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The hidden history of the global warming crusade

19 February 2010

The crusade to fight global warming ignited with the Senate testimony of James Hansen on 23 June 1988.  It was a hot day, and hotter in the room.  Neither was coincidence, as described in this Interview with Timothy Wirth (Senator Colorado 1987-93), Frontline on PBS, broadcast on 17 January 2007.  

Question: What was it in the late ’80s, do you think, that made the issue [of global warming] take off?

Wirth:  I think a number of things happened in the late 1980s. First of all, there were the [NASA scientist Jim] Hansen hearings [in 1988]. … We had introduced a major piece of legislation. Amazingly enough, it was an 18-part climate change bill; it had population in it, conservation, and it had nuclear in it. It had everything that we could think of that was related to climate change. … And so we had this set of hearings, and Jim Hansen was the star witness.

Q: How did you know about Jim Hansen?

Wirth: … I don’t remember exactly where the data came from, but we knew there was this scientist at NASA who had really identified the human impact before anybody else had done so and was very certain about it. So we called him up and asked him if he would testify. Now, this is a tough thing for a scientist to do when you’re going to make such an outspoken statement as this and you’re part of the federal bureaucracy. Jim Hansen has always been a very brave and outspoken individual.

Q: What else was happening that summer? What was the weather like that summer?

Wirth: Believe it or not, we called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6 or June 9 or whatever it was, so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo: It was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. It was stiflingly hot that summer. [At] the same time you had this drought all across the country, so the linkage between the Hansen hearing and the drought became very intense.

… So a number of things came together that, for the first time, people began to think about it. I knew it was important because there was a big article in, I believe, the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated on climate change. [Laughs.] So there was a correlation. You figure, well, if we’re making Sports Illustrated on this issue, you know, we’ve got to be making some real headway.

Q: And did you also alter the temperature in the hearing room that day?

Wirth: … What we did it was went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right? So that the air conditioning wasnÕt working inside the room and so when the, when the hearing occurred there was not only bliss, which is television cameras in double figures, but it was really hot. … So Hansen’s giving this testimony, you’ve got these television cameras back there heating up the room, and the air conditioning in the room didn’t appear to work. So it was sort of a perfect collection of events that happened that day, with the wonderful Jim Hansen, who was wiping his brow at the witness table and giving this remarkable testimony. …

About Timothy Wirth

Timothy Endicott Wirth (born 1939) is a former United States Senator from Colorado. Wirth, a Democrat, was a member of the House from 1975 to 1987 and was elected to the Senate in 1986, serving one term there before stepping down.  Wirth organized the 1988 Senate hearing at which James Hansen addressed global warming

He was Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs during the Clinton Administration. In the State Department, he worked with Vice President Al Gore on global environmental and population issues, supporting the administration’s views on global warming.   He led the US delegation to the 1997 Kyoto conference.  Since 1998 he has served as the president of the United Nations Foundation.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Including About the FM website page. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Other posts about climate science propaganda:

  1. An example of important climate change research hidden, lest it spoil the media’s narrative, 22 May 2009
  2. An army of Davids storm the walls of the scientific establishment, 19 June 2009
  3. More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
  4. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 21 October 2009 — Official NOAA history about global cooling in the 1970s.
  5. About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009 — On the other hand, some skeptics also exaggerate.
  6. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009 — A prominent climatologist talks about the state of the science in the 1970s.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. jon (layman) permalink
    19 February 2010 12:12 am

    Copenhagen could have learned a thing or two from Sen. Wirth.

    Like

  2. phageghost permalink
    19 February 2010 2:42 am

    Wow. Clever bit of perception management. Had Wirth not gone into politics he would have made an excellent trial lawyer . . . Playing on people’s cognitive biases like that is pretty effective. Here’s an amusing if rather blatant illustration: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 10 February 2010 — “Aasif Mandvi freezes in New York, Sam Bee feels the heat in Australia, and Jason Jones reports on the darkness everywhere.”
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    FM reply: So long as Americans are so complacent about being lied to and manipulated, we will be lied to and manipulated. Outrage, even anger, is the first step to reform.

    Like

  3. arms merchant permalink
    19 February 2010 2:55 am

    Clever? How about blatantly dishonest? I find Wirth’s behavior appalling. An illustration of everything that’s wrong with D.C.

    Like

  4. John Klug permalink
    19 February 2010 7:05 am

    The Obama administration is now trying to cram nuclear power into a climate change bill. It seems like the left and right could come together and defeat this.

    1. Nuclear plants are very expensive and are looking for huge subsidies from congress (not exactly free market).

    2. Can a storage facility be built that is stable for the lifetime of the waste (and Yucca was defunded by Obama), or plan B, reprocessing/breeding be legalized and the problem kicked down the road? Also a government operated program, not exactly free market.

    Of course ethanol, windmills and solar plants are also subsidized, as was TVA, and numerous other federal power projects. All this seems kind of silly when China apparently builds coal fired power plants at a steady pace, even if you believed CO2 is having some kind of affect. From NY Times: “China Outpaces U.S. in Cleaner Coal-Fired Plants“, 10 May 2009.
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    FM reply: Defunding Yucca Mountain and promoting a few atomic power plants is SOP for the Obama Administration. Stand back, tyros at work.

    Like

  5. Sofa King permalink
    19 February 2010 2:59 pm

    FM: “Outrage, even anger, is the first step to reform.

    Unless that outrage, even anger comes from a tea party activist, in which case it is a grave omen of the dark forces rearing their ugly heads, or something, and probably racist. Do I have that right?
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    FM reply: No. The Tea Party movement has taken that first step, but it is only the first step. Signs like “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!” suggest a combination of selfishness and ignorance that cast doubt on their ability to evolve in a positive way.

    “probably racist”
    I doubt that is true, except for a minority.

    Update — Showing that anger is not enough, and destructive without a proper foundation: “Anti-govt anti-Obama nuts launch Facebook page to honor domestic terrorist who crashed plane into IRS office“, John Aravosis, AMERICAblog, 18 February 2010.

    Like

  6. phageghost permalink
    19 February 2010 6:56 pm

    Clever yes, but it should go without saying it is appalling as well.

    Even though I was pretty young (11) at the time, I remember around 1988 as when I started hearing a lot about “Global Warming.” Now I know why. Tangentially, I was a bit confused, since I had been reading Isaac Asimov’s non-fiction lay science books from the 1970’s in which he discussed the then-current threat of global cooling!

    Sorry if the outrage didn’t quite come through, but it’s there. But I do admire, in Machiavellian way, the brilliant simplicity and effectiveness of the tactical ploy — much like acknowledging the excellent play of an opposing team, or the great line in Patton: “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

    or this wacky guy:

    Are these things discussed here good or bad? Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. This author only discusses what was, what is, and what might be.
    -Blog of “Fabius Maximus,” “About” page.

    Actually, FM, you crossed the Rubicon from dispassionate analysis to advocacy some time ago, so that section is a little outmoded . . . Cheers.
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    FM reply: Quite right, as described (somewhat after the fact) in Re-envisioning the FM website, becoming soldiers in the war for American’s future, 21 December 2009. Thanks for pointing out that the About page should be re-written!

    Like

  7. Reynardine permalink
    20 February 2010 1:06 am

    FM reply: “No. The Tea Party movement has taken that first step, but it is only the first step. Signs like “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!” suggest a combination of selfishness and ignorance that cast doubt on their ability to evolve in a positive way.

    The tea party takes that position? I am suddenly more favorably disposed to them. Maybe I will tie a drippy tea bag around my arm (that is the official party badge, right?) I’ve been paying my taxes like a good boy for the last 40-something years (actually, I had little choice about it…a vacation at Club Fed just didn’t seem like the better option).NOW some rodent-buggering Beltway creepers want to diddle with the very plan that I have been subsidizing all these years, and that I may soon have to depend on for my health care? Hey, Fabius, you want anger? You want outrage? You got it!

    Now, Do you really find this hard to understand? Do you really have no sympathy? If so, you must be either wet behind the ears, or rich. Or maybe both.

    If you want some useful rage, you might try taking a different tack: what government expenditures can we cut instead of social services? Yes, that’s right! The damn Forever War, that’s what!!@!(*##@@*(#&! &lb;–Note rage symbols

    I think it’s downright strange that nobody in the political world has advocated that particular economy. There’s something that has gone awfully wrong; it’s become so completely impossible to oppose the military establishment and the war that nobody in the world of politics even bothers to mention it, though we are obviously in deep financial trouble, and cutting back on the ordnance could save us a heap of money. I’m beginning to think nobody even finds it possible to think about the possibility that there could be practical advantages to cutting back the military apparatus. (Not even you, Fabius?)

    In case all this passionate prose has confused my audience, let me be plain: I am suggesting that people who want to keep their social(ist) benefits might be natural allies of those who want to end the war. If the proposition were put to them in the right way. Manipulative? Sure. But that’s politics. Peace, man.
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    FM reply: I have been an arbitrator for 20 years, and heard simlar outbursts of irrational rage more times than I can count. I paid my $100 dollars, and I demand the billion dollars that man promised me! Poor baby, you were conned. You were a fool. For decades experts have warned that the social security and medicaid systems were not sustainable. We (collectively) knew that perfectly well, yet either voted for the folks promising the impossible — or stayed at home at watched TV. There is such a thing as collective fate, and we will experience it. The Tea Party movement can march till Hell freezes over, but neither God nor the Blue Fairy will drop money from the sky to pay their benefits.

    (2) “Do you really find this hard to understand? Do you really have no sympathy?”

    If find it easy to understand, but impossible to have sympathy. Anger is a start, but not enough. Ignorant anger only makes things worse. As Robert Heinlein said, slow and stupid are the two sins that God always punishes.

    (3) “I think it’s downright strange that nobody in the political world has advocated that particular economy.”

    We’re lost in dreams of power and wealth. I’ve chronicled this in dozens of posts on the FM website. The re-entry probably will be unpleasant.

    Like

  8. Jonathan permalink
    20 February 2010 9:02 am

    FM, you keep mentioning that slogan “Keep your government hands off my medicare” as if the people at the Tea Parties are ignorant of the fact Medicare is a government program.

    I clicked your link to the google image results and mainly found links to blogs that are running with this meme to belittle the Tea Party movement. Some of the photos of merchandise, such as the T-shirts with this slogan, almost appear to be parodies used by sites such as SFGate which are philosophically opposed to the Tea Parties.

    There does appear to be an actual Tea Party photo with a sign that reads “Don’t steal from Medicare to support socialized medicine.” This is the closest thing I found that looks like it came from an actual Tea Party. Admittedly, I have not gone too far into the google image results list, but I figured actual Tea Party photos should be the first to display.

    Now taking the slogan in the photo, “Don’t steal from Medicare to support socialized medicine”, or even the one you like to use, I don’t draw the same conclusions that they are ignorant Medicare is a government-run program.

    Rather these people might be aware of the fact that the government has deducted funds from their paychecks throughout their lives to fund Medicare. Funds that they could have used themselves. Now any plans to reduce Medicare to support another program might be seen by them as a threat to the program they have already paid for, and not ignorance to the fact that this program is government-run.

    Yes, it is easy to try to say they are hypocrites for seemingly supporting medicare while opposing “socialized” medicine. But I can’t fault these older folks who have paid into the system all their lives and are now concerned they might end up with the short end of the stick.
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    FM reply: They are fighting to preserve their benefits — a fantastic multiple of the amounts they paid into the system — at the same time they deplore government deficits and high taxes. At the same time they claim to do so as high-minded citizenship, and express anger. That’s quite a combination of ignorant self-righteousness. Esp since the largest component of the Federal government’s liabilities is social security and medicare.

    For 30+ years these people have read warnings that the promised benefits were largely unfunded, while American voters resolutely refused to confront this growing cancer. Hence it became the “third rail” of US politics. Now that the bills arrrive they get angry. Like eating a vast meal, demanding more — and expressing outrage when the waiter brings the check.

    Worse still, they offer no solutions as to the sustained and growing deficits, other than cutting the stimulus packages. Even if this cut the cyclical deficit (unlikely), the long-term deficit remains untouched. Why is this more than saying “I want mine”?

    Like

  9. Reynardine permalink
    23 February 2010 12:24 am

    Thank you for your perceptive comments, Jonathan. I actually have no idea what the Tea Party really stands for; I’m not much of a “joiner”. When they care to publish a coherent manifesto, I’ll read it. I do understand the anger felt by those who have paid the “social” taxes all their lives, and are now expected to cheerfully accept unfavorable changes to the rules.

    I was, and am still, more than a little disconcerted by our own Fabius’ attitude. So it was all lies, and—like Bernie Madoff’s clients we are well-shorn sheep who should stop complaining and just accept that they have been bilked? But Fabius, these promises were issued by our government. You know, the same agency that issues our currency. Unlike Madoff’s victims, we had no choice but to ante up in the game. Also, when a confidence man’s promises prove false, that is one thing; when a government’s promises fail, then it stands in danger of losing its legitimacy.

    We have a government that seems to have no trouble raising funds for a monstrously huge military establishment and its deployment in faraway lands for questionable causes. Nor did the government cry “no money!” when those institutions “too big to fail” held out their palms to receive unimaginably huge sums. Fabius may sniff disdainfully at those who feel they have some just claim on funds and plans and programs that have been fraudulently promised by a long succession of administrations, but I think he underestimates the bills that will become due if and when the U.S. government is revealed as the biggest confidence game of all time.

    The Tea Party is a little cloud the size of a hand on the horizon. As yet, the opposition is inchoate, confused by terms like “socialism”, taken in by the government’s “war on terror” propaganda, and by the two-party puppet theater. But these things can change like a flash of lightning, in the blink of an eye.

    A charge of anger is being accumulated that could unleash the sort of change you really don’t want to believe in. That’s why I think the government would be well-advised not to break its promises. As I’ve said, there are other economies that could be made.

    I admit that’s not likely. I suppose we could hope that the coming storm is mild—the formation of a third party, perhaps. The “Socialist Peace Party”, perhaps.

    Like

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