Climate Compulsions

Do people suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) worry a lot about global warming/climate change? We don’t have to speculate because Mr. M.K. Jones took a survey of OCD patients and wrote it up for the Australia New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. He discovered that 28% of OCD sufferers do indeed obsess about climate change. Their biggest worry is wasting energy. They also worried about their pets dying of thirst.

What about the reverse question? Do people who worry a lot about climate change in some way have OCD, or some similar cognitive problem, probably not rising to the level of needing psychiatric treatment, but perhaps such people are outliers along some axis of normal mental function? Before going deeper into this question, be assured that I’m not trying to depict my political opponents as crazy, even though that might be fair since Al Gore depicts people who don’t agree with him as loons belonging to the flat Earth society, and as people who think the moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio. There is a long record of leftist commentary to the effect that people on the right are crazy. The influential 1951 book, The Authoritarian Personality, depicted conservatives as having Freudian problems stemming from a conservative upbringing. In 1964, crank publisher Ralph Ginzburg concocted a fake poll claiming that "1,189 psychiatrists" considered GOP presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater to be mentally unbalanced. (Goldwater later won a libel suit against Ginzburg and his magazine.) The depiction of people on the right as mentally disturbed is still extremely popular and a Google search will reveal many examples.

There is no doubt that there is a strong positive correlation between being on the political right and skepticism concerning theories of catastrophic human-caused global warming. Of course the lefty believers in the great global warming catastrophe see this as vindication. Everyone, or at least everyone they know, agrees that right-wingers are dumb and not open to new ideas.

The academic left, that is to say almost all of academia, depicts political and social conservatives as being poorly educated, religious, rigid in thinking, racially prejudiced, intolerant of ambiguity and probably ripe as recruits for some future fascist party. That people on the right are disproportionately catastrophic global warming atheists and agnostics gives the left warm and fuzzy feelings about the eagerly awaited catastrophe. Needless to say, the academic left is entirely blind to the problems inherent in its own worldview.

A characteristic craving of academics, more important than even sex, is lust for money and status. The two are interchangeable in the academic world, at least in the part of the academic world ruled by research grants. Academics deeply feel that their importance is undervalued, a condition that makes them easily manipulated by money and attention, and deeply subservient to the authorities that dispense those commodities. Since nowadays almost all the money comes from the government, academics are not interested in criticizing the government and most especially are not interested in criticizing the agencies that allocate the money. I remember being in a discussion group of 40 or 50 academics when one fellow got up and gave a well-informed critique of the procedures the National Science Foundation follows in handing out research grants. I found out later that he had actually worked inside the NSF for many years. If I had dropped a pin everyone would have heard it collide with the floor. That particular discussion thread dead ended.

Another time I attended several meetings of a federal advisory committee. This particular committee was supposed to be a group of experts on climate change. Their mission was to advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a remarkably loony government program entrusted with advising the nation concerning climate change. According to federal law, such an advisory committee is supposed to represent diverse views. There was not a murmur of diverse, much less dissenting, views. The 40 members of the committee had been carefully chosen to echo the view of the administration. The Obama administration’s environmental viewpoint is a more stately version of crackpot environmentalism, an important constituent of the democrat platform and of its electoral base.

Professors in climate change disciplines toe the party line on global warming catastrophism, not because they suffer from any pathology, but because it is a professional obligation. Global warming theory brings billions of dollars a year to academia. So it is something very serious. The scientific societies, being similar to labor unions, enthusiastically support this theory that provides a generous flow of cash. In the days before the global warming golden goose was discovered, professors in the relevant disciplines were very unimportant.

Is the science behind climate change catastrophism any good? No, it is very, very bad; almost a joke. Essentially the science is smoke and mirrors done with computer models. If you ask why distinguished scientific organizations support it, I refer you to the previous paragraph. If you doubt this you might read what 1000 scientists who are climate skeptics have to say. See this devastating article by Matt Ridley to be really disgusted.

I have explained why the scientific establishment supports global warming alarmism. The politically powerful environmental organizations, like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and WWF support any and all theories of environmental catastrophism. Those theories are their bread and butter; the market for their wares. Remember acid rain, DDT, or the destruction of the ozone layer?

It is more difficult to explain why a substantial number of ordinary people profess a belief in climate change catastrophism. It is not only because scientists and president Obama support the catastrophe. For plenty of people that is a good reason to disbelieve. They don’t believe because they have examined the scientific underpinnings of the theory. The science is difficult to understand even for those with graduate degrees in hard sciences.

My opinion is that ordinary believers are motivated by a fear of technological progress. Too many things that they don’t understand are happening too fast. These are people who are outliers on the anxiety axis but who don’t have the time or resources to examine the evidence for themselves, and who are often naively accepting of environmental organization propaganda. Self-interested organizations and radical activists play to the anxiety concerning technology. It is this same fear that convinces people that organic food, raised using technology current in 1930, is better for them. Or they think that products based on honey or coconuts are somehow safer because they are “natural.”  For those who fear technological progress, global warming is just another manifestation of technological progress.

Ironically, there are plenty of things really deserving of fear that are casually dismissed, such as the danger of nuclear war, or the destruction of the electrical grid, either by a solar flare, or by a nuclear weapon exploded high over Kansas. It’s probably too much to hope that someday, some department of the government will objectively prioritize a list of things that threaten our well being.

Norman Rogers writes often about climate and energy. He is a volunteer policy advisor at the Heartland Institute and he has a personal website.

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