Climate Change and the Corruption of Science: Where did it all go wrong?

Guest post by Bernie Lewin

Climate Change Fashion Spread, The Age

Last year it seemed the Climate Change excitement knew no bounds: Above is part of a ‘Climate Change’ themed newspaper fashion spread during the (cold & wet) early southern spring of 2009 (Source: The Age)

As it is the time of year for reflection, let us consider for a moment the Climate Change scare in the bigger picture.

One thing that became more evident as the year progressed was that Copenhagen 2009 might have been the peak of this scare. It is difficult now to see how we could have a resurgence of the campaign that would push beyond the hype of 2009. This is not to say it is all over just yet. And even because it is not over, and because of its resilience even in retreat, it is useful to gain an understanding of what is still happening in this scare before we consider the questions of whether it will happen again, and how much it has damaged the cause of environmentalism and the reputation of science.

Social panic and millenarian movements are well known, not only from medieval times, but also as continuing in different forms during modern times — as panics and as bubbles, the madness of crowds and so forth. What surprised many of us at the first realisation of the phoney nature of the science was that this could happen so comprehensively and convincingly within modern science. Where such panics are usually associated with ignorance and irrationality, this one has the authority of modern science at its very core. Yet we can find precedents to this science-base scare in many health scares of recent decades, and also in environmental scares since the DDT cancer scare triggered by Silent Spring, politicised by the EDF and legalized by the newly formed EPA. (See Scared to Death which finds a repeating pattern to these science-based scares.)

The AGW scare is similar to these in that it was instigated by scientists, but with one undoubted difference being its monumental scale. What is new in AGW is how it became so much more powerful and pervasive across so many disciplines and domains of science. While some previous scares were moderated and dampened by state-instituted scientific organisations, AGW was almost universal promoted. The involvement of state-sanctioned scientific institutions is of special historically interest when we consider the history of the Royal Society, the first successful state-sanctioned scientific institution upon which so many others were cloned. The Royal Society first promoted itself 350 years ago as a sober and reasonable remedy for such apocalyptic enthusiasm rife in the English Restoration. It is only in very recent times, and mostly with AGW, that the Royal Society and its clones have taken on apocalyptic scenarios as a principle tool of science promotion, and as a way to asserting their power, i.e., by drumming up panic, and so directing public policy (more here).

Climate for Change Aging into the Future conference flyer

Scientific association, funding bodies, journals, and conferences all wanted to be in on the Climate Change act, no matter how tenuous or obscure the link to their field of science (click for source).

Apocalyptic public policy to appease social panic is not at all new. Sometimes (and often with the help of scientific reasoning) it was to quieten the panic. But often, and powerfully, it was to inflame it. Fear campaigns have long been used to drum up support for war. That the AGW campaign did often reach the pitch of war propaganda is evident in much of the political rhetoric of 2008-9, not the least example of which was the newly elected Australian prime minister’s declaration that AGW is the greatest moral issue of our time. And the public policy push was not just about windmills and carbon taxes. Nor was policy success always driven by an unconscious coalition of Baptists and Bootleggers. In my state (Victoria, Australia), during the 2008-10 peak, we were throwing public funding at a water pipeline and a desalination plant while introducing planning rules against new constructions on formerly expensive low-lying coastal properties.

These two major projects, the desal plant and the pipeline, were instigated upon scientific advice eschewing the historical evidence of climate cycles and promoting the idea of a climate shift to a warmer-dryer future for South-Eastern Australia. Beyond the construction contractors it is hard to find the ‘bootleggers’ here. The new planning rule was instituted upon the advice of state-funded science of an imminent 0.8 metre sea level rise. It does indeed seem that to some extent the decision makers really believed this advice and acted upon it to their perceived benefit in the face of embarrassing and widespread public protest. That they were victims of the bad advice of AGW proponents seemed to became evident when the government was defeated on a stormy weekend following the wettest spring in this corner of the continent since the drought began — during which the press was depicting farmers standing on their flood farms shouting ‘climate cycles’ and ‘told you so.’

While the political extremes of AGW are astounding, what is for me most interesting about the AGW scare is not so much the public panic – we have seen that all before – but the pervasive infiltration of this scare into the scientific establishment, into its associations, its journals and its funding bodies. Why so successful, so rapid, so pervasive this corruption?

When we turn for answers to academic historians of climate science, we find them mostly on-side and on message, and seemingly unaware of the profound significance of this turn in the history of science. (While Fleming is better than Weart, Oreskes & Conway mainline the propaganda and spits it out, whereas Kellow is the notable exception among the academics – see below). Looking elsewhere, we do find others starting to develop useful ways of presenting an historical understand of what is going on here. Some of these that I find the most interesting, I present briefly below for WUWT readers’ consideration and comment:

1. Now that modern science has usurped religion as the new principle validation of public knowledge, such corruptions should be expected.

In pre-modern times there were two prevailing validations of contentious public knowledge, one was the dogma of the state or religious authority and the other was direct communications from God. The authority of the prophet is upon such direct communication, while the religious dogma often defers to the authority of prophetic testimonials. But since the end of World War II, and especially through the compulsory secular education programs of affluent nations, the principle authority for public knowledge has been modern science. Except in the context of a Church, if you want to persuade folks to act according to the knowledge you profess, the best way is to make your claims upon the authority of science. Only recently has science commanded such enormous power. And power corrupts. And so when we look back on the corruption of the Church and the abuse of its dogmas to serve the interests of the unscrupulous, where we see scary scenarios causing panic in religious knowledge systems, now that modern science has usurped religion, should we be surprised that similar phenomena emerge within science also?

2. The public fear –> public funding cycle generated explosive growth of the pseudo-science of Climate Change.

In 1988 James Hansen won extraordinary attention from the press when he proclaimed his ‘99% certainty’ that the forecasted self-imposed global warming catastrophe was now in train. Schneider was not so certain, but he did recognise that scary scenarios were required in order to gain attention and to prompt folks to act (Haughton later admitted much the same). The IPCC was founded, and it reported twice without certainty and without alarm…and without much attention. At the end of 1995 it nearly did the same again…until late changes were made…and so headlines in the papers again…and the rest is history. Climate science, an under-paid stagehand was propelled into the glory of the footlights. (more here)

Scary scenarios generate public fear, public fear generates funding for more research, and if the new research generates more public fear then the science will continue to expand. The environmental sciences had hit upon a funding mechanism rarely exploited outside the arms industry (i.e., the fabled ‘military-industrial complex’), and this caused almost irresistible and explosive expansion.

3. The social and environmental sciences legitimated activist-science.

The Marxist social sciences of the post-war period (neo-Marxism) promoted activist science under the slogan ‘Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world…the point is to change it’ and this legitimated the validation of academic research and teaching, not according to some ground in truth, but by the extent to which it promoted social change for the good. This politicised approach to scholarship pervaded left thinking to such an extent that old-fashion liberal scientists were vilified on campus as ‘bourgeois.’ Such an approach to research is evident in social science discourses with no apparent Marxism affinities, including Feminism and more recently Post-Normal Science. (more here)

Science-as-activism came into the natural sciences through geography and the other environmental sciences. At the time universities were using funding incentives to promote such things as ‘community partnering’, ‘knowledge transfer’ and science-for-policy – and all this against an idea of the old paradigm of the academy as an ivory tower full of irrelevant boffins wasting public money pursuing science for science’s sake. The distinction between science and policy, and between science and political interest became blurred. In this atmosphere, the involvement of advocacy groups (WWF, Greenpeace etc) in the scientific process was condoned and encouraged. The work of Mike Hulme, the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, exemplifies the corruption of conventional natural science practices by this new activist approach to science (more here).

4. Noble Cause or ‘Virtuous’ Corruption

The legitimation of activist-science helps to promote what is called ‘noble cause corruption’. This is the term used in the context of criminal investigations, where, for example, evidence might be planted in order to convict a criminal of a crime that the investigator has no doubt he committed. (Such corruption is portrayed famously by Orson Welles in A Touch of Evil.) As this sort of corruption manifests in the sciences, Aynsley Kellow has labelled it ‘virtuous corruption.’ This is where we would have scientists genuinely believing in the truth of AGW quite prepared to manipulate, distort and misrepresent their research in order to promote this truth in the face of formidable opposition from powerful vested interests (read: ‘Big Oil’ etc) attempting to obscure the truth with their own distortions, misrepresentations and lies.

-BL

******

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INGSOC

This article might shed some light on the demise of science.
http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/question-insanity-what-to-ask-progressives/?singlepage=true
An intriguing view from the outside.

Roger Knights

Typo: “… as a principle principal tool of science promotion, …”

It all went wrong when we gave government power to fund science. Government steals money from the people at the point of a gun, and elected officials use all that money to advance their own agendas. Bureaucrats dutifully carry out that mission, and bureaucrats never want to solve problems because if they do, they’ll lose their jobs and have to get real jobs which earn money in the private sector, and that’s hard. This corruption, layered on corruption, layered on corruption so government money corrupts everything it touches.
Also, because government is funded by armed robbery instead of voluntary exchange, government has no prices and no profits to guide it. So even if everybody in government was an angel instead of a self-interested, flawed human being, it couldn’t intelligently figure out how to spend money.
The corruption of science, and everything else, by government money was inevitable, and the more money government spends funding science, the more corrupt it becomes. The solution is as easy as understanding the problem: take away the government’s power to fund science, and everything else.

Sun Spot

A warmer planet has always been better for humanity. Historically a colder planet has been catastrophic and brought nothing but misery for humanity. For the past 15 years science, politics and the MSM have been lamenting our good fortune of living in a warming period. Those pursuing the filthy lucre of CAGW and its weird science may get some nasty personal surprises.
I suspect the good times are over and we are going to have to actually start using our intelligence to adapt to the coming cooling period. I never thought I would be witness to such an example of global delusion as CAGW, incredible.

kramer

Science-as-activism came into the natural sciences through geography and the other environmental sciences.
From page 133 of the book ‘RIO: Reshaping the International Order- A Report to the Club of Rome”
“In the past, specialist have often been reluctant to engage in political debate or to share their knowledge and fears with the general public. Given social dilemmas, they have often preferred to adopt neutral rather than value positions, to tacitly advise rather than openly advocate. This generalization no longer holds true. In many branches of science there are radical movements. Increasingly, both in the rich and poor worlds, scientists are involved in active advocacy which they see as an intellectual and ethical duty. “

Science has been used for political purpose for some time. It’s just now the world social justice crowd has overreached and crashed, the pursuit of money is the flaw. Lots of money, for silly purposes. Like windmills and solar panels, which will never produce real returns for the money invested.
Hey did you think gnomes in the black forest built and maintained these devices, and then supplied free batteries for life. Renewable energy, doesn’t anybody do science anymore? Energy does not renew. At best it needs to be regrown.
Science for money, the flawed government grant system of tell us what we want to hear, and you get your grant money. I saw this shaping up way back in the 1970s. Government always distorts the science product to tell their desired political tales, which more often than not, are directed at controlling people… Once government realized you could rig the science by the grant system, it was Katy bar the door, let the junk roll.

Hoser

As universities and other institutions become dominated by socialists, everything becomes a tool for political change. Politics is more important than truth and knowledge. Although there are the useful idiots who blindly tag along and honestly believe what they are spouting, the leadership know exactly what they are doing. AGW is all about securing total control over the economy for the collective good.
Free thinkers need to organize and resist. The difficulty is free thinkers are individualistic. The don’t work as effectively as the collective does. They get orders and march forward in any direction the leadership tell them to go. They fundamentally do not trust anyone not connected to a group; essentially, individuals are dangerous and out of control.
The advantage free thinkers have is in creativity to maintain and innovate to keep our civilization thriving. Collectivists do not reward individuals, thus they threaten the foundation of a highly technical civilization. The best they can hope for is an agrarian society. You see the direction they want to take us in Agenda 21, Yukon-to-Yellowstone, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In all cases, people are bad (too many people are alive), they need to be limited to cities, and the state needs to control the upbringing of children.
It is important to debunk the tools the socialists use. I don’t know how you organize free thinkers to counter collectivist ant-like behavior (the old ‘herding cats’ metaphor comes to mind). It is imporant to target the leaders of the left, but they are decentralized and pervasive. Their first step was to gain control over education. Perhaps the most important thing we can do is fight for local control over school curricula, taking that power back from the state and feds. Next, we need to promote political diversity in universities. The tenure system is broken and used to maintain an iron curtain around higher education. It’s time to tear down that wall.

P.F.

A very good and enlightening essay, but will it make sense to the masses that have swallowed the AGW nonsense?
BTW: Does anyone here know if the Royal Society was involved in the “scientific research” over a hundred years ago in which the effort was made to prove women should not have the right to vote because their craniums (hence, brain size) were smaller on average than men’s? It was somewhat akin to eugenics.

“…the involvement of advocacy groups (WWF, Greenpeace etc) in the scientific process was condoned and encouraged…”
And, further complicating matters, these advocacy groups, or at least one in particular, carried their crusade into major church organizations. Please see my article from Dec 18, where church-going AGW believers are prompted to equate basic Christian values with saving the planet – while failing to consider how one of their own may have committed a greater sin against skeptic scientists: “The Case of the Curious Climate Covenant” http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/12/the_case_of_the_curious_climat.html

Hugh Pepper

This is a nonsensical statement. You seem to regard the entire issue as PR problem, which can be eliminated with well-chosen words. Western civilization has been transformed by science and now, the rest of the world is achieving the same beneficial change. But science is also showing us that these changes are not without consequences. Science is clearly describing effects which are potentially catastrophic, if not mediated. Forestalling this mediation runs risks which are outrageously unacceptable.

Hoser

Ok, I promise to edit better before I hit the post button next time.
1) Free thinkers don’t work as effectively as the collective does. The collectivists get orders….
2) Essentially, individualists are considered by collectivists as dangerous and out of control.

Vince Causey

I generally agree with most of what is said, except for point 2. Public fear has NOT generated more government funding for the simple reason that public fear does not exist, not now nor in the past. You have simply assumed that fear exists because that is what scary scenarios are meant to engender.
I think I have rarely overheard anyone expressing even a passing interest in ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Global warming’ as it is more commonly known. And I have never heard anyone expressing anything resembling concern. Even though I occupied a desk next to a regular ‘Independent’ reader for two years, and even when this carried an apocalyptic front page (which was often), this was never commented on. Never, not even once, in all the social interactions spanning years and years have I ever heard anyone say anything along the lines of ‘I’m a bit worried about global warming.’ Never.
How can there be such a disconnect between the meme that ‘alarmed public are clamouring for government to act’ and my actual experience where AGW registers zero on the public awareness scale? Either I am a hermit or the meme does not reflect reality.
What has happened, is that pundits have deduced that the logical effect of alarmist’s propaganda is – alarm. At best it invokes a yawn, but more likely the newspaper reader just flips the page to the sports, or the tv viewer flicks the channel to X-Factor.
Yet the myth persists that an alarmed public are forcing governments to act. Governments believe these myths, so they play to an audience that went home at the start of the second act. Of course, the PR consultants tell them the audience is still there and cheering them on.

latitude

Once someone is convinced of something to fear, it’s really hard to convince them otherwise.
Like monsters under the bed.
Human nature seems to like that thrill also….
Now what will we do with all the hysterical bed wetters?

Brian Macker

I see you quote Charles Mackay’s book on “Madness of the Crowds” but unfortunately he got it all wrong. If he were writing on climate then he’s the kind of guy who would be pinning amphibian population levels on CO2.
The source of economic bubbles and panics has been well known for over a century by Austrian economic scientists. Unfortunately government funding in the economics profession distorted that scientific endevor long ago and it is the Keynesians and Monetarists in control.
Tulip mania, the Mississippi bubble, and other manias were not precipitated by a general “madness of crowds”. In fact they were caused by a central bank exacerbating the natural tendency of fractional reserve banking to inflate the money supply. It’s the inflating money supply that sends bad economic signals to the actors making them all thing they can retire rich based on the effects of the resulting rising asset prices.
Sound familiar. It should since it is the same thing that happened in the tech and housing bubbles thanks to Alan Greenspan, Barney Frank, and a host of other actors opening the monetary spigots via government sponsored entities like the Fed, Fannie Mae, and Freddy Mac. That along with changes in regulations that let fractional reserve banks count checking deposits as part of their reserves, etc.
The business cycle is a natural feature of fractional reserve banking, and can be explained in purely mechanical terms. It boils down to the inability to borrow from Peter short term to lend to Paul long term. You can’t do this with a single person because the minute he comes collect your IOU in the short term the fraud is exposed. However, if you get more Peters, the depositors, you can continue the scam for quite a while before it collapses in a bank run. However, the temporal pyramid scheme eventually collapses as you run out of new deposits.
Adding a central bank, fiat currency, or FDIC insurance does not fix the problem. It just allows the scam to be run for a longer period, and to higher heights. This is why the Great Depression was great, and the current mess is going to be a doozy. Yep, it’s not over yet, they merely reflated the bubble now into bonds, and government debt.
They pushed the bank losses in the pyramid scheme onto the taxpayers tab but it isn’t going to work. It’s only accumulating more losses as government and banks continue to waste resources on uneconomic projects.
Yes Tulip mania was an effect of monetary policy and yes a central bank was established prior to the mania that pumped up the money supply. No, it is not because the free markets cannot be trusted.

Tony

“This is where we would have scientists genuinely believing in the truth of AGW quite prepared to manipulate, distort and misrepresent their research in order to promote this truth in the face of formidable opposition from powerful vested interests (read: ‘Big Oil’ etc) attempting to obscure the truth with their own distortions, misrepresentations and lies.”
This statement is brilliant; definitely a ‘cut-out-and-keep’ !

DirkH

The activists, the red-green opposition, have been turned into stooges of the central European government here in Germany, and the vehicle for that was climate change. All that the EU had to do was enshrine the goal of fighting climate change in the Lissabon treaty and push this treaty through – now all our little communists, socialists and greens serve the purpose of the eurocrats when they protest our national government. They haven’t noticed this by now, and i doubt they ever will.
And as fighting climate change is now one of the highest goals of the EU, it serves to push wind turbines and solar panels on the peripheral states, which is in the interest of German industry. It will become a problem for our banks, though, as the peripheral nations will become exceedingly unable to pay back credits.
So everyone here in the EU does his little Hegelian dialectic play with climate change. In a way, it’s so profitable it’s GOT to break down. And soon now.
The scientists like Schellnhuber and Rahmstorf at the PIK have been willing stooges to set up the scenario.

Vince Causey

Hugh Pepper,
“But science is also showing us that these changes are not without consequences. Science is clearly describing effects which are potentially catastrophic, if not mediated. Forestalling this mediation runs risks which are outrageously unacceptable.”
Wrong. Science does not show us anything of the sort. The idea that there is a consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists who agree that man made CO2 emissions will change the climate in catastrophic ways is simply the outpourings from the ignorant. Scientists are deeply divided over the magnitude of co2 sensitivity. If you ask what the majority of scientists agree on, it is that co2 is a greenhouse gas that without feedbacks has a temperature sensitivity of about 1c per doubling.
Catastrophism comes out of computer models that are based on a range of unproven assumptions, such as strongly positive water vapour feedbacks, and cloud dynamics on which there is very little scientific understanding. Many scientists have shown evidence that net feedbacks are negative and that cloud cover drives temperature rather than the other way round.
Now empirical data is begining to cast doubt on the whole AGW conjecture. Data such as missing ocean heat and missing mid troposphere hot spots. In short, whilst in the past there has been no credible evidence that co2 will cause serious problems, new data goes even further and refutes the whole AGW conjecture.

Jeff

One issue which is not covered here is the curious involvement of energy companies in the various AGW mechanism’s, almost from their creation (even though most AGW proponents claim “big oil” is their opponent). What were/are their motives?

DirkH

Hugh Pepper says:
December 27, 2010 at 8:42 am
“This is a nonsensical statement. You seem to regard the entire issue as PR problem, which can be eliminated with well-chosen words. Western civilization has been transformed by science and now, the rest of the world is achieving the same beneficial change. But science is also showing us that these changes are not without consequences. ”
You make the mistake of looking at science as a monolithical block. Computer science is, for example, not one that states have ever controlled. The driving forces have always been companies.
Climate change science has no practical use as it doesn’t predict anything that we can use. (See Petoukhov, PIK climatologist who just ‘found out’ that cold European winters are thrice as likely as usual under Global Warming conditions, now, how helpful is that? Not at all, as it is a retroactive fit of the Global warming science to make it match reality, and delivers no predictive value). It’s only use was political.

DirkH

Vince Causey says:
December 27, 2010 at 8:45 am
“I think I have rarely overheard anyone expressing even a passing interest in ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Global warming’ as it is more commonly known. And I have never heard anyone expressing anything resembling concern.”
You obviously do not live in Europe.

Pat Moffitt

In response to the post’s query “Why so successful, so rapid, so pervasive this corruption?”– My experience going back to the 70s is that it was not rapid. What we see now is simply the degree of organized power attained by this self organizing system. The selection algorithm was evident in the philosophies of Marcuse, Commoner etc and championed by the first Earth Day organizers. A philosophy that espoused -Capitalism and its resultant “excess economic activity” fueled by access to cheap energy sources were incapable of being bounded by the natural limits to growth. Environmental harm and social injustice were the consequences. Only by changing the system could environmental improvement and social (environmental) justice be attained. This became the sensitive organizing culture of the resulting environmental bureaucracies and movement. Conservation and Preservation philosophies became “dead men walking”.
Everything else was iteration.

Sage

It went wrong when folks started to pursue the greatest number of hits on their blogs, rather than pursue the facts.
[Reply: Yes, and links to blogs that don’t have the courtesy to link to WUWT on their own blog-roll may start getting snipped, if it appears that those links are being attached to direct more hits to their thinly trafficked blogs. If commentators can’t explain their position in their own words, they should not complain if gratuitous links are removed from their posts. ~dbs, mod.]

JohnM

Rather than consider we are all easily-led morons, I prefer to think that the leaders of the agw scam (some scientists, greenies and some politicians) are just in it for the power and money.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to money.
After all, in a very few years all of us will be dead, so make hay while the sun shines ?

I think this article is one of the best I’ve seen on WUWT in a long time. But it’s far too short…

Vince Causey

DirkH says:
“You obviously do not live in Europe.”
And you are obviously wrong.

Hoser says:
December 27, 2010 at 8:31 am
It all began in the French Revolution “Illustration”, along with its 400 degrees circle and 100 degrees right angle. 🙂 having the purpose of secularizing the world, to reach a human society absolutely detached from any superior norm or “canon”, thus suppressing any scientific knowledge/law which could reveal a superior order, replacing it with the so called “principles” of uncertainty, randomness and chaos, and, last but not least, ethical values by “democratic “values.

Thanks Bernie,
Very interesting article, Happy New Year!
The church of global warming is powerful indeed, more than one Luther are needed.

beesaman

Scared based science.
My, how we will laugh at it in the future…..

harrywr2

The ‘climate issue’ gave those countries heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels a reason to act on ‘energy security’ that the various green groups would support.

vigilantfish

Excellent post.
I am a historian of science, and I know several historians of science who are at the very least open-minded on the question of man-made global warming, if not downright skeptical. Back in 2003 I commented to a couple of trusted colleagues that the history of global warming ‘science’ will fuel the careers of many future historians of science. He agreed enthusiastically.
However, I am an outlier in being a skeptical historian of environmental science. Amongst my immediate peer group I remain closeted (although I suspect and respectable researcher here could figure out who I am from past comments) as I cherish my association with these individuals. It says something, of course, about the sorry state of academia and the frailty of regard for opposing views that I feel the need to hide my identity here. Perhaps I am being overcautious. Am I the only historian of science — other than Tallbloke, I believe — who frequents WUWT?
I am not a fan of navel-gazing academic exercises, but it would be interesting to survey historians of science and technology, and environmental historians, and find out whether skepticism also tends to be the domain of the historians of hard science. Perhaps the noble-cause error also pervades the thinking of environmental historians?

anna v

I would add a fifth:
The demise of hierarchy within universities and research institutes by the centralized funding.
Before WWII and the Manhattan project, science was funded by the universities and/or the states, and the funding was mainly salaries and laboratories for the education of students. On top, there were grants from private individuals or foundations that allowed research to be carried out. Within each institution the hierarchy was the first peer review, and brash young associate professors could not get their hands on the grants without paying long dues in the trenches.
Once funding was centralized and grants could be obtained by anybody with a university post, universities started coddling the grant bringers, because of the cut they took on the grant. This eventually emasculated the internal hierarchy and made research subservient to bureaucrats who were mostly researchers manque. These bureaucrats hold a lot of decision power because they decide on the committees which decide on the grants. Since their decisions are central, they can move the direction of research wherever their opinion leads them.
It used to be that independent schools of thought in science could flourish and would fight out the differences in the conferences and publications. Climate science polarization is the monoculture that happens when funding decisions and power are centralized instead of being distributed to the universities to use with internal decisions.
In addition when the “best in science” is the one who gets the most grants, then a vicious circle between peer review and funding is established, peers being the ones with parity on funds and not on knowledge and experience .

Peter Plail

I am afraid I see more megalomania than religious fervour in the attitude of many scientists and politicians in their position on AGW. These people see an opportunity to save the world and to be known as the saviours.Not since the threat of global nuclear war some decades ago have individuals had this opportunity
They are not looking for canonisation, they are seeking deification.

Neil Jones

Typo “As it is the time of year for refection, let us
Should be “As it is the time of year for reflection, let us”
[Fixed, thanks. ~dbs]

woodentop

DirkH –
I live in Europe and can confirm that on a social basis no-one is talking about climate change.
There is, however, a curious disconnect between what the MSM want to talk about and what are pressing concerns for “ordinary people”, if I can put it like that. Politicians seem to speak to the press, who speak back to the politicians, whilst the rest of us look on with increasing disbelief (and increasing detachment) from the unedifying spectacle.
This has been going on for some time, it’s not restricted to climate change and is one reason, I would postulate, for the growth of the Tea Party movement in the USA. When no-one seems to represent you, what happens next?

vigilantfish says:
December 27, 2010 at 9:51 am
Am I the only historian of science — other than Tallbloke, I believe — who frequents WUWT?
I am not a fan of navel-gazing academic exercises, but it would be interesting to survey historians of science and technology, and environmental historians, and find out whether skepticism also tends to be the domain of the historians of hard science. Perhaps the noble-cause error also pervades the thinking of environmental historians?

I visited my old department a few months ago to ask who was specialising in the global warming debate. I was astonished to discover the answer was….
No-one
I pointed out to the prof that this subject was clearly the clearest opportunity to witness in real-time the interaction of interests which determine the direction of science, and that it was *the* hot potato issue of our time.
He agreed about that last bit, and it dawned on me that this was precisely why no-one had picked it up. He asked me if I wanted the job. I told him I wanted to write in an unconstrained way unbecoming of an academic historian.
He understood.

P.F.

Jeff says: December 27, 2010 at 9:01 am “One issue which is not covered here is the curious involvement of energy companies in the various AGW mechanism’s, almost from their creation (even though most AGW proponents claim “big oil” is their opponent). What were/are their motives?”
Perhaps it is a bit like playing both sides of a major issue so one is on the “right side” when it’s all over. For example, American companies, the Catholic Church, and the Swiss banks’ links to the National Socialists in Germany leading into and during World War II. Consider also that Maurice Strong (creator of the IPCC) was an energy guy in Canada.

John Whitman

Bernie Lewin,
I enjoyed your article. Thank you.
I would add to it that when all the authoritarian social engineering experiments concocted by academic socialists are exposed to the real world, it is always economic principles that exterminate them inevitably. : )
John

John Blake

No disinterested, sentient observer since 1988 could view Green Gangsters such as Briffa, Hansen, Jones, Mann, Trenberth et al. as anything but mourners at the Death of Little Nell. No excuse, prevarication, far-fetched rationale whatever suffices to exonerate an entire generation of megalmaniacal poseurs acting in bad faith, under false pretenses, to promote a depraved Statist agenda celebrating human mega-deaths worldwide.
Self-delusion is one thing, willful obstruction and sabotage of scientific philosophy, methodology, and practice are quite another. Call it faith, ideology, religion, alarmist catastrophism for decades has been Thanatists’ stock-in-trade– those like Paul Ehrlich, John Holder, latterly Keith Farnish and his ilk, who like murderous Islamic jihadists “love death more than life,” despise post-Enlightenment industrial/technological civilization and libertarian ideals. Nihilistic elitists scheme to destroy global coal, oil, nuclear-energy economies preparatory to exterminating Earth’s “teeming maggots” (Holder, 1974) on behalf of “environmental” fantasies which in fact are no such thing.
Now as Earth enters a 40-year “dead sun” Dalton if not a 70-year Maunder Minimum, likely presaging an overdue end to our current Holocene Interglacial Epoch on the threshold of a cyclically resurgent 102,000-year Pleistocene Ice Time, driveling Warmists represent a clear-and-present danger to survival of entire human populations. In this sense, AGW catastrophists’ much-bruited “precautionary principle” should knock these braying asses off their crumbling pedestals post-haste.

beesaman says:
December 27, 2010 at 9:43 am
Scared based science.

From “Sacred” they turned it to “Scared”, just by changing letters: v.tr.
To strike with sudden fear; alarm. See Synonyms at frighten.
v.intr.
To become frightened: a child who scares easily.
n.
1. A condition or sensation of sudden fear.
2. A general state of alarm; a panic: a bomb scare that necessitated evacuating the building.
adj.
Serving or intended to frighten people: scare stories; scare tactics.

Roger Knights

Vince Causey says:
“How can there be such a disconnect between the meme that ‘alarmed public are clamouring for government to act’ and my actual experience where AGW registers zero on the public awareness scale? ”

Even though the public hasn’t been inflamed, they have “gone along” with the crowd, and opinion leaders, such as editorialists, have also been convinced. Ditto the leadership groups of many pillars of society, like unions, charitable groups, churches, scientific societies, etc. (The extent to which this conversion has been accomplished bespeaks the professionalism of the Cult’s strategic-advisory groups, as well as their high level of funding.)
Thus, any politician who disputes the CACA Cult will be condemned and mocked as a flat-earther by all right-thinking people and opinion leaders, and besieged by negative attacks by alarmists, which the media will give prominence to. In addition, a significant slice of the voting public considers this a litmus test issue, outweighing their traditional political-party allegiance.
This cultivation of opinion leaders and the amplification-factor of single-issue voters, were the means by which the Drys were able to get Prohibition instituted in the US, despite an absence of majority support. Our electoral system is not just a reflection of public opinion, but also of manipulated elite opinion + the leveraged power of pressure groups.

John Whitman

tallbloke says:
December 27, 2010 at 10:10 am
vigilantfish says:
December 27, 2010 at 9:51 am

tallbloke/vigilantfish,
It saddens me that historians of science such as yourselves feel the need for anonymous commenting. I have enjoyed your frequent energetic activities on blogs for a long time.
It is hard to meet fellow commenters socially that way. : )
Happy Holidays.
John

Excellent article.
AGW somehow became a universal tool for everyone from the other side: for politicians to rise taxes, for bureaucrats to develop new regulation, for lefties to fight capitalism, for empty minds as an “ersatz” religion, for corrupt scientists as opportunity to play attention whores and saviors of the planet.
Still, it is a good fight.

Hugh Pepper says: December 27, 2010 at 8:42 am

This is a nonsensical statement. You seem to regard the entire issue as PR problem, which can be eliminated with well-chosen words. Western civilization has been transformed by science and now, the rest of the world is achieving the same beneficial change. But science is also showing us that these changes are not without consequences. Science is clearly describing effects which are potentially catastrophic, if not mediated. Forestalling this mediation runs risks which are outrageously unacceptable.

Dear Hugh
Whereas most everyone here agrees profoundly that “civilization has been transformed by science”, what is now calling itself Climate Science is NOT science. People come to WUWT when, one by one, they realize the true practice of Science has been usurped in Climate Science, and start asking “what on earth has happened? what on earth can I do to remedy this?” They recognize the difference between real science and the current pretence, because they practice and apply the Scientific Method. They check the evidence on ALL sides.
Do likewise. Click my name, for starters.

R. Shearer

Tony says:
December 27, 2010 at 8:56 am
“This is where we would have scientists genuinely believing in the truth of AGW quite prepared to manipulate, distort and misrepresent their research in order to promote this truth in the face of formidable opposition from powerful vested interests (read: ‘Big Oil’ etc) attempting to obscure the truth with their own distortions, misrepresentations and lies.”
This statement is brilliant; definitely a ‘cut-out-and-keep’ !
And as Jeff above points out, Big Oil and Energy has largely jumped on the bandwagon. In my opinion for no other reason but to make more money.

John F. Hultquist

anna v says:
December 27, 2010 at 9:54 am
“. . . universities started coddling the grant bringers, because of the cut they took on the grant.
That “cut” is called overhead. Some of the current academics could provide a few numbers and the “explanation” for those readers not familiar with the process.
A second but related issue is that as academic institutions have taken on roles other than “teaching” (for example, promoting diversity) the entire concept of education, its outcomes, and costs have gotten increasingly fuzzy.

DirkH

Jeff says:
December 27, 2010 at 9:01 am
“One issue which is not covered here is the curious involvement of energy companies in the various AGW mechanism’s, almost from their creation (even though most AGW proponents claim “big oil” is their opponent). What were/are their motives?”
One important motive for the oil and gas companies was to drive coal out of the business. Oil as automotive fuel is not easily replaced, and nearly never used for electricity generation, so sales would not be affected. Gas on the other hand increases sales when coal is no more in favour.

Sun Spot

@Vince Causey says:
December 27, 2010 at 8:45 am
You sure as heck don’t live in Canada

RockyRoad

The following article starts with the non sequitur “THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. ”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26cohen.html?_r=1&ref=opinion
Does anybody else believe this isn’t the only “snow job” we’re getting about weather/climate interaction? I’d say they’re backing away from any firm commitment they’ve been telling us for the past 20 years! Or it could be they’re just obfuscating the bluff.

Mark T

You should run a spell checker on this. There are several instances in which a word is used incorrectly and at least one word that does not exist (quieten is not a word that I know of.)
Mark

pat

When the Feds went from perhaps 3% of scientific research funding to 90%, commencing with Nixon’s war on cancer, scientific multitudinous research was supplanted by monolithic research. Hence in medical research, 100s of approaches to cancer treatment are allowed to languish, while the bureaucrats allow funding only to the echo chamber, regardless of results. Of all the scientific dead ends, surely climate science takes the cake as the largest waste of money. We have people absolutely without credentials in the field, such as Hansen, Mann, Jones, etc. establishing a policy based upon “models” which are designed to always predict a runaway warming trend. (Remember the Met model that was predicated on a 4C per century rise in temperature?) In any other field, these people would be considered crackpots on the order of Cold (palladium) Fusion by virtue of the simple fact that the modeled result has never come true. However in the case of the climate charlatans the governments do not care if it is true or not. Because it achieves 3 highly desirable results: the elimination of the free market, the possibility of a huge amount of revenue, and the total control of every aspect of human life via environmental ‘needs’.
The various States must take back the allocation of research dollars and get the Feds off their backs . Interestingly enough, there is actually little the Feds can do under the Constitution if a State refuses to be bullied. Businesses must fund their own needs. Let nut cases like California and Spain destroy themselves while the sane walk away from this silly and obviously politically motivated suicide pact.