Thursday, 2 July 2009

Climate Change is a Religion, not Science

A while ago i already mentioned that the president of the libertarian Mises Youth org, young Vincent de Roeck considers climate change to be nothing but a hoax.

Under the provocative title 'climate change is a religion, not science' De Roeck draws attention to his latest article on the subject. As he's inspired by libertarism, his conclusion is pretty predictable : it's nothing but a worldwide complot.

His piece got quite some attention as it's been published on four libertarian blogs simultaneously. Therefore i suppose it might be useful to have a closer look at what he writes and see if this time he does get any further than just a renewed belief in a conspiracy.
(As usual, my translation)

Climate change is a religion, not science
Last week the British conservative thinkthank "The Bruges Group" published the paper "Cool Thinking On Climate Change". In some 60 pages the author, the British member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer is trying to convince his readers that the alarmism around global warming is based on lies and dishonesty and that the actions proposed are dangerous and counter-productive.

Helmer starts his paper with a prelude titled "The EU: Fully paid-up Climate
Alarmists" (imho a rather amusing title given the fact he's a MEP receiving a very nice salary from this very same EU) in which the key-quote probably is :
Global Warming? The EU needs more control over energy policy, over tax, over emissions, over industry, over everything.
Of course those words immediately point towards the real reason for Helmers skepticism : it's not based on scientific doubts, but it's an expression of a vision rather common in libertarian surroundings by claiming science is part of a complot set up by the government
Yes Helmer may be a politician and not a scientist, and he freely admits this, his findings nevertheless are most valuable. Helmer doesn't bring new arguments into the debate but summarizes the most important climate skeptical arguments and theories in an easy to read paper.
When having a closer look at the arguments used, indeed there's nothing new in what he's saying. He starts with a three page long attack calling "the Warmists" all sorts of names, mostly in the religious spheres.

His attack on "climate science" is nothing more than a copy of some of the same old skeptical arguments again. Arguments which have been debunked a zillion times before. Honestly, it is getting rather boring and i'm not gonna look at them in detail.

Coby Beck has a nice overview of some frequent heared "skeptical arguments" in his How to talk to a climate skeptic guide and i'm pretty sure Coby Beck's list handles almost everything Helmer says. The only thing Helmers proves is that, indeed, he is not a scientist.

More interesting than the rather silly attempt to discredit science is what De Roeck wrote above (Yes Helmer may be a politician and not a scientist, and he freely admits this, his findings nevertheless are most valuable). I don't understand how one can think the opinion of a total layman can be valuable in a scientific debate and find it remarkable that De Roeck doesn't seem to notice this point. I don't know about you people, but i like my house built by an architect who knows how to make sure it doesn't fall down. My medical problems i prefer to be looked onto by a doctor, etc..

The strong anti-governmental discourse which can be found in Helmers's work closely relates to other libertarian or conservative critics. Like p.ex. the op-ed "The Climate Debate: When Science Serves The State" by professor Joseph Potts for the "Ludwig von Mises Institute" in Alabama or the essay "Global Warming Revisited" by professor Michael Heberling for the "Mackinac Center for Public Policy Research" in Michigan.
The Potts op-ed doesn't get much further than nagging "it's a conspiracy" & the second one does copy some of the usual fallacies, both pieces imho aren't much more than an expression of a paranoid vision to the real world.

These authors rightfully point out, contrary to mistaken neo-Keynesians like a Joseph Stiglitz that the governement, just like privacte actors, doesn't have acces to the "perfect information" and that only the market can handle inherent imperfect information. Something which is fully applicable to the enormous role of the government in dealing with the supposed climate change.

As a result of his skepticism De Roeck obviously overstates uncertainties making him miss the point that the information avalaible is srong enough and clearly states humankind is contributing to present day climate change. It's no longer a question of "uncertainties". The remaining question nowadays is whether "to act or not" and in the second case to which extent to act.

Nowhere in his text De Roeck provides a beginning of an answer how "only a free market" can respond to this situation. Which is no surprise, as we've come to the core dogma, and dogma's need no proof.

The libertarian conservative Roger Helmer in his paper also looks back on his long carreer within the climate skeptical movement and gives some ankedotes about his life. December last year, he represented the climate-skeptical movement as an observer at the
UN climate conference in Poznan and in March he was a guest-speaker at the big climate conference of the American Heartland Institute in New York.

The notorious right-wing thinkthank Heartland has been known to give tribune to anyone who wants to say climate change isn't happening. Whether what the person says actually makes sense from the science point of view is less important.

Furthermore, he demolishes the IPCC and proposes alternative theories like the NIPCC by professor S. Fred
Singer (where the 'N' stands for non-governmental. The movie "An Inconvenient Truth" of course gets crushed, while all criticism on the movie "The Great Global Warming Swindle" skillfully is rebutted

Fred Singer is known as one of those people who not only deny almost every possible environmental issue, but who built their career on being a denier. Bart Verheggen has a closer look on his deeply flawed NIPCC report

Some of the most obvious problems with the Great Global Warming swindle have been adressed before on this blog. De Roeck proves to not have the background to detect deliberate flawed lobbywork from actual science.

Roger Helmer's ideas the last couple of weeks get support of quality newspapers liek "The Daily Telegraph" and the "Wall Street Journal". In the first one Christopher Booker calles the idea of "Global warming" and the melting icesheets "the biggest lie ever". In the second one Björn Lomborg could freely present his theory of the climate-industrial complex and the close connection between "big business" and "big government", unhindered by scientific truth.

Booker is one of those people that are so wrong it's painful to watch. Deltoid had it's fun having a closer look at some of the most evident problems in his work. George Mobiot wrote How to disprove Booker in 26 seconds, which shows where much skepticism already fails : checking your own arguments. One of the first things a scientist learns is to be critical towards your own statements and towards your sources.
Lomborgs story would be more interesting if it weren't so deeply flawed as demonstrated on the website Lomborg errors. A shorter look on some of the most obvious problems with Lomborg's work can be found on The Way Things Break.

Libertarians like myself hold their breath seeing the govenrment tendency to spend money in "green" technologies, because probably the American investment-guru Eric Janszen is more than right when he said in "Harper's magazine" that the "green" sector would be the next bubble to burst

I stick to the conclusion i made in my previous post on De Roeck : Young Vincent *really* will need to learn that a right wing think thank is not the place to get your scientific information. May i feel so free to suggest magazines like Nature, Science of GRL instead ?

Young Vincent did nothing more than demonstrating that for a certain type of libertarians, science looses the battle from their free-market fundamentalism.

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