243 Scared to Death

 Though I routinely recommend various books wishing them widely read, I occasionally finish one wishing everyone fully knew its contents, for, as the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (4:6).   Scared to Death:  From BSE to Global Warming:  Why Scares Are Costing Us the Earth (New York:  Continuum, c. 2007; 2009 reprint), by two British journalists, Christopher Booker and Richard North, is one of those books.  In brief, they document Shakespeare’s insight in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“In the night, imagining some fear, how easy is a bush supposed a bear”) showing how a succession of unfounded fears have panicked and harmed millions of people.  Each panic followed a “common pattern,” beginning with alleged scientific data portending a catastrophe in the making.  “Each has inspired obsessive coverage in the media.  Each has then provoked a massive response from politicians and officials, imposing new laws that inflicted enormous economic and social damage.  But eventually the scientific reasoning on which the panic was base has been found to be fundamentally flawed” (p. ix).  Though differing in details, they all resemble the “millennium bug” that so exercised millions of folks as January 2000 approached.  Eminent authorities warned of “potentially disastrous global consequences to both business and government” as computers were predicted to malfunction.  Scores of institutions invested millions of dollars preparing for the crisis.  But absolutely nothing happened!  

The first part of the book delves into a litany of “food scares” that profoundly affected Great Britain.  Beginning in 1985, a few cattle died as a result of brain infection—known as “cattle scrapie” and ultimately dubbed “Mad Cow Disease.”  At the same time scattered salmonella and listeria outbreaks led anxious experts to blame eggs and cheese as the culprits.  Government scientists and bureaucrats leapt into action, persuaded they needed to protect the public, decreeing the slaughter of herds and flocks.  Flooded with sensational statements in the newspapers and on TV, people around the world suddenly shunned British beef and eggs, bankrupting scores of small farmers.  Hygiene became a pressing and paramount issue, though food poisoning incidents “remained curiously stable” (p. 76).  Absolutely no evidence existed linking brain encephalopathies in livestock to human beings, yet nothing deterred government spokesmen and journalists from hyping the threat.  When the “Mad Cow disease” was finally  laid to rest, more than 8,000,000 cattle and sheep had been destroyed with a total cost of more than three billion pounds.  Comprehensively calculated, the panic cost twice that.  “Without question it was the most expensive food scare the world has ever seen” (p. 126).

Having examined, in detail, health-related scares in Britain, Booker and North devote the second part of Scared to Death to “general scares” that duplicate the same pattern.  “In many ways the first truly modern ‘scare’ was one that began in America” following the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 (p. 167).  She blamed DDT, a powerful insecticide widely used following WWII, for poisoning the environment and causing cancer.  Though it had been remarkably successful—reducing malaria mortality rates by 95 per cent—fervent  environmentalists quickly crusaded to ban DDT.  Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund effectively pushed for a world-wide ban on the substance, despite the fact that, as Michael Crichton said:  “‘Since the ban two million people a year have died unnecessarily from malaria, mostly children.  All together, the ban has caused more than fifty million needless deaths.  Banning DDT killed more people than Hitler’” (p. 170).  No solid studies have found DDT remotely responsible for cancer in human beings.  Indeed its worst consequence seems to be the thinning of eggshells for birds of prey.  An examination of  “The Modern Witch Craze” documents the incredible claims of Satanic ritualistic abuse of children enkindled in the 1980s.  Beginning with allegations brought by a California  mother who believed her son had been abused in the McMartin Infant School and sustained by a corps of social workers and counselors who insisted children’s stories could not be doubted, dozens of innocent people were brought to trial (in Britain as well as America) and imprisoned before mounting evidence demonstrated the folly of it all.  Some of the accused committed suicide.  We now know that social workers (armed with state authority) separated the children from their parents for weeks or even months at a time to interview them.  The children “were repeatedly plied with leading questions of a type which would never have been allowed in a courtroom” (p. 191).  Their outlandish stories, venturing into the fantastical, were taken literally by the psychological “experts” (often claiming to help children recover repressed memories) and all too frequently trusted by prosecutors.  In time most of the adult “culprits” were vindicated and we now know how untrustworthy both children’s stories and social workers’ constructions can actually be.  But the actual pain and suffering resulting from the witch craze can hardly be calculated.  

Few of us filling our gas tanks with unleaded fuel realize the high price we pay results, in part, from the billions of dollars wasted through the “lead scare” that mandated it.  Concentrated doses of lead (e.g. in ancient Roman water pipes) can certainly be toxic and its presence in gasoline helped pollute the air.  But lead is a “miraculous” additive to gasoline, significantly improving engine efficiency, and there was absolutely no evidence that leaded gas residue was any threat to public health.  However, a single, scientifically dubious study (by Robert Needleman, a child psychologist from the University of Pittsburg) alleging harmful effects on children’s intellectual development, was manipulated by politicians and the Environmental Protection Agency to mandate unleaded gasoline and justify a massive social change.  Yet Needleman was acclaimed and awarded for his work and given the Rachel Carson Award for Integrity in Science in 2004.  According to EPA administrator Carol Browner:  “‘The elimination of lead from gas is one of the great environmental achievements of all time’” (p. 234).   If so, one must wonder precisely what was actually achieved apart from fuzzy feelings about helping the children!  

While no one today doubts the lethal effects of smoking cigarettes, the threat of “passive smoking” can hardly be proven.  Smokers harm themselves but not “innocent” bystanders.  Yet during the past several decades activists have successfully campaigned to require, at considerable cost, a “smoke-free” environment virtually everywhere.  Thus for 20 years it has been illegal to smoke in California “workplaces, bars and restraints, but also within a yard and a half of any public building and on it famous beaches” (p. 254).  Allegations that thousands of people die each year due to “passive smoking” quite simply lack any statistical or factual basis.  Non-smokers may be  offended by the smell of tobacco smoke, but they suffer no real harm.  A massive research project, commissioned by the World Health Organization and conducted by 27 esteemed epidemiologists and cancer specialists, demonstrated this.   “Across the board and in all seven countries, their conclusions were consistent.  They found no evidence that there was any ‘statistically significant’ additional risk from passive exposure to smoke, either at home or in the workplace” (p. 256).  

Another study, “the longest and most comprehensive scientific study ever carried out into the effects of passive smoking anywhere in the world,” commissioned by the American Cancer Society, similarly concluded that “there was no ‘causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco-related mortality’” (p. 261).  One would think such evidence would lead to retractions and shifts in public pronounements and policy.  Wrong!  Anti-tobacco fanatics facilely disregarded the evidence, sought to suppress scholarly papers and silence dissenters, linking arms with politicians such as New York’s Mayor Bloomberg on their mission to purify the air of all taints of the hated weed!  Booker and North conclude:  “The triumph of the campaign against passive smoking had provided one of the most dramatic examples in history of how science can be bent and distorted for ideological reasons, to come up with findings that the evidence did not support, and which were in many ways the reverse of the truth.  In this respect, it provided one of the most vivid examples in modern times of the psychological power of the scare” (p. 270).  

Add to the fear of tobacco smoke the fear of asbestos, one of the world’s most wonderful fire-resistant minerals, widely used in water pipes, brake linings, and building materials.  It can be woven into cloth-like products or mixed with plaster and cement as a reinforcement stronger than steel.  As with tobacco, however, some forms of asbestos can prove deadly when inhaled and absorbed by the lungs.  This is true, however, of only one kind of it!  The more common “white asbestos” is “by far the most widely used” and “poses no measurable risk to human health” (p. 276).  Fully 90 percent of the asbestos found in America’s buildings was benign.  But the limited numbers of workers dying of cancer due to intensive exposures to the deadly form of  asbestos enabled scaremongering lawyers and contractors, buoyed by EPA edicts, to pounce on people’s ill-informed fear of any exposure to any kind of it.   Buildings of all sorts (churches, schools, factories, homes) must be cleansed!  Companies must be punished through lawsuits—and, in time, great corporations such as Johns-Manville were destroyed and even Lloyds of London nearly collapsed.  Cunning lawyers extracted billions of dollars from beleaguered asbestos suppliers.  Legislative efforts to curtail the proliferating lawsuits were blocked “by a caucus of Democrat senators [e.g. Joe Biden; Edward Kennedy; John Kerry; Hillary Clinton; John Edwards] who had each received huge sums in campaign funding from law firms” (p. 322).  Ultimately, says Professor Lester Brickman:  “Asbestos litigation has come to consist, mainly, of non-sick people . . . claiming compensation for non-existent injuries, often testifying according to prepared scripts with perjurious contents, and often supported by specious medical evidence . . . it is . . . a massively fraudulent enterprise that can rightly take its place among the pantheon of . . . great American swindles’” (p. 273).  

Even more devastating is the irrational fear of global warming, “the new secular religion,” which is now fraudulently branded “climate change” since the evidence for actual warming has faded.  Objective historians have long noted significant climate changes—a “pre-Roman Cold” period (700-400 B.C), a “Roman Warming” time (200 B.C.-500 A.D), a cold era during the “Dark Ages” (500-900 A.D), a “Medieval Warming” time (900-1300 A.D.), a “Little Ice Age” (1300-1800), and the “Modern Warming” era we’re now in.  It has been much warmer, and much colder, in the past two millennia.  But hugely influential and well-funded scientists such as Michael Mann have distorted the record with sensational “evidence” including his spurious “hockey stick” graph that flattened out both the Medieval Warming and Little Ice Age.  Alarmists such as Mann seek to demonstrate temperature change with data from a single “1993 study of one group of trees in one untypical corner of the USA” (p. 359) and an “unqualified acceptance of the recent temperature readings given by hundreds of weather stations across the earth’s surface” (p. 359).  Ignored is evidence from weather satellites or the probable contamination of weather stations near urban centers.  

Bolstered by suspicious scientific pronouncements, activists such as Al Gore and Barack Obama have ignited widespread fears and orchestrated policies designed to fundamentally alter human behavior on earth through such things as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.  Though Gore’s documentary—“An Inconvenient Truth”—won awards in various quarters, it was perceptively labeled, by an Australian paleoclimatologist, as “‘a propaganda crusade’” largely “‘based on junk science.  ‘His arguments are so weak that they are pathetic.  It is incredible that they and his film are commanding public attention’” (p. 378).   Calling for a curtailment on burning fossil fuels or developing nuclear energy (by far the best solution to the problem of greenhouse gases), Gore and his green corps demand the development of various forms of “green energy.”  Interestingly enough, environmentalist rhetoric subtly shifted from warning regarding “global warming” to admonitions for “green energy”!  Yet to this point highly-touted “green alternatives” such as wind turbines make little dent on the production of carbon dioxide—e.g. the 1200 turbines  built in Britain that produce only one-eighth of the electricity supplied by one coal-fired plant in Yorkshire!  

In fact, “climate change” is most likely driven by solar activity and clouds, with only minimal impact attributable to human activities.  “In many respects, however, the alarm over global warming was only the most extreme example of all the scares described in this book.  Yet again it had followed the same familiar pattern:  the conjuring up of some great threat to human welfare, which had then been exaggerated far beyond the scientific evidence; the collaboration of the media in egging on the scare; the tipping point when the politicians marshaled all the machinery of government in support of the scare; and finally the wholly disproportionate regulatory response inflicting immense economic and social damage for a highly questionable benefit” (p. 403).  

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Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s The Greatest Hoax:  How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future (Los Angeles:  WND Books, c. 2012) seeks to counter the positions promoted by Al Gore and environmental alarmists.  Throughout the book Senator Inhofe pillories Gore, oft-times portrayed by the media as a “climate prophet” or “Goricle.”  Indeed, “Katie Couric famously said that Gore was a ‘Secular Saint,’ and Ophrah Winfrey said that he was the ‘Noah’ of our time” (Kindle #1182)   Obviously Gore and environmentalists have embraced and promote a religion rather than a scientific position.  Thus dissenters from the environmentalist dogma like Inhofe are treated as heretics akin to “Holocaust deniers”!  To Robert F. Kennedy Jr., those who dare differ with Gore are traitors!  To deal with them, one journalist “called for Nuremberg-style trials for climate skeptics” (#1372)!   Their research must be proscribed, their publications censored!  

Folks such as Couric and Kennedy are, manifestly, full-fledged true believers who revel in hysterical rhetoric.  Folks like Senator Inhofe, in opposition, join a distinguished minority of highly-informed people who question the devotees of “climate change.”  Thus they find credible scientists such as Dr. Claude Allegre, a noted French geophysicist, “a former French Socialist Party leader, a member of both the French and U.S. Academies of Science, and one of the first scientists to sound the global warming alarm—who changed around 2006 from being a believer to a skeptic” (#1903).  Joining Allegre, Dr. David Bellamy, highly acclaimed, figure in the UK, was “also converted into a skeptic after reviewing the science.  Bellamy said that “‘global warming is largely a natural phenomenon’ and said that catastrophic fears were ‘poppycock.’  ‘The world is wasting stupendous amounts of money on trying to fix something that can’t be fixed,’ and ‘climate-change people have no proof for their claims.  They have computer models which do not prove anything’” (#1919).  

Sitting on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe has political acumen and access to substantive scientific studies.  Consequently he played a critical role in defeating President Obama’s “cap and trade” proposals.  (He was, importantly, working at the same time to pass the Clear Skies Act, designed to improve air quality, so he can hardly be dismissed as an enemy of environmental health).  He proudly labels himself “a one man truth squad” on the global warming issue and includes a great deal of personal details regarding his background and concerns regarding the state of the American Union.  Consequently:  “This book, constitutes the wake-up call for America—the first and only complete history of the Greatest Hoax, who is behind it, the true motives, how we can defeat it—and what will happen if we don’t” (#88).  He knows, for example, according to the testimony of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, that even if the U.S. enacted the most stringent policies designed to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere “it would only reduce global temperatures by 0.06 degrees Celsius by 2050.  Such a small amount is hardly even measurable” (#140).  Still more:  “‘No study to date  has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed] to anthropogenic causes’” (#706).  

So what’s actually taking place within the global warming scaremongering?  “Looking back, it is clear that the global warming debate was never really about saving the world; it was about controlling the lives of every American.  MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen summed it up perfectly in March 2007 when he said ‘Controlling carbon is a bureaucrat’s dream.  If you control carbon, you control life’” (#440).  There’s no question that “progressives” from Woodrow Wilson to Barack Obama have striven to take control of our lives, purportedly to maximize pleasure and minimize pain for the public.  More broadly, to Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic:  “‘The global warming religion is an aggressive attempt to use the climate for suppressing our freedom and diminishing our prosperity.”  It is a “totally erroneous doctrine which has no solid relation to the science of climatology but is about power in the hands of unelected global warming activists ” (#19).  Klaus writes with an understanding of what European leaders such as French President Jacques Chirac envision when they tout the Kyoto treaty as “‘the first component of an authentic global governance’” (#553).  Equally perceptive, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper “called Kyoto a ‘socialist scheme’” (#561).  Consequently, Inhofe concludes:  “it is crystal clear that this debate was never about saving the world from man-made global warming; it was always about how we live our lives. It was about whether we wanted the United Nations to ‘level the playing field worldwide’ and ‘redistribute the wealth.’  It was about government deciding what forms of energy we could use” (#3280).  

Senator Inhoff’s book takes its title from his “Greatest Hoax” Senate speech, and he is deeply convinced that “global warming” or “climate change” is indeed a bogus scenario manufactured by liberal elites who “truly believe that they know how to run things better than any individual country ever could.  In this way they are like ‘super-liberals’ on an international scale.  On one of its websites, the UN even claims that its ‘moral authority’ is one of its ‘best properties’” (#653).  This moral authority apparently resides in the UN’s self-righteous commitment “to the utopian ideals of global socialism” (#653), frequently promoted as necessary for “sustainable development.   The spurious nature of this Hoax became clear when “Climategate, the greatest scientific scandal of our time broke” (#2319).  A careful reading of the emails between scientists in the UK and US (reprinted in considerable detail as an appendix to this treatise) reveals, in the words of Clive Crook:  “‘The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me.  The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering’” (#2359).  

The Greatest Hoax is important primarily because of its author’s position in government.  Inhofe  has, to the degree possible for a busy politician, studied the evidence, assembled the data, and come to a reasoned conclusion regarding one of the most momentous issues of our day.  If the global warming alarmists are wrong, to follow their admonition can irreparably harm not only this nation but the world, plunging us into a cataclysmic economic and social black hole.

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