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August 07 2012


Andrew Bolt Cuts Ties With Climate Science Denying Galileo Movement Over Alleged Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theory

ANDREW Bolt is Australia's loudest and most popular climate science doubt-spreader who just loves to stoke the fires of environmental conspiracy theorists with his daily splurge of blog posts and his weekly radio and TV shows.

The blogger and columnist in the Murdoch-owned News Ltd press describes climate change as a "religious movement" and says climate scientists are part of a global conspiracy.

Bolt allows his commenters to refer to the United Nations as the "United Nazis" and regularly joins the "one world government" conspiracy theorists while pulling quotes out of context to insinuate "warmists" have ambitions of totalitarian "global management". He maligns solar power at every opportunity and claims wind farms are an "insult to the intelligence".

But there is at least one conspiracy theory which Andrew Bolt isn't happy to endorse. Up until last week, Bolt was listed as an adviser to one of Australia's most active climate denialist organisations the Galileo Movement. But then what happened?

In a report late last month in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Galileo Movement's project manager Malcolm Roberts, a former mining industry consultant, was asked if recent research led by US physicist Professor Richard Muller had swayed the group's thinking on human-caused climate change. The SMH report read

Mr Roberts said climate change science had been captured by ''some of the major banking families in the world'' who form a ''tight-knit cabal''. He said he understood that the group's views might sound strange, but claimed they were becoming increasingly popular.

''It does sound outlandish,'' Mr Roberts said. ''I, like you, was reluctant to believe it [but] there are significant things going on in Australia that people are waking up to. The UN's climate front is just a part of the overall UN 'Agenda 21', which is the sustainability program and the biodiversity program … But the biggest one's the UN agenda for global governance.''

The bit about "banking families" made its way to Bolt, who was apparently spooked and wrote Roberts an email saying his words "sounded very much like one of those Jewish world conspiracy theories that I despise". After getting a reply, Bolt wrote:

Your conspiracy theory seemed utterly stupid even before I knew which families you meant. Now checking the list of banking families you’ve given me, your theory becomes terribly, shamefully familiar.

Two of the three most prominent and current banking families you’ve mentioned are Jewish, and the third is sometimes falsely assumed to be. Yes, this smacks too much of the Jewish world conspiracy theorising I’ve always loathed.

Bolt then asked to be removed from the list of the Galileo Movement's advisers, which is a veritable who's who of climate science denial, listing the likes of Lord Christopher Monckton, Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, Bob Carter, Ian Plimer and the Cato Institute's Pat Michaels. Popular Sydney radio host Alan Jones is Galileo's patron. Will any of them feel the need to follow Bolt?

In the comments section, Roberts claimed his words were not anti-semitic and that "Some of my friends and those who I respect, admire and value enormously for their achievements are Jewish." But Roberts then offered to educate Bolt on "major international banking families", "cabals" and pushes for "global governance".

Bolt's defection does put him in something of an awkward position, not least because one of the people who Roberts recommends to Bolt for more on his banking theories is David Evans, who is one of Bolt's favourite skeptics. For example, Bolt cites Evans here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and, well, you get the picture.

Evans, the husband of climate sceptic blogger JoNova, once outlined his thesis in a 2009 paper published by the Science and Public Policy Institute titled Manufacturing Money, and Global Warming. Naming the "Rothschilds", Evans writes

The banking families don’t work for a living in the normal sense, like the rest of us. They avoid scrutiny and envy by blending in and make themselves invisible. Since they own or influence all sorts of media organizations, it isn’t too hard. There are unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories, but nobody can really credibly say how much wealth and influence they have.

One of Bolt's other favourite "experts" to cite is Christopher Monckton who, like Evans and Nova, is also an adviser to the Galileo Movement. Bolt cites Monckton enthusiastically  hereherehere and here and probably lots of other places.

Monckton has been pushing his various conspiratorial talking points around the globe for years. To add to his insistence that climate change is some sort of socialist plot to take over the world, Monckton has recently taken to questioning the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate in a Tea Party-sponsored tour. Is Bolt happy to stick with Monckton, one wonders?

But is it fair to generalise that people who deny climate change science are all conspiracy theorists? Well no, but one piece of new research does suggest that people who reject the science are also more likely to entertain a whole range of whacky ideas.

Research led by cognitive psychologist Professor Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Western Australia, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, found an important predictor for climate science denialism was a belief in free-market economics.

But the research also found a correlation between denial of human caused climate change science and "conspiracist ideation", such as acceptance of supposed CIA plots to kill Martin Luther King, faked Moon landings or how the US government let the Japanese attack Pearl Harbour so they could enter World War II.

Or the strongest correlation, plots to create world governments.

February 14 2012


Heartland Insider Exposes Institute's Budget and Strategy

An anonymous donor calling him (or her)self "Heartland Insider" has released the Heartland Institute's budget, fundraising plan, its Climate Strategy for 2012 and sundry other documents (all attached) that prove all of the worst allegations that have been levelled against the organization.

read more

January 27 2012


Will The Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Seed Funder Be Revealed?

Who is funding the shadowy front groups that represent the interests of polluters by sowing doubt about climate change? One of the most aggressive climate denial “think” tanks spreading misinformation in Europe is the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded in 2009 by former British Conservative politician Lord Nigel Lawson, who chairs the organization.

British investigative journalist Brendan Montague argued today in a tribunal that the UK's Charity Commission should release documents regarding the GWPF’s early funding. Specifically, Montague seeks to persuade a judge to compel the release of a bank statement provided to the commission by Lord Lawson that would reveal the name of the "well known" secretive donor who furnished Lawson with the initial £50,000 seed donation to launch the GWPF.

In his appeal to the Information Rights Tribunal to fulfill his Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the financial document, Montague argued that the public has a right to know who has bankrolled the GWPF to assess possible conflict of interest. The GWPF has promoted doubt about manmade climate change ever since its founding in 2009. It is essential to the public interest because it will help to understand the foundation’s motivations for continuously promoting political inaction on climate change, Montague argues. He seeks to confirm whether this wealthy donor is connected to the oil or coal industry.

NASA’s James Hansen and other scientists have publicly endorsed Montague’s inquiry. Climate denial front groups have long hidden behind the lack of a legal requirement to reveal their donors, a level of secrecy that is increasingly under the spotlight around the world. Greenpeace has worked diligently for more than a decade to compile information about funding from ExxonMobil and, more recently, the funding from Koch Industries for U.S. climate denial groups through its ExxonSecrets.org site and its reports on the Kochtopus network

But little is known about other sources of funding, particularly support from other polluter interests.

"The public should know who is funding climate denial so they can properly judge the information put out by organizations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation,” Australian ethics professor Clive Hamilton told Graham Readfearn, writing for the Brisbane Times.**

DeSmogBlog and others have repeatedly pointed out that the GWPF plays fast and loose with facts, and the funding sources behind Lord Lawson's group are thought to be another area in which the GWPF may not be telling the whole truth. 

Lord Lawson has claimed in a GWPF annual report:

… “we offer all our donors the protection of anonymity. However, in order to reassure those who might otherwise doubt our complete independence, our Protocol for the Acceptance of Gifts lays down that we do not accept donations either from the energy industry or from anyone with a significant interest in the energy industry.”

Montague wants Lawson to come clean about this to see whether it's true or not. Montague is a seasoned journalist who previously worked for the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail in the UK, and now serves as director of the Request Initiative, which files Freedom of Information requests on behalf of non-profits.

Montague's lawyer Robin Hopkins appealed to the judge today:

There is enormous public interest in transparency as to who that individual is. There is a pressing need to scrutinise whether or not that person has any ‘significant interest’ in the energy industry. It appears that the Charity Commission makes no attempt to address that issue – it is left entirely in the hands of the GWPF itself.

Further, it is important that the public knows which high-profile figure has this degree of influence within GWPF. Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee has expressed this public interest and has pressed for transparency on the issue of GWPF’s donors. It has been stonewalled.”

Tribunal judge Alison McKenna is expected to reach a decision within four weeks. 

Read Montague’s witness statement to the UK Information Rights Tribunal [PDF].

**Graham Readfearn, a freelance journalist, is a DeSmogBlog contributor. The piece he wrote for the BrisbaneTimes.com.au describes in more depth how the UK inquiry has important ramifications in Australia and around the world. He notes that two prominent Australian climate change contrarians – Professor Bob Carter, of James Cook University, and Professor Ian Plimer, a mining company director and geologist at the University of Adelaide – are members of the GWPF's academic advisory committee. See Graham’s piece for more detail: Bid to out the money behind the voice against climate change.

AttachmentSize Brendan Montague GWPF Witness Statement.pdf365.85 KB

December 13 2011


Climate Science Denier Ian Plimer Recruits Former Australian PM To Launch Book Targeting Children

ON November 24 in Melbourne, Professor Ian Plimer launched his new book which aims to spread doubt and uncertainty on the science of climate change.

Targeting school children and teachers (at least superficially) with his book, Professor Plimer told the audience: “These children are being fed environmental propaganda and these children are too young to be fed ideology”

Yet the book – How to Get Expelled From School – is being supported by the Institute for Public Affairs, a think-tank that exists to do little else than spread its own free-market ideology.

Not only that, but Professor Plimer, a geologist at the University of Adelaide, was actively fundraising for the IPA just last month when the Federal Government’s carbon price legislation was passed.

The executive director of the IPA John Roskam, former corporate affairs manager for mining giant Rio Tinto, is on the editorial board of the book’s publisher, Connor Court.

During his 20-minute launch speech on YouTube, Professor Plimer criticised climate scientists for being allegedly part of a “political movement”. Yet in virtually the next breath, he told the audience “one of the aims of this book is to maintain the rage, because we have an election coming.”

So much for spreading ideology and taking the politics out of science?

Since that late November gathering, Professor Plimer has managed to fit in a trip to the UK to speak at a debate in London hosted by a group called Repeal The Act. The aim of the debate was to encourage people to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the UK Parliament’s Climate Change Act.

The group boasts as its patron Professor Bob Carter, the IPA’s science policy advisor and another Australian climate science “skeptic”.

Plimer is also on the advisory committee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank chaired by former UK chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson and which has much in common with the IPA.

Both groups aim to spread doubt and confusion on the science of climate change and the efficacy of renewable energy and both have recruited Professor Carter and Professor Plimer as speakers and advisors.

Neither of them are prepared to reveal any details about their funders. Professor Plimer and Professor Carter are also advisors to the Australian Climate Science Coalition and the Galileo Movement – two other climate science denial “think-tanks” which exist entirely to attack climate science and oppose regulation on greenhouse gases.

A recent “research” paper from the GWPF criticizing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contained a foreword from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in which he described climate change campaigners as “zealots”.

On Monday evening this week, Mr Howard was the star attraction at the Sydney launch of Professor Plimer’s book at the Sydney Mining Club. The IPA was again a supporter, as it will be for the launch in Brisbane later this month.

Mr Howard said he was an “agnostic” on climate science and displayed an odd paranoia of the “left” when he said: “The progressive left has got their grip on the commanding heights of education instruction in this country.”

When Mr Howard uses the term “agnostic” what he’s actually saying is that he isn’t able to accept the multiple lines of evidence contained in the decades worth of climate science published in journals across the world and backed by every major science academy on the planet that excessive burning of fossil fuels will very likely be bad.

Despite Mr Howard’s enthusiasm for the new book and its author, Professor Plimer has never actually had any research published on climate change in a peer-reviewed journal.
When he published his last book – Heaven and Earth – it was roundly and forcefully dismissed by actual climate scientists as being riddled with misrepresentations and errors of fact.

This didn’t stop it from being widely popular around the world, and helping influence the likes of Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Australia’s most senior catholic, Cardinal George Pell.

Scientists have begun responding in much the same way to his new book (despite ordering the book myself more than a week ago, my order appears to have fallen into a black hole), by pointing out its errors and one-sided ideologically driven narrative.

Review copies for the ABC and Fairfax newspapers have not fallen into a black hole, however. Rather, Professor Plimer revealed in his Melbourne speech that the publisher Connor Court had refused to send them any review copies.

Media coverage so far has been relatively soft and unchallenging, with the ABC’s Radio National AM show failing to balance any of the views of Professor Plimer, Mr Howard or the receptive audience in the room of the miners’ club.

Plimer is among friends at mining venues. He is a director of mining companies Ivanhoe Australia, Silver City Minerals and the UK-listed Kefi Minerals, and is chairman of TNT Mines (he enjoyed remuneration of at least $140,000 from these companies and holds shares worth about $200,000). He resigned in November as a director of coal seam gas explorer Ormil Energy, even though he is still listed as a director on the company’s website.

These associations don’t tend to get a mention in media coverage and I doubt it’s in the author’s biography of his new book either (but I might be wrong).

But the contents of his Melbourne speech do reveal the same tired and long-debunked arguments that scientists diligently tore to shreds in 2009 when his previous book was published.

Professor Plimer claims that the climate has always changed (which it has) and that CO2 is a trace gas (which it is, but is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human activity) that couldn’t possibly affect the climate (which it can, and does).

A recent analysis of Professor Plimer’s statements at the science-based website Skeptical Science – titled Plimer vs Plimer – shows how consistently he contradicts even his own statements.

At the Melbourne launch, for example, Professor Plimer said that there’s no relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming. He makes the same statement in his book Heaven and Earth on page 278, but then on page 411, he says “Together with water vapour, CO2 keeps our planet warm so that it is not covered in ice, too hot or devoid of liquid water.”

If Professor Plimer is aiming to target school children and families with his new book, then he’s also attune to the provocative and cynical nature of his pitch.

The book will in all likelihood help his followers and his fellow free-market ideologues to “maintain the rage” and their climate science denial – even if it is maintained on debunked science.

September 15 2011


How The Australian Newspaper Warps The World of Climate Science

THERE is a publication in Australia where for every one story you read which agrees society should take firm steps to combat climate change, there are four stories suggesting we shouldn’t.

When climate change is viewed through the pages of this publication, most of the world’s “experts” think it’s either not happening, not worth worrying about or not caused by humans.

Advocates for strong action on climate change are variously described as “prophets of doom”, “greenhouse hysterics” or “hair-shirted greenhouse penitents”. 

As extreme as these positions might appear, this publication is not a newsletter from a fringe group or a bulletin from the Tea Party.
This is the divisive state of climate change science in the pages of the nation’s sole national newspaper The Australian, according to a 115-page examination of the publication’s role in shaping how Australia thinks.
The essay – Bad News (paywalled) - is written by author Professor Robert Manne, one of the country’s leading political thinkers.
In an excerpt from his essay, published in The Age, Manne writes
As we shall see, what The Australian has contributed on climate change under editor Chris Mitchell's watch is a frightful hotchpotch of ideological prejudice and intellectual muddle
The Australian’s owner is Rupert Murdoch, who in 2006 said the planet deserved “the benefit of the doubt" and that it was now time to “take a lead” on the issue.
Manne analysed climate change articles printed by The Australian between January 2004 and April 2011 and found that 700 articles were “unfavourable” to action on climate change.
That is, they either disagreed with the consensus of climate science, didn’t support Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol or didn’t support previous governments’ steps towards a carbon trading scheme. 
Balanced against these 700 articles, there were 180 stories and columns “favourable” to  action on climate change. 
Climate skepticism and denial also heavily dominated the newspaper’s columns and opinion articles, Manne found.
Dozens of articles were published by “scientists” which rejected the consensual view.  

Sceptics including Bob Carter, Ian Plimer, Christopher Monckton, Richard Lindzen, David Bellamy and John Christy were all given space in The Australian
In particular, Bob Carter wrote nine articles, Bjorn Lomborg penned 25 and two members of the Australian “free market” think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, well known for dissemination of climate denial, wrote 16 articles. 
Contributions from recognised climate science experts, such as James Hansen and the immediate past president of the Australian Academy of Science Professor Kurt Lambeck, were outnumbered by ten to one.
Among The Australian’s in-house regulars, Manne documents the “comical degree of self-confidence” with which its writers disagreed with established climate science.
While in its official editorials, The Australian has said it accepts the science of climate change, Manne looks closer at the newspaper's record.

In its coverage of climate change, The Australian had failed to acknowledge the distinction between genuine expertise and “contrarians or cranks” and had “threatened the always vulnerable place of reason in public life”.
Manne's essay is just the latest to question The Australian's coverage of climate change.
Astrophysicist Michael Ashley recently documented on The Conversation the newspaper's questionable record and described its climate change coverage as resembling an “event horizon” where “our normal perception of reality is so completely overturned”.
In a long-running series, Tim Lambert’s Deltoid blog has been documenting The Australian’s “war on science” - a list of errors and misrepresentations - which is currently up to 70.
In a profile of The Australian’s editor Chris Mitchell, published in the August issue of magazine The Monthly, it was revealed that News Limited’s environment and climate change manager Dr Tony Wilkins had himself canceled his subscription to The Australian over its coverage of climate change.
When a former journalist at The Australian complained during a conference last year that writing on climate change for the newspaper had been “torture”, Mitchell threatened to sue academic Julie Posetti, who had tweeted the comments.
Legal letters went backwards and forwards in what became known as #Twitdef – the hashtag used by followers of the case on Twitter. The threat has not been withdrawn.


August 04 2011


Denial Down Under With The Galileo Movement

THERE'S a new climate denial lobby group on the block - bravely regurgitating previously debunked pseudo-science and making wild unsubstantiated claims that climate scientists are all corrupt.

Not happy with misrepresenting the science on climate change, The Galileo Movement has also misappropriated the name of the father of modern science who was persecuted for his insistance that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was the centre of the universe.

The Galileo Movement, launched in Australia, has stated its prime mission is to stop the Government's current efforts to introduce a price on greenhouse gas emissions and boasts a list of advisors resembling a who's who of international climate change denial.

Included on the group's advisory panel are Professor Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels, Professor Bob Carter, Professor Ian Plimer, Joe D'Aleo, Professor Richard Lindzen and Lord Christopher Monckton.

Galileo has been getting plenty of air-time and online exposure thanks to its patron, popular conservative radio host Alan Jones, and News Ltd blogger Andrew Bolt, who is also listed as an "advisor". 

Jones, a fierce and fearless host on 2GB who leads radio ratings with his breakfast slot in Sydney, has been on a relentless tirade in recent weeks attacking climate science and the federal government's plans to tax greenhouse gas emissions.

Since March, Jones has interviewed seven of the Galileo Movement's advisors and the project's coordinator. He's interviewed Professor Carter twice and Lord Monckton three times. Both are advisors at the US-based climate denial "think-tank" the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI).

He's also managed to squeeze in interviews with sceptics Lord Lawson, chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus.

During one slot, Jones claimed on-air that "human beings produce 0.001 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the air", prompting an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority

Yet Jones is also an outspoken critic of the massive expansions to coal mining and coal seam gas development in rural and remote regions of Australia.

Galileo has also brought in the services of JacksonWells, a Sydney-based public relations firm with a client list that you might describe as diverse.

As well as providing PR advice to international brands including computer firm Dell, Warner Bros. Entertainment, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco, JacksonWells also has The Church of Scientology and the closed religious group The Exclusive Brethren on its books.

JacksonWells also lobbies government officials on behalf of many of its clients. The firm appears on the federal government lobby register and similar registers in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

Picking up the Galileo PR work is the well-travelled JacksonWells director Bob Lawrence, who also provided media advice and support to organisers of climate change denier Lord Monckton's 2010 Australia-wide tour.

In an article last year in the JacksonWells company newsletter, The Well, Lawrence explained how he had helped to gain positive media coverage for Lord Monckton.

He wrote the firm had employees "who agree that climate change is a major global threat and we have our skeptics" but he added "the firm itself takes no corporate position on political issues".

A political issue?

Disagreeing would be the world's acidifying oceans, warming climate, changing atmospheric composition, melting Arctic and the vast majority of its working climate scientists.

July 08 2011


Clearing Up The Climate Debate with A Conversation

CLIMATE scientists must sometimes feel that they're taking part in some horrific, humourless worldwide game of Chinese Whispers.

After spending months, in some cases years, diligently carrying out research, checking, re-checking and quantifying observations and data, they submit their discovery to a science journal.

Journal editors then send that work out to other scientists who pick holes in it, or praise it, before sending it back with the academic equivalents of those smiley faces or red crosses that school teachers loved to draw on your school books.

Issues with the research are then rectified (if they can be) and finally the work is published. Except of course, that's not the end of the story.

Because when the "mainstream media", vested interests and ideologues get hold of it, the game of Chinese Whispers begins. Conclusions are re-interpreted or misunderstood. Key points are missed, findings are misrepresented or, in some cases, bits of the research get cherry-picked. Contexts are lost and nuances trampled.

Andrew Jaspan, co-founder of a new popular Australia-based media website The Conversation, says as advertising dollars have shrunk, so too have the numbers of experienced journalists who can report and analyse science stories accurately and fairly.

Put this together with the rise in corporate marketing dollars and you have a public which, on academic research including climate science, is either deliberately or inadvertently confused.

"We are told that this is the information age, but what we actually have is an age where we have huge amounts of information but most of it is unadulterated nonsense and people trotting out drivel. We have a very shallow age of information," Jaspan told DeSmogBlog.

"That's due to the fragmentation of the media. The advertising dollar is being sliced thinner and thinner and news rooms are being reduced and clawed out - subject experts and specialists are replaced with junior general reporters."

As newsroom resources have shrunk, Jaspan says the amount of news space filled by simple re-writes of corporate press releases has increased.

"They want cheap labour to fill the spaces between the ads," adds Jaspan, a former editor of The Age (Melbourne), The Observer (London) and The Scotsman.

The Conversation, just three months old, is already registering more than 220,000 visits a month but it is not like any other news website. There is no agency news wire, for example. All the main contributors, of which there are now more than 1000 registered, are academics at universities.

Writers are only allowed to contribute on areas in which they are actively researching, or have a history of researching. Conflicts of interest, such as corporate funding or associations with think-tanks, have to be disclosed to the reader. Even anonymous commentators are banned.

The Conversation's latest venture has been a series of a dozen articles from leading climate researchers, titled "Clearing up the climate debate" which directly challenge the science and credibility of climate change deniers.

To start the series, a group of almost 90 scientists co-signed an open letter. It read,

"Like all great challenges, climate change has brought out the best and the worst in people. A vast number of scientists, engineers, and visionary businesspeople are boldly designing a future that is based on low-impact energy pathways and living within safe planetary boundaries; a future in which substantial health gains can be achieved by eliminating fossil-fuel pollution; and a future in which we strive to hand over a liveable planet to posterity.

"At the other extreme, understandable economic insecurity and fear of radical change have been exploited by ideologues and vested interests to whip up ill-informed, populist rage, and climate scientists have become the punching bag of shock jocks and tabloid scribes."

Under the motto "Academic Rigour, Journalistic Flair", like all the site's content, the series articles are available under a Creative Commons License. The series included "Rogues or Respectable: How Climate Change Sceptics Spread Doubt and Denial", "Bob Carter's Climate Counter Consensus is an Alternate Reality", "Who's your expert? The difference between peer review and rhetoric" and "Climate change denial and the abuse of peer review".

Jaspan, a speaker at the recent Worldviews Conference on Media and  Higher Education in Toronto, explains:

"The Clearing Up The Climate Debate series came about because a bunch of scientists approached us and asked if we would host a series of articles that subject climate change deniers to some peer review… let's have a close look at what their evidence is. We said we would be happy to do that.

"We are believers in the fact that good quality information makes all of us better citizens and that is what this [website] is about. We don't let in any corporations or think-tanks or people who have the power to buy their way into the media. The idea was to give a new voice.

"Big tobacco has worked very, very hard to undermine the scientific research around lung cancer and tried to say that the science was not 'in'. Lobbysists have adopted the same approach with climate - if you can sow seeds of doubt then policy makers become concerned about making decisions.

"This slows the whole process and if you can slow it down then those who are profiting from selling cigarettes or minerals with minimal responsibility can continue their work. My concern is the lack of scrutiny and well-informed public debate on some of these issues."

The Conversation has a team of journlaists and editors who work with academics to either commission work to react to topical issues or to help them communicate their research. The academics get final approval, which even extends to the headline.

Jaspan says the idea for The Conversation came after spending time speaking to academics at the University of Melbourne.

"It really just hit me in a blinding flash," he says. "These people in the university were far brighter than any person I'd ever had in a newsroom. These were great people, so why were they not engaging with the public. A lot were just fed up with the media. They were being misquoted a lot of the time.

"They would get a young general reporter that hadn't properly prepared themselves for the interview. But the academic would explain the story to them. Each time a reporter went away, academics would ask themselves the same question. How bad will this piece be?

"I thought maybe we need to build a new pipeline that's not mitigated by journalists and people with their own agendas. I decided I was going to turn the universities into a newsroom."

June 30 2011


Denial-a-Palooza: Where Are All the Scientists That Deniers Love To Talk About?

Wake up and smell the fossil fuel funding. That's right, it's that time of year again: the Heartland Institute is hosting its Sixth (annual?*) International Conference on Climate Change over the next two days in Washington D.C.

DeSmogBlog already revealed some of the oily sponsors behind the event. Now it's time to take a look at the so-called scientists Heartland has rounded up to accomplish this year's theme of "Restoring the Scientific Method."   

As in past years, Heartland's speakers list is dominated by economists, engineers, TV weathermen, and representatives from right wing think-tanks. DeSmogBlog has researched the speakers at this year's event: 

DeSmogBlog also added new names to the disinformation database this year (some long overdue):

Scott Denning, who also spoke at last year's Heartland Conference, is notably absent from this list. The reason being that Denning actually acknowledges man-made global warming (see his presentation at last year's conference). Denning is a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, and appears to be one of a small handful of legitimate climate scientists in the crowd. 

Why then, you might ask, has the Heartland Institute not only invited Denning back this year, but also featured him prominently on the ICCC6 home page? Apparently Heartland actually scheduled a debate between Denning and Roy Spencer

Whether he recognizes it or not, Denning serves as a false stamp of legitimacy for this non-scientific conference.

Brian Angliss over at Scholars & Rogues has more to say about the dearth of actual climate scientists attending Denial-a-Palooza this year.

*This will be Heartland's sixth conference in the past four years: the first was in March 2008, the second in March 2009, third in June 2009, fourth in May 2010, fifth in October 2010, and now the sixth in June 2011.

** Senator James Inhofe, who was set to be the opening key note speaker, sent his regrets this morning claiming he is "under the weather."  Perhaps he was referring to the brutal drought conditions affecting his constituents back in Oklahoma, as Joe Romm from ClimateProgress postulates.

June 29 2011


Climate Sceptic Group Reveals Strategy Document to Win Hearts and Minds

In December 2009 at a gathering of climate change deniers in Copenhagen, Dr Tom Harris was shimmering with enthusiasm for his latest project.

Dr Harris, executive director of the Ottawa-based sceptic group the International Climate Science Coalition, explained how he had managed to gather "hundreds" of signatures from "climate experts" who wanted to challenge "supporters of the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change" to provide evidence.

Not only that, but it had taken him just "two weeks" to gather the signatures, which he then explained numbered 150 (so much for hundreds).

"This list is growing quickly," he said, "and we are going to maintain it as something called the register. We expect it eventually to be thousands."

With such a surge in supporters, how is the global register going a full 18 months on?

As detailed in a new ICSC strategy document released this month by ICSC, the organisation's register has expanded to… wait for it… 142.

The document, entitled Winning Hearts and Minds to Climate and Energy Reality, is a compendium of the coalition's recent activities and reads like part-annual report, part-fundraising document and part-instruction manual.

If the document is anything to go by, enthusiasm for the "register" continues despite the apparent implosion of support.

"Once it is more broadly known that many relevant scientists do not support the need for carbon dioxide (CO2) emission controls, public appetite for expensive programs "to fight climate change" will quickly wither,'' the document states.

"Politicians can choose to follow or eventually risk defeat. Mass media that are seen to be out of step with their readers will lose circulation and ratings. Businesses that promoted the scare will have difficulty regaining public trust. Climate campaigners will be increasingly discounted and the extremists in the environmental movement may be set back decades as their signature crusade, the quest to 'stop climate change', will be regarded as hopelessly misguided."

The document outlines how the ICSC places columns in newspapers and mentions successes in the New Zealand Herald, Washington Times, The Gazette (Montreal), The Australian, National Post (Canada) and The Epoch Times. They also expect to get a "Letter to the Editor" published once every two weeks.

On radio, Mr Harris has, the document explains, appeared as a caller more than 100 times on popular talkback radio shows in Canada and the United States.

But small community newspapers are where the real easy pickings are to be found. The strategy explains these publications are more likely to publish submissions because they're not swamped with offers like larger newspapers. Also, these publications might not yet have an editorial stance on "controversial, 'big city' media issues such as climate change".

To capitalise on this ripe fruit, the ICSC proposes to send "multiple submissions to newspapers in different locations". They'll also be targeting the "Letters to the Editor" pages where it is "generally easier" to get their views published. So easy, in fact, that it is worth sending their letters "to a number of papers simultaneously".

Under the heading "Other Educational Activities" the ICSC recommends astroturfing "prominent news and other web sites, blogs and other forms of popular social media". When climate change is in the news, "we may post several times a day".

According to the document, a central philosophy of the ICSC is to avoid "attacking our opponents" by avoiding "nasty ad homenims [sic]" and to be non-partisan.

The memo perhaps failed to reach Lord Christopher Monckton, a member of the ICSC policy advisory board, who in recent weeks branded the Australian government's climate change policy advisor Professor Ross Garnaut a Nazi.

Similarly, earlier this week in The Age newspaper the ICSC's chief science advisor, Australia-based Professor Bob Carter, collectively described Professor Garnaut, the Australian climate change minister Greg Combet, Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery and the country's chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, as the "four horsemen of the climate apocalypse".

The ICSC affiliate group in Australia includes such non-partisan advisors as Vivian Forbes and Professor Ian Plimer. Mr Forbes is a director of coal export business Stanmore Coal.  Professor Ian Plimer is a director of at least five mining companies, including Ormil Energy, which this week received state approval to drill near Sydney in search of coal bed methane.

June 23 2011


Canadian Geologists Embarrass Themselves on Climate

The joint conference of the Geological Association of Canada (GAC) and the Mineralogical Association of Canada (MAC) included a DenierFest sideshow worthy of the Heartland Institute, with guest speakers flown in from as far away as Australia and Europe in an effort to address one organizer's concern about an "unbalanced debate."

Notwithstanding the manipulations of the deluded University of Toronto geologist Dr. Andrew Miall, the conference featured a full helping of honest-to-goodness science. There were occasions galore during which knowledgeable people spoke about matters with which they have legitimate expertise.

Then there were the sessions that featured the likes of Australians Bob Carter and Ian Plimer, people who do no actual work in climate science but who are only too delighted to tell you that everything we understand about human influence on global warming is a carefully constructed fiction. Organizers even brought in the Danish astrophysicist Henrik Svensmark - a man who will clutch his chest and fall to the ground rather than offer a straight answer as to why he insists the sun is causing climate change when the sun has been in a long weak cycle even as the earth continues to overheat. (The "heart attack," reported above, was later confirmed to be a stress reaction.)This - all extremely well covered recently by the good folks at Friends of Gin and Tonic - is an embarrassment to the Canadian geological community. While the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has taken the trouble to actually check the science and come to an official position on climate change, the backwoods Canadian geologists are still prepared to entertain compromised confusers such as the oil patch geophysicist and Friends of Science director Norm Kalmanovitch.

The conference also featured the past president of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists, A. Neil Hutton, whose abstract suggests that because CO2 was much more plentiful in the atmospher during the Cambrian period than it is today, we have nothing to worry about the current carbon spike that is occurring as a result of the burning of, well, petroleum. (Can't someone please tell Dr. Hutton that the Cambrian period was 500 million years ago - a time when the sun was markedly cooler, and when the earth was still going to evolve for, uh, 500 million years before it would be habitable for humans?)

If you needed any further evidence to suggest that this whole exercise was either an oily put-up job or a mindless ideological intervention, undermining the reputation (and ambient IQ level) of the collected geologists, look no further than the National Post, the Canadian handbook for denier narratives. Its coverage of the conference came courtesy of Tom Harris, with no mention that Harris is an oily public relations guy who helped launch the Friends of Science, who created the energy industry front, the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, and who now fronts for something called the International Climate Science Coalition.


June 16 2010


Sceptics On the Road in Australia

This week and next week, prominent climate sceptic blogger Anthony Watts is touring Australia to help promote the country's newest political party, the Climate Sceptics party.  Single issue parties are not unusual in Australia, and the Sceptics have been working to create a "new centrist party" to push for a "truthful, common-sense approach to [climate change] and all issues."

The Climate Sceptics turned heads in January when they had to beg their members for an extra $20,000 to pay Christopher Monckton's stipend as part of $100,000 in tour fees.  This begs the question: where does the cash come from to pay for the speaking tours of Australia? 

DeSmogBlog asked the Australian Electoral Commission if the party had registered itself yet and reported on any income.  Unfortunately, as a new party, they do not need to file their finances until October.  Furthermore, the sceptics party website clearly lists all the rules about what donations need to be disclosed and which ones do not (donations less than $11,200 can be anonymous under Australian law.)

Watts' tour is being billed as a tool to fight the Australian government's weak and industry-friendly Emissions Trading Scheme, which it recently put on hold for about 3 years.  Leon Ashby, the president of the Sceptics party, says "these presentations will make you think hard about the gap between the facts, public perception and where our political leaders want to take us."<!--break-->

For more information on the speakers of the tour and the history of climate change denial in Australia, check the report by Greenpeace Australia on prominent climate deniers down under.  Most of Watts' speaking engagements are paired with Australian sceptics, many of whom have deep connections to Australian right-wing think tanks and pro-industry organizations. 

Joining Watts for some of the events is Bob Carter.  Carter edited Quadrant Online’s “ETS Forum” 77, in August 2009, whose list of contributors is a virtual who’s who of the denier movement in Australia today.  Carter has written articles for Tech Central Station, an organization that has received money from ExxonMobil. According to a search of 22,000 academic journals, Carter has published over 50 original research papers in peer-reviewed journals mainly in the area of stratigraphy, the study of rock layers and layering.

Also on the tour is David Archibald, who along with Bob Carter, is on the core scientific advisory panel of the Australian Climate Science Coalition.  The ACSC is a project of the deceptively-named Australian Environment Foundation, which is in turn a front-group of the coal and oil-funded Institute of Public Affairs.  According to the Greenpeace report, these groups have a 20-year history of collobarating with the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute and other US denier organizations.

Not to be left out, Australian Enivronment Foundation science coordinator Peter Ridd will contribute his expert opinion to one of the events.  The AEF, named deceptively to be easily confused with the Australian Conservation Foundation, was created in 2005 by the Institute for Public Affairs to create a "different kind of environment group".  The AEF has claimed that the Great Barrier Reef is “in great shape” and heralded the shift by independent Senator Steve Fielding when he began questioning the climate science.

The tour is visiting mostly smaller venues throughout Australia, and has so far been generating virtually no media attention.  DeSmogBlog would appreciate tips on how the tour is going and what the speakers are talking about, please leave a comment below if you know anything.

May 13 2010


Denial-a-palooza Round 4: 'International Conference on Climate Change' Groups Funded by Exxon, Koch Industries

In what has become an annual non-event, the Heartland Institute will gather the who's-who of the global warming denial network together in Chicago this weekend for the fourth International Conference on Climate Change

As in years past, the event is expected to receive very little mainstream media coverage.  The deniers like to think the reason is some liberal media conspiracy.  In reality, the lack of interest stems chiefly from the fact that this denial-a-palooza fest is dripping with oil money and represents a blatant industry effort to greenwash oil and coal while simultaneously attacking the credibility of climate scientists.

Despite the lack of press interest, the show must go on.  After all, the Chicago meet-up will provide deniers and industry front groups a chance to coordinate their ongoing efforts to smear the reputation of the IPCC, and they can reminisce about the Climategate non-scandal like boys in the schoolyard kicking around a rusty old can.

For insight into the underlying aim of the Chicago denier conference, let us take a look at the funding sources for the sponsoring organizations.



19 of the 65 sponsors (including Heartland itself) have received a total of over $40 million in funding since 1985 from ExxonMobil (funded 13 orgs), and/or Koch Industries family foundations (funded 10 orgs) and/or the Scaife family foundations (funded 10 orgs).  See below for a full funding break-down.


ExxonMobil (1998-2008): $6,588,250 ($389,250 more than reported in 2009) Koch Foundations (1985-2008): $17,572,210 ($13,133,290 more than reported in 2009) Scaife Family Foundations (1985-2008): $16,352,000
($20,516,640 less than reported in 2009*) Total Funding 1985-2008: $40,512,460

*The Heritage Foundation sponsored the 2009 conference and is notably absent from sponsoring the 2010 ICCC. Heritage has received $23,096,640 from Scaife, $2,417,000 from Koch and $565,000 from Exxon between 1998-2006.<!--break-->

ExxonMobil has backed off funding many of the groups who have sponsored global warming denial, thanks in large measure to the relentless work of ExxonSecrets.org, a project of Greenpeace USA.  However, the funding gap has been filled by the private oil fortunes of the Koch and Scaife families, who continue to pump funds into the network of climate denial and "free market" groups.

"These same anti-regulatory 'free market' organizations are hell-bent on keeping us addicted to dirty oil and coal.  They’ve pushed for more offshore drilling, fought improvements to fuel economy standards and stalled action on global warming through denial and deception," says Kert Davies, Research Director of Greenpeace USA.

According to the Media Transparency project, the Scaife Family of Foundations is "financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune. At one time its largest single holding was stock in the Gulf Oil Corporation. [Scaife] became active in funding conservative causes in 1973, when Richard Mellon Scaife became chairman of the foundation."

The Koch foundations' money comes from the profits generated by oil conglomerate Koch Industries, the "nation's largest privately held energy company, with annual revenues of more than $25 billion. ... Koch Industries is now the second largest family-owned business in the U.S., with annual sales of over $20 billion." The Koch brothers, David and Charles, control the three family foundations that have "lavished tens of millions of dollars in the past decade on 'free market' advocacy institutions in and around Washington."

The Koch connections are the most interesting because of the lengths they go to attempt to deny their involvement.  DeSmogBlog asked a Koch spokesperson if they were involved in sponsoring the ICCC and received this reply:

"In response to your question as to whether Koch is supporting the ICCC - no, Koch Industries and the Koch foundations are not supporting the International Conference on Climate Change."

The claim is similar to the pre-emptive response that the same Koch spokesperson sent to DeSmogBlog, CrooksAndLiars and others in April before the Tax Day Tea Parties:

"Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties. Thanks for your consideration."

In both cases, Koch denies responsibility by hiding one degree of separation from the event.  They claim their hands are clean, yet huge amounts of Koch money are funneled into the organizations doing the lion's share of work to organize the tea parties and the ICCC denial-a-palooza.  Americans For Prosperity and its sister organization FreedomWorks (formerly united as Citizens for a Sound Economy) have received a total of over $17 million from Koch foundations between 1985 and 2008.  That works out to 64% of the major funding for FreedomWorks/CSE, and 90% of the major funding for Americans for Prosperity. (Based on totals from 'major funders' compiled by MediaMatters.)  The totals for 2009 aren't out yet, but there is little reason to believe funding has decreased, meaning millions more dollars have likely been pumped into this network. 

All this oily funding begs the question: if the Koch brothers aren't funding FreedomWorks and AFP for the purpose of organizing tea parties and conferences attacking climate science, what are they paying for?  

Climate denial is a central facet of AFP's work. Consider AFP's Hot Air tour with its Carbon Cops protesting the EPA's move to put a price on climate-changing C02.   Or AFP's participation in the Energy Citizens Alliance, the Astroturf group set up by the American Petroleum Institute to fight national legislation on climate.

Offshore Drilling

23 of the sponsor organizations behind denial-a-palooza are actively promoting offshore drilling or attempting to paint the drilling disaster as 'not that bad'.  Americans for Prosperity wrote on April 27th, a week after the drilling disaster began to unfold: "AFP called for the opening of New Jersey's coast to exploration and drilling, which would be part of a comprehensive strategy to both boost the state's economy and help achieve energy independence."

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (C-FACT) wrote on May 7th, "Should we stop drilling offshore? We can hardly afford to. We still need to drill."  Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute joined in: "If we seek to reduce these risks by banning offshore drilling, as some now demand, we will undoubtedly raise the price of energy."  See more from JunkScience's Steve Milloy, or Americans for Tax Reform and their national blitz for more drilling. 

For a history of the ICCC event, see DeSmogBlog coverage from 2009 and 2008.  Also see commentary from RealClimate and WonkRoom.

Here are the funding totals for organizations sponsoring Heartland's conference that are known to have received support from oily and 'free market' foundations:

Alternate Solutions Institute

  • Received a $100,000 grant in 2008 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (see below).

American Conservative Union

Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Tax Reform

  • Received 60,000 from Koch Foundations (Claude Lambe Charitable Foundation) in 2007.
  • Received $700,000 from Scaife (Carthage, Sarah Scaife) Foundations between 1998-07.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation

Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise

Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Centro de Investigaciones de Instituciones y Mercados de Argentina (CIIMA-ESEADE)

  • Received $100,000 from Sarah Scaife Foundation from 1999-2003.

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (C-FACT)

  • Received $542,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998-2006. 
  • Received $1,580,000 from Scaife (Carthage and Sarah Scaife) Foundations from 1991-2008.

Competitive Enterprise Institute


George C. Marshall Institute

  • Received $840,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998-2008. 
  • Received $170,000 from Koch Foundations (Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation) between 2004-08. 
  • Received $3,592,000 from Scaife Foundations (Sarah Scaife Foundation) between 1985-2008.

Heartland Institute

  • Received $676,000 from ExxonMobil from 1986-2008.
  • Received $77,578 from Koch (Claude R Lambe, Charles G Koch) from 1986-2008
  • Received $335,000 from Scaife (Sarah Scaife, Carthage) from 1986-2008


Illinois Policy Institute

  • No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife.
  • In its 2006 annual report the Cato Institute states that it made a grant of $50,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute.[2]

The Independent Institute

Institute of Public Affairs (Australia)

  • From The Age in 2004: "The Institute of Public Affairs, which receives funding from companies such as ExxonMobil, the most sceptical of the world's fossil fuel giants, also engages in the debate, scouring the web and email groups for evidence that climate change is natural."

John Locke Foundation


Lavoisier Group (Australia)

Media Research Center

National Center for Public Policy Research

Science & Environmental Policy Project

Science and Public Policy Institute


To re-cap, the International Conference on Climate Change is sponsored by organizations that have received over $40 million from just these three oil interests.

ExxonMobil (1998-2008): $6,588,250 ($389,250 more than reported in 2009) Koch Foundations (1985-2008): $17,572,210 ($13,133,290 more than reported in 2009) Scaife Family Foundations (1985-2008): $16,352,000
($20,516,640 less than reported in 2009*) Total Funding 1985-2008: $40,512,460

Sources: US 990 Tax forms*, ExxonSecrets, SourceWatch, MediaMatters Transparency.

*Note: Some additional funding info has been added from 2008 tax forms that is not yet reported by MediaMatters, Sourcewatch or ExxonSecrets.

Additional reporting by Morgan Goodwin.

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