As a former science policy, grants and funding person, what has fascinated me about ‘climate change’ has been the extraordinary change in what I had conceived to be ‘science’, where the scientific method seemed to be supplanted by computer simulation, which (even worse) was described often as ‘experimentation’.
As a social scientist. what has fascinated me has been the way in which so many otherwise well-educated and intelligent people seemed to me now to believe strongly in what I would call an ideology — which, if it had been presented as Marxism, or Capitalism, or some variant of either, they would have rejected out of hand. I haven’t yet come across a good book on the subject, but every now and then I read something that makes me sit up, take notice, and store for later on.
A recent article that made me sit up, by James Divine (which you can read here) is a bit of a jumble, and advances something I don’t go along with, a kind of conspiracy theory — that there are some high-placed people who seek to gain tremendous advantage from the fuss about ‘climate change’, and are manipulating us all. Yet within the somewhat tortured argument are some discoveries, which I’ll come to in a moment.
Let me give an example. Mr Divine argues the following: The scientific discipline of climate change and the severe ways upon which human beings are impacted by it, are dismissed in favour of the expert management of human populations. I generally object to the passive voice in argument, because it’s vague. Who dismisses the scientific discipline of climate change? It happens to be, in Mr Divine’s opinion, scientists like Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, keen supporters of the orthodoxy. He thinks they are pursuing self-interest rather than scientific understanding. Michael Mann certainly wouldn’t like that.
But I find myself beginning to agree with what followed. Divine says that the willful ignorance of the public creates the opportunity for technocratic domination, i.e., those with superior knowledge make unquestionable decisions that affirm their own superiority. My translation: when the public feel that they don’t know, and that there are others who do, they can accept what is said by the knowledgeable ones, who then feel more important, and act as though they are.
We switch now into a few quotes from the Club of Rome’s 1991 publication The First Global Revolution, written by Bertrand Schneider and Alexander King. I don’t think I have seen this before, though I have employed the ideas myself.
It would seem that men and women need a common motivation, namely a common adversary against whom they can organize themselves and act together…[to] bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose (p.70) … In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill… All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself (p. 75).
It’s familiar, isn’t it, and you can see the ideology involved at work in some of the policies of the Greens. But this document is from 1990/1, and the ideas are probably earlier, perhaps prompted by James Hansen’s famous talk to a Congressional committee in 1988. Here’s more from the same source:
the global nature as well as the seriousness of the environmental crisis, especially that of earth-warming, indicates the need for a coherent and comprehensive attack at the international level and at the level of the United Nations (p. 99)…. in addition, we propose the organization, possibly under the auspices of the Environmental Security Council, of regular meetings of industrial leaders, bankers and government officials from the five continents. These Global Development Rounds, envisaged as being somewhat similar to the Tariff Rounds of GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; a precursor to the World Trade Organization], would discuss the need to harmonize competition and cooperation in the light of environmental constraints (p. 100).
How would you do that? Well, there were a number of UN agencies and other international bodies that would find this goal a meaningful one:
it would be appropriate that the scheme [energy efficiency] be launched by the United Nations in association with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meterological Organization and Unesco [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization]… A corollary would be the setting up in each country of an Energy Efficiency Council to supervise the operation on the national scale ( p. 99).
Of course, this is what actually happened. The ‘scheme’ didn’t become ‘energy efficiency’ exactly, but is none other than the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that has just released its Fifth, and I hope Final, Assessment Report. Mr Divine seems to see all this as a conspiracy. I just see it as yet another intellectual bandwagon, with people hopping on to it for all sorts of reasons, self-interest being one, and a belief in the importance of ‘saving the planet’ being another. None the less, it was enormously successful for a time.
Fortunately, the bandwagon seems to me to be losing a passenger or two, and I would not be surprised if the numbers hopping off increase over the next year or so.