Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Global warming hysteria: when the paranoid worry there isn't anything after them

The shocking news today. Well, it was meant to be shocking:
Group: ExxonMobil paid to mislead public

WASHINGTON (AP) — ExxonMobil (XOM) gave $16 million to 43 ideological groups between 1998 and 2005 in an effort to mislead the public by discrediting the science behind global warming, the Union of Concerned Scientists asserted Wednesday.

The report by the advocacy group mirrors similar claims by Britain's leading scientific academy. Last September, The Royal Society wrote the oil company asking it to halt support for groups that "misrepresented the science of climate change."

Many scientists say carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks are warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse, melting Arctic sea ice and alpine glaciers and disturbing the lives of animals and plants.

ExxonMobil called the scientists' report Wednesday "yet another attempt to smear our name and confuse the discussion of the serious issue of CO2 emissions and global climate change."

ExxonMobil lists on its website nearly $133 million in 2005 contributions globally, including $6.8 million for "public information and policy research" distributed to more than 140 think tanks, universities, foundations, associations and other groups. Some of those have publicly disputed any link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists' strategy and policy director, said in a teleconference that ExxonMobil based its tactics on those of tobacco companies, spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies or emphasizing only selected facts.
Tom DeWeese back in December had a good takedown of the pseudo-scientists, exposing them for the academic bullies they are. I again quote Thomas Jefferson:
It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments.
He was talking about religion, but today "mainstream" science is effectively its own religion. Question a tenet held by the vast majority, and you'll be subjected to an Inquisition. Maybe you won't be burned at the stake, but for daring to question, you can kiss goodbye to peer review and speaking invitations. I'm not saying that a scientist has a right to require that others associate with him, but I question the others' publicly professed committment to truth when they act in such a manner.

Last September, Craig Bohren, professor emeritus at Penn State, gave a refreshingly objective analysis of the global warming debate. Since, the interviewer noted, he has no stake in either side, he could offer the following:
The issue of global warming is extremely complicated, and it transcends science. Views on global warming are as much determined by political and religious biases as by science. No one comes to the table about this issue without biases. So I'll state some of mine.

My biases: The pronouncements of climate modelers, who don't do experiments, don't make observations, don't even confect theories, but rather [in my opinion] play computer games using huge programs containing dozens of separate components the details of which they may be largely ignorant, don't move me. I am much more impressed by direct evidence: retreating glaciers, longer growing seasons, the migration of species, rising sea level, etc.

I have lived long enough to have seen many doomsday scenarios painted by people who profited by doing so, but which never came to pass. This has made me a skeptic. Perhaps global warming is an example of the old fable about the boy who cried wolf, but this time the doomsayers are, alas, right. Maybe, but I can't help noting that some of the prominent global warmers of today were global coolers of not so long ago. In particular, Steven Schneider, now at Stanford, previously at NCAR, about 30 years ago was sounding the alarm about an imminent ice age. The culprit then was particles belched into the atmosphere by human activities. No matter how the climate changes he can correctly say that he predicted it. No one in the atmospheric science community has been more successful at getting publicity. NCAR used to send my department clippings from newspaper and magazine articles in which NCAR researchers were named. We'd get thick wads of clippings, almost all of which were devoted to Schneider. Perhaps global warming is bad for the rest of us, but for Schneider and others it has been a godsend....

People who write alarmist books are either trying to make a buck or they have an axe to grind. For example, it is in the best interests of astronomers to scare us so that we'll pressure the government to support astronomy research more generously. The same is true for biology, medicine, atmospheric science [and all sciences]. This does not mean that the alarmists are wrong or even dishonest, merely that in assessing their claims we must always ask about the extent to which they will profit from our believing and acting on them....

In the atmospheric sciences it is difficult to get grants unless you can somehow tie your work to global warming, that is to say, to scare science. Because of my reputation, I immodestly believe that I could have jumped onto the global warming bandwagon. But I refused to do so because I would have found this repugnant....

Professors who get research money to work on aspects of global warming are not doing anything dishonest or illegal. This is not graft. But when it is in the best financial and career interests of professors to raise the alarm about global warming (or anything), we should be skeptical.

Perhaps some critics of global warming are in the pay of the oil and automotive companies. If so, they should be forthright about this. But so should folks on the other side of the debate. What fraction of their salaries comes from research on global warming?
Consider all the dollars, i.e. Other People's Money, that the government "grants" to scientists who study climate change and alternative fuels. You tell me which is worse: to have private companies fund studies -- no matter how misleading -- that support their industry, or to feed people propaganda that was paid for by their coerced tax dollars? No matter how much each side pressures me, the real sin is when I am forcibly compelled to fund a study which I may not believe.

For that reason, I personally am not as concerned with how much ExxonMobil and other oil companies give to anyone. If I suspect they're doing things with their revenue that I don't like, then I am perfectly free to deny them my business. On the other hand, it's pretty hard for me to do that with Albany and Washington, D.C.

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