Monday, 5 December 2016

“HUBRIS” A Hard Look At Climate Change


Imagine a movement so bent on achieving its political objectives that it is willing to corrupt science to meet them. Imagine governments around the globe, first adopting and then promoting this official science for more than two generations. Imagine that they are willing to use their regulatory power to implement a massive program of social engineering in order to “save” the planet. Imagine the United Nations leading this movement and insisting that a global effort is required. Imagine the movement’s leaders believing that people around the globe must change their eating, heating, cooling, lighting, toilet, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment, even housing habits and reject values that are critical to their prosperity, happiness, and welfare, confident that humans can adapt and revert to simpler, more primitive, more local lifestyles, have fewer children, and embrace lives presumed to be more in harmony with nature.

Imagine thousands of scientists engaged at public expense in developing a convincing rationale for this unprecedented project. Imagine that these scientists are willing to compromise their integrity in pursuit of the role of a single factor that they insist controls the most complex and chaotic earth system, a molecule – carbon dioxide – that is literally the building block of all of life. Imagine that they believe that by reducing its miniscule – .04 percent – presence in the atmosphere, the planet will cool and climate will stabilize at an optimum level, a level seen only in micro-seconds of geological time. Imagine scientists who dismiss the work of hundreds of their colleagues and believe that their work must be suppressed. Imagine a scientific movement dominated by greedy grant farmers and cheered on by the media, insisting that there is no further need to study the science and that governments need to start implementing its preferred policy of worldwide social engineering. 

Imagine that many leaders of this movement believe that the world’s population needs to be thinned down to a billion people within a generation or two. Imagine that some of the movement’s most revered leaders, even as they advocate that ordinary people must curb their consumption and live simpler lives, pursue lifestyles that consume more energy and other commodities in a year than an ordinary family of four would need over its lifetime. Imagine a movement whose leaders habitually dissemble and mislead and justify this on the claimed greater good they are pursuing. Imagine politicians, civil servants, scientists, activists, and the media flying from one exotic location to another as they plan what must be done to coerce changes in our lifestyles, even to the point of sacrificing human freedom and democracy. 

Most thoughtful people would conclude that only Hollywood could come up with such a bizarre plot. A little more thinking, however, and they might connect the dots. There is such a movement, and it has demanded our attention for more than thirty years. It has devoured billions of dollars in public money and has inserted its menacing tentacles into every aspect of modern life. The UN and all its organs are the leading force behind it, but most governments of the world support it in one way or another. Elites, the media, and even religious leaders, have embraced it, even though they seem poorly informed and ignore its demands while urging others to adopt sharply reduced lifestyles. 

The public face of this science, climate science, is part of a worrying new trend: the emergence of “official” or consensus science. In this perversion of real science, policy becomes the goal of scientific enquiry rather than its result. Over the last thirty years and more, public policy has focused increasingly on dealing with risks to health, safety, and the environment. Much of that policy ostensibly relies on scientific findings. In their decision-making, governments increasingly look to scientists and have resorted to funding science that meets their political need for certainty. Consensus on controversial issues is critical to governments. Ever since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, activists have stood ready to convince governments of all manner of risks to humanity and nature, and scientists have obliged by reporting findings that satisfy activist political needs. Once governments acquiesce, it is critical that scientists not undermine their decisions with awkward new findings. Public policy is not easily reversed. The result is a potential monster spewing out more and more regulations, presumably making us safer and healthier and safeguarding the environment, but also substituting social for personal responsibility, reducing freedom and choice, and creating an ever larger, more costly, and intrusive public footprint. 

For many years it seemed that the public agreed that there was a need to take action to control the globe’s climate, but that support has steadily eroded as people have begun to realize the enormity of what is being demanded, the flimsy ground on which this demand is based, and the impact of what would need to be imposed. Public support has declined further as sceptical scientists have pointed out more and more problems with the underlying scientific hypothesis, as engineers have indicated the extent to which purported energy substitutes are not up to the job,  and as economists have calculated the enormous costs and minimal benefits. Only general scientific illiteracy has kept the project afloat. 

                The movement advocates fundamental changes in lifestyles and succeeds by spreading alarm based on the alleged adverse consequences resulting from human-caused (anthropogenic) changes in the climate system. The movement points to the prospect of catastrophic results if those changes are not imposed by public authorities. Alarmism best describes this phenomenon. Critics of the movement are characterized as sceptics because their criticism is grounded in scepticism of various aspects of the science, the economics, and/or the politics of climate change alarmism. Some alarmists refer to sceptics as deniers, a term used in the pejorative sense. Sceptics do not deny climate change or the role of greenhouse gases (GHGs). As explained further in the scientific chapters, many sceptics consider the role of anthropogenic GHGs to be relatively minor and the prospect of catastrophic changes to the climate to be minuscule, thus obviating the need for anything other than appropriate adaptive measures.

This book dissects the global warming/climate change movement in all its ramifications. It analyzes the evolving science of climate change and places its pursuit and findings within the broader context of modern scientific praxis, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and areas of agreement and disagreement. Unlike the popular meme that the science of climate change is settled, the book demonstrates that in proper scientific practice, no issue is ever settled; scepticism is at its heart. Climate science is no exception. The book further argues that, as with other ambitious UN agendas, from the New International Economic Order (NIEO) of the 1960s to sustainable development in the 1990s, embrace of these movements by governments has a predictable life cycle, starting slowly, building momentum, and then gradually fading as a more realistic appreciation of the issues intrudes. While the primary movement is withering on the vine, its effects linger for generations. Governments may never meet the primary objectives of the global warming movement, but they have succeeded in embedding many of its tentacles into public regulatory policies and programs. Multiple interests have become dependent on these policies and will fight to maintain them, including thousands of officials whose careers are wedded to them. As so often happens in public policy, the unintended and harmful consequences become accepted practice, despite their costs and annoyance.

 The world will be a better place when governments agree to tame this monster and refocus their energies on issues within their competence; when religious leaders and other elites accept that they have fallen prey to a movement whose motives are much darker and more damaging than they realize; and when the media adopt a more balanced approach and provide the public with the critical assessment that is often missing from their reporting. It is time for all three to accept that the UN is pursuing a path that can only result in a less prosperous and more divided world. 

 Author: Michael Hart

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