Climate Change: When Two Tribes Go To War


By Ian Wishart

Have you ever wondered why every climate change discussion ever held on earth in the past decade has turned pear-shaped and gone toxic? It seems you cannot get two antagonists alone together without one calling the other names within about three comments.

Why is that? Well, I think I know.

The climate change debate is not actually about the science, it’s about the culture wars. It’s about two tribes.

I’m a chronicler of the culture wars, so I have more than a passing interest in the game, but I came to my conclusion that the science is no longer determinative after making a couple of recent posts on Facebook.

In the first I linked to a Daily Mail report on a new study predicting a looming mini ice age based on a big drop in solar activity.

Admittedly the link played right into my hands because I had predicted this exact scenario six years ago in my climate book Air Con:

“Interestingly, the peak of solar activity broke at the end of the 1990s, with a brief blip in March 2002, then slumped significantly to almost no sunspot activity, lessening the sun’s grip on our climate and heralding the start of a cooling trend from 1999 onwards that is still continuing, El Niño fluctuations notwithstanding.

“By 2008, misleadingly named “the tenth warmest year on record”, sunspot activity had dwindled to just 6 spots for the entire year, down from nearly 175 a year at the start of the decade. Officially, the sun was “blank” for 266 days of 2008, making it the quietest year on the sun since 1913. That means the sun has been less active in 2008 than in any of the preceding 95 years. Has it run out of fizz? Are we heading for a new little ice age? Not necessarily. It is too early to make predictions.

“Astronomers have no choice but to watch and wait for sunspots in cycle 24 to emerge, and see whether the sun revs up again or whether it is indeed slowing down.”

Six years after I first wrote those words in Air Con, the jury is in, the sun is powering down.

But when I posted the Daily Mail link to Facebook, a number of my greener followers lambasted it as oil funded denialism from the Koch brothers, while others said “Daily Mail, enough said”.

So I posted the study press release from ScienceDaily. Even then the climate change believers were in denial.

Then came a new report on that perennial favourite, West Antarctic ice melt. The Pine Island glacier is the fastest melting glacier in the world, and is held up as a harbinger of an ice sheet teetering in the drink. Again, here’s what I wrote in Air Con six years ago:

“Global warming does not seem to be the culprit. Instead, the massive glacier is sitting close to an active volcano buried under the ice, providing plenty of incentive for the ice to scoot towards the coast. That particular volcano is on land, albeit under an ice sheet, but the area is active and it’s quite possible other vents exist under the sea ice shelves, just like they do in the Arctic.”

Lo and behold, what is the story I just linked to on Facebook saying:

Geothermal heating from within the Earth’s core – as opposed to the possibly warming air or sea – has been measured beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet for the first time ever. And, we are told, it is “surprisingly high.”

So, you’d think in the face of these findings from two peer reviewed studies that climate change believers would acknowledge the possibility that rising CO2 may not be the cause of West Antarctic melt. But no:

“Just so you know who the GWPF is,” wrote one climate activist – attacking the website reporting the study rather than dealing with the study evidence itself, “From WIkipedia. Feels like they’re another fossil-fooled sponsored propaganda machine.”

An ad hominem argument, attacking the messenger, not the substance of the message.

Why can this tribe not engage with the science?

“Ian , I don’t know why you are so consistently wrongheaded on your opinions on this issue unless you are being paid by Big Oil or others who support the status quo,” wrote another, ignoring a sceptic who politely pointed out that volcanoes under the ice were a point of fact, “not opinions”.

Their responses were typical of the climate change belief tribe. The actual evidence was not actually important to them. Far more important was the “belief” that they held: humans cause rising CO2 emissions, CO2 is causing unstoppable global warming, evidence of warming is all around us. Anything, or more accurately ‘anyone’, challenging that ‘belief’ is to be ridiculed, smashed, marginalised. Anyone with the temerity to suggest the climate Emperor has no clothes is set upon and mugged.

This is evidence, if ever you needed it, that belief in human-caused climate change is religious in nature, not science-dominated. If it were science dominated, followers would acknowledge and address the evidence in studies like these two.

Which got me thinking. Why are these two tribes so different in their approach to this vexatious issue?

As a former believer in global warming in my days as a senior producer in radio and TV in the eighties and nineties, I had transitioned to a climate sceptic in the 2000s, so I re-examined my own journey.

I had ‘believed’ in the early stages because the scientific theory appeared to be plausible. Sure, I was a member of the liberal media and a paid-up member of Greenpeace for more than a decade – I’d been attracted to the group because I’d been one of the first journalists on the scene of the 1985 Rainbow Warrior bombing, and because of their stance on driftnet fishing and whales. I donated reasonably heavily to the cause. However, I was also an investigative journalist who’d been trained to ‘test the evidence’.

That’s what eventually forced my transition. As a senior editor and former political spinmeister, I recognised a PR campaign when I saw it and increasingly the evidence for human-caused global warming was become scantier whilst the PR hype grew louder – which I knew was standard practice when the evidence is weak.

I had the advantage of a strong scientific background growing up, and had ironically been shortlisted for a cadetship in the New Zealand Meteorology Service as a school leaver, before securing a place in journalism school. Many of my colleagues in the news media were crap at science and maths, being much more arts driven. This meant I was better placed to critique global warming when I finally decided to take a closer look at the evidence. As I said in Air Con, I’ll follow the evidence where it leads.

“When you throw in the social liberal leanings of most journalists, whose motivation as young students was similar to beauty pageant contestants – to ‘help make the world a better place’ – then an environmental issue like global warming will catapult to the top of the bulletins because it assuages our inner liberal guilt and makes us feel as editors that we’re ‘helping to make the world a better place’.

“Having compassion for the planet, however, is not an excuse for abject stupidity. At the end of the day, the claims from silver-tongued lobbyists still have to stack up, otherwise our news bulletins descend entirely into propaganda.”

When I wrote Air Con, I deliberately engaged with the best evidence in favour of climate change, because that’s what genuine testing of the evidence involves. I wanted to see the strongest evidence in existence, and then I looked for holes in it. Could it stand up to genuine scrutiny?

Needless to say, as I later reported in Air Con, the evidence in favour of human-caused global warming had so many gaps in it that it made Swiss cheese look solid. The scientists giving soundbites to the media about global warming were torturing the actual evidence so much that, by rights, Amnesty International should have been called in.

I should have realised then that I was dealing with a group that actually didn’t care about the evidence.

Six years ago, I thought the motivation might be money and power. For some it clearly is, but for the scientist-activists, environmental lobbyists and well-meaning members of the public, something more was clearly at work. Climate change is a declaration of Faith; Faith in Gaia. Until sceptics truly understand what is really driving the climate change movement, they will never truly engage with it.

While the Sceptics Tribe constantly addresses the science in the debate, the Climate Tribe doesn’t. That’s why they are always saying, “the science is settled”, because debating it makes them uncomfortable, it shakes their faith, and they don’t want their faith shaken, so they react the way religious cults have always reacted when under pressure: they circle the wagons and try and crush dissenters. The backlash against climate sceptics today is similar to the Spanish Inquisition – it is a religious-style reaction to what should be a scientific testing process. Like the Church of old, people are urged to shun the heretics, and told not to believe them.

The Climate Tribe has a structure, and you have to understand it to understand the magnitude of the problem. On the bottom levels are the great unwashed, ordinary members of the public who, nearly invariably, don’t actually understand the science involved, unless it has first been filtered to them through one of their higher operators, like a lobby group or a climate change website. These intermediaries are essentially the creations in many cases of PR companies and liberal thinktanks, and it’s their job to turn hard to understand science into soundbites that even five year olds can understand.

Any “uncertainties” in the actual scientific studies are conveniently lost in translation, so the public are fed worst case scenarios as near-certainties.

The motivation for the public to believe the BS is a simple one – they trust their authority figures because life is easier that way. The alternative is too hard to mentally deal with, because it would mean the world doesn’t really work the way you’ve always thought it does. History has repeatedly shown that a highly motivated two percent of the population can lead and control a sheepish 98% majority by the nose, because the public have been conditioned to embrace leaders. As long as someone seems to know where they are going and can articulate the vision, the rest will follow.

Another motivation for the public is our innate need for a sense of belonging, the protection of the herd. The identification with the Tribe. In a world increasingly without borders, and where national pride has been deliberately removed from the education system in favour of a globalist outlook, we are re-defining our Tribes as groups that think alike, rather than look alike.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets have accelerated this reorganisation of the planet, as we form new allegiances with colleagues around the world based on belief, not birthright.

Which brings us to the people at the top of the Climate Tribe. As I reveal in the book Totalitaria, they are a group of leaders with a shared religious belief. They believe, and their cult has done for centuries, that the world is in a terrible state and only their god can save it. Maurice Strong, Al Gore , Paul Erhlich and David Suzuki, to name a few, are leaders of this modern incarnation of the cult. Their particular religion believes their deity will return to rule the planet if human consciousness is raised. “Climate Change” is recognised in their writings as a way to raise “consciousness”:

“Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced,” says the United Nations in its Agenda 21 policy.

“This being can only channel His energies through the mass consciousness or through a group conscious entity, such as the U.N.”, wrote Alice Bailey, whose disciples included UN Secretary-Generals Dag Hammarskjold, U Thant and Assistant Secretary General Robert Muller.

“In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…all these dangers are caused by human intervention…the real enemy, then, is humanity itself,” stated the powerful globalist Club of Rome in 1991.

“We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy,” wrote Timothy Worth for the Council on Foreign Relations in 1990.

By creating a perceived “crisis”, like climate change, the Climate Tribe’s leaders created the mental condition necessary to provoke public fear, which then allowed them to offer the “solution”: world unity for a common cause, or more accurately “global government”.

The public, feeling powerless, are suddenly offered leadership and a solution, and a means of participating themselves, thus increasing the feeling of Tribe unity.

The Climate Tribe is far more about common purpose now than it is about science. The science was simply the means to the end. The end is controlling society for “the common good”. It’s a feelgood motivation. That’s why the public buy into it, and that’s why believers feel threatened whenever anyone tries to challenge it – the challenge is seen not as debating the science of climate change, but a direct attack on the Tribe and its deeper purpose.

To change the outcome, you cannot just “debate the science”. You have to deprogram members of the Tribe.

“You take the blue pill,” Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix, “the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…”


[Ian Wishart is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author with two “red pills” for those who dare: Air Con on the science of climate change, and Totalitaria if you want to know the real theology driving the climate change movement]

Antarctic warming graphic courtesy Jo Nova