How Big Brother Is Using the National Parks and Other Agencies to Promote His Climate Religion Using Your Tax DollarsAlan Carlin | September 28, 2010
The Obama Administration has made many efforts to support its climate religion (climatism). Since this viewpoint has no basis in the scientific method, it is not science and would seem best characterized as religion. For a list of what the Administration believes they have done see page 27 here. The first item listed is $80 billion (with a “b”) for “clean and efficient energy in ARRA” (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly called the stimulus bill). Since most of this expenditure will not stimulate anything except the income of politically favored alternative energy providers and their suppliers and future higher cost energy for rate-payers, it is highly unlikely to be very stimulative for the economy as a whole.
The Administration Has Also Embarked on an Extensive Propaganda Campaign in Behalf of Climatism
Although not mentioned in the list of Administration efforts linked above but perhaps at least as worrisome, the Administration appears to have embarked on an extensive propaganda campaign to promote its climate religion to the general public at taxpayers’ expense. They have gone well beyond trying to defend their proposed greenhouse gas regulations by the US Environmental Protection Agency and are attempting to use other EPA programs and other agencies under their control to promote their viewpoint on this subject without the approval of and perhaps even the knowledge of Congress.
Recent news reports are that EPA is now proposing to require that information on greenhouse gas emissions by new automobiles be added to the mileage labels required on all new cars. Such Federal “educational” efforts are not limited to EPA, however. A recent news item reports that AmeriCorps is funding interns in Marin County Schools in California to assist with a climate change education program also designed to motivate students and their families to take voluntary energy efficiency actions to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Department of Education’s Plans for an “Education” Program
Even more recently, the Secretary of Education announced that his Department plans to “help advance the sustainability movement through education” through Federally subsidized school programs beginning as early as kindergarten that teach children about climate change and prepare them “to contribute to the workforce through green jobs.” His intention is that the Department’s efforts will “explain the science behind climate change and how we can change our daily practices to help save the planet.”
My comment is that one of the reasons that the Federal Government does not have primary responsibility for education is to avoid the possibility that it could directly inculcate the viewpoints of those currently in power on students throughout the country. But when funds for education at the state and local level are short, the Federal Government may believe that it has found a way around this restriction.
A National Park Service Effort
Most of this post, however, will deal with the expansion to the National Park Service (NPS), which may not have been so widely publicized but appears to be further along in its implementation so that it is easier to visualize what the “educational” efforts by other departments may look like when fully implemented. Because the Park Service is often viewed as an impartial source of objective information on natural history subjects, the NPS effort may carry added weight with citizens who view it, although the attempts to teach climatism to children as early as kindergarten may also be viewed as likely to be unusually “effective” by those desiring such an outcome.
The National Park Service’s Traveling Climate Change Exhibit
On a recent visit to the Visitor Center for North Cascades National Park near Newhalem, Washington, I encountered a large “traveling” exhibit panel entitled “Arrange for Change” with NPS and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) symbols indicating sponsorship. Rangers at the Visitor Center reported that it had been there for about a month and had come from Lewis and Clark National Historic Park and would soon move to another park. It was apparently intended as a temporary exhibit since the more permanent exhibit it replaced was still partially visible behind the large new exhibit in front of it. There were no handouts or other written material provided with the exhibit or available from those rangers asked so visitors would necessarily have to go by the exact contents of the exhibit in formulating their views on the subjects raised.
Briefly, the exhibit attempts to summarize the case for climatism with an emphasis on evidence from and impacts on national parks and ends by stating in the fourth of four sections (in the lower right of the written area of the exhibit and in the photograph above) that:
“Perhaps one of the best strategies for coping with change is for each person to become ‘carbon neutral’ in their daily lives. This can be accomplished by reducing energy use and investing in practices and alternate technologies that offset carbon emissons we are generating.”
Although the exhibit adheres closely to the standard climatism religion, and is therefore subject to the many general criticisms (see, for example, here and here) of it, I do have a number of questions and concerns about particular points made in the exhibit. First of all, the recommended strategy assumes a degree of altruism rarely seen in the real world since anyone who adopted the advice would have to engage in less energy-using activities and/or pay others to reduce their emissions through buying offsets. This is the reason that most advocates want mandatory standards so that everyone would have to endure similar losses whether they are altruistic or not.
The Rationale Is the Usual Climatism but without the Usual References
The rationale for all this may be a little hard to understand by those not familiar with the climatism viewpoint. The first of the four sections in the exhibit states that:
“The scientific consensus is that global temperature in now rising at a rate unprecedented in the experience of modern human society (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2004). Scientists also say most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”
Accompanying these words is the Mona Loa CO2 level chart showing steady increases over the years 1960 to about 2004.
This first section has a few problems. It relies almost exclusively on the authority of largely unspecified “scientists.” Since there is some evidence that temperatures rose at a similar rate in the 1920-30s, and, in fact for similar periods in the gradually rising 60 year cycles exhibited by global temperatures since the Little Ice Age (see here and my Comments, which can be downloaded from here), it is difficult to understand how the authors of the exhibit believe that global temperatures are “rising at a rate unprecedented in the experience of modern human society.” Perhaps more important is the lack of a citation (such as perhaps various IPCC reports) for the even more doubtful statement that most warming over the last 50 years is due to human activities. The implication of the Mona Loa chart would seem to be that the increasing levels of CO2 are due to human activities, although this is certainly not stated and highly doubtful. Finally, no mention is made of the alternative hypothesis that the rise in CO2 levels is an effect of rising ocean temperatures sometime in the past rather than anything humans may have done since rising ocean temperatures mean that the oceans cannot hold as much CO2.
Exhibit Says Wildland Fires Have Increased–But Is This a Result of a Policy Change?
Lower Left Section of NPS/NASA Exhibit on Arrange for Change (click to enlarge)
The lower left section is entitled “Changes Disrupt Park Use.” The text states that:
“Higher temperatures in spring and summer and earlier melting of the snow pack in recent years have contributed to an increase in the frequency and duration of wildland fires. This increase in wildfires often causes park facilities to close. The 2006 fire season set a 45-year-high in the number of acres burned. 2006 was also the hottest January through July on record in America’s parks. In many parks, wintry weather is beginning later and ending earlier. Although this makes for a longer season of hiking and camping it reduces opportunities for recreational skiing and other winter sports due to inadequate snow cover. These impacts have economic implications.”
This section also has pictures of a plume from a forest fire and a cross-country skier.
No source is given for the temperature statement; it does seem odd that the period January through July was chosen rather than a full year, which would seem to be slightly more relevant (but hardly conclusive for assessing whether there really has been climatic change). Presumably most fires occur in the late summer or early fall, which is excluded from the period referenced. Also, I thought that the Park Service had changed its views concerning the role of fires in parks and now regards naturally-originated fires as good rather than a target for suppression. In some cases it even carries out controlled burns. Could it be that the increase in the number of acres burned was the result of this change in policy rather than climate change? The exhibit does not explain. It should also be pointed out that attempts to control carbon emissions also have economic impacts–and quite likely little, if any, impact.
Exhibit Claims Climate Change Is Happening on the Basis of Two Pictures and a Cute Endangered Pika
The upper right section is entitled “Climate Change Is Happening.” It shows two pictures labelled Northwestern Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, 1909 and 2005, respectively. The former appers to show a much larger glacier and more mountain snow than the latter. No month or day of the year is provided for either photograph. The text states:
“Warmer winters and longer, more intense periods of melting have increased the rate of glacial retreat in many parks, as demonstrated by the Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is estimated by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey that by 2030, many of the glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park will be completely gone. In Yosemite, the pike population is endanger of extinction as warming temperatures are shifting their cool habitat higher and higher on the mountainsides.”
A picture of a pika is provided.
There is undoubtedly some climate change occurring on Earth, just as there has been for billions of years, but this section of the presentation does not make a case for climate change due to human activity as opposed to natural forces. And unless there is change due to human activity, there is no basis for “solving” the “problem” by modifying human behavior. With regard to the claim in the exhibit that there has been climate change in the parks, since no month is given when the two photographs were taken it is not possible to say whether the change in mountain snow levels between them is due to differences in time of year or in climate.
Such is not the case, however, for the extent of the glacier since that is much less dependent on time of the year but is greatly dependent on the amount of precipitation in the form of snow. It is important to note that the year 1909 is at or near the low point in the 60 year natural climate cycle while 2005 is near the top of this natural cycle (see my Comments downloadable from here), so some or even all of the differences in the extent of the glacier may be explainable by the natural 60 year climate cycle or changes in snow precipitation rather than any change in human emissions. If so, there may be climate change, but not necessarily human-induced climate change.
Some Questions About the Appropriateness of Using Public Funds to Directly Influence Public Opinion on a Highly Partisan Issue
In addition to the substantive issues raised above concerning the statements in the exhibit, it is very important to question the appropriateness of having the exhibit in a national park, paying Americorps interns to teach climatism to students, or using Federal subsidies to teach climatism in the schools. The effort appears to be widespread enough in the Federal Government so that it may have been directed from the White House, but it is possible that these various efforts are the result of individual departments attempting to curry favor with the Administration by supporting known Administration viewpoints. It would be interesting, however, to learn just how widespread these efforts are in the Executive Branch and how much is being spent on them.
The critical question, it seems to me, is whether taxpayers should pay for trying to influence the opinions of park visitors or students concerning a highly partisan issue which has split the Democrats in Congress and united the Republicans in the Senate in opposition. The highly questionable views (see my Comments downloadable here) attributed to “scientists” presented by the exhibit make no effort to present a balanced viewpoint by the many scientists who have presented differing views on the subject. And if such attempts are made to influence public opinion is it not the Park Service’s and each school’s responsibility to present all viewpoints in a balanced way, which is presumably what they try to do with their many other presentations to the public/students? Have the Park Service and Americorps and the Department of Education become mere propaganda arms for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government? Since climatism is currently a highly partisan debate in Congress and some state legislatures, should these agencies use taxpayer funds to support one side of the debate with no mention of the opposing viewpoints?
I think the answer to these questions should be for Federal agencies to get out of the climate change education business. Big Brother should not be attempting to sell his religious views to students or park visitors. Since the Administration appears unlikely to do this on its own, probably the easiest way to implement such restrictions is to prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds for the purpose of promoting climatism to the public.