Climate alarmism does not exemplify the honest pursuit of science. Pseudo-scientific evidence or arguments, undisclosed or falsified data, are lodged within an enveloping political narrative and best understood in this fuller context. The surest way to understand climate alarmism is as self-interested politics.
Many have been taught climate alarmism in school or by other trusted sources. To such people, fair warning, prepare to be surprised, if you read further. The climate of Earth is a complex topic. For decades, hyperbole and uncertain information have circulated about climate. Given passionate competing claims, I have empathy toward those with different views. Thru life, we learn as we go. Sometimes we realize we have been misinformed. Such a realization can be uplifting, at other times discouraging. In this essay, I shall express myself, though remain mindful some will have reasons not to be persuaded, about which I rest easy.
Using scientific information to mislead was called “cargo cult science” by physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88), during a famed 1974 commencement address at the California Institute of Technology. Feynman championed integrity.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool…. a friend … does work on cosmology and astronomy … wondered how he would explain what the applications of this work were. “Well,” I said, “there aren’t any.” He said, “Yes, but then we won’t get support for more research of this kind.” I think that’s kind of dishonest.”
Because climate alarmism does not strive rigorously for transparent integration of knowledge and shies from debates, it does not even aspire to become reliable science. The scientific method has not been followed by the United Nations Environmental Program, nor by President Obama’s USEPA. No hypothesis was stated, nor critically considered. After a US citizen exercises their first amendment right to think and comes to recognize alarmism as herd-think tribalism or as a globalist political narrative serving parties outside the United States like the United Nations (UN) or some of its other members, any bubble of plausibility pops.
Rays from the Sun are essential to life on Earth, in temperate climes governing the four seasons, also separating night and day. Using energy from sunlight, plants create carbohydrates and other carbon-molecules from water and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) gas by a process called photosynthesis. I learned about photosynthesis in grade school! Little did I then foresee PhDs and big wigs would ever succumb to a tale of global peril owing — not to weapons of mass destruction – but rather to benign CO2 gas! We exhale CO2 with each breath. The only potential harm from our individual CO2 emissions is to alert mosquitoes.
During photosynthesis (enabled by CO2), green plants emit oxygen, replenishing this second essential gas in the atmosphere. During its early history, Earth’s atmosphere was not well endowed with oxygen. It required evolution of photosynthetic plants, taking more than one billion years, to increase oxygen abundance. Photosynthesis enables greenery, providing the foundation of life on our planet, food for grazing animals, who in turn are prey for predators. Green plants and oxygen both depend on low levels of CO2 gas and solar rays in Earth’s atmosphere, at plant height. Planets orbit around the mighty Sun. We suffer searing Sunburn. How could tiny levels of CO2 be more important to the earth’s climate than blinding rays from the Sun, without which there would be no life?
The CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere is four in 10,000 or 0.0004, well under 1 percent. Please rest assured our atmosphere is not filling with carbon dioxide! Alarmists used to claim CO2 warmed Earth, but retreated, perhaps owing to fear lack of polar snowmelt would reveal their game! Now they instead claim CO2 aggravates climate changes, so a hot day will be hotter, a cold day colder. The narrative flip-flop from warming to a successor story of CO2-enhanced hurricanes is not credible. Yet it is very revealing. It’s as if a fabulist contrived a new tale, with CO2 starring again as the villain.
I know of no persuasive explanation why low levels of CO2 could heat the planet, as if this gas functions like a green house. Actual green houses let the Sun’s rays pass thru glass, retaining warm air that would otherwise escape by rising. Light can pass thru glass, air not. There is no glass surrounding the Earth to provide these two properties. In any event, the warming crisis has already been abandoned. Back when Mr. Gore was preaching CO2 causes catastrophic warming, his Inconvenient Truth film claimed correlation between CO2 and temperature. A basic rule of data interpretation is correlation, even if performed carefully, does not necessarily establish causality between variables, in this case between CO2 level and temperature.
Gore is no Feynman. Physicist Freeman Dyson publicly doubts climate change, as does Richard Lindzen. Two heads of the National Academy of Sciences publicly opposed alarmism. The oft claimed “97 percent of scientists endorse climate change” is Madison Avenue hype (recalling an ad campaign for toothpaste favored by 9 out of 10 dentists). Alarmism is a political narrative, intended to mislead the public. The narrative requires little fine-tuning because of criticisms from eggheads, even as distinguished as Dyson and Lindzen. The climate cult must be countered by political leaders. Alarmism was called “BS” during a presidential debate. The honest candidate who uttered this slang was rewarded by voters with election during 2016.
Why do some American scientific societies, professors, reporters, teachers, and politicians instead utter dire warnings about benign carbon dioxide. Mind you, they deplore only CO2 generated from combusting hydrocarbons for making electricity or generating heat from a fire, not from natural sources like our breathing. Why do nations join multi-party agreements to ‘save the Earth’ from of all things CO2? How to explain climate Cassandras? Within Nature, CO2 serves the function of creating plant life and oxygen for us to breathe. Can it really be plausible green plants endanger earth’s climate, after having endowed our Biosphere with oxygen and a food web of life, for billions of years? Modest levels of CO2 gas — to which we are fundamentally indebted for life – should henceforth be feared? Political “Greens” ask us to fear green plants? Would genuine environmentalists do this?
Particularly since the 1980s, some scientists, exalted as if rock stars of anti-industrialization, have claimed Earth’s climate is dangerously warming. When the ice caps inconveniently did not melt, raise oceans and drown coastal cities, the narrative was altered to the climate is “changing.” This had the advantage of being ambiguous, in case glaciers never melted as forecast. Yet the narrative retained CO2 as villain, in the revised tale. Large emissions of CO2 from billions of mammals or microbial breakdown of dead vegetation get scant mention. The reliably known effects of CO2 are to feed vegetation and boost atmospheric oxygen, both positives. Can it be true this precious elixir, gaseous CO2, threatens the Biosphere, warranting massive economic restructuring costs?
In Environmentalism Gone Mad, our host classifies alarmists as constituting a “climate industrial complex” (CIC). In so doing, he harks back to President Eisenhower’s thoughtful 1961 warning about potential selfish-interests within a military-industrial complex. Dr. Carlin’s warning is no less astute. Decades service to the Sierra Club, the think tank RAND, and the USEPA may have made him wary of pairing politics with science. Notable preachers of alarmism include Germany’s Angela Merkel, Al Gore, and former President Obama, plus supportive newspapers and television, collectively branded Fake News by President Trump. Trump is inspired to identify Fake News reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ presumably due to pseudo-scientific misinformation and bullying of doubters. Many members of the CIC seek taxpayer dollars or aim to motivate idealistic voters to join their Crusade to save the planet. Ducking debate, while encouraging intolerance of honest scientists, do not build an honorable legacy for historians to salute.
American Socialists (formerly Democrats) absurdly decry carbon pollution, though all living things contain carbon atoms. Their game-plan is ever more revealed. They propose $93 trillion reinvention of the US economy to counter climate change. Absurdly, proponents think this massive expenditure would be insufficient to achieve ecological goals. The United Nations has excused China, India, and other nations from economy-crushing climate costs. An absurdly anti-American UN climate agenda has long been blessed by the New York Times and other socialist media within the USA, and by learned faculty at universities. Their agenda does not rest on compelling scientific evidence, rather it supports a political “narrative”, championed by Fake News. Merkel, who grew up within communist East Germany, has steered Germany to abandon abundant electricity from nuclear power, while endorsing policies that jack-up the price of electricity. A revealed American socialist is Carol Browner, aide to Gore who headed the USEPA for Clinton and climate czar for Obama. Another is Senator Bernie Sanders. After history has provided such socialist despots as Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Maduro, why would American politicians admit any affinity with socialism?
The scientific case for climate alarmism is a hoax, unpersuasive upon careful examination by independent non-CIC member scientists. Since revival during the 1980s, the climate narrative relies on misreading of evidence or dishonesty. Alarmists include adamant skeptics of coal, oil, gas, nuclear energy, hydro-power, or the economic well-being of the United States. The idea of major reliance on solar and wind technologies to produce enough, reliable electricity is utopian. Interferences by clouds and night and the capriciousness of zephyrs make both technologies unreliable, necessitating costly back-up power. Solar and wind kill birds and occupy land, while generating a low yield of electricity. It is a disturbing reflection on the willingness of many to endorse this utopia, justified on grounds of a nonexistent hazard, CO2-enabled photosynthesis. In mere reality, CO2 serves to make oxygen and most life on Earth.
False political narrative is helped by grafting-on insights from psychology. Religious beliefs universally appear among human societies. The alarmist narrative is worded to incorporate religious semantics. Salvation is hinted, as in saving the Earth. Many humans have laudable aspiration to serve a virtuous cause. Climate alarmism can recruit good-hearted people, unable to distinguish a cult, amid Fake News hoopla. The narrative is also strengthened by ridiculous claims of near unanimous scientific endorsement. Alarmism is so convincing it has been approved by all of Science! Gore disparages doubters as “flat earthers” and “deniers” or as receiving money from oil companies.
It is sad when a university teaches pseudo-scientific climate alarmism and as a result adds to a heavy yoke of debt on students. Universities would be well-served to slash costs and focus on helping students learn employable skills and genuine scientific topics based upon the scientific method (rather than based on popularity with the political leaders of foreign nations).
Is it fair to object if citizens gain comfort from their fond hopes for the solar and wind utopia? These sources of electricity are more expensive and less reliable, with the result that increased adoption lowers the economic wellbeing of the USA. Leaders who endorse one pseudo-scientific falsity may champion more. Alarmism promotes distrust and diminishes morale within the United States.
There are no reliable upwards trends in surface temperatures, after altered historic temperatures are disregarded. The CIC shamelessly alleges storms or heat waves indicate change. They claim the Maldives will submerge into the Indian Ocean; happily, these islands have not. Polar bear populations are fine. If you approach either pole, please dress warmly. Greenland has not lost ice cover, nor will it. Hurricanes are not more frequent, nor more powerful, though costs may increase because of over-building near beaches. In sum, the climate crisis is a highly unamusing farce, performed for decades by the CIC/Fake News. It is only a “crisis” for politicians appealing for votes, lest the world end.
The Socialist remedy for their invented “crisis” envisions massive takeaway of private assets and the impoverishment of the United States and western Europe. Alarmists aim to bring about a monstrous retreat from useful hydrocarbons like coal, petroleum, and natural gas in favor of more costly and less reliable solar and wind technologies. Implementing this change would ravage economies. The remedy will greatly lower the standard of living of many Americans, already mildly evident with higher pricing for wind and solar electricity across the United States, as has been reported here by Dr. Carlin.
In France, modest steps toward the phaseout of hydrocarbons have begun to cause civil unrest. In the US, we may be reaching a turning point from our own Ancien Regime, beguiled by a global delusion about changing climate. We are changing course toward responsible national governance. In future, historians may look back and marvel how, during the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama years, alarmism based on benign CO2 was given serious discussion. As a clear-eyed realist, President Trump seems suited to sort-out this inherited folly.
In the long run, however, climate alarmism may persist, in some form or other. Supplying electricity, heat, and fuels for transportation are enormously important activities, in every nation. They strongly influence standards of living. Vast amounts of money are at issue. Wars have been waged for oil supplies; Hitler sought oil from Romania, Tojo from Indonesia, Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Many foreign governments today own oil firms. Private (and more efficient) oil firms exist in the United States, but seldom elsewhere. Even in our country, electricity suppliers are often regulated monopolies. Gasoline sales are taxed. The US also requires auto fuels be diluted with corn-derived ethanol, on climate grounds; realists wonder if this is price largesse for farmers? Such examples suggest a broad point: in many nations, leaders view energy suppliers as important sources of revenue for governments and as a source of jobs for their supporters. The next leftwing President could seek to nationalize Exxon, not just medical care. Climate alarmism might provide fake rationale.
American universities receive funds for energy and climate research. These provide incentives within academic communities to forego criticizing science underpinning the golden goose. Any boat-rocker who questions alarmism threatens financial harm within the community. Critics mainly arise from non-academic and non-commercial spheres, like private think tanks concerned with bolstering the US economy. Theirs is a praiseworthy calling.
Was the United States bolstered when former President Obama championed climate alarmism? Investing in a false cause diverts resources from truly deserving needs, of which there are always a multitude. If unremittingly pursued toward absurd goals of eliminating CO2 emissions from industrial activities, climate alarmism may well trigger civil unrest in any country. If the US political left remains trapped in a climate alarmist quagmire, it may be well-served to lose elections by landslides. Democracy is unlikely to reward declared fomenting of electricity outages and soaring prices. US elections are best sought by offering to help Americans to improve their circumstances, in realistic ways. Selling energy utopia because of non-existent climate change risks alienating voters. To channel Feynman, “that’s kind of dishonest.”
In closing, be it fairly noted, solar and wind technologies can sometimes serve usefully, at acceptable cost, though in uncommon (or “niche”) economic circumstances. They cannot compete fairly, unsubsidized by governments, with reliable electricity generated by hydropower, hydrocarbons, or nuclear, in most circumstances.
Politicians who advocate drastic reductions in air emissions of Biosphere-essential and benign CO2 gas, at absurdly high cost, without redeeming benefits, send a strong signal they do not care for the well-being of voters. Voters in any nation may be well advised to pay heed.
Richard Feynman. 1974. Commencement address, Cal Tech.
Aaron Wildavsky. 1995. But is it True? Harvard University Press.
Nick Lane. 2003. Oxygen, the molecule that changed the world. Oxford Univ. Press.
Senator James Inhofe. 2012. The Greatest Hoax: how the global warming conspiracy threatens your future. WND Books.
Alan Carlin. 2015. Environmentalism Gone Mad.
Steven J. Milloy. 2016. Scare Pollution.
Marc Morano. 2018. The politically incorrect guide to climate change. Regnery.
Climate Change Reconsidered. Multiple volumes, the Heartland Institute.
[Originally Published at Carlin Economics and Science]