Jacques Delacroix has a thoughtful response to an equally thoughtful comment by a climate scientist (full disclosure: the climate scientist is also a childhood friend of mine and a fairly decent man; I say “fairly decent” because he sometimes associated with people like me!) in his post on the peer review process. I thought I’d reproduce the whole thing here:
Travis, a modestly self-described “junior” climate scientists at U. of California at Berkeley with a flair for subtle flattery takes me to task for the throw-away lines about climate change in my essay otherwise dedicated to explaining scholarly reviewing. I am glad that Travis gives me a chance to save him from a career shaped to any extent by religious fanaticism. I should have done long ago, what I do below about climate change […]
There are thee parts to my response to Travis. (I am afraid I am giving Travis about 500% of the reply he expects.)
1 Climate changists propose or demand that we alter radically our current system of economic production. This current global system of production has saved almost every human being from the misery that used to be the rule for millenia.
2 The findings on which this change proposal is based lack the high level of credibility the dimensions of the changists’ proposal must entail.
3 Climate changism is a religious movement. Like Christianity before it, is able to incorporate rational and empirically based beliefs.
The fact is that our current, global way of doing things has improved radically in a short time the lives of nearly everyone in the world. Our “current way of doing things” is roughly industrial, greatly energy-centered capitalism (not capitalist enough for me, but that’s another story). Nothing else has ever worked since the agricultural revolution of about 10,000 years ago. Climate change believers want us to transform our ways of doing things quickly in major ways that are sure to cause much misery, including among the poorest of the poor of this world.
How do I know? I was born in 1942. I was well aware of how poor the world was like even in the fifties, even the rich countries. (Please, read my memoirs: I Used to Be French….) Well into the seventies, there was widespread misery. (I was then a specialist in the sociology of economic development.) Climate alarmists simply want us to turn back the clock, I believe. They contemplate different rates, more or less thorough transformations, implemented in diverse ways, but I have not heard any of them come up with anything but turning back the clock that is even half-way reasonable. (And yes, I too like windmills.) The group’s general unreasonableness with respect to alternative forms of economic systems stands out when you begin to think of what its members do not (NOT) promote: The obvious, simplest, cheapest solution to the putative problem of excess emissions of CO2, one that does not undermine thoroughly our capacity to provide for the many, is nuclear energy (NUCLEAR). Hardly one of them ever mentions this simple fact. It’s not that they are too stupid to see the obvious. The problem is that those who see the obvious are too afraid of excommunication to open their mouths. (Yes, the use of a religious term here is deliberate.)
Climate changists thus demand something very grave, serious, absolutely dangerous. Therefore, their assertions must be held to a high standard. If they simply fought for internal combustion engines that would be 10% more efficient, for example, the standard could be lower. Let me repeat myself and say the same thing in a different way: If the climate changists’ worst predictions are correct then, the prospect of deliberately bringing misery to millions becomes ethically justified. This simple fact requires that we be demanding about determining the truth or falsity of the alarmists’ predictions.
Climate changists know full well that very few in the public are able to assess the quality of the climate scientists’ pronouncements under their own power. I am no exception. So, I use the normal, reasonable shortcuts: First I assess the processes that produced the pronouncements and then, I assess the honesty of the gate-keepers, of those who implement the processes. Simple enough, right?
Of course, I agree with Travis that a few contributions that are not peer-reviewed in the reports of IPCC do not invalidate the findings (FINDINGS) of many more studies that are peer-reviewed and that contribute to the same reports. But the kind of sickening falsehoods I cite force me to ask:To what extent were those other statements proceeding from real peer-review? How many studies were peer-reviewed for real? How thoroughly? What percentage? Which? A real figure that 40% of the Amazon forest will disappear shortly if nothing is done sure would motivate even me to demand change now. An overestimate mistake of 300 years (in the climate changists’ favor, N.S.!) sure makes the possible/maybe look like the real emergency changists’ hearts most fervent desire. The fact that those in charge of the report could make such gross, stinking mistakes as they did, leads me to suspect that the gate-keepers, are negligent, stupid, or simply moved by fanaticism.
What would Travis have us do when confronted with failings of this magnitude? Does he really expect us to give the gate-keepers, the guard dogs, the benefit of the doubt after they let the fox into the hen-house? How long? How many times? Like my second girlfriend Marie, after they betray me, they have to work at regaining my trust. It’s now up to them to persuade me that they are not the sluts I suspect they are. Incidentally, the fact that Travis blames the “federated” process by which IPCC gathers findings for the inclusion mistakes may be a valid explanation. It’s not an excuse. It’s rather an admission of carelessness, at best. And does Travis know whether this federated process includes a safeguard to ensure that contrarian findings are not systematically excluded? And if he does not know, why? And will he try to find out from those better informed than he? And, if not, why? I only ask because my limited personal observation tells me there is a strong anti-contrarian bias even in good scholarly journals.
Note, my last possible interpretation of the source of the gatekeepers’ misbehavior, that they were impelled by dishonesty instead of mere incompetence, could easily be nullified. One would merely have to point out in any IPCC report a few equally serious mistakes of inclusion that would undermine (UNDERMINE) the global warmist cause. Perhaps Travis has access to free grad student labor he could put to work on this proposal. I hope the results of such effort will appear on my blog soon. You can be completely sure that neither my blog nor NotesOnLiberty shelter an anti-contrarian bias.
The fact that IPCC, the most accessible voice for the climate change research, is affiliated with the UN does not help its credibility among skeptics, of course. That is, after all, an organization whose committee or commission on human rights included both Kadaffi’s Lybia and Assad ‘s Syria in the past five years. A long time ago, the UN even had a cannibal’s government represented. (Another story I will tell on request. And watch the spelling: I wrote “a cannibal’s,” and not “cannibals’.”)
Global warmists who, claim scientific objectivity and who possess scientific credentials could improve their collective credibility if they would once in a while do the obvious in terms of engaging those not of their church. And I don’t mean adversaries like me. That’s too hard and they are mostly too dogmatic even to try it, I think. It’s easier to dismiss reasoning skeptics like me as cranks. I mean relevant voices that do their cause harm without opposing it. Two kinds come to mind. I describe those below.
1 Anyone who reads a little, or who watches television, or who listens to the radio frequently encounters statements of absurd pseudo-facts pronounced in the name of global warming. My current favorite I read in the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde. Recently it had a big an article to the effect that the sea level is rising faster – because of global warming – in the Central Pacific than in France, for example. This should thus lead to the following kind of statements: “Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level in Hong Kong and in Le Havre but only 29,017 feet above sea level in the Tuamotu islands.” No one protested, no comment! Of course, it’s the stupid French. One could not find anything of the kind in the world’s English language press, right! I know climate changist scientists can’t be everywhere. I just think that if theirs were an intellectually honest enterprise, once in a while, one or two of them would feel obligated to smack on the heads some of the morons who contend to speak for them. I think it never happens (NEVER)! This last statement should be easy to contest, of course.
2 The prolific, statistically trained Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and of Cool It! keeps assuring everyone that he believes that there is man-made global warming that is worth worrying about. However, all of his policy proposals undermine and destroy the credibility of the mainstream changists’ own ideas about what to do next. It seems to me that writing-bulky Mr Lomborg is hard to miss in the general panorama of discourse on the subject. Yet, the main changist scientist church practically never address his view I believe they ignore him on purpose. Likewise, in medieval times, the Catholic Church pretended that rival Christian movements they could not suppress just did not exist.
Of course, some would object that the global warming movement includes many intelligent, cultured, rational people. Intelligent, cultured, rational medieval intellectuals never countenanced, for example, the burning to death of deviants who stubbornly insisted that during the Eucharist ritual, it is not really the real blood and flesh of Christ that appears on the altar. Or am I confused again? Were the intellectuals actually in charge of convicting and delivering heretics to the pyre?
Of course, climate changism is a religious movement. Specifically, it’s an offshoot of Christianity. It’s has a doctrine of the Fall (“Original Sin”) the main component of which is hubris ( as in eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge). It has an apocalyptic scenario. It developed a hierarchy of sins, very big ones, little ones. It advocates collective guilt, as with God’s decision to destroy the world with the Deluge. It is forever elaborating small and big dogmas many of which are too difficult for ordinary people to understand… “mysteries,” of course. Its priesthood is still ill-defined and struggling against itself, as happened in the first century of Christianity. The religious movement holds periodic councils to advance itself, to define doctrine and thus to reject divergent ideas, as the early Church did (in Rio, in Copenhagen; where was the recent one again?)
Those who think they are important members of the Climatechange church hierarchy do not hesitate to plot and to misrepresent the truth on behalf of the greater good (as show in the leaked emails affair). They merely imitate in this connection what the Jesuit Order did for centuries with no qualms.The religious movement’s central weakness is that its most visible and audible prophet, Al Gore, is both downright grotesque and sinister, as often happens in new cults. Nevertheless, the true believers who know better, those who are technically and intellectually equipped to do so don’t find it in themselves to denounce his ridiculous exaggerations and his many big lies (let alone his small lies). Personally, I fear the day when rational climate changists do just this, when they actually denounce Al Gore for what he is: a rich but pathetic Daddy’s boy reared in a Washington DC luxury hotel who could not even carry his own state when he ran for president. And when ten climate “scientists” sign even a discrete manifesto denouncing Al Gore’s half of that Nobel Peace Prize as a farce, when that day arrives, it will become more difficult to denounce climate changism as an overgrown middle-class cult. As in the historical precedent I keep invoking, intellectually sophisticated priests are embarrassed by miracles but not quite embarrassed enough to oppose the movement’s reliance on them to gain adherents and financial contributions from the unwashed masses.
(In all of the above, about the religious nature of climate changism, I realize, I am probably plagiarizing others, smarter observers, people who described the obvious before me and whose names I forgot, I am afraid. I regret that I cannot give them proper credit.)
Thanks again, Travis. I suspect you are personally not guilty of any atrocity, yet. Just watch your steps. Don’t believe everything. In fact, don’t believe anything. The majority is not always right; it’s usually wrong at first. The truth is never somewhere in the middle. And keep in mind that the European intellectual class as a whole, and many American intellectuals as well, actively helped murder millions between 1930 and 1955 in the name of the obvious and of the obviously necessary.
And what if I turn out to be completely wrong? Let someone ask that question.
I personally think that the earth is warming up a little bit, but that this is not a bad thing and that no catastrophic events are going to occur because of it. I also share Dr. Delacroix’s views that the climate change alarmist crowd has ulterior motives: namely de-industrializing the West. They have no idea what kind of havoc that such policies would cause, of course, but that in itself has never gotten in the way of do-gooders before (Google the “Great Leap Forward” for an example of do-gooderism taken to its logical end, or “Pol Pot”). I will of course reproduce anything that my old friend wishes me to here as well.
What are your thoughts on climate change? The science behind it? The implications? The politics of it all?