Joe Bast | August 25, 2022
A review (of a sort) of Who’s to Blame? Living along society’s “fault” line, by Dan Linssen (Cedarburg, WI: Foremost Press, 2010.)
During my 34-year career in public policy, I wrote, edited, or published hundreds of essays and studies and a dozen books debunking the claim that man-made global warming (now usually referred to as “climate change”) is a “crisis” that justifies reducing mankind’s use of fossil fuels. As public policy issues go, global warming is more resistant to sound science and analysis than most, as is revealed by political and media attention to the issue today. Having just read this 12-year-old book by Dan Linssen, titled Who’s to Blame? Living along society’s “fault” line, I now have a better understanding of why that is the case.
Until the late 1980s, most scientists believed the impact of human activities on Earth’s climate was too small to be seen against a background of natural variability. Surveys and other evidence suggest most still do, though they are hesitant to say so. The major drivers of climate change are natural: the decadal to millennial cycles in the amount of solar radiation reaching the planet. Those cycles are caused by changes in the coronal ejections and magnetic fields of the sun and the planet’s movement through space, resulting in changes in cloud formation, ocean currents, and wind.
(I summarized some of this literature in a booklet published by The Heartland Institute in 2010. A much larger survey of the literature has been produced in five volumes by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).)
The scientific consensus was challenged beginning in the 1980s by a small cabal of political activists — most notably Al Gore, Ross Gelbspan, James Hansen, and Michael Mann — who alleged that carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels is causing a measurable and possibly dangerous warming of the planet. Readers familiar with the more recent Covid debate will recognize the pattern of events that ensued. Junk science wildly exaggerating the threat of global warming (science that never should have made it through peer review) was promoted by the media and quickly embraced by politicians to justify government programs that, oddly, perfectly matched the agendas of progressives, including international communists. Opposing views were censored by leading taxpayer-financed science organizations and corporate media. “Skeptics” of the new theory were cancelled on social media. Billions of tax dollars — our money — are being spent on a hopeless quest to control the weather.
The climate alarmists are delusional. Their claims are easily debunked, and have been by such distinguished scholars as S. Fred Singer, Robert Carter, Patrick Michaels, and Willie Soon. But science, economics, and even common sense are no match for the global warming movement. Man-made global warming has been blamed for literally thousands of things ranging from cannibalism, illegal immigration, and rising mental illness to anorexic whales and more fleas on dogs. Blaming global warming is so common it’s the punch-line of jokes and cartoons.
It has only occurred to me now, after reading Dan Linssen’s excellent book, that the persistence of the global warming scam may be due to mankind’s innate desire to blame unpleasant things on other people or on inanimate objects beyond our control. Linssen thoroughly and convincingly documents what he calls “our obsession with blame,” which he attributes to “cultural, psychological, and situational underpinnings that trigger blaming behavior and support our addiction to blame.”
When something goes wrong in our workplace or at home — say, if we don’t get the raise we were hoping for or if a product we purchased doesn’t perform as we expected — we immediately try to pin blame on someone, anyone, other than our own bad performance or judgement. We blame our employer, our coworkers, our spouses, a manufacturer, a salesman, bad luck, or, increasingly, even the weather.
Linssen locates the psychological roots of our urge to blame in “attribution theory” (a tendency to attribute errors or harmful consequences to the bad intentions of other actors), Freudian psychology (“as a way for the Id to avoid the pain of accountability through aggression towards another”), “locus of control” (what Aaron Wildavsky called “fatalism”), “self-justification” (what is more commonly referred to as “confirmation bias,” the tendency to ignore facts that contradict a pre-established theory), and more. As I read his descriptions of these behaviors I could see how every one of them operates in the global warming debate and helps explain the delusion’s immunity to reason.
Climate alarmists blame global warming for most of what is wrong in the world today because it is a simple, black-and-white explanation that transfers guilt and accountability from themselves to big and bad corporations. The media endlessly repeat global warming myths, blaming faceless factories and oil companies for every-day hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires because people who read or watch the news want to be assured that bad people are to blame for these things, not uncontrollable nature or their own lifestyles. Scientists who start with the assumption that global temperatures in the modern era are unusually high are torturing databases until they find hints of statistically significant associations to something, however trivial, that might be bad. They get grants and win tenure by making such discoveries, but what if that assumption is wrong? “Self-justification” precludes them from even considering the possibility.
Knowing that global warming alarmism relies on irrational triggers explains why no number of books or scientific breakthroughs will end the global warming scam. So long as people need someone or something to blame for whatever is wrong in their lives, they will support politicians and activists willing to blame global warming. It’s the perfect scapegoat. The way to end this scam, then, is to treat global warming alarmism as the mental illness it is and use the tools of psychological counseling and therapy, described by Linssen in his book, to cure them.
“The prospect of reducing blame can seem overwhelming,” Linssen writes near the end of his book. “But one lesson I’ve learned, over and over again, is that individual actions can make a difference. The impact may be far removed in time and space from the action. But, sooner or later, your efforts to curtail blame yield dividends to someone.” Amen to that!