Global Warming: A Flop at the Box Office

Naomi Oreskes’s career is an excellent example of how academics benefit from the global warming scare.  She managed to be promoted from the University of California to a position at Harvard.  Her main claim to fame is the book Merchants of Doubt, written with co-author Erik Conway.  Conway is a science historian at NASA.

Now Merchants of Doubt has been made into a movie of the same name – and a box office failure.

The theme of Merchants of Doubt is that global warming skeptics are fossil fuel company hacks, paid to spread doubt and confusion, or else they are fanatical anti-communists who see sinister communist influence everywhere.  Opposing these villains are sincere scientists dumbfounded that anyone would make such evil attacks on their completely sound science.

The movie has been disconcertingly pasted together from clips spanning decades.  The skeptic scientist Fred Singer appears many times.  We see the 50-year-old Singer and the 90-year-old Singer, and everything in between.

Much of the movie is taken up by a warped history of the discovery, or admission, that cigarettes cause lung cancer.  The point is that global warming critics use the same evil tactics as the tobacco companies.  The movie does not mention that the government and the tobacco companies are now in business together, supported by addicted smokers paying exorbitant prices for cigarettes.  In a 1998 agreement, the major tobacco companies agreed to pay state governments $246 billion, to be raised from selling tobacco products over a 25-year period.  Additionally, cigarettes are heavily taxed.  For example, the tax on cigarettes in Chicago is more than $7 a pack, and the retail price of a pack is about $12.  Realistically, tobacco companies are the manufacturing subsidiary of the government tobacco business.

Tobacco companies are boring villains, because we’ve been hearing about how villainous they are for too many years.  When not discussing tobacco companies, the movie features a magician endlessly doing card tricks, the point being that global warming skeptics are tricking the public.

The movie has several stories of former global warming skeptics who experienced an epiphany and became believers when they saw the light of science.  Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, was defeated after he joined the church of global warming.  It’s not mentioned that he also signed on to other liberal projects, such as immigration reform.  He would be wise to move to Vermont and run for Congress there.

Michael Shermer, the editor of Skeptic Magazine, went through a similar conversion.  Apparently, being a skeptic of global warming skeptics is more fruitful than being skeptical about flying saucers.

Ms. Oreskes is the star of the movie.  Her co-author, Eric Conway, does not appear, or if he does, I missed him.  He did, however, show up at the Toronto Film Festival with Ms. Oreskes, as seen in the photo above.

Like many academics that live in an ideological bubble, Ms. Oreskes does not seem to realize that it is no longer cool to be an apologist for communism.  She uses the expression “reds under the bed” in the movie and in the trailer.  “Reds under the bed” is a signature of those who think that hostility to communism is overdone and that, after all, communism is not so bad.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, considered the top climate authority by the global warming community, calls its predictions projections.  A projection is technically nothing more than the results spit out by a computer program given certain inputs.  The computer programs, called climate models, disagree substantially, one with another, as to how much warming doubling CO2 in the atmosphere would create.  Thus, if everything goes wrong for the promoters of global warming, the scientists can say we never made a prediction, only a projection.

The global warming promotion community is currently in a bind, because Mother Nature is not cooperating.  There has been no warming for 18 years, even though CO2 in the atmosphere is rapidly increasing.  There are lots of theories about what is causing the pause.  Rarely included among them is the theory that the entire edifice of global warming theory is simply wrong.

The constant claims that this or that year is the warmest on record is nothing more than picking out ripples in the 18 years of no warming.  The very concept of warmest year is, in any case, flawed, because nature does not know about the human year ending on December 31.  Properly, one should pick out the warmest year-long segment, probably crossing two years.

James Hansen, often considered the father of global warming alarmism, appears often in the movie.  It is somewhat disconcerting to see some clips where he has his hair and other clips where most of the hair has disappeared.  Hansen plays the part of an aw-shucks guy from Iowa who just happens to be a talented scientist.  The reality is that Hansen is a brilliant promoter and clever bureaucratic operator.  For many years he was the head of an important NASA scientific organization that studies climate change.  Until he retired from government, Hansen was one of those rare government bureaucrats, like J. Edgar Hoover, who was untouchable because he had his own political base.  Hansen has received lucrative financial and professional benefits as a result of his global warming activism – for example, the $1-million Dan David Prize, among many others.

It is an oft-repeated lie that all scientists, or perhaps 97% of scientists, agree with the global warming alarmists.  Among climate scientists, those who don’t agree know they have to keep quiet about it unless they want to become very unpopular with their colleagues, for whom global warming has been a professional bonanza.  A few mainstream climate scientists do speak up and as a result suffer severe attacks.  Most skeptical scientists are in related fields, such as physics or geology, where they don’t fear attacking doctrines outside their specialty.  They may even relish attacking climate science since they view the climate scientists as undeserving of the big financial support that has resulted from alarmist predictions.  The climate science apologists dismiss criticism by scientists outside the club as unqualified.  They may be less qualified, but perhaps they are more disinterested.

A database of scientists compiled by computer expert James Prall lists hundreds of scientists who have publicly denounced global warming alarmism.  The database was used in an article that tried to show that skeptic scientists are less qualified than global warming advocate scientists.  Qualification was judged by publications in mainstream climate science journals.  Since most of the scientists critical of global warming alarmism come from outside climate science, the article naturally “proved” its hypothesis, because non-climate scientists rarely publish in climate science journals.

The global warming community of interest is still holding together, but if warming does not restart soon, or if the Earth starts cooling, the community will probably start to fragment.  The community includes most of mainstream climate science, the industries grounded in global warming alarmism, environmental organizations, and Democrat politicians, including particularly the Obama administration.  None of these people is likely to say that they all were wrong and made mistakes.  A more likely approach is that they will quietly drop the subject or say that they always were skeptical.  The manufacturers of windmills, solar power, and corn ethanol will search for new reasons to keep their industries and subsidies alive.

On the other hand, if warming restarts, even slightly, then the global warming promoters will be popping champagne corks, and we will be in for a continued debate.  Let’s pray for cooling – drastic, rapid cooling.

Norman Rogers is a volunteer senior policy advisor with the Heartland Institute.  He writes often about global warming.  He has a website.

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