Monday, July 04, 2011

Why Do They Believe?

I must admit that this is a topic that I continually struggle with. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and that in years to come diligent young historians will be earning their PhDs off the same question: how is that the ruling elites in the West bought in so totally into the whole anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory. And, despite the increasing scepticism of electorates and the growing number of scientists willing to admit to doubts as the evidence grows ever weaker, our politicians shown no signs of coming to their senses. If anything the mania seems to be getting worse as they bet everything on windfarms, solar energy and cutting CO2 emissions.

So why is it? Now there are some who survey the scene and conclude that it only makes sense in the context of some grand conspiracy. You know the score. Evil one worlders out to impose a de facto UN government under cover of saving the planet. They’ll even point the finger at specific individuals, like Maurice Strong, as being behind this conspiracy. But, I’m afraid that being a sceptic means remaining sceptical about conspiracies too. Sure, the IPCC, the major scientific societies, huge chunks of academia, almost the entire mass media and so on are completely over-run by warmista comrades, but that doesn’t make for a conspiracy. Instead I see networks of mutual aid and support, all buying in because that’s where the money and the prestige lie.

Absenting a conspiracy, is there another explanation?

Taking the UK as my example, what can we see? A political class that is without apparent ideology, insular and frequently venal. We have a class of politicians who have only ever known politics. They are as unfamiliar with industry and the workplace as the aristocracy was a couple of hundred years ago. For the most part they have moved from student politics to Westminster lackeys and hence into parliament. If they have worked it’s been in advertising or law, and even then it’s often not been for long. This is as true for Labour as it is for the Tories or the LibDems. In terms of beliefs they don’t really have any. Sure, there is a set of ‘aspirations’ that they all sign up to, but they don’t have an ideology as such. They might view themselves as ‘pro-business’ (which is decidedly not the same as being pro-market), or they might see themselves as being for ‘social justice’ (as if anyone is going to say they are for social injustice). In other words they adhere to a set of hazy intuitions that are uninformed by any in-depth understanding of politics, history or economics. Few of them appear to be numerate or have anything but a hazy understanding of science or the scientific method. How these people align themselves to any one of the main political parties seems to be accounted for by personal connections or careerist job prospects more than anything else.

Having worked themselves into a safe seat they finally make it into parliament only to discover that there’s not very much that they have direct control of. Most business is dealt with by the colleagues of the EU. There’s not much that they can usefully do aside from jockey for position and see what it is they can do for themselves. This doesn’t necessarily have to be financially self-serving, there are enough MPs out there who want to hog the limelight as much as they want the money – especially if they’re well-off already. Now, having worked for years to get to parliament, having hustled and worked hard to say the right things to the right people, it must be pretty dispiriting to discover you don’t even have the power to tell councils when to empty the bins, or who we can and can’t let into the country and so on. Bummer. How can you feel good about yourself in those situations? And let’s face it, we all need to feel good about what we do. Even self-serving politicians on the take will fool themselves that what they are doing is for the good of the people.

But wait. What about saving the planet? This is something that we can all do. It says so in these reports from the EU and the IPCC. Look, it’s there in simple and easy to understand sentences. There are no difficult concepts to grapple with. More CO2 causes a warmer blanket around the Earth. This causes warming and will cause major disasters that will destroy the world as we know it. Helpfully, there are some scientists on hand that can string together a story that feeds into your existing narratives – horrible oil companies feeding our obsession with consumption and so on. It can’t go on forever, this orgy of over-consumption, can it? What it needs is some brave politicians willing to take a stand. It doesn’t matter what party you belong to, it doesn’t matter how much you understand of the science, it really doesn’t. And, guess what? The mass media will love you for it. Those lovely people in WWF and Greenpeace and all the other cuddly greens will love you for it. The BBC will fawn. So too will the party whips and those people in the EU and the UN.

It’s a no-brainer. And of course the more money that gets thrown at it, the more convincing the science will appear. You can expect flack from the deniers, but that’s all to the good. It bolsters that feeling of standing up and being counted. And what’s wrong with taking money from industry and from working people to pay for all of this? You don’t understand the first thing about economics anyway. Windfarms are good. They don’t consume tons of oil and they generate some electricity. What’s not to like. And those big oil companies, they don’t seem that stressed about it anyway, they’re all on-board the green gravy train as well.

There’s no conspiracy in all this. Money changes hands. Careers are enhanced. Agendas furthered. And our brave MPs (and journalists and scientists and windfarm operators and...) can all feel good about themselves. They are insulated from the direct consequences of their actions, which won’t be felt completely for a while yet. They are convinced they are acting from the best of motives and they remain blissfully unaware of how science works, how economies work and how we have to work to pay for their largesse. And the colleagues in the EU? They up the ante, making more moves because that’s what gets them the most buy-in from national politicians. Even here it’s not conspiracy, it’s organisations following the prime directive: ensure the survival of the organisation.

And what works in the UK could well apply right across the EU. In the US we have other factors at play, but a similar outcome – out of touch politicians convinced they need to save the world because publicly funded scientists, (and bodies like the IPCC and the science academies), tell them so.

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