Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Things that amuse me, pt. MMXVI

The belief, usually expressed in the comment threads in newspaper webpages, that climate change is simply an excuse by communists to confiscate and redistribute wealth.

This amuses me for so many reasons, it's difficult to count the ways. Let's start assuming that all but recent history was in fact a blank slate, and that I did in fact want to confiscate and redistribute wealth. I can think of about a dozen ways that would be easier (and more effective by far!) than organizing a decades-long conspiracy among thousands of scientists in the hopes that their claims would be taken seriously enough by political leadership to begin serious state action -- in the further hopes that the actions I desire (namely, confiscation and redistribution of wealth) would be the ones that governments actually did. Indeed, as more than one critic has pointed out, many of the "solutions" to climate change being proposed by the US amount to giveaways to the same polluters who are the cause of the problem. If this is a conspiracy, it's first American result is likely to be an own-goal.

It gets even funnier when one realizes how climate science is situated historically. As just one example, Al Gore mentions in his film and book that he learned of CO2's impacts on from Roger Revelle in the 1960s, and Revelle started his work in the 1950s. These claims are true -- Revelle began his work measuring CO2 (his colleague Dave Keeling did the actual measuring) in the 1950s, and if you'd like to see how far back the records go, you can follow this link.

(The keen eye will note three months in early 1964 with the values "-99.99". These were months that the lab at Mauna Loa was shut down due to lack of funding. In the early days, it was difficult to convince people this data would ever be useful.)

Now, if I were an academic who believed in the confiscation and redistribution of wealth in the 1950s, was there any other option available to me other than organizing a decades-long conspiracy among thousands of scientists? Instead of devoting considerable energies to a task that, frankly, sounds insane even to hear, couldn't I have found perhaps a large, heavily-armed organization devoted to precisely the redistribution of wealth I desired and started singing their praises, or merely gone to live with them?

People who actually believed in the redistribution of wealth had no problem working for the USSR when they wanted to. I know of no evidence that any of the leading lights of climate science ever did. But then, if the nutters believed in actual evidence, we wouldn't be having this conversation.