Capitalist Abuse of Science pt 2

By Slava The Ukrainian Socialist March 08, 2023

We are being told to stop eating meat, ration our food, turn the heat down, and drive electric cars in order to “save the Earth.” But is the ruling class truly concerned with the future of our planet, or is the climate change narrative a last-ditch attempt to save imperialism?

According to politicians and their pet scientists, life will only get worse for humans on Earth; there is no future as we know it and we must do everything possible to stop a looming climate change catastrophe. But can we trust the official narrative? As described in the first part of this series, capitalists have subverted science to serve their interests. Have you heard of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect (named after Murray Gell-Mann)? Michael Crichton illustrated this phenomena as follows: “You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it presents the story backward – reversing cause and effect. I call these the ‘wet streets cause rain’ stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

What exactly about the climate change narrative can we trust and where should we be skeptical? This requires understanding how the theory developed and progressed over the years. It is also important to consider how imperialist powers have used climate change to maintain their dominance over other countries and hold back their industrialization. Originally, before climate change became known to the public, the term “global warming” was widely used. It appeared for the first time in print in an article by Wallace Smith Broecker, writing in the August 1975 edition of the journal Science, “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” Broecker, a geochemist from Chicago, initiated research on humans’ influence on the earth’s climate. He is credited with having introduced the phrase “global warming” into the scientific lexicon in the 1970s. Broecker was interested in how the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the air and how this process might affect climate. Little was known then about atmospheric carbon dioxide; however, by the early 1970s, some scientists suggested that higher CO2 levels could be correlated with periods of warming. The geochemist became convinced that humans were changing the climate by increasing the levels of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. At the time, the world was experiencing a cooling cycle, which Broecker believed would be temporary (40 years), after which time we would begin to see the effects of global warming. Years later, it emerged that Broecker had misinterpreted some of his research data, but this didn’t deter the scientific community from building on his original claim. One of the first large-scale reports on the subject was published in 1979 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, with a prediction that CO2 levels in the atmosphere would double by 2030. In 1979, CO2 levels were at 334 parts per million, while today in 2023 they are just 421 ppm, and unlikely to spike to 668 in the next 7 years. It seems the 1979 doomsday prediction will turn out to be wrong. And it’s not the only prediction wildly off the mark. In 1970, Dr. Paul Ehrlich predicted that oceans would be dead in less than a decade and that the US would be subject to water and food rationing by 1980. On June 29th, 1989, the Associated Press published an article that featured an interview with then-director of the New York office of the UN Environment Program, solemnly reporting that “a senior U.N. environmental official says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.”

One could easily write a book about such failed climate catastrophe predictions. According to research from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, while a rise in temperature and atmospheric CO2 closely track each other, the rise in temperatures in fact came first. “Our analyses of ice cores from the ice sheet in Antarctica shows that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere follows the rise in Antarctic temperatures very closely and is staggered by a few hundred years at most,” reported Sune Olander Rasmussen, an Associate Professor and coordinator of the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

So it is undeniable fact that CO2 levels in the air are rising. What is striking, however, is that even after this finding that a rise in temperatures precedes rising CO2 levels, the scientific community still broadly holds CO2 culpable for “global warming,” in essence that “wet streets cause rain.” How about the Greenhouse effect and the ability of carbon dioxide to absorb heat? If an object has the property of warming up and cooling off, does this mean when I warm a pot of water on a gas stove, the water caused this heat? Greenhouse gases, like water vapor and CO2, absorb the energy produced by Earth. The gasses emit half of this energy back to Earth and releases the other half to outer space, trapping some of this heat in the atmosphere. This trapping of heat is what we call the Greenhouse effect. Thanks to the greenhouse effect created by these trace gases, the average temperature of the Earth is around 15˚C, or 59˚F, allowing for the existence of life. Without greenhouse gases, our planet’s average surface temperature would hover around zero degrees Fahrenheit. But are temperatures on the rise? First, one must understand how average global temperatures are calculated. GISS, RSS, UAH and GHCN are little more than a jumble of letters to most people, but these are the institutions responsible for collecting data and calculating the global average temperature. When the data doesn’t match across these institutions, it is adjusted to what is “believed” to be the right one (read more on alterations to climate data here). These adjustments are very common and always one-sided, adjusting data to make the past appear cooler and the present hotter.

Returning to greenhouse gases, one may be tempted to think that CO2 makes up most our atmosphere and that if we don’t reverse its high level, we are all doomed. But in fact carbon dioxide accounts for just 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere, while greenhouse gasses in total comprise not even 0.1%. How about the rest of the greenhouse gases, for example water vapor? Water vapor accounts for about 95% of total greenhouse gases and contributes more to the total greenhouse effect than either carbon dioxide or methane. But because human activities don’t impact water vapor, it was conveniently overlooked and this broader analysis, ignored. 500 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 concentration was a whopping 3000 to 9000 ppm, compared to the current 421 ppm, yet the average temperature wasn’t much greater than 10 degrees C above today. Of course, people didn’t live then, so it’s worth studying a more recent example. As shown in the graph below, levels of carbon dioxide have changed over time, rising during the warm episodes (interglacials), and decreasing with ice ages. Current levels are only slightly outside of the historic trend.

So why would scientists lie? And if climate catastrophe cannot be stopped, why is the whole world united in an effort to do the impossible? But maybe we are just being led to believe that everyone is on board. Perhaps the imperialist bullies of the world, those who have historically industrialized and polluted more than other countries, are using climate change as a political tool and cudgel to keep down developing countries and maintain hegemony. Remember Dr. Wallace Broecker, the scientist who coined the term global warming? Broecker advocated for someday abandoning fossil fuels but also understood their utility, especially for poor nations tackling poverty. “I don’t think we can destine the poor people on the planet to remain poor, just so we can not have CO2 build up in the atmosphere,” he said. “Coal is going to get burned and there is not anything we can do about it. How are you going to stop people from using it?” It’s one thing for rich, industrialized countries to start looking into alternative “green” energy, but what about the rest of the world? Forcing all countries to pursue “green” energy production only pushes people further into poverty, as they would struggle to pay rising energy bills. These “green” energy systems are hardly a panacea for the environment. Some renewable power technologies are harmful to the environment; for example, lithium-ion batteries. The lithium for these batteries is the result of a mining process that requires 500,000 gallons of water for every ton produced. Toxins from this mining process leak into rivers, causing fish deaths. And if solar panels are so “clean,” why do they produce so much toxic waste? According to Forbes, the unsolved problem of safe solar panel disposal “will explode with full force in two or three decades and wreck the environment.” Even wind turbines are causing damage to the environment by killing birds. So-called “green” energy is little more than a grift, and has nothing to do with averting some looming climate catastrophe.

Exposing the capitalist class’s abuse of science for all to see and educating working people is the only way we can hope to save our planet.

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