Guest essay by Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten
Who are “climate skeptics”?
Greg Garrard, Associate Professor of Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, thinks he knows. In fact, he believes “environmentalists” generally “know who climate skeptics are: oil company shills, religious fundamentalists and neoliberal cheerleaders.”
With that courteous and respectful opening, Garrard issued a call for papers for the symposium “Who Do They Think They Are? Cultures of Climate Skepticism, Anti-Environmentalism, and Conservative Environmentalism,” scheduled for June 6–8, 2016, at Garrard’s campus in Kelowna, B.C. One knows not whether to laugh or cry at Garrard saying “this symposium seeks to understand ‘the enemy’, challenging reductive stereotypes and homogenizing assumptions in the interests of constructive democratic debate” (emphasis added).
Clearly the conference’s sole purpose is to denigrate those with views contrary to environmentalists’, particularly the so-called global warming consensus. The likelihood that it will lead to “constructive democratic debate” is approximately zero.
As my friend and colleague Jeffrey Foss, former head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Victoria, warns:
It’s like reading Malleus Maleficarum, aka The Witches Hammer, a 15th century tract on the detection and destruction of witches and warlocks—and it almost makes my stomach turn to think that I and my friends are among the witches and warlocks of today’s green druids. … Thank goodness we have, at least formally, freedom of thought and expression. That freedom, however, is under attack and is bending under the pressure of this attack….
David K. Johnston, another philosophy professor at the University of Victoria, suggested that the organizer might be amenable to receiving climate skeptics’ papers or “artefacts”, Foss countered:
The first paragraph is a scurrilous manifesto tarring “climate scepticism”. The next paragraph presents some sketches of “climate scepticism”—sketches that seem quite believable to me. But apparently not to their author, who in the third paragraph returns to treating ‘climate skepticism’ as a social phenomenon that needs to be analysed and addressed—rather than a set of beliefs that are supported by reason and evidence.
So climate skepticism is not addressed at all. To do so requires studying the actual climate and asking whether it is accurately described in global warming theories. There is no invitation … to do any such thing. The concepts of truth and falsehood do not arise … presumably because these concepts themselves are seen as tools of suppression used by the “elites” who wield power over us all. Instead, it is the socio-psychological syndrome of “anti-environmental discourses” that are to be analysed.
Foss’s comments are dead on. This type of thing does indeed harken back to witch hunts. Certainly, it is anti-science and deeply rooted in ideology.
One of the ironies of Garrard’s conference is that he himself is a critic of apocalyptic views in his book Ecocriticism (2004), writing: “Just like Christian millennialism, environmental apocalypticism has had to face the embarrassment of failed prophecy even as it has been unable to relinquish the trope altogether” (p. 100). For some reason, Garrard has now embraced this failed trope in the belief that climate apocalypticism, unlike all previous environmental apocalyptisms, is the real deal.
It is by no means clear how we can counter such ideological and anti-scientific views.
Consider two issues today: GMOs and climate change. The science (at least that considered “overwhelming”) says GMOs are safe and climate change is primarily human caused. Environmentalists overwhelmingly accept the climate change “science”, no questions asked, but reject the GMO “science”. Why? The GMO “science” says human intervention in nature can be positive, while the climate change “science” says it is negative. So the position taken by environmentalists is consistent: it has nothing to do with science, but everything to do with their anti-human agendas.
The author was in Edmonton recently for his mother’s 90th birthday—a remarkably long time to live not just in the long history of humanity but even today. But she was scooped by someone in her seniors’ home who turned 100 the next day!
Not too long ago we could count on one hand the number of people who reached 100—and they got a lovely letter from the Canadian Prime Minister. People over 90 were rare, and 60 was considered old.
The environment improved as a result of human intervention. Since the Second World War:
- water and air quality have improved tremendously (at least in the West),
- improvements in nutrition, housing, and health care have raised life expectancy and reduced infant and child mortality (sparking a short-term “population explosion” that is levelling off worldwide and already reversed in many developed countries),
- cheap fossil fuels have made it possible to keep warm/cool on the coldest/hottest days, and
- this same cheap energy enabled us in the West, even the poorest (except the homeless who often suffer from mental illness and whose plight environmentalists mostly ignore), to live richer than kings of old.
All these good things are now under threat because of a theory backed by flimsy evidence but promoted as Armageddon.
The problem is that the climate change agenda has little to do with climate change, let alone science. After all, most people’s position regarding the science of global warming comes from newspaper reports that sensationalize the evidence of a future catastrophe, however skimpy, while downplaying or even ignoring any “good news” (e.g., higher crop yields from enhanced CO2) or evidence to the contrary.
For example, while the media continue to harp on the threat fossil fuel consumption poses to polar bears, the science is not supportive. In a recent review article, scientists concluded that “some species thought to be dependent on summer sea ice (e.g., polar bears) survived through [ice-free] periods. In contrast, during glacial periods the much smaller Arctic Ocean and much of the adjacent continents were covered with massive ice sheets, thick ice shelves, and sea ice, making large regions virtually uninhabitable to most species that inhabit today’s Arctic.”
Likewise, peer-reviewed papers skeptical of the “climate consensus” orthodoxy are flooding into scientific journals. Since the beginning of 2015, more than 300 published, peer-reviewed articles have refuted the “consensus” that humans are primarily responsible for global warming, attributing climate change more to natural factors. But the media largely ignore these.
Instead, the environmental movement relies on the scare of climate catastrophe as a tactic to oppose capitalism and justify government intervention to restrict what citizens can do (for the good of all, but of course the good as they see it!), eventually leading to global institutions that would control what citizens can do. As Foss points out:
In the 2009 COP convention in Copenhagen, the draft agreement was an agreement to “fine” the developed countries to provide cash for the organization of a world socialist government. Our silly news outlets reported simply what they were told to report in releases to the press by the UN managers….
As in the recent charade in Paris, those in developed countries heard only that there was agreement to reduce CO2 emissions (somewhere, somehow) and nothing at all about the global administrative body (or government) that would be set up to command virtually every aspect of our economies (and hence our lives). The document itself—the draft agreement—was available to me at the time from a source who claimed it was publicly available. If so, apparently not one reporter of a major news outlet (so far as I’m aware) both read it and realized it was newsworthy.
Of course, whether climate change is partly anthropogenic or primarily of natural origins, and whether mitigation is preferred to adaptation as a policy response, much scare mongering by the media about human-induced climate change has driven the political agenda—something Greeenpeace co-founder and former president Patrick Moore discusses astutely in Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist. Such tactics play into the hands of those organizing the UBC Okanagan conference I mentioned at the start of this article—those who see climate skeptics as neoliberals, Christian fundamentalists, creationists, holocaust deniers, anti-science, communists, and who knows what else.
Of course, there is nothing wrong per se with a global administrative body, perhaps under the purview of the United Nations, which would act to correct the worst externalities and improve the well being of global citizens, especially the globe’s most wretched. But would such a body really bring about a utopia where there is no war and no poverty? Or only one, like the totalitarian states with which we’re all familiar, a world with no freedom?
History suggests that utopia always comes with corruption of the worst kind, totalitarianism designed to achieve goals set out by naïve lobbyists but resulting instead in death squads, gulags, and neighbor-spying-on-neighbor to keep the elite in power.
The poor will not benefit. Instead, those who are reasonably well off today will be reduced to the same state as today’s poor—all except the rich and powerful elite running this dictatorship. Living standards will decline, as will life expectancy, and everyone will live under fear and tyranny.
This is the eventual outcome of global governance. And much like the Israelites of old, they will cry to God for help because there is no one else.
G. Cornelis van Kooten, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He is the author of Climate Change, Climate Science and Economics: Prospects for an Alternative Energy Future and many papers in peer-reviewed journals on conventional and alternative energies.