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January 13th 2011 print

Alex Stuart

Science for sale

How could the global warming scare story have become so widely accepted by the politically correct of Europe and their acolytes in Australia and North America? A good part of the answer can be found in the flow of public money.

Corrupting scientific method with public money                        

Oceans are trashed with non-biodegradable plastics often fatal to sea life; tropical forests are burned or cleared; critical species habitat is destroyed; and life-forms potentially crucial to medical science are extinguished. But the politically correct of the West, lowering the priority of immediate matters, maintain blind loyalty to a longer-term hypothesis: anthropogenic global warming. This much-disputed theory, that man-made CO2 drives catastrophic warming, relies on questionable assumptions such as the temperature-amplifying effect of water vapour. Even if true, AGW probably wouldn’t bother mankind this century.

The disconnect between these positions – between urgent, practical environmental crises of today and a theoretical but far-from-proven possibility of crisis in the distant future – seems lost on true believers. The fact is, most of them are unqualified lay people; some have credentials in soft sciences; some in hard sciences unrelated to the physics of climate; but relatively few are physicists qualified to interpret the complexities of climate research data. None of these people seem to realise that the outcome from turning scraps of scientific research into political advocacy is to corrupt Western science, and thereby diminish Western influence and cultural power, just as the global financial crisis diminishes Western financial power.

The GFC was a historic but self-inflicted disaster for the Western World. It arose from almost fraudulent actions by whole industries, weakly regulated by distracted governments. It is a turning point in the shift of financial power and political influence from the West to the rising nations of the East. It is entirely possible that one day our successors will judge the AGW crusade as similarly based on almost fraudulent use of research data – in ways that undermine the scientific method and the intellectual prowess of our forebears. If so, AGW belief would be another form of unilateral disarmament, another abdication of Western political authority and diplomatic influence, comparable to the historic surrender of Western financial power clearly visible in the GFC. 

How could the global warming scare story have become so widely accepted by the politically correct of Europe and their acolytes in Australia and North America? A good part of the answer can be found in the flow of public money. 

WSJ online reported on November 30, 2009 that:

In the 1990s, (Climatic Research Unit) director Phil Jones helped bring in £1.9 million for climate research. But in this decade, according to one of the leaked documents, the total shot up to £11.8 million …

Or consider the cash that Michael Mann … has helped pull in for Penn State University. In 2000, before (Professor) Mann joined the faculty, the university banked $20.4 million in research funding for environmental sciences. By 2007, two years after he came on board, Penn State counted more than $55 million a year for environmental research …

Anything that called into question their most dire predictions of climate catastrophe would put all that funding at risk. On the other hand, the bigger the climate calamity, the more willing governments became to fund global-warming research.

Next day The Wall Street Journal wrote:

… the European Commission’s most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion … not counting funds from the EU’s member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA’s climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA’s, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. The states also have a piece of the action, with California — apparently not feeling bankrupt enough — devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.

… Supply, as we know, creates its own demand. So for every additional billion in government-funded grants (or the tens of millions supplied by foundations …), universities, research institutes, advocacy groups and their various spin-offs and dependents have emerged from the woodwork to receive them.

In September, widely-published writer Walter Russell Mead, Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at New York’s Bard College, called catastrophist political strategy “so cluelessly unrealistic as to be clinically insane … When it comes to climate change, the environmental movement has gotten itself on the wrong side of doubt … It proposes big economic and social interventions and denies that unintended consequences and new information could vitiate the power of its recommendations.”

In October, fed up with the slavish adherence of the American Physical Society to AGW scaremongering, Emeritus Professor of Physics Harold Lewis of UC Santa Barbara wrote in his letter of resignation that “the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it … has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”

We know from opinion polls that ordinary Westerners simply aren’t bothered about the rather remote possibility of frying like ants on a hot-plate in a hundred years’ time just because people turn on their toasters, drive to the grocery store or catch planes. Nor, as we can see from the diplomacy of China and India, and can read in the explicit statements of their officials, do those nations buy the catastrophists’ forebodings of a doomsday that may or may not arise next century. And even if they did, it certainly wouldn’t change their plans to raise millions of their citizens out of poverty. 

From our intellectual and financial strength flow diplomatic and military primacy and our ability to project humane values onto the world of the future. It is these values – rule of law, democratic government, free markets, and rights to liberty and property, to free speech and to religious belief – that the flakey obsessions of the politically correct of the West put at risk.

Just as the GFC has led the West to cede financial power, so with its AGW obsession it could cede political and diplomatic ground. AGW may well prove to be the intellectual sibling of the GFC.

Alex Stuart is Chairman of the Australian Environment Foundation