Jason Riley had a good piece recently in the Wall Street Journal reminding us of the environmentalist movement's continual predictions of impending doom over the past half century, catastrophes which never seem to come to pass.
The modern green movement dates to the 1960s and apocalyptic predictions have long been the coin of this realm. In 1967, brothers William and Paul Paddock wrote “Famine 1975!” In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” declared that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death despite any crash programs embarked upon now.”
These works shocked our ruling class on both sides of the aisle. Riley mentions in particular President Nixon's convocation of the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, chaired by John D. Rockefeller III, grandson of the founder of Standard Oil, father of the former Democratic senator. The commission found that as the U.S. population grew, "More droughts, famines and pollution were in store. Energy shortages, mineral depletion and deforestation were inevitable. Higher poverty rates and fewer job opportunities were unavoidable."
Of course, Riley goes on, the commission got it exactly wrong:
The U.S. population now numbers more than 330 million, up from around 200 million in 1970. Yet Americans breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water than they did 50 years ago. Poverty rates are lower, obesity is a bigger problem than hunger, and the current unemployment rate if anything reflects a labor shortage.
He goes on to point to the contemporary environmentalist movement's usage of language which is almost indistinguishable from their 1960's script, but deployed against their present-day enemies such as CO2 emissions. These include predictions of famines and droughts, despite the fact that, according to Riley,
Since the 1960s the global production of food calories has risen dramatically and can easily satisfy the nutritional needs of everyone on the planet. And since 1980 the world-wide number of annual deaths from famine has been 90 percent to 95 percent lower than the first half of the 20th century.
He might have mentioned the fact that this increase might not be in spite of, but because of, carbon emissions. Dr. Caleb Rossiter of the CO2 Coalition has argued convincingly that increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere has significantly increased crop yields over the course the past century.
In any event, pointing out the unrealized predictions of their movement is unlikely to win over any actual environmental activists. That's because, says Riley, "ideological environmentalism isn’t about following the data and the science." What it is about is "frightening others into accepting [their] way of thinking," giving them the power of "curtailing the freedom of other people to make decisions for themselves and live their lives as they see fit." But hopefully pointing out their failures will be enough to make normal people wary of signing on to their program. After all, you can only cry wolf so many times before people stop believing you.
Supply and Demand Will Undo the Great (Climate) Reset
He was up to page six. Please don’t make me read any more, Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, pleaded with his senior advisers. Laying ahead, another twenty-nine pages of the turgid thirty-five-page Summary for Policymakers, heading the latest IPCC assessment report.
Pity the policymakers to which the summary is aimed. Even green activists in the backroom might be rendered comatose after half a dozen pages. “Non-climatic human-induced factors exacerbate current eco-system vulnerability to climate change,” is just a taste of the verbiage. On and on it goes, full of stodge and fugue, signifying nothing but a fiery end lest we mend our ways.
Issued on 28 February, this latest report on the ‘impacts of and adaption and vulnerability to climate change’ emerged from Working Group 2. This follows a report on the ‘physical science’ from WG 1 in August last year. WG 3 will report on ‘mitigation’ in early April. A ‘synthesis’ report will issue in September.
We are in the midst of an intermittent IPCC torrent of climate-change hysteria. Only war, or resurgent Covid or other Chinese plague, or rampant inflation and recession, or Joe handing the baton to Kamala, has the potential of taking it off the front pages in the months ahead. Any possibility of good news? Sorry folks, wrong epoch.
Turn out the lights, the party's over.
Still, be not too despondent, a super hero in the guise of economics might yet save the day. You don’t say. How so? A segue.
I’m treasurer of my local church and banked the cash offertories the other day. You’re $21 short, the teller said. Sure enough, I’d forgotten the loose change in my pocket which added up to exactly $21. Arithmetic can’t be fooled around with. Indigenous, feminist, transgender arithmetic. You name it, two plus two is still four. Those of the green Left must hate it. Science, on the other hand, is embraceable. It is manipulable.
Whether it’s Covid or "climate change," the science can be exactly what they choose it to be. Their science becomes the science. Everything else is unscientific; the province of cranks.
Debauchment of the methodology of science? Sure. But the contestability of science makes it hard to disprove their science. In other words, unlike arithmetic, while there might be a right answer, it’s darned hard to pin it down.
Thus, perhaps man-made CO2 will result in uncomfortable temperature increases. It’s a theory. And, so far as the green Left is concerned, the central question is whether a theory, however tenuous, fits the narrative; truth be damned. If it does fit, and like a glove, it’s converted from theory into axiomatic truth. Deniers of the science (of “the truth”) are summarily marginalised and cancelled. End of story.
Works every time it's tried.
Thankfully, it’s not the end of the story. Enter economics. Economics is termed one of the soft sciences compared with the hard sciences of physics and chemistry and the like. It’s not so soft. At least one of its central underpinnings isn’t. To wit, supply and demand. Let’s put aside the so-called science of "climate change." Economics has nothing to say about it. However, it has everything to say about the supposed solutions. And it has the exactitude of arithmetic; and applies universally under whatever political regime you care to envisage.
Supply and demand govern the practical world. We experienced that in the supply-chain issues which saw prices rising and supermarket shelves emptied. And we see it when obstacles are put in the way of developing the West’s oil and gas supply; when Russian oil and gas is cut off or, these days, when the wind doesn’t blow.
In the capitalist world prices brings supply and demand into balance. In the communist world corruption, special favours, rationing and the black market do the job; though much less beneficially. But the job is done. It’s part of human nature to abhor unrequited demand and junk excess supply. To more IPCC blather:
Energy generation diversification, including with renewal energy resources and generation that can be diversified depending on the context (e.g., wind, solar, small scale hydroelectric) and demand side management (e.g., storage and energy efficiency improvements) can reduce vulnerabilities to climate change, especially in rural populations (high confidence).
Look hard, and you can detect the need to match demand with supply in there somewhere. But it rests on a hope and a prayer. Whether pumped hydro, and/or green hydrogen, and/or some other yet undiscovered technological solution, can ever fill the gaping gaps when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine is entirely speculative, at best.
Origin Energy one of Australia’s major power companies recently announced it was closing Australia’s largest coal power plant (Eraring in New South Wales) seven years ahead of schedule; by August 2025. “We have a belief in decarbonisation,” CEO Frank Calabria pronounced. And its reported (fanciful) replacement: large-scale batteries, virtual powerplants, buying in renewable power and gas peaking plants. Meanwhile modern life and its demand for affordable and reliable electricity goes on unabated. There’s gonna be a reckoning.
The Great Reset guys would like to change the nature of men and women to square the circle. Make us (not them, mind you) more satisfied with less, in the cause of the “common good.” Listen in on their ideal post-Great-Reset conversation:
“Have to freeze tonight, Edith,” her husband explained resignedly, “the wind’s dropped again.”
“It’s all for the common good Archie, Herr Schwab says so,” Edith replied submissively, as she shivered under layers of blankets.
Good luck bringing that about. My conclusion. Supply and demand will undo the Great (climate) Reset. If not a return to coal, oil and gas, then the door will be open wide to nuclear. As for electrifying transport, there’s been rapid growth but from a nothing base.
Various numbers abound. The biggest number I could find is that electric cars make up one percent of cars on the road. One in 250 was another estimate. Whatever is the small percentage, the percentage of miles travelled by electric vehicles will be far smaller. Multiply it all up to meet the dreams of the Climateers, and the practicalities of supplying vast quantities of electricity and exotic materials kick in. Finis fabula.
U.N. Climate Report: Cloudy, with No Chance of Silver Linings
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come forth with a new sixth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. In it the IPCC pretends science can predict what is impossible to predict: the variables in something as complex as climate. (If something is impossible to predict it is not based on science).
The IPCC's solutions are no better than its science. Given the IPCC’s leftist political orientation it ignores the data which show that increases in available energy sources and capitalism demonstrably lift more boats and improve the environment faster and more substantially than handing over money to government agencies and restricting conventional energy production.
The proposals the IPCC advances require a lot of fast and fancy footwork to obscure the fact that they can’t withstand close scrutiny:
The section on the effect of climate change on wildfires begins with an assertion that in the Amazon, Australia, North America and Siberia wildfires are burning wider areas than in the past and human-caused climate change has driven the increases in the forests of western North America but, that “elsewhere, deforestation, fire suppression agricultural burning, and short-term cycles like el-Nino can exert a stronger influence than climate change.” It’s of a piece with claims made earlier by others, including NASA, and just as false.
In fact, bad land-management policies in western North America are a more significant driver of wildfires than anthropogenic climate change. Depending on moisture content, most fuels must reach ignition temperatures between 644°F (340°C) and 795°F (440°C) to start a fire. The IPCC report makes the same mistake that NASA earlier made:
Stronger winds are more dangerous in part, because they transport larger embers. Small embers lack adequate energy to raise fuels from ambient temperatures of 70°F or 90°F to an ignition temperature of 644°F and higher. More so, the 2°F increase in global air temperatures since the Little Ice Age, increases the fuel’s temperature insignificantly and thus highly unlikely to increase 'the likelihood of a fire starting, or increasing the speed at which it spreads' as NASA claimed.
Reduction in both fire -uppression policies and the creation of fire breaks are a more likely driver of western wildfires. The warmer dry periods in these areas cannot be sufficient to reduce the humidity inside trees so as to affect wildfires: “From a global warming perspective, if relative humidity is kept constant during California’s rainless summers, for every 2 °F increase in temperature anomalies, calculations estimate that moisture content will only decrease by a rather insignificant 0.056% .” In any event the drier air is more closely related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), the el Nino and la Nina events over which man has no role. Historically, wildfires increased in the southwest when “let it burn” policies were instituted; and ice cores reveal that “maximum fire activity in boreal forests occurred during the Little Ice Age between 1500-1700 AD and was attributed to the failure of Asian monsoons about which, again, man has no control and as to which he had no impact.
Dr. Jon Keeley, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who researched the topic for four decades was clear: “We’ve looked at the history of climate and fire throughout the whole state [of California] and through much of the state, particularly the western half of the state, we don’t see any relationship between past climates and the amount of area burned in any given year.”
Every politician, every environmental group and every scientist trying to scare up more funding by uncritically blaming wildfires on CO2- induced climate change are not only ignoring good published science, but they’re also pushing wrong remedies and downplaying the correct remedies needed to benefit society and our environment. Better managed landscapes that control fuel supplies, and the re-introduction of fires via prescribed burns, will create more effective firebreaks and more healthy open habitat that coincidentally also increases wildlife diversity.
I cannot fathom the motives of the IPCC authors of this section but if one were to suggest it was to cover the rear end of California governor Newsom and his blinkered forest management policies, you’d be hard pressed to refute that. Of course, given the overall tenor of the report one might as well suspect the idea is to enrich Third World countries at our expense under the guise of preventing a disastrous climate change.
As if there weren’t enough U.N. generated, we’re-all- going- to- die scenarios, it has added plastic pollution to its doomsday tallies. Representatives of 175 nations at the U.N. committed to creation of a plastic treaty that would not only deal with recycling, but as well to the production of plastics. They hope to get it written by 2024, which I suppose gives us some breathing room in which legislative virtue-signalers can further beset us with limitations on useful products.
“We are making history today,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s climate and the environment minister and president of the United Nations Environment Assembly, which took place for the past week in Nairobi, Kenya. In an earlier interview, he said that, given Russia’s war in Ukraine, it was particularly significant that “this divided world can still agree on something, based on science.”
Based on science? The effort seems, like much in the IPCC report, short on the concepts of human ingenuity and mitigation. Locality after locality in the United States has jumped on the band wagon, banning plastic straws, and banning or taxing shopping bags. For what end, besides virtue signaling and grift? (As in the District of Columbia where the tax on plastic grocery bags supposedly to clean up the Anacostia River went to fund a project by the council member who proposed it and when, having left the council, now heads the non-profit which has nothing to do with cleaning up the river?)
Ninety percent of the plastics in the ocean come from ten rivers, and those rivers are all in Asia. In descending order, the waterways are the Citarum River in Indonesia, the Yangtze River (China), the Indus River (Pakistan), The Yellow River (China), the Hai River (China) the Ganges River (India), the Pearl River(China) the Amur River (China and Russia) , the Niger River( 5 African countries), the Mekong River (China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam).
Most of these countries have several things in common: They are poor or have substantial numbers of poor citizens and are generally poor managers of their public spaces and community hygiene. You can bet that, just like China and India’s exemption from international carbon emissions controls, they will angle for and receive exemption in this yet-to-be devised treaty . Claims that richer nations have fobbed off the environmental degradation caused by plastics by shipping off plastic trash to such countries, ignores the benefit to them and the environment of recycling this material.
Import of plastic waste in lower-income countries like these also has been associated with growth in gross domestic product. It seems a great deal of the plastic waste shipped there from places like the United States and Britain are recycled and used instead of virgin materials to make useful products. That process results in fewer carbon emissions and ocean pollution. It’s an economical practice which uses less fossil fuels, the climate-change advocates' bogeyman. For a time, the used plastics from the U.S. and Britain were sent to China, but because of scandals involving mixing toxic waste into these plastics and dumping instead of reprocessing them, China stopped allowing their importation. Naturally, the doomsters believed this would only add to ocean pollution. Instead, it went to even poorer Asian countries where recycling it has been evolving into big business. There people such as Seah Kian Hoe, who as a kid used to collect scrap door-to-door for reuse now employs 350 people to run Heng Hiap Industries one of the top five plastic recycling businesses in his country which processed tons of waste per year.
There's gold in them thar bottles.
It's labor-intensive work and like clothing manufacturing takes less skilled workers and less capital. It’s a normal national economic progression. Such work is done in poorer countries and as they get richer they can hire more skilled workers, invest in more advanced technologies, and they can use those technologies to simplify and increase production, improve workers health and safety, and reduce pollution.
Heng Hiap Industries works with over 28,000 domestic plastic recyclers to buy and convert plastic scraps into high performance resin before selling it to clients that include top South Korean appliance manufacturers and Japanese automotive companies… By digitally transforming its plastic recycling operations, Heng Hiap aims to collect more and better-quality plastic by extending its collection infrastructure beyond informal collectors and grassroots recyclers, all the way to the household level, through a simplified and user-friendly collection process. In the long term, the plastic recycling company envisions creating a truly circular economy for plastics by helping its business-to-business (B2B) customers address the growing pressure from eco-conscious consumers for greater transparency and traceability.
This is not a new phenomenon. We’ve seen over and again how capitalism, ingenuity, and adaptability all combine to lift poor nations up. And higher GDP correlates with better environmental practices. In other places, we’ve seen poor countries go from labor-intensive but capital-short clothing manufacturing to such things as chip manufacturing in a very short time. As the process of recycling plastic has gone from low-level Chinese recycling to countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, we are seeing improved infrastructure, products, returns for both the manufacturers and the customers of the end products, and the environment.
The 'Science' of Climate Hysteria
There are two sorts of societies that embrace mass civil hysteria: those that are stable and secure, and those that inherently unstable. In the first case, mass hysteria can be employed as a political tool because the institutions of a stable society are strong enough to endure the exercise. In the second, mass hysteria doesn’t matter because the wheels have already come off.
Lately, we've been treated to a modern version of the former phenomenon, as leftist politicians and their minions in the legacy media described the January 6, 2021 protests in Washington as “an insurrection” and equated the importance of January 6, 2021 to December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001. Personally, I found the actual attack on the Capitol that occurred on March 1, 1971 more troubling than the protesters who showed up a couple of months short of thirty years later, but that’s probably just me. Some people are obviously as frightened by fake Viking caps as they are by actual explosives.
That theme is such a feature of American society today and there is no better example of how important the tool of hysteria has become among the ruling class than their continuing, unrelenting efforts to normalize the idea that we’re suffering a “climate crisis.”
Sidebar before we move on. The chances are that I know a great deal more about how atmospheric science works than 99 percent (or more) of the people who will read this piece. I’m quite certain that is true if you compare my personal understanding of the physics, the thermodynamics, the chemistry and a whole bunch more the complex interactions that define atmospheric science than, say, Al Gore, or Bill Nye, or Greta Thunberg, or Joe Biden, et al.
On the other hand, I freely admit that I’m not an actual climatologist like alarmists Michael Mann and Phil Jones, nor like skeptics Roy Spencer and Judith Curry. However, I do believe that my generally more-informed opinion is worth a lot more in the scheme of things than that of clueless politicians, naïve kids, and mechanical engineers who exercise their Constitutional right to offer opinions about issues they don’t actually understand.
The basic problem here is that some guys fall in love with their research. It’s a common disease in the scientific community, one that “consensus” breakers from Copernicus, through Einstein, through George Lemaître have battled (look up the last my friends, he’s a modern day hero who transcends the supposed barrier between science and faith). For the alarmist to even consider, much less address, the idea that their predictions may be even slightly off equates, in many (if not most) cases to admitting they might have screwed up, invalidating much of what they said and wrote over the past years.
How many of us can deal with the concept of admitting the last couple of decades of our work is useless, or at best questionable? Not many. Sure as hell I don’t want to think about my forty-some year career as an exercise in futility. But everybody – me included – has to come to grips with the idea that there are certain intellectual paths that are worth exploring, but are ultimately dead ends, and that’s a good thing.
Edison: try, try again.
To paraphrase Edison, he didn’t spend years failing to figure out how an electrically powered lightbulb could work. He rather spent those years defining how an electrically powered lightbulb can’t work. The same should be true, but sadly is not, when we consider the populist “climate-crisis” message more than thirty years after it was first proposed as a clear and immediate danger.
Many conservatives and libertarians consider the “climate crisis” in solely political terms. This view holds that the leftists and their mainstream media allies are pushing an agenda they know to be untrue, for malicious political ends. I disagree. I don’t argue with the idea that the left’s agenda is largely untrue and largely motivated by malicious political ends. But I do believe there is a significant portion of sincerity in the fear of the future expressed by many who believe there is a “climate crisis.” I don’t demonize such people, I simply believe they are wrong.
Here's an example. Next time somebody tells you that “scientists agree” that carbon dioxide is creating catastrophic changes in earth’s climate, ask them a simple question: why isn’t December 21 the coldest day of the year in the northern hemisphere? The winter solstice occurs every December 21. During that day the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight than any day of the year. If carbon dioxide acted as a blanket, as countless You Tubers have tried to demonstrate using heat lamps and carboys filled with carbon dioxide, wouldn’t it make sense that the day with the least sunlight should be the coldest?
As anyone who grew up in a northern climate knows, the coldest months are January and February, when the days are longer and the amount of solar energy received is greater than on December 21. What does this tell us?
It tells us the climate science is a whole lot more complicated than two inputs. There’s a bunch of factors that come into play which make the months following the winter solstice the coldest each year. I’m not using this simple logic experiment to claim that carbon dioxide has no effect on the climate, but to point out that it's but one of many variables that the climate models wrestle to properly represent.
You cannot, in other words, draw a direct correlation between carbon dioxide concentrations and heat retention in the atmosphere, no matter how much the alarmist’s PR folks want to push that message down our throats. It’s a helluva lot more complicated than that, which is something all scientists can actually agree on.
Science Ain't What it Used to Be
The year 1905 is referred to as Albert Einstein's Annus Mirabilis. In that twelve-month span Einstein published four papers which revolutionized our understanding of the laws of physics. The titles of those papers are as follows: First, "On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light;" Second, "On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid, as Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat;" Third, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies;" and last of all, "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?"
Don't worry -- I will not attempt a gloss of any of these essays, nor any discussion of "special relativity" or that most famous of equations (first proposed in the final paper) E = mc2. I mention them only to point out that, once upon a time, scientific papers were generally about science. Nowadays, well, not so much.
This is the thought that occurred to me as I read through a new paper out of Cornell University by Mark Lynas, Benjamin Houlton, and Simon Perry, entitled "Greater than 99 percent consensus on human caused climate change in the peer-reviewed scientific literature." As the title suggests, the object of the paper is to demonstrate the tired old talking point that 99 percent of scientists accept the supposed scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.
According to the abstract, "questions over the scientific consensus of the role of human activities in modern climate change continue to arise in public settings," (might this have something to do with the fact that one side of the debate cites it constantly?) the authors have decided to demonstrate said consensus "by searching the recent literature for papers [skeptical] of anthropogenic-caused global warming." They compiled 88,125 "climate-related papers" published since 2012, "examine[d] a randomized subset of 3000" of those papers, and searched them for keywords which would suggest that they are, in fact, skeptical of the standard environmentalist argument. As fewer than one percent met the criteria, the authors concluded,
[W]ith high statistical confidence that the scientific consensus on human-caused contemporary climate change—expressed as a proportion of the total publications—exceeds 99 percent in the peer reviewed scientific literature.
This, it needs hardly be said, is not science. Science is, in the words of Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, a method for testing "empirical theories through controlled investigation." "Scientific knowledge," he goes on, "is always, at least in theory, subject to further disproof by further experiment." This is why appeals to "consensus" ring so hollow --the sheer number of scientists doesn't matter at all. What matters are their arguments, and an engagement with the actual arguments of skeptics is notably lacking here. So notably in fact that the authors feel compelled to point it out: "An in-depth evaluation of [the] merits [of the skeptical papers] is outside the scope of this paper." To which one must reply, 'then what does your paper contribute to this discussion?' Almost nothing, except that it enables gullible journalists to claim that, according to a new paper, 99 percent of scientists agree. This whole project was in the service of future headlines.
The science is settled, Albert.
There's more to be said on this topic -- we could cite the work of Princeton physicist and self-described climate "heretic," Freeman Dyson, who passed away last year, or the more recent work of Michael Shellenberger and Bjørn Lomborg (the latter of whom once had a pie thrown at him by the lead author of this paper for his climate skepticism), who've done yeoman's work pushing back on the scientists who thoughtlessly accept environmentalist readings of the data at hand. We might even mention the gobs of money pumped into climate science every year with the implicit understanding that it will go towards demonstrating that we're doomed.
But it will suffice to say that Albert Einstein's papers were, in fact, a major deviation from the consensus of his day. We're all richer for his having dared to disagree.
Well, It Certainly Does Suck
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.
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.