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« Climate correspondents | Main | Principle of proportionality »

The minds of warmist pundits

This is a guest post by John Bell.

There is something that troubles me in the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) debate that I would like to bring to light and solicit remarks from others in helping me understand it. I used to believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) when I first heard about it decades ago because it seemed plausible, but as I read articles skeptical of it I saw how I had been fooled. Being a skeptic I must dig in and get both sides of a controversial subject and then decide for myself. I’m a mechanical engineer and I understand physics and chemistry and energy a bit better than the average bear.

I compare the CAGW community to mainstream organized religion, in particular the Catholic church and its hierarchy, like a pyramid with the pope at the peak and below are bishops and then priests and then on the bottom are the laity. Obviously the pope of it is Al Gore, and below him are such names as Mann and McKibben and below them are priests (bloggers and pundits). On the bottom are many average citizens who are not active participants in the debate but if asked if they at least believe in AGW they respond yes, simply because the media bombard them with it daily, however they do not act on it beyond lip service and recycling because what can one do?

It is one thing for Al Gore, as wealthy as he is, to tell others to sacrifice and use less energy (i.e. to cause less CO2 output) and then himself use 37 times the amount of energy that the average American uses. Here I am not talking about Gore, but rather those many people farther down the pyramid, at the priest level, who collectively add up to far more than Gore. How can they daily beat the CAGW drum and then live the typical American (high CO2) lifestyle? That would cause massive cognitive dissonance with me.

A few years ago I was listening to a popular radio show, “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross on NPR, and she was interviewing a warmist whose name escapes me. I think he traveled around the USA on a university speaking tour, getting the word out about AGW, and when Terry gently reminded him that he was producing lots of CO2 by traveling on jetliners, he quickly countered “…ah, but I’m doing good work.” That revealed to me an elitist mindset; that it is okay to do what one is telling others not to do in order to spread the pearls of wisdom to the ignorant masses.

Taking that notion, I want to make an analogy. Imagine a scenario of miners who are trapped underground after a cave in, with apparently limited air supply. One miner begins to tell the others that they should remain calm and sit down and relax and conserve oxygen until help arrives, and then other miners who agree also go around telling everyone the same and soon every miner is running around frantically telling everyone else to sit down and relax but no one will do what they are telling others to do because they think it is doing good work. Later, after rescue they are told that the mine is so big that there was no danger of oxygen depletion anyway. What if everyone were to fly around on jets and preach to everyone else not to fly on jets? One could not even email others and tell them not to use their computers because it takes coal to make the electricity. It puts warmists in a wildly bizarre dilemma, so how can they justify it? I would say compartmentalized thinking.

I used to go camping on my friend’s hilltop property near Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Near there are Amish farms and I stopped at their roadside stands to buy their baked goods. I am agnostic so I do not agree with them on a theological level, but I have great respect for them because from what I can tell, their life style is consistent with their beliefs. They do not merely talk the talk, they walk the walk, and it is not an easy walk. They are not warmists; but for theological reasons they forego modern luxuries.

The CAGW faithful talk it but do not walk it (except Ed Begley jr.), and I really notice it at the priestly level, mainly from pundits and bloggers. They should give up modern luxuries because of their belief in CAGW. I never expect a politician to practice what he preaches, but I would think that if all these warmists really believe in their cause they would all band together live much like the Amish, not for theological reasons, but simply to avoid being flaming hypocrites. And if the oceans rise up to smite us skeptics, then the warmists, from their sea-walled enclaves can say, “We told you it would happen, so don’t blame us because we have lived like the Amish for 88 years!” (2100 – 2012 = 88) I use the year 2100 based on all their “by the end of the century” predictions.

The CAGW debate should be a purely scientific debate, but too often it is a political debate. Lefties (American partisan politics) are automatically warmists because for them it is politically correct to promote the CAGW meme. I fancy myself a skeptic, and within the skeptical movement is the famous Professor Robert Todd Carroll, of California who authors “The Skeptics Dictionary” ( I really admire this man, I have learned a lot reading his web site. However, he is a warmist, seemingly because he is a leftie.  Many of my friends are lefties and I have no problem with that, but here is a stellar example of someone who is 99% skeptic, yet puts political fashion above evidence. Here I am, the student, observing my mentor doing what he taught me NOT to do, but I respect him so much that I do not want to call him out on it. In my view, a true skeptic should doubt the CAGW meme.

From the McKibbens down to the warmist bloggers, I would love to follow any of them around for a day and remind them not to use any carbon-based energy, lest they be elitist and hypocritical. Don’t you dare heat your house in the winter, or use an air conditioner or drive a car, or cook on the stove or use your computer, because that would make you look like a “denier” as they call my kind. If I were a warmist I would not be caught dead in a car or an airplane. I would set a golden example and walk or ride a bicycle or use a paddle boat. No phone, no lights, no motorcar, not a single luxury!  

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Reader Comments (43)

I hope that would be a bamboo bicycle, with no metal parts.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Tolson

Actually Dr Carroll is not being inconsistent. The Skeptic's Dictionary parrots the consensus view on a variety of topics. It makes sense therefore that Dr. Carroll parrots the consensus view on climate change.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterdribble

The CAGW debate should be a purely scientific debate, but too often it is a political debate.

But not always. I don't know whether Professor Richard Lindzen is a leftie or a rightie. Nor do I care - what matters is that he is a scientist. Here's a report of a speech he made 23 years ago. It reads well today.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Add Prince Charles to list, banging on again yesterday.

Yet this is the man who in 2008, flew 85 miles by helicopter to the launch of Adnam's first carbon neutral beer!

You couldn't make it up.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

Nobody walks the talk, it's one of the defining characteristics of the bien pensant chattering classes.

It was a bit like the 'smash capitalism' demos of last year - we are th 99% - who made your tent, your bongo drums, the clothes you wear, the iphone you're busily tweeting from, the transport you used to get here, the very ground you camp on...and the society which somehow manages to feed your worthless muppet hide despite you failing to contribute to it in any way. Everyone who wants to dismantle capitalism should be forced to live on a self-sufficient commune for a year before being allowed to speak.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I wouldn't agree that the CAGW movement is like the Catholic Church, with Al Gore at its head.

Firstly, Al's ratings have slipped so much that he is rarely seen at places where the faithful gather any more. The reasons for that are many, but the Pope, he ain't.

More broadly, it would be much easier if your model was right - but in fact it is a classic Hydra - a many-headed monster that regenerates. The high-level beneficiaries are now mostly invisible as the issue has gone off the boil, but there are thousands of 'ambassadors', NGO heavies, entrepreneurs, property owners and others who are living like kings off the rest of us. Some have achieved the happy state of perfectly aligning their personal and ideological interests, while others are just cynical opportunists. But for practical purposes, it makes no difference.

I can understand your frustration about cognitive dissonance, but in fairness, almost (if not) everyone does it to some degree. It is part of being human, and can be a useful survival mechanism.

It is up to you whether you call out Professor Carroll. But, he is just a human, and makes mistakes like we all do. It is not pleasant to find that someone you really admire has feet of clay, or at least is not perfect. That's a human issue, not a scientific one.

As I am not a scientist, I have always drawn solace from the quote from (I think) Instapundit - "I'll start believing that there is a crisis when they start behaving like there is one."

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

"I compare the CAGW community to mainstream organized religion....... "

But there are so many, different, religions - each proclaiming that only 'they' are the 'true' religion.

However, the comparison is relatively accurate in that up until now, "religious differences" has been the greatest cause of human suffering & death.

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Talk is cheap. Action costs.

If activist New York mayor Bloomberg believed that the oceans are and will continue to rise, wouldn't he be building seawalls, raising the bridges and enacting new rules for buildings near the shore? Have the liberal politicians in California started work on replacing the Golden Gate Bridge so ship traffic can pass unimpeded after the predicted and expected sea level rise? Boston Logan airport is just 20 feet above sea level. When will they start work on a seawall? What about Hong Kong? Bangkok? Has the market for beachfront property in Miami cratered?

Either these people don't believe in the likely sequellae of global warming or they don't believe in global warming at all. Nor do they want to be the first to say, "The emperor has no clothes." But it's easy and cheap to tell other people to build windmills, buy hybrids and turn corn into ethanol.

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

I would be happier if all the "Eco" brigade, who love telling others they are on a "green" energy tariff, were actually connected ONLY to wind & solar power plants...

Let's see how long they think Renewables are the future...

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave ward

I thought for a moment this was the 'Iona Community John Bell'. He who preaches to we radio 4 Today programme listeners occasionally.Telling us its all our fault for being sceptical.

This would truely have been a road to Damascus event.

Sadly, though it was not to be...

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Firstly, Al's ratings have slipped so much that he is rarely seen at places where the faithful gather any more. The reasons for that are many, but the Pope, he ain't

I think that's just a question of who has the thickest skin.

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Unlimited CO2 free energy is available from nuclear. If the alarmists were not perfectly well aware that their scare is a fraud they would be the most enthusiastic supporters of nuclear. In fact, with less than a handful of exceptions, they are the most opposed to it, proving the CAGW scare is a deliberate fraud.

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

@Robin Guenier “Here's a report of a speech he made 23 years ago. It reads well today.”

The report about Lindzen was written by Eugene F. Mallove. I would guess the same person who in 1989 resigned in protest from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over their manipulation of test data to make a Pons-Fleischmann replication study (into cold fusion) appear to show a negative result.

It is interesting to note that 23 years later MIT is now running a course on cold fusion.

If a fraction of what has been spent on windmills had been put into research on cold fusion, possibly by now the CAGW debate would be defunct – limitless energy without CO2

Jan 7, 2013 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrJohnGalan

I also like "I'll start believing that there is a crisis when they start behaving like there is one.".
Personally, I have an issue with the habit of flying 20,000 people to stay in luxury hotels each time there is an AGW conference, followed by a press release telling me to produce less CO2.
I'll believe it's an urgent problem the day they do it by teleconferencing instead.

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex

There is an argument like this in the UK. Rich socialists (some of them MP's) say that private education is wrong but still pay to send their children to good schools. Conservatives attach them for this saying they are hypocrites etc. as John Bell berates the jet setting warmists. Well it's good knockabout stuff but actually a warmist can perfectly consistently work for a low carbon world while enjoying a high carbon one. Of course there are arguments, but consistency is not one of them.

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Mott

Climate science is getting a free ride by those we’d usually think of as sensible because they’re just not thinking about it. Period.

People who are generally sceptical of crackpot issues like homeopathy aren’t being genuinely sceptical. It’s not hard to doubt homeopathy because it’s loony. It’s harder to be sceptic of something like medicine, but anyone who wants to survive the NHS has to take a grim view of the medical profession. Yes, they’re right some of the time and they are the gatekeepers to those things you think will do you good but they’re not infallible by any stretch of the imagination. It’s generally accepted that people who research their own conditions and then push doctors, get a much better outcome than those who docilely accept whatever they’re told. That’s genuine scepticism. There has always been a greater amount of scepticism for the pharmaceutical side of medicine. I suspect it has more to do with the successful demonising activities of anti vivisectionists and the huge profits involved than a justified concern that medicines are rarely as good as promised, but the wariness from the public is there.

Climate science gets an easy ride for two reasons. One (as you point out) it has reached religion stage and people have always been nervous of being heretical and two, it stands under the umbrella of science. Because a lot of people are slightly in awe of clever people and don’t like to take the time to understand complicated things they give science a huge dollop of acceptance. Part of that is due to a lack of understanding exactly what science is.

I’ll be honest, up till AGW I was guilty of the same blindness where science was involved. It never occurred to me that science was often guessing by another name. I naïvely thought there should be proof. I’d never really thought about peer review but now I know about it, it’s absurd that science is measured by appearances in what amount to little more than trade magazines. Sure, commercial science is considerably better and has to follow seriously onerous guidelines but academia? Academia is the wild west of thinking up stuff.

Now that’s fine if everyone understands that. If we say that academic science is a part of a rich society and might sometimes come up with useful stuff, then it justifies its existence. It would mean that all offerings from science would be met with an indulgent smile and ‘aren’t you clever’ but never mass panic. The mistake made by the Italian earthquake guys was not their lack of ability to see the future but their inability to keep reminding people that their work was purely theoretical and they really couldn’t predict earthquakes. Had they done that they might not have been sentenced but they might have also been unemployed.

Climate science has had two shocks. The first and best shock was to be suddenly taken seriously and be showered with praise and money. Very nice for people who had been in a slightly derided and unexciting profession. The nasty shock is that all of a sudden people want to know about the quality of their work and the validity of their guesses. Unfortunately for us, the bulk of the people doing serious quality control are lone heroes in the blogosphere, instead of an aggressive regulatory body with powers to fine and imprison, like every other field that impacts significantly on the public.

To anyone who says the sensible position on climate science is to accept the consensus I’d ask ‘why make an exception for climate science you don’t extend to any other important issue?’

Jan 7, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

In the same vein, it would be amusing to know the views of the doomsters and alarmists on having children. After all, if you are truly convinced that over-population is driving disastrous resource depletion, surely you would refrain from adding to that population??!! Also, how do you justify bringing children into a world which - you believe - faces such a catastrophic future?
A side benefit of such abstinence would be the eventual extinction - by natural causes - of the warmist/doomster/alarmist "tribe". Then they really would need to hide the decline......

Jan 7, 2013 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH

Belief in AGW is a religion for secularists. It is akin to belief in Gaia or even Dawkins and Jonathan Miller's Atheism - a sort of anti-religion which takes on all the evengelising of religion itself.

It is not organised, though, Al Gore is certainly not the Pope. More like Billy Graham, who can use his wealth to preach his message to the masses. We just have lots of prechers and proselyters .

What it seems to cause, especially amongst "scientists" is a suspension in disbelief. "Scientists" who believe in CAGW do so because other experts have told them that it is real. The lack of empirical evidence is immaterial, it is enough for them that it "is the case" and that the "science is settled."

I just took AGW as read, for a long time. It all sounded plausible and so I didn't think much about it. When I began to realise ( the late 1990s ) that there wasn't that much hard evidence and the fact that as an historian I "knew" that there had been cold and warm cycles in the past and that there were cycles within cycles even in this century made me realise that there were no clothes on the Emperor. What sealed it was a BBC radio news report in 2001 that solemnly intoned that AGW had been proven to exist "through computer models." The utter fatuousness of that remark was obviously not spotted by the editing team, because it was subsequently repeated on the next broadcast.

Like many things ( e.g. the Euro, Mayan-end-of the world, The Guardian), the CO2-based concept of CAGW is simply illogical, if you stop and actually think about it. "Greenhouse gases" do exist, but the most prevalent is water vapour. There simply isn't enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to have the huge effects that is claimed of it. Carbon dioxide is a pretty inert gas, which when dissolved slightly acidifies water. I would be interested if anyone has ever done the maths to calculate how much CO2 has to be dissolved in the sea in order to change its alkalinity. Even the supposed behaviour of carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere to radiation in misrepresented or wilfully misconstrued in order to prove the "science."

Jan 7, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett


You'll probably find Robert Todd Carroll is a consistent skeptic.

By that, I mean that he would apply an equal dose of skepticism to all sides of the argument, then either take no side at all, or else come down on the side that he was least skeptical about. Which in this case (and the vast majority of scientists agree on this) is the so-called 'warmist' side.

Jan 7, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Butler

Warmists should dramatically reduce their consumption of electricity to the point where they only use solar and wind generated power. This probably means most of them should not have a refrigerator, a computer or a TV. And most of them should not be able to participate in the internet by commenting or blogging.

Just remember Al Gore has accepted more money from Big Oil than the entire skeptic community combined.

Jan 7, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterLeon0112

No phone, no lights, no motorcar, not a single luxury!

Gilligan's Island never seemed to without any modern day conveniences and a most respectable standard of living on their "deserted isle" if I recall.

Much like what Alarmist claim awaits us if we turn back the industrial clock. Nothing but economic Nirvana from all manner of improbable technology.

Jan 7, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

I think your comparison of the “CAGW community” to the Catholic clergy is telling - but perhaps not in the way that might first be thought.

Catholic clergy often make vows of poverty: the analogy for the CAGW community would naturally be abstaining from using carbon-based energy, as in this article. But all is not quite as it seems. Catholic priests drive modern cars, live in decent houses and are well looked after in their retirement. The reason (as in Acts 4:32-5) is that the canonical vow of poverty is not actually to be “poor” in absolute terms, but to share everything for the common good of the order (hence, axiomatically to them, for the good of all mankind) – that clergy will not claim separate private ownership of any material possessions.

So – the Catholics had this all sussed out well before the Amish or the CAWG mob. So long as all the junkets are for the common good (of the order, hence automatically as they see it, for all of mankind) the vow of (energy) poverty is not breached. So they remain righteous and just (and the Pope lives quite comfortably too …)

Jan 7, 2013 at 8:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterTimC

Not that my thinking or thought process is useful to others...

My background is varied; from geology to physics, from chemistry to astronomy, from gardening to raising orchids, from working in computers to rustic camping, from farming and raising critters to hunting/fishing.

What's the big take away? Perhaps a dollop of common sense. Back before the Goreful hit the big time there was a lot of noise about man's effect on the climate. Perhaps man’s influence is possible, but I couldn't get a handle on it. Man's actual definitive contribution to the CO2 level is undetermined. What is determined are rough, back of the envelope guestimates; with the alarming truth, no-one knows. All we really do is measure CO2, estimate pounds of CO2 vented and wild-a__ guess at the rest.

Then alarmism hit. What amused me back then was the new eco-greenies were the strident ones. That is, folks who felt sorry/pity/alarmed for all of Gaia minus man were the most AGW frightened.

What got me the most with these folks is the belief that man is responsible for damage to earth. CAGW CO2 alarmism is their penance process. Once after a long and sometimes loud argument with some motivated doctor friends, as one CAGW falsehood after another fell beneath the "scientific criteria" axe, their final argument was a plea that didn't I think man is guilty of destroying earth? Their final argument to me is a plea for my penance participation; a very long way away from CO2 fright tactics...

It seems to me that many of the educated elite feel guilty and supporting CAGW gives them that feeling of eventual absolution they crave.

During another argument, the AGW faithful threw at me the accusation that mankind is using up all their resources and our children will not have any... After some insistence on clarification, the faithful mentioned reading articles from un-named publications that described how our precious rare minerals will be completely consumed in our lifetimes. I asked, since I hadn't any clue what they meant, "consumed how?". Their idea of consumption meant mined out. So; was my response, as long as we don't launch them all into the sun, every bit of that resource is still here, on earth and retrievable. At this point I started to explain about the sheer size of the earth. A topic guaranteed to glaze the eyes of the faithful

In every case, when I try to establish, the size of the earth, the size of the atmosphere, the vastness of the oceans; I swear it looks like a deer in the headlights; i.e. a totally blank stare.

When the faithful press me to stop wastefully venting (I'm just utilizing resources) CO2; the first thing I do is look at their shoes. If they're not barefoot, I think they're borderline moronic in their accusation. Modern shoes are amazing examples of a person’s attention to minor detail. Especially details about how serious they themselves are about conserving. Fashionable is rarely truly supportive of CAGW claims or conservation.

I tend to ask these faithful why? For what purpose do my minimizing CO2 emissions accomplish any of their stated goals? A question that often does not allow me to reach the second part of the question as they stridently wax loud and long.

The second part of the question is; "If CO2 is so catastrophically high as claimed by the CAGW driven, what will my ceasing vehicle use accomplish?" Until someone truly identifies a method of absolutely controlling CO2 atmosphere percentages, stoppages accomplish nothing if their fears are correct. Man must be able to adjust CO2 levels as needed. Fear, repression, denial, abstinence are all good things when one has a limited, but tightly controlled budget. But CO2 is not a budget, it is a residual product.

If they've made it that far; I ask them if they know at what levels of CO2 plants cease their functions. Earth is close to minimum plant functioning percentages. Drop a hundred CO2 PPM points and some plants will have trouble surviving. Why would anyone squawk about more CO2 when plants, and presumably life will flourish better? Geologically, 400PPM CO2 is not a surprise, dangerous, or desperate level in earth’s atmosphere. Over the course of life on earth, 400PPM CO2 is quite low.

Do I succeed in converting any of the strident? NO! But they usually never mention CAGW in my presence again.

Which leaves us with:
I believe most of the CAGW faithful desperately want to believe in the absolution CAGW intimates shall be achieved averting CAGW disaster. Everything shall be green green green.
I also believe most of the CAGW dependent are deeply entrenched on the fundings of CAGW research/education/propaganda engines. Again, everything will be green green green (in US dollars).
I believe that most of the CAGW protagonists are those who see the CAGW movement as action for their greater glory. Whether that glory is in fame or government it still represents in the end that everything will be green green green (in US dollars).

Money is the root of all evil.


Jan 7, 2013 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

The AGW scare and other environmental scares are mainly just the "means" for their real and most important object. That is international socialism.

Jan 7, 2013 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon

Quotes attributed below to Mike Hulme (founding director of the Tyndall Centre, and Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia (UEA), participant in reports for the UK Government (including the UKCIP98 and UKCIP02 scenarios, and reviewer for UKCP09), the European Commission, UNEP, UNDP, WWF-International and the IPCC, and co-ordinating Lead Author for the chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC):

'The idea of climate change should be seen as an intellectual resource around which our collective and personal identifies and projects can form and take shape. We need to ask not what we can do for climate change, but to ask what climate change can do for us…Because the idea of climate change is so plastic, it can be deployed across many of our human projects and can serve many of our psychological, ethical, and spiritual needs....
…climate change has become an idea that now travels well beyond its origins in the natural sciences…climate change takes on new meanings and serves new purposes…climate change has become “the mother of all issues”, the key narrative within which all environmental politics – from global to local – is now framed…Rather than asking “how do we solve climate change?” we need to turn the question around and ask: “how does the idea of climate change alter the way we arrive at and achieve our personal aspirations…?”...
We need to reveal the creative psychological, spiritual and ethical work that climate change can do and is doing for us…we open up a way of resituating culture and the human spirit…As a resource of the imagination, the idea of climate change can be deployed around our geographical, social and virtual worlds in creative ways…it can inspire new artistic creations in visual, written and dramatised media. The idea of climate change can provoke new ethical and theological thinking about our relationship with the future….We will continue to create and tell new stories about climate change and mobilise these stories in support of our projects. Whereas a modernist reading of climate may once have regarded it as merely a physical condition for human action, we must now come to terms with climate change operating simultaneously as an overlying, but more fluid, imaginative condition of human existence.

Jan 7, 2013 at 10:45 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Comparison of CAGW to religion is a lazy and over-cooked analogy. To compare Al Gore to the Pope sheds more light on your own prejudices than on the issues you are discussing, and displays a profound ignorance of the way the Catholic church works (or of the scientific strides its members have made over the centuries. Mendel, anyone? Lemaitre?). To describe the Amish way of life as a "theology" betrays a weak grasp of the English language, too. But I guess you may be agnostic about that too.

I think Johanna's analogy is more apt: the hydra. Forget your comparisons with modern religions, Mr Bell. A richer seam of metaphor can be mined with the ancient faiths, although I guess that may lead to complaints from the Bishop's pagan readers.

I do not mean to make this an ad hominen argument. It's just that you start out being snarky about religion, to no real purpose, but disconcertingly switch points to end up saying: "The CAGW debate should be a purely scientific debate, but too often it is a political debate." That is a fair enough comment (although it is the one Michael Crichton brought to the table as long ago as 2003). Perhaps that's where you might have started from and thence developed your arguments, rather than striding off and dragging in Benedict XVI and the poor old Amish.

Jan 7, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Just to add to John's comment above, TimC also seems to confuse the working of the diocesan clergy and that of religious orders, and jumps to erroneous conclusions.

The Catholic Church is a pretty 'flat' organisation, given it's membership. It's also very collegiate, so I don't really see that John Bell's analogy survives in anything more than a very general form.

Warmism in the general population is not much more than a set of warm and fuzzy half understood premises that they take on trust. Most people mean well. The issue is the vested interests. They are more related to the grasping power players found in politics down the centuries. Nothing new under the sun.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Robin Guenier: Thank you very much for the link to a report of what Richard Lindzen was saying in 1989. How did you arrive at that ancient page? Do you remember? (I often don't but with this I think I'd have made a note!)

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The comparison with religion is one many people have instinctively made, and for good reason. But a deeper perception is that both relgions and the social phenomena of CAGW (and many other social phenomena) are memeplexes, and this perception allows more objective comparisons. For instance, like many religions CAGW has created a narrative of impending doom. However, unlike say Christianity or Islam there is no specific salvation for those in the club; if the Earth fries as promised then we'll all fry with it, there isn't really any way for the 'good guys' to preserve themselves and let us sceptics (I count myself as one) take the brunt. Maybe this explains some of the bitterness of alarmists.

The typcial action of a memeplex also explains Joanna's Hydra analogy. Once a strong memeplex is established, it works from the ground up and requires no specific leadership. Nor is much of the growth 'consciously executed' exactly. I'm not excusing the folks who have done dubious things in the cause of alarmism, but it's worth noting that we are all subject to several memplexes that pre-condition our actions, and not all of these are negative on average either, although the CAGW one appears both negative and rampant to me.

However, memeplexes thrive on doubt, and are killed by a constrained fact space. Religions have a permanently unbounded fact space because it's never possible to prove or disprove the existence of God(s). CAGW has made the terminal error of attaching itself to science that *will* one day be proven (one way or the other), and hence it will die when that day comes (whatever the outcome). Meanwhile, as such a complex multi-disciplined field will probably remain contestable for a very long time, that day is a long way off so the memeplex still has plenty of room to grow.

For a science-fiction take on the CAGW memeplex, you can grab this story for free:

For a more factual take, I aim to work up a post about that soon.

Andy West

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Yes, Lindzen is truly a formidable man of science.

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:53 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

This may sound trite or superficial, but nonetheless is accurate

The human condition: most people don't mind being hypocritical, they just mind it being pointed out

There is no hope at all of altering this. I don't doubt most people's good intentions, just their ability to actually carry them out. Muddling through - the human condition

Jan 8, 2013 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

ian, well said. I might add that it has been argued that hypocrites are not truly evil, because at least they realise on some level that what they are doing is wrong. It is the people who don't realise it that we have to worry about.

As I said upthread, things like hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance are part and parcel of being human. Anyone who doesn't experience these things is probably a psychopath.

Jan 8, 2013 at 3:00 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Jan 7, 2013 at 11:24 PM | Richard Drake

There was nothing especially clever about my finding that Lindzen report. GWPF mentioned it yesterday, providing this link. That in turn had a link to "M.I.T. Tech Talk" that was not very helpful. So I googled some key words and found the original. (I keep a lot of material - but I only started in late 2007.)

Jan 8, 2013 at 6:59 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Thanks John (Bell) for writing this post.

And thanks also to ATheoK and Cumbrian Lad for interesting comments. I tend to agree with Cumbrian Lad's point

Warmism in the general population is not much more than a set of warm and fuzzy half understood premises that they take on trust. Most people mean well.

One thing driving the feelings of collective guilt about mankind is a lifestyle vertigo - we have such a comfortable and rich life compared with just 2 generations ago that people feel guilty and feel it's going to come to a sticky end.

Jan 8, 2013 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Cumbrian Lad said “TimC also seems to confuse the working of the diocesan clergy and that of religious orders”. I won’t take the bait as the reference to the Catholic church was itself of course only an analogy, which I (somewhat mischievously) extrapolated …!

Also, he said “The issue is the vested interests”. I partly agree with that, but rather more put it down to individuals and corporates gaming the system. Our UK Coalition Government’s “Mid-term Review” just published says things like ”Climate change is one of the gravest threats we face … We promised to be the greenest government ever and we will fulfil that commitment… We have introduced an Energy Bill that puts in place measures to attract the £110 billion investment which is needed to replace current generating capacity and upgrade the grid by 2020, and to cope with a rising demand for electricity…. We will, through a stable levy control framework, treble support to low carbon energy up to 2020…. and complete the commercial negotiations for the world’s first large scale carbon capture and storage projects” (no doubt with more to come if Chris Huhne is acquitted later this month and gets back into the Cabinet).

With this now on the table who wouldn’t be tempted to apply for green grants, subsidies, contracts, benefits, tax reliefs and whatever else might be on offer – on any pretext at all.

Jan 8, 2013 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTimC

Robin Guenier:

There was nothing especially clever about my finding that Lindzen report.

Oh yes there was. I say this not just because it's panto season but in the spirit of Thomas Sowell or FA Hayek: this gem I didn't have in my collection and you brought it to me. That to me is very clever.

Jan 8, 2013 at 10:29 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

This article was also posted at Digging In The Clay (Verity Jones).

Jan 8, 2013 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Like you, John, I am a mechanical engineer (retired) - and I was moved to write recently to our 'trade' journal because of my dismay at the high level of alleged support for 'renewables' and 'anti-CO2' in a survey of our peers. I coudn't, and can't, square it with the logical minds of engineers - whilst of course acknowledging that there are quite a few of us that earn their livings from the renewables/wind industries..
The likes of Prince Charles are of course the arch-hypocrites - drifting from speaking-engagement to opening-a-green-project by helicopter and Range Rover - because of course it is 'us' who must make the sacrifices, not 'them'. Why, one wonders, does he not cover the whole of the Highgrove estate with wind turbines..? Too noisy/visually offensive, perhaps..? Why, if those in Westminster are so keen on the things, is there not a monster wind turbine on College Green..? Not enough 'wind' in Westminster (don't tempt me..)..? Doesn't usually put developers/landowners off in places like Northamptonshire, which has the lowest wind speeds of almost anywhere in the British Isles...
No - the old adage applies. 'Follow the money'...

Jan 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Just saying ... to everyone in general and no one in particular.

Mike Hulme: "My work is as Director of the national centre for climate change research, a job which requires me to translate my Christian belief about stewardship of God’s planet into research and action."

Jan 8, 2013 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

BTW, is Mike Hulme a Catholic or an Anglican? I ask this only for esoteric reasons because it really doesn't matter whether he is a Catholic or Anglican.

What matters is that he is a god-fearing delusional twerp who thinks gods have appointed him as the Earth's steward.

Jan 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

For the record:

Acts 4:32-5:11

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and Sapphira

5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

I am looking forward to the day when Hansen, Mann, Jones and Hulme fall down to someone's feet and die ... at any moment ... now ... not holding my breath.

The gods are evidently on the side of the climate doomsday cult members at the moment.

Jan 8, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I,m from a devout catholic Family.We used to have a lot of conversations and arguments about religion.
The Mistake you re all making is trying to see people in your own likeness. Basically you re trying to pigeon hole people.Stopped being about Science and Temperature Data now its about personalities and Personal motives.Should be all about the science.

Question for people.
Has anyone actually studied Micheal Mann academic output before he put out the Hockey Stick.
He must of published other papers at some stage before his appearance in front of Senate Committee.
Got to be worth pulling them all in and taking a closer look.

Jan 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Has anyone actually studied Micheal Mann academic output before he put out the Hockey Stick.
Got to be worth pulling them all in and taking a closer look.
Jan 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM jamspid

Fromn what I recall, he got his PhD much later than the norm (at age ~33), in 1998, after spending years as some sort of research assistant. The Hockey Stick came soon after.

His PhD thesis is out there somewhere. I think I have a pdf of it.

Jan 9, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

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