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March 12 2012

19:59

Climate Change Denial Isn't About Science, or Even Skepticism

Cross-posted from the David Suzuki Foundation's Science Matters blog. By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.

Let's suppose the world's legitimate scientific institutions and academies, climate scientists, and most of the world's governments are wrong.

Maybe, as some people have argued, they're involved in a massive conspiracy to impose a socialist world order. Maybe the money's just too damn good. It doesn't matter. Let's just imagine they're wrong, and that the polar ice caps aren't melting and the climate isn't changing. Or, if you prefer, that it's happening, but that it's a natural occurrence — nothing to do with seven billion people spewing carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere.

Would it still make sense to continue rapidly burning the world's diminishing supply of fossil fuels? Does it mean we shouldn't worry about pollution?

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March 06 2012

01:08

Fakegate: Who’s the Fake?


4 out of 5 climate deniers prefer Heartland In recent weeks, the climate community has been in a bit of an uproar over leaked documents from the Heartland Institute (H.I.). One of which was a memo outlining specific strategies that H.I. claims is “a forgery apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute,” not written byanyone associated with The Heartland Institute, “ nor does it “express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics.”

While the jury is still out as to whether or not the H.I. memo leaked by Gleick is a forgery, many are concerned that this incident may tarnish the credibility of climate science and its consensus.  Peter Gleick, president and founder of the Pacific Institute climate research group who fraudulently obtained the documents has admitted to a “serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics,” and resigned from his posts on the board of the National Center for Science Education and the chairmanship of the American Geophysical Union task force on scientific ethics.

Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute, the self-proclaimed victims of a dastardly “criminal offense subject to imprisonment,” are now using it for their advantage – fundraising. Prominently displayed on their website: “Left wing groups commit fraud but we’re fighting back. Join our legal defense fund to remove false and defamatory materials and prosecute the true criminals…

Heartland Institutes’s President and co-founder Joseph Bast recently emailed his donors asking for their support:

“I need your help!…Can you make a charitable contribution to our legal defense fund? You would be helping us defend ourselves against a cowardly and criminal attack. You would also help us take down a notch some of the left-wing activists and their friends who so plainly crossed the line this time.”

Now a few things come to mind. For starters, regardless if this memo was a fake or not, the climate denial machine already has a long history of strategic memos that  were leaked.

In 1991, the Information Council for the Environment (ICE) was created by coal and mining associations with the objective to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact) if not a myth” and “attack the proponents [by comparing] global warming to historical or mythical instances of gloom and doom.” ICE disbanded soon after internal memos were leaked to the press.

In 1998, there was the memo drafted by the American Petroleum Institute’s Global Climate Action team that highlighted specific strategies to “inform the American public that science does not support the precipitous actions Kyoto would dictate…” Explicitly, “Victory will be achieved when average citizens, industry leaders and media ‘understand’ (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; [and it] becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.”  These strategies included a direct outreach program with information kits and educational materials, recruiting scientists who would publicly debate the science, a national media relations program to generate coverage, the establishment of a foundation to serve as a “one-stop resource on climate science” and grassroots efforts with literature such as peer-reviewed papers, fact sheets and op-eds that would “undercut the ‘conventional wisdom’ of climate science.”

(Any of this sound familiar?)

Then there was Frank Luntz’s memo in 2002 advising Republican leaders on how to win the “environmental communications battle,” particularly to “the global warming debate.” Suggesting a variety of tactics, his foremost advice was to challenge the science and emphasize scientific uncertainty: “The scientific debate remains open…should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue.”  

While Luntz has finally come around to believe in the reality of global warming and agrees with the  consensus, the damage was done and the denial machine continues to challenge the science and emphasize uncertainty.

In December 2010, during the height of Climategate and immediately after correspondent Wendell Goler reported on-air that 2000-2009 was “on track to be the warmest [decade] on record,” Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon emailed a memo to Fox journalists:

“…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.”

(Yet again proof, as if we didn’t know, that Fox News is in the business of unfair and unbalanced and industry biased infotainment – not news. And the climate denial wheels keep spinning round…)

My second thought and again irregardless if the memo leaked by Gleick was a fake, why ever is the Heartland Institute in such a frenzy, so outraged, so indignant? As in the words of Bast,Left-wing bloggers are filling the blogosphere with quotes from the fake memo, claiming it reveals our “hidden agenda” and “secret plans.” Oh no, sound the alarm!

Look, we all know that H.I. is a key player in sowing doubt and denial, nearly a poster child for the strategies outlined in the API memo. Their publication Environment and Climate News, “the monthly newspaper for common-sense environmentalism,” currently runs with the headline, “Climategate 2   Reveals Further Scientific Misconduct, Doubts.” Their list of contributors, speakers, fellows, so-called experts is a shining constellation of prominent deniers: Sallie Baliunas, Lord Christopher Monckton, Ross McKitrick, Christopher C. Horner, William H. Gray, Myron Ebell, Willie Soon, Tim Ball, PhD, Richard Lindzen, Bjorn Lomberg, Pat Michaels, S. Fred Singer, et al.

To date, H.I. has presented 6 “International Conferences on Climate Change,” sponsored by such unbiased, truth-seeking and yes fossil-fuel-funded organizations such as the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.  Topics include “global warming is not a crisis;” the “widespread dissent to the asserted ‘consensus’ on various aspects of climate change and global warming;” and “new scientific discoveries have cast doubt on how much of the warming of the twentieth century was natural and how much was man-made.”  This past summer’s  6th conference, “Restoring the Scientific Method” acknowledged that the “science of climate change is based on ‘post-normal science’ which substitutes claims of consensus for the scientific method” with “terrible consequences for science and society.”

So, is it defamatory to assert or even reveal that H.I. has a “hidden agenda” and “secret plans” to dispute the reality of global warming? Actually, maybe it is since they’re not being all that  secretive about it – nor is their intent to debate and dispute climate science (or any science that threatens the free market) very hidden.

This brings me to my final point. In his book, Propaganda, social theorist Jacques Ellul writes, “Facts come to be discussed in the language of indignation, a tone which is almost always the mark of propaganda.” More so, “The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed, he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has and of trying to commit the very crime he himself is about to commit…”

With that in mind, let’s take one more look at Bast’s email:

“When the left runs out of arguments and facts which is usually pretty quickly they turn to attacking our donors. They do this to discourage people from supporting us, as well as other conservative and libertarian groups. We understand their game.”

You bet they do… Cripes, they nearly invented it… in this decades long, fully-funded, industry agenda-driven propaganda campaign to distort, debate and defame the science and reality of anthropomorphic global warming and climate change. All to ensure that we remain content with business, or rather fossil fuel profits, as usual.

And despite Gleick’s actions, which were dishonest, dishonorable, bad and wrong, we are still amateurs at the game – that is if we really wanted to play it and resort to their deceptions or even their obvious tactics like the editing and censoring of news items or federal documents.

Just take look at what they do: All this hubbub about leaked documents and no mention of what went down during Climategate, (and now Climategate2.0)  As Kate Sheppard  writing in Mother Jones eloquently put it, “Heartland didn’t seem to mind when emails between climate scientists that were stolen from a server, made public, and lied about on the internet—either the first or second time it happened. It’s only now that such behavior is “just despicable,” a “violation of journalistic ethics,” and a criminal offense.”

Or when in 2009 climate journalist Andrew Revkin misstated information in an article and caught the heat.  Lord Christopher Monckton accused Revkin and the New York Times of “deliberate misrepresentation”  and of writing a “mendacious article.”

Or consider what H.I. contributor Christopher C. Horner wrote in his Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming:

“The dishonesty and bully tactics employed to preserve the appearance of consensus are startling:” The consensus claim depends on discredited reports, character assassinations and fake experts.” “It’s the greens who seek to censor science and intimidate dissent and debate prompting a stream of intimidation and ad hominem attacks.”Alarmists “have decided that the best way to win the global warming debate is by shouting down the opposition and demonizing them in the eyes of the public.”“When one side is short of persuasive arguments, it resorts to personal denigration of the other side; ignoring its arguments; attempting to silence it; and exaggerating its own claims. All these telltale signs are manifest from the climate change side today.”

Really… yes, they do understand the game alright but just whom are they talking about? Surely not the left who is now in a tizzy about Gleick’s unfortunately questionable means to reveal the conscious efforts to deny climate change.  But hear this, those of you who fear that scientific credibility has been tarnished, we can worry about this so-called Gleickgate, this Fakegate, Climategate(s) – all of the “gates” we want to –  because that is exactly their game – to debate, dispute, distort, deny the science and precisely to tarnish credibility to keep the American public confused and distracted so that we continue to use fossil fuels, build pipelines, bemoan the price of gas without ever demanding green energy, a green infrastructure and a sustainable economy.

Seriously, don’t we have enough to worry about?

The good news is that more Americans believe climate change is happening – because they now have direct experience. Mother Nature has taken care of that. We must now, in good faith, move on and continue to expose the denial machine and all of its tactics, while also moving towards the means of curbing any more effects, and ensure we do the right thing as a nation for ourselves and the planet.

Image credit: ClimateCrocks.com

Internal Heartland Institute Email Blasts “Lamestream Media” for Climate Leak, Mother Jones, By Kate Sheppard Feb. 16, 2012

March 05 2012

15:28

Don’t Blame the Victims: Why Public Outreach By Climate Scientists is More Vital Than Ever

In the last few years—and especially in the wake of the ClimateGate pseudo-scandal—climate researchers have become much more politically engaged. They’ve sought to become better at communication, and to have a greater influence on public policy. They’ve tried to establish rapid response capabilities, and also, better ways of protecting themselves from political harassment and lawsuits.

This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because there has been a long term campaign to attack and discredit climate science, and obscure what we actually know. Ultimately, researchers decided that they couldn’t just be silent as their knowledge was distorted, or as their colleagues were attacked.

So what did they do? Just what Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan would have done—and in fact, did repeatedly on the public issues of their day. They spoke out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is essential. Scientific knowledge is a powerful thing, which is precisely why it is of vital importance that it gets communicated, accurately, in such a way as to influence public policy. If that isn’t happening, then not only is it natural for scientists to step up—they have a moral obligation to do so, and to do so effectively.

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February 25 2012

01:48

Republic Report Slams Media Obsession With Shiny Penny In Heartland DenialGate Coverage

Lee Fang at the Republic Report has a great post noting the media's obsession with the shiny penny of the who/how story surrounding the leaked documents chronicling the Heartland Institute's planned attacks on science and democracy.  

While groups like Greenpeace, The Climate Reality Project and Forecast the Facts are focused on exposing the real scandals uncovered in Denialgate, most mainstream media outlets are mesmerized with the Peter Gleick saga rather than reporting on the revelations within the documents.

The debate about what Gleick did to acquire the internal documents from Heartland will surely rage on. It will make good fodder for university students in ethics and journalism classes for years to come.

But as Republic Report points out, it is hardly the most vital aspect of the story for mainstream media outlets to prioritize coverage on right now. That is, if the mainstream media are truly reporting what's in the public interest, rather than chasing advertising revenue through scandal-mongering.

Fang writes: 

While bending this story away from a focus on Heartland’s M.O. and onto Gleick’s methods might seem like an impossible task, it seems as [if] the media is taking the hook firmly in its mouth.  

The real question the media should be considering is not how Gleick got his hands on a few documents, but how to cover Heartland — both how it has covered it in the past and how it will in the future.

Head over to Republic Report to read the rest, it's spot on in my opinion. And bookmark RepublicReport.org, a must-read new site launched in recent months to expose the corporate cash corrupting democracy. It's a rockstar team of investigators surely worth following closely. 

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February 23 2012

22:29

DenierGate: Forbes Op-Ed from Heartland Fellow Doubles-Down on Lobby Group’s Lost Irony


Heartland plays by the book - the tobacco and climate denial playbookIn response to the revelation the climate scientist Peter Gleick is behind last week’s scandalous “pranking” of the Heartland Institute, James Taylor, writing in Forbes, has declared the whole affair as an example of “global warming alarmist’ deceit and desperation.”  To be sure, Gleick actions are not condoned by many within (and without) the “alarmist” camp (a.k.a. climate scientists), despite Taylor’s assertions to the contrary.

Apparently, Gleick was anonymously sent a “strategy paper” that prompted Gleick to followup on its contents by acquiring internal documents from the Heartland Institute under an assumed identity. The Heartland Institute has feigned moral outrage, insisting that the strategy paper that prompted Gleick to acquire additional documents was a forgery, though line-by-line analysis of the contents of the memo even bring that into question.

Taylor gears up his followers into a frenzy of outrage that people would stoop to such low tactics, painting Gleick as a deceitful, dishonest, and desperate alarmist; using that same brush in an attempt to smear climate science and climate scientists in general. All this he does without any apparent sense of irony, despite the fact that Heartland has engaged in desperate, dishonest, and alarmist tactics for years. When thousands of emails were stolen from the University of East Anglia, Heartland was first in line to hail the action as good and right, proceeding then to consistently misrepresent the contents of the emails to further their own sagging, desperate, deceitful attempts to further their own agenda.

Despite numerous investigations finding no “smoking gun of deceit” in those emails, Taylor wastes no time in attacking “warmist” scientists. For him, it is okay to steal thousands of emails from climate scientists, but when Gleick makes a few documents available to the press (unethically), it is, for Taylor, illustrative of all the is deceitful and desperate about all climate scientists (er… “warmists”). Gleick has apologized for his actions, Taylor and Heartland double-down. All done without a whit of irony.

Taylor is himself no climate scientist. He is an attorney; trained to make arguments in support of an agenda. He argues that the “legitimate” documents exposed by Gleick only show the inner workings of an honest, forthright organization. Taylor makes no mention of the program to introduce Heartland-style controversy into school curricula, a plan spearheaded by David Wojick. Wojick holds a doctorate in epistemology and is not a climate scientist. But who better to educate our children about climate change and sustainability than a hand-picked, non-climate-scientist from the Heartland Institute?

Instead of actually being forthright in the actions and intentions of the Heartland Institute, Taylor goes on the attack. Not just of Gleick and his questionable actions, but of climate science itself, characterizing one unfortunate incident as a “scandal” exposing the global warming “movement” as desperate, delusional and “collapsing as global warming fails to live up to alarmist predictions.”

It’s unclear to me what world Taylor is living in, but his total lack of irony in making such statements is laughable.

In his Forbes piece, Taylor attempts to turn the tables by changing the “Deniergate” label to “Fakegate.”  Again, the irony seems lost on him.

Fakegate it is. I can think of no better way to describe the Heartland Institute.

Image credit: Climate Crocks

February 22 2012

23:48

Evaluation shows "Faked" Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic

A line-by-line evaluation of the Climate Strategy memo, which the Heartland Institute has repeatedly denounced as a "fake" shows no “obvious and gross misstatements of fact,” as Heartland has alleged. On the contrary, the Climate Strategy document is corroborated by Heartland’s own material and/or by its allies and employees.

It also uses phrases, language and, in many cases, whole sentences that were taken directly from Heartland’s own material. Only someone who had previous access to all of that material could have prepared the Climate Strategy in its current form.

In all the circumstances – taking into account Peter Gleick’s explanation of the origin of the Heartland documents, and in direct contradiction of Heartland’s stated position – DeSmogBlog has concluded that the Climate Strategy memo is authentic. 

read more

August 30 2011

18:51

Can Water Treaties Be Climate-Proofed?

International agreements on how to manage rivers used by more than one country are too inflexible, making them poor tools to deal with changes in freshwater availability caused by climate change.

June 16 2011

18:20

Farm Jobs Lost? Blame Environmentalists! (Or Not.)

The Pacific Institute reports that the farmers of California's Central Valley did far better than advertised during the three-year drought of 2007 through 2009.

November 27 2010

03:13

2010 In Review: Scientists and Journalists Take Stock and Share Lessons Learned

 

There's no doubt about it. It’s been a challenging year for climate science and climate scientists, for journalists, and for the public. A string of legislative and regulatory disappointments coupled with dizzying political spin have left many more confused than ever about the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change. 

It's been a particularly grim year following the Citizens United decision that ushered in a new era of rampant electoral spending on climate change denial; the U.S. midterm elections produced a Senate filled with climate change skeptics and deniers; a failed climate bill or two, and after the Copenhagen talks failed to produce any real results.  In addition, many pundits and analysts are giving us good reason to believe the U.S. won't see a climate bill for two years, and little reason to believe that real climate progress will be made in Cancun next week. it seems there's a lot of reason to feel distressed.  

Last week marked a year since the so-called Climategate "scandal" sent climate change deniers into an echo chamber frenzy.  Bud Ward and John Wihbey aptly note that to even call it “climategate” lends it credence that is undeserved.  But, it is important that we try to learn lessons from it.   This certainly won't be the last difficult year for the climate change movement; an increasingly challenging political environment promises more interesting times ahead, both for the science and for the scientists who devote their lives to the subject.  In a nutshell, we've got our work cut out for us. <!--break-->

In this great two part series from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, Ward and Wihbey explore what climate scientists have learned in the last year, and share what the reporters whose responsibility it is to share and help evaluate their findings have learned. 

Peter H. Gleik of the Pacific Institute writes,

...there is an improved realization of how impossible it is to keep the climate science questions and debates separate from the political and ideological debates. And I hope we’ve learned the importance of communicating accurately and constantly. Being passive in the face of political repression, ideological misuse of science, and policy ignorance moves us in the wrong direction. I would like to think the community has learned that depending on the “honesty” and “impartiality” of journalism is not enough … that without strong input from climate scientists, the wrong stories get reported, with bad information, and ideological bias.

Similarly, Andrew Revkin writes, 

If science media tried to sustain coverage of science (including climate science) as a process, including the ugly parts, the public might be less apt to be surprised by occasional revelations of conflict like those illuminated through the batch of hacked/liberated (pick your adjective depending on your worldview) e-mails and files.

Beware the lure of the front-page thought in gauging developments in complicated science pointing to a rising human influence on climate, lest you end up giving readers whiplash. Try rigorously to include context on the overall state of knowledge when framing stories on science around conflict, given that conflict is a constant in science.

Develop patience. The story of humanity’s entwined climate and energy challenges will outlive you. No single treaty, meeting, e-mail hack, IPCC report, or climate bill is a keystone.

Read on about climate scientists' and journalists inspiring and thoughtful lessons and ruminations on the 'climate' of climate change in the last year at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media (Part IPart II). 

 

May 07 2010

20:06

Esteemed Scientists Hit Back at Climate Denier Campaign In Science Letter

255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel laureates, have penned a letter in Science slamming the disinformation campaign orchestrated by a small network of climate deniers that has confused the public about the real danger of climate disruption.

The scientists’ letter, published in the May 7th issue of the journal Science (subscription req'd), says:

"We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular."

The scientists note that the fundamental science of climate change is sound, despite the extensive campaign by deniers and skeptics to confuse politicians and the general public:
 
"There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend."
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Noting that denier attacks are “typically driven by special interests or dogma,” the scientists rail against the overblown attacks on the IPCC for its minor mistakes: 

"Many recent assaults on climate science and, more disturbingly, on climate scientists by climate change deniers, are typically driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected.
But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change…”


In a clear rebuke of the efforts of GOP climate deniers like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK to deny reality), the scientists call for an end to the harassment of climate scientists:

"We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them."

As Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute and one of the co-signers of the letter, notes:
“It is hard to get 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to agree on pretty much anything, making the import of this letter even more substantial.”

The scientists conclude with an appeal for action to address climate change:

"Society has two choices: we can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively."

The letter is available at Science (subscription required), and reprinted at The Guardian and Climate Progress for open access.

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