Out with the clods – a response to Jarrod Gilbert

Guest post

A recent article by a sociologist, Jarrod Gilbert, published in the Herald, made out the case for “those denying climate change” to be deemed criminals. It stated that “denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested. The term climate sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool”.  It further suggested, “ignore them (the problems) now is as unconscionable as it is selfish. It ought be seen as a crime” [Sic].

The parting shot was, “deniers….ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored”.

The evidence for proposing that half the population who are sceptical of climate change be “deemed criminals” was that 97% of scientists say that climate change is occurring.  Are these the same 97% who said that saturated fats were bad for us?  Or the same 97% who once said the earth was flat?

One would have thought that a sociologist who claims to be a “lead researcher” may have taken time to look more closely at the 97% claim.  After all, if an otherwise fine, upstanding citizen is going to made a criminal the basis for the criminalising should be robust and beyond any doubt. The problem for Gilbert is that the 97% claim (or rightly claims)has been shown to be at best questionable and mostly, flat wrong.  Not even having President Obama anoint it makes it right.  About the only factual aspect of the claim is that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from or what it is about.

However the relevant point is whether science of such critical importance should be done on the basis of numbers and percentages or soundly researched, demonstrable, reproducible data, analysis and models with proven predictive value. Adding up the numbers of papers stating a particular position and calling it factual and the basis for international, influential policy making is dangerous and flies in the face of the longstanding ‘scientific method’.

In any event much of the confusion relates to terms and interpretations.  Both ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ are misleading terms.  There are virtually no scientists or commentators suggesting that there is no climate change or that temperatures, generally, are not rising.  The percentage drops if you ask is the amount of change in any way due to human causes.  It drops further if you ask whether the human cause is significant in the numbers.  It drops a long way if you ask can anything of significance be done to alter the predicted outcomes and the numbers are well down if you ask should anything be done. At this point the issue is political rather than scientific.

The public frustration and the basis for much of the so-called denial comes from so many claims and predictions by both scientists and politicians over the last 50 years being wrong.  The models created by NASA, NOAA, BMO and others (there are over 100 ‘official’ computer models) have been proven to be too high by a serious amount.  The claims around increasing floods, droughts, cyclones, disappearing ice, polar bears, famines, inundated islands and a myriad of other startling events are mostly now shown to be wrong.  Temperature rise has slowed markedly in the last 20 years – much slower than the rise in the 1940’s, for example before CO2 rose.

The very “educated members of the public who (should) counteract the deniers” according to Gilbert are, presumably people like Albert Gore, who tried to popularise the now debunked ‘hockey stick’ and who surmised that the Arctic would not exist by 2015 or maybe the past head of the IPCC who decided the Himalayan glaciers were disappearing or perhaps John Holdren, President Obama’s scientific adviser who claimed that a billion people would die in “carbon-dioxide induced famines” as part of a new “Ice Age” by the year 2020.  Would an “educated member” be the director of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) New York office who was quoted as claiming that “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.” He also predicted “coastal flooding and crop failures” that “would create an exodus of ‘eco-refugees,’ threatening political chaos.”

This “educated” commentator could help. Prominent Princeton professor and lead UN IPCC author Michael Oppenheimer made some dramatic predictions in 1990. By 1995, he said, the “greenhouse effect” would be “desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots.”  The list of quotes from “educated people” who got headlines with scary, unscientific and hopelessly wrong predictions and comments is very long.

It must be frustrating for the learned Gilberts of this world that only half the population give more than a passing thought to catastrophic climate change.  How dare the ‘uncivilised and uneducated’ not swallow without dissent the pontificating from their superiors. And why should some of the most experienced and respected scientists associated with climate research be allowed to speak out criticising failed models and politicised science?  It’s called democracy and free speech.

However, the most insulting aspect of Gilbert’s piece is the idea that we be controlled by ‘thought police.  That free speech is trumped by a scientific theory, not yet even roughly proven.  He proposes a world where dissenting views are to criminalised taking us back a few hundred years to the early days of the Enlightenment – what an ironic travesty.  Back to having the “clods” controlled and in their place.

It would be easy to write Gilbert off as an isolated individual needing more publicity for his next book but the media, including most New Zealand media, are already censoring contributions on the climate change debate.  Gilbert’s views are shared by a coterie of Democratic leaders and prosecutors in the USA and socialist extremists in Europe.  The arrogance is breathtaking and sinister.  If allowed in the door where does such freedom restricting end?  Freedom of speech is the very foundation of democracy and a civil society.

No matter the rights or wrongs of climate change the very idea that the so-called elite should filter such activity is repulsive and acutely dangerous.


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