Michael McCarthy: Why let the facts get in the way when your profits are at stake?

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The Independent Online

Watching a grown man in a powerful position display his ignorance is fascinating, almost like watching a car crash in slow motion; and so it is with Michael O'Leary on climate change.

Let no one suppose his lack of knowledge is confined to global warming. His ignorance about Galileo is also top class. "In the Middle Ages, they were going to excommunicate Galileo because the entire scientific community said the Earth was flat," he says.

Well, three basic mistakes there, straight off. Firstly, it wasn't in the Middle Ages, it was in the Renaissance. The Middle Ages ended more than a century before Galileo began to become controversial in 1610.

Secondly, the argument was not about whether the Earth was flat; it was about whether the Sun moved around the Earth, or the other way round. Galileo controversially said the Earth moved around the Sun. And thirdly, it wasn't the "scientific establishment" (no such thing existed then) which held the opposing view, it was the Catholic Church.

But what's a few basic errors when you're getting into your stride and calling people names in a foul-mouthed rant? And Mr O'Leary does basic errors very well; he says that global temperatures haven't risen in the last 12 years.

Well, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in July that the first six months of 2010 were the hottest such period ever recorded globally. Maybe Mr O'Leary missed that.

Later that month, the NOAA produced its annual State of the Climate report, in conjunction with the UK Met Office, which lists 10 indicators of a climate that is "unmistakably warming". Maybe Mr O'Leary missed that, too. Or maybe he preferred not to notice.

Listening to him bluster on, wanting nothing to stop his profits growth, you can see what Al Gore meant when he referred to "an inconvenient truth".