Do the global warming wars ever change anyone’s mind?
I suppose there are a few people whose minds have been changed. As I recall, Judith Curry has said Climategate (now “celebrating” its 10 year anniversary) was her wake-up call that institutionalized climate science might not be all it claims to be. She is now a well-informed and unabashed skeptic of the modern tendency to blame every bad weather event on humans.
While I’m sure there are other examples, the unfortunate truth is that fewer and fewer people actually care about the truth
The journalist who broke the Climategate story, James Delingpole, yesterday posted an article entitled The Bastards Have Got Away with It!, James concludes with,
Climategate was the event when, just for a moment, it seemed we’d got the climate scamsters bang to rights, that the world’s biggest scientific (and economic) con trick had been exposed and that the Climate Industrial Complex would be dismantled before it could do any more damage to our freedom and our prosperity. But the truth, it would seem, is no match for big money, dirty politics and madness-of-crowds groupthink. We’ve lost this one, I think, my friends. And the fact that all those involved in this scam will one day burn in Hell is something, I’m afraid, which gives me all too little consolation.”
You see, it does not really matter whether a few bad actors (even if they are leaders of the climate movement) conspired to hide data and methods, and strong-arm scientific journal editors into not publishing papers that might stand in the way of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mission to pin climate change on humans, inflate its seriousness, and lay the groundwork for worldwide governmental efforts to reduce humanity’s access to affordable energy.
The folks were simply trying to Save the Earth™, and we all know that the ends justifies the means, right? So what if they cheated? Boys will be boys, you know. The science is sound, and besides, 97% of all scientists agree that… something.
The Roots of Polarization
One would think that the practice of science would be objective. I once believed this, too. As a fresh post-doc at the University of Wisconsin, when I discovered something new in satellite data, I was surprised to encounter NASA employees who tried to keep my work from being published because they feared it would interfere with a new satellite mission they were working toward. I eventually got it published as a cover article in the prestigious journal, Nature.
But the subject I was dealing with did not have the profound financial, political, policy, and even religious import that climate change would end up having. Furthermore, 35 years ago things were different than today. People were less tribal. There is an old saying that one should not discuss politics or religion in polite company, but it turns out that social media is far from polite company.
From a practical standpoint, what we do (or don’t do) about human-caused climate change supports either (1) a statist, top-down governmental control over human affairs that involves a more socialist political framework, or (2) an unconstrained individual-freedom framework where capitalism reigns supreme. So, one could easily be a believer (or non-believer) in the ‘climate emergency’ based upon their political leanings. While I know a few socialists who are skeptical of human-caused climate change being a serious issue, this is the exception rather than the rule. The same is true of capitalists who think that we must transition away from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy (unless they stand to make money off the transition through subsidies, in which case they are financially rather than ideologically driven).
Or, on a spiritual level, a human who desires to worship something must ultimately choose between the Creation or the Creator. There is no third option. I find that most Earth scientists are nature worshipers (showing various levels of fervor) and consider the Earth to be fragile. In contrast, those who believe the Earth was created for the purpose of serving humanity tend to view nature as being resilient and less sensitive to lasting damage. Both of these views have equally religious underpinnings since “fragile” and “resilient” are emotive and qualitative, rather than scientific, terms.
So, I would argue it really does not matter that much to most alarmists or skeptics what the evidence shows. As long as 8 billion people on the planet have some, non-zero effect on climate — no matter how small or unmeasurable — the alarmist can still claim that ‘we shouldn’t be interfering with the climate system’. As a counter example, the skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg actually believes the alarmist science from the IPCC, but claims that economics tells us it’s better to live in and adapt to a warmer world until we have more cost-effective substitutes for fossil fuels. For this stance regarding policy, he is labeled a global warming denier despite fully believing in human-caused climate change.