Not even 30 inches of snow falling on Washington has discredited claims of “global warming,” the belief that human activity is appreciably warming our planet. Of course, a single snowstorm does not disprove global warming. Weather is not the same as climate. But even after a decade of unexpectedly cool temperatures, global-warming alarmists still show no skepticism. Skepticism is a core value of science.
In “1984,” George Orwell wrote about Big Brother (government) being so powerful that it can persuade people to believe things contrary to their senses. It even can convince them that two plus two is not equal to four.
Eventually the truth will out. When global warming finally is recognized as the world’s greatest political hoax, those discredited will not be the perpetrators.
The perpetrators are politicians and traditional media. After the credibility bubble bursts, the same politicians and media will continue to influence what the public is told. They will effectively claim that they never misled anyone. The fall guy will be science.
Lost in the confusion will be the distinction between science and the scientific community.
The scientific community has largely abandoned science. It has degenerated into little more than just another lobbying group seeking advancement for its members.
The scientific community gets it right when the stakes are unimportant. It effectively opposed such anti-scientific nonsense as creationism. If the religious zealots had won, children would be told that the Old Testament described things that really happened. Not good - but it would do little harm and certainly would not harm the world’s economies.
How starkly the vigorous opposition to creationism contrasts with the community’s near silence in response to the anti-scientific nonsense coming from the likes of Al Gore. Worse than silence, in all too many cases, the community has been an enthusiastic participant in an orgy of unreason. It has been an orgy lubricated by almost limitless opportunities to grab influence, physical resources and cool cash.
Galileo Galilei, the father of experimental science, was convicted of a crime in 1633 for stating “that the Earth is not at the center of the universe, and it moves.” This contradicted the then-prevailing belief, supported by most highly credentialed astronomers of the day. His sentence was house arrest until his death in 1642.
Galileo was treated more leniently than earlier pioneer Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600 for similar crimes.
Then, it was fear of the unknown that threatened intellectual freedom. Today, it is governments and international bodies. While they do not execute or imprison heretics, they still wield enormous power.
“Climate of Fear. Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence” was the headline on a column in the Wall Street Journal by Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Lindzen writes, “Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.”
It is easy to create the illusion of consensus when those who disagree are silenced.
It is not known what the majority of scientists think about global warming, not that it matters all that much. Science is not about counting votes. However, I can offer an anecdotal observation.
I am a scientist, while my wife is a professor of art history. Her colleagues generally think all scientists support Mr. Gore - after all, they have been so informed by such authoritative sources as the New York Times. My fellow doctorate-holding science colleagues generally share my conclusion: The claim that human activity has appreciably warmed our planet is the greatest political hoax ever.
Many specific actions supported by global-warming alarmists are admirable. We ought to pollute less and transfer less wealth to Middle Eastern oil-producing tyrannies. These issues should be addressed on their merits. They have little to do with global temperature.
To do sensible things for irrational reasons just validates irrationality. And who can tell what future horrors will be justified by irrationality?
When the global-warming hoax eventually collapses, the victim will be science. When science suffers, we all suffer.
Leonard Evans has a doctorate in physics from Oxford University and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed papers on many scientific subjects.