Global warming: Selling doubt, selling certainty

Posted: January 7th, 2010 by Militant Libertarian

by Thomas Fuller, Climate Change Fraud

Have you every wondered why the debate on global warming is so polarised? I certainly have. I think Steve Mosher has come up with an explanation (which I hope you’ll read in our book titled ‘Climategate’ and coming soon to a retailer near you).

When big tobacco finally gave up the ghost (and their documents) in the fight to preserve their profits, we all discovered that one of their principal strategies for more than 25 years was to game the scientific publishing system to sow doubt and uncertainty about the harm caused by cigarettes. Although they ultimately lost, they protected their business models long enough to keep their share prices high, at the expense of millions of lives lost or ruined.

When global warming became an issue, the people who were first concerned about it included many who had watched the tobacco wars and were intimately familiar with the tactics used by tobacco companies. They feared that big oil interests would adopt the same tactics to preserve their profits, by casting doubt on global warming.

Some of this actually happened. There are some think tanks and institutions that received money from energy companies and published papers seeking to cast doubt on global warming–and some of them still do so. But those leading the skeptical charge against the activists are not among them. The biggest sites attracting skeptics are Watt’s Up With That and Climate Audit, both independent of any funding at all, let alone money from Big Oil. The think tanks seem slow and sluggish by comparison, and they are following the news, not making it. Perhaps because of this, energy companies have reduced or stopped their funding of these think tanks on climate issues. Instead, they are embracing cap and trade (which will actually benefit them hugely–although why will take another column, sadly), and funding environmental NGOs. So the enemy they feared has been quickly and effectively neutralized. But environmental activists didn’t realise it. They think critics are still selling doubt as a deliberate strategy.

But the fear of tobacco-like strategies led environmental activists to decisions that have had two really unfortunate consequences. Fearing that any sign of uncertainty would be seized upon by their opponents, they were fierce in their declarations of their rightness and the virtue of their cause. They could show no doubt at all. This led to their inability to distinguish between friends and enemies, unquestionably. Anybody who didn’t agree completely with the agenda was dangerous–they could corrode the certainty that was their first line of defence. Most of the people who are called climate change ‘deniers’ (including your humble author) are not at all deniers of climate change, or even human contributions to it. This has led to alienation of potential allies, and some strange bedfellows emerging as skeptics, lukewarmers and those agnostic on the issue find that they are being attacked by the Joe Romms of the world and end up making common cause with each other. Horribly mistaken strategy.

But far worse, they adopted a party line that called an infant science infallible, which has led them to protecting arguments that grow ever more tenuous–almost indefensible. To do this, we see in the Climategate scandal (did I, um, mention that Steven Mosher and I are writing a book about this?) that scientists had to resort to ever shadier practices to preserve the illusion of infallibility, suppressing dissent and dissenters, refusing to make their data and metadata available for inspection, and hiding evidence of less than perfect sources of data.

In effect, their fear of being gamed by tactics stolen from Big Tobacco has led almost inexorably to their adoption of tactics last used by, you guessed it, Big Tobacco.

Climate science is new, even if the physics and calculations behind it are not. Satellite coverage of this planet is 30 years old. When we see Arctic ice melt, we don’t know if it did the same thing 31 years ago–because we weren’t measuring it. I’m concerned about Arctic ice–but we just don’t know. The Argo buoys that accurately measure ocean heat were put out there in 2003 (I think–corrections?). The thermocouples used to measure land temperatures in the United States were installed in the 80s. We are only now measuring glaciers at the same time. We are only now looking globally at storms and measuring frequency and intensity with any accuracy at all.

And yet, despite the newness of it all, you hear no trace of uncertainty in the media and political discussions about climate change–and those who express uncertainty are too often excommunicated from the hip and cool clique of kids saving the planet from Big Oil. And their enemies list is growing daily.


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