Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Peddlers of doubt – monkeys or organ-grinders?

with 52 comments

I have written much and often about Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s brilliant 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt, but, if I am honest, our biggest problem is the scientifically-illiterate journalists that regurgitate misleading information, arguments and ideas; mainly as a consequence of ideological prejudice.

As I recently said to John Kosowski, I am sure they genuinely believe what they say is true. But so do people who believe the Moon Landings were faked and/or that 9/11 was an inside job: I believe that their problem is that they have decided that they cannot allow humans to be found to be responsible for climate change (because that would require fundamental behaviour modification)… Like Aldous Huxley setting out to prove that God does not exist, they have set out to prove that we are not responsible for climate change. Sure enough, they have found some evidence that appears to suggest to them that we are not the primary cause, but they are recklessly over-playing their hand.

Of course, John then picked me up on my preceding accusation that such people (and/or conservative think tanks [CTTs] like the Heartland Institute) are willfully peddling “misinformation” (i.e. saying stuff they know to be false). However, my response to that was – and is – that… If they are honestly misguided but in error then, OK, they cannot be guilty of deceit. However, that does not change the extremely high probability that they are ideologically prejudiced against accepting what the majority of climate scientists tell us; and it does not change the undeniable fact that like-minded people have denied a wide range of environmental problems in the past for the same reason. In other words, they have “form”. This is the message of Merchants of Doubt.

However, what about these journalists that do so much to spread their Merchants’ message of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD); where the fear is that there is:
— A socialist plot to subvert national governance via the UN (i.e. very reminiscent of the anti-semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax that does so much to perpetuate unrest in the Middle East because so many Arabs still believe it to be genuine); or
— A scientific conspiracy to foist environmental alarmism upon a credulous world purely to secure ongoing finance for their own research.
Failing that, the objective is just to perpetuate uncertainty and doubt in exactly the same way that the tobacco companies did (i.e. “the science is not settled – so we can all continue smoking”). Why are so many people still taken-in by this? Whatever happened to “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!” Truly, anyone still fooled by this should be ashamed of themselves…

So, this week I am going to do something I have been meaning to do for some time, publish some examples of how and why these misguided – and I would say misinformed – journalists (who no doubt really believe in the validity of what they write) are so blatantly in error: In essence, this is because they are not scientists and, therefore, they are incapable of reaching a reliable judgement about the science. Instead, at best, they filter what they read through their own political prejudice and, at worst, they uncritically repeat the misleading arguments and misrepresented findings with which the ‘Merchants of Doubt’ feed them (or feed their conspiracy theories).

20 years ago, the most prominent ‘Merchants of Doubt’ were Bill Nierenberg, Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz and Fred Singer; whereas today, the indomitable Fred Singer is primarily supported by the likes of Richard Lindzen, Partick Michaels, and Roy Spencer; all of whose research is primarily financed by CTTs acting as money laundering facilities for big businesses with special interests to protect (and ‘to hell with the planet’, hey guys?). Unlike the evidence for the FUD conspiracies postulated above, even before the revelations about the Heartland Institute last week, there was a great deal of evidence to show that big business – and the oil industry in particular – is engaged in just such a misinformation campaign. There is, therefore, no getting around the fact that this is straightforward political interference in the process of scientific enquiry. Furthermore, as such, any non-profit organisation in the USA so involved should be prosecuted under Federal Law. I genuinely hope that this will now happen.

However, I digress… Over the next four days, I will post four examples of non-scientific British journalists who are peddling the FUD message for prejudicial reasons, as follows:
— Brendan O’Neill – a left-wing ‘sceptic’;
— Melanie Phillips – an unorthodox ‘sceptic’;
— Christopher Booker – an illogical ‘sceptic’; and
— James Delingpole – an ideological ‘sceptic’.

As such, all of what will follow in the coming days is based on the research (into climate change scepticism in the UK) I did to produce a 15,000 word dissertation as part of the requirements for my MA in Environmental Politics. More information about this is available on my About page but, in this present context, the key conclusion I reached was as follows:

Whereas the majority of CTTs analysed dispute the existence of a legitimate consensus, and the majority of sceptical journalists focus on conspiracy theories, the majority of scientists and economists equate environmentalism with a new religion; whereas politicians and others analysed appear equally likely to cite denialist and/or economic arguments for inaction.

52 Responses

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  1. Yes Martin, we should immediately start prosecuting scientists that test alternative hypotheses; and the sources of their funding (i.e. sarcasm – ML). Maybe we should confine them to home imprisonment like Galileo. I still can’t believe everyone is getting all worked up about a $6m annual budget not funded by any oil companies (according to SkS at least). Why shouldn’t these scientists that believe in their causes seek funding?

    Don’t forget that there have been many environmental issues where fringe alarmist groups blocked good projects in the name of environmentalism. They block hydroelectric generation, wind farms, and even solar. Of course they are against nuclear. There is no shortage of these fringe groups that come out of the wooodwork every time society wants to progress. As I stated before, people need power and energy, and these groups would do everything they can to prevent it. Overstating environmental impacts for them is nothing new.

    Don’t forget about that “alarmist” “genius” scientist, Carl Sagan, that said that the Iraqi oil fires would cause a nuclear winter causing wide spread devastation to farm crops. Calmer minds like Fred Singer stood up and said “wait a minute.” No one thought the Iraqi oil fires would be a good thing, but Singer added a voice of reason to the debate saying that the impact would be local and only last a very short time.

    Fred Singer also wrote a paper once on second hand smoke and was paid $20k. He argued that the EPA was overstating the risks of second hand smoke. Again, no one is “for” second hand smoke, but why not get the science right? I can’t stand smoking, but if the EPA started making wild eyed claims like smoking is going to cause a mass extinction event, I would stand up and question it. Same thing is going on here.

    Oh, and by the way, if you are banning me from further participation on your blog, perhaps you should refrain from addressing me by name in your main article.

    John Kosowski

    20 February 2012 at 01:50

    • Hopefully he won’t ban you: He should leave you here so that others can see how “one-minded” some people are. Martin has never said it is wrong to argue the other side of climate warming; I should know, I spent the best part of 6 months being his devil’s advocate on the issue and he never banned me.

      The problem with the climate “sceptics” on the payroll of the Institute is not that they necessarily “denied” anything; but that they colluded in a concerted effort to “mislead” the public in order to assist those who had political and/or financial agendas.

      They are therefore in trouble for “political-interference”; not for denying the science of global warming: The Heartland Institute along with two other bodies that it used as a front to misguide the public were already been investigated by the IRS for breaches of tax laws and other matters well before the whole poop hit the fan. Indeed, it turns out that the Institute might well have been the front for a great many other bodies all of which were on the payroll of one or more groups dedicated to political interference for the sake of profits.

      This is not a simple issue, what has been discovered is a conspiracy against the public which has been carried on for decades…. all for the sake of making money…. and many of the world’s biggest climate deniers have been proven to be involved in it. Here’s what is now being said about them:
      “John Mashey (a retired computer scientist), has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about Heartland’s non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Mashey filed the complaint before the leak, apparently, following investigations he has conducted of the Heartland Institute, Fred Singer’s Science and Environmental Policy Project, and Craig Idso’s the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. Both Idso and Singer receive funding from the Heartland Institute and the three of them work to make it look like there is confusion and debate regarding the cause of global warming today, humans”.


      20 February 2012 at 02:23

    • As Barry Bickmore says, you “sceptics” are not like Galileo: Despite what you think, you are not fighting an obscurantist, anti-intellectual Establishment, you are part of it!

      Martin Lack

      20 February 2012 at 11:53

  2. John … They can believe all they want and they can print, say or shout as they wish, no problems with that; but under US non-profit rules many of their activities might well have been illegal if they were intended for political-interference reasons. Of course, this is something that needs to be investigated but no more so – and certainly no less – than the way the climate-gate scandal was investigated.

    As for Hansen and others receiving money … nah!!! … all their work for the IPCC and other global warming bodies has always been for “free” .. what they earn from other activities is something I know nothing about.


    20 February 2012 at 02:53

    • Donald, please give this a read. It is Hansen’s 2010 public financial disclosure report:

      I like the $13,000 for travel, meals and accommodations twice not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars of “prizes” he received. Public services sure seems to be “rewarding.”

      John Kosowski

      20 February 2012 at 03:03

      • Dr Hansen “works” for the Goddard Institue in his capacity as a scientist, for this I am sure he gets paid a handsome salary, but all his work ( and that of others) for the IPCC is given for free.

        All the reports written for the IPCC are given for free by scientists who lock themselves in their offices for weeks at a time and write such reports; in this manner they show themselves to be unbiased in their recommendations; they take no payment for such reports.

        As far as I am aware; those who write for the Non-Governmental thingy supported by Heartland… all get paid to write such reports; perhaps they too wish to be non-biased .. but the fact that they accept money to write such reports does not reflect well on the issue of just how UN-biased they are.

        It is from this fact that people are claiming government interference.


        20 February 2012 at 03:15

      • Donald, Heartland provides bare minimum funding. Who in the world needs 13,000 for travel, meals and accommodations? What kind of carbon footprint does that kind of excess entail? Hanson is making 100s of thousands of dollars. What would you say if this kind of report showed up for Spencer or Singer?

        $9,000 to travel to accept Blue Planet award. $9,000 additional for spouse to travel with him. And then a “prize” of over $100,000. Those 2 $13,000 charges must also be one for him and one for his spouse. But only $3,500 each to get the Sophie price. They must have had to fly commercial for that one. And the Sophie prize was only $50,000 – $100,000.

        This climate science gig sure is sweet.

        John Kosowski

        20 February 2012 at 04:07

      • Donald,

        That Blue Planet “prize” is $550,000! What did he do with that kind of money?

        John Kosowski

        20 February 2012 at 04:23

      • After all the misrepresentation of science by others to which I have alerted you, your decision to focus on Hansen is utterly ridiculous. Your scientific conspiracy is an illusion. I would respect you more if you told me the moon landings were faked, or that 9/11 was an inside job.

        The climate scientists tell the Heartland Institute, “Now you know what it feels like – howsabout you play fair?”

        There is no comparison to be made between the behaviour, motives, practice and conclusions of those involved in the IPCC and the Heartland Institute’s NIPCC:

        However, if you were right, John, then one would have to say that Hansen has not done very well at hiding his misdeeds!

        Martin Lack

        20 February 2012 at 10:36

      • Martin, are you not troubled at all that Hansen has made over a million dollars off of climate change? Are you not further troubled by his extravagant traveling? What happened to practicing what you preach? Do you really expect me not to say anything about it? I can’t believe that everyone is up in arms over this Heartland stuff. Donald, Heartland has done nothing wrong as a non-profit. They can be as political as they want. Is Greenpeace political? Singer and Spencer are hardly getting rich doing this. They believe in it.

        And, Martin, the Climategate stuff should all be released to the public as it is publicly funded research. Why the secrecy there? Did anyone fake any documents there? Also, thanks for alerting me to that JP post, I had not seen it. I will just answer there. Even that potholer guy on youtube that supports AGW debunked that stuff as being myths.

        John Kosowski

        20 February 2012 at 13:06

  3. Ooooh yeah! sweet for both sides of the equation; I guess the issue boils down to the question of ethics … some attack the science … some attack the scientists … and some ask for money to do both while others just take whatever money is on offer and do nothing for it. I blame the governments for allowing so much money to go to those who wouldn’t know one end of a shovel from the other .

    Still for those of us on the outside looking in this offers us a glimpse into a part of science we know little about … a good learning curve. In the end it is we, the people, who must make the final decision!

    Personally I gave up on all of them a long time ago, I choose to conserve energy, keep my yard clean and walk to the shops instead of driving, what else can I do?


    20 February 2012 at 04:30

  4. Not entirely off-topic… Here is a link on how some scientists have found a way to remove cattle and sheep from our pastures (thus saving the world through a lack of methane gases) while still allowing us to eat meat. If this become a reality then it would be one of the most important scientific developments since the invention of agriculture.

    What’s the bet that the meat and cattle industries will soon start funding private institutes to publish denigrating and belittling articles on the activities of these scientists and their science while not once concentrating on what public good such discoveries do for the world? 😦

    Would anybody eat a “Stem-Cell Burger”?


    20 February 2012 at 05:39

    • Oooh, yes p-leeease! Can I have mine with fries? (for the avoidance of doubt that means diced and deep-fried potatoes):-)

      Martin Lack

      20 February 2012 at 10:46

  5. Wow, I go to bed for one night and wake-up to find the world re-made anew!:-)

    Thanks Donald for trying to take this behemoth on. I think it will be in vain, however. JPgreenword posed some good questions (to which I added) but, when John has no answer, the silence is deafening…

    I had no intention of banning you, John. It was just me losing my temper with you again. Like Donald says, your comments are here for perpetuity and, I agree, in 5 to 10 years they will look immensely foolish. Like Donald says, again, the issue is not climate change it is much bigger than that: As if I had not said it already, the issue is… Are those those that warned – and still warn – of a looming environmental catastrophe alarmists or just physicists? However, if they are the former, will someone please tell me what possible motivation anyone could have for peddling this “nonsense”? (i.e. 35-min video)
    [N.B. If you cannot spare 35 minutes, please watch this 5-minute summary]

    Remember, even at a miserly 2% growth in global GDP, the size of the debt-fuelled human resource consumption machine will double in 35 years, by which time, even if we are stupid enough to keep using it, most fossil fuel will be gone. Economists have not invented – and never did invent – a perpetual motion machine; and you cannot eat money!

    Martin Lack

    20 February 2012 at 10:30

    • Alvin Toffler once wrote Future Shock, in which he describes how many who see massive changes ahead in their lives will unconsciously try whichever way possible to deny the possibility of such changes. Later on he wrote another book titled “The Third Wave” in which he describes how those who refuse to accept new technologies will be left behind by the sudden changes that will soon envelope our world.

      I wonder how many of these deniers/contrarians realize that just before the greenhouse effect takes hold …. it is preceded by a few short years of extreme cold conditions as the warmer atmosphere concentrates the colder air into singular areas, the winds change direction and the skies pour down all their moisture?

      Toffler also said that those of us who understand that such changes must occur will find it necessary to let go of those who don’t, soon this will be a necessity all around the world.


      20 February 2012 at 11:19

      • Thanks Donald. Have you read Leon Festinger’s classic A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance; or Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (as recently reviewed by me here)?

        Toffler would appear to agree with Festinger that people do not like being confronted with uncomfortable truths. This was one of the main themes of my MA dissertation; i.e. the psychological roots of denial and misappropriation of ‘scepticism’ for political reasons (to appease one’s ideological prejudice).

        Unfortunately, Diamond’s message is that globalisation makes isolated collapse almost impossible; if one society fails we will all fail – because we have forgotten how to live self-sufficient independent lives (i.e. except so-called Doomsday Preppers).

        Martin Lack

        20 February 2012 at 11:29

  6. No, I never read the books but I do know the theory of Cognitive Dissonance because as a computer scientist I saw it apply to so many who did not believe the coming age of communications would have such a vast effect on the dissemination of knowledge, most of those who denied it now find themselves unemployable.

    But in the same manner I think all these deniers will soon find out that not only were they wrong about Global Warming …. it will soon cost them their lives unless they accept the newer conditions and do something to improve things.


    20 February 2012 at 11:45

    • As you know, Donald, I am extremely glad to have you back here (I was fearing the worst). However, can you please take care to hit the correct “reply” button. If there is not one on the comment to which you want to respond, you should scroll-up to find the last comment (in the previous tier) that has one and click that button instead. If you do not, the discussion becomes very disjointed. Thanks

      Martin Lack

      20 February 2012 at 19:35

      • My apologies, I shall take more care next time, it is all due to my bad eyesight and the loss of my reading glasses which I now found … once again.:-)


        21 February 2012 at 04:59

  7. “Donald, Heartland has done nothing wrong as a non-profit. They can be as political as they want”
    I’m not the one who run the investigation and made the complain against them to the IRS therefore I’ll leave it to others to make that judgement .


    20 February 2012 at 13:33

    • Donald, fair enough. As far as I can tell, there is no IRS investigations, only a series of IRS complaints filed by alarmists as they are directing as many people to file such complaints as they can. This is evidence of nothing.

      John Kosowski

      20 February 2012 at 13:40

      • “The funds sent to Australia and New Zealand over the last five years seem to be in clear breach of IRS rules1, and likely to cause Heartland and the recipients considerable embarrassment.”

        Let’s just say that complainers to the IRS are not the only ones keeping an eye on such issues. :-)


        20 February 2012 at 13:59

      • We will see, Donald. There is also bantering about regarding how Hansen didn’t report his $8,000 Rolex and other items. If there is merit in either, they are probably just technicalities not intended by either side.

        John Kosowski

        21 February 2012 at 12:31

  8. John, in the interests of clarity and sanity, I am going to attempt to address all of your current flawed arguments (i.e. those above and those in response to jpgreenword) in one place, as follows:

    As I see it, Hansen’s Blue Planet award is the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to our understanding of how the atmosphere works; and how we are currently screwing it up. It certainly has not been awarded in secret, nor, I suspect, was it deliberately sought by Hansen; who is a painfully-shy person by all accounts of those who know him well.

    Therefore, with respect, John, you are ducking the issue at hand: Are we or are we not screwing up our planet by failing to rapidly move away from fossil fuels? Your attempts to shift the blame elsewhere are an attempt to resist accepting moral responsibility for a problem we started creating over 200 years ago; the effects of which are only now becoming obvious.

    No matter how much you wish it were otherwise, environmentalists are not just alarmists intent on spoiling our fun. They are realists who can see that the writing is on the wall and want society to join them in being part of the solution rather than perpetuating the problem.

    Why are you still banging on about the Climategate emails? Are you really such a fool that, even after a second tranche of the old email snippets were released two years after the original bunch, you cannot see that those doing the leaking were just trying to stir up a fuss about nothing?

    Why is it that you cannot – or will not – accept the very obvious conflict of interest that big business has, first exposed by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, when it comes to their acknowledging that the use of organic pesticides and hebicides*, CFCs, coal, and cigarettes causes harm to the environment and/or people?

    Why do you refuse to acknowledge that this is why the Fossil Fuel Lobby has been trying very hard for over 20 years to deny what physicists have known for 150 years; that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of the enhanced greenhouse effect, which is undoubtedly warming our oceans and causing ever-more frequents storms and extreme weather of all kinds?

    I really do think that you seriously need to wake up!

    Addendum: The reason I object to these things is that they were sold as high-tech solutions often to people who could ill-afford them, when history has shown them to be ineffective compared to natural one-application-only solutions. Furthermore, in addition to being cheaper and more effective in the long-run, these natural solutions are target specific rather than being indiscriminate (systemic), highly toxic and, in some cases, carcinogenic. Try telling the people of Bhopal in India that the international trade in toxic chemicals is a good thing!

    Martin Lack

    20 February 2012 at 14:20

    • Did you miss the record-breaking Tornado season last year? Why are the insurance companies so convinced that worse awaits us in the near future? Don’t tell me, it’s a conspiratorial excuse to put up insurance premiums. Of course, how could I be so stupid as to miss that! Here’s a question for you, John:
      If you found yourself in a smoke-filled room after being awoken from your slumber in your favourite armchair by someone telephoning you from across street to tell you your house was on fire, would you believe them?

      What “alarmist agenda” is that exactly? You keep saying you are seeking truth but that is complete garbage: Your mind is already made up, it is closed tighter than a you-know-who’s-whatsit. Why don’t you go away and waste the time of Republicans for Environmental Protection instead? Surely that would make much more sense? I don’t even live in the USA for goodness sake. What is the point in your trying to convince me I am wrong?

      For anyone that wants to know the truth about Climategate, I would recommend reading Michael Mann’s book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, or failing that try this brief summary of it:

      Martin Lack

      21 February 2012 at 12:42

    • Hey Martin, I am going to get you more data, but start with this:

      Look closely at the number of strong tornadoes chart, and the top deadliest tornado sections. Also note the section that describes how we keep tornado records. They are reported by sight. So, there is some data out there showing that the number of tornadoes has increased over time, but no serious scientist believes that because there were less people and technology keeping track of them. But, they did know when a severe one hit because of the damage.

      John Kosowski

      21 February 2012 at 12:55

    • You are missing the point, John. It does not matter what the cost is, getting of our fossil fuel habit is a decision we simply must take.

      Late last year, the International Energy Agency (in their World Energy Outlook 2011) warned that if we don’t stop building carbon-based power generation infrastructure (and therefore using it) by 2020, the cost of de-carbonising our economies will quadruple because the longer we delay the quicker we will have to do it to avoid the same amount of adverse consequences. This is because it is cummulative emissions that matter; and we have all but spent the Earth’s carbon budget.

      I am not ignorant of our complicated and wide-ranging dependence on fossil fuels but, wherever substitution is possible, we must substitute them. If we do not, then you should join the Prepers and stand-by for climate mayhem.

      Martin Lack

      27 February 2012 at 13:52

    • Wow Martin, you deleted all reference to DDT on your blog. On one hand, I am really happy that you saw the error of your ways. But deleting the entire discussion as if it never happened? Is that how you operate? Rather than just admit your error, learn from the information that you obviously didn’t know, you just made it go away.

      This is really disappointing. You obviously aren’t interested in the truth, but rather your own self promotion or you wouldn’t have deleted the truth! I really have a problem with this Martin. Again, if I say anything wrong, you can straighten me out for all the world to see. But to just rewrite your blog as if the issue never came up is extremely telling. Have you no concern for your own integrity?

      But that is ok, Martin. I saved the entire discussion. Perhaps your blog in its entirety needs to be the topic of another blog that discusses what environmental alarmists do when they are on the wrong side of this issue. They run away.

      John Kosowski

      28 February 2012 at 10:21

      • John, I have deleted the entire discussion as you were using it as an excuse to ignore the much wider point I had sought to make. Please see the Addendum to my last comment (where, for clarity – and to avoid you going off topic again – I have removed my original metaphorical reference to DDT). This comment you have just made will remain but, if you mention DDT again in subsequent comments, they too will be deleted.

        Good for you saving the discussion, though; I hope you have filed it with your solicitor. I certainly feel like filing your comments with my solicitor because, in the face of clear and present danger, your obstinacy (i.e. that of climate change deniers) may well turn out to be one of the greatest crimes against humanity in all recorded history.

        Your attempts to re-write history (and paint Rachel Carson as the criminal) are just another aspect to the ‘Merchants of Doubt’ campaign… Although this is not an invitation to you to spout more of your propaganda, I would invite you to get yourself a balanced education:

        DDT / Revisionist Attack:
        “A history of Malaria”, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services.
        Consolidated DDT Hearings, Opinion and Order of the Administrator, 30 June, 1972, Federal Register 37, no.131 (July 7, 1972):13369-13376.

        You should be ashamed of yourself for seeking to do their bidding. You have seriously mislaid your moral compass; and I suggest you go look for it.

        Martin Lack

        28 February 2012 at 10:35

    • Martin, isn’t having your own blog great? When you don’t like the truth, just delete it! My attempts to re-write history? If that were true, you could have pointed out the error for all to see. Instead you deleted it! You deleted it because it was truth that you didn’t like to see. That is the difference between you and me. I write here knowing that if I am wrong, my words will remain here. You can just delete your errors any time it pleases you.

      As I told you in my deleted comment, if the evidence shows that we are headed for mass extinction, I will join your side with all my might. There are chemicals and products that are unsafe. That is why we regulate them. But I am not going to let environmental alarmism kill another 30 million people for no reason. Not this time.

      John Kosowski

      28 February 2012 at 10:50

      • OK John. This really is your final warning: I amended – and added links to relevant documents to – my previous comment while you were typing yours. Therefore, I suggest you please re-read what I have said very carefully.

        If you are not willing to allow me to dictate the matters discussed on any given page on the blog, you know where you can go. Alternatively, if you continue to try and score points against me – and distract readers from the current topic, I will move you from the “moderate all comments” category to the “blacklisted” category.

        I believe I have now made myself as clear as I possibly can. Therefore, in responding to this, I suggest that you choose your words very carefully; as the consequences (from your perspective) will be irreversible.

        Martin Lack

        28 February 2012 at 11:00

      • Martin,
        Your links don’t work. But I found the correct one for “Eradication of Malaria in the US:”
        Read down to the part where they cite “by the end of 1949, more than 4,650,000 house spray applications (of DDT) had been made.”
        Martin, I am 100% right on this one, and if you blacklist me over it, you are nothing but a coward.

        John Kosowski

        28 February 2012 at 11:15

        • Yep, I’m sorry about that, but I have now fixed the links. Well done, you found the right page on the CDC website. However, you are cherry-picking quotes from it to suit your revisionist argument. The same document also states very clearly that there are more effective solutions (for tackling malaria) that are much less toxic than DDT.

          However, this is a discussion for another time, which I will be happy to have at another time, but I am not going to have it now; and I am not going to have it here. Do you understand? If you want to have that discussion, please wait for me to initiate it.

          However, if you want to be blacklisted, please respond to this comment by including the acronym DDT and I will know you have made your choice.

          Martin Lack

          28 February 2012 at 11:29

      • Martin, I think the term “cherry picking” does not mean what you think it means. The line I cited from the CDC page that you linked is the main point of the page. That is how malaria was eradicated in the US. The page makes no reference to safer, more effective chemicals (not that in 60 years you wouldn’t expect the technology to progress).

        John Kosowski

        28 February 2012 at 11:45

        • Well done, John. You did not mention it. I was quoting from the very next paragraph to that which you have quoted. Yes, it was initially successful but, in general, as was always my point, highly-toxic systemic pesticides and herbicides kill much more than target and their effectiveness is temporary; always necessitating the invention of ever more harmful chemicals.

          Why is it, then, that you choose to focus on the detail of one chemical; when the bigger picture shows that the only people who have been permanently helped by the agro-chemical industry are the people running the multi-national companies that trade in causing indiscriminate painful death and environmental damage on an almost unprecedented scale?

          Martin Lack

          28 February 2012 at 12:11

      • Martin,
        Now I see where you are quoting from, a different page. I was quoting from the specific page on malaria eradication in the US, you were on the summary page. But what you describe didn’t really happen. What I cited did actually happen and did actually produce the result of complete eradication of malaria in the US. The WHO still today is back to recommending the chemical that I cite for spraying interior households. That doesn’t mean that the industry won’t develop a better chemical, I hope they do. I am all for development. But we don’t need environmental alarmism for that.
        Your last paragraph is a pure delusion. I am sure the 500 million people that were saved by this chemical as of 1970, according to the National Academy of Sciences, would strongly disagree with you. And the 30 million people that didn’t get the chance to be saved by that chemical would disagree even more, if they were only alive. Seriously Martin, open your eyes. Every fact I have cited on this topic is indisputable.

        John Kosowski

        28 February 2012 at 12:27

        • OK John. Well done. Yes, we are in a bind when it comes to eradication of malaria. I will accept whatever the WHO says. But I will not accept that my final paragraph is “pure delusion”.

          This is because it is you that is deluding yourself because you choose to believe those who are telling you that we cannot trust the vast majority of relevantly qualified, active researchers into climate science with a decent rack record of peer-reiewed papers? Instead of doing this, you continue to insist that you, John Kosowski, an Engineer from Illinois, is going to decide who is telling us the truth!

          Forget expert opinion, palaeoclimatology, physics, decades of observations, models validated by subsequent events, etc., etc.. To hell with all that, you prefer to believe those that say global warming stopped in 1998. You are a complete joke. Be careful you don’t fall over when you finally get to the bottom of the upward-moving escalator.

          Martin Lack

          28 February 2012 at 12:43

      • Thanks for that Martin, seriously. Despite calling me a joke, it is progress that you are acknowledging the truth. I didn’t say your views on climate change are delusional, yet. I said your paragraph stating “when the bigger picture shows that the only people who have been permanently helped by the agro-chemical industry are the people running the multi-national companies that trade in causing indiscriminate painful death and environmental damage on an almost unprecedented scale” is a delusion. As I have cited ad nauseum, hundreds of millions of poor people have been the direct beneficiaries of the agro-chemical industry with just this one chemical.
        I have learned something here also Martin. I have asked this question before, and you and others on this blog have refused to answer it:
        If it turns out that burning fossil fuels causes no environmental harm, will you embrace their use?

        John Kosowski

        28 February 2012 at 13:20

        • Sorry, that was a bit unfair, but you have spent the last few hours being very rude to me too.

          However, your final question is nonsensical: You may wish to argue about the extent to which CO2 is the dominant cause of current warming but, there is absolutely no room left to argue that it is not a cause at all. On the contrary, as many others here have asked you (and you have refused to answer), if CO2 is not the dominant cause, how can you explain what has happened in the last 200 years; and what is now happening (i.e. all the positive feedback mechanisms that you spend so much time denying are happening)?

          Martin Lack

          28 February 2012 at 13:45

      • Please Martin, answer the question. Note that I am not asking you to agree to any facts that you dispute, etc. Just a simple question. I have not refused to answer any questions posed to me. Just be specific. Climate science is a vast body of complicated phenomena. One question at a time. I have even stated that if it turns out that burning fossil fuels will cause the kind of mass extinction event predicted by Hansen, I will join your side and fight twice as hard as you to stop their use.

        Now please, answer this question.

        If it turns out that burning fossil fuels causes no environmental harm, will you embrace their use?

        John Kosowski

        28 February 2012 at 14:45

        • Yes, if it were not causing the harm (any harm) there would be no point opposing the use of fossil fuels. But the question is not only hypothetical; it is nonsensical. It is not going to happen. You cannot explain what is now happening UNLESS the burning of fossil fuels is indeed the primary driver of post-Indsutrial warming. So, then, what shall we do about it?

          Martin Lack

          28 February 2012 at 14:53

  9. Tornadoes need both moisture and dry air in the atmosphere in order to form, they usually follow a path in between both areas … either way … under conditions of drought tornadoes become less frequent and reduced in strength.

    In the U.S., the “dust bowl” droughts of the 1930s and 1950s are the most severe examples of extended periods of dryness. In the 1930s, drought virtually covered the entire Plains for almost ten years, it was almost as bad in the 50s and it is even worse today.

    The drought of the 50s affected rain patterns for some 15 years, by the early 70s when the drought had fully broken, tornadoes were back to full strength

    The fact that the presence of tornadoes today has neither increased (nor decreased) does not show that they are less frequent, in fact, it shows the opposite because thanks to the present US drought there should be fewer tornadoes yet their number has not changed ….. showing that the moisture in the air from Global Warming, (which is causing world wide droughts) is keeping the count steady.

    or something along those lines, hard to explain for me as I am not an expert weatherman paid by the heartland institute to monitor broken weather stations or little bottles filled with rain water. :-)


    21 February 2012 at 16:18

    • Thanks Donald. Given your incarceration in your hamster-wheel 14-hours a day, you may not have seen all the to and fro between me and JK over recent weeks but, suffice it to say this: He came to this site claiming he wanted answers to honest doubts but, to me, it seems clear his only desire is to muddy the waters with contrarian arguments. I therefore find it hard to avoid reaching the conclusion that he is now wasting my time and energy.

      Martin Lack

      21 February 2012 at 16:33

  10. […] now conclude this weeks posts regarding so-called “sceptical” British journalists, having looked at Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, and Christopher Booker, by reviewing […]

  11. […] Much more recently, I ran a series of posts looking at the work of the sceptical British journalists Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, Christopher Booker and, of course, James Delingpole; starting with an introduction to these peddlers of fear uncertainty and doubt (FUD) here. […]

  12. I have friends and family, many of whom are considered very well educated (doctors, professors) who have for years had the same skeptical reactions to things like climate change and could be very dismissive with me if I dared to offer an opinion. And I noticed they did it as if on command. To my mind it has to do with institutional conditioning, about which they are hardly themselves aware, even after you go through the evidence. Breaking free from institutional thinking is the only way I can see to create the necessary perspective vital to our survival.

    Great post by the way, I envy your writing. Cheers.


    6 October 2012 at 17:48

    • Thanks for your kind words. “Institutional conditioning” is a new phrase to me but, presumably, you mean what I mean by prejudice and/or ideological blindness: This is what drives people to dismiss all assertions that humans have environmental problems (or limits) as being simply a pretext for the curtailment of their freedom. Most climate change deniers are therefore libertarians; who love to talk about their rights (but never their responsibilities). I agree with you that this is a mental prison from which people must be enabled to escape; but I think they will only do so when the impact of our collective folly becomes personal – as a result of rising insurance premiums and food prices… (If you will pardon the pun; the destruction of the polar bear’s habitat cuts no ice with such people.)

      Martin Lack

      6 October 2012 at 18:15

      • Yes that’s what I meant. And you’re right, once food prices escalate, and wildfires threaten their homes and waterfront properties begin to disappear, people will be forced to adopt a new way of thinking whether they want to or not. For me at the moment, I think I want to drop down to the pub…


        6 October 2012 at 18:42

  13. […] Secondly, climate science is not complicated or contentious, it is simply inconvenient for big business to accept.  This is why the fossil fuel industry has spent the last 50 years trying to perpetuate the myths that it is both of these things.  See: Climate science in a nutshell – Part 1 (31 October 2011) (see also Part 2 that followed it). Peddlers of doubt – monkeys or organ-grinders (20 Feb 2012). […]

  14. […] that featured in my MA dissertation and my book – and who have featured on this blog (see ‘Peddlers of Doubt – monkeys or organ grinders’ (20 Feb 2012) and the posts that followed […]

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