Silencing Science

Again, before we get into this, here is where I am coming from: global warming is real; we are almost certainly causing it; it is very likely to be bad; proposed liberal solutions are terrible and often counterproductive.

To wit:

A landmark bill allowing for the prosecution of climate change dissent effectively died Thursday after the California Senate failed to take it up before the deadline.

Senate Bill 1161, or the California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, would have authorized prosecutors to sue fossil fuel companies, think tanks and others that have “deceived or misled the public on the risks of climate change.”

The measure, which cleared two Senate committees, provided a four-year window in the statute of limitations on violations of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, allowing legal action to be brought until Jan. 1 on charges of climate change “fraud” extending back indefinitely.

“This bill explicitly authorizes district attorneys and the Attorney General to pursue UCL claims alleging that a business or organization has directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change,” said the state Senate Rules Committee’s floor analysis of the bill.

No no no no no no no no no no no NO NO NO! Bad legislature! Bad, bad legislature. Go sit in a corner and think about what you almost did.

I’m not going to mince words: this bill was (and probably will be again) a totalitarian piece of shit. It would have opened up climate skeptics to lawsuits because of their speech and opinions (keeping in mind that “climate skeptics” is class that often includes me because I oppose liberal solutions to global warming). Not only that, it would have extended that liability back for 30 years, allowing climate skeptics to be sued for statements they made when the science was way less certain.

Not only is the bill an attack on the First Amendment, it’s an attack on science. Science benefits from criticism, even criticism from cranks. In the case of climate science, methodology has been improved and data made more readily available to the public in response to skeptics. This has made the case that global warming is real stronger.

I understand where this is coming from. Climate scientists have found themselves the targets of a massive disinformation campaign. Garbage climate memes (polar ice caps are growing! Global cooling! It’s the sun!) proliferate no matter how often and how thoroughly they are debunked. In many cases, it’s gotten personal with online attacks and death threats.

But as Megan McArdle pointed out, fighting fire with fire isn’t helping:

There is a huge range of possible beliefs that go into assessing the various complicated theories about how the climate works, and the global-warming predictions generated by those theories range from “could well be catastrophic” to “probably not a big deal.” I know very smart, well-informed, decent people who fall at either end of the spectrum, and others who are somewhere in between. Then there are folks like me who aren’t sure enough to make a prediction, but are very sure we wouldn’t like to find out, too late, that the answer is “oops, catastrophic.”

These are not differences that can be resolved by name calling. Nor has the presumed object of this name calling — to delegitimize thoughtful opposition, and thereby increase the consensus in favor of desired policy proposals — been a notable political success, at least in the U.S. It has certainly rallied the tribe, and produced a lot of patronizing talk about science by people who aren’t actually all that familiar with the underlying scientific questions. Other than that, we remain pretty much where we were 25 years ago: holding summits, followed by the dismayed realization that we haven’t, you know, really done all that much except burn a lot of hydrocarbons flying people to summits. Maybe last year’s Paris talks will turn out to be the actual moment when things started to change — but having spent the last 15 years as a reporter listening to people tell me that no, really, we’re about to turn the corner, I retain a bit of skepticism.

(McArdle, who thinks global warming is real and we should take action just in case it turns out be very bad, was immediately branded a Koch shill and a denialist for having the temerity to suggest that calling every heretic a Koch shill and a denialist wasn’t a great way to promote science. So, yeah. She also links Warren Meyer’s outstanding series of posts on why is a “lukewarmer”. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has a very good grasp of the science and makes the case for a conservative set of policies to address global warming.)

This is long past being absurd and going into territory that’s outright dangerous. We have Attorneys General investigating “denialists”. We have cartoons depicting violence against “denialists”. We now have a legislature trying to effectively silence “denialists” by gutting the First Amendment. Global warming is becoming less of a science/policy issue and more of a Culture War issue and we really can’t afford that.

Enough. It’s tiring, I know. But the only way to fight bad speech is with good speech. That has always been the case, it is currentlty the case and it always will be the case. If the global warming alarmists want to make some progress, decoupling the science case that global warming is real from the political case that we must do X, Y and Z would be far more beneficial than passing blatantly unconstitutional law to try to shut people up. You’ll get a lot more people to talk about global warming if talking about global warming doesn’t necessarily mean giving government even more power over our lives.

Update: In related news, Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to boycott businesses that boycott Israel. I support Israel. I think the boycott business is ridiculous. I think a government moving against boycotters is a horrific intrusion on free speech and free association.

Comments are closed.

  1. AlexInCT

    Meh, if they scientifically could back any of their nonsense up – I mean prove humans are responsible for change that has occurred naturally since the formation of the solar system – we wouldn’t be having any need for progressive enforced think. That they need is is yet another example that this is 99.99% bullshit and only a means to an end for these people. The end being a bad one for those of us that want life & liberty.

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  2. CM

    Yet again (how many times have we been over this Alex?) – you use ‘proof’ in mathematics whereas in science you use ‘evidence’.

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  3. AlexInCT

    You seem the one with an English comprehension problem. When I mentioned the word “prove” I specifically am referring to the fact that they have yet to actually have any of their assumptions, predictions, models, or claims to bear out.

    You are correct that in science you use evidence to back up you hypothesis, and yes, you would also be correct if you pointed out that they have done nothing of the sort. In fact not only have their models failed to replicate reality, but nothing they have predicted has panned out in any sense of the word. So there is a severe lack of any evidence – other than a bunch of made up shit they will let nobody see either the raw data or models for – in this scam.

    As I said before: if the science backed their claims, they wouldn’t need to resort to this shit.

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  4. AlexInCT

    WTF do you mean where is my evidence? You do understand that the people that in the world of real science, when you postulate a hypothesis, it is YOUR job to provide the evidence that backs your hypothesis, and mine to only prove it wrong once for your hypothesis to be turned into just so much garbage and you to have to go back to the drawing table right?

    I have no need to provide any fucking evidence, but since you ask, I can point you to the discovery of manipulated data for which the base data was conveniently displaced (that’s lefty talk for it was destroyed on purpose to hide the facts) and the ensuing sham of an investigation where the very crooks that did the bullshit data manipulations in the first place cleared themselves of what they did. Or I can point out that not a single model works in real time: they all produce the same run away warming no matter what period you test them again, including the historical past. Maybe you want me to discuss the record set by the fact that not a single prediction made by the alarmists has come to pass. Or the fact that the morons behind this shit continue to pretend the only agent for possible warming has to be CO2, because pointing out that water vapor, is the most common agent or that the oceans, the sun, or even such drastic events as volcanic activity have always been the big drivers of the always changing climate, just to name a few items, all get ignored so they can blame man and push their agenda. Me, I wonder why the known fact that the planet is still in the process coming of an ice age continuously gets ignored by people that want to pretend the warming is not just abnormal, but man made and catastrophic. The same people that, if they truly believe the shit they spout, never have engineering or technology solutions, but freedom robbing nanny state expanding political ones.

    Maybe you need me to point out that it is damned obvious that the people claiming scientific consensus or that the science is settled, both very unscientific behaviors, clearly don’t understand the system they purport to know in and out? What about the fact that they act more like a religious cult (you are exhibit #1 there BTW) than anything to do with science?

    I can go on, and on, and everyone that actually understands the way science is supposed to work and isn’t a marxist in sheep’s clothing, by now knows that the AGW cultists, at a minimum, need to go back to the drawing board and start over, and more likely than not, are just talking out of their ass.

    But hey, keep linking more bunk and shit as if people that violate every scientific principle for political expediency have ground to stand on. As the very behavior proves: if they had the facts on their side, we wouldn’t need these nanny state politicians that stand to make big money peddling the crap from this evil cult, pushing for laws to burn the heretics.

    But please keep at it you pedantic cultist. The harder your kind tries to pretend and force others to go along with your bullshit, the more obvious it is that it is just that: bullshit.

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  5. trade_pro

    Awesome article.  It starts out saying the Arctic will be ice free.  Then says it will be a record low this year but, then says if not this year next year.  Then another guy says his prediction may be right but if its wrong then skeptics will use that as proof that GW scientists have no clue (hmmm…imagine that).  Then someone says its highly unlikely to come true for another 15 to 25 years.

    At least they got it pinned down.

    Same thing in 2015:


    Ill skip the next 12 years of wrong predictions because its just more of the same.


    How many guesses do they get until they are just wrong?  If they were trading stocks they’d be broke by now.  If I was as wrong as they have been, I’d be out of business.  How can you be anything but a skeptic?

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  6. AlexInCT

    Hey Trade_pro, at least other doomsday cultist figure out you make predictions that come true so far into the future that nobody is around to either remember or be called out. But the AGW cultists wanted their big government marxism now, so they chose a short window, figuring a panicked public would give them what they wanted at which point it would be too late for anyone to call them on it without the reeducation camps. Have you noticed how many of the new predictions now claim it wont come to pass until the end of the century?

    Unfortunately for the idiots they gave away their bullshit, and most people, even the ones that like the marxism, remain skeptical of letting them get what they want.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    Alex has no evidence.  He just had wild claims.  He says the raw data isn’t available when it is.  He says it show no warming when it does. He says the models don’t predict anything when they do.  He says global cooling was a thing when it wasn’t.  You can’t debate with someone who lives in his own reality.  The evidence of global warming is there.  I’ve pointed out numerous places where you can download the data. If they don’t know the answer, it’s because they don’t want to ask the question.

    We have this argument every few months:

    Skeptics: Show us the evidence of global warming!
    Us: Right here. Here you go.
    Skeptics: But show us the evidence!
    Us: No, here. This right here. Thousands of temperature records. You can download them right to your computer.
    Skeptics: But there’s no evidence of global warming!
    Us: No, this right here. This evidence.
    Skeptics: Ah that evidence is faked.

    [weeks pass]

    Skeptics: There’s no evidence of global warming!

    We’re dealing with a scientific debate. We’re dealing with a conspiracy theory. We’re dealing with a belief that thousands of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, biologists and geologists entered a secret global cabal to advance … something.

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  8. Hal_10000 *

    How many guesses do they get until they are just wrong?  If they were trading stocks they’d be broke by now.  If I was as wrong as they have been, I’d be out of business.  How can you be anything but a skeptic?

    If they were trading stocks, you’d be doing very well.  Arctic sea ice has been steadily declining for thirty years.  It reached a record low in 2012 and is low this year again (despite skeptic claims that it was increasing after a one-year dead cat bounce in 2013).  But you’re claiming victory because it’s unclear exactly when the ice will disappear. This is like claiming you don’t have cancer because it didn’t kill you as fast as the doctors thought it would.

    I can’t wait to see the excuses that come out if/when we reach zero ice.

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