Recently the UN released a deeply flawed report on the supposed increase in climate-related disasters, based on an elementary statistical error. Namely that the process of counting disasters became considerably more effective right at the point where they claimed to detect an increase, whereas the number of deaths from such incidents declined, a point they mentioned but ignored. So what do the alarmists do? The UN stands by its report while the Red Cross, the Global Warming Policy Forum notes indignantly, issues their own report making exactly the same mistake. That was the easy part. What’s hard is continuing to insist that they are genuinely mistaken and not in fact deliberately lying. Which we persist in doing anyway, on the grounds that misplaced sincerity is a far more dangerous force in human affairs than deliberate deceit.
To insist that our adversaries are sincere and to resist conspiracy theories is not to deny that there is some jiggery-pokery with the evidence. We are very well aware that when people are sufficiently convinced that the facts must point in a certain direction, they point them that way in pursuit of a deeper truth. And indeed the sheer clumsiness of many such efforts is a major indication that they are not deliberate liars. If they were, they’d do a better job because they’d know exactly what was wrong with their evidence and be afraid of getting caught.
The Red Cross report, for instance, shows disasters declining after 2000, something they’d have realized critics were bound to swoop on if they’d been looking around for a persuasive fib. And the decline in deaths from such events, in an ever more populous world, is another red flag.
If you were trying to pull a fast one, you wouldn’t do it this way. Indeed, as the GWPF also observes, “This is the second major report that has led to allegations of deception. Just six weeks ago the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) was publicly humiliated when its report was accused of using the same unethical tricks to make claims of increasing climate disasters. Remarkably, UNDRR is one of the sponsoring organisations of the Red Cross report.”
Imagine for a moment that you had just broken your mother’s lamp and needed to get away with it. Would you hide the pieces in the middle of the floor and hope nobody noticed? If so you will have spent much of your childhood with your face in the corner. Yet it is exactly what the Red Cross just did, and of course got found out.
We will not say no liar could be that stupid. Not even that no adult liar could. The jails are full of people the folly of whose conduct was only exceeded by the feebleness of their excuse. But it is not how people operate who have the wit to become senior officers in the Red Cross or UNDRR.
To repeat, the problem here is zealotry not fraud. But to say so is not to excuse it. On the contrary the process, while not lying in the normal “I did not eat the last piece of cake” sense, is deeply morally corrupt. We can only ask that everybody in the discussion, in trying to make sense of the evidence, police themselves on the question of doing things with the facts that would deeply offend them if someone on the other side did it.
We make this appeal partly on the high ground, because it will make for a more constructive and cleaner debate. But if you need a less elevated reason, do it because otherwise you’re going to get caught telling such a silly story that people will scratch their heads over whether you are a rogue or a fool and conclude that you must be both.