Why do so many apparently informed, intelligent, educated people still believe in ManBearPig¹?
For the same reason that the U.S. underestimated the Japanese threat before Pearl Harbor; that JFK got embroiled in the Bay of Pigs disaster; that LBJ dragged the U.S. deeper and deeper into the Vietnam War.
A phenomenon known as ‘groupthink’.
Though the name dates back to a 1952 article in Fortune magazine by William H Whyte, it wasn’t popularized for another twenty years when a Yale research psychologist called Irving Janis used it in the title of his influential 1972 Victims of Groupthink.
Little did he know it – Janis was looking to past events like the ones mentioned above, not the future – but his book would anatomize with unerring accuracy the perverse mindset which would lead to the creation of the biggest, most expensive junk science scam the world has ever witnessed: the great global warming scare.
This is the subject of a must-read paper for the Global Warming Policy Foundation by Christopher Booker: Global Warming – A Case Study in Groupthink.
Though it’s quite a long read, I do recommend you have at least a dip because it contains so many pertinent answers to that question you so often hear from global warming true believers: “What kind of crazy conspiracy theorist would you have to be to think that so many experts from science, politics, business, the media, even the oil industry would lie to us about the scale of the problem?”
But as Booker – via Janis – shows, there’s a much more simple explanation than conspiracy theory. It has to do with the bizarre, but very well documented tendency many humans have towards embracing fashionable nonsense.
According to Janis there are three rules of groupthink.
Rule One. A group of people come to share a common view or belief that in some way is not properly based on reality.
Rule Two. Because their common view/belief cannot be subjected to external proof they have to reinforce its authority by claiming ‘consensus.’ The idea is to emphasize that all right-thinking people hold this view and that it is no longer open to challenge.
Rule Three: Anyone who disputes this ‘consensus’ must be excluded from the discussion: at best marginalized; at worst openly attacked or discredited.
These, Janis showed, were the rules which led to the Pearl Harbor/Korean War/Bay of Pigs/Vietnam War disasters above.
They are also, as Booker shows, the rules which explain the current global warming hysteria.
The scare originated in the imaginations of a tiny handful of people. Just three in fact.
First of these was a Swedish meteorologist called Bert Bolin who had been obsessed, since the late 50s, with the idea that carbon dioxide, being a greenhouse gas, must inevitably precipitate potentially disastrous global warming.
Next came Dr John Houghton, an evangelical Christian and former professor of atmospheric physics at Oxford, who became seized with the spirit of Bolin’s notion – and proceeded to proselytize on its behalf via his influential position as head of the UK Met Office.
And the third of this unholy trinity was the hugely rich Canadian businessman and Marxist Maurice Strong who knew little about the environment but who quickly grasped that it was the perfect cause he could exploit to advance his left-wing global agenda.
Without this trio’s passion, energy and influence, the entire global warming scare might never have happened. But between them they had the necessary skillset to push their pet issue onto the world stage and embed it in global political consciousness. This they did under the auspices of the United Nations, via a series of conferences – Geneva in 1979; Villach, Austria in 1985; and ultimately the Rio Earth summit in 1992 – which caused interest in global warming to snowball.
In 1988, thanks to their efforts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its inaugural meeting. It was sold to the world as an impartial body of scientists but it was never any such thing. Right from the start it had a political purpose which trumped any scientific one: to assert the existence of man-made climate change and to urge dramatic, concerted action to stop it.
Does all this so far sound like a denialist’s paranoid conspiracy theory? Of course it does. But that’s OK – thanks to Christopher Booker’s expert marshalling of the facts, we can fully back up these scandalous allegations.
¹ For the un-hip: ManBearPig was an episode in South Park in which Al Gore frightened the life out of everybody with the story of a monster called ManBearPig.
Because Gore actually became rich on a monster called Global Warming, cynics began calling global warming and climate change ManBear Pig