To Save California from Fire, Burn It

As the state of California slowly returns to the state of Nature, politicians such as Gavin Newsom -- the worst governor in Golden State history, so bad he makes one yearn for the second coming of Gray Davis -- and the arsonists in Sacramento propose to make things worse, not better. Newsom, whose name should be changed to Noisome, blames the outbreak of fires during, um, fire season on "global warming" and "climate change."

And not just are the hots getting hotter -- the wets are getting wetter!

“This is a climate damn emergency,” Newsom said, standing amid the ashes of the North Complex fire in Oroville in Northern California. The fire is one of 28 major blazes currently raging across the state — four of which are among the 10 largest wildfires in state history.

“I’m a little bit exhausted that we have to continue to debate this issue,” Newsom said of climate change, standing in Butte County, the same county that suffered the Camp fire in 2018 — the deadliest in state history — only to face massive fires again this year.

“The debate is over on climate change,” Newsom added. “Just come to the state of California.”

Well, governor, I've lived in California multiple times in my life, including growing up in San Diego, working as a reporter and critic in San Francisco, and writing in Hollywood. I love California -- or at least what it used to be. I knew California -- and your state ain't no California any more. But that's what happens when the same few interlocking wealthy families control the state's destiny for far too long: it becomes Mexico, ruled by aristocrats and cauldillos as they punish the peasants for their penury.

The fact is, the current wildfires are not, as the Huffington Post would have it, "among the largest wildfires in state history." Maybe in recorded state history, but that doesn't go back very far. Bjorn Lomborg, the "Skeptical Environmenalist," has a few words for the governor:

The massive fires raging in California are being blamed squarely on climate change. Alongside ominous photographs of orange skies, the front page of the Sunday Los Angeles Times blared: “California’s Climate Apocalypse.” Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom says the cause is climate change. Anyone who thinks differently, he insists, is in denial.

The governor is right that climate change is real, man-made and something we need to deal with smartly. But the claim that the fires are caused by climate change is grossly misleading. To understand why, it helps to know that California wildfires used to be much bigger. This past decade, California has seen an average burnt area of 775,000 acres. Before 1800, however, California typically saw between 4.4 and 11.9 million acres burn every year.

In other words, up to 12 percent of the entire area of the state — had its modern boundaries existed in the 18th century — burned every year. This all changed after 1900, when fire suppression became the norm, and fire declined precipitously. In the last half of the 20th century, only about 250,000 acres burned annually.

But because most fires were stopped early, this left ever more unburnt fuel in the forests. According to one estimate, there is now five times more wood-fuel debris in Californian forests than before Europeans arrived. Californian fires are slowly coming back to their prehistoric state because of the enormous excess fuel load. Putting up solar panels and using biofuels will be costly but do virtually nothing to fix this problem. Prescribed burns will.

Ah, but the Left -- which systematically discourages the study of history -- believes (as did the French revolutionaries and the Soviet communists) -- that the world began anew with them. As far as the modern California Left is concerned, the Golden State sprang into being fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. They never give a thought to the white male easterners and midwesterners who came out west and made the desert bloom, who dammed the Sierra lakes and rivers, tamed the Colorado River, built the beautiful neighborhoods of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and most of all, learned to prevent forest fires via brush clearing and controlled burns (so, by the way, did the Indians).

That couldn't stand -- why, didn't they know that managing the fire threat was inflicting pain on Mother Gaia? The Left is nothing if not superstitious and anthropomorphic, and in the guise of "environmentalism" is hurtling the state back to the stone age.

Here's Michael Shellenberger, who like Lomborg believes that the warming trend is in part attributable to human activity, giving the governor a meteorological lesson. Please watch the video:

The climate hysterics don't want to hear this, of course. It's critical to their view of the world to believe in the innate evil of mankind, the better to salve their consciences as they punish their fellow citizens with ever higher taxes to appease the angry climate gods who do not, in fact, exist. Of such delusions are the ruination of once-great states made.

The Year the Lights Went Out in California

A famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. California energy policymakers have been monomaniacal about imposing the “climate” agenda. California is presently imposing rolling blackouts due to a shortage of supply, for the second time in less than a year. Energy crises there are not infrequent, and policymakers only press for more in the wake of the havoc this wreaks.

The insult to their own self-inflicted injuries is the demand that the rest of the country suffer under it, as well. Call it the “Green New Deal” though, like most flops, it has already been re-branded, as “Net Zero.”

The climate agenda is not an agenda that claims it will impact the climate, so let’s get that out of the way up front. “Climate,” in policy terms, means imposing energy scarcity. 

This is done through price rationing – recall a presidential candidate boasting to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket… because I’m capping greenhouse gases”? The key word wasn’t “skyrocket,” it was “necessarily.” It’s a feature of climate policy, not a bug. Call it a way to force seniors and the poor, indeed anyone on a low or fixed income, to choose between heating and eating.

It is also done through rationing the actual physical supply of reliable sources of electricity, known as “dispatchable” sources, i.e., whose production can be sent where it’s needed, when it’s needed. The combination leads to “energy poverty” for some, and blackouts for all. 

California’s problem is elementary and one that dogs all “green”-obsessed jurisdictions. In short, each state must have the capacity at all times to produce (or arrange for the importation of) enough power to run its needs. It can dial the dispatchable power down as renewables get into the mood of pitching in, and dial it back up when they stop (say, when the wind ebbs or sun goes down). 

That’s wasteful and inefficient of course, but the agenda creates perverse incentives – build expensive redundancies to meet mandates and with a guaranteed return of investment, but don’t replace or even maintain older, working equipment. Rent-seeking utilities have supported it because the system encourages them to lobby for more new construction with a guaranteed return on investment. The more expensive and redundant, the better! 

So, California is not building dispatchable capacity, and instead is prematurely forcing closure of both nuclear and gas plants while mandating renewables and expensive battery storage, which at the scale required is not realistic. In fact, we are seeing again how grossly irresponsible it is. 

True, one small power plant failed and another was unavailable because it had been put out of service – coherent systems are designed with the understanding that a certain portion of supply will be off-line at any given time. That is, one ensures power reserves. But California has closed its margin for error in response to anti-nuclear and climate change hysterias.

Not long after the October 2019 rolling blackouts, a report commissioned by the beleaguered utility PG&E, obtained under California’s Public Records Act by the Wall Street Journal, predicted that the frequency of these backouts would double over the next 15 years and then double again in the next 15. Also in 2019, California’s Public Utilities Commission warned of shortages as early as 2021 on hot summer evenings. The Journal editorial page gave credit it where it’s due.

That day has arrived a year early. Congratulations to Democrats for beating their own forecasts.

Michael Shellenberger is a former candidate for governor of California who ran largely on the insanity of the state’s man-made energy policy disaster. Reminiscent of the old joke, waiter, the food was horrible, and the portions too small, he notes that “California saw its electricity prices rise six times more than the rest of the United States from 2011 to 2019, due to its huge expansion of renewables.”

This dangerous misery is inarguably the result of misguided policies. Whether this agenda is cruel by intent or merely some condition like the aforementioned definition of insanity, its practitioners show no signs of learning from their own debacles. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris each have sworn fealty to imposing this on the rest of the country.

They do so in the name of the climate, of avoiding more deaths from heat by imposing policies no one actually claims will impact the temperature – but which are shown to increase risk of death not only from heat stroke, but massively increase deaths from hypothermia. These deaths are mostly among seniors, the same demographic ravaged by reckless policy responses to Covid-19 (which also were grounded in worst-case – i.e., least likely – computer-modeled projections).

It’s past time for rational Democrats to stand up to the radical environmentalist wing of their party. Republican must free themselves from the rent-seeking lobbies of utilities and renewables “investors” (actual investments require risk, not guaranteed welfare). Those are the two halves of the Bootleggers-and-Baptists coalition enabling the Climate Industrial Complex.

Policymaking is full of the Noble Lie, the cynical understanding that the public will accept this or that policy so long as it’s to avert catastrophe -- take the government-imposed restrictions attending the Wuhan virus, for example. But as the social costs of energy rationing increase, including the disgrace of a butcher’s bill from energy poverty, it is difficult to argue that the Noble Lie of climate policy is not the most ignoble of them all.

In Praise of Climate Practicality

In the last few months we’ve seen an apparent surge in what is called, according to taste, either climate skepticism or climate denial.

Producer Michael Moore and director Jeff Gibbs distributed their movie Planet of the Humans free to millions of internet viewers until it was removed by YouTube.

Environmental activist Michael Shellenberger published his book, Apocalypse Never, which was in effect an apology to his followers and earlier readers for greatly exaggerating the dangers of "climate change" (aka global warming) and frightening everyone. Danish economist and public intellectual Bjorn Lomborg, by now a thirty-year veteran of the climate wars, is currently on tour to publicize his latest book, False Alarm, which argues that a sensible cost-benefit analysis of climate policy means the world should rely more on adapting to it and less on resisting (in the jargon “mitigating”) it.

And Anglo-Hungarian sociologist Frank Furedi has just published How Fear Works on the theme that modern society terrorizes itself with fears because it has lost earlier moral values that allowed it to cope with uncertainties about the future.

All four works have been well publicized, getting criticism as well as praise, but they are all very different works. Moore and Gibbs are passionate believers in the risks and imminence of global warming, stationed as they are at the left extreme of the alarmism-denial spectrum. Shellenberger and Lomborg both accept that climate change is real but believe it to be a more manageable problem than  the U.N., most governments, and the environmentalism movement claim. And Furedi’s book is not specifically about climate change at all, but cites how it has become one of several semi-apocalyptic fears about a frightening future.

The net effect of all four together is to make us reconsider how we should think about climate change and how we classify those who think, argue, and write about it. For the choice between alarmists and deniers is a false one, or at the very least a greatly exaggerated.

Moore and Gibbs, far from being climate deniers, are skeptical only about the theory that we can escape from doom by mass switching from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. They regard the case for “renewables” as both an intellectual delusion, since they cannot possibly replace sustain the present level of world population or anything like it, and as a capitalist tactic to divert environmental concern into money-making schemes financed in part by government subsidies. Their solution to the problem is a drastic reduction in world population which, however, they give no strategy for achieving (understandably, you may think.)

“Climate alarmism” does not seek to be an unfair description of this view.

But what about climate denialism? Any fair-minded look at Shellenberger and Lomborg establishes that they can’t reasonably be described as “climate deniers” on the opposite extreme of the spectrum since they both devote a great deal of attention to how to cope with what they treat as a serious problem for the world. A quick and easy introduction to this approach is available online in Dr. Lomborg’s address earlier this year to the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, Australia.

To over-simplify it brutally, however, Lomborg’s argument is that climate change is real, and man-made, and serious; but it’s not an insuperable problem and many of its symptoms such as drought are getting better; our current overwhelming (and very expensive) stress on cutting carbon emissions isn’t working—they’re rising; and we can adapt to climate change (e.g., as the Dutch have historically done by building dykes and actually extending their territory).

Lomborg is not that out of line with the conventional and official views. If you look at the forecasts of President Obama’s scientific panel on climate change, for instance, it claims that “droughts have, for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U.S. over the last century.” Or the U.N.’s IPCC scientists? “There is low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought.” And the same is true for floods, hurricanes, and (of particular concern to Australians) wildfires. These long-term trends contradict both newspaper headlines and the statements of politicians, but they’re what the Science tells us.

As the CIS’s summary of Lomborg’s big picture says: “The UN’s best estimate of the costs of unmitigated global warming by the end of the century is about 4% of global GDP. This is a problem, not an emergency . . . For most of the world's 7.5 billion people, however, climate change comes far down the list of priorities when faced with infant mortality from easily curable diseases and malnutrition, suffering from poor education and low energy access.”

And tackling those problems--along with proposing measures to adapt sensibly to climate, which people will do anyway—is the work that Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center has pioneered. Again, it’s an exaggeration to describe that approach as climate skepticism, let alone climate denialism. A fairer term would be climate practicality.

But practicality gets lost in atmospheres of panic and fear—and fear-mongering. That’s the message of Furedi’s book, and if there had been any lack of evidence to support his arguments, an excess of it has been provided in the last three months by the thrashing about of the scientists in their various solutions to the Covid pandemic. Their record on the usefulness of masks alone—first denying their utility, then recommending them, and finally making them mandatory—has shown that we can’t rely on even the most expert of human beings to provide both dispassionate and truthful advice in circumstances of fear. And when the public realizes that, it has to confront the truth that it has reposed its trust in an Authority it has exaggerated—and that only makes the panic worse.

The hopeful outcome is that we’ll learn from this; that in dealing with the threats of climate change, our best approach would be to forget labels like "climate denier," make a fair accounting of the problems, and set about tackling them practically. That can’t make matters worse, it may make them better, and in any case there’s no practical alternative.

And, finally, there really are such people as “climate deniers” who argue such points as that the models predicting climate disasters have not been confirmed by the time that the dates of the predicted disasters arrive (and are surpassed.) The Maldives, for instance, have not sunk beneath the sea and show no signs of doing so.

That said, climate deniers are a relatively small sub-set of those interested in climate policy. They have scored some important successes, but they have zero influence on the policies of governments and the U.N. And the claim that anyone who expresses skepticism on any point of climatist orthodoxy is simply a strategy by climate alarmists to prevent any serious discussion of climate policies.

And the more that strategy succeeds, the more likely it is that bad policies will continue and cost trillions of dollars without seriously addressing the real but manageable problems that climate change does bring.

Re-Visiting the Climate Dump

In November 2009, the Hadley Climate Research Unit at the university of East Anglia in Britain* was hacked, releasing thousands of files suggesting a covert mega-operation to propagate an "anthropogenic global warming" myth. The evidence showed that data was tampered with to paint the wished-for canvas, that counter-evidence was deliberately suppressed, that character assassination against climate skeptics was an accepted tactic and that experimental results were falsely replicated. 

A new bundle of “hide the decline” email dumps, known as Climategate 2.0, confirmed that the “climate science” had been cooked and that, in the words of Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, “the new cache offers ample confirmation of the rank politicization of climate science and rampant cronyism that ought to trouble even firm believers in catastrophic climate change… it’s another case of policy-driven science, and not science-driven policy.” Even some of the specialists involved in the enterprise had begun to question or object to the findings as, to quote from the emails, “not statistically significant,” as “truly pathetic,” and as “defending something that increasingly cannot be defended.” No wonder the lead researcher at the East Anglia CRU, Phil Jones, went so far as to recommend deleting all incriminating emails and/or changing the wording of others (Climate Audit, February 23, 2011).

The Hadley fable was thoroughly debunked by Rael Jean Isaac in Roosters of the Apocalypse, which showed in explicit detail that the ostensibly “scrupulous seekers of scientific fact” were really “hardcore zealots” mining “an ever richer vein of chicanery.” In the same year, James Delingpole put out his alphabetary The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism, as devastating as it is amusing, exploding the Hadley as a coven of plotters. Certain figures in the movement had already made his point for him. In 1989 the late Stephen Schneider, Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University and a vociferous global warmist—who twenty years earlier had been warning the world of an advancing ice age—had already advised his droogs: “So we have to offer scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”  

And there is much that is doubtful. Michael Shellenberger, a longtime climate activist who has now seen the light, has just published Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, a balanced account of the subject that remains in the temperate zone of argument. It points to the many “scary scenarios” and exaggerations that the eco-activists have foisted on the public: wood fuel is preferable to fossil fuels, the Himalayan glaciers are melting, the oceans are dying, extreme weather events are on the rise, industrial agriculture is a disaster, massive crop failures are to be expected, and so on, all leading to the collapse of civilization and the looming extinction of human life. Actually, climate is doing fairly well, but you’d never know it attending to so alarmist an agenda.

What is going on here? The climate industry is brewing perhaps the greatest deception of our times. An integral part of this deception is the intent to redistribute First-World wealth to so-called developing countries. Ottmar Edenhofer, former co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group III, admitted in an interview with Germany’s NZZ Online on November 14, 2010 (reported in Global Warming Science, March 17, 2011), that “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.” 

But there is obviously more to it than that. The climate change scam is a cash cow for research scientists, universities and climate institutes on the receiving end of lucrative government grants, which they have no intention of relinquishing. The global warming scenario is also a gold mine for energy companies, crony capitalists and financial speculators, a multi-billion dollar boondoggle in which Big Oil has been replaced by Big Green, the major exploiter and benefactor of the pseudo-ecological scheme. Michael Moore’s new documentary Planet of the Humans, as Charles Battig points out in American Thinker, reveals how “energy corporations gained access to government funding/subsidies for wind turbine and commercial solar power installations,” despite the fact that the unreliability and intermittence of such energy substitutes ensures that “fossil fuel plants will remain the primary energy sources.” 

The plot thickens. Mark Levin’s chapter “On Enviro-Statism” in his book Liberty and Tyranny provides a compendious summary and critique of the various stages of the global warming hoax and how it functions as an instrument of statist control of civil society. Like single-payer medicare and auto-industry bailouts, the myth of global warming enables government to concentrate more and more of a nation’s economy into its own hands, leading eventually to a top-down socialist dispensation and a citizenry dependent on the whims and dictates of an autocratic managerial class. 

The totalitarian mindset is a monstrous thing, and Climatocracy is one of its most arresting contemporary manifestations. Global warming, said Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography at the University of London, “has become the grand political narrative of the age, replacing Marxism as a dominant force for controlling liberty and human choices." Similarly, Glenn Beck in Common Sense warns us about “what is really going on: leaders who want more government control over our businesses, economy and personal lives…need a vehicle to take them there…climate change is that vehicle.”

What it boils down to, according  to Delingpole in Watermelons, is the entwining of “the ideology of the modern environmental movement and the ideology of the liberal-left,” both of which are political cartels of a collectivist bent that “believe in a bigger state” and lobby for “more of our decisions to be made on our behalf by politicians [and] technocrats.” Thus the term “watermelons”: green on the outside, red (or pink) on the inside. 

Perhaps all is not lost. Michael Walsh writing on this site is gratified to note, if not a sea change, let’s say a river change among former climate activists and radical environmentalists who are “defect[ing] to the side of reason” and “joining the community of the sensible.” But it’s not an easy slog for so-called “climate skeptics,” who are regularly slandered as heretics, as paranoid, as clueless and so on. They must often feel like modern-day Quixotes tilting at wind turbines, risking their careers and livelihoods in the process. They know that the issue is not about science at all. Apart from the inevitable cohort of useful idiots who see themselves as world-saviors and Gaia lovers, it’s all about money and power founded on deceit, persuasion and threat.

And there we have it—what the global warming (aka “climate change”) movement, a fit candidate for the dump of history, actually comprises and intends. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible. We are being pummeled into believing that we are facing an existential menace. In 2009, then Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, warned that “We have just four months to secure the future of our planet.” Now, we’re informed that it’s 12 years or maybe, according to teenage wunderkind Greta Thunberg, a mere eight years. The experts at the IPCC give us a decade to change our errant ways—or else! It could be just 18 months, as that renowned climatologist Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh has admonished us. We are constantly on the brink of extinction, it seems. 

Don’t fall for it. 

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(Wikimedia)

*On a personal note: Visiting the University of East Anglia as a conferee in 2005, I recall standing before a strange, bartizan-like structure, a kind of Martello tower fused to an enormous ingot of glass and concrete, and wondering what purpose so bizarre an edifice might possibly serve. It was only later that I learned I’d been standing before the CRU building, described by Ian Wishart in Air Con as “one of the temples of global warming belief,” sheltering a conclave of scientists whose analytic hijinks might have tempted one “to laugh out loud.”

Studded with machicolated windows from which to pour boiling oil and hurl rocks during a siege, it seemed an appropriate pile in the circumstances. Protecting their own, the university syndics, posing as an “International Panel,” released a report attempting to rehabilitate the high priests of climate change sheltering behind their oylets. The boiling oil of bureaucratic rhetoric seems to have been largely effective. Nonetheless, Phil Jones was forced to step down as head of the Unit. The fraud itself, however, gives no indication of abating. 

The Quick Brown Scientist
Jumps Over the Lazy Hack

One of the sentences young journalists used as a training exercise when they were learning to type was “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” It probably still is; you find discussions of it on websites around the world. Being journalists, they played word games around it and produced variations on how different newspapers would report the event.

The winner, as I recall, was “I jump over lazy dog—Writes ExpressFox on the spot.”

The problem with modern journalism is that much of its energy goes into suppressing news rather than reporting it on the high ethical principle that some topics are too important for their readers and subscribers to understand. Last week’s Forbes, for instance, should have had on its front page the proclamation: Lazy dog blue-pencils scoop by quick brown fox. Don’t read all about it!

The scoop in question was a self-help one (and none the worse for that)—a column by environmentalist author, Michael Shellenberger, excerpted from his book Apocalypse Never, in which he explains that many of the most popular themes of climate alarmism are false claims or predictions of events that will never happen. Mr. Shellenberger has Green credentials up to the kazoo, and he has written before for Forbes, but when these heresies appeared, they quickly disappeared.

At least from Forbes. They were picked almost instantly by some quick brown fox on Quillette, possibly my old colleague from the National Post, Jonathan Kay, and republished. My colleague Michael Walsh has already examined the very different works of Shellenberger, Michael Moore, and Bjorn Lomborg who question the establishment orthodoxy on climate policy.

But since the latest stern warning from Greenery International is that very soon we shall have to stop eating meat—or at least face wartime levels of rationing of it—in order to save the world, I can’t resist this one modest factoid:

Now, I don’t as yet know whether all these revisionist claims are accurate, but they come from people with some claim to expertise, and they are certainly interesting. And in Shellenberger’s case, because they are also the opposite of what readers might expect from him—some of his old allies are disappointed with him, others regretfully admiring—they fit very comfortably into the classic definition of a good news story as “Man Bites Dog.”

On this occasion, however, the lazy dog bit Shellenberger, and though the wound proved superficial, it was meant to silence him. Down, Forbes, down, boy.

So why?

A glance at almost any newspaper or television news program will give you the answer: skepticism about climate alarmism (not climate change) is a taboo subject for the dedicated young idealists who now go direct from good universities clutching diplomas that testify to their mastery of “Woke” opinions into the newsrooms of the Anglosphere. And the most important respect in which they differ from the newsrooms’ older inhabitants is this:

Just the facts, please.

Good old reporters took the view that you had to give the public all the relevant facts, including those that would enable their readers to reach a different conclusion from the one the reporter had arrived at; new idealistic reporters believe that you must shield readers from those facts that might get in the way of their going quickly to the Truth and staying there. That constitutes a firewall almost as impermeable as the Chinese government’s electronic control of the Internet.

Their justification for shielding readers from what Al Gore once called “inconvenient facts” is that there is a “scientific consensus” supporting climate change, and that means there should be a journalistic consensus too. One problem with this justification—and there are many—is that consensus is neither a scientific nor a journalistic concept but a political one.

That was borne in on me the other day when I came across a reference to the 97 percent of scientists who support global warming in a lecture on the philosophy of science delivered in 2015 to the Danube Institute by Professor Anthony O’Hear, the editor of the journal Philosophy, to the Peter Pazmany Catholic University in Budapest. (Hungarian philosophers have made major contributions to the philosophy of science.)

Science is consensus, comrades.

I had an interest in this topic since I had devoted a recent column to demonstrating that this 97 percent claim was at best ridiculous and at worst fraudulent. So I was slightly disconcerted to read this cautious but more withering conclusion from Professor O’Hear:

We are often told that (e.g.) 97% or some such figure of scientists all agree… This has been questioned, but, frankly, it is irrelevant. The question is not the solidity of the consensus, but the openness to differences of view, and the way in which anomalies are handled. Peer review and funding mechanisms could just be reinforcing dogma. Dissent is not popular in this area, papers [are] being turned down because they are ‘less than helpful’, potentially critical data is withheld, the hockey stick fiasco, shiftiness about the 15 year blip. Maybe this sort of thing is more common in science generally than one likes to admit, but… a suspicion that what really needs explaining in this area is the nature and cause of the scientific consensus. It is, in any case, a very bad argument to be told that we have to accept something because of a ‘consensus’; in science things are supposed to work the other way round! [My italics.]

I am quoting here from notes. We at the Danube Institute shall be publishing Professor O’Hear’s entire lecture in the near future. My amateur comments on it that follow here should therefore be read with caution until the full text arrives. But the dubious character of a scientific consensus arises from the contested nature of what science is and does. For these are less straightforward questions than they appear at first sight or in public debate.

To oversimplify brutally, for about half the period between 1945 and today, the theory of science that probably held greatest sway rested on the notion of “falsification” advanced by Karl Popper in a 1934 book (revised and re-published in 1960 as The Logic of Scientific Discovery.) A new scientific theory might be confirmed any number of times by “positive” experimental results without being proved true; but a single negative result was enough to prove it false. Science had to be capable of being falsified.

Of course, it didn’t work out exactly that way in practice. If you had a nice little theory that had been put on a pedestal and greatly admired by learned societies until some provincial hobbledehoy came along with his annoyingly negative test results, you didn’t just smile manfully and rip up your application letter to the Nobel Prize Committee. You set about demonstrating that his test results were wrong. And since many experimental results are wrong, falsifying a theory was very rarely a simple matter of one negative result. It was more like an American football game between two equally matched teams, each trying to shove the other towards the goal line.

That’s why Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, challenged Popper’s falsification theory by suggesting that scientific knowledge advances not by passing or failing some “objective” test but because scientists gradually come to believe that as between different sets of scientific ideas, one theory is preferable to another—in Kuhnian language, there are “competing paradigms” until one replaces another in a “paradigm shift.” If you wish, you can use the word “consensus” to describe the results of that shift, provided you realize that it too is as provisional as a theory about to be falsified.

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Popper’s theory is useful because it gives you an objective way of advancing or confirming knowledge; Kuhn’s approach is a better explanation of what scientists actually do and how they decide questions. One result is that two competing paradigms (or accounts of reality) may exist side by side for a long period, maybe indefinitely, until...

Thus, some theories of global warming have generated predictions that have already been falsified, but the overall concept is still supported by a large number of scientists because they haven’t found a better explanation of climate change. So the experiments may bark, but the global warming caravan passes on. It is all a little less cut-and-dried than the clinical certainty the word Science suggests to us.

Now, throw in a third factor—government funding of scientific research. That presents to scientists a set of incentives that may also be a conflict of interest. If scientists are humanly reluctant to abandon a theory under attack if it has enhanced their professional reputation, would they not be still more defensive on its behalf if it also carries a substantial program grant?

Thus, the more that climate change orthodoxy is either questioned reasonably or refuted altogether on specific points, the more unjustifiable any uniform consensus of science or journalism becomes. And the more scientists openly debate their differences, the more reporters should impartially describe the controversies rather than simply announcing the winners. But let Anthony O’Hear have the final word (emphasis mine):

'Global warming’ and the tactics of its scientific proponents look much more like a political campaign than a scientific matter. It is internationalist (seeking to reduce the influence and prosperity of nation states in the face of a ‘global’ threat); it is absolutist (brooking no compromise or negotiation); it rides roughshod over other interests (e.g. for food, for power); it sacrifices the present for an unknowable future; it discounts the benefits of warming; it is a single issue campaign (ignoring the rest of life and other values); and finally, by seeking to bankrupt the developed nations of the West by driving fuel costs up unsustainably, it will actually undermine the potential (through research and development) to deal with the problem, to the extent that there is one.

These are not topics that in democracy we can put in a box marked “Not in front of the Voters” and congratulate ourselves on our social responsibility.

'Climate Change' Hysterics Seeing the Lights

One by one, prominent members of the Doomsday Cult of Climate Annihilation are beginning to defect to the side of reason and rationality. First came filmmaker Michael Moore and his heretical movie, Planet of the Humans, which castigated the "environmental movement" for selling out to corporate America. Next up was Michael Shellenberger, whose new book,  Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, is currently setting the kat among the klimate konformist pigeons by daring to argue that -- hold on to your Greta baseball caps! -- in fact, we're not all going to die and that there is a sane alternative to Thunbergianism. Among his findings:

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.

Shellenberger made these points in a piece he wrote the other day for Forbes... which of course yanked it from its website within hours, thus proving Moore's point about corporate hijacking of climate alarmism. So he reposted it on the Australian-based website, Quillette; have a look for yourself:

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism.

Shellenberger calls out the impractical Ludditism of the "Green Movement" Neanderthals, and offers policy recommendation that will turn the Greenies purple with rage, including a defense of clean nuclear energy:

Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped.

Clean energy or Green energy? Your choice.

Well, as Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute, including some very famous ones, among them chimp conservationist Jane Goodall, 86, who's moved on from general monkeyshines to weighty issue of climate, diet, the coronavirus and -- of course -- Why Everything Now Must Change:

With a background in primatology, Jane Goodall became well known in the 1960s through films about her work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. She famously gave the animals human names. Her discovery that chimps in Tanzania and elsewhere were threatened by habitat destruction due to human activity informed her view about the interdependency of the natural world. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, and it's now a leading voice for nature conservation.

Dr Goodall’s analysis of COVID-19 stays true to her beliefs. Speaking at an online event held by the group Compassion in World Farming, Goodall said our global food production system is in need of urgent reform. “Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings. We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world.”

Talk about hostility to modern civilization: here we are: after more than half a century of the relentless battering of Western civilization by the likes of the Frankfurt School and their bastard children in academe, there are suckers aplenty in the West, who will go to their graves convinced that everything modern man has done to improve his life is wrong and bad, and that a prelapsarian state of nature is the way forward. Such is the suicide cult of Leftism as articulated by Rousseau and then passed down by Marx and Marcuse.

And yet, some common sense is beginning to reassert itself. In addition to Shellenberger, the Danish author and climate-hysteria skeptic, Bjorn Lomborg, the "skeptical environmentalist," has a new book out as well, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. As Richard Trzupek, an environmental consultant and analyst at the Heartland Institute, notes in his review:

Lomborg addresses his core mission statement early on: “[W]e’re scaring kids and adults witless, which is not just factually wrong but morally reprehensible. If we don’t say stop, the current, false climate alarm, despite its good intentions, is likely to leave the world much worse off than it could be.”

Everyone knows the meme: “Catastrophic global warming is real and it’s manmade.” It’s a simple statement of the perceived problem, one that would surely earn an “A” in Marketing 101. Whatever else it is, that simple statement is not science. The issue of climate change cannot be explained by any one statement, but must be addressed by answering a series of questions. This is what Lomborg bravely attempts to do in “False Alarm.”

And now along comes a lady with the felecitious sobriquet of Zion Lights, a spokewoman for Britain's lunatic Extinction Rebellion movement. When last seen, she was being memorably eviscerated by the BBC's Andrew Neil in October:

Today, however, she's singing a different tune.

Extinction Rebellion's spokeswoman has quit the protest group to become a nuclear power campaigner. Zion Lights, 36, has left the climate change cause, which brought London to a standstill last year, to join pro-nuke outfit Environmental Progress. The former XR communications head said she had felt ‘duped’ after being surrounded by anti-nuclear campaigners until she read more into the radioactive fuel.

Mother-of-two Zion said: ‘The facts didn't really change, but once I understood them I did change my mind.’ The switch took non-campaigners by surprise given her new role seems entirely at odds with her old position. Zion, who was born in the West Midlands and given her unusual name as a baby, said: ‘I have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, most recently as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK.

‘Surrounded by anti-nuclear activists, I had allowed fear of radiation, nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction to creep into my subconscious. I realised I had been duped into anti-science sentiment all this time. Now, I have quit the organisation to take up a position as a campaigner for nuclear power.’

It's easy to laugh, but pay attention to the statement above: I had allowed fear... to creep into my subconscious. Fear is a hallmark of all zealous crackpotism, along with an urgent insistence that the world change right now in order to accommodate what is manifestly a form of mental illness akin to aliens sending you messages through the fillings in your teeth.

The environmentalist Left needs more people like Moore, Shellenberger, and Lights, struggling out the darkness of their former irrational anxieties and obsessions and joining the community of the sensible, and fewer deluded children like poor exploited Greta, shamelessly manipulated by the "movement" for malicious ends.

After all, who doesn't want the best for Mother Earth? There are many paths to conservation and civilization. We need not let fear prevent us from seeing the solution, and the light.

Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.

Shellenberger

They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.

Here are some facts few people know:

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.

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