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Climate Capers

My Weekly Standard cover story, "Scientists Behaving Badly," is now up on the web.  One of its major points is that even within this small group of pre-eminent climate scientists, there was no consensus--in fact there were heated arguments--over one of the supposed key pieces of evidence that unprecedented global warming is taking place in the last 100 years.  Here's my takeaway:

I have long expected that 20 or so years from now we will look back on the turn-of-the-millennium climate hysteria in the same way we look back now on the population bomb hysteria of the late 1960s and early 1970s--as a phenomenon whose magnitude and effects were vastly overestimated, and whose proposed solutions were wrongheaded and often genuinely evil (such as the forced sterilizations of thousands of Indian men in the 1970s, much of it funded by the Ford Foundation). Today the climate campaigners want to forcibly sterilize the world's energy supply, and until recently they looked to be within an ace of doing so. But even before Climategate, the campaign was beginning to resemble a Broadway musical that had run too long, with sagging box office and declining enthusiasm from a dwindling audience. Someone needs to break the bad news to the players that it's closing time for the climate horror show.

I'll add one other thing I wasn't able to fit in the story (which is long enough at 5,500 words, and I just barely scratched the surface of what can be gleaned from the email stash): These guys have no sense of humor at all.  None.  In the 1,000 emails I didn't come across a single instance of wit or even collegial jocularity.  These guys are beyond boring people.  What is it about environmentalists that makes them so utterly humorless?

Now on to Hopenchangen. . ., I mean Copenhagen, for the next chapter in the climate farce.
Categories > Environment

Discussions - 15 Comments

Excellent article. The best overview I've seen yet on this whole mess. I suspect there is more and worse yet to come.

Are you and your friends just stupid, or are you genuinely bad people? I'm stunned ... As Gordon Brown pointed out yesterday, there's more than a whiff of "flat earth" here.

Keep that line going, John; it's working so well for you.

What is actually going on is worse than any supposed "flat earfh" belief. It is the willful distortion, manipulation, and creation of data to fit a ideological viewpoint and then calling it science.

I'll believe in the global warming crap once the local weatherman can reliably and accurately predict the weather over 5 day period.

Yes, John, do keep that line of retort going. It's very persuasive. I think the "Are you just stupid or evil?" defense is straight out of Aristotle's Rhetoric.

I've discussed/argued with a good friend of mine about this before: I tried to compare it to Galleleo and the Church (ie at the time the Church was the "Establishment" and the prevailing wisdom among the Establishment was that the Earth was the center of the universe; Galleleo bucked the popular wisdom of the "experts" and was chastised and persecuted. My friend didn't buy it, though, because now the Establishment are scientists, and Galleleo was a scientist, so, to him, the Flat-Earthers a la John are the ones ignoring the facts, dispite the fact that they're the Establishment and they're the ones trying to forces square pegs into round holes).

I'd feel better about the whole climate change debate if the warmists would propose moderate, sensible solutions that won't kill the global economy. I think most of the "stupid/evil" people on the Left have an ulterior agenda (duh...I know), but the sad part is that we really don't know how we are affecting the climate. Is it too much to ask for solid, dispassionate science on the subject and sober, sensible solutions? I'm soooooo tired of the idiots on both sides of this "debate."

If the result of the airing of these hacked e-mails is improved transparency in the scientific process, that can only be a good thing.

However, that shouldn't be limited to the scientists and their research and the inner workings of their institutions, considering the stakes of being right or wrong on this issue. We ought to be able to have similar access to the communications and research of the policy and think tank people who have played the role of dissenters (minus the credentials in hard sciences, typically), including communications between such institutions, their funders, and those business entities that influence them and might present some conflict of interest in those making policy recommendations. Let's start with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, AEI and Pacific Research Institute:

That's an insightful perspective, Andrew. I think your framing is accurate.

Indeed, it seems much of the global-warming righteousness stems from progressives' intuitively embracing the traditional frame: science as indomitable truth, valiantly forging its way against lowbrow reactionary forces. It's a romanticized view of history, in which Galileo, the Scopes trial, et al., serve as enduring templates.

Those old stories do make valuable parables. They are important to know, their lessons worth heeding. But they are not what the left often seems to think they are -- categorical denouncements of suspicion. These stories do not declare that what someone calls "science" is automatically correct, and that skepticism of science is thus necessarily wrong.

Their main lesson is not about science vs. mysticism, per se, but rather about skepticism vs. establishment "truth." And in this sense, yes, as you point out: the left is the establishment here, with skeptics playing the Galileo/Clarence Darrow role. The left has come to romanticize the wrong lesson in its own important parables.

(On an administrative note: I am pleading with you guys to please ditch your captcha system. It is fraught with issues -- namely, failing to recognize accurately entered text. I've lost comments here before, and I nearly did again just now. Most blogs live without captchas; do you really have some abnormal frequency of spam here?)

For those having problems with the captcha system, and who haven't figured this out yet, try this:

After you've completed your comment, just hit your "refresh" (the page) button. You shouldn't lose your comment text (but copy it before doing this, just in case). Then enter the captcha text without delay and hit "submit". Works for me quite well.

I think the problem with the captcha might be that it only allows a very short time between when one enters the comment page of a given thread and when one clicks "submit". Never tried, but it MIGHT work if one went to a comment page, typed "Hello!" and thenk immediately tapped out the captcha characters and submitted, but I don't know.

100% percent agree Craig, but lets not stop at climate policy with this line of thinking. I would like to see the memos from brookings, the CFR and bildaberg....and I believe I have a right considering that is where my elected officials go for their ideas.

Craig's suggestion is a subtle way of changing the subject. I don't care who is funding what research; what matters is whether the data itself is available for public scrutiny. If that's the case then the bad science will be revealed for what it is, no matter who is footing the bill--which is pretty much how things have worked for the past 400 years.

You don't care who is funding the research? Really? The first problem with what you're talking about is that, for the most part, the policy groups and think tanks just aren't producing much of their own, original research. Since they don't typically have many (or any) scientists working for them, they will have their policy wonks sift through the abstracts and look for some way to spin, distort, or exaggerate some hole or anomaly in the data (see the "intelligent design" "scientists" picking through relevant evolutionary geology and biology research, too); if the science isn't "complete" then that means it's debunked in their eyes - even if any given scientific theory is never actually complete, per se. But when we look at who's funding the policy groups and think tanks, the conclusions that such organizations draw from their own analyses of the data are laughably predictable. Very much in the realm of "National Beef Council Research Supports Daily Burger Diet Guidelines" and the like... And the people who head such organizations also have their hands in the respective industries.

Recall how the tobacco companies operated (and, to some extent, still do) to try to confuse the public and muddy the waters when a scientific consensus developed around the dangers of tobacco smoke.

Consider this, as well:
"At first glance, there is a bewildering range of estimates of the costs of climate protection. Look more closely, however, and there are just a few projections of economic disaster, out in right field by themselves. Other estimates range from modest costs to small net economic gains.

The outliers are the handful of private consultant studies funded by partisan lobbying groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Using proprietary models (or their own adaptations of standard models), and pessimistic economic assumptions, these studies forecast that even mild U.S. proposals, such as last year’s Lieberman-Warner bill, would cost many thousands of dollars per household and would cause widespread unemployment and economic dislocation. An analysis by journalist Eric Pooley documents the excessive, often uncritical attention given to these studies by the media.

These projections of economic ruin have not been reproduced by any major academic or non-profit research group."

(from here

These highlights from Hayward's Weekly Standard piece caught my attention:

"Scientists at top universities have been telling me privately for several years now that their best graduate students are avoiding climatology because they dislike how politicized it has become and consider it a dead-end field. Unfortunately this means many students who take up the field are second-raters or do so out of ideological motivation, which guarantees that the CRU scandal won't be the last."

But what explains the guys with no advanced science education at all (say, with degrees in American Studies and Government from Claremont), working at think tanks funded by the oil industry, taking up the field, at least to the extent to ardently and vocally support the minority of dissenters and write articles and make films about it?

There's no ideological motivation there? And as anyone frequenting this blog can see, Steve Hayward has been getting more ink in the NYTimes and the WSJ than most of these climate "alarmists".

It's impossible to avoid the politics of it. That's like going into gene therapy and whining that it's getting political. It should be political; after all, even as Hayward admits, "The emails do not in and of themselves reveal that catastrophic climate change scenarios are a hoax or without any foundation" and "Climate change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a nontrivial risk of major consequences in the future." (to say the least)

Also, this:
"The denial of political bent is also hard to square with the emails revealing that several of these scientists worked closely behind the scenes with alarmist advocacy groups such as Greenpeace, which really deserves to be shunned by serious scientists."

Okay, but what about conservative libertarian advocacy groups funded by oil companies - should serious scientists get within pocket-stuffing distance of these groups?

Keep in mind, Hayward is the same person who:

- signed a lobbyists' letter (for AEI) urging GW Bush not to attend the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, stating that "the least important global environmental issue is potential global warming, and we hope that your negotiators at Johannesburg can keep it off the table and out of the spotlight." - AEI received $230K from Exxon in 2001. That's a lot of CERTAINTY for a non-scientist to take on a science issue, even if we accept the huge assumption that the issue divides serious scientists on a 50/50 basis.

- actually made an entry on this very blog, on July 12, 2005, titled "Buy Exxon Gas"

But it appears he's made some progress in moderating his tone. He used to put his thumbs-up on books calling global warming an "eco-myth"; now, he concedes that "climate change is a genuine phenomenon."

But only some progress. Putting curbs on the fossil fuel industries is to "forcibly sterilize the world's energy supply" (as if that's all the world's energy supply is or could ever be - carbon-based!) and that is compared to the actual forced sterilization of human beings.

Finally, it's funny to be accused of trying to change the subject. I just read an article in which the "most damning email" from the lot is one which doesn't address any particular science fact or data point, and is seen to be damning because of what it says about the personality of the e-mail's author. And there have been 2 blog posts by Hayward here at NLT that talk about how the scientists at issue lack a sense of humor and are "boring people" (should they have been making jokes about the people of Tuvalu drowning or mocking the native Alaskans whose territory is being submerged?) - that's relevant?


Put www's in front of those URLs.

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