George Monbiot is back to his usual rhetoric. The environmental journalist mainly writing in the UK Guardian, was one of the first to call for a full investigation of the leaked emails at CRU and confessed that he was shocked by these revelations and had lost trust in the scientists he so long believed in.
Now Monbiot focuses attention on the ‘denial industry’ again. Quoting examples from James Hoggan and Richard Littlemore’s Climate Cover-Up, he warns of the power of big oil and coal who have planted a ‘meme’ into public consciousness. These memes are the ‘familiar phrases and concepts which you can see every day on the comment threads’.
It does not occur to him that other familiar phrases and concepts (such as anthropogenic warming, 2degrees stabilization goal, 2 meter sea level rise, or tipping points) must have originated somewhere, too. Monbiot seems to assume that there is a moral divide between one side and the other because the ‘denial industry’ is being paid. He writes that ‘Dr Patrick Michaels, one of a handful of climate change deniers with a qualification in climate science, has been lavishly paid by companies seeking to protect their profits from burning coal.’ This is hardly news, but does it follow that therefore his views are bunk? If it was all about money, why doesn’t the environmental movement offer the skeptics more than the fossil fuel industry? It would not work, because they believe in what they say. You have to engage with their ideas.
If you search the CRU emails for Shell or BP you will find documented attempts of the East Anglia researchers to get funding from the oil industry. Hardly surprising for a research institution in search for new sources of funding. At one point they get excited that $40m was earmarked to Cambridge University and want to know who benefitted—not to expose Cambridge, but to receive likewise. I don’t know how successful they were, but would such an income stream invalidate the findings of the researchers? Monbiot does not ask this question. Maybe for him it is unthinkable that Tyndall researchers should have reached out in such manner.
Monbiot says: ‘The denial industry, which has no interest in establishing the truth about global warming, insists that these emails, which concern three or four scientists and just one or two lines of evidence, destroy the entire canon of climate science.’
He does not realise that the ‘three or four scientists’ were the leading researchers for the IPCC report at the time. Philip Jones and Kevin Trenberth were Coordinating lead authors for the Fourth Assessment Report, WG1, Chapter 3: Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change. Michael Mann was the lead scientist on the now infamous ‘hockey stick’ reconstruction with which most of the leaked email controversy has to do. These scientists had a conflict of interest when evaluating published research (of which their own of course figured prominently). And they actively sought to suppress other research findings.
Monbiot seems to be back into ‘trusting mode’: he does not examine claims from ‘skeptical’ scientists (in the proper sense of the term) who have been involved in this battle with some leading IPCC figures for more than a decade. For them, the burning question still remains: What happened to the Medieval Warming Period?