Walter Russel Mead wrote about the rising rate of climate change skepticism in a recent post at the American Interest. Mead is something of a moderate environmentalist in that while he agrees with the environmentalists on many points, he is also aware that the Green’s alarmism and their playing fast and loose with the facts has caused a great deal of damage to their credibility and effectiveness. His views on global warming aka climate change are close to my own so I will quote him at length.
Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. At the most basic level, climate scientists have a very solid grasp on a relatively simple set of facts: certain gases, carbon dioxide among them, “trap” the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, much like a greenhouse’s glass. Humans have been emitting these gases at very high rates of late, and that’s a problem, because it will lead to a warmer climate and a variety of new challenges to which life on earth will have to adapt, ourselves included.
The devil is, as usual, in the details. Our climate models weren’t able to predict the recent plateau in warming over the past decade or so, a reflection of our incomplete understanding of the “fiddly bits” of Earth’s climate. The central problem here is the enormous complexity of the system we’re dealing with. Our planet is filled with many different feedback loops and relationships, some of which we understand, but many of which we remain ignorant of. Because of that, any prediction of what might happen when we ramp up one variable like carbon dioxide is going to have a significant margin of error.
But the green movement has made a habit—and for some a living—of exaggerating the dangers of climate change to justify unworkable policies. In the past this probably produced some short-term payoff in terms of public support, but over time it has weakened the credibility of not just the environmental movement but the scientific understanding that these greens claim to be advancing. This recent Gallup poll reflects a damning fact for today’s greens: Climate alarmism tops “big oil” money as the leading cause of climate skepticism.
A great deal of my own skepticism regarding global warming is due to the fact that actions of the people most involved in promoting the idea are not the actions of honest people who have the facts on their side. If the facts were on their side, they would feel little need to slander their opponents by referring to the as “deniers” or implying that they are all funded by Big Oil. They would not corrupt the peer review process by attempting to censor any paper that opposes their received wisdom nor would they exchange e-mails discussing the best “tricks” to “hide the decline“. They would not call for jailing people who disagree with them. They would admit that current models have done a poor job of predicting changes in climate and work to create better models instead of dismissing and contrary facts as disinformation and insisting that the science is settled.
There are many who would consider the results of the Gallup poll that Mead refers to as an indication of the ignorance of the American people, especially those who live in flyover country. I think that it shows that the bitter clingers are smart enough to know a con when they see it.