How Science Went Down The Drain

3 June 2024
How Science Went Down The Drain - Featured image

The ‘bootleggers and baptists coalition’ theory helps explain how climate hysteria spread like a pandemic, writes Professor Emeritus of Government Aynsley Kellow.

Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that—to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”
– Steven E. Koonin, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters (BenBella, 2021)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres beclowned himself in June 2019, appearing on the cover of Time magazine clad in a suit and immersed thigh-deep in the waters of a lagoon in Tuvalu, to highlight the threat from climate change-induced sea level rise to that South Pacific island nation. The hilarity centred not on his ruining a perfectly good pair of trousers, but on his ignoring peer-reviewed science for political purposes. The previous year, three environmental scientists at the University of Auckland published a paper (Kench, Ford, & Owen, ‘Patterns of island change and persistence offer alternate adaptation pathways for atoll nations’, Nature Communications, February 2018) showing that although the local sea level had risen at twice the global average, Tuvalu had actually grown in area by 2.9 per cent over the previous four decades. This was thanks to the mechanisms by which atolls form in response to rising water levels, as described by Charles Darwin almost two centuries ago in his very first publication, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842).

Guterres is a socialist, and Marxism is imbued with a millenarian streak. The inevitable demise of capitalism its inherent contradictions produce eventually leads (after the revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat) to the unchanging stateless utopia of communism. It has the same apocalyptic structure of thought as a ‘Thousand Year Reich’ and millenarian Christian sects–like the one to which Sir John Houghton, first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), belonged. Andy West, who works for the Philosophy Foundation in London, described a climate change ‘cult’ in these terms in his book The Grip of Culture: The Social Psychology of Climate Change Catastrophism (Global Warming Policy Foundation, 2023).

Climate-related risks have declined.

Much of the construction of climate change knowledge is no longer dependent on science, or at least not ‘science-as-process’ as it should be properly considered rather than ‘science-as-institution’ as espoused by those who practice ‘scientism’ and insist we must do what ‘The Science’ dictates. Such advocates do so in the belief that compelling science will be, well, compelling and wrongly believe the connection between science and policy is linear. American political scientist Roger Pielke Jr showed this to be spurious in The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics (CUP, 2007).

The result is a corruption of science in an endeavour to drive policy which infects the conduct of science, but also affects science presented to policymakers and the public. The problem is less evident with the scientific reports of the IPCC than the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) it provides, agreed line-by-line by government representatives, and is particularly pronounced in media reporting of climate science. The claims of a ‘Climate Emergency’ illustrate this well. In a 2020 journal article, political science professor and author Bjorn Lomborg found that climate-related risks have declined over the past century—including emergencies such as fires and floods—with absolute numbers of deaths from such events and the population-adjusted risk of extreme weather events both showing steep declines. The IPCC actually supports Lomborg’s conclusion that there is no cause for alarm from any modest warming thus far. Pielke Jr last year pointed out that the most recent report on climate science from Working Group I (WG1) of the IPCC (AR6) states that a signal of climate change has not yet emerged beyond natural variability for: river floods; heavy precipitation and pluvial floods; landslides; drought (all types); severe wind storms; tropical cyclones; sand and dust storms; heavy snowfall and ice storms; hail; snow avalanche; coastal flooding; and marine heat waves. The only measure about which WGI was confident was an increase in heat extremes. Even then it was partly a confidence in predictions: that “an increase in heat extremes has emerged or will emerge in the coming three decades in most land regions …”. However, the IPCC was relying for this confidence on the use of an unrealistic emissions scenario (RCP8.5) fed into models that themselves run hot.

A ‘Climate Emergency’ is not a matter for science. In the understanding of risk, science can characterise the nature of a hazard, but human factors—including evaluations and behaviour—determine the extent to which that hazard constitutes a risk, serious or otherwise. Perception of the seriousness of the risk even affects the frequency with which the hazard is experienced. Its role in the impact of wildfires and floods is important. Fire damage very much reflects increasing construction in environments that are dense in forests that are not just fire-prone, but create the conditions for their own regeneration, which were formerly managed by indigenous people and post-colonial governments alike to minimise the incidence of hot fires. (In 1817 Governor Macquarie warned NSW settlers not to build on floodplains, a point which was lost on subsequent governments.)

As American political scientist Aaron Wildavsky (1930-1993) put it, the secret of safety lies in danger because we change our behaviour to minimise risks we perceive to be serious. Whether a scientifically described situation constitutes such a serious risk to be an emergency is not a matter for science, but for human evaluation. It is scientism to invoke what ‘The Science’ tells us we must do—and fraught, because science-as-process is often found to be in error and requires correction.

Cold kills more people than heat.

Given the lack of evidence of climate emergency, how did we end up with claims we are in the midst of one? Appropriately, it was not based on science but upon an alarmist political construction of claims by alarmist scientists. The claim first emerged from local government in December 2016 in the City of Darebin in Melbourne, then spread among local governments globally (assisted by Greens activists), and was picked up by the millenarian Club of Rome with a ‘Climate Emergency Plan’ in December 2018.

Scientists got in on the act on 5 November 2019 when biology journal BioScience published an article endorsed by 11,000 scientists from 153 nations, declaring a climate emergency. To underline the neo-Malthusian tone of this opinion piece, the list of contributing reviewers included the catastrophist lepidopterist Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 book The Population Bomb, riddled with predictions already falsified. Then, pushed by Extinction Rebellion and Greta’s Friday for the Future, the ‘climate emergency’ theme was amplified by an alarmist media and picked up by some national governments and then Secretary-General Guterres in December 2020.

In his article ‘Chinese Whispers: How Climate Science Gets Lost in Translation’, Californian physicist and science writer Ralph Alexander (2022) has shown how alarmist themes are amplified at each stage from IPCC Working Group reports through the SPM, then in press releases, and finally by the media and environment groups in a process resembling the game of ‘Chinese Whispers’. Before then Melbourne-based historian and science philosopher Bernie Lewin showed how the claim of a discernible signal of human influence was inserted into the SPM after the body of the report had been agreed for the Second Assessment Report. Alexander, among many others, minimises the possibility for bias in the basic science and its incorporation into IPCC reports, but two recent examples have shown that politics can surround publication of climate science.

Extreme cold causes about 10 times the deaths of extreme heat, yet in 2023 The Lancet, the highest cited medical journal, published an article deceptively altering the scale of a graph to make heat appear a bigger cause of death than its data suggested.

The IPCC actually supports Lomborg’s conclusion that there is no cause for alarm from any modest warming thus far. – Professor Emeritus of Government Aynsley Kellow

The IPCC considers almost all extreme weather events have not yet emerged, other than extreme temperatures. In 2022, a peer reviewed paper in a Springer Nature journal, with findings consistent with the IPCC AR6 conclusion, provoked a critical article in the Australian edition of The Guardian (Graham Redfearn, 22 September 2022). Condemning the paper, The Guardian quoted two Australian scientists who seemed unaware of the IPCC conclusions on extremes. They were joined by Michael Mann, author of the infamous ‘Hockey Stick’ paper, who also ignored the paper being consistent with AR6, stating: “Either the consensus of the world’s climate experts that climate change is causing a very clear increase in many types of weather extremes is wrong, or a couple of nuclear physics dudes in Italy are wrong.” Shortly after, Springer Nature acceded to a call via Agence France-Presse (AFP) by the Grantham Institute’s Friederike Otto and Potsdam Institute’s Stefan Rahmstorf to retract the paper. The Guardian, AFP, and Nature are all members of Covering Climate Now, which coordinates coverage of climate issues globally, and leads to many news outlets and even scientific journals such as Nature and Scientific American singing from the same hymn sheet. Scientific American, which in July 2023 published the claim that the Earth had just witnessed the highest average temperature in 120,000 years, is also part of the Springer Nature Group. While this claim was contested by others, Scientific American made no mention of the effects of the eruption of the Hunga Tonga volcano in January 2022 that increased the concentration of atmospheric water vapour (responsible for more than half the greenhouse effect) by 13 per cent and was almost certainly responsible for the burst of warming.

Covering Climate Now began in April 2019 and by September more than 300 media outlets had committed to devoting a week to heavy environmentalist coverage connected to a UN Climate Action Summit. As of January 2023, the initiative includes more than 460 media outlets worldwide. It is funded by, among others, the Rockefeller Family Fund and Rockefeller Family and Associates … perhaps ridden with guilt that their fortune derives from fossil fuels.

In June 2019 the catastrophist group Extinction Rebellion blockaded the New York Times, demanding they change the terminology from ‘climate change’ to ‘climate emergency’ … quite remarkable, given the Old Grey Lady was not known for ‘climate denialism’. The rationale for this action was possibly that the Times has to date declined to sign up to Covering Climate Now. However, the song they sing can be an exaggerated version of ‘The Science’—as distilled by the IPCC, with ‘The Science’ even modified in response to press reports.

Guterres now sings from a highly distorted version, without fear of contradiction by the IPCC itself, claiming in July 2023 that the era of global boiling had arrived, and the UN is pursuing actions that fail to unite the nations of the world. Breakthrough Institute energy and development director Vijaya Ramachandran criticised this as a “green version of colonialism”—especially in Africa where cheap energy is needed to assist its development, but the actions of the UN and others are denying them access to such energy. It has also assisted the inflation of what has been called a ‘Green Bubble’, with investors (some with close links to the UN) in renewables and lower carbon technologies only too willing to talk up alarm.

The Bootleggers are the Baptists.

American businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is the most prominent example of this. Having donated US$80 million to the Sierra Club’s ‘Beyond Coal’ campaign, he donated a similar sum to a similar campaign in Europe. Bloomberg also advocated strongly for natural gas, which apparently suited his economic interests. Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein claimed Bloomberg’s $30 billion personal and philanthropic fortune was managed by Willett Advisors, and Willetts invested in a range of assets including oil and gas. Bloomberg joined with Tom Steyer and Hank Paulson to form a lobby group, Risky Business, that successfully pushed first for the US national position and then the IPCC to adopt as ‘business as usual’ the contentious and highly unrealistic emissions scenario RCP 8.5, which was fed into climate models to produce the most alarmist projections for climate futures. RCP 8.5 was so embarrassingly overcooked and unrealistic that even mainstream climate scientists pointed this out. A further problem was that the climate models the scenarios are fed into also run hot, so their projections have exceeded observed global temperatures. They have, in a word, been falsified, and the IPCC has acknowledged this.

In fact, the observed warming over the past century is close to that predicted by Swedish climate science pioneer Svante Arrhenius in 1896. The models assume strong feedback from increasing water vapour, but the observational evidence for water vapour rising with warming is weak.

The finance sector has nevertheless accepted this modelled ‘reality’ and it has become embedded in the UN. Bloomberg was appointed by Guterres as Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, and Mark Carney (now with Brookfield Asset Management) was appointed the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance. In 2014 Ki-Moon appointed Bloomberg Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change to help the UN work with cities to prevent climate change, so the enthusiasm for cities declaring ‘climate emergencies’ from 2016 owes much to him. Carney was formerly Chairman of the Financial Stability Board and Governor of the Bank of England, which used RCP 8.5 as the basis for its assessment of the risks of climate change. During the 2015 Paris negotiations, Carney announced the creation of a Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) to make recommendations for consistent corporate disclosures to help financial market participants understand their climate-related risks. Carney had Bloomberg appointed as TCFD chairman.

By the end of 2015 Carney announced the formation of the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) to strengthen the global response to the Paris goals and conduct or commission analytical work on ‘green finance’. During COP26 in Glasgow, Carney and Bloomberg then developed the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a coalition of financial corporations representing $130 trillion in assets, encouraging financial institutions to commit to the UNFCCC ‘Race to Zero’ campaign, seeking to halve global emissions by 2030. Several large global reinsurance firms also launched the Net Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA) in 2021 at the G20 Climate Summit in Venice. Bloomberg and Carney are merely the most prominent links between climate activism and the finance sector, given prominence by the UN, but there are other examples.

In 1983 American economist Bruce Yandle coined the expression ‘Bootleggers and Baptists’ to describe how those who act out of self-interest and those who act out of a claimed moral cause can share common ground. Sometimes the Bootleggers are the Baptists. For example, Al Gore has done very well from his alarmism with his asset management firm Generation. Sometimes the Bootleggers simply fund the Baptists, such as British investor Jeremy Grantham funding an institute at the London School of Economics, or the funding of Extinction Rebellion by the charitable arm of British billionaire hedge fund manager Sir Christopher Hohn, who has been a driving force to compel ESG (environmental, social, governance) reporting on both sides of the Atlantic.

Such actors, embedded in the UN system, are heavily invested in the ESG movement and help defend a dubious alarmist construction of climate change risk, along with UN actors such as Guterres. The dubious claims of a ‘climate emergency’, constructed by a powerful coalition of Bootleggers and Baptists, is now embedded in governments and supported by the UN. As Harvard University Global Energy Policy Professor William Hogan put it, it has become like an electrified ‘third rail’ in an underground rail system that is dangerous for any politician to touch. But touch it they must if we are not to continue the current ‘madness of crowds’ that rivals the tulip bubble and South Seas bubble of the past.

Aynsley Kellow is Professor Emeritus of Government, University of Tasmania; a former Expert Reviewer for the IPCC; and was a Special Correspondent for the IPA during COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Full references for sources drawn upon for this article are available at www.ipa.org.au/kellowreferences24

This article from the Autumn 2024 edition of the IPA Review is written by Professor Emeritus of Government Aynsley Kellow.

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