Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
I’ve been blogging about the fact that Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), habitually links the good name of that organization to activist endeavours of various descriptions (see here, here, and here).
In one instance, he wrote an enthusiastic foreword to the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2009 report prior to delivering the keynote address at an event celebrating the release of that publication. This means that the IPCC, a body we’re told exists to provide an objective view of climate science, is now inextricably associated with an overtly activist screed.
What does this publication say, exactly? The first lines appearing on the Acknowledgments page are these:
In the 20 years since the historic testimony by Goddard Institute scientist James Hansen, the science of climate change has come a long way…Hansen’s work and courage has been a major inspiration in compiling this twenty-sixth edition of State of the World. [bold added; p. vii]
When Frontline interviewed Timothy Wirth, the man who orchestrated Hansen’s 1988 Congressional testimony, he described the sequence of events this way:
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 felt certain about his own theories. That’s what triggered the global warming frenzy. Hansen’s testimony transformed him into a media darling, a scientific superstar. So where, precisely, does courage come into it?
Hansen has hardly been toiling away in obscurity – or poverty. For decades he has been a senior, presumably well-paid, employee at NASA. In 2001 he was the recipient of a $250,000 Heinz Award. In 2007 Time magazine designated him a Hero of the Environment. That same year he pocketed one-third of a $1 million Dan David Prize. In 2008, the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented him with its Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award. In 2010 he landed a $100,000 Sophie Prize.
Hansen is the promoter of theories about our climate that, with the passage of time, may or may not be borne out. Rather than being persecuted for these theories, he has been fêted and financially rewarded. His prize money alone amounts to $683,000.
It ‘s not clear what part of this story the Worldwatch folks find so inspiring. What’s unmistakable is that they’re the sort of drama queens who believe we’re on the verge of an apocalypse. Here are some tidbits from the earliest pages of the book (bold added by me):
It is New Year’s Day, 2101. Somehow, humanity survived the worst of global warming…What did humanity do…to snatch a threatened world from the jaws of climate change catastrophe? (p. 3)
[This book] provides hope amidst the grim certainty that we are living in the early years of a vast unplanned change in the planet’s climate. (p. 3)
…we are privileged to live in a brief window of time when human beings can act decisively to stop the warming before its impacts become impossible to reverse or to tolerate. (p. 3)
It is now virtually certain that children born today will find their lives preoccupied with a host of hardships created by an inexorably warming world. (p. 5)
This would all be more stirring if it weren’t for a rather inconvenient fact. Over the past few hundred years there has been a parade of people who were all convinced the world had reached a tipping point and that they, too, were the anointed generation called upon to transform society and save us from disaster (see Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist and Dan Gardner’s Future Babble).
What cure do the Worldwatch folks propose for the disease they believe afflicts us? Small, pinched lives in which travel to foreign countries is no longer an opportunity enjoyed by the masses. Worldwatch, you see, has determined that travel isn’t a necessity. Moreover, these people think they’re entitled to decide what makes the rest of us happy:
Lifestyle changes will be needed, some of which seem unattractive today. But in the end, the things we may need to learn to live without – oversized cars and houses, status-based consumption, easy and cheap world travel, meat with every meal, disposable everything – are not necessities or in most cases what makes people happy. (p. 10)
They also appear to have a dubious fixation with bigger government and more taxation:
…it is not hard to imagine the climate problem driving a political evolution toward global governance over the long term…New institutions and new funds will be needed… (p. 10)
When these sentiments are added to their certainty that:
The global economy fundamentally drives climate change, and economic strategies will need to be revised if the climate is ever to be stabilized… (p. 12)
and their declaration that “an accurate examination of climate change” must include an “analysis of gender relations” (p.61) we end up with a full slate of readily-identifiable left-wing hobby horses.
The attention of these people isn’t focused on fixing one particular problem. Instead, they’re eager to redesign the economy, to re-jig the world’s political system, and to tell us how much meat we’re allowed to consume.
But instead of doing the hard work of selling each of those measures to the public on its own merits, the Worldwatch Institute is trying to sneak them in through the back door – by presenting them as necessary responses to human-caused climate change.
The problem with this argument is that lefty eco activists were pushing those same solutions long before global warming became the cause du jour. A while ago I wrote a blog post titled Global Disaster Is So 1976. I pointed out that people were talking about worldwide catastrophe back then, too. I noted that the answers being proposed included lifestyle changes such as eating less meat.
The bottom line? Rajendra Pachauri, as chairman of what is supposed to be a respectable science body, has – with deliberation and forethought – publicly linked that body to left-wing political analysis and activism.
In doing so he has single-handedly made it impossible for anyone who cares about scientific integrity, scholarly impartiality, or old-fashioned propriety to take the IPCC seriously.