Boondoggles on top of boondoggles. That's all I could think while reading this piece at The Daily Mail, with the following headline: "World’s biggest 'carbon-sucking' machine is switched on in Iceland: $15 million device will capture 4,000 tons of CO2 per year and could help 'reverse climate change.'"
The world's biggest carbon-sucking machine, billed as a tool to reduce climate change, has been switched on in Iceland. The $15 million (£10.8 million) 'direct air capture' (DAC) machine, created by Zurich-based company Climeworks, launched on Wednesday at the Hellisheiði Power Station, Iceland. Called Orca, it will capture 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year as part of efforts to reduce levels of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere – equivalent to the annual emissions from about 790 cars.
Seven hundred and ninety cars, eh? So we just need to build about 400,000 of these things to cover the roughly 300 million cars we have in the United States! And at $15 million a pop, we'd only have to double our national debt, more or less, to pay for them.
But how can we get bogged down with dollars and cents like this when the fate of the planet is on the line?! Just hand over the check book and let the experts go to work. It's an emergency, dammit! That's certainly the position of the guys who sell these things. "The cost per ton of Orca is perhaps less important than what we will learn," said Climeworks CEO, Jan Wurzbacher.
The company stressed the importance of climate capture following 'unprecedented extreme weather events' that have dominated the news headlines this year. It referred to the recent UN climate panel report – dubbed 'a code red for humanity' – which said global warming had caused an unparalleled melting of glaciers and was close to spiralling out of control. 'The report further confirms that it is crucial to reduce our emissions drastically and remove unavoidable and historic carbon dioxide emissions from the air permanently,' said Climeworks.
Of course, it doesn't take much effort to refute the claims Wurzbacher and others are making. For one thing, as we covered at the time, the IPCC report, despite some heated rhetoric (for which they're famous) was rather less dire than the frenzied headlines would have you believe. For another, the "unprecedented extreme weather events" aren't so unprecedented, and they only seem more frequent and extreme because of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the ubiquity of social media.
Some reporters are claiming that climate change is making hurricanes like Ida more frequent, but it isn’t.
In fact the best-available science finds that climate change will make Atlantic hurricanes 25% less frequent, and just 5% more intense https://t.co/ET8LHVSuPM
So, while I do sort of admire the chutzpah of Mr. Wurzbacher & Co., I think we'd all be better off if they moved on to new scam.
Of Coin Flips and 'Climate Change'
Heads I win, tails you lose. That might as well be the motto of the left these days, and not least of its Green flank.
For instance, it has become a commonplace that whenever anyone anywhere jokes during winter that global warming sounds nice right about now, for leftist condemnation to come in hot and heavy. As Eric Felton reminds us, when Donald Trump tossed off a one-liner to that effect during a speech on a frigid day in 2019, he was bitterly mocked by environmentalists. Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale's project on climate change communication (yes, such a thing does exist) said that the then-president's comment was "scientifically ridiculous and demonstrably false," adding,
There is a fundamental difference in scale between what weather is and what climate is. What's going on in one small corner of the world at a given moment does not reflect what's going on with the planet.
Good to know. But its hard not to notice that whenever it suits their purposes Greens will unreflectively sling bowls of hot, steamy, anecdata with the best of them. Have you noticed that you hear more about hurricanes during hurricane season these days? Climate change! Still wearing shortsleeves on Halloween? Climate change! Catch the news about that big tornado down south? Climate change!
As noted college drop-out and rich guy Derek Jeter said at Davos a few years ago, "[W]e’re seeing more and more natural disasters each year... Something has to be causing it.” Something other than the 24 hour news cycle and the rise of social media, I think he means.
Felton has a helpful evaluation of this summer's hottest example of this observation bias, the heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest which saw temperatures consistently exceeding 100ºF. In a piece for RealClear Investigations, he discusses an organization called World Weather Attribution, "a group organized not just to attribute extreme weather events to climate change, but to do so quickly." While the heatwave was still ongoing, WWA put out a statement claiming that they'd analyzed the data and that the extreme weather would have been “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.”
Considering their mission statement, it's hard to label this conclusion a shocker. But their claim of scientific objectivity gave cover to virtually every mainstream media outlet to confidently report that the heat was attributable to climate change. So saith the science!
Or saidth -- until a climatologist named Cliff Mass took the time to actually look through the data himself and came to an entirely different conclusion. Mass happens to be an expert in the weather of the Pacific Northwest -- he has actually written a book entitled 'The Weather of the Pacific Northwest' -- and his own weather models accurately predicted the heatwave.
According to Felton, Mass's modeling suggested that "global warming might have been responsible for two degrees of the near 40-degree anomaly. With or without climate change, Mass wrote, the region 'still would have experienced the most severe heat wave of the past century'." In short, the true culprit was the environmentalist movement's least favorite -- “natural variability.”
Mass made it a point to call out the shoddiness of World Weather Attribution's analysis, and they responded to his critique, saying that his report was "misleading and incorrect." But Felton notes that, after the release of Mass's study, WWA's statements on the topic were much more cautious and equivocating.
Let us all be inspired by their belated humility. Caution is king, at least where climate science is concerned. Better to be cautious than embarrassed when someone comes along and checks your work.
Damned Lies and Statistics: 'Climate Change'
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics,” a quote which Mark Twain in his Autobiography attributed to Benjamin Disraeli—though it more likely derives from the obiter dicta of the First Earl of Balfour. We all know—or should know—that statistics can be deceptive. Like language itself, they serve a dual function: to tell the truth and to lie—except that, unlike ordinary language, statistical contrivances appear to share the property of pure mathematics, that is, they seem objective, factual, impartial, and irrefutable. People are easily convinced, writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics, by a “spurious air of scientific precision.”
The only way to disarm plausible but specious statistical accounts is to dig down into the source data or, when feasible, simply to use one’s common sense. Of course, statistics can be woven out of whole cloth, total fabrications which are easily rumbled with a modicum of attention, but it is their subtlety, their playing with half-truths, that can be most persuasive and damaging. Telling half the truth can be more insidious than a manifest falsehood.
Stars and shadows ain't good to see by.
Global Warming statistics are among the most readily manipulable, delivering factoids that are true and yet false—in other words, in other words. The tactic is to present a lesser truth that disguises a greater one. For brevity’s sake, let’s take just a few examples of how “climate change” statistics can rank among the most effective means of producing assent to outright mendacities, coating whoppers with honey.
Consider the twaddle that came out of the University of Illinois’ 2009 survey that 97.4 percent of scientists agree that mankind is responsible for global warming, a finding which is easily debunked when one accounts for the selection methodology.
As Lawrence Solomon explains in a crushing putdown, the Illinois researchers decided that of the 10,257 respondents, the 10,180 who demurred from the so-called consensus “weren’t qualified to comment on the issue because they were merely solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists, astronomers and the like.” Of the remaining 77 scientists whose votes were counted, 75 agreed with the proposition that mankind was causing catastrophic changes in the climate. And, since 75 is 97.4 percent of 77, overwhelming consensus was demonstrated.
The real percentage, however, of concurring scientists in the original survey is a paltry .73 percent. That the chosen 75 were, as Solomon writes, “scientists of unknown qualifications” adds yet another layer to the boondoggle. This sort of thing is not a little white lie or an inadvertent statistical error. Once it reaches the point where a deliberate misconstrual must be maintained by the omission of details, the distortion of data and the suspicious liability to intentional error, we are in the presence of the great statistical charade as it is practiced by our accredited “experts.”
Not to be outdone, the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia developed a graph showing the trend to global warming, but neglected to note that it is calibrated in tenths of degrees rather than whole degrees, giving the misleading impression that the world is heating up when there is, in effect, little to no global warming to speak of. Similarly, the British climate journal The Register points out that NASA data have been “consistently adjusted towards a bias of greater warming. The years prior to the 1970s have again been adjusted to lower temperatures, and recent years have been adjusted towards higher temperatures.” Moreover, NASA data sets, as is so often the case, were predicated on omission, so-called “lost continents” where temperature readings were colder than the desired result.
Eureka! It's alive!
As The Register writes, “The vast majority of the earth had normal temperatures or below. Given that NASA has lost track of a number of large cold regions, it is understandable that their averages are on the high side.” Additionally, NASA reports their global temperature measurements “within one one-hundredth of a degree. This is a classic mathematics error, since they have no data from 20 percent of the earth's land area. The reported precision is much greater than the error bar.”
The problem, warns Joel Best in Damned Lies and Statistics, is that “bad statistics live on; they take on a life of their own.” Their longevity supports their putative truthfulness. And the public is gullible, prey to the baked-in lies that Best calls “mutant statistics,” no matter how implausible.
Similarly, Tim Harford in The Data Detective, a celebration of good and useful statistical models, refers to the tendency toward motivated reasoning, i.e., “thinking through a topic with the aim, conscious or otherwise, of reaching a particular kind of conclusion.” Obviously, such thinking can work both ways, disparaging reliable statistics as well as valorizing dubious ones. The whole point, of course, is obfuscation, to keep people in the dark. Our soi-disant climatologists could just as well have written that climate is defined by a statistical curve in relation to a congruence subgroup of a modular elliptic, and the effect would have been the same. Whatever it means, it sounds official and incontrovertible.
In his essay, “March of the Zealots,” John Brignell comments on such acts of dissimulation. “If the general public ever got to know of the scandals surrounding the collection and processing of data [about global warming]… the whole movement would be dead in the water… It is a tenuous hypothesis supported by ill-founded computer models and data from botched measurement, dubiously processed.”
Flawed statistical analyses have become the established currency of the climate economy.
Science: the New Opiate of the Elites
This past year should have dispelled all doubts that scientism has replaced Protestantism as the dominant religion of America's elite. Those Americans who, in days of yore, would have flocked to Marble Collegiate Church, in their Harvard ties and Sunday Go to Meeting hats, to hear Norman Vincent Peale preach about the power of positive thinking, now just stay at home and listen to the increasingly dismal (and often contradictory) predictions of Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But what's particularly striking is how they speak about science in the most unscientific way. They say things like "TRUST THE SCIENCE!" as if science were a single, static, even sentient thing. It's not.
This point was rather humorously made recently after Neil deGrasse Tyson, the obnoxious archbishop of this new religion, tweeted that "The good thing about Science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe in it." Several respondents pointed out that this is a sentiment which might more properly be applied to God. He even capitalized the 'S' in science.
But the best response came from (of all places) the Twitter account of frozen meat company Steak-umm, which, after mocking Tyson a bit, explained:
nope. science itself isn't "true" it's a constantly refining process used to uncover truths based in material reality and that process is still full of misteaks. neil just posts ridiculous sound bites like this for clout and he has no respect for epistemology
To extend that point, one of the definitive marks of true science is that its falsifiable. As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry once wrote:
Science is not the pursuit of capital-T Truth. It's a form of engineering — of trial by error. Scientific knowledge is not "true" knowledge, since it is knowledge about only specific empirical propositions — which is always, at least in theory, subject to further disproof by further experiment.
But contemporary scientism is completely unfalsifiable. No matter how many times the high priests are wrong (or have lied), the faithful are not shaken. We see this constantly in the realm of climate science, as when it turned out that polar bears were not actually nearing extinction, when Cold War-era climate scientists predicted that "entire nations" would be wiped out by rising sea levels by the year 2000, and more recently, when Canada's Ministry of Environment released a report showing that "Arctic sea ice grew 27 percent" in 2020, contrary to all expert predictions.
Have any of these revelations caused them to repent? Not at all! They remain certain that every outcome -- hot weather, cold weather, extreme weather, mild weather -- is the result of climate change, and the only solutions are so-called renewable energy, carbon taxes, and -- my favorite -- "carbon offsets," whereby the wealthy can pony up some cash and then live a more carbon intensive lifestyle than the peasantry.
This last one is a pretty good analogue to the abuse of indulgences which provoked the Reformation. Will something similar happen to the new established church? Perhaps. 'Fauci fatigue' has begun to spread to the general populace. But for our elite, don't hold your breath. Scientism is just too convenient.
The Death of Science, and of Scientific American
The great legacy publication, Scientific American, is dead. It’s still in print, but it is no longer either scientific or American. In an article described by a friend as, “a hailstorm of impenetrable academic verbiage, dictated by a Ph.D. trying to outpreen the race and climate-change virtue signalers,” the publication has stepped through the woke looking-glass and emerged as self-parody.
How else can one explain “Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon”? The nonsensical article’s apparent points are that “climate anxiety [is] just code for white people wishing to hold onto their way of life or get 'back to normal,' to the comforts of their privilege”, and “Climate anxiety can operate like white fragility, sucking up all the oxygen in the room and devoting resources toward appeasing the dominant group.”
It’s easy to write this off as the ravings of the Woke lunatic fringe, but to paraphrase Hannibal Lecter, the pathology on display here is a thousand times more savage and more terrifying, for it is classic Marshall McLuhan insidiously at play in the service of cultural Marxism:
The medium is the message because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.
Alas, the medium is indeed the message, and the message is grim for both science and America. The content isn’t the problem nearly as much as where it has been published. This is Scientific American, a publication of such heft and import that it has been the poster child, for 175 years, for shaping and controlling the scale and form of human association and action in the realm of objective reality and inquiry.
Science is foundational to human existence. It explains who we are and our place in the universe. It adheres to the strictest of laws: physics, mathematics, chemistry. All are disciplines that have but one specific answer to every question. There is right and there is wrong. Such things, however, cannot be permitted to exist in Marxist society.
Just ask the Marxists about crackpot science.
Scientific American is the publication that offered accessible, and often essential, insight into fundamental elements of science and impact on society. This is the publication that tried to answer what people were exposed to in the 9/11 collapse of the WTC, analyzed freezing ions in 1988, and how mammals make milk from blood in 1957. Peruse the archive back to 1875 and be astonished at what the magazine covered in the even the most obscure realms of real science – and why it mattered to human beings.
Gone now. Swept away. The virus of wokism has infiltrated one of the great publications. Here’s how it breaks down.
Readers of this website have been provided actual science by real Americans, demonstrating “climate change” to be a richly-funded, dark money hoax with no basis in science. Therefore, “climate anxiety” is itself fruit of the poisonous tree, a derivative fiction inculcated in the minds of those predisposed to fear. Thus, climate anxiety as supplanter of racial injustice is a fictional derivative of a fictional derivative of a fiction, a concept rivaled only by Goldman Sachs’ collateralized toxic mortgage obligations.
Think carefully about this. Scientific American – the longest-running scientific publication in the world -- now publishes Marxist fairy tales. The medium is indeed terrifying now the message.
The same inverted approach is on display in the publication’s COVID-19 articles. The September 25, 2020 article “How to Distribute a COVID-19 Vaccine Ethically” hand-wrings over countless scenarios that “unfairly prioritize rich countries,” and posit that
… a truly ethical proposal would treat all people equally and help countries get vaccines to people when they lack capacity to do so on their own, rather than accepting inequality in access as an unchangeable fact and bypassing the poor to help the rich, the weak to help the strong.
Yet this article and many like it completely bypass what was already known at the time and continues to prove out. According to the CDC, in the United States, 81 percent of COVID-19 deaths are in people aged 65 and older. Some 97 percent of deaths are those aged 45 and older. Fewer than 600 people under age of 25 have died from COVID-19, which comes to under 0.3 percent of the entire U.S. virus mortality volume. Kids generally don’t get the virus and even if they do, most don’t die from it. Finally, 93 percent of virus deaths include an average of three co-morbidities.
The science, and therefore the ethical distribution of vaccine, is clear. Treat those with the highest risk, because the science shows that much of the general population has very little to worry about.
The September 8, 2020 article entitled, “COVID-19’s Disparate Impacts Are Not a Story About Race: They’re A Story About Racism” makes the serious claim that, “in this pandemic, data are taking a back seat to racial prejudice.” This is apparently true only in Scientific American and other woke-polluted publications, however, because the article incessantly finger-wags at the alleged impact of racism on COVID infection and treatment without a single example of supporting data.
The incessant invasion of cultural Marxism through every institution of Western culture – schools, literature, art, film, sexuality, Judeo-Christian values – successfully penetrated the hallowed grounds of real science. It continues to spread. Who would have ever believed that there are 153 genders? Or that certain die-hard feminists are now demonized as TERFs – “trans-exclusionary radical feminists”?
How long before 2+2 = 5?
Scientific American didn’t just step through the looking-glass. It stepped through fifteen of them and emerged from the rear end of a Christopher Nolan film. And it took science with it.
Time to Take a Breather on Climate Politics
Not so long ago, we were all getting ready to freeze. In 1971, the Global Ecology network forecast the “continued rapid cooling of the earth; in 1975 The New York Times brooded that the earth “may be headed for another ice age,” as did Newsweek; in the March 1, 1975 issue of Science News, we were informed that “the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age [was] a real possibility,” and in the July 1975 issue of National Wildlife, C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization warned that “the cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.”
A few years later, we are all in danger of frying to a crisp. Over the past decades, as we know to our cost, a consensus has developed that the world is warming as a result of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). There is, apparently, no room for doubt.
The trouble is that the “science” involved has been commandeered by an army of political pulpiteers whose underlying purposes are distressingly suspect. Some of the movement’s advocates, to put it bluntly, are more concerned with saving their careers than saving the planet; others are building new careers at the expense of public credulity, the perks and salaries being just too good to give up. I imagine that a great number of them are dealing from the bottom of the deck.
Thus William Gray, professor emeritus of the Atmosphere Department of Colorado State University, laments that “fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they’d never get any grants if they spoke out.” Consequently, they must insist that “the science is settled”—an unscientific statement if ever there was one.
Gray received unlikely support from culture-hero James Lovelock who, in his various books on the apotheosis of Gaia, had been an ardent proponent of the Global Warming conjecture. In a late interview, Lovelock more or less reversed course, claiming that the science is far from settled and that “our university and government scientists might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to a loss of funding.”
In adding his réclame to the debunking of climate conformity, Lovelock -- who's now 100 years old -- showed both honesty and courage, rare attributes for climate commentators. If so-called climate skeptics need nerves of steel to oppose the reigning ideology, it takes even more courage for a “Warmist” to buck the trend. Lovelock, who in The Revenge of Gaia prophesied the charring of the planet, now confides he had been “extrapolating too far.” Despite predictably hedging his bets and deferring catastrophe into the indefinite future, he avers that “we don’t know what the climate is doing” and disparages his previous work, as well as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers, as “alarmist.”
Financial Post journalist Peter Foster believes that progress toward a more sensible accord on climate may be occurring: “alarmist science, grand schemes of UN-coordinated global governance, carbon taxes, and government promoted ‘technologies of the future’—are crumbling.”
But is that really the case? Our professional elites seems not to be aware—or interested—as they continue to promote a failed ideology. National governments and ambitious politicians are still beating the climate drum, whether Justin Trudeau in Canada or Gavin Newsom in California, leading their people down the road to economic perdition.
Thankfully, authentic scientists, men of courage and integrity, have no intention of surrendering to the climate commissars of the day. Their persistence in disseminating truth may eventually pay off. Perhaps people may gradually become aware that the so-called greening of the earth is actually leading to the blackening of the earth.
Where good intentions go to die.
The toxic waste flowing from Green renewables, unreported in the mainstream media, is off the charts. Writing in Forbes, Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, cites reputable figures showing that by 2016 there were 250,000 metric tonnes of solar panel waste to deal with, producing carcinogens washed into the soil by rainwater.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), he continues, “projected that this amount could reach 78 million metric tonnes by 2050.” In addition, costs are unsustainable. Today, “recycling costs more than the economic value of the materials recovered, which is why most solar panels end up in landfills.”
Additionally, burning e-waste materials, which include plastic components, produces fumes that are teratogenic. Wind farms create their own waste issues regarding the disposal of uncrushable, 100-to-300 feet long, used wind turbine blades, “a waste problem,” writes Christina Stella at NPR, “that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be.”
Perhaps people are also beginning to twig to the fact that, as P.F. Whalen writes in American Thinker, “the climate change cult’s agenda, is less about climate change and more about Socialism; maneuvering for the redistribution of wealth and increased government control over our lives, while disguised as well-intentioned activists striving for cleaner air.”
There’s nothing like the threat of an imminent apocalypse to advance a suspect agenda.
The scientific consensus today, as Foster believes, may be slowly shifting away from the catastrophism of the climate gurus, despite official and partisan resistance. True, the shift has been tentative. Carbon-driven global warming was an easy sell, but it will be a hard buyback—too many professional reputations are on the line.
Nonetheless, the evidence is growing to suggest, variously, that the human contribution to global warming is far less than originally assumed, that there may be no global warming, and that in any event a meteorological calamity is highly unlikely. As far back as 2008, two-thirds of the scientists attending the 33rd International Geological Congress were “hostile to, even dismissive of, the U.N.’s IPCC report” on catastrophic climate.
In addition, a coalition of 49 former NASA scientists and seven Apollo astronauts, including the deputy director of the space shuttle program, has accused the bureaucracy of both NASA and the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), with which NASA is affiliated, of diddling with the facts. They write: “We believe that [their] claims that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data. With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts, coming particularly from the GISS leadership, it is clear that the science is NOT settled.”
And a little child shall mislead them.
If Lovelock is right and we don’t know what the climate is doing, then it is surely time for a moratorium on oracular pronouncements foretelling climate doom and vaticinal prescriptions for drastic and irreversible action.
The sickly obsession with "green energy" has to be put out to pasture. It behooves us to proceed gingerly and with humility when engaging in practices that can alter and even destroy livelihoods, that can profoundly affect the industrial and economic infrastructures on which prosperity depends, and that may meddle harmfully with natural processes. Scientists are neither soothsayers nor sorcerer’s apprentices no matter how many degrees and laurels they have acquired.
Meanwhile, civilization is in no danger of collapsing—at least, not from natural causes; the earth is not about to become an orbital cinder; hydrocarbons are not about to be exhausted; and there is time to reflect, plan, experiment and test a diversity of sustainable energy replacements. Nuclear power plants, for example, are not only increasingly secure but create 300 times less toxic waste per unit of energy than do solar panels. Working in proportionate tandem with oil-and-gas, a safe, plentiful and affordable energy source can supply the energy needs of the future while preserving the environment as well as the job economy.
Precipitate action may benefit crony capitalists, corrupt politicians, academic imbeciles, Reset leftists and scientific sell-outs at the cost of planetary degradation and common suffering. The possibilities for creating fear and panic to further the schemes and purposes of Green profiteers are endless. “Some say the world will end in fire,/Some say in ice,” wrote Robert Frost. In the 1970s it was ice; now it’s fire.
A pandemic, a Biblical flood, erupting volcanoes, the separating of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates that may release the hell of Tartarus upon the planet, as James Rollins fantasizes in his Sigma Force thriller The Last Odyssey—all are equally plausible, which is to say, implausible scenarios. Perhaps it’s time to stop fetishizing cataclysmic theatrics, whether for lucre, reputation or political control. Moreover, the untutored enthusiasms of credulous multitudes need to be treated with unqualified skepticism as well.
In short, informed and honorable people know it’s time to take a breather on climate politics. Too little is known and computer models are notoriously unreliable, often reflecting their programmers’ biases or ineptness rather than the real world. This practice of presuming on results is called by those in the field “climate model tuning” or “parameter estimation targeting a chosen set of observations.”
According to the American Meteorological Society, “tuning methodologies may affect fundamental results of climate models, such as climate sensitivity.” There are, as the AMS goes on to admit, “consistency issues across the model and its components,” as well as “limitations of process studies metrics,” such as sampling issues, and also the fact that “the climate system itself is not observed with sufficient fidelity to fully constrain models.” The language is technical but the meaning in layman’s terms is clear: the results of current climate and environmentalism studies, given the “arcane aspect of model construction,” are untrustworthy and corrupted.
What is needed is not ad hoc adjustments to confirm a theory or ratify an antecedent conclusion, but, as the AMS advises, “a vigorous debate on model tuning and evaluation.” There is far too much uncertainty arising from the inductive procedures currently in play.
Michael Crichton was right when he urged in State of Fear that we need “more people working in the field, in the actual environment, and fewer people behind computer screens.” No matter how sophisticated the regressive correlations and projective parameters used in computer simulations may be, there can be no substitute for concrete empirical work. Ultimately, we should agree, at the very least, that a large amount of comprehensive research still needs to be done before the science is sufficiently stabilized to yield results that are not perennially contestable.
The old Latin maxim applies: In dubio non agitur: when in doubt, don’t act. Or at any rate, act circumspectly and with gradually accumulated knowledge rather than with the doctorings of desire, the existence of prior convictions, or a raft of maniacal assumptions.
Canadian Academics and the Money Pipeline
A few years back, at a meeting of the English department at a major Canadian university, the issue that excited the indignation of the department was the wide divergence between faculty salaries and the comparative pittance allotted to sessional instructors. My wife, a full professor and director of several committees over the years, proposed that tenured faculty might throw their support behind the part-time instructors, offering in the next round of collective bargaining to absorb a small pay cut in exchange for an increase in part-timer’s wages. After all, she reasoned, if departmental concern were to be more than mere virtue signaling or self-indulgent rhetoric, a modest fraction of bountiful faculty paycheques should not be too much to ask. Her suggestion was met with incredulous and patronizing laughter and was immediately dismissed.
This incident offers a window onto the mental landscape of many academics, especially in the humanities and social science programs—professors who are good with words but bad at moral principle, whose skill with language masks an inner spiritual vacuum and lack of compassion for those whom they pretend to champion.
But such academics, by and large, are not only lacquered hypocrites, they are both technological illiterates and economic simpletons. One of the latest issues now agitating the Canadian academic community—again, I speak primarily of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments, where practical ignorance is a bedrock feature—is the campaign against the country’s energy sector, chiefly in Alberta and Newfoundland.
Some 265 academics have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau objecting to the bailout package the government is preparing for the oil and gas companies in financially-strapped Alberta. It seems obvious that the bailout is merely a sweetener toward the eventual extinction of the energy sector. The anti-oil profs would rather see the entire operation immediately scrapped. Instead, financial resources should be allocated to conservation, public transportation, fighting climate change “and other areas of mitigation and adaptation to global warming.” The fact that the most responsible science reveals that “global warming” is a handy myth fostered by those who would profit from Big Green is never considered.*
“Research shows,” our pedagogues inform us, “that investments in both social services and sustainable energy produce far more jobs than comparable investments in the capital-intensive oil and gas sector”—but such “research” remains conveniently unaddressed and thus impossible to analyze. Similarly, many of the claims made throughout the document are devoid of links or context. The signatories complain that the oil industry has received substantial government subsidies, but they do not mention that every country in the world supports its energy zone to maintain a level playing field, or that non-oil based companies, such as Canada’s aviation firm Bombardier, auto manufacturers like GM and Chrysler, scandal-plagued engineering giant SNC-Lavalin and others also benefit from significant government largesse.
St John's harbor, Newfoundland.
As Tex Leugner, editor of the Action Alberta newsletter, indicates in a personal communication, mining (potash, diamond, uranium, etc.) and manufacturing are go unmentioned. “The implication of course is that only carbon based subsidies were included nationally.” In other words, why no focus on other extraction industries or the aforementioned subsidized companies with their “environmentally-unfriendly” cars, trucks, buses, airplanes, and heavy machinery tearing at Gaia’s bowels? The obsession with oil plainly trumps every other consideration in the effort to demolish the armature of daily existence. One takedown at a time.
Moreover, it would seem highly doubtful that green investments would come even close to matching the jobs supplied by the oil and gas industry or equalling the $359 billion flowing from energy industries to government from 2000 to 2018. Citing Statistics Canada, the Financial Post points out that the energy industry outstripped banking, real estate and construction in corporate taxes alone. Conversely, Big Green, with its fetish on “renewables,” its soaring costs, and Solyndra-like boondoggles, thrives on subsidies, not royalties.
Interestingly, the lead authors of the letter, Laurie Adkin and Debra Davidson, are professors from an institution intimately at risk, the University of Alberta. Neither of these self-proclaimed authorities has any expertise in the energy sector, recognition of job-creating spinoffs, nor any business experience worth mentioning—unless Political Science and Environmental Sociology constitute areas of pertinent credibility. They are joined among the signatories by psychologists, epidemiologists , social workers, media and cinema types, artists, curators, librarians and urban planners—many of whom know nothing about the vital economic issues at hand.
Newfoundland finds itself in the same unenviable situation as Alberta. Its offshore oil industry, as Rex Murphy reports in the National Post, is to be “deferred indefinitely,” in effect killing the “roughly $7 billion Bay du Nord project… the first ‘deep water’ oilfield” in the country. In a rare instance of administrative common sense, Newfoundland’s Memorial University president Vianne Timmons spoke out in favor of the energy project: “If it’s important to Newfoundland, it’s important to Memorial University.”
Her statementdid not sit well with faculty, who viewed it as “very disappointing to see (a) kind of open-ended support” for the oil industry. Professor and faculty association executive Josh Lepawsky was predictably offended. “There’s a risk that this kind of open-ended support for the oil and gas industry voiced by the president may reduce or chill those who are critical of it, and that’s an imposition on academic freedom.” Anything the faculty does not like, apparently, is a threat against academic freedom. The complete non sequitur of his formulation was obviously lost on him, especially given how often university faculties voice anti-oil sentiments without risking academic freedom. (Timmons herself later softened her uncharacteristic prudence. "But we do have a climate crisis,” she conceded, “and we must also work on research, teaching and service in that area to try and improve our processes around energy.")
That advancements in industry standards have rendered extraction and delivery safer than ever, that hundreds of thousands of jobs and working families depend on the survival of the energy sector, and that nothing less than national solvency is at stake escapes the coddled academic mindset. After all, academics can afford to pontificate. They are tenured or tenure-track; they are for the most part ignorant of the empirical world, having rarely worked with their hands, engaged in productive labor or experienced the risks attendant on business ventures or entrepreneurship; they enjoy hefty guaranteed salaries, annual raises and cushy pensions for long service. They need not fear layoffs or bankruptcies, and are by profession enamored of theory but alien to heuristic practice. To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb from Skin in the Game, “If you give advice, you need to be exposed to losses from it.”
I reiterate that I am speaking chiefly of academics who teach in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, professors who are sublimely oblivious of the fact that their salaries, benefits and facilities derive in large measure from the very quarter they will do everything in their power to shut down. The pipelines they would dismantle are the very pipelines that feed their incomes and pensions—which, as noted above, they will not share with their less fortunate colleagues—and that provide the buildings, offices, classrooms, appliances, heating, air conditioning, furniture, amenities, supplies and equipment without which they would find themselves out in the cold. As Neven Sesardić argues in When Reason Goes on Holiday, philosophers in particular and academics in general have a rather shaky connection to the exigencies of everyday life and should be more circumspect and humble when pronouncing on real-world matters. They should struggle “to break the grip of groupthink.” No matter. The workplace is the wokeplace.
We need also consider that these faculties have deteriorated from the classical model of rigorous and impartial education, having become propaganda outlets and disinformation centers serving the political left, useless, irrelevant or harmful with regard to the public good. Taxpayer funding is grossly wasted subsidizing departments that have bought into political correctness, cultural Marxism, radical environmentalism, global warming and the “social justice” epidemic at the expense of real learning and scholarly discipline, not to mention the resource industries on which the future of the country rests.
To put it bluntly, most contemporary academics, with the differential exception of those in business (maybe), medicine and STEM, are parasites living off the sweat of other people’s labor. Their departments should be ruthlessly downsized and the money pipeline made to flow the other way, toward the sectors that actually contribute to the nation’s prosperity and well-being. Or, like my wife, once they grow aware of how far academia has fallen from intellectual rectitude and disinterested instruction, they should take early retirement and preserve their self-respect.
In 2014, Joe Duggan started reaching out to climate scientists to ask them a question: how did climate change make them feel? “I was just blown away when I started getting the letters back,” he says.
Duggan, a science communicator at Australian National University, set up a website and starting publishing the mostly handwritten responses. “[Professor] Katrin Meissner was one of the first, and her letter really hit me. It was so ... unscience-y. Almost poetic.”
“It makes me feel sad. And it scares me,” Meissner wrote. “It scares me more than anything else. I see a group of people sitting in a boat, happily waving, taking pictures on the way, not knowing that this boat is floating right into a powerful and deadly waterfall.”
Definitely "unscience-y." The poor fools, laughing their way over the Extinction Event waterfall... But wait -- there's more!
In the end, more than 40 scientists responded – many leaders in their field. Some wrote neatly on lined notepaper, others scrawled on the back of student papers they were marking. “It became a big part of my life,” Duggan says. “I felt a little bit out of my depth. It took its toll on me and in the end I felt I had to step away. I went into my shell and pretty much turned off my phone for three years.
One can only imagine the trauma. Here you are, a "science communicator" and you curl up in the fetal position and turn off your phone -- those are some communication skills!
Meissner, now director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, didn’t hesitate to respond partly because “it was the right thing to do. But also because we have not been very good at communicating climate science to the public and I believe that it is my duty as a citizen to alert people to the urgency of the situation.”
Yes, what we need is more communication to convey the urgency of the situation. It's not as if the End Times brigade hasn't been yammering about the ticking environmental time bomb for decades and decades now. But apparently, like communism, "climate science communication" just hasn't really been tried yet.
Excerpts from the letters at the link. You'll need a heart of stone not to laugh.