Christopher Essex is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Western Ontario. He is the coauthor with Ross McKitrick of the award-winning book Taken by Storm: The troubled science and policy and politics of global warming.

I was trying to preserve my sanity by avoiding the endless hyperbolic news stories on cringeworthy science-based policy. But, despite my best efforts, the tale of the Dutch farmers came to my attention.

Those poor folks have their backs against the wall because their government has declared war on nitrogen! They might lose their land and livelihoods over this war, not to mention creating needless hunger in the world. 

Now Canada aims to do something of the same ilk to farmers here. Like many grand policy actions of modern governments, it’s completely bananas.

Nitrogen? That’s 78% of the atmosphere’s volume. N2, which is how nitrogen gas manifests, is rather inactive as molecules go. There’s no connection to the so-called greenhouse effect. You and I breathe it in and exhale it with our every breath and are none the wiser. So is this war on N2? Well, no. 

Scientific technicalities are not in play here. Virtue rules. So we must guess at what is really meant by “nitrogen” in “virtue science.” As the c-word (i.e. climate) has been deployed, nitrous oxide (i.e. N2O) is likely meant. 

“Virtue science” weirdly strips oxygen from the molecule’s name, just as it strips oxygen from carbon dioxide to call it “carbon” instead. If this “stripping” were applied consistently, the oceans would be described as “hydrogen” instead of H2O.

H2O may simply be excluded because many don’t know its importance in greenhouse world. But then H2O’s presence is dominated by poorly understood natural hydrology, not human activities to which morality can be attached. H2O is more important in the greenhouse world than all of the other such gases combined. Accurate atmospheric models with nothing but H2O have been made! 

But that said, CO2 gained a small foothold because one of its absorption bands (i.e 15 microns) coincided with a small hole in the otherwise comprehensive, strong infrared H2O spectrum. It is known as the H2O “window.” Without it, you would never have heard of CO2.

CO2 has another band at just over four microns, but it has little effect because H2O is dominant in the radiative transfer problem there. The same is true for methane (CH4). There is no H2O window for cow farts. No matter how strong the molecular absorption lines, and no matter how long CH4’s atmospheric lifetime is, H2O rules the actual radiative transfer problem. 

And finally we come to poor N2O. Like the others, it arrived at the party too late. H2O has already eaten all the food and drank everything. 

If you put N2O in a computation and compare to the radiative transfer problem with no N2O, there is no discernible difference: all the important optical paths are completely saturated by H2O.

N2O and CH4 are nothing, from a radiative transfer/greenhouse point of view. There is no c- word reason to be controlling nitrogen or cow farts, or farmers. This was generally known decades ago. That should have stuck! 

But “virtue science” is not about what’s known, but what’s moral. 

Instead of policy based on science we have the weird inversion of science based on policy.

There are many “narratives” among scientists. Science proceeds by contenders knocking the rough edges off of each other’s opinions. 

In science for virtue, there is only one “correct” narrative, enforced by exterior political power. If a scientist deviates from this “truth,” the scientist becomes not only “wrong,” but worse than wrong. That is how science has been captured and corrupted. 

Normal science becomes moribund and “virtue science” reigns.

I did not fully appreciate what we were dealing with over these years until the Covid mayhem captured the imagination of government officials, the courts, and the press. There were so many obvious clues. 

For example, one does not wear masks to protect oneself, but to “protect others”— moral reasons, not scientific ones. There was the redefinition of illness, of causes of death, of vaccination. There were the sketchy test-number-free case count data, and much more. There where the medical researchers who were frozen out, delicensed, or fired because of not following the narrative. There were the demonized alternative therapies, and the foolish discrimination against those who had reasonable doubts about what was being so harshly pushed.

So much harm has been done and will be done by policies that lack any sort of common sense. 

Who knew that loony ideas, like cutting fertilizers to save the planet, would ever go beyond the fanatical fringe. But the fanatics have come to power because we let them.

There is a simple solution to this corruption: give scientists who do not support whatever emerges as the narrative a fair hearing. 

That is not happening because too many do not comprehend the nature of science. Beware of expressions like “consensus,” or “the science.” You could be being “handled” by some politician. Finessing, and fooling their opponents though they may, nature cannot be fooled. Attempting to do so can only bring tears and despair.

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Christopher Essex is emeritus Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Western Ontario. He is the coauthor with Ross McKitrick of the award winning book Taken by Storm: The troubled science and policy and politics of global warming.

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