Liberals Don’t Understand the First Amendment–or the Climate, Either

We have written a number of times about the Left’s effort to smear scientists who don’t toe the alarmist line on global warming. Apart from generally suggesting that “deniers” be jailed, liberals are trying to discredit realist scientists by claiming that they are funded by the fossil fuel industry or other supposedly nefarious interests.

This is hugely ironic. The American environmental movement is paid for in part by oil interests–Russian oil interests, which don’t want American petroleum developed via fracking. Beyond that, alarmist scientists are massively funded, to the tune of billions of dollars every year, by the worst special interest of them all: government. Governments have more at stake in the global warming controversy than anyone: they largely invented it, and use it as a pretext for a grab for power over their respective economies. Which is to say, over their citizens’ lives.

One aspect of the Left’s campaign is a series of 100 letters that Democratic Senators Whitehouse, Markey and Boxer have sent to conservative think tanks and fossil fuel-related companies, demanding to know about any “payments made in support of scientific research and scientists, as well as support for other efforts related to climate change….” Koch Industries was one of the 100 entities that received the Democrats’ letter, and we wrote here about the apt response from Koch’s general counsel, Mark Holden, to the three senators. Holden wrote, in part:

The activity and efforts about which you inquire, and Koch’s involvement, if any, in them, are at the core of the fundamental liberties protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To the extent that your letter touches on matters that implicate the First Amendment, I am sure you recognize Koch’s right to participate in the debate of important public policy issues and its right of free association. …

In reviewing your letter, I did not see any explanation or justification for an official Senate Committee inquiry into activities protected by the First Amendment. Under the circumstances, we decline to participate in this endeavor and object to your apparent efforts to infringe upon and potentially stifle fundamental First Amendment activities.

The Cato Institute has sent a similar letter. I do not know how other parties have responded, if at all.

Now, in true McCarthyite fashion, Democrats have taken the position that companies and institutions that stand up for their constitutional rights must have something to hide. Ed Markey’s spokesman, Eben Burnham-Snyder, told the National Journal, “Companies that are supporting legitimate, scientific inquiry should have no concerns about responding.” That’s straight out of the HUAC playbook: “If you aren’t a Communist, you should be glad to answer our questions!” Or, “If you have nothing to hide, why do you object to the government reading your emails?” No citizen should be asked to account to the government for exercising his constitutional rights.

The fact that Democrats don’t support the First Amendment is nothing new. Senators Whitehouse, Markey and Boxer were among those who voted for a constitutional amendment that would have gutted the First Amendment by revoking the constitutional right to support candidates in political campaigns. I wrote at the link:

Note that under the amendment, Congress could both “regulate” and “set reasonable limits on” raising and spending money on elections. The power to “regulate” is not qualified by any other term of the amendment except Section 3, which means that a Democratic Congress would have the power to regulate campaign spending by prohibiting all spending on behalf of Republican candidates, or in opposition to Democratic candidates. Ridiculous! you might say–that would obviously be unconstitutional. Not any more it wouldn’t be; not if the Democrats get their way. The First Amendment would be repealed as it relates to politics.

There is a reason, of course, why the Left is trying to clamp down on freedom of speech and is smearing realist scientists: it is getting clobbered in the scientific debate. The Left’s insistence that “the science is settled” is ludicrous, in view of the fact that at the end of 2013, the IPCC cut its prediction of future warming in half. The alarmists’ models have failed the test of observation, the only test that matters. They are no good.

For an introduction to the current state of the climate debate, I recommend this transcript of a day-long “Climate Change Statement Review Workshop” conducted by the American Physical Society, in which six eminent climate scientists participated. The event took place a year ago, but is representative of contemporary climate science, which is in its infancy: virtually every proposition is debatable, and debated. Andy May summarizes the proceedings at Watts Up With That?.

Finally, it should be noted that the real scandal here–the US government spending billions of taxpayer dollars to fund poorly-done scientific research, but only if it supports a conclusion that facilitates the government’s power grab–is at last getting some attention. Dr. Judith Curry is one of the world’s most respected climate scientists. At her web site, Dr. Curry notes a paper on how politics and finance affect the climate “consensus.”

I have long been concerned about the role of IPCC in torquing the direction of climate science and promoting groupthink. I spotted a link on twitter to this very interesting paper, that has clarified my thinking on this issue.

Causes and consequences of the climate science boom

William Butos and Thomas McQuade

Abstract. Scientific disciplines, like economies, can and do experience booms and busts. We document a boom in climate science, sustained by massive levels of funding by government entities, whose scientific direction is set by an extra-scientific organization, the IPCC, which has emerged as a “big player” in the scientific arena, championing the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming. We note the difficulties in obtaining definitive empirical clarity due to the complex nature of climate, the feedback between the effects of the IPCC’s advocacy and the government’s willingness to fund the science, the ideological and political agendas at play, the dangers to the integrity of scientific procedure in the context of ideological bias, and the poor performance of the “crony capitalist” enterprises that have grown on the back of politicized science.

Forthcoming in the Independent Review.

There is much more at the link, including this:

Science, in rare cases, is also susceptible to another sort of Big Player: one with the ability to portray a favored hypothesis as settled, consensus scientific knowledge even in the absence of a substantial body of confirming evidence. The IPCC has taken on that Big Player role in climate science.

You can see why the alarmists have gotten hysterical, going so far as to threaten to jail those who point out the flaws in their data and reasoning.