Lies, Damn Lies, and Polling Questions

Rich Trzupek12 Oct, 2023 5 Min Read
With the media behind every one of them.

In any public discussion on the topic of "climate change," many a fair-minded person is swayed by the perception that the vast majority of scientists agree about the nature of the problem, the cause of the problem, and the solution to the problem. The keyword here is "perception." That perception isn't really informed by the actual opinions of the scientists themselves, but by the way they answer carefully phrased questions and how those answers are communicated to the public. In other words scientific opinion on this and many other topics isn't usually directly communicated by scientists, but through intermediaries like the media, who cut and paste selections of their statements to fit a predetermined conclusion.

Looking back over three decades plus of climate hysteria one can identify several phases in the narrative. Phase one was simple, the message being: the climate is changing. The response from many (including this scientist) was: yes it is, and it always has, and it always will. We then moved into phase two: the climate is changing, and human activity bears some responsibility for the phenomenon. The question was always: "if true, how much?" But once we started down that road, civilized discourse pretty much came to an end. That's because the media professionals got involved, and they don't care about highly technical. They're only interested in attracting eyeballs.

One of the things that struck me when the so-called "Climategate" files were released over a decade ago was how much of the material was about managing the narrative, much of the instruction provided by public relations pros. People should be disturbed when a scientific institution that is supposed to be neutral becomes involved in creating and managing messaging. As scientists that's not our job. Finding how much this practice had infected climate change research deeply disturbed me. It still does.

You say you want a revolution.

Please don't misunderstand the point here. Scientists do and should have opinions. If they wish to express those opinions they should be free to do so. But their expressions of opinions should not be stage managed by handlers behind the scenes, instructing them which opinions to utter and which opinions to keep to themselves.

The reality is that the "climate change" issue is complex and nuanced. Media types, like the propagandists they are, deplore complexity and nuance. They want messages that are simple and powerful. Once those of us they've labeled "deniers" started to delve into the intricacies involved in evaluating and responding to "climate change," the PR professionals put a stop to discourse. They essentially said that this “crisis” was too important to dither about the details. “Climate change is happening and mankind is responsible” – full stop. Any further discussion was not desired.

When discussions get that personal and angry, as discussions in our era often do, the reaction of many good people is to withdraw. Their silence tends to create a vacuum, which is filled by the relentless narrative. The relentless narrative is loud, unforgiving, and tireless. All the more so when so many forms of communication are dominated by people whose political views provides the self-justification needed to consciously censor those who are not of a like mind.

If we were to try to reduce this multifaceted issue down to a single question it would be: is it wise to decarbonize society? I and many scientists like me emphatically say no in answer to that query. No, I am not a climatologist, I'm not a economist, I'm not an electrical engineer, and I'm not a physicist. But I understand more about the way those disciplines interact and affect the answer to the question of decarbonization than the vast majority of people I hear pushing it. (Tim Cook, I'm looking at you brother.) The same can be said of many scientists whose credentials in one or more of those fields are far more impressive than mine, assuming a Nobel Prize in physics still impresses. But I'm convinced that for every dissenter who speaks out publicly there are dozens, maybe more, who remain silent, shouted down by the relentless narrative.

The personal vilification is the most offensive part I think. I understand the argument, the other side calls us names so we have to do the same. Maybe it truly is necessary to fight dirty if your opponent chooses to do so. Arguably that strategy worked for Donald Trump. But I want no part of it. I don’t want it to support my views or to contradict other views.

The French have a word for it. Or three.

Surely it is true that there are people in lofty offices with great influence who look at decarbonization as a way to increase their income and their power. No doubt there are people in other lofty offices with great influence in other spheres who see decarbonization as a personal threat to their wealth and power. I and the vast majority of my fellow dissenters believe we are right, because that’s what we honestly believe. At the same time, I believe the same is true on the other side. Some of them may have monumental egos, but I doubt that many of them are trying to impose a new world order. I simply think they’re wrong.

Such scientists typically take great offense when they are told that they’re wrong. It is not troubling to me, nor I think to prominent dissenters like Roy Spencer and Judith Curry, Steve McIntyre, and Mark Steyn to be told: ”You're wrong, you don't understand the science.” That's okay. That declaration at least holds the door open a crack for a dispassionate discussion about what each of us understands and doesn't understand. You can call me stupid all day and it won't bother me. But claiming that I am a tool of evil corporate interests is an insulting, unfounded, lie.

For those of us who believe that decarbonizing society would be a costly, tremendously harmful error, the atmosphere in the United States today is not unlike that of Orwell’s 1984. The relentless narrative takes the place of O’Brien in this dystopia, and as scientists we’re not being asked to say that two plus two equals five, we’re being shouted down whenever we try to explain that 2.128 + 2.128 can equal four when you include important concepts like significant figures, rounding conventions, etc. The emergency can tolerate no dissent, no questions, no alternative plans of action. That this is precisely the excuse used by tyrants from Sulla through Mao and beyond seems to have been entirely forgotten.

Rich Trzupek is a chemist and air quality expert who has worked with industry and the EPA for over thirty five years. He is the author of Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry and other works. He lives in the Chicago area.


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2 comments on “Lies, Damn Lies, and Polling Questions”

  1. Again, “climate change” is the facade covering the true agenda which is otherwise unspeakable: population control, including resource control. Do not let yourself get dragged down their rabbit hole discussing that which they know themselves to be a pretension. Do not let them wear you down throwing useless, misdirected punches like an intellectual version of rope-a-dope. (Look it up if you’re too young to understand that term.) Did the Bishops actually believe in a place called purgatory? Did an entire economic system based on rent-seeking depend on them believing it? Should we proceed by arguing the precise contours of an unprovable assertion (climate change/purgatory), or is it more effective to openly debate the motives behind the misrepresentation (population & resource control/money)? We need to direct the debate—the true debate—towards the root theories of the “population bomb” and “resource depletion” because that’s all they are: theories. Until the premises of the Club of Rome are challenged, there’ll be no Protestant Reformation; just an endless debate over which “sins” are forgiven, for what price, who pays, and who collects.

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