The recent imbroglios involving Sen. Inhofe — who actually knows something about global warming — and California Attorney General Lockyer, who appears to know only the hype, triggered this excellent piece from our friend from Down Under, Bob Carter, an experienced environmental scientist and a founding member of the Australian Environment Foundation. Bob is a serious scientist and researcher who has written extensively on this topic. This is a lengthy piece but one well worth the read.
“McCarthyism, Press Bias, Policy-Advice Corruption and Propaganda Everywhere“
by Bob Carter
The debate on global warming has, to its detriment, long ceased to be a scientific one. Instead, moral fervor for this cause has become a leading religion of our time.
Maintaining the fiction that human-caused global warming is so dangerous that it requires the restructuring of the world economy has come to involve the dedicated efforts of a legion of disciples. Here’s a brief description of four main ways that they pursue their agenda.
The Attorney General of California, Bill Lockyer, together with such environmental activist groups as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, has recently taken aim at the so-called “climate skeptics”.
The Association of Automobile Manufacturers and some car makers challenging the California’s greenhouse emissions laws have sued the state, claiming that the implementation of state emission rules will have no significant effect on checking global warming, which is likely true.
But Lockyer, rather than seeking to establish that the emissions’ laws will check global warming, has decided instead to attack auto makers’ potential scientific advisors. In pre-trial discovery, Lockyer has asked a federal court to force disclosure of all communications and documents between the car companies and a group of 18 high profile climate skeptics. Most of those named are American citizens, but an international flavour is conferred by the inclusion of at least one British and one Canadian citizen.
The intent is clearly twofold. First, a fishing expedition for material that might be useful to the state in defending its case. And second, a warning shot across the bows of all climate skeptics that they speak on this issue, in private let alone in public, at their own peril.
It is interesting to ponder why these particular 18 skeptics made Lockyer’s A-list, for there are clearly many hundreds of well-credentialed scientists who question the conventional global warming wisdom. Other climate rationalists may feel happy at being omitted, not because they have done anything wrong but because no-one likes being intimidated.
A type of modern McCarthyism, this sort of intimidation can only serve to stifle further an informed public debate on climate change, and it is a deplorable action for an Attorney General to take. Recalling Lockyer’s earlier track record of inhibiting scientific evidence, for instance during a 2001 gun-control debate when he gagged California state experts who opposed his plans, one wonders whether his latest act might not provoke a friends-of-court backlash from the many Americans who can recognize an attack on their constitutional rights when they see one.
Then, lo and behold, hot on the heels of Lockyer’s sally in California come reports of unbalanced press treatment of the climate change discussion in New Zealand, attempts to muzzle public discussion by the Royal Societies of London and New Zealand, media manipulation by the U.S. Academy of Sciences, and the launch of a propaganda blitz for Mr. Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Bias and censorship in the media
In a small country such as New Zealand there is a high risk of press bias influencing public policy outcomes about complex science issues. With a market of only 4 million people to sell into, New Zealand media outlets are of limited diversity. The danger that journalistic sheep-like behaviour will inhibit discussion of important public issues is therefore ever present, and has indeed been manifest in the debate, or rather lack of it, on global warming.
For example, the largest circulation newspaper in South Island, The Press, recently published “Heat is on to Act“, an 800 word alarmist polemic by Landcare’s Dr. David Whitehead. The article includes gems like “When projections of continued emissions are built into complex computer models to predict future climate, the result is the so-called “hockey stick” curve showing temperature reaching alarmingly high values up to 1 deg to 3 deg above present-day values in the next 50 years”.
Leaving aside that this sentence is a highly confused and inaccurate account of the hockey stick, the very same day The Press rejected an article by experienced climate researcher Dr. Gerrit van der Lingen titled “The Broken Hockey Stick“.
Dr. van der Lingen’s article explained something that the New Zealand public have not yet been fully informed about – that the hockey stick construction by Penn State paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and co-authors, which was highlighted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2001 assessment, has been found to be flawed beyond repair by both a committee of the National Academy of Sciences and an experts’ report for a U.S. House committee. Yet Dr. Whitehead and The Press continued to use the hockey-stick as proof of human-caused global warming, and will brook no correction.
Another example comes from my own experience earlier this year. Leading weekly magazines North & South and The Listener, and the New Zealand’s largest circulation daily and weekend newspapers, the NZ Herald and the Sunday Star Times, then all declined to publish an opinion piece that I wrote titled “The Global Warming Emperor Has No Clothes”.
That I should write the article was suggested to me by local scientists who were strongly concerned about the imbalance in the New Zealand climate change debate. That the article was rejected by so many editors, of course, reflects not conspiracy but group think – if indeed thought rather than reflex was involved.
Now posted on the Climate Science Coalition’s website, the article relates several important facts about contemporary climate that are unknown to most members of the general public.
Such as: that global average temperature has not increased over the last seven years, despite the continuing rise in human-caused greenhouse emissions; that late 20th century temperatures were warm as part of a solar-driven recovery from the Little Ice Age; and that during natural climate cycling, changes in temperature precede their parallel changes in carbon dioxide.
Alarmist public presentation of the climate change issue in New Zealand is encouraged also by well-respected radio commentators such as Radio New Zealand’s Kim Hill and Chris Laidlaw. These talk-show hosts choose not to interview knowledgeable local rationalist climate experts, but instead, succumbing to the cultural cringe of deferring to “overseas experts,” provide the oxygen of publicity to zany climate alarmists like the U.K.’s Lord Ron Oxburgh and Sir David King.
One can but wonder why media editors wish to deny New Zealanders knowledge of basic climate facts and alternative views, especially given the endless column space, air time and viewing time that they allocate to alarmist speculations and the fact that climate change was a critical issue in New Zealand’s election last December.
New Zealand was one of the first signatories to the Kyoto Accord, with the signing justified to voters by government estimates that the country would make a profit of around NZ $350 million from the anticipated sale of carbon credits earned by its once-thriving forestry industry. Alas, a change in the carbon accounting rules, and a turndown in forestry investment, have turned that hoped for credit of up to 55 million tons into a deficit of 36 million tons, and this translates into a likely bill, depending upon the costs of tradable carbon credits, of between NZ$0.5 billion and NZ$1.5 billion.
At around 1% of New Zealand’s GDP, the financial turnaround is not small beer, reflected by New Zealand’s minority Labour party only being able to remain in government by agreeing last year to coalition partner demands that it drop its former plans for the introduction of a carbon tax.
Since the election, the government has floundered to come up with rational climate change and energy policies. In order to placate green interests, ministers have even toyed with the reintroduction of a deeply damaging “climate change” provision into the development approval process, by allowing amendments to be tabled to its own Resource Management Act.
The censorship by the media that I and other scientists have regularly experienced in New Zealand is part of a much wider problem that involves not only the print media, but also radio, television, and film coverage of the climate change issue. And that this is a worldwide problem is exemplified by the blistering indictment of the American media that was delivered last week by U.S. Senator Inhofe.
In addition to their unrelenting climate alarmism, media outlets worldwide mostly present either the simplistic view that there are “two sides to the debate”, or the brain-dead assertion that “the science of climate change is settled”. In fact, of course, there are almost as many sides to the climate change issue as there are expert scientists arguing it, and the science will never be “settled”, whatever that might mean. And, anyway, to reduce public discussion to a “he says, she says” or “there is a consensus” piety is to formularize it into meaninglessness.
The media also defer regularly to the self-interested and unaudited advice of the IPCC, whose 2001 hockey stick graph – which formed an important part of the formal advice to governments on climate change – has now been scientifically ridiculed.
In addition to legal threats to free speech, and media bias, the third gorilla in the climate cage is the increasing involvement of national science academies in giving policy advice to governments. By giving false assurances that a “consensus” exists on human-caused global warming, or indeed on any other disputed science issue, and by attempting to inhibit public debate, these bodies betray the very foundations of their existence.
For example, in early September the Royal Society of London embarked on a misguided mission to prevent informed public discussion of the global warming issue. Their Policy Communication Manager, Bob Ward, wrote an intimidatory letter to oil company Esso UK in an effort to suppress Esso’s funding for organizations that in the Royal Society’s view “misrepresented the science of climate change, by outright denial of the evidence …., or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge, or by conveying a misleading impression of the potential impacts of anthropogenic climate change”. Happily, and not surprisingly, there has been an immediate storm of worldwide protest, including comment that “the Royal Society is advocating censorship on a subject that calls for debate” (Marshall Institute, letter of Sept. 22).
Two recent U.S. reports on climate change provide other illustrations of science advice that has become corrupted by policy pretension. The first, by the National Academy of Sciences, discusses the evidence for surface temperature reconstructions over the last 2,000 years, including comments on the now infamous “hockey stick” curve. The second, from the new Climate Change Science Program, summarizes information about atmospheric temperature measurements over the last 25 years. Both documents contain egregious disparities between the (accurate) science detail that is provided in their main text, and free-wheeling, alarmist statements that are contained in their associated Executive Summary and Press Release. Media reports being based only on the latter sources, thus does frisbee science become public reality.
As a final example, the Royal Society of New Zealand, which publishes a Newsletter called Alert, recently presented an interchange of letters between the chairman of its own expert Committee on Climate Change and the independent New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. When the coalition provided a reasoned, referenced scientific discussion of various points that had been raised by these letters, the Alert editor, without giving reasons, declined to distribute it, thereby leaving his society members completely misinformed on the issue. And this from a national learned Society that “aims to bring together an informed and scholarly approach to scientific and technological questions.”
Up to the 1950s, the Royal Society of London used to advertise in its Philosophical Transactions that “it is an established rule of the Royal Society … never to give their opinion, as a Body, upon any subject, either of Nature or Art, that comes before them”. Leaving such old-fashioned integrity behind them, the modern involvement of national science academies in the policy-setting process has led, quite inevitably, to their political corruption. For it is surely the sharpest of historical ironies that the Russian Academy of Science is now almost alone amongst its brethren organisations in encouraging independent viewpoints about climate change science to be voiced.
Members of science academies often play leading roles in the assessment of research proposals. This places individual alarmist scientists in a position to influence the disbursement of highly competitive research funds, whereby intimidation is brought to bear on research applications from scientists who display critical views on human-caused global warming. In one recent example, the referee of a research proposal commented:
“The applicant appears to be keen to dispute in the popular press the scientific evidence linking recent global-scale warming to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. While the freedom of the press means that he can write whatever he wants in a newspaper, it would be better if he published scientifically-correct statements in his newspaper articles. …(His) statements are incorrect. …. It is not appropriate… to fund a scientist who continues to publish scientifically erroneous statements in the popular press”.
Against such a biased background, the public need to insist on a fact-based debate on issues such as whether countries like New Zealand and Canada should withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, which they are entitled to do without penalty; and whether future environmental health would best be encouraged by enlarging the membership of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6).
Censoring by not publishing moderate voices in the climate debate, as the media worldwide do; or peremptorily refusing sensible calls for a Royal Commission into the matter, as the New Zealand Minister for Climate recently did; or not funding research proposals on science merit alone, as is now commonplace; demonstrate a troubling contempt for the true public interest, similar to that displayed by the Attorney General of California.
And propaganda everywhere?
Well, Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth” can conveniently be taken as a positive answer to this question, for the reach of Hollywood truly is global. As is the daily publication of alarmist climate change stories in major newspapers in all countries, a practice delightfully described as “climate porn” by the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research.
As widely commented on in reviews and other opinion pieces, Al Gore’s film is a masterpiece of evangelism, using every artifice in the propaganda film maker’s book. Dramatic and beautiful images of imagined climate-related natural disasters segue fluidly one into another: from collapsing ice sheets to shrinking mountain glaciers, from giant storms and floods to searing deserts, and from ocean current and sea-level changes to drowning polar bears.
Never explained is the minor detail that all of these events reflect mostly the fact that we humans inhabit a dynamic planet. Certainly, all of them have occurred naturally many times in the past, long before human activities could possibly have been their cause.
And when asked about his film, in an interview with Grist Magazine, “Do you scare people or give them hope?” Mr. Gore replied:
“I think the answer to that depends on where your audience’s head is. In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble or unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual solutions on how dangerous it (global warming) is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis”.
The intellectual dishonesty involved in all of this is not restricted to Mr. Gore’s film, but has become all pervasive. Thus professional sociologists at the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research urge that “the task of climate change agencies is not to persuade by rational argument. … Instead, we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement. … The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.” And the same authors then calmly advise: “Ultimately, positive climate behaviours need to be approached in the same way as marketeers approach acts of buying and consuming. … It amounts to treating climate-friendly activity as a brand that can be sold. This is, we believe, the route to mass behaviour change.”
“Amen to that”, Mr. Gore would presumably sing. Not chilled by such statements? Then your global warming fever is indeed incurable. Rarely has the public prostitution of an important science issue been so clearly revealed as in this inadvertent slip of the post-modernist skirt.
Nonetheless, the idea that the public must be indoctrinated further with alarm about global warming continues to gather strength. Foreshadowing a paroxysm of propaganda that can be expected to peak with publication of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report next February, the United Kingdom government has recently created an Office of Climate Change, which is to be matched by a European Union climate publicity initiative.
It is unclear whether the Attorney General of California really does think that “climate skeptics” are a public hazard; whether media editors and journalists are obsessed with being politically correct on climate change, or are merely frightened of offending their governments; or whether politicians and leading public figures are being sincere or pragmatic about the often inane climate policies that they propose. At the same time, it is all too clear that Al Gore and his many disciples really do believe their own propaganda, which is now to be fomented by the boot-camp training in Nashville, Tenn., of “more than 1,000 individuals to give a version of his presentation on the effects of – and solutions for – global warming, to community groups throughout US.”
Australian Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson, has recently argued that the “cultural expectation that those in authority are able and willing to justify the exercise of power is one of the most important aspects of modern public life”. Public opinion now forces governments, courts, lobby groups and powerful individuals alike to respect this principle. And nowhere is justification more needed, together with accurate information and balanced discussion, than in the complex debate over human-caused global warming, now one of the great political issues of our time.
The bottom line is – irrespective of McCarthyist bludgeoning, press bias, policy-advice corruption or propaganda frenzy – that it seems highly unlikely that the public is going to agree to a costly restructuring of the world economy simply on the basis of speculative computer models of climate in 100 years time. And therein, I guess, lies the genius of democracy.
Professor Bob Carter is an experienced environmental scientist and a founding member of the Australian Environment Foundation. Here’s a link to his website.
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