Deniers, NIMBYs and Conspiracy Theories

I’ve been swimming upstream in the river of culture as long as I can remember. I once questioned my third grade teacher about the myth of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow in the Great Chicago Fire. She was not amused.

But at least she didn’t call me a conspiracy theorist or a history denier. She just smiled indulgently and went on with her story.

It seems to be a common reaction to perceived criticism to strike out against the critic with name-calling and meaningless pejoratives. Those who cast doubt on human causation of climate variation are labeled “deniers,” worse yet, “climate deniers” and  “science deniers,”  as if anyone could deny climate or science. Those who question the “Lone Nut” assassin claims for the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King, Jr and  Malcom X are called “conspiracy theorists,” thus denigrating conspiracies, which are very real, and theory, which is an important component of the scientific method.

It’s difficult enough to seriously research significant historical events and current cultural trends without constantly having to respond to such ignorant accusations. It would be bad enough if they were restricted to the unknowing and unwilling to learn.

In the volatile world of public information, the casting of conspiracy and denier labels can have a significant cooling effect on the acceptance of ideas alternative to those professed by official organizations and mainstream media. Don’t think that this hasn’t escaped the notice of those whose reputations, fortunes and access to power and control are at risk to self-enlightened, critical thinkers with their own ideas and who are willing to publicly express them.

Where does the extensive and coordinated campaign to label opponents of “Global Warming” as “climate deniers” (similar to Holocaust deniers) originate? Where did the idea of “conspiracy theory” come from, and how and by whom has it been used?  James F. Tracy and Cass Sunstein have some interesting ideas about that:

Having read JFK and the Unspeakable several years ago, I’ve been thinking about assassinations for quite a while and I’ve seen how “conspiracy theory” is used to shut off debate, to signal that we’re entering “the unspeakable” zone. So I began to wonder if the use of the term Conspiracy Theory might be a conspiracy itself.

Source: The Term “Conspiracy Theory” — an Invention of the CIA | Project Unspeakable

Exploring the Unseen

Now, to that other new thing up in the upper left corner…

“Exploring the Unseen.” How can we explore something we can’t see?

Glad you asked!

I’ve recently read several interesting articles that have placed my mental feet on this particular path:

Secession from the Broadcast: The Internet and the Crisis of Social Control, by Gene Youngblood 

The battle against global warming: an absurd, costly and pointless crusade,  from the Société de Calcul Mathématique SA, translated from the French original

Cultural Hegemony, by in Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution

I’ve been studying climate variation for 25 years now, as an archaeologist, a dendroclimatologist, and, most recently, as an interested amateur observer. Over the years, the debate over the source of observed increases in global average surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration has resolved into a struggle between proponents of anthropogenic climate change (aka Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)) and so-called “climate skeptics” or “deniers,” as they are characterized by the more vehement AGW proponents.

AGW followers loudly protest perceived funding of skeptics and deniers by fossil fuel interests threatened by demands to “leave fossil fuels in the ground,” shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources and shift to organic agriculture to reduce petroleum based fertilizers and equipment fueling. They accuse corporations such as Exxon/Mobil of employing public relations firms to support their cause and foster doubt about global warming by questioning the science, which, they vociferously proclaim, is settled. There are even public relations firms that have vowed to never represent climate deniers and skeptics, as AGW has more and more become a moral issue.

This got me to thinking, a dangerous proposition, I know, but inevitable. If the anti-AGW crowd employs cadres of dedicated Edward Bernays acolytes to sow seeds of doubt about AGW, how is it that the dominant perception is that of human caused global warming and the necessity for humans to do something NOW! to stop it? Where did that idea come from and how has it become ubiquitous in global western culture?

In steps the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is viewed by many as a science organization involved in studying climate change. It’s not. The IPCC is a policy organization that analyzes climate science (and other non-science) research to recommend national and international policies on how to deal with human caused climate change. AGW is the base assumption in their mission statement.

The IPCC is a daughter organization of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization, which are all a part of and beholding to the United Nations Development Programme. And you’ll no be surprised to learn that the United Nations has its own Department of Public Information, which contracts with numerous prestigious public relations firms to spread its message of “Sustainable (sic) Development.”

The Department of Public Information “fosters dialogue with global constituencies such as academia, civil society, the entertainment industry, educators and students to encourage support for the ideals and activities of the United Nations.”

There you have it. An international organization with billions of dollars of funding to dangle before academia, Hollywood, and the public and private education system to build support for “Sustainable (sic) Development.”

Development (aka growth) of “less developed” countries is now hobbled by environmental pressure to stop economic growth and the negative effects of unlimited growth in a finite world. AGW is used as a big economic guilt stick to beat about the heads of “more developed” countries, by accusing them (us) of being the proximate cause of climate change with an obligation to fund development in “less developed” countries so they can better survive the effects of climate change to come.

Have you ever pulled a loose thread on your sock, only to have it unravel into a loose pile of threads on the floor? That’s what it’s like to attempt to follow the connections woven into the AGW propaganda machine, connections that remain unseen, looking like a whole sock, until one starts to take them apart.

The concept of human caused climate change looks more and more like cultural hegemony, “the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.”

What then do we do now? How do we explore the unseen and bring it into the seen? How do we escape from cultural hegemony?

I’ll toy with these ideas, and many others, in future editions of Words Arranged.

Let’s Plan for The Real Transition

Recently I had an exchange with Erik Curren in the Comments section of an article he had written about global warming. Erik is the owner of the Transition Voice web site that serves as a platform for the Transition movement.
Curren’s post was a rambling maundering about “climate deniers,” who, according to Curren, are inordinately successful in “spreading doubt” about climate change, or more accurately anthropogenic global warming.
This brings to mind Ed Abbey’s observation: “Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward.”
The debate over climate change is polarized on the extremes of “deniers” versus “alarmists.” Oddly, “deniers” are frequently associated with right-wing, fossil-fuel energy corporations, and “alarmists” most frequently associated with “environmentalists” and environmentalism, particularly large Green organizations. One suspects that there is something other than environmentalists vs. corporate developers behind the schism. Perhaps we should “Follow the money” to learn the source of this vociferous debate.
The polarization of the debate obscures understanding of climate science and blocks the effectiveness of environmental activism. More importantly, it draws attention away from the more serious problems caused by human pollution, biodiversity loss and species extinctions, all of which are caused by human growth and development of critical natural habitat.
If we are to plan ahead for natural limitations on human growth that we face in the future, we have to move away from these fruitless arguments to areas where we can come to agreement. Fossil fuel use must be curtailed, even before it becomes too scarce to extract, if for no other reason than fossil fuels are polluting by their very nature, regardless of their carbon content, and their use fosters increasing consumption. Human economic growth and its increasing consumption must stop at some point, because we live in a finite planet that cannot withstand continued and accelerating resource depletion.
Why distract ourselves with possible future climate variation, when these looming problems face us right now and right here in our own homes? 
Rather than political and economic strategies aimed solely at “global warming,” such as cap and trade economic “fixes,” we should come to grips with the very real and immediate challenges of finite fossil fuel availability and finite resources for which there are no renewable alternatives.
Finally, and most importantly, human population growth and increasing resource consumption has exceeded the limits of our planet’s ability to support us. We flat out overshot our natural limits, and we’re living on borrowed time, and squandered resources.
The real transition looming on the horizon is not a simple exchange of nonrenewable for renewable energy technologies. The Earth can no longer support its human population, regardless of its energy technology choices.
The transition that will inevitably arrive is the change from a continuously growing human population to a steady state population considerably smaller than our present 7 billion individuals. The founding concept of modern economics based on production for profit has failed and we must discard it in favor of a steady-state economy based on production for use.
What we need now, rather than an unending debate on the future of global climate variation, is to develop a realistic, rational theory for a steady-state society that lives within natural cycles of resource availability, that does not consume resources faster than they are naturally renewed, and that does not produce waste faster than it is natural dispersed, such that all other species’ viability is not threatened.
We can’t embark on the transition to this new society until we have envisioned the desired outcome. 
Until we know the destination, we cannot plan the route.

Global Warming Must Be Stopped – Even if it doesn’t exist

Climate change supporters and global warming skeptics continue to argue vociferously throughout the blogosphere, each touting their own opinion about the reality of climate change, its human origins, or not, predicting dire results, global benefits and, always, political outcomes.

The result is a moribund environmental community, unable to deal with anything other than the argument amongst deniers and alarmists about what constitutes climate change, how soon will it make itself known and what are the implications for the natural world, and, of course, humankind. Few admit to the full implications of “doing something” about climate change, that is reduce human industrial activity in order to reduce CO2 production to a level deemed “sustainable” by those who make decisions about such things. Not that there is any science behind this speculation. It just sounds good.

Global warming alarmists take it as given that the observed steady increase in global atmospheric CO2 concentration is a result if human CO2 production, despite the fact that we have only observed global average atmospheric CO2 concentration since 1958, and we have only a vague idea of what CO2 concentration was before that time. Ice core records go back thousands of years, but are not helpful in the past 2,000 years. Even beyond, atmospheric CO2 levels are difficult to discern with any accuracy as there is not a one to one linear relationship between the contents of a bubble in a glacier and the content of the atmosphere at the time it was captured in ice. The capture process may take hundreds of years, while gas exchange continues between the ice and the atmosphere.

The upshot is that we don’t really understand the relationship between atmospheric CO2 concentration and global average surface temperature. Which comes first, variation temperature or variation CO2 concentration? Ice core records, as imprecise as they are, seem to indicate that, historically,  CO2 concentration variation lags global average surface temperature. This would imply that today’s increase in CO2 concentration is a result of the warming during the Medieval Warming Period 800 years ago, rather than modern CO2 concentration causing an immediate rise in global average surface temperature.

The fact that global average surface temperature has been rising steadily and slowly since the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1800, before significant human CO2 production, suggests that the latter interpretation more accurately fits the observations. And the rise in CO2 concentration is consistent with a temperature caused increase in CO2 800 years after a significant rise in global average surface temperature.

It seems most likely that observed climate variation is a result of natural climate drivers, such as interacting solar and cosmic cycles, modified by interacting internal positive and negative feedbacks (such as warming from human produced CO2). This means that there is very little, if anything at all, that we can do to significantly alter observed patterns of natural climate variation.

That being said, it’s high time to get off the Global Warming Hysteria Wagon (TR) and get back to the grinding everyday gut work of environmentalism. There’s plenty of habitat loss, air, water and soil pollution, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, human population excess and resulting ecosystem degradation going on to keep us all busy for the rest of our lives, if we live that long.

Let’s stop this Global Warming nonsense and get back to the task at hand: stop the human growth monster, with its companion consumption ogre; repair, restore, revive and reinvigorate the remaining natural, undeveloped world, and roll back the destruction of the natural world that has been the chief human occupation for the past 5,000 years.

Stop Global Warming! Start Global Healing!

The Commodification of Science

In an article in the Washington Times, Leonard Evans notes that the scientific community has abandoned the practice of science in favor of lobbying and seeking political favor in the name of science.

The “scientific community” in the article is identified as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but this could also apply to such regulatory agencies as the International Whaling Commission, large international environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. These organizations have largely abandoned scientific research as a basis for policy decisions and statements and instead rely on anecdotal reports, media hyperbole and celebrity advocacy, aka, the Al Gore Effect.

Rather than advancing science, the activities of these organizations derail the scientific process as they deligitimate the results of scientific investigation. Recent revelations concerning errors in climate change research through the IPCC and the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit have cast doubt not only on the results of this research, but on the methods employed by the IPCC and scientists in coming to the conclusion of anthropogenic climate change and its implications. The negative effects on public perception of the research and science itself is readily apparent.

But it’s not only public perception that comes into play. Scientists themselves are affected by such practices.

“Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.” Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This has the effect of driving research in a particular ideological direction toward preconceived conclusions. Whether the subject is climate change, Peak Oil, space exploration or cosmology, the commodification of science moves research from theory based to political and economically based.

The danger of this approach is especially apparent in environmental research. If the ideology of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is the incentive for climate change research, what happens when AGW is proven wrong? And what has been the opportunity cost forgone by applying the bulk of our resources toward an ideologically driven conclusion? Where are the resources for pollution control, critical habitat preservation, biodiversity protection?

Perhaps more importantly, what does the corporate approach to climate change research tell us about those driving the agenda? Are they interested in the free and open exchange of data, methodology and results? Do they have pecuniary economic interests at heart? Do they have interests in perpetuating the economic and political status quo?

Look at the history of climate change and compare it chronologically with political and economic developments since the “Oil Crisis” of the 1970s.

Maybe someone took Carter’s “Moral Equivalent of War” speach seriously!

Denier, No. Skeptic, yes.

In a comment to an earlier post, Pangolin states: “Climate change, like gravity, is an observed phenomena.”

While it is true that climate change, or more accurately climate variability, is an observed phenomenon (unlike gravity, which is an inherent property of matter), the more pertinent questions are: 1) Does anthropogenic greenhouse gas production influence climate change beyond natural climate forces? 2) Will reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas production influence the observed on-going climate change, and, 3) Will any resulting change be in a positive direction?

While Pangolin dismisses my questions as those of a Denier, and advises that I should “STFU,” (Geek Speak for plugging the ears and singing loudly), Careful Readers will note that I have not denied climate variability, nor human effects on long term climate change. I merely question the received wisdom that anthropogenic CO2 is solely responsible for the observed increase in global average surface temperature since the Pleistocene. I also question the assumption that reduction of anthropogenic CO2 will reduce the rate of future global average surface temperature rise.

Rather than Denier, I proudly wear the mantle of Questioner and Skeptic.

And in the words of Ed Abbey that Pangolin considers irretrievably besmirched:

“Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward.”