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Climate policy ‘has died’: An autopsy of the climate policy debate’s corpse – ‘Climate activists are decisively winning…the science no longer matters’

By Larry Kummer,

Summary: The climate policy debate ran for 30 years but produced little action (it ranks #17 of the public’s top 18 concerns). Now it has died. The autopsy reveals not just who killed it but also disturbing insights about America. This is post #404 in a series about climate change that I began 12 years ago.

Man drowning in sea - Dreamstime-27423027
ID 27423027 © Tom Wang | Dreamstime.

Bottom line: the climate activists are decisively winning. The science no longer matters in the public policy debate. Activists have moved beyond it and the major science institutions no longer defend it against the activists’ exaggerations and misrepresentations. There are rumors are that the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report will break with the past and fully embrace the hysteria. Meanwhile, skeptics are talking to themselves, like characters in Alice in Wonderland – vocal but effectively locked out of the news media.

The climate wars are in the “pursuit” phase of battle, during which the victorious side runs down and destroys their broken foe. Understanding how we got here reveals much about America’s dysfunctionality (i.e., its broken OODA loop). But first, know that this was not inevitable. See this remarkable op-ed in the BBC: “Science must end climate confusion” by eminent climate scientist Richard Betts on 11 January 2010.

“Of course, we know that these things {extreme weather} happen anyway, even without climate change – they may happen more often under a warmer climate, but it is wrong to blame climate change for every single event. Climate scientists know this, but still there are people outside of climate science who will claim or imply such things if it helps make the news or generate support for their political or business agenda. …

“{D}o climate scientists do enough to counter this? Or are we guilty of turning a blind eye to these things because we think they are on ‘our side’ against the climate sceptics? …Climate scientists need to take more responsibility for the communication of their work to avoid this kind of thing. Even if scientists themselves are not blaming everything on climate change, it still reflects badly on us if others do this.”

But Betts, and his fellow peers who are dedicated to science, remained mostly silent in the public policy debate – other than the occasional quiet remark. Of course, they were smart to do so. This is a moral panic. Once the leaders of society embrace it (for their own purposes), it becomes a virulent epidemic. Like a zombie apocalypse, those scientists in its path had only three good options: flee, collaborate, or hide. The ugly consequences to those (e.g., Pielke Sr. and Jr., Judith Curry) who chose a fourth option – carefully and selectively fighting the panic – are described below.

I have personally seen this dynamic play out as I have documented this increasing dysfunctional debate since 2008. But few cared in 2008. In 2015 I wrote one of the early critiques of the RCP8.5 scenario (perhaps the first): Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No! I followed with Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions. Afterwards, I tried to find a climate scientist to coauthor an article in EOS or WSJ op-ed about the misuse of RCP8.5 – when it might have had an impact. But the ones I contacted were too smart to do so.

Now even Nature and the hard-core alarmist BBC says this. But RCP8.5 – and more broadly, climate science – no longer matter. The debate has moved beyond science to the exaggerations of the Climate Emergency and the fictions of the Extinction Rebellion. It is all politics and mass hysteria.

The climate policy debate is interesting as an example of our society’s growing dysfunctionality. Larger political forces (e.g., who wins the presidency in 2020) will determine who wins the debate. On a longer time horizon, the weather will choose the winning side. Meanwhile, the American people watch their screens and chatter.

An example shows how we got here

“The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.”
— G.W.F. Hegel in the Preface to The Philosophy of Right (1820). See Wikipedia.

Roger Pielke Jr. has written an article adding to my favorite genre: forensic pathology, examing the climate policy debate’s corpse to determine the causes of its death. His article describes the creation of shock troops for climate activists, using the Skeptical Science website (SkS) as their base. These people attack the opponents of activists – using lies and smears to discredit these eminent scientists. These are people whom activist scientists can support without getting their own hands dirty by smearing their peers.

The troops at SkS have been immensely successful in a narrow sense, helping activists dominate the public spaces in America. But when you read this, remember the big truth which explains the gridlock in US climate policy.

This is not what scientists do when they have
decisive evidence of an imminent global threat.
This is how they act when they do not have decisive evidence,
but for professional or political reasons want the public to believe them anyway.
Many Americans understand that, at some level.

A Climate Blacklist That Works:
‘It Should Make Her Unhirable In Academia’”

By Roger Pielke, Jr.

Pielke describes the dramatis personae of this sad story.

The writers at Skeptical Science – A massive donation supported website. Like most good propaganda mills, it mixes useful information with misinformation. Very few of its authors are climate scientists.

Pielke describes its authors’ smearing of Roger Pielke Sr. and Judith Curry. See this debunking of the SkS page about Pielke. See his publications, also his positions held. His publications have an H-Index of 95. See Curry’s publications; they have an H-Index of 67. Compare that to media darlings James Hansen (96)Michael Mann (83), and Katharine Hayhoe (47). It is how science crashes during a moral panic.


“It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.”
— Voltaire in his The Age of Louis XIV.

Simple and sensible measures could have been taken long ago with broad public support to prepare for a better future and break the policy gridlock (perhaps gaining support for bigger bolder actions). But that requires our involvement to make it happen – since neither the leaders of climate science nor US elites have any interest in either. We do not appear to be up to this challenge.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about our future: Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change, all posts about the RCPs, and especially these …

  1. About the corruption of climate science.
  2. The noble corruption of climate science.
  3. Climate science has died. The effects will be big.
  4. After 30 years of failed climate politics, let’s try science! – A proposal to break the policy gridlock.
  5. The guilty ones preventing good policy about climate change.
  6. Toxic climate propaganda is poisoning US public policy.
  7. An obvious solution to the climate policy crisis.
  8. A demo showing our broken climate policy debate.

Activists don’t want you to read these

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.