Streetwise Professor

June 2, 2016

The Smelly Little Orthodoxy of Warmism, Hating Free Intelligence and Free Debate

Filed under: Climate Change,Economics,Energy,Politics,Regulation — The Professor @ 7:01 pm

One of the most disreputable tactics of those who sound alarms about anthropogenic climate change is to conscript any weather-related disaster to advance their cause. Case in point: the recent wildfires in and around Fort MacMurray, Alberta, Canada:

Experts say climate change is contributing to the wildfires raging across Canada, and the increasing frequency of such fires may overwhelm one of Earth’s most important ecosystems, the boreal forest.

In just over a week, an out of control blaze has charred more than 2,290 square kilometers (884 square miles) of land and forced the evacuation of 100,000 people from Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada.

Dominated by conifers like pine and spruce, the boreal forest sweeps across Canada, Russia, Alaska and Scandinavia making up about 30 percent of the world’s forest cover, and absorbing a big chunk of carbon from the atmosphere.

As crucial as the boreal forest is at reducing the impact of human-driven fossil fuel emissions, it is also increasingly fragile, and expected to become hotter, drier, and more prone to fires in the future.

“Western Canada, including in particular the region in Alberta containing Fort McMurray, has warmed quite a bit more than the global average,” said scientist Michael Mann, author of “Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change.”

With the Arctic region warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, climate model projections place central and western Canada in the “bullseye of enhanced warming,” he told AFP.

Michael Mann. Of course.

The past months have seen a strong El Nino which has caused anomalous weather throughout the world, and in the western hemisphere in particular. It has brought heavier than normal rains to some areas, and drought to others. My immediate suspicion was that El Nino contributed to the warm dry conditions, low snow pack, etc., that set the stage for the Alberta fires. And indeed, that’s the case.

It’s also necessary to put this in perspective. Even in normal years, there are fires in the boreal forests of Canada. Indeed, about 29,000 square kilometers burn in Canada each year. When I looked at the height of the fires, the Fort MacMurray fire had consumed about 2900 square kilometers, or about 10 percent of the annual average in Canada. This also represents about .015 percent of Canadian boreal forest area.

The fire got attention not so much because of its size, but because it occurred in a populated area (something of a rarity in that area), and one that happens to be a major oil producing center.

But the cause is too important to let facts interfere with the narrative. The fires were dramatic, and to the credulous it is plausible that global warming is to blame. So Mann et al could not let this opportunity pass.

Exploiting weather to raise alarms about climate is not the only disreputable tactic these people employ. Another is to attempt to intimidate through the legal process those who dare challenge their orthodoxy. This tactic has reached a new level in California, where a bill with the Orwellian title “California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016” has cleared committees in the state Senate:

“This bill explicitly authorizes district attorneys and the Attorney General to pursue UCL [Unfair Competition Law] claims alleging that a business or organization has directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change,” says the state Senate Rules Committee’s floor analysis.

What does “engage in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence” even mean? As an industrial organization economist by training, and practice, I know that the concept of “unfair competition” is slippery at best even in a straightforward economic context, and (speaking of Orwellian) that unfair competition laws have been used primarily to stifle competition rather than promote it. How unfair competition concepts would even apply to scientific debate is beyond me.

But that’s not the point, is it? The point of this law is to utilize another law that has proved very convenient at squelching competitors in the name of competition in order to squelch debate about climate change and climate policy. This is antithetical to science yet is done in the name of science: it is also a perfect example of the thuggery that the warmists routinely resort to when they cannot prevail in an open discussion.

When writing about Dickens, Orwell said something that relates to this issue as well:

It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.

The smelly little orthodoxy epitomized by Michael Mann and Kemala Harris (the AG of CA, and soon to be Senator, who is a leader of the movement to prosecute climate change dissenters) indeed hates free intelligence, and free debate. And nineteenth century liberals, for that matter.

Have the progressives (particularly in California) who shriek about Peter Theil using the legal system to go after Gawker uttered a peep of protest against the employment of the far heavier hand of the state to silence debate about climate change? Not that I’ve heard. Free speech for me, but not for thee, is their motto.

Those who claim that science is undeniably on their side should have no fear of debate, and should not feel compelled to use coercion to stifle that debate. That they do means that they lack confidence in the truth of their message and their ability to persuade. It also means that they have a hearty disrespect for the ability of the American people to listen to and evaluate that debate with intelligence and fairness. In other words, what we are seeing in California is another example of a self-anointed elite that heartily disdains the hoi polloi, believing that it is their right and obligation to use any means necessary to impose their beliefs.

This is a recipe for social strife, especially since the climate change debate is by no means the only place where this attitude is regnant. This is precisely why battle is now raging between elitism and populism. Sad to say, that battle is likely to become even more intense in the coming months and years.


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  1. Memo: (Fake but accurate)

    To all Progressive climate warriors:

    Our previous propaganda of climate cooling and then climate warming were less successful than our current slogan of “climate change”. Amazing! None of us at the start were aggressive enough to think that such a general slogan would have much force. We overestimated the intelligence of our swing voting block. As always, we owe much to those of our group who pushed the limits.

    Climate change gives us moral authority over carbon, and so over the energy usage of the world. This will make us amazingly strong and will justify a blanket of costly energy projects and societal restrictions. This will deliver to us the subsidies and positions of power which we deserve.

    All opposition must be labeled as kooks and criminals. Opposing us is to be the same as opposing the continuation of life on Earth. Only criminals would advocate for policies which would endanger all life. Ironically, we will accuse them of trying to profit from this calamity. This will also protect us from that accusation directed at us.

    Nuclear power must be opposed as anti-nature, an unnatural quirk of the Devil. The glowing Sun is good. Glowing rocks are evil. We will lose our power over the Earth if nuclear power is ever developed on a large scale.

    We will arrange a static, renewable, unaspiring culture. Of course, that culture will need guidance, and we are selfless enough to provide it in the coming generations.

    Rejoice, comrades.

    Comment by Andrew M Garland — June 3, 2016 @ 12:14 am

  2. Absolutely appalling development. Using the law to stifle others opinions will not end well.

    Comment by Andrew — June 3, 2016 @ 2:19 am

  3. The verifiable scientific evidence supporting the existence of human caused global warming has been in the public domain for years.
    I don’t have a problem with the deniers,sceptics and assorted regressives debating the issue to their heart’s content. But very few people will be engaging in that debate as it is a complete waste of time and only serves to provide a forum for people who are irrelevant,to put it charitably.

    That said, there are people who don’t understand the difference between weather and climate change and they too do a disservice to taking rational actions to address the critical issues raised by global warming.

    Comment by Podargus — June 3, 2016 @ 1:35 pm

  4. The people of Western Canada owe a big thanks to Mann. Considering his record it is now a cinch that Western Canada will have fewer forest fires for the next years.

    I knew a guy that consistently lost money betting on sports. When this guy predicted a sure thing people were scurrying to bookies betting the other team. Mann is that guy for climate, the Zero Hedge of global warming.

    Comment by pahoben — June 3, 2016 @ 6:11 pm

  5. @pahoben-Algore has the touch too.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 3, 2016 @ 8:33 pm

  6. +++The verifiable scientific evidence supporting the existence of human caused global warming has been in the public domain for years.+++

    No, it has not.

    Comment by LL — June 3, 2016 @ 9:35 pm

  7. When evaluating the credibility of the source, follow the money. The
    money trail tells us that Mann (along with many others) has minimal

    Comment by eric — June 3, 2016 @ 10:32 pm

  8. LL,you are obviously mired in ignorance at the least.

    Comment by Podargus — June 3, 2016 @ 11:18 pm

  9. Hollande has already invoked climate change as the reason why the Seine is at a higher level than usual.

    Comment by Tim Newman — June 4, 2016 @ 2:14 am

  10. “The verifiable scientific evidence supporting the existence of human caused global warming has been…” verified and found to be of the BS kind. Won’t stop the lefties, of course – too much money to be made on perpetuating the FUD.

    Comment by Ivan — June 4, 2016 @ 3:23 am

  11. … whereas the human-caused global war, being a much more serious threat, is getting way less attention. Makes you wonder just how much the Kremlin is spending on financing the AGW agenda

    Comment by Ivan — June 4, 2016 @ 3:29 am

  12. @Andrew Garland

    “Climate change gives us moral authority over carbon, and so over the energy usage of the world. This will make us amazingly strong and will justify a blanket of costly energy projects and societal restrictions. This will deliver to us the subsidies and positions of power which we deserve.”

    It occurs to me that Putler and his Kremlin gang of insiders already have what you describe, except that they haven’t used “climate change” as an excuse to acquire it. Their rationale is “geopolitics” and “Russia is under attack.” Gazprom takes care of its own.

    Obummer, who hates the US, wants the same thing that Putler has. Obummer is the High Priest of the New Political Religion of Climate Change.

    Climate change is a very lucrative political religion. Just ask the Algore and his Wall Street friends, and others who have made millions of dollars from government subsidies.

    Comment by elmer — June 4, 2016 @ 9:07 am

  13. “unfair competition” = truth that endangers their graft.

    “it is now a cinch that Western Canada will have fewer forest fires for the next years” Around Fort Mac, sure, but Alberta elected a leftist government because the centrists got corrupt and arrogant. The NDP policy is a) take money out of fire-fighting in favor of more congenial bureaucrats, and b) spend the remainder using the USFS model: stop all the little fires so that the big ones will have enough fuel to run out of control. Oh, and c) blame the results on global warming.

    Comment by Lark — June 4, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

  14. +++LL,you are obviously mired in ignorance at the least.+++

    No, he is not.

    For years, I’ve been looking for diagnostic evidence for the claim that it is anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide which have caused observed warming of the atmosphere over the last 15 decades, and I can’t find it.

    I’ve found lots of unsubstantiated assertions though.

    It’s all irrelevant, anyway:

    ‘A global warming of 2.5ºC would make the average person feels as if she had lost 1.3% of her income … The 11 estimates for 2.5ºC show that researchers disagree on the sign of the net impact: 3 are positive, and 8 negative. Climate change may lead to a welfare gain or loss. At the same time, researchers agree on the order of magnitude – despite the variety of methods used to estimate these numbers. The welfare change caused by climate change is equivalent to the welfare change caused by an income change of a few percent. That is, a century of climate change is about as good/bad for welfare as a year of economic growth. Statements that climate change is the biggest (environmental) problem of humankind are unfounded: We can readily think of bigger problems. For example, the people of Greece lost a third of their income in five years’ time, arguably because monetary policy was unfit for purpose. The people of Syria lost more in a shorter period.’

    Comment by Ex-Regulator on Lunch Break — June 4, 2016 @ 4:54 pm

  15. Thank you, Ex-Regulator. While the topic of anthropogenic effects on climate is most certainly valid for research and scientific discussions, I am yet to see any convincing proof that the observable changes in waether patterns are caused by human activity rather than by phenomena like changes in Sun activity, volcanic emissions and such.

    I would agree that too much carbon emissions is not good for climate. The question is, do humans generate that much of them to have any noticeable effect? Not to mention taking some pretty drastic political and economic measures.

    Comment by LL — June 5, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

  16. @Podargus, @LL, @ExReg, @Lark, @Ivan-To say that the evidence is equivocal is to give it the benefit of the doubt. Also, asserting that there is some anthropogenic effect is to miss the point–even worse, it’s often part of a con game, and a disreputable rhetorical tactic. This is not a 0/1 issue. It is a matter of degree–literally and figuratively.

    There is still considerable doubt about the big questions. Most notably, what is the sensitivity to CO2 forcing?: even the believers have been ratcheting down this number for years. What are the feedback mechanisms? Are there negative feedbacks? Are the positive feedbacks as strong as posited by the climate modelers? Do these effects even exist at all? Clouds? Solar influence (perhaps via cosmic rays–which could operate through a cloud mechanism)? Why the pause between two big El Nino events?

    Climate models are highly dubious: check out some of the posts I’ve written about them. Many of the claims in support of the AGW hypothesis (and it still is a hypothesis) are based on models and simulations of these (dubious) models, not on actual empirical evidence.

    There is much fodder for true scientific debate, dispute, and yes, doubt. The unseemly haste of the AGWH-pushing crowd to stifle this debate is oh so telling. As I said, the confident need not squelch an examination of their beliefs and evidence.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 5, 2016 @ 5:36 pm

  17. Dear The Professor – I don’t know what area of science you claim to inhabit but it is certainly not climate.

    Comment by Podargus — June 6, 2016 @ 12:33 am

  18. @ Podargus – unfortunately, climate scientists aren’t expert on climate either. Or indeed anything much at all.

    Comment by Green As Grass — June 6, 2016 @ 3:13 am

  19. @Podargus
    There will be no material reduction in carbon emissions so actually we will do the effin experiment. Sorry when we don’t soon reach The Tipping Point, The Hockey Stick, coastal inundation, super hurricanes, extinct polar bears, collapse of the statue of liberty, ice free antarctic, global drought, reef extinctions, oceanic oxygen depletion, global agriculture failure, increase in malaria, increase in dengue fever, venereal disease increase (unless the new anibiotic resistance strains become more common but this is clearly due to years of use of antibiotics), and finally extinction of the human race.

    There will be people living comfortably on this earth (profiteers from AGW especially) when you are naught but a memory and lying in your final resting place and your constituent molecules will be available for repurposing by Gaia or whatever.

    Comment by pahoben — June 6, 2016 @ 4:45 am

  20. @Podargus
    Are you from the Frogmouth Totem?

    Comment by pahoben — June 6, 2016 @ 5:19 am

  21. The “climate scientists” all seem to be politicians, such as Obummer, who also seems to be the high priest of “climate change,” and defines leadership in terms of “climate change”- witness Obummer’s answer during an interview on 60 minutes not too long ago. Nothing else matters – just “climate change.”

    Comment by elmer — June 6, 2016 @ 11:49 am

  22. Portland Public Schools in Oregon (my hometown) has just announced the removal of any opposing views to the climate change hypothesis from their textbooks. Political will can achieve anything, I guess.

    Comment by Howard Roark — June 6, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

  23. I think the first popular introduction of greenhouse effect was in the cartoon Donald in Mathmagic land released in the late 50’s by Disney. It included something for Venus that I believe and was presented as a runaway feedback phenomena. The quality of scientific work on this has gone steadily downhill from Donald Duck’s introduction.

    Comment by pahoben — June 7, 2016 @ 6:43 am

  24. Dear @Podargus-My specialty is detecting bullshit, and calling it out.
    I have training and expertise in evaluating empirical evidence and complex models (including especially models like GCMs that involve solution of PDEs, and equilibrium phenomea).
    One thing I have noted in particular is that the sophistication of most climate scientists in time series statistics is rather laughable.
    Insofar as where I stand on these issues is concerned, this taxonomy is useful. Like Dr. Muller, I would place myself in the lukewarmist category. But to those like Michael Mann (and you, perhaps?) this makes me a heretic that should be silenced.

    There are three important questions: (a) is the climate warming, and by how much? (b) what is the human contribution to this warming? and (c) what is the most efficient response to it? All three questions are open to debate.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 7, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

  25. Welcome back, @Howard. Long time, no hear. I hope you are well.

    How Russian/Soviet of the PPS. The march through the institutions continues, with Portland in the vanguard.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 7, 2016 @ 6:29 pm

  26. As much as I dislike the Guardian, this opinion piece puts the problems with Science in a nutshell:

    Comment by Andrew — June 9, 2016 @ 2:43 am

  27. @Andrew
    Funny how many people consider their beliefs as objective facts. Funniest related is the new drivel (see recent Musk statements) concerning the universe being a simulation. Now how is some advanced civilization that runs a simulation that we experience as the universe any different than divine creation?

    @The Professor
    Concerned you may have lost a reader. I hope Podargus wasn’t suddenly stranded by rising sea level or caught in a global warming famine area and so unable to respond.

    Comment by pahoben — June 10, 2016 @ 6:44 am

  28. @pahoben. Run away!

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 10, 2016 @ 11:05 pm

  29. That sccene always kills me and how very appropriate. The killer bunny cast as AGW.

    Comment by pahoben — June 11, 2016 @ 5:36 am

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