Lately I've been wondering how groups of people on different sides of issues can come to such dramatically different conclusions about the direction of public policy. In many cases, those differences appear to be grounded in honest disagreements. That's how I see the abortion issue, for example, where personal beliefs dominate the political landscape like so many hair-trigger land mines.
In other areas, the differences seem more rooted in deep philosophical divisions where honesty gets caught in the cross fire. That's what's happening in the continuing debate about global climate change, where free-market fundamentalists looking for free-market solutions are cooking the scientific books in pursuit of an ideological agenda. We need look no farther than the Journal of the John Locke Puppetshow to see the phenomenon in action. Today's edition features an ad for another seedy little free-market tank called the Heartland Institute.
Heartland's mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.
Heartland and the Puppetshow are like Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill of reason to push their ideological viewpoint. And what do they think about scientific claims of human effects on climate change? They think what any free-market extremist would think. No problem, no worries. The magic hand of the free market will make everything wonderful and bright.
To give them their due, the scientific community is not unanimous. As is the case with any statistical analysis, scientists allow for the possibility there are other explanations.
"[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [defined in the report as a greater than 90 percent chance] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-caused] GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations." The IPCC's February 2007 Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis" similarly concluded that since 1750, "it is extremely likely [greater than a 95 percent chance] that humans have exerted a substantial warming influence on climate."
Latching on to the 5% chance, folks from the Puppetshow and Heartland literally get giddy in their mission to debunk the evidence that the vast majority of scientists accept. They select a set of delusions that fit their vision, and then distort those facts every chance they get.
From all I can see, these are not stupid people. They are clever and they work hard to pursue their free-market agenda.
Which means they must be liars.