Not just ClimateGate – we must remember the entire paradigm of green lies over thirty years

I noticed this over at Anthony Watts – thanks Anthony – do not know how you keep up the pace. The original article is at National Review Online – it hits the nail on the head when it says; “Exaggeration and alarmism have been a chronic weakness of environmentalism since it became an organized movement in the 1960s”.

Every ecological problem was instantly transformed into a potential world-ending crisis, from the population bomb to the imminent resource depletion of the “limits to growth” fad of the 1970s to acid rain to ozone depletion, always with an overlay of moral condemnation of anyone who dissented from environmental correctness.

With global warming, the environmental movement thought it had hit the jackpot — a crisis sufficiently long-range that it could not be falsified and broad enough to justify massive political controls on resource use at a global level.”

Full article copied below.

Note for Australians – this item is a treasure – with ABC professional Jonathan Holmes wriggling and squirming and misleading – as he tries to interpret ClimateGate for his pinko ABC audience – well worth a quiet 15 minute read. Text kept way down below.

Climate Götterdämmerung

Exaggeration and alarmism have been a chronic weakness of environmentalism since it became an organized movement in the 1960s. Every ecological problem was instantly transformed into a potential world-ending crisis, from the population bomb to the imminent resource depletion of the “limits to growth” fad of the 1970s to acid rain to ozone depletion, always with an overlay of moral condemnation of anyone who dissented from environmental correctness. With global warming, the environmental movement thought it had hit the jackpot — a crisis sufficiently long-range that it could not be falsified and broad enough to justify massive political controls on resource use at a global level. Former Colorado senator Tim Wirth was unusually candid when he remarked in the early days of the climate campaign that “we’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing — in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.” (Not surprisingly, after Wirth left the Senate and the Clinton administration he ended up at the United Nations.)

The global-warming thrill ride looks to be coming to an end, undone by the same politically motivated serial exaggeration and moral preening that discredited previous apocalypses. On the heels of the East Anglia University “Climategate” scandal have come a series of embarrassing retractions from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding some of the most loudly trumpeted signs and wonders of global warming, such as the ludicrous claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear within 30 years, that nearly half of the Amazon jungle was at imminent risk of destruction from a warming planet, and that there was a clear linkage between climate change and weather-related economic losses. The sources for these claims turned out to be environmental advocacy groups — not rigorous, peer-reviewed science.

To be sure, these revelations do not in and of themselves mean that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is false. But this is probably the beginning of a wholesale revision of the conventional wisdom on climate change. One of the central issues of Climategate — the veracity and integrity of the surface-temperature records used for our estimates of warming over the last few decades — is far from resolved. The next frontier is likely to be a fresh debate about basic climate sensitivity itself. There have been several recent peer-reviewed papers suggesting much lower climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases than the IPCC “consensus” computer models predict. And alternative explanations for observed climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere, such as shifts in ocean currents and wind patterns, should receive a second look.

Dissenters who pointed out these and other flaws in the IPCC consensus were demonized as deniers and ignored by the media, but they are now vindicated. (The American media are still averting their gaze, though the British press — even the left-wing Guardian and the Independent — is turning on the climate campaigners with deserved vengeance.) The IPCC is mumbling about non-specific reforms and changes in the process shaping its next massive climate report, due out in three or four years. The IPCC should emulate a typical feature of American government commissions and include a minority report from dissenters or scientists with a different emphasis. But the next IPCC report may not matter much: With the collapse of the Kyoto-Copenhagen process and the likely rejection of cap-and-trade in Congress, climate mania may have run its course.

ABC text
Journalists weather the changing climate
By Jonathan Holmes
Posted Thu Feb 11, 2010
Just a few years ago, when I was making programs about climate change policy for Four Corners, it was legitimate for journalists to argue that the science of climate change was settled. The issue was what should and could be done about it.

Boy, has the climate changed!

There’s no denying that the climate change deniers, or sceptics, (the term you prefer depends which side you’re on) have succeeded, to a degree that orthodox climate scientists find baffling, in persuading a large proportion of the public that the science of global warming is, in the Opposition leader’s words, “absolute crap”.

An even larger number of folk apparently take the view that there is so much doubt around the science that to take action that would be in any way painful is premature.

It’s true that the failure of Copenhagen has made it hard to argue that Australia should take drastic action on its own. But that was a political failure. It had nothing to do with the science.

It’s true that some stupid exaggerations, unsupported by peer-reviewed science, have been identified in the 2007 IPCC report. They’ve done a lot of harm to its credibility.

It’s true leaked emails from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia have exposed a disturbing unwillingness on the part of its scientists to share raw data, and apparent attempts by them to prevent sceptical views from being published in reputable journals.

But the vast majority of climate scientists (and for that matter, of scientists in other relevant disciplines), supported by the vast preponderance of peer-reviewed research, still maintain that human-induced climate change is an unassailable reality: rapid global warming will continue, not just for the next hundred years, but far into the future, unless and until human beings drastically reduces the emission of greenhouse gases.

So why are their views being overwhelmed, in the public arena, by the tiny number of ‘sceptics’ with scientific credentials, and their non-scientist supporters?

The simple answer, it seems to me, is that it’s been the doubters who’ve had the passion, and the commitment.

Think what you will of the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, he’s industrious. He starts posting on his blog at around 6:00am, and his last posts are often past midnight. If there’s truth in Annabel Crabb’s famous observation that he cherry-picks articles from the University of East Bumcrack, he does so repeatedly, and obsessively, and to his growing army of devoted fans, convincingly. He’s made global warming his specialty. He knows far more about the science than most other journalists, environment reporters included.

He’s supported by the usual army of conservative columnists. The Devines and Pearsons and Albrechtsens and Akermans, with barely a science degree between them, have been able to satisfy themselves that a global scientific consensus is in fact a global political conspiracy, fuelled by capitalist-hating greenies.

The opinion pages – and as we showed on Media Watch last Monday, sometimes the news pages – of our only national broadsheet have heavily favoured sceptics over proponents of the scientific consensus.

Far more influential, I would guess, are the commercial radio talk back hosts. At least half a dozen of the most influential have been enthusiastically espousing the sceptic cause for years.

After all, it meshes perfectly with the general message that makes talk-back radio work for its audience, which goes roughly like this: “The politicians/bureaucrats/bosses are idiots or scoundrels. They pretend this problem (any problem) is complicated when it couldn’t be more simple. You and I can see the answer. Blind Freddie can see the answer. But they can’t because they’re stuck in their ivory towers/on the take/too clever by half/out to take your money from you.”

As we said on last week, these gentlemen (and they are all men) don’t like to trouble their listeners with both sides of a question. The proponents of global warming science (such as they are) seldom get a guernsey on their shows. The Lord Moncktons of this world get literally hours of unopposed air time.

And their listeners, as anyone who argues against them in public knows, are vociferous and passionate. Just look at the posts at the bottom of this article.

Lastly, of course, there’s the simple fact that people would rather believe those who tell them “she’ll be right,” than those who tell them their way of life is leading the world to hell in a hand-basket.

Of course, the mainstream media (with the notable exception of The Australian) has reported climate change science extensively, and on the whole, uncritically. The sceptics are quite right about that.

But reporting scientific findings, and convincing people they are true, are two different things. If the public is to be galvanised, the science needs selling. But where are the salespeople? Who has been out there arguing passionately and compellingly that climate change is real, and urgent?

As everyone agrees, the Prime Minister has been missing in action for a year or more. His minister, Penny Wong, is robotic. Peter Garrett has been sidelined. Only Greg Combet has summoned up any discernible passion on the topic.

There’s Bob Brown and his Green cohort, who preach strictly to the converted. And Malcolm Turnbull, whose sermons are magnificent; except that nobody’s listening to him any more.

The scientists themselves can’t be expected to do the job. Very few have a talent for public advocacy. It’s not their role.

They know that winning a public argument on television or radio, where there’s little time for anything but assertion on either side, has little to do with the ability to compile and assess evidence in the field, or meticulously to program computer simulations that attempt to predict the future.

They’ve been reluctant, too, to dignify people they regard as cranks or self-serving controversialists by taking them on in public debate.

And, as that debate has become more and more stridently political, they’ve been even less inclined to get embroiled.

So it’s no coincidence that the most compelling public arguments for the reality of global warming have been made by people who aren’t themselves climate scientists: people like former US vice-president Al Gore, or mammal palaeontologist Tim Flannery, or ‘public intellectuals’ like Robert Manne.

But Al Gore is a long way away, and Flannery’s been pretty quiet of late.

NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF have plenty of passion, but they’ve produced no public advocate who’s really broken through. Perhaps the Australia Institute’s Clive Hamilton has come nearest, but he’s hardly a household name outside the chatterati.

Our left-wing columnists, like Phillip Adams and Mike Carlton, have no pretensions to detailed knowledge of the science. Our environmental and science journalists largely stick to news reporting and avoid advocacy.

What we don’t have in Australia – have never had – is someone like The Guardian’s George Monbiot: a journalist with the same access to the mainstream as Andrew Bolt, who has made it his or her business to be as thoroughly on top of climate change science, and who’s willing to mix it with the sceptics at any and every opportunity.

It may have made little difference. Rationality doesn’t necessarily win arguments like this. Yet it still feels to me as though the pass has been sold without a fight.

Of course, it may turn out that the sceptics are right. In twenty years time we may all be laughing at the great global warming scare, as we do now at Y2K.

If that happens, the scientists, and the journalists who accepted their findings, will have a lot to answer for, and the sceptics will have every right to crow.

But if the opposite is true, and we find ourselves facing climate change that by then can’t be reversed before much of this continent becomes uninhabitable, it will be small comfort to be able to blame the sceptics.

If the science is as compelling as the climate change advocates would have us believe, then this was an argument that should have been won long ago. For want of champions, it’s perilously close to being lost.

21 thoughts on “Not just ClimateGate – we must remember the entire paradigm of green lies over thirty years”

  1. Your argument is precisely the revers of what is happening in Europe where the mainstream media demonize any hint of skepticism over climate. Add the supreme position of the major pushers of AGW, like Greenpeace and WWF, who get the lion’s share of public funding for NGOs and it is no wonder that the public willingrly turns to alternative media like the climate blogs. Nobody likes to be taxed inorder to be frightened, especially if the frighteners have a major axe to grind.

    The public do not vote for NGOs, yet NGO personnel are permanent fixtures in the offices of European environment ministers. NGOS are not accountable to the public, they are not liable to sanction if they get it wrong. It is surprising to read your lament for not having such an undemocratic feature in Australia.

  2. The alarmists are reluctant to engage in public debate because every time they do, they lose. The problem is not the messengers, but the message.

  3. ‘ So why are their views being overwhelmed, in the public arena, by the tiny number of ’sceptics’ with scientific credentials, and their non-scientist supporters?

    The simple answer, it seems to me, is that it’s been the doubters who’ve had the passion, and the commitment.’

    This is simple: It’s easier to become passionate about truth, than lies.

  4. A few centuries ago, scientists observing the sun concluded that the sun orbited the earth. Why, because they could think of no other way the sun could rise in the east and set in the west. Fast forward to the eighties. Scientists observing both atmospheric temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations concluded that CO2 must have been causing the earth’s atmosphere to warm. Why, because they could not think of any other way that the temperature could rise as it did from 1980 to 1998.

    They concluded that the rate of change was abnormal and therefore it had to be due to man’s activities. The problem is, they ignored similar periods of time in the past where there were abrupt changes in temperature, both up and down. They say it either did not happen or could not happen naturally.

    And now for 30 years we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of doomsday prophecies and proclamations of the highest temperature ever recorded, the fastest rate of melting ever recorded and on and on. They deny or ignore the magnitude of the impact of the sun, oceans and clouds on climate. They dismiss water vapor as a ‘greenhouse’ gas and try to tell us that CO2 is the predominate ‘greenhouse’ gas.

    What they cannot deny is that climate change is natural. That we have, at best, just a few decades, of actual world wide temperature measurements, that temperatures in the past, at times, were far warmer (and colder) than today and that CO2 concentrations have been far higher in the past than today, sometimes coinciding with warm periods and other times with cold periods. Finally, they refuse to admit that overall, both plants and animals, including man, fare far better with a warmer climate with higher CO2 levels than a colder one.

    I agree: climate change should create a priority. That priority should be to vote out of office every climate change activist, repeal every law, reverse every regulation and cancel every subsidy for wind, solar and biomass energy. People are free to believe what they want and business is free to invest in any technology they want but the market, not the government should be the one supporting these industries.

  5. …rapid global warming will continue, not just for the next hundred years, but far into the future, unless and until human beings drastically reduces the emission of greenhouse gases.

    Mr. Holmes doesn’t seem to be aware that global warming stopped ten years ago and temperatures are now trending downwards. There is today zero observational evidence in support of AGW theory, and significant evidence that falsifies it. AGW theory today is like those old Road Runner cartoons where the coyote runs off the cliff, and then takes a few moments to realize he’s completely unsupported, before falling into the canyon. Warmists like Mr. Holmes don’t realize that there is no longer any foundation whatsoever to support AGW. Pretty soon they’ll crash to the bottom of the canyon, but in the meantime we can expect to hear divorced-from-reality quotes like the one above talking about “rapid global warming contining.” Look out Mr. Holmes. When gravity finally catches up with you, it will be a long way to fall…

  6. The copenhagan conference may well have been a political failure but non of the delegates involved in it acted as if they believed in AGW for one second.

    And if AGW is so certain to be true then why is the IPCC report so riddled with exageration questionable citations and errors and why are the IPCC still tryin to deny that this is the case?

  7. Stonyground, well stated. If CO2 warming were so evident and provable, why resort to such skullduggery and twaddle that serves less use to us and the environment than what my dog leaves in the yard?

    Short answer, basic physics and science can show why CO2 AGW is crap. Not even to mention the real world data. But just in the matter of simple logic, you nailed it.

  8. Jlori,

    They concluded that the rate of change was abnormal and therefore it had to be due to man’s activities. The problem is, they ignored similar periods of time in the past where there were abrupt changes in temperature, both up and down. They say it either did not happen or could not happen naturally.

    I ignoring past climate change were the primariy tactic of AGW climate “science” proponants, it would be bad enough. This sort of cherry picking is the bane of honest science. The problem is that they went beyond simply cherry picking data, the manipulated historic data to reduce the magnitude of past fluctuations to make their cases. This is far worse than simply cherry picking since no one can make a case that data manipulation is inadvertent.

    As an engineer, I find the act of data manipulation to be reprehensible. Think of the effect on human lives if a bridge or the seimic design of a building were based on manipulated data. In most places on earth, the designer who manipulated data would be held criminally liable for deaths or injuries resulting from such a manipulation.

    These issues of data manipulation are certainly not being well covered by most journalists. This is sad, because history is unlikely to treat the manipulators kindly.

  9. If what you say was only half right Troy – there would be no rolling ClimateGate scandal spiralling the IPCC into a blackhole.

  10. Troy I noticed you had a few typos on your post here is a correction fo you.

    Please visit www.realclimate.org/ for biased, unscientific discussion of the climate unscience, by climate scientists hoping for future grants.

    C.S. Lewis …………..

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience”

  11. Very well quoted Bob. Did Troy speak tongue in cheek? The CS Lewis quote reminded me of his novel “That Hideous Strength” (pub 1946?) where the scientific centre taking over the country with the consent of the government eventually came to grief when the truth prevailed. A very remarkable prophecy which has not yet disappeared from our times.

  12. 30 years?

    Try 50 years and tens of millions of bodies. Rachel Carson and DDT is a farrago of lies, and the ban has killed uncounted millions of people in Africa and South Asia.

  13. This is really a time-waster of an article,using hyperbole to attack alleged hyperbole. It’s all standard ‘think-tank’ boiler plate. As silly as you labelling Holmes’ ABC audience as “pinko”…

  14. Mr. Holmes: your first and last paragraphs really deliver the goods, the structured, one/two punch to drive the thesis home – or, in this case, to reveal its inadequacy.

    It was never justified for journalists to advocate for ‘settled science'; even apart from the definitional problem, even apart from the journalist’s social role. If journalists had been doing their homework and fulfilling that role, right from the start, they would have known the fix was in on this topic. CO2 was lobbied for and voted in as a pollutant by the IPCC, for starters – and it didn’t make it on the first ballot!

    Where was your journalistic curiosity about democracy in science, way back when?

    And that last paragraph may contain a typo: substitute ‘would’ for “should” and its first sentence makes perfect sense. Your last one, however, is hopelessly obtuse (or self-serving). The AGW argument has had every advantage in the world, and around the world, from Hollywood to the Nobel Committee. The argument fails because it is a failed argument – nothing more complicated than that.

  15. Bloggers are having a field day with Obama’s comment “We cannot control Nature”, said in the aftermath of the Chilean earthquake!
    My retort “But the weather is a piece of cake!” /sarc

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