Turning Tricks; Cashing In On Fear
by Alexander Cockburn, December 26, 2009
In the early 1970s the UN spearheaded the progressive notion of a new world economic order, one that would try to level the playing field between the First World and the Third. The neoliberal onslaughts gathering strength from the mid-1970s on destroyed that project. Eventually the UN, desperate to reassert some semblance of moral leadership, regrouped behind the supposed crisis of climate change as concocted by the AGW lobby, behind which lurk huge corporate interests such as the nuclear power companies. Radicals from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, putting forward proposals for upping the Third World’s income from its primary commodities, were displaced by climate shills in the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the IPCC. The end consequence, as represented by Copenhagen’s money-grubbing power plays over “carbon mitigation” funding, has been a hideous travesty of that earlier vision of a global redistribution of resources.
Such is the downward swoop of our neoliberal era. In Oslo Obama went one better than Carter who, you may recall , proclaimed in 1977 that his crusade for energy conservation was “the moral equivalent of war.” Obama trumped this with his claim that war is the moral equivalent of peace. As he was proffering this absurdity, Copenhagen was hosting its global warming jamboree, surely the most outlandish foray into intellectual fantasizing since the fourth-century Christian bishops assembled for the Council of Nicaea in 325AD to debate whether God the father was supreme or had to share equal status in the pecking order of eternity with his Son and with the Holy Ghost.
Shortly before the Copenhagen summit the proponents of anthropogenic — human-caused — global warming (AGW) were embarrassed by a whistleblower who put on the web over a thousand emails either sent from or received at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia headed by Dr. Phil Jones, who has since stepped down from his post — whether temporarily or permanently remains to be seen. The CRU was founded in 1971 with funding from sources including Shell and British Petroleum. At that time the supposed menace to the planet and to mankind was global cooling, a source of interest to oil companies for obvious reasons.
Coolers transmuted into warmers in the early 80s and the CRU became one of the climate modeling grant mills supplying the tainted data from which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC ) has concocted its reports which have been since their inception — particularly the executive summaries — carefully contrived political initiatives disguised as objective science. Soon persuaded of the potential of AGW theories for their bottom line, the energy giants effortlessly recalibrated their stance, and as of 2008 the CRU included among its financial supporters Shell and BP, also the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and UK Nirex Ltd, a company in the nuclear waste business.
After some initial dismay at what has been called, somewhat unoriginally, “Climategate” the reaction amid progressive circles — 99% inhabited by True Believers in anthropogenic global warming — has been to take up defensive positions around the proposition that deceitful manipulation of data, concealment or straightforward destruction of inconvenient evidence, vindictive conspiracies to silence critics, are par for the course in all scientific debate and, although embarrassing, the CRU emails in no way compromise the core pretensions of their cause.
Scientific research is indeed saturated with exactly this sort of chicanery. But the CRU emails graphically undermine the claim of the Warmers — always absurd to those who have studied the debate in any detail — that they commanded the moral high ground. It has been a standard ploy of the Warmers to revile the skeptics as intellectual whores of the energy industry, swaddled in munificent grants and with large personal stakes in discrediting AGW. Actually, the precise opposite is true. Billions in funding and research grants sluice into the big climate modeling enterprises. There’s now a vast archipelago of research departments and “institutes of climate change” across academia, with a huge vested interest in defending the AGW model. It’s where the money is. Skepticism, particularly for a young climatologist or atmospheric physicist, can be a career breaker.
By the same token magazines and newspapers, reeling amidst the deadly challenge of the internet to their circulation and advertising base have seen proselytizing for the menace of man-made global warming, as a circulation enhancer — a vital ingredient in alluring a younger audience. Hence the abandoned advocacy of AGW by Scientific American, the New Scientist, Nature, Science, not to mention the New York Times (whose lead reporter on this topic has been Andrew Revkin, who has a personal literary investment in the AGW thesis, as a glance at his publications on Amazon will attest.)
Many of the landmines in the CRU emails tend to buttress long-standing charges by skeptics that statistical chicanery by Professor Michael Mann and others occluded the highly inconvenient Medieval Warm Period, running from 800 to 1300 AD, with temperatures in excess of the highest we saw in the twentieth century, a historical fact which made nonsense of the thesis that global warming could be attributed to the auto-industrial civilization of the twentieth century. Here’s Keith Briffa, of the CRU, letting his hair down in an email written on September 22, 1999: “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards 'apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data' but in reality the situation is not quite so simple… I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago.”
Now, in the fall of 1999 the IPCC was squaring up to its all-important “Summary for Policy-Makers” — essentially a press release — one that eventually featured the notorious graph flatlining into non-existence the Medieval Warm Period and displaying a terrifying, supposedly unprecedented surge in 20th century temperatures. Briffa’s reconstruction of temperature changes, one showing a mid- to late-twentieth-century decline, was regarded by Mann, in a September 22, 1999, e-mail to the CRU, as a “problem and a potential distraction/detraction.” So Mann, a lead author on this chapter of the IPCC report, simply deleted the embarrassing post-1960 portion of Briffa’s reconstruction. The CRU’s Jones happily applauded Mann’s deceptions in an e-mail in which he crowed over “Mike’s Nature trick.” Like politicians trying to recover from a racist outburst, AGW apologists say the “trick” was taken out of context. It wasn’t.
Other landmines include particularly telling emails from Kenneth Trenberth, a senior scientist and the head of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. On October 14, 2009, he wrote to the CRU’s Tom: “How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are nowhere close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a travesty!”
In other words, only a few weeks before the Copenhagen summit, here is a scientist in the inner AGW circle disclosing that “we are not close to knowing” whether the supposedly proven AGW model of the earth’s climate actually works, and that therefore “geo-engineering” — global carbon-mitigation, for example — is “hopeless.”
This admission edges close to acknowledgement of a huge core problem — that the “greenhouse” theory and the vaunted greenhouse models violate the second law of thermodynamics which says that a cooler body cannot warm a hotter body XX. Greenhouse gasses in the cold upper atmosphere, even when warmed a bit by absorbed infrared, cannot possibly transfer heat to the warmer earth, and in fact radiate their absorbed heat into outer space. Readers interested in the science can read mathematical physicist Gerhard Gerlich’s and Ralf Tscheuchner’s detailed paper published in The International Journal of Modern Physics, updated in January , 2009, “Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics.”
“For the last eleven years,” as Paul Hudson, climate correspondent of the BBC said on October 9, “we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.” In fact recent data from many monitors including the CRU, available on climate4you.com show that the average temperature of the atmosphere and the oceans near the surface of the earth has decreased significantly for the last 8 years or so. CO2 is a benign gas essential to life, occurring in past eras, long before the advent of manmade emissions, at five times present levels. Changes in atmospheric CO2 do not correlate with those emissions of CO2, the latter being entirely trivial in the global balance of carbon.
As for the nightmare of vanishing ice caps and inundating seas, the average Arctic ice coverage has essentially remained unchanged for the last 20 years, and has actually increased slightly over the last 3 years. The rate of rise of sea level has declined significantly over the last 3 years, and its average rate of rise for the last 20 years is about the same as it has been for the last 15,000 years, that is, since the last glacial cooling ended and the earth, without help from mankind, entered the current interglacial warming period. The sea rise of that still on-going interglacial warm spell, among other things, flooded the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska to form the Bering Straits — without which we might be a province of Russia today. So much for the terrors of sea rise.
The battles in Nicaea in 325 were faith-based, with no relation to science or reason. seventeen centuries later, so were the premises of the Copenhagen summit, that the planet faces catastrophic warming caused by a man-made CO2 build-up and that human intervention — geo-engineering — could avert the coming disaster. Properly speaking, the Copenhagen dogmata are a farce. In terms of distraction from cleaning up the pollutants that are actually killing people, they are a terrible tragedy.
As a teenager one of my favorite novels was John Masters’ 1951 classic, The Deceivers, about the stranglers in nineteenth century India, known as the Thugs. It was great history and, for the 50s, it was hot. A few weeks ago I read a very interesting essay on a site called The Immanent Frame by William Pinch, professor of history at Wesleyan. Pinch was part of a panel of writers — CounterPunch’s Vijay Prashad was another — writing about the Mumbai terror attacks of a year ago. Pinch discussed one consequence of Mumbai, the creation, in December 2008, of a central Indian police body, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), charged with the investigation of “terror-related offenses.” This agency has wide powers and jurisdiction, including the power to bypass state police units and convene special courts.
What particularly caught my eye was Pinch’s mention in passing of the creation of the NIA as being not unlike the creation of the Department of Thuggee and Dacoity in the 1830s, part of a “war on terror” — against Kali-crazed stranglers — promoted by a bureaucratic empire builder in the East India Company called William Sleeman.
Pinch readily agreed to write the essay — a marvelous one — in our latest newsletter, about criminal conspiracies and religious violence, starting with the Thugs and looking forward to the “wars on terror” after 9/11/01 and Mumbai.
Who were the Thugs, as they were called? Were they simply members of a unified all-India cult devoted to satisfying the bloodlust of an ever-thirsty goddess, or was the religion in thug violence simply a language of expression for acts that had myriad social and economic origins? The story, set forth by Pinch, has profound reverberations in our terror-transfixed times. As he concludes, “moments of dramatic expansion of state power are often accompanied by a demonization of criminal conspiracies as a thing of evil that needs to be fought on a quasi-war footing.”
Also in this latest newsletter, you’ll find Andrew Cockburn on how Wall Street effortlessly wiped out the possibility of serious financial reform ever emerging from Congress. Serge Halimi, director of Le Monde Diplomatique, writes on the political uses of fear-mongering about deficits. ¥¥
(Alexander Cockburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)