Identifying the Problem

they can’t all be right because they have meaningfully different points of view — but it also doesn’t mean they’re all luddite ideologues. Roger Pielke, John Horgan, Judith Curry, Matt Ridley, Bjorn Lomborg, Ronald Bailey, Steve Hayward, and many others are serious people, many of whom concede the reality that man is changing the environment and climate in undesirable ways, but they get demonized by the climate-change industrial complex for poking holes in, or dissenting from, the groupthink.

.. My own view of the climate change issue is that it is real. I do not think it is a hoax, though I do think there are plenty of people, institutions, and interests that use the tactics of hoaxers to hype the problem. I assume that the vast majority of them are what you might call “hoaxers in good faith”: They think the problem is grave enough that it is worth exaggerating the claims, hyping the threat, and hiding contrary evidence in an effort to rally public opinion. Others suffer from confirmation bias, immediately believing the worst-case scenarios from wildly complex — and historically unreliable — computer models without checking the math. Just last month, the authors of a widely publicized study saying the oceans were heating up much faster than thought had to issue a major correction.

.. There are really two kinds of skepticism at work here. The first is the skepticism about the science itself, the other is skepticism towards the vast array of interests that benefit from climate hysteria, psychologically, politically, or economically. Both forms of skepticism are utterly defensible. But they shouldn’t be lumped together.

.. The second skepticism isn’t about science, but about scientism — the effort to use the language, techniques, constructs, and imagined mindset of science to do things science cannot do. “Scientism,” writes the philosopher Edward Feser, “is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge — that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science.” I would go slightly farther and say that scientism is a form of religious thinking that thinks it is unreligious because it rejects traditional notions of religion. Back when engineering was considered the cure-all to our problems, “social engineers” (once a positive term) argued that they should be empowered to guide human affairs because science was the only legitimate source of truth.

.. In this way, scientism is a kind of priestcraft — a term coined by the writer James Harington to describe the way clergy would use their divine authority (back when everyone saw God as the ultimate source of truth) to serve their own interests. Or as Bill Murray says in Ghostbusters, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.” Neil deGrasse Tyson is a leading practitioner of this secular priestcraftarguing that we should pick up where the Jacobins left off and organize society around the rule of scientific reason as determined by people, well, like him.

.. Ultimately, I have no fundamental problem with people who think climate-change “deniers” are suffering from groupthink of some kind. What enrages me are the scientific practitioners of priestcraft who cannot imagine the possibility that they suffer from the same human foibles.

..  The science has been slipping away from these people when it comes to abortion, particularly late-term abortions, for decades, but you won’t find these “believers in science” changing their positions any time soon.

.. Personally, I am very interested in geoengineering — the science of actually fixing the problem. I am convinced the world has a low-grade fever that could get dangerously high in the future. That fever isn’t all bad by the way: E.g., it extends growing seasons and accelerates tree growth.

.. We don’t have anywhere near the expertise or confidence to start seeding the atmosphere with particles that would reflect more sunlight, but we could get there in the next generation or two.

.. And I’m open to a carbon tax and things of that sort, but the thing people lose sight of is that the United States really isn’t the big problem. They want a New Deal regardless, and the green part is just a rationalization. Meanwhile, China, India, Africa, etc., very much want to be rich (or at least not poor), and they will not agree to anything that substantially deters that mission. And we should want them to get rich. Wealthy societies protect their environments as treasured luxuries, poor societies use their environments as useful resources (and don’t get me started on the violence the first New Deal inflicted on nature).

.. In the meantime, climate change is crowding out concern for, and resources from, all sorts of other problems that have far more immediate effects. I worry far more about eroding biodiversity, over-fishing, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, and the like than I do about climate change. Climate change contributes to some of these problems, particularly ocean acidification, but these are far more fixable right now. Elephants aren’t being wiped out by climate change. And a Green New Deal won’t save them.