The Paradoxical Origin of Climate Alarmism

increased agricultureThree feet of snow on the streets of New York and Washington is mocking global warming alarmists. The natural sciences tell us that the alarmists got everything wrong: anthropogenic carbon release is not dangerous or even harmful, but extremely beneficial. 15% of the world’s agricultural production is due to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the air. What’s more, the global mean temperature has not been increasing for 19 years, and the slight warming expected from the emission of the infra-red absorbing gases is expected to be beneficial in itself.

And contrary to the alarmists’ claims, ocean water is alkaline, not acidic.See this short summary of science for more.Listing all the scientific errors made by the alarmists would take many pages, not to mention their logical fallacies, economic delusions, civic blunders, etc. So how did it happen that such a worthless agenda became so powerful?In large degree, it’s because it was worthless! 

The weakness (or absence) of scientific support behind climate alarmism became its political strength.

Normally, political issues are real, in the sense that they represent real problems or real conflicts in society. Real issues — drug addiction, poverty, illness, or abortion — allow people to express different views or to take different sides. But the issue that gave birth to climate alarmism is different: the alleged problem (possible harm or danger from carbon dioxide emissions) simply does not exist. Most people are not interested in imaginary problems, and quite a few scientists, statesmen, and journalists came to the correct conclusion that the carbon dioxide/global warming/climate change problem did not exist.

Naturally, they did not participate in research or discussion on this topic, which allowed those who believed in the alleged problem to monopolize the topic. And the more strongly somebody believed, the stronger his or her voice was in the discussion. This happened even before they gain enough power and money to chase away sceptics or buy supporters.

Let me clarify a few points before I get into the history. Climate change is real. The climate change problem is not. Scientists have opposed climate alarmism from the beginning to protect the integrity of science. Some of them recognized the alarmism as a problem in itself. Good, competent people passed on addressing the alleged climate problem because they were not convinced of its significance, especially compared with other changes happening in the world. That said, even if all the reasonable scientific uncertainties were resolved in favor of alarmism, and even if we accepted many of the alarmist fallacies, that still wouldn’t justify the alarm. 

It all started in the 1970s, when the possibility of global warming from anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide was seriously addressed as a potential concern. At that time there were significant scientific uncertainties regarding the issue, so some scientists concluded that some concern was justified, while others concluded that it was not.

The government tried to convene a group of top scientists to consider this potential concern. But top scientists can choose what to work on, so there was considerable self-selection: the concerned scientists were overrepresented in the discussion, while the skeptical views were underrepresented. One result of this self-selection: in 1979 both the Charney and MacDonald (JASON) committees, apparently working independently of each other, arrived at the same climate sensitivity value, almost double the number that Guy Callendar calculated in 1938. And Callendar’s result was more accurate! 

But so far, so good — no real harm done, just an interesting social dynamic that can be recognized only in hindsight. Scientists who expressed concerns did so because they developed or accepted theories exaggerating the possible negative consequences of CO2. This led to a one-sided selection of the science as well: more alarming climate theories, models, and scenarios received broader consideration than non-alarming ones. Despite this adverse selection and exaggerated estimate of the climate sensitivity, neither committee sounded alarm or recommended that the government take any action but to continue research. 

Then, for no good reason, Congress authorized the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee (CDAC), and tasked it with a comprehensive evaluation of the possible dangers from CO2 release. Naturally, CDAC had to consider (or even develop) the most alarming theories and scenarios. In 1983 CDAC delivered what became known as Nierenberg Report, advising “concern, not panic” and rejecting climate alarmism once again. 

Unfortunately, UN agencies and environmental NGOs (mostly of foreign origin) picked up the issue and started running with it. There was no shadow of good faith in the way in which they handpicked “experts” from the environmentalist movement and from the bottom of the scientific establishment, fishing for yes-men worldwide. These bottom-dwellers went on cherry picking not only the data, but even the physical effects. This was not hard, because the real scientists and those who cared to consult them were staying out of the topic, rather than opposing the alarmist agenda. As Richard Lindzen wrote in 1992: “As most scientists concerned with climate, I was eager to stay out of what seemed like a public circus.” Cherry picking was made easier by the huge amounts of money lavished on climate science starting in the 1980s.

It might sound surprising today, but the alarmists announced “scientific consensus” as early as 1988, following the infamous Toronto Conference. After that, the intimidation and persecution of openly dissenting scientists started. From the same article by Lindzen:

“But in the summer of 1988 Lester Lave, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote to me about being dismissed from a Senate hearing for suggesting that the issue of global warming was scientifically controversial. I assured him that the issue was not only controversial but also unlikely. In the winter of 1989 Reginald Newell, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lost National Science Foundation funding for data analyses that were failing to show net warming over the past century. Reviewers suggested that his results were dangerous to humanity.”

Thus, fear of retaliation buttressed the normal reluctance of competent scientists to engage with a non-existing problem. When Al Gore became Vice President in 1993, all hell broke loose, but that’s a story for another article.

It looks like the climate alarmists understood how lucrative the pursuit of imaginary problems could be for them. Many environmentalist scares started as similarly non-existent issues, which only became real (in the sense defined above) when lawmakers tried to address them. The proposed laws naturally affected the public, thus creating an opposition. In many cases the enviros won anyway, but at least there was a fight. 

It seems like the climate alarmists learned from that experience, so they started proposing solutions so unrealistic that they were beyond sane discussion. One example is their crowning demand to keep future Earth temperature change below 2°C forever. Do they really think that humans control Earth’s temperature? At COP21, they went even further and tightened this “goal” to 1.5°C. Another example is the call to lower CO2 in the air to 350 ppm, down from the current 400 ppm. 350.org, one of the most visible alarmist organizations, took its name from this number. When the Senate rejected the Kyoto protocol before it was even signed (with a 95-0 vote), it removed this alleged problem from the table for some time, but let it keep its cloak of effective obscurity.

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  • Avatar

    Amber

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    The global warming alarmists have been allowed to frame the scam on their own terms however It could not have happened without a significant alignment of self interests . Politicians and various forms of bankers needed ” the science ” cover and a small collection of scientists
    were happy to oblige . Everyone has to eat after all . Throw in the other rent seekers like subsidy sponge “renewables ” ,carbon trading flimflam men , and most of the print media in business plan transition. Ta Da group think as powerful as Nazi’s brain
    wash of most of it’s people .

    Scientists used to come with instant credibility . Why would they lie after all ?
    Most didn’t, but just went quite and the few who had the courage to call bullshit were referred to as deniers or subject to other forms of bullying . 1930’s look familiar ?

    The Oregon Petition was an excellent idea to communicate that over 30,000 scientist
    were not on board . Contrast that to less 60 scientists sending information to a UN political organization for final drafting of an
    IPCC report serving as the golden rule to ensure fleecing of the public .

    Not exactly a consensus is it ? The spoon fed media no longer have the committed resources to ask questions and are afraid for being shamed . Nothing new there although the fight for freedom of speech is still remembered and honored by most .

    The climate changes one way or the other
    so this arrogant thought that humans are going to restrict the earth’s temperature by
    anything, let alone 1.5 C , is absurd rubbish .

    The earth is in a long term warming trend even with some almost immeasurable aid from humans ,which is a very good thing .

    Who gets away with saying global warming is bad anyways ? What would the plants and animals say to a bit of warming vs cooling ?
    Those Oregon Petition signers
    who had the guts to stand up once need to keep doing it and bring some common sense to the issues . The earth doesn’t have a fever ,nor is it about to.

    The Trillion dollar scary global warming scam will ultimately rob poor people of there cash and many of their lives .

    The earth will do what it has always done
    and humans with overblown self importance are only along for the ride .

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  • Avatar

    Jamal Munshi

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    “And contrary to the alarmists’ claims, ocean water is alkaline, not acidic.”

    By “ocean acidification” they don’t mean that the oceans are acidic but only that the pH is falling and that the CO2 concentration of the oceans is rising. Empirical evidence shows that this is true.
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2669930

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  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    The only basis of the oceans becoming more acid, or more accurately stated, less basic, is the environmentalist cherry picked 1988 as their base line. That year the pH was at a near 100 year value for being the most basic, so anything in comparison to that would be more acid. They also started their data in 1988 ignoring all most 100 years of reliable data. This ignored data included the year 1920 when the oceans were more acid than they are now. This is one of the clearest cut and easiest to understand frauds by NOAA.

    You can read more detail below. There a lot in the article about trying to withhold data and intimidation, which often goes along with such frauds?

    http://www.breitbart.com/london/2014/12/23/noaagate-how-ocean-acidification-could-turn-out-to-be-the-biggest-con-since-michael-manns-hockey-stick/

    Knowing that they started their data in 1988, the graph going back to 1910 really tells it all.

    Why would they create such a fraud? One explanation is it is a back up plan if the warming didn’t pan out. Their goal has never been to limit warming but to severely reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That supports their political agendas. I believe what ocean acidification was supposed to give them was a reason to reduce emissions even if there wasn’t any warming.

    The same was probably true by going to climate change. Claiming that increased carbon dioxide emission were causing more hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, droughts and other extreme events, they planned to say this was a reason to reduce emission even if there was a lack of warming. However, just as with warming, the climate didn’t cooperate and there hasn’t been an increase in extreme events.

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