The Current State of Climate Alarmism

America’s affliction with climate alarmism is shaped by two facts:

First, the main instigators have crossed the Rubicon and have no choice but to fight. How has this happened? Nature was one cause: the short-term natural warming in 1978-1998 was mistaken for anthropogenic warming through the confirmation bias. Natural cooling from 1999 onward has canceled the expected anthropogenic warming (which is small, beneficial, and caused by a variety of factors -- not just carbon dioxide release).

But other causes were entirely manmade.  In hindsight, it is clear that for almost two decades (approximately 1988 -- 2004) multiple groups of climate “scientists” have been fabricating results in parallel, unaware that others were doing the same. Mann with his hockey stick got the most fame, but he was just one among many. Computer models, descriptions of the carbon cycle, and even instrumental temperature records were forged to exaggerate climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide, to hide past climate variations, to argue that carbon dioxide release is irreversible, etc. The environmental movement, encouraging and encouraged by this perversion of science, made global warming its central theme. And so did many mainstream politicians. Al Gore was the towering figure among them. He used his two terms as vice president to gut American science, replacing scientists with environmentalists and lawyers (see the book Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, which contains essays by William Happer, Bernard Cohen, Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer and other scientists who experienced or witnessed this process). A vicious spiral developed: alarmist politicians handpicked scientists supporting the alarm, then they believed their claims, and so it went.  A hardened core of climate alarmism was formed from such politicians and their quasi-scientists. This core attracted multiple layers of followers, ranging from ordinary profiteers and leftist extremists to totally innocent duped believers.

This tower of lies started shaking in 2004, the sixth year without warming. At the end of 2003 Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick published an article in Energy & Environment, pointing to errors in the centerpiece of the latest IPCC report, Mann’s hockey stick. Mann was unrepentant, and other participants in the IPCC process jumped to defend their centerpiece. When the “errors” were exposed as a deliberate fraud, the alarmists decided to rally behind Mann and launched a major PR offensive. Such pattern of defending the dogma at any cost was repeated many times in similar situations. And each time the stakes rose, climate alarmism sank lower -- scientifically, ethically, and legally. More importantly, the core believers were pulling their followers further in, making them like partners in crime, sometimes without their awareness.  That made it impossible for the inner circle to come clean, or even to quit. 

The second problem can be illustrated by the words of former Senator Timothy Wirth, which he said no later than 1993: "We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy." Too bad he did not ask where the ride was heading and who was at the wheel. The result was that many liberal or left-leaning institutions, including the whole Democratic Party, hitched themselves to the hostile agendas of the UN and European Greens. Timothy Wirth became the Chairman of the UN Foundation. Unable to get off this hellish ride, some of his allies effectively became tools of foreign governments and NGOs. An example of such behavior at the highest level is the joint climate change statement with China, in which the U.S. promised to decrease carbon dioxide emissions, while China promised to increase them! This document was signed by Obama and praised by the formerly mainstream media as a breakthrough agreement.

The main official bodies of climate alarmism are two United Nations agencies -- the UNFCCC and the IPCC. Next, there is a large number of NGOs, mostly foreign and transnational, united under the Climate Action Network, headquartered in Lebanon. These NGOs communicate the IPCC’s message to the public. The daily sources of the alarmist propaganda, other than the Obama administration, rank as follows:

  1. The Guardian – a rabidly anti-American British newspaper.
  2. The Quantum Group of hedge funds (aka George Soros) -- a hysterically anti American financial-political entity, domiciled in Curaçao and the Cayman Islands. It operates through a network of front groups, of which and are the most involved in climate alarmism.
  3. The Government of Qatar, operating through the al Jazeera network.

Most of the climate change media coverage originates either from one of these entities or from the Obama administration, which listens to them. Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, is also on Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, co-chaired by the infamous John Holdren. There are reasons to believe that Google search is unnaturally slanted in favor of climate alarmism (disclosure: I host my own Sane Climate Search to help people to discover the realist side of climate debate).

By casting their lot with foreign powers (not always knowingly), Democrat politicians, university administrators, government bureaucrats, and many prominent individuals gave those powers leverage over them. And the alarmists have been ruthlessly exploiting this leverage to push their sympathizers toward more and more damaging actions: halting research and development into safer nuclear power plants (under the Clinton administration), preventing companies from building new nuclear power plants, harassing the oil and gas industry’s exploration and construction of pipelines, establishing Climatism as the state religion with mandatory indoctrination of children in public schools, and much more. These relations involve a vicious spiral as well: with each concession to foreign alarmists, their domestic accomplices become more dependent on them.  

Here we stand right now. The alarmist movement cannot de-escalate the situation after the dramatic “end of the world” claims it made. It cannot achieve any reasonable goal (like a 10% decrease in CO2 release), declare victory, and move on, because it has already committed to UN control over the global climate (keeping warming below 2 degrees). Some foreign governments and NGOs still intend to use climate change rhetoric to rob the U.S. on an unprecedented scale (see From Billions to Trillions --Transforming Development Finance).

Most climate alarmism supporters belong to the soft outer layers. Their only loss from untangling themselves from the alarmism will be acute embarrassment, which they will experience for lending their support to this anti-scientific medieval cult. Of course, the sooner they let alarmism go, the less embarrassed they will be. But the inner core (a few hundred individuals at most) has no way out, and has no intent to release its followers. The administrators and senior faculty of universities, research institutes, and government agencies, who have either failed to stop or even assisted climate alarmism in taking over their institutions, might be in trouble too. Many of them exploited the reputations earned by these institutions to peddle the lowest forms of climate alarmism. For example, Harvard University had built its reputation for almost four centuries, only to see it destroyed within a couple decades or even years, in large part by promoting climate alarmism. This letter from Harvard President Dr. Faust is an example.

When their less committed followers, including Democrat congresspersons, Senators, editors of major media outlets, liberal billionaires etc., suspect foul play, the alarmist core throws a fit and demands that they stop thinking, acting, and most of all listening to the “deniers.” Amazingly, the followers obey, even though some of them are extremely smart and experienced. Apparently, these people do not notice that the so-called “climate scientists” have no scientific achievements outside of the insular “climate science,” and that whatever honors they received were given either by their non-distinguished peers or by politicized bodies (Heinz Awards, MacArthur Foundation Awards, etc.). The “scientific consensus” is not an argument but passive-aggressive acknowledgement of a lack of arguments, and their allegations of a denial machine, secretly funded by “fossil fuels,” are just conspiracy theories. The alleged 97% agreement is closer to election results in the former Soviet Union than to the opinions of actual scientists. 

The forecast is not comforting: the alarmist core has no choice but to escalate its assault on society, and to push its powerful followers (including the Obama administration) to more and more desperate acts.

Ari Halperin researches and writes about climate alarmism as a complex and dangerous phenomenon.