Monday, January 27, 2020

The absolutism of climate-change ideologues

Letter-writers attacking me in The Dominion Post over the past few days have obligingly confirmed everything I’ve been saying about the climate-change zealots’ aggressive intolerance of dissent.

I said in my Dom Post column last Thursday (reproduced on this blog) that the ideology surrounding climate change was capable of being every bit as dogmatic and authoritarian as religious indoctrination, and my critics have done me the great favour of proving me right.

Two correspondents rebuked the paper for giving me space to criticise the recently announced propaganda package under which primary and intermediate school pupils will be subjected to a highly politicised and scientifically contestable syllabus covering climate change.

In the eyes of these dogmatists, the issue is settled and no dissent should be permitted. Their stance neatly demonstrates my point that climate change dissent is the new heresy.

Note that I say dissent, not denial. My column said nothing about whether climate change was real. In fact I’ve been careful to avoid denying it’s happening. But that didn’t stop my critics from charging me with being a denialist – a modern synonym for an enemy of the people, to use a phrase once popular with totalitarian regimes. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the click of Madame Defarge’s knitting needles and the rolling wheels of the tumbrels.   

It surely says something that a single, isolated newspaper column should arouse such an angry reaction, given that we're relentlessly bombarded almost daily with  stories and opinion pieces that overwhelmingly reinforce climate-change orthodoxy. The message is clear: any heterodox voice that challenges or even questions the presumed consensus around climate change is subversive and must be deterred. 

One letter-writer accused me of implying that the climate change programme is compulsory (actually I didn’t, but I confidently predict that many teachers, convinced they’re doing the right thing, will fervently embrace it) and went on to smear me by associating me with “the fossil fuel industry, National and other climate [sic] deniers”. In this person’s rigid, narrow and simplistic world view, there could be no other explanation for my stance than that I have secret allegiances and an ulterior motive. I can’t decide whether she was wilfully dishonest or just thick.

Another correspondent resorted to puerile, schoolyard-level abuse, calling me a dinosaur. That this bigot identified himself with the honorific “Dr” lends weight to the belief that whatever the requirements may be for the attainment of a doctorate, they don't include intellectual maturity or an open mind.

I should exempt from these critical comments a letter in today’s paper by former Labour MP Bill Sutton, who heartily disagreed with my column but avoided insult or misrepresentation. I should also acknowledge a letter from Graham Dick of Masterton (whom I don’t know, despite living in the same town), who correctly observed that what I wrote couldn’t be construed as meaning I was a denier; merely that I objected to the way climate change was being introduced to the school curriculum. Dick characterised the reaction to my column as hysterical and warned against “climate zealot theorists” infiltrating the education system. Amen to that.

Just for the record, I have an open mind on climate change. I remain open to persuasion that it’s happening, and that it’s at least partly man-made. I can even sign up happily to some of the changes we’re being urged to make in the way we live, because they make sense to me regardless of whether we’re hurtling toward a global catastrophe. But I refuse to ignore the large body of evidence that contradicts the doom-mongers (for example, on rising sea levels), I refuse to ignore demonstrably dodgy pseudo-science, and I refuse to ignore the ideological agenda driving climate-change activists who have seized global warming as an opportunity to overturn the existing economic order.

If that makes me a sceptic, fine. Scepticism used to be regarded as indispensable in journalism and it’s an honourable attribute in science too, because the advance of science depends on scientists questioning existing theories. But as the letters attacking me in the Dom Post make clear, climate change is an absolutist ideology that demands 100 per cent buy-in. No deviation will be tolerated.


Trev1 said...

"The whole problem of the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of what they believe while the wise are full of doubt", Bertrand Russell. I doubt if any of those who abused you could actually state what they believe about climate change in a way that would withstand 2 minutes' serious scrutiny. Nevertheless these are increasingly frightening times for rational thinkers in New Zealand. Now at last I understand how the Hitler Youth became such a force to be reckoned with in the 1930s.

David said...

I am moderately surprised and also pleased that Stuff will tolerate some dissent on its opinion pages, Karl. It certainly doesn't in the news pages.

Stuff some time ago boasted it had joined the international media collective sponsored by the Grauniad and Colombia Journalism Review that agreed not to allow stories questioning the One True Faith.

Part of the agreement is that comments are not allowed on Global Alarmist stories, to stop "deniers" from questioning what is served up. I checked and there is no provision for comments under your column, Karl, but comments are allowed on adjacent, non-OTF columns. These include a Dave Armstrong column also about religious instruction in schools, but not canvassing the new Alarmist curriculum.

Only last week Stuff even appointed a "climate editor" to ensure transgressions don't appear and that readers are frightened to death by a constant diet of "you're all doomed and it's your parents', Trump's, Scomo's and Boris's fault" scare stories.

Given that journalists are at the forefront today of demands to stop contrary views being heard and to only allow the Woke view of important issues, I too don't think it can be long before contrarians start hearing the loud knock on the door at 3am.

Brendan McNeill said...

I'm reminded of Yeats in the context of human induced climate change absolutism:

"the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Of course this reflection does not apply to the 'very best' who like yourself Karl are prepared to express genuine skepticism, a stance that should be the default for everyone in these matters. However 'the best' of our political class, even though many harbour personal doubts, lack sufficient courage or conviction to publicly state their views.

Consequently they concede the high ground to the passionate mob; after all who doesn't want to save the world, provided it comes at someone else's expense. And this is where it will eventually unravel. Should any government seriously begin to tax carbon emissions and the zealots can no longer afford to drive to climate marches, or charge their iPhones, normal service will eventually resume.

The mainstream media are both complicit, corrupt, and completely discredited. This one issue has done more to guarantee their irrelevancy and demise than any threat from the digital world. They should all build pay walls.

Doug Longmire said...

Well done once again Karl.
You have described the situation very accurately and clearly. Man-made climate change/global warming is the current religion and any person who simply asks questions is labelled as a dangerous heretic/"denier", and will be vilified and attacked personally.
My own situation is that I am a senior pharmacist with many years of assessing medicines, including many alternative medicines. I have learnt that evidence based assessment is the gold standard. And all "evidence" must be thoroughly interrogated, and stand up to robust analysis.
This is called the "scientific method" and is basic stuff to science students.
When I first started paying attention to the global warming news about 10 years ago, I simply applied the scientific method and researched the topic. Somewhat to my (initial) surprise I found that all, I repeat ALL of the outrageous warnings of apocalypse, tipping points, sea rise, 50 million climate change refugees by 2015 (The U.N.), Arctic Ice completely gone by 2015 (Al Gore) etc etc were simply not true. If claims like this had been made in any other field they would have been quickly dismissed. But for some reason the media and doom sayers would not tolerate any querying or questioning, or analysis of the claims.
And we now have the situation you have described above.

Doug Longmire said...

I might add that my research showed that:-
1.Yes - the climate is changing. Throughout the billions of years the climate has been changing. Climate changes constantly.
2. The planet is slowly warming - about 0.9 degrees C in the last 100 years. This warming is a natural process as the planet is emerging from an Ice Age about 2-3 hundred years ago.
3. Detailed Ice core samples show that over the past 600 million or so years, there is NO correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures.
4. Current levels of CO2 are unusually low for planet earth, and way below levels that have prevailed in the distant past.
5. Current levels of CO2 are about 400 ppm. Human activity is responsible for 4% of this, = 16 ppm, NZ "greenhouse" emissions are 0.17% of this, which = 0.03 ppm. This is 3 parts per 100,000,000. This is as close to zero as you can reasonably get, and could have no effect on global climate.
I can supply references for all the above.

Andy Espersen said...

Of course, the "absolutism of ideologues" is nothing new. The only new thing is that it is not just a local phenomenon - but now, thanks to modern mass communication, this new cult is global. And, frighteningly, most of our politicians (luckily except President Trump) have been converted to it also and believe it to be so true and and so alarming that our innocent children must be taught to fear it at school. And it is so easy to scare children. All it takes is for us adults to show fearfulness, alarm and despondency - children always just copy adults. Likewise, of course, it is equally easy for adults to make children courageous, fearless and positive against any disasters that may happen in our lives: simply display these qualities ourselves when children are around us.

Trev1 said...

As to the substance of man-made climate change hysteria, the 2016 UN Paris Agreement on Global Warming commits signatories of which New Zealand is one to endeavour to ensure global temperatures do not rise by more than 2 degrees C and preferably by no more than 1.5 degrees C above "pre-industrial levels". So when were these "pre-industrial levels" that provide this crucial baseline? The Stone Age? The Medieval Period, when temperatures were so much warmer the Vikings could farm Greenland? The 18th century before steam power really go going (it also happened to be right in the Little Ice Age when rivers like the Thames regularly froze over)? Or the late 19th century when temperatures were able to be recorded on instruments globally? You may be as stunned to learn as I was that there is no agreed baseline underpinning the impressive phrase "pre-industrial levels". The whole structure is based on a meaningless (and fraudulent) concept.

Ricardo said...

In five years' time anyone who dares suggest a medium-rare ribeye steak with bearnaise sauce is delicious will be denounced as a subversive running dog enemy of the state. School bags will be searched for traitorous foods such as yoghurt, chocolate biscuits and the unholy of unholies, roast lamb sandwiches with butter and mint jelly. Reeducation camps will spring up staffed by 16 year old zealots rewarded for informing on parents who kept chickens in the back yard. "Farmer" will become an insult and an accusation. Oh what a brave new world we march towards.

hughvane said...

When the red mist of fanatical ideology and rampant bandwagon-jumping descends upon the eyes of the hysterical zealots, reason flees in terror.

Doug Longmire said...

Replying to Trev1 above:-
Yes, when I looked into all this I was shocked at the amount of data tampering, "adjusting" temperature records and general changing information to suit the story.
The IPCC for example actually endorsed the now infamous "hockey stick" graph which conveniently left out the medieval warming period and the Little Ice Age.
Our own NIWA also changed NZ temperature records to falsely show that temperatures have risen. The original untampered records are still available.
And above all this is the new Left doctrine. Any who query or question will be attacked. The attack will be nasty and personal. Karl had a small dose of it in the Dom. Attacks of this sort are typical of the Left.

Welcome to 1984 (2020 version)

Hilary Taylor said...

Terrific piece Karl. Sceptical, me too, and unafraid to proclaim it. When I do, most will sort of admit they are too...not so much the younger gens. My limited experience in schools lately is that indoctrination is already underway. This is alarming, for I recall well the natural disaster fears that one of our children sufferred from for a period, and the very real effort we made to provide balance....and this was 15 years ago before hysteria had ramped up. My limited civil correspondence with an editor lately reveals a pride in their role of persuading politicians to be leading the charge. Hear, hear, B McNeill above, and all commenters.

Odysseus said...

Building on the propaganda-in-schools package, it will be a logical next step to criminalize any questioning of the anthropogenic climate-change narrative under the coming "Hate Speech" laws. The declaration of a "Climate Emergency" as Greenpeace are currently advocating will also give the Coalition the power to actively stamp out dissent under internal security regulations. And you thought the Inquisition was so Medieval? Actually the last execution under the Spanish Inquisition was carried out as recently as 1826 (towards the end of the Little Ice Age).

khrust said...

Karl, well done for getting your courageous opinion piece published by Stuff. I was surprised it penetrated the "Green Curtain".

Regarding the negative letters in response, ad-hominem attacks from zealots are nothing new. They are just more frequent and more virulent than before and it is now almost exclusively "regressive" leftists who are doing the attacking. It is a testament to their blind adherence to doctrine irrespective of the facts and also to their compulsion to signal their own virtue.

Having now skimmed through the Climate Change Learning Programme Teacher Resource, I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusions about its content, origins and true purpose. Before I go further though, I need to declare a few things. Politically I consider myself a centrist and libertarian (though lefties see me as right wing) and I have a science background - my whole career was spent in applied science.

Although I am not especially well-read on climate science and make no claims about having any significant depth of knowledge of it, I do accept that it is happening and is mainly human-induced. However, the science of predicting the future of such a complex system as the earth’s atmosphere can never "be settled" in terms of rate and magnitude of change. The projections from climate models are just that, models, not reality. There are just too many variables and complex feed-back loops involved for certainty. However, the overall warming trend is impossible to refute in my opinion. Further, I do not believe for one second that a majority of the world’s climate scientists are incompetent fools, data fudgers or political puppets. Generally speaking, scientists have a high level of integrity, though the nature of the scientific method means that many of their conclusions can be questioned, refined by further data or work, and sometimes even refuted. Nonetheless, I believe there is a sound scientific consensus on the issue and I accept the general thrust of it.

Skeptics and opponents of the global warming hypothesis like to incorrectly quote and cherry-pick apparently conflicting data and use it out of context - not very scientific really. For instance, one of the comments above states: "Detailed Ice core samples show that over the past 600 million or so years, there is NO correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures."
The first problem with this claim is that the oldest ice yet cored is 2.7 million years old. There is no 600 million year old ice left on earth. Further, science does not claim that CO2 concentration is the only cause of global temperature changes. Perturbations in the earth’s axis of rotation, massive meteorite impacts (eg, at Yucatan at the end of the Cretaceous) and eruptions of super-volcanoes (eg, Yellowstone) are all important factors, amongst others. However, greenhouse gas concentration (ie, CO2) seems to be the only significant one in effect at the moment.

Whilst, I am personally very clear global warming is happening, I am utterly opposed to the politicisation of the issue, the scaremongering, doomsday hyperbole, brainwashing of children and authoritarian shutting down of debate. Some people believe that the far left have a hidden agenda for achieving their utopia behind all this - an end to capitalism and the white, western patriarchy and replacement by a socialist world government. The details of how all this will happen are still in the mail. I have seen this utopian ideal referred to by leftists once or twice but heaven help anyone from the right or centre claiming it is the extreme lefts ultimate goal; they would be shouted down as a crazy conspiracy theorist.

Trev1 said...

@khrust. Good comments. Climate change is happening as it always has and will continue to do. The forces affecting climate are far more powerful than a trace gas however which is at an historically very low level and to which the human contribution is minor. They include as you know solar activity, variations in the Earth's orbit, cosmic radiation which plays a key role in cloud formation and our solar system's progress through ever-changing arms of our spiral galaxy. I agree wholeheartedly the subject must be depoliticised.

Brendan McNeill said...


I agree that most scientists are people of integrity and good will, and have expertise in their field. I have wondered how and why scientists have gathered around a ‘consensus’ which is a political rather than a scientific construct; a ‘consensus’ where dissenters are deliberately marginalised. I consider Judith Curry to be one among many climate scientists who have fallen out of favour because she has chosen to highlight the uncertainty principal, which has been significantly underrated in the climate models (in her view).

Can you explain why reasoned argument and scepticism that is well constructed and articulated, as in the case of Judith Curry is considered ‘bad form’ by those who lead the consensus? Think the behaviour of Michael Mann

Speaking of Dr Mann, his hockey stick has been thoroughly discredited, and he recently lost a court case in Canada where he sued a fellow scientists (a dissenter from the consensus) who had described his ‘research’ as fraudulent. Sued and lost.

The reason why so few scientists risk speak out against the orthodoxy is that in a world of contestable research funding, including the impact of climate change as part of the research project is more likely to guarantee success. In short, follow the money. Now I’m not suggesting that all scientists behave as crassly as that, but I am saying the system as it is presently designed rewards those who follow the group think and punishes those who step off the reservation.

Remember that the IPCC is a child of the United Nations, an organisation with globalist aspirations. It’s impossible to impose global governance on people who are in love with their nation and are bound to their national identity. Unless of course there is a global emergency that transcends the pre-eminence of national sovereignty. Can you think of anything that might fit that bill?

If that sounds conspiratorial, then I’d say no more than the global aspirations of Communism or Nazism in the 20th century. Those ideologies may have been discredited (at least in part) today, but the lust for power and dominion remains buried deep in the human heart.

If you have to frighten children to get the cause across the line, then so be it. No price is too great for these zealots, especially when you are on the side of the angels.

Unknown said...

Yours is a Sisyphean task, Karl.

I have asked climate change activists, zealots and hysterics one simple question, (which invariably leads to sputtering anger): exactly what impact will all the policy changes you want actually have on global climate change?

The correct - and wholly scientific - answer is of course nil, nothing, nada, zip. The incontrovertible fact is that if the whole of New Zealand, with every living thing, was to slip permanently beneath the waters of the South Pacific overnight, the event would have not the slightest practical effect on global climate. At 0.17% of global carbon emissions, New Zealand's emissions are well within the margin of error for any actual impact on global climate change. The idea that we in New Zealand can contribute anything meaningful to combating climate change is simply a myth.

So why does our current Government press on with all manner of proposals and policies which will permanently damage or even destroy New Zealand's economy, and indeed our society? Hint: the answer lies in the degree of hysteria with which our media, our political parties (most notably the Greens), and increasingly our industrial leaders, are embracing the shibboleths of the fundamentalist Church of Global Warming.

That, and not any climate change, is the principal reason for despairing of the future of our world.

David George said...

Unknown, I'm not surprised our politicians are on board. The propaganda campaign has been so successful that any dissent will see you caste in the eyes of the electorate as a "denier", a "destroyer of worlds". What hope for the truth?

David George said...

Thank you for your insightful and (given the wall of CC propaganda) pertinent comments Karl.
I have posted up a link to your blog on a current Quillette article, perhaps, hopefully, you could submit an essay there. I'm sure it would be well received.
David George.

Rory said...

Thank you Karl,

This was a superb piece of intelligent writing on a subject that very much needs level headed people in conversation that challenges both opinions / scientifically analysed and with respect for each other's views.

What really was amazing was your command of the English Language , writing skills, thought processes and superb journalistic talent.

The present day MSM standards are appalling. They are bordering on their total inability to write, pronounce, spell and speak English correctly.

Your response to those who tried to smear you or 'tar' you with some sort of profile that would cause you to apologise if you did not say sorry ...........your response per se was education is the key to said it all.

Well done, you are indeed a very admirable Journalist commanding great respect.

With Regards,


Karl du Fresne said...

Thank you Rory, whoever you are. I was almost too embarrassed to publish your comment because I don't think your praise is deserved.

Doug Longmire said...

I agree completely with Roy.
I will repeat this quote:- "Well done, you are indeed a very admirable Journalist commanding great respect."

Could not have put it better myself.

Doug Longmire said...

also, I was wrong in referring to 600 million years of ice core records, showing no correlation between CO2 and planetary temperatures.
It was in fact, 4,600 million years of records (from Cambrian time). The source document was
Well worth looking at.

khrust said...

@ Brendan McNeill

Thought-provoking comments. In reply;

1) I would reframe your second sentence as follows; scientists have found climate-change consensus in the form of a general commonality of scientific conclusions, left-leaning politicians have taken this and turned it into a rigid political orthodoxy where dissenters are deliberately marginalised.

2) I have not looked into the Judith Curry vs Michael Mann issue. All I can say is that scientists are subject to the same weaknesses of personality as the rest of humanity, including hubris, pettiness and personal attachment to their beliefs.

3) I think the "follow-the-money" principle has some kernel of truth to it but it cuts both ways. Oil industry funding of "climate research" and the Soon & Baliunas controversy spring to mind. As you know, science involves collecting empirical data, analysing it, building models and making projections. If there is bias or error in any of these steps, someone else will expose it at the peer review phase or later. In this connection, it seems that weaknesses in handling pre-1900 temperature data in Mann et als original hockey stick graph have been found. However, I understand these have relatively little effect on the overall shape of the hockey stick, especially the rapid warming since 1900. To say it has been thoroughly discredited is greatly overstating the situation.

4) There is a contradiction between your observation that "most scientists are people of integrity and good will" and the contention that "few scientists risk speaking out against the (climate) orthodoxy". You can't have it both ways. Scientists have always challenged orthodoxy vigorously, while others defend it with equal gusto. The more likely reason not many speak out against climate change is that not many disagree, other than in the details of data handling and model building.

5) I think you may have misinterpreted what I said about the far lefts utopian goal of a new socialist world order. You expressed it much more clearly and I agree that is what some of them would love to see. Their big problem is how to bring it about. That is what I meant by "the details ... are still in the mail".

khrust said...

@ Doug Longmire
I have looked at the graph you provided a link to. I can only say that it looks speculative and generalised. Without even going into how the data behind this graph could have been derived, it is fair to say that data on average earth temperature and CO2 concentration from the geologic past becomes more indirect and tenuous the further back in time you go. If people think Mann’s hockey stick is fraught with uncertainty, this graph is at a whole other level. I think it is a dangerous thing to be taken at face value by a lay person. A few specific points though as to why caution is required here:
1) The graphs time axis starts at 4.6 billion years because that is the estimated age of the earth. There is no data from that time. The oldest zircon crystals are 4.36 billion and the oldest complete rocks yet discovered are much younger at 4 billion years old.
2) The blue line representing CO2 concentration seems to start at about 2 or 3 billion years BP. It is hard to say because the time scale is non-linear. This is about the time oxygenation of the atmosphere was starting thanks to oxygen-producing marine cyanobacteria. Before then it is speculated the atmosphere may have been mainly CO2 and methane. This then is the first period in which the atmosphere was totally transformed by life forms.
3) The sudden drop in relative CO2 concentration during the Devonian – Carboniferous periods (approx. 340 – 380 my BP) represents the evolution and spread of land plants that consumed CO2 and converted it to wood. Thus, the name Carboniferous. There are major coal seams all over the globe of this age. Interesting that there is no scale on the vertical axis for CO2 concentration. Certainly though, this was the second time the earths atmosphere changed significantly due to life forms, this time terrestrial flora ate the CO2 and made wood and then it became coal.
4) There is a CO2 spike in the Triassic at about 240 my BP and the text above it says CO2 = 210 ppm. I don't know what caused this.
5) There is another spike in CO2 in the mid Cretaceous at about 110 my BP. The text above it says CO2 = 340 ppm. From there forward to the Holocene the CO2 line slopes down until the recent upswing in the last 100 years or so. Similarly, the temperature line mimics the CO2 line for about the last 65 my – pretty neat correlation actually.
6) CO2 has hit 410 ppm recently. It was at this level 3 million years ago though the graph doesn’t show this level of detail. That is significantly higher than the Triassic or Cretaceous peaks on the graph.
7) I don’t think there is support for your story from this graph. There are more detailed and scaled graphs of the last million or so years available. Worth a look if you are interested.

Doug Longmire said...

Thanks for your input above. I would be most interested in other graphs if you can let me know.
You are correct in that I only briefly mentioned the points of concern.
Obviously, the globe is warming. By 0.9 or 1 degree over the last 100 years. This is to be expected as we are still emerging from an Ice Age several centuries ago.
Also Yes - climate is changing. From what we know it has been constantly changing, over millennia.
My argument with the current propaganda is that it is a series of apocalyptic extreme disaster scenarios, most of which, as I said above, have simply not happened. The number of these failures of these extreme predictions is quite laughable, and to me destroys the credibility of the "climate change" proponents. Especially as I never see an explanation or retractions for the many failures of the doomsday predictions.
Added to this what I do see is a tendency to attack in a nasty way, any public figure who disagrees. For example David Bellamy.

khrust said...

@ Doug Longmire
Yes, I share your concerns about the apocalyptic scenarios, propaganda, censorship and politicising of the whole climate change issue. It is turning some people into blinkered zealots and generally setting people against each other. I have personally been on the receiving end of this kind of judgmental behaviour - surprising given that I am not even a skeptic.

Regarding the graphs, I will just comment that the "Mini Ice Age" you refer to was not a true ice age at all, just a slightly cooler period following the medieval warm period. in the context of that, the temperature rise of the last 100 years is incredibly rapid in geologic terms. We are not just emerging from a cooler period, we are rocketing out of it. The last true ice age was a glacial period which ended about 11,700 years ago and had lasted about 100,000 years before then. Massive continental glaciers covered much of Europe, Asia and North America at that time.

Here are a couple of interesting graphs (from Wikipedia)

Unknown said...

Thank you Karl. You expressed so well what so many are quietly thinking, but feel constrained to say anything.

Odysseus said...

@khrust: Climate change has occurred rapidly in the past. It took less than a generation for the Earth to pass from the Medieval Warming to the Little Ice Age. Our recovery from the Little Ice Age starting around 1850 has been comparatively measured - temperatures have increased by about 0.9 C since the late 19th century. There are indications we may be heading towards another period of cooling: NOAA has reported US temperatures have been dropping over the past five years. It has even been snowing recently in Saudi Arabia! As others have noted variations in solar activity are the principal driver of climate change on Earth, as well as other planets in the Solar System. For example the ice caps on Mars'South Pole have been observed to be contracting - further evidence of human induced climate change?