Confess and Project

Monday, February 27, 2012

In The Weekly Standard is an amusing and instructive wrap-up of a leftist attempt to manufacture a sort of AGW skeptic ClimateGate. I'd vaguely heard about this, but hadn't followed the story at all and, in fact, was induced to read the story by its headline of, "Why the Climate Skeptics Are Winning". If you're in my former shoes, take a look: You'll find a scientist, Peter Gleick, confessing to having tricked someone at the Heartland Institute, which puts on a conference of AGW skeptics each year, into sending him some of its internal documents.

Kaminsky and a second blogger, Steven Mosher, piled up the anomalies: The leaked board documents were not scanned but were original software-produced documents, which moreover have a time stamp from Heartland’s Central time zone. Hence the "strategy memo," if authentic, would have had to be obtained by some other channel. These and other clues led both Kaminsky and Mosher to go public with the accusation that the most likely perpetrator was Peter Gleick, a semi-prominent environmental scientist in Oakland, California.
The article goes on to note that Gleick confessed to the deception, although he claimed to have done so after receiving a "strategy memo" allegedly from Heartland which reads more like the psychological projection of how a leftist imagines the folks at Heartland would think, rather than anything remotely plausible, as this excerpt should demonstrate:
Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out. Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as [Andrew] Revkin at Dot­Earth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW [anthropogenic global warming] communicators ... [bold added]
This reminds me of something Heidi "Lysenko" Cullen might say. Furthermore, the piece goes on to note that Revkin, an AGW fellow traveler who nevertheless finds himself in hot water with his "community" from time to time when his reporting doesn't toe the party line, has since speculated that Gleick himself may have authored the fake strategy memo. The piece ends with an amusing demolition of yet another silly AGW extrapolation/attempt to demonize AGW skeptics for some of the very things that characterize the AGW movement.

The piece ends by alluding to its title.
The Gleick episode exposes again a movement that disdains arguing with its critics, choosing demonization over persuasion and debate. A confident movement would face and crush its critics if its case were unassailable, as it claims. The climate change fight doesn't even rise to the level of David and Goliath. Heartland is more like a David fighting a hundred Goliaths. Yet the serial ineptitude of the climate campaign shows that a tiny David doesn't need to throw a rock against a Goliath who swings his mighty club and only hits himself square in the forehead.
In the sense of competing on the merit of one's ideas in a free marketplace, this is true. Unfortunately, just as the scientific question of what is going on with climate has been conflated with the political one of what (if anything) to do, scientific inquiry has been politicized with government funding and there is always the threat that scientific results (correct or not) will be used as an excuse for more central "planning" of the economy. When government force is misused in this way, even the most meritorious argument can "lose" in terms of people being unable to live according to its implications. Excuse me for being a wet blanket, but doesn't the above optimism seem a little misplaced in this context?

If conservatives would fight central planning on principle, they would feel much less anxiety about what climate science has to say, and focus on getting rid of the centrally-planned entitlement state. Perhaps the over-optimistic title and conclusion of this piece are a sort of conservative confession of relief: One who won't stand for freedom on principle will regard the industrial civilization one enjoys, but won't defend, at risk over a the outcome of a scientific debate, of all things. In that vein, I would summarize too much conservative AGW commentary as follows: Whew! They're a wrong -- and pack of liars -- after all!

-- CAV

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