How often in the past couple of years have you heard a climate alarmist refer to a so-called scientific consensus concerning man's role in global warming?
Almost any time you see a report on the subject, correct?
Have you ever considered how this belief that a consensus exists came to be, and if it actually means anything?
Answering such questions is the Wall Street Journal's Holman W. Jenkins Jr, whose op-ed Wednesday should be must reading for citizens, media representatives, and especially politicians that actually believe an overwhelming majority of scientists around the world are drinking Al Gore's Kool-Aid (h/t NBer dscott, emphasis added throughout):
[A] Nobel has never been awarded for the science of global warming. Even Svante Arrhenius, who first described the "greenhouse" effect, won his for something else in 1903. Yet now one has been awarded for promoting belief in manmade global warming as a crisis.
How this honor has befallen the former Veep [Al Gore] could perhaps be explained by another Nobel, awarded in 2002 to Daniel Kahneman for work he and the late Amos Tversky did on "availability bias," roughly the human propensity to judge the validity of a proposition by how easily it comes to mind.
Their insight has been fruitful and multiplied: "Availability cascade" has been coined for the way a proposition can become irresistible simply by the media repeating it; "informational cascade" for the tendency to replace our beliefs with the crowd's beliefs; and "reputational cascade" for the rational incentive to do so.
Mr. Gore clearly understands the game he's playing, judging by his resort to such nondispositive arguments as: "The people who dispute the international consensus on global warming are in the same category now with the people who think the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona."
Here's exactly the problem that availability cascades pose: What if the heads being counted to certify an alleged "consensus" arrived at their positions by counting heads?
Fascinating, wouldn't you agree? But there was more:
Less surprising is the readiness of many prominent journalists to embrace the role of enforcer of an orthodoxy simply because it is the orthodoxy. For them, a consensus apparently suffices as proof of itself.
Now let's suppose a most improbable, rhapsodic lobbying success for Mr. Gore, [Vinod Khosla of the venture capital firm Gore now works for], and folks on their side of the table--say, a government mandate to replace half the gasoline consumed in the U.S. with a carbon-neutral alternative. This would represent a monumental, $400 billion-a-year business opportunity for the green energy lobby. The impact on global carbon emissions? Four percent--less than China's predicted emissions growth over the next three or four years.
Don't doubt that this is precisely the chasm that keeps Mr. Gore from running for president. He could neither win the office nor govern on the basis of imposing the kinds of costs supposedly necessary to deal with an impending "climate crisis." Yet his credibility would become laughable if he failed to insist on such costs. How much more practical, then, to cash in on the crowd-pleasing role of angry prophet, without having to take responsibility for policies that the public will eventually discover to be fraudulent.
All with media's help, of course.
In the end, a consensus concerning this issue is as much a media concocted illusion as the myth that carbon dioxide is causing the planet to warm beyond historical norms.
We can only hope such inconvenient truths will dawn upon enough press representatives before the United States kowtows to domestic and international socialist pressures to implement draconian measures whose only result will be our financial ruin.