March 6, 2007
Warming to FailureBy J.R. Dunn
A certifiable paranoiac would have a high old time tracing out the patterns behind the global warming campaign of the past month. The effort has the feel of something long planned, well scripted, and worked out to the final detail. It's hard to avoid thoughts of conspiracy when contemplating the activities of the Greens.
Not that it's necessary to believe any such thing. (In analyzing cases like this, I apply Dunn's First Law: With enough idiots, you don't need a conspiracy.) It's part of the natural order -- birds flock, insects swarm, and Greens campaign. But the actual point is, whether carefully-hatched scheme, herd instinct, or sheer accident, it's clear at this juncture that the effort has failed.
Let's take a closer look at those patterns. First we have the release of the International Panel on Climate Change "report" (still referred to that way throughout the legacy media, despite the fact that the actual report isn't due out for several months yet). This was followed by weeks of mounting hysteria in every possible media outlet, culminating in Al Gore's Norma Desmond moment at the Oscars. Then at last, the universal sigh of relief as the climate program telling us exactly what we need to do to save ourselves was presented to the UN by 18 (count ‘em, 18 -- all mainstream, too!) scientists.
The big report you never heard about
What's that? You didn't catch that last part? Neither did anybody else. (Notice that the link leads to the Voice of America, the only site where I could find a complete report, and not the New York Times or Washington Post) And that's an odd thing. The entire effort was obviously building up to the revelation of What Must Be Done, to be delivered in tones of thunder to a world agonized to the breaking point. Instead it comes across as the standard piece of useless UN paper - of the type dealing with fisheries policy in the Maldives or primary schooling in Slovakia.
But this particular report went effectively uncovered, unmentioned, and ignored - an awfully strange response to the solution to the most terrifying threat in human history. Clearly, something went wrong. If the campaign had been a success, it would have been covered, all right - as much as the IPCC summary and then some. Al would have been at the UN. So would Hillary, Chuck, and Nancy, more than likely. There would have been speeches, and plenty of them. Parked SUV's would have been trashed all around Manhattan. Somebody would have pointed out that Turtle Bay would in short order be twenty, or forty, or sixty feet underwater.
None of that happened - the unveiling of the grand solution was a complete washout. (And what was the solution? Umm... carbon taxes and... I forget.) With a failure as abject as this, there's no simple means of recovery. The entire effort to sell anthropogenic global warming will have to be redone from scratch. Look for another buildup when the actual IPCC report is released sometime this Spring. It's a good thing they can't do the Academy Awards all over again.
Three major factors are responsible for the Green's failure:
* The weather
* Al Gore
Bad timing: a seasonal obsession
The weather is the key factor, the one that rendered it impossible to push the warming thesis as an accomplished fact. The IPCC report was released during the first days of the worst six weeks of weather in several decades. While the UN, Al, and the media jabbered about how hot it was getting, the rest of the northern hemisphere was digging out of blizzards, enduring colder temperatures than any in recent memory (this was the worst run of continuous low temperatures I have seen personally since the infamous "ice age winter" of 1975), and in some cases simply trying to live through it. Europe was hit by killer blizzards, one of which shut down all of southeastern England. Japan, China, and Korea suffered bone-chilling readings. Cambodia was treated to temperatures of an unthinkable 40 degrees Fahrenheit, prompting the distribution of blankets to the poor. The central and northern U.S. went through weeks of below-freezing temperatures, (two and half weeks here in western PA), with much of the rest of the country enduring less than normal levels. Excessive snow, often reaching blizzard heights, added to everyone's pleasure. Some are still going fighting their way through it - on March 1, Governor Culver declared all of Iowa a disaster area after an extra foot of snow fell in one 24-hour period.
The result was a general popular tacit dismissal of "global warming" talk as elitist nonsense, something to occupy the time of people who don't have to dig out their sidewalks, free their cars, or rescue stranded travelers.
Of course, weather is not climate - but the distinction is irrelevant, as far as public attitudes are concerned. And as has been pointed out here previously, there is a direct correlation to global warming as a scientific proposition. The most plausible warming models predict that the bulk of temperature rises will occur during the winter in high latitudes. After thirty-odd years of uninterrupted warming, we should be seeing some sign of this, and not a return to bitter mid-70s winters. This is a case where the public mind is correct even when it's wrong.
The possibility of something like this could have been foreseen. February, after all, is the generally the coldest month of the year. Could it be that the IPCC release was arranged by a UN bureaucrat from a tropical country, one not all that familiar with northern weather patterns? Whatever the case, the lesson to draw from this is: don't put out your global warming material in mid-winter in the Northern Hemisphere industrialized countries.
The second factor is something vaster and more certain than mere weather or climate: Al Gore's arrogance.
It can't be said that Al didn't deserve what he got. The revelation that his Nashville mansion uses more electricity each month than the last twelve Olympics (he must have felt right at home among all those spotlights on Oscar night) has struck his halo of Green rectitude a serious blow. Later revelations that his explanation was bogus may well have shattered it. (He claimed to be making up for all that power usage by purchasing carbon offsets.
The problem is that they were being purchased from Generation Investment Management -- chairman, Albert Gore, Jr. In other words, Al was paying Al for the privilege of wasting electricity. It's as if Gandhi had been photographed inside his ashram wearing spats and a waistcoat and sipping Boodles gin. From now on all the little gestures - riding in the hybrid limo, having the private jet pilot sign the carbon offset certificate, and for all we know, touring the North American continent in a solar-powered blimp - are going to look just the slightest bit hollow.
Gore can't help this. He was born to make the wrong move at the absolute worst time. Any doubts about that are erased by two even more recent incidents: sneaking his party past security at Nashville airport ("It's okay, they know me here..."), and, as Iowa was being shut down by the worst blizzards since the retreat of the glaciers, giving his customary warming Jeremiad to a crowd in Oklahoma only a few hundred miles south.
What this means is that the Greens will have to cultivate a new messiah. Gore's campaign will continue, and media inertia being what it is (don't you feel sorry for all those people predicting his run for the presidency in ‘08?) he'll get plenty of coverage. But his effectiveness as a spokesman for the Green cause is nil. Al Gore has once again become what he was after his post-2000 election tantrum -- a joke. And while there are second acts in American lives, pushing for a third is really tempting the fates.
The final element is science - namely, its lack of respect for anybody's opinion, even that of its own most mainstream elements. "The debate is over" was supposed to be one of those catchphrases that enters common usage and sweeps all resistance before it, like "Women don't lie" or "We want change". But even as the warming campaign was unfolding, we were given a clear demonstration that science never produces final answers. Over the past month, two scientific challenges to the warming thesis were made public, one of them speculative, the other damning.
The speculative aspect is provided by a theory advanced by Danish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark of the Center for Sun-Climate Research. Svensmark's theory is complex, but can be summarized easily enough. It is based on the observation that cosmic rays assist in cloud formation by encouraging condensation. A rise in solar activity strengthens the sun's magnetic field, which shields the inner solar system from cosmic rays. Cloud formation drops slightly but significantly, lowering the earth's albedo - its reflectivity - resulting in increased temperatures.
Solar activity is currently at all-time high, with the intensity of incoming cosmic rays correspondingly low. Have rising temperatures been a mere coincidence? Svensmark doesn't think so, and has convinced one of Britain's premier science writers, Nigel Calder, to collaborate with him on a book, The Chilling Stars, not yet published in the U.S.
The other challenge was embodied in an op-ed by NASA climate scientist Roy W. Spencer in the New York Post. Not your average scientific journal, it's true, but it's been along time since this was merely a scientific question. Spencer points out a glaring omission in nearly all climatology dealing with warming: a complete neglect of the phenomenon of precipitation. Spencer explains that precipitation lowers atmospheric temperature, with effects on the climate in general that remain unknown. The lack of consideration of precipitation in the global warming model is a gross error, on the level of putting the wrong lenses on the Hubble Telescope or confusing metric and English measurements while constructing the lost Mars probe.
How much is overall temperature lowered by precipitation? We don't know. Has the level and frequency of precipitation increased? We don't know that either. Precipitation is probably the least understood element of climate. We don't even know the total amount of precipitation in the world. A clearer indictment of warming "science" is impossible to make.
Svensmark's theory remains to be tested, and the data concerning the effects of precipitation need to be collated and analyzed. But their implications cannot be ignored. The fact that two such major elements, one cosmic, one prosaic, have been overlooked undercuts the warming thesis completely. The warming theorist's obsession with carbon dioxide buildup - only one factor in an infinitely complex system - has blinded them to everything else. They're in the position of a pack of hounds so intent on the rabbit that they missed the cliff edge right in front of them.
It's heartening to see that the Greens, whether technical, political, or media, have retained their basic ineptness. They're such cookie-cutter true believers that they really can't grasp how they can go wrong or why anyone wouldn't listen to them. As a result they begin their push in the middle of winter, choose the current prince of the also-rans as their champion (such individuals, who include figures such as Wendell Wilkie and Hubert Humphrey, can often go on to make serious and valuable contributions. But not this time.), and ignore the fact that science marches on without regard to anybody's agenda.
The campaign will continue. We'll be hearing about global warming until the glaciers return, the same way we occasionally still hear a few frightened voices crying about overpopulation, in a world where population collapse is the challenge. The Greens may pass some taxes, get some cosmetic programs pushed through, but the idea of a Green millennium, of some kind of apocalyptic phase-change resulting in a global environmentalist state, is something we can forget about.
They had their shot, and they have blown it. The past few weeks could serve well as a textbook example of how not to influence public opinion. In time (and it can't be soon enough), global warming will take its place in the museum of folly alongside overpopulation, nuclear winter, and the coming ice age. There aren't any spotlights there, and they don't give out prizes either.
J.R. Dunn is a consulting editor of American Thinker.