World Bank President Gets a Taste of “Science”

An outcry followed World Bank president David Malpass’ refusal to profess faith in climate change. The The New York Times Reported (“World Bank leader, accused of climate denial, offers new response,” September 22, 2022):

The uproar began on Tuesday when Mr Malpass refused to say whether burning oil, gas and coal was causing climate change during a public event in The New York Times.

Speaking on stage during a debate on what industrialized nations owe climate-challenged developing nations, Mr Malpass was asked to respond to a comment earlier in the day by former Vice President Al Gore, who called the World Bank president a “climate denier”. ” Pressed three times, Mr. Malpas could not say whether he believed human-made greenhouse gas emissions had created a growing crisis that was already leading to more extreme weather.

“I’m not a scientist,” he said.

As the NYT headline above indicates, Mr. Malpass’s burst of prestige did not last long. He quickly fell in line and confessed his social heresy. But, like the witches of the 16th or 17th century, admitting she had slept with the devil did not absolve her. (See also “World Bank chief under pressure to quit over climate change doubts,” financial bar, September 22, 2022; and “World Bank’s David Malpass says he’s not resigning amid criticism of his climate views,” The Wall Street Journal(September 23, 2022.)

His answer – “I’m not a scientist” – makes some intellectual sense. Whether the climate is changing because of human activity is a valid question, but we shouldn’t necessarily accept political scientists’ cash-in answers. Their professional futures and possibly daily bread depend on their acquiescence to the political obscenities pushed by power hungry governments and complicit activists on this dear earth of ours. Agnosticism may be the best attitude.

“Science” can be wrong. As Karl Popper argued, the obsession of any scientist is, or should be, to falsify hypotheses. A scientific theory or “law” remains a tentative conclusion. (See Popper The logic of scientific discovery [Harper & Row, 1959, 1968]) and social-engineering in the name of science is a recipe for disaster. In the early 20th century, for example, mainstream biologists and medical scientists, including public health experts, supported eugenics. Under the eugenic laws of American states, in force between 1907 and 1980 depending on the state, 65,000—mostly poor—women were forcibly or fraudulently sterilized under the guise of science (see sources in my post “Economic Reflections on Abortion”).

A The Wall Street Journal op-ed (Steve Milloy, “David Malpass’s Climate-Change Lesson for GOP Candidates,” The Wall Street JournalSeptember 26, 2022) mischievously recalls that

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson refused to define the term “woman” at her confirmation hearing, insisting, “I’m not a biologist.”

To keep our heads cool, we should also remember that climate change was followed by “population bombs”, “holes in the ozone layer” and “global warming”, among other fears. But we must keep our minds open (see my review of Tyler Cowen). Stubborn attachmentwhere I was perhaps not critical enough).

Another thing to keep in mind is that the World Bank is already helping governments in poor countries to mitigate or adapt to the perceived consequences of climate change. A World Bank report published in 2021, under the watchful eye of Mr. Malpas, The World Bank NDC Support Facility: Impacts and Lessons Learned Supporting NDC Implementation (NDC stands for Nationally Determined Contribution under the 2015 Paris Agreement), boasts:

The World Bank Group is the largest multilateral funder of climate investments in developing countries, committing $83 billion to climate-related investments over the past five years.

In a scathing editorial on the World Bank’s efforts to deepen its submission to the agenda of environmental activists, The Wall Street Journal Reminds us of what the World Bank’s main job is (“A Gore-Kerry Political Climate Hit,” Sept. 25, 2022):

The main task of the World Bank is poverty alleviation. This requires energy, which is still most efficiently and cost-effectively supplied today by fossil fuels. Yet Mr. Kerry [Joe Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate] African leaders have recently warned against investing in long-term natural gas production, saying they have options if they want to develop. …

The World Bank has had considerable trouble over the years with loans to corrupt governments and failed projects. But if it exists, it should focus on promoting growth in poor countries to eradicate poverty. It should not be hijacked by rich-country climate lobbyists for their own political ends.

It seems that the attack against Mr. Malpass is neither scientific nor logical.

We might add that if all the poor countries had benefited from fair governments and proper legal institutions like Hong Kong after 1945, they would probably be as wealthy as Hong Kong (ie about 92% of real US GDP per capita in the Madison Project) and face potential disaster. A handout from the World Bank will not be required.

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