“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”
The author? Herr Adolf Hitler. The book was Mein Kampf (My Struggle), the autobiographical manifesto of the Nazi leader published in 1925 and 1926. One of the biggest contemporary pernicious lies that is being repeated — and therefore believed by the public — is about climate change and the imminent global catastrophe that is certain to follow if costly steps are not immediately taken.
Let’s be clear about one thing. The climate is changing. The climate has always changed. That’s the nature of the thing. Earth’s climate is a massively complex dynamic system that evolves over time due to many factors, many of which are outside current human technological control. What cannot be changed has to be endured and adjusted to.
How much of the current climate change is due to human activity is an empirical question, not a matter that can be settled through dogma or doctrine. Perhaps human activity has had only a marginal impact on the climate, perhaps it has been major.
Further questions follow: how much can humans do to mitigate the bad effects of climate change (positive analysis), what should we do (normative analysis), how should we do it (prescriptive analysis), how much will it cost, who will bear those costs, who are best able to bear the costs, who should bear the costs, etc.
All of those positive, normative and prescriptive questions are being seriously addressed by competent professionals. It’s important to pay attention to them, not to hysterical teenagers featured in the social media circus.
But the public at large does not have the time, the interest or the ability to seriously consider the findings of experts. It’s much easier to believe in what is persistently repeated.
Repeat a lie often enough and it will be believed. (It is repeatedly claimed that that statement was made by Dr. Goebbels, Hitler’s minister for propaganda. That’s why people believe that Goebbels said it but in fact he did not. It’s a self-referential statement in the sense it demonstrates the truth of the statement.)
Every severe weather event is taken as proof positive that the world is going to hell in a handbasket at supersonic speeds. Every wildfire in California, every hurricane that ends up in the temperate latitudes is greeted with hysterical calls for drastic governmental action. What’s lost in the din is the question: is this extraordinary or is it what’s been naturally occurring for eons.
We all need to calm down a bit. It’s time to heed the advice that appears on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. DON’T PANIC.
Looking at the data helps in avoiding panic. Here’s an example of data that gives a lie to the frequent claim that hurricanes are increasing in frequency and intensity — and therefore catastrophic climate change.
“Last 50-years of tropical storms and hurricanes on Earth.
4341 named storms
2356 became hurricane strength (74 mph+) = 54%”
What the hurricane data show is that there’s no trend. Hurricanes today are what they have been at least for the last 50 years. (The graph is current as of Nov 23rd. It documents 83 tropical storms for 2019, of which 45 qualified as hurricanes.)
Climate changes. The world is not doomed. Stuff happens. We humans cope and thrive. Don’t panic.
(The question though is, who are the people who are lying and what do they hope to gain from their lies?)