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May 08 2012


Heartland Institute’s Unapologetic Stance to Enormous PR Blunder Exposes – again – Lobby Organization’s Intellectual Dishonesty

The Great Heartland PR Blunder of 2012It is no surprise that the Heartland Institue would yet again engage in intellectual dishonesty and scare tactics in its ongoing attempt to confuse and manipulate populate opinion on climate change – they’ve been doing it for years. What has startled everyone this time, from supporters to critics like us, is the boneheaded blunder and pointless tastelessness of the short-lived Chicago-area billboard campaign from the anti-science lobby group Heartland Institute.

What began on Thursday morning ended on Thursday afternoon last week, in what Heartland president Jose Bast characterized as an “experiment,” as they prepare for their seventh annual climate change conference – a denial extravaganza featuring some of the foremost voices in anti-science and denialist rhetoric.

“I feel blindsided,” said Donna Laframboise of NoConsensus.org, a scheduled speaker for the conference until she cancelled in protest of the offensive Great Heartland PR Blunder of 2012.

“Suddenly, we were all publicly linked to an organization that thinks it’s okay to equate people concerned about climate change with psychopaths,” writes Lamframboise. “Forget disappointment. In my view, my reputation has been harmed. And the Heartland thinks it has nothing to apologize for?”

A scrolling collection of quotes on NoConsensus includes the very apt question “Should we believe whomever shouts the loudest?”

Heartland's bombast is comicalLamfromboise is just one of several sponsors and supporters that are considering or have already ended their relationship with the Heartland Institute. A Washington D.C.-based arm of the organization involved in insurance reform issues simply up and left, abandoning ship and closing up shop in the wake of reaction from insurance companies and other corporate supporters to the ad campaign.

What also shouldn’t surprise anyone is Bast’s unremitting defiance and refusal to apologize. He needn’t apologize to me. To critics like me that work to expose the Heartland Institute for what it is, such startlingly ill-advised publicity campaigns are a God-send. They do our work for us. Bast should apologize to his supporters, without whom Heartland can claim any credibility to anyone.

Anthony Watts, publisher of the leading climate denial website WattsUpWithThat, claimed that the gaffe is a result of “battle fatigue.”

If that is the case, it is from a battle of the Heartland Institute’s own making.

Additional source:
ClimateWire (subscription required)

Do you want to be associated with this guy?

March 12 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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Reposted byZasadniczoNIE ZasadniczoNIE

February 22 2012


Evaluation shows "Faked" Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic

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

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

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

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February 17 2012


It’s a bird; it’s a hockey stick; it’s a faked document!


Heartland response would be a useful PR tactic

The Climate Strategy that was emailed to the DeSmogBlog with a package of material from the Heartland Institute’s Jan. 17 Board of Directors meeting is serving as an excellent distraction from the legitimate issues raised in the other documents and reinforced by the excellent research paper by DeSmogBlog contributor John Mashey.

The DeSmogBlog has no evidence supporting Heartland's claim that the Strategic document is fake. A close review of the content shows that it is overwhelmingly accurate (“almost too accurate” for one analyst), and while critics have said that it is “too short” or is distinguished by “an overuse of commas,” even the skeptics at weatherguy Anthony Watts’s WUWT say that a technical analysis of the metadata on the documents in question does not offer sufficient information to come to a firm conclusion either way.

But in the tradition of the famous, and famously controversial “hockey stick graph,” the challenge to the single document has afforded the DeSmogBlog’s critics – and Heartland’s supporters – something comfortable to obsess about while they avoid answering questions raised by the other documents.

In the case of the hockey stick, people such as Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit have led a chorus of criticism for years, alleging that a supposed statistical flaw in Michael Mann’s excellent and prescient work should be sufficient justification to dismiss not only Mann’s original graph, but all of climate science. This, notwithstanding the fact that dozens of other climate reconstructions have validated Mann’s conclusions and replicated the hockey stick shape of his graph. Thus, the hockey stick has been a convenient weapon for those (like Joe Bast, President of the Heartland Institute) who would like to take people’s attention from the legitimate science of climate change.

Now, we have a case where Bast admits that some dope on his staff emailed Heartland's whole board package to a stranger. Yet rather than praising the opportunity that this provides for independent observers to judge the performance of a taxpayer-subsidized body (Heartland is a registered charity), as Bast did when someone stole the so-called ClimateGate emails from leading scientists such as Mike Mann, the Heartland boss has attacked the veracity of the Climate Strategy and used that to attempt to dismiss the legitimacy of the other material (Heartland Institute Responds to Stolen and Fake Documents).

The deniergang echo chamber has since jumped on that chorus, with sites like Marc Morano’s Climate Depot, Steve Milloy’s Junkscience, and Anthony Watts at WUWT all sputtering in outrage, even as Watts confirmed that, well, the information in the document pertaining to him was, but for a rounding error, almost too accurate.

The DeSmogBlog is committed to accuracy. Joe Bast says the document is a fake, a statement we take with a grain of salt given the Heartland Institute’s previous dissembling on the subject of climate change and its discredited position on teh safety of second hand smoke.  In the circumstances, if the Heartland Institute can offer any specific criticism of the Climate Strategy or any evidence that it was faked and not, actually, written on Joe Bast’s laptop, printed out and scanned, we would be pleased to consider that evidence.

In the meantime, how about everybody take a moment to look away from the shiny penny in the magician's left hand and concentrate instead on the 100+ pages of damning evidence falling out of his right sleeve.


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February 14 2012


Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.

-Confirmation that Charles G. Koch Foundation is again funding Heartland Institute’s global warming disinformation campaign. Greenpeace’s Koch reports show the last time Heartland received Koch funding was in 1999

The January 2012 Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy states:

We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”

-Heartland Institute’s global warming denial machine is chiefly – and perhaps entirely – funded by one Anonymous donor:

Our climate work is attractive to funders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 - about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012…”

-Confirmation of exact amounts flowing to certain key climate contrarians. 

funding for high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist AGW message. At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.”



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November 22 2011


Climategate Hackers Slither Again in the Night

Steal More; Reveal Less

The Climagegate hackers appear to be at it again, spraying the internet with dozens of out-of-context quotes from a new batch of stolen emails - in a transparent attempt to disrupt the climate talks starting next week in Durban, South Africa.

The emails, from a source that denierblogger Tallbloke identifies as "Our old friend 'FOIA'," appeared with the same serendipitous timing - and in the same devious way - as last year's more-devastating tranche: accordig to the Guardian, they were "leaked" on a Russian server and then sprinkled into the denieresphere through the usual suspects: Wattsupwiththat, ClimateAudit, AirVent and the already mentioned Tallbloke. We can undoubtedly expect a fresh round of breathless "mainstream media" coverage from the Murdoch empire.

These emails are even more ridiculous than the batch released last year. First, the hackers didn't have the decency to release the emails in context - rather they just pulled the quotes they thought would be effective in casting doubt. Second, the thieves mined only 5,000 of more than 220,000 emails they say they have in hand. This strains credulity: if there was anything in the remaining emails that was even vaguely incriminating, you can bet they would have found and released it. Third, the "best stuff" that they actually released is worse than trivial:

Take this for example: "<0813> Fox/Environment Agency: If we lose the chance to make climate change a reality to people in the regions we will have missed a major trick in REGIS."

This is apparently a reference to the Regional Climate Change Impact and Response Studies being conducted out of East Anglia University in the U.K. And the apparent intent of the quote is to say that scientists believe that their work will be wasted if they don't find a way to get people's attention with the considerable evidence that they have discovered that climate change is, in fact, a devastating threat.

It's clear enough that governments like Canada's own are committed to ignoring the climate threat - at least as long as their oily buddies can continue to cash in by making matters worse. It's also clear that Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre are desperate to portray themselves as clever contrarians, and they will make whatever allies are necessary to keep up the facade.

But really, is this all there is? They have 220,000 stolen emails and they can't find a single out-of-context quote that would overtake the so-successfully misused "hide the decline" line from 2009?

Mike Mann, quoted in the Guardian story above, is right. This is pathetic.

November 16 2011


Anthony Watts and Defensive Reasoning: Three Episodes

Over the last year, I’ve had numerous blogospheric encounters with the conservative climate “skeptic” Anthony Watts, the author of WattsUpWithThat. In the process, I’ve been particularly struck by how Watts handles inconvenient evidence.

Twice now, I’ve seen Watts make a mistake, and then seem to rationalize it, rather than simply correct it. I’ve also seen Watts shift the goalposts, refusing to accept inconvenient evidence even after saying he would do so.

What’s up with that?

Look: We all make mistakes. And we all adopt beliefs that later turn out to be incorrect.  There's nothing wrong with that per se; it's actually quite natural. What really matters is what we do after we’re proven wrong. So let’s see what Watts does:

Research on Astroturfing. A while back, I introduced the blogosphere to a social science study on online anti-global warming astroturfing. Watts then leapt in, accusing the researchers of having “setup fake websites to gather fake data."

I have no idea how Watts got his idea about the researchers setting up fake public websites. But it was incorrect. The researchers were not creating fake sites that could deceive unknowing web surfers. They were showing sites to research subjects in a lab setting—and of course, debriefing them afterwards, in line with standard procedures.

But the sites were not actually online, live for the world to view.

I pointed this out, and noted with some amusement that Watts and his commenters had been slamming the study based on a basic misconception—barking up the wrong tree repeatedly, until somebody on the thread bothered to read the actual paper. 

Watts then responded by further defending himself—implying it was the study authors’ fault that he had misinterpreted them, because they didn’t use the actual word “Intranet”:

Note the word “website”, which appears 56 times in the full paper. The word “Internet” appears once, in the bibliography, and the word “Intranet” does not appear in the paper at all. Why wouldn’t they mention that the study was conducted on a private Intranet and not on the World Wide Web?

Answer: because it is obvious, to anyone reading the study or familiar with such research, that this is a controlled experiment in a laboratory setting, in which research subjects are shown something on a computer screen but not pointed to an actual live URL.

Watts then quickly found another reason to bash the study:

In other words, they didn’t study websites in the wild, but copied wild ones and manufactured “tame” ones of their own design that never left the lab.

There would be some serious control problems with such a “live” experiment…not to mention potentially lending some strength to Watts’ initial complaint about the risk of deceiving unwitting web surfers!

Note the underlying point here. Watts launched a baseless attack on the astroturfing study. When his error was pointed out, he tried to blame the study authors, and came up with new criticisms, including protesting that they should have conducted the study in a way that he himself had previously claimed would have been deceptive and misleading, or even unethical.

On to episode two:

The BEST Study. I just wrote about this one, and it is quite telling.

A while back, Anthony Watts wrote of the headline-grabbing Berkeley BEST study that “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.

But when the study came out and he didn’t like its findings, Watts instead engaged in  a phenomenon called goalpost shifting. Look at how he now talks about the BEST work: In a recent post, he referred to the “incomplete and rushed, non quality controlled, error riddled BEST science.” 

Are we noting a common theme here?

On to episode three:

The Republican Brain: My next book will not be out for about 6 months. Nevertheless, much like the Astroturf study, Watts attacked it without reading it. He justified doing so by claiming that someone else had reviewed the book, so he could rely on that review instead:

Chris Mooney has come up with new book to explain why people like you and I are “abby-normal” for not unthinkingly and uncritically accepting all aspects of global warmingclimate change climate disruption. I haven’t read it, though the cover itself speaks volumes. I won’t commit the same dumb mistake that Igor Peter Gleick committed when he wrote his bogus non-review of Donna LaFramboise’s IPCC book, so I’ll let somebody who has reviewed it speak about it. Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.

But this was incorrect—Roger Pielke, Jr., had not reviewed my book, nor could he have because my book is not out. So Watts basically did commit the “dumb mistake” he was claiming he wouldn’t commit.

I pointed this out. So Did Watts then say, “Whoops, sorry”? Or did he come up with more reasons to criticize me?

The proof is here. Read it for yourself.

Why is all of this significant?

If you can’t admit it when you’re wrong, you also can’t know when you’re right.  If you don’t hold your opinions and beliefs tentatively, subject them to scrutiny, and then try to parse out which of them truly hold weight, then you run the risk of rushing headlong into all manner of self-serving biases.

And please note: This has nothing to do with whether or not you’re smart. Smart people (like Watts) are in fact particularly vulnerable to this problem, because they’re extra good at rationalizing their views. Even as they’re super awesome at finding apparent problems with the arguments of those who disagree with them, and arguing back against their opponents, they're often oblivious of their own biases.

But it doesn’t matter how many great arguments you can spin out to defend what you believe, if you can’t also perceive where your beliefs might be untrue. Without self criticism, all your self-supporting arguments amount to little more than spinning your wheels—while you remain stuck in the mud.

October 21 2011


Climate Study Does Not Placate Skeptics

A study designed to address critiques of climate science by skeptics confirmed that "global warming is real" and the world's average land temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-1950s. Critics are not satisfied.

July 13 2011


Watts Up With the Internet? Motivated Bias on Climate Skeptic Blogs

Recently, I’ve become aware that the prominent climate science skeptic blogger Anthony Watts has been challenging a number of my posts. Maybe it's because in my most recent book Unscientific America, I made a big deal about a site that attacks climate science, like his, winning a “Best Science Blog” award.

Anyways, Watts has gotten me back. Based upon my photo, he has taken to calling me a “kid blogger”  (see here and here). And it's true: I’m 33, obviously too young to be fooling around on the Internet.

The attention is flattering—but I've also grown intrigued by what happens on Watts’ blog when he criticizes something or someone and his many commenters then follow suit. Because it does indeed show what a dangerous place the Internet is for kids like me.

 Watts commenters are an interesting bunch—in many ways, I'm very impressed with them. They are certainly highly energized to debunk climate science, and they bring a lot of intellectual abilities to the task.

At the same time, however, the debunking they conduct is overwhelmingly one-directional. By and large, these commenters are practicing “motivated skepticism” and showing a "disconfirmation bias" (see the image above, from this cool post) rather than conducting an open-ended informational search that could potentially end with their prior views and assumptions either being confirmed or disconfirmed.

As an example, let’s take Watts’ latest post, which is a response to my recent post on a study on astroturfing in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Watts suggests, in his post, that the researchers have done something unethical in their study. His headline is, “Researchers set up fake global warming websites to study response,” and in it he makes this charge:

So, they setup fake websites to gather fake data. Nice. Not only that, they “borrowed” content from other websites to use on these “fake” websites, apparently without citation or attribution, lest that taint the results. Sounds like a job for John Mashey and “Deep Climate” aka Dave Clarke. I’m sure they’ll get right on the case like they did with Wegman.

 So, this study seems perfect for a business ethics journal. Glad to see that the study of opposite views fits in to this trend recently published by Security Week.

Cybercriminals Creating 57,000 Fake Web Sites Every Week

Watts is thus accusing the researchers of something pretty serious...and soon his commenters come in and proceed to bash the astroturfing study. They post and critique the abstract and various passages, they check up on the authors and their funding sources and their universities—and they reiterate Watts’ critique, sometimes in far harsher terms:

So, the lying liars set up fake webpages to push their lies about humans destroying the environment and got busted at it. Good. Lying liars who lie about humans destroying the environment deserve to be dragged into court for stealing content from real people’s webpages for their lie pages.

Eventually, someone posts a link to an online version of the full study. Then, at 6:49 pm, one commenter who seems to have actually read it realizes that the whole thrust of the critique is wrong. But even he only notes this in passing, by way of launching yet another critique:

I was originally concerned, as apparently Bernie was, as well, that the researchers had located and manipulated naive web surfers…. but apparently they recruited students who were told they were taking part in an study. That’s the good news. The Bad news is that the students were told they were taking part in an evaluation of web site designs: in other words, they knew that all of the web sites they were looking at were in fact fakes or prototypes. The seemingly anomalous conclusion that students evaluated the “astro-turf” websites as non-credible but nonetheless accepted the information indicates to me that the students were evaluating the information separately from web site design, which they were supposed to be evaluating. [Italics added]

Observing all of this, I contacted one of the authors of the study in question, Martin Martens of Vancouver Island University. Here was his (highly predictable) response to the charges above:

The fake web sites were not on-line in a way that permitted viewing by the general public. They only existed within the computer system used for the experiment. The only people who saw the web sites and answered the survey questions were the participants recruited for the study.

The study was also approved by an ethics committee (of course) and when it was over, Martens explained, the participants were debriefed about it and “provided information to remove any mistaken beliefs that might have developed as a result of reading the web sites, and an explanation as to why the procedures were necessary for the experiment.

In short, this is very similar to many, many social science studies, including some true classics--like this paper on biased reasoning:

People who  hold  strong opinions on  complex social issues  are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in  a  biased  manner.  They  are  apt to  accept "confirming"  evidence  at  face value  while  subjecting  "disconfirming"  evidence  to critical evaluation, and  as a  result  to  draw undue  support  for  their initial positions  from  mixed  or  random empirical  findings.  Thus, the  result  of  exposing contending  factions  in  a  social  dispute to  an  identical  body  of  relevant empirical evidence may  be  not  a  narrowing  of  disagreement  but rather an increase  in  polarization.  To  test  these assumptions  and predictions, subjects supporting  and  opposing  capital  punishment  were  exposed  to  two  purported studies, one seemingly  confirming and one  seemingly disconfirming  their existing beliefs about the deterrent  efficacy  of  the death penalty…

Yup, “purported studies.” They weren’t real. They were created for the experiment--a classic experiment that revealed how people who start out from different ideological positions will read the same "evidence" vastly differently, rating a study that seems to agree with them as convincing and a study that doesn’t seem to agree with them as unconvincing—even when both studies are made up and have the same strengths and weaknesses!

I didn’t choose this study by accident, of course--I chose it because it helps to cast some 100 watt light on what Watts and his commenters are up to.

Some particular piece of evidence—in this case, the astroturfing study—was flagged as disagreeing with them. So like good motivated skeptics, they went on the attack and started criticizing. Along the way, a few  caught on to the fact that the original criticism wasn’t even right…and kinda noticed...but they quickly moved on to new criticisms. 

Given all this, any predictions about what they will say about this post?

But hey, go easy on me...I'm just a kid, after all. 

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.


Senator Inhofe Sends His Regrets

The senator says he is under the weather and cannot join his fellow climate skeptics at their annual get-together.

April 05 2011


Paul Krugman's Must-Read NY Times Op-Ed On Immoral Climate Denial

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman has a must-read piece today noting the "cynical careerism" of climate deniers who won't even acknowledge the truth when one of "their own" discovers that climate science is sound.  Singling out Anthony Watts as an example of this head-in-the-sand approach, Krugman notes that Watts and other climate skeptics changed their tune about the Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project when its lead researcher testified in front of Congress last week that climate change is real and man-made.  It wasn't what the skeptics - or the anti-science GOP - wanted to hear.

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller - whose reputation as a climate skeptic and funding by a Koch foundation the Republicans likely assumed made him one of "theirs" - instead shocked the hearing by reporting that his group’s preliminary results find a global warming trend “very similar to that reported by the prior groups.”

Krugman notes that Anthony Watts had recently "praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself 'prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.'"

But then of course when Professor Muller announced the preliminary results of his study upholding the scientific basis of climate disruption, Watts ridiculed the hearing Muller attended as “post normal science political theater.” <!--break-->
Krugman notes that the skeptic camp's decision to ostracize Professor Muller provides further evidence of the divisiveness of the political discussion about what we must do as a society to fight global warming.  This polarization, Krugman warns, "has probably ensured that we won’t do anything about climate change until catastrophe is already upon us." 

Read the rest at NYTimes.com: "The Truth About Climate Change, Still Inconvenient".

September 27 2010


WUWT: Just Enough Information to Mislead

You can't beat Anthony Watts' team at WUWT (either Watts Up With That or We Use Wishful Thinking, it's hard to tell) for the delicate selection and presentation of "evidence" to argue that climate isn't changing.

Here, for example, is an post that trumpets a Nature article on the climate effects of the Atalantic Mulitdecadel Oscilation. WUWT also credits the reputable German publication Der Spiegel as an intermediate source for this information and then posts the graph (left) as easy visual proof that what's happening in climate today is all part of a normal up and down.

But have a close look at that graph. First, it doesn't come from the Nature paper or from Der Spiegel. It was cobbled together on a denier site run by an engineer named Alan Cheetham.  Second, the yellow lines showing a downward resumption on the right side are based on - well, actually, on no data points whatever. While Cheetham may have a crystal ball, a touching optimism or a cavalier disregard for objective presentation, he has no evidence at all.

But he has a fan in Anthony Watts. Watt does that tell you?<!--break-->

I noticed this while reading another post in which Watts insults John Cook from the excellent blog, Skeptical Science (there is a link, incorrectly attributing the material above to New Scientist). Watt's quotes this passage from Sourcewatch:

John Cook, on his website Skeptical Science, states that “the usual suspects in natural climate change – solar variations, volcanoes, Milankovitch cycles – are all conspicuous in their absence over the past three decades of warming.

... and then he goes on to provide three links (1, 2, 3) that purport counter Cook's position.

Well, the whole post is dumb. Cook isn't saying that there NO were ocean oscillations, volcano effects or Milankovitch cycles in the last 30 years. It seems clear that he was saying that global temperatures have been rising regardless that these influences have been absent, irrelevant or (in the case of volcanoes) acting to counteract warming.

Beyond being obtuse, Watts also has a little hissy about Cook using the "ugly word 'denier'" in reference to people who, uh, manipulate or misrepresent scientific information to suggest that climate change is not happening, is natural or is nothing to worry about.

Watts the deal, Tony? Got a guilty conscience?<!--break-->

June 22 2010


Christopher Monckton's Lies Exposed (Again) By The Guardian

In yet another brutal take-down of 'Lord' Christopher Monckton's claims to royalty and relevance, Bob Ward at The Guardian exposes the fabrications Monckton has whipped up to endear Margaret Thatcher fans to his own 'work' as a climate skeptic.

Ward's piece, "Thatcher becomes latest recruit in Monckton's climate sceptic campaign," illustrates again the main point that DeSmogBlog readers know all too well - that climate denialism is about politics, not science.

Ward, who is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, was inspired to write the piece after reading Monckton's outlandish claims in a blog posted on Anthony Watts' blog.

In his guest blog on WattsUpWithThat, Monckton claims that, among all the advisers to Margaret Thatcher in the mid-80s, he was "the only one who knew any science." 

Monckton is not a scientist by any stretch, he holds a journalism degree. Apart from his recent paid speeches at tea parties and climate conferences as an anti-science crusader, his career in daily news and tabloid journalism has had nothing to do with science.  But that hasn't stopped him from pretending to be one. He's like the fake doctor in the 1940's advertisements who really, really wants you to trust him that cigarettes are safe, and it's okay to spray DDT on your kids.
Monckton then goes on to suggest that "it was I who – on the prime minister's behalf – kept a weather eye on the official science advisers to the government, from the chief scientific adviser downward."

Bob Ward reports in the Guardian:

"This revelation might be news to Lady Thatcher. On page 640 of her 1993 autobiography Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years, the former prime minister describes how she grappled with the issue of climate change, referring only to "George Guise, who advised me on science in the policy unit". Indeed, given Monckton's purportedly crucial role, it seems to be heartless ingratitude from the Iron Lady that she does not find room to mention him anywhere in the 914-page volume on her years as prime minister."

So it seems that Christopher Monckton's claims over all these years that he was a key policy advisor to Thatcher are pretty disingenuous.  That's not surprising from a character who regularly embellishes his non-voting non-recognized title of 'Lord' in the House of Commons.  Luckily for Monckton, "it is not in itself an offence to pretend to be a member of the House." Now that he's figured that out, perhaps he'll start calling himself Prime Minister for the heck of it.

To clarify his role in Thatcher's government, it seems Monckton started out in the early '80s as a scribe taking minutes at meetings of a group loosely associated with Thatcher, then wrote a paper that supposedly endeared him to Downing Street, then magically became a key policy advisor a few years hence.

But if that claim were true - that Monckton was so dear an advisor to Thatcher - why would he have left such an important post in 1986 to take an assistant editor position at a (now defunct) tabloid newspaper?

As is so often the case with Christopher Monckton, the facts just don't ever seem to back up his version of events. 

What will the good 'Lord' dream up next?

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.

January 22 2010


Urban Heat Island Myth is Dead

Another climate change denier myth - this one a favorite of Anthony Watts and his "Watts Up With That" blog - has just bit the dust.

Many skeptics for years have sought to explain away decades of climate research by showing slides of weather station thermometers sited next to heating vents or surrounded by asphalt.

This much-touted “urban heat island effect” was supposed to trump all those fancy graphs and equations that egghead scientists were fixated on. Except it’s not true.

A recent peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research looked at data from 114 weather stations from across the US over the last twenty years and compared measurements from locations that were well sited and those that weren’t.

They did find an overall bias, but it was towards cooling rather warming.

According to the authors,

“the bias is counter intuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative (“cool”) bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive (“warm”) bias in minimum temperatures.”



This is latest in an expanding body of science that has looked at the urban heat island effect in excruciating detail and found nothing to undermine the observed and disturbing warming in the US over the last several decades.

The IPCC found that: Over the Northern Hemisphere land areas where urban heat islands are most apparent, both the trends of lower-tropospheric temperature and surface air temperature show no significant differences. In fact, the lower-tropospheric temperatures warm at a slightly greater rate over North America (about 0.28°C/decade using satellite data) than do the surface temperatures (0.27°C/decade), although again the difference is not statistically significant.

Another paper in Climate Change in 2007 stated: Studies that have looked at hemispheric and global scales conclude that any urban-related trend is an order of magnitude smaller than decadal and longer time-scale trends evident in the series (e.g., Jones et al., 1990; Peterson et al., 1999)…Thus, the global land warming trend discussed is very unlikely to be influenced significantly by increasing urbanization (Parker, 2006).

While such dense scientific prose is not as photogenic as a picture of a weather station in a parking lot, the fact is that science has thoroughly picked over this red herring.

This myth is now officially busted. 



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