by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Although Americans have been subjected to incessant warnings about global warming for at least two decades, they have done little to curb their appetite for hydrocarbons. In 1990, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Americans consumed 72.3 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of coal, natural gas, and petroleum. By 2014, this had risen by 11.2 percent to 80.4 quadrillion BTUs. In terms of their daily purchase decisions, Americans aren’t buying climate catastrophism.
Scientists were able to prove the threat to health from smoking because there is a very strong statistical relationship between smoking and lung cancer. The strength of those initial findings was further validated by passing a tough predictive test. In 1953, Richard Doll, one of the first researchers to have found the link, predicted that in 1973 there would be 25,000 lung-cancer deaths in Britain. In fact, there were 26,000. By contrast, climate models have been systematically over-forecasting temperature rises this century, demonstrating that climate scientists know much less about the climate system than they would have us believe. In the New York Times, Oreskes complains that climate scientists are ridiculed for predicting catastrophic climate change. If climate scientists’ predictions had been more accurate, they might be taken seriously.
Climate activists have highlighted the history of research on tobacco smoking and lung cancer not to illustrate the weakness of climate science compared with the epidemiology of lung cancer, but to intimidate those who disagree with them and close down debate. Last month, 20 climate scientists wrote to President Obama requesting that the government use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to bypass Congress and, they hope, muzzle dissenting views. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the letter’s organizer, Jagadish Shukla of George Mason University, and his family have been doing very well indeed out of federal research dollars, reaping more than $1 million in 2014 alone.
The belief that to reject climate catastrophism (aka climate denial) constitutes a moral failing is a hallmark of pseudoscience. Pseudoscience furnishes believers with an explanation as to why there are unbelievers.