I Have Found Another Million Green Jobs! Or Not?
By Rich Kozlovich
Further to this article: "BLS Releases Another Phony 'Green Jobs' Report".
The author outlines how this administration has presented a "chock full of charts claiming millions of new "green" jobs being produced by President Obama's efforts to heal the planet and lower the rising seas." The problem lies in how one defines a green job. Here is a paraphrased definition based on this article.
A "green" job is any job that is of benefit to the environment, or is capable of conserving natural resources. Any job in which a workers' duties involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.
It would seem to me that a "green" job would be job that didn't exist before we adopted "green" alternatives to something that already existed, and unlike 'all' these green initiatives existed effectively I might add. However, that isn’t the case.
Let's consider solar power programs. I would have to assume that electricians put these useless things together and hook them up. Right? Is that a "green" job? That seems unlikely to me since electricians have been around for a very long time. So being an electrician isn't a new job and it wasn't created by "green" technology; and that job will be here after the world returns to sanity and dumps all this green claptrap. But by definition.....that must be a green job!
That got me to thinking. We in the pest control industry have a bit of an identity crisis. We have normal people like me who realize that to be green is to be irrational, misanthropic and morally defective. I do think clarity is important.
Then we have those suffering from cognitive dissonance and insist that they must “go green” because their customers are demanding it. Okay, I can understand meeting the needs or demands of one’s customers. That’s a business decision, and one I have no fight over. But the ones who seem to believe all the greenie mythology are the ones who drive me crazy. To truly believe in green anything and to be in pest control is clearly a case of cognitive dissonance, believing in two diametrically opposing views and believing both are right.
Well, I have discovered a solution to all of that. Based on the government's definition of a green job.....we.....all of us.….are now are holding green jobs. After all; we strive to eliminate pests. That must be good for the environment. We strive to use less gasoline, less pesticides and less of everything else and still be effective; don’t we? I know the reason is economic, but …..nonetheless….we are conserving….right? So that means we are conserving and using less of a great many things…..right?
Ergo…..We are a green industry with at the least 150,000 employees automatically added to the “green” jobs list. And what about the greens keepers, lawn care companies, landscapers? I sit on a board of directors of an association that represents all the pesticide and fertilizer applicators in Ohio, and I know for a fact they are doing their darnedest to reduce costs on all that stuff….that makes those jobs green jobs also….right?
Wow! Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy all over? Exterminators, farmers, landscapers, greens keepers and lawn care workers are all green according to government standards. Surely those categories alone must include at least a million workers.
I do have one question though. Now based on the government's definition of what constitutes a “green” job, we must all be identified as “green” workers; therefore does that mean the “green” activists will stop attacking us?
There is one more thing; I didn’t notice “green” activists on the “green” jobs list. So then….they aren't green….right? Wow! Isn't that warm and fuzzy feeling getting better and better all the time? Except there is still one more thing that bothers me; the author says those are 'phony' figures.
Hey....just wait one minute! Is it possible that there is no such thing as a "green" job at all? And does that mean we are all right back to where we started?
Well, if that's the case, then I still believe that to be green is to be irrational, misanthropic and morally defective, and I further believe those who on the opposing side in the pest control industry suffer from cognitive dissonance, and the administration loses a million green jobs.
I also believe it's so important to have clarity!
Deranged Science, Perverse Policy. BOOK REVIEW of The Age of Global Warming by Rupert Darwall. Review by Peter Foster
In his brilliant new book, The Age of Global Warming, British writer Rupert Darwall notes a phenomenon known as “climate change derangement syndrome.” The phenomenon was on prominent display this week when NDP leader Tom Mulcair went to Washington.
It wasn’t just that Mr. Mulcair’s attack on the climate policies of Stephen Harper was diplomatically inappropriate, or that his support for the recent New York Times anti-Keystone XL editorial was fatuous, it was that Mr. Mulcair’s stance made absolutely no sense if he is truly concerned about the welfare of Canadians – or indeed humanity as a whole.
Mr. Mulcair criticized Mr. Harper for pulling out of Kyoto, but is he even aware that the Americans never signed on to Kyoto in the first place? To find out why, Mr. Mulcair badly needs to read Mr. Darwall’s book, which provides a thoroughly researched and lucidly written account of the truly amazing cultural, scientific and political background to the dominant global political issue of our age, at least until the subprime crisis came along.
The book should profoundly embarrass virtually the entire global scientific community, either for actively supporting the political corruption of science, or for standing silently by while it happened — although the consequences of speaking out shouldn’t be underestimated. As Mr. Darwall observes, skeptics “needed to be crushed and dissent de-legitimized. They were stooges of oil companies and fossil fuel interests, free market ideologues, or climate change deniers.”
Nobody foresaw the technocratic danger that emerged with the climate issue better than U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower. Most people are aware of Ike’s warning in 1961 about the military-industrial complex. Less quoted is his observation that “In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”
Mr. Darwall’s book, which is replete with such insightful references, dates the rise of the modern environmental movement to Rachel Carson’s wildly alarmist book, Silent Spring. Ms. Carson is one of three prominent women in Mr. Darwall’s story. The second is the British intellectual Barbara Ward, who essentially invented “sustainable development” to stitch together Western environmentalism with the development aspirations of poor nations. Sustainable development was an “ideology looking for a science.” It found it in global warming.
The book’s third, and most surprising, female protagonist is British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was important in putting global warming on the international agenda and setting Britain on the path to becoming —— at considerable cost — a “champion” of draconian policy. It is profoundly ironic that the woman who helped bring down the Soviet empire should have then supported what amounted to the reincarnation of bureaucratic socialism via the environment.
Mr. Darwall records that global warming entered the political scene in 1988, the year Mrs. Thatcher addressed the British Royal Society and NASA scientist James Hansen delivered his heated testimony to Congress (in a hearing room where the air conditioning had been sabotaged). This was also the year of a major climate conference in Toronto, and of the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, which was intensely politicized from the start.
Four years later, at the Rio Earth Summit, politics “settled” the science. One hundred and ninety-two nations agreed that mankind was causing global warming and carbon dioxide emissions should be cut. Hence began a series of cast-of-thousands policy meetings in exotic locales that effectively collapsed at Copenhagen in 2009. There Barack Obama, desperate for any kind of agreement, and far more concerned about the passage of Obamacare at home, burst into a meeting of delegates from China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and insisted on hammering out an “accord.” It assured that the zombie negotiating process would continue, but that all hopes of global agreement were dead, at least for the foreseeable future.
Canadians play a significant, if not always noble, part in Mr. Darwall’s story, although there is no doubting the heroic stature of Stephen McIntyre, the semi-retired mathematical wiz whose dogged investigations, along with those of academic Ross McKitrick, led to the exposure of the iconic “hockey stick” temperature graph, which was embraced for its political usefulness rather than its scientific accuracy. Mr. Darwall does a thorough job of explaining the massive, but still largely unrecognized, scandal of the related Climategate emails.
Maurice Strong gets his due as the political driving force behind making the 1972 Stockholm conference and the 1992 Earth Summit such “successes,” with a prominent role in the influential Brundtland commission on the way. He was also crucial in introducing radical NGOs into the global environmental negotiation process, both as propagandists and to hold politicians’ feet to the climate policy fire.
Mr. Darwall concludes that Copenhagen represented a crushing loss for the West, but it should hardly be a cause of disappointment for ordinary people in developed countries, whose masters have effectively been trying to deliver them into climate servitude since Kyoto.
The bookend to climate change derangement syndrome is the “Global Warming Policy Paradox:” that climate policies have brought about the very outcomes they were designed to avert: rising food prices, instability and reduced biodiversity.
One excerpt from “The Age of Global Warming: A History"
Mrs Thatcher was initially a Warmist but later repudiated it
Unlike the blanket TV coverage NASA climate scientist James Hansen generated at his 1988 appearance before Congress, there were no cameras when British prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the Royal Society on 27th September 1988. Told that the prime minister’s speech was going to be on climate change, the BBC decided it wouldn’t make the TV news.
The speech had been a long time in the making. Flying back from visiting French president François Mitterrand in Paris in May 1984, Thatcher asked her officials if any of them had any new policy ideas for the forthcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit in London. Sir Crispin Tickell, then a deputy-undersecretary at the Foreign Office, suggested climate change and how it might figure in the G7 agenda. The next day, Tickell was summoned to Number 10 to brief the prime minister. The eventual result was to make environmental problems a specific item, and a statement in the London G7 communiqué duly referred to the international dimension of environmental problems and the role of environmental factors, including climate change. Environment ministers were instructed to report back to the G7 meeting at Bonn the following year, and duly did so.
Tickell’s interest in climate change dated from the mid 1970s. Influenced by reading Hubert Lamb’s book Climate History and the Modern World, Tickell took the opportunity of a one-year fellowship at Harvard to study the relationship between climate change and world affairs and wrote a book on the subject in 1977. By 1987, Tickell had been appointed Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations and informally was acting as Thatcher’s envoy on global warming, his position at the UN making him privy to gossip from other nations.
On two occasions, Thatcher recalled him from New York to brief her.
Tickell was always struck by her determined approach; in the world of politics, Thatcher was a woman in a man’s world and someone with scientific training in a non-scientific world. To meet the test, you had to know what you were talking about; if she challenged you, you needed to be sure of your ground; she could be remarkably vigorous, Tickell found. The prime minister wanted the government to grasp the importance of global warming.
Ministers were called to Number 10 for briefings by climate scientists. “You are to listen, not to speak,” the prime minister told them. Returning to England for his summer holiday in 1988, Tickell called on Thatcher and suggested she make a major speech on global warming. She thought the Royal Society would be the perfect forum for it. She spent two weekends working on the draft with George Guise, one of her policy advisors.
In the speech, Thatcher addressed the society as a scientist and a fellow who happened to be prime minister. Environment policy was her main subject. Action to cut power station emissions and reduce acid rain was being undertaken “at great and necessary expense,” she said, building up to her main theme. “The health of the economy and the health of the environment are totally dependent on each other,” implicitly rejecting the view of conventional economics of there being a trade-off between resources used for environmental protection which couldn’t be used to raise output or increase consumption. It was also clear that the G7’s endorsement of sustainable development had not been an oversight or meant to be taken lightly, as far as she was concerned. “The government espouses the concept of sustainable economic development,” she stated, although the new policy had not been discussed collectively by ministers beforehand or with Nigel Lawson, the chancellor of the exchequer.
Thatcher concluded her speech by referring to one of the most famous events in the Royal Society’s history, when in 1919 Arthur Eddington displayed the photographic plates taken during the total eclipse of the Sun earlier that year. The eclipse enabled Eddington to record whether light from distant stars was bent by the sun’s gravity and verify a prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Cambridge philosopher Alfred Whitehead witnessed Eddington’s demonstration. The scene, tense as a Greek drama, he wrote, was played out beneath the portrait of Isaac Newton, the society’s 12th president, “to remind us that the greatest of scientific generalizations was now, after more than two centuries, to receive its first modification.” In Vienna, reports of it thrilled the 17-year-old Karl Popper. What particularly impressed Popper was the risk implied by Einstein’s theory, that light from distant stars would be deflected by the Sun’s mass, because it could be subjected to a definitive test: “If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation — in fact with results which everybody before Einstein would have expected.” These considerations led Popper to argue that the criterion for assessing the scientific status of a theory should be its capacity to generate predictions that could, in principle, be refuted by empirical evidence, what Popper called its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.
Every “good” scientific theory is a prohibition. The more a theory forbids, the better it is. Scientists should therefore devise tests designed to yield evidence that the theory prohibits, rather than search for what the theory confirms. If we look for them, Popper argued, it is easy to find confirmations for nearly every theory. “Only a theory which asserts or implies that certain conceivable events will not, in fact, happen is testable,” Popper explained in a lecture in 1963. “The test consists in trying to bring about, with all the means we can muster, precisely these events which the theory tells us cannot occur.”
In 1988, proponents of global warming did not provide a similar black and white predictive test of the key proposition of global warming: the degree of warming with increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is therefore incapable of being falsified. The issue is not the capacity of carbon dioxide to absorb radiation in a test tube, which had first been demonstrated by John Tyndall in 1859, but the effect of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on the temperature of the atmosphere. An answer can only be derived from empirical observation.
Scientists Roger Revelle and Hans Suess’s characterization of mankind carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment, further illustrates global warming’s weakness as a scientific statement and its strength as a political idea. While prejudging the results of an experiment constitutes bad science, the proposition simultaneously generates powerful calls to halt the experiment before it is concluded. Yet questioning the science would inevitably be seen as weakening the political will to act. It created a symbiotic dependence between science and politics that marks 1988 as a turning point in the history of science and the start of a new chapter in the affairs of mankind.
Two years later, Mrs. Thatcher would address the UN: “We must have continued economic growth in order to generate the wealth required to pay for the protection of the environment,” she told the General Assembly, “But it must be growth which does not plunder the planet today and leave our children to deal with the consequences tomorrow.”
In the past growth happened. Now it had to be the right sort.
The green car blues
They say virtue is its own reward. But some green-car owners seem to want a little more than that
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has drawn the fury of the environmentally minded by including in his transportation package a $100 annual fee on alternative-fuel vehicles, including electric cars and hybrids. The governor’s rationale is plain enough: People who use the roads should pay for them, but taxes on gasoline don’t adequately capture hybrids that burn less of it.
That didn’t persuade a group of hybrid owners who held a drive-in protest at the state capitol in late January. “We should be rewarding people for trying to do their part to stop the climate crisis and lower pollution,” said one. “We should be supporting people who want to (protect the environment,) not penalizing them,” said another.
Two Democratic lawmakers—Del. Scott Surovell and State Sen. Adam Ebbin—took so much offense at McDonnell’s proposal that they launched a petition website—NoHybridTax.com. Almost immediately, it collected more than 1,500 signatures, and by the time the legislators delivered it to the governor, it had more than 6,800. “The idea that we would tax people for being environmentally friendly is ridiculous,” Surovell said a few weeks ago.
This isn’t surprising. You might have noticed that some hybrid owners can be just a teensy bit self-righteous. According to a 2007 New York Times story, “The (Toyota) Prius has become, in a sense, the four-wheel equivalent of those popular rubber ‘issue bracelets’... it shows the world that its owner cares. In fact, more than half of the Prius buyers surveyed this spring by CNW Marketing Research of Bandon, Ore., said the main reason they purchased their car was that ‘it makes a statement about me.’” As Surovell said when delivering the petition Monday, the signers see the hybrid-car fee as “a tax on virtue.”
Is the indignation about McDonnell’s green-car tax justified? To some degree, yes—but it is a smaller degree than his critics think.
The indignation is partially justified because hybrid cars still burn gasoline, and still pay taxes at the pump. In that regard they do not differ from traditional-engine cars that get good mileage—such as the Smart Fortwo, the Chevy Cruze or the Ford Fiesta. But McDonnell’s plan doesn’t tax those cars extra; it docks only alternative-fuel vehicles. As older gas-guzzlers fade away and newer vehicles built to higher mileage standards take over, that discrepancy will look odder and odder. (Indeed, increasing fuel economy—regardless of power source—is one reason many policy wonks argue for ditching the gasoline tax in favor of a GPS-based vehicle-mile fee.)
Furthermore, the hybrid-vehicle tax is set too high, at least based on Virginia’s current gasoline tax of 17.5 cents per gallon. At that rate, and assuming a motorist drives 15,000 miles a year, a standard-engine vehicle that gets 25 mph pays only $105 to the commonwealth. The same motorist driving a 50-mpg hybrid, meanwhile, pays $52.50 in gasoline taxes. To justify a $100 fee, he would have to drive an additional 28,000 miles — or get 525 miles to the gallon.
But there’s a flip side. First, some green-car drivers might be greatly overstating their environmental contribution. Hybrids, for instance, are scarcely more eco-friendly than other high-mpg vehicles on the road—and, according to some analyses, might actually be worse. There’s been a lot of debate about that. But even David Pogue, a technology writer for The New York Times who has hotly defended hybrids, will go no further than to say “the overall Prius environmental impact is, at worst, neutral, and at best, still positive.”
Meanwhile, fully electric cars inflict a host of hidden environmental costs, according to a study by Norwegian academics. Manufacturing is much more toxic, for example. It is also carbon-intensive: Building just one electric car produces 15 tons of CO emissions. Charging the battery produces still more—so the term “zero-emission vehicle” is quite a misnomer.
As Brian Palmer noted in The Washington Post last year, “coal is the most common source of electricity in the United States, and it emits 27 percent more carbon dioxide than oil, per unit of energy produced, by some calculations.” He cites a researcher at Carnegie Mellon who says electric vehicles are fine for places like Seattle, where hydroelectric plants generate much of the region’s juice. In coal country? They’re actually worse, at least for now. (Here in Virginia, coal and natural gas generate more than half the state’s electricity; nuclear power does most of the rest.)
All of this, however, ignores the main point: Even if green cars do confer tremendous ecological benefits, they still impose considerable costs on the transportation grid, just like everyone else. A bridge can’t tell whether it’s carrying electric cars or gasoline-powered ones; it wears out just as fast either way. Rush-hour traffic jams don’t miraculously dissipate when hybrid cars join them. You could wave a magic wand to make every car in Virginia a plug-in hybrid overnight, and the state’s transportation woes would not change a single bit. How much green cars really help the environment is an interesting question. But it has nothing to do with how much they use the roads.
Right wing? No, I'm a liberal and proud of it
by Australian physicist John Reid
Recently, a friend asked me why I have such “extreme right-wing opinions”. This came about after I had expressed some scepticism about human induced climate change and various other Green shibboleths. This is my response.
I associate the term “right wing” with the following political beliefs:
(i) the State is more important than the individual,
(ii) Capital is more important than Labour and trade unions and industrial action should be suppressed,
(iii) the State is justified in censoring books, newspapers and the media in order to suppress ideas that the government or important lobby groups may find unpalatable,
(iv) warfare is not merely unavoidable but desirable,
(v) those in power know best; hierarchical forms of government are preferable to democracy, and
(vi) these self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influence of International Communism in its various forms.
What are some of the beliefs of the Left? Nowadays, Marxist Socialism is largely discredited in the West, apart from a small minority of the faithful. In its place we have an amalgam of feminism, militant environmentalism and welfare state advocacy. This constitutes The Left in present day Australia and has, rather cleverly, avoided being branded as a particular “ism”. That is unless we include Post-Modernism, which acts as a sort of intellectual umbrella but which is so arcane and confusing that most Left-inclined non-academics tend to muddle along without it.
The Green-Left-Feminist (GLF) world-view includes many of the following:
1/ All cultures are equally valid (from Post-Modernism).
2/ Prior to the Modern Era (which usually began around the time when the speaker attended university) Western society was a Dickensian hell in which women were subjugated by their violent husbands and children underwent harsh physical punishment and rote learning at school.
3/ We have nothing to learn from our past, which was controlled by white male patriarchs.
4/ Owing to Capitalist Greed, the planet is about to come to an end as fragile ecosystems collapse under the strain of the resources taken from them and the poisons being pumped into them.
5/ All ecosystems are fragile – there is no such thing as a robust ecosystem.
6/ Human beings are a scourge on the planet. The world would be a better place without human beings.
7/ It is our job as human beings to ensure that the world is preserved exactly as it is now, like a giant museum. No more species should ever be allowed to become extinct whatever the economic cost of keeping them viable (David Attenborough).
8/ Scientists, and especially environmental scientists, have a profound understanding of the natural world and only they know how it should be managed. Lay people have no right to criticise them because they always know best.
9/ Scientific truth is whatever a consensus of grant-funded scientists say it is. Retired scientists and those employed by Big Business are not to be trusted.
10/ As there will be no more wars; all money spent on defence is wasted.
11/ Nuclear is bad. All nuclear power plants should be closed down.
12/ Carbon dioxide is bad (i.e. all combustion).We should obtain all of our energy from alternative, Green technologies.
13/ Hydro-electricity is bad because it involves building dams.
14/ Notwithstanding #1 above, pre-industrial societies like New Guinea hill tribes and Yanamomo Indians are superior to our own in their dealings with Nature and with one another. War is a product of capitalist society and is unknown among such people.
15/ All wilderness and all forests must be preserved, whatever the cost, because trees are more important than people and forests are more important than communities.
16/ Large native trees are sacred (Richard Flanagan). Whales are sacred.
17/ These self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influences of the Energy Lobby and the Murdoch Press
Note the similarities. Both Right and Left downplay the individual, both appeal to authority, both, in the extreme, become totalitarian, both attribute evil motives to their detractors and subscribe to the malign influence theory.
The political philosophy which opposed them is liberalism. Liberalism is neither Right nor Left. In wartime the Left tends to be more liberal and the Right illiberal, as during the Cold War and the Viet Nam War. Today it is the Left which has become illiberal. To question the Leftist “truths” listed above is to be a “redneck” or a “denier”.
I am a liberal, with a small “l”, although recently I have joined the large “L” Liberal Party. I grew up in a family with a liberal orientation. I first became self-consciously liberal after hearing John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty read by Prof Sydney Orr when I was a student at the University of Tasmania. The year was 1959, the centennial of the essay.
Along with Voltaire and many others, Mill was part of the Enlightenment tradition of liberal thought. It is a tradition which is deeply embedded in our culture and one of the reasons for our stability and our success.
More than 150 years later, Mill’s ideas about the suppression of slavery and the desirability of female suffrage have come to pass in Western countries. I believe that he got it right about liberty, about freedom of speech, and about the necessity for informed and inclusive debate in a healthy democracy.
However his more socialistic ideas, about workers’ collectives and so on, sound more than a little naïve nowadays. I believe that if Mill were alive today he would not support socialism and would be horrified by the perversions to which it has led. In 1859, when he put pen to paper, Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the excesses of Pol Pot and the sheer lunacy of North Korea were yet to happen. He would have been appalled by the unnecessary suffering and suppression of the human spirit brought about by this fervent, mindless and un-self-critical ideology which holds the State or the Party above the individual.
To me, the problem with GLF’s, particularly the Greens, is that they confuse what is desirable with what is possible. They also confuse loyalty and truth. Being Left is rather like being a Collingwood supporter: you may, in your heart of hearts, suspect that the 'Pies are going to lose next weekend but you can’t say so publicly because that would be disloyal.
A society which puts loyalty before the truth is not a healthy society. The Vietnam war might have been avoided if the US had been able to talk to the Chinese, who were equally dissatisfied with North Vietnam at the time (according to Kissinger). However the US State Department had been purged of its China experts. Anyone who had actually been to China was seen as being “soft on Communism” by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. There could be no real debate or communication with China under those circumstances, and prejudice held sway at the cost of millions of lives.
In my view, in this country, liberalism has come under threat. We can no longer assume that we live in a society in which minority opinions can be heard and debated. There are several examples where this principle is increasingly disregarded.
One is the recently shelved attempt to install a government-controlled watchdog to censor media content following from the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report.
Another is the prosecution of Andrew Bolt under the racial vilification laws. Bolt was dragged before the courts for criticizing what he wrote was the opportunist use of scholarships and prizes, intended for disadvantaged Aborigines, by relatively affluent middle-class people. He hurt their feelings by speaking the truth, evidently. He in no way vilified Aborigines per se, some of whom agree with him. It should be noted that the affirmative action provisions, under which such prizes and grants were set up, actively discriminate on the basis of race and are, ipso facto, themselves racist. The disadvantaged should be given preference according to the nature of their disadvantage, not because of their DNA.
The controversy over the visiting Dutch politician Geert Wilders is another case in point. Wilders has always emphasized that he is not opposed to Muslims, only to their religion, Islam, which, he considers an oppressive ideology and an existential threat to Western liberal values. His position is similar to that of Churchill in prewar Britain who was condemned for expressing concern about the rise of Nazism in Germany. Churchill happened to be correct and Wilders may well be wrong, but at least he should have the right to be heard and have his views discussed. We suppress the ideas of such Cassandras at our cost.
Finally, I regard the so-called “climate debate” as a classic case of the breakdown of the liberal spirit, this time within the scientific community. Putting aside the technical details about whether climate variability is or is not influenced by human activity, the manner in which this campaign has been conducted is a disgrace. Even the term “climate change” is loaded, presupposing, as it does, that the climate was once stable and is now changing; real scientists would use the phrase “climate variability”.
The polemical nature of the IPCC reports, the way in which opponents have been systematically vilified and denied access to funds and publication, the absence of any critical third party evaluation of the models, all imply an illiberal and political agenda. Certainly scientists need to seek funds and to put their best foot forward in doing so, but the way in which the climate people are using Green hysteria to attract massive funding amounts to nothing less than the prostitution of science. It is illiberal to the core.
No, I am not right wing. I am a liberal.
Why Do People Believe Scientifically Untrue Things?
Because to do otherwise would be immoral
You hear a lot about the politicization of science, but the real problem is the moralization of science. The New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt has made a compelling case that moral differences drive partisan debates over scientific issues. Dan Kahan and others at the Yale Cultural Cognition Project have identified cultural differences that bias how people assimilate information. Together, Haidt and Kahan’s research suggests that what you believe about a scientific debate signals to like-minded people that you are on their side and are therefore a good and trustworthy person. Unfortunately, this means that the factual accuracy of beliefs is somewhat incidental to the process of moral signaling.
For an illustration, consider a recent skirmish between Skeptic editor Michael Shermer and Mother Jones writer Chris Mooney. Shermer, whose political views lean toward libertarianism, wrote a column for Scientific American titled “The Liberal War on Science,” noting the left’s tendency to deny human cognitive evolution and the safety of biotech crops and nuclear power. Mooney, author of a book called The Republican War on Science, retorted with a story headlined “There is No Such Thing as a Liberal War on Science.” The right’s denial of evolutionary biology and man-made global warming, Mooney argued, are much more consequential for public policy. While acknowledging that a substantial percentage of Democrats don’t believe in human evolution or man-made global warming either, Mooney took comfort in the fact that “considerably fewer Democrats than Republicans get the science wrong on these issues.”
Kahan identifies the ideological left as people who tend to have egalitarian or communitarian views. Egalitarians want to reduce disparities between people, and communitarians believe that society is obliged to take care of everyone. People holding these cultural values are naturally biased toward collective action to address inequality and the lack of solidarity. When the results of scientific research are perceived to perturb those values, it should be no surprise that left-leaners have a greater tendency to moralize them, to favor government intervention to control them, and to disdain conservatives who resist liberal moralizing.
Haidt’s moral survey data suggests that ideological conservatives have a greater tendency to moralize about purity and sanctity than do liberals. This may be so, but it’s pretty clear that liberals are not immune from concerns about purity and sanctity. While conservatives moralize about the purity and sanctity of sex and reproduction, liberals fret about the moral purity of foods and the sanctity of the natural world.
One particularly powerful moralizing tool that is chiefly deployed by progressives is the precautionary principle. Mooney blandly writes that this “is not an anti-science view, it is a policy view about how to minimize risk.” Beliefs about how much risk people should allowed to take or to be exposed to are moral views. In fact, as Kahan and his colleagues have shown, the strong urge to avoid scientific and technological risk is far more characteristic of people who have egalitarian and communitarian values. The precautionary principle is not a neutral risk analysis tool; it is an embodiment of left-leaning moral values.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
Preserving the graphics: Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here and here