Examiner: Does the International Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] have it all wrong?
Singer: The Panel was established by members of the United Nations with an assortment of political objectives in mind. Hundreds of scientists are doing commendable research and they have contributed to many of the Working Group reports, but they don't participate in writing the final "Summary for Policymakers" that gets all the attention of media and national leaders. The IPCC procedure actually requires the Working Group reports to conform with the political conclusions of the Summary, written and negotiated by a group of U.N. politicians.
No doubt, there are some scientists who want to collect large government grants for studying climate. The recent release of emails from the East Anglia University's Climate Research Unit suggests that some of them want to provide their employers with an unjustified political consensus that serves their purposes.
Thousands of competent scientists who have scrutinized the IPCC reports agree that many of the conclusions are unsupported by the scientific evidence. Many IPCC reviewers have publicly rejected the Summary's conclusions. In my opinion, every good scientist is a skeptic. Humans don't dictate facts to nature. As our knowledge of global climate improves, we may discover that all of the popular assumptions are wrong.
Examiner: How did the anthropogenic theory get started and why has it been so popular?
Singer: There have always been people who recognized that pollution was a problem and adopted the perspective that the natural environment needed to be protected from human abuse. If I were to speculate, I suppose the Wicca religion created the seeds in Europe. Native American traditions and fables had an influence in the United States. But that's sociology, not science.
In the scientific community, the idea of human causation was probably started by David Keeling in 1958, when he observed that CO2 increases he was measuring at the South Pole seemed to match the increase in the combustion of fossil fuels during recent decades. Keeling devoted most of his life to measuring atmospheric CO2 and founded the modern research facility at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. His speculation wasn't improper and his surmise was certainly worthy of investigation, but many scientists adopted the proposition of anthropogenic causation as a matter of faith.
I don't like to speculate about people's motives, but there are many reasons that scientists, politicians, and businessmen latched on to the anthropogenic theory. For scientists, it was an interesting idea and may have been related to their field of study, usually meteorology. Twenty years ago, there were no "climate scientists", nor any PhD in "Climatology", so it was an enticing field, open for exploration.
The idea that humans might be responsible for a potentially damaging warming trend certainly appealed to politicians, particularly those with a strong "environmental" record and reputation. It was a chance to “save the world" and be a hero. I won't even mention the name of one politician who has made it a career.
Finally, when governments began adopting policies that embraced the anthropogenic theory, money started flowing. Businessmen saw an opportunity for profit and took advantage of financial incentives and government subsidies. The tempting promise of huge profits probably encouraged a transition from legitimate pollution control investments to energy opportunities. The speculative "sustainable" technology required equipment and servicing; the new "climate modeling" required huge supercomputers and programmers; and the proposed "carbon markets" needed traders, speculators, and investors. Beyond all that, businesses want to develop a good image and are anxious to be associated with popular trends. So, "BP" no longer stands for "British Petroleum", it means "Beyond Petroleum".
All of those trends feed back into the faith-driven scientists, who are expected to maintain the appearance of a consensus, suppress skepticism, and ensure that the published facts conform to the objectives of business and politics. It's the ultimate in bio-feedback loops.
Examiner: Whether you're right or wrong, do you think the Kyoto Protocol or energy taxes have any merit?
Singer: Let's assume that I'm stupid and crazy? If fossil fuel combustion were a problem, there is a vast array of scientific mitigation measures that could be effective. There is also plenty of speculation about relatively simple, but global-scale, interventions that might impede warming. I would be very reluctant to assume responsibility for a project that might very well move the globe, more quickly than nature otherwise would, into the next Ice Age. I suppose, if I were a crazed fanatic I would encourage people to burn as much fossil fuel as possible to forestall eventual global cooling. I wouldn't expect anyone to follow that advice, but it might make me a famous ... or infamous ... celebrity. But then, of course, higher levels of CO2 would benefit agriculture and save the lives of millions around the world, especially children, who now suffer from malnutrition
Kyoto is a strange blend of superficial government promises and artificial market incentives. It hasn't worked, even for the limited purposes and goals it had set for itself, primarily because of the absence of any enforcement measures. I would be the last person to propose some global government that actually had the power to impose strict limits on energy use or emissions worldwide. That's a huge amount of power, which would surely result in a huge amount of international corruption.
There are several energy tax schemes that have been proposed by warming advocates. They're taking the popular approach, politically: there are very few politicians who don't salivate at the thought of some new method of imposing taxes that they can spend. Saving the world from some despicable horror sells well; persuading people ... or forcing other people ... to make financial sacrifices for the "common good". I'm a scientist, not a politician, so my sole interest is in finding the truth. That requires evidence, based on data and verifiable facts. I don't think I could stomach the process of writing laws to force people to conform with my own sentiments, passions, and beliefs. To each his own.
Examiner: You've devoted a lot of time and energy to this debate. Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Singer: I am really quite optimistic. I am sure that sound science must -- and will -- win out in the long run and convince not only scientists but also the public and politicians that climate change is almost all natural, and that a modest warming, should it occur, is good for humanity overall. The revelations of “ClimateGate” will be very helpful here and show how a gang of determined climatologists was able to con almost everyone by cooking the data and stifling any scientific criticism from 'skeptics.'
Of course, 'long run' may mean many more years -- during which the alarmists will try to impose policies that produce great economic hardships for no good reason. I fear especially those who have learned to game the system and are using global warming scares to enrich themselves at our expense. I won't mention names but you know who they are: Utopians who believe that global governance will lead to a better world; Luddites who oppose technological advance and economic growth; international bureaucrats and profiteers who want power and money. If they ever gain the upper hand, the world may have a difficult time recovering.
I hope I can be around when we can look back on past decades and say: "How could this climate insanity have fooled so many smart people?"
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