(Editor's note: Vox Day interviewed Ian Wishart, author of "Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming
," on Aug. 9, 2009. This column is an abridged version. The full transcript is available at Vox Popoli
How did you end up deciding to write a book about the science of global warming? You're in New Zealand, after all, which few would consider to be at the forefront of the debate.
New Zealand is a perfect example for Americans of where this global warming issue is headed. The U.N. lobbyists pushing for a comprehensive emissions cap-and-trade scheme desperately want agriculture included in the mix, which is why the IPCC announced last year that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture outweighed all of the industrial CO2 emissions caused by humans. However, the lobby groups know that they'll never get American farmers herded into that particular pen unless the rest of the world is lined up first, and unless America first surrenders its national sovereignty to an overarching international governance organization like the U.N. ... Now, in New Zealand's case we've been a U.N. guinea pig for the last two decades, in the sense that we have strongly globalist political parties and a strongly globalist bureaucracy. We're often the first to stick our hands up to endorse various U.N. initiatives or ratify daft treaties. In fact, our last prime minister, Helen Clark, is now the No. 3 leader at the U.N., tasked with overhauling the agency for a bold new global mission. Helen Clark was a key figure in the leftist global organization Socialist International, alongside one or two people who are now President Obama's advisers. The fact that she's now running the U.N. Development Program and is tipped as a future U.N. secretary general should be sounding alarm bells. If the U.N. says "jump," our government's usual response is "how high?"
When you began your research for writing "Air Con," were you convinced that global warming was taking place? Or were you always skeptical about it?
I've had an almost 28-year career in the mainstream media, from network television and talk radio to magazine and newspaper, but unlike many journalists I also served a stint as a political media adviser for a Labour administration briefly in the 1980s (like the American Democrats, only more left wing), so I've seen the news from the perspective of both the spinner and the spun. When the global warming issue first hit mainstream media in the late 80s, I accepted at face value, as I think most people did, that it seemed possible human pollution was overheating the planet. After all, we'd had the acid rain scare, the ozone hole and CFCs, we'd seen smog in Tokyo, L.A. and London, and we'd all watched the anti-nuclear movie "The Day After" which suggested pollution from atomic war would cause a mini ice-age. … I would say my journey can correctly be labeled "believer to neutral to skeptic." It wasn't until I began researching "Air Con" last year, however, that I gained the full appreciation of what has really happened and the agenda behind it.
You're a journalist. So, given that polls repeatedly find global warming to be of very little concern to the public – in "Air Con" you note that it finished 20th out of 20 concerns in a Pew Research poll of Americans – why does it always seem to be in the news?
It's in the news for a number of reasons. First, it's pictorially sexy: crashing glaciers, chuffing smokestacks, cute polar bears and penguins, charismatic politicians and earnest, eloquent and gamine environmental lobbyists warning of apocalypse now – these things make the essential ingredients of dramatic news coverage. … There's a further reason you get a lot of pro-AGW coverage in the mainstream media: bias. Most of us in journalism are not just reporters, we are idealists. We think we have a responsibility to change the planet for the greater good, and with the power of television and movies we think we can actually achieve those changes by manipulating public opinion. So at a newsroom level, you've had a subconscious buy-in on a whole lot of liberal agendas, including saving polar bears. Journalists are going to keep preaching human-caused global warming as a crisis because they genuinely believe it is, and they think they have a duty to educate you to believe as well. The proposed solution, a global governance regime to save the planet and re-allocate resources, fits the academic, left-wing world view of many in the media like a hand in glove.
Activists seeking action on anthropogenic global warming/climate change repeatedly assert that the science is settled. Is this in fact the case? If the science isn't actually settled, then why is there an apparent scientific consensus declaring that it is?
Scientists are broadly agreed that Earth has been warming, but they are nowhere near broadly agreed on how significant that warming is or how much of it is caused by human influences. There are scientific papers flying back and forth like bullets on various aspects of alleged climate change; just last week there were stories about a scientific paper in the "Journal of Climate" that admitted that Greenland's supposed "extreme melt" of the past decade wasn't even a record for the past 100 years, let alone all time – the study found a warm period in the 1920s and 30s in Greenland was 33 percent higher than it is now, and for entirely natural reasons that have nothing to do with CO2. If there really were a scientific "consensus" on human-caused global warming, then activists on both sides of the debate wouldn't be able to accuse each other, as they currently do, of "cherry picking" scientific data to support their respective cases. If all scientific studies led to one conclusion, there would be nothing to cherry pick. The fact that we are having this debate, and that "Air Con" can be published with references to hundreds of scientific studies that cast doubt on aspects of AGW, is proof that the consensus is a fictional concept used by climate change fearmongers to scare the public and politicians into submission.
In the chapter titled "What Cars did the Dinosaurs Drive," you cite evidence that CO2 levels were much higher during the Paleozoic Era than they are today. But, doesn't that prove that the Earth was considerably warmer then and that the greenhouse effect is a potential problem?
What the data shows is that, despite the greenhouse effect, the planet's temperature has remained largely stable for most of the past 600 million years, and life of all kinds thrived in that warmer environment. It shows that after a certain atmospheric saturation percentage is reached, CO2 has no further impact on temperature. It also shows that CO2 levels have historically gone up and down without big impacts on temperature. In fact, the best data suggests the sun warms the planet first, and rising CO2 then follows around 800 years later, not the other way around. Perhaps most telling about the evidence in that chapter, however, is that the fossil record shows CO2 levels could shoot up, while at the same time temperatures plunged, and vice versa. So there's no obvious correlation between CO2 in the atmosphere and temperature, which is key to the current debate.
You're an investigative journalist, not a scientist. What is your response to critics who point out that you're not a scientist, let alone a climatologist, and therefore are not qualified to opine on a complicated scientific matter such as global climate change.
Yes, I'm a journalist. So is Al Gore by trade, although I have much more journalistic experience than he does. Rajendra Pachauri, who heads the IPCC and now also the climate change centre at Yale University, is a train engineer by trade. Nicholas Stern in the U.K. is an economist, not a climate scientist. Bill McKibben, who's pushing the 350.org agenda and whose work helped inspire Al Gore, is a journalist and Sunday school teacher. NASA's Jim Hansen is a politician masquerading as a climate scientist. New Zealand's self-appointed leading climate alarmist is actually a truffle hunter in his day job, and Leonardo di Caprio is a Hollywood actor. So my credentials are no better nor worse than many of the leading voices in the climate debate. What do I bring that's different? Probably a healthy skepticism and an inbuilt nose for detecting "spin" based on my experience in that field.
In conclusion, allow me to congratulate you. "Air Con" has been a No. 1 best-seller in both New Zealand and on Amazon in the Science > Earth Sciences > Climatology > Climate Changes category. I noticed that last week the top three books in that category, including "Air Con," are all openly skeptical of global warming. Do you believe that we're approaching a tipping point in terms of the public's acceptance or rejection of the AGW/CC theory?
Yeah, I think we are, although I wouldn't underestimate the effect of the deluge of climate change scare stories that are going to hit us as we get closer to Copenhagen by the end of this year. … I'm heartened by the response to "Air Con," which has been as high as No. 1 on Amazon's climate category on both sides of the Atlantic, because it shows people have found the book useful as a weapon to restore some sanity to the climate debate.