01 Feb 2005 Spinning Global Warming
The Peter Principle appears to have caught up with John Podesta, former Clinton chief-of-staff and frequent talking head on Crossfire, CNN’s recently-cancelled tribute to the arrogant and inane.
Devised by the clever Canadian management guru Laurence J. Peter, the Peter Principle says that over time people tend to rise to their level of incompetence.
Thus it is with Podesta, a skillful player in the Clinton White House and an accomplished debater who more than held his own in television dust-ups with the likes of Tucker Carlson.
But Podesta as the head of a scientifically-serious think-tank boggles the mind.
Podesta’s outfit, The Center for American Progress, is hardly a think-tank in the scientific meaning of the term. Founded in 2003, it doesn’t conduct serious, peer-reviewed studies or issue scholarly tracts like the neighboring Brookings Institution or the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.
It chiefly is an incubator of political mischief and reportedly is funded by millions from financier George Soros and others who seek to turn the Democratic Party into a permanent handmaiden of the Far Left.
So it was somewhat surprising when The Center for American Progress showed up in news headlines as one of three “think-tanks” issuing a report claiming that global warming will soon plunge the world into climate change disaster.
Titled “Meeting the Climate Challenge,” the report grabbed headlines across the globe. In large part that was because influential wire services like Reuters and the Associated Press, through either ignorance or intentional bias, portrayed Podesta’s group, along with the Australia Institute and Britain’s Institute for Public Policy Research, as an objective, non-ideological think-tank rather than a left-wing spin factory.
Millions of readers, however, were led to believe the report represented serious scientific inquiry.
In fact, the groups’ International Climate Change Task Force was chaired by two politicians, Tony Blair’s environmental adviser Stephen Byers and U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and met only a few times.
The report itself was a cherry-picked compilation of seemingly every doomsday scenario advanced by global warming alarmists over the past decade.
Further, it completely ignored skepticism of the global warming theory by some 17,000 American scientists who have urged our government to reject economically-devastating restrictions on energy consumption.
One thing is certain: Journalism schools and news organizations have been derelict in not providing better scientific training for reporters covering complex issues that demand critical thinking. Forced to choose between the genuine and the sham, reporters can become victims of carefully orchestrated blitzkriegs by special interest groups.
Environmental groups such as the Pew Center for Climate Change have spent hundreds of millions over the past decade pushing the idea that global warming is a dire threat to Mother Earth.
Americans are the constant target of warnings that climate change is about to wipe out polar bears, penguins, coastal plains, Pacific islands, Midwestern farmlands and Alpine glaciers – thanks, supposedly, to human actions that put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
But climate is far more complicated than this simple theory suggests.
Our Earth underwent warming from 800 to 1200 and cooling from 1400 to about 1850. Yet, greenhouse gas concentrations were relatively constant from 1000 to 1750.
Cycles of warming and cooling exist independent of greenhouse gas fluctuations.
Since 1850, the Earth has undergone periods of both warming and cooling, despite industrialization.
In fact, the Earth warmed between 1910 and 1940, but cooled between 1940 and 1975 – the warming period occurring before 82 percent of the 20th century’s increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide even took place.
How is this possible? Look to the sun. Natural changes in solar radiation levels are one key source of variation in the Earth’s temperature. But other factors, including ocean currents and cloud cover, also play a role.
We modern humans like to think we understand our natural world, but the the Earth’s climate is far too complicated to allow even our most advanced computers to predict its future behavior.
Modern science is unable predict future climate. And a handful of political groups can’t do it, either.
Alas, perception – not reality – often seems to be everything in the global warming debate.
John Podesta may lack the academic credentials and silver-haired gravitas to be the head of a truly revered scientific think-tank, but he remains one of the capital’s slickest spinmeisters.
Amy Ridenour is president of The National Center for Public Policy Research.