SciBlogs

Posts Tagged Koch

Prat Watch #2: the 2011 Climate BS Awards Gareth Renowden Jan 06

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

The 2011 Climate BS Awards (where BS stands for Bad Science) have just been announced by Peter Gleick and the Pacific Institute [Huff Post, Forbes]. Nominated and voted for by a crack team of climate scientists and communicators, the awards go to “particularly egregious, notorious, or well-publicized examples of bad climate science that were produced over the past 12 months and used to try to influence or confuse the public and policymakers”. Runaway winners? The Republican candidates for President of the USA. Here’s the award citation in full:

Being anti-science in general, and anti-climate science in particular, seems a requirement for nomination to lead the Republican Party. Not a single one of the Republican candidates for President has a position on climate change that is consistent with the actual science accepted by 97-98% of all climate scientists and every national academy of sciences on the planet. The choice among the current Republican candidates on the issue of climate change is scientific ignorance, distain for science, blatant misrepresentation of facts, or naked political expediency, any one of which would make the individual candidates strong contenders for the 2011 Climate B.S. Award. Combined? The group wins the 2011 Award hands down. [my emphasis]

Worthy winners, and deeply depressing for the future of the planet. Here’s the rest of the award pantheon:

  • #2: Disinformation from Fox News and Murdoch’s News Corporation
  • #3: Spencer, Braswell, and Christy
  • #4: The Koch Brothers for funding the promotion of bad climate science
  • #5: Anthony Watts for his BEST hypocrisy

Read the full awards citations (including “honourable mentions”) at Peter Gleick’s blogs or at the Pacific Institute. Readers might care to nominate worthy Australian and New Zealand contenders for a southern hemisphere award. There are plenty of prime contenders…

You’re (not) the BEST thing Gareth Renowden Oct 24

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Set aside for one moment the fact that New Zealand has just (in every sense of that word) won the Rugby World Cup for the first time in a quarter of a century, and consider instead events in the world of temperature records. (Don’t worry, it won’t take long). A team led by Berkeley physicist Richard Muller — the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST) — has successfully reinvented the wheel, by demonstrating (once again) that the planet has been warming over the last 150 years. Tim Lambert at Deltoid explains the algorithm Muller employed:

  1. State that “reported global warming may be biased by poor station quality“.
  2. Collect funding from Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
  3. Make the utterly predictable finding that warming is not a product of poor measurement.
  4. Brief reporters.

Michael Tobis at Planet 3.0 puts the affair in its proper context:

The science has not changed a whit — no serious scientist cares very much that the record has been confirmed yet again. Under ordinary circumstances this paper would have trouble getting published. This is not a red-letter day in scientific history. No new information is on the table. It’s posturing.

As for posturing, Brian Angliss at Scholars & Rogues points out that a certain US weather station quality control effort is under a little stress. One wonders if this might not spread to those who would wish to cast doubt on the NZ record?

[The Style Council]

Albert the knowledge penguin on climate Gareth Renowden Jan 03

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Albert1.jpg

Albert2.jpg

Albert the Knowledge Penguin explains the real story of climate change, from the science to the politics, and gets it right. Read the rest of the story here. British cartoonist Darryl Cunningham has clearly done a lot of research, got a good grasp of the issues — and he eviscerates the Koch and Scaife-funded campaign to derail action. Great pay off line, too.

Crime of the century Gareth Renowden Nov 02

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Dealing with global warming is difficult, but it shouldn’t be impossible. What we need to do is well understood. Yet a campaign to prevent and delay emissions reductions, which began in the 1980s almost as soon as science began warning there might be a problem, has been so successful that two decades later it seems that substantive action, the sorts of cuts required to leave us with a planet we can recognise, are impossible to put in place.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the people who coordinate and run that campaign are morally and ethically bankrupt (I’m being polite), but are they also criminally liable for the damage their actions will undoubtedly cause? Donald Brown, Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law at Penn State University, discusses the issue in a recent article: A New Kind of Crime Against Humanity?: The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Disinformation Campaign On Climate Change. Brown points out that the issue is much more than just a matter of science, it has moral and ethical dimensions:

As long as there is any chance that climate change could create this type of destruction, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that these harms are not yet fully proven, disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible if it leads to non-action in reducing climate change’s threat when action is indispensable to preventing harm. In fact how to deal with uncertainty in climate change science is an ethical issue, not only a scientific matter, because in the case of climate change:

  • If you wait until all the uncertainties are resolved it is likely to be too late to prevent catastrophic climate change.
  • The longer one waits to take action, the more difficult it is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of climate change at safe levels.
  • Those most vulnerable to climate change include some of the poorest people in the world and they have not consented to be put at risk in the face of uncertainty.

Brown cites a New York Times article which concludes that:

…the oil, coal and utility industries have collectively spent $500 million just since the beginning of 2009 to lobby against legislation to address climate change and to defeat candidates who support actions to reduce the threat of climate change.

The extent to which this is a carefully coordinated campaign was underlined by a recent Think Progress report on a meeting of “titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives” held in Aspen last June, organised by the Koch brothers. Climate denial and its relevance to the US elections (underway as I write) was on the agenda (pdf):

Energy and Climate: What drives the regulatory assault on energy? What are the economic and political consequences of this? How discredited is the climate change argument? What effect does this have on the electorate, especially in key states. [my emphasis]

From the outside looking in, could I be forgiven for thinking that the Koch brothers and their friends have remade US conservatism in their own image, and made it serve their interests above all others? The self-interest of billionaires has shaped the catechism of the new right, put the tea in the parties, and it’s hard to see how any Republican leader can now advocate strong action on emissions — for purely domestic political reasons.

But this is not just a US domestic issue, as Brown explains.

It would be one thing for an American corporation to act irresponsibly in a way that leads to harm to Americans, but because of climate change’s global scope, American corporations have been involved in behaviour that likely will harm tens of millions of people around the world. Clearly this is a new type of crime against humanity.

I find it hard to disagree. At some point, when the damages from climate change are severe and undeniable, there will be a backlash against those who deliberately made matters worse. It might be purely a legal affair, with lawyers fattening themselves on cases seeking billions of dollars of damages, but it might equally be a more visceral matter, with US standing in the world suffering as countries bearing the brunt of climate change react against the people, companies and political system that sealed their fate. Global change has global repercussions, and the US will not be insulated from that.

Brown goes on to consider the role of skeptics:

Skepticism in science is not bad, but skeptics must play by the rules of science including publishing their conclusions in peer-reviewed scientific journals and not make claims that are not substantiated by the peer-reviewed literature. The need for responsible skepticism is particularly urgent if misinformation from skeptics could lead to great harm.

The idea of “responsible scepticism” is something I’ve considered before but have never attempted to define, but it’s clear from Brown’s view on how it should be conducted that it would be greatly different to the approach adopted by the Moncktons Plimers, Wisharts, Carters and Easterbrooks of this world.

Brown’s conclusion is straightforward enough:

…this disinformation campaign being funded by some American corporations is arguably some kind of new crime against humanity.

No doubt some will argue the billionaire’s corner, but it’s clear that the Koch and Scaife-funded attack on the science of climate is not “responsible scepticism”, it’s naked self-interest masquerading as policy. I have little doubt that the world will one day curse their names.

Note: Brown cites Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt as one source for his piece. Oreskes is giving lectures in Australia later this month. Details at Deltoid.

[Supertramp]

Well, I’ll be… blowed Gareth Renowden Apr 07

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

The estimable Bomber Bradbury has been wondering why all the climate cranks have gone quiet since the exoneration of Phil Jones and the CRU by a British parliamentary enquiry — and, surprise, has since received something of a challenge from Cameron Slater at his Whale Oil blog. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t go anywhere near Slater’s site, but I did notice that a little while ago he was moved to post this

Is Gareth Renowden a complete twat?

Is he a fraud as well?

Ok what about as deluded as ’Quota’ Smith?

Oh come that is too harsh for any one surely?

Can we mark ’believers with a tattoo so when they later claim they didn’t ’really’ believe they were just trick ing we can kick their lying balls real hard?

Distasteful, I think you’ll agree. Perhaps he has shares in a tattoing business? In any event, he’s earned a riposte. Let’s look at his “challenge” and see if it stands up to scrutiny.

Slater relies on four bits of “evidence” to rebut Bomber’s post: two items from prime climate crank site WattsUpWithThat, and two from Aussie junk scientist Joanne Nova.

The first post from µWatts is a comment from Fred Singer on the House of Commons report. Sadly for Slater, Fred Singer is not a credible witness. He has a 30 year history of working for PR campaigns: for the tobacco business against restrictions on smoking, for industry against action to reduce CFC emissions, and for the last 20 years he has been singing the same old song on climate change. Here’s just one line Slater quotes from Singer:

How can we tell that it’s a white wash? Here are some tell tale signs:

It refers to the e-mails as ’stolen’

Well, perhaps that’s because the emails were stolen. The server in question at the University of East Anglia was hacked into at least three times, and the entire email database was downloaded. The released emails were only a selection of what was taken. This was no “leak” by a whistleblower. Even if there was someone inside CRU involved, perhaps passing on passwords or other information, the act of copying the emails was illegal in British law, and would be illegal in most jurisdictions. It was a theft, pure and simple. Singer wants to perpetuate the assiduously created myth of a whistleblower, and help to get the whitewash meme established. Given his track record, he would, wouldn’t he…

Slater’s second item from µWatts is an email selected from the CRU heist, designed to suggest that CRU was taking money from Shell. “Climate Scientists shills for big oil?” is Slater’s question. A shill is someone paid to endorse a product favourably, while pretending to be impartial. That’s a far better description of Fred Singer than Mick Kelly or Mike Hulme. Slater’s intention seems to be to establish some sort of equivalence between oil money funding the denial campaign, and oil money funding university research. The truth is, of course, that Shell considering funding a studentship at the CRU or UEA is somewhat different in intent to Exxon funding a PR campaign against action on carbon emissions. Shell, in common with Exxon and most big oil companies, funds university research in relevant fields. It’s a way of generating good PR and hedging bets against an energy future where carbon has a cost. It’s worth noting that oil companies have been known to fund modelling of past climates because it can give them information about where the conditions for oil formation may have occurred.

Slater’s final two bits of “evidence” centre around Aussie sceptic Joanne Nova’s remarkable arithmetical skills. Last year she added up every number she could find that might be in any way related to climate research in the USA, and come up with a figure of $79 billion over the last 21 years. This is so much more than the funding from Exxon for climate denial, that it proves the sceptics are the poor down-trodden minority, she claims. Nova’s $79 billion is nonsense, of course, and in a recent opinion piece she contributed to ABC’s The Drum Unleashed, you can detect a little guilt:

The US government spent $79 billion on climate research and technology since 1989 – to be sure, this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it’s 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics. [my emphasis]

Nova goes on to complain:

Ultimately the big problem is that there are no grants for scientists to demonstrate that carbon has little effect. There are no Institutes of Natural Climate Change, but plenty that are devoted to UnNatural Forces.

Science is funded to find out how things work, not how we’d like things to work. It’s an immensely competitive field. If there were real chinks in the evidence, they would be attracting huge attention from scientists. But there’s no sign of the Heartland Institute, CEI, the Koch brothers, or the Scaife foundations funding real research. No, they’re happy to let the likes of Monckton and Nova sing the songs of denial, feeding the echo chamber they’ve created (and of which Whale Oil seems so proud to be part). Doubt is their product, and they’ve been very good at selling it.

As the next couple of CRU/email reports arrive, I expect the denial machine to carry on with its whitewash allegations. But it will still only be noise. The laws of physics didn’t change because someone stole a few emails, and it will be those laws and human cupidity that will get us further into trouble. One day, global warming will be undeniable, and I wonder who history will then judge to have been the “twat“?

Buying denial: Koch caught in the act Bryan Walker Apr 02

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Greenpeace has been digging.  It has unearthed Koch Industries as a major funder of climate change denial groups. A new 44 page report tells the story. It fits well with  their more widely-scoped report Dealing in Doubt to which Gareth drew attention recently.

I was unaware of Koch Industries and, according to Greenpeace, that’s also the case for most Americans.

’This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy. In fact, Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’.’

The corporation is owned by the Koch brothers, two of the ten richest people in the US. Kansas-based Koch Industries is a conglomerate dominated by petroleum and chemical industries. The report details the roughly 40 climate denial and opposition groups receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years and notes this may be only part of the picture, since direct contributions from Koch family members, executives, or the company itself are not disclosed. Political influence is wielded in other ways as well, including $37.9 million from 2006 to 2009  for direct lobbying on oil and energy issues.

Greenpeace notes that around twenty of the groups Koch Industry supports were involved in the ’ClimateGate’ story of the supposed malfeasance of the climate scientists involved in the stolen UEA emails.  Between them they set up the echo chamber which repeated and rebroadcast the story, claiming the emails prove a ’conspiracy’ of scientists and cast doubt on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.

It’s familiar enough ground. What’s new is the major part Koch Industries has played and continues to play in it. The Greenpeace report is further confirmation that climate change denial is firmly grounded in the vested interests of those whose wealth might be threatened by a move away from fossil fuels.  Some of the denial campaign’s foot soldiers may consider that they have genuine intellectual reasons for their denial, but it’s hard to believe that the Koch brothers support is anything other than cynical.

For a short and engaging coverage of the issues involved it’s well worth having a look at this 8-minute video clip on DeSmog Blog.  It’s from the Rachel Maddow show and includes an interview with Jim Hoggan the author of Climate Cover Up. He extends the period covered by the Greenpeace report and says that over 13 years Koch Industries have spent more than $50 million dollars supporting the 40 organisations. Hoggan’s field is public relations.  He comments that the concerted attacks from apparently diverse sources poison public conversation and undermine public confidence in the science.

’The trick in public relations is always repetition…When you pour $50 million into the 40 organisations like this — and Koch Industries isn’t the only funder, Exxon and a number of other groups and companies are funding these 40 climate change denier outfits — that is an incredibly powerful influence over public opinion.’

 Journalists still talk solemnly about the ’damaged credibility’ of climate science in the wake of Climategate.  Big money so far has every reason to be satisfied with the return on their investment in the campaign of denial. Much less expensive than doing science and still apparently more effective. Hopefully there will be an end to it.  James Hansen commented in a recent  communication to his email list: ’On the long run, these distortions of the truth will not work and the public will realize that they have been bamboozled.’  But he feels obliged to add: ’Unfortunately, the delay in public understanding of the situation, in combination with the way the climate system works (inertia, tipping points) could be very detrimental for our children and grandchildren.’

I often wonder whether these powerful vested interests give thought to the welfare of their children and grandchildren, who will share the common fate in a matter as fundamental as climate change.