No conspiracy
Dec 11, 2009
Bishop Hill in Climate

Tom Fuller writes an interesting piece in which he considers whether there is evidence of an international conspiracy to create a "global warming scam" in the CRU emails. He concludes, correctly in my opinion, that there isn't. There is, however, enough bad stuff in there that we should still be worried:

I think that they had an informal conspiracy going to pump each others' careers up, peer review each others' papers, and slam any skeptics or lukewarmers who wandered within punching range - and later, after they realised how badly they had acted, they conspired to evade the Freedom of Information Act.

Anyone who has had an honest review of the emails will find this very hard to argue with.

There is a marked prevalence of conspiracy theories in the global warming debate. Many of the sceptic side are quick to shout "scam" and "fraud" and to see the whole thing as a left-wing plot, but as some thinking commentators on the right have noted, it is hard to read the emails and to not conclude that the scientists are sincere in their belief in the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. This doesn't in any way excuse the malfeasance that so many of us have suspected but have still been shocked to see laid out in the emails in such devasting clarity.

One should also point out of course that conspiracy theories about global warming are not restricted to the right. Throughout the emails there is a sense that mainstream climatologists cannot conceive of anyone criticising them or questioning their findings for anything other than nefarious reasons. The Hockey Team seem to see the spectre of "big oil" lurking behind every critic. This is conspiracy theory writ large, and it's this paranoia that seems to have caused the lurch into unacceptable behaviour by some of the most important climatologists around.

But this is besides the point. If there is no conspiracy, how then has the global warming hypothesis developed this apparently unstoppable momentum?

My pet theory is that the answer lies in what economists call public choice theory. In essence, this is the idea that the inhabitants of bureaucracies are pursuing their own self-interest rather than the public good, as the myth-makers would have it. Public choice theory has proved to be a remarkably powerful way of understanding the world and the otherwise inexplicable behaviour of the public sector.

Until now, my ideas about the use of the theory as a means of understanding the global warming phenomenon from a sociological point of view have been very much a "pet theory" with little by way of supporting evidence, but yesterday some new evidence fell into my lap.

Some time ago I requested copies of the minutes of the management board of the Met Office (MO). As is normal in these cases, the bureaucracy has ignored the statutory imposed timescales, but they have now finally delivered up what they are willing to deliver.  Again, predictably, and in a move eerily reminscent of the CRU, they have tried to hide behind all manner of exemptions, most of which simply do not apply. I'll write more about this another time. For now, let's see what we've got.

The snippets delivered up extraordinarily thin and even the pathetic snippets have been redacted for one reason or another. However, they do provide what I think is something of an insight into what motivates senior staff at the Met Office. Is it the public interest - in other words an answer to some of the questions swirling around the global warming debate? Or is it something else? Here are some extracts of the extracts:

There are more like this, but I'm sure you get the drift by now. One would hope to see earnest discussion of what areas of climate change were priorities for spending, for consideration of whether what scientific questions needed answering and so on. But all you can see are a group of bureaucrats discussing how they can expand their feifdoms and get the attention of their political masters. You are welcome to review the documents yourself at the link above. I don't think I am misrepresenting the contents.

It all rather proves my point. Now we can understand why climatologists hype each others work - it helps expand the pie. Now we can see why they slam the critics - it expands the size of the spread.

This is not about left-wing conspiracies or global government. It's about bureaucratic gluttony and excess [update: and here I mean bureaucracy in the widest sense, covering both scientists and administrators.]. To me, the global warming crisis looks not like a plot hatched in a dimly-lit room in the depths of Al Gore's office, but like a feeding frenzy for the public sector that has got out of control.

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