Well, I’ll be… blowed

By Gareth Renowden 07/04/2010

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“?