Climate Change And The Need To Suppress Dissent

My first recollection of use of the term "politically correct" was way back about 1970.  I was in college.  The strong connotation of the term was enforced orthodoxy.  If you wanted to be in with the in crowd, the price was toeing the party line on all important matters of politics.  The ostracism of comrades who dissented was rapid and harsh.   The university (this was Yale) made noises about being open to all opinions, but God forbid a speaker from the administration should show up to defend, for example, the Vietnam War -- he would be shouted down, if not pelted with rotten eggs.  (Recall that Nixon was the President.) 

Things may actually be somewhat better for free speech on campuses today, at least to the extent that conservatives and libertarians are sometimes allowed to speak.  (Is it only because the current President is himself politically correct?  Good question.)  But if anything, the enforcement of orthodoxy on those seeking access to the secret handshake has become even more overt and forceful.  And in no area more so than climate change.

Over at the Federalist, Ross Kaminsky has an excellent roundup yesterday of efforts of the Left to suppress dissent.  The article ranges widely over many areas -- the IRS/Tea Party scandal, efforts of Senators (led by Schumer of course) to revive the "Fairness Doctrine" to disadvantage Fox News, the FCC's proposal to put monitors in news rooms, etc.  Not meaning to minimize those, but each is a fairly discrete initiative of small number of despicable government actors.  

But then Kaminsky moves to the subject of climate change, where the efforts to suppress dissent are pervasivie and seem to come from everywhere -- government, academia, the media, web sites, you name it.  And Kaminsky doesn't even mention many of the worst examples.  If you haven't been following this subject, seeing it put together in one place really opens your eyes.  I'll take Kaminsky's list and add a few of my own:

  • Kaminsky quotes Brian Stelter of CNN as recently arguing that skeptics of global warming alarmism should not be given equal time.   Not mentioned are the similar late-2013 announcements of the LA Times and Reddit that they would not publish any views of climate skeptics.
  • Kaminsky cites the "Climategate" email disclosures of 2009, revealing leading orthodox climate scientists maneuvering to get themselves into the position of peer reviewer of any papers authored by those questioning the orthodoxy so that they can then have the papers rejected for publication.
  • Again not mentioned is that leading web sites of the climate orthodoxy (e.g.,, flatly refuse to accept comments or questions from anyone who even slightly questions the orthodoxy.
  • Kaminsky describes the libel lawsuits brought by leader-of-climate-science-orthodoxy Michael Mann against the likes of National Review, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Mark Steyn, seeking to use the financial pressure of litigation to silence those dissenting voices. 
  • Finally, Kaminsky refers to the widely-circulated article last week from a guy named Lawrence Torcello of Rochester Institute of Technology, calling for criminal prosecution of climate dissenters.  Says Professor Torcello, "We have good reason to consider the funding of climate denial to be criminally and morally negligent."  By the way, Professor Torcello's field is philosophy, not science of any sort, let alone climate science. 
  • Not mentioned is that Torcello is just one in a long line of climate crazies in high places calling for criminal action against dissenters.  For example, Canada's most prominent environmentalist David Suzuki has repeatedly called for criminal prosecution against dissenters, most recently against no less than Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  Pseudo-science blogger Greg Laden has long called for criminal action against anyone who disagrees with him on climate issues.  Or check out this UK website called Bring Climate Criminals to Justice.  And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Well, I think it's a pretty good principle of life that those seeking to suppress the other side of the argument have a good sense that in a fair debate they are going to lose. 

Meanwhile, in what I regard as the most important aspect of the debate, a few people other than myself are starting to notice that trying to save the climate by banning fossil fuels means consigning the poor to perpetual poverty.   For my article from February on Climate Policy And Keeping The Poor Poor, see here.  Well, just last week prominent, and generally sensible, climate blogger Roger Pielke, Jr. came out with an article for the Breakthrough Institute titled Keeping the Poor Poor:  Against Anti-Growth Environmentalism.  The dissent-suppressors had better get to work quickly on this one, because as soon as people are allowed to think about this and realize the monstrous consequences of the climate campaign, the jig will really be up.

UPDATE March 21, 2014: It seems that one of the best examples of climate orthodoxy enforcement was unfolding yesterday even as I was writing the above post.  And the example involves none other than Roger Pielke, Jr.

You may have heard of a polling and numbers guru named Nate Silver.   Silver has gotten much favorable notice for his accurate predictions of recent elections, and has a recently-launched blog called  Silver is also a favorite of the New York Times, which carries a subset of Silver's blog content on its site.   So Silver aspires to be in with the in crowd.  That can be dangerous. 

The Silver blog has a science section, and one of the bloggers in that section is the above-mentioned Pielke.  On Wednesday of this week, Pielke had a post titled Disasters Cost More Than Ever -- But Not Because of Climate Change.  That was definitely not politically correct!  Hasn't he heard that the whole idea behind "climate change" is to scare the public into supporting a bigger and more activist government?

The orthodoxy enforcers immediately came out in full force.  Judith Curry of Climate Etc. has a roundup.  You should read the whole thing.  In the big pile-on, we have Columbia Journalism Review here; here ("FiveThirtyEight's science coverage stinks of sublimated ideology."); the official climate change orthodoxy enforcer Michael Mann here.  But Curry saves most of her space for a post by one Kiley Kroh at ClimateProgress, which Curry calls "probably the most reprehensible and contemptible smear job I have ever seen of a scientist."

If you read Kroh's post you will see that it is entirely about appeals to authority (e.g., Michael Mann is a "top climate scientist," John Holdren offers a "scientifically grounded explanation of how climate change is worsening western drought," etc.) and no actual presentation as to the merits of the argument.

Well, Silver, you have strayed.  Welcome to ostracism.  Curry's conclusion:

Well as recently as 5 years ago, I never thought I’d live to see the day when I am very grateful that I have tenure at a university, which provides my job with some protection against politically inconvenient scientific analyses.