Envirocommunism

The President of the Czech Republic has helped Charles Krauthammer find the true enemy of freedom.  It's knowledge about the natural world.  This knowledge is especially dangerous if Krauthammer doesn't have the patience, time, or expertise to understand it.  He writes:

Predictions of catastrophe depend on models. Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems — from ocean currents to cloud formation — that no one fully understands. Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing. The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative.

Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. "The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity," warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, "is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism."

If you doubt the arrogance, you haven't seen that Newsweek cover story that declared the global warming debate over. Consider: If Newton's laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming — infinitely more untested, complex and speculative — is a closed issue.

But declaring it closed has its rewards. It not only dismisses skeptics as the running dogs of reaction, i.e., of Exxon, Cheney and now Klaus. By fiat, it also hugely re-empowers the intellectual left.

For a century, an ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous knowledge class — social planners, scientists, intellectuals, experts and their left-wing political allies — arrogated to themselves the right to rule either in the name of the oppressed working class (communism) or, in its more benign form, by virtue of their superior expertise in achieving the highest social progress by means of state planning (socialism).

Two decades ago, however, socialism and communism died rudely, then were buried forever by the empirical demonstration of the superiority of market capitalism everywhere from Thatcher's England to Deng's China, where just the partial abolition of socialism lifted more people out of poverty more rapidly than ever in human history.

Just as the ash heap of history beckoned, the intellectual left was handed the ultimate salvation: environmentalism. Now the experts will regulate your life not in the name of the proletariat or Fabian socialism but — even better — in the name of Earth itself.

Such a combination of straw men (the weakest versions of global warming arguments–not to Newsweeks's idea of "debate" about global warming), red herrings (communism, socialism, etc.), ad hominem (arrogant scientists are just trying to rule the world), ad ignorantiam (since we don't know much about the effects of carbon, let's do nothing. . . ), and just plain non sequiturs (Newton's law of motion was "overthrown" so distrust everything short of that) has not been seen for, um, weeks on this page.

10 thoughts on “Envirocommunism”

  1. If Newton’s laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming — infinitely more untested, complex and speculative — is a closed issue.

    I think perhaps it’s a closer parallel with these theories to say that, while Newtonian physics was (necessarily) speculative and imperfect, the question of whether an object fell when dropped was “a closed issue.” Likewise, while the exactitudes of any model of long-term global climate prediction are speculative and there is room for adjustment of the figures and formulas, the question of whether the Earth is warming at an unprecedented pace due to human-caused changes is “a closed issue.”

  2. That seems right to me Jeremy. What I don’t understand is why Krauthammer (and Will and others) can’t see this as a question of what policy recommendations should be made. On subject no one can reasonably say the debate is “closed.”

    Once they raise that question, they’ll see a lot of eager capitalists trying to market green energy products–hurray for capitalism. They’ll also see economic arguments about sustainable agriculture. Not quite communism.

  3. “Predictions of catastrophe depend on models. Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems — from ocean currents to cloud formation — that no one fully understands. Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing. The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative. ”

    Seems like the last sentence is doing a hell of a lot of work here, and I’m not even sure what it means. It looks like some sort of argument that because each of a series of events has a discrete probability then “simultaneous occurrence” of all (i.e. doomsday?) is entirely speculative.

    So does he mean that there is a probability assigned to the melting of summer ice in the arctic and a probability of the melting of the Greenland glaciers and that the simultaneous probability of these two things occurring is somehow speculative?

    Somehow he seems to be suggesting that because the “cascade” of events are less than certain their simultaneous occurrence is speculative. There seems to be some sort of weird use of probability here that I can’t quite put my finger on.

  4. It seems to me K has taken the most extreme scenarios suggested by global warming and based his argument on refuting the combination of all of them into some kind of cinematic catastrophe.  Then he argues that such an event is unlikely, given all of the possible factors.  Aside from its aprioristic sound (doesn’t seem to be based on any kind of knowledge of climatology), it’s dishonest hyperbole.

  5. That sounds right. But, it also seems to rest on the idea that these probabilities are entirely independent of one another, rather than likely effects of the same phenomena. Almost as though there is some probabilistic version of a fallacy of composition.

  6. Right–he’d be treating the various events as discrete.  As far as the fallacy of division goes, he seems to think that given the speculative nature of scientific theories, all claims included under them have the same speculative property.  This is something like Jeremy’s point above.  Since gravity is a feature of theory, then the falling of any particular object is “theoretical.”

  7. Here is something akin to what he is saying: (It used to be an insult to be called a “drip”):
    A Drip is a drop
    A Drop is water
    Water is nature
    Nature is Beautiful
    Thanks for the compliment. 

    Well let’s examine his “argument” thesis by thesis:
    1.  “Predictions of catastrophe depend on models.”  That may be true in some cases, but not in others.  In the case of climate science, it is true that there has been a heavy dependence on models, but the core indicators that are used to plug in to the models (average temperatures, C02 saturation, etc…) are by no means models.  They are objectively measured.  So his first thesis is either untrue or deliberately misleading.  On to number
    2.  (Which is a grammar issue as much as a logic issue)  “Models depend on assumptions about complex planetary systems — from ocean currents to cloud formation — that no one fully understands.”  So let’s talk grammar – Not sure whether he means that no one fully understands the assumptions, the complex planetary systems, (whatever the hell that is), or Ocean Currents to Cloud Formations.  So it’s a poorly written sentence.  Beyond that, it’s also untrue or misleading.  Models often depend on assumptions but those assumptions are MOSTLY based on previous observations over years and years.  The assumption is that if something happened a certain way over and over again, that it’s likely to happen again in that way.  It is neither important nor relevant that anyone understand the “systems” he describes. 

    Gravity is one of the greatest scientific mysteries of all time.  Einstein spent years speculating as to how it worked and why.  No one to this day understands what causes Gravity and how that works.  Does that mean we don’t understand Gravity and can’t model it’s behavior?  No – it’s illogical to make that leap.  We can measure gravity just as we can measure the workings of our climate and based on repetition, we can say that it’s likely that a pattern observed will continue to manifest itself as a pattern.

    3.  “Which is why the models are inherently flawed and forever changing”  This falls into one of several logical fallacies but generally it’s a thesis not supported by any arguments he’s made to date.  Maybe it’s a Hasty Generalization, Maybe he’s missed the point, clearly a version of “slippery slope,” partially the appeal to ignorance.  This one is a beaut on many levels. 

    His big summation – at least as part of laying the groundwork for the rest of his piece is this
    4.  “The doomsday scenarios posit a cascade of events, each with a certain probability. The multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurrence renders all such predictions entirely speculative. “ 

    So…..  a “doomsday scenario,” if there is one out there, is probably nothing more than someone making a guess that if certain events happen in certain ways, the result would be….well… bad.  Anything labeled “scenario” is by definition speculative.  It has nothing to do with the “multiple improbability of their simultaneous occurence.”  Again – I would take issue with grammar here but let’s set that aside, since it seems to me this person is just seeking to confuse by sounding logical. 
    The whole argument is part Red Herring, and certainly has a flavor of “false dichotomy” as if there were not more than two sides to this question.  To present all of the uncertainties on both sides fairly as well as other scenarios posited by the scientific community would dilute the argument he’s trying to make.

    This is a great example to show a college or High School Class – I’m sure I missed something along the way. 

  8. So Climategate comes along and all of your commentary on Krauthammer looks deliciously WRONG.  He was right and YOU were wrong!

  9. Also, if one had troubled to take a look at the actual evidence rather than merely repeating Right-Wing talking points, one would easily discover that there is no smoking gun here whatsoever. The stolen emails reveal angry and impatient scientists annoyed at having their work willfully mutilated by hypocrites who are too lazy to understand the facts, and too dishonest to represent those facts accurately.

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