Magazine February 24, 2014, Issue

Deny This

Handing out his awards for “sustainability” at Buckingham Palace the other day, the Prince of Wales made a few remarks about “climate change” and attacked “powerful groups of deniers” as a “headless-chicken brigade” ignoring the scientific evidence. It’s pretty funny to be called a “headless chicken” by a guy who runs around saying the sky is falling. In 2009 His Royal Highness gave a speech saying we had only 96 months left to save the planet. Ninety-six months? That would be July 2017 — which is only three and a half years off. On the other hand, it’s almost twice as far away as January 2016, which is the official final storewide-clearance date for Al Gore’s 2006 prediction of the end of the world.

As for labeling as “deniers” those of us still deluded enough to be making plans for Christmas 2017 and beyond, this usage is utterly contemptible from a man who will be king of all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions on this subject across his many realms from the supposedly soon-to-be-ice-free Canadian Arctic to the atolls of Tuvalu about to be drowned by rising sea levels. Dr. Michael E. Mann, the self-garlanded “Nobel Laureate” currently suing me and this magazine, also likes to damn anyone with the temerity to disagree with him as a “denier,” but it’s a truly appalling epithet from the lips of a would-be constitutional monarch. I was born a subject of the Prince’s mother and have lived under no other sovereign, but, if I’m still around when Charles III succeeds to the throne and he carries on like this, I may have to decline to stand for the Loyal Toast at formal dinners in Ottawa and Canberra.

For the record, I’m not a “climate denier.” Obviously, the climate changes, and, obviously, some of those changes could be potentially catastrophic. But I’m more of a climate insouciant: I’m relatively relaxed about “change,” and I figure that the climate’s going to do what it wants no matter how many carbon credits I buy — and that a chump who can’t set up a health-insurance website that can process payments or correct simple errors is unlikely to be able (campaign speeches notwithstanding) to “heal the planet.” Indeed, I find it far scarier than any “climate change” that leaders of advanced Western nations now go around sounding like the apocalyptic loons who used to wander the streets wearing sandwich boards and passing out homemade leaflets.

#page#Then there’s the awkward fact that there has been no “global warming” since 1998. If you’re the Prince of Wales and the ruddy glow of late middle age is beginning to fade from your cheeks, then 1998 isn’t that long ago. Nevertheless: There has been no “global warming” since Monica was dropping to the Oval Office broadloom. If you’re one of Dr. Mann’s Penn State meteorology students, there has been no warming since before you entered kindergarten. Climate scientists have struggled to account for what, a decade and a half in, they began discreetly to acknowledge as a “pause” in warming. There are theories that the heating may have continued during this period but that it’s being stored somewhere in the deepest depths of the oceans.

Maybe. Or maybe not. When it emerged that Dr. Mann was suing National Review, a couple of the lefty bloggers mocked me, a former theater critic, for presuming to criticize one of the world’s allegedly most eminent scientists. But climate science turns out to be pretty much like Broadway: No one knows nothing, as Irving Caesar, the lyricist of No, No, Nanette, once said to me. The principal difference is that, unlike the theater, on the Great Warm Way the world’s longest-running flop never closes.     

Climate science, as a glamorous jetsetting lifestyle, is itself barely four decades old, dating all the way back to the U.N. Human Environment Conference in Stockholm in 1972. In those early days, the experts identified two areas in which improvements were needed to enable reliable climate forecasting: 1) the nature of clouds; 2) the behavior of oceans. Over 40 years on, as Garth Paltridge, formerly Australia’s chief atmospheric-research scientist, recently wrote Down Under in Quadrant, the uncertainties regarding clouds and oceans remain — even though climate modeling is based on “calculations at each point of an imaginary grid of points spread evenly around the world at various heights in the atmosphere and depths in the ocean.” But, even if they never got around to solving the mysteries of clouds and seas, the Big Climate crowd did get used to flying through and over them in first-class seats. And simply because humdrum reality has declined to get with the ominous beat of the doomsday models is no reason for climate scientists with access to big money and the ears of princes and presidents to skulk back to their previous obscurity.

Science, says Professor Paltridge, “has been drawn into the trap of seriously overstating the climate problem — or, what is much the same thing, of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problem — in its effort to promote the cause.” Can they keep the sky-is-falling alarmism going as “the pause” approaches its third decade? Judging from the viciousness with which the movement’s thug enforcers set upon those brave scientists who dissent from the party line, they’re fully determined to. Pace the Prince of Wales and Dr. Mann, we “deniers” are not the ones in denial.

– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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