This post is about another article I read through a reference at Climate etc. It has the same title as this post, and was written by Steven Hayward, who is apparently a conservative thinker with an interest in ‘climate change’. Judith Curry is good at excerpting bits from longer pieces, but I think the original essay deserves a proper read (she thought so too).

Hayward’s main point, I think, is that conservatives are not ‘anti-science’ (a common charge) but that they have an abiding feeling that whatever we need to do in ‘combating climate change’ must be done with a recognition that freedom, or liberty, are more important. I’m not sure about my own position on this  general position — what about war? But then I remember that conscientious objectors were allowed to be so, and that their rights were respected. That gives Australia a tick. And Hayward is scathing about the dismissal of ‘democracy’ by those who think that saving the planet is vastly more important than democracy.

The final difference between liberals and conservatives over climate change that is essential to grasp is wholly political in the high and low sense of the term. Some prominent environmentalists, and fellow travelers like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, periodically express open admiration for authoritarian power to resolve climate change and other problems for which democratic governments are proving resistant precisely because of their responsiveness to public opinion — what used to be understood and celebrated as “consent of the governed.” A few environmental advocates have gone as far as to say that democracy itself should be sacrificed to the urgency of solving the climate crisis, apparently oblivious to the fact that appeals to necessity in the face of external threats have been the tyrant’s primary self-justification since the beginning of conscious human politics, and seldom ends well for the tyrant and the people alike.

I’ll drink to that. Now our own Clive Hamilton, who is one of the most vehement of the AGW orthodox, denies that he has ever advocated ‘the suspension of democracy’ to deal with global warming, and you can read his saying so here. On the other hand, you can go to Andrew Bolt or Catallaxy Files, and summon up what they think of his denial. It’s fair to say that his view of a democracy is somewhat odd. Here is a bit from one of his Conversation pieces:

However, the practices of democracy at times do not sit comfortably with the best advice of those most qualified and knowledgeable. Over the last decade or so, politically driven climate deniers have adroitly used the instruments of democratic practice to erode the authority of professional expertise. They have attempted, with considerable success, to undermine the authority of climate science by skilful exploitation of a free media, appeal to freedom of information laws, the mobilisation of a group of vociferous citizens, and the promotion of their own to public office. In this way, democracy has defeated science.

Really? Is this was really happened? Perhaps Clive thinks that democrats should always heed the advice of those whom Clive sees as ‘the most qualified and knowledgeable’, whom I take to be the politically driven orthodox. But it is surely the great virtue of democracy that people are allowed to think about things and form their own opinions. And it is just possible, no doubt at the extreme edge of things, that the people, or many of them, have come to the view that Clive is wrong, and that those most qualified and knowledgeable actually have a lot more to learn. The title of his Conversation essay is ‘Democracy is failing the planet’, but no doubt a sub-editor was responsible for that. Labor people are sometimes astonished that the electorate would elect any government which wasn’t Labor, but there again the people sometimes decide that enough is enough.

But back to Steven Hayward, who is a lot more accessible and interesting (only a personal judgment, I admit) than Clive. I liked the next passage very much, and think he nailed that episode.

[I]t is not necessary to be any kind of climate sceptic to be highly critical of the narrow, dreamlike quality the entire issue took on from its earliest moments. Future historians are likely to regard as a great myopic mistake the collective decision to treat climate change as more or less a large version of traditional air pollution, to be attacked with the typical emissions control policies — sort of a global version of the Clean Air Act. Likewise the diplomatic framework, a cross between arms control, trade liberalisation, and the successful Montreal Protocol, was poorly suited to climate change and destined the Kyoto Protocol model to certain failure from the outset.

You can argue, like Clive, that our democratic processes have not given ‘climate change’ the importance that the orthodox think it deserves. But surely one straightforward reason is that the orthodox have failed to persuade the rest of us. Given that they have had virtually a monopoly of the mass media, the government and the scientific academies, doesn’t that point to a fundamental problem with the ‘climate change’ message?

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • DaveW says:

    Hi Don,

    I have problems with plotting political concepts on a single Left-Right axis and find the way terms like liberal and conservative are bandied about not especially helpful in understanding ideas or policies. For example, from your quote above and knowing nothing else about him, I would label Clive Hamilton a reactionary: he clearly would like to suppress dissent in favour of orthodoxy. It is hard not to invoke Godwin’s Law when reading people like Hamilton, but I suppose they are part of a much longer authoritarian tradition. Looking over his Wiki entries, he seems just another strident establishment green who has done very well feeding at the public trough: a ‘public intellectual’ who supports internet censorship and believes the “world is on a path to a very unpleasant future and it is too late to stop it”. At first I reacted as you did to his list of denier successes, but now I think I understand. If even one article in the media is skeptical of CAGW or one FOI honoured, then authoritarian control has be frustrated and people like Hamilton become enraged.

    I can only speak for myself, but the erosion of “the authority of professional expertise” for me came from the primary literature when articles in my area of expertise began appearing that were clearly ignorant of the field or so badly designed that they should have been rejected. Then students began asking about them and I had to explain the problems and try to explain how the papers came to be published in ‘important’ journals. Still, I maintained the assumption that AGW was occurring and that we soon might be seeing results in the real world until Michael Mann, Phil Jones et al. washed away all vestiges of ‘authority of professional expertise’ with their Climategate emails. After that I had to start paying attention to the larger picture and now I find myself condemned to the lowest level of climate denier hell. Throughout that descent, it has been the lies, exaggerations, intolerance of debate and out-and-out nastiness of the Climate Science establishment that has maintained my downward momentum. They eroded their own authority.

    • Stodart1 says:

      Hamilton’s Holy Inquisition advocacies don’t support his climate religion authority assertions. Send him back to the era where he belongs.

  • PeterE says:

    This is a very important post and goes to the heart of the matter. I have read enough of the scientific debate to conclude that the proponents of CAGW have failed thus far to demonstrate their case. It is the vociferous hatred that permeates the writings of the publicists of the movement that is enough to engender the deepest suspicion of their motives. Their views evoke a future of totalitarian control of thought, word and deed. It is always the ‘appeal to authority’ but there is an old saw for managers that runs ‘experts on tap, not on top,’ a wise counsel. Listen to the specialists and then you decide, not them.

    • John Salmond says:

      so, you, presumably not a climate scientist, have decided that they are all (or 90+percent of them) wrong. Fair enough, in a democracy one person’s ignorance is equal to another’s expertise

      • Gus says:

        Climate scientists, by and large, aren’t wrong. But what they say is not at all what warm-mongers *choose* to transmit. The message is heavily distorted, so much so, its focus is totally misplaced. For more on how the 97% myth is created and perpetrated see, e.g., Richard Tol in Energy Policy, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2014.04.045 (published online June 4, 2014). Also see Legates et al in Science & Education, doi:10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9 (August 2013). Also see Bast and Spencer’s opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%'”, May 26, 2014.
        Last but not least, you should study the NIPCC and the IPCC AR5 WG1 reports in full, not just the political summary but the technical part itself. You’ll find much discussion of the recent temperature “hiatus” and uncertainties in climate science, not only in the NIPCC document, but in the IPCC one as well.
        The recent announcement of the Geological Society of Australia that they would refrain from making a statement on climate change in view of their membership of 2000 being too divided on the issue, does bring forth the lack of support for CAGW amongst a considerable number of highly trained professionals. You will find similar doubts expressed in the documents of the American Physical Society’s Climate Change Statement Review Workshop, both the Framing Document (14pp) and the Minutes (573pp), which you can download from the Web.

    • David says:

      Peter this post is OTT. 🙂

  • Gus says:

    Why is an issue that’s at the bottom of Americans’ concerns, climate change, still so prominent in Australia? Mind boggles. Perhaps it has to do with the carbon tax that is yet to die.

    What do conservatives think of climate change… The Gallup poll published on April 22 this year tells us the following. 80% of US Republicans fall in the category of “Cool Skeptics,” that is, they attribute observed (minor, 0.7C only) rise in global temperature (in 150 years) to natural causes (100%), are only a little (31%) or not at all (69%) worried about it, believe media reports on this to be total (100%) exaggeration and do not expect it to pose serious threat in their lifetime. See:

    Conservatives are a larger group than Republicans, because not all conservatives are GOP members or GOP supporters. Amongst them, according to Gallup, 65% are “Cool Skeptics,” 33% are “Mixed Middle,” and 18% only are “Concerned Believers.”
    The attitudes to climate change vary with sex too. This is interesting. Amongst men, a whopping 66% are “Cool Skeptics,” amongst women 60% are “Concerned Believers.”
    It is also interesting to observe, following Gallup, that public opinion on climate change has become more polarized. There are fewer people in the middle, more on the opposite sides of the issue.
    From my own experience, when “Concerned Believers” are confronted with science, its inadequacies, uncertainties, false models, research papers, scientific observations and IPCC AR5 WG1 reports, especially the most recent one, they literally fold and run away sobbing. It’s a religious, emotional and political issue for them.
    In this they are strikingly similar to new-born Christians and the like. I remember, I had a contact with such people in the past. I lived in a college and was invited to join a “Bible Discussion Group.” However, I quickly discovered that the group had no interest whatsoever in discussing the Bible. All they wanted was to sing Kumbaya and say a prayer.

    • David says:


      Don’s site is hardly representative of “Australia”.

      This analysis probably gives a better perspective.

    • dlb says:

      I’d say some of the weather events we’ve had here in the last few years have probably swayed the general public back to believing in AGW, regardless of what may be happening elsewhere. The floods in Qld in 2011 and 2012, record breaking temperatures last summer together with recent fires in Tasmania and NSW would have made it very easy to say it must be global warming. This sentiment is actively encouraged by many scientists, academics and of course the ABC. One shouldn’t forget per head of population we certainly have more than our share of world renown climate alarmists.

    • DaveW says:

      Hi Gus – have you see this 3 part pre-publication analysis by Kahan:
      The purpose is to try to understand why the unrelenting bombardment of pro-CAGW messaging (e.g. $300 million social marketing campaign by Alliance for Climate Protection, 97%, scientific consensus, scare stories etc.) has had no effect on belief on CAGW (which has declined over time). Kahan seems to be a warmist or wants to be funded by the CAGW crowd (which is where the money is), but some of the analysis is still interesting. In particular, that people are quite willing to take a hyped message an interpret it for themselves based on their views on life. Kahan would call this ‘misinform themselves’ and Hamilton ‘a failure of democracy’ when they fail to believe in global warming, but I would see that as exactly what you would want from democracy: people who use their personal experience and beliefs to make decisions and don’t accept dictats from authority. I also find the scatter on graphs in the first post interesting – although belief in global warming is strongly influenced by party affiliation, it is not absolute by any means. Plenty of liberals and conservatives are willing to have opinions that are outside their alleged belief systems. Finally, Kahan’s analysis of the studies, advocacy polls and messaging by the CAGW crowd is pretty scathing. One wonders why he would want to be associated with such a crowd of incompetents.

      • Gus says:

        I wouldn’t necessarily call CAGW propagandists incompetent. They do everything you’ll find in the Goebbels book of propaganda, undoubtedly trained and influenced by East German Stasis or whatever’s left of them. It was their, Stasi money and their people who started and nourished the environmentalist movement in West Germany. After the fall of Communism in Europe, whatever was left of it in the West (including America and Australia) transferred to environmentalism, bringing their propaganda techniques and experience to it.

        So, why doesn’t it work? I’d say, for the same reason Communist propaganda failed to work in Europe in its heyday: clash with reality. Back then, it was enough for the heavily jammed Radio Free Europe to broadcast a 5 minute message of truth and it would have more effect on millions of people than years of Communist propaganda. Having seen the reality of Communism, people would turn away from the government propaganda wholesale, just ignoring all of it.

        And it’s the same with the climate story today. The reality is totally at odds with the CAGW warm-mongering. People see this. The ones who are interested go to places like “Climate Depot,” where they learn truth about warm-mongers (or climateers, as conservative press is calling them nowadays). With time, strong opposition has arisen, that has spilled into US politics, for example, with the Republicans firmly in the skeptic camp, the warm-mongering restricted to the US Democrats. As people see this being no longer an issue of science, about which they might not judge, but the issue of politics, they align accordingly.

        The corruption of science, involved in cooking the warm-mongering propaganda, is also similar to how Communists would make claims that their ideas were scientifically derived and proven and that there was full scientific consensus on this and so all further discussion was just waste of time. The ones of us who heard it non-stop 40 years ago, immediately recognize the same tune in the warm-monger propaganda of today. It was neither true back then, nor is it true now, and a simple reference to observed reality or historic data is enough to debunk it.

        You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time (Abraham Lincoln). This, fundamentally, explains why any propaganda based on a lie will always fail in the long run.

        • dlb says:

          “climateers”, now that reminds me of a tune that was doing the rounds over 40 years ago. Anything to do with Mickey Mann being leader of the band?

  • John Salmond says:

    matter of opinion, but logically it could also point to a fundamental problem with “the rest of us” (which does not include me). It could also point to a problem with our democratic processes, or with democracy.

  • Earl Shaffer says:

    This is absolutely good Science….
    This is proof that the Sun is absolutely in control of the heating and cooling of Planet Earth. The lies and fraudulent claims that have been made were leading to a World Socio-economic disaster. These actual numbers are basic Physics and applied Thermodynamics. This does not even consider that CO2 is a fraction of crude when consumed.

    Consumed Crude Fuel Energy per Day = 87,000,000 Barrel/Day X 5,800,000 Btu/Barrel X 1055Joule/Btu = 5.32 X 1017 Joule/Day

    Sun Energy/ Day = 1.279 X 1014m2 X 1400watts/m2 X 60sec/ min X 60min/hr X 24hr/day
    = 1.547 X 1022 Joule/day

    Divide 1.547 X 1022 / 5.32 X 1017 = 29,078.9 as the ratio of the Suns Energy to the consumed daily crude World Wide.

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