

- Motl: Assuming he remains out of the string-theory scene, he will become increasingly incoherent and irrelevant. He will create a tiny school of "advanced thinkers" in Czechoslovakia, with lots of internal drama; it will eventually self-destruct.

- Curry: I foresee something darker. She will have burnt all her bridges in all directions, but will be too young to retire. As a best case: She could leave academia and go into politics or think-tankery. Darth Vader?