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A truly disturbing look at why global warming alarmists lie about the science

July 22, 2009

Review of Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Cambridge University Press, 2009).


Review of Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Having participated in the national and international debate over climate change for more than 15 years, I eagerly bought and read this book in the hope that it would examine the ideas and motives of both sides in the global warming debate. But that is not what this book is about.

The author, Mike Hulme, is a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, in the UK. He helped write the influential reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other government agencies that are commonly cited by alarmists in the debate. He has been one of the most prominent scientists declaring that "the debate is over" and that man-made global warming will be a catastrophe.

In this book, Hulme comes clean about the uncertain state of scientific knowledge about global warming, something alarmists almost never admit in public. For example, he writes, "the three questions examined above - What is causing climate change? By how much is warming likely to accelerate? What level of warming is dangerous? - represent just three of a number of contested or uncertain areas of knowledge about climate change." (p. 75)

Later he admits, "Uncertainty pervades scientific predictions about the future performance of global and regional climates. And uncertainties multiply when considering all the consequences that might follow from such changes in climate." (p. 83) On the subject of the IPCC's credibility, he admits it is "governed by a Bureau consisting of selected governmental representatives, thus ensuring that the Panel's work was clearly seen to be serving the needs of government and policy. The Panel was not to be a self-governing body of independent scientists." (p. 95)

All this is exactly what global warming "skeptics" have been saying for years. It is utterly damning to the alarmists' case to read these words in a book by one of their most prominent scientists.

How does Hulme justify hiding these truths from the general public? He calls climate change "a classic example of ... `post-normal science,'" and quoting Silvio Funtowicz and Jerry Ravetz, defines this as "the application of science to public issues where `facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.'" Issues that are put into the category of "post-normal science" are no longer subject to the cardinal requirements of true science: skepticism, universalism, communalism, and disinterestedness.

In "post-normal science," consensus substitutes for true science. Political processes run by government bureaucracies, like the IPCC, are created to determine the views of a majority of carefully selected scientists. Any questioning of their statements and claims is dismissed as coming from the "fringe" of the scientific community. From this reasoning comes the claims of James Hansen, Al Gore, and many other alarmists that "the debate is over" and there is "virtually unanimous consensus" about the causes and consequences of global warming, even though according to the rules of true science, and scientists like Mike Hulme, the debate is definitely not over and there is no consensus.

Having freed himself from the restraints of true science, Hulme can indulge his political biases. In another amazing admission, he says his views on global warming are inseparable from his politics--he's a self-described socialist. He writes, "The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identities and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us." (p. 326)

According to Hulme, climate change can do a lot: "Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs."

In other words, socialists like Hulme can frame the global warming issue to achieve unrelated goals such as sustainable development, income redistribution, population control, social justice, and many other items on the liberal/socialist wishlist.

Like the notorious Stephen Schneider, who once said, "We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts one might have. ... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest," Hulme writes, "We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise them in support of our projects."

These "myths," he writes, "transcend the scientific categories of `true' and `false'." He suggests that his fellow global warming alarmists promote four myths, which he labels Lamenting Eden, Presaging Apocalypse, Constructing Babel, and Celebrating Jubilee.

It is troubling to read a prominent scientist who has so clearly lost sight of his cardinal duty--to be skeptical of all theories and always open to new data. It is particularly troubling when this scientist endorses lying to advance his personal political agenda.

Joseph Bast is a Director and Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute. He cofounded Heartland in 1984, serving as executive director then as president & CEO until January 2018. His research and writing focuses on climate change and energy policy. @JosephLBast