When it comes to global warming, the issue is not about science, but about control.
Since London’s Royal Society was established in 1660, its motto has been Nullius in verba, which translates into English as “Take no man’s word for it.” This is an injunction that James Delingpole has clearly taken to heart. In his new book, Watermelons: The Green Movement’s True Colors, nobody — not Ph.D. scientists, not former vice presidents of the United States, not renowned scientific institutions — escapes the skeptic’s eye.
For Delingpole, the “appeal to authority” fallacy, on which much of what he describes as “Post-Normal Science” relies, is the fundamental mechanism by which the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) fraud is advanced and perpetuated. That is, as it happens, how a man who describes himself as a “crappy two-bit blogger with an Oxford arts degree” and no scientific background can be right, and the established view so very wrong. What the establishment is missing in facts, it makes up for with reputation.
The issue at hand, Delingpole argues, is not one of science, but of politics, and the science, insofar as it exists, is by no means settled — despite the incessant repetition of the line, “The case is closed.” At its root, this book is as much a call to arms against the notion of automatic deference to experts as it is a refutation of anthropogenic global warming. It might as well be called, Well, You Say That. So What?
Delingpole has a hint of Woodward and Bernstein about him, and also of David laboring to slay — or at least expose — Goliath. Early on, he skewers the latent conceit regarding money and power, effectively dismissing the reflexive charge that “skeptic” is just another word for moneyed interest. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, the advantage lies not with so-called “deniers,” but with the well-funded and politically connected “warmists,” whose allies include the United Nations, the European Union, the American government, and even the likes of Exxon. How absurd to pretend that a 45-year-old blogger who is paid less than £24,000 a year has more of an interest in his position than does the Green movement, whose total funding has thus far exceeded that of the Manhattan Project by five times. (At least with the development of the atomic bomb, Delingpole quips, the U.S. government got a “bang for its buck.”)
This view is consonant with a famous warning in Eisenhower’s farewell address, that “domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.” (Although one gets the impression that Delingpole is as much expressing a general scorn for those who impugn his motives as clearing safe ground for the rest of his argument.)
Having given up a career writing about “whatever [he] wanted to write,” he is now Mr. Climate-Change Skeptic. This was the “worst financial decision ever made.” So, if not for money, why would he do it? As the book’s title suggests, Delingpole considers the global climate-change movement to be not only wrong on the facts, but at heart a proxy movement that provides convenient cover for, at best, socialism; at worst totalitarianism; and, on its fringes, downright misanthropy. Taking a leaf out of Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism, Watermelons tracks the genesis of the modern Green movement to some vertiginous sources, whose aim is nothing less than the end of Western liberty. At the root of the problem, its author concludes, is the widespread belief among environmental advocates that mankind is a cancer, that humans are separate from and destructive of Nature, and that industrialization, capitalism, and democracy are fundamentally bad for the earth’s prospects of survival (hence the title Watermelons: they’re green on the outside, red on the inside).
It is, thus, not surprising that the former president of the National Academy of Sciences considers that he has “never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process” than that exhibited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, because the issue is not about science, but about control, and the movement is populated by those “less interested in saving planet Earth, than destroying the capitalist system.” Is there much difference in the language and intent, Delingpole asks, between Green alarmists who want to plan every aspect of the “sustainable” future, and the Stalinist five-year plans and obsession with increasing tractor production?
Having laid out a case indicting — among others — the U.N., the Club of Rome, Rachel Carson, James Hansen, and Al Gore, and having made unveiled comparisons to the Nazi concept of Lebensraum, the author becomes self-conscious, as if suddenly noticing that he may appear to some as a conspiracy theorist, replete with tin-foil hat. To many he undoubtedly will, but he adroitly turns the anticipated charge to his advantage: There is a conspiracy, he argues, but the facts are in the favor of those cleverly labeled “deniers” (in order to link them to those who claim the Holocaust never happened). The conspiracy is on the other side.
Here he draws a comparison with the sinking of the Titanic, arguing that to claim that the facts are consistent with the global-warming theory in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is equivalent to pretending the Titanic did not perish because it was, a priori, considered to be “unsinkable.” Laying out a damning history of environmental eschatology, he shows that none of the claims that have routinely been made have come to fruition. To borrow Mark Twain’s comment on the occasion of his mistakenly reported death, the rumors of apocalypse have been greatly exaggerated. Facts may be stubborn things, but the alarmists have managed to invert the usual burden of proof, requiring the impossible proving of a negative. “If there is only a small chance,” they cry, “then we should act now” — a serious misappropriation of Pascal’s Wager.
No, we should not act on the basis of a small chance, retorts Delingpole. It is when exhibiting his trademark sarcasm and borderline hyperbole that he shines, although he never gives the impression of being promiscuously or arbitrarily contrarian. Why, he asks, has not the Cameron-led British government embarked upon a “massive ray-gun building program” in case of deadly asteroid attack? Why not require all children to wear tin-foil hats in case there are aliens controlling their minds? Why not, indeed.
For all his wit, Delingpole has a key problem: He is very much preaching to the choir, not to the unbeliever. Watermelons is a book that will have adherents rapt, and will frequently push words like “yes” and “exactly” out of their mouths. But it will not impress his critics. This is in part because the Green movement has become a religion and Delingpole a heretic, but also because he thrives on a confrontational style that can be offputting to many. I was reminded of the scene in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, in which Emperor Josef II says to Mozart, “Mozart, you are very passionate, but you do not persuade.” With Watermelons, as with Wolfgang, it is not the content that is the problem, but the delivery.
To the open mind, however, this book is a knockout. The author ultimately puts into contrast two diametrically opposing worldviews: In the first — advocated by those who have not fallen into the conceit that the entire future of the world lies in the hands of our generation — growth is good, the human race is a positive thing and capable of beautiful things, and free markets will solve our problems as they always have. The other — attractive to the elitist instinct — bears the mark of a “familiar socio-political pattern: government by stealth.” As the author notes in his closing lines, “It really is that simple, freedom or tyranny. . . . There is no middle way. . . . You choose.” Indeed.
— Charlie Cooke is an editorial intern at National Review.