The green movement has long had a penchant for conflating science with policy—that is, justifying their policy ideas with words like “scientific consensus” and labeling opponents as “anti-science.” This appeal to scientific authority, mixed with a “sky is falling” alarmism, has helped them pushed through ill-conceived green policies that all to often end in disaster. Years of the fear-mongering routine have eroded the movement’s credibility to the point where people’s reflexive disdain for environmentalists is becoming a serious problem.In Germany, one climate scientist would like to see his colleagues regain some discipline and humility. The Schleswig-Holstein Zeitung has the interview with climatologist Hans von Storch (translated by Via Meadia‘s resident Germanophile):
One can think of many people in the 20th Century who believed that they needed to create a better world, and assumed that they were in possession of a higher truth. In our case, some [climate scientists] believe that this privilege absolves them of the need to respect their academic qualifications….I do not think that’s the majority of climate scientists act this way. But there are some particularly visible climate researchers who push this attitude. Their voices are heard because they correspond to the zeitgeist. In Denmark, where I am currently, I observe no such thing….The relationship between the people and the climate discussion needs to be changed. We need efficient instead of symbolic measures. An example: Fracking in America has led to a significant reduction of U.S. CO2 emissions, because people are burning gas instead of coal, so an effective bridge technology is being used. In Germany, however, this measure isalmost unanimously rejected — apparently the reduction of CO2 is only considered “good” under certain conditions.
We know the earth is warming, though the fiddly bits surrounding that fact (questions about how quickly the warming is happening, how high sea levels will rise, and so on) are a lot less certain. By immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario predicted by climate models—models that are struggling to explain a recent plateau in warming—greens don’t just harm themselves by alienating people from their cause. They also preclude a lot of the incremental policy solutions that are actually workable, like energy efficiency measures and a transition from coal to natural gas.Alarmism is counter-productive. It’s refreshing to see a climate scientist acknowledge that.[Earth image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]