A new editorial in Nature is startling for what it reveals, especially the fact Paul Ehrlich is a go-to figure about how hard scientists have it when it comes to media access. Ehrlich is an individual who became an international celebrity by spinning one frightening story after another (about the death of the oceans, for one thing) who maintains, with a straight face, that he and his fellow scientists have an unfair disadvantage in communicating their side of the climate debate. He is quoted by Nature as saying, regarding the aftermath of Climategate and the fact that skeptic scientists are finally getting a hearing, “Everyone is scared shitless, but they don’t know what to do.” People often forget: Goliath, right before the end, sensed that something was amiss.
For, ironically, among the most pervasive myths attending global warming is the one pitching David against Goliath, in which those touting the risks of damaging climate change are cast as David and Big Oil is Goliath. The story requires observers to ignore the facts: Media, most scientists, and governments the world over have spent and received so much money on their version of events that they have collectively become Goliath. Observers must ignore, too, the reality that skeptic scientists maintain their intellectual freedom at significant risk. Funding routinely dries up; tenure is denied them; ad hominem attacks of the most vicious variety are launched against them from the Ivory Tower of academia, from the studios of multi-billion dollar news organizations, and from the bully pulpit of government.
The myth that relatively simple, un-media-savvy scientists are being undone by oil-funded think-tanks is absurd on its face. Let’s first take the case of the U.K. For more than 25 years, all forms of the mainstream media in Britain (radio, television, film, and print), the AGW crowd veritably owned the means of production. People who bother to look will find tens of thousands of stories trumpeting impending doom related to unprecedented warming. The U.K. became, during this time, one of the twin towers of warmist philosophy. (The other being the U.S.) And skeptics were simply not abided at all.
Only when Climategate broke, for the first time in a generation, could a skeptic scientist (or commentator) get an airing in the United Kingdom. By that point, though, the AGW scientists, members of the media, and politicians had been putting forth alarmist fantasies for decades, without cessation. They were not sad little children being bullied around the playground by clever think-tank bullies. They were the bullies. Again, it is all about the means of production, and the environmentalist movement piggybacked on AGW took over the means of production in the U.K. long ago.
In the United States, the same applies. There is a reason that people in the center and the right object to National Public Radio, with public funds, reliably touting leftist causes, notably AGW. When commentators go on NPR and complain about the slick campaign to control the media run by oil-funded think tanks, there is more than enough irony to go around. This blame-the-oil-funded-think-tank theme is quite simply Al Gore-generated boilerplate. Ask the scientists, politicians, and celebrities touting the conspiracy to identify their imagined adversary by name, and they clam up.
Again, until November 2009, skeptic climate scientists couldn’t buy an interview in this country. Not with the New York Times, not with NPR, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, not to mention thousands of local papers, not with CNN, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, CBS News, NBC News, or ABC News. Even Fox, for all its vaunted right-wing values, very seldom put an actual skeptic scientist on the air prior to Climategate.
What if I, as a concerned citizen who had learned that when it came to the understanding of climate in my country up was down, black was white, and good was bad, and I wanted to go to Hollywood to get funding for a skeptical documentary about it? How do you think I would fare? Laughed out of town? If I was lucky!
Again, it is all about the means of production. The left/pro-AGW forces have owned the media in all but name on this issue, for decades. That is why there are such incredibly disproportionate numbers of interviews in the media with Stephen Schneider, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, Ben Santer, Al Gore, Ed Begley Jr., etc. Joining this crew requires following one ironclad rule: You have to say during during your 200th interview in the last two years that a dark and dangerous cabal exists to silence you.
If the best that Nature can do to promote the idea of this dangerous oil-funded conspiracy is to quote Paul Ehrlich, who has a 40-year history of failed attempts to manipulate people with the most transparent fear-mongering, then that is not a good sign for the side of fear. One thing that you can believe believe Ehrlich about (unlike the idea that Malthus was really onto something): He and his ilk are running scared. That’s despite the fact that the skeptic side has now reached something like a 1 to 10 ratio of parity when it comes to media coverage. See, when you’re Goliath, that kind of trend seems disturbing.