Sunday, March 11, 2007

Now the public knows there is a debate on warming.

The debate on global warming is not over. It is far from over. And there are two debates to be precise. One is the political debate and the other the scientific debate. There is more of a monolithic position politically than there is scientifically. But both are still open debates.

I can understand why some skeptics have assumed the political debate is over. Consider what was being debated for a second. The first question was: Is there warming? It may surprise people who can’t remember anything farther back than last Tuesday that this was not settled for a reason.

There was a clear warming trend for about the first half of the last century. And then the planet spent four decades cooling. It was in the midst of this cooling period that many environmentalists were projecting that global cooling would destroy the planet. Then another warming trend started. There was no consistent warming trend at all.

Was the first half of the century the trend or were the next four decades the trend? For about 15 years now warming has resumed. Is it temporary? Will it reverse itself again? There were good reasons that skeptics questioned what was happening. And all we can do is say that we are warming again.

The environmental catastrophists were convinced warming would continue and dire consequences would follow. And they had a culprit to blame -- humans did it to themselves. Thus we had to rush immediately out and change society by adopting global economic central planning, restrictions on development, lots of state control, not just local and national but international as well. That many of these people were formerly Marxists who lost credibility with the collapse of socialism is, no doubt, merely a coincidence and had no impact whatsoever on the solutions they proposed -- solutions were are amazingly like the proposals they were making before the global warming scare when they were still admitted Marxists.

Now global warming and catastrophe is a good story. It is compelling. It is interesting. That is one reason numerous Hollywood filmmakers have latched on to natural disasters. As long as lots of people die, things blow up, and you can have one hero who saves the day it’s a plot for another Hollywood film. And I suspect that is the popular media that forms the opinions of most people regarding global warming.

I watch people get interviewed on the topic and have to wonder where their information came from. They are unlikely to have ever listened to a debate on the topic or read one in-depth article. They read newspapers, if that, and newspapers are pretty poor at reporting such things in general. People believe what they do about science because they are told to believe it by the opinion molders. They almost never draw their own conclusions based on reading several arguments.

The anthropogenic theory appeared to be winning the global warming debate because, for a long time, it was the only theory out there. If you have race with one horse you can guess where people will be placing their bets. And the only horse in the climate derby was Man-Made Disaster.

The reason was not hard to understand. While the evidence for human involvement was weak at best it was the theory that we had. Saying that warming wasn’t anthropogenic was not saying much. People needed to hear another possible explanation and at the time the skeptics didn’t have alternative theories. The best they were offering was telling people that the question was still open.

That simply doesn’t get attention. Given a choice between two stories on warming an editor will pick the one that has someone to scapegoat over the one that simply says we don’t know. And in the debates the catastrophists would point the finger at CO2 and the skeptics would say it didn’t make sense but weren’t pointing fingers at all. People wanted an alternative theory and none was being offered.

But in recent years we have seen things shift. More and more evidence has accumulated which fits one alternative theory for what drives global climate. And that alternative theory concentrates on the role of solar activity as a driving force for weather.

That brings us to the Television Four production (UK) of the documentary The Global Warming Swindle. What this film did was lay out the alternative theory in terms that the public can understand. It showed the deficiencies in the CO2 theory and showed that solar activity patterns better fit the actual weather patters on the planet than does CO2 emissions. For the time being, at least, you can watch the documentary here.

I watched the film when it was broadcast live for the first time and then rewatched it again today. And I think it does a good job of presenting the nature of the debate -- the scientific debate that is.

But it does something else which is equally important. It doesn’t just address the scientific debate it also changes the political debate. The catastrophists were not necessarily winning the scientific debate but they were winning the political one. They had a firm theory and knew what they wanted and went after it. And they used popular culture, like films and television, to get their message out. It didn’t matter if they were right they were reaching people.

And the people they were reaching were not convinced by the debate. They never heard a debate. They got one message repeated to them over and over and eventually came to accept it. Meanwhile, the critics of catastrophy were producing books on the science of the topic which the public wasn’t reading. And politicians are cowards who want to follow the crowd. So if enough voters were convinced that a policy was needed they would back it even if the policy would be detrimental.

What TV Four did was reopen the debate by showing a film that offered the counter position in terms the public can understand. And that has to have the Green catastrophist very upset. I have long suspected that many of them knew their arguments were beginning to falter and fail.

I say that because more recently they have started pushing the idea that debate on the topic of warming itself is evil. They have attacked anyone who questioned the theory in very personal ways. And they have demanded that all critics be silenced. To me that demand is one usually inspired by a fear that one is wrong. I don’t want to silence them at all. I just want the public to hear both sides.

And now we have a tool by which the public can see what the loyal opposition in the global warming debate is actually saying. I certainly would have preferred Al Gore as president over George Bush. But that doesn’t mean I accept Gore’s catastrophist position on warming. But for a long time his film was the only one out there.

Add Gore’s film into the mix of Hollywood warming disaster movies, television shows harping about warming, and even children’s cartoons saying man was warming the planet, it would be surprising if the public didn’t start to fall for the propaganda. One way Hitler convinced Germans that Jews were involved in evil plots against them was through this kind of relentless campaign. They saw it in films, heard it on the radio, read it in newspapers and even had the stories pushed in children’s books. He won the political debate but the facts were wrong.

Where the skeptics failed was they didn’t have a means to transmit their ideas to the general public. So in the political realm there was no debate. Now there is.

I think things have shifted in regards to the warming debate. And the two reasons are that there is now a clear alternative theory to CO2 and the two theories can be compared against each other and against the evidence. Secondly, this film presents the first use of popular culture to transmit that alternative theory. For the first time, for many in the public, there is now a debate.

The debate existed scientifically all along. But the voters were unaware of that. Now the debate has been presented to them in a manner which makes the alternative theory clear. So I don’t think the debate has ended at all. For the first time it has begun.

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