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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Environmental Extremism and Global Warming

"All radicalisms are variations on the story of Babel. They are people trying to reach heaven (or build a heaven on earth) by human means. That is why they end in such misery and horror. Leftism is a form of idolatry in which human beings worship themselves as though they were gods and saviors. I am an agnostic. I don't know whether God exists or not, but I do know that man is not God and that makes me a conservative." David Horowitz (FYI Horowitz uses the label "conservative" but most of his views are libertarian)

Socialism/Communism, Facism and nowadays an unbalanced environmental extremism are examples of radicalisms.

When I was a consultant inside EPA in the early 1980's there were some real "true believers" (Eric Hoffer). My understanding is that they have now overrun the place. An administration that challenges the bureaucracy and provokes them into finding some balance is doing a good thing, even if they are clumsy.

When it comes to environmental issues, global warming being an example, intellectuals are often in bed with leftist extremists. Everything is presented as a crisis that they will save us from...

As Thomas Sowell reminds us:
Sowell: There's something Eric Hoffer said: "Intellectuals cannot operate at room temperature." There always has to be a crisis--some terrible reason why their superior wisdom and virtue must be imposed on the unthinking masses. It doesn't matter what the crisis is. A hundred years ago it was eugenics. At the time of the first Earth Day a generation ago, the big scare was global cooling, a big ice age. They go from one to the other. It meets their psychological needs and gives them a reason for exercising their power. Many intellectuals' preoccupation with the poor is very much the same thing. The thing that gives it all away is that after they say, "We must have this program because the poor can't afford medicine, or can't afford housing," they will splutter if you say, "OK, let's have a means test so it really goes to the poor." If they were really concerned primarily about the poor, they would agree to it. But they are bitterly opposed to that, because the poor are a lever to reach other, political, goals.
Ironically, many of these intellectuals reject traditional religion and mock the blind faith of such little people but they adopt a blind faith of non-traditional beliefs related to the environment! Who knew that were actually so religious?

Here is an excerpt from a memo at the margin.
The reason I write to you about Dixy Lee Ray, who I would guess you never heard about, is that Mother Nature reminded me about her when it decided to stir up the volcano at Mt. Helens in the state of Washington. Dixy Lee, who died in 1994, happened to be governor of that state in 1980 when Mt. Helens erupted. Governor Lee, a marine biologist by professional training, had been chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission before she decided to go into elective politics and had a firm grounding in the physical sciences. What I remember about her now is a book she wrote, "Trashing the Planet," which debunked a number of myths about the environment. In it she had the following line: "The eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 dumped more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than all that has been released since the industrial revolution. Volcanoes have been erupting for millions of years with the same result. If this really effected climate, don't you think it would have happened by now?"
Here are more excerpts from another memo at the margin showing that our science was very corrupted long before GWB took office and why this is so!
I submit that if you took a fresh look with a fresh team, you would find the science is settled. Mankind does not contribute to global warming and the billions of dollars being spent by governments and the private sectors around the planet can be saved by admitting as much. Why? For well over a decade the global-warming computer models have been predicting higher temperatures and the satellites that measure the upper atmosphere find zero change. Revkin never brings this up, but instead points to temperature changes at ground level.

I've been so mystified about why this hoax is not buried for once and for all that I called Pat Michaels of the University of Virginia, who has been in the forefront of those scientists debunking global warming over the years. For goodness sakes, I asked, how is this possible? It's like we know the earth revolves around the sun, but there are still scientists, politicians, businessmen and serious journalists who are insisting it is the other way around. Dr. Michaels said: "I'm glad you asked. I've just written a new book, 'Meltdown,' that covers all the science and adds a chapter at the end to explain what's going on." Here are pages 237-241, which explain a lot. Please at least note the last paragraph:

The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media

Chapter 12. Breaking the Cycle

This book details a natural process. As explained in Chapter 11, scientific paradigms compete with each other for a finite outlay of taxpayer funding. Paradigms, resistant to change to begin with, become even more calcified by the support structure that has evolved for science, largely a consequence of the federalization of science created by Vannevar Bush's Science: The Endless Frontier published in 1946. In this environment, scientists are rewarded and promoted in the academy largely on the basis of research productivity that must be funded from within existing paradigms. Those who do not support the existing paradigm are therefore not likely to be funded sufficiently for promotion. [...]

How do we stop this spiral of exaggeration?

1. Break the Government Monopoly
There is no way that science will ever be pure. Steven Schneider is right. Scientists are "human beings as well," and the way to take advantage of our humanity is simply to offer a wider choice of bias. That approach may not be pretty, but it is realistic.
As even a child would know and say, "well, duhhh!!!"
2. Change the Peer-Review Structure
Here's the modest proposal. Drop secrecy from peer review. Rather, at the end of each article, the reviewer names and institutions should be prominently featured, as well as highlights (just a few sentences) from the reviews. Right now the opposite situation persists. Not only are reviewssecret, but also some academic journals are so bold that they will allow an author to submit a list of reviewers that he or she would not want the article sent to, although editors are not bound to abide by their wishes.

3. Abolish Academic Tenure
Given the nature of modem science and its attendant biases, a person might be tempted to argue for strengthening the tenure system to protect individuals who may call attention to these issues. But that paradigm, too, has changed. The fact of the matter is that the academic world has increasingly evolved in a diverse fashion, with the proliferation of a large number of university-like environments of various philosophical hues. These include the plethora of think tanks that pride themselves on academic research, ranging in Washington from very liberal to very conservative, as well as "neither," which is to say libertarian (such as the Cato Institute, the publisher of this book). The scholar is now much freer to choose than he once was.More important, however, is that the tenure process in fact stifles dissent. Promotion and tenure are largely determined by academic publications that require massive research support, which mires the young scientist in the paradigm-political process. As long as the primary funding source remains a necessarily politicized federal monopoly, a lack of scientific diversity anda biasing in the lurid direction become predictable and unavoidable.
And the concluding paragraph in this chapter of the Patrick Michaels book:
The costs of inaction will be dear. Vannevar Bush's legacy is that science issues tend to be distorted by competition for a single federal source of funds. The resultant exaggerations become tiresome, and life goes on. Decades of doomsaying about global warming collide with decades of prosperity. People notice and increasingly disregard science and scientists, a process that has already invaded several aspects of our lives. That is the ultimate tragedy that this predictable distortion of global warming causes: A society that can no longer rely on the wisdom of science can only be governed by irrationality and fear.

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