Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 188
3rd December 2009
Linking url: http://www.seangabb.co.uk/flcomm/flc188.htm
Available for debate on LA Blog at http://wp.me/p29oR-30a
Brief Thoughts on the Climate Change Scandal
By Sean Gabb
Like many other people in our movement, I have been delighted by the publication of that computer archive from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. I have spent most of my life denouncing every excuse for state activism as a pack of lies. I have never yet had the joy of seeing the projectors of those lies revealed as little more than pantomime villains – twirling their moustaches while confessing their villainy in whispered asides. Compared with this, the “weapons of mass destruction” lies were misunderstanding in good faith.
But the question uppermost in my mind at present is what all this will mean for the climate change cult. Will this be a more complete moral and intellectual collapse than Communism ever suffered? To begin my answer, I will discuss the subsidiary questions of who and why.
In short, I believe the Russians are behind this. It may be that all those megabytes of data were stolen by a computer hacker. There may be any number of people who are up to such hacking in the technical sense. But this seems to have been an integrated operation. Having the technical skills to get access to a computer archive is not the same as knowing where to look in that archive and what to look for. Nor is it the same as knowing what to do with it.
But the Russians had means and opportunity to do the job. Perhaps their security services are no longer as efficient and as well-funded as in Soviet times. But they are still there. Their mission is no longer to win the Cold War. But making life easier for Mr Putin and his friends is a large mission in itself. They no longer have an active network in British universities. But there must be any number of senior managers there whose activities back in the 1980s would merit an outing in The Daily Mail, and who therefore are open to blackmail.
And the Russians had the best motive imaginable. Anthropogenic global warming is, as said, a pack of lies. But there is huge money behind it. And it is conceivable that Western scientific ingenuity will find a “carbon free” energy source that both works and is economically viable. Now, where would that leave Russia? Without its exports of oil and gas, the place is little more than a bankrupt post-Soviet slagheap. I believe the Russian state budget only balances on a minimum oil price of $40 a barrel. Knock the bottom out of the market in fossil fuels, and Russia can say goodbye to what progress it has made since 1991.
This is only a conspiracy theory. But it is interesting that the stolen data surfaced on a Russian server. Of course, Russia is beyond the reach of the British courts. But it is an interesting fact even so. I think this operation has gone so smoothly that only an efficient security service can be behind it. We can discount the Arabs and Iranians as not being up to the job. We can also discount the big oil companies – like the tobacco companies, they have been deterred from this sort of operation because of all those transparency laws. That leaves us with the Russians. They got the information. They packaged it. They have delivered it to maximum effect.
So what will be that effect? I cannot believe that it will be to prick the whole climate change bubble. There is too much corporate money and too much government activity now resting on the assumption that we must “do something” if sea levels are not to rise ten foot by next Tuesday. The cult leaders will not hang their heads and behave like the villain at the end of a Scooby Doo cartoon. When power and money on this scale are involved, things like that surely do not happen.
But will they be able to live this down? I have no doubt they will try. There will be an inquiry. Individual heads will roll. There will be the pretence of breast beating. But the lies will continue pouring out. The default response will be to turn up the volume of the lies to try and drown out the truth. After a few years, the embarrassment may have been forgotten, and discussion will have turned to how many units individuals should be given for their “carbon passports.”
And I shall be interested to see how well this can work. How powerful is the ideological state apparatus at imposing proven lies on the public mind? On the one hand, the propaganda streams out of every school and university and from every television screen in the civilised world. The message is nearly as uniform as in Soviet Russia. On the other hand, the weakness of the cult is that it has no message of hope and grants no indulgence to the masses. Christianity and Islam – regardless of their truth or falsehood – both offer an infinity of bliss for doing little more than good sense requires. Christians have to be a little more continent than nature seems to allow. Moslems have to keep off the bottle. There is no good news for believers in anthropogenic global warming. We are told to accept the rolling back of the industrial revolution simply to avoid catastrophe that hardly anyone dares tell us will strike within the reasonable future.
We know that the most notable preachers of this message have no intention of cutting back on their own living standards. Look at the Prince of Wales and his private jets. Look at Al Gore and his inflated utility bills. Add to this that the cult is not formally based on an extra-rational revelation, but on alleged scientific evidence – and the knowledge that this evidence has been fakes must count for something.
What I predict will happen is that the propaganda will continue for the next few years. But it will be gradually be replaced by a new set of justificatory lies. Global warming itself was the replacement for acid rain pollution, ozone holes, and even global cooling. In the absence of some new environmental claims, I suggest that we shall hear much more for now on about “peak oil” – the notion that fossil fuels exist in limited supplies and that they will run out within the next few generations.
This has the advantage of being arguably true. I know that people have been predicting the exhaustion of oil reserves for at least a century. But the world economy is growing fast at the moment, and may grow still faster. There must be some physical limit to how much oil and gas and coal can be economically extracted. Otherwise, there is the problem that the cheapest supplies are in unstable parts of the world. Doubtless, the specific claims made will be lies. But they will not require the same barefaced dishonesty as ignoring the historical and geological facts about temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, and ignoring all considerations of solar activity and other natural phenomena.
The other advantage, however, is that the peak oil hypothesis can be used to justify every tax and regulation so far made in the name of fighting climate change. Wind turbine construction, energy efficiency laws, the war on private motoring, bleats about “food miles”, and the like – all work just as well on the assumption that fossil fuels must be conserved.
This is a depressing prediction, so far as it allows the same caravan of liars to roll forward if on different wheels. But I am not sure if the transition will be as smooth as may be hoped. Liars who have been so visibly caught out in one set of claims may not find it easy to switch to another and maintain their full credibility. Until a few weeks ago, I saw the anthropogenic global warming claims as a new legitimising ideology for despotism as powerful in modern circumstances as state socialism had once been. Perhaps it has now been revealed as a fairly short-lived rescue hypothesis. It may not have anything like the long term appeal of state socialism. Whatever replaces it may be weaker still.
If this is the case, I for one will give thanks to Mr Putin. In the old days, he was a KGB officer. Nothing he may now have done can bring back all the people he helped murder. But repentance is always to be welcomed – especially when attended by so many good works.
NB—Sean Gabb's book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/ya4pzuh