Columnist: Have climate disciples gone too far?

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 23, 2016

By Sydney M. Williams

Contributing columnist

“Children have one kind of silliness, as you know, and grownups have another kind.”

— C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Something is going on in the climate-change wars. Man’s role in our changing climate, according to Mr. Obama, is “settled” science, much as eugenics was once “settled” science.

The latter was based on Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Among its consequences: it made phrenology an accepted study, it abetted discrimination and it fostered the concept that the less fit should not over-breed. Steven Levitt’s claim in “Freakonomics,” that abortions reduce crime rates, has its origins in eugenics.

Anti-intellectualism is not confined to climate. The rationalization for transgender bathrooms is based on identity politics, not science. When Curt Schilling said that, “a man is a man no matter what they call themselves,” he was fired. He may have been politically incorrect, but, X and Y chromosomes say he was factually correct.

As William McGurn recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, Schilling was “… Galileo, with ESPN filling in for the Holy Office.” Science is, as Mr. Obama should know, a process of discovery. When “science” strays beyond the limits of what has been established as scientifically true, it begins to resemble pseudo-science.

For years, debate has swirled around the role of man’s impact on climate. Those on the left claim that he bears principal responsibility, while those on the right question the degree of man’s effect.

Both acknowledge that the earth’s climate has never stood still, and both parties recognize man has played a role. The debate: Where on the spectrum should man’s responsibility lie and what should be done to alleviate harm while allowing economies to grow? Should we spend time assigning blame, or should we look for solutions to problems caused by climate, regardless of man’s role?

Both sides have become mulish in defense of their turf. The right receives donations from the oil, gas and coal industries — all of which have been critical to the standards of living we enjoy.

The left gets support from environmental and green-energy groups, which have abetted our quality of life. Society has benefited from both.

Both richer and poorer nations require the former, but it is only developed nations that can afford “green energy.” When the battle is joined, it is society that suffers.

The fossil fuel industry, especially natural gas, has become increasingly “green.” Improvements in the burning of natural gas have done more to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than the solar and wind industries combined.

While the positive effects of the latter, which produce seven percent of the nation’s power needs, have been well-publicized, their negative effects are just beginning to be understood. For example, about 400 bald eagles are killed each year by wind turbines.

The United States, according to NERC — North America Electric Reliability Corporation — consumes just under 1,000 gigawatts of electricity each year. To produce all our electricity demands from wind, according to a study from Johns Hopkins, would consume about 200 million acres, or about 10 percent of the land mass of the lower 48 states.

Avian life would be decimated. Some combination of sources of electricity production will be required, but compromise is not part of the lexicon of “radical greens.” Do away with fossil fuels is their mantra.

It is the condescending left that has become the shrillest in this debate. Besides the financial providers of green energy, they are backed by the media, Hollywood and much of academia.

Nevertheless, their thesis that man is the prime cause for climate change is being challenged. The left goes on offense when climate models of the past must be adjusted for results that do not conform to expectations, such as explaining myriad examples of the earth’s cooling and warming over millennia, or the two-decades-old pause in warming, or ice-builds in Antarctic, or when the term “global warming” morphed into “climate change.”

No hypocrisy is noted when Leonardo DiCaprio does a 24-hour turnaround on his private jet between Cannes and New York and back to Cannes to accept an environmental award! Recently a group of Democrat attorney generals announced they intend to criminally investigate oil and gas companies that dispute the science behind “man-made global warming.”

This decision to investigate, litigate and prosecute critics of the administration’s climate change agenda is not only an attack on one’s opponents, it is an attack on science. In Oregon, a federal court suggested that government may have a constitutional duty to combat climate change. The goal of one of the plaintiffs, according to an article in The New York Times, was to pursue climate change in the courts as “a human rights issue.”

The EPA recently issued a Clean Power Plan. This was an administration diktat, not done in consultation with Congress. Yet the effect of its regulation will be felt by all Americans. It will shutter coal-fired power plants, plants that produce a third of the nation’s electricity — and which also have become “greener.”

The result will be an increase in electricity costs for consumers and businesses. We’ve been here before. In 2010, a Democrat-led Congress rejected the Administration’s cap-and trade bill.

Mr. Obama, not satisfied with a “will-of-the-people” that did not accord with his beliefs, pushed his agenda, using the EPA as his vehicle for change. Keep in mind, over the past 200 years it has been the liberated individual, not government institutions, that has allowed living standards to rise.

What underlies earlier beliefs in eugenics and the current hype over global warming is an imperious sense that government knows better than the people. Democrats claim to be the party of enlightenment, while Republicans are seen as the party of darkness and ignorance.

According to this perception of the world, Republicans cling to “their guns and religion,” while Democrats follow reason and fact. But what valid scientific discovery in the past has relied on police powers to prevail?

Has the supercilious hype of the progressive left resulted in a backlash? Have their arguments become so doltish that rational reactions are emerging? Are people beginning to see through the deceit of those like Michael Moore, Al Gore and Sean Penn? Have people had enough?

Eight years ago Yale University established the Yale Climate and Energy Institute — YCEI — and hired Rajendra Pachauri as its first head. Mr. Pachauri had been head of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — IPCC — the major force pushing global warming as a central battle to be fought for humanity.

His goal at Yale: Save mankind from itself. Now, this June, YCEI will close.

Institutions like Yale like to be on the vanguard of change, but, as the establishment of YCEI in 2008 suggests, they are as likely to follow as to lead. Is it purely coincidental that, at the same time Yale decided to shutter YCEI, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island suggested using the powers embedded in the RICO Act to criminalize “climate deniers?”

A Yale student was quoted in the Yale Daily News that the closure may represent a shift from climate change research toward climate change initiatives that are “more showy.” Research, we know, is a cost to a university, while “initiatives” suggest entrepreneurs and businesses, the owners of which, if successful, will become donors to the college’s purse.

They may deny it, but schools such as Yale follow the money. As one who is skeptical, not only about the causes of climate change but also about excuses generally, I suspect that the global-warming lobby might feel the ground shuddering, else why resort to courts to enforce their political preferences?

It is the silliness of the debate that grows tiresome. We all know that climate changes. We all know that man is one cause. But there is much we don’t know, which the left won’t admit.

Have the radicals gone too far? The creation of YCEI eight years ago was not an omen, but perhaps its closing is?

Sydney Williams, a retired stock broker, writes about politics, the economy, global affairs, education and climate, among other topics. He describes his political leanings as being based in the rapidly disappearing ideology of common sense.