To Joe the True Believer from Tom the Denier
A few days ago I had a conversation with a very smart university professor of history and somehow the climate change subject came up. Almost instantly he responded to my thoughts by saying: “You must be one of those deniers who rejects the science consensus.”
This is the new form of intellectual bullying and it’s intentionally designed is to stop the conversation not advance it. In the academies it is a technique to close off scientific inquiry.
When the liberals talk of consensus, what consensus are they talking about? Of whom? About what? Here is John Kay of the Financial Times on the so-called consensus:
Science is a matter of evidence, not what a majority of scientists think…. The notion of a monolithic “science,” meaning what scientists say, is pernicious and the notion of “scientific consensus” actively so. The route to knowledge is transparency in disagreement and openness in debate. The route to truth is the pluralist expression of conflicting views in which, often not as quickly as we might like, good ideas drive out bad. There is no room in this process for any notion of “scientific consensus.”
Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, has noted that too many environmentalists “ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse.”
Then he adds: “… there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition.… The consensus was reached before the research was even begun…”
Kay and Lindzen are not alone. In an open letter to the Canadian Prime Minister, 60 scientists urged caution when it comes to any policy with regard to climate:
While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy formation.… There is no “consensus” among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change.… “Climate change is real” is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural noise.
Patrick Moore, a Ph.D. in ecology, is a fallen-away founder of Greenpeace. The following is from his 2015 lecture, “Should We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?”
There is no definite scientific proof, through real-world observation that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming in the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age.… The contention that human emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. It is therefore correct, indeed verging on compulsory in a scientific tradition, to be skeptical of those who express certainty that “the science is settled” and “the debate is over.”
The world’s top climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is hopelessly conflicted by its makeup and its mandate from the United Nations. It is required only to focus on “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the atmosphere, and which is in addition to natural climate variability.” So if the IPCC found that climate change was not being affected by human alteration of the atmosphere or that it is not “dangerous,” there would be no need for it to exist. It is virtually mandated to find on the side of apocalypse.
The IPCC states that it is “extremely likely” that human emissions have been the dominant cause of global warming “since the mid-20th century,” that is since 1950. It claims that “extremely” means 95% certain, even though the number 95 was simply plucked from the air like an act of magic. And “likely” is not a scientific word but rather indicative of a judgment, another word for opinion.
“Perpetual repetition.” “Unqualified environmental groups.” “Sensational headlines.” This is what mass movements are all about. From his book, The True Believer, here is Eric Hoffer on mass movements:
Hatred is the most assessable and comprehensive of all the unifying agents.… Mass movements can rise and spread without the belief in God but never without the belief in evil.
By the way, isn’t this what the left accuses the Trump movement to be all about?
Hoffer then goes on to cite the historian F.A. Voigt’s account of a Japanese mission to Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist Movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought. He replied, “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.” This brought a bit of clarity as to why the mass movement, rather brilliantly, wants to label those of us who have questions as “deniers.”
There are two things necessary for a mass movement to succeed: true believers and a well-defined enemy. The enemy of the climate change mass movement is fossil fuels and the Industrial Age, with the “deniers” being the enablers of planetary destruction.
In the past, the term “denier” has been associated with that extreme group who denies the existence of the horrible, tragic historical fact, the Holocaust. Many climate change true believers want the public to put anyone who questions or disagrees with climate change projections in the same category as the Holocaust deniers. But one is a fact, the other a contested projection. Nevertheless, they have been quite successful.
Here is one of the definitions of “denier” found on the Internet: “a person who denies something, especially someone who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of the scientific or historical evidence: a prominent denier of global warming.”
Here is Hoffer’s warning on the role of the true believer: “where mass movements can either persuade or coerce, it usually chooses the latter.”
Something we are seeing in spades.
The last paragraph of Friedrich Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Prize address, The Pretense of Knowledge, puts the climate change mass movement and its true believers into frightening perspective:
There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success,” to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will.
It has always been worrisome to me that every so-called solution to global warming subverts rather than enhances human freedom and advances the power of the state to regulate energy, industrial activity, and individual behavior That seems to me, a denier, or whatever term you want to use, a potentially greater threat to the future of human welfare than even climate change. Václav Klaus, the former president of the Czech Republic, made this same point when he declared: “What is at risk is not the climate but freedom.”
Thomas Smith is the founder of Prescott Investors.