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.