Confessions of a Climate Change Skeptic

I am one of those people whom the media have dubbed with the ominous title of “Climate Skeptic.”

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in “climate change,” whatever that means. I am open to persuasion. But as the word “skeptic” implies, it simply means that I am skeptical: I am not wholly convinced that (a) the world is actually getting warmer; (b) if it is getting warmer, that human beings are the principal cause; and (c) even if human beings are the principal cause, that we should shut down our entire civilization on the dubious and unproven premise that doing so will do any good.  (I am especially skeptical when the spokespeople for this point of view are sanctimonious celebrity windbags like Al Gore who travel to climate change conferences in their private Gulfstream jets and live in 10,000-square-foot mansions that are lit up like Christmas trees.)

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Needless to say, Democrat true believers – are there any other kind? — liken people like myself to Holocaust Deniers. People who are skeptical of their grand plans – whether for “cap and trade” or handing over healthcare to the kind of people who run the DMV – are not merely obstructionist; they’re actually dangerous. They should probably be ignored… their rebuttals not allowed into print… their votes discounted.

But there is a reason for my skepticism. I am now old enough to have listened to the Democrats prattle on about the coming end of the world for well nigh forty years now. Al Gore is nothing new.

In the 1960s, when I was just a kid, liberals and Democrats were constantly haranguing anyone who would listen about how the world was coming to an end due to overpopulation. Paul Erhlich wrote a book, The Population Bomb, that predicted the End of Life as We Know it as the teeming masses “bred” themselves into extinction. All the leading experts and scientists agreed: We needed to adopt draconian anti-population measures, such as those used in Communist China, to stop the apocalypse. According to Ehrlich, 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989. “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000,” he added. Of course, every single one of Ehlich’s lunatic predictions were proven 100% wrong — but that didn’t prevent most members of the Harvard faculty, like most enlightened liberals, from swallowing them wholesale. What the nations of Western Europe face is not a population bomb but a “birth dearth.” They have to import millions of poor Islamic immigrants to run their factories and farms…

Then it was Earth Day. Earth Day was big in the 1970s. All of the world’s top scientists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities agreed that we were poisoning the earth and, as a result, the world would soon face mass starvation. The message was clear: there was very little time left! Just as with today’s climate change, then, too, there was “widespread agreement” and a “consensus” by “all” the top experts. “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind,” said George Wald, a biologist at Harvard University, in 1970. We knew this because all the experts agreed “unanimously,” just like the United Nations today:

“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
— Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University

As always, the benighted masses were told to just shut up and follow orders by their would-be masters, the liberal Democrats in Congress. Science had spoken. Here is Life Magazine’s editorial in January 1970:

“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

Guess what? Didn’t happen. We somehow muddled through.  The scientists who made these predictions were wrong.

Next it was the coming shortage of oil. After the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, all the experts agreed: the world would run out of oil in “ten years or less.” An organization of experts called The Club of Rome published a book, Limits to Growth, that predicted that all known oil reserves would be totally depleted by the year 2000.

Then it was “the coming ice age.” Yup, as Gary Sutton recently reminded us in Forbes, in 1975 the U.S. government and the world’s top scientists were all convinced that we faced, not global warming, but global cooling. In 1974, no less a prestigious body of experts than the National Science Board declared: “During the last 20 to 30 years, world temperature has fallen, irregularly at first but more sharply over the last decade. Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…leading into the next ice age.”

Now, to be fair, conservatives have had their share of doomsday scenarios, usually involving economic rather than environmental catastrophe.  I collect End of the World books and, in the 1970s and ‘80s, there were quite a few written by people who believe in economic freedom.

In 1979, Doug Casey wrote Crisis Investing: Opportunities and Profits in the Coming Great Depression – right before the start of the biggest economic expansion in history. He was joined by fellow doom-and-gloomer, the Mormon survivalist Howard Ruff, who wrote How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years. The “bad years” of socialism that Ruff foresaw ended up being the Reagan presidency.

So, the bottom line is that, yes, I am a skeptic.

I am skeptical of all grand theories, all predictions of apocalypse, all forecasts of doom.

Most of all, I am skeptical when groups of government-funded scientists get together and proclaim that “Science” has settled the matter and we all have to just fall in line and do what we’re told.

That doesn’t mean that catastrophes can’t and don’t happen. Some farsighted individuals saw Hitler and knew that World War II was coming. Some experts predicted that the dikes in New Orleans would give way.

Indeed, the worst scenario would be for the climate disaster folks to actually be right and, due to their arrogance and stupidity — such as their blatant and unnecessary attempts to fudge the “inconvenient truth” that global climate has been getting colder the last ten years, not warmer as they predicted — we ignore them entirely. The experts have cried wolf so many times, and have been proven wrong so often, few people with common sense pay much attention to them anymore.

But prudence dictates not that you should ignore the decrees of the smug experts but that you should aggressively question them — in other words, be skeptical.

If my doctor tells me that I have a horrible disease, I will ask for a second opinion – and perhaps a third. I will question him in detail on precisely how he knows I have this disease, how accurate his tests are, and, if he advocates something invasive and dangerous like surgery, if there are alternative approaches I can try first. I will do this because I have personally seen doctors who have been wrong, often seriously wrong, about their diagnoses. They’re human; they’re not infallible.

What I won’t do is just blindly do what he tells me – even if he’s the expert.

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Robert J. Hutchinson is an author and essayist. His most recent book is Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth (Thomas Nelson, 2015).