In his 2004 bestseller, "State of Fear," the late Michael Crichton introduced a skeptical climate science character, Professor Hoffman, who said:
"I study the ecology of thought.... And how it has led to a State of Fear." The professor went on to explain that the government practices "social control [which is] best managed through fear."
After the U.N. packed up yet another global climate conference earlier this month, the perpetual state of fearful climate science came to mind. The fear this time is based on the current talking points from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human-induced climate change is manifested in "extreme weather events."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already exploiting this alarming message in a creative way. The EPA is preparing guidelines on reducing indoor air pollutants because people are expected to spend more time indoors due to the increased amount of severe weather resulting from climate change.
The pushing of this atmospheric angst is like operating a shady business or practicing an earth-first religion.
An "authoritative" consortium such as the U.N.'s IPCC identifies an urgent condition (severe weather is caused by anthropogenic global warming), solutions are proposed (altering lifestyles, shuttering coal-fired power plants), services are offered (education, research, consulting, trading-companies for carbon credits), and oversight/enforcement is "required" (national and international bureaucracies).
Everyone seems to be cashing in on the doomsday predictions, from private companies and academic institutions to governments with their expanding power and work force.
Everybody wins ... well, not quite. The big losers are, as usual, the ones stuck paying the bill -- the middle-class taxpayers, plus the world's poor, who manage to get by-passed in massive wealth-transfer schemes. And certainly scientific practice itself ultimately loses.
The concept of one international, authoritative group assembled to be "the final word" on an emerging complex issue like climate change is arbitrary and arrogant, besides being somewhat foreign to authentic scientific practice, especially when the leaders of the group are promoting political agendas.
This arrangement also invites corruption, as dominant personalities and their ideas and agendas frequently emerge and are imposed upon group members.
For an excellent, in-depth example of this, see the just-released IPCC expose by investigative journalist Donna Laframboise titled, "The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World's Top Climate Expert."
Laframboise notes that it is "both peculiar and ironic that an organization that so vigorously claims to represent a worldwide scientific consensus has systematically 'disappeared' so many consensus views held by so many different kinds of researchers."
She discovered that the IPCC "ignores the consensus among hurricane experts that there is no discernible link to global warming. It ignores the consensus among those who study natural disasters that there is no relationship between human greenhouse gas emissions and the rising cost of these disasters.
It ignores the consensus among bona fide malaria experts that global warming has not caused malaria to spread." Laframboise concludes that in each case "the IPCC substitutes its own version of reality." A version that "makes global warming appear more frightening than genuine experts believe the available evidence indicates."
To prop-up this IPCC science-by-committee fear-mongering, those who know nothing about atmospheric science (like politicians, actors and PR spin doctors), but fawn over IPCC proclamations are unleashed to push the human climate change hypothesis, while those who are intimate with the field (like workaday practitioners in climatology and meteorology), but skeptical of IPCC assertions are ridiculed for being "global-warming deniers."
Many of us with years of real-world experience in atmospheric science would agree that, ideally, the practice of such science is about freedom to creatively combine fundamental scientific knowledge with individual skills and perspective to aid the evaluation of natural conditions.
In this way, the advancement of the field can occur for the benefit of both people and the planet. But, over the past few decades, by maintaining a state of fear, climate science has deviated from this ideal, damaging an honorable scientific profession. And that is truly scary.
Anthony J. Sadar is a certified consulting meteorologist specializing in air-pollution issues and primary author of Environmental Risk Communication: Principles and Practices for Industry (CRC Press/Lewis Publishers, 2000).