On Carl Sagan, blacklisting, and the poor
The role of left-wing foundations in the rise of religious environmentalism
By Steven J. Allen (Green Watch, December 2013 – PDF here)
As noted above, a turning point in the relationship between the religious community and supporters of Global Warming theory was the “Open Letter to the American Religious Community” put together by TV personality Carl Sagan, an agnostic astronomer at Cornell.
Sagan, also remembered for the catchphrase “billions and billions,” was the voice of popular science in the 1980s and a proponent of several questionable ideas. He popularized the Drake Equation, which fantastically overstates the probability of intelligent life on other planets. He promoted now-discredited “arms race” theory regarding the Cold War and described the U.S. and Soviets as like “two men standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
He was the most vocal proponent of “nuclear winter” theory, which held that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was useless because a strike in retaliation for a Soviet nuclear attack would plunge the earth into a cold spell that would wipe out the human race. (The Soviets promoted “nuclear winter” in order to persuade the West to disarm itself. To create the impression reputable scientists believed the theory, a fake report, supposedly from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, was leaked to “peace” activists. The theory was discredited when oil fires set by Iraqi troops in Kuwait in 1991 failed to produce the weather effect it predicted.)
On occasion, Sagan was openly political. In 1984, he was a signer of a newspaper ad declaring President Reagan to be the “performing star” of “Far-Rightists” who exude “a scent of fascism in the air.” (His widow and legacy-keeper, Ann Druyan, is of like mind; she told the Washington Post her early interest in science stemmed from a fascination with Karl Marx.)
Other signers of the “Open Letter” included a rogue’s gallery of left-wing scientist-activists, including—
► Hans Bethe, one of the supporters in 1969 of the “March 4th Movement” led by radical professor Noam Chomsky. The movement opposed the participation of academics in research sponsored by the U.S. government—research that was considered unethical because the U.S. government was evil. (The movement led to the founding of the leftist Union of Concerned Scientists.)
► Richard Garwin, a member of the council of the Pugwash Conferences, which brought together Western scientists with their counterparts from the Soviet bloc. The prevailing ideology of Pugwash was that, compared to the USSR, the U.S. was equally or predominantly responsible for the Cold War.
► Jerome Wiesner, a Pugwash conferee who was noted for using his position as President Kennedy’s science advisor to push his own political agenda.
► Stephen Jay Gould, whom Marxists considered one of their own. Gould later became president of the left-wing American Association for the Advancement of Science (sister organization, from the 1930s to the 1950s, of the Soviet-front American Association of Scientific Workers).
► James Hansen, who infamously turned his position at NASA into a pulpit for his views on Global Warming. Of Hansen, the physicist Freeman Dyson declared, “The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers . . . Hansen has turned his science into ideology.” (Dyson himself signed the Open Letter, but later separated himself from Warming extremists. See below.)
Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was another signer. He was famous for making apocalyptic predictions of a new Ice Age (or “global cooling”) in the 1970s, when world temperatures appeared to be declining, then switching to apocalyptic predictions of Global Warming during a time when it appeared that world temperatures were rising. In 1989 he noted that scientists would “like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”
Schneider was the “contributor” to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of a 2010 article, written with three co-authors, on the “distribution of credibility” of Warmers and skeptics. The article suggested that “the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of [man-made climate change] are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.”
The article by Schneider et al. is a fraud, of course, because the authors measure “credibility” by criteria such as the popularity of a scientist’s views. Critics quickly noted that the piece amounted to a “blacklist” of Warming skeptics. According to the article, the skeptics’ category included any scientist who “signed any of the open letters or declarations expressing skepticism of the IPCC’s findings, of climate science generally, of the ‘consensus’ on human-induced warming, and/or arguing against any need for immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.” (The IPCC or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a body created by the U.N. to promote Global Warming theory.)
Ironically, Schneider blacklisted Freeman Dyson—one of the signers of Sagan’s Open Letter. Although Dyson accepts some aspects of Global Warming theory, he is skeptical of the IPCC’s calculations and believes actual science should be applied to the issue. In 2005, Dyson noted:
I’m not saying the warming doesn’t cause problems, obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it. I’m saying that the problems are being grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important. Poverty, infectious diseases, public education and public health. Not to mention the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.
Another signer, Roger Revelle, who was considered the father of Global Warming theory, also expressed concern about how efforts to prevent warming could hurt the world’s poor. In an article he co-wrote shortly before his death in 1991, Revelle noted:
Drastic, precipitous—and, especially, unilateral—steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective. Stringent economic controls now would be economically devastating particularly for developing countries . . .
In short, Warming skeptics, libeled by the Left as “deniers,” include many who believe that mankind may, indeed, contribute
in some way to climatic changes, but that measures for dealing with the problem must be studied carefully to ensure they don’t do more harm than good—for example, by impoverishing millions of people in order to achieve an immeasurably small reduction in world temperatures. Revelle was one such skeptic.
Supporters of Global Warming theory, including Al Gore, have suggested falsely that Revelle was suffering from a mental defect when he expressed his concern about “drastic” measures causing poverty. But his daughter, while pointing out that Revelle supported measures to “mitigate” man-made effects on climate, acknowledged in a letter to the Washington Post that, when he “inveighed against ‘drastic’ action, he was using that adjective in its literal sense—measures that would cost trillions of dollars. Up until his death, he thought that extreme measures were premature.” Revelle’s daughter wrote that in 1992. Today, Global Warming activists like Michael Brune of the Sierra Club and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, have declared that mankind must leave two-thirds of all oil, gas, and coal in the ground—which would cost hundreds of trillions of dollars and trap perhaps billions of people in poverty.
Nothing gets a scientist blacklisted or labeled as senile faster than expressing concern about the effect of Global Warming policies on poor people. Perhaps Christians should take that fact into account before climbing on the Warmers’ bandwagon.
Dr. Steven J. Allen (J.D., Ph.D.) is editor of Green Watch.