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December 01 2013


Britain's £85 billion bill for climate policies

A new study claims Britain's climate change initiatives are both 'staggeringly costly and excessive'

April 17 2011


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

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October 28 2010


Financial Post Op-Ed Spins Familiar Tale of Climate Change Denial

The recent op-ed piece in Canada's Financial Post by Czech President Václav Klaus is more than a little infuriating.  Klaus, an economist by trade with no background in climate science, has become a favourite skeptic for hire at the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing libertarian think tanks. 

Klaus is a vocal skeptic on the topic of global warming. His 2007 book argues that global warming is akin to a new religion or ideology that threatens to undermine freedom and the world's economic and social order.  At a 2007 speech at the Cato Institute, he argued that, "Environmentalism should belong in the social sciences" along with other "isms" such as communism, feminism, and liberalism.  He went on to argue that, "environmentalism is a religion" and a "modern counterpart of communism" that seeks to change people's habits and economic systems.

At his 2009 keynote address at the International Conference of Climate Change (a.k.a. Denial-a-Palooza), he maintained that environmental activists don’t necessarily care about temperature, or carbon dioxide, rather they care about rent seeking and political profit.  In an increasingly familiar trope, he argued that the climate change movement has become popularized because it gives politicians an excuse to exert more control over society.

Klaus delivered a keynote speech at last week's Global Warming Policy Foundation Inaugural Annual Lecture in London.  According to his address, "Global warming in the last 150 years was modest and future warming and its consequences will not be dangerous or catastrophic.  It doesn't look like a threat we should respond to," he said. <!--break-->

He argued that the empirical evidence of anthropogenic climate change is riddled with mistakes in methodology and modelling, and suggested out of hand that we have entered a period of global cooling.  

Klaus openly denounced credible scientific institutions including the UK's Royal Society that released a recent report explaining the science of climate change in layman's terms, in response to confusion campaigns attacking the overwhelming scientific consensus.  In Klaus' words, "I am not impressed by heavily biased British scientific institutions".

Maybe he was just offended that they didn't invite him to speak and he instead had to speak at the GWPF? 

The main takeaway from his address was that the threat of climate change is akin to the threat of communism.  In the closing of his op-ed piece, he uses the eerily familiar anti-Big Government vs. environment argument in stating that, "Our interest is, or should be, a free, democratic and prosperous society.  That is the reason why we have to stand up against all attempts to undermine it.  We should be prepared to adapt to all kinds of future climate changes (including cooling), but we should never accept losing our freedom."

Sounds familiar. No wonder these right-wing think tanks like him so much. 

Financial Post readers, upon first glance, might assume that the Global Warming Policy Foundation is a credible climate organization, but Sourcewatch's digging has revealed that the GWPF is a registered UK 'charity' with links to right-wing libertarian climate change deniers. 

According to the Charity Commission, the 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".  

It looks like they're more interested in sowing seeds of doubt than in disseminating knowledge.  GWPF's director is none other than the Heartland Institute's Benny Peiser, climate change denier extraordinaire. Other members include Canada's Ross McKitrick of the Fraser Institute.  

If the Financial Post had bothered to check up on Klaus' credentials (or lack thereof) on issues of climate, or looked into the shadowy UK "charity" funding the whole enterprise, they might have realized that the credentials of both on issues of climate are lacking.  When will the Financial Post stop giving credence to climate change deniers and show some journalistic integrity?

January 08 2010


BBC Trots Out Skeptic Benny Peiser To Question Global Warming In A Snow Storm

The BBC used Britain’s recent snowy cold snap to trot out the climate skepticism of Dr. Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool's John Moores University with absolutely zero scientific expertise in climate change. 

In a segment titled “How the big freeze fits theories of global warming,” exploring "how one of the longest cold snaps for a generation fits in with theories of a warming planet and global climate change," the BBC oddly shoehorns Peiser’s climate change denialism into an otherwise decent piece explaining the difference between weather and climate and why the existence of snow and cold weather does not in any way negate the realities of climate change.

So what could Dr. Peiser - whose greatest achievement in science is getting an asteroid named after him – have to offer on the subject of climate change?
Standing out in a field lightly dusted with snow for the BBC camera, Peiser posits that, because the Met Office predicted a mild winter, “people are right to ask questions and to look into the complexities of climate.”

Below his name, the BBC lists Peiser’s affiliation with The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a new UK “think” tank founded by Lord Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor and current global warming “critic.”

After Peiser’s 10 seconds in the sun, er snow, BBC host David Shukman immediately launches into a correction of Peiser’s misunderstanding of climate, noting that “the key thing is that there’s a difference between weather and climate.  The weather is what you get day by day, month by month, like this cold spell.  But the climate is the kind of weather that you get over a thirty-year period. And that is what the scientists say is changing. “

Then Rob Varley of the Met Office further explains that: “It’s absolutely undoubtedly true that, over the last 100 years, the world has gotten warmer and the science is really very clear that the world will continue to get warmer, and the fact that it’s snowy in my garden at the moment really doesn’t alter that one bit.”
Peiser is a confused skeptic, as even he acknowledges the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is caused by human activity. Peiser admitted to Media Watch in 2006 that: "I do not think anyone is questioning that we are in a period of global warming. Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact.”

According to an ISI search of publications, Peiser has published only a handful of research papers in peer-reviewed journals, mostly in sports medicine and astronomy journals.  None of Peiser’s peer-reviewed work is related to human-induced climate change.

So why does the BBC think it necessary to include Peiser’s views in a piece on climate when he clearly has no credible expertise in the science of climate change?

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