March 22, 2009

"The Mother Of All Scares" Part 1

Taken from Christopher Bookers Presentation to the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change in New York as

Reported by The Heartland Institute

I think you should know that a university near where I live back in England was also having a conference on climate change this last weekend. Led by a professor, a group of psychotherapists, “eco-psychologists,” and “climate activists” were solemnly discussing how they could get “climate change denial” officially classified as a form of “mental disorder.”

So, good morning, fellow lunatics. It is a great honour for me to be invited to speak at this historic conference. And what a delight it has been to hear and meet so many people whose good work I have been reporting on over the past year or two: Professor Lindzen, Dr. Fred Singer, President Klaus to name but three--not forgetting those two heroes of our time Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit and Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That.

As we are all aware, thanks to global warming, the world seems to be heading for an unprecedented catastrophe. But it is not, of course, the technicolor apocalypse we have so long been promised by the likes of Al Gore and Jim Hansen--melting ice-sheets, rising sea levels, hurricanes, droughts, mass-extinctions. The real disaster hanging over us through global warming lies in all those measures now being adopted by the world’s politicians to meet a crisis which was never going to happen anyway. Never before in history have politicians come up with proposals so astronomically costly or potentially so damaging to their economies.

Some of us back in Britain thought our own politicians were crazy enough when last year they voted almost unanimously to make it the law of the land that within 40 years Britain must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by an insane 80 percent. And then you voted in President Obama, who is pledged to do just the same. Stop breathing out, Mr President!

Everyone speaking at this conference has their own individual angle on the great theme which has brought us all together. In my own case, I first came to this subject in a serious way when a year or two back my co-author Dr. Richard North and I were putting together a book on a subject we knew quite a lot about.

For 15 years we had found ourselves investigating a long succession of those “scares” which became such a conspicuous feature of Western life in the closing decades of the twentieth century. Repeatedly we had seen supposed experts hitting the headlines by raising some new fear, some supposedly terrifying new threat to human health or well-being: food scares such as “mad cow disease,” which was soon going to be killing half a million people a year; the Asian bird ‘flu that the WHO said in 2005 was soon going to kill 150 million people; 2YK, the “Millennium Bug” that was going to bring civilised life to a halt by knocking out millions of computer systems; dioxins; lead in petrol; passive smoking; the deliberate confusion between different types of asbestos, and many more. And again and again we had seen how these scares followed a remarkably similar pattern.

Each of these supposed threats had originated in what would eventually turn out to be a misreading of the scientific evidence. Usually this was because scientists had put two things together and guessed, incorrectly, that one was the cause of the other. The scare had then been picked up and magnified by the media and campaigning groups, to the point where eventually governments gave way. This was the tipping point of the scare, as they proceeded to mount a massive legislative response out of all proportion to the reality of the threat. This had invariably resulted in huge financial and economic damage, often running into billions and even hundreds of billions of dollars. But finally in each case new evidence came to light to show how the supposed threat had been wildly exaggerated. The panic had been based not just on misreading the scientific data but even deliberately distorting it.

What struck us when we came to look into the history of the alarm over global warming was how uncannily it seemed to have echoed the pattern of all those other scares with which we were so familiar. There was the initial putting together of two things--the rise in CO2 levels, the rise in global temperatures--leading to the assumption that one must have been the cause of the other. There was the way in which this scare had been obsessively promoted by the media and environmental lobby groups. Then there was the remarkable speed with which this cause was taken up by governments, as they rushed to propose a massive regulatory response.

When we examined all this in detail, we had no hesitation in making it the subject of the longest chapter in our book, which is called Scared To Death: From BSE To Global Warming, How Scares Are Costing Us The Earth. But we finished the book in 2007 and since then, of course, the story has moved on a long way. In fact we are now in the middle of writing a new book which seeks to reconstruct the whole story of the global warming panic in considerably greater detail.

The drama, as we see it, has unfolded in three parts.

Part One, which takes the story up to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, we call “The Forging of a Consensus.” This begins back in the 1970s with that brief panic over global cooling. Then, of course, temperatures began to rise, certain scientists began to ascribe this as due to the rise in greenhouse gas levels, and in 1988 two things happened to set the great scare on its way.

The first of these was Jim Hansen’s carefully stage-managed testimony to a Senate committee, claiming that the five hottest years ever recorded had been in the 1980s, and that 1988 promised to be the hottest yet. The second, quite independently, was the setting up in Geneva by a small group of meteorologists of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

As we know, the IPCC was to become, through its series of reports, an absolutely key player in this story. Yet the more that comes to light about its workings, the more we see what a very odd body it is. It was always essentially a political rather than a scientific organisation. It was tightly controlled from the start by a little group of meteorologists, led by Bert Bolin and Dr. John Houghton, who took what they called “human-induced climate change” as an unarguable fact. Although its reports are still to this day described in the media as representing a “consensus” of “the world’s top 2,500 climate scientists,” only a few dozen of its contributors are strictly climate specialists and most are not really scientists at all.

One of the characteristics of a scare is that, although there are usually experts who spot very early on that the science behind it has gone off the rails, such is the momentum generated by a scare that they can be safely brushed aside. When the IPCC produced its first report in 1990, for instance, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, a more knowledgeable climatologist than anyone on the IPCC, pointed out that the computer models on which it based its projections were fundamentally skewed by all the crucial factors they had missed out, such as the negative feedback effect of the greatest greenhouse gas of all, water vapour.

The IPCC’s second report in 1996 provoked that magisterial blast from Professor Seitz, the former president of the National Academy of Sciences, who said in effect that in all his 60 years as a scientist he had never known such a perversion of established scientific procedure. But the bandwagon was now unstoppably on its way, and the famous 1992 “Earth Summit,” drawing up the UN Convention on Climate Change, led five years later to the Kyoto Protocol. This committed virtually all the governments in the world to what was now accepted as the “consensus” view, that CO2-induced global warming was a major threat to the future of the planet.

(to be continued)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jer:
    Your wondrously complex & well researched site is a joy to discover and a feast to read. I can only hope that much of the rest of the world has not already followed their fellow climate lemmings off the economic one way cliff now under construction by your Commander in Chief. Meanwhile, my friends and I are busy sending off links in all directions at top speed for your wonderful site. I am so pleased to have this as further proof that rumours to date of the death of common sense have been greatly exaggerated. Thank you, thank you, thank you, especially for such consistent effort & commitment to fighting this political and corporate hoax, to challenging this diabolical application of "the means justifies the ends", and to standing firm against this use of climate fear mongering to try to up end democracy and reshape science into a religion. Hitler's Germany was as green as possible. Expropriation of private property was central to his environmental agenda. Those who either never knew history or else willfully forget it will not yet so easily doom the rest of us to repeat it.
    A Canadian Admirer