Doomed Planet

Selling climate doom

Climate doom and the conning of Garnaut

Professor Garnaut seems completely sold on the idea that only scientists directly within the global-warming research community can give authoritative advice on climate change. He believes that true science can be found only in the peer-reviewed literature. He accepts the modern attitude within the research establishment that it is entirely reasonable to publicly denigrate climate sceptics.   He is particularly enamoured of the idea that climate scientists should spend much of their time selling the message of climatic doom so as to counter the distorted truths peddled by the sceptics and amateurs of the web.  

All of these beliefs sound sensible when said quickly enough. Virtually all of them are nonsense when viewed in the broad context of general scientific reputation in the modern world. 

More to the point, they are patently self-serving.

In many ways the situation is reminiscent of religion in the Middle Ages. The priests of that time were actively against translation of the scriptures from Latin into the local languages – this on the basis, so they said, that it would be highly dangerous to allow non-trained people to have direct access to the word of God because the chances were high that they would get it wrong. And the priests of the time were not exactly backward in imposing their peculiarly nasty forms of denigration on those who thought otherwise. 

Despite the strength of their position (there was no internet at the time!) they ultimately lost both the battle and much of their public support.

The problem with climate science is that, as with any religion, there are diametrically opposed beliefs, each of which has its followers, and each of which vociferously claims to represent the truth.  Research is moving away from active questioning of the science toward manipulation of public opinion. Playing the game of politics is much more fun than continuing with what is turning out to be fairly mundane research. Running ever-bigger computer models of an inherently uncertain climate system is not as intellectually rewarding as it was. 

Which brings us, in a fairly random sort of way, to the prescience of President Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation of 1961:

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

Garth W. Paltridge is the author of The Climate Caper published by Connor Court.

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