Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Denial Industry

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?


Anonymous said...

It is ironical that both blogs by George Monbiot and Andrew Revkin have plenty of times advertisement from Shell.
Even when James Hansen writes in the Guardian the Shell's logo pops up

Anonymous said...

By the way I remembered that in his articles Hansen et al., 2008 acknowledges the Rockefeller Family Foundation for research support ...
If you know what the Rockefeller family meant and means in the Big Oil business you must find this quite worrisome.

MH said...

A researcher of the Catholic University Leuven (Flanders) and member of the green party Groen!, writes in De Standaard, a prominent journal in Flanders, that 'Climate scepticism is a crime against humanity'. To depict people with a different opinion as criminals is characteristic of totalitarian regimes.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same George Monbiot who last week was admitting that he had been misled and called for Phil Jones to resign?

Stan said...

We've seen all this before. http://www.masterresource.org/2009/12/climategate-did-not-begin-with-climate-remembering-julian-simon-and-the-intolerance-of-neo-malthusianism/

"Today’s climategate is predictable with some of the same players at work–and many new ones as well. Remember how Paul R. Ehrlich treated his intellectual rival Julian Simon? The Stanford University biologist refused to debate Simon or even meet him in person. He insulted Simon repeatedly in print. Ehrlich even scolded Science magazine for publishing Simon’s 1980 breakthrough essay “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of Bad News,” with the words: “Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off this shoes to count to 20?” "

A lot of parallels between Erhlich and Mann.

matthew hincman said...

Uncertainty in the world will always be with us, as it is impossible to take into account all of the rich and various complexity in the world. Religion provides a respite from the barrage of uncertainty, embracing believers in a life/world theory/ideology that obscures or eliminates uncertainty. Science used to embrace such uncertainties, and it was admission of uncertainty that divided science and religion. Climate science is now more akin to religion in that not only have uncertainties been eliminated by the gatekeepers, but believers are asked to adhere to a code of behavior (stop emitting CO2) that is much more of a moral code, than a policy based upon science and uncertainty. Until we allow for the full breadth of uncertainty to again be a part of public discourse, there will be no movement forward.

Anonymous said...

The CRU's history page acknowledges several sources of money from fossil fuels.

Green R and D Manager said...

This seems to be a growing theme, but it will backfire. The Tobacco industry tried to suppress the science.

We "skeptics and deniers" are simply demanding a full and open review of the raw data, the reason for every adjustment, and the details of their methods/algorithms.

In industry, we do rigorous line by line reviews of a design by people outside the team before committing to a project. Then we build a proto and test it till it breaks.

They built a model for past temperatures that diverged from modern era temps. Any reasonble person committed to science would realize the model was flawed if it faild the modern era test. Instead they hid this and claimed it could reveal the far past even if it could not reveal the recent past.

They built a model to predict the future. For 10 years CO2 has risen but temps have not. Their model to predict the future is shown to have serious flaws.

Their model for the past is badly flawed.
Their model for the future is badly flawed.
Design review was a sham.
Now it looks like the data may be fiddled.

Unbelievable. A firing offense in industy to run this way.

I'll still recycle and strive to be clean and more efficient in my resource use. But a denier and skeptic of C02 driven AGW. ABSOLUTELY and proud of it.