by David Solway (December 2020)
Girl on a Terrace, Richard Diebenkorn, 1956
What is wrong with Green? Plenty. To begin with, never trust anyone who wants to save the planet. The leader of a certain political party in Canada wants to save the planet. Bill Gates wants to save the planet and relieve the plight of suffering humanity. Neo-Marxist Van Jones apparently experienced a divine revelation, enthusing in his book The Green Collar Economy that Green jobs will enable us to “heal the land and repair the soul.” Al Gore, Elon Musk, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cormac McCarthy, David Suzuki, James Hansen et al. want to save the earth. The list seems endless.
Filled to the brim with ideological conviction, eco-cultists bring to bear upon the empirical sphere of human life practices and attitudes that properly apply to the spiritual dimension. Far too many of these experts and activists are not so much dispassionate scientists or rational thinkers as they are pedestal theorists and instinctual religious crusaders, generally on the Left. Some mean what they say, having invested in an eschatological delusion; others are shrewd operators, having invested in power and lucre.
One recalls the famous dictum attributed to Tertullian: Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd.) Actually, the Church Father had written: credibile est, quia ineptum est (probability can be derived from improbability). Same difference. Climate warmists are the Tertullians of the modern age, extracting conviction from rank implausibility and offering their computer models as proofs of the ineffable. These are “texts” that should be marked with an obelus, as corrupt pseudepigraphia, representing an instance of the logical fallacy known as the argumentum ad petitionem principii, where the premise is also the conclusion. In addition, the premises are often deceptive. As Aristotle points out in On Sophistical Refutations, a volume well worth consulting, “things made of litharge and tin seem to be of silver, while those made of yellow metal seem to be golden.” The application to the current form of “climate science” and its pseudo-scriptural psalters is obvious.
The numbers, graphs, charts and formulae regularly brandished before us to buttress the machinations of the eco-crowd look impressive, at least initially. Looks, as the old adage admonishes, can be deceiving, and this is doubly so when the partisans of an ominous intention cannily affect a passionate love for the planet and a solicitude for the future of humanity. For jostling among this zealous crew are some very cagey political practitioners who, in their peripatetic jog through the world media, have been hailed as bearers of the Olympic torch.
Yet it should be evident that the Green prepossession fails on almost every front, if one relies on observation rather than theory. For example, Greens may worship the environment, writes Vic Forbes, “but support widespread environmental destruction by bird-chopping windmills, and land-stealing solar panels and their inevitable spider-webs of roads and transmission lines. All to produce intermittent energy that is forced onto distributers and consumers by legislated targets, taxes, subsidies and mandates.”
Similarly, the much-ballyhooed T. Boone Pickens strategy of introducing large-scale windmill technology in Texas, envisioned as the world’s largest wind farm, proved to be a thoroughly quixotic project, as the late tycoon eventually realized. The upshot could only lead to disaster, a system totally inadequate to its declared purpose of meeting even a fraction of our electricity needs, as well as being an unsightly, land-consuming, bird-killing, neurosis-inducing and exorbitantly expensive adventure. (Pickens and his congeners have interesting cinematic company: the limp and effeminate Eloi in the film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine are also big on windmills.)
Moreover, the enormous quantity of unassimilable toxic waste is never mentioned in the relevant literature. There is no word about the gargantuan amount of acreage required to support wind turbines. Author of Bad Economics Peter Smith estimates that if wind were to supply 35 per cent of the world’s electricity—”the lower end of the range desired by green activists—then about 1.2 million square kilometres would appear to be required,” equivalent to eighteen times the land area of Tasmania or Switzerland or Virginia. Solar comes with its own issues—high maintenance and eventual disposability.
By the same token, author of Dumb Energy Norman Rogers explains that solar is an economic disaster for utility companies as well as a deficit for customers living in regions without abundant sunlight who, unable to profit by “net metering” schemes, are forced to subsidize solar users in other parts of the country. Nor is there any word about the staggering amount of fossil-fuel energy necessary to create and back up panels and turbines or, as John Hinderaker shows in Powerline, little recognition of the fact that there is no feasible battery “that can store the entire output of a power plant or a wind farm” or successfully power ZEVs (Zero-Emission Vehicles). The requisite minerals, mainly nickel, cobalt and lithium, are rare, difficult to extract and insufficient to meet industry needs.
The complications associated with Green technologies are definitively summed up in a landmark review published in the scientific journal Energy, reproduced by CERES (Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences). The researchers show that “renewable energy sources sometimes contribute to problems they were designed to solve . . . caus[ing] soil microbes to release more carbon dioxide” and thus contributing to climate change, assuming it is happening in the first place. Solar and wind farms have a “devastating effect on biodiversity, contributing to the destruction of rainforests and other natural habitats.” World expenditure on wind and solar between 2011 and 2018 amounted to US$2000 billion—other estimates peg the cost as high as US$3660 billion—but generated only 3 per cent of world energy consumption. Large scale battery storage, as we’ve seen, is unfeasible. Lithium-ion batteries are especially hazardous. So-called “zombie batteries,” such as those used in your cell phone, are dangerously explosive and also tend to cause fires at recycling centers. Larger vehicle batteries are even more combustible.
There are moral problems as well. Writing in American Thinker, Henry Pierson points out that “half of the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo,” which uses child labor, that the necessary rare earth elements are almost entirely mined and refined in China, the world’s greatest polluter, and that it takes “500,000 gallons of water to extract one ton of lithium,” putting the lie to the ethical pretensions of the planet savers. As Energy reports, rare mineral extraction has severe impacts on health, “caus[ing] pollution and shortages of fresh water for local communities.” These are all good reasons that putatively compassionate socialists and environmentalists—”So are they all, all honorable men,” and, of course, women—should scrap the Green hornswoggle altogether. Claiming to give us a world powered by Green energy turns out to be nothing but a dirty trick. After all, there is, in the words of the Energy scientists, “no such thing as clean energy.”
Finally, the Green prepossession is politically and economically ruinous, spelling the dissolution of advanced, free-market societies. Alexander Nussbaum has it pegged: “Global warming is a hoax, but not a standalone hoax. Memes band together for mutual survival. The global warming hoax is part of the ‘progressive leftist’ memeplex, together with other anti-American, anti-individual freedom, and anti–free enterprise dogmas.” Applying Spearman’s Rho calculation to measure the relation between two variables, Nussbaum also shows that there is a negative correlation between teaching the orthodox view of “climate change” and the level of economic freedom and overall prosperity in a given state. There is, he finds, a relatively strong correlation between “global warmism and socialist economics,” producing a depressed economic environment.
Analogously, in Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex, Rupert Darwall dissects “the role environmentalism would play” in the decay of capitalism into socialism, lavishly and ironically paying its way into accumulating debt, social breakdown and eventual totalitarian ascendancy. Intellectuals and academics with no understanding of industrial and economic reality become “anti-entrepreneurs,” influencing business leaders and corporate interests who together pursue what political economist Joseph Schumpeter in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy famously called “creative destruction.” The Green agenda calls for top-down control and central planning, establishing a managerial class “fuel[ing]…the engine of capitalism’s self-destruction.” Green begins as dark capital and ends as social bankruptcy. The destruction it wreaks is hardly creative.
How did we get to this impasse? As we have noted, amongst the Western public at large, as well as many of the “experts,” global warming is more of a social, religious and political issue than a genuinely scientific one. German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk explains in Terror from the Air that we now live in an era of background “explication,” preoccupied with “latency” and subject to the irruption of the invisible into our lives, culminating in an obsession with air. (Today, of course, with aerosols.) As a result, “modern nation states and political media-commentaries” are fixated on a “historically new kind of conversation, best described as a ‘climatological briefing’.” Individuals are thus mustered into “an audience of connoisseurs under a common sky.” From Sloterdijk’s standpoint, we have become a community that, breathing “the ether of the collective,” has succumbed to climatological madness and “will henceforth wage toxic war on itself.” We re-inhale, he says, the “toxic communions” of our own “exhalate,” quoting philosopher Karl Kraus, who wrote, “Fumes from the sewage of the world brain pervade everywhere . . . ”
This compulsion of the air has become what Michael Crichton in State of Fear has called “politicized science,” reminding us of the Lysenko fiasco which devastated Russian biology and agriculture and led to the deaths of millions. And we now know that even more millions of people in the underdeveloped world have died from malaria due to the ban on DDT spraying promoted by radical environmentalists like Rachel Carson. “Once again,” Crichton wrote, “the theory is promoted by major foundations . . . Once again, legislation is passed and social programs are urged in its name . . . Once again, the measures being urged have little basis in fact or science. Once again, groups with other agendas are hiding behind a movement that appears high-minded. Once again, claims of moral superiority are used to justify extreme actions.” Additionally, climate modeling is notoriously capricious, which may explain why many of its forecasts are conveniently projected a century or more into the future where they cannot be refuted by opponents of the theory. The modellers ply their own tacky version of the Drake Equation, as if they were the harbingers of some galactic civilization come to rescue the future from ourselves.
For a refreshing corrective to current reflex thinking, one might consult what John O’Sullivan wittily calls the samizdata literature. I would suggest the work of two notable authors: Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It and, more recently, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, and Daniel Botkin’s Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century and 25 Myths that Are Destroying the Environment: What Many Environmentalists believe and Why They Are Wrong. As a former Chairman of Environmental Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara and president of the Center for the Study of the Environment, Botkin’s qualifications are impeccable. His work is predicated on separating soothsaying from science, forcing us to re-examine the clichés and bromides about the so-called “scientific consensus,” the future of weather patterns and climate events, and the hysteria surrounding planetary apocalypse.
Such re-examination as proposed by Lomborg and Botkin has now become an absolute necessity, if we are to prevent radical environmentalists and their wrecking crews from destroying our economies, reducing our standard of living, promoting the socialist dogma of central planning, and laying waste the future. Attention to the facts would reveal that the causes of global warming, whether ostensibly permanent or, as is decidedly more likely, temporary and sporadic, are plainly multifactorial. The solar magnetic field is indubitably a prime factor. When the sun’s magnetic output increases, higher temperatures result.
This finding is supported by what is known as the “Svensmark Hypothesis,” proposed by Swedish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark who, in his 2008 book titled The Chilling Stars, co-authored with Nigel Calder, showed that a doubling of the sun’s magnetic field during the 20th century led to a reduction in the influx of cosmic rays. Reduced cosmic radiation means less cloud cover, which in turn leads to warmer temperatures since clouds have a cooling effect on the earth by reflecting solar rays back into space. But every 200 years the sun’s magnetic output decreases, producing lower temperatures, an effect known as the Solar Minimum (sometimes the Maunder Minimum, from astronomer Edward Maunder).When the solar magnetic field diminishes, cosmic radiation increases, producing greater cloud cover and cooler temperatures, which appears to correspond with the current solar effect.
It is only fair to mention that the question is still being debated today, with pros and cons flying thick and fast on both sides of the polemical ecliptic. In actuality, records of temperature fluctuations over the last two and half centuries show a close symmetry between solar radiation cycles and changes in temperature. Findings from an experiment conducted at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) strongly indicate that cosmic rays and solar activity are the major factors governing global climate. Agricultural and environmental economist Donald Avery stresses that “The latest data from the CERN particle physics lab has produced a model based on cycling—and it foresees no runaway warming. Instead, it sees an impending cold solar minimum.” Further confirmation is provided by Anrab Rai Choudhuri’s fascinating 2015 study Nature’s Third Cycle, which explains the complexities of “solar dynamo theory,” yielding supporting evidence for drastically reduced sunspot activity and the prospect of cooling summers and harsh winters to come. We are experiencing the initial stages of this development now.
In some respects, the entire controversy over “climate change” and the ethical issue of planetary conscience are really much ado about nothing—or about nothing properly understood by our presumptive experts, specialists, political leaders and the general populace. It is now well known, for example, that during the Middle to Late Bronze Age (circa 1500-1200 B.C., variously dated), the seas were higher, the climate warmer and food abundant, leading to a far-flung expansion of exploration, leisure and the arts of civilization. Temperatures cooled dramatically in the Late Bronze, ushering in centuries of scarcity, famine and cultural breakdown. As The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) reports, “The resulting crop declines would have made higher-density populations unsustainable.” The collapse of civilization and human flourishing is attributed to the libration of natural cycles, millennia before carbon hysteria was a going concern. (Figure 1)
As author Jeffrey Folks writes, “It goes without saying that human influences had nothing to do with ancient cycles of climate change. Natural cycles of warming and cooling have always existed.” In order to justify their claim that humans are responsible for global warming, climate changers resort to the theory of “CO2 forcing,” a chemical chain reaction producing a multiplier effect or feedback loop—i.e., “runaway warming.” AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) is still the villain of the piece, Oil Can Harry twirling his whiskers. It is precisely this theory that a growing number of top-tier scientists, mathematicians and climatologists have debunked, as well as experts such as EPA head Scott Pruitt, UK science advisor Lord Christopher Monckton, who specializes in exploring scientific frauds and has come under considerable fire from the Ecostablishment for doing so, and New Zealand climate researcher Vincent Gray, author of The Global Warming Scam, who writes that the Environment is “everywhere and nowhere, a mixture of Heaven, Nature, Never Never Land, Narnia, Erewhon and Utopia. The one thing it cannot be is a territory where humans have no influence.”
The clincher is that there is no sound evidence the planet is warming owing to human interventions, and, indeed, data from climate oscillation patterns, in particular the current transition from El Niño to La Niña, further indicate that a cooling trend is now setting in. (Figures 2 & 3). This is not good news. The problem is not carbon saturation and a warming planet. It never was. The current 400 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 is a far cry from any conceivable level that would make the planet uninhabitable. As Donald Avery writes, “Even the Environmental Protection Agency says 1000 ppm is the safe limit for lifetime human exposure. Space shuttle CO2 alarms are set at 5,000 ppm, and the alarm in nuclear submarines is set at 8,000 ppm!” CO2 is “the gas of life,” ensuring fertility, crop growth and a growing population. The problem is global cooling, for which our present policies have left us entirely unprepared. Another “Little Ice Age,” as occurred between the early 14th century to the mid-19th century, would be a global catastrophe.
Bill Gates’ preposterous and dangerous plan to spray tons of dust into space to dim the sun’s rays is a prelude to disaster—a real intervention of the worst kind that must at all costs be avoided, and a telling instance of the ignorance and naiveté of the supposedly super-brilliant. Gates reminds us of Obama’s Energy czar John Holdren, who absurdly proposed last-resort interventionist options, such as “shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays”—an atmoforming scheme that would unleash a geoengineered climate debacle. One recalls, too, the 1975 IPCC lunatic proposal to spread black carbon (soot) across the ice fields to absorb the heat of the sun and so reduce global cooling. The insanity of such propositions may be viewed as the mitochondrial form of the more diffused madness inherent in the body of Green.
Against all the evidence, we continue to believe. The religious impulse will not go away; it will only be diverted into other, covert and non-traditional channels—the brotherhood of man, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Kantian dream of universal peace, the sanctification of the global warming hypothesis, sentimental devotion to an indifferent goddess called Gaia—in effect, raising politicized science to the level of theology. It is precisely as Nietzsche predicted when he wrote in The Will to Power that the decay of faith would give rise to “the millenarian urge in temporal form.” To go on acting from predisposition, hysteria and panic—the St. Vitus’ Dance of the mind—blended with a generous amount of self-righteousness and puritanical conviction is to fall into what former Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Blue Planet in Green Shackles, called the trap of “salutary flagellation” in the service of an imagined deity.
As the old adage goes, save us from our saviors. And as Lomborg advises, and as the planet concurs, the time has come to cool it.
Eastern Mediterranean Sea surface temperatures (SST) as indicated by alkenone temperatures and warm-species formanifera. A drop of SST can indicate lower levels of evaporation, which in turn indicate less precipitation. The Ionian Sea (top line; Emeis et al., 2000) dropped by 4 deg C following the LBA collapse (a). Temperatures returned to their pre-LBA collapse levels during the Roman Warm period (b). A drop of 3 deg C during the Medieval Warm period (c) occurs as well. Adriatic SST (second line; Sangiorni et al., 2003) dropped 1-2 deg C after the LBA collapse (a), however a 25% reduction in Adriatic warm-species dinocysts (third line; Sangiorni et al., 2003) before the LBA collapse (a) suggests cooling may have been rapid and severe. A similar decline in warm-species formanifera in the Aegean Sea (last line; Rohling et all, 2002) at the same time suggests significanty cooler waters as well. Dark shading around lines represents 95% confidence bands.
David Solway’s latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture, Black House Publishing, 2019, London. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019.
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