The Scientization of Politics

I’ve been continuing to follow the discussion of the IPCC’s latest report on climate change. But I decided that rather than listen to the sceptics, I’d give the alarmists a hearing. So I watched a short video (16 minutes) of Michael Mann (father of the famed Hockey Stick graph of global warming) giving a speech in 2012:

This began with a review of the state of climate science, and was followed by a description of the attacks that had been launched upon the science by politicians, and ended with a brief outline of what needed to be done.

I couldn’t help notice – perhaps because I’ve become allergic to it – that “children” and “grandchildren”  got an immediate mention. I also noticed that polar bears featured throughout. And I took note of the mention of making “profit” out of our “addiction” to fossil fuels. I also grinned when he declared that the “special interests” that were “manufacturing doubt” were using the “playbook of the tobacco industry”.

In the middle he mentioned the ‘politicisation of science’, and said that he preferred to refer to the ‘scientization of politics’, by which he meant “attacks against science and scientists in an effort to advance a political agenda.”

In some ways the most interesting bit was the brief last section about what needed to be done. People could reduce their carbon footprint to that of a Sasquatch indian. But more widely we needed to decarbonise the economy, and aim for a “carbon-free economy.” Finally he declared that “politicians across the political spectrum have to come together to solve this problem that threatens us all.”

And it was immediately clear that this was a political programme. Something is “political” if it is “related to the government or the public affairs of a country.” And Michael Mann was advancing a sweeping, revolutionary political programme aimed at creating a “carbon-free economy.” An entire 200-year-old global industrial civilisation, built on coal and oil and gas, was to be completely swept away. Lenin would have gasped at the prodigious scale of it, and Trotsky would have fainted.  And he was calling for all this on the basis of a few computer models and some temperature measurements.

Nobody should be in the least surprised if such a political programme meets with strong resistance from people – many of them conservatives – who don’t want to readily dispose of their entire economy and culture and way of life, and who will need serious convincing with hard data before they will even begin to contemplate doing anything along these lines.

The real Scientization of Politics comes when scientists become politicians (or politicians become scientists) who are advancing radical political programmes. And Michael Mann is quite clearly one of these. So also is ex-NASA James Hansen. And when scientists become politicians, they should expect to attract the scrutiny of politicians like Senator James Inhofe, and of political operatives like Marc Morano (one-time assistant of Inhofe). They can’t expect to hide in ivory towers behind the illustrious mantle of science, tut-tutting about “McCarthyism” and “attacks on science” by “special interests”. A political programme remains a political programme regardless of who is peddling it.

And this political programme is a venerable one. Back in about 1970, The Limits to Growth grimly foresaw oil running out within 20 or 30 years. Ten years later Blueprint for Survival advocated a return to a simple, low-energy way of life. The problem was how to get oil-addicted western society to adopt such measures. They’d never do it unless they had to, in the face of some planetary emergency. Cue Global Warming. And a tidal wave of windmills and solar panels and dimbulbs and smart meters paving the way towards a simpler, low-energy way of life, devoid of “special interests” looking for that awful thing called “profit”.

Michael Mann is a politician. Nobody ever elected him, but what I was listening to this afternoon was probably his standard stump speech, complete with obligatory hot-button mentions of children, polar bears and tobacco companies. And it seemed to play pretty well with his audience.

And the antismokers are also politicians masquerading as scientists. Smoking bans are political in the millions of people and thousands of businesses they affect. But rather than introduce them after measured democratic debate, they’ve been driven by dishonest scaremongering science. Tobacco Control is the template for Global Warming – which is probably why alarmists like Michael Mann mention tobacco companies so often.

All the same, I can’t help but think that fear of carbon dioxide or tobacco smoke is a rather anaemic sort of scare. It doesn’t really evoke wide-eyed, heart-stopping terror. What’s really needed is something like rocks raining down from the skies. In about fifteen years time. On, say, Friday the Thirteenth of April 2029, when the super-asteroid Apophis just misses the Earth, but its accompanying rock train unloads huge blazing rocks everywhere in a two-week orgy of terror, looting, and blackouts as entire cities are obliterated.

Hmmmm… Somebody ought to work on that one.

About Frank Davis

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19 Responses to The Scientization of Politics

  1. Marie says:

    Edward Bernays has not lived in vain.

  2. margo says:

    Hmm indeed. So who’s making what out of it? I’ve just come across this:
    arstechnica:com/science/2011/2/if-c
    Heading: ‘If climate scientists are in it for the money, they’re doing it wrong’. Quite interesting, as are some of the comments.

  3. Edgar says:

    arstechnica.com/science/2011/2/if-c (A tiny correction).

  4. harleyrider1978 says:

    Actually with these climate Nazis using the tobacco card and comparison so often here lately and the global warming junk science so well known by most its an opportunity to destroy the anti-tobacco movement at the same time! Maybe some anti-tobacco e-mails will show up soon like the global warming emails did back in 2009! That ought to end these NAZIS once and for all!

    • margo says:

      I think a few emails from ASH & co have already come to light in the past HR, regarding their true intentions, haven’t they? But they just go on regardless.

  5. waltc says:

    Comopletely OT and in the midst of distracting work problems I came upon this quote (used in another context) that I thought applied, tho not to the above topic::

    ““It was Martin Luther King who said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.””

  6. jaxthefirst says:

    I’ve often wondered, when listening to all these climate-change adherents and greenie types who want us all to go “carbon free” how, exactly, they expect people in their lovely carbon-free world to go about warming their homes and cooking their food. I’ve often heard it said (correctly) by those who oppose to the whole Global Warming scam that they seem to want us to go back to a peasant-style, subsistence-farming lifestyle whereby we all toil our own fields (or gardens) to produce our own food, and where we all raise a few sheep or goats or chickens and slaughter them ourselves if we want any meat and where, most likely, we all drop dead from sheer exhaustion at the age of about 50, just as people did back then. But surely even that lovely, idealistic, rose-tinted, “simple” lifestyle wasn’t completely carbon-free, was it? People still burned carbon-rich wood to keep their homes warm and to cook their food and to forge the tools for all the ploughing and slaughtering etc. It seems to me that a carbon-free society wouldn’t be one which returned us to the harsh, hard times of the Middle Ages – it would, by definition, have to be one which returned us to a pre-agricultural stone age!

    Surely, then, the answer to our “carbon addiction” is not for these would-be anti-progressives to try and turn the clock back by exhorting us to use ever-decreasing amounts of carbon-based fuel, but instead to spend their time and efforts on trying to develop genuinely good alternatives (i.e. not windfarms!) which used less (or no) carbon, but which nevertheless provided us, the people, with as much energy as we needed to keep on living exactly as we are now. Because if an alternative was just as easily available as carbon-based energy was, then people would happily switch to it automatically, without any need for emotional-blackmailing speeches such as this.

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  8. Radical Rodent says:

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t take his utter smugness – he deserves a smack around the chops for almost every sentence he uttered – or, er uttered, er, if you, er know, er what I er, mean.

    As for carbon-free, that means life-free. All life on this planet uses and ejects carbon, most commonly in the form of CO2, but there will be other compounds involved. Mind you, life-free is what these folk want – they want the world to be massively de-populated (of other people, of course, not them).

  9. Carpe Vinum says:

    “when the super-asteroid Apophis just misses the Earth. . .”

    Just give the Mann-Child another couple years of channeling tree-rings to discover how CO2 is attracting rogue asteroids to the earth.

  10. Tom says:

    Thinking of tobacco control just look at what he politicians and tobacco control nuts are doing with e-cigarettes.

    E-cigarettes are water vapor that is actually good for your lungs. They are cheep and help smokers quit deadly cigarettes. But how have the politicians and anti-tobaco nuts responded. They have flipped their lids.

    Its not the solution they wanted. It was always about the solution for them. Taxes and controlling people. E-cigarettes are something that they never saw coming. So they have to be demonized so they can institute the solutions that they planed for.

    We have seen the same thing with fracking. Fracking has helped the US reduce CO2 dramatically but it isn’t the solution that Mann and the other nutters expected. So it has to be demonized.

    • Neo says:

      I’ve been trying to reconcile the waning movement against tobacco smoking with the rising movement to decriminalize marijuana.
      Just when society has done it’s damnest to end tobacco smoking, it wants to decriminalize marijuana smoking.

      • Frank Davis says:

        This doesn’t surprise me. The boomer generation (to which I belong) believes that smoking tobacco causes lung cancer, and (more or less) that smoking grass cures lung cancer. It demonised tobacco, and sanctified grass. Given such underlying beliefs, it’s not really very surprising if they’re decriminalising one while criminalising the other.

        In addition, I well remember people saying back in the 60s, while potheads were getting busted left, right, and centre, “How would they like it if tobacco was made illegal?” And that’s what they’re now doing, as an act of vengeance.

  11. gofigure560 says:

    Pardon me for introducing a bit of science (that anyone can understand).
    1. The alarmist discussions of warming invariably refer to our current warming as beginning around the time of the industrial revolution, when, incidentally, the level of co2 began rising. The problem is that our current warming (such as it is) began – BY DEFINITION – at the bottom (the low temp) of the Little Ice Age, in the mid 1600s. That’s two centuries BEFORE co2 began rising, and also two centuries before our industrial revolution. In fact, most of the temperature increase was during that period. The LIA end date is arbitrary but in any event not relevant to the discussion.

    2. Many alarmists still say that most of our warming (such as it is) must be caused by human activity because “there is no other explanation”. (That justification was probably also used to establish the first God of Fire; it hardly qualifies as evidence.) In any event, the Medieval Warming Period was warmer than now. If you have any doubts about that there are some 1100+ investigations by scientists, (from around the globe) with new confirming ones showing up frequently, most peer-reviewed. Links to all can be found at http://www.co2science.org. Quite a few of these studies have been around a long time, but the alarmists rejected them in one easy breath by proclaiming that the MWP was merely a regional phenomenon. (That proclamation was based on no evidence. Evidence is prepared by making global investigations, which is exactly what happened and demonstrates otherwise. If the MWP was as warm, likely warmer than now, then our current warming (such as it is) is with the range of natural climate variation. (There were several earlier warming periods during this interglacial, each of which was warmer than the MWP!)

    3. In 2003 scientists had established that there was a very good correlation between the variations in co2 level and the global temperature variations. Unfortunately (for Al Gore) it so happens that temperature variation occurs first, and not until hundreds of years later do very similar variations in co2 level show up. This is the carbon cycle at work. The oceans warm and cool much slower than the atmosphere. When warming, they outgas, and when cooling they absorb gas. In 2005 or thereabouts Al Gore (or at least his science advisers) ignored this and instead claimed that the correlation between co2 and temperature indicated that co2 variation caused temperature variation. There is, incidentally, no correlation, either now or during geologic periods showing that co2 variation has any impact on the global temperature.

    4. The authors of the computer models which project calamity ALL have assumed that water vapor is the real greenhouse gas culprit. They ASSUME that it causes 2 to 3 times the temeprature change which is brought on by an increasing co2 level. It turns out that co2 potential for contributing to temperature is constrained by the few sun energy bandwidths which it can absorb. At 20 ppmv (parts per million by volume) co2 had already absorbed 50% of ALL the energy available to it, so any temperature increasing influence by it is a diminishing quantity. Now, since co2 is at 400ppmv there ain’t much left. In any event, NOBODY yet understands climate feedback to say whether it is negative or positive. Assuming it is positive and 2 to 3 times more effective than co2 is speculation (and, again, in any event, not saying much.) The computer models have accordingly all vastly overestimated temperature increase.

    5. There has been no additional warming for the past 17 (or thereabouts) years. None of the models (which weren’t evidence to start with) show this. Now these same folks are claiming the lost heat has been absorbed by the ocean. (Unfortunately that heat seems to have also been sneaky enough to evade being noticed by the 3000 ARGO buoys distributed around the globe. These buoys regularly sink hundreds of meters, record any temperature changes on the way back up and report to satellites. The UN somehow managed to declare in its final report that temperature is increasing, failing to qualify that claim by noting that NOT SOI in the past decade and a half.

    6. There are only 5 global temperarture data sets around, 3 terrestrial measurements and 2 from satellites. All five show a cooling trend over the past five years (and 2013 is only getting cooler). Four of the five show a cooling trend over the past ten years. The outlier, one of the satellite stations, shows a sufficiently small increase that if averaged with the other satellite data still shows a cooling trend. That data is publicly available. You can download it into your own Excel spreadsheet, do the conventional least squares best match for a straight line to determine your own trend.

    7. What about increasing co2? By 2099 the level is projected to be about 600 ppjv.
    A crowded gym with poor ventilation may be at 1000 ppmv. Sjubmarine crews live in environments of 3000 to 5000+ ppmv for months on end. The co2 level has been 10 to 20 times higher than now in the more distant past and scientists know that lifeforms not unlike our own survived in those environments. The co2 level has been much higher than now during two ice ages and going into one ice age, so there are apparently no nearby “triggers”.
    This is not to say that we shouldn’t be prudent about energy consumption, but, more importantly, don’t let the politicians subject us to another of their hobgoblins !.

    • glenncz says:

      And let’s not forget that all this fuss is because 1 in 20,000 parts of the atmosphere changed from something to CO2. (350ppm to 400pm = 50/1,000,000

  12. Dr Martin Hertzberg says:

    Since a good part of Mann’s body is made of carbon, a carbon-free world would be one without Mann..

  13. Scute says:

    Frank

    I just got bumped over here by the Talkshop reblog of your comet post- a pleasant surprise. Scrolled down, saw this post and started reading.

    You say:

    “And he was calling for all this on the basis of a few computer models and some temperature measurements.”

    My latest post at the Talkshop is about a graph paraded at the IPCC press conference. It runs from 1850 to 2100 but is entirely models, the whole blessed thing from start to finish. It displays a huge kick-up from 2000-2010 but is introduced as being the real temperature record.

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/andrew-cooper-ipcc-using-differing-graph-versions/comment-page-1/#comment-60173

    Andrew

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