Monday, February 17, 2014

WSJ Op-Ed: Once upon a time people understood skepticism was essential to good science. Kerry is trying to shut down democratic debate

Stephens: Climate Prophets and Profiteers
The most cynical part of John Kerry's climate-change speech.


Feb. 17, 2014 7:14 p.m. ET The Wall Street Journal

The weirdest thing about John Kerry's weekend speech on climate-change—other than the fact that this is the same guy who in 1997 voted to forbid the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol—is that it begins by quoting something Maurice Strong said at the U.N.'s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro: "Every bit of evidence I've seen persuades me that we are on a course leading to tragedy."

Maurice who?

Mr. Strong, a former oil executive from Canada (he was Pierre Trudeau's pick to run state-owned Petro-Canada in the mid-1970s), was for many years the U.N.'s ultimate mandarin. He organized many of its environmental mega-confabs, including the 1972 Stockholm Conference and the 1992 Rio summit, before rising to become Kofi Annan's right-hand man. At various times Mr. Strong has served as director at the World Economic Forum, chairman of the Earth Council and the World Resources Institute, vice chairman of the Chicago Climate Exchange and chairman of the China Carbon Corporation, to name just a few of his many prominent affiliations.

In 2005 it emerged that Mr. Strong, who was the chairman of the U.N. panel that created the Office of the Iraq Program, had accepted a check for close to $1 million from a South Korean businessman named Tongsun Park, who in the 1970s had been involved in an effort to bribe U.S. politicians. Mr. Strong claimed that the check, from a Jordanian bank, was meant as an investment in a family company that later went bankrupt. Mr. Park (who also sublet office space from Mr. Strong) later went to prison for trying to bribe U.N. officials overseeing the Oil-for-Food program that was propping up Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Mr. Strong was accused of no wrongdoing and has denied involvement in Oil-for-Food. He left the U.N. that year and moved to Beijing.

Maurice Strong in Beijing in January 2003

Draw your own conclusions. Ask yourself: Is this a guy who deserves a shout-out from the U.S. Secretary of State?

When John Kerry speaks, people wonder: Is he seriously clever or totally oblivious? Profound or void? Detective Columbo or Chance the gardener?

The secretary devoted much of his speech to venting spleen at those in the "Flat Earth Society" who dispute the 97% of climate scientists who believe in man-made global warming. "We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact," he said. Once upon a time people understood that skepticism was essential to good science. Now Mr. Kerry is trying to invoke a specious democracy among scientists to shut down democratic debate for everyone else.

This is of a piece with the amusing notion that the only thing standing in the way of climate salvation is a shadowy, greedy and powerful conspiracy involving the Koch Brothers, MIT's Dick Lindzen, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and this newspaper's editorial page. Oh, the power!

And yet there goes Mr. Kerry extolling Mr. Strong, who really does stand at the obscure intersection of public policy, private profits and the climate science that joins the two. "I have to disclose my own association with this process in my earlier role in the United Nations negotiations which established the basis for the development of these new [market] opportunities," Mr. Strong said in a 2007 speech, noting his roles in the Chicago Climate Exchange and the China Carbon Corporation.

If George W. Bush had left office and immediately joined the boards of defense contractors building MRAPs for Iraq, hard questions would be raised. When Maurice Strong, Al Gore and other climate profiteers seek to enrich themselves from policies they put into place while in office, it scarcely raises an eyebrow.

It should. The carbon-trading schemes enacted with such fanfare just a few years ago have effectively ceased to operate amid collapsing prices. The sustainable-energy craze produced the expensive bankruptcies of solar-panel maker Solyndra, Fisker Automotive and battery maker A123 Systems, to name a few. Germany, which has taken its climate-change fetish further than any other major economy, is now coming to grips with a comprehensive fiasco of higher energy prices and higher carbon emissions. Who would have thought that when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow, people might still want to switch on the lights?

It is now the dogma of the left that any hint of doubt when it comes to predictions of climate doom is evidence of greed, stupidity, moral turpitude or psychological derangement. "Climate denial" is intended to be the equivalent of Holocaust denial. And yet the only people who've predicted anything right so far are those who foresaw that the Kyoto Protocol would fail, that renewable energies didn't really work, and that climate bureaucrats accountable to nobody but their own sense of virtue and taste for profit were a danger to everyone.

Rereading Mr. Kerry's speech, I have to say he really does come across as a true believer. That it begins by citing Maurice Strong, the ultimate cynic, tells you what you need to know about where this strain of true belief leads.

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