Guest post by Dr Paul Rossiter.
Like many other ethical and well-meaning scientists, I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the climate “science” debate. By resorting to rigorous measurement and analysis of real data, we have a reasonable (but perhaps naïve) expectation that the facts will determine the outcome of the AGW argument. And yet, despite the huge amount of information available, much of it through sites such as WUWT, it appears that the popular debate is clearly being won by the alarmists. Seemingly reputable organisations like IPCC, WHO, WWF, NASA, NOAA, CSIRO, EPA keep issuing reports heralding pending climate doom that appear to be at odds with any unbiased examination of the facts. And when they do, they are immediately picked up by an opportunistic mainstream press and amplified through social media, leading to widespread fear amongst the population, clearly evident in the recent “strikes for the climate”. Ill-informed adolescents become the new Messiahs, preaching the climate doom gospel and given standing ovations in the fact-free climate gab-fests. School children are now the upset victims of corporate (i.e. fossil fuel) greed and government stupidity.
Governments are naturally sensitive to popular sentiment and, with the goal of remaining in power, they ride the wave through policy and spending settings. Behind all of this there are the opportunists, both private and corporate, fanning the flames for financial gain. Anyone who has the gall to express an opposing view is pilloried and even suffered potential personal and financial ruin through public humiliation and termination of employment. Free speech is no longer tolerated.
That the ethical scientific community appears to be losing the debate indicates that there are much more potent forces at play, both ideological and financial. It appears that the whole climate debate is little more than a convenient vehicle to push a deeper agenda. Scientific fact, of which there is much debate in WUWT, is little more than a bye-line.
While browsing through the introduction in a new book: The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray, a lot of the pieces started to fall into focus. Although this text is not directly concerned with climate issue (its main focus is gender and race), it became clear to me that the same powerful underlying social drivers were at work. The introduction includes the following:
We are going through a great crowd derangement. In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant. The daily news cycle is filled with the consequences. We see the symptom everywhere, we do not see the causes.
This is the simple fact that we have been living through a period of more than a quarter of a century in which all our grand narratives have collapsed.
The explanations for our existence that used to be provided by religion went first, falling away from the nineteenth century onwards. The over the last century the secular hopes held out by all political ideologies began to follow in religion’s wake. In the latter part of the twentieth century we entered the postmodern era. An era which defined itself, and was defined by, its suspicion to all grand narratives. However, as all schoolchildren learn, nature abhors a vacuum, and into the postmodern vacuum new ideas began to creep, with the intention of providing explanations and meanings of their own.
Whatever else they lacked, the grand narratives of the past gave life meaning. The question of what exactly we are meant to do now – other than get rich where we can and have whatever fun is on offer – was going to have to be answered by something.
The answer that has presented itself in recent years is to engage in new battles, ever fiercer campaigns and ever more niche demands. To find meaning by waging a constant war against anybody who seems to be on the wrong side of a question which may itself have just been reframed and the answer to which has just been altered.
The interpretation of the world through the lens of “social justice”, ‘identity groups and ‘intersectionalism’ is probably the most audacious and comprehensive effort since the end of the Cold War at creating a new ideology.
The speed at which they have been mainstreamed is staggering.
To me that begins to provide an understanding of the impotence of the “scientific” debate. We are not just battling scientific fraud, misrepresenting and cherry-picking data, we are up against a huge social dynamic, almost a new meaning for life no less!
Later in the book he states:
For most people some awareness of this new system has become clear not so much by trial and error as by very public error. Because one thing that everybody has begun to at least sense in recent years is that a set of tripwires has been laid across the culture. Sometimes a person’s foot has unwittingly nicked the tripwire and they have been immediately blown up. On other occasions people have watched some brave madman walking straight into no man’s land, fully aware of what they are doing. After each resulting detonation there is some disputation and then the world moves on, accepting that another victim has been notched up to the odd, apparently improvisatory value system of our time.
What everyone does know are the things that people will be called if their foot even nicks against these freshly laid tripwires. ‘Bigot’, homophobe’, ‘sexist’, ‘misogynist’, racist, and ‘transphobe’ are just for starters.
In our context, “climate denier” clearly needs to be added to the list.
He goes on:
The rights fights of our time have centered around these toxic and explosive issues. But in the process these rights issues have moved from being a product of a system to being the foundations of a new one. To demonstrate affiliation with the new system people must prove their credentials and their commitment.
This is how to demonstrate virtue in this new world.
Each of these issues is infinitely more complex and unstable than our societies are currently willing to admit. Which is why, put together as the foundation blocks of a new morality and metaphysics, they form the basis for a general madness. Indeed, a more unstable basis for social harmony could hardly be imagined.
If for no other reason than that each of these issues is a deeply unstable component in itself. We present each as agreed upon and settled. Yet while the endless contradictions, fabrication s and fantasies within each are visible to all, identifying them is not just discouraged but literally policed. And so we are asked to agree things which we cannot believe. It is the central cause of ugliness both online and real-life discussion.
That sounds very familiar in the climate debate! He then presents the case that there is an underlying ideology providing the energy and philosophy driving the whole movement: its Marxist foundations:
In 1911 a famous poster appeared, entitled ‘Industrial Workers of the World’, depicting what it claimed to be the ‘Pyramid of the Capitalist System’. At the bottom of the pyramid were the brave men, women and children of the working class. With their proud, sturdy yet struggling shoulders they were holding up the entire edifice. A floor above them, wining and dining in black tie and evening dresses were the well -off capital classes. Above them were the military, clergy, monarch and finally at the top was a great bag of money with dollar signs on the outside. ‘Capitalism’ was the label for this highest tier of State.
The embodiment of this philosophy in the current context is similarly rooted in ‘social justice’. Here the pyramid has been transformed into a new one with the virtuous victim at the bottom, bearing all the pain and anguish of the forecast climate change, the smug climate deniers at the next level and the bag of fossil fuel money at the top.
Murray goes on:
The purpose of large sections of academia had ceased to be exploration, discovery or dissemination of truth. The purpose had instead become the creation, nurture and propogandization of a particular, and peculiar, brand of politics. The purpose was not academia, but activism.
This was make-believe masquerading as science .
This movement has been incredibly successful since it is nurtured and propagated right through the education system by teachers and academics with a strong leaning to the political left. The power of this dynamic is the subject of another text: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. We are not just battling scientific fraud, but a whole system of leftist ideology deeply embedded throughout the entire education system.
One of the traits of the Marxist thinkers has always been that they do not stumble or self-question in the face of contradiction, as anybody aiming at the truth might. Marxists have always rushed to contradiction.
By contrast, anybody who got in the way of this direction of travel found themselves mown down with astonishing vigour. The weapons at hand (accusations of racism etc. (include climate denier)) were all too easy to wield and there was no price to pay for wielding them unfairly, unjustifiably or frivolously.
In the climate debate, this has been manifest in many ways: banning non-alarmist comment from print (e.g. The Guardian), TV (e.g. the BBC), live (banning guest presenters) and on-line platforms (e.g. the “The Conversation” site). It has also been manifest in stacking IPCC panels to exclude dissenting opinions and even “de-platforming” countries form the UN Climate summit (e.g. USA and Australia). Possibly the most offensive actions are discontinuing or sacking academics for expressing opinions that don’t toe the party line (e.g. Peter Ridd, Murry Salby, Bob Carter, Bjorn Lomborg, and others).
He then comments on the series of spoof articles submitted to social science journals and accepted after peer review. The same comments apply to much of the pseudo-science disseminated by the alarmists:
The spoofs made a number of deadly serious points. Not that just these areas of academic study had become playgrounds for frauds, but there was absolutely nothing that could not be said, studied or claimed so long as it fitted into the pre-existing theories and presumptions of the relevant fields and utilised its disastrous language.
He then looks at how the new ideology has propagated so quickly:
If the foundations of the new metaphysics are precarious and the presumptions that we are being asked to follow seem subtly wrong, then it is the addition into the mix of the communications revolution that is causing the conditions for the crowd madness. If we are already running in the wrong direction then tech helps us to run there exponentially faster.
Social media turns out to be a superlative way to embed new dogmas and crush contrary opinion just when you need to listen to them most.
Furthermore, it has now emerged that many such platforms have inbuilt bias to promote the agenda. This is manifest in the results of searches on platforms like Google which often exhibit bias to a particular point of view. Many are not just impartial sources of information but a cog in the whole mechanism of social change. Murray attributes this to the left-leaning academics and technologists that have built many of these platforms.
He finishes on a slightly depressing note:
People looking for this movement to wind down because of its inherent contradictions will be waiting a long time. Firstly because they are ignoring the Marxist sub-structure of much of this movement, and the inherent willingness to rush towards contradiction rather than notice all these nightmarish crashes suggests that it is really not interested in solving any of the problems that it claims to be interested in. It is expressed not in the manner of a critic hoping to improve, but as an enemy eager to destroy.
The new metaphysics includes a call to find meaning in this game: to struggle, and fight and campaign and ‘ally’ ourselves with people in order to reach that promised land. In an era without purpose, and in a universe without clear meaning, this call to politicize everything and then fight for it has an undoubted attraction. It fills life with meaning, of a kind. Politics may be an important aspect of our lives, but as a source of personal meaning it is disastrous. Not just because the ambitions it strives after nearly always go unachieved, but because finding purpose in politics laces politics with a passion – including rage – that perverts the whole enterprise. If two people are in disagreement about something important, they may disagree amicably as they like if it is just a matter of getting to the truth or the most amenable option. But if one party finds their whole purpose in life to reside in some aspect of that disagreement, then the chances of amicability fade fast and the likelihood of reaching any truth recedes.
There are very powerful agencies driving this agenda, both at the national level: left vs right political parties vying for control, as well as bodies such as the UN and EU striving for global influence. Just how the powerful Green/Left protagonists managed to infiltrate key political positions in Europe and the U.S. and to establish (or gain control of) institutions that gave them unquestioned authority over the subject is described in considerable detail in Rupert Darwall’s two books The Age of Global Warming: A history and Green Tyranny: Exposing the totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.
And let’s not forget to “follow the money”, whether this be noble cause corruption, often driven by wealthy donors lurking in the background, or financial opportunism based upon corporate profit or just pure greed. The personal fortunes amassed by people such as Al Gore must be a powerful driver, as must the need by Directors to sustain government –funded scientific organizations.
History has taught that such great socialist vs conservative struggles have often led to wars. Given that the “climate crisis” is little more than a Trojan horse for such global social upheaval, it is clear that the science debate will, by itself, be totally impotent in determining the outcome. Simply debating the merit of some fine scientific point, while a necessary part of the scientific method, will not lead to resolution of the AGW argument (which is where I came in) or indeed the grander scheme of things. Science itself will just be collateral damage but those from the Green/Left will probably not be too concerned.
PhD in Physics from Monash University.
Over 60 scientific publications in refereed journals, 4 book chapters in scientific tomes and a book for Cambridge Press.
Was Head of the Department of Materials Engineering at Monash, then Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Research and Development at Curtin University of Technology. I have run my own consulting company and also a small manufacturing business.
Was Fellow of The Australian Institute of Physics and Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia.