Acton Institute Powerblog

Alarmist Profiteering

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Remember when I said that I thought there is a dangerous incentive in climate change research to make things seem worse than they are? (If not, that’s OK. I actually called it an “analogous phenomenon” to the possibility that AIDS statistics are exaggerated.)

Well, TCS Daily reports that a letter to Canadian PM Stephen Harper signed by over 60 scientists asks a similar question. Richard Lindzen, Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), wonders, “How can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into claims about future catastrophes? The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism.”

Peter C. Glover, author of the article, “Climate Change’s Gravy Train,” continues, noting that “Lindzen goes on to identify how the doom-mongers in both the science research community and media have a ‘vested interest’ in ‘hyping’ the political stakes for policymakers who provide more funds for more science research to feed more alarm. ‘After all’, Lindzen wonders, ‘who puts money into science — whether for AIDS, or space, or climate — where there is nothing really alarming’?”

Read the whole thing. Lindzen raises a number of good points, including the discrimination faced by scientists who haven’t drunk from the GW Kool-Aid. As he says, “Scientists who dissent from alarmism have seen their funds disappear, their work derided, and libelled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse.”

Andy Crouch, a columnist for Christianity Today, who wrote in support of policy action on global warming, would do well to listen. As I said in response to his column, “It’s ironic that Crouch finds the source of evangelical distrust of scientific global warming dogma in the contemporary creation/evolution debates. If there’s any group that should know about the difficulty of breaking through the groupthink of mainstream science, it ought to be the proponents of Intelligent Design.” IDers really ought to be able to identify with the plight of scientists who question the predictions of the global warming alarmists.

And not only does the alarmism assure that there money for climate research funding, it means there’s commercial money available too. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) grossed $186,740,799 domestically (as might be expected, it was a bit more popular abroad, grossing $542,771,772 worldwide).

Related items:

Jordan Ballor, “A Love/Hate Relationship with Science,” Acton Institute PowerBlog (February 8, 2006).

Andy Crouch, Response #1 (September 10, 2005).

Jordan Ballor, “Comet-Busting Lasers: A Response to Andy Crouch,” Acton Institute PowerBlog (September 12, 2005).

Andy Crouch, Response #2 (September 12, 2005).

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, “What Stewardship Means,” BreakPoint WorldView (September 2004).

Roy Spencer, “Global Warming Hysteria Has Arrived,” TCS Daily (April 4, 2006).

Hans Von Storch and Nico Stehr, “A Climate of Staged Angst,” Der Spiegel (January 4, 2005).

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • John

    That is so true! Most of the environmentalists have been fearmongering without proof since “Silent Spring” banned DDT. Millions of malaria deaths later, they are still complaining. Who is going to speak for the dead?

  • TokyoTom

    It’s clear that there is funding for cimate change research, but who’s providing it (Bush!) and aren’t Lindzen and other skeptics are getting a piece as well? I don’t feel sorry for Lindzen, as the WSJ is ready to give him (and a number of crackpots who can’t get published in peer-reviewed journals) a soapbox whenever he wants to cry about how he’s been put down. He hasn’t really; he’s just been proven consistently wrong. Funny how the WSJ’s editorial page never has time for a retraction when its pet skeptics are wrong, or for views which are sufficiently mainstream that even FOX is running the story.

    While you wonder about the “vested interests” that “hype” climate change, has it ever occurred to you to inquire as to who are the vested interests that hype fear of “enviros” and in maximizing any uncertainties in the science? Climate change science is being politicized because alot of big corporations are happy to use the atmosphere for free now, and let the rest of the world and future generations pay the costs. Where’s the responsibility in that?

    You may have noticed that Ron Bailey of Reason has recently been drinking the climate change Kool Aid, as noted below:

    May 17: 2006 [Inconvenient Uncertainties and Moral Ambiguities]:
    Gore is correct that the scientific consensus is that humanity is causing global warming.

    April 3, 2006 [Losing Bet on Climate Change; Temperatures are rising—what now?]:
    The question of how much danger the trend toward higher average global temperatures poses is still open, but that the earth’s temperature is going up is not. The debate now is how bad it might get.”

    “So what about the future? According to an article last October, Michaels [a climate skeptic] seems unlikely to offer another bet on lower temperatures. “We already know that the world is warming and that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future (with or without any greenhouse gas emission controls),” wrote Michaels. “Record temperatures will continue to be set every couple of years or so.”

    “Christy and Spencer [both climate skeptics] observed “a global average temperature that was three-tenths of a degree Celsius (0.54º Fahrenheit) warmer than seasonal norms, 2005 tied with 2002 as the second warmest year in the past 27.” They added that, according to their data, “the five years from 2001 through 2005 have been five of the six warmest years in the 27-year satellite global temperature record.”“

    August 11, 2005 [We’re All Global Warmers Now; Reconciling temperature trends that are all over the place]:
    Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up. All data sets—satellite, surface, and balloon—have been pointing to rising global temperatures. In fact, they all have had upward pointing arrows for nearly a decade, but now all of the data sets are in closer agreement due to some adjustments being published in three new articles in Science today.”

    “the Remote Sensing Systems team has made some additional adjustments, such that their global trend is 0.193 degrees per decade. … If RSS is right, a straight-line extrapolation of future temperature trends implies that global average temperatures in 2100 will be about 2.0 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than they are today—more than double the original Christy and Spencer [client skeptic] trend. The RSS trend is more in accord with the higher projections of future temperature increases generated by climate computer models.”

    [TT note: of course a straightline projection is an UNDERSTATEMENT of expectations, as temperature increases have been accelerating.]

    Dec 16, 2004 [TCS COP 10 Coverage: Can We Avoid ‘Dangerous’ Climate Change?]:
    “In the real world, absent transformative technological breakthroughs in energy production, whatever the chances that average temperatures may one day exceed 2 degrees Celsius, there is absolutely no chance that steep emissions reductions scenarios are even remotely possible.”

    December 14, 2004 [Adapting to Climate Change]:
    those worried about possible catastrophic global warming will have to resign themselves to figuring out how best to live with projected higher temperatures.