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 statement did 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.

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* In a previous article for The Pipeline, I referred readers to such reputable studies as  Elaine Dewar’s Cloak of Green, John Casey’s Dark Winter, Norman Rogers’ Dumb Energy and Bruce Bunker’s The Mythology of Global Warming: Climate Change Fiction vs. Scientific Facts, works whose findings would appear to be definitive. The real “climate deniers”—i.e., those who believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming and divestment from essential industries—might also consult Robert Zubrin’s magisterial Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Donna Laframboise’s acetylene exposé of the IPCC at the United Nations The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert, and Alan Carlin’s politically and scientifically informative Environmentalism Gone Mad. There are many other excellent studies and monographs on the subject, too numerous to mention here. I suspect that none of these books will find a home on any academic syllabus.

Boo-Hoo: Scientists Feel Bad About 'Climate Change'

Tragic news from the world of climate "science" --

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.