“I met Judith Curry at her home in Reno, Nevada. Curry is a true climatologist. She once headed the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, until she gave up on the academy so that she could express herself independently. “Independence of mind and climatology have become incompatible,” she says. Do you mean that global warming isn’t real? I ask. “There is warming, but we don’t really understand its causes,” she says. “The human factor and carbon dioxide, in particular, contribute to warming, but how much is the subject of intense scientific debate.”
Curry is a scholar, not a pundit. Unlike many political and journalistic oracles, she never opines without proof. And she has data at her command. She tells me, for example, that between 1910 and 1940, the planet warmed during a climatic episode that resembles our own, down to the degree. The warming can’t be blamed on industry, she argues, because back then, most of the carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were small. In fact, Curry says, “almost half of the warming observed in the twentieth century came about in the first half of the century, before carbon-dioxide emissions became large.” Natural factors thus had to be the cause. None of the climate models used by scientists now working for the United Nations can explain this older trend. Nor can these models explain why the climate suddenly cooled between 1950 and 1970, giving rise to widespread warnings about the onset of a new ice age. I recall magazine covers of the late 1960s or early 1970s depicting the planet in the grip of an annihilating deep freeze. According to a group of scientists, we faced an apocalyptic environmental scenario—but the opposite of the current one.
This brings us to why Curry left the world of the academy and government-funded research. “Climatology has become a political party with totalitarian tendencies,” she charges. “If you don’t support the UN consensus on human-caused global warming, if you express the slightest skepticism, you are a ‘climate-change denier,’ a stooge of Donald Trump, a quasi-fascist who must be banned from the scientific community.” These days, the climatology mainstream accepts only data that reinforce its hypothesis that humanity is behind global warming. Those daring to take an interest in possible natural causes of climactic variation—such as solar shifts or the earth’s oscillations—aren’t well regarded in the scientific community, to put it mildly. The rhetoric of the alarmists, it’s worth noting, has increasingly moved from “global warming” to “climate change,” which can mean anything. That shift got its start back in 1992, when the UN widened its range of environmental concern to include every change that human activities might be causing in nature, casting a net so wide that few human actions could escape it.
Scientific research should be based on skepticism, on the constant reconsideration of accepted ideas: at least, this is what I learned from my mentor, the ultimate scientific philosopher of our time, Karl Popper. What could lead climate scientists to betray the very essence of their calling? The answer, Curry contends: “politics, money, and fame.” Scientists are human beings, with human motives; nowadays, public funding, scientific awards, and academic promotions go to the environmentally correct. Among climatologists, Curry explains, “a person must not like capitalism or industrial development too much and should favor world government, rather than nations”; think differently, and you’ll find yourself ostracized. “Climatology is becoming an increasingly dubious science, serving a political project,” she complains. In other words, “the policy cart is leading the scientific horse.”
“Nowadays, public funding, scientific awards, and academic promotions go to the environmentally correct.”
This has long been true in environmental science, she points out. The global warming controversy began back in 1973, during the Gulf oil embargo, which unleashed fear, especially in the United States, that the supply of petroleum would run out. The nuclear industry, Curry says, took advantage of the situation to make its case for nuclear energy as the best alternative, and it began to subsidize ecological movements hostile to coal and oil, which it has been doing ever since. The warming narrative was born.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration played a role in the propagation of that narrative. Having ended its lunar expeditions, NASA was looking for a new mission, so it built some provisional climate models that focused primarily on carbon dioxide, because this is an easy factor to single out and “because it is subject to human control,” observes Curry. Even though it is just one among many factors that cause climate variations, carbon dioxide increasingly became the villain. Bureaucratic forces at the UN that promote global governance—by the UN, needless to say—got behind this line of research. Then the scientists were called upon and given incentives to prove that such a political project was scientifically necessary, recalls Curry. The UN founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to push this agenda, and ever since, climatologists—an increasingly visible and thriving group—have embraced the faith.
In 2005, I had a conversation with Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian railway engineer, who remade himself into a climatologist and became director of the IPCC, which received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize under his tenure. Pachauri told me, without embarrassment, that, at the UN, he recruited only climatologists convinced of the carbon-dioxide warming explanation, excluding all others. This extraordinary collusion today allows politicians and commentators to declare that “science says that” carbon dioxide is to blame for global warming, or that a “scientific consensus” exists on warming, implying that no further study is needed—something that makes zero sense on its face, as scientific research is not based on consensus but on contradictory views.”