Friday, December 11, 2009

Those dodgy e-mails - again and a very good BBC play to listen to.

About the "dodgy" e-mails: I await with interest the outcome of the various enquiries that have been instituted as a result of this debacle, but I would be surprised if the University of East Anglia, its climate research facilities and its staff were not vindicated.

I'm getting a bit tired of hearing about how these e-mails have blown the climate change argument out of the water: those who claim that seem to be doing that ostrich thing. Here's a sound bite, it suits my position, I don't have the time to research it and anyway if I did I might discover a) that I don't understand what I'm reading or b) I may not be so convinced after I've finished.

What I then mustn't do is be seduced by the repeatedly made point that the scientific content of the UEA e-mails simply falls into the range of conclusions already reached by other climate change researchers around the world.

Unless I decide that there is mileage in concluding that ALL such scientists and their research facilities are in on the scam and have been colluding.

My God! I've uncovered a conspiracy of international proportions aimed at destableising the world's economy and, because it is funded by international SOCIALISM - by which we all really mean STALINISM and MARXISM - it has to aimed at the USA.

Thank God for Fox News and its political wing, the Republican Party.

And then I woke up.

Given that it takes no time at all to make a scientific sounding statement and given that the statement will be around the world in no time and will attract the status of an authoritative statement by virtue of it being so widely disseminated to a largely unscientific audience, it is small wonder that bad science is hard to refute? That takes time and by the time it has been refuted the damage is done.

I really try to avoid buying into conspiracy theories but this piece of George Monbiot in Tuesday’s Guardian “The climate denial industry is out to dupe the public. And it's working: Think environmentalists are stooges? You're the unwitting recruit of a hugely powerful oil lobby – I've got the proof” really struck me.

When I use the term denial industry, I'm referring to those who are paid to say that man-made global warming isn't happening. The great majority of people who believe this have not been paid: they have been duped. Reading Climate Cover-Up BOOK REVIEW HERE, you keep stumbling across familiar phrases and concepts which you can see every day on the comment threads. The book shows that these memes were planted by PR companies and hired experts.

The first case study I've posted reveals how a coalition of US coal companies sought to persuade people that the science is uncertain. It listed the two social groups it was trying to reach – "Target 1: Older, less educated males"; "Target 2: Younger, lower income women" – and the methods by which it would reach them. One of its findings was that "members of the public feel more confident expressing opinions on others' motivations and tactics than they do expressing opinions on scientific issues".

Remember this the next time you hear people claiming that climate scientists are only in it for the money, or that environmentalists are trying to create a communist world government: these ideas were devised and broadcast by energy companies. The people who inform me, apparently without irony, that "your article is an ad hominem attack, you four-eyed, big-nosed, commie sack of shit", or "you scaremongers will destroy the entire world economy and take us back to the Stone Age", are the unwitting recruits of campaigns they have never heard of.

The second case study reveals how Dr Patrick Michaels, one of a handful of climate change deniers with a qualification in climate science, has been lavishly paid by companies seeking to protect their profits from burning coal. As far as I can discover, none of the media outlets who use him as a commentator – including the Guardian – has disclosed this interest at the time of his appearance. Michaels is one of many people commenting on climate change who presents himself as an independent expert while being secretly paid for his services by fossil fuel companies.

The third example shows how a list published by the Heartland Institute (which has been sponsored by oil company Exxon) of 500 scientists "whose research contradicts man-made global warming scares" turns out to be nothing of the kind: as soon as these scientists found out what the institute was saying about them, many angrily demanded that their names be removed. Twenty months later, they are still on the list. The fourth example shows how, during the Bush presidency, White House officials worked with oil companies to remove regulators they didn't like and to doctor official documents about climate change.

In Climate Cover-Up, in Ross Gelbspan's books The Heat is On and Boiling Point, in my book Heat, and on the websites and, you can find dozens of such examples. Together they expose a systematic, well-funded campaign to con the public. To judge by the comments you can read on this paper's website, it has worked.

But people behind these campaigns know that their claims are untrue. One of the biggest was run by the Global Climate Coalition, which represented ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and several big motor manufacturers. In 1995 the coalition's own scientists reported that "the scientific basis for the greenhouse effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well-established and cannot be denied". The coalition hid this finding from the public, and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade people that the opposite was true.

These people haven't fooled themselves, but they might have fooled you. Who, among those of you who claim that climate scientists are liars and environmentalists are stooges, has thought it through for yourself?”

I have no reason to believe Monbiot is lying - and the courts in this country are pretty fierce on libel issues, so he would know the risk he was taking if he were to lie - but what I'm interested to know is how this is different to the (as yet unproved) accusations about the UEA e-mails?

How inventive to accuse the other side of using your own tactics.

If you have the time, Dear Reader may I direct you HERE

If you have an hour to spare, a comfy seat and a warm drink, and if you are a fan of good radio plays, may I suggest you LISTEN HERE Are you sitting comfortably?