Science Catastrophe Scares and IPCC Ascent Explained

Published April 6, 2018

Review of Searching for the Catastrophe Signal: The Origins of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by Bernie Lewin (GWPF Books), November 21, 2017, 386 pages, ISBN-10: 0993118992, ISBN-13: 978-0993118999; $16.00 on Amazon

In this new book about the recent history of science, Bernie Lewin describes how in the latter half of the 20th century, as government began to dominate science, the discipline became driven by an important discovery: Scientists could get huge amounts of funding if they raised public terror over alleged crises in their fields of research. 

Lewin begins his history at the conclusion of World War II, describing how, with the successful conclusion of the Manhattan Project to develop and deploy the atom bomb to end World War II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s science director, Vannevar Bush, convinced the president the government should control and direct most scientific investigations. Scientists in government and in academia quickly learned if they hyped the idea of a crisis threatening human health or the environment, the government would provide abundant funding to solve it.

History of Alarmism

Lewin examines a series of crises du jour in the years before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) completed the near-destruction of credible science.

Fears the supersonic transport jet program would spew deadly vapors into our atmosphere became the first major concern regarding man’s impact on our atmosphere. During the mid-1960s, scientists, activists, and the press drew attention to the visible white lines of condensed and frozen water vapor often seen trailing behind ordinary subsonic jets. When work began on the development of supersonic jets, alarmists pushed the idea their exhaust would upset the balance of water vapor and ozone in the atmosphere, some going so far as to claim the exhausts could cause or contribute to the development of cancer in humans. Many years and billions of dollars were wasted examining these headline-grabbing, fraudulent claims, beforethe government scuttled the program.

Lewin also describes the meritless but successful campaign to end the use of the pesticide DDT, a crusade driven by environmental zealots that has resulted in millions of premature deaths from malaria, which can be prevented by the use of DDT to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Acid Rain, Ozone Scares

Alarm about power plants causing “acid rain” followed. Although massive studies found no damage from these emissions, these reports were suppressed, as Lewin details. Government force power plants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on costly technologies to prevent acid rain they were not causing.

Next came concern about a “hole” in the ozone layer purportedly caused by chlorinated fluorocarbons (CFCs) in aerosol spray cans, refrigerators, and air conditioning systems. The so-called hole is actually a natural annual thinning and thickening caused by dramatic changes in temperature in the upper atmosphere. The scare raised by the specter of an ozone hole leading to a massive increase in skin cancers resulted in the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987, which effectively ended the manufacture and use of CFCs.

Concerns in the 1970s about an impending ice age gave way to the diametrically opposite belief carbon dioxide was causing global warming, making this life-giving natural substance public enemy number one and unleashing billions of dollars for climate research.

Rise, Dominance of IPCC

Lewin goes into great detail documenting how whenever one big scare story failed to have the desired public impact, researchers switched to a different narrative. Eventually the IPCC was formed and controlled the climate narrative beginning in the 1990s.

In documenting the seemingly inexorable rise of IPCC, Lewin seems to have examined the minutes of a hundred science conferences on meteorology and climate over the last 30 years of the 20th century. He shows researchers concluded in an early 1980s meeting “any alarm over carbon dioxide could only be based on the vague and varied predictions of modeling which continued to present many shortcomings.”

Lewin illustrates the thorough corruption of science by showing how gross contradictions between the evidence of man’s impact on the planet with what climate models projected were met with silence by researchers wedded to the well-financed warming scare.

Officially formed in 1988, IPCC quickly became the most complex and expensive effort ever undertaken by the United Nations, producing its first massive, three-volume report warning of the dangers of human-caused climate change less than two years after its formation. Three working groups were established and lavish meetings were held, now numbering in excess of 20, all over the Northern Hemisphere.

The movement of climate change from a fringe issue to a central concern for governments all around the world was complete by 1995. It was a boon for the atmospheric sciences, with a broad range of impacts to be considered, lifting the entire discipline into a level of visibility and position of power it surely would not have experienced otherwise.

Trump Challenges Climate Narrative

The IPCC juggernaut continued unchallenged on a path of grandeur based on false science until U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the rug out from under the organization on June 1, 2017, when he said “enough” and withdrew from the so called Paris Climate Accord because it would cost the United States trillions of dollars with no benefit to the environment.

Whether Trump’s action marks the beginning of the end for the current global science scare or is just a bump in the road remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]), is science director of The Heartland Institute.