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February 25 2012

23:40

Heartland Funding Disinformation Echo Chamber

The Heartland Institute has been using its corporate funding to create an echo chamber of experts-for-hire, subsidiary think tanks and websites which all work together to rebroadcast information in Heartland's manufactured controversy about climate change.

In the last week, Heartland has been able to rely on this network - and on its own considerable skill as a propaganda machine - to deflect responsibility for the recent revelations of its own improprieties.

The Heartland Valentine's Day document dump included Budget and Fundraising documents that confirm, for example, that in addition to keeping a stable of pseudo experts on retainer to challenge the world's foremost authorities on climate change, Heartland also makes large and regular investments in other organizations, such as the web-based climate-change denier (and weather man) Anthony Watts.

Watts, in turn, has stepped up this week as the Heartland public relations department, putting his WUWT site at Heartland's disposal for the release of statements and generally defending his benefactor and attacking its detractors.

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April 17 2011

22:41

Don't Be Fooled: Fossil Fools Fund Latest Climate Skeptic Petition

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) recently published a flashy headline that reads, '900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm'. The article links to a blog post on Populartechnology.net listing more than 900 papers which, according to the GWPF, refute "concern relating to a negative environmental or socio-economic effect of AGW, usually exaggerated as catastrophic."

The "900+ papers" list is supposed to somehow prove that a score of scientists reject the scientific consensus on climate change. One might be persuaded by the big numbers. We're not. <!--break-->

Oh, where to begin? First, a note of caution about the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It's a UK group opposing climate change action. Sourcewatch's digging reveals links to right-wing libertarian climate change deniers. According to the UK Charity Commission, GWPF's mandate is to "advance the public understanding of global warming and of its possible consequences, and also of the measures taken or proposed to be taken in response to it". Actually, they're a heck of a lot more interested in sowing seeds of doubt than in disseminating knowledge. The GWPF's director is the Heartland Institute's* Benny Peiser, climate change denier extraordinaire. Other notable members include Canada's Ross McKitrick of the Fraser Institute.   

Curiously, the GWPF was launched just as the Climategate emails were released. An op-ed by Chairman Nigel Lawson announced the GWPF, predicted the (hopeful) failure of the Copenhagen climate talks, and called for an inquiry into the content of the stolen emails.

Using a screen-scraping process to analyze the data on the "900+" list, the folks over at Carbon Brief dug up some pretty incriminating information. Turns out nine of the ten most cited authors on the list (representing 186 of the 938 papers) have links to ExonMobil-funded organizations. The tenth has co-authored several papers with Exxon-funded contributors. Anyone familiar with these kinds of lists ("More than 500 scientists dispute global warming" or "more Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims") knows that if you've seen one, you've seen them all.  Many familiar climate skeptic names appear over and over again.

Dr. Sherwood B Idso is the most cited author on the list, having authored or co-authored 67 of the papers. Idso is president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, a think tank funded by ExxonMobil and the Sarah Scaife Foundation

The second most cited is Dr. Patrick J. Michaels, a well-known climate sceptic who admits that around 40% of his funding comes from the oil industry.

When you really crunch the numbers, all you really find is a small echochamber of the same individuals who pop up on every denier list and petition around. James W. Prall at the University of Toronto has put together a fantastic analysis of the names that appear on these lists, and shows how most of them share funding ties to the oil industry. 

Now a note on the most cited journals on this list. Articles from trade journal Energy and Environment are cited 137 times on the list. Energy and Environment is edited by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Benny Peiser. Numerous known climate skeptics sit on the editorial staff including Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, and Richard Lindzen.  The journal has become a go-to resource for policymakers and politicians who are skeptical of the scientific consensus of climate change. 

Michael Ashley of the University of New South Wales has described it as “the climate sceptic’s journal of choice”. The Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge is considered a key resource for establishing the credentials and influence of key academic journals. It does not list Energy and Environment.  

A further 24 papers come from the journal Climate Research which is perhaps best known for publishing a 2003 paper by Sallie Baliunas and Willy Soon that received funding from the American Petroleum Institute. In response to the paper’s publication, the editor in chief, Hans Von Storch, and five of ten members of the editorial board, resigned in protest.

Let's contrast this "900+ list" with the real facts. Expert Credibility in Climate Changewhich appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines over 2,400 climate scientists and authors who have signed public statements on climate change. Their research says that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field believe that global warming is happening, and that we must respond to it.

A note to deniers: if you keep publishing these lists, we'll keep debunking them. Long lists might look convincing, but they're no substitute for research that is free of fossil fuel industry bias and is taken seriously by the scientific community. 

*Updated: Peiser is listed as one of the global warming 'experts' by the Heartland Institute, but does not work there.

Image Credit: Prospect Magazine

February 08 2011

22:44

Oily Strategists Mint Another Silly Climate Petition

The public relations man and energy industry front group promoter Tom Harris has partnered with the Exxon-sponsored Idso family on a new petition dismissing the risks of climate change as "small to negligible."

The petition is currently headlining at the WattsUpWithThat website, which probably shouldn't surprise anyone, given that proprietor and weather guy Anthony Watts was one of the original signatories to one of the original silly climate petitions: the Leipzig Declaration.

These petitions are, in the most important ways, all the same. They feature the same cast of discredited characters (Pat Michaels, Fred Singer) and the same discredited arguments. The biggest such effort of the last 20 years was the Oregon Petition, which used a fraudulent National Academy of Sciences letterhead to solicit something in excess of 30,000 signatures from "scientists," including a small handfull who had actually studied or practiced climate science.

But the point has never been to advance the science. The goal has been to give the impression that a legitimate scientific argument persists. And here we go again.

<!--break-->The wedge for this particular effort was a letter that 18 legitimate climate scientists submitted a couple of weeks ago to the Members of Congress. Those scientists appealed to legislators to stop fiddling with the "abstractions" (I would have said, deceptions) of the climate argument and to get on with some solutions that will spare us all from a future that no one wants.

In response, Harris, a former APCO Worldwide PR pro, who has since launched energy-linked front groups including the Friends of Science and the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, and remains a policy bender at the International Climate Science Coalition, teamed up with the oil-implicated Idso-family business, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change. Together, they produced a new letter and began soliciting new signatures, taking care to get to a number larger than 18, so they can say they carry more weight than the impressive scientists whom they are trying to shout down.

I will leave it to the experts to dismiss the specious arguments that the Harris-Idso cabal have advanced, but bid you to look at the names (and ages) of those "experts" who have signed this letter. There are many complaints from this community that a tight group of climate scientists control the peer-reviewed literature and keep them out. But the real reason these people don't crop up much in scientific journals discussing climate change is that - at least with people like Singer, Michaels and the Idsos - they are not much engaged in science. They're in PR. Which can be an honourable calling. Or not. It really depends on who's practicing and who's paying.

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