Archive for the ‘Andrew Montford’ Category
Words are not really necessary to accompany this image but, if you want some, feel free to go and read ‘The Last Time CO2 Was This High Humans Did Not Exist” by Andrew Freedman on the Climate Central website.
However, what I would really like to know is how anyone could possibly think that, since the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s climate would not have been impacted by:
– a sevenfold increase in the the human population;
– a similar increase in the number of methane-producing livestock;
– a super-exponential increase in the burning of fossil fuels.
Therefore, those who still dispute the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption have not only picked a fight with history; they have picked a fight with science – the Laws of Conservation of Energy and Mass and the concept of Entropy in particular. Defeat is therefore inevitable. The only question that remains is how bad do things have to get before they are willing to admit they are wrong?
I am afraid this may be the last post on this blog for a while because – what with the all the willful blindness and ideological prejudice that seems to stop people from recognising what an Eff-ing mess humanity is in – and my as yet unresolved employment situation – I am feeling somewhat emotionally drained. However, please don’t cancel your subscription (as who knows how quickly I may recover).
Addendum (10:00 hrs BST 4 May 2013)
I would also recommend that reader take a look at this excellent post, ‘The “hockey stick” slaps back’, on the Skepticblog website. This takes readers on a journey back in time, looking at all the palaeoclimatic reconstructions that have been done for the last million years. Somehow, I managed to be the first person to post a comment on this piece, which reads as follows:
Why not go back even further by looking at sea floor sediments too? As in, for example, Zachos et al. (2001), ‘Trends, Rhythms, and Aberrations in Global Climate 65 Ma to Present’, Science 292: 686-93.
For those that are really interested, you can get a PDF of the whole paper here. It includes many fascinating diagrams, but one of the more complicated ones has been helpfully simplified by James Hansen in his book, Storms of my Grandchildren. All the figures from the book are available here but, with regard to Zachos et al (2001), Figure 18 is the one to which I refer. This too needs few words to convey its importance:
This is re-posted from my old Earthy Issues blog on the MyTelegraph website last year.
Andrew Montford, the author of Hockey Stick Illusion, is a Chemistry graduate of St Andrews University, a practicing professional Chartered Accountant, and the creator of the sceptical Bishop Hill blog, who wrote his book after being directed (via Tim Worstall) to Stephen McIntyre’s Climate Audit blog. However, whereas neither Montford nor Worstall is a scientist, Canadian mining consultant McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick are two of the key players in the so-called Hockey Stick (MBH98) Graph controversy.
Despite the title and focus of the book on the MBH98 graph, Montford’s supposed “conspiracy” is actually rooted in the foundation of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 1950; and the first World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1979. As such, Montford chooses to see something sinister in the fact that, having been instructed to review the state of knowledge and tell governments what the implications are for humanity, the Conference issued a ‘Call to Nations’ (for full advantage to be taken of man’s knowledge of climate… and for potential anthropogenic changes to climate to be foreseen and prevented). Here, according to Montford, the scientists supposedly saw… “a source of funding and influence without end” (p.21-2).
With regard to the MBH98 graph itself, Montford also makes it clear at the outset that this was the inevitable product of a much earlier decision that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) needed to be got rid of:
“Climate science wanted big funding and big political action and that was going to require definitive evidence. In order to strengthen the arguments for the current warming being unprecedented, there was going to have to be a major study, presenting unimpeachable evidence that the [MWP] was a chimera” (p.30).
Thus, an Accountant set out to summarise attempts by a Mining consultant and an Economist to discredit the work of a team of multi-disciplinary Scientists: As such, is it so unreasonable to question the motives of the non-scientists involved? Why do they find it necessary to question the integrity of the scientists? Once again, the answer (a desire to deny our responsibility for anthropogenic climate disruption [ACD]) accords with David Aaronovitch’s explanation for conspiracy theories: We believe in them to make ourselves feel better about – and/or less responsible for – bad things that happen… But the story does not end there: The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) then asked this Chartered Accountant to write a report on the Climategate inquiries for them!
What is the point of asking a non-scientist to investigate such a complex subject as international, multi-disciplinary, research into something as complicated as global climatology? Be that as it may, Montford unsurprisingly found “evidence” of a state-sponsored conspiracy to provide an excuse to tax people more heavily.
Sadly for the GWPF and Montford; nobody really takes them seriously. Montford’s GWPF report was considered in a further review of the matter by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Summary of which (as published on 25 January 2011) concluded:
“The disclosure of data from CRU has been traumatic and challenging for all involved. While we have some reservations about the reviews which UEA commissioned, the key point is that they have made a number of constructive recommendations. In our view it is time to make the changes and improvements recommended and with greater openness and transparency move on.” (p.3)
As with the 9/11 Truth Movement, the only way to perpetuate the conspiracy theory explanation for the consensus regarding ACD is to continually implicate more and more people in it…
My ‘Questions for Dr Richard A Muller’ (26 October 2011); and
Robin McKie’s review of Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars in The Guardian newspaper in March this year.
In publishing his animation of 1800-2009 surface temperatures, and the associated data and graphs, Muller has inadvertently demonstrated that the blade of the MBH98 Hockey Stick is real and, in point of fact, the situation is worse than previosuly thought… Don’t beleive me? Well, take a look at this:
What he has failed to do, however, is admit that he either misunderstood or misrepresented the famous “hide the decline” Climategate email. In my email correspondence with his daughter, Elizabeth, she has informed me that Muller has a book coming out in 2012, entitled Energy for Future Presidents, which will be interesting to compare with David MacKay’s Sustainable Energy: without the hot air. Furthermore, she refers to an interview soon to appear in Nature Climate Change in which he will be quoted as saying: “I have not done a scientific study but my own impression – based on reading the literature – is that some of the warming we have seen is caused by humans. To my mind, you can’t rule out half of the warming being caused by humans, but I think to conclude that most of it is – as the IPCC says – could be an overestimate. This is my personal impression; the other members of the team might feel differently.”
One option would be to conclude that Muller thinks he can second-guess climate science and/or scientists. However, when you dig a bit further, you realise that Muller has long been on the slippery slope towards conceding that climate change is real and that we are causing it. However, whatever Muller’s credentials as a genuine sceptic may or may not be, now is not a good time for second-guessing anybody, or for debating the finer points of scientific method. All Kevin Trenberth and many others are trying to do (in saying that sceptics need to prove AGW is not real) is invoke the “precautionary principle” and to advocate pollution prevention rather than “end-of-pipe” control measures – in other words – treat the cause not the symptoms.
Oh but, yet again, I am getting ahead of myself, because many people say we have not yet knocked-down pillars 2, 3, and 4 of denial (to the satisfaction of those afflicted by it). However, to be sure, we have knocked them down; we are now just wasting precious time waiting for someone like Muller to admit it. However, for the record, although necessary for photosynthesis (etc), CO2 becomes a pollutant once you pump it into the atmosphere faster than it can be assimilated. Given that most fossil fuel is (or was) at least 330 million years old – and we are burning 3 million years worth per year – we are currently releasing it into the atmosphere 1000 times faster than it can be re-processed. By definition, this is unsustainable but, much more importantly, it is absolute foolishness to think we can carry on doing it without their being any negative consequences. On the contrary, we have known for over 100 years what the consequences would be…
So, come on, Dr Muller, do us all a favour and admit that your latest data proves that the MBH98 Hockey Stick was not a fraud. In fact, if anything, your data proves (yet again) that things are going pear-shaped faster than previously thought.
In your post today, you make a very valid point about the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) team publicising their findings before completing their normal PR process (and you may be right that their haste is due to the impending COP17 in Durban). However, I would have thought that you do not need me to tell you that your position on this is deeply hypocritical for at least two reasons:
1. Most of the stuff that supposedly “sceptical” people rely on – and perpetually re-circulate on the Internet – is not subject to any PR process; and has never been published in a reputable journal.
2. The criminal act that led to the leaking of cherry-picked (and wilfully-misrepresented) CRU/UEA emails was very clearly aimed at preventing progress being made at COP15 in Copenhagen two years ago.
Therefore, I think the most likely explanation for BEST not following normal procedure on this occasion is that the residual uncertainly they have in the validity of their conclusions is now so vanishingly small that they have taken this risk.Furthermore, despite the best efforts of the Atlas Network and Conservative Think Tanks around the world, I would venture to suggest that BEST may have also done this to try and hasten the final nails being driven into the coffin of those that seek to perpetuate a completely artificial and unnecessary debate (and thereby the continuance of “business as usual” by the 1% for whom Occupy Wall Street-ers have so much contempt).
Update: (21 Oct 2011 1603 GMT)
In my haste to publish the above, I overlooked the strangest aspect to this story, the fact that Dr. Richard A Muller has been in charge of BEST: Dr Muller has previously been a vociferous and repetitive advocate of fallacious claims that the MBH98 Hockey Stick graph was a fabrication so, it could be argued that, he should be forgiven for not now conceding that global warming is happening and that we are causing it… “It could be argued“, perhaps, but it should not be necessary to do so: How much evidence does he want or need? If we are not causing it, what is? Surely he does not still think it is the Sun? Unfortunately, Muller’s apparent record of ideologically-induced selective-blindness makes this entirely possible… I am so bemused by all of this that I have emailed Dr Muller’s wife (and fellow BEST Director) to see if she can help me understand what Muller believes is driving global warming (if it is not CO2). If I get a clear response, I will be sure to post it here…
In my recent posts, I examined Roger Scruton’s timely reminder that it is no accident that Conservatism and conservation sound so similar; Marcel Wissenburg’s attempt to claim that Liberalism is not the evil genius behind our environmental crisis; and Mary Mellor’s appeal for a reinvigorated form of Socialism to embrace sustainable development and environmental justice.
Along the way, yet again, I found myself sounding-off about the stupidity of James Delingpole’s argument that Environmentalism is Communism in disguise: If you think about it for even a millisecond, this is not only nonsensical; it is also an insult to anybody and everybody who is concerned about what we are doing to our environment but is not a socialist (i.e. including me).
However, Delingpole’s argument may hint at a more-likely reality, which is that all anti-Environmentalists may be Capitalists in disguise? It is certainly true that all the British MPs that are openly-sceptical about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are right-wing Euro-sceptic members of the Conservative Party (and/or the equally right-wing Democratic Unionist Sammy Wilson). However, even this generalisation (to be examined tomorrow) is wrong because of the existence of anomalies like Graham Stringer…
Graham Stringer is a Labour MP who had a successful career as a chemist prior to entering Parliament in 1997. As the only notable sceptical Labour MP in Parliament, Stringer was also the only member of the Science and Technology Select Committee to distance himself from its decision to clear Professor Phil Jones (CRU) of any scientific malpractice.
Having interviewed chemist (and Labour MP) Graham Stringer, Bryan Appleyard wrote in the Sunday Times magazine (on 6 March 2011) that sceptical Labour MPs do exist; but they are unwilling to admit it publicly for fear of being seen as “politically incorrect” (i.e. claiming that scepticism has become socially unacceptable). Furthermore, Stringer appears to genuinely believe that the CRU/UEA scientists were guilty of trying to falsify or at least manipulate evidence to secure ongoing funding for their research and/or suit their supposed political agenda and/or [please add your preferred conspiracy theory here]…. However, as with everyone else convinced of this, Stringer has gone fishing for evidence of a conspiracy, wilfully taken the emails out of context, and is refusing to accept the perfectly reasonable explanation for their meaning (that is very clear when you put them back into that context). Anyone who argues otherwise is merely widening the scope of their preferred conspiracy theory (rather than accept reality).
Graham Stringer also features regularly on the website of the aptly-named Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). For example, in an article posted there in the wake of the 3 inquiries into the UEA/CRU email scandal, Stringer (who made it clear he felt all 3 inquiries were either a “white wash” or at very least “inadequate”) was quoted as concluding that:
“Vast amounts of money are going to be spent on climate change policy; it’s billions and eventually could be trillions. Knowing what is accurate and what is inaccurate is important. I view this as a Parliamentarian for one of the poorest constituencies in the country. Putting up the price of fuel for poor people on such a low level of evidence, hoping it will have the desired effect, is not acceptable. I need to know what’s going on…” (as quoted by the GWPF’s Andrew Orlowski).
From all of this, Stringer’s primary motivation appears to be an economic rationalist concern for his constituents (which would be entirely honourable if that was all it was). However, his entire thesis is also founded on belief that Climategate was an important revelation rather than a criminal act designed to sabotage international agreement to restrain our consumption of finite resources because of the affects that behaviour is having on the planet. In this respect, I will leave the final word to the SkepticalScience website:
“ The argument that Climategate reveals an international climate science conspiracy is not really a very skeptical one. It is skeptical in the weak sense of questioning authority, but it stops there. Unlike true skepticism, it doesn’t go on to objectively examine all the evidence and draw a conclusion based on that evidence. Instead, it cherry-picks suggestive emails, seeing everything as incontrovertible evidence of a conspiracy, and concludes all of mainstream climate science is guilty by association. This is not skepticism; this is conspiracy theory.” (‘What do the “Climategate” hacked CRU emails tell us?’)
As promised, here is the second of two personal profiles of the founders of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Benny Peiser is a social anthropologist who, while at the UK’s Liverpool James Moore University, admitted in 2006 that “… the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact“. However, this admission was only forthcoming after he was forced to retract criticism he had made of research undertaken by Dr Naomi Oreskes in 2004. But how, and why, did he ever get into that mess in the first place?
According to the De-Smog Blog, he has published 3 research papers in peer-reviewed journals; although none of them is related to climate change. Indeed, it cites Peiser himself as having admitted, in an article for the Times Higher Education supplement on 4 September 2008, that “…I’m not a climate scientist and have never claimed to be one… My interest is in how climate change is portrayed as a potential disaster and how we respond to that“. Fair enough, but why does he not accept what the majority of climate scientists say is happening? Does he know better; or does he think they are lying to us? Is he a genius; or just another conspiracy theorist?
As I said, Peiser has become notorious for criticising Oreskes for a study, published in the journal Science in 2004, which had surveyed nearly 1000 peer-reviewed abstracts and not found a single one dissenting from the consensus view that climate change is being primarily caused by human activity. Again, as De-Smog Blog records:
“Peiser’s ‘claim to fame’ in the war on climate change science was a 2005 study that he claimed refuted an earlier study by [Oreskes]… Peiser originally stated… that Oreskes was incorrect and that ‘in light of the data [he] presented… Science should withdraw Oreskes’ study and its results in order to prevent any further damage to the integrity of science’”.
The Skeptical Science website (subtitled ‘Getting sceptical about global warming scepticism’) provides more detail on what Peiser did wrong:
“Benny Peiser repeated Oreskes survey and claimed to have found 34 peer reviewed studies rejecting the consensus. However, an inspection of each of these 34 studies reveals most of them don’t reject the consensus at all. The remaining articles in Peiser’s list are editorials or letters, not peer-reviewed studies. Peiser has since retracted his criticism of Oreskes survey [saying]: ‘Only [a] few abstracts explicitly reject or doubt the AGW… consensus which is why I have publicly withdrawn this point of my critique… 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” (Peiser as quoted by Skeptical Science).
Despite all of this, as we have seen, Peiser went on to team up with Lord Lawson to co-found the GWPF in 2009 and, although he now leaves others to attack the science, he is still not above repeating the message (albeit subliminal and wrapped up in an psychological context) that AGW is not a problem worth worrying about:
“The global warming hysteria is well and truly over. How do we know? Because all the relevant indicators – polls, news coverage, government u-turns and a manifest lack of interest among policy makers – show a steep and deepening decline in public concern about climate change… Public opinion is the crucial factor that determines whether policy makers advance or abandon contentious policies… Media coverage of climate change has dropped sharply… The public’s concern about global warming as a pressing problem is in marked decline not least because of the growing realisation that governments and the international community are ignoring the advice of climate campaigners… [Governments] are assisted in this policy of benign neglect by a public that has largely become habituated to false alarms and is happy to ignore other claims of environmental catastrophe that are today widely disregarded or seen as scare tactics” (Peiser 2011).
Sadly, all of what Peiser says here may be true but, having been forced to admit he was wrong, what is driving him to keep criticising the consensus view of AGW? He is a social anthropologist after all. If he wanted to point out that people should be concerned about AGW, he could do so, but, instead he chooses to attack that consensus. Peiser admits he is not a climate scientist, yet he chooses to doubt the importance of what the majority of climate scientists are telling us. As I said, there are only really two excuses for this: Either he thinks they are wrong, or that they are lying to us. However, he does not claim any expertise, so he must believe that they are over-stating the scale of the problem for political reasons (i.e. the UN/WMO/IPPC conspiracy theory of Fred Singer and Andrew Montford et al).
Furthermore, given that he accepts that some change is occurring, his apparent contentment with a policy of “benign neglect” is therefore either Prometheanism (i.e. the belief that human ingenuity will solve the problem) or Economic Rationalism (i.e. the belief that the problem is not worth the cost of fixing – we will have to adapt). Unfortunately, whichever it is, the tide of scientific opinion is flowing against him: The vast majority of climate scientists (and some social anthropologists like Clive Hamilton) now believe both mitigation and adaptation are rapidly becoming very difficult, precisely because we have spent so long arguing about whether or not we have a problem (e.g. the ’4 Degrees and Beyond International Conference’ [in Oxford, UK] in September 2009).
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is actually a very appropriately-named organisation; because it is advocating policies that will ensure global warming is maximised.
The GWPF was founded by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson (now formally known as Lord Lawson of Blaby) and social anthropologist Benny Peiser on 23 November 2009 (i.e. in the run-up to the UNFCCC COP15 summit in Copenhagen), declaring itself to be “…open-minded on the contested science of global warming [and] deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated…” (GWPF 2009). Therefore, as well as necessarily invoking conspiracy theory to dismiss most climate science as unreliable, this is also a very clear statement of what John Dryzek and others call Economic Rationalism.
Nigel Lawson published his Appeal to Reason in hardback (2008) and in paperback (2009) with an additional Afterword (but otherwise unchanged). The book contains a wide range of sceptical arguments but, in the 2009 Afterword (responding to his many critics) Lawson, despite acknowledging his own scientific illiteracy, still felt that it was legitimate to claim the “three greatest lies” to be that (1) the science is certain and settled; (2) global warming is actually happening; and (3) carbon dioxide is a pollutant (Lawson 2009, page 107).
In his former biographical entry on the Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) website (http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis) Dr Benny Peiser was described as a social anthropologist with his research interests having been focused “…on the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution”. Arguably, however, Peiser has become notorious (amongst climate scientists at least) for challenging research findings published by Naomi Oreskes and then having to retract his criticisms when they were shown to be invalid (De-Smog Blog). Despite this, he has continued to maintain that fears over global warming amount to “hysteria” subject to waning public concern due to so-called “issue fatigue”; and public cynicism regarding the motives of politicians espousing contentious policies (Peiser 2011).
There is much more to say about both Lawson and Peiser but I think it best to defer that to two separate future posts. However, I would like to conclude this sorry story by referring to the GWPF’s ludicrous decision to ask Chartered Accountant and Bishop Hill blogger Andrew Montford to produce a critique of the Climategate enquiries. (See my Category Index (above-right) for more detailed criticism of Andrew Montford and his totally fallacious Hockey Stick Illusion book.)
In the topsy-turvy sceptical world that people like Delingpole and Montford inhabit, it might not be that surprising that the GWPF would ask Montford to write a report into what they feel were 3 totally inadequate inquiries into the scientific research being undertaken by the UEA/CRU. However, unsurprisingly, Montford finds evidence of a state-sponsored conspiracy to provide excuse to tax people more heavily:
“With the government embarking upon a radical decarbonisation programme, global warming is one of the most important questions facing the people of the UK today… While attempts to hide the truth from the public might have worked in the past, they simply wilt under this kind of scrutiny” (page 6).
However, it would seem that, in reality, few people believed him. For example, Montford’s GWPF report was considered in a further review of the matter by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (The Reviews into the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit’s E-mails: First Report of Session 2010–11), which concluded (on 25 January 2011) that:
“The disclosure of data from CRU has been traumatic and challenging for all involved. While we have some reservations about the reviews which UEA commissioned, the key point is that they have made a number of constructive recommendations. In our view it is time to make the changes and improvements recommended and with greater openness and transparency move on” (page 4).
Anyone who doubts the legitimacy of these conclusions (upholding the original findings that found no reason to doubt the actual science) is, as conspiracy theorists always do, just widening the scope of the perceived cover-up to avoid dealing with reality. Furthermore, it would seem that this is still, even now, exactly what the GWPF is doing.
UPDATE (30 November 2011) – Despite repeated emails from me and a letter from Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, the GWPF has still not modified its position. Quite the opposite in fact; they are still content to cite the same discredited contrarian sources of prejudiced misinformation.
“Anthropogenic Global Warming, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.“
Why do I say this? I say this, not because AGW is my new religion but, because I believe this is not an issue to which people should or can be indifferent. If you feel that this is a subject that is not important enough to warrant your having a settled opinion, then, with the greatest of respect, I believe you do not understand the subject.
I believe the science is settled, if for no other reason that this: To claim otherwise, is to invoke a conspiracy theory that makes the 9/11 Truth Movement’s claims seem plausible by comparison. That being the case, AGW poses a serious threat to the habitability of the planet for humans and for many other species; simply because of the speed with which it is now likely to happen. All we have seen so far is the Overture to what is very likely to be a work on the scale of Gustav Mahler’s Ring Cycle.
Why? Because of positive feedback effects and tipping points that mean that, far from slowing down or going into reverse, the vast majority of suitably-qualified scientists actively involved in relevant research believe the warming trend is now set to accelerate. It was for this reason that some of the scientists attending the 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference in Oxford two years ago, as observed by Clive Hamilton, admitted to being troubled by “despair, frustration and sleeplessness” (because of the glacially-slow pace of action to tackle the problem).
Therefore, anyone who tells you that AGW is not a problem is merely “fiddling while Rome burns”, or seeking to “shuffle the deckchairs on the Titanic”; and anyone who tells you that the research scientists producing the findings they dispute are “merely in it for the money” is being totally disingenuous and/or doesn’t actually know many scientists.
Therefore, as with the financial crisis, our environmental crisis is not some kind of divine judgement on a wayward species, it is the consequence of the abysmal misjudgement of that wayward species!
What qualifies you to judge what is “junk” and what is “sound” science? Or have you, in fact, just borrowed this facile method of debunking real science from the tobacco companies that tried for so long to convince us smoking was not dangerous? (The answer is “Yes” by the way!)
I know that some suggested (and indeed already-implemented) solutions to our problem are misguided, but to continue to claim that we do not have a problem; that takes being wrong to another level altogether.
I also know that it was unwise of me to post remarks like “your days are numbered” and “the game is up (you lost)” on WUWT but, I am not attacking any of you personally – I am just trying to point out to you that you are not being objective or rational in dismissing the findings of climate science as a hoax, scam, or whatever you want to call it.
The world, most politicians, and even some conservative think tanks are moving on; they are trying to tackle the problem. You are merely delaying the effectiveness of that action by slowing it down and – in so doing – you are in effect self-harming because, the longer we delay the harder it gets to take effective action. This is not scientific scare-mongering; it is an empirically-based, laboratory-tested and, now, observable fact.
Some of you may demand evidence, but then you do not accept it when it is presented to you: disappearing sea ice, melting permafrost, retreating glaciers, desertification, crop failures, food shortages, water scarcity. These are all consequences of ongoing AGW not consequences of our attempts to prevent it.
If your response to this is to say that I am being duped by a conspiracy – based on your faulty interpretation of some CRU/UEA emails (or whatever) – then you may be so far down the conspiracy theory rabbit-hole that I cannot help you.
However, for the record: There is simply no evidence for your left-wing conspiracy to over-tax and over-regulate people (so as to make everyone poorer). Whereas, there is a great deal of evidence for a right-wing conspiracy to under-tax and under-regulate industry (so as to make a few people richer). Therefore, the question is, whose side should you be on?
If you go looking for a WMO/UN/IPCC conspiracy like Andrew Montford did, you will see what you want to see and find what you want to find. But, as I keep saying, your conspiracy is an illusion; whereas the historical evidence for a conspiracy to downplay, deny and dismiss all environmental problems, ongoing since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, is available in any library (should you care to look).
Following on from my previous post – and elaborating upon the research described on my About page – what follows is a summary of why non-scientific journalists are now a threat to the long-term survival of human beings (in anything like current numbers)…
Strictly speaking, Andrew Montford is not a journalist, although he is a published author and is the creator of the sceptical Bishop Hill blog. With regard to his Hockey Stick Illusion book, however, it should be noted that:
– He wrote this after being directed (via Tim Worstall’s blog) to Stephen McIntyre’s Climate Audit blog; and
– Whereas neither Montford nor Worstall is a scientist, Canadian mining consultant McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick are two of the key players in the denialist campaign.
Therefore, although sceptical journalists rarely identify them, this is indicative of the likely sources of their misinformation.
In a wide-ranging assessment of both conventional and new media, political science academics Neil Gavin and Tom Marshall report research findings that, leaving aside the output of individual sceptics, suggest editors have come under pressure since “Climategate” to give sceptics more exposure. However, referring to that scandal, they concluded that the leaked emails “…did not suggest the scientific consensus was fatally flawed, peer-review undermined, or IPCC reports worthy of dismissal. Consequently, if the broadcasters continue to give climate sceptics significant coverage, they will be doing the public a serious disservice, especially in the run-up to the next IPCC report around 2012–2013” (2011: 8 – Abstract viewable here).
Unfortunately, there is as yet no sign that many journalists are either willing or able put a stop to the nonsense of giving discredited minority views equal exposure. On the contrary, as I highlighted yesterday, the Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) are trying harder than ever to get their voice heard; and non-scientific journalists are just blindly repeating the propaganda. This is why the empirical research first published by Peter Jacques et al in 2008 is so important; it provides detailed evidence to back up the claims made by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt implicating US- and UK-based CTTs in a deliberate misinformation campaign.
In prefacing their research, Jacques et al. observed that:
“Since environmentalism is unique among social movements in its heavy reliance on scientific evidence to support its claims… it is not surprising that CTTs would launch a direct assault on environmental science by promoting environmental scepticism… (2008: 353).
Furthermore, based on their findings, they concluded that:
“Environmental scepticism is an elite-driven reaction to global environmentalism, organised by core actors within the conservative movement. Promoting scepticism is a key tactic of the anti-environmental counter-movement co-ordinated by CTTs…” (ibid: 364).
Jacques has also highlighted the central aim of CTTs as being to cause confusion and doubt amongst the general public, in order to prevent the creation of a popular mandate for change (i.e. achieved by using a tactic developed by the tobacco industry of countering supposedly “junk” science with their “sound” science), which he refers to as the “science trap” (2009: 148).
Based on the findings of the research published in 2008, Jacques therefore also concluded that environmental scepticism is a social counter-movement that uses CTTs to provide “political insulation for industry and ideology from public scrutiny”; and that this deliberate obfuscation stems from a realisation that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” (2009: 169). However, Jacques does not blame the CTTs for the ecological crisis he feels we face, as they have merely exploited a dominant social paradigm; “because neoliberal globalism and its logic are protected from critique” (ibid: 119).
Protected from critique or not, I believe the current financial crisis is just the latest in a series of wake-up calls (of which AGW is the loudest) that would, apart from human pride and irrationality, make us change our ways…
Gavin, N. & Marshall, T. (2011), ‘Mediated climate change in Britain: Scepticism on the web and on television around Copenhagen’, Global Environmental Change 21(3), pp.1035-44.
Jacques, P. et al. (2008), ‘The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics, 17(3), pp.349-385.
Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life. Farnham: Ashgate.