Why Global Warming Goons Sell Fake Science

If there are intelligent young people in your family who parrot the received wisdom about climate change but whose minds are not yet set in progressive stone, Patrick Moore’s Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom is the book to give them. To be sure, there are a number of excellent books debunking the claims of an imminent climate Armageddon: to name just a few, Rupert Darwall’s The Age of Global Warming, Steve Goreham’s The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism, Marc Morano’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change, and S. Fred Singer’s Hot Talk, Cold Science.

Despite the wealth of resources, there are a number of reasons why Moore’s book is especially powerful and persuasive. First is the author’s background. Patrick Moore has impeccable environmental credentials: in 1971, as a Ph.D. student, he embarked on the protest voyage against U.S. underground hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska that inaugurated the environmentalist group Greenpeace, and he devoted the next 15 years of his life to that organization.

Second, Moore establishes a radically different, and far more appropriate, framework for discussing climate change. Global warming crisis doomsayers focus on the last 170 years while Moore looks at geologic time. In that perspective, the Earth has been cooling steadily for the past 50 million years. Rather than living in the imminent danger that our planet will become too hot for life, Moore explains, we are still in the Pleistocene Ice Age, albeit in one of its many warming period, called the Holocene Interglacial. Life has flourished better in warmer periods than in the comparatively cold period we are in today. In any case, the slight warming of 1.2 degrees Celsius since 1850 is relatively inconsequential.

Third, Moore is unabashed and unapologetic in exposing the falsity of every claim of the global warming establishment. In his own definition, he is a heretic — one who denies the underlying assumptions of a particular theory — rather than a skeptic — someone who rejects its conclusions. Many critics have become so fearful of being equated with Holocaust “deniers” that they avoid challenging the premises underlying global warming theory and confine themselves to criticizing the policies designed to address it. For example, Bjorn Lomborg frequently writes columns for the Wall Street Journal editorial page giving his “expert” perspective on global warming. A classic “skeptic” in Moore’s definition, Lomborg accepts the theory but argues “adaptation” is a better way to deal with the problem than embarking on a losing battle to control the world’s temperature.

Moore will have none of this. He points out the lack of evidence in the real world for the theory’s assumption that carbon dioxide is the “control knob” that produces warming. Moore says we are told that the fact that carbon dioxide and temperature have risen concurrently over the past 170 years proves a cause-effect relationship. But over the 570 million years of Earth’s history, CO2 and temperature have been out of sync most of the time. Analysis from Antarctic ice cores shows that temperature rises occur on average 800 years preceding the rise in CO2. As Moore patiently explains, if CO2 follows temperature, it can’t be its cause. As for the scary predictions of global warming theory (from rising sea levels that drown coastal cities to millions of climate “refugees”), Moore notes that they rest on computer-generated models “created by authors who decide what they want their model to predict and then build assumptions into the model that provide them with the results they are looking to achieve.”

Fourth, in what to this writer is the most audacious contribution of this book, Moore turns global warming theory on its head. While he dismisses the impact of CO2 on the Earth’s temperature as unproven (he thinks the balance of evidence points to Earth’s temperature being influenced by variations in the cycle of Earth’s orbit around the sun), he does not dispute that since the Industrial Revolution humans have been responsible for releasing increased CO2 into the atmosphere. But this, he insists, is an unqualified good thing. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had been declining slowly and steadily for 150 million years to a low point of 180 parts per million (ppm), the lowest known level in the history of life. That’s only 30 ppm above the level where plants begin to die from CO2 starvation. Moore writes that “there is simply no reason to believe CO2 would not have continued to decline until there was too little for plants to survive,” thus threatening the survival of every living species on Earth. Human-caused CO2 emissions reversed that trend. “We are life’s salvation,” writes Moore, “not its destroyers.” In a humorous reference to the vows to lower CO2 emissions each country is expected to offer at successive UN climate conferences, Moore looks forward to the day when each country signs a treaty that sets a quota for their annual requirement to produce such emissions.

Moore’s book has a host of other virtues. His command of the material is impressive. He writes cogently, concisely, and, where warranted, bitingly. In a series of chapters he convincingly eviscerates the most widely disseminated false claims of global warming advocates. Coral reefs are not dying as a result of global warming. Polar bears are not becoming extinct; in fact their population has been growing to the point the Inuit Indians feel menaced by them. Oceans are not acidifying. There is no looming “great extinction” of species (in fact, during the last 100 years the number of extinctions has declined by 80 percent due to human efforts). Devastating forest fires are not due to global warming. Seals plunging off cliffs have nothing to do with global warming.

Moore goes beyond global warming to devote chapters to other environmental scams like the “Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch,” a mythical giant field of plastic in the Pacific supposedly twice the size of Texas. There is a chapter on nuclear energy, which Moore argues should be the centerpiece of any serious environmental push for emissions-free energy (and in which Moore is a great believer for reasons that have nothing to do with CO2). Instead it is yet another evil target in the sights of most environmental groups. The most dramatic of these chapters concerns GMOs, especially the environmentalist battle against “golden rice,” which supplies missing Vitamin A with the potential to save the lives of millions of children in developing countries. The drama comes from the fact that the conflict has pitted Moore against his once beloved Greenpeace, with each taking the lead on opposite sides. Moore may finally be winning on this one, but the outcome is not certain.

The title of Moore’s book explains what ties all these threads together: they are “invisible catastrophes,” which is the secret of their ability to scare the public. Because they are based on subjects “that are either invisible, like CO2 and radiation, or extremely remote, like polar bears and coral reefs,” people have to rely “on the activists, the media, the politicians and the scientists” to tell them the truth. That instead they invent frightening narratives Moore attributes to naked self-interest: activists seek donations, the media seeks readers, politicians seek votes, and scientists seek never-ending annual grants.

While this is not wrong, the explanation it offers is inadequate. This reviewer has described global warming as an apocalyptic movement, one of the many that have emerged over thousands of years, and whose characteristics are well described in Richard Landes’s Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial ExperienceThat global warming has swept the Western world is due to its scientific veneer, making it palatable to the modern mind.

What is certain about all such movements is that they come to an end, although by then they are likely to have done incalculable damage to the societies that believed in them. Bringing that end closer is all that we can hope to do.