Commentary

M.D. Harmon: Warmists gather for "earth summit" to hone agenda, "science communication" strategy

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Climate-change enthusiasts (aka “warmists”) are gathering this week in Brazil for the U.N.’s big “Rio+20” conference involving a reported 193 nations.

They are seeking to upgrade their funding to replace the Kyoto Pact and fulfill the mostly unachieved goals of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit,” some of which are listed in a document called “Agenda 21.”

Under Kyoto, a number of governments (but not the United States) formally agreed to reduce their carbon emissions to levels not seen for most of the past 50 to 100 years.

A Canadian paper, the Globe and Mail, reported Wednesday (Rio+20’s opening day), that “A recent report by the U.N.’s Environment Program tracked 90 goals from Agenda 21 and hundreds of other international conventions. It found that significant progress had been made on just four: reducing ozone depletion, removing lead from gasoline, improving access to water supplies and boosting research for marine pollution…”

“There isn’t much hope that Rio+20 will change things,” the paper said, noting that leaders such as President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper weren’t attending.

And it added, “Those who did show up are expected to sign a 53-page statement that contains no specifics. There had been hope the leaders would agree to ‘sustainable development goals’ but that fell through, and the statement is so weak it was greeted with boos by some delegates when it was unveiled at a preparatory gathering Tuesday.”

Indeed, The Times of London reported Wednesday that the head of Greenpeace said the group was now on a “war footing,” threatening civil disobedience due to its dissatisfaction with the proposed statement.

The conference’s theme is “The future we want,” but as The Washington Times observed in an editorial Monday, it more accurately should have been, “The money we want.”

Diagnosing their problem in reaching an agreement as being due to lack of sufficient financing from member states (rather than their residence in a fantasy world of their own creation), participants are trying to reboot international groups, including U.N. environmental agencies, with new funding for expansion.

That includes, the Times says, “a global green tax” that will “start at $30 billion a year, but they want to ratchet it up to $100 billion by 2020.”

But even that isn’t enough for some green non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Greenpeace, which want developed nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their GDP to the effort — more than $100 billion from the United States by itself.

No matter how that effort goes — most governments will file the final statement in a folder labeled “In Your Dreams” — observers and participants alike haven’t given the development of any new pact much chance of success. Partly that’s because Kyoto itself has been repudiated even before its expiration by such prominent Western nations as Canada — and (ahem) Japan.

And that’s because most developed nations see any new pact as forcing unacceptable hardships on their populations.

The situation is particularly dire in Britain, where taxes on fuel to support “green energy” programs like wind and solar power have led 90 percent of the population to say that paying to heat their homes is their major household worry.

While incomes have risen 20 percent since 2004, fuel costs have gone up 140 percent, leaving a third or more of the British population in what is called “fuel poverty,” with little or no disposable income left after heating bills are paid. Current plans that would add another $300 or so to annual bills have met strong resistance.

Most nations that still say they support carbon restrictions have fallen far short of meeting their commitments under Kyoto, which really isn’t a surprise, as it would require reducing their economic output to the levels of the 1950s — or even less. Since that would represent a return to poverty for millions of relatively prosperous citizens, it’s no shock that it hasn’t happened.

So, this enterprise started out with a few strikes against it. One of them could be said to be merely a matter of public perception, but it is a very telling one nonetheless.

The thousands of environmental bureaucrats from the United Nations and various states are joined at such conferences by thousands more who represent NGOs.

With industrialized nations’ purported effects on the world’s climate as their expressed concern, disinterested observers might expect that the enthusiasts would display their worries in ways that reflected them.

However, these conferences bounce from resort communities to tourist hubs to scenic world capitals and feature huge gatherings at great expense with fantastic food.

And, of course, the participants arrive and depart (as they did at previous conferences at Rio, Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban) on fleets of carbon-emitting jetliners paid for by their nations’ unwitting taxpayers or by the contributors to the NGOs’ funding — some of which is also derived from government grants.

As has been often noted, people who are skeptical about human activity being responsible for current changes in the climate would take it more seriously if those who say the problem is real would actually act as if they believed what they said.

(It’s worth repeating here that average world temperatures haven’t risen in a statistically meaningful way in nearly 15 years, despite constantly increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.)

Developing nations like China and India see things a bit differently. They’d be happy to take any cash offered by richer nations, but they understandably have little interest or incentives to hold down their own growth.

In a June 7 article, the Times of India noted other nations’ unwillingness to pay to a new “carbon dioxide tax” on jetliners imposed by the European Union, with China threatening to impound European jets if the policy was fully implemented.

The paper added, “India prefers to focus on themes like poverty eradication, preserving livelihoods and access to services for the poor. In contrast, the developed world wants a focus on environmental dimensions by sidelining social and economic issues.”

In democracies, such issues are rightly difficult, if not impossible, to “sideline,” and that represents the major obstacle in the path of the warmists’ stalled agenda.

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Although not directly related to the Rio effort, an interesting report sheds some light on the current debate over “climate change” (which the warmists want to squelch, but have so far failed to do so).

A federally funded survey reported by editor Lewis Page in the online British tech journal The Register on May 28 had some unexpected results (at least to global warming true believers): “A U.S.-government-funded survey has found that Americans with higher levels of scientific and mathematical knowledge are more skeptical regarding the dangers of climate change than their more poorly educated fellow citizens.” (My italics.)

The researchers, funded by a National Science Foundation grant, clearly expected something different, and thus had to cobble up an explanation. As Page reported, they concluded that the population was split between “egalitarian communitarians” (on the left) and “hierarchical individualists” (on the right) and that the latter group was more adept at seeking out scientific and numerical data, which reinforced its innate suspicions of large and intrusive government programs.

Not that the data were inaccurate, mind you, but just that the hierarchical individualists had more facts than the other group, and this led them to conclusions that the researchers didn’t like.

Find that dislike hard to believe? Here are the researchers’ own words: “This form of reasoning can have a highly negative impact on collective decision making…it is very harmful to collective welfare for individuals in aggregate to form beliefs this way.”

Since data-reliance strangely resulted in skepticism over the researchers’ green goals, the study group proposed that it be countered not with more and better data on the other side of the argument, but instead by coming up with new ways to present their side (and only their side) of the issue that were not dependent on better information:

“One aim of science communication, we submit, should be to dispel this tragedy…A communication strategy that focuses only on transmission of sound scientific information, our results suggest, is unlikely to do that. As worthwhile as it would be, simply improving the clarity of scientific information will not dispel public conflict…”

Thus, they suggest, “Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups. Perfecting such techniques through a new science of science communication is a public good of singular importance.”

If the language is a bit too bureaucratic for you, allow me to translate: “You jerks know too much, and that means you don’t agree with us on the importance of halting global warming, which we accept as a fact no matter what the actual data may say. This is getting in the way of our government-supported livelihoods and our chances of taking control of your lives.”

“Therefore, we need to come up with ways to spin what we see as the favorable outcomes of our quack nostrums to take your attention away from the facts and focus it on our gleaming dream images instead.”

“Since we can’t actually call this blatant propaganda ‘science,’ we will call it ‘science communication’ and hope you can’t see the difference.”

Now, what kind of worldview would someone have to have to think this sort of manipulation (technically known as “lying”) would be necessary to get people to buy into their self-aggrandizing quack nostrums?

OK, somebody out there said it: “Totalitarian” is precisely right.

Hierarchical individualists, unite. You have nothing to lose but your illusions about the goals and methods of the global warming movement.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

About M.D. Harmon

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com

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