Garth Paltridge, in the Australian literary magazine Quadrant, warns that the scientific establishment’s uncritical rush to climb on board the Anthropogenic Global Warming bandwagon seems liable, in the continued failure of predictions of imminent disaster, to inflict grave damage on that establishment’s credibility and prestige.
we have at least to consider the possibility that the scientific establishment behind the global warming issue has been drawn into the trap of seriously overstating the climate problemâ€”or, what is much the same thing, of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problemâ€”in its effort to promote the cause. It is a particularly nasty trap in the context of science, because it risks destroying, perhaps for centuries to come, the unique and hard-won reputation for honesty which is the basis of societyâ€™s respect for scientific endeavour. Trading reputational capital for short-term political gain isnâ€™t the most sensible way of going about things.
The trap was set in the late 1970s or thereabouts when the environmental movement first realised that doing something about global warming would play to quite a number of its social agendas. At much the same time, it became accepted wisdom around the corridors of power that government-funded scientists (that is, most scientists) should be required to obtain a goodly fraction of their funds and salaries from external sourcesâ€”external anyway to their own particular organisation.
The scientists in environmental research laboratories, since they are not normally linked to any particular private industry, were forced to seek funds from other government departments. In turn this forced them to accept the need for advocacy and for the manipulation of public opinion. For that sort of activity, an armâ€™s-length association with the environmental movement would be a union made in heaven. Among other things it would provide a means by which scientists could distance themselves from responsibility for any public overstatement of the significance of their particular research problem.
The trap was partially sprung in climate research when a number of the relevant scientists began to enjoy the advocacy business. The enjoyment was based on a considerable increase in funding and employment opportunity. The increase was not so much on the hard-science side of things but rather in the emerging fringe institutes and organisations devoted, at least in part, to selling the message of climatic doom. A new and rewarding research lifestyle emerged which involved the giving of advice to all types and levels of government, the broadcasting of unchallengeable opinion to the general public, and easy justification for attendance at international conferencesâ€”this last in some luxury by normal scientific experience, and at a frequency previously unheard of.
Somewhere along the line it came to be believed by many of the public, and indeed by many of the scientists themselves, that climate researchers were the equivalent of knights on white steeds fighting a great battle against the forces of evilâ€”evil, that is, in the shape of â€œbig oilâ€ and its supposedly unlimited money. The delusion was more than a little attractive.
The trap was fully sprung when many of the worldâ€™s major national academies of science (such as the Royal Society in the UK, the National Academy of Sciences in the USA and the Australian Academy of Science) persuaded themselves to issue reports giving support to the conclusions of the IPCC. The reports were touted as national assessments that were supposedly independent of the IPCC and of each other, but of necessity were compiled with the assistance of, and in some cases at the behest of, many of the scientists involved in the IPCC international machinations. In effect, the academies, which are the most prestigious of the institutions of science, formally nailed their colours to the mast of the politically correct.
Since that time three or four years ago, there has been no comfortable way for the scientific community to raise the spectre of serious uncertainty about the forecasts of climatic disaster. It can no longer use the environmental movement as a scapegoat if it should turn out that the threat of global warming has no real substance. It can no longer escape prime responsibility if it should turn out in the end that doing something in the name of mitigation of global warming is the costliest scientific mistake ever visited on humanity. The current redirection of global funds in the name of climate change is of the order of a billion dollars a day. And in the future, to quote US Senator Everett Dirksen, â€œa billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon weâ€™ll be talking about real moneyâ€.
At the same time, the average man in the street, a sensible chap who by now can smell the signs of an oversold environmental campaign from miles away, is beginning to suspect that it is politics rather than science which is driving the issue.
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Bird Dog.