Scientists are human and are as susceptible to bribery as any other job sector. Thus when some bureaucrats at the UN and in the EU heard of the possibility that man-made carbon dioxide could cause atmospheric warming this was a golden opportunity for them to increase their power by by being able to offer research grants to scientists who could prove the case once and for all.
This elicited such a flurry of applications that it became a joke, even at scientists’ own expense, that almost any research proposal that happened to mention global warming was successful. The basic fact, first discovered by Svante Arrhenius, over 100 years ago, that carbon dioxide gas was an efficient absorber of infra-red heat was re-established thousands of times without drawing attention to the fact that water vapour was almost as efficient — but there is a great deal more of it on average around the world.
In short, no adequate theory — as one normally expects and as science normally proceeds — arose from all the research. A computer model, built from algorithms that satisfied measurements in recent decades, but none before about 1750 when Europe was in the grip of a miniature ice age, is the only offering so far.
How different has been the reception given to a letter written by 150 international scientists, doctors and medical ethicists from such institutions as Oxford University and Harvard and Yale universities in the United States asking the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking them to consider a recommendation to move or delay the July Olympic Games in Brazil !
This would be to prevent the possibility of half a million people who will attend the Games but then disperse the Zika virus into many cities all round the world when the Games have ended. This might well multiply the number of babies — already in their thousands in Brazil — born with Zika-linked brain defects. Both the WHO and the IOC have summarily rejected the letter, saying that the disease is already penetrating other parts of the world outside Brazil. Seemingly, it doesn’t matter that the disease might have much worse effects.
In both of the above cases — global warming or the Zika virus — the decision by the members of the respective decision-taking groups has not been a surprise. Any other decision would have nullified, or at least diluted, their personal power — and that’s been one of our primal urges ever since we left the trees. Unfortunately it’s not as necessary as it was then and we need altogether new methods of appointing our decision-making bodies.