The ways and means of the climate change lobby

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Over Independence Day weekend, Penn State University released the findings of an internal faculty investigation of Dr. Michael E. Mann, one of the key researchers embroiled since last November in what has since become known simply as “climate gate.” Mr. Mann was cleared by his University’s committee of any serious violation of “accepted practices” in research and scholarship.

As if on cue, some news reports are heralding this story as further proof of what might be dubbed Gore’s Dictum: “the science is settled.” In other words: Nothing To See Here.

Yet what made Mr. Mann’s and his colleagues’ leaked correspondence a controversy worthy of its “-gate” appendage was something far greater and more elemental than whether Mr. Mann’s methodology was to be condoned or condemned by his peer academics.

The climate change lobby has, from the beginning, acted with a sort of regal authoritarianism toward the world, casting itself as a transnational progressive effort to undo the harm man has done to his planet by means of globally enforced sin taxes on energy consumption.

The revenue generated from these punitive taxes on the energy that undergirds our way of life would then be used, we’re told, to fund development of “green” alternatives. And since, as we’re also neatly informed, “the science is settled,” the conversation quickly ends and a political dogma is crystallized.

And since the tenor of the climate change debate has taken on an explicitly religious aura, with proponents identifying as “believers” and critics branded as “deniers,” the debate shifts from a conversation on the manufacture of efficient fuels to one over the proper extent to which first-world nations should cripple their energy and manufacturing sectors for the sake of vague assurances for a more “efficient” energy and manufacturing future.

In the same way Mr. Mann delighted with then-colleague Dr. Phil Jones about his “trick” used to “hide the decline” in tree ring temperatures, the climate change lobby uses a similar “trick” of moving the parameters of acceptable public debate.

“Believers” hide the tax-penalty implications of “Climate Action Now!” by cloaking themselves in the garb of the humble devotee to Climate Science Truth at the altar of Who-Doesn’t-Want-To-Heal-Earth?

(In political theory, this “trick” is described by the Overton Window, which Glenn Beck has popularized with his novel-thriller of the same name.)

And in the context of the “believer’s” strategy to win the future by means of punitive wealth confiscation, those leaked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit last autumn shed light for the first time in public on the brutish and hubristic disposition of the climate change lobby.

The e-mails laid bare the tactics that advance the global climate strategy. For years, “believers” were allowed to cite simple scientific concern as the motive force for their climate advocacy, yet in the nearly 1,000 leaked e-mails, a narrative involving academic infighting, contrived consensus, and desired outcomes emerged.

What was damning, indeed, psychologically devastating, to the public mind on climate change was not whether Mr. Mann or other climate researchers violated “accepted practices” in their approach to data, but that the leaked correspondence formed proof of a willingness and interest in actively shaping the debate over mainstream climate science.

The sheen of impartiality had been worn away, and “climate science” became an unhelpful and mistrusted watchword. Even if the manner and style in which climate data had been presented to the public had turned out to be trustworthy, the comportment of those trusted with it’s handling appeared to be far from worthy of public trust.

And so, trust has been degraded in climate science.

The climate change lobby, however, continues as a political force because at its core its ways and means are multifarious. Gore’s Dictum might appear as if on shakier ground, but the core political, financial, and scientific interests remain committed to the idea of a coordinated response to what many of them perceive as a genuine threat.

To understand the real working definition of “climate denier” does not require a scintilla of the scientific. It’s fairly simple: a climate denier is anyone unwilling to use coercive political force and punitive tax agendas to bring about a renewable energy future.

And to be sure, there is today no shortage of political wizards or advocacy wonks interested in using the barrel-of-a-gun enforced power of government by means of taxation to bring about their particular vision for our society.

In light of Penn State’s internal “A-OK” report on Mr. Mann, it’s worth taking note of those forces animating the climate change lobby, for so long as powerful scientists, researchers, and funding bodies, along with second-act politicians and would-be laureates, have a vested interest in coordinating national economic activity for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many, the climate wars will continue.

Thomas A. Shakely is a contributing editor for The Philadelphia Bulletin. He blogs on education, literature, travel, and other subjects on his website. E-mail him, or follow him on Twitter.