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Environmental “science”

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Environmental “science”

I have decided to take the easy way out for this blog and just summarize comments made in two volumes of the journal “Regulation”. The comments speak for themselves, although I will add my two-cents worth at the end.

Michael Gough, who was with the Cato Institute at that time, stated in the Winter 1998 volume:

“Environmental science proceeds from unquestioned dogma and loud public alarms. Rather than testing theories, it selects “facts” that can be used to support dogma…Environmental science begins with perceived truths, dispenses with observations and testing of theory, and ends by repeating the perceived truths.”

Almost 10 years later, Stanley Trimble,a professor of Geography at UCLA, made the following comments (Summer 2007 volume):

“It is the lack of internal criticism and scholarly introspection within extreme environmentalism that is of greatest concern here: there is demonstrably a double standard. An even greater concern is the almost cult-like religiosity within some parts of the environmental movement that is quick to identify and viciously attack heretics and infidels but averse to self-examination and self-criticism. This group, which rightly condemns the pressure on science from fundamental religious groups, is now acting in the same manner as those groups. Any other field of science with a history of as many extreme statements, personal attacks, and repeatedly wrong predictions, with so little correction, would be given short shrift by the scientific community. But extreme environmentalism sails on, brazenly flying the colors of science and turning environmentalism into a  moral play.”

“It is troubling that so much of the argument against skeptics on environmental problems is the old ad hominem one: they are all in the pockets of the capitalist-industrialist-polluters. But I have rarely seen it suggested that any environmental pessimists might just be influenced by groupthink-careerism-environmentalist-ideologues. Most of my uncertainty about the degree and causes of many environmental problems is driven by what I have seen in my own field: if the published work on other environmental problems is fraught with as much hyperbole, misinformation, and lack of expertise as I have encountered in the field of soil erosion, then we all have every right to be at least somewhat skeptical.”

“Advocacy for particular policies that is based on good science is always legitimate, But advocacy based on twisted science and intimidation not only discredits the scientists who practice it and the scientific community in general, but more importantly it risks significant diversion of public resources from the resolution of real problems.”

The bottom line should be clear: Before governments around the world run off and enact measures to combat climate change, they should make sure that there is a problem which their policies might be able to tackle. And should an objective empirical analysis demonstrate that there is a real relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming which in turn might create catastrophic consequences, they need to understand clearly the costs and benefits of their policies.

On the other hand, if an objective empirical analysis does not support the views of many environmentalists on climate change, then governments should turn their attention to real issues and bury the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change once and for all.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.


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