Telling ‘Noble Lies’ About Climate Change Will Backfire

Over the past twenty years, we’ve been subjected to a barrage of catastrophic climate change forecasts, prophecies that would put Moses to shame. Coastal communities will be submerged due to rapid sea-level rise caused by soaring temperatures and glacier melt. Record heat waves, droughts, floods, insect infestations, and wildfires will result in millions of climate change refugees fleeing their ruined homelands. Competition over increasingly scarce water resources will lead to armed conflict. About all that has been missing from these doom and gloom predictions is alien invasion.

Like Moses’ warnings to Pharaoh in the Bible, we are told there is a high price to pay if we are to avoid climate change-driven “death, injury, and disrupted livelihoods,” to quote from the March 31 report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We must reduce our carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70% by 2050 to keep so-called global temperature from exceeding 2° C above pre-industrial levels, the IPCC claims.  This will require massive cuts in our use of coal, oil, and natural gas, the sources of 87% of world primary energy consumption. What’s also needed, according to yet another IPCC report, Climate Change 2014 - Mitigation of Climate Change, released on April 12, is nothing less than:

a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero‐ and low‐carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage [CCS, a technology the IPCC admit is currently problematic], or bioenergy with CCS by the year 2050.

Former Vice President Al Gore tells us that “the survival of civilization as we know it” is at risk if we don’t take these kinds of actions.

While historical evidence increasingly suggests that cataclysm really did follow Moses’ prophesies, modern-day forecasts of climate Armageddon are not coming true. The reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) reveal that there is nothing extraordinary about late twentieth century warming, a temperature rise that stopped over 17 years ago. The NIPCC explains that ice cover "is not melting at an enhanced rate; sea-level rise is not accelerating; and no systematic changes have been documented in evaporation or rainfall or in the magnitude or intensity of extreme meteorological events."

Contrary to the IPCC’s warnings, the NIPCC report released this month, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts, shows that long-term warming and CO2 rise are benefitting nature and humanity, “causing a great greening of the Earth.”

Faced with such good news, what are global warming activists to do?

The latest IPCC reports demonstrate that many are following a strategy taught in law school: “if the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the facts are not on your side, pound the table.” In their February 24, 2014 paper “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements” published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Chinese professors Fuhai Hong and Zhao Xiaojian explain:

The IPCC has tended to over-generalize its research results and accentuate the negative side of climate change. Following its lead, the mainstream media has gone even further.…Analyzing a sample of print, broadcast and online media coverage over a three-month period between 2005 and 2006, Ereaut and Segnit (2006) concluded that climate change was most commonly constructed through an “alarmist” repertoire as “awesome, terrible” and “immense,” characterized by “an inflated or extreme lexicon.”

On the surface, this strategy appears to work. Hong and Xiaojian conclude that, when the climate change threat is not very severe, as the NIPCC demonstrates is the case today, exaggerating the dangers tends to increase public concern and so their countries' participation in international climate change agreements. Gore clearly supports this approach, admitting in 2006,

I believe it is appropriate to have an "over-representation" of the facts on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience.

Taken to extremes, this approach can backfire. Fully one-third of Americans now believe that the media exaggerates the climate change problem, according to research reported on in Public Opinion Quarterly. In a U.S. Gallup poll conducted in early March, global warming ranked 14th out of 15 issues respondents were asked about. The survey showed that people care far more about unemployment and the economy than they do about climate change. After years of overplaying their hands, climate activists now find themselves tuned out by a large fraction of the population.

So supporters of climate change mitigation are increasingly resorting to the "Noble Lie," a political concept introduced by Plato in The Republic. Plato believed that most people lacked the intelligence to behave in ways that are in their own and society’s best interest. Therefore, he advocated creating religious lies that are fed to the public to keep them under control and happy with their lot in life. False propaganda to enhance public welfare is completely acceptable, Plato argued.

Whether the real underlying purpose is to reduce pollution and energy consumption, or to promote foreign aid, crop biotechnology, alternative and nuclear energy, or even personal fitness, social justice, and world government, use of the Noble Lie has become common in the climate debate.

Leading the pack is Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s commissioner for climate action. She told the London-based Telegraph newspaper in September 2013 that, even if the science backing the climate scare is wrong, the EU’s climate policies are still correct as they would, according to her, lead to more efficient use of resources. Hedegaard asks, “Would it not in any case have been good to do many of things you have to do in order to combat climate change?"

Former U.S. Congressman and long-standing president of United Nations Foundation Timothy Wirth spelled out this strategy in 1998 when he said,

What we've got to do in energy conservation is try to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, to have approached global warming as if it is real means energy conservation, so we will be doing the right thing anyway in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.

Christine Stewart, the Liberal environment minister who negotiated in Kyoto on Canada's behalf, went even further, asserting,

No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits...climate change provides the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.

There are undoubtedly many advocates of such objectives who doubt, or are agnostic about, human-caused climate change. However, they see benefits to promoting, or at least going along with, the climate scare because it furthers their objectives in other fields that they regard as beneficial to society.  One of Canada’s top climate modellers said in private communications that, even though he did not believe that today’s computerized climate models made reliable forecasts, he would continue to promote them as if they did because he thought this would encourage the expansion of nuclear power, which he supported.

But this seemingly pragmatic approach is a slippery slope.

As the mistakes in the science backing man-made climate concerns become increasingly apparent, the primary rationale used by governments, environmental groups, and the press for energy conservation and other sensible actions evaporates. It is like teaching a child to behave well because Santa will otherwise cross them off his list. When they discover that they have been lied to about Santa, their behavior may quickly deteriorate. Similarly, the public naturally become cynical about conserving energy and protecting nature when they realize that they have been misled about climate change, currently the primary justification for environmentally conscious behaviour. Crying wolf over a non-issue eventually erodes public confidence in authorities and the reputation of sensible environmentalism and even science itself is damaged.

Earth Hour, observed across the world on March 29, is a case in point. The event was created by World Wide Fund for Nature, Australia, working with American advertising company Leo Burnett Worldwide to increase awareness about the supposed climate crisis. Many people who normally would support energy conservation oppose Earth Hour because they recognize the climate scare to be unfounded. Some even intentionally increase their energy consumption during Earth Hour, partly as an act of defiance and partly to focus attention on the importance of inexpensive energy to our civilization. The International Climate Science Coalition has called for Earth Hour to be replaced with Energy Hour and carried out for the right reasons: to promote energy policy that will keep the lights on.

Telling the Noble Lie that the science of climate change is "settled" so as to encourage moving quickly on "solutions" is also counterproductive. If the science is so certain, the public are bound to eventually ask, why should we fund climate research at all? We supposed know what the future holds in store for us, so public funding of climate research can be terminated. In reality, the science is so immature that we do not even know if warming or cooling lies ahead. So continuing climate research is important if we are to eventually develop the tools we need to predict climate change so as to prepare for whatever nature throws at us next.

The lie that we know the future of the climate and how to control it has resulted in a situation where, of the approximately $1 billion a day spent on climate finance across the world, only 6% goes to helping real people today adapt to the climate threats they are facing, however caused. The rest goes to the vain goal of trying to control the climate to be experienced by people yet to be born. People from across the political spectrum are starting to realize the immorality of such an approach.

Finally, the current focus on the impossible objective of "stopping climate change" has obscured the fact that we do indeed face a long-term energy crisis. It is that, as world usage of hydrocarbon fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—continues to rise, such inexpensive and plentiful sources of power will eventually become increasingly scarce and so more and more expensive. Planning for such a scenario requires that we engage in carefully planned, long-term research, not only to continue to improve the way we use hydrocarbon fuels, but also to develop alternatives that someday may actually be cost effective. Irrespective of the validity of climate change theories, there are good reasons to develop alternative sources of energy, but climate concerns is certainly not one of them.

Yet, because of the current obsession with lessening CO2 emissions to solve the supposed climate crisis, billions of dollars are wasted on useless projects such as CCS and the widespread deployment of unsustainable technologies such as wind power. This impoverishes society, making us less able to afford the important research effort we need to eventually develop sustainable alternatives that actually have the potential to enhance long-term energy security.

In the long run, the climate scare will be revealed as the most expensive hoax in the history of science. Statements such as that by Hedegaard, why not create a world we like, with a climate we like -- while we still have time?” will be seen as ridiculous and opportunistic.

Scientists and others who knew this but promoted the deception for what they considered good reasons will be disgraced. Then no one will believe them when wolves really are at our doors.