“Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do,” is often good advice. But sometimes what they “say” is precisely what they plan to do.
Case in point: A United Nations official named Volker Türk just published a column in Nature—the world’s most prestigious scientific journal—in which he proposes to “protect the right to science” to combat “climate change.”
Hide the silverware! When UN apparatchiks claim they want to “protect” us, what they usually intend is grabbing power for themselves.
That certainly seems the game that Mr. Türk has in mind (and, by extension, the science establishment, as his essay was published—free for all to read—in Nature). Because Mr. Türk’s prescription wouldn’t protect “science” in the least. Rather, it would undermine the scientific method by silencing dissent and stifling free debate.
Eviscerating freedom requires a dire justification. Sure enough, Mr. Türk claims that global warming is not just a problem to be addressed. It’s not even merely a crisis. No, it’s an utter catastrophe! The “era of global boiling” has arrived, meaning that “unless we take immediate and colossal steps to address it,” climate will become “an insurmountable threat to humanity’s future.”
Given the subject, you might think that Mr. Türk is a scientist. Nope. He’s a lawyer and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is ironic given that he wants to stifle scientific freedom of expression and dissent.
Mr. Türk doesn’t start out by saying so. He writes, “As the world marks 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must all remember that human rights exist to empower people, protect their lives and dignity, and curb humanity’s worst impulses.” That includes “the right … to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”
He then writes, “Addressing the crisis is possible only through open debate, critical thinking and evidence-based analysis.”
Applause. That’s what science should be all about—rousing debate, sharing different perspectives, orthodox and heterodox points of view contesting with each other to bring about the most accurate possible understandings of the world and its complex phenomena.
Ah, but Mr. Türk doesn’t really want “open debate.” Instead, international bureaucrat that he is, Mr. Türk really wants gatekeeping that only permits officially approved approaches, methods, and conclusions to govern climate policy.
He grouses, “We still see heavy corporate influence on regulatory processes, direct attacks on scientific studies, smear campaigns against scientists, misleading literature and exploitation of scientific illiteracy,” meaning perspectives are published with which he disagrees that confuse us ill-educated peons.
“Too many governments, policymakers and big-industry leaders are willfully shutting their eyes to science and deploying biased ‘experts’ to sow doubt and undermine scientific facts.”
Get it? Only the side he and the climate change establishment agree with aren’t “biased,” and only they should have a right to an equal say.
Mr. Türk explains: “The UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stipulates that industry and governments must make every effort possible to promote accurate scientific information. This means no more disinformation, no more disparagement and no more deliberately misinforming the public to erode understanding and respect for science.”
Well, if a UN committee “stipulates” it, that settles it!
Mr. Türk lays out a vision for protecting “science.” It’s laughable in its paradoxical reasoning. For example, he urges that “Society must protect scientific enquiry from conflicts of interest. Any individual tasked with developing or overseeing the implementation of public-health or environmental policy must disclose all commercial and institutional ties. This should be monitored independently and enforced through conflict-of-interest laws.”
Okay. But in the very next point, he argues that “governments should fund climate-change research at the level that the truly existential threat deserves.” Why wouldn’t that be a “conflict of interest?” Scientists would know that to get funding, they would have to offer only the most dire climate change scenarios, and moreover, that if they reached a different conclusion than wanted by the powers that be, government money would evaporate—meaning that Mr. Türk doesn’t support the free working of “science” at all.
Such scientific self-censorship isn’t just an abstract threat. Allegations are already being made that the deck is being stacked on this issue—and involving Nature, the very journal for which Mr. Türk wrote. In an important column published by The Free Press, climate scientist Patrick T. Brown—who isn’t a global warming skeptic—confessed that he fudged the findings of a study about recent wildfires by omitting important nuances. Why? Because he believed that such measured reportage would cause the editors to reject publication.
“I knew not to try to quantify key aspects [of the cause of fires] other than climate change in my research because it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell,” he wrote.
“The editors of these journals have made it abundantly clear, both by what they publish and what they reject, that they want climate papers that support certain preapproved narratives—even when those narratives come at the expense of broader knowledge for society.” (Nature’s editor denied the charge.) That’s the very censoring approach advocated by Mr. Türk.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Mr. Türk then goes from the ridiculous to the sublime. After appealing for the need to follow the approved science, he urges that climate policy be based on woke sentimentality:
“A diverse range of voices must be involved in informing climate and environmental policy. These include people who have been historically marginalized and denied the right to benefit from science, including women, children, Indigenous peoples, people of African descent, people with disabilities and people living in poverty.”
In other words, base policy on equity. That might make us feel good, but it wouldn’t be “science-based.”
Sigh. We have real problems in this world, one of which may be human contribution to climate change. But if the science establishment and international poohbahs want to convince the world that the threat is as dire as they claim, if they want to persuade people to follow their economy-endangering “immediate and colossal steps,” they will have to grow some humility and cease their ongoing attempts at stifling heterodox voices.
Otherwise, people won’t trust proposed climate policy as being based on the best “science,” but will suspect—rightly, in my view—that all their drumbeating is really just a strategy to accrue power for themselves.