Public relations research tells us there are two types of people in the world: one relies on an authority figure to tell him what to do and the other decides for himself by gathering evidence and using reason. If you’re someone who can think for himself, you have probably wondered why climate science is such a mess. Why do they torture the temperature data to get it to look like a hockey stick in graphs? Why do they ignore or slander critics instead of answering their concerns when they offer good evidence?
A short period existed when climate science was real science and not socialist ideology. Back in the 1980s when the science was in its infancy, scientists openly debated the evidence. A startling experiment in that decade proved CO2 to be an excellent fertilizer for trees and plants.
Christopher Booker thinks the reason climate scientists act like ideologues is because of “groupthink,” referring to the book with that title by Yale psychologist Irving Janis:
Janis’s first rule is that a group of people come to share a particular way of looking at the world which may seem hugely important to them but which turns out not to have been based on looking properly at all the evidence. It is therefore just a shared, untested belief.”
Rule two is that, because they have shut their minds to any evidence which might contradict their belief, they like to insist that it is supported by a “consensus.” The one thing those caught up in groupthink cannot tolerate is that anyone should question it.
This leads on to the third rule, which is that they cannot properly debate the matter with those who disagree with their belief. Anyone holding a contrary view must simply be ignored, ridiculed, and dismissed as not worth listening to.
Booker describes the behavior of most climate scientists well, but doesn't answer how they fell into the groupthink trap? The answer lies with the collapse of socialism in the late 1980s. Socialism’s main selling point from its fabrication by Saint-Simon in the early decades of the 19th century had always been economic. Socialism would make everyone equally rich as it ended the waste inherent in the anarchy of markets.
The world suffered through 120 years of experimentation with socialism launched by the welfare state of Germany in 1870 through the Russian Revolution and creation of the Soviet Union, the annexation of Eastern Europe, and the victory of Mao in China. China abandoned pure socialism after Mao’s death. Then the Berlin Wall fell; Poland rebelled and the USSR disintegrated, all because socialism had impoverished those nations to the point that they couldn’t feed their own people. Socialism lost the economic debate that had burned through the 20th century.
Reasonable people divorced socialism, but most socialists had never been reasonable. They are aflame with envy. Robert Heilbroner wept ink for twelve pages over the death of his utopia in “The Triumph of Capitalism,” which appeared in the January 23, 1989 issue of The New Yorker magazine. He began with, “Less than seventy-five years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over; capitalism has won.” He concluded with this:
"And finally, what of socialism? [...] I do not think that the triumph of capitalism means its assured long and happy life or that the defeat of socialism means its ignominious exit from history. The collapse of central planning shows that at this moment socialism has no plausible economic framework, but the word has always meant more than a system of economic organization. At its core, it has stood for a commitment to social goals that have seemed incompatible with, or at least unattainable under, capitalism – above all, the moral, not just the material elevation of humankind [...] the vision has retained its inspirational potential, just as that of Christianity has survived countless autos-de-fe and vicious persecutions.”
Helbroner soon regained his composure, dried his tears and nailed his 95 theses to the door of capitalism in his September 10, 1990 The New Yorker article, “After Communism.” Near the end he wrote,
"For all these reasons, I am not very sanguine about the prospect that socialism will continue as an important form of economic organization now that Communism is finished. [...] But the collapse of the planned economies has forced us to rethink the meaning of socialism. As a semireligious vision of a transformed humanity, it has been dealt devastating blows in the twentieth century..."
There is, however, another way of looking at, or for, socialism. It is to conceive of it not in terms of the specific improvements we would like to embody but as the society that must emerge if humanity is to cope with the one transcendent challenge that faces it within a thinkable timespan. This is the ecological burden that economic growth is placing on the environment. The challenge has drawn its first blood in the epidemic rise in skin cancer that is a consequence of the depletion of the ozone layer. It threatens to open far deeper and more serious wounds as the atmosphere gradually forms its invisible panes of carbon dioxide and other gases... The ecological crisis toward which we are moving at a quickening pace has occasioned much scientific comment but surprisingly little economic attention. Yet if there is any single problem that will have to be faced by any socioeconomic order over the coming decades, it is the problem of making our economic peace with the demands of the environment.
Whatever its other consequences, the closing window of environmental tolerance will impose an utterly new condition of caution and constraint on a civilization... It is, perhaps, possible that some of the institutions of capitalism – markets, dual realms of power, even private ownership of some kinds of production – may be adapted to that new state of ecological vigilance, but, they must be monitored, regulated, and contained to such a degree that it would be difficult to call the final social order capitalism.
Heilbroner gave socialists their new marching orders: take over the environmental movement and use it to forge their socialist utopia. And they did. Climate change scientists embraced their new role as the vanguard of socialism and acted just as FA Hayek had predicted they would in Road to Serfdom fifty years earlier.