There is a spectre haunting Europe, said Karl Marx, but two hundred years after his birth, that spectre is not communism but climatism, the misbegotten child of climate science and activism.
Straight-jacketed by dogma, climatism shares many of the characteristics of communism albeit clothed in Green rather than Red platitudes. Like communists, climatists are wedded to central planning and top-down solutions. Both profess a passion for equality and a desire to uplift the downtrodden, while advocating policies that impoverish the disadvantaged; both turn a blind eye to an anointed vanguard to whom every luxury imaginable is permitted. Both have a fundamental aversion to freedom and to capitalism, which communists argued would bring about the enslavement of the masses and which climatists argue will ‘destroy the planet’. Both look to authoritarian governments to avert these disasters.
Most fundamentally climatism, like Marxism, claims to be scientific but where scientific endeavour is predicated on scepticism, to climatists and communists, it is anathema. Climatists of the world unite, should be the rallying cry, you have nothing to lose but your brains.
‘In the sciences,’ as Galileo said, ‘the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual.’ In climatism, consensus is used to try to delegitimise doubt.
Take a recent article by a professor of earth system science who sets out a ‘taxonomy’ of ‘the five corrupt pillars of climate change denial’ so that the unwitting can identify the denialists in their midst. According to the professor, suggesting that the science of climate change is not settled is ‘science denial’; baulking at the cost of measures proposed is ‘economic denial’; observing that the increase in CO2 has made farming more productive is ‘humanitarian denial’; arguing that ‘we will be much richer in the future and better able to fix climate change’ is equated with stalling on ending slavery, granting women the vote and banning smoking; and criticising Greta Thunberg is ‘climate sadism.’
At the risk, or more likely the certainty, of being tarred a denialist, there is, in fact, an enormous range of scientific opinion about climate change. Even something as seemingly simple as the instrumental temperature record generates controversy. Although it is generally agreed that the planet has warmed by about one degree Celsius since the 19th century, there is heated debate, so to speak, about how much or little that warming can be attributed to greenhouse gases, how sensitive the climate is to an increase in those gases and therefore about whether, how much and how quickly temperatures will rise in the future.
Science is not weakened by this debate; it is its lifeblood. This is how it advances. The central proposition of the scientific method is that a hypothesis be falsifiable, that is, that it be capable of being proven wrong. The data flowing from scientific experiments has to be made available so that it can be tested.
Yet ten years after Climategate emails exposed scientists discussing what they called their ‘dirty laundry’ and trying to ‘hide the decline’, one of the scientists at the centre of the controversy — Professor Michael Mann who produced the original ‘hockey stick graph’ which presents a reconstruction of global mean temperatures over a millennium to make the case that recent warming is unprecedented — is still refusing to release data related to the graph.
A review of the Climategate scandal, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, found, as even the Guardian put it, that ‘the researchers had not always shown a “proper sense of openness” in dealing with data inquiries.’ Indeed.
Ross McKitrick, a professor of economics who found errors in Mann’s work related to data and statistical methods, wanted Mann to release the data and acknowledge those errors. Mann would not agree. Mann even refused to provide data when asked to do so in a court of law as part of a defamation action he brought in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Justice Giaschi summarised the case in his judgement noting that Professor Mann alleged that he had been defamed by Dr Tim Ball when Ball said, ‘Michael Mann at Penn State should be in the state pen, not Penn State.’ The judge dismissed Mann’s case because he found that Mann was responsible for the ‘inordinate delay’, which had allowed the case to drag on for eight years from March 2011 until August 2019 and ordered Mann to pay costs. Yet Mann had difficulty even admitting why his defamation action was dismissed, tweeting that it was because ‘Ball’s too old & infirm to proceed.’ In fact, what the judge said was that the case was relatively straightforward and should have been resolved long ago, that Dr Ball had had the action hanging over his head ‘like the sword of Damocles for eight years’ and that Mann’s delay was ‘inexcusable.’
Mann has also taken action against columnist Mark Steyn, a case which has been running since 2012, prompting Steyn to observe wearily that ‘the process is the punishment.’ In that case, the legal action against Steyn’s publisher, National Review and the pro-free market Competitive Enterprise Institute has been supported by twenty-four media organisations from across the political spectrum from the Washington Post and Time magazine to Fox News. Why? Because, as Art Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union put it, ‘The only way to protect free speech for our allies is to protect it for our adversaries. Today it’s unacceptable to deny climate change, but… society can’t progress unless people are free to express and consider heretical ideas, because there’s no way to predict which heretical ideas will be tomorrow’s truths.’
That is something that should be of concern to all of us. Australia, like the scientific method, was born of the Enlightenment. No nation has benefited more not just from the use of science to increase the prosperity its citizens but from the spirit of progress, egalitarianism, religious toleration and freedom of speech.
Labor shadow education spokeswoman Tania Plibersek sparked outrage from the Left on Australia Day, simply for professing her love for the pledge made by all new citizens and suggesting that it should be recited in schools. It was denounced as a ‘garbage idea’ particularly so close to what the Left call ‘Invasion Day’.
In fact, in 2020, the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Endeavour at Botany Bay, Australians should celebrate, in particular, that Captain Cook’s journey was a scientific voyage of discovery and recognise that whatever the dangers posed by global warming, we will only be able to address them if we are guided by the spirit of tolerance and scepticism that represents the best of the Enlightenment not by the spectre of climatism.
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