Using junk science marches, ignorant professors, resistance and violence to drive public policy
Guest essay by Paul Driessen
As Mark Twain might say, our students are being taught a lot of facts that just ain’t so – by a lot of academics who know all kinds of things for sure that just ain’t so. The recent science and climate marches underscore both this and the dangers of having such ignorance determine economic and energy policy. Topping my current list of wildly misinformed, malpracticing academics is a University of Michigan history professor who claims plant-fertilizing, life-giving carbon dioxide is more deadly than sarin gas!
Perhaps even more dangerous, this ignorance is compounded by rampant intolerance toward other views, and even violence toward anyone who tries to present contrarian perspectives on climate change, sustainability, personal responsibility and other topics, on college campuses or other public forums. For example, just yesterday, CFACT was denied previously given permission to participate in the “People’s Climate March,” when the CFACT team turned up with large posters that contradicted the “planet is being destroyed” meme. Once again, the “people” is only the far left, and freedom of speech is only for people of the far left.
My article this week explores the nature and scope of this problem – what George Mason University professor Walter Williams calls a “spreading cancer.”
Recent science and climate marches demonstrated how misinformed, indoctrinated, politicized and anti-Trump these activists are – and how indifferent about condemning millions in industrialized nations and billions in developing countries to green energy poverty. Amid it all, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole helped illustrate how the marchers became so ignorant, insensitive and intolerant.
It’s always amazed me how frequently academics, journalists, politicians and students confuse poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) with plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide (CO2). But Professor Cole’s April 17 article in The Nation presents unfathomable ignorance from the intellectual class that is “educating” our young people, while displaying and teaching intolerance toward countervailing facts and viewpoints.
Bashar al Assad’s sarin gas attack “consumed the world’s attention,” Prof. Cole intones, but President Trump is committed to releasing hundreds of thousands of tons a day “of a far more deadly gas – carbon dioxide.” Even CO2 that is washed out of the atmosphere “typically goes straight into the oceans,” he continues, “where it turns them acidic,” threatening a “mass die-off of marine life.”
Cole’s polemical nonsense is too extensive to address in full. But these two claims require rebuttal.
A deadly gas? Carbon dioxide is the Miracle Molecule that enables plants to grow and makes all life on Earth possible. Plants absorb CO2 exhaled by humans and animals, and emitted by burning wood, dung, fossil fuels and biofuels – and then release oxygen that people and wildlife need to survive.
Hundreds of studies demonstrate how slightly higher atmospheric CO2 levels (rising from 0.03% a century ago to 0.04% today) are making crop, forest and grassland plants more drought resistant, helping them grow faster and better, and “greening” vast areas that had been brown and barren. Claims that CO2 has replaced the solar and other powerful natural forces that have always controlled Earth’s climate, and is now causing “dangerous manmade climate change,” are not supported by actual planetary evidence.
Marine life thrived when CO2 levels were many times higher during past geologic eras. Far from being or becoming acidic, the oceans are mildly alkaline, and their vast volumes of water will not become acidic from human fossil fuel use: that is, to drop from their current pH of 8.1 into the acidic realm below 7.0 on this logarithmic scale. Oceans may become slightly less alkaline with another century or two of human carbon dioxide emissions, but most marine organisms will be unaffected; others will adapt or evolve.
The science marchers forget that President Trump’s actions are in response to eight Obama years of “highly politicized so-called research on climate,” under grants that “anticipated particular scientific outcomes before funding was provided,” Princeton University physicist Dr. Will Happer told me. Real science “is not based on political agendas, belief systems or computer models. It’s based on evidence – and actual observations have found normal icecap fluctuations, seas rising a foot or less per century, drought cycles little different from the twentieth century, and a decline in major landfalling hurricanes.”
These inconvenient truths contradict the dominant narratives in college classrooms and political circles. Climate alarmists thus demand that they be vilified, banned and silenced, through vile, even violent confrontations if need be – along with other conservative speech on and beyond too many campuses.
It’s as if reality, truth, discussion and debate have become irrelevant where feelings, leftist dogma, climate science or public policies are involved. Even more troubling, it’s as if our culture, education and public forums have been taken over by jack-booted fascists, Mao’s Red Guards, Maduro thugs, and “heroes” like Pavlik Morozov, memorialized by Stalin for betraying his father to the secret police.
Some intolerant protesters may be delicate snowflakes, too easily intimidated, offended or made to feel “unsafe” by conservative or other contrarian thought. However, the near-constant intimidation and threats of expulsion or violence have become a deliberate tactic, used repeatedly to impose speech codes and political agendas – and too often ignored, acquiesced in or supported by professors, administrators and politicians who welcome the silencing of opposition voices or lack the courage to confront it. During Science March weekend in Huntsville, Alabama, shots were fired into the offices where reality-based climatologist John Christy works. “Mainstream media” and academia coverage was minimal.
They demand diversity of race, language, handicaps, sex, sexual orientation, transgender status and sexual self-identification. They cannot tolerate diversity of thought, speech or faculty and student ideology.
George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams calls it “a spreading cancer,” a re-emerging mentality that gave us loyalty oaths, which today come in the form of demands that faculty members sign “diversity statements, especially as part of hiring and promotion procedures…. The last thing diversity hustlers want is diversity of ideas.” The goal is “political conformity among the faculty indoctrinating our impressionable, intellectually immature young people,” Williams says.
As far-left protest marches, window smashing, limousine burning and physical assaults in Berkeley, Portland, Washington, DC and other cities attest, the cancer is metastasizing – particularly when movements and political groups believe their money, power, influence and control are threatened.
On the climate front, at stake are $100 billion a year in reparation funds for poor countries, $7 trillion a year for companies that want to build “sustainable low-carbon” energy systems, and boundless power for politicians and bureaucrats who want to control economic growth, livelihoods and living standards. They cannot tolerate “climate deniers,” even those who merely question the extent of human influences, the degree and impact of temperature and climate changes, whether changes will all be bad, or the supposed inability of wildlife and wealthy, technologically advanced societies to adapt to future changes.
Members of this activist, governing and corporate elite also excel at inflating trivial risks and dismissing easy solutions, to advance their agendas and self-interests. For example, as President Trump revises many Obama era environmental rules, activist groups are using other tactics to continue their war on coal.
Dry ash from coal-fired power plants can be used in wallboard and to partially replace sand in high-strength concrete for bridges, roads and buildings. However, regulations, engineering considerations and other factors limited that option and resulted in most wet and dry ash being sent to impoundments that can leak barely detectable pollutants into surface and ground water. Studies have shown that these levels of chromium and other metals pose little risk to humans, but scare campaigns are creating pressure to force utility companies to spend billions of dollars relocating the ash and closing more power plants.
The best solution is likely to leave the ash in place, shore up the coffer dams, put solid clay seals over the deposits, and let them dry out, locking the metals in place. Radical groups demand relocation and seek to bankrupt the utilities – after which they intend to intensify their attacks on natural gas-fired power plants, drilling, fracking, and the factories, petrochemical plants and other industries that use fossil fuels.
In essence, they have brilliantly established a mantra that can ensure victory in every campaign. Whatever they support is safe, sustainable, climate-friendly environmental justice; whatever they oppose is dangerous, unsustainable, ecologically destructive and unjust. End of discussion.
In the process, they are unwilling or unable to recognize two facts. One, cheap, reliable energy improves living standards, saves lives, and supports new technologies and opportunities, with poor families benefitting most. Policies that make energy less accessible and affordable harm the poorest most of all.
Two, fossil fuels have undeniable environmental impacts, but allow us to produce vast amounts of cheap energy from relatively few acres. Replacing those fuels with wind, solar and biofuel energy would require hundreds of millions of acres worldwide that are now cropland or wildlife habitats. Those “eco-friendly” alternatives are actually our least sustainable, most ecologically destructive energy options.
The stakes are too high to let intolerant ideologues continue to control energy policy decisions.