A headline lifted from an MS-”Bias free”-NBC story: “Americans’ divide over global warming getting deeper” (linked on HotAir). Subtitle: “Despite onslaught of science, resistance to the idea seems to be hardening.” An onslaught!
The author, Charles J. Hanley, said that the debate “has taken on a more partisan, ideological tone. Polls find a widening Republican-Democratic gap on climate. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry even accuses climate scientists of lying for money.”
That last claim is an odd one for the left wing C.J. Hanley to make, because later in his musings he quotes a certain Hamilton who, in “an interview, he said he found a ‘transformation’ from the 1990s and its industry-financed campaign, to an America where climate denial ‘has now become a marker of cultural identity in the *angry* parts of the United States.’”
Never mind that “angry” parts business—which appear to be those geographic subareas wherever large numbers of progressives with “outrage” on their lips gather; have you ever seen an angrier bunch?—and focus instead on the charge that skeptics are part of an organized conspiracy financed by “industry.”
What is “industry”? From the writings of environmentalists it is empirically defined as “those companies who provide money for organizations that are not friendly to environmentalists.” Companies that provide endless streams of money at environmental organizations are not, therefore, “industry.” Apple corporation, for example, is not a member of “industry.”
Perry claimed that scientists, being only human after all, can be corrupted by the root of all evil. Perry’s statement is both true and obvious. Therefore, those scientists, including those whose careers depend on pro-environmental funding, can be corrupted. Perry further claims, just as Hanley and all those whom he quotes also claim, to have found scientists who have been corrupted. We resist quoting Captain Renault’s reaction.
The so-called “widening Republican-Democratic gap on climate” is also disputable. What is instead happening is fewer Americans give a damn about global-warming-is-doom discussions. Only the stalwarts on either side remain, each camp tossing verbal bombs at the other, and like all political wars, the rhetorical weaponry has been subjected to an arms race.
The worst error Hanley and his cohorts make can be called the Environmentalist Fallacy. This is not to be confused with the environmental or ecological fallacy. Let me explain.
Human activity certainly affects the climate. How much is in dispute. Many climatologists, relying on models built around a common theory, say, with high probability, the “global temperature” will increase a few tenths of a degree centigrade within about fifty years. A smaller group of scientists, the skeptics, agree this might happen, but say the probability it will do so is much lower.
The typical environmentalist commits the environmentalist fallacy the first time when he turns the “high probability” into unshakable certainty. Incidentally, if the environmentalist further says the skeptic, by disagreeing with him, is a “denier”, the environmentalist has not re-committed the environmentalist fallacy, but has exposed himself as an ass.
A rise in the “global temperature” has no real consequences, because no thing (except the planet as a whole) experiences a “global temperature.” People, plants, things, and so on experience local temperatures, wind, and weather.
Now, a rising “global temperature” does not imply that all locations will have a change (in the statistical sense) in weather. The environmentalist fallacy says all locations will change. A rising temperature does not, it most emphatically does not, imply that only untoward, evil, unwanted, costly, unhelpful, harmful effects will result. The environmentalist fallacy says only bad and no good can come from changing temperatures.
Since it is not certain “global temperatures” will rise, it is also not certain that weather will change at any given locality. Indeed, it must be less certain weather will change at a given locality. No climatologist, skeptic or consensus member, disputes this. It also must be, and is anyway obvious, that projected changes in plants, animals, things, and so on caused by changes in weather are less certain still.
Even given that only evil, etc. changes will certainly take place, and that these changes are certain, it is far, far from certain that any proposed policy or behavioral changes will fix the evil changes. Human behavior is even more complicated than the climate and nobody yet has succeeded in predicting it. And of course, it is not certain that only evil changes will occur.
Taken together, these truths add up to healthy, compelling uncertainty, which argue extreme caution in making any policy or behavioral decisions. The environmentalist fallacy says no uncertainty exists and that any proposal made by an environmentalist will bring only good.
The environmentalist fallacy is, in a word, a ruthless uncertainty remover. In summary form: “Whatever I believe is true because I, an environmentalist whose motives are unquestionable, believe it.”
What we need, however, is less, not more, certainty.