Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Left, Gleick & CAGW...

Outside of an attempt to evaluate the actual scientific evidence itself (see here for a critique of Richard Lindzen's point about uncertainty regarding climate sensitivity), there are two general claims used against the skeptics and in favour of CAGW urgency. The first of these is that there exists a disciplined formation of scientific consensus in favour of AGW. Yet this "consensus" only exists by excluding all other scientists from outside the narrow and self-selecting field of climate science or by denying that other, dissenting scientists, are in fact scientists at all - which leads directly to the second claim that skeptics are not just simply wrong, but are motivated by mere financial greed and/or ideology. Here for example, is what Michael Turton recently said to me in an email exchange:
"...the "scientists" who attack the science are paid hacks and whores.."
What he is saying there is that any scientist who doesn't quite agree with the fit of the phalanx is a whore, i.e. someone who does what they do only for money. Yet as has been pointed out repeatedly, the budget for Heartland is tiny: surely a "whore" would instead go where the real money is, which is in the promotion of CAGW - yes?

Alternatively, so the Left's "interpretation" goes, if scientists skeptical of CAGW are not cynical whores driven purely by financial greed, then they are motivated by ideology. Here is the "No Logo" patron of plain clothes propaganda Naomi Klein in an interview with Andrew Revkin of the New York Times:
"If you really do believe that freedom means governments getting out of the way of corporations (3) and that any regulation leads us down Hayek’s road to serfdom, then climate science is going to be kryptonite to you*. After all, the reality that humans are causing the climate to warm, with potentially catastrophic results (2), really does demand radical government intervention in the market, as well as collective action on an unprecedented scale (1)."
Alright, three points...

(1) Freedom will be the foremost requirement for adapting to, overcoming and alleviating the negative impacts of climate change whether anthropogenic or not. But of course, that is not the situation Klein is envisaging: she - and others like her - are talking about halting climate change. They are not interested in things like clean coal, efficiency gains or driving hybrid cars; no, that sort of thing cannot possibly go anywhere near far enough in reducing greenhouse gases. Klein's people are interested in - in her own words - "collective action on an unprecedented scale". Bear in mind that she is not talking about voluntary collective action, but State directed and enforced collective action. Bear in mind also, that preposterous in proportion though they may have been, previous such attempts at State directed and enforced collective action were very real and were devised (at least initially) with good intentions; the scale of what Klein is talking about is such that the comparison ought not to be dismissed as though it were a cartoon.

(2) There is a basic "lie of omission" to the claim of "potentially catastrophic results" which is that, assuming the predictions of 1 to 3 degrees warming over the next century are correct, then stupendous areas of presently frozen land will become habitable. Assuming this land can eventually be cultivated, then this would be a far-reaching benefit. Does it not rouse suspicion that the Left, typically so fond of arguing for violating people's rights in favour of the "common good", in this instance do not even bother attempting an aggregate cost-benefit calculation? Is there not a parallel between their singular, adamantine insistence upon "catastrophe" and their single-minded persistence in shouting down doubters and critics?

(3) Third point (though it is of the foremost importance): freedom cannot be defined merely by reference to the negative externalities that commercial entities sometimes impose on other people; freedom is not the absence of institutional restraints, it is the essential condition from which they must arise. Law is held in public contempt precisely to the degree that it is imposed in direct violation of the natural rights of the individual.

Where are the people on the Left who even understand this?


Reflecting on the whole Peter Gleick episode and the apparent insanity of what he did, I find it disturbing - but not in the obvious sense of a scientist who committed a crime. I find it disturbing that he would apparently believe (a) that the tiny Heartland Institute was largely responsible for public skepticisim of CAGW rather than the monstrous "over-sell" presentation of the science along with its overt politicization by the Left, and (b) that skeptics were really just shills in the pay of Big Oil and that, by stealing documents, he could heroically expose them. The fact that he couldn't - that the truth was that Heartland's funding was pitiful and variously sourced - must have come as a shock, something he was psychologically unprepared for. Hence the forged document. At some point soon after he must have looked up out of the hole he'd dug himself - and decided to stop digging. I could almost have pitied him if only he'd dropped his shovel in silence rather than petulant protest.

What happened to Gleick? Did someone, ahem, "pay" him to stop digging? Did someone "suggest" the sting operation to him in the first place? Whatever... the twisted tapeworm of bias and denial projected by the Left - people like Naomi Klein and Michael Turton - ate this man from the inside out. He's done.


*I find it vaguely amusing that Klein would invoke the metapor of "kryptonite"; is this a semi-Freudian slip? Does she imagine herself a Dominatrix with global ambitions, leashing Skepticman to her four-inch heel, in some cheap Channel N remake?


  1. "the scale of what Klein is talking about is such that the comparison [to Mao’s Great Leap Forward] ought not to be dismissed as though it were a cartoon"

    Indeed. In her “Capitalism vs. the Climate” article, linked from the Revkin interview, Klein outright declares that climate change “demands” nothing less than “a new civilizational paradigm.”

    A paradigm. And the way it comes into being: “Lots and lots of planning. And not just at the national and international levels. Every community in the world needs a plan for how it is going to transition away from fossil fuels” and, it has to follow, enough community agents to coordinate these community plans with central community authorities.

    In case, I suppose, that the promise of whipping climate change now falls short of fully selling her brave new paradigm, Klein doesn’t stint on reporting the wonderful news that people living therein will never ever lack for work. For anyone failing to secure a piece of the community agent action, Klein’s requisite changes to farming practices will be “much more labor intensive than industrial agriculture, which means that farming can once again be a substantial source of employment.”

    A digging stick in every hand to put a tuber in every pot. Super.

    There’s much more painful inanity in the article of course, and copious assurances to “workers” throughout. Given her determination to paint utopian rainbows all over her envisioned “shift to our postcarbon future,” it’s surprising she neglected to tout the economic boon of a revitalized buggy whip industry. But maybe that’s in reserve for the Channel N programming of which you spoke.

  2. She is just an open and out commie, she really is. And she is exactly the type of specimen to be found throughout the punyversities.


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