Do you remember back when you were in school and your math or science teacher gave a test in class in which you were asked to solve a problem or two and you were explicitly admonished to show your work? The reasons for this admonition are self-evident. First, obviously, to prevent cheating. It might be possible for one student to copy the final answer over the shoulder of another, but if the cheater tried to copy an entire step-by-step process, he was likely to get caught doing so by the wary eye of the teacher. Secondly, by showing her work the student demonstrated that she really understood the problem and how to solve it.
When I was a graduate student in the 1970s, there were many climate scientists who predicted that we were heading into an ice age. Global cooling was the trend back then. One of the other junior members of my senior common room was a graduate student and tutor in physics, and we often talked about our work. As it happened, he was part of a consortium of researchers at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and Caltech who were trying to model the oceans, in part to determine their effect on climate. His part of that research was his dissertation topic. In the end, however, one day he announced to me that with all of their collective brain power, these scientists concluded that the matter was too complex, that it couldn’t be done.
The world of science was different then. Back then, it was alright for scientists to admit, at least for the time being, that they couldn’t understand something or that they were mistaken about something. It was not uncommon at conferences for a scientist, when making a presentation, to show humility or self-doubt. Back then, it was even alright for a scientist, upon further reflection, to repudiate his original idea, to admit that she had gotten something wrong. In fact, it was necessary; it was part of the scientific method. Young physicists such as my fellow tutor took pride — and intellectual delight, actually — in pointing out that Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate and eminent physicist of the time, loved to declare to his students that whenever he thought he had discovered something, he would promptly try his best to prove himself wrong. And at conferences and in journals, it was considered to be the proper job of other scientists to try to test this new finding or theory or idea to see whether it held up to scrutiny.
The most common way of doing this was achieved by trying to replicate the experiment or process by which the originating scientist had come up with the finding to determine whether it was sound or a fluke or, as in some cases, a fraud. In order for his colleagues to do that, the originating scientist was obliged to describe the experiment in detail and, if he had collected data, to hand it over for reanalysis. Then others would try to go through the same process to see whether they got the same results. If they did, then that would validate the finding and they would conclude that he was on to something. It was mandatory for a scientist who originated an idea to share the data and methodology that had led to his novel conclusion with his colleagues — in other words, to show his work. There was no holding back. In real science, there is no such thing as pleading the Fifth Amendment.
With respect to the so-called science behind climate alarmism, those days have long been over. It is almost universal now for climate warm-mongers to refuse to debate their skeptics. It is also not unusual for them to refuse to show their work. The poster child for a climate scientist refusing to show his work is professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University. In 1998, Mann published a graph, the so-called “hockey stick” graph, that purported to show that global temperatures had taken a dramatic swing upward ever since people started using fossil fuels and, thereby, generating carbon dioxide. This graph, which got its name because of its shape, made a huge splash. It was strongly highlighted in the 2001 UN Climate Report and also included in Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, and Mann has been lavishly dining out on it for 21 years now and counting.
The simple standard of showing your work that used to be demanded of schoolchildren no longer applies to today’s credentialed experts. Why should it? The green religion does not care about persuasion anymore.
As it turns out, however, the graph does not hold up to scrutiny. But when it was criticized as such, instead of debating his critics and defending his work, Mann decided to sue them instead, lawfare now being commonly used to silence whistleblowers and dissidents of “right thinking.” Mann seems to like suing. He has a suit for libel ongoing for over 10 years against the journalist Mark Steyn, who edited a book of essays by climate-alarm skeptics and wrote a critical article on this subject in National Review. He also sued the climate scientist Tim Ball of the University of Winnipeg in a court in British Columbia, but that suit was concluded with Mann losing. A real court of law is different from the court of public opinion insofar as in the former one is required to produce evidence. Ball’s attorney, with the concurrence of the presiding judge, kept requesting that Mann show the data behind the hockey stick, but he persistently refused to do so. Finally, the judge gave up, ruled that Mann’s suit was frivolous, dismissed it, and, as is the custom in Canada, ordered Mann to pay Ball’s attorney fees. But Mann has refused to do so, possibly thinking that it would be difficult to enforce the court order across the border. Ball died last September almost broke because of the litigation costs, and a GoFundMe page was set up to help pay for his funeral costs. Meanwhile, Mann keeps getting lucrative contracts and awards in promoting his “work.”
For 50 years now, the climate doomsayers have been predicting that all sorts of different climate change disasters would occur by such and such a time. Everyone knows about Gore’s predictions, which have never materialized, but Gore is not a scientist. But James Hansen of NASA, another of the climate alarmists’ favorite prophets of doom, is indeed a scientist, and none of his predictions have come true either. The polar ice caps have not melted; the number of polar bears has increased rather than decreased; the Great Barrier Reef has not disappeared — its size ebbs and flows as it always has, but it’s still there going strong; the West Side Highway in New York is not underwater; and so forth. The false prophets of the climate apocalypse have a perfect record of always getting their dramatic predictions wrong. But the ability to predict natural phenomena is one of the pillars of sound science. As Feynman has written: “It does not matter who you are, or how smart you are, or what title you have, or how many of you there are, and certainly not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period.” But the climate scientists always give themselves a pass when their predictions fail to materialize.
Of course, they have also tried other methods to persuade people to come on board with the climate-apocalypse thing. By now, we are well familiar with the fact that all natural disasters, without any hard evidence, are attributed to climate change. Hurricanes, tornados, forest fires, and earthquakes have always been with us, and, if you look at a time frame of 100 years, they have not increased in either frequency or intensity. All of this evidence is supposed to be persuasive but has finally grown old, and increasing numbers of people are no longer persuaded.
Notably, there is one method of persuasion that the climate doomsayers, with all of the billions of dollars at their disposal, have never tried, and it proves that they don’t really believe their own propaganda. If they are so sure that their favored combination of wind and solar, backed up by batteries, is cheaper and just as reliable as fossil fuel–generated energy, then why haven’t they tried to test this claim with a real-life experiment, a demonstration project? Historically, the pilot or demonstration project has often been used to try out a new policy before implementing it full scale on society. When Thomas Edison proposed setting up commercial power stations so that people could run the electric lights and phonographs that he had invented, he set up two demonstration projects, first one in London and then one in New York City, to show the feasibility and practicality of doing so. They were both successful, economically sound, and reliable, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Where is the pilot project that demonstrates that a community can live happily, comfortably, and economically using only sustainable wind- and solar-energy generation? Despite all of the resources available to do so, nowhere on the planet is such a demonstration to be found. Elsewhere Feynman has written, “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” The greenies claim that they love the Earth, so why are they trying to fool Nature? The laws of Nature are older than the Earth itself, and yet they are trying to fool them with this unreliable, unrecyclable, noise-polluting, bird- and bat-murdering, and child-lithium-miner poisoning vanity technology that when deployed en masse inevitably does more harm than good.
Because Russian President Vladimir Putin has bombed Ukraine’s electric grid, the lights have gone out in much of that nation. But what about the rest of Europe? No one is bombing it. In Europe, they have already started turning down the thermostats because of the lack of reliable energy. Because they have been banning fracking and shutting down coal-fired and even nuclear power stations, this was going to happen anyway, even before the advent of the war in Ukraine, which has only accelerated the process. There is no war in California, but, for similar reasons, they have for some time now already experienced blackouts. Outside of Ukraine, no one is bombing Europe — except that, metaphorically, Europe has for some time now been bombing itself by deleting its reliable sources of energy. If this madness is not stopped, it will bomb itself into the Dark Ages, both literally and metaphorically.
We are constantly told to follow the science, but how can we follow it if it goes into hiding, or, as in the case of Ball, it is squelched through lawfare or other perfidious tactics? At a teleconference in Copenhagen called “The Lack of Scientific Freedom,” which I attended last month, Peter Wilmshurst, a British cardiologist, described how whistleblowers in medical science are also being squelched by lawfare. And notoriously, during the COVID pandemic, lockdown regimes would issue edicts while refusing to show the evidence behind them. It is no longer enough to censor or cancel whistleblowers or dissenters; they must also be punished, and the establishment has the deep pockets to do so.
In April of 1988, Congress held a hearing about rampant scientific fraud. It was felt that such fraud could be very harmful to society. With the Western world in the grip of climate hysteria backed by fraudulent science, there’s no way that such a hearing would be held today. The simple standard of showing your work that used to be demanded of schoolchildren no longer applies to today’s credentialed experts. Why should it? The green religion does not care about persuasion anymore. Having gained so much power, it has gone from the bible phase to the sword phase of promoting its religion. There are so many doubters and prominent dissenters that the greenies have left off persuasion and are now implementing their agenda by main force. The transition away from fossil fuels is being done not in a gradual and orderly way but at warp speed and by fiat. Accidental legislatures have passed statutes to ban fracking that have little popular support but somehow can never be repealed. And everywhere the fossil fuel industry is being strangled stealthily by regulation.
Everyone knows that fossil fuels are reliable and inexpensive and a major driving force in a nation’s prosperity, which is why all developing countries are massively trying to build up rather than tear down their fossil fuel–generated energy capacity. But in the wealthy nations now promoting the idea of sustainability, the one item that apparently need not be sustained is a nation’s wealth. And, every year, the climate alarmists throw another wrench in the works to promote so-called climate justice, which has come to mean doing whatever is possible to make the wealthy nations poorer and the poorer nations richer.
When the world’s leaders gathered last week in Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27, the annual UN climate-crisis gabfest, they presented a catchy new theme to keep up interest and move the project forward. This year, they talked about climate reparations. They want $1 trillion to be distributed by the climate bad guys to the climate good guys, never mind that the developing nations, the so-called good guys, are now the biggest generators of carbon dioxide.
Global wealth redistribution has always been the hidden agenda of the green movement. The thinking goes something like this: Since there was recent flooding in Pakistan, it is all the fault of the rich nations who industrialized first and were the first to start belching out carbon dioxide. According to this logic, England should be the first to pony up because it was the first to usher in the dratted Industrial Revolution when it invented the coal-powered steam engine. Come on England, pay up. The fact that you are one of the many wealthy countries that, having destroyed your public finances through lockdown madness, is now solvent in name only is no excuse for holding back. Pay up. Show us that you really care.
If the present course of events continues, if the wealthy countries impoverish themselves by ridding themselves of inexpensive and reliable sources of energy and the poor countries become prosperous by doing exactly the opposite, then one day the positions will be reversed. One imagines that 25 or 30 years from now, at a future COP conference, the newly impoverished nations will ask the nouveau riche nations to pay them reparations to compensate for their sacrifice in saving the world. But will the nouveau riche countries happily oblige? Nah, I don’t think so. They wouldn’t be so stupid.