As you all know by now, my Evil Climate Denialism (TM) is funded by Big Oil. That’s why I don’t have to waste any of my time scrabbling around doing new blog posts any more. I just lounge around quaffing MDMA-laced Cristal from 17th century Venetian glass while my harem of Estonian nubiles giggle coquettishly as they speculate excitedly on which three of them are going to play the “jeegy-jig” game with Mister James today. Then I have some foie gras. Special extra-cruel foie gras as supplied to me by the Koch Brothers ultra-lux rare breed torture farm. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.
Anyway, I wanted to share with you some interesting correspondence generated by a sceptic who is much, much nicer than me called Russell Cook. I write about him in Watermelons:
Let me cite, by way of illustration, the work of a man from Phoenix, Arizona, named Russell Cook, who describes himself as “a complete nobody”. One day Cook set himself the task of tracing the “funded by Big Oil” story to its source—and he discovered some interesting facts. One was that Ross Gelbspan, “Pulitzer prize-winning reporter” (as he was described by Al Gore and several others) has never won a Pulitzer Prize. Another was that the blanket smear about the alleged corruption of science under the direction of the fossil fuel industry can be traced to just one line of one memo, produced as part of a public relations campaign by the coal industry in the early 1990s with the aim of showing—not unreasonably, you might think—that the debate on AGW was anything but settled.
On this wafer-thin foundation, the environmental movement has managed to construct almost its entire propaganda edifice.
What does this tale prove? On its own, very little. Cook—a graphic artist, not a scientist or a reporter—is just another ordinary citizen who has harnessed the powers of the internet to find information which, a decade or two ago, might well have remained buried. The “funded by Big Oil” meme would have spread through endless repetition. And no one would have been in a position to question it.
But now they can. Anyone can. Out there right now are hundreds if not thousands of Russell Cooks tapping away on their keyboards, following hunches, satisfying their idle curiosity, not taking “no” for an answer, and generally living up to the motto of the (now sadly discredited: see next chap-ter) Royal Society “Nullius in Verba.” Take no one’s word for it.
Anyway, here’s Russell in action again – this time engaging, very politely with a Warmist professor at Oxford called Myles Allen. And getting somewhere:
No doubt you are receiving both praise and harsh criticism about your Guardian article yesterday. I have a more basic question to ask regarding the disservice being done science when politicians such as Gore tell the public that criticism or questions asked about the conclusions of man-caused global warming by skeptic scientists should be ignored.
You do agree that this is a larger if not egregious disservice than Gore’s attempts to equate extreme weather to AGW, do you not?
Al Gore has famously said that skeptic scientists are in the pay of fossil fuel companies. He pointed that out most notably in his movie near the end, comparing their efforts and an alleged leaked coal industry memo to older efforts by tobacco companies hiring so-called experts to sow doubt about the harm of cigarette smoking. Gore has quoted both the tobacco memo’s words, “Doubt is our product” and the coal industry PR campaign memo – spelled out full screen in his movie, “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact”.
Did you know you can find the Brown & Williamson tobacco memo in its full context on the internet within mere seconds of starting a search for it? Did you know the “reposition global warming” memo cannot be found in its complete context in a single magazine or newspaper article, or book, or web site where accusers quote it for proof that skeptic scientists are corrupt and untrustworthy?
Are you aware this bit of so-called ‘proof’ is the singular source for that accusation, that not a shred of evidence has otherwise been found to prove skeptic scientists have received payments from fossil fuel companies accompanied by instructions to fabricate false climate assessments? Does it not trouble you that no less than IPCC Vice Chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele relied on a person who repeats this unsupportable accusation when he claimed in a 2010 Guardian article “Attacks on climate science echo tobacco industry tactics” and that he called for people to ignore a prominent US skeptic scientist last month based on this same accusation?
These aren’t superficial talking points I toss out, these are from my own 21+ months of research into the accusation, I wrote about van Ypersele’s recent accusation relative to his ties to Greenpeace here “Climate Science and Corruption” and I’ve detailed Gore’s contradictions in his own accusation narrative here “Smearing Skeptic Scientists: What did Gore know and when did he know it?” As an ordinary citizen, I applaud your efforts to point out distractions which undermine the understanding of science. I have no expertise to say which side is right on AGW, thus I expect scientists to work out their contradictory observations and accurately report on what the situation actually is. If you truly strive to reach that goal, will you write another Guardian article telling how Gore does a disservice to scientists by accusing one side of corruption in the face of no evidence to prove it?
Here’s Professor Allen’s reply:
Dear Mr. Cook,
I personally don’t feel it is particularly relevant where people’s funding comes from. The accusation that sceptic scientists receive money from fossil fuel interests is just as irrelevant as the (probably more frequent, and even more laughable) accusation that mainstream climate scientists like myself only find the results we do because we are in the pay of governments who want an excuse to raise green taxes.
Now I think if I’d been Cook, I would have been a lot snarkier in my response to Prof Allen’s ludicrous straw man claim. Fortunately Cook is made of politer stuff:
Indeed, what you say is true. It is entirely possible that an otherwise reprehensible scientist who is a tax cheat, animal abuser, spouse beater, and receiver of money from the Russian mafia could still conceivably write a paper that upholds a critical aspect of AGW. We are in thorough agreement on that, I believe.
The critical problem here is that a large portion of the population has been led to believe by politicians, policymakers, and enviro-activists that (alleged) fossil fuel funding of skeptic scientists renders them completely untrustworthy. As a case in point, I asked the spokesperson of the largest electric utility corporation in New Mexico for their opinion of Fred Singer’s NIPCC 2009 report in relation of their decision to suspend their membership to the US Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber’s skeptical viewpoints on global warming. The spokesperson replied that her company agreed with a national US news program repeating the words of three scientists from Climate scientists from NASA, Stanford University and Princeton who said the NIPCC was “fabricated nonsense.”
You see the problem there? An electricity provider to several million people relied on a single media source for a literally unsupportable accusation.
To the best of my knowledge, the funding sources of AGW scientists is not the primary point of concern of skeptics, but rather that AGW is not a settled matter in the face of skeptic science assessments. Careful examination widespread AGW narratives indicates accusations about the funding of skeptics is the overriding reason used for telling the public to ignore skeptics. Besides IPCC Vice Chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele’s recent repeat of this unsupportable accusation, Michael Mann said of Sherwood & Craig Idso in a 2003 ClimateGate email to a reporter:
“An objective reading of our manuscript would readily reveal that the comments you refer to are scurrilous. These comments have not been made by scientists in the peer-reviewed literature, but rather, on a website that, according to published accounts, is run by individuals sponsored by ExxonMobile corportation, hardly an objective source of information.”
Again, I applaud your efforts to point out distractions which undermine the understanding of science. If you truly strive to reach that goal, will you write another Guardian article telling how Gore does a disservice to scientists by accusing one side of corruption in the face of no evidence to prove it?
Here’s Professor Allen again, clearly a mite uncomfortable about the correspondence. (Hence his remarks about the cc list: I know what he means – if I were a Warmist I wouldn’t want my letters going straight to Morano either. It would be like sending your children swimming with great white sharks). Still, fair play to Prof Allen for replying.
Dear Mr. Cook,
And a large portion of the population has been led to believe that climate scientists as a community massage their results for political or self-interested ends. Unfortunately, two wrongs don’t make a right. I would not deny that there is legitimate social science to be done analysing the scientific process, but much of the “evidence” in this area, on both sides, seems to me to be largely anecdotal — it is not a field I work on, so I don’t think I would have much to add to what has been said already.
We should probably not drag lots of busy people into an e-mail debate — apologies to the cc-list.
Cook writes back:
I do thank you for the time and consideration you’ve taken to respond. You of course had the option to remain silent, as many on the AGW side have done with my direct questions in the past, so I do appreciate your responses.
With all due respect to your first sentence, I am tempted to ask what evidence you base the assertion that ‘a large portion of the population’ has even heard about, much less ‘believes’, such accusations leveled at AGW scientists. I’ve read extensively in opinion commentary that the rest of the world accepts AGW with the US lagging behind, having perhaps only half of the population as non-believers. Now, your statement appears to have one of two potential explanations: ‘a large portion of the population’ has actually heard the accusation that AGW scientists are politically or monetarily motivated and have dismissed it out-of-hand, or else the population you speak of is instead a significant minority.
You see how the situation might prompt social science questions here. If indeed a sizable portion of the population does not believe AGW scientists alter data for self-gain, what then prompted you to make such a statement? My underlying question – after having asked so many politicians, policymakers, and environmental journalists about the justification to proceed with GHG regulations in the face of apparently legitimate criticism – is why I receive literally nothing but evasive answers, combined with outright efforts to marginalize skeptic scientists.
Long story short, I’ve done this since 2005, with a greater frequency after 2008. To have a lead author of a GHG regulation bill in Washington state tell me he considered and rejected skeptic scientist assessments, and fail to tell me which specific ones he rejected and for what reason, is simply amazing. To have a prominent board member of a society of environmental journalists tell me the corruption of skeptic scientists has been documented by many journalists starting with Ross Gelbspan, and then fail to tell me specifically who the others were, is inexcusable. To have a reporter of an ocean acidification devastation article be unable to tell me what the overall oceans’ pH level is, or another reporter refusing outright to tell me who actually quantified the ‘scientific consensus’, is inexplicable.
You are of course under no obligation to write another article on the Gore politicization problem that threatens to vastly undermine public opinion of AGW. I included Dr Curry and Mr Lynas in this as I’ve written to them before on the same topic, particularly in regard to Dr Curry’s appearance on the US PBS NewsHour program, which has had IPCC scientist guests on for a combined total of 14 appearances, and not a single skeptic scientist to view his assessments. Curry and Lynas have expressed concern about the politicization of the issue, and your 9/7 Guardian article certainly implies that the AGW issue may be needlessly eroded by political twisting of weather observations.
I’d think if Al Gore takes on the appearance of having libeled/slandered skeptic scientists, you’d view it as even more critical for him to either cease and desist on that tactic, or bring out irrefutable evidence of skeptics’ guilt.
Professor Allen, increasingly terse:
I repeat, two wrongs don’t make a right. The whole issue of who is motivated by what is irrelevant. I don’t care if the author of a paper I am reviewing is an “IPCC scientist” (whatever that is) or a “skeptic scientist” (which we all are) or has horns and a tail: I care if they have done their stats right. Myles
We are in agreement on that fundamental point of the irrelevancy of funding, and I trust that you do care that all scientists get their info right. This, however, is not a common ground shared by legions of loyal followers of Al Gore, who repeat in viral form that skeptic scientists should be shunned.
What I am driving at is that you opened the door by noting how Al Gore overplays an arguably smaller aspect of the issue. In presenting you with links to my own detailed articles pointing out a larger disservice Gore is doing to science with his apparently unsupportable corruption accusation, I leave it to you, as a scientist trying to pursue proper overall analysis of the global warming phenomenon, to decide whether you feel it is necessary to point out this larger problem.
Al Gore, anti-skeptic book author Ross Gelbspan, and most recently IPCC Vice Chair van Ypersele, say skeptic scientists operate in a tobacco industry-like conspiracy with fossil fuel companies. If you yourself cannot readily find proof that such a conspiracy is actually taking place – money given in exchange for false fabricated climate assessments, how do you react this problem?
Ignore it, or describe how it is not good to make conclusive statements without supporting evidence? This seems to have been exactly what you did with Gore’s extreme weather overreach, and is entirely the reason why I’ve written to you.
Dr Curry used a quote from someone else in her email response to you about “misinformation is being actively promoted by the fossil fuel lobbyists and their growing multitude of dupes and minions.” What assurance do we have that enviro-activists, along with their ‘dupes and minions’ are not the ones skewing the AGW issue, considering their portrayal of skeptic scientists as crooks while oddly refusing to show their central bit of evidence – those 1991 coal industry memos made famous by Gore and Gelbspan – in their complete context?
It’s the terrier-like tenaciousness of amateurs like Russell Cook which is ultimately going to win the Climate Debate. That’s because, much as men like Myles Allen might be loath to admit, this debate has long since ceased to be about science. It is about politics, spin and arguments from authority. The Warmist establishment has the bluster, the money and the big institutions, that’s for sure. But ultimately, these are going to be no match for the little guy with a lap top and a ruthlessly polite regard for the naked truth.