Politicizing The Climate Science Debate Has Boosted Alarmism

Commentary, Climate, Tom Harris

Part 5 of a 6 part series examining the so-called “consensus” in the climate science community, the scientists who dare dissent from political correctness and a new, less partisan way to promote rational climate policy

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, it was shown that claims of a ‘consensus’ in the climate science community that our CO2 emissions are causing dangerous global warming are unfounded. In part 3, it was demonstrated that the most critical question for society is often not even addressed when scientists are polled. In part 4, some of the joint statements from climate experts who disagree with official doctrine were listed and we started to answer the question: “why have climate skeptics failed to convince mainstream media to cover the issue properly?”  In this, the fifth part of the series, we continue to answer that question and look at other barriers to gaining more public and academic support of our views.

“The fundamental scientific foundation of the anthropogenic CO2-caused dangerous global warming hypothesis is wrong or grossly exaggerated,“ said Dr. Brian Pratt, Professor of Geology (Sedimentology) at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
Although most so-called ‘skeptics’ are less assertive, doubts about the scientific validity of a human-caused climate crisis are being heard more and more often in the climate science community. 
This is very good news indeed and something everyone needs to hear about. After all, aside from those with vested interests in promoting alarm (see part 4), no one in their right mind wants a climate crisis. The fact that scientists of Pratt’s stature are increasingly concluding that the problem may simply not exist should give governments the incentive to begin transferring funds from misguided programs to “stop global warming” to worthwhile endeavors like education, health care, paying down the debt and addressing real environmental problems such as toxic waste dumps, urban air quality and ocean pollution. Alternatively, the cancellation of programs that, even now, are soaking up hundreds of billions of dollars internationally should permit tax cuts across the board. Whether one is capitalist or socialist, left or right, rich or poor, a legitimate end to the climate scare would benefit our societies immensely.  
Yet, many people do not see it that way. Those of us who do not support the idea that human greenhouse gas emissions are dangerously warming the planet are usually condemned by main stream media as being ultra-conservative, ill-informed, anti-environmentalists, when the press acknowledges us at all.  As a consequence, many in the public still regard the climate debate as a left vs. right wing struggle, with supposedly greedy industrialists on the right trying to sway governments against the concerns of supposedly caring environmentalists on the left.  For this reason, numerous corporations, even some in the energy and natural resources sector who have the most to lose in a CO2-restricted future, now financially support the very campaigners who, given the choice, would completely close down their companies.  Besides being a public relations exercise similar to that described by Dr. Tim Ball writing about British Petroleum, many corporations are simply ‘paying for protection’.  Publically contributing to climate lobby groups lessens the likelihood that their specific companies will be targeted as ‘climate criminals’.  Now being supported by some of the world’s largest corporations and foundations allows climate campaigners to increase their already vast PR network even as much of the science that supports the climate scare is being increasingly called into question (witness the recent expansion of The David Suzuki Foundation to new offices in Montreal and Toronto, and an addition of about fifty new staff).
The story of how climate change became a left vs. right wing debate, is beyond the scope of this series but this polarization is readily apparent when one examines the political affiliations of the most outspoken participants, be they special interest lobbyists, scientists, politicians, media or even ordinary citizens. Historically, this situation is counterintuitive. The left have usually been the most opposed to organized religion and faith-based approaches to life, while this has been a staple of many conservatives.  But, in the climate debate, the tables were turned and it is the left that unquestioningly accepted climate catastrophism, damning those who dare contest official doctrine, while skepticism became strongest on the right. 
Regardless of its causes, this development has been enormously beneficial for climate campaigners for a number of reasons.
First, most scientists are not right wing. Surveys show that, in all disciplines, university faculty are overwhelmingly left or center-left. The same is true of university students.  Consequently, it is far easier for a university researcher or professor to speak out in agreement with left wing ideals than in support of what are regarded as right of center views. University scientists who do not agree with the CO2/dangerous global warming hypothesis therefore usually remain quiet, rather than risk the wrath of students, condemnation of their peers, reduced research grants and, in extreme cases, even death threats (at least two of ICSC’s leading scientists have received death threats). 
Meanwhile most public school systems, few of which would ever be considered right of center, have gradually ‘greened’ their curriculum to the point of accepting climate change dogma as unquestioned fact in textbooks, as well as other supporting material provided to students.  A whole generation has grown up without the benefit of a balanced education on this topic. 
The evolution of the left vs. right aspects of the climate debate has also been a boom for climate campaigners’ fund raising.  In most western democracies, true right-wingers are in the minority, especially in Canada and Europe. This is one of the reasons that conservative governments usually shift left after gaining power, Canada being a prime example.  Fund raising in such an environment will always be much easier for those seen to be slightly left of center.
But the biggest benefit to climate campaigners of the politicization of the climate debate came as a result of the inherent bias of mainstream media, most of whom are left or centre-left.  Many reporters, even before knowing much about the field, instinctively support the CO2-caused crisis hypothesis promoted by climate campaigners, while vigorously opposing the stance of those they regard as their philosophical and political opponents.  Consequently, main stream media became a communications arm of the environmental movement, amplifying the message of climate campaigners orders of magnitude louder than these groups could ever afford on their own. 
This is a feature of the debate that most of those opposing the CO2/dangerous global warming hypothesis have not adequately accounted for in their programs.  They have generally ignored the fact that, as long as the climate debate remains left vs. right, most of the press and a large fraction of the public and academia will retain their current bias against climate skepticism, regardless of new science findings and, at times, even against their own financial best interests. Even when they come to understand the serious discrepancies in the CO2/extreme climate change argument, most on the left, like the majority of those of any political persuasions, will simply stay quiet about it, rather than risk alienating their ideological fellow travelers.
As a sample of what is possible if the climate debate is framed in a less partisan way, look carefully at the wording of this article by leading BBC journalist Roger Harrabin reporting on the Heartland Institute’s Climate Change Conference in May.  Like most mainstream reporters, Harrabin’s distain for things he regards as right of center is palpable.  But, his coverage of the views of skeptics he sees as being not “right-wingers” (I am not a “left-winger” either) is far less critical and I found Harrabin intensely interested in hearing about the serious flaws in the science backing climate catastrophism, provided I presented it in a politically neutral way without ad hominem criticism of my intellectual opponents (an approach that often mars the arguments of campaigners on both sides of the issue).   
In my discussions with other left and center-left reporters at the conference (and elsewhere), I have found a common thread – while many are genuinely curious about alternative interpretations of climate change science, their hostility to conservative values is so strong that this often overwhelms their objectivity when they actually get down to the job of reporting on the issue at hand. One naturally wonders if the whole tenor of main stream media coverage of climate science, and indeed that in academia and the public as well, would change markedly if the situation was presented in a more politically neutral way.