April 22nd was Earth Day and also the day that 175 countries came to the UN to sign a “climate pact” they hope will limit any rise in global temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius. Global temperatures, the Times reports have risen about one degree since the onset of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, in the middle of the 18th century.
This, of course, is all part of the so-called fight against “climate change.” But is climate change the existential threat such people as Al Gore and the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who spoke at Friday’s UN ceremony, say it is? I’m skeptical, to say the least, for several reasons.
1) Sound science produces predictions that come true. The science behind climate change does not. Indeed, the experts have been proven wrong time and time again. Around the time of the first Earth Day, scientists were predicting a coming ice age. Then, as global average temperatures rose in the 1980’s, global warming became the big threat. Al Gore in 2005 predicted that the polar ice caps would be gone by 2015, leading to a catastrophic rise in sea levels. But in 2015, the polar ice caps were not gone. They were, in fact, above the average for the period since 1979. The computer climate models predict steady warming. But the warming stopped in 1998. If the computer models cannot accurately predict what is now the past, why should we rely on them to predict the future?
That’s exactly why the threat of “global warming” suddenly became the threat of “climate change,” a much more generalized — indeed, fuzzy — term. The climate on Earth, after all, has been changing since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago, ranging from periods of tropical warmth as far as the poles to “snowball earth,” when the entire globe was covered in ice. In the early 14th Century, the world grew suddenly and sharply colder. The “Little Ice Age,” as it was dubbed in recent years, lasted until the last half of the 19th Century. Those climate shifts could not have been anthropogenic.
2) Science is always skeptical. But when it comes to climate, we are constantly being told that “the science is settled,” which translates into the immortal words of Ring Lardner, “’shut up,’ he explained.” The most forceful advocates of a climate change crisis are exactly the people trying most vigorously to shut down the argument. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wants to use RICO to go after skeptics. Twenty state attorneys general are trying to go after Exxon for financially backing studies that cast doubt on climate change. People with the facts on their side don’t need to shut down the argument.
3) Sound science needs sound data. But climate data is often “adjusted.” If a weather station located, say, in Nassau County, New York, was put there in 1925 and is still yielding data today, that data has to reflect changing conditions at that site. In 1925 it might have been in the middle of a potato field. In 2016, while standing on the exact same spot, it’s now behind a suburban strip mall, surrounded by tarmac and twenty feet from the kitchen exhaust fan of a Chinese restaurant. The opportunities to manipulate data rather than adjust it (not to mention the guesswork involved in even honest adjustment) are legion. And climate scientists have been caught red-handed manipulating it and otherwise trying to affect the public perception by dishonest means. People with the facts on their side don’t need to fudge them.
4) Who benefits? When a body is discovered in the library, à la Agatha Christie, the first thing the police want to know is who benefits from that person’s death? So, let’s assume for a moment that anthropogenic climate change is indeed a grave and present threat to civilization. Who benefits from that realization? The answer primarily is two groups. The first group is made up of politicians. Such a crisis could only be handled by government at the highest levels, greatly increasing the power of government over the lives of citizens. And, as James Madison explained, “Men love power.” For politicians, that goes double. That’s why Democrats, such as Senator Whitehouse and the twenty state attorneys general, love the idea of climate change. Democrats are the party of government. They favor anything that increases the power of government.
The second group is made up of climate scientists. If politicians need to cope with a crisis, they’ll need expert advice. And getting to whisper in the ears of the powerful is itself a potent form of power. Also, of course, government agencies such as the EPA fund most climate research and it is in the self-interest of EPA bureaucrats to advance the idea of climate change. Studies that might do so are thus favored. So the scientists have a powerful self-interest in aligning with the government in order to obtain research grants.
5) Chicken Little doesn’t act like he believes the sky is falling. When the UN held a climate conference in Bali in 2007, attendees flew in on so many private jets that many had to be parked at an airport on next-door Java. These conferences, by the way, never take place in, say, Cleveland. They are always in out-of-the-way places, such as Bali, that anyone would be happy to visit on someone else’s nickel. Al Gore a few years ago was embarrassed to have it publically revealed that his monthly electric bill was routinely over $1,000 (and in Nashville, Tennessee, which enjoys very low rates, thanks to TVA). Leonardo DiCaprio usually flies by private jet. I imagine that that is how he arrived in New York last Friday in order to tell the masses of the sacrifices they must make in their life styles in order to save the planet. He was recently seen frolicking in Brazil on a 470-foot yacht.
As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit says, “I’ll believe there’s a climate crisis when the people who tell me there’s a climate crisis start acting like there’s a climate crisis.” Until then, I’ll believe that “climate change” has little to do with science and much to do with aggrandizing political power.