Friday, November 20, 2009

Global Warming McCarthyism

There is a remarkable series of articles currently on the website of the Breakthrough Institute—an environmental organization—which lays out the efforts made by some of the most famous names in the debate around climate change, to squash dissent using any methods they can, and it is a revealing read.

It began in 2008 with an article about the politics of personal destruction being used by the environmentalist movement against anyone opposed to the global warming arguments, and continues with the four part series from this month; part one earlier this month and part four just released yesterday.

An excerpt from the 2008 article.

“Back in the 90's and early part of the current decade, the environmental movement embarked upon a well documented campaign to convince the news media and the American public to stop taking those who questioned the existence of climate change seriously. Environmentalists went to great lengths to demonstrate that those who doubted the existence of climate change were crackpots, paid flaks of the fossil fuels industry, or otherwise lacking in credibility. They urged media reporters to stop covering "both sides" of the debate about climate, pointing out that on one side of that debate was an overwhelming consensus within the scientific community while on the other was a motley collection of ideologues and marginal academics, most with connections to the fossil fuel industry. And they started labeling them "deniers," explicitly referencing those who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred.

“The strategy worked. News coverage today rarely, if ever, cites sources who question the existence of climate change or its anthropogenic origins. And few policymakers continue to publicly question climate change. The assumption among environmental leaders was that once the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change was occurring was established, this consensus would translate into a consensus as to what to do about it -- a consensus that would embrace the policies long advocated by the national environmental movement, namely the Kyoto framework at the international level and cap and trade legislation at the domestic level.

“But a funny thing has happened over the last several years, as opinion about the reality and urgency of the climate crisis has "tipped." The consensus that would allegedly result once broad public acceptance of anthropogenic climate change was achieved has fractured. Efforts to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Accord at the international level have stalled, as developing economies, led by China and India, have balked at any framework that would constrain carbon emissions and slow economic development in the developing world, where most of the growth of carbon emissions over the next century will come from. The fragile coalition of businesses, some segments of the energy industry, and environmentalists that appeared ready to support a domestic cap and trade system has frayed, as the environmental movement has demanded that all carbon allowances be auctioned and business interests have balked at the increasing costs of the regulations.

“And a variety of scientific and economic analysis has come out, not from opponents of action to address climate change but from supporters, suggesting that the policy framework developed by environmentalists in the early 1990's to address climate change will not be capable of achieving its objectives. These include a recent Nature commentary suggesting that the IPCC may have vastly underestimated the likely growth of carbon emissions over the next century, and thus underestimated the scale of the technology challenge necessary to stabilize carbon levels in the atmosphere, and a raft of studies and other analysis suggesting that carbon caps, regulations, and pricing, the primary policy mechanisms proposed by the environmental movement to address climate change, will not drive rapid and large scale transition from conventional energy sources to zero and low carbon energy sources.

“Unfortunately, the response to these developments from some environmentalists has been to attempt to tar those who have challenged the efficacy of the dominant environmental policy framework to address climate change with the same brush that they used to discredit those who denied the existence of anthropogenic climate change back in the 90's, only this time they are attacking respected climate scientists, energy experts, and activists who have no connection to the fossil fuel industry and have long and well documented track records of advocating for strong action to address climate change.”