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.