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August 16 2012

19:31

Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, Exxon Mobil began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

For years, Michaels has taken to the pages of “reputable” papers like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal in an attempt to paint climate change as fraudulent and uncertain, without the public realizing that his primary source of funding was the dirty energy industry and their front groups. One of his most recent crusades has been to convince the American public that fracking is perfectly safe, and we should all be singing the industry’s praises for providing us with cheap natural gas.

But Michaels isn’t the only one trying to convince us that fracking is safe and harmless – The industry itself has decided to jump on the science-buying bandwagon. NewsInferno has the story, based on an initial report by WIRED.com:

As the debate continues and local municipalities look to block fracking expansion in many areas, the energy industries have constantly countered, either mounting their own legal battles or now through influencing researchers to produce studies focusing on fracking’s benefits and safety.

WIRED reports that last week, the provost at University of Texas said it would have to “re-examine” a recent university report from one of its professors that declared fracking was safe on groundwater supplies when it was revealed that professor had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single gas developer in the state.

Nationwide, Americans are being influenced by seemingly unbiased research but not being told who is influencing the authors of these studies. Case in point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recently published a report, according to WIRED, entitled “Shale Works for US” that was directed at Ohioans caught in the crosshairs of the fracking safety debate.

One of the authors of the study, Robert Chase, has been identified as one person who’s been greatly influenced by the energy industries and was even employed as a consultant for companies like Halliburton and Cabot, leaders in the fracking industry. His influence was likely part of a Penn State University study that also found fracking to be safe and ultimately led state lawmakers there to allow some of the most unchecked fracking drilling in the U.S.
 

Just as the Exxon story made international headlines, so too should this story. Credible, honest studies have already been made public that show that there is nothing safe about the process of unconventional gas development. DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report is a great source of information on the dangers that fracking and other risky industry practices pose to the health of human beings as well as the environment.

But this is hardly the first time that the industry has been on the wrong side of science. In May of this year, I reported on how the fracking industry was trying to keep doctors in the dark about the chemicals being injected into the ground, and also attempting to get gag orders on doctors to prevent them from speaking with patients and the public about drilling-related illnesses.

The only thing currently holding back a wave of new fracking wells in America is public opinion and opposition from elected officials. But even with those hurdles in place, the industry continues to operate with almost no oversight, and drilling activities are still expanding. If scientists are willing to tell the American public and our elected leaders that fracking is safe, that could easily be enough to expand this dirty practice to areas that, at least for now, have been off limits to the industry.

March 07 2012

17:59

Kochtopus Cato Institute Power Grab: A Historical Perspective

A new chapter is being added to the ongoing Kochtopus saga. On March 1 the Washington Post, in a story sure to fill the airwaves for the weeks and months to come, revealed the Kochtopus is suing the Cato Institute for control of the recently deceased and former Cato Chairman William Niskanen's ownership share in the think-tank.

The Koch Empire was recently outed by DeSmogBlog as a key seed funder of the climate change denier think-tank, the Heartland Institute. Heartland's internal documents were recently leaked to DeSmogBlog (see "Heartland Exposed"). 

Billionaire oil baron Charles Koch is now waging war against another entity that was created with Koch seed money decades ago: the Cato Institute.

The Post explained succinctly:

At the heart of the dispute is the fate of the shares owned by Niskanen, who died in October at age 78 of complications from a stroke. The Koch brothers believe that they have the option to buy Niskanen’s shares, while Cato officials believe that the shares belong to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn, according to the complaint.

Cato's Pat Michaels is a key player in the world of climate change denial, "sowing the seeds of doubt" on human-caused climate change.

That said, Cato has also stood up for key libertarian principles in the past that do not fit a partisan framework. Among them: protection of civil liberties, opposition to imperialism, opposition to the war on drugs, opposition to the militarization of domestic law enforcement agencies, and support for gay rights, to name several.

A brief overview of the key movers and shakers behind Cato's ascendancy is important to understand the rise of the Koch Empire and the split between the faux-libertarians and the true libertarians.

read more

February 14 2012

23:08

November 30 2011

14:00

Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003

Imagine for a moment that climate change skeptics actually submitted their anti-science arguments for publication in a credible peer-reviewed journal. Now imagine that, after thorough examination and debunking by their peers, these skeptics finally admitted their many false claims and assumptions, and perhaps some or all moved on to contribute meaningfully to the vast body of science confirming manmade climate change?

Ok, back to reality.

Instead, the skeptics' greatest and most-often cited (by them) "peer-reviewed studies" appeared in the journal Climate Research between 1997-2003. This journal has been considered credible at certain points in its history, and many fine papers have appeared there.

But according to my new analysis [PDF] of the papers published in Climate Research, there is a very clear gap in credibility during the years 1997-2003 when Chris de Freitas served as one of the journal's editors. During this time, de Freitas oversaw the publication of 14 papers from notorious skeptics - half of them authored by fossil fuel industry pal Pat Michaels - many of which would not have survived rigorous and honest peer review at any other credible journal. 

A few months ago, another journal's editor resigned over a paper that should not have been accepted due to a poor peer review process. It reminded many of us of the more drastic case of Climate Research (CR), where several editors resigned in 2003 in the wake of a colossally poor paper by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, accepted for publication by none other than Chris de Freitas.

It was certainly not the first de Freitas-endorsed paper to pass weak editorial processes at Climate Research, but when incoming Editor-in-Chief Hans von Storch suggested the paper should not have been published, he endeavored to fix editorial processes to prevent such problems.  The publisher did not agree, so von Storch and other editors resigned.

At the time, climate scientists were rightly concerned that CR had become a magnet for poor science. When the hacked CRU emails appeared in 2009, climate skeptics tried to invert reality, claiming that several widely-published climate scientists had conspired to subvert peer review. 

The skeptic echo chamber lauded Chris de Freitas as a noble martyr, a cry that has grown louder this month in the aftermath of the so-called "Climategate 2.0" illegal release of more of the CRU scientists' emails.

This isn't a novel experience when it comes to skeptic "science" efforts. Recall The Wegman Report for example, which attempted to criticize legitimate climate science for "bad" peer review, although it had no such peer critique itself.  A follow-on article, which also had bypassed peer review, ultimately earned a retraction for plagiarism.  

If there seems to be a pattern here, there is. Reality bites back, and it appears set to do so again now.

Last June, Pat Michaels wrote "Pal Review and Peer Review…" This inspired me to revisit the Climate Research episode in a more detailed fashion, and I began checking 700+ papers published there.

As it turns out, the problem was more pervasive than climate scientists had suspected at the time.

My analysis of the Climate Research papers shows that:

  • From 1990 to 1996, CR published zero papers from any of the pals:
    Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, John Christy, Robert Davis, (Chris de Freitas), David Douglass, Vincent Gray, Sherwood Idso, PJ Knappenberger, Ross McKitrick, Pat Michaels, Eric Posmentier, Arthur Robinson, Willie Soon, and Gerd-Rainer Weber. DeSmogBlog readers may recognize these names, since most appear in the DeSmogBlog Research Database. They have long histories of cooperation in climate anti-science.
  • Chris de Freitas became an editor and then accepted 14 papers from the pals between 1997-2003. With de Freitas as an editor, Climate Research provided a platform which the pals would quickly embrace to sneak through anti-science papers.
  • After the mass resignation of CR editors in 2003, no more pals’ papers were accepted via de Freitas. After a few more papers via others, the pals published no more in CR.
  • But clearly the Climate Research + Chris de Freitas combination presented a skeptic-friendly opportunity to publish questionable papers, while it lasted.

Not all papers were bad, but some others were dubious.  Even reasonable-looking pals papers often included mesages that might not be justified by the text, but that might make nice quotes for doubt-production.

Michaels authored 7 of the 14 papers, about half of his total "peer-reviewed" production during that period.  Perhaps Michaels might fairly be called "King of the Pals."

The attached PDF analysis shows the chronologies and social networks of the pals, followed by summaries of the papers in the context of Michaels' and de Freitas' publications.  The Excel spreadsheet lists the papers and their attributes.

The scientists were defending peer review from abuse, as was their responsibility to science. de Freitas a martyr for good science?  I don't think so.

 

Image credit: John T Takai / Shutterstock.

AttachmentSize pal.review.papers.xls184.5 KB Pal-review-by-John-Mashey.pdf1.58 MB

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.

January 24 2011

19:53

Waxman Asks if Pat Michaels Has Misrepresented His Funding

Rep Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, has written to committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) requesting an investigation into whether Patrick J. Michaels misled the committee when he reported that only three per cent of his income comes from industry.

Michaels is a famous denier-for-hire who, as Waxman notes, has estimated previously that 40% of his income comes from the energy industry. As the only "scientist" who told the E&C committee that climate change is nothing to worry about, it should be interesting to question whether that opinion was bought and paid for - and by whom - especially when Pat Michaels' personal accounting seems so casually inaccurate.

Given that Michaels hailed from Virginia, maybe that state's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would like to join the investigation. He's all about holding people accountable, isn't he?<!--break-->

 

August 16 2010

20:03

Climate Skeptic Pat Michaels Admits On CNN Forty Percent of His Funding Comes From Oil Industry

Notorious climate skeptic Pat Michaels of the CATO Institute finally admitted openly on CNN this weekend that 40 percent of his funding comes from - wait for it - Big Oil. 

DeSmogBlog readers have known for years about Michaels' long-time association with a network of at least eleven think tanks and industry front groups funded by ExxonMobil. Many of these same outlets have received funding from other oil interests like the Koch Family Foundations.

Michaels' admission that he receives around 40 percent - his guess - of his funding from Big Oil is important, because he is quoted widely in the media for his skepticism about manmade climate change.  As the ExxonSecrets profile of Pat Michaels sums up well, he is "possibly the most prolific and widely-quoted climate change skeptic scientist."

Fareed Zakaria deserves a round of applause for challenging Michaels directly to cough up a figure for how much oil money he receives to defend the status quo fossil fuel addiction and to confuse the public about the threat of climate change.  Far too few journalists bother to ask that question, and Zakaria has sent a much needed reminder to journalists - it is your job to expose the potential conflicts of interest among your interviewees.  Zakaria gets an A+ for outing Michaels' oily funding.
<!--break-->
H/T to Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress for the transcript and video of Michaels' CNN appearance below.

ThinkProgresss reports:

In a telling exchange with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria yesterday, long-time polluter apologist Pat Michaels admitted that “40 percent” of his funding comes from the oil industry. Michaels, introduced as “a scientist who now works for the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that strongly opposes caps to carbon dioxide,” has promoted global warming denial for decades, funded by a network of oil and coal companies and their ideological allies. Michaels initially denied that he is funded by the petroleum industry, but backtracked under steady interrogation by Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you what people wonder about, advocates like you. They say —

MICHAELS: I’m advocating for efficiency.

ZAKARIA: Right. But people say that you’re advocating also for the current petroleum-based industry to stand pat, to stay as it is, and that a lot of your research is funded by these industries.

MICHAELS: Oh, no, no. First of all, what I’m saying is —

ZAKARIA: Well, is your research funded by these industries?

MICHAELS: Not largely. The fact of the matter is —

ZAKARIA: Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?

MICHAELS: I don’t know. 40 percent? I don’t know.

Watch it:

 

As ThinkProgress reader zxbe notes in the comments section over there:

"That’s a good investment by the oil industry. They put up 40% of the funds, and get to use 100% of the junk science."

 

July 28 2010

22:13

International Scientists Confirm Climate Change is "Undeniable"

An international team of climate scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that climate change is "undeniable" and clearly driven by the "human fingerprints" of greenhouse gas emissions.  The findings are based on new data that was not reviewed during the most recent 2007 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Financial Times reported today that the NOAA study drew on 11 different indicators of climate, and "found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases."

The scientists confirmed that seven of the indicators are rising, including air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four other indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

The Financial Times quotes Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK Met Office, stating:

“The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases. The fingerprints are clear. The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.”

Glaringly obvious, unless you are a climate skeptic who denies the facts in favor of touting manufactured scandals like "Climategate" - a mythical tale ginned up by the climate denial machine to further confuse the public about the real dangers of climate change.  <!--break-->

Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, told the Financial Times:

“This confirms that while all of this [Climategate] was going on, the earth was continuing to warm. It shows that Climategate was a distraction, because it took the focus off what the science actually says.”


That is exactly what the denial machine intended, and it worked for quite a while, with many reporters writing about the private emails of climate scientists stolen from the University of East Anglia last winter.  But when the whole episode was exposed as a baseless attack on scientists that does nothing to undermine scientific knowledge about the real threat of climate change, few reporters found the ink to tell the truth.

Even this new Financial Times article about climate scientists confirming the unequivocal certainty that manmade emissions are warming the globe features multiple quotes from climate skeptics and deniers, including Pat Michaels and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Why bother to quote the skeptics here in an article about hard scientific evidence? it is their Climategate story that has been thoroughly debunked, not the science.  If there is any lesson that came out of Climategate, it is that climate skeptics should be ignored, not continuously quoted

The deniers' golden egg - Climategate - has been proven false.  Yet they cling to the myth regardless. 

Doesn't that tell us plenty about their "expertise" and motivations?

July 13 2010

05:15

NY Times 'Climategate' Editorial A Reminder That Media Have Failed Miserably Covering Climate Science

The New York Times deserves praise for its excellent editorial on Sunday, “A Climate Change Corrective,” which rightly confirms that the “Climategate” non-scandal has been thoroughly investigated and revealed as a political attack on scientists, not the grand United Nations conspiracy concocted by industry front groups and the right wing echo chamber.

Five separate reviews have found no evidence whatsoever to back up the outrageous claims made by skeptics and deniers that the state of climate science has in any way been weakened by the theft and public airing of years’ worth of emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit last winter. 

The Times’ editorial correctly calls on all the media outlets that amplified the bogus conspiracy theories from the Climategate noise machine to return to the subject and set the record straight for their viewers.  Far too much ink and airtime was spent on inflating the mythical Climategate conspiracy, and ever since there has been hardly any effort made to explain this episode accurately – as a baseless political attack on climate science.  It is imperative that all the outlets that fell into this trap and perpetuated the Climategate nonsense now spend the time necessary to ensure that their audiences know the truth.  

The Times editorial expresses hope that the “debunking of Climategate, will receive as much circulation as the original, diversionary controversies.”

Aside from the difficulty associated with correcting a lie once it has circulated this widely, editors at media outlets who lent credence to the Climategate myth must do some deep soul-searching to figure out why none of their reports initially probed the real conspiracy in this matter – the coordinated, political attack on climate scientists ginned up by a network of climate change skeptics who turned the mountain of stolen material into a sensational global news story. 
<!--break-->
Why did none of the media outlets that covered Climategate attempt to identify the real perpetrators behind the theft of the CRU materials?  Why didn’t they question the fact that the wild allegations about the integrity of climate science - which surfaced almost immediately after the emails were posted online - was coming from a small network of notorious climate deniers and oil-industry funded skeptic groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute

Those are just two questions left unanswered; there are many more related questions that media outlets have failed to investigate.

In fact, there has been a coordinated attempt to manipulate public understanding of climate science, but it certainly didn’t originate with Al Gore or the United Nations.  There is vast evidence confirming such a coordinated effort has been underway for the past two decades, led by groups like CEI and others who collect large sums from oil and coal industry sources to manufacture doubt about climate change science

Overall, the mainstream media has earned an F for failing to expose that very real conspiracy.  Few outlets identify financial conflicts of interest when quoting such ‘experts’ in their misguided attempt at ‘balance.’  And fewer still have taken the time to educate the public about the orchestrated crusade to deny global warming by polluter-supported front groups.

While climate scientists have been thoroughly investigated recently and had their scientific findings confirmed independently under intense scrutiny, the same cannot be said for the skeptics who loudly proclaimed that Climategate proved global warming is a myth.

Where are the investigations into the broad network of polluter-funded skeptic groups who make these outlandish claims about climate science without any proof?  Where are the corrections and retractions from those media outlets that promoted their false Climategate allegations? 

How will the public ever understand the very real threat of climate change when so many mainstream media outlets fail so miserably at covering the subject accurately? 

Much like the Times’ editorial urges, my hope is that editors at every outlet who botched the Climategate story will revisit the issue and correct the record, and then take a deeper look at how they cover climate change in general so they don’t keep perpetuating the manufactured ‘debate.’

But the damage has already been done.  Public understanding about climate science is moving in the wrong direction, and the mainstream media shoulder a lot of the blame for that. 

Each media outlet can demonstrate their grasp of this fact by moving quickly to dispel the Climategate myth and working to educate the public about the robust body of knowledge confirming man’s impact on the climate. 

One outlet in particular that should review its coverage is the Wall Street Journal, which trumpeted the Climategate myths early on and just today ran an opinion piece by climate skeptic and Cato Institute senior fellow Pat Michaels whining about a “whitewash.”  Michaels doesn’t like the fact that the five reviews exonerating climate scientists didn’t match up to the scandalous version that he and others tried to sell.  Rather than focus on educating its readers about the facts, the Wall Street Journal provided Michaels, who has admitted receiving funding from various fossil fuel industry sources over the years, more than 1,000 words to resuscitate his thoroughly-debunked Climategate conspiracy theory.

That is the type of misguided media attention that has aided and abetted the 20-year disinformation campaign waged by polluter-funded front groups and kept the public needlessly confused about climate change science.

May 13 2010

19:15

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.

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Funding:

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

Freedomworks

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

ICECAP

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

Junkscience.com

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.

March 26 2010

17:01

Greenpeace Releases 20-Year History of Climate Denial Industry

Greenpeace released a terrific report today on the 20-year campaign by polluters to mislead the public by creating the climate denial industry. 

The new report succinctly explains how fossil fuel interests used the tobacco industry’s playbook and an extensive arsenal of lobbyists and “experts” for hire in order to manufacture disinformation designed to confuse the public and stifle action to address climate change.

In the report, titled "Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science," Greenpeace provides a brief history of the attacks waged by polluting industries against climate science, the IPCC and individual scientists.

ExxonMobil deservedly gets special attention for its role as the ringleader of the "campaign of denial."  As Greenpeace has documented meticulously over the years with its ExxonSecrets website, ExxonMobil is known to have invested over $23 million since 1998 to bankroll an entire movement of climate confusionists, including over 35 anti-science and right wing nonprofits, to divert attention away from the critical threat of climate disruption caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels.

The report, authored by Greenpeace climate campaigner Cindy Baxter, calls out by name a number of key climate skeptics and deniers who have worked with industry front groups to confuse the public, including S. Fred Singer, John Christy, Richard Lindzen, David Legates, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon, Tim Ball, Pat Michaels and many other figures familiar to DeSmog Blog readers.
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A number of the key “think tanks” at the forefront of the attacks on climate science - including the Heartland Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute – are also examined for their climate denial work on behalf of oil and coal interests.

Greenpeace explains how the network of denial was created in the early 1990s to dissuade politicians from taking action to prevent climate change.  Chief among these early groups were the Global Climate Coalition, the Climate Council and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE). 

The report also provides a brief history of the attacks launched against each of the IPCC’s scientific assessment reports dating back to 1990, noting the key players involved in each successive attack leading up to the present day attempts to tarnish the IPCC’s reputation and to falsely suggest that a debate still exists among climate scientists.

Personal attacks endured by climate scientists, especially key contributors to the IPCC reports, are also discussed in some detail, including the virulent attacks by the climate denial industry against reputed scientists like Michael Mann, Ben Santer, and Kevin Trenberth.

Greenpeace also calls out Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and other members of Congress who are beholden to polluting industries through campaign contributions, and who regularly aid and abet the climate denial industry by promoting the false and misleading claims of deniers and skeptics on Capitol Hill.

Finally, “Dealing in Doubt” notes the escalation of the denial campaign during the administration of George W. Bush, when key White House and regulatory agency positions were filled with polluter lobbyists. 

The placement of Philip Cooney, a lawyer and lobbyist who spent 15 years at the American Petroleum Institute before he was picked as chief of staff in the Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality, serves as a key example.  Days after the New York Times broke the story that Cooney had made extensive edits on government scientific reports on global warming, Cooney resigned to go work for ExxonMobil.  

“Dealing in Doubt” is recommended reading for anyone looking for a brief primer on the history of the denial industry’s relentless campaign against science and reason.  It should be required reading for members of Congress, the mainstream media, and others who continue to be duped by the climate denial industry.

November 21 2009

15:29

E-Mails Reveal Scientists' Contempt for Skeptics

Hackers broke into the electronic files of one of the world's foremost climate research centers this week and posted an array of e-mails in which prominent scientists engaged in a blunt discussion of global warming research and disparaged climate-change skeptics.

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