On Climate Change, Vox Populi is not Vox Dei

Over at the Vox website, David Roberts (formerly of Grist and author of the famous statement “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards—some sort of climate Nuremberg“) is writing again on climate change.

Roberts is arguing against what I guess you could call ‘premature adaptation,’ criticizing those who blithely dismiss the effects of climate change by noting that we have a pretty good track record of adapting to whatever Nature has thrown our way. Of course, Roberts is writing on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a prime example of where we didn’t adapt (despite numerous warnings), but to Robert’s credit he doesn’t push on that.

But Roberts does think our confidence is misplaced. He writes, “In fact, if climate change remains unchecked, there will be multiple simultaneous disasters: heat waves, droughts in key agricultural areas, rising sea levels and more frequent floods, food shortages, resource conflicts, and mass migrations. Even if we think it’s better to adapt to those things, we are certainly nowhere near prepared at present.”

If only he had ended his article there I could almost agree with him. Sadly, he then creates a mini-morality play. Roberts writes that mitigation is good because it helps the world. Adaptation is, well, not exactly bad, but an inferior choice because its effects are local. “In other words, mitigation is an altruistic, universalist undertaking. Jesus would dig it. Adaptation is very different. It is not global but local, not universal in impact but highly targeted. A billion dollars of mitigation helps everyone a little bit; a billion dollars of adaptation helps a few people a lot. Specifically, adaptation helps people who have the luck to live in areas that can afford it.”

To the extent that he is correct, he is unintentionally reinforcing the Lukewarmer argument. Because the ethically superior choice, the choice we have been advocating for a couple of decades now, is that our responsibility does not end with mitigation.

Lukewarmers don’t reject mitigation, despite accusations of such. We do ask that it be effective, rationally evaluated for cost vs. benefits, etc. But Lukewarmers support mitigation efforts ranging from a carbon tax to energy efficiency to cleaning up black soot to supporting renewable energy and much, much more.

But alongside mitigation, our true ethical responsibility is to help the developing world (and the poorer residing in developed countries) to gain the resources to make their own decisions regarding both mitigation and adaptation. We are past the point where it can be justified for politicians, NGOs and lobbyists to agitate against the decision of a sovereign nation like India to exploit coal to further its own development. What we need to be prepared to do is to help them use cleaner coal, distribute its benefits widely enough and quickly enough that it becomes redundant before global warming takes its toll, so the Indian people can join the fight instead of participating in a supplicants’ Pilgrimage.

The day of the Great White Father has passed. We should not allow it to be replaced by a day of a Great Green Gaia, as interpreted for us all by the priests of the global warming religion.

Adaptation is a normal human response. Mitigation is a public good and should be encouraged. But resiliency to empower people to act according to their own values and beliefs is by far the best.

Even on a day when the Chinese stock market is scaring the world, the world is growing steadily wealthier. If we continue down the road we are on, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and even Nigeria will be wealthy enough and strong enough to resist, adapt and yes, overcome the difficulties that climate change will put in our path.

Despite the daily headlines suggesting the opposite, human contributions to climate change have yet to make an impact on this planet. Droughts are not stronger or more intense, no matter what Californians might say. Nor are floods or hurricanes or typhoons. Sea level has risen this century by less than the height of the preceding paragraph.

We cannot, must not, allow the hysterics of the world to interfere with the most successful transition this world has ever attempted–the elimination of poverty, the reduction of child and maternal mortality, the provision of access to clean water and adequate food to all and the conquest of diseases that decimated the poor in just the very recent past.

So when Roberts is ready to convene his Nuremberg Trial for deniers, I’ll volunteer, even though I don’t fit the description. His approach is misguided, his ignorance is startling and his prescription is vacuous and wrong. Although he claims to speak with moral authority, as if it is the voice from above, in fact it is only conventional wisdom he parrots, amplified by the echo chamber of which he is part. It is ‘Thus spaketh the NGO,’ not Zarathustra.



17 responses to “On Climate Change, Vox Populi is not Vox Dei

  1. “When the impacts are really hitting us”, this would be in about fifty years in the worst case scenario. All now living policymakers will be dead by then, so who wil be put on trial? Who was tried in Spain for cutting down the vast oak forests?

  2. Hans,
    What impacts are hitting us now? How about the impacts which, 30 years ago, were confidently predicted to already be hitting us?
    How about 10 years ago, when it was confidently predicted that Katrina was the new normal, or that the Arctic would be ice pack free by 2014?
    It is the prophets of doom who will also be dead in 50 years.

  3. Tom,
    My question appears to unanswered: What is an objective definition of “climate change”?
    As far as mitigation: What mitigation policy actually works technically, much less is a public good?

    • Hiya hunter,

      Well, climate change is a redundancy. If it didn’t change we wouldn’t call it climate.

      As for mitigation, planting trees seems to fit your requirements. Residential solar, even if it’s more of a vanity purchase than anything else. Energy efficiency, within limits. I don’t know what else right now… but in the future that list could and probably should expand.

    • There is no objective definition of climate change, that is the objective.

      At least that’s what the shysters would have everyone believe. It’s crystal clear that what they are really referring to is “global warming”. It’s the fingerprint of the entire theory. The lion that squeaks.

      Ironically, we’ve been solving climate change for centuries. It’s called adaptation, something we are apparently less able to do the more advanced we become. Mitigation is the solution to global warming.

      I find it disturbing that Tom and most others cannot write in plain English the problem they want to solve.

  4. I’m for keeping all options. This requires research and a carefully planned and instrumented set of geoengineering experiments and pilots.

  5. I am moving from lukewarmer to skeptic the more I read on this issue. Even the IPCC has written that there is no observable connection between climate over the recent past and extreme weather events. Yet w keep hearing this mantra over and over, which is straight out of the Alinsky handbook for radicals…if you keep repeating something over and over it eventually becomes commonly accepted. This is exactly what the alarmists are doing. I direct your readers’ attention to “The Right Climate Stuff” website established by a group of retired NASA scientists and engineers who worked on the Apollo program. They are familiar with models, how they are built, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they are verified. Because of their concern with NASA’s role in the Climate Change debate, they undertook their own investigation into the science, the results of which are available on their website.

    Recently I came across a you tube video of a lecture at the University of Hamburg by Dr Murry Salby. The link is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeCqcKYj9Oc. As a non-scientist I cannot evaluate his work, but Dr. Curry, who had listen to a podcast of this lecture produced a few years before posted this comment on her website” “WOW” this could blow the CO2 narrative out of the water or something to that effect. I definitely remember reading the “WOW” in caps. At the airport in Paris, Dr Salby discovered that the university he worked at (Macquarie University) had cancelled the return leg of his ticket. While stranded in Paris, the university conducted an investigation of supposed misconduct that resulted in his dismissal. Rupert Darwall, author of “The Age of Global Warming”, which I found an excellent read, authored an article in the City Journal about this dismissal which can be found here: http://www.city-journal.org/2014/24_3_global-warming.html. This is not science. This is Saul Alinsky style character assassination and advocacy politics. Jo Nova also carried a story on her website which contains Dr Salby side of the story. It can be Googled. Apparently, a Norwegian scientist has replicated his work and a new video which I discovered while composing this piece can be found on Google, including and article which claims to demolish Dr Salby’s work appearing nearby on Google, which I have also not read.

    Then there is Hal Lewis’ resignation letter from the American Physical Society which can also be found on Google. It is scathing. I strongly recommend you read it.

    Climate science is not science. It’s post normal science. Professor Peter Lee’s excellent paper “Ethics and Climate Change Policy” (can also be Googled, was published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation) provides a scathing attack on the scientific methods being used to brainwash the public into believing that fossil fuels will cause catastrophic global warming.

    Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (“CAGW”) alarmism is driven not by science but by ideology and money. Christiana Figueres (found on Google) is part of the UN alarmist cabal has recently been quoted as saying that the theory of CAGW represents the first opportunity to change the economic development model that has existed for 150 years. That model is capitalism. As for the money, I has been estimated at $1.5 trillion per year gloablly. I have no idea of that number’s correctness so let’s chop it in half – $750 billion per year. There are a lot of really necessary projects that could be funded with that amount of money, but the people who would benefit would probably not be the people who today are benefiting.

    So I am back to being a full skeptic until I see a huge change in the way the alarmists deliver their message. This is never going to happen, especially since the sun is “projected” to be going into a quiet period that “may” result in global cooling, which will cause a ramp up in the alarmism, which we are already witnessing.

    • Ron,
      They deliver their message the way they do because there is not “there” “there”.
      “Climate change” is a deceptive turn of phrase, worse than a euphemism as far as I can tell.
      Watching and living through this debacle raises so many questions about how other deeply held cultural beliefs came to be. Truth, apparently, is an early casualty when ideologues are on the offense.

    • The vast majority of climate science is indeed science. The problem is that it has been polluted and distorted by generous amounts of ideology and hucksterism. So it gets extremely hard to sort the genuinely solid science from the piles of dreck (that is a bit of a problem in all areas of science, because much of what is published is not really worth publishing, but a huge problem in climate science).

      From what I have heard of Salby’s theories (he does not seem to publish anywhere), he is a crank.

      If I mistaken about Salby not publishing, I would appreciate references.

      • Of course he is not published. Are you kidding me? Do you think he is not being published because he is a crank? He is not a crank, he has authored some serious books and research but not on the subject of CAGW. Please read Rupert Darwall’s article in the City Journal. If Salby’s theories prove valid, they would blow the whole theory of CAGW out-of-the-water. That is the reason he is not being published. He is being blackballed for his views. In effect, he is being ex-communicated, like Galileo was from the Catholic church, only this time it’s from the church of CAGW. Talk about crank, how about Dr. Mann and his Hockey Stick? Yet Penn State has provided him with a prestigious position in their climate science department. Why? Because he brings in the bucks from Federal grants. Why? Because he is part of the Konsensus. It’s all about the money, which is what Ike warned about in his Farewell Address.

        I grant you that there is serious science being done in climate science, but as a non-scientist I have a difficult time differentiating the science from the pseudo-science; so until further notice all of it is pseudo-science. The only way climate scientists will earn back my trust is when the real scientists doing real science, like Dr. Curry, start, “in serious numbers”, to put their careers on the line by calling out the pseudo-science and make known what is real and observable and what is conjecture. Applying Popper’s falsification criteria, why has not the IPCC and the climate science community come out and say that the Global Climate Models (“GCM”) have been falsified. We have all seen those charts, time after time, showing the GCM temperature projections and the actual temperature. Each year the divergence gets larger. But that will never happen because too much money and too many reputations are dependent on the climate models being correct.

        No, it’s going to take a lot to have me climb down from my outright skepticism.

      • Mike, have you read the material post on “The Right Climate Stuff” website? It is very damning! These scientists and engineers are able to evaluate the science and the models and they find both severely lacking. These men have no pony in the race. That is a big deal. I doubt they have a confirmation bias like so many in the climate science community.

        As for Salby being a crank, time will tell. You should read Rupert Darwall’s book and you will learn about many past predictions made by serious scientists, economists and other that were taken serious for decades that eventually prove inaccurate. One hundred scientists signed a letter that Einstein’s theory of relativity was wrong. Einstein commented that it doesn’t take a 100 scientists to prove him wrong. Only one scientist will do. Einstein theory proved correct, so far. The theory of plate tectonics was also poo pooed by a consensus. It was eventually proved correct.

        You stated that Salby is a crank. From what I gleaned from your comment, this was based upon hearsay, one person’s opinion. How much research did you do to make your own judgement? Are you even qualified to make a judgement? What was the background of the person making that judgement that you so readily accepted? Was he part of the Konsensus? Was he an CAGW ideolog?

        There are terrible things said about Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Bob Carter, Tim Ball and many others. Do I just blindly parrot those opinions or attempt to make my own judgement? I have made judgement about Hanson. All of his dire predictions have been proven false, yet he keep making them and many keep believing them. Dr. Mann’s Hockey Stick was proven to be wrong. Do I keep believing Dr. Mann? The Hockey Stick, so prominently displayed many times in the IPCC 3rd Assessment Report and in Al Gore’s film was dropped from all future IPCC assessments, yet Dr. Mann still has a prominent position in a university and continues to be a voice for CAGW followed by the media and those members of the CAGW religion.

      • Mike M,
        With the signal to noise ration as far out of whack as it is with climate science, I believe it is imprudent to believe that the vast majority climate science is good science.
        For me anyone who is working on ideas about resources and population and builds on Ehrlich and his gang’s four decades of failed hype is dubious to start with.
        Ehrlich’s “population bomb” is still spreading error creating fallout, nearly 50 years after it went off.

      • My opinion of Salby is based on second hand accounts, mostly very approving, and mostly in the comments at WUWT. Darwell’s City Journal article is completely consistent with the other second hand accounts. None of it seems to be new and all seems to be thoroughly debunked.

        Of course, if Salby would actually publish then I could read what he has to say and see if he has new evidence that would force a reconsideration. But until then, he is a crank. That is so even if he did good work in the past; Fleischman and Pons were respected scientists at one time.

        If the work is not junk, he could get it published. There is not some vast, coordinated conspiracy. It might be tough due to prejudiced reviewer’s and/or editors, but it can be done. Others have done it.

      • Ronald Abate

        Wow.  You are saying that Darwall’s City Journal article is essentially all untrue.  The City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank, which, I would assume, has a reputation to maintain.  I have a hard time getting my brain to accept that they would allow that to happen, and, if it did happen, not to take the article off line with a statement to the effect that, much to their dismay, the article was a fabrication.  In addition, Darwall also has had articles he authored published in the Wall Street Journal, a well known and respected newspaper with a circulation greater than any other in the U.S..  I find it hard to get my brain around Darwall ruining his reputation and career publishing garbage.  Prey tell, what is your source of debunking. Regarding publishing his research, he was asked that question in his most recent you tube video and his answer was not, in my opinion, satisfactory.   I will be following further developments with great interest.

      • Ronald Abate,

        You wrote: “You are saying that Darwall’s City Journal article is essentially all untrue. … the article was a fabrication.”

        I am baffled. Your comment seems to be directed at me. But I said nothing that could possibly be so interpreted by a reasonable person with any degree of reading comprehension.

        My source for debunking is the scientific literature. A person who knows much more about the subject than me is Ferdinand Engelbeen. He has addressed the Salby-like theories extensively in comments at WUWT and has posted a couple of articles there, links below. I will not attempt a debunking myself, since I refuse to debate a ghost.




      • Ronald Abate

        “Myopinion of Salby is based on second hand accounts, mostly very approving, andmostly in the comments at WUWT. Darwell’s City Journal article is completelyconsistent with the other second hand accounts. None of it seems to be new andall seems to be thoroughly debunked.” I apologize for misinterpreting yourcomment.  As for my readingcomprehension, when you wrote: “Darwall’s City Journal artic

  6. Tom,

    “Adaptation is a normal human response. Mitigation is a public good and should be encouraged. But resiliency to empower people to act according to their own values and beliefs is by far the best.”

    Well said.

    “Lukewarmers don’t reject mitigation, despite accusations of such. We do ask that it be effective, rationally evaluated for cost vs. benefits, etc”

    Spot on, again. I would argue against “premature adoption” of policies and technologies that are ineffective and have not been rationally evaluated. Exhibit A would be the German “energy transition” undertaken at huge cost with, so far, no real reduction in CO2 emissions. They now seem to be planning on pumping billions upon billions into new coal-fired generating stations that will be more efficient than the ones they have now. As electricity costs continue to soar, the German public will eventually say “Enough!”. Then they will have a system that produces only a little less CO2 than now, but with so much debt that they will be stuck with that system for decades. They may well end up emitting more CO2 than if they waited for more cost effective technology to be developed.

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