Fred LaSor: Are we there yet?

The dictionary defines religion as “a set of beliefs . . . usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Note how closely that definition fits insistence on man-made climate change. The ritual observances (attending annual UN climate conferences and signing agreements that do not apply equally) and the moral code (you’ve got to believe us) all underlie the firm conviction climate change adherents bring to the debate. The end result is their insistence “the science is settled,” and “the debate is over.” Is it?

I continue to be agnostic about climate change. Not a non-believer, rather I find it unknowable. It could be correct, but the long list of “proofs” intended to confirm it rely on the personal authority of people who don’t practice what they preach, or historical data of questionable accuracy, or computer models that claim they can analyze an astronomical number of variables based on uncertain data.

Believe in man-made climate change if you want, but recognize it as belief. Saying “polar ice is melting” ignores recent articles reporting the National Snow and Ice Data Center has altered data regarding sea ice coverage in the Arctic or NASA has altered annual temperature data. When the believers who want to convince me resort to questionable arguments my agnosticism is heightened.

Adherents to the faith are beyond debate. You either accept their teaching and believe as they do, or you are a heretic and immoral. No dissent is tolerated. “Believe as we do or shut up” is their motto. Well I won’t believe as they do as long as it depends on “consensus science.” Saying “all scientists agree,” or “you are a tool of the petroleum industry” only shuts down discussion. They could as well light incense and point to sacred writing (or scientific studies) that only they can interpret with magic lenses.

Much is made of the so-called “hockey stick” graph, found in a study published by scientists Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1999. It records earth temperature from tree rings and other data and claims a rapid rise in earth’s temperatures starting in the 20th century. Since temperature rise and industrialization coincide, a causal relation is implied. Except the data, even when bolstered by sediment core studies, don’t explain other warming trends (900-1300 CE) before industrialization.

I own a hybrid vehicle. I turn off lights when I leave the room. I don’t run the water while I brush my teeth. These are NASA-recommended strategies (look them up) for fighting climate change. But I don’t engage in those practices because NASA tells me to; rather because I believe in not wasting resources or money. When a politician arrives in a gas-guzzling SUV and lectures me on MY bad habits he’s already lost the debate.

Similarly, someone who says I should adopt photovoltaic or wind-generated electricity doesn’t make a convincing argument if it only becomes price competitive after a government subsidy or tax rebate. And if they try to clinch the deal by saying “it’s for the good of the planet” but take the same medicine themselves, they make the sale that much harder.

I will put a wind turbine in the back yard or solar cells on the roof if they save money (even after initial investment cost), but not if they only work with a tax break or buy-back that distorts the return on investment calculation. That reality will have changed when home buyers will ask themselves “wind, solar, or the grid?” We’re not there yet, and trying to get there by implying we are heathens isn’t working.

LaSor follows economic and political trends from his home in the Carson Valley.

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