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The Warming Faithful Gather in Copenhagen

The UN Climate Change Conference has the unmistakable feel of a religious gathering. (Bruce Bawer is in Copenhagen covering the conference for PJM and PJTV. See also Roger L. Simon: Climategate — Why Obama Switched His Copenhagen Itinerary and Roger Kimball: Providence Intervenes to Chastise Climate Change Fanatics and Save the World)

by
Bruce Bawer

Bio

December 7, 2009 - 12:18 am

Well, here I am at the Vatican in Rome, where thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the earth crowd St. Peter’s Square, their eyes trained on the glorious basilica within which the College of Cardinals is gathering in secret conclave to settle the all-important question: Who will stand in the shoes of the fisherman?

Oops, sorry, I got a little confused there for a second. In fact I’ve just arrived in Copenhagen. But you’ll have to excuse my mistake, because it’s already clear that being here during the next few days is going to be very much like attending some kind of massive religious gathering. The faithful — over 16,000 strong — are here, of course, for the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference, a.k.a. COP15 (“COP” as in Conference of the Parties), at which they supposedly hope to achieve a provisional international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus rescue our beloved blue planet from the fate envisioned in any number of bad Roland Emmerich movies.

I say “supposedly” because at this point, lacking a polygraph, it’s hard to know for sure what any of these professional climate folks really think or believe or aspire to. The bombshell revelations of recent weeks, now known as Climategate, and explored so thoroughly and informatively on this website, should have shaken to the roots any true believer in the doctrine of man-made global warming owing to CO2 and other greenhouse gases. But so far there appear not to have been any major defections from the climate club — not that that’s really much of a surprise, because even before the dam burst, it was clear that this whole movement to place global warming at the heart of the international agenda wasn’t about responsible science but about politics, pure and simple. The plain fact is that after Communism disappeared in Europe, the Green movement arose to take its place as a counterforce to democratic capitalism — meaning that every crank and malcontent who previously would have been a Communist or fellow traveler now keeps busy ranting about the way in which capitalist societies, America above all, are brutally destroying the environment, greedily using up resources at rates a zillion times higher than people in developing countries. The global-warming cause is a subset of this — and to my mind it’s always seemed to be, for Europeans anyway, not only a means of elbowing the U.S. in the ribs, but also a convenient distraction, a way to avoid dealing with the continent’s real problem, namely Islamization, while still allowing oneself to posture as a serious, responsible-minded citizen.

But back to Climategate. Most of you who are reading this are likely up to speed — thanks more to PJ Media, I’m sure, than to the mainstream media, which have been giving the whole sorry business as short shrift as they dare. But for those of you who have been living in a cave for the last month (and if you have, hey, kudos to you for being so eco-conscious!), here’s a brief rundown: On November 19, some 4,000 purloined e-mails and other documents from servers at Britain’s University of East Anglia — home of the Climatic Research Unit, the global-warming movement’s Ground Zero — were posted online. These documents revealed that some of the scientists who have been most active in pushing the chief tenet of global warming — namely, that in recent years the earth has been heating up at an unnatural rate as a result of the release into the atmosphere of man-made greenhouse gases, chiefly CO2, and that drastic action is called for in order to prevent, well, drastic results — have been engaging in what a Wall Street Journal editorial called “concerted and coordinated efforts … to fit the data to their conclusions while attempting to silence and discredit their critics.” In other words, they’ve established a subculture in which destroying and fudging data, suppressing objective inquiry, and silencing legitimate dissent were routine. Among their concerns was that during the last decade or so, it seems — ahem — that the world hasn’t been getting warmer at all, but cooler, and that this inconvenient truth needed somehow to be … gotten rid of. Clive Crook, on his Atlantic blog, charged that “the closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me. The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. … This is pure George Orwell.”

It certainly is, but for the most part the mainstream media have labored overtime to dismiss the whole thing. Scientific American’s website ran a piece, “Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense,” that was one long sneer, equating global-warming skepticism with a belief in “ghosts, astrology, creationism, and homeopathy” and likening respectable scientist-critics of global-warming orthodoxy with conspiracy theorists who rant about Freemasons and Roswell aliens. Tom Zeller, Jr.’s article on the conference in Sunday’s New York Times opened with these eye-popping words: “With the scientific consensus more or less settled [my emphasis] that human activity … is contributing to a warmer and less hospitable planet …” What? Others, including the Economist, suggested that the e-mails simply reflect the way science is done in the real world, and that to think otherwise is naïve and idealistic.

Excuse me? If you know anything about science, you will know that the kind of “science” revealed in the East Anglia e-mails isn’t science at all — not by a long shot. In chem lab, back in high school and college, we were taught to treat experimental results religiously. Repeatedly, our teachers enjoined us to record results directly in our lab books, right there in the lab, and not just scribble them down and then copy them out neatly later, because there was always a slight possibility of miscopying them.  In short, respect — reverence, even — for the raw results of experiments, and thus for the scientific method itself, was drilled into our heads.  Scrupulosity was paramount. The truth was all. To come from that kind of a background, which is the foundation of all true scientific inquiry, and to read about the shabby, fast-and-loose shenanigans exposed in the East Anglia documents is — even for someone who has long been a dyed-in-the-wool cynic about these things — to be filled with shock and contempt.

Of course, everything here in Copenhagen seems to be proceeding as planned. The show must go on. All over town, the message being trumpeted is the same one reiterated in Sunday’s Times: that the science of this stuff is all settled, period, and that all that remains is to act. Indeed it’s being trumpeted so loudly and ubiquitously that Copenhagen, on second thought, doesn’t feel so much like the Vatican as it does, say, Havana or Pyongyang. Stroll around awhile and you’ll keep encountering giant banners or posters or displays designed to ensure that the great unwashed don’t lose sight of the orthodoxy to which they’re expected to pay mindless obeisance. On the side of one church, for example, a banner three stories high proclaims that it’s “TIME FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE.” There are also endless outsized placards — inspired, I suspect, by Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric – bearing the unfortunate coinage “HOPENHAGEN.” Barfsville. I don’t remember where, if anyplace, I’ve ever seen so many huge, fancy banners. Not to mention the big, splashy, World’s Fair-style displays — among them a giant globe in City Hall Park — which certainly must be using up plenty of electricity. Wasting resources is OK, it seems, when you’re engaged in a noble struggle against wasting resources.

Is it a stretch, by the way, to drag Pyongyang into this? I don’t think so. You know that famous picture of Earth at night, which shows the civilized countries ablaze with light while North Korea is pitch dark? That darkness, after all, is what these characters are proposing for all of us, and for our posterity: international agreements that would create a brave new world in which we’d sit in our feebly lit little bathrooms using one miserable square of Soviet Union-style toilet paper per visit while thinking about all the places we might be traveling to if we still had the right to fly airplanes. Meanwhile these climate kings, these would-be Masters of the Universe (and I can only hope Tom Wolfe is planning to write a novel about them at this very moment), exempt from their own draconian edicts, would continue to jet around the world on private Gulfstreams, attending one pointless conference like this one after another.

One word about Copenhagen in December: brrrr. You wouldn’t necessarily consider it the ideal place to try to put over the message that the planet’s heating up. (There’s a reason why there are songs about April in Paris, autumn in New York, and Memphis in June, but not Copenhagen in December.) Of all people, moreover, you’d think Scandinavians would welcome toastier temperatures. But no – they’re more hyped up about global warming than anybody else. Why? One reason is that they, more than the rest of us, tend to take whatever the UN says on faith. Another is that this spare-a-square mentality brings out the thin-lipped, absurdly self-denying Lutheran killjoy preacher in all of them (think of the bishop stepfather in Fanny and Alexander) and taps into their latent guilt over being well-off and over embracing American-type lifestyles that are alien to their grandparents’ simpler, purer, more frugal ways. Who’s been using up all the toilet paper?  Who left this light on?  It’s like an oven in here! Talk about a red-blooded Scandinavian’s idea of a good (i.e., virtuous) time! Alas and alack, the Danes, like the Norwegians I live among, are cursed by the so-called Jante Law — a deep-seated mentality, instilled from infancy, which teaches them to feel unworthy of just about anything, to feel guilty about even the most modest pleasure or luxury, and to pour money into charities even if they know the money will end up paying for some Third World dictator’s eighteenth limo. The Jante Law is utterly at odds with the American belief in an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and it’s a natural foundation for the endless riot of petty, humorless guilt-tripping that is a key element of the global-warming cult.

Which is not to deny that this guilt-tripping has taken strong root in the U.S., too. For heaven’s sake, when somebody like Oprah (and I saw this just a couple of weeks ago) actually stands there on her show urging us, with a straight face, to use fewer paper towels in the kitchen, we should break down in helpless laughter at the idea that this woman who owns several lavish houses and travels by private jet should dare to lecture us so arrogantly. Just the other day, Mark Steyn noted that Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the UN Star Chamber for global warming), who has called for “hefty aviation taxes … to deter people from flying,” himself flew at least 443,000 miles on alleged IPCC business during a recent 19-month period. No one with any sense is really surprised by such things — only by the fact that these people continue to be taken seriously. To my mind, the incomparable level of hypocrisy on the part of all the major players in this operation, from Al Gore on down, was always enough to make it obvious that the whole thing was a scam — a scam perpetrated by a cultural, media, and academic elite on people whom they considered their inferiors, and a scam entirely at odds with the premises of American democracy. Of course there was no hard proof. Climategate has provided it.

And yet, as I say, people are still buying it. So it is that while wandering around downtown Copenhagen I come to a square called Nytorv in which I encounter a life-size polar bear made out of ice and provided courtesy of the WWF and Panasonic. It’s a big draw. Everybody’s taking pictures.  The idea is that over the course of the climate conference the bear will gradually melt, like Frosty the Snowman, thus making a dramatic statement about global warming. Unfortunately, it’s freezing cold here. (Then again, I have no doubt that they’ve got this thing rigged to melt, no matter what the air temperature.) From Nytorv it’s on to City Hall Square, where twenty or so kids are pedaling away at stationary bicycles that have been set up in a semicircle facing a big Christmas tree — the idea being that the kids’ cycling is powering the twinkling lights of the tree. A couple of dozen other kids are eagerly waiting to take their places. I’ve got to admit, it’s a brilliant idea to get us all off the grid: restore child labor!

And so, eventually, back to my hotel — where in the elevator I find myself face to face with a notice telling me that it belongs to “the world’s first CO2-neutral hotel chain.” Another notice invites hotel guests to participate in an event on December 12, when, at 7 p.m., the entire city of Copenhagen will turn off its lights for an hour — “Earth Hour.”  “Turn off the lights in your room and come down to the lounge,” the sign implores. “We’ll serve you a CO2-neutral beer in the candlelight.” It actually sounds cozy: who doesn’t like a beer in a candlelit bar?  But in the name of all that’s holy, is this really our future: an endless series of inane, empty gestures posturing as meaningful action on behalf of a legitimate cause — perhaps coupled, if the Climate Mafia gets its way, with worldwide legislation that uses its con as an excuse to obliterate, for all but a privileged few, what in America are known as constitutional liberties?

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