It's not often that TV can devote time to probing the facts 'n' figures behind the claims of an organisation such as XR, but the BBC managed this on 9 October when Andrew Neil interviewed Zion Lights (nb, their forename rhymes with neon) on his politics show. Lights is an XR spokesperson. *
The interview began with pics of a crowd en route to a demo [**]. The interview itself was a typical Neil performance with probing of where data comes from and whether claims can be relied upon. Forensic to some (including me); hectoring and bullying to others (see this from greenerblog for a contrasting view). [***] Mind you, the studio layout leaves a lot to be desired: Neil sitting behind a big desk with Lights (Zion that is) lower down in a deceptively comfy chair. Talk about power dynamics ... .
As for the interview, well I thought that Neil had the better of it. For example, will billions really will die in the next few years – Neil said that the IPCC says there's no evidence that this will happen, and common sense says that other than from a pandemic, this has to be wild talk. You're scaring people, Neil said, "making children cry". His point, I suppose, is that the facts are bad enough; there's no need to exaggerate.
When pressed on he practicality of XR's demands around zero carbon by 2025, Lights said: "I'm not here to give you solutions", adding: "Let's listen to experts". That's fine, of course, but don't just choose experts that agree with you. (NB, Lights didn't say this, but I am).
I thought that Lights did ok given what a poor hand they had until they responded to Neil's question about how are we going to get rid of all the zillions of gas boilers in the UK by 2025. They said that we put a man (sic) on the moon before we had the internet which goes to show that all's possible. If you need that comparison everyone knows you're in the mire. [****]
Lights was clearly unnerved by the fact that Neil agreed with them that climate change was a problem and kept on agreeing throughout the interview. If only he'd been a sceptic, it would have all been so much easier.
* There's also a Hard Talk interview with one of XR's founders – but more on that later on.
** It looked a jolly middle class crowd in every sense – as someone noted at the weekend: sort of Glastonbury meets Waitrose, though the music / muesli isn't as good.
** Here's another view from whatsupwiththat
*** NB, there's some clever money on replacing methane by hydrogen (generated from water using renewable electricity) in the gas supply. This sounds sensible to me (if feasible), but then I don't know much about the gas supply industry.