Friday, December 8, 2006

A durable hysteria, pt. 2 - Despite the weight of reasonable doubt, global warming advocates continue to suggest that a robust unanimity of opinion exists regarding anthropogencic climate change. To the reasonable observer, it does appear that global warming researchers are resistant to explanations that do not support their “consensus.” Some of this may be explained by an article published in the Spring 1992 issue of the CATO Institute's Regulation entitled, “Global Warming: The Origin and Nature of the Alleged Global Consensus.” Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T. suggests that after the end of the Cold War, many agencies that were involved with national defense such as NASA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy “have appropriated the issue of climate change to support existing efforts.” In highlighting his objection to the scientific community’s “exploiting” the issue of climate change, Dr. Lindzen went on to elaborate his concerns.

A parochial issue is the danger to the science of climatology. As far as I can tell, there has actually been reduced funding for existing research. That may seem paradoxical, but, at least in the United States, the vastly increased number of scientists and others involving themselves in climate as well as the gigantic programs attaching themselves to climate have substantially outstripped the increases in funding. Perhaps more important are the pressures brought to bear on scientists to get the “right” results.† Such pressures are inevitable, given how far out on a limb much of the scientific community has gone. The situation is compounded by the fact that some of the strongest proponents of “global warming” in Congress are also among the major supporters of science…I should add that as ever greater numbers of individuals attach themselves to the warming problem, the pressures against solving the problem grow proportionally; an inordinate number of individuals and groups depend upon the problem’s remaining.
As for celebrity Left such as the previously-mentioned Leo DiCaprio and Larry David, along with George Clooney, Julia Roberts and many others, global warming provides the chance to play the lead in an once-in-a-lifetime real world drama. Indeed, global warming has become a pet cause for many among the affluent, both in the U.S. and internationally. The prominent characteristic that these economic elites share is that they all find themselves stationed above the common concerns shared by the masses that live in putrificent squalor. Having transcended war, famine, pestilence and kleptocratic and/or genocidal governments, these who rally around global warming’s colors seek to establish a solidarity of misery with those who find themselves afflicted by the more classic threats to man’s existence.

And for those on the Left whose anti-capitalist agenda will only allow them to see economic development (particularly that of the United States) as a malignancy, the fear mongering regarding global warming best serves as another useful tool. Margot Wallstrom, the European Union’s Commissioner for the Environment admitted as much when she commented, “[Global warming] is not a simple environmental issue where you can say it is an issue where scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations. This is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big business throughout the world.”

† Dr. Lindzen’s commentary on scientists feeling the need to generate the “right” results bears greater import in light of the previously cited report to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The report was intended in part to serve as a social network analysis designed to examine if and how the insularity of the paleoclimate research community affected its work. In the report, the authors noted that as it pertained to climate change research, “there was too much reliance of peer review, which was not necessarily independent.” The report goes on to conclude “[a]s analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

1 comment:

Pali Gap said...

This idea of "peer review" is interesting, eh? It has been seized upon by the pro-warming research lobby as if it lay at the very heart of scientific method. Criticism of the orthodoxy is regularly dismissed because such-and-such an idea is "not a part of the peer reviewed literature". It seems to me the The Committee on Energy and Commerce make a good point: if the "peers" are a close-knit, self-serving group as they suggest, then that can serve to strangle the culture of robust criticism that is really the hallmark of science. To my mind "peer review" is a kind of "knowledge by authority". It may serve some purpose in what Thomas Kuhn called "normal science", but it can can also serve as a big impediment to progress.