It’s Really about Freedom

James Delingpole,  Killing the Earth to Save It: How Environmentalists Are Ruining the Planet, Destroying the Economy and Stealing Your Jobs (Connor Court, 2012), 320 pages, $29.95

The Green movement, contends James Delingpole in Killing the Earth to Save It, is essentially a religion with a “suicidal, mankind-hating, technology-loathing, apocalyptic vision of the world”. Delingpole effortlessly makes the case by simply quoting the words of the true believers themselves, such as naturalist and BBC television personality Chris Packham. When asked by a magazine interviewer what animal he might not mind becoming extinct Packham replied: “Human beings. No question. That’s the only one.” According to Delingpole, for modern-day environmentalists the continuing presence of mankind on Earth can only be “deleterious to the planet’s interests”. In their quest to purge the world of Western industrial civilisation, the so-called science of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) has proved a weapon of great power.

There is no equivocation in Delingpole’s account of “the Big Lie” that is at the heart of the CAGW industry. From the late 1980s the proponents of climate alarmism, using computerised climate-modelling tools, made calculations about future air and ocean temperatures. These projections were proved false by the passage of time and sophisticated methods for measuring everything from the temperature in the troposphere to non-existent atmospheric hotspots. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions continued unabated without the predicted consequence—end of argument. In hindsight, writes Delingpole, the CAGW hypothesis came unstuck as far back as 1998 when the global temperature inconveniently refused to rise.

From Delingpole’s perspective, therefore, the time has long since passed for genuine scientists to overturn the assumptions built into the climate modelling programs. Such a process has, to some extent, already begun. For instance, David Evans, who between 1999 and 2005 worked for the Australian Greenhouse Office as the main modeller for carbon dioxide in Australia’s biosphere, argues that outgoing planetary radiation in the climate models has proved to be “the opposite to reality”. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at MIT in Boston, has done peer-reviewed research on the matter. He renounces the label of “sceptic”, but only because it gives too much credence to AGW theory, a hypothesis that “no longer represents a plausible position”. Science commentator Joanne Nova even speculates about an approaching time when everyone will be declaring out loud: “I always knew it was fake.” Although Delingpole readily concurs that the AGW industry represents “the biggest and most expensive scientific scandal in history”, the narrative that unfolds in Killing the Earth to Save It is far from optimistic.  

Some of Delingpole’s pessimism derives from his pivotal role in the November 2009 Climategate scandal, which involved the leaking of more than 1000 e-mails and 2000 other documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). Breaking the story on the blogosphere catapulted the relatively obscure Delingpole into the limelight. At the time he appeared convinced that the outrageous revelations of “corruption, bullying, lies, incompetence, greed, waste and wanton destructiveness” of the scientists associated with the CRU, many of whom were cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would be a nail in the coffin of the CAGW industry, and he was the journalist with the firmest grip on the hammer. More than two years later, admits Delingpole, the CAGW industry powers on and “the bastards are still getting away with it”.

November 2011 Climategate 2.0 saw the release of a further 5000 e-mails, revealing more evidence of top scientists fudging data and conspiring to intimidate adversaries, practices more in keeping with Machiavellian skulduggery than the scientific method. Delingpole noted a growing alarm voiced by CAGW proponents: “What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multidecadal natural fluctuation? They’ll probably kill us.” Similarly, we find the scientist Peter Thorne in 2005 worrying that “the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it, which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run”. These characters, we must remember, are not climate sceptics but the Brains Trust of the CAGW industry.

One of the fundamental questions Delingpole explores in Killing the Earth to Save It is why so many scientists have exempted themselves from traditional standards of scientific discipline. He finds the answer in Post-Normal Science (PNS), a consciously or even unconsciously accepted notion that scientists cannot or need not be clinically neutral in every circumstance, since wider community or ethical dimensions need to be considered in the scientific process. Delingpole contrasts PNS with Normal Science strictures that presume “scientists are motivated, above all else, by their selfless pursuit of objective truth”. Obviously the direction of research a scientist pursues will be “influenced by the funding available”, and yet the legitimacy of that research is hardly helped if the scientist involved has a political as well as a financial stake in the outcome. Delingpole posits Michael Mann of Penn State University, an ally of the CRU’s Phil Jones, as exhibit number one in the gallery of activist-scientist rogues.

Mann, the author of the infamous “hockey stick” graph, repeatedly turns up in the Climategate dispatches talking about “the cause”. In short, he is a political player. Not only did his graph anticipate that the planet was about to fry owing to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, it also seriously underplayed the Medieval Warm Period from approximately 850 to 1300 AD. Thanks to its prominent use in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth “documentary”, Mann’s graph proved critical in advancing “the cause” of CAGW alarmism amongst the general public. The indefatigable work of McIntyre and McKitrick told a very different story. Not surprisingly, the Climategate e-mails show Michael Mann conspiring to “ruin” McIntyre.

Michael Mann’s reputation among climate alarmists remains undiminished, and Delingpole would argue that this is because CAGW was never about “science” in the first place. Take, for instance, the current leader of that formerly august body, the Royal Society. Delingpole rightly criticises Sir Paul Nurse for expressing his delight in the left-leaning New Statesmen at seeing “fellows of the Royal Society politically engaged”. As with his predecessors, Lord May and Lord Rees, Sir Paul has thrown the weight of the Royal Society behind CAGW, “listening to a coterie of post-normal scientists who were more interested in political activism than objective truth”. As a result these three presidents of the Royal Society have trashed the reputation of a venerable institution, “prostituting” a “fine institution’s name in pursuit of dubious causes”. 

There is an upside to the David and Goliath struggle to bring to the public’s attention the fact that the emperor is “stark bollock naked”. Nowadays, at least, the claim by prominent figures—from David Suzuki to Barack Obama—that the “the science is settled” comes in for much more scrutiny than in the past. There is a greater understanding that the term “scientific consensus” cannot be anything other than an oxymoron. Voters, thanks to articulate contrarians such as Andrew Bolt, are likely to have access to the arguments of geologists like Bob Carter and Ian Plimer. Even those who paid minimal attention to science at high school can suddenly speak confidently about the Wisconsin Ice Age, our interglacial Holocene era, and the Little Ice Age. Climate alarmists, a few of whom are the very same scientists who threatened the world with global cooling in the 1970s, can no longer frighten the community with total impunity.

Furthermore, thousands of Australians have attended a Lord Monckton lecture, and appreciate that climate change is a natural and ceaseless process; and that the cause of the relatively small “global warming” since the middle of the nineteenth century is probably a corollary of our planet leaving behind the Little Ice Age. Moreover, the blogsite Watts Up With That? provides the very latest scientific data to anyone who is interested. These sources include constant updates on the state of our polar regions—none of which could be considered alarming. To quote one of Delingpole’s sceptic colleagues: “Time and the weather is on our side.”

Delingpole refers approvingly to the work of the Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark. Svensmark’s cosmo-climatology hypothesis assumes a direct relationship between cosmic rays and cloud cover, and an equally crucial, albeit indirect, relationship between solar activity and cloud cover. At the risk of oversimplifying Svensmark’s theory, the proposition is that elevated solar activity, as was the case for much of the second half of the twentieth century, corresponds to global warming, because fewer clouds mean a warmer world. Some CAGW believers might accept solar activity as a primary driver for earlier climate changes—the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age—but expediently discount it as a causal factor in the warming that occurred prior to 1998. For the moment they are holding the line. Delingpole welcomes the prospect of Svensmark’s research driving “a coach and horses” through the “unimpeachable truth” of CAGW. Elsewhere in his book, though, he wonders “how anyone can disprove” climate alarmism since it is something that “was never provable in the first place”.  

This goes a long way to explaining the note of frustration, even gloom, which pervades Killing the Earth to Save It. Climate sceptics (or agnostics or realists) have reason to celebrate the loss of CAGW’s scientific credibility, and yet its passing will not prove fatal to the Green movement. How could it? The Green movement is not predicated upon science, and so scientific disputation cannot bring it into disrepute. Because the “science” of the CAGW industry is political in character, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to Julia Gillard’s embrace of a carbon dioxide tax, the deliberations of Normal Science need have no terminal effect. Activist-scientists such as Michael Mann and Sir Paul Nurse have demolished whatever barrier previously existed between science and politics; in future there will be even fewer impediments to outbreaks of apocalyptic environmentalism.

This, unfortunately, constitutes but a part of our current predicament. The “real ideological debate taking place in the world right now”, maintains Delingpole, “is about statism versus the freedom of the individual”. In this context, at least, “CAGW is little more than a red herring”. Of course it is a debate that needs to be won, if for no other reason than to undo “the vast swathes of government policy, taxation, and regulation” that have now been attached to it. Nevertheless, the radical political propensities that brought us the “ice age” scare in the 1970s and the “acid rain” threat in the 1980s remain with us. Ultimately, the defeat of CAGW means smiting “one more damned head off the hydra” and not much more: 

Lop off the head spewing messages of doom about CAGW, and instead of killing the beast you’ll find that two more heads are snapping at you in its place. Perhaps one of them will be hissing something about “Ocean Acidification” and the other growling about “Biodiversity”, or “Rewilding” or “Fracking”, though the precise details won’t much matter.  

The environmental cause, contends Delingpole, is as revolutionary as any political ideology that has come before it. The “watermelon” allusion—green on the outside and red on the inside—is no throwaway jibe. It is hard to disagree. The political trajectory of Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and her unapologetic connections with the Soviet-loyal Socialist Party of Australia represent an obvious case in point. This is a woman who stridently supported Brezhnev’s crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring. Up until 1988 she edited the pro-Soviet newspaper Survey; in 1990 she joined the Australian Greens. Obviously the vast majority of those sympathetic to the Green movement are not Marxist-Leninists like Rhiannon, and yet the same motivating spirit is at work: a desire for human society to be regulated, monitored and instructed by a Gnostic elite endowed with the incontestable truth. There is, as Delingpole says, “nothing cuddly, fluffy or bunny hugging about the Green religion”. The guiding principle is not quirky Lennonism but steely-eyed Leninism. To grasp this is to understand the inner-dynamics of Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Environmental activists, along with their “useful idiot” allies, are at war with “free markets and free trade and personal liberty”. In this respect they are no different from their collectivist antecedents, communism and fascism alike. There can be “no middle way” in our response to their totalitarian challenge: 

Even if you think there is a middle way, the people who would wish to steal your freedoms and your democratic rights in the name of “environmentalism” have seen to it that there is not. It really is that simple: optimism or pessimism; freedom or tyranny; joy or misery. You choose.

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