Scientists Turn into Stalinists
Last week, we happened across a press report about a group of climate scientists so eager to shut up their critics that they want to employ the State’s police, courts and jailers for the purpose. Specifically, a group of academic (and presumably tenured) climate alarmists supporting the “CAWG” theory (CAWG=”catastrophic anthropogenic global warming”) have written a letter to president Obama, attorney-general Lynch and OSTP director Holdren, demanding that so-called “climate deniers” (or the organizations allegedly supporting them) be prosecuted under the RICO act (you can see the document here (pdf) – already its first paragraph is “alarming”, as they inter alia brag about things they have incorrectly predicted to happen for more than 35 years, such as an increase in “extreme weather”).
This is not the first time that climate alarmists are letting their inner Stalin hang out and are trying to impose a spot of Lysenkoism for the “good of humanity”. For those not au fait with Lysenko: the man was an influential Soviet biologist who came up with an erroneous theory “based on dialectic materialism” about how to improve crop yields. It never worked, but over the 44 years during which his influence lasted (!), more than 3,000 biologists were either fired, jailed and even executed for opposing his views (a number of modern-day radical climate alarmists are also on record for demanding the harshest imaginable punishments for “deniers”).
The Debate over the Poorly Conceived AGW Theory is not Over
Here are a few excerpts from the letter we want to briefly comment on:
“The risks posed by climate change, including increasing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increasing ocean acidity – and potential strategies for addressing them – are detailed in the Third National Climate Assessment (2014), Climate Change Impacts in the United States. The stability of the Earth’s climate over the past ten thousand years contributed to the growth of agriculture and therefore, a thriving human civilization. We are now at high risk of seriously destabilizing the Earth’s climate and irreparably harming people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.
Apart from the absurd insinuation that only “government-funded science is good science”, as if none of the people involved had any self-interests, science is not the result of some imaginary “consensus” or attains the status of holy writ once its conclusions appear in a government-sponsored paper. As an example, it took the “consensus” 40 years to accept Alfred Wegener’s theory on continental drift, by which time he was dead.
In principle there is nothing wrong with employing a conceptual approach in the natural sciences, but eventually, empirical data must bear hypotheses out. It is moreover not true that we can “afford” to bring industrial civilization to a standstill on the off-chance that the alarmists might be right one day, especially considering how wrong they have been so far.
Let us just briefly address the handful of things listed above. “Extreme weather events” like hurricanes and tropical cyclones have actually done the precise opposite of what has been and continues to be widely claimed – their frequency has declined to multi-decade lows (e.g. in Australia, the “lowest level of cyclone activity in modern history” was reported last year. US readers will have noticed that since Katrina a decade ago and the intrusion of Sandy, hurricane activity has actually been de minimis – statistics confirm it loud and clear).
Global tropical cyclone frequency hits a multi-decade low – click to enlarge.
Rising sea levels: it appears the rise is so slow that the catastrophes that have been predicted since at least 1980 not only have not happened, but that the opposite has occurred in these cases as well. No Micronesian islands have sunk beneath the waves – au contraire, they are growing. Of the 50 million “climate refugees” that were certain to swamp us by 2010, only one has shown up to date, and this seems to be a case of someone trying to get a residence and work permit in a developed country by means of an innovative method. The exact opposite of the alarmist predictions happened in this case as well: the very regions that were supposed to be the main source of “climate refugees” and should have been almost depopulated by now have seen the strongest population growth on the planet.
We haven’t followed the debate on the “acidification of the oceans” very closely, but we note that there definitely is a debate, as this notion appears to be based on questionable data (a.k.a. “sparse and contradictory evidence”). Lastly, even the alarmists are acknowledging that there has been a near 19 year “pause” in global warming (although NOAA is scandalously altering past surface temperature records from their actually measured to “assumed” values, in order to create a warming trend literally from thin air). They have hitherto seen fit to provide 66 different excuses for why the forecasts of their models have been so completely wrong. It is very mean of Mother Nature that she refuses to cooperate with the alarmist agenda. Of course, that the central premise of the AGW theory might actually be wrong isn’t even considered by these worthies (luckily they haven’t yet found ways to retroactively fiddle with the satellite data).
The Pause – satellite measurements have detected no warming for nearly 19 years
The sentence that “the poor will be endangered” unless we regulate industrialized civilization out of existence is preposterous in the extreme. Again, if you assume the exact opposite to be true, you will be correct. In the past, human civilization has flourished whenever temperatures were a lot warmer than they are today (e.g. during the medieval warm period, vineyards thrived in the Scandinavian countries and global population growth and progress both accelerated greatly).
One of the biggest problems with the economically damaging regulations demanded by the alarmists is precisely that they cynically deprive the world’s poor of the possibilities for development the rich countries had at their disposal (see this report for details). In fact, much of the proposed legislation is ultimately nothing but a socialist wealth distribution scheme (that will not only redistribute, but ultimately destroy wealth) – as its major political proponents are occasionally admitting in unguarded moments. As has been noted elsewhere, this is simply “ideology masquerading as science”.
Suppression of Dissent to Preserve the Gravy Train
It seems to us, all of the above should be seen as grounds for vigorous debate, both on the scientific and the political level, before any more harm is done by costly (and ultimately useless) legal activism. However, this definitely isn’t how the letter writers are seeing it:
“We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.”
In other words, those who disagree with the alarmists (which is ever easier to do as one after another of their predictions fails to come true) should be treated like the mafia or similar criminal organizations. Needless to say, this would not exactly be conducive to scientific or policy debate. We have yet to see the opponents of string theory demand the jailing of its proponents (or vice versa), in spite of their fierce disagreements.
Our first thought was therefore that one should probably “follow the money” – that the alarmists are probably increasingly worried that their gravy train might be derailed; that their lavish grants and privileges, including their role as “philosopher kings” advising the politically powerful, could come under threat as empirical evidence against their theories keeps piling up. This has inter alia also led to a recent rash of ever more hysterical apocalyptic predictions (see e.g. the laughable “sea level rise” panic outburst from Über-alarmist Dr. James Hansen, which is even denounced by his fellow AGW alarmists – i.e., it is too absurd even for them).
Before we found the time to write this missive, reality has struck in the form of a rather sizable PR problem for the leader of the group of letter writers – and it has indeed to do with “lavish grants”. As Climate Depot reports, “Scientist leading effort to prosecute climate skeptics under RICO ‘paid himself & his wife $1.5 million from govt climate grants for part-time work’”. You couldn’t make this up.
George Mason University Professor Jagadish Shukla a Lead Author with the UN IPCC, reportedly made lavish profits off the global warming industry while accusing climate skeptics of deceiving the public. Shukla is leader of 20 scientists who are demanding RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges be used against skeptics for disagreeing with their view on climate change.
Shukla reportedly moved his government grants through a ‘non-profit’. The group “pays Shukla and wife Anne $500,000 per year for part-time work,” Prof. Roger Pielke Jr. revealed. “The $350,000-$400,000 per year paid leader of the RICO 20 from his ‘non-profit’ was presumably on top of his $250,000 per year academic salary,” Pielke wrote. “That totals to $750,000 per year to the leader of the RICO 20 from public money for climate work and going after skeptics. Good work if you can get it,” Pielke Jr. added.
AGW has indeed become an “industry”, albeit an entirely taxpayer funded one. It looks more and more like a giant racket. If it were only a racket, there would be no problem – but it also pursues an agenda, under the pretense that we need to “save the planet” from what increasingly looks like natural variations we have little or no influence over. The agenda however has a clear leftist-authoritarian bent, as all the demands and already implemented policies involve more regulation and government control over the economy, are harmful to economic development and progress, are bound to condemn the poor to remaining poor, and aim at redistributing wealth in a manner that will simply end up destroying it to the benefit of a handful of cronies.
That people obviously benefiting greatly from this racket have the gall to demand that the State treat their critics as major criminals in Stalinesque fashion is really jaw-dropping chutzpa.
The caste of climate alarmists reminds us strongly of assorted doomsayers throughout history. They have almost become a kind of priestly caste, accusing us of committing the alleged “sin” of capitalism, even while they reserve for themselves the right to partake of its fruits to an extent few others are able to (as Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore notes, “environmentalism has become a religion”). Mind, we don’t believe genuine environmental concerns should be ignored, but AGW looks more and more like a contrived non-issue. The hysteria that has been on display of late is probably an indication though that its proponents are actually losing the debate.