Clive James Pours Poetic Scorn On Climate Fears

  • Date: 17/03/16
  • Kaya Burgess, The Times

Clive James has described concerns over climate change as “manufactured fright” in a new poem and says that environmental disaster, like his death, is yet to materialise.

The broadcaster and journalist said in 2012 that he was nearing death after being given a diagnosis of leukaemia and emphysema. In 2014 he started writing farewell poems, but joked a year later that he was “stuck with the embarrassment of still being alive”.

A new James poem, to be published tomorrow in the New Statesman, is entitled Imminent Catastrophe and discusses the theme of being left “awkwardly still lingering”.

It does so by drawing a comparison with the gravest consequences of climate change, which, in his opinion, are yet to be seen.

“The imminent catastrophe goes on,/ Not showing many signs of happening,” he writes. “The ice at the North Pole that should be gone/ By now, is awkwardly still lingering.

“And though sometimes the weather is extreme/ It seems no more so than when we were young/ Who soon will hear no more of this grim theme/ Reiterated in the special tongue/ Of manufactured fright.”

This year, the extent of Arctic sea ice dropped to its lowest level on record for January and also set a new low for February, according to glaciologists. James, 76, is understood to have thought carefully about publishing the poem, according to a source close to the broadcaster, because he knew it would cause controversy, including among personal acquaintances.

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