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Climate and Punishment

A recent production of Swan Lake worked climate change into Tchaikovsky’s vision. It’s a bit like tinkering with Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to include the greenhouse effect.

But modern climate activists would probably approve of revisions to Dostoyevsky, especially since the sentiment that there are things like “climate crimes” has been floating around for years among the more hysterical peddlers of human guilt and fear. There were even direct public calls for “Nuremberg-like” trials of scientists for their “denial,” which they rationalize in terms of the most apocalyptic fever dreams that the term “climate change” can muster.

When climate activists work themselves into a carphological frenzy, it is safest to give them a wide berth, while keeping trank darts at the ready. One hopes that the episode will die down into a state where rational dialogue becomes possible.

Gradually, this has been happening. Even the Associated Press has decided to stop using the term “denier” anymore—vindication of a sort, I suppose. But the periodic return of the UN’s various COPs (Conference of Parties—COP 21 is imminent) invariably gets them riled up all over again about things like climate criminality. They seem to adopt the characteristics of Kubrick’s early furry humans: furry fury bouncing and squealing while hurling pig bones.

Of course, this is just metaphor. No one is really hurling pig bones. Instead, they do things like sport green ribbons at events (like the recent Emmy awards) or write air-headed screeds in opinion pages or Twitter about something other than what they imagine they are discussing, to symbolically bounce and squeal their simian solidarity with ignorance about science generally and climate in particular.

But one can be too harsh here. They aren’t scientists.

Yet many scientists have problems on this account, too. Some actual academics recently signed a letter urging a government official to apply racketeering laws (RICO) against gangster scientists objecting to the contemporary climate change dogmas. Imagine what this would lead to.

“Dr. Geekman, is it true that you are known as ‘Vinney the Calculator?’ Tell the court whether you have ever ordered denial of settled science? Have you ever bought, sold, or merchandized doubt in any form? Have you registered a trademark for ‘doubt?’ Do you now or have you ever smoked cigarettes?”

This will never happen. Even totalitarian states would find a better excuse for a show trial. Corporations and think tanks are, of course, the kingpins in this fantasy criminal conspiracy, alleged to pay for doubt about socially approved scientific dogmas. Imagine “doubt” as a purchasable commodity. What a deliciously defective idea. It’s almost too bad that it can only be a metaphor.

It is popular in some circles to despair over how corporate money can corrupt. But corruption can arise from any large pile of money. Government-directed money can and does induce distortion and corruption, too—far more than many realize.

They incentivize academic nonsense, for example. No modern university would be complete without its well-funded Department of Angry Studies, or its Center for Unsustainable Reasoning. Let’s not even get into the budding field of feminist fluid mechanics. You may wonder what that is. Think of identity politics and differential equations. What? Didn’t you know that physics and mathematics are just social constructs?

In the modern world of academia, if you want recognition, plumb positions, and the adoration of the illuminati, forget about proving exotic mathematical theorems, advancing quantum gravity, or finding things out about the Universe that no human, living or dead, has ever known. Unless it impinges on the most darling popular passions, you are out of luck.

Instead, it seems true glory in the modern world is found in polling experts to discover what not even the experts thought they knew—a pathological variant of “expert systems.” Or, even better, not polling them at all–but counting little somethings tenuously connected to their writings. It does not even matter whether you are equipped to understand their writings, or even what you are actually counting, as long as the intent has a noble social cause attached to it, and the resulting percentage has 9 as the first of two digits.

Who knew that survey research, the most dismal child of the social sciences, would become the quantum mechanics of the 21st century? Thus the climate zeitgeist resonates at 97% of scientists agreeing. Many of the widely ignored blistering critiques of this number have been methodological. But even if it could be rehabilitated methodologically into being the least dismal of all survey research, it is still nonsense.

Why? What did the putative 97% actually agree on? Well, they agreed that “climate change is real,” of course. But what does that even mean? 3% think it is surreal? A rejoinder would be that it is about change caused by us. But probably 100% would agree that humans cause at least some degree of climate change, depending on how you define climate. But protagonists are actually thinking of really, really huge climate change, of biblical proportions, where squirrels change genetically, redheads are endangered, and the Loch Ness Monster dies (I didn’t make those up). Now don’t laugh. Such blinding insight can get you to be the warm-up act for the Pope.

Ninety-seven is powerful, not as a number, but as a social license to close minds to scientists raising legitimate technical concerns. Scientists can raise all the issues they want: the finite representation of computers, turbulence, complexity, the non-existence of a physically based definition of climate (let alone a physically based theory), the gargantuan problems of measurement, even if one actually knew what exactly to measure. None of them matter if all you have to do is flash ninety-seven to mow them down like short dry summer grass. Instead of finding out about deep open science, ninety-seven eliminates this burden and reduces the highest level of discussion to questions like,  “what sort of car do you drive?”

The path opens before ninety-seven like the parting of the Red Sea, because so many are relieved to not have to rise to the challenge of understanding something new. It is even regarded as “unfair” to expect people to so rise. Yet, in a democracy, it is also regarded as unfair to exclude those who don’t. So this license becomes that special sort allowing one to have things both ways. How convenient.

But where does that leave us? It leaves us, for example, at the mercy of scientific newspeak. That newspeak is so ubiquitous now that it seems normal. “Carbon dioxide,” for example, is known as “carbon” instead, implying a non-scientific equivalence between CO2 and soot. This makes as much sense as saying the oceans are made of hydrogen or that people sprinkle chlorine on their fries. “Dirty energy” is another. Energy can be no more “dirty” than momentum or entropy can be “clean.” The newspeak list is long, leaving an incomparable cloud of public confusion.

Confusion can be a goal. Why? Democracy inherently requires citizens to make decisions. That implies you must think for yourself. But ninety-seven says that you do not need to, because others have done the thinking for you. What a great tool for tyranny—tyranny through expertise! Just confuse people into not thinking for themselves and control what the experts are alleged to say, then you control everything.

If you think that no one would try to control what experts say, think again. We are in the middle of it right now. The evidence is before your eyes: climategate, RICO, the process against Dr. Willie Soon, intimidating congressional letters to university administrators about individual scientists, calls for climate trials, and much more. The tempo of these outrages may increase as we approach December’s COP 21 in Paris, where world leaders will discuss how to further intervene in our lives, with measures that don’t work, to control a problem they don’t understand. But be assured that it is for our own good, because… ninety-seven.

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