One of the biggest intellectual failures of the global green movement against climate change is the persistent failure of its leaders and spokespeople to grasp the way their own advocacy fatally undermines their credibility. They blame cunning, unscrupulous and well funded enemies for disasters that their own inaccuracies, overstatements and disingenuous advocacy have brought on their movement.
Robert Murphy over at Master Resource has an excellent essay that shows how the credulous and gloating response of so many greens to the Heartland Institute affair and the faked document at its core made the green movement much less credible as a source of reliable information about climate matters. (Thanks, by the way, to @Revkin for bringing the post to our attention.)
The Heartland affair has shown not merely that some climate alarmists (namely Gleick) will stoop to outright deception, and most of his peers will close ranks to defend him in a sort of Green Wall of Silence. Perhaps more disturbing, it reveals that these people really have no idea how their opponents on the climate issue actually view the world. So when they dismiss skeptics as having no legitimate arguments, it should make outsiders take pause.
Without being a trained climate scientist, I can read the various blogs and try to parse the academic papers, but ultimately I have to rely a lot on the good faith and judgment of the scientists themselves. The Heartland affair has reassured my earlier conviction that the case for climate alarmism is far weaker than the alarmists have been telling us.
Murphy is writing here more about the green advocacy and blogging community than about the actual scientists, but this is all the more important as illustrating how advocacy has gotten so far away from science and ended by weakening the credibility of the green agenda. Read the whole thing.
The Via Meadia diagnosis of this phenomenon:
- The climate movement’s proposals (above all, the global carbon treaty that in theory will subject the economic output of every country on earth to global controls) are radical, costly and virtually certain to fail.
- To be enacted, these unpromising measures require an unprecedented degree of consensus, as every major country on earth would have to accept, ratify and then enforce the climate treaty the movement seeks.
- The climate movement must therefore be, in Dean Acheson’s words, “clearer than truth” in order to stampede public and elite opinion around the world into a unique and unparalleled act of global legislation.
- Because many in the climate movement believe that this treaty is literally a matter of life and death for the human race, the moral case both for stretching the evidence and attacking critics of that agenda as aggressively as possible looks strong to weak minds.
- The absence of any central authority or quality control in the climate movement (and the tendency of unbalanced foundation execs and direct mail contributors to provide greater support to those ready to take more aggressive action and espouse more alarming ideas) gives more radical and less responsible voices undue prominence and entangles the whole movement in dubious claims.
- The increasing obstacles encountered by such a poorly conceptualized and poorly advocated agenda cause the embittered and alarmed advocates to circle the wagons and become both more extreme in their rhetoric and less guarded in their claims when precisely the opposite approach would work better.
What we have here is a death spiral: the worse things get for the movement, the more scrupulously and cautiously it needs to behave, but the more incautiously and emotionally it becomes — leading to more failure and worse advocacy.
The root cause of all this remains, in VM’s opinion, a truly idiotic set of policy proposals that, no matter the state of the underlying science, simply cannot and will not be implemented.
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make green. Just ask Peter Gleick.