Posted 22 January 2009
Book Review of Christopher Horner’s “Red Hot Lies”
The Dangers of Disputing Warming Orthodoxy
Daily Article by David Gordon | Posted on 1/8/2009 12:00:00 AM
From the author of the "New York Times"-bestselling "Politically
Incorrect Guide to Global Warming" comes this exposé of the hypocrisy,
deceit, and outright lies of the global warming alarmists and the
compliant media that support them.
[Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and
Deception to Keep You Misinformed. By Christopher C. Horner. Regnery,
Those of us who refuse to accept calls from proponents of global
warming for drastic restrictions on production often confront
objections like this:
You skeptics, blinded by fanatical devotion to the free market, ignore
evidence. True enough, you can trot out a few scientists who agree
with you. But the overwhelming majority of climate scientists view man-
made global warming as a great threat to the world. The course of
inaction you urge on us threatens the earth with disaster.
Christopher Horner's excellent book provides a convincing response to
this all-too-frequent complaint.
But how can it do so? Will not an "anti-global-warming" book of
necessity consist of an account of scientists who dissent from the
consensus? If so, will it not fall victim to the difficulty raised in
our imagined objection? The book will pick a few favored experts to
back up a preconceived political agenda.
Horner strikes at the root of this objection: it rests on a false
premise. Contrary to what our objection assumes, there is in fact no
consensus of scientists behind global-warming alarmism:
Professor Dennis Bray of Germany and Hans von Storch polled climate
scientists to rate the statement, "To what extent do you agree or
disagree that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic
causes?" … They received responses from 530 climate scientists in 27
countries, of whom 44 percent were either neutral or disagreed with
the statement… Science magazine helpfully refused to publish the
findings, by the way. (p. 157)
But do not the most prestigious bodies of scientists, such as the
National Academy of Science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, claim that man-made global warming is indeed a danger? Horner
shows that matters are not what they appear. Environmentalists
insinuated their way into the National Academy through "a special
Temporary Nominating Committee for the Global Environment, bypassing
normal election procedures" (p. 91). Once ensconced, these partisan
figures used their position to elect more of their ilk and to block
skeptics. The environmentalist members include Paul Ehrlich, who
predicted in The Population Bomb (1968) that by the 1970s and '80s
hundreds of millions of people would die from starvation. His manifest
failure as a prognosticator has not deterred him from touting new and
improved ways to cripple capitalism.
Appeal to the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) is likewise dubious. Far
from expressing a consensus of the world's leading climate experts,
the reports of IPCC alter the opinions of the contributors to reflect
climate alarmism. Horner quotes to great effect several protests by
IPCC experts over the distortion of their views.
Dr. Frederick Seitz … revealed that although the IPCC report carries
heft due to having been the topic of review and discussion by many
scientists, "the report is not what it appears to be — it is not the
version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the
title page." (p. 300)
Activists in charge of the report's summary exaggerated what the
scientists had said to promote the global-warming agenda.
The drive against dissenters from global warming extends much further.
Patrick Michaels, a leading critic, reports that an editor told him
skeptical papers must face much stricter scrutiny to win acceptance.
The "newly elected Democratic Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, … soon
after taking office ratcheted up the effort to get Michaels removed"
from his post of state climatologist (p. 113). In one case, when a
skeptical paper evaded the landmines and secured publication, the
global-warming enthusiasts demanded that an immediate rebuttal appear.
"Skeptical papers must face much stricter scrutiny to win acceptance."
It gets much worse. Bjørn Lomborg affirms global warming, but he
angered the alarmists because he thinks programs to reduce carbon
emissions should not have a high priority. When he expressed this view
in The Skeptical Environmentalist, the alarmists launched against him
a campaign of contumely. A Danish Star Chamber court of inquiry, the
Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, found him guilty of
misrepresentation, even though it lacked evidence on which to base
this charge. Instead, it took over and adopted as its own a bill of
previously published charges.
The Committees ruled in January 2003, stating that "Objectively
speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to
fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty." This opinion, such
as it was, offered as evidence not analysis, but a list of those who
had criticized Lomborg. (p. 122, emphasis and footnote number removed)
After more inquiry, the Danish government quashed the proceedings, and
Lomborg emerged vindicated.
Some globalists go even further. Greenpeace has called Horner a
"climate criminal"; and an environmentalist group even rummaged
through his trash, apparently hoping to find evidence of an
antiglobalist conspiracy. Environmentalist stalwarts have urged that
skeptics be imprisoned: by endeavoring to undermine our battle against
the global-warming menace, are not skeptics guilty of criminal
conduct? In Australia, global-warming advocates want to strip deniers
of their citizenship.
Why do the proponents of global warming try to stamp out dissent? As
Horner makes clear, billions of dollars are at stake.
The University of California system, for example, is preparing to
spend $500 million [in taxpayer dollars] to create a think tank to
analyze global warming and the Public Utilities Commission has adopted
a decision which will spend $600 million more for a separate think
tank to study the issue. (p. 223)
Research grants to "prove" global warming can readily be obtained. Nor
is the gravy train confined to scientists; journalists,
environmentalist organizations, and television and movie producers
benefit from the campaign to save the earth. Al Gore, among other
politicians, has used global-warming propaganda to enhance his fame
and fortune. As Horner shows in a chapter that makes painful reading,
"educational" materials to enlist children into the crusade provide
yet another source of profit. If the global-warming hypothesis were
overthrown, all of this money would be at risk; hence the imperative
necessity to silence the critics.
But here I must face an objection. Even if heavy funding supports
global-warming research, this does not suffice to show that the
results of this work lack validity. Even if someone is "in it for the
money," his results may be right. Must not motives and results be kept
Indeed so; but I have not argued that heavy financial backing
undermines the conclusions of this sort of research. Rather, the
financial interests explain why globalists suppress dissent. That
said, the backing behind global-warming research should induce those
of us who are not experts to hesitate before accepting in full the
claims of the alarmists. The claim is not the fallacious "because you
are an interested party, your results cannot stand"; it is the
entirely defensible "because you an interested party, I will exercise
caution before I accept what you say." Richard Posner, himself an
alarmist, recognizes the point:
Fair enough; it would be a mistake to suppose scientists to be
completely disinterested, and when the science is inexact or unsettled
the normal self-interested motivations that scientists share with the
rest of us have elbow room for influencing scientific opinion. To this
it can be added that the climatic and other environmental effects of
burning fossil fuels are red flags to the Greens… (Richard A. Posner,
Catastrophe: Risk and Response (Oxford, 2004), p. 54)
But, as Posner goes on to note, does not this point also tell against
the skeptics? Businesses have supported some of their research. This
should certainly be acknowledged. As Horner notes, though, the notion
that global-warming skeptics are tools of oil companies and other big
businesses has little to be said for it. Quite the contrary, many
businesses avidly support global-warming alarmism. If legislation
imposes restrictions on oil and coal, e.g., alternative energy sources
stand to profit.
But does not the objection I posed at the outset now recur in modified
form? Even if no scientific consensus endorses global warming, what
justifies us in inclining to the skeptical position? Are we not
choosing our experts to harmonize with our political opinions?
Here we cannot escape. We must evaluate the evidence as best we can
and this does entail choosing which experts to believe. It does not
follow, though, that we must adopt agreement with a political position
as our criterion for choice.
Horner offers a number of facts that lend strong backing to those who
question the global-warming dogma. (The main focus of the book,
though, lies not in scientific theory but in a depiction of the
techniques and tactics of Horner's opponents.) For one thing, a
number of the thermometers used to measure global warming have been
placed in situations likely to produce an upward bias, e.g., next to
incinerators or in cities rather than less warm rural locations.
Horner does not deny that some increase in temperature has occurred
since the panic about global cooling in the '70s. But the increase by
no means pushes the earth's temperature higher than ever in recorded
history, let alone prehistoric times. Temperatures in the Medieval
Warming Period ranged at least as high as those now current. Further,
the projected increase in temperature owing to human emissions of
carbon dioxide, the basis for all the panic, amounts to very little.
If temperature does increase somewhat, this may turn out to have
largely good effects, such as greater growth in vegetation.
Subsequent research [to Michael Mann's discredited "hockey-stick
graph"] has ratified the old, outdated thinking drawn from
agricultural records, diaries, cultural artifacts, and the like that
the Medieval Warming was warmer than today and the [following] Little
Ice Age cooler, globally and not regionally. (pp. 108–9)
But what of claims that temperature increase may melt the polar
icecaps, with dire consequences? Horner notes that the area near the
North Pole has been warmer in the past than it is now; further,
Antarctica, much larger than the Arctic Circle, now is colder than
earlier in the 20th century. Alarms about flooding rest on highly
disputable computer models.
Even if the skeptics have a good case, why need we adopt it? I do not
mean that we should judge in favor of the alarmists and set to one
side the arguments of their critics. Rather, why need we take sides in
a scientific controversy, any more than, say, we need to adopt a
particular interpretation of quantum mechanics?
Unfortunately, we cannot remain neutral while the experts battle. The
global-warming advocates support drastic measures that would seriously
affect production. Some of them go further and call for curbs on human
population. In this connection, it is more than a little disturbing
that John Holdren, chosen by Barack Obama as his science advisor since
the publication of Horner's book, is a close associate of Paul
Ehrlich. Holdren was among those elected to the National Academy of
Science "from the temporary nominating group" earlier mentioned (p.
93). To decline to take a stand is to surrender to environmentalist
A nagging doubt remains. What if, however unlikely, the alarmists turn
out to be right? Horner deploys in this connection what Herbert Hoover
would have called a "powerful statistic": there is little that we can
do to lower world temperatures. If all nations fully adhered to the
guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, this would have but a minute effect.
As Pat Michaels' World Climate blog summed it up: "…the amount of
future global warming that would be 'saved' would amount to about
0.07°C by the year 2050 and 0.15°C by 2100." That amount of warming
delayed for a few years at such tremendous cost is actually too small
for scientists to distinguish from the "noise" of inter-annual
temperature variability. (p. 249)
Measures to curb global warming cannot succeed, but they can do much
harm. It is Horner's great merit to have called our attention to a
real danger — not global warming, but the measures that global-warming
alarmists wish to inflict on us.