Friday, December 11, 2009

A comment on George Will's "The climate-change travesty"

Folks, good column by George Will published in the Washington Post, entitled The climate-change travesty, which I think you ought to read. Here’s an excerpt:
Disclosure of e-mails and documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in Britain -- a collaborator with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- reveals some scientists' willingness to suppress or massage data and rig the peer-review process and the publication of scholarly work. The CRU materials also reveal paranoia on the part of scientists who believe that in trying to engineer "consensus" and alarm about warming, they are a brave and embattled minority. Actually, never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.

The Post learns an odd lesson from the CRU materials: "Climate scientists should not let themselves be goaded by the irresponsibility of the deniers into overstating the certainties of complex science or, worse, censoring discussion of them." These scientists overstated and censored because they were "goaded" by skepticism?

Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.
Commentary. Pretty much – but better said – the point I made recently in Climate change science going the way of Piltdown Man. The Post and former Vice President Al Gore wants us to believe that dissent from the climate-change orthodoxy originates mostly from benighted right-wing Republican “deniers” intent on defaming good, upright, and eminently rational scientific consensus that has all the facts at their disposal.

The e-mails have popped the credibility bubble of what Roger Pielke Sr. of the University of Colorado, has called “the climate oligarchy.” The e-mails point to collusion, suppressed data, special pleading, selective use of evidence, and character assassination. Suddenly I don’t think that I have all the facts, that the sober analysis of competing hypotheses has not taken place, that the global consensus often bandied about is a fallacy – a variation of ad populum argument – and that our nation cannot commit itself to irrevocable courses of actions based on compromised science.

This attitude of skepticism towards climate-change science – scientific and rational to the core, methinks – is often mocked by “Greens” and “brights” – of the Richard Dawkins kind – as backward, insensitive, and ignorant. Nothing’s further from the truth.

Like most right-thinking humans, I like to breath clean air, drink clean water, consume safe food, live in clean neighborhoods, etc. I too would like to cut our dependence on foreign oil, particularly from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, by drilling more at home if necessary, by relying more on wind power and nuclear energy wherever viable, and by advancing “clean coal” technologies whenever possible. Care for the environment is necessary whether or not there is man-made global warming and who knows, it may be that by adopting those very measures climate change, though always inevitable, would be allowed to continue its course mostly undisturbed by human activity. In their rush to caricaturize and ridicule climate-change skeptics, the climate oligarchy has glossed over the many aspirations we hold in common.

Furthermore, I don’t deny that man has affected the environment and at times, very negatively. Man has been a factor, well, since the dawn of man. But I don’t think that human civilization has been the sole factor in climate change, or that it’s even the principal factor in global warming. This strikes me as a narrow reduction and oversimplification of manifold processes, many of them poorly understood. This oversimplification has given birth of a politics of a certain kind that I believe inimical to the national interest – and also to the global interest – and given rise to a league of ladies and gentlemen whose word is to be taken unquestioningly as dogmas and oracles, becoming in fact pale caricatures of the One, True, Church in which, despite popular belief to the contrary, a healthy academic freedom to question and counterpropose competing hypotheses in all areas of human knowledge still endures.

George Will is right when he says that “never in peacetime history has the government-media-academic complex been in such sustained propagandistic lockstep about any subject.” Institutions that normally act as “reality-checkers” for each other have abdicated their responsibilities when it comes to global warming and climate change. Skepticism – the basis of modern science – is frowned upon. Powerful figures and institutions have a lot to lose in such a debate and are doing everything possible to stifle it. Fair play no longer exists in this process and debate is no longer open. Long-range public policy should not be build upon such a flimsy foundation.

And that’s where I stand. Thank you Mr. Will for confirming my views on this vital matter.