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Posts Tagged ICSC

Stuff’s stuff-up: climate liars on the loose Gareth Renowden Feb 23

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Stuff Nation was introduced a couple of years ago as the reader-led section of Fairfax Digital’s NZ news site Stuff.co.nz1, home to quiz groups and news submitted by readers. Sadly for them, one or two of their readers have been taking them for a ride, to judge by one of this weekend’s lead stories — a “reader report” by one Tom Harris titled We must adapt to climate change. Harris is highly unlikely to be a regular reader of Stuff Nation, being based in Ottawa, but he is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition, a spin-off from the NZ Climate Science Coalition established with money from US extreme right-wing lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The ICSC lists Bryan Leyland and Terry Dunleavy — two of the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that are trying to avoid paying the costs they incurred in taking an idiotic court case against NIWA and the NZ temperature record — as key players, and it is probably safe to assume that Leyland, who has in the past boasted about his ability to “twist arms” in Fairfax newsrooms2, is responsible for placing Harris’s piece with Stuff. It’s an op-ed riffing off John Kerry’s comments about climate change during his recent Indonesia visit, so compelling and well-argued that it’s been featured in high profile outlets around the world including The Bahamas Weekly, and — well, that’s about it.

Harris’s piece should be an embarrassment to any media organisation that has pretensions to any kind of editorial standards. Among the lies, distortions and misleading statements are:

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change demonstrates that much of what we thought we knew about climate is wrong or highly debatable. The science is becoming more unsettled as the field advances.

The NIPCC is a Heartland-funded exercise designed to massage the facts and mislead. It is better described as Heartland’s big book of lies about climate change, as I noted a while ago. Meanwhile, real climate scientists are becoming ever more certain that we are in deep trouble.

We do not actually know how much climate will change as carbon dioxide (CO2) levels continue to rise. We do not even know whether warming or cooling lies ahead.

Future warming is certain unless and until atmospheric CO2 levels begin to reduce. Future cooling is only possible should there be a large number of big volcanic eruptions, the sun reduces its energy output significantly, we pass through a large cloud of interstellar dust, or someone rewrites quantum physics to show that everything we know about radiatively active gases is wrong. Even if that were to happen, the oceans would still acidify and cause us huge problems.

While atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased about 8 per cent over the past 17 years, even the IPCC now acknowledges that planetary temperatures have not risen during this period for reasons they do not understand.

The planet has warmed over the last 17 years. The hottest year in the long term global record was 2010, and the next El Niño (2014/15?) is likely to usher in a new record.

Of greater concern than hypothetical future warming is the possibility that the past decade’s cold weather records are a harbinger of significant global cooling. Solar scientists are forecasting that cooling is inevitable as the sun weakens into a ‘grand minimum’ over the coming decades.

“Solar scientists” are forecasting no such thing. An oddball Russian scientist may be, but no one with real solar chops is suggesting that cooling is likely. If this is the official view of the ICSC, then it places them so far out into left field that they should probably be asked to leave the stadium.

…governments across the world are planning only for warming, a relatively benign scenario and one that is appearing increasingly improbable.

Warming will only be benign if carbon emissions are cut with extreme urgency, and if we can reduce the atmospheric carbon load to 350 ppm or lower as soon as possible. If we don’t — or can’t — do that, we are far more likely to be on the road to ruin.

And finally, Harris reveals his real agenda:

Moving away from coal and other hydrocarbon fuels to flimsy alternative power sources because of climate concerns would be suicide.

Failing to move away from coal and hydrocarbon fuels is the truly suicidal approach, but inconvenient to the fossil fuel interests that have bankrolled the campaign against emissions reductions, in which Harris has a been a bit-part player.

Harris’s interpretation of reality, born of an expedient ideology that lauds fossil fuels above all others and denies the reality of climate danger, is about as useful to any public debate on climate matters as a fart in the thunderstorm that’s just rattled through my neighbourhood. The digital overlords of Stuff Nation at Fairfax NZ have been made to look foolish. Their reader-led exercise in news gathering is only going to be useful if they do some cursory fact-checking. Or perhaps they have just demonstrated that they are willing fellow travellers with Harris on the highway to hell. Either way, they should be ashamed of themselves, and at the very least apologise to their readers for so egregiously misleading them.

  1. Internet home of Fairfax’s NZ newspapers, principally The Dominion Post (Wellington) and The Press (Christchurch).
  2. See update 2 to this post.

Signing up to nonsense: denialists plot letter to UN secretary general Gareth Renowden Nov 29

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People send me stuff. Imagine my surprise when this morning’s mail included the text of a round robin email from Tom Harris — the Canadian PR man who heads the Heartland-funded denialist lobby group the International Climate Science Coalition [full text here]. It gives an interesting insight to how these groups work behind the scenes. Here’s Harris appealing for signatures to a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon:

Time is short if we are to mount a significant counterpoint to the scientifically invalid assertions already being broadcast by the 1,500 journalists and 7,000 environmentalists attending the UN climate conference now underway in Qatar.

Please find below our “Open Letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations” to which we are inviting your endorsement. We have 61 qualified endorsers as of 9 pm EST, about 19 hours after we started to ask people.

Because we have an agreement with a major media outlet to publish the open letter on Thursday, I will need to know of your support within the next day if possible, please.

The denialist spin machine in action. The usual suspects queuing to sign up to a letter that’s going to be published — where? My guess would be the Wall Street Journal. Even more interesting is the nonsense these luminaries are so keen to endorse…

It’s worth noting that Harris is not giving anyone the chance to change his proposed letter. The usual suspects are expected to sign up without quibbling about wording. And they’re signing up to a thoroughly modern catechism of climate crank disinformation. Here are the key claims in the letter:

UK Met Office data shows “there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years”.

This is nonsense, based on a beat-up published by the Daily Mail a few months ago. Warming continues, as the World Meteorological Organisation points out.

Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years. Whether, when and how warming will resume is unknown. The science is unclear. Some scientists point out that near-term natural cooling, linked to variations in solar output, is also a distinct possibility.

“Some scientists”? I suspect only the signatories to Harris’s letter expect a “near-term natural cooling” caused by the sun1.

The “even larger climate shocks” you have mentioned would be worse if the world cooled than if it warmed.

A remarkable (and unsupportable) assertion. I will allow that an ice age might be an inconvenience, but as our emissions have effectively postponed the next one for the foreseeable future, that’s the least of our worries.

The incidence and severity of extreme weather has not increased. There is little evidence that dangerous weather-related events will occur more often in future.

The letter goes on to quote from last year’s IPCC special report on climate extremes (SREX), but ignores the key findings of that report: that increased extremes of hot weather and rainfall are being recorded, and are “virtually certain” to continue as the climate warms.

We also ask that you acknowledge that policy actions by the UN, or by the signatory nations to the UNFCCC, that aim to reduce CO2 emissions are unlikely to exercise any significant influence on future climate.

Harris and his tame signatories can ask, but to expect the UN secretary general to reject the advice of his own organisation and the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists on the basis of an error-ridden screed put together as a stunt by PR flacks for fossil fuel interests is a bit of stretch, I’d have thought. Harris’s letter will be just as effective as all the other letters he’s sent to UN secretary generals at climate conferences, and that is not at all.

  1. The phrasing recalls similar pronouncements by NZ’s very own Bryan Leyland, a veteran of several climate science coalitions. I wonder if by any chance he had a hand in the letter?

NZ Herald’s turn to offer propaganda as opinion – De Freitas’ links to cranks hidden from readers Gareth Renowden Sep 12

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The new “compactNZ Herald has taken a downmarket tabloid approach to informing its readers by running an opinion piece about the recent courtroom defeat for NZ’s climate cranks by prominent climate sceptic and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas, without explaining de Freitas’ long history of association with the cranks he’s defending. In the article, de Freitas overstates the uncertainties associated with temperature records, even going so far as to imply that the warming trend over the last hundred years might be “indistinguishable from zero”1. He also overplays the importance of temperature series to policy-makers — a line straight out of crank litigant Barry Brill’s playbook, and self-evident nonsense.

Despite this transparent partiality, the opinion editors at the Herald credit him like this:

Chris de Freitas is an associate professor in the School of Environment at the University of Auckland.

But, as the Herald opinion team well know, de Freitas is much, much more than a mere associate professor in the School of Environment. He has a track record of activism against action on climate change that stretches back two decades. Here, for the poor misled readers of the new Herald‘s opinion pages is a handy, cut-out-and-keep guide to de Freitas’ long history of climate denial activism.

This long list is far from complete — not least because it doesn’t include all the sceptic nonsense he’s presented as opinion at the NZ Herald and National Business Review over the years3, but it should serve to give a flavour of the man that Herald readers might think was a humble and respectable geographer at the University of Auckland.

The Herald has no excuse for failing to explain de Freitas’ interests in this issue, and should print a clarification as soon as possible. Carrying a good piece by Brian Rudman may “balance” CdF’s effort in some eyes, but the paper really needs to do better. What next? An opinion piece criticising the Labour party by prime minister John Key, where he is described as “a retired banker”?

[Updated 13/9 to add CEI link, and CdF's publication record.]

  1. “Temperature trends detected are small, usually just a few tenths of one degree Celsius over 100 years, a rate that is exceeded by the data’s standard error. Statistically this means the trend is indistinguishable from zero.”
  2. It didn’t.
  3. A rough count suggests that since 1990 he has published around 77 opinion
    pieces about climate change – with 32 in NBR and 27 in the Herald – partial publication record here.

Big coal coughs up for climate denial ’conference’, takes NZ sceptics along for the ride Gareth Renowden May 16

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As US corporate donors step away from the Heartland Institute following their ad campaign likening climate change believers to mass murderers and terrorists, big coal — in the shape of the Illinois Coal Association, supported by all the major US coal companies — has stepped in as a “Gold Sponsor” to support Heartland’s climate “conference” next week. In other heartwarming news for the ultra-conservative lobby group, the big guns of New Zealand’s climate denial movement, the Heartland-funded NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, have also sponsored the conference, thereby endorsing Heartland’s disgusting ad campaign.

Here’s what Heartland’s president Joe Bast says about the Unabomber billboard campaign:

’The leaders of the global warming movement have one thing in common: They are willing to use force and fraud to advance their fringe theory.’

Can we assume that Barry Brill, Bryan Leyland, “Heartland expert”1 Chris de Freitas and the other members of the NZ CSC all support Bast’s statement? Only Bob Carter has made a public statement, telling The Age that:

“the usual ‘liberal’ media sources” had been “amazing, immediate and over-the-top”, and that he would still speak at the conference.

Given that Heartland are happy to pay Carter a monthly retainer, it’s perhaps not surprising he supports their tasteless little publicity stunt. Money may not be able to buy you love, but it can certainly buy support, as Carter and the CSC crew prove.

  1. It’s worth following Big City Lib’s polling of other Heartland experts, to find out how many have asked for their names to be withdrawn following the Unabomber stunt. There’s no sign (yet) of de Freitas following suit.

What becomes of the broken Heartland? Gareth Renowden Feb 20

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The ramifications of last week’s leak of internal documents from the Heartland Institute — the US lobby group up to its neck in organised climate denial in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and perhaps elsewhere — continue to make news. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Heartland money was used to fund Aussie climate denial campaigners in 2009 and 2010, with funds channelled through the “American Climate Science Coalition” — a member of the coterie of climate “science” coalitions spun off from the New Zealand original with Heartland funding. Heartland’s charitable status in the US — which allows donors to the group to claim a 30% tax deduction (effectively a tax-payer subsidy of Heartland activities) — is being called into question as a result of the latest Mashey report into the links between Fred Singer and Heartland, and the dodgy nature of Heartland’s overseas grants. There have also been calls for some of Heartland’s large corporate donors to cease providing financial support for an organisation so steeped in climate denial.

The Sydney Morning Herald‘s investigation traced payments to Australian denial groups:

Documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that a group funded by the Heartland Institute, via a thicket of other foundations and think tanks, provided the vast majority of the cash for an anti-carbon price lobby group in Australia in 2009 and 2010.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of a conservative lobby group called the Australian Environment Foundation, received virtually all its funding from the International Climate Science Coalition, which has been financially supported by Heartland.

In 2010, the Australian group had an income of $50,920, and $46,343 of that came from the American Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of the International Climate Science Coalition, the ASIC documents show. The amount of public donations received was nil.

In 2009, the US arm kicked in $60,699 in funds – virtually all the Australian organisation’s entire budget of $62,910 – the ASIC documents show. Donations from the public, at a time when debate over the federal government’s proposed emissions trading scheme was at a peak, were just $138.

It seems likely that these payments — made through the ICSC and its US affiliate, the Climate Science Coalition of America — are in addition to the sums declared in Heartland’s Form 990 returns for 2009 (excerpted here). A total of US$115,000 was granted to bodies in “East Asia and the Pacific” in that year, following on from US$180,000 shipped overseas (with no regional designation) in 2008. The largest overseas grant made by Heartland — US$120,000 in 2008, categorised as “research/publication” — remains untraced, but it seems likely that it will also have been paid to either Australia, Canada or New Zealand. One major denial publishing project under way at the time was Joanne “Nova” Codling’s Skeptics Handbook, which Heartland later distributed to 12,000 US school board presidents — perhaps one of the unsuccessful attempts to influence school curricula referred to in the leaked documents.

The Guardian reports that John Mashey’s massive effort to analyse the links and financial flows between Heartland, Fred Singer and the Idso family firm, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CDCDGC), is leading to calls for an IRS investigation of Heartland’s charitable status. The funds sent to Australia and New Zealand over the last five years seem to be in clear breach of IRS rules1, and likely to cause Heartland and the recipients considerable embarrassment.

Heartland has also been attacked from its own heartland — the Republican Party. A group called Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) has called for Heartland to stop campaigning against action on climate change. In a press release issued on Friday, REP said:

While Heartland has done commendable work in other policy areas, such as risk management, its climate operation has become a public relations servant of special interests–sowing confusion, misrepresenting science, and spreading distortions that pollute what should be a robust, fact-based debate about climate change.

That’s not conservative. As William F. Buckley once said, “Conservatism implies a certain submission to reality.”

Climate change is an opportunity for conservative organizations to actually be conservative, by acknowledging facts and laying on the table conservative policies for dealing with the climate issue.

That’s a wonderful encapsulation of what we really need in a “climate debate”. Instead of the endless sniping at science and scientists, why not sit down and contribute to a solution? Heartland, of course, supplies the answer by being in thrall to the special interests of its funders.

Finally, allow me to commend an excellent article by Elaine McKewon at The ConversationThink tank’s talking points deepen the divide over climate change. Based on a recent study of the output of the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank with close ties to Heartland, McKewon examines the fantasy world created by opponents of emissions reductions. She notes nine “fantasy themes” in common use:

The nine themes were grouped into two categories. In the first category, ’a plea for scientific truth’, there are four fantasy themes:

  • climate scientists as rent-seeking frauds
  • climate scientists as dissent-stifling elite
  • Plimer as Galileo
  • Plimer as the people’s scientist.

The second grouping, ’religious, political and economic conspiracies’, includes five fantasy themes:

  • climate science as religion
  • environmentalism as religion
  • climate science as left-wing conspiracy
  • green as the new red
  • climate change mitigation as money-spinning scam.

Sound familiar?2 McKewon points out that these themes, acted out by stereotypical heroes and villains create a self-supporting belief system:

Together, these fantasy themes construct a rhetorical vision — an alternative reality — that is consistent with the ideology promoted by neoliberal think tanks such as the IPA and the hostility they provoke towards traditional ’enemies’ such as the environmental movement and the political left.

These fantasy themes serve as important markers of group identity for the IPA and its coalition of associate scholars, editors, opinion columnists and readers. They repeat the narratives — for example, in letters to the editor or in online comments or discussion forums. This repetition is a strong indication that they see themselves as members of the group.

It’s a compelling analysis that underlines just how successful Heartland and its allies have been at co-opting a large sector of right wing opinion in the service of their paymasters, and how powerful the myths they’ve carefully created can be.

[Jimmy Ruffin]

  1. See Mashey’s Fake Science…, p64
  2. Most of these themes are on display in just about every comment posted here by Joe Fone, Roger Dewhurst and the usual denialist suspects.

The catechism of climate crank cliché Gareth Renowden Jan 29

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“A cliché,” according to the late Brian O’Nolan, “is a phrase that has become fossilised, its component words deprived of their intrinsic light and meaning by incessant usage. Thus it appears that clichés reflect somewhat the frequency of the same situations in life. If this be so, a sociological commentary could be compiled from these items of mortified language.”

O’Nolan is perhaps better known as Flann O’Brien, the author of such staggering works of comic genius as The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two-Birds, but for many years he contributed a column to the Irish Times under the pen name Myles na Gopaleen. One of the highlights of that column was the occasional appearance of extracts from Myles na Gopaleen’s Catechism of Cliché.

I was reminded of that catechism when I stumbled upon the “core principles” of the International Climate Science Coalition, a list of the doctrines the ICSC expects its members and supporters to believe and promote. Like Myles’ least favourite constructions, they are certainly fossilised and deprived of any intrinsic meaning but have the added attraction of being for the most part untrue.

A catechism, as the more literate (or Catholic) reader will know, is:

…a summary or exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized, a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. [Wikipedia]

Amongst the doctrinal manuals available for today’s climate sceptic there are the popular scriptures by Plimer and Wishart, the undergraduate philippics of Carter and Allegro, and the industrial grade biblical length blockbuster produced by Fred Singer and his Not the IPCC project. So much to choose from, such a lot to read. How is the would-be denier to thread their way through such a maze of doctrinal complexity, uncertainty and contradiction? Let us help them by preparing a climate crank catechism in the style of Myles…

What is it that global climate is always doing?

Changing.

In what ways are current changes like a Tom Jones song?

They are not unusual.

What is the current warming (if any) of the planetary climate?

Modest.

What is it that climate science is doing?

Rapidly evolving.

And in what direction is that evolution proceeding?

Away from CO2 as a cause of climate change.

With what word shall we always prefix our mentions of climate change?

Dangerous.

Or?

Catastrophic.

Climate models are always?

Unreliable.

Climate models are in want of what?

Scientific integrity.

What future condition is climate modelling the only evidence for?

Catastrophic climate change.

[Narrator] Excellent! You are learning fast…

What are scientists who agree with us?

Independent.

And how many of them are there?

Thousands.

What collectively do they prove the absence of?

Consensus.

What is it that carbon dioxide is essential for?

Life on earth.

Action to reduce carbon emissions is what?

Premature.

What are all forms of renewable energy?

Heavily subsidised.

Yes. And?

Very expensive.

Yes. And?

Lead to increased CO2 emissions.

And finally: whodunnit?

It’s the sun what done it!

All comments to this post should take the form of an entry to the catechism.

Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics Gareth Renowden Jan 24

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The Heartland Institute, the US organisation that plays a key role in organised climate denial, has directly funded New Zealand’s most prominent sceptics, a search of US Internal Revenue Service documents has revealed. In 2007, Heartland granted US$25,000 (NZ$32,000) to the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, sending the money to NZ CSC member Owen McShane. They also gifted the International Climate Science Coalition US$45,000 (NZ$59,000), forwarding the cash to NZ CSC webmaster and ICSC founding chairman Terry Dunleavy. The documents do not reveal what the money was used for, but four NZ CSC members attended the December 2007 Bali conference as part of an ICSC delegation. Bryan Leyland, energy advisor to both CSCs, confirmed in 2008 that “some expenses” for the trip had been covered by Heartland, but the NZ CSC has never revealed the full extent of the Heartland Institute funding of their operations, or its role in the expansion of their “climate science coalition” franchise.

Details of the payments from the US lobby group come in the “Form 990” statements the US Internal Revenue Service requires non-profit and tax-exempt bodies such as Heartland to file every year. These are available to the public, either by direct request to the organisation, or at various web sites. The Economic Research Institute web site provides a handy search tool for 990 forms, and here’s what they have for Heartland. This is an extract from the return for 2007, annotated by me:

HeartNZCSC2007

The destination for the NZ payments is easy enough to trace. The Kaiwaka, Northland address belongs to Owen McShane and his Centre for Resource Management Studies, and the PO Box in North Shore City is used by Terry Dunleavy.

Payments of US$25,000 were also made to two Canadian groups actively involved in climate denial — the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP), then run by PR man Tom Harris1, and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a neo-liberal think tank which boasts Owen McShane as a member of its expert advisory panel2. $15,000 was donated to Fred Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project.

In all, Heartland shipped US$70,000 (NZ$91,000)3 to New Zealand in 2007. The money appears to have been used to fund a sceptic presence at the UN conference in Bali in December, and to fund the birth of the International Climate Science Coalition — a spin off from the original NZ climate “science” coalition, which had been established by McShane, Dunleavy, Leyland and others in April 2006.

For details of the Bali beano, I can do no better than to point you in the direction of Vincent Gray’s “what I did on my holiday” essay at the NZ CSC web site. It is amusingly Pooterish, but provides much interesting information4:

I have just returned from the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Bali where I was part of a small delegation of climate sceptics, as members of a new organisation, the International Climate Science Coalition.

There were four people from New Zealand; myself, Greg Balle, Owen McShane, and Bryan Leyland, three from Australia, David and Joanne Evans, and David Archibald, Will Alexander from South Africa and Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the UK.

The merry band had some minor triumphs:

We had not managed to book a stall, so I tried being a cuckoo, I found a comparatively unoccupied stall and displayed my pamphlets on it. I had two interested customers before the owner returned. It turned out he was a sympathiser (an organisation called “One World”) and took several pamphlets.

We managed to organize several lectures and a press event where we distributed copies of DVDs of the UK Channel Four programme, “The Great Global Warming Swindle” which is yet to be publicly shown in New Zealand, although it created quite a sensation in Australia. The lectures were given by Lord Monckton, David Evans and Bryan Leyland.

The high point, though, was when they got to play at dressing up:

We carried out a “stunt” in front of the main conference entrance when six of us dressed in lab coats and dark glasses displayed a banner saying “Kyoto 2 is not needed”. This created wide media attention and several at-length interviews. It was given particularly wide TV coverage in China, Malaysia and Japan.

It’s not possible to be certain how much of Heartland’s 2007 grant money was intended to orchestrate denialist “stunts” in Bali, but it’s worth noting that during the conference Tom Harris and Bob Carter of the NRSP coordinated an “open letter” to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon signed by the crême de la crême of climate denial5. A good chunk of the money, however, was clearly intended to “launch” the NZ CSC spin-off, the International Climate Science Coalition.

The ICSC business plan published last year by current executive director Tom Harris (pdf here) includes a helpful section on the history of the organisation. In “late 2007″:

In response to strong international interest in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) science-based approach to the climate debate, ICSC was created by NZCSC participants. ICSC’s mandate was to act as an international organization to:

  • Represent climate science realists at UN and other climate conferences, especially the December 2007 Climate Science Conference (COP13) in Bali, Indonesia.
  • Coordinate a more effective worldwide climate realists’ response.
  • Spawn the creation of ICSC country-specific affiliates around the world so as to help bring
    rational science, economics and policy to the debate at national/state/municipal levels.
  • Terry Dunleavy, MBE, JP, became ICSC Founding Chairman.
  • Bryan Leyland, M.Sc. (Power System Design), FIEE, FIMechE, FIPENZ became ICSC Secretary.
  • An advisory team of 20 climate science experts and 15 specialists in climate-related economics,
    policy and energy engineering were recruited–10 countries represented.

That’s the official version. Plucky Kiwis make the global big time is the preferred narrative. However, it is now clear that Dunleavy, Leyland et al were working hand in glove with the Heartland Institute during the creation of their new baby. The ICSC was being groomed to fit into the global network of organisations committed to climate denial, and it looks likely that Heartland was pulling the strings6.

Dunleavy and Leyland’s key roles in the founding of the ICSC were to prove short-lived. The NRSP’s Tom Harris was appointed executive director7 in early 2008, and he gave a presentation about the nascent ICSC to the Heartland Institute’s First International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago in March of that year8. The New Zealanders weren’t ignored however. McShane and Gray were flown over to the US to speak at the conference, and received US$1,000 fees for their exertions. Dunleavy and former ACT MP Muriel Newman also made the trip9.

Heartland and Dunleavy obviously had high hopes for the ICSC — at least, at the time. Announcing Harris’s appointment, Dunleavy wrote:

ICSC is committed to providing a highly credible alternative to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thereby fostering a more rational, open discussion about climate issues. ICSC will promote a new level of international cooperation and information sharing among climate realist scientists and organizations.

Heartland also had great expectations — both for their sceptic networking event and for their new coalition. Here’s Heartland’s James Taylor waxing optimistic in the conference announcement:

…Other possible follow-up activities now being discussed include:

  • an event in London in 2009;
  • launch of a new journal devoted to climate change;
  • launch of an association of philanthropists willing to support further research and public education opposing global warming alarmism;
  • support for an International Climate Science Coalition that will act as an alternative voice to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [my emphasis]; and
  • expanded cooperation among the scores of organizations currently sponsoring research, publications, and events on the dubious claims in support of the theory of man-made catastrophic global warming.

Unfortunately for the ICSC, Fred Singer was also in Chicago, giving an early look at his Not the IPCC project. Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate: Summary for Policymakers of the Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change appeared in mid 2008, and quickly became the preferred denialist alternative to the IPCC. Heartland thought enough of Singer’s efforts to publish the 880 page “full report” in June 2009.

The ICSC, meanwhile, became more Canada-centric and began to resemble Harris’s old home, the NRSP. Harris appointed a Canadian scientist as chairman, and brought in his former NRSP science advisor Bob Carter to fill the same role at the ICSC. Dunleavy continues to be listed as “founding chairman and strategic advisor”, Leyland as “energy issues advisor”, and there are numerous New Zealanders on the various panels and boards — ranging from Alan Gibbs to Chris de Freitas — but it’s not clear how much, if any, input they have to the day-to-day running of the ICSC.

The discovery of Heartland funding of the creation of the ICSC puts the organisation in a difficult position. Its web site has this to say about funding:

Since its formation in 2007, ICSC has never received financial support from corporations, foundations or governments. 99% of all donations have come from private individuals in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States and Canada.

Heartland’s $45,000 seed money makes a mockery of that claim — unless of course private individuals have actually donated $4.5 million to the ICSC over the last four years, or an “institute” somehow counts as an individual. But we may never find out: the “funding” statement includes this:

The identities of all donors are kept strictly confidential to protect their privacy and safety.

Heartland’s 990 returns for the next two years are much less informative than that for 2007. The 2008 form records $182,072 as being granted to overseas organisations, but does not identify where or to whom the money was sent, as this excerpt shows:

Heart9902008

The 2009 return is slightly more helpful, recording that $115,000 was granted to organisations in “East Asia and the Pacific”.

Heart9902009

Given Heartland’s very public links with Australian deniers and the NZ CSC, it would seem probable that “East Asia and the Pacific” is intended to cover activities in the two countries. It would be very interesting to learn where this money went. Half of 2007′s Heartland cash went to New Zealand, or through New Zealand sceptics’ hands. It must be at least possible that similar amounts were paid in the following years. In the interests of complete transparency — something the members of the NZ CSC and Heartland Institute demand of climate scientists and science institutions — perhaps McShane, Dunleavy, and Leyland, together with their US paymasters would care to disclose the full, unvarnished truth.

The members of New Zealand’s climate “science” coalition like to insist that their opinions cannot be bought. Yet by some strange coincidence their views align very neatly with those of the Heartland Institute, its funding sources and the tangled web of organisations that benefit from Heartland’s funding and networking efforts. They are clearly not averse to accepting money from US lobby groups, going on sponsored trips, or performing to the beat of an American drum when it helps what they consider to be “the cause”. Every time you see or hear McShane, Leyland, de Freitas or any of the usual suspects advocating that New Zealand do nothing about global warming, remember who is calling the tune.

[Sandy Shaw]

  1. The NRSP also featured Bob Carter as its science advisor.
  2. Other NZ members of the FCPP expert advisory panel include market fundamentalist politicians Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.
  3. At the NZ$/US$ exchange rate in late 2007.
  4. See also Joanne “Nova” Evans’ account of Bali doings here. Includes pictures!
  5. Solicitation of signatories archived here by Deep Climate. Final list at the SPPI site here.
  6. It should be noted that when the NZ CSC launched they did foresee the formation of an “Asia Pacific Climate Science Coalition, or equivalent”, presumably to bring Australia under their umbrella, so they were planning to widen their franchise from the beginning.
  7. NRSP became defunct after Harris’s departure.
  8. Heartland page here, full speaker list.
  9. Confirmed in another holiday report by Vincent Gray.

Cranking it out: NZ papers conned by denier media strategy cindy Jan 16

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My inbox in the last month has filled with emails about denier articles in leading New Zealand newspapers. It’s been a veritable crank central across the country. They include the ridiculous opinion piece by Jim Hopkins in the Herald late last year, a similar feature by Bryan Leyland  published in both the DomPost and The Press, then, last week, a piece by Chris de Freitas in the Herald, arguing that desertification in Africa isn’t caused by climate change.

Did Leyland and de Freitas, both leading lights in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, take advantage of newspapers’ lack of feature material over the holiday break and provide some copy to fill the gap?

An insight to the strategy behind our newspapers’ fairly regular publication of our local deniers can be gained from reading a document I came across recently: the Canadian-based International Climate Science [denial] Coalition’s (ICSC) media strategy, originally posted on the front page of its website last year (pdf here).

Titled Winning Hearts and Minds to Climate and Energy Reality, the strategy is designed, apparently, to “help shift public, media and government opinion away from futile attempts to mitigate global climate change.”

How do they plan to achieve this?

“Continued provision of mass media commentary (either directly, or by assisting national CSCs and other allies) via newspaper and magazine opinion articles, letters to the editor, news releases, and radio and TV interviews, and call-ins, as well as private communication with receptive media players.”

It also aims to…

…take direct aim at dangerous attempts to replace significant amounts of conventional power with “low carbon energy.”

Their shining example of this is an article by Leyland entitled “Wind farms not everything they’re cranked up to be” published in the NZ Herald in late 2010.

They admit it will take “several years” to “completely derail climate alarmism”.

Just what is the ICSC? It is riddled with New Zealanders, who set it up after establishing the NZ Climate Science [denial] Coalition1.

Leyland is its “Energy Issues Advisor”. Its founding chairman and strategic advisor is the NZCSC’s wine expert, Terry Dunleavy. Auckland geographer Chris De Freitas is a consultant scientific advisor. Gerrit van der Lingen and Vincent Gray are on its science advisory board. Alan Gibbs and Owen McShane are on the policy advisory board and the webmaster is Allan Manson, who works for Datacom systems and owns the domain names for the NZCSC, the ICSC and the American Climate Science Coalition.

The rest are a who’s who of climate denial around the world. One member of the Policy Advisory Board is UK denier David Henderson, brought to New Zealand by the Treasury for a speaking tour in early 2007.

Canadian PR man Tom Harris runs the ICSC. Formerly associated with energy lobby groups and another group that lobbied for the tobacco industry, Harris has been a regular speaker at the Heartland international denier-fests.

The full web of connections between the Kiwi deniers, the ICSC and various US conservative think tanks funded by the fossil fuel industry to run campaigns of climate denial can be seen in this ExxonSecrets map. While Exxon isn’t the only one funding these groups, it’s nevertheless a good way of showing the web of denial the Kiwis are caught up in.

Leyland has already admitted that he was funded by the Heartland Institute to go to the 2007 UN climate talks in Bali — and presumably Heartland also paid for McShane and Gray to attend. Leyland has no climate change credentials at all — he works for the power industry and lobbies against renewable energy. In short, he’s an energy industry lobbyist who hates renewables.

De Frietas is not much better: the man is teaching climate denial to first year geography students at Auckland University, a story revealed by the Herald itself and analysed by Hot-Topic. He’s also worked with think thanks such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute — not forgetting his stint at Climate Research where he published an inordinate number of denial papers.

So why do our newspaper editors keep publishing these lobbyists connected with a bunch of US conservative think tanks? The ISCS strategy is not new — this is the same furrow ploughed by inactivists since the early 1990’s. But which of our papers seem to have fallen for these strategies the most? I’ve done some digging back through the archives to see how they’ve been doing.

The NZ Herald is among the worst, right up there with the National Business Review. Setting aside their opinion writers Jim Hopkins and Garth George (who has finally given up this job and moved to the Bay of Plenty), the Herald has repeatedly published the deniers’ screeds.

De Freitas is probably the most-published denier in NZ. He has helpfully listed all of his publications on his website . A quick look through this list produces some interesting numbers: Since 1982, the Herald has published 36 opinion pieces by de Freitas, 12 of them in the five years since the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment in 2007, surpassing even the NBR, which published only four of his pieces in the same timeframe.

The majority of the Herald opinion pieces (24) have been published during the reign of Herald editor Tim Murphy, who took over the helm in 2001 and moved up to editor-in-chief in 2005. It appears that the strategy of pestering editors has been successful, at least with Murphy — I have been told that he publishes them to get the NZCSC off the phone. Looks like he has fallen for the ISCS’s strategy of “private communication with receptive media players”.

Perhaps the most egregious was a feature page last year, with a de Freitas piece given equal weight as one by the Vice President of the Royal Society, Dr Keith Hunter, with the headline: “The Great Climate Debate”. While there are many “great debates” in the world of climate science, the “is it happening or not” debate is only actively promoted by deniers, just as the tobacco industry ran its “doubt” campaign in the ‘60’s.

This week’s effort by de Freitas has been the first under the helm of the new editor, Shayne Currie. Will he continue in the same vein as Murphy and publish de Freitas regularly?

The Herald has also published several articles by Leyland and one by Dunleavy.

Since 1982, the National Business Review has published 35 editorials by de Freitas denying the science of climate change. In a way, you’d expect that, given the NBR’s right-leaning ideology and strong anti-climate stance. Owen McShane has 46 denier articles and Leyland four.

De Freitas has also managed to get four pieces in The Listener, but none since 2008 when his piece, co-authored by Bryan Leyland, landed the magazine in the middle of a furore over the sacking of columnist Dave Hansford after his column revealing Leyland’s payment by the Heartland Institute.

The Dominion Post has been fairly measured, publishing only two of de Freitas’ pieces, but publishing a myriad of Vincent Gray’s letters (again, a strategy pushed by the ICSC). Leylan seems to get a receptive ear in the DomPost’s business section.

The Press has published very little, apart from a few letters – but it regularly quotes Leyland talking about the power industry, with some occasional stories quoting him as an NZCSC spokesman. I strongly suspect the recent Leyland piece was published by an editor standing in for Andrew Holden while he was on holiday.

Talk to the producers of some of the country’s major radio programmes and they will tell you how reluctant they are to host climate scientists because of the wall of vitriol they get from the denier camp every time they mention anything reflecting the mainstream climate science. They, too, are targets of the ICSC’s media strategy, which urges its members and associates to call in to radio shows.

Perhaps it’s time for New Zealand’s editors and producers — and indeed journalism lecturers — to read the work of former Time, Fortune and Businessweek editor/deputy editor Eric Pooley, who authored a 2009 study on climate change reporting in the US for Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Centre on Press and Public Policy. He looks at the “balance as bias” (or “he said she said”) syndrome in reporting on climate change — “a condition in which journalists stick to the role of stenographer, recording two sides of a debate even when the two sides are not of equal merit.”

“Notions of journalistic objectivity…shouldn’t prevent reporters from recognizing consensus and making judgments based on the best available evidence. Instead, they should help the public decide who is right and who is wrong in a debate where the stakes—our economy, our planet—could not be higher.”

Climate change reporting is not simple, but publishing outright lies by deniers is not helping anyone. Time for New Zealand’s newspaper editors to face facts, and refrain from printing lobbyists fantasies.

[Updated Jan 23 2011: ICSC removed doc link from their site; now leads to copy hosted here.]

  1. I put the word “denial” in there because their science is somewhat lacking

Prat Watch #1: columnated ruins domino Gareth Renowden Dec 12

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Being the first in an occasional series in which we monitor the wilder excesses of climate denial. Warning: reading and/or viewing the original material referenced herein may cause uncontrollable mirth. Hot Topic accepts no responsibility for any adverse effects that may result, but recommends a good micro fibre cleaning cloth for removing coffee/tea/wine from computer screens…

However gloomy I may be about the prospects for serious international action to reduce carbon emissions, I did find a few things to enjoy amongst the events in Durban, not the least of them being the fact that the only way Mark Morano and potty peer Christopher Monckton could draw attention to their CFACT-sponsored trip was by jumping out of an aeroplane in an attempt to attract the attention of the world’s press.

From the CFACT web site:

Multiple media outlets showed up to record the event, including the AP, BBC, and South Africa’s national news network. It was a huge success! Climategate 2.0 can not be ignored!

Shows, I suppose, just how desperate the denial campaign is to make mileage out of yesterday’s emails. But Monckton and Morano weren’t finished…

The vituperative viscount is well-known for his ability to misread and misrepresent UN negotiating drafts, but he outdid himself in an “analysis” that was met with glee at µWatts and Treadgold’s place. Here’s a sample of his wisdom, culled from Durban — the insanities the mainstream media conspire not to report:

Here — and, as always, you heard it here first, for the mainstream media have conspired to keep secret the Madness of King Rajendra and his entire coterie of governmental and bureaucratic lunatics worldwide — is what the dribbling, twitching thrones and dominions, principalities and powers of the world will be asked to agree to.

For the full gory details you’ll have to go and read it at the above link, but if you do, note how Monckton claims that the Central England Temperature record is “quite a good proxy for global temperatures”, and rediscovers an attempt at world government — all leavened with much Moncktonian rudery: “the mentally-challenged Durban droolers”, “the staring-eyed global-village idiots”1, and much, much more. Swallowed whole by the twitocracy he serves, of course.

[It seems unfair, at this point, to refer to (yet another) excellent Monckton debunk by potholer54 -- but I'll do it anyway.]

Meanwhile, CFACT communications director Mark Morano was issuing his own A-Z of climate denial Climate Reality Check2, which rather disappointingly turns out to be little more than an index to the many and various fevered distortions already featured at his Climate Depot blog.

Far more worthy of attention is a post-Durban press release from the International Climate Science Coalition, featuring the work of three New Zealanders — Bob Carter, Bryan Leyland and Terry Dunleavy. According to the ICSC:

International Climate Science Coalition Rejects Durban Agreement to set New Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets — No ’Climate Debt’ is owed to developing countries

Nobody is much interested in what the ICSC has to say, except perhaps Treadgold and the reader of the Rock River Times3, but you have to give them credit for trying. Here’s Carter, dissembling heroically as usual:

Science has yet to provide unambiguous evidence that problematic, or even measurable, human-caused global warming is occurring. Consequently, any agreements–Durban, Cancun, Copenhagen or Kyoto–to reduce humanity’s greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions are utterly futile.

And here’s Bryan Leyland getting things ass backwards, as usual:

Expensive and ineffective alternative energy projects such as wind turbines and solar cells are receiving massive government support, in the belief that they will reduce GHG emissions which are wrongly blamed as a cause of dangerous global warming. Meanwhile, the conventional power sources that we rely on for our very survival, let alone the economic progress we need to create a better world, are deliberately starved of support. This is a very dangerous situation.

Fossil fuels deliberately starved of support! Sorry Bryan, the International Energy Agency‘s latest report (press release) puts subsidies for fossil fuel consumption at $409 billion, and subsidies to renewable energy (all forms) at $66 billion. A positively Moncktonian effort at spin, I will admit4

And finally5, it will come as no surprise to aficionados of the denial choir that Christopher Booker is still bonkers. Complaining about the global warming episode in the latest BBC/Attenborough nature documentary6, he states:

Sir David’s dramatic shots of Greenland may have tried to convey that its huge ice cap is rapidly melting. But a detailed study five years ago estimated the proportion of its ice lost by melting around its periphery at only seven thousandths of 1 per cent of the total, suggesting that it could make little significant difference to sea levels for thousands of years.

Do try and keep up Chris. The latest Arctic Report Card puts last year’s Greenland melt at a loss of 430 Gigatonnes of ice mass, sufficient to increase global sea level by 1.1mm. But I suppose a five year old paper is more to your liking.

[Columnated ruins = falling peers/piers. Delphic, moi?]

  1. Which some might think involved pots being rude about kettles.
  2. Exec summary here, full pdf if you really must, but I’ve done it so you don’t have to.
  3. In which Bob Carter — in all seriousness — says the world would be better served by dropping the IPCC and instead using the NIPCC as the fount of all wisdom.
  4. Though it was trivially easy to prove you wrong. Please try harder next time.
  5. As Trevor McDonald used to say.
  6. Anybody know when it will be broadcast in NZ?

Don Brash: climate cluelessâ„¢ to the core Gareth Renowden Jun 30

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The new leader of New Zealand’s far-right ACT Party — the former National Party leader, Don Brash — has confirmed that he’s a fully paid up member of the climate cluelessâ„¢, a worthy successor to Rodney Hide, and perfectly on side with major ACT Party backer, millionaire Alan Gibbs (who just happens to be on the policy advisory panel of the International Climate Science Coalition). But Brash hasn’t troubled himself with working on a new script for his climate denial, he’s retreading some of the oldest canards in the denial play book. In a speech this afternoon to the annual conference of Federated Farmers, Brash trotted out this remarkable sequence of untruths, half truths and straightforward lies, annotated below for your reading pleasure…

Early in his speech, Brash joined in with the denial meme du jour, accusing lowly local government officials of being “little Hitlers“, but then got into his stride with a robust attack on government policy.

[...]finally, ACT will press for the abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Why do we have an ETS? I have to admit I know of no good reason at all.

One might wonder why an intelligent man who has led two political parties and been governor of the reserve bank could be so unaware of the facts, but thankfully he proceeds to explain what he does understand: clearly and obviously nothing.

To be sure, it seems pretty clear that on average temperatures around the world have been increasing. But they’ve been increasing for at least the last 200 years, since the days when the Thames regularly froze over, and that warming began long before greenhouse gases caused by human activity could’ve had a significant influence on the climate.

Do I hear echoes of Bryan Leyland and the NZ Climate Science Coalition here? Has Brash been outsourcing his denial to the friends of his backer, Alan Gibbs? Couple of points Don. The Thames never “regularly froze over”. It happened only in the coldest winters, and after the demolition of the old London Bridge (which acted as kind of weir) not at all.

And we know temperatures were very warm in the medieval period, and in Roman times, when grapes were routinely grown in what is now the United Kingdom. And greenhouse gases could hardly explain that, or the cooling which took place between those warm periods.

Oh dear, the old canard about grapes in the UK. There’s almost certainly a greater acreage of vineyards in Britain now than at any time in recorded history. Did Lord Lawson forget to mention that, the last time you met?

Even if a case can be made that human activity is behind the gradual increase in global temperature, it isn’t obvious that an increased temperature is necessarily a bad thing for life on the planet.

Time for Don to don the blinkers. You’d think he must have been asleep during the record breaking weather extremes of the last 18 months, which just happen to have been exactly the sort of thing you expect from a warming climate, and which many experts suggest are an ominous harbinger of things to come.

We know that plant life thrives on an atmosphere high in carbon dioxide — which is why many market gardeners deliberately pump carbon dioxide into their glass houses.

But Don, you must have noticed (as a good kiwifruit grower) that not all plants live in greenhouses, pampered and spoiled by their growers. Out in the real world, they thrive under the limits ordained by Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, and CO2 is seldom one of those.

And we know that human societies thrive both in Singapore and in Finland, though average temperatures in the two places could hardly be more different.

Brilliant. Global warming affecting you? Install air conditioning. Got a Fujitsu franchise, Don? Doesn’t help the plants or the ecosystems that are under threat, especially when the pace of change is so rapid. Or your kiwifruit plants, which need some winter chilling to produce fruit.

Incurring the many trillions of dollars in cost which would be involved in any serious global attempt to slow the increase in average temperature would place an enormous burden on all societies, especially those already living on the margins of existence.

Cynical in the extreme, Don. The worst off people in the world are the ones expected to suffer most as the climate warms, and it’s the well off in the developed world, who got rich without penalty on their carbon emissions who are to blame. So to avoid some economic cost — and not as much as you might have us believe — we are to condemn the poor to suffer. The rich might be able to afford to adapt, if only in the short term. Tell that to the people living in the Asian megadeltas, who will be the first to see their livelihoods destroyed by rising seas.

And even if it were accepted that human activity is causing the planet to warm, and that the enormous cost of trying to slow that warming is justified, it’s entirely unclear why New Zealand should be at the forefront of that effort, at considerable cost to all New Zealanders, including New Zealand farmers.

At last, a reasonable argument. Accept the facts, and argue about what we do. That’s some kind of progress. But we should — morally and ethically — do our bit, do our fair share. If we listen to the siren voices of Gibbs and his Climate Science Coalitions, ignore what’s coming down the road, and lock our economy into a high carbon pathway, we will lose money on the way to losing our planet. How stupid is that?

[Nick Lowe]