French climate change leaves top weatherman out in cold

Sculptures in animal shapes adorn the deck of a barge, as part of an art installation entitled Climate Noah's Ark by artist Gad Weil, near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France (September 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption A series of exhibitions - including these sculptures representing animals on Noah's Ark - have been held ahead of the conference

There is still more than a month to go until the Paris UN climate conflab, but already you sense its impending presence. Day by day the news in France is being taken over by "big environment".

It is no secret that President Francois Hollande wants to make the conference - COP21 as it is confusingly known - a centre-piece of his lacklustre presidency. No major speech for the last year has been without reference to the challenge of saving the planet.

Government policy is being tailored to send out the right signals - and show off the example that is France. Thus last month we had a "car-free" day in Paris (though in practice it was limited to a few areas and on a Sunday when there are few cars anyway).

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The battle against climate change is close to the president's heart

And now there is news that the tax advantage for diesel cars is to be phased out. For years France has used a lower fuel levy to encourage the use of diesel engines - on the grounds that they cause less global warming than petrol.

Sexy story

But growing concerns about particle pollution - and especially the Volkswagen emissions scandal - have prompted this change of tack.

From next year a centime will be added at the diesel pump and a centime taken off at the petrol, until the tax is equal.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Last month a "car-free" day in Paris brought pollution levels down in built-up areas of the city
Image copyright Gety Images
Image caption Philippe Verdier, a top TV weatherman on France 2 TV, says there is a global scandal surrounding climate change

But those two pieces of positive greenery risk being submerged in what is, frankly, a far "sexier" media story: the suspension of state TV's top weatherman for daring to question the ethics of COP21 and the whole climate change establishment.

Philippe Verdier is not a climatologist, but he has covered the weather for more than 20 years in various capacities and has attended the climate conferences at Bali, Copenhagen and Cancun.

His conclusions are spelled out in a theatrical promotional video for his new book Climate Investigation.

"There is something I have never been able to tell you because it was not the time nor the place," he says against the inevitable backdrop of time-lapse cloud movements.

"We are all hostages of a global scandal, a war-machine that wants to make us perpetual victims of fear."

Although Mr Verdier does not deny global warming, he says there could be positive effects.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Distinguished guests including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (right) have visited the site where the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) will be held at Le Bourget

And he denounces what he sees as a conspiracy of interests linking government, NGOs, science, media and religion - all coming together for the vast and expensive annual shindigs which are the COPS. (It stands for Conference of the Parties).

You can imagine the tearing-out of hair at the Elysee, as the country's Mr Weather openly challenged the official pieties on COP21, which Mr Verdier says are doomed to fail.

But worse, he then wrote an open letter to the president, essentially accusing him of hypocrisy for turning the environment to political ends.

Mr Verdier has been publicly condemned by just about everyone. And he's been taken off air.

But he says that just proves his point: that nothing can challenge the official view.

"COP21 is a bulldozer," he said in an interview this week. "And I was in its way."