Excellent piece from last November at NR by John Derbyshire, Trust Science.
Well, of course we all do trust science. We trust Bernoulli’s principle every time we get on a plane; we trust celestial mechanics when we take the kids outside to watch a scheduled lunar eclipse; we trust the theories of relativity when we consult a GPS gadget; we trust natural selection when we fret about drug-resistant disease strains; we trust molecular biology every time we pop a pill. Our trust in science is well-nigh unbounded. We hardly draw a breath without trusting science. Paul Johnson’s injunction would seem to be superfluous.
It sounds less so, of course, in the context of leaked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The scientists who generated those e-mails have all been helping to promote the anthropogenic climate-change thesis — the notion that humanity faces some great climatic catastrophe if we don’t radically change the way we use energy.
What of that thesis? Is the Earth’s climate changing to humanity’s dire detriment, or isn’t it? If it is, are the changes due to human activity, or aren’t they? In either case, is there anything we can do about it at acceptable cost and with minimum chance of unforeseen harm?
As best I can judge, our planet probably is enjoying a long-term warming trend, though with much local variation, and temporary lulls and reversals sometimes lasting for years. That these changes are manmade is not proven. The argument that they are rests largely on theories about the overall effect of changing CO2 levels; but those theories themselves are open to reasonable doubt. There is even more doubt about the consequences of any change that might be happening. Such science as we have thus far is an unacceptably flimsy foundation for multi-trillion-dollar economic transformations.
And the science is heavily polluted by politics. Climate-change catastrophism has been taken up by the Western left-intelligentsia, their heads stuffed with all the sub-Marxist and ethno-masochist flapdoodle of the modern academy. They hate capitalism, they hate Western civilization, and they hate their own ancestors. The kind of dramatic social engineering implicit in the phrase “combating climate change” is emotionally appealing to them.
Downstream from these ideologues are opportunist politicians eager to ride the climate-change wave to power and wealth. These pols control government departments that hand out grants and jobs to ideologically friendly researchers, further corrupting the scientific process.
Nor is climate-change skepticism free of politics. There are big, rich, powerful interests hostile to aspects of the climate-change cult: the fossil-fuel lobbies and the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), for example. Given the stakes, it would be astonishing if they did not have their own paid shills in the game.