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Pseudoscience, Greed, And Nihilism

Behind The Disinformation On Climate Change And Fires

from SubStack of Michael Shellenberger

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Climate change is causing devastating fires around the world, say top government officials, influential scientists, and the world’s largest newspapers.

Greece’s civil protection minister said climate change was causing the fires in Greece, Hawaii, and Canada. Climate change is increasing average temperatures that dry out wood and create fire weather. “The only way to prevent these events from becoming more frequent and more intense,” said climate scientist Michael Mann, “is to prevent the continued warming of the planet.”

And yet the amount of area burned annually by fire has declined over the last quarter-century. The area burned declined by an astonishing 25% between 2003 and 2019, according to NASA. That trend has continued since, noted Bjorn Lomborg in the Wall Street Journal. Last year, there was a record-low area burned. There is little doubt about the trend because the emissions from wildfires have also declined globally since 2003.

What’s more, the best science does not attribute fires to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), notes the climate change and disasters expert, Roger Pielke, Jr. “has not detected or attributed fire occurrence or area burned to human-caused climate change.” According to the IPCC, the most important factor in fire is not the weather but rather “human activities,” both land management and the starting of fires by humans.

Few leaders, experts, and journalists, including us at Public, doubt climate change has some influence. All else being equal, warmer weather will dry out wood fuel more. The problem is that all else is never equal, and other factors matter much more, as fires in Greece, California, and Hawaii all show.

In a recent and comprehensive scientific review of the literature, eight scientists concluded that there was an increase in area burned in Greece. But, they stressed, scientists “could not attribute a direct causal relationship to climate change, citing various factors such as changes in fire causes due to social, economic and land management changes, as well as fuel accumulation due to the abandonment of the countryside.”

In the most comprehensive scientific study of how to prevent uncontrollable forest fires in Greece, scientists emphasize the need for better forest management in the form of selective logging and prescribed burning to reduce wood fuel load. Six scientists from around the world concluded that “since increasing fuel loads and continuity represent the main factor responsible for the recent catastrophic wind-driven fire events in Greece… our results can…reduce fire spread to the wildland-urban interface and protected areas.”

And putting out fires before they spread can also prevent uncontrollable forest fires. On this account, the governments of Greece, Canada, and Hawaii all failed not only to prevent fires but also to properly respond to fires once they started.

All of this should be obvious to the government officials, climate scientists, and journalists who have spent all summer misattributing fires in Canada, Hawaii, and Europe to climate change. It took me under 30 minutes to find and read the best-available, free-to-read scientific papers on the fires in Greece on Google Scholar. It was a simple task for Pielke to summarize the IPCC. And it wasn’t hard for Lomborg to update the NASA data.

Why, then, do governments, scientists, and journalists constantly get forest fires so wrong?

Politicians and government officials blame climate change because it deflects attention away from bad government. They shift blame from something they are responsible for, fire prevention, to something that they’re mostly not responsible for, climate change. Blaming climate change has a secondary benefit for politicians and government officials as it creates a new source of funding for their election campaigns, in the form of political donations from renewable energy companies, whose technologies governments justify subsidizing in order to fight fires.

But government officials and politicians can only get away with misattributing forest fires to climate change because journalists and climate scientists provide them with political cover. No scientist is more willing to do that than the hugely-influential climate scientist, Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. The US government’s National Science Foundation funds and promotes the research by Mann, who claims climate change is the main factor behind fires.

Earlier this month, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published a new NSF study by Mann. Mann told NBC News’  that a “toxic climate change brew” was behind the fires all around the world and that they were a “sign of far worse things to come.” Mann said, “The only way to prevent these events from becoming more frequent and more intense is to prevent the continued warming of the planet.”

But that’s false, as the scientists above pointed out. Governments can prevent catastrophic fires through forest management, fire prevention, and fire response.


Why is Mann so wrong about climate change?
It is not because he doesn’t know the facts of the situation. As a scientist forced to undergo peer review and who debates with critics constantly, Mann knows the science showing forest management, fire prevention, and fire response are the most important things. Why, then, does he choose to ignore those things in favor of his false narrative?

One clue comes from Mann’s response to Lomborg’s criticism of him in the Wall Street Journal. Mann claims Lomborg “misstates my views, claiming that I’ve asserted climate action is the ‘only way’ to reduce vulnerability to wildfires. He uses a quotation where I was instead pointing out that wildfires will necessarily become more frequent and intense if we continue to heat the planet with carbon pollution—and that’s true.”

In the first sentence, Mann provides no evidence that Lomborg misstated his views and in the second sentence, Mann confirms that Mann thinks “wildfires will necessarily become more frequent and intense,” which is false in the extreme.

Behind Mann’s state-sponsored disinformation is the dogmatic Malthusian view that the planet cannot support human civilization. “We must recognize that there are thresholds beyond which we will simply exceed the adaptive capacity that human civilization affords us,” says Mann. “This is the real lesson your readers should take away from the unprecedented summer we’re currently experiencing.”

Mann makes clear in the NBC interview that he views himself as a kind of superhero scientist in a Manichean “Climate War,” not just against “climate deniers,” who are skeptical about the cause of global warming, but also against “climate delayers,” which are people who disagree with him about policy. Mann believes he is the good guy and his opponents are evil.

As for journalists, they hype climate change for financial, ideological, and egotistical reasons. Many mainstream news publications accept funding directly from the renewable energy industries that their coverage promotes. Governments fund those renewable energy industries and thus fund the news media coverage indirectly.

Journalists are ideologically prone to exaggerate climate change as an apocalyptic threat because governments and government-funded scientists have spent decades programming them to do so and because it attracts readers. It’s more exciting to think of the fires as a sign the world is coming to an end than as a government management failure.

And for secular elites, climate change is the new apocalypse. They believe, consciously or unconsciously, that the sky gods are punishing us for our sins. In the past, Western people felt guilty for their sins against God and sought to get right by God. Today, they feel guilty for their sins against Nature and seek to get right by Nature.
Ban oil, use dung for fuel...
Ban oil, use dung for fuel...

Why do governments, scientists, and journalists constantly get forest fires so wrong despite the abundance of evidence contradicting their claims?
The reasons are that politicians and government officials seek to deflect blame for their own failures and build popular support for subsidies to renewable energy companies, which fund their campaigns; governments fund dogmatic scientists and renewable energy companies, which fund the journalists who quote the dogmatic scientists; and because secular western elites view climate change as a substitute religion.

The deepest of the causes driving pseudoscientific coverage of forest fires is nihilism, which is the desire driving elites to turn climate change into a religion. Rising disbelief in traditional religions left people craving a radical new religion that rejects this world, including human civilization. It stems from the dark and dogmatic utopian view, as expressed by Mann that a better world is possible only if we move away from our modern, high-energy civilization to a low-energy one powered by renewables. Most dangerous is the lack of awareness behind the nihilism. Mann doesn’t believe he’s an adherent of climatism. Rather, he thinks he’s smarter and morally superior to those who disagree with him.

The obvious alternative to such hatred of humankind and human civilization is to love humankind and human civilization. This starts with a moral affirmation that humans are good and that civilization is good because it’s good for humans. And civilization rests on cheap energy, meritocracy, and law and order. Anyone who is seeking to undermine cheap energy is, at the bottom, undermining civilization. Similarly, anyone who undermines, or discounts the importance of law and order, which includes preventing catastrophic fires, is undermining civilization and human life.

The fires in Greece, Canada, and Hawaii are opportunities to advance the pro-human agenda by debunking the pseudoscience and building a community around the pragmatic vision of better-managing ecosystems while keeping energy abundant. This fall, British Baroness Philippa Stroud and Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson will host a major international event in London to launch “The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship,” an explicitly pro-human alternative to the Malthusian World Economic Forum. Lomborg, Pielke and I will all attend and speak about energy and the environment.

The environment is a top priority for ARC. “In year one,” says Stroud, “we will wrestle with the need to responsibly steward the environment and our natural resources so that all people can benefit from access to affordable energy while also mitigating against future environmental challenges.”

The rise of the Internet and the success of Public gives me confidence that we will increasingly be able to counter the anti-human pseudoscience spread by Mann and others who are financed by the US government and renewable energy industry. This is my third year in a row debunking climate change and fires — fourth, if I count my writings on the Amazon fire hysteria of 2019. I am ready to pass the baton to my colleagues at Public. We are hiring an experienced Senior Editor to help us take all of our coverage, including environmental coverage, to the next level.

In truth, any college graduate, and even many above-average high school students, are capable of using Google Scholar to learn the truth about forest fires. Public and Environmental Progress intends to help them do so by producing a series of videos dispelling widespread environmental myths and offering pro-human alternatives. We intend to make it as easy as possible for people to understand the truth and as difficult as possible for Mann, the US government, and the media to spread disinformation, which leaves nations vulnerable to fires and death.

Already things are changing, and they will change more. After saying that climate change was causing the fires in Greece, the politicians there are now rightly attributing the fires to arson. Over time, they will have to deal with poor forest management, just as California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has had to, albeit after years of us holding his feet to the fire. And, one day soon, when scientists like Mann claim, “The only way to prevent these events from becoming more frequent and more intense is to prevent the continued warming of the planet,” the public, policymakers, and even many journalists will know how to debunk him.

Refer Public SubStack:

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