Sober Thinking on Climate Change

There is never a shortage of commentary on climate change. As with many controversial issues of the day, the mainstream media tends to have a stranglehold on debate, and contrarian views are usually hard to come by. Nonetheless, two recent pieces have appeared that are worth noting – one from the MSM and one from the alternative media.

One piece is written by a former Australian politician, while the other is penned by a leading American economist and social commentator. Both pieces urge caution in this debate, and raise questions which urgently need to be addressed.

Peter Costello comments on the Australian scene, and notes how the government has been using the climate debate as a political football: “Last year, so we were told, the most important issue for the country – in fact for the planet – was greenhouse gas emissions. This meant the government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme was so urgent it had to be legislated before the end of the year – and before the global summit in Copenhagen.

“We were led to believe that if the Senate refused to pass the legislation, there would be a double dissolution of Parliament. Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull warned this would lead to a humiliating election defeat for the Coalition, and Kevin Rudd declared climate change ‘the great moral and economic challenge of our time’. Now the legislation has become less important than getting 30 per cent of the GST from the states so the Commonwealth can rearrange financing in the hospital system. Can a momentous moral challenge fizzle out like this? Or are you beginning to suspect that all the crisis, all the urgency, was politically driven?”

He continues, “What amazes me is how this greenhouse campaign can be switched on and off as quickly as the lights during Earth Hour. For the moment the government has decided to switch it off, so we can all get back to talking about health funding.

“Our monthly Anglican newspaper broadly reflects the prevailing progressive left opinion. In December, in the lead-up to the government’s self-imposed timetable for securing the emissions trading legislation, it ran four extensive articles on the need for action over climate change. It published no contrary views. The Copenhagen summit was given more column inches than Christmas, quite an achievement for a religious newspaper. But the issue has hardly registered with it since.”

Yes, an entire book could be written about the way some church groups have slavishly jumped on this bandwagon, elevating the issue to something higher than the gospel message itself. Indeed, it is exactly because so many church groups have abandoned the gospel message that they go all evangelistic about other trendy causes.

Costello concludes, “The scientists who made exaggerated claims about the Himalayan glaciers and North African desertification undermined trust in the science behind global warming. And the politicians who made exaggerated claims about their policy proposals have undermined trust on the political issue.

“It would have been better had they been honest enough to admit the uncertainties, and acknowledge the downside of their policy. As it is, Earth Hour has become an apt metaphor for their tactical approach – a time to spread darkness rather than illumination.”

Thomas Sowell also examines this issue, noting that of course the climate is changing all the time – always has been, always will be: “When ancient fossils of creatures that live on the ocean floor have been found in rock formations at the summit of Mount Everest, that ought to give us a clue that big changes in the earth are nothing new, and that huge changes have been going on long before human beings appeared on the scene.

“The recent statement that the earth was warmer in the Middle Ages than it is today, made by the climate scientist who is at the heart of the recent scandal about ‘global warming’ statistics, ought to at least give pause to those who are determined to believe that human beings must be the reason for ‘climate change’.”

He continues, “Other climate scientists have pointed out before now that the earth has warmed and cooled many times over the centuries. Contrary to the impression created in much of the media and in politics, no one has denied that temperatures change, sometimes more than they are changing today.

“Three years ago, a book by Singer and Avery was published with a title that says it all: ‘Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years’. Contrary to clever political spin that likened those who refused to join the ‘global warming’ hysteria to people who denied the Holocaust, no one denied that climates change. Indeed, some of the climate scientists who have been the biggest critics of the current hysteria have pointed out that climates had changed back and forth, long before human beings created industrial societies or drove SUVs.”

He distinguishes between bogus science and real science: “On climate issues, as on many other issues, the biggest argument of the left has been that there is no argument. The word ‘science’ has been used as a magic mantra to shut up critics, even when those critics have been scientists with international reputations as specialists in climate science.

“Stealing the aura of science for political purposes is nothing new for the left. Karl Marx called his brand of Utopianism ‘scientific socialism.’ Even earlier, in the 18th century, the Marquis de Condorcet referred to ‘engineering’ society. In the 20th century, H.G. Wells referred to the creation of a lasting peace as a heavy and complex ‘piece of mental engineering’.

“Genuine science is the opposite of dogmatism, but that does not keep dogmatists from invoking the name of science in order to shut off debate. Science is a method of analysis, rather than simply a set of conclusions. In fact, much of the history of science is a history of having to abandon the prevailing conclusions among scientists, in light of new evidence or new methods of analysis.”

Sowell concludes, “The huge political, financial and ideological investment of many individuals and institutions in the ‘global warming’ hysteria makes it virtually impossible for many of the climate crusaders to gamble it all on a roll of the dice, which is what empirical verification is. It is far safer to dogmatize and to demonize those who think otherwise.

“Educators who turn schools into indoctrination centers have been going all out to propagandize a whole generation with Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – which has in fact carried a message that has been very convenient for Al Gore financially, producing millions of dollars from his ‘green’ activities.”

Quite right. Big money is to be made in some of these beat-ups and exercises in hysteria. But the real losers are most of us, who will see radical economic decline and lowered standards of living if the true believers get their way. Thus we need all the sober thinking on climate change that we can get.

www.theage.com.au/opinion/was-the-climate-change-challenge-a-lot-of-hot-political-air-20100330-rbd1.html
townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell/2010/03/30/change_is_not_new

[1155 words]

12 Replies to “Sober Thinking on Climate Change”

  1. The “monthly Anglican newspaper” to which Costello refers has to be The Melbourne Anglican (TMA). He’s right. On the occasions when I have had the misfortune to read it, it’s like reading The Age newspaper but without the occasional conservative counterview! It should be an embarrassment to Anglicans everywhere.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  2. Hi Bill,

    Costello family gatherings must be interesting affairs!

    I suspect Peter had his “climate change is our greatest challenge” brother partly in mind when he wrote:

    Yes, an entire book could be written about the way some church groups have slavishly jumped on this bandwagon, elevating the issue to something higher than the gospel message itself. Indeed, it is exactly because so many church groups have abandoned the gospel message that they go all evangelistic about other trendy causes.

    Mansel Rogerson

  3. Thanks Mansel

    Actually I wrote that particular paragraph (notice it lacks quotation marks), but yes he could well have been thinking about his sibling as he wrote his article.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  4. Perhaps Peter was referring to his brother Tim in this quote:

    “All the activists from NGOs who flew to Copenhagen to get urgent action on carbon emissions have gone back to their previous causes. They can take a breather now – at least until the government revives the political campaign. This doesn’t mean they are insincere – on the contrary – it’s just that their enthusiasm can be heightened or lessened with adroit management from the political professionals running the government’s election year agenda.”

    Of course, Tim was there in Copenhagen, writing regular blogs about what was happening: click here to read them!

    Jenny Stokes

  5. Is there a group currently monitoring, recording, and making publically available the gushing “we must act now” type quotes from those in the warmist camp?
    As it soon becomes apparent the planet is not frying despite CO2 going up and up, I suspect these warmists will quietly move on to spruiking the next big scare. It would be really useful next time around to easily point to their previous gullibility.

    Mansel Rogerson

  6. A variety of groups are monitoring this… but having it in one place would be interesting.

    Just yesterday I sent out information about Bill Gates calling for action on climate change in a speech at TED.
    In the speech he talked of four factors needed to get to ‘zero emissions’. [Transcript on right side of page]
    One was ‘population reduction’…
    He said “First we’ve got population. Now, the world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10 or 15 percent, but there we see an increase of about 1.3.”
    So vaccination leads to ‘reduced population’?
    Really?
    We’re told it SAVES lives!
    And reproductive health – the only sort that REDUCES population is ABORTION – which is really what the activists really mean when they say ‘reproductive health’!

    Jenny Stokes

  7. Mansel,
    I would like to think that the public will be as discerning as you imply in your suggestion of gathering quotes, but I’m not so sure. After all, it’s not too many years since the great scare was another ice age – but that’s been forgotten.

    A friend who (I think) has finally accepted what I’ve been telling him for ages on climate change made an interesting observation about our two main political leaders here in Australia. Rudd is still pushing (albeit not so hard) the climate change barrow because he still, apparently, believes it. However, Abbott is still talking of climate change policies even though it appears he does NOT believe in it!

    The politicians clearly do not believe the public are ready to accept that they have been conned which gives an indication of the magnitude of the indoctrination that surrounded global warming. Remember that the ABC and the rest of the MSM have still barely made any mention of Climategate, at least not to do a real critique of what happened and there are still many people who rely on the ABC for their news (as does my friend mentioned above).

    Also, don’t forget that it’s only very recently that the previous leader of the Liberals, Malcolm Turnbull, was talking about their party being wiped out if they voted against Rudd’s carbon trading scheme and even more recently that Rudd was talking of reintroducing the Bill into Parliament!

    We came unbelievably close to having the ultra-left, green policies implemented and, with them, the disastrous effects on our economy. Despite this, the results in the last two state elections have seen very strong support for the Greens.

    Until we get the ABC – or Rudd – doing a ‘mea culpa’ on climate change, I am still very cautious about “doing a George Bush” and claiming victory in this particular war!

    Roger Birch

  8. Hi Roger,

    What I meant is that some high-profile warmists make such extreme climate change forecasts that before too long everybody will see with their own eyes that they were wrong. I take your point, however, that even if these failed predictions were saved for posterity, the MSM of the day may simply just ignore this material.

    But we do have people like Andrew Bolt who already writes up these failures in his blog and column:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_the_10_worst_warming_predictions/

    I hope he will use his long involvement with this issue to write a comprehensive history of this scare when it all dies down.

    Mansel Rogerson

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