Rupert Darwall in the Wall Street Journal, Climate Alarmists Use the Acid-Rain Playbook
A majority of scientists might say a scientific theory is true, but that doesn’t mean the consensus is reliable. The science underpinning environmental claims can be fundamentally wrong—as it was in one of the biggest environmental scares in recent decades.
The acid-rain alarm of the 1970s and ’80s was a dry run for the current panic about climate change. Both began in Sweden as part of a war on coal meant to bolster support for nuclear power. In 1971 meteorologist Bert Bolin wrote the Swedish government’s report on acid rain to the United Nations. Seventeen years later he became the first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
There are many parallels between acid rain and global warming.
But as acid-rain cap-and-trade legislation was making its way through Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency encountered a major problem. Napap’s draft report concluded that the science was wrong. Yes, power-station emissions make rain more acidic—rain is naturally acidic, and more so during thunderstorms—but changes to ecosystems, the report said, were mainly caused by changes in land use. The felling of trees and the burning of stumps in the Adirondacks had reduced the acidity of the forest floor. After conservationists put a stop to it, the soil gradually returned to its previous acidity.
Rather than admit it had the science wrong, the EPA set about suppressing the inconvenient findings. The Napap report was delayed until after key provisions of cap-and-trade legislation had been agreed to in Congress. As outlined in a 1992 article in Reason, the EPA then waged a dirty-tricks campaign to discredit Edward C. Krug, a soil expert and the leading dissident Napap scientist. It assembled a group of compliant scientists to conduct a sham peer review and conclude that Mr. Krug was a bad scientist. The episode ended with an assistant administrator of the EPA, William Rosenberg, apologizing to Mr. Krug to avoid a threatened libel action.
I am completing The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli. It is an excellent collection of the mental traps, biases and processes that lead to poor conclusions even from the brightest minds. Many of the examples are evident in what passes for the climate arguments.
The more hyperbolic the response, the more intolerant of dissent, the more certain of your position, the more extreme your predicted outcome, and the more you use moral instead of scientific reasoning, the greater the likelihood you may be wrong.