Wednesday, August 05, 2020

The four types of climate denier, and why you should ignore them all

He leaves out a category:  The scientifically literate.  And he offers no evidence that any of his types exist outside of his own imagination.

If he was less full of himself he might have done a survey, extracted the principal components from the results and did  a varimax analysis of them.  That's old hat if you want to know the actual subtypes in the responses

But he is probably not scientifically literate enough to do any kind of factor analysis.  I am no great fan of factor analysis myself but it sure beats mere opinion

The shill, the grifter, the egomaniac and the ideological fool: each distorts the urgent global debate in their own way

Anew book, described as “deeply and fatally flawed” by an expert reviewer, recently reached the top of Amazon’s bestseller list for environmental science and made it into a weekly top 10 list for all nonfiction titles.

How did this happen? Because, as Brendan Behan put it, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. In an article promoting his book, Michael Shellenberger – with jaw-dropping hubris – apologises on behalf of all environmentalists for the “climate scare we created over the last 30 years”.

Shellenberger was named a hero of the environment by Time magazine in 2008 and is a loud advocate of nuclear power, but the article was described by six leading scientists as “cherry-picking”, “misleading” and containing “outright falsehoods”.

The article was widely republished, even after being removed from its first home, Forbes, for violating the title’s editorial guidelines on self-promotion, adding further heat to the storm. And this is why all those who deny the reality or danger of the climate emergency should be ignored. Obviously, I have broken my own rule here, but only to make this vital point once and for all.

The science is clear, the severity understood at the highest levels everywhere, and serious debates about what to do are turning into action. The deniers have nothing to contribute to this.

However infuriating they are, arguing with them or debunking their theories is likely only to generate publicity or money for them. It also helps to generate a fake air of controversy over climate action that provides cover for the vested interests seeking to delay the end of the fossil fuel age.

But the deniers are not all the same. They tend to fit into one of four different categories: the shill, the grifter, the egomaniac and the ideological fool.

The shill is the easiest to understand. He, and it almost always is he, is paid by vested interests to emit clouds of confusion about the science or economics of climate action. This uncertainty creates a smokescreen behind which polluters can lobby against measures that cut their profits.

A sadder case is that of the grifters. They have found themselves earning a living by grinding out contrarian articles for rightwing media outlets. Do they actually believe the guff they write? It doesn’t matter: they just warm their hands on the outrage, count the clicks and wait for the pay cheque.

The egomaniacs are also tragic figures. They are disappointed, frustrated people whose careers have stalled and who can’t understand why the world refuses to give full reverence to their brilliance. They are desperate for recognition, and, when it stubbornly refuses to arrive, they are drawn to make increasingly extreme pronouncements, in the hope of finally being proved a dogma-busting, 21st-century Galileo.

The ideological fool is the fourth type of climate denier, and they can be intelligent. But they are utterly blinded by their inane, no-limits version of the free-market creed. The climate emergency requires coordinated global action, they observe, and that looks horribly like communism in disguise.

They could explore the many credible climate action plans being pursued, including by those on the political right. But their cognitive dissonance forces them to the conclusion that because state intervention is wrong, acting to avert climate danger cannot be right. Intellectual gymnastics to “expose” climate alarmism then follow naturally.

But why do I say ignore them all? The climate crisis is urgent, and we need debate to drive action. However, vigorous debates over action are already taking place in good faith all over the world, from the tops of governments to the smallest local action groups.


Biden wants to kill an economic gold mine

Just last week, Joe Biden once again reaffirmed his commitment to killing the fossil fuel industry. Ironically enough, it was fossil fuel development, namely natural gas and the fracking boom, that accounted for the vast majority of growth and job creation during the economic “recovery” of his President Barack Obama. The wannabe 46th president wants to end fossil fuel production by 2035, beginning at a time when the nation will be rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic. Should Biden have his cake and eat it too?

Let’s take a quick review of the Obama economy that Biden is happy to take credit for and seeks to emulate. The economy under Obama averaged just 2% GDP growth, the “new normal,” as New York Times opinion columnist Paul Krugman named it. To be fair, assuming office in the middle of a recession is no blessing, but Obama’s attachment to Keynesian economics slowed down the nation’s recovery.

In fact, the Obama administration actively worked to restrict the very industry that led the economy as a percentage of GDP growth. Oil and gas development accounted for nearly half of GDP growth and the hydraulic fracking boom alone accounted for 9.3 million jobs, nearly half of the jobs created during his entire presidency. States such as Texas contributed nearly 70% of all jobs created during the Obama administration. Wage growth for workers in the natural gas industry also skyrocketed, with workers in states such as North Dakota seeing their weekly wages increase up to 40% post-shale boom. Without oil and gas development, there would have been almost no economic or job growth during the Obama administration.

Energy production laid the foundation for energy independence. Offshore drilling and the shale boom resulted in a decline in imports of foreign oil. By the end of the Obama years, the United States saw a 74% increase in oil production. By 2016, imports of foreign oil had declined by 4 million barrels since before Obama assumed office. Yet, it wasn’t until President Trump implemented a laissez faire approach to energy that America was finally able to achieve energy independence.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, at the behest of far-left environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, did everything it could to impede the fossil fuel industry through executive orders and overregulation. Now, Biden wants to end U.S. fossil fuel production altogether by 2035. Regardless of Obama’s wavering support for the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, the industry and the economy saw tremendous growth thanks to its implementation.

By 2014, 98.5% of fracking occurred on nonfederal lands. Permits for federal onshore extraction during the Obama administration declined. For all the talk of Russian meddling in American affairs, there’s clear evidence the Kremlin funded the anti-fracking movement.

Obama’s push for renewable energy, which focused on wind and solar energy, failed to achieve market dominance. Crony schemes such as Solyndra wound up costing taxpayers. By the end of the Obama administration, renewables only contributed 10% of energy production. Biden wants to “revive” this failed experiment in energy independence.

A recent report from the International Energy Administration indicated that U.S. carbon emissions may have peaked — that’s without the Paris Agreement, the Clean Power Plan, and abundant federal tax breaks and schemes to prop up renewable energy artificially. It goes without saying that U.S. carbon emissions have peaked without the destruction of a major sector of the U.S. economy.

Is Biden listening? Has he considered how voters in swing states such as Pennsylvania might react to his proclamation of doom for the natural gas industry?

Just as Obama couldn’t take credit for the economic boom we are seeing under the Trump administration, Biden can’t claim he will oversee a resurgent economy if he plans to eliminate fossil fuel production. The oil and gas boom powered the economic recovery from the Great Recession. Now, with the U.S. looking to emerge from the COVID-19 downturn, Biden wants to do everything in his power to end U.S. energy dominance.


The Sierra Club's 'Racist' Founder

In an era when it is all the rage for businesses and organizations to make bold declarations about recognizing their racial problems, it was hardly surprising when the Sierra Club came forward with its own mea culpa. Among the flood of companies posting their black squares on social media for Blackout Tuesday, the only ones who have managed to stand out are those not bending a knee to the mob. But the fact that the Sierra Club’s introspective outreach was lost in the deluge of other virtue-signaling outlets is illustrative of its superfluousness.

The environmental outfit recently came forward to announce it was addressing the problematic history of one of its founders, John Muir. Beyond helping to create the organization, Muir is credited with preserving Yosemite Valley, worked with presidents to protect natural sites, and aided in the creation of the National Park Service. In environmental circles, Muir holds an esteemed history on par with our Founding Fathers. Given that many of our Founders are coming under fire for social inequities, however, it is not shocking that Muir would also be scorned.

While its desire to be recognized for enlightened thinking is obvious, the Sierra Club — and any entity seeking to cleanse its soul, for that matter — needs to accept that things from the past are, in fact, the past. To acknowledge and demean its founder over views he held in his era does nothing to improve the lot of the organization today.

By today’s standards of “wokeness,” yes, Muir’s views are out of alignment. But Muir created the Sierra Club in the late 1800s, and as the club’s announcement notes, his stances were in line with those of many of the time. He had associations with members of white supremacist groups, but he also did great work on behalf of the environment. Why is that legacy now invalidated? The conflict is on display in this passage:

"In these early years, the Sierra Club was basically a mountaineering club for middle- and upper-class white people who worked to preserve the wilderness they hiked through — wilderness that had begun to need protection only a few decades earlier, when white settlers violently displaced the Indigenous peoples who had lived on and taken care of the land for thousands of years."

In noting Muir’s racist views, the Sierra Club article also notes that “his views evolved later in his life.’’ A piece on Muir addressing his issues in the LA Times lists numerous faults but adds that those are emblematic of a turn-of-the-century mindset. “He was a man of his times,’’ says the paper, lending a qualifier, ‘’who actively worked to displace California Indians by taking their lands.” Even this crime is somewhat couched.

In citing a previous op-ed, the paper mentions Muir’s hostility toward Native Americans. “Muir was depressingly conventional on matters of race, afflicted with a garden-variety Victorian white supremacism,” it stated in his profile. In discussing his work at the preservation of Yosemite National Park, it mentions the Native Americans beset by disease and displaced by force, but then mentions that tragedy took place ‘’17 years before he arrived in 1868.’’ In similar fashion, the Sierra Club article mentions his association with Henry Fairfield Osborn, who ran the New York Zoological Society and the American Museum of Natural History. The problem is, Osborn also helped to found the American Eugenics Society. The article notes he did so, ‘’in the years after Muir’s death.’’

While some of John Muir’s guilt is direct, just as much of it is tangential, and most seems to be rooted in the time in which he lived. While noting his social infractions appears needed today, so too should there be recognition that we are applying contemporary social standards to a man whose conservation efforts began 150 years ago. The question needs to be, do the positions held a century and a half ago — which have little influence today — somehow eclipse the work he did, which has lasted and even grown?

This is not to suggest that his views, toxic by today’s measures, should be ignored. But in the same thought, neither should his work be erased. Otherwise, logic would dictate that if he is regarded as so poisonous as to be stricken from the record, then the outfit this detestable man created should be completely disbanded. Someone so vile could only create a contemptible organization — so close up shop and cease activity.

This, we know, will not take place. The work being done and the goals already in place are too important, they’ll say. This should explain exactly why it is foolhardy of the organization to be swept up in today’s emotional flurry of self-flagellation. The Sierra Club itself references a completely different image of their founder, in fact. In a linked item from a few years ago, a lengthy study of the man shows deep admiration for Native Americans and how they operate as a people and treat the land and expresses contempt for how our military and government treated them.

Why this facet of John Muir can now be overlooked explains the shallowness of the entire movement we are currently experiencing. People are imperfect to begin with, so to ferret out those imperfections from the past to judge and impugn today is not only damaging, but wrong. Lost in the demands for perfection from history is that today’s judgments are being made by equally imperfect people.


Australian irrigators pushed for 'primacy' over the environment in water allocations

NSW's main irrigator lobby group pressed the Berejiklian government to place the state's water plans above the federal law and sought to tap water earmarked for the environment.

The demands are detailed in a letter obtained by the Herald and The Age the NSW Irrigators Council (NSWIC) sent to the state's senior water bureaucrat in April.

At the time, the government was putting final touches to new water sharing plans it has since submitted to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for accreditation.

The irrigators sought the insertion of words that would "confirm primacy" of the plans over the 2007 Commonwealth Water Act, a move environmental lawyers say would trigger legal challenges.

The council also backed a narrowing of the definition of what constitutes so-called planned environmental water, a call it noted Water Minister Melinda Pavey had taken up.

The irrigators thanked the Planning Department for the removal of some environmental water rules, citing the Murrumbidgee River as one example.

The push to identify and allocate "underused" water for farming use may also open the way for legal challenges if such changes run counter to the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Claire Miller, interim chief executive of the NSWIC, said her organisation stood by the letter's contents.

Emma Carmody, special counsel for the Environmental Defenders Office, said while it was normal for a lobby group to advocate its members' interest it was surprising to see them seek water sharing plan provisions at odds with the basin plan and Water Act.

"Water sharing plans are subordinate legal instruments," Dr Carmody said. "Like all subordinate legal instruments, they sit under, and must comply with, overarching statutes, not the inverse."

Independent NSW MP Justin Field noted the council had recently complained in a letter that their concerns were not being addressed. This leaked document, though, was "proof that they are being heard at the highest levels of government and are getting their way".

"This letter spells out that the Irrigators Council have successfully lobbied to remove significant amounts of water designated for the environment and these changes have made it into the final water sharing plans without other stakeholders having the opportunity to comment," Mr Field said. "That is an outrageous process."

The call for primacy of the state plans over the federal laws was "a gobsmacking request that shows them as bad-faith actors in the implementation of the entire basin plan", he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Pavey said the government had "consulted widely on all changes to the state water sharing plans" over the past three years.

Other groups consulted included the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, key Aboriginal groups such as the Murray Lower Darling Indigenous Nations and Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations organisations, environmental interests and local councils.

"It shouldn’t be a surprise that the NSW government is committed to creating water policy that benefits water users, including the environment," the spokeswoman said.

It comes as the recently released Living Planet index found the numbers of such fish had plunged 76 per cent globally since 1970, including 59 per cent in Oceania.

Lee Baumgartner, an ecologist at Charles Sturt University and a lead researcher for the project, said fish numbers for many species in NSW were less than 10 per cent of their pre-European colonial times.

"We're dealing with severe water deficiencies," he said, some of which were caused by dams and other interventions.

"By fixing rivers for fish, you are by default fixing them for irrigators," Professor Baumgartner said.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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