Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

If the Science is So Persuasive, Why the Theatrics?

The chairman of the United Nations Foundation, Ted Turner, recently urged other countries to adopt China’s barbaric one-child policies. For the good of the planet he thinks millions more women should be subject to forced sterilization forcibly sterilized.

It takes my breath away that anyone can say these things and not be shunned by polite society. In an attempt to make sense of these remarks, I’ve been poking around the UN Foundation website. And I’ve run into an old friend.

His name is Timothy Wirth. Americans know him as a Democratic Party partisan with a distinguished career. His bio tells us he was national co-chair of the successful 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign, that he served as the lead US negotiator for the Kyoto climate talks, and that he then became president of the UN Foundation in 1997. It also includes this claim to fame:

In 1988, he organized the historic Hansen hearings on climate change.

Two decades later, when I first began researching global warming, it was Wirth’s conduct in connection with those hearings that set off some of my earliest alarm bells. By then I was already troubled by the number of smart people who were saying dumb things like “the debate is over” and “the science is settled.”

In science, nothing is ever settled. When new information presents itself, our understanding of the world must evolve accordingly. No real scientist thinks we’ve discovered everything there is to know about any subject – and certainly not one as complicated as climate change.

In other words, slogans such as these indicate that people are attempting to advance political arguments by invoking the authority of science. Which is, of course, an old tactic. Near the end of chapter three In George Orwell’s 1945 novel, Animal Farm, the other farmyard animals are told that milk and apples must be reserved for the (ruling elite) pigs since it “has been proved by Science” that they “contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig.”

Back in June 1988, when activist-scientist James Hansen testified before a Senate committee chaired by Al Gore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) hadn’t yet been established. It had not conducted even one of its four assessment reports. We’re now told that these reports are the basis for the world’s belief that dangerous, human-caused global warming is real. Back in 1988 Wirth, who was then a US senator, had no IPCC to point to. He had no alleged “scientific consensus” to trumpet.

As the bloggers at argue frequently and forcefully, people such as Wirth start with the politically-motivated conviction that humans are causing irreparable environmental harm. Then they find experts to support their views – not the other way around. In this PBS television program transcript Wirth says:

We knew there was this scientist at NASA, you know, who had really identified the human impact before anybody else had done so and was very certain about it. So we called him up and asked him if he would testify. [bold added]

One scientist who, as scientists are wont, felt “very certain” his theories were correct. That’s all the evidence Wirth needed. And the rest, as they say, is history. Hansen’s testimony was a turning point –  after which the mainstream media, the environmental lobby, and much of the known world became critically concerned about climate change.

Which brings us to the crux of the matter: If Hansen’s scientific arguments were so convincing, if his evidence was so cut-and-dried, so “beyond debate,” why did Wirth stoop to political theatre, to “stagecraft” – as a television journalist charitably terms it?

Why did Wirth (and, by implication, Al Gore) deliberately schedule the hearing for the hottest part of the year? Why did Wirth sneak into the hearing room the night before and open the windows so that the air conditioning system wouldn’t work be ineffective? If weather is not climate, why did Wirth go to such trouble to suggest the exact opposite to the media covering that event?

The above video clip is less than a minute long. [Full program transcript here.] I urge you to take a look. Hear Wirth cheerfully describe how he employed methods of persuasion that have nothing to do with science in order to convey a particular climate change message. Then decide for yourself: To whom did the victory go that day? To science – or to manipulative political operatives?

Isn’t it just peachy that the UN Foundation is being led by one man who wants to sterilize the world’s women – and by another who thinks the media needs to be tricked into believing alleged scientific facts.


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