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Climate Misinformer Christopher Monckton

Global Climate Scam: An Interview with Lord Christopher Monckton

Climate Misinformer: Christopher Monckton (Skeptical Science)

Christopher Monckton is a British consultant, policy adviser, writer, columnist, and hereditary peer. While not formally trained in science, Monckton is one of the most cited and widely published climate skeptics, having even been invited to testify to the U.S. Senate and Congress on several occasions.

For a comprehensive rebuttal of many of Christopher Monckton’s arguments, check out this presentation by Professor John Abraham. Abraham has compiled many examples where Monckton misrepresents the very scientists whose work he cites. Check out this PDF of Monckton quotes versus the scientists who in their own words explain how Monckton misrepresents their research.

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Favourite climate myths by Christopher Monckton

Below are many of the climate myths used by Christopher Monckton plus how often each myth has been used.

Climate myths by Monckton What the Science Says Usage
“Climate sensitivity is low” Net positive feedback is confirmed by many different lines of evidence. 15
“Sea level rise predictions are exaggerated” Sea level rise is now increasing faster than predicted due to unexpectedly rapid ice melting. 11
“Hockey stick is broken” Recent studies agree that recent global temperatures are unprecedented in the last 1000 years. 10
“Sea level rise is exaggerated” A variety of different measurements find steadily rising sea levels over the past century. 9
“Medieval Warm Period was warmer” Globally averaged temperature now is higher than global temperature in medieval times. 9
“It’s cooling” The last decade 2000-2009 was the hottest on record. 9
“IPCC overestimate temperature rise” Monckton used the IPCC equation in an inappropriate manner. 8
“CO2 limits will harm the economy” The benefits of a price on carbon outweigh the costs several times over. 7
“There’s no tropospheric hot spot” We see a clear “short-term hot spot” – there’s various evidence for a “long-term hot spot”. 7
“Arctic sea ice loss is matched by Antarctic sea ice gain” Arctic sea ice loss is three times greater than Antarctic sea ice gain. 7
“It warmed just as fast in 1860-1880 and 1910-1940” The warming trend over 1970 to 2001 is greater than warming from both 1860 to 1880 and 1910 to 1940. 7
“Lindzen and Choi find low climate sensitivity” Lindzen and Choi’s paper is viewed as unacceptably flawed by other climate scientists. 6
“Models are unreliable” Models successfully reproduce temperatures since 1900 globally, by land, in the air and the ocean. 6
“Hurricanes aren’t linked to global warming” There is increasing evidence that hurricanes are getting stronger due to global warming. 6
“IPCC ‘disappeared’ the Medieval Warm Period” The IPCC simply updated their temperature history graphs to show the best data available at the time. 6
“Extreme weather isn’t caused by global warming” Extreme weather events are being made more frequent and worse by global warming. 5
“IPCC is alarmist” Numerous papers have documented how IPCC predictions are more likely to underestimate the climate response. 5
“Climate’s changed before” Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time; humans are now the dominant forcing. 5
“Greenland is gaining ice” Greenland on the whole is losing ice, as confirmed by satellite measurement. 5
“It’s global brightening” This is a complex aerosol effect with unclear temperature significance. 5
“CO2 limits will make little difference” If every nation agrees to limit CO2 emissions, we can achieve significant cuts on a global scale. 5
“Arctic was warmer in 1940” The actual data show high northern latitudes are warmer today than in 1940. 5
“It hasn’t warmed since 1998” For global records, 2010 is the hottest year on record, tied with 2005. 4
“It’s not bad” Negative impacts of global warming on agriculture, health & environment far outweigh any positives. 4
“Oceans are cooling” The most recent ocean measurements show consistent warming. 4
“An exponential increase in CO2 will result in a linear increase in temperature” CO2 levels are rising so fast that unless we decrease emissions, global warming will accelerate this century. 4
“CO2 lags temperature” CO2 didn’t initiate warming from past ice ages but it did amplify the warming.  4
“Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy” A number of investigations have cleared scientists of any wrongdoing in the media-hyped email incident. 4
“Al Gore got it wrong” Al Gore’s book is quite accurate, and far more accurate than contrarian books. 4
“It’s the sun” In the last 35 years of global warming, sun and climate have been going in opposite directions 4
“Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle” Thick arctic sea ice is undergoing a rapid retreat.  4
“It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low” Early 20th century warming is due to several causes, including rising CO2. 3
“Mt. Kilimanjaro’s ice loss is due to land use” Most glaciers are in rapid retreat worldwide, notwithstanding a few complicated cases. 3
“There’s no empirical evidence” There are multiple lines of direct observations that humans are causing global warming. 3
“Temp record is unreliable” The warming trend is the same in rural and urban areas, measured by thermometers and satellites. 3
“It’s Urban Heat Island effect” Urban and rural regions show the same warming trend. 3
“Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected” This argument ignores the cooling effect of aerosols and the planet’s thermal inertia. 3
“There’s no correlation between CO2 and temperature” There is long-term correlation between CO2 and global temperature; other effects are short-term. 3
“Greenland was green” Other parts of the earth got colder when Greenland got warmer. 3
“Skeptics were kept out of the IPCC?” Official records, Editors and emails suggest CRU scientists acted in the spirit if not the letter of IPCC rules. 2
“2009-2010 winter saw record cold spells” A cold day in Chicago in winter has nothing to do with the trend of global warming. 2
“Hansen’s 1988 prediction was wrong” Jim Hansen had several possible scenarios; his mid-level scenario B was right. 2
“IPCC were wrong about Himalayan glaciers” Glaciers are in rapid retreat worldwide, despite 1 error in 1 paragraph in a 1000 page IPCC report. 2
“CO2 limits will hurt the poor” Those who contribute the least greenhouse gases will be most impacted by climate change. 2
“Antarctica is gaining ice” Satellites measure Antarctica losing land ice at an accelerating rate. 2
“Polar bear numbers are increasing” Polar bears are in danger of extinction as well as many other species. 2
“Greenland ice sheet won’t collapse” When Greenland was 3 to 5 degrees C warmer than today, a large portion of the Ice Sheet melted. 2
“Ocean acidification isn’t serious” Ocean acidification threatens entire marine food chains. 2
“Arctic sea ice has recovered” Thick arctic sea ice is in rapid retreat. 2
“We’re coming out of the Little Ice Age” Scientists have determined that the factors which caused the Little Ice Age cooling are not currently causing global warming 2
“CO2 was higher in the past” When CO2 was higher in the past, the sun was cooler. 2
“CO2 is plant food” The effects of enhanced CO2 on terrestrial plants are variable and complex and dependent on numerous factors 2
“Phil Jones says no global warming since 1995” Phil Jones was misquoted. 2
“Global warming stopped in 19981995200220072010, ????” Global temperature is still rising and 2010 was the hottest recorded. 2
“There is no consensus” 97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming. 2
“Sea level is not rising” The claim sea level isn’t rising is based on blatantly doctored graphs contradicted by observations. 2
“Record high snow cover was set in winter 2008/2009” Winter snow cover in 2008/2009 was average while the long-term trend in spring, summer, and annual snow cover is rapid decline. 1
“Satellites show no warming in the troposphere” The most recent satellite data show that the earth as a whole is warming. 1
“It’s microsite influences” Microsite influences on temperature changes are minimal; good and bad sites show the same trend. 1
“CO2 has a short residence time” Excess CO2 from human emissions has a long residence time of over 100 years 1
“Glaciers are growing” Most glaciers are retreating, posing a serious problem for millions who rely on glaciers for water. 1
“CO2 is just a trace gas” Many substances are dangerous even in trace amounts; what really matters is the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. 1
“Ice Sheet losses are overestimated” A number of independent measurements find extensive ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland. 1
“CO2 is not a pollutant” Through its impacts on the climate, CO2 presents a danger to public health and welfare, and thus qualifies as an air pollutant 1
“Corals are resilient to bleaching” Globally about 1% of coral is dying out each year. 1
“Tuvalu sea level isn’t rising” Tuvalu sea level is rising 3 times larger than the global average. 1
“Ice age predicted in the 70s” The vast majority of climate papers in the 1970s predicted warming. 1
“Coral atolls grow as sea levels rise” Thousands of coral atolls have “drowned” when unable to grow fast enough to survive at sea level. 1
“Peer review process was corrupted” An Independent Review concluded that CRU’s actions were normal and didn’t threaten the integrity of peer review. 1
“It’s not urgent” A large amount of warming is delayed, and if we don’t act now we could pass tipping points. 1
“It’s not us” Multiple sets of independent observations find a human fingerprint on climate change. 1
“Greenland has only lost a tiny fraction of its ice mass” Greenland’s ice loss is accelerating & will add metres of sea level rise in upcoming centuries. 1
“Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted” Weather is chaotic but climate is driven by Earth’s energy imbalance, which is more predictable. 1
“It’s freaking cold!” A local cold day has nothing to do with the long-term trend of increasing global temperatures. 1
“Over 31,000 scientists signed the OISM Petition Project” The ‘OISM petition’ was signed by only a few climatologists. 1
“It’s too hard” Scientific studies have determined that current technology is sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid dangerous climate change. 1
“Animals and plants can adapt” Global warming will cause mass extinctions of species that cannot adapt on short time scales. 1
“Scientists tried to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperature” The ‘decline’ refers to a decline in northern tree-rings, not global temperature, and is openly discussed in papers and the IPCC reports. 1
“Southern sea ice is increasing” Antarctic sea ice has grown in recent decades despite the Southern Ocean warming at the same time.  1
“CRU tampered with temperature data” An independent inquiry went back to primary data sources and were able to replicate CRU’s results. 1
“It’s Pacific Decadal Oscillation” The PDO shows no trend, and therefore the PDO is not responsible for the trend of global warming. 1
“Trenberth can’t account for the lack of warming” Trenberth is talking about the details of energy flow, not whether global warming is happening. 1
“Clouds provide negative feedback” Evidence is building that net cloud feedback is likely positive and unlikely to be strongly negative. 1

Back to Climate Skeptics

Explosive intervention by Pope Francis set to transform climate change debate (The Guardian)

The most anticipated papal letter for decades will be published in five languages on Thursday. It will call for an end to the ‘tyrannical’ exploitation of nature by mankind. Could it lead to a step-change in the battle against global warming?

Pope Francis on a visit to the Philippines in January.

Pope Francis on a visit to the Philippines in January. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis will call for an ethical and economic revolution to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality in a letter to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Thursday.

In an unprecedented encyclical on the subject of the environment, the pontiff is expected to argue that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural boundaries, and that the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds. The much-anticipated message, which will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops, will be published online in five languages on Thursday and is expected to be the most radical statement yet from the outspoken pontiff.

However, it is certain to anger sections of Republican opinion in America by endorsing the warnings of climate scientists and admonishing rich elites, say cardinals and scientists who have advised the Vatican.

The Ghanaian cardinal, Peter Turkson, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a close ally of the pope, will launch the encyclical. He has said it will address the root causes of poverty and the threats facing nature, or “creation”.

In a recent speech widely regarded as a curtain-raiser to the encyclical, Turkson said: “Much of the world remains in poverty, despite abundant resources, while a privileged global elite controls the bulk of the world’s wealth and consumes the bulk of its resources.”

The Argentinian pontiff is expected to repeat calls for a change in attitudes to poverty and nature. “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it,” he told a meeting of social movements last year. “I think a question that we are not asking ourselves is: isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature? Safeguard creation because, if we destroy it, it will destroy us. Never forget this.”

The encyclical will go much further than strictly environmental concerns, say Vatican insiders. “Pope Francis has repeatedly stated that the environment is not only an economic or political issue, but is an anthropological and ethical matter,” said another of the pope’s advisers, Archbishop Pedro Barreto Jimeno of Peru.

“It will address the issue of inequality in the distribution of resources and topics such as the wasting of food and the irresponsible exploitation of nature and the consequences for people’s life and health,” Barreto Jimeno told the Catholic News Service.

He was echoed by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who coordinates the Vatican’s inner council of cardinals and is thought to reflect the pope’s political thinking . “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez Maradiaga said.

The rare encyclical, called “Laudato Sii”, or “Praised Be”, has been timed to have maximum public impact ahead of the pope’s meeting with Barack Obama and his address to the US Congress and the UN general assembly in September.

It is also intended to improve the prospect of a strong new UN global agreement to cut climate emissions. By adding a moral dimension to the well-rehearsed scientific arguments, Francis hopes to raise the ambition of countries above their own self-interest to secure a strong deal in a crucial climate summit in Paris in November.

“Pope Francis is personally committed to this [climate] issue like no other pope before him. The encyclical will have a major impact. It will speak to the moral imperative of addressing climate change in a timely fashion in order to protect the most vulnerable,” said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, in Bonn this week for negotiations.

Francis, the first Latin American pope, is increasingly seen as the voice of the global south and a catalyst for change in global bodies. In September, he will seek to add impetus and moral authority to UN negotiations in New York to adopt new development goals and lay out a 15-year global plan to tackle hunger, extreme poverty and health. He will address the UN general assembly on 23 September as countries finalise their commitments.

However, Francis’s radicalism is attracting resistance from Vatican conservatives and in rightwing church circles, particularly in the US – where Catholic climate sceptics also include John Boehner, Republican leader of the House of Representatives, and Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate.

Earlier this year Stephen Moore, a Catholic economist, called the pope a “complete disaster”, saying he was part of “a radical green movement that is at its core anti-Christian, anti-people and anti-progress”.

Moore was backed this month by scientists and engineers from the powerful evangelical Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, who have written an open letter to Francis. “Today many prominent voices call humanity a scourge on our planet, saying that man is the problem, not the solution. Such attitudes too often contaminate their assessment of man’s effects on nature,” it says.

But the encyclical will be well received in developing countries, where most Catholics live. “Francis has always put the poor at the centre of everything he has said. The developing countries will hear their voice in the encyclical,” said Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at the Catholic development agency, Cafod. “I expect it to challenge the way we think. The message that we cannot just treat the Earth as a tool for exploitation will be a message that many will not want to hear.”

The pope is “aiming at a change of heart. What will save us is not technology or science. What will save us is the ethical transformation of our society,” said Carmelite Father Eduardo Agosta Scarel, a climate scientist who teaches at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires.

Earlier popes, including Benedict XVI and John Paul II, addressed environmental issues and “creation”, but neither mentioned climate change or devoted an entire encyclical to the links between poverty, economics and ecological destruction. Francis’s only previous encyclical concerned the nature of religious faith.

The pontiff, who is playing an increasing role on the world stage, will visit Cuba ahead of travelling to the US. He was cited by Obama as having helped to thaw relations between the two countries, and last week met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the threat to minority Christians in the Middle East.

The pope chose Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, as his namesake at the start of his papacy in 2011, saying the saint’s values reflected his own.

There never was a global warming ‘pause,’ NOAA study concludes (Environment & Energy Publishing)

Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter

Published: Friday, June 5, 2015

The global warming “pause” does not exist, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Their finding refutes a theory that has dominated climate science in recent years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 found that global temperatures in recent years have not risen as quickly as they did in the 20th century. That launched an academic hunt for the missing heat in the oceans, volcanoes and solar rays. Meanwhile, climate deniers triumphantly crowed that global warming has paused or gone on a “hiatus.”

But it now appears that the pause never was. NOAA scientists have fixed some small errors in global temperature data and found that temperatures over the past 15 years have been rising at a rate comparable to warming over the 20th century. The study was published yesterday inScience.

That a minor change to the analysis can switch the outcome from a hiatus to increased warming shows “how fragile a concept it [the hiatus] was in the first place,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who was unaffiliated with the study.

According to the NOAA study, the world has warmed since 1998 by 0.11 degree Celsius per decade. Scientists had previously calculated that the trend was about half that.

The new rate is equal to the rate of warming seen between 1951 and 1999.

There has been no slowdown in the rate of global warming, said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information and lead author of the study.

“Global warming is firmly entrenched on our planet, and it continues to progress and is likely to continue to do so in the future unless emissions of greenhouse gases are substantially altered,” he said.

Errors from weather stations, buoys and buckets

That NOAA has to adjust temperature readings is not unusual. Many factors can affect raw temperature measurements, according to a study by Karl in 1988.

For instance, a weather station may be situated beneath a tree, which would bias temperatures low. Measurements made near a parking lot would read warm due to the waves of heat emanating from asphalt surfaces. NOAA and other agencies adjust the raw temperature data to remove such biases.

It has become clear in recent years that some biases still persist in the data, particularly of ocean temperatures. The culprit: buckets.

Ships traverse the world, and, occasionally, workers onboard dip a bucket over the hull and bring up water that they measure using a thermometer. The method is old school and error prone — water in a bucket is usually cooler than the ocean.

For a long time, scientists had assumed that most ships no longer use buckets and instead measure water siphoned from the ocean to cool ship engines. The latter method is more robust. But data released last year showed otherwise and compelled NOAA to correct for this bias.

A second correction involved sensor-laden buoys interspersed across the oceans whose temperature readings are biased low. Karl and his colleagues corrected for this issue, as well.

The corrections “made a significant impact,” Karl said. “They added about 0.06 degrees C per decade additional warming since 2000.”

The ‘slowdown hasn’t gone away’

What that means for the global warming hiatus depends on whom you ask. The warming trend over the past 15 years is comparable to the trend between 1950 and 1998 (a 48-year stretch), which led Karl to say that global warming never slowed.

Other scientists were not fully convinced. For a truly apples-to-apples comparison, the past 15 years should be compared with other 15-year stretches, said Peter Stott, head of the climate monitoring and attribution team at the U.K. Met Office.

For instance, the globe warmed more slowly in the past 15 years than between 1983 and 1998 (the previous 15-year stretch), even with NOAA’s new data corrections, Stott said.

“The slowdown hasn’t gone away,” he said in an email. “While the Earth continues to accumulate energy as a result of increasing man-made greenhouse gas emissions … global temperatures have not increased smoothly.”

The disagreements arise because assigning trends — including the trend of a “hiatus” — to global warming depends on the time frame of reference.

“Trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends,” the IPCC stated in 2013, even as it discussed the pause.

Robert Kaufmann, an environment professor at Boston University who was unaffiliated with the study, called trends a “red herring.”

A trend implies that the planet will warm, decade after decade, at a steady clip. There is no reason why that should be the case, Kaufmann said. Many factors — human emissions of warming and cooling gases, natural variability, and external factors such as the sun — feed into Earth’s climate. The relative contributions of each factor can vary by year, decade, century or on even larger time scales.

“There is no scientific basis to assume that the climate is going to warm at the same rate year after year, decade after decade,” he said.

Copying the language of skeptics

Trends are a powerful weapon in the hands of climate deniers. As early as 2006, deniers used the slowdown of warming from 1998 onward to say that global warming had stopped or paused.

The idea of a “pause” seeped into academia, launching dozens of studies into what might have caused it. But there was a subtle difference between scientists’ understanding of the pause and that of the skeptics; scientists never believed that warming had stopped, only that it had slowed compared with the rapidly warming ’90s. They wanted to know why.

Over the years, scientists have unraveled the contributions of volcanoes to global cooling, the increased uptake of heat by the Pacific Ocean, the cooling role of La Niñas and other drivers of natural variability. Their understanding of our planet’s climate evolved rapidly.

As scientists wrote up their findings, they unwittingly adopted the skeptics’ language of the “pause,” said Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol who was unaffiliated with the NOAA study. That was problematic.

“That’s sort of a subtle semantic thing, but it is really important because it suggests that these [scientists] bought into the existence of the hiatus,” he said.

Then, in 2013, the IPCC wrote about the pause. The German government complained that the term implies that warming had stopped, which is inaccurate. The objection was ignored.

NOAA’s strong refutation of the hiatus is particularly weighty because it comes from a government lab, and the work was headed by Karl, a pioneer of temperature reanalysis studies.

NOAA will be using the data corrections to assess global temperatures from July onward, Karl said. NASA is discussing internally whether to apply the fixes suggested in the study, according to Schmidt of NASA.

The study was greeted by Democrats in Congress as proof that climate change is real. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, used it as an opportunity to chide her opponents.

“Climate change deniers in Congress need to stop ignoring the fact that the planet may be warming at an even faster rate than previously observed, and we must take action now to reduce dangerous carbon pollution,” she said in a statement.

The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people (The Washington Post)

 May 29

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, represents Rhode Island in the Senate.

Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”

Tobacco spent millions of dollars and years of litigation fighting the government. But finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.

In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tobacco companies’ fraudulent campaign amounted to a racketeering enterprise. According to the court: “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activity in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”

The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking.

In the case of fossil fuels, just as with tobacco, the industry joined together in a common enterprise and coordinated strategy. In 1998, the Clinton administration was building support for international climate action under the Kyoto Protocol. The fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes that often do the industry’s dirty work met at the Washington office of the American Petroleum Institute. A memo from that meeting that was leaked to the New York Times documented their plans for a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to undermine climate science and to raise “questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change.”

The shape of the fossil fuel industry’s denial operation has been documented by, among others, Drexel University professor Robert Brulle. In a 2013 paper published in the journal Climatic Change, Brulle described a complex network of organizations and funding that appears designed to obscure the fossil fuel industry’s fingerprints. To quote directly from Brulle’s report, it was “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.” That sounds a lot like Kessler’s findings in the tobacco racketeering case.

The coordinated tactics of the climate denial network, Brulle’s report states, “span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.” Compare that again to the findings in the tobacco case.

The tobacco industry was proved to have conducted research that showed the direct opposite of what the industry stated publicly — namely, that tobacco use had serious health effects. Civil discovery would reveal whether and to what extent the fossil fuel industry has crossed this same line. We do know that it has funded research that — to its benefit — directly contradicts the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science. One scientist who consistently published papers downplaying the role of carbon emissions in climate change, Willie Soon, reportedly received more than half of his funding from oil and electric utility interests: more than $1.2 million.

To be clear: I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.

The surprising links between faith and evolution and climate denial — charted (The Washington Post)

 May 20, 2015

For a long time, we’ve been having a pretty confused discussion about the relationship between religious beliefs and the rejection of science — and especially its two most prominent U.S. incarnations, evolution denial and climate change denial.

At one extreme is the position that science denial is somehow deeply or fundamentally religion’s fault. But this neglects the wide diversity of views about science across faiths and denominations — and even across individuals of the same faith or denomination — not all of which are anti-climate science, or anti-evolution.

At the other extreme, meanwhile, is the view that religion has no conflict with science at all. But that can’t be right either: Though the conflict between the two may not be fundamental or necessary in all cases, it is pretty clear that the main motive for evolution denial is, indeed, a perceived conflict with faith (not to mention various aspects of human cognition that just make accepting evolution very hard for many people).

The main driver of climate science rejection, however, appears to be a free market ideology — which is tough to characterize as religious in nature. Nonetheless, it has often been observed (including by me) that evolution denial and climate science rejection often seem to overlap, at least to an extent.

[Pope Francis has given the climate movement just what it needed: faith]

And there does seem to be at least some tie between faith and climate science doubt. Research by Yale’s Dan Kahan, for instance, found a modest correlation between religiosity and less worry about climate change. Meanwhile, a 2013 study in Political Science Quarterly found that “believers in Christian end-times theology are less likely to support policies designed to curb global warming than are other Americans.”

So how do we make sense of this complex brew?

Josh Rosenau, an evolutionary biologist who works for the National Center for Science Education — which champions both evolutionary science and climate science teaching in schools — has just created a chart that, no matter what you think of the relationship between science and religion, will give you plenty to talk about.

Crunching data from the 2007 incarnation of a massive Pew survey of American religious beliefs, Rosenau plotted different U.S. faiths and denominations based on their members’ views about both the reality of specifically human evolution, and also how much they favor “stricter environmental laws and regulations.” And this was the result (click to enlarge):

As Rosenau notes, in the figure above, “The circle sizes are scaled so that their areas are in proportion to the relative population sizes in Pew’s massive sample (nearly 36,000 people!).” And as you can see, while at the top right atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, non-Orthodox Jews and others strongly accept evolution and environmental rules, at the bottom left Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and other more conservative leaning faiths are just as skeptical of both.

Obviously, it is important to emphasize that a given individual, of any faith, could be anywhere on the chart above — it’s just that this is where the denominations as a whole seemed to fall out, based on Rosenau’s analysis (which itself mirrors prior analyses of the political alignments of U.S. faiths and denominations by political scientist and Religion News Service blogger Tobin Grant).

Reached by phone Tuesday, Rosenau (whom I’ve known for a long time from the community of bloggers about science and the environment) seemed to be still trying to fully understand the implications of the figure he’d created. “People seemed to like it,” he said. “I think some people are finding hope in it” — hope, specifically, that there is a way out of seemingly unending science versus religion spats.

Here are some of Rosenau’s other conclusions from the exercise, from his blog post introducing the chart:

First, look at all those groups whose members support evolution. There are way more of them than there are of the creationist groups, and those circles are bigger. We need to get more of the pro-evolution religious out of the closet.

Second, look at all those religious groups whose members support climate change action. Catholics fall a bit below the zero line on average, but I have to suspect that the forthcoming papal encyclical on the environment will shake that up.

[Our new pro-science pontiff: Pope Francis on climate change, evolution, and the Big Bang]

Rosenau also remarks on the striking fact that for the large bulk of religions and religious denominations, as support for evolution increases, so does support for tougher environmental rules (and vice versa). The two appear to be closely related.

So what can that mean?

Rosenau told me he was still trying to work that out — still playing with the data and new analyses to try to understand it.

One possible way of interpreting the figure is that as with political parties themselves, people at least partially self-sort into faiths or denominations that seem more consonant with their own worldviews. And thus, a cluster of issue stances may travel alongside these choices of affiliation. “People are choosing what religion they want to associate with,” suggested Rosenau. “If people feel alienated from a church, they’re switching.”

There may also be a substantive point here that links together the ideas. A view of the world that thinks of human beings as having evolved, as being part of the natural world and having emerged through the same process as other organisms, may also be related to a manner of thinking that puts great overall emphasis on the value of nature and one’s connectedness with it.

In any case, while the pattern above may require more analysis, one clear punchline of the figure is that it really doesn’t make sense to say that religion is at war with science. You can say that for some people, religion is clearly linked to less science acceptance — especially on evolution. But for others, clearly, religion presents no hurdle at all.

I would also agree that these data reinforce the idea that the pope’s coming encyclical on the environment could really shake matters up. Catholics are the biggest bubble in the chart above, and they’re right in the middle of the pack on the environment.

The pope, incidentally, also appears to accept evolution.

Blessed Are the Climate Advocates (Slate)

The Vatican and United Nations present the beatitudes of a new movement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after a press conference during the a climate change conference organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on April 28, 2015

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after a press conference during a climate change meeting organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican on April 28, 2015. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

This week, while at Vatican City in Rome to manage press for the first-ever meeting on climate change between Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, my faith in a force more powerful was renewed. I am not religious, despite being descended from a long line of Amish and Mennonite preachers. But at the climate confab, I became a believer again. And I wasn’t alone.

It wasn’t my faith in God that was renewed at the Vatican but rather a faith in our ability to get something done on climate change. And as an American, whose Congress isn’t even close to acting aggressively or quickly enough on climate change, that’s saying something. Even the Pope’s and the U.N.’s top policy officials were clearly inspired by the event, which was hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Throughout the day I witnessed multiple about-faces of previously cynical staff rapidly turning toward optimism.

This Vatican moment was a game-changer. Science and religion were forcefully and unwaveringly aligning. Tuesday’s high-level session brought together multiple presidents, CEOs, academics, scientists, and all the major religions, and ended with this final, forceful statement. The event was a prelude to the Pope’s summer encyclical on climate change, and it laid a solid foundation.

But more importantly—and this is why it instilled faith in many of us—the meeting featured some of the strongest words yet from the Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope’s right-hand policy man and the drafter of the first round of what will eventually be the Pope’s climate encyclical, and from the U.N.’s Ban Ki-moon.

Beyond the expected shout-outs to the upcoming climate talks in Paris later this year and to the need for a strong Green Climate Fund, which will assist developing countries in climate adaptation, the U.N.’s Ban noted in no uncertain terms how “morally indefensible” it would be to allow a temperature rise of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius, calling on everyone to reduce their individual carbon footprint and thoughtless consumption. His pitch was more pointed than I had heard before. One of the leading rabbis, Rabbi David Rosen, took it one step further, calling out meat-intensive diets as completely unsustainable given their massive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Vatican’s Turkson, meanwhile, pulled out all the stops, saying that “a crime against the natural world is a sin,” and “to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation … are sins.” Turkson warned about how quickly we are degrading the planet’s integrity, stripping its forests, destroying its wetlands, and contaminating its waters, land, and air.

These declarations were not soft, feel-good, and vague speeches by politicos keen to be perceived as leading on the most urgent issue facing humanity. These were unequivocal, unwavering statements: “Decision mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity” and the “summit in Paris may be the last effective opportunity” to keep the planet safe.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives a speech during the climate change conference at the Vatican on April 28, 2015

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gives a speech during the climate change conference at the Vatican on April 28, 2015. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

The leaders of the conference were undeterred by the hecklers who crept onto the Vatican campus. Marc Morano, for example, who is associated with the climate-skeptical Heartland Institute, snuck into the Vatican and attempted, to no avail, to disrupt the press briefing with the U.N. secretary-general while Ban was reporting on his meeting with the Pope. Morano’s account of what happened, that he was maliciously shut down after offering a benign question, misrepresents reality. Standing beside him, I can attest to what was instead a hijacking of protocol and the microphone. He said a few words about “global warming skeptics coming to talk” but coming to disrupt would be more accurate. He interrupted the secretary-general and the moderator, and was later escorted from the premises by Vatican officials.

What’s troubling about moments like this is that they work. The U.S. media reporting from the Vatican meeting felt compelled to give Morano critical space in their stories. It’s not just that he was an unexpected and therefore newsworthy interruption—giving his “side” is part of American broadcast media’s history of false balance even when there are not two legitimate sides of a story to balance. To be clear, the verdict is not still out on climate change. There’s overwhelming consensus when it comes to the science behind global warming, yet some media outlets (fewer all the time, fortunately) continue to give voice to the small percent that disagrees. Standing beside Morano, surrounded by representatives of the most powerful institutions in the world, it was quite clear to me that the Heartland Institute, though well funded by the Koch brothers, is ineffectually extreme and ultimately a minority player in society’s overall push toward climate progress.

In many ways, the Heartland emissaries proved, through their apoplectic protest, how peripheral they were to the whole process. There was no need for anyone to fight them in that moment; the majority opinion, the moral call to act on climate, was already winning the day. The global response to our conversation at the Vatican has been unequivocally positive, with every major outlet in the Western world covering the talks favorably.

As we left Vatican City this week—which is carbon-neutral thanks to solar power—there was a palpable sense that history was made within the walls of Casina Pio IV where our deliberations took place. This was no typical conference. This was a Sermon on the Mount moment, wherein the beatitudes of a new era were laid down. And we left as disciples, renewed in our faith that we must and will act in time to save humanity from itself—an agenda that would be a worthy legacy of the Pope’s Jesus.

Conservative think tank seeks to change Pope Francis’s mind on climate change (The Guardian)

Heartland Institute wants to lobby Vatican before pope delivers a moral call to climate action this summer

pope francis vatican

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and moral duty is expected to be released this summer followed by a meeting with the United Nations. Photograph: Massimo Valicchia/Demotix/Corbis

A US activist group that has received funding from energy companies and the foundation controlled by conservative activist Charles Koch is trying to persuade the Vatican that “there is no global warming crisis” ahead of an environmental statement by Pope Francis this summer that is expected to call for strong action to combat climate change.

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative thinktank that seeks to discredit established science on climate change, said it was sending a team of climate scientists to Rome “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science”.

“Though Pope Francis’s heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate,” Joseph Bast, Heartland’s president, said in a statement.

Jim Lakely, a Heartland spokesman, said the thinktank was “working on” securing a meeting with the Vatican. “I think Catholics should examine the evidence for themselves, and understand that the Holy Father is an authority on spiritual matters, not scientific ones,” he said.

A 2013 survey of thousands of peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals found that 97.1% agreed that climate change is caused by human activity.

The lobbying push underlines the sensitivity surrounding Pope Francis’s highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, whose aim will be to frame the climate change issue as a moral imperative.

While it is not yet clear exactly what the encyclical will say, Pope Francis has been an outspoken advocate for action on the issue. In a speech in March, Cardinal Peter Turkson, who has played a key role in drafting the document, said Pope Francis was not attempting a “greening of the church”, but instead would emphasise that “for the Christian, to care for God’s ongoing work of creation is a duty, irrespective of the causes of climate change”.

The encyclical is expected to be released in June or July, and Pope Francis is expected to use a planned address before the United Nations in September to discuss the statement.

Any push by the Vatican on climate change could prove politically challenging for conservative Catholic lawmakers in the US who have denied the veracity of climate change science and fought against regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, including the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

The American Petroleum Institute, the biggest lobby group representing oil companies in Washington, declined to respond directly to questions from the Guardian about whether it was lobbying the Vatican on the issue.

But – in a sign of how energy groups and those who oppose greenhouse gas regulations are framing their argument to the Vatican – it said that “fossil fuels are a a vital tool for lifting people out of poverty around the world, which is something we’re committed to”.

Heartland has also targeted its argument to appeal to the pope’s views on poverty. It said in a press release that the world’s poor would “suffer horribly if reliable energy – the engine of prosperity and a better life – is made more expensive and less reliable by the decree of global planners”.

The group’s trip to Rome is designed to coincide with a workshop hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Tuesday called Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity, which will feature speeches by Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, and Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The Vatican declined to comment.

The Heartland Institute says it is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote “free-market solutions” to social and economic problems. It does not disclose its donors, but says on its website that it has received a single donation of $25,000 in 2012 from the Charles G Koch Foundation, which was for the group’s work on health care policy. Charles Koch is the billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries, an oil refining and chemicals group, and is a major donor to Republicans causes and politicians.

Heartland said contributions from oil and tobacco groups have never amounted to more than 5% of its income.

University offering free online course to demolish climate denial (The Guardian)

The University of Queensland’s course examines the science of climate science denial

David Attenborough signs his new book 'Life in the Air' at the Natural Hisory Museum in London.  Attenborough is among the big names interviewed in the University of Queensland MOOC.

David Attenborough signs his new book ‘Life in the Air’ at the Natural Hisory Museum in London. Attenborough is among the big names interviewed in Denial101x. Photograph: Sarah Lee/Sarah Lee

Starting 28 April, 2015, the University of Queensland is offering a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) aimed at “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial”.

 Denial101x summary.

The course coordinator is John Cook, University of Queensland Global Change Institute climate communication fellow, and founder of the climate science myth debunking website Skeptical ScienceCook’s research has primarily focused on the psychology of climate science denial. As he explains,

97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming; however, less than half of Australians are aware of humanity’s role in climate change, while half of the US Senate has voted that humans aren’t causing global warming. This free course explains why there is such a huge gap between the scientific community and the public. Our course looks at what’s driving climate science denial and the most common myths about climate change. 

The course includes climate science and myth debunking lectures by the international team of volunteer scientific contributors to Skeptical Science, including myself, and interviews with many of the world’s leading climate science and psychology experts. Making Sense of Climate Science Denial is a seven-week program featuring interviews with 75 scientific experts, including Sir David AttenboroughKatharine HayhoeRichard AlleyMichael Mann, and Naomi Oreskes.

The course incorporates lessons in both climate science and psychology to explain the most common climate myths and to detail how to respond to them. Research has shown that myth debunking is most effective when people understand why the myth originated in the first place. For example, cherry picking (focusing on a small bit of convenient data and ignoring the rest) is one of the most common fallacies behind climate science myths.

The lectures in the University of Queensland MOOC not only explain the science, but also the fallacies underpinning each myth. This is a unique and important feature to this course, because understanding their origins effectively acts to inoculate people against myths.

Thousands of students from more than 130 countries have already enrolled in Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. The goal is for the students to come out of the course with a stronger understanding of climate science, myth debunking, and the psychology of science denial that’s become so pervasive and dangerous in today’s world.

Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church (The Guardian)

Climate change is a moral challenge threatening the rights of the world’s poorest people and those who deny it are not using God’s gift of knowledge, says presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called climate denial a ‘blind’ position. Photograph: Ed Ou/AP

The highest ranking woman in the Anglican communion has said climate denial is a “blind” and immoral position which rejects God’s gift of knowledge.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world.

“It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

In the same context, Jefferts Schori attached moral implications to climate denial, suggesting those who reject the underlying science of climate change were turning their backs on God’s gift of knowledge.

“Episcopalians understand the life of the mind is a gift of God and to deny the best of current knowledge is not using the gifts God has given you,” she said. “In that sense, yes, it could be understood as a moral issue.”

She went on: “I think it is a very blind position. I think it is a refusal to use the best of human knowledge, which is ultimately a gift of God.”

The sense of urgency around the issue has been deepened by Pope Francis forceful statements on global warming, which he is expected to amplify in a papal encyclical in June and during an address to the US Congress in September.

The Episcopalian church will host a webcast on 24 March to kick off a month-long action campaign designed to encourage church members to reduce their own carbon footprints and lobby government and international corporations to fight climate change.

An oceanographer before she was ordained at the age of 40, Bishop Jefferts Schori said she hoped to use her visibility as a church leader to help drive action on climate change.

As presiding bishop, she oversees 2.5m members of the Episcopal church in 17 countries, and is arguably one of the most prominent women in Christianity. The two largest denominations in the US, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists, do not ordain women.

“I really hope to motivate average Episcopalians to see the severity of this issue, the morality of this issue,” she said. “Turning the ship in another direction requires the consolidated efforts of many people who are moving in the same direction.”

She acknowledged that the challenge was deepened by the strain of climate denial in American politics, and by continued resistance to science in American classrooms.

“It’s hard work when you have a climate denier who will not see the reality of scientific truth,” she said.

However, she, like a number of church leaders, said they had seen an uptick in climate activism in recent months, spurred by the pope’s comments last January, and the conjunction later this year of United Nations conferences on development and climate change.

Evangelical churches – once seen as a conservative force – were now taking up the climate cause, largely because of growing awareness of its threat to the poor.

“One of the significant changes in particular has been the growing awareness and activism among the evangelical community who at least somewhat in the more distant past refused to encounter this issue, refused to deal with it,” Jeffers Schori said. “The major evangelical groups in this country have been much more forward in addressing this issue because they understand that it impacts the poor.”

A number of denominations have also joined the growing fossil fuel divestment movement which is encouraging organisations to move their investments out of coal, oil and gas companies. The United Methodist church, the third largest denomination, dumped coal companies from its pension fund.

The Unitarian church and the United church of Christ have also voted to divest, according to Reverent Fletcher Harper of Green Faith. And the World Council of Churches has pledged not to invest in fossil fuels. A number of individual congregations have also divested from fossil fuels.

The Guardian launched a campaign on Monday to encourage the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to divest from fossil fuels.

The Episcopal church has also come under pressure to withdraw its fossil fuel holdings. A number of diocese are pressing for divestment, and will bring the issue to a vote at the church’s annual convention this summer.

Jefferts Schori opposes fossil fuel divestment. “If you divest you lose any direct ability to influence the course of a corporation’s behavior,” she said. “I think most pragmatists realise that we can’t close the spigot on the oil wells and close the coal mines immediately without some other energy source to shift to.”

Climatology Versus Pseudoscience: Exposing the Failed Predictions of Global Warming Skeptics (Science Blogs)

Greg Laden, March 11, 2015

Suspeita de abuso derruba ‘chefão do clima’ da ONU (Estadão)

Rajendra Pachauri renuncia e IPCC fica sem uma direção permanente em momento crítico das negociações por um novo acordo mundial

Acusado de assédio sexual, o indiano Rajendra Pachauri abandonou a presidência do Painel Intergovernamental da ONU para Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) em um momento crítico nas negociações para um acordo sobre emissões de CO 2.Em comunicado emitido ontem, a ONU aceitou sua renúncia.

O conteúdo na íntegra está disponível em:

(O Estado de S.Paulo)

Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher (New York Times)

Wei-Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose articles have been tied to corporate funding. CreditPete Marovich 

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Though Dr. Soon did not respond to questions about the documents, he has long stated that his corporate funding has not influenced his scientific findings.

The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center, shared them with several news organizations last week.

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

“What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a group funded by foundations seeking to limit the risks of climate change.

Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Dr. Soon is employed by the Smithsonian Institution, which jointly sponsors the astrophysics center with Harvard.

“I am aware of the situation with Willie Soon, and I’m very concerned about it,” W. John Kress, interim under secretary for science at the Smithsonian in Washington, said on Friday. “We are checking into this ourselves.”

Dr. Soon rarely grants interviews to reporters, and he did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls last week; nor did he respond to an interview request conveyed to him by his employer. In past public appearances, he has reacted angrily to questions about his funding sources, but then acknowledged some corporate ties and said that they had not altered his scientific findings.

“I write proposals; I let them decide whether to fund me or not,” he said at an event in Madison, Wis., in 2013. “If they choose to fund me, I’m happy to receive it.” A moment later, he added, “I would never be motivated by money for anything.”

The newly disclosed documents, plus additional documents compiled by Greenpeace over the last four years, show that at least $409,000 of Dr. Soon’s funding in the past decade came from Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, based in Atlanta.

Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, praising scientists like Dr. Soon. CreditCSPAN 

Southern is one of the largest utility holding companies in the country, with huge investments in coal-burning power plants. The company has spent heavily over many years to lobby against greenhouse-gas regulations in Washington. More recently, it has spent significant money to research ways to limit emissions.

“Southern Company funds a broad range of research on a number of topics that have potentially significant public-policy implications for our business,” said Jeannice M. Hall, a spokeswoman. The company declined to answer detailed questions about its funding of Dr. Soon’s research.

Dr. Soon also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. (Mr. Koch’s fortune derives partly from oilrefining.) However, other companies and industry groups that once supported Dr. Soon, including Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, appear to have eliminated their grants to him in recent years.

As the oil-industry contributions fell, Dr. Soon started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars through DonorsTrust, an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that accepts money from donors who wish to remain anonymous, then funnels it to various conservative causes.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Mass., is a joint venture between Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution, housing some 300 scientists from both institutions. Because the Smithsonian is a government agency, Greenpeace was able to request that Dr. Soon’s correspondence and grant agreements be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He has received little federal research money over the past decade and is thus responsible for bringing in his own funds, including his salary.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.

Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, a NASA division that studies climate change, said that the sun had probably accounted for no more than 10 percent of recent global warming and that greenhouse gases produced by human activity explained most of it.

“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless,” Dr. Schmidt said.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose scientists focus largely on understanding distant stars and galaxies, routinely distances itself from Dr. Soon’s findings. The Smithsonian has also published a statement accepting the scientific consensus on climate change.

Dr. Alcock said that, aside from the disclosure issue, he thought it was important to protect Dr. Soon’s academic freedom, even if most of his colleagues disagreed with his findings.

Dr. Soon has found a warm welcome among politicians in Washington and state capitals who try to block climate action. United States Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who claims that climate change is a global scientific hoax, has repeatedly cited Dr. Soon’s work over the years.

In a Senate debate last month, Mr. Inhofe pointed to a poster with photos of scientists questioning the climate-change consensus, including Dr. Soon. “These are scientists that cannot be challenged,” the senator said. A spokeswoman for the senator said Friday that he was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

As of late last week, most of the journals in which Dr. Soon’s work had appeared were not aware of the newly disclosed documents. The Climate Investigations Center is planning to notify them over the coming week. Several journals advised of the situation by The New York Times said they would look into the matter.

Robert J. Strangeway, the editor of a journal that published three of Dr. Soon’s papers, said that editors relied on authors to be candid about any conflicts of interest. “We assume that when people put stuff in a paper, or anywhere else, they’re basically being honest,” said Dr. Strangeway, editor of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.

Negacionistas do clima e da evolução não são ‘céticos’ (Folha de S.Paulo)


21/02/15  13:53

Página de petição provida pelo CSI (Comitê para Investigação Cética). Imagem: ReproduçãoPágina de petição provida pelo CSI (Comitê para Investigação Cética). Imagem: Reprodução

Já conta com quase 23 mil assinaturas de cientistas a petição “Negadores não são céticos”, promovida nos Estados Unidos em apelo à  imprensa para deixar de chamar de “céticos” os negadores do aquecimento global antropogênico, isto é, provocado pela ação humana e além do efeito estufa natural. Organizada pelo CSI (Comitê para Investigação Cética) em dezembro do ano passado, a iniciativa pretende alcançar 25 mil assinaturas de pesquisadores.

O comitê foi criado em 1976, tendo entre seus objetivos o de “promover a pesquisa por meio da investigação objetiva e imparcial em áreas onde ela for necessária”. O grupo reúne cerca de 100 pesquisadores de projeção internacional, inclusive ganhadores do Prêmio Nobel, como os físicos norte-americanos Murray Gell-Mann (1969), Steven Weinberg (1979) e o químico britânico Harry Kroto(1996). Na petição, os membros do conselho executivo do CSI afirmam:

“estamos preocupados por as palavras ‘cético’ e ‘negador’ terem sido confundidas pela mídia popular. O verdadeiro ceticismo promove a investigação científica, a investigação crítica e do uso da razão ao examinar alegações controversas e extraordinárias. Ele é fundamental para o método científico. A negação, por outro lado, é a rejeição a priori de ideias sem consideração objetiva.”

Mau uso

A expressão “céticos do clima” e suas variações passaram a ser usadas mais intensamente a partir de 2001 com o lançamento do livro “O Ambientalista Cético”, do estatístico dinamarquês Bjorn Lomborg. Em 2003, o Comitê Dinamarquês sobre Desonestidade Científica concluiu que essa obra se enquadrava em seus critérios de má-conduta na pesquisa, pois seus dados argumentos se baseados em pesquisas não foram contrapostos por fontes semelhantes, mas praticamente só por reportagens.

Os autores do abaixo-assinado têm razão ao apontar esse mau uso do termo “cético”. De fato, não há problema em usar a palavra para se referir a pesquisadores que, por razões exclusivamente acadêmicas, e sem ser recorrer a más-condutas científicas, contestam o aquecimento global antropogênico.


O problema é que entre os mais atuantes contestadores da mudança climática tem sido difícil encontrar exemplos de interesse exclusivamente científico, que são minoria na comunidade científica e mal aparecem na imprensa. Desse modo, o rótulo tem sido muito mais aplicado a políticos e também a acadêmicos e especialistas comprometidos com lobbies da indústria do petróleo e de grupos atrasados do agronegócio.

Esses grupos são contrários às ações propostas pelo IPCC (Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas das Nações Unidas) para reduzir as emissões de gases estufa, especialmente pelo uso de combustíveis fósseis. Por essa razão eles rejeitam as conclusões cientificas do painel da ONU sobre a origem humana do aumento de 0,85ºC da temperatura média global de 1888 a 2012 e de sua previsão de até 2100 a elevação a partir de agora ultrapassar 2ºC, podendo chegar a 4,5ºC.

Um exemplo desses lobbies é o do American Enterprise Institute, que recebe recursos do grupo Exxon, como mostrou a reportagem “Crescem pedidos de quebra de sigilo de climatologistas dos EUA, publicada pela Folha na quinta-feira (19.fev). Entidades que atuam da mesma forma e também têm suporte de empresas petrolíferas são o Energy & Environmental Legal Institute, dos EUA, e a GWPF (Fundação da Política do Aquecimento Global), sediada em Londres, no Reino Unido.


A petição do CSI finaliza dizendo:

“Somos céticos que dedicaram grande parte de nossas carreiras para praticar e promover o ceticismo científico. Pedimos aos jornalistas que tenham mais cuidado ao reportarem sobre aqueles que rejeitam a ciência do clima, e mantenham os princípios da verdade nessa classificação. Por favor, parem de usar a palavra ‘cético’ para designar negadores.”

Na verdade, faltou ao CSI nessa reclamação ser realmente crítico, pois o mau uso condenado pelo comitê não é exclusivo dos meios de comunicação. Além de muitos pesquisadores, inclusive em artigos científicos, até mesmo autoridades das Nações Unidas também têm empregado o rótulo dessa forma, como o próprio secretário-geral Bam Ki-Moon, que em um pronunciamento em setembro do ano passado afirmou:

“Vamos reunir esforços para empurrar para trás céticos e interesses entrincheirados.”

Na língua portuguesa já tem sido usado o neologismo “negacionistas” para designar esses negadores com segundas intenções, entre elas a rejeição às metas de redução da emissão de gases estufa, previstas no protocolo de Kyoto, criado em 1997 no âmbito da Convenção das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança Climática e vigente desde 2005.

Muitos jornalistas têm adotado o cuidado de usar aspas ao reportarem sobre negacionistas. Foi o que fiz na segunda-feira (16.fev) ao publicar neste blog o post “O ciclo do carbono e os ‘céticos’ do clima”. Outro recurso também tem sido fazer referência a eles como “os autodenominados” ou “os chamados céticos”.


Além do significado científico apontado pelo CSI, o termo “cético” teve inicialmente um sentido filosófico. O ceticismo é a corrente cujo maior expoente na Antiguidade foi Pirro de Élis (c. 360-275 a.C.), cujo pensamento foi resgatado na obra “Hipotiposes Pirrônicas”, de Sexto Empírico (c. 160-210 d.C.). Pirro propunha a ataraxia, que em grego significa a imperturbabilidade diante de questões controversas, como explica o professor de filosofia Plínio Junqueira Smith, da Unifesp (Universidade Federal de São Paulo):

“A terapia pirrônica, tal como no-la descreve Sexto, faz-se por meio da oposição de discursos e razões e supõe que os dogmáticos sofrem de precipitação e arrogância, que se manifestariam na adesão apressada a um discurso argumentativo e a uma tese em detrimento da tese e discurso argumentativo opostos. O problema do dogmático não consiste na adoção desta ou daquela tese filosófica, mas numa atitude que se caracteriza pela precipitação e pela arrogância. É essa atitude, segundo Sexto, que deve ser tratada. Além disso, a idéia pirrônica é que essa atitude dogmática é fonte de perturbação e de uma vida pior.”
(Plínio Junqueira Smith, “Ceticismo dogmático e dogmatismo sem dogmas”, revista “Integração”, nº 45, abr/mai/jun 2006, págs. 181-182.)

Enfim, os negacionistas não têm nada a ver com o ceticismo, seja no sentido científico ou no filosófico. Além disso, pouco importa para eles que as ações propostas para reduzir as emissões crescentes de gases estufa estão também diretamente relacionadas à prevenção de outros impactos ambientais, como a poluição do ar e das águas e a devastação de áreas de vegetação nativa, que trazem prejuízos cada vez maiores para a capacidade de o planeta atender às necessidades humanas atuais e das futuras gerações.

O pior de tudo é que também existem negacionistas da teoria da evolução das espécies por meio da seleção natural. E eles já começaram a se autodenominar “céticos da evolução” ou “céticos de Darwin”. Só falta essa impostura ser consagrada pelo uso!

Guerra do clima (Folha de S.Paulo)

Pedidos de quebra de sigilo de cientistas crescem com a proximidade da Cúpula do Clima de Paris e acentuam embate sobre aquecimento global nos EUA




A animosidade entre climatologistas e grupos que questionam a atribuição do aquecimento global às emissões de CO2 tem crescido, e uma nova guerra pelo controle da informação começa a ser travada nos bastidores, principalmente nos EUA.

Os métodos usados nesse embate, porém, são diferentes daquele usado às vésperas da Cúpula do Clima de Copenhague, em 2009, quando diversos cientistas tiveram e-mails roubados e vazados na internet.

Agora, céticos do clima usam pedidos formais, baseados em leis de acesso à informação, para tentar quebrar o sigilo de correspondência dos pesquisadores.

“Veremos uma escalada similar à medida que a Cúpula do Clima de Paris se aproxima, no fim de 2015”, disse o climatologista Michael Mann, da Universidade do Estado da Pensilvânia, em palestra no encontro da AAAS (Associação Americana para o Avanço da Ciência), em San Jose.

Do encontro em Paris deve sair um novo acordo internacional para combater o aquecimento global, no lugar do Protocolo de Kyoto.

“Vai haver um esforço para confundir o público e os formuladores de politicas”, afirmou Mann.

As petições que buscam quebrar o sigilo de e-mail e anotações de cientistas em geral alegam suspeita de fraude e se baseiam em leis de transparência de informações que garante acesso a documentos produzidos por funcionários de governo.

Segundo um novo relatório da ONG Union of Concerned Scientists, esse tipo de abordagem a climatologistas cresce desde 2010, quando o promotor Ken Cuccinelli intimou a Universidade da Virgínia a liberar e-mails e anotações de Mann, que trabalhou para a instituição.

O processo se estendeu por quatro anos e, mesmo com decisão favorável ao cientista, longas horas foram consumidas para discussões com a própria universidade –que ameaçava liberar os dados temendo ser punida.

Mann foi o único a travar uma disputa pública. Mas, segundo a AGU (União Americana de Geofísica), questionamentos do tipo têm se direcionado a cientistas de instituições como Nasa, NOAA (agência oceânica e atmosférica) e o Departamento de Energia. Alguns desistem de travar a batalha legal.

Steven Dyer, da Universidade Commonwealth da Virgínia, achou que passar mais de 100 horas compilando mensagens para responder a petições seria menos dispendioso e interrompeu seu período sábatico para fazê-lo.

A entidade autora da petição –o centro de estudos conservador American Tradition Institute– passou então a exigir seus “livros de registro”. Essa e outras entidades recebem verbas da indústria do petróleo.

“Eles acham que temos um livro onde os pós-graduandos relatam o que estão fazendo”, diz Michael Helpern, autor do relatório da Union of Concerned Scientists.

Desde 2011, o congresso anual da AGU tem centro jurídico a disposição de cientistas de clima, que os orienta sobre como agir nesses casos.

“No último ano, tive muito trabalho”, conta a advogada Lauren Kurtz. Ela dirige agora o Fundo para Defesa Legal da Ciência do Clima, que levanta recursos para atender a cientistas assediados.

Why Communicating About Climate Change Is so Difficult: It’s ‘The Elephant We’re All Inside of’ (Huffington Post)

Jim Pierobon

Posted: 02/05/2015 8:48 pm EST Updated: 02/05/2015 8:59 pm EST

How stakeholders communicate about climate change has long been framed by who’s doing the framing as much, or more so, than the information being communicated. So I am forever curious how various stakeholders — believers, skeptics and deniers alike — are talking about it and who, if anybody, is “moving the needle” in either direction.

One of the most salient and recent inputs to the climate communications conundrum is Don’t Even Think About It — Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change, by George Marshall in Oxford, England.

Marshall’s work deserves to be spotlighted for how it illuminates why skeptics and deniers alike will not be moved to engage in thoughtful exchanges unless those communicating respect certain tenets of what academic and nonprofit research are finding.

Marshall draws on the efforts of the climate information network (COIN) he co-founded along with research by two leading university-based centers: the Project on Climate Change Communications at Yale University in Princeton, NJ and the Center for Climate Change Communications at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

George Marshall is the co-founder of the Climate Outreach and Information Network, a nonprofit organization that specializes in public communication around climate change.

Marshall also taps into the works of authorities who’ve written and/or spoken extensively about climate change, such as Harvard Professor of Psychology Daniel Gilbert, GOP pollster Frank Luntz, Princeton Psychology and Public Affairs Professor Daniel Kahneman, former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Oregon Kari Norgaard and ABC-TV network correspondent Bill Blakemore.

Perhaps it would behoove those preparing for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, aka COP21, in Paris November 30 – December 11, 2015 to heed much of what Marshall and other top-tier researchers are finding and sharing if they are serious about forging a legally binding and universal agreement on climate.

Here is my synthesis of the most illuminating take-a-ways from Marshall’s book. I offer it as a checklist with which to gauge climate communications efforts, regardless of which — if any — side of the issue you’re on. Be sure to share your thoughts.

  • Perceptions are shaped by individual psychological coping mechanisms and the collective narratives that they shape with the people around them.
  • A compelling emotional story that speaks to peoples’ core values has more impact than rational scientific data such as hotter global temperatures and rising sea levels.
  • People’s social identity has an extraordinary hold over their behaviors and views.
  • Drawing too much attention to an undesirable norm (e.g. catastrophic weather) can seriously backfire.
  • In high-carbon societies, EVERYone has a strong reason to ignore the problem or to write their own alibi. What might work better are narratives based on cooperation, mutual interests and a common humanity.
  • The real story is about our fear, denial and struggle to accept our own responsibility. “Climate change isn’t the elephant in the room; it’s the elephant we’re all inside of,” said ABC’s Bill Blakemore.
  • Our brains are UNsuited to deal with climate change unless the threats are personal, abrupt, immoral and immediate. A distant, abstract and disputed threat does not have the necessary characteristics for seriously mobilizing public opinion.
  • Without a clear deadline for action, we create our own timeline. We do so in ways that remove the compulsion to act. We make it just current enough to accept that something needs to be done but put it just too far into the future to require immediate action.

We’d all benefit the most from: what models for communicating about climate change are working, and which ones are not?

  • The messenger is more important than the message. The messenger can be the most important — but also the weakest link — between scientific information and personal conviction. Building on that, to break the partisan “deadlock” and public disinterest starts, Marshall asserts educational efforts need to create the means for new messengers to be heard.
  • There may be lessons learned from the campaign by oil giant BP in the early 2000s offering person-on-the-street testimonials about the need to deal with climate change. Full disclosure: While a Senior Vice President of Public Affairs with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide from 2001-2006, I helped develop and execute elements of BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign.
  • Until the economy is back on a strong growth track, climate change advocates will struggle to earn attention in their home countries as long as bread-and-butter ‘pocketbook’ issues are more important to an overwhelming majority of citizens.

See George Marshall in action from this recent interview on TalkingStickTV via YouTube.

While we’re on the subject, I recommend reading the excellent work by the MacArthur Foundation’s “Connecting on Climate” guide completed in 2014. It includes 10 principles for effective climate change communication based on research from various social science fields.

What to Call a Doubter of Climate Change? (New York Times)

The words are hurled around like epithets.

People who reject the findings of climate science are dismissed as “deniers” and “disinformers.” Those who accept the science are attacked as “alarmists” or “warmistas. ” The latter term, evoking the Sandinista revolutionaries of Nicaragua, is perhaps meant to suggest that the science is part of some socialist plot.

In the long-running political battles over climate change, the fight about what to call the various factions has been going on for a long time. Recently, though, the issue has taken a new turn, with a public appeal that has garnered 22,000 signatures and counting.

The petition asks the news media to abandon the most frequently used term for people who question climate science, “skeptic,” and call them “climate deniers” instead.

Climate scientists are among the most vocal critics of using the term “climate skeptic” to describe people who flatly reject their findings. They point out that skepticism is the very foundation of the scientific method. The modern consensus about the risks of climate change, they say, is based on evidence that has piled up over the course of decades and has been subjected to critical scrutiny every step of the way.

Drop into any climate science convention, in fact, and you will hear vigorous debate about the details of the latest studies. While they may disagree over the fine points, those same researchers are virtually unanimous in warning that society is running extraordinary risks by continuing to pump huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In other words, the climate scientists see themselves as the true skeptics, having arrived at a durable consensus about emissions simply because the evidence of risk has become overwhelming. And in this view, people who reject the evidence are phony skeptics, arguing their case by cherry-picking studies, manipulating data, and refusing to weigh the evidence as a whole.

The petition asking the media to drop the “climate skeptic” label began withMark B. Boslough, a physicist in New Mexico who grew increasingly annoyed by the term over several years. The phrase is wrong, he said, because “these people do not embrace the scientific method.”

Dr. Boslough is active in a group called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which has long battled pseudoscience in all its forms. Late last year, he wrote a public letter on the issue, and dozens of scientists and science advocates associated with the committee quickly signed it. They include Bill Nye, of “Science Guy” fame, and Lawrence M. Krauss, the physicist and best-selling author.

A climate advocacy organization, Forecast the Facts, picked up on the letter and turned it into a petition. Once the signatures reach 25,000, the group intends to present a formal request to major news organizations to alter their terminology.

All of which raises an obvious question: If not “skeptic,” what should the opponents of climate science be called?

As a first step, it helps to understand why they so vigorously denounce the science. The opposition is coming from a certain faction of the political right. Many of these conservatives understand that since greenhouse emissions are caused by virtually every economic activity of modern society, they are likely to be reduced only by extensive government intervention in the market.

So casting doubt on the science is a way to ward off such regulation. This movement is mainly rooted in ideology, but much of the money to disseminate its writings comes from companies that profit from fossil fuels.

Despite their shared goal of opposing regulation, however, these opponents of climate science are not all of one mind in other respects, and thus no single term really fits them all.

Some make scientifically ludicrous claims, such as denying that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas or rejecting the idea that humans are responsible for its increase in the atmosphere. Others deny that Earth is actually warming, despite overwhelming evidence that it is, including the rapid melting of billions of tons of land ice all over the planet.

Yet the critics of established climate science also include a handful of people with credentials in atmospheric physics, and track records of publishing in the field. They acknowledge the heat-trapping powers of greenhouse gases, and they distance themselves from people who deny such basic points.

“For God’s sake, I can’t be lumped in with that crowd,” said Patrick J. Michaels, a former University of Virginia scientist employed by the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington.

Contrarian scientists like Dr. Michaels tend to argue that the warming will be limited, or will occur so gradually that people will cope with it successfully, or that technology will come along to save the day – or all of the above.

The contrarian scientists like to present these upbeat scenarios as the only plausible outcomes from runaway emissions growth. Mainstream scientists see them as being the low end of a range of possible outcomes that includes an alarming high end, and they say the only way to reduce the risks is to reduce emissions.

The dissenting scientists have been called “lukewarmers” by some, for their view that Earth will warm only a little. That is a term Dr. Michaels embraces. “I think it’s wonderful!” he said. He is working on a book, “The Lukewarmers’ Manifesto.”

When they publish in scientific journals, presenting data and arguments to support their views, these contrarians are practicing science, and perhaps the “skeptic” label is applicable. But not all of them are eager to embrace it.

“As far as I can tell, skepticism involves doubts about a plausible proposition,” another of these scientists, Richard S. Lindzen, told an audience a few years ago. “I think current global warming alarm does not represent a plausible proposition.”

Papers by Dr. Lindzen and others disputing the risks of global warming have fared poorly in the scientific literature, with mainstream scientists pointing out what they see as fatal errors. Nonetheless, these contrarian scientists testify before Congress and make statements inconsistent with the vast bulk of the scientific evidence, claiming near certainty that society is not running any risk worth worrying about.

It is perhaps no surprise that many environmentalists have started to call them deniers.

The scientific dissenters object to that word, claiming it is a deliberate attempt to link them to Holocaust denial. Some academics sharply dispute having any such intention, but others have started using the slightly softer word “denialist” to make the same point without stirring complaints about evoking the Holocaust.

Scientific denialism has crept into other aspects of modern life, of course, manifesting itself as creationism, anti-vaccine ideology and the opposition to genetically modified crops, among other doctrines.

To groups holding such views, “evidence just doesn’t matter any more,” said Riley E. Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University. “It becomes possible to create an alternate reality.”

But Dr. Dunlap pointed out that the stakes with most of these issues are not as high as with climate-change denial, for the simple reason that the fate of the planet may hang in the balance.

New York Times: Those Who Deny Climate Science Are Not ‘Skeptics’ (Climate Progress)

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 13, 2015 AT 2:15 PM (Climate Progress)

New York Times: Those Who Deny Climate Science Are Not ‘Skeptics’



The New York Times has an excellent piece on why the people who spread disinformation about climate change are not “skeptics” — and why it’s no surprise they are called climate science “deniers.”

Now that the world’s leading scientists and governments have found that human-caused climate change is already causing serious harm on every continent, denying the grave risk posed by unchecked carbon pollution is no longer an abstract or theoretical issue. If we keep listening to those spreading disinformation, a livable climate will be destroyed and billions of people will needlessly suffer.

And yet we continue to see the sad and ultimately self-destructive spectacle whereby “contrarian scientists testify before Congress and make statements inconsistent with the vast bulk of the scientific evidence, claiming near certainty that society is not running any risk worth worrying about.” So as the Times explains:

It is perhaps no surprise that many environmentalists have started to call them deniers.

And it’s also no surprise that four dozen leading scientists and science journalists/communicators issued a statement in December urging the media to “Please stop using the word ‘skeptic’ to describe deniers” of climate science. The impetus for the Times piece is that letter, written by physicist Mark Boslough, and signed by such luminaries as Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto, Douglas Hofstadter, physicist Lawrence Krauss, and Bill Nye “the Science Guy.” Full list here.

The disinformers are not skeptics. “Skepticism is the very foundation of the scientific method,” as the Times explains. “Proper skepticism promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims,” as the 2014 letter reads. “It is foundational to the scientific method. Denial, on the other hand, is the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration.”

The author of the Times piece, reporter Justin Gillis, points out that the denial “movement” — those who “so vigorously denounce the science” — is “mainly rooted in ideology, but much of the money to disseminate its writings comes from companies that profit from fossil fuels.” These people tend to be conservatives because “Many of these conservatives understand that since greenhouse emissions are caused by virtually every economic activity of modern society, they are likely to be reduced only by extensive government intervention in the market.” Precisely.

Now the climate science deniers, who generate a lot of phony objections to real science, also like to generate phony outrage when anyone has the nerve to explain that they are not skeptics. One of the deniers with the longest history of being debunked by scientists, Dr. Roy Spencer, responds on his website to Gillis’s use of the word “deniers” by claiming:

You know — as evil as those who deny the Holocaust. (Yeah, we get the implication.)

He then goes on to malign the scientific character of Dr. Richard Lindzen (a Jew who is not entirely pleased with misplaced Holocaust imagery) because the majority of scientific opinion runs contrary to Dr. Lindzen….

Except that isn’t the implication of the word “denier,” which simply means “one who denies.”

If the point of the word was to link someone to Holocaust deniers, then why would Lindzen himself tell the BBC back in 2010 (audio here):

“I actually like ‘denier.’ That’s closer than skeptic.”


It’s actually quite common for deniers to embrace the term — as the National Center for Science Education explained in their 2012 post, “Why Is It Called Denial?” Even disinformers associated with the beyond-hard-core extremists at the Heartland Institute like the term (video here). Heck, some even sing, “I’m a Denier!”

Spencer, the Charlie Sheen of deniers, actually went so far on his website last year as to write an entire post explaining why from now on he will refer to politicians and scientists who use the term “deniers” as “global warming Nazis”!

I do think that undefined labels are always subject to criticism and out-of-context attacks, especially by people who spread disinformation for a living, so it is a good idea to define one’s terms. As I’ve written, climate science deniers are nothing like Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers are denying an established fact from the past. If the media or politicians or the public took them at all seriously, I suppose it might increase the chances of a future Holocaust. But, in fact, they are very marginalized, and are inevitably attacked and criticized widely whenever they try to spread their disinformation, so they have no significant impact on society.

The climate science deniers, however, are very different and far more worrisome. They are not marginalized, but rather very well-funded and often treated quite seriously by the media. They are trying to persuade people not to take action on a problem that has not yet become catastrophic, but which will certainly do so if we listen to them and delay acting much longer.

In fact, while we have high confidence that we could avoid the worst impacts if we act to sharply cut carbon pollution ASAP, we now know that if we continue to listen to the deniers, for even a couple more decades, we can expect billions of people to suffer from multiple, catastrophic climate impacts that are not merely very long-lasting and potentially beyond adaptation — but that are “irreversible” on a time scale of centuries. And we also know that action now would be super cheap.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science — the world’s largest general scientific society explained in a 2014 report: “Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer. And this consensus among the health community has convinced most Americans that the health risks from smoking are real. A similar consensus now exists among climate scientists, a consensus that maintains climate change is happening, and human activity is the cause.”

The media doesn’t write about “tobacco science skeptics” or even bother quoting people who deny the dangerous health consequences of cigarette smoking any more. It’s time for the media to treat climate science deniers the same way.

IPCC: climate denial, fundamental restructuring of global economy and social structures, and vested interests and climate governance

IPCC AR5, WG III, Chapter 4

Sent by Robert J. Brulle

Climate Denial – pages 300 – 301 

Denial mechanisms that overrate the costs of changing lifestyles, blame others, and that cast doubt on the effectiveness of individual action or the soundness of scientific knowledge are well documented (Stoll-Kleemann et  al., 2001; Norgaard, 2011; McCright and Dunlap, 2011), as is the concerted effort by opponents of climate action to seed and amplify those doubts (Jacques et  al., 2008; Kolmes, 2011; Conway and Oreskes, 2011).

Fundamental restructuring of global economy and social structure – page 297

Third, effective response to climate change may require a fundamental restructuring of the global economic and social systems, which in turn would involve overcoming multiple vested interests and the inertia associated with behavioural patterns and crafting new institutions that promote sustainability (Meadows et  al., 2004; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)

Vested Interests and Climate Governance – page 298

A defining image of the climate governance landscape is that key actors have vastly disproportionate capacities and resources, including the political, financial, and cognitive resources that are necessary to steer the behaviour of the collective within and across territorial boundaries (Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2009). A central element of governance therefore relates to huge asymmetry in such resources and the ability to exercise power or influence outcomes. Some actors, including governments, make use of negotiation power and/or lobbying activities to influence policy decisions at multiple scales and, by doing so, affect the design and the subsequent allocation and distribution of benefits and costs resulting from such decisions (Markussen and Svendsen, 2005; Benvenisti and Downs, 2007; Schäfer, 2009; Sandler, 2010) — see e.g., Section 15.5.2. The problem, however, also resides in the fact that those that wield the greatest power either consider it  against their interest to facilitate rapid progress towards a global low carbon economy or insist that the accepted solutions must be aligned to increase their power and material gains (Sæverud and Skjærseth, 2007; Giddens, 2009; Hulme, 2009; Lohmann, 2009, 2010; Okereke and McDaniels, 2012; Wittneben et  al., 2012). The most notable effect of this is that despite some exceptions, the prevailing organization of the global economy, which confers significant power on actors associated with fossil fuel interests and with the financial sector, has provided the context for the sorts of governance practices of climate change that have dominated to date (Newell and Paterson, 2010).

Climatologists Balk as Brazil Picks Skeptic for Key Post (New York Times)

RIO DE JANEIRO — Calling Aldo Rebelo a climate-change skeptic would be putting it mildly. In his days as a fiery legislator in the Communist Party of Brazil, he railed against those who say human activity is warming the globe and called the international environmental movement “nothing less, in its geopolitical essence, than the bridgehead of imperialism.”

Though many Brazilians have grown used to such pronouncements from Mr. Rebelo, 58, his appointment this month as minister of science by President Dilma Rousseff is causing alarm among climate scientists and environmentalists here, a country that has been seeking to assert leadership in global climate talks.

“At first I thought this was some sort of mistake, that he was playing musical chairs and landed in the wrong chair,” said Márcio Santilli, a founder of Instituto Socioambiental, one of Brazil’s leading environmental groups. “Unfortunately, there he is, overseeing Brazilian science at a very delicate juncture when Brazil’s carbon emissions are on the rise again.”

Brazil won plaudits for lowering its annual emissions from 2004 to 2012, largely by slowing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon. But emissions jumped 7.8 percent in 2013, according to the Climate Observatory, a network of environmental organizations. Several factors were to blame, the observatory said: deforestation on the rise again, growing use of power plants that burn fossil fuels, and increased consumption of gasoline and diesel.

Ms. Rousseff, a leader of the leftist Workers Party, has been speaking strongly about the need to reduce carbon emissions around the world, raising hopes that Brazil will work harder to preserve much of its Amazon rain forest. The destruction of tropical forests is viewed as a major contributor to climate change.

But Mr. Rebelo’s appointment comes as some scientists are questioning Brazil’s commitment to reducing deforestation and emissions. Environmentalists have also expressed concern over Ms. Rousseff’s new minister of agriculture, Kátia Abreu, a combative supporter of industrial-scale farming who worked with Mr. Rebelo on a recent overhaul of Brazil’s forest protection laws.

“Old-line Communist Rebelo is on exactly the same page on climate science as the hardest of the hard-core Tea Partiers,” Stephan Schwartzman, director of tropical forest policy at the United States-based Environmental Defense Fund, said in a blog post.

Before the international climate talks that were held in Lima, Peru, in December, the Brazilian government said that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon had declined by 18 percent in the period from August 2013 to August 2014. But analysts said the government had tailored its announcement to exclude a recent resurgence in deforestation. Imazon, a Brazilian institute that uses satellite imagery to track the issue, saw a fourfold increase in November compared with the same month in 2013.

Mr. Rebelo, who was sports minister during Ms. Rousseff’s first term as president, has not distanced himself from his earlier statements about climate science, including his assertion that “there is no scientific proof of the projections of global warming, much less that it is occurring because of human action.”

But in a speech last week at his swearing-in ceremony, he said the science ministry would be guided by the government’s established positions on climate change. “The controversy in relation to global warming exists independent of my view,” he told reporters. “I follow the debate, as is my duty as a public figure.”

Leaked: The Oil Lobby’s Conspiracy to Kill Off California’s Climate Law (Bloomberg Business Week)

November 25, 2014

Looking south over Los Angeles and the 101 Freeway, with the morning haze and smog on Jan. 28

Photograph by David Bro/Zuma Press

Looking south over Los Angeles and the 101 Freeway, with the morning haze and smog on Jan. 28

You remember Fillmore. He’s the resident hippie of Radiator Springs in the Pixar blockbuster Cars. Much to the chagrin of his neighbor, Sarge the Army Jeep, Fillmore greets each new day with Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition of A Star Spangled Banner—“respect the classics, man”—and is quick with a conspiracy theory about why biofuels never stood a chance at America’s gas pumps. Perfectly voiced by the late, great George Carlin, Fillmore has a slight paranoiac edge, as if his intake of marijuana may exceed what’s medically indicated.

Well, as they say, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to delay, rewrite, or kill off a meaningful effort to reduce the build-up of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. A Powerpoint (MSFT) deck now being circulated by climate activists—a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg Businessweek—suggests that there is a conspiracy. Or, if you prefer, a highly coordinated, multistate coalition that does not want California to succeed at moving off fossil fuels because that might set a nasty precedent for everyone else.

Created by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), one of the most powerful oil and gas lobbies in the U.S., the slides and talking points comes from a Nov. 11 presentation to the Washington Research Council. The Powerpoint deck details a plan to throttle AB 32 (also known as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) and steps to thwart low carbon fuel standards (known as LCFS) in California, Oregon, and Washington State. Northwest Public Radio appears to have been the first to confirm the authenticity of the deck, which Bloomberg Businessweek did as well, with WSPA spokesman Tupper Hull.

Specifically, the deck from a presentation by WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd lays out the construction of what environmentalists contend is an elaborate “astroturf campaign.” Groups with names such as Oregon Climate Change Campaign, Washington Consumers for Sound Fuel Policy, and AB 32 Implementation Group are made to look and sound like grassroots citizen-activists while promoting oil industry priorities and actually working against the implementation of AB 32.

The deck also reveals how WSPA seized on a line from a California Air Resources Board memo that the cap-and-trade program for gas and diesel that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, may affect gas prices in order to launch an ad campaign warning of a “hidden” gas tax that devious Sacramento pols are sneaking through.

“The environmental community is used to sky-is-falling analysis from fossil fuel interests in response to clean energy initiatives, so that part isn’t surprising,” says Tim O’Connor, a senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund, to whom I sent the deck for comment. “But it’s eye-opening to see the lengths [the WSPA] has gone to push back rather than move forward. I don’t think anybody knew how cross-jurisdictional, cross-border, and extensive their investment is in creating a false consumer backlash against [climate legislation].”

In California, O’Connor points out, “we have 70 percent voter approval on clean energy alternatives, so it’s offensive and atrocious they’re using these supposed everyday citizens—who are really paid advertisers—to change the public discourse.”

Reheis-Boyd’s Powerpoint deck, entitled “WSPA Priority Issues,” starts by announcing that these are the “the best of times.” Crude oil production in the U.S. is higher than it has been since 1997, with imports subsequently reduced to a 20-year low, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The next six slides describe why these are also “the worst of times” and include images of demonstrators protesting the Keystone XL oil pipeline, demanding government action on climate change, and pictures of professor-cum-activist Bill McKibben and billionaire Tom Steyer, with the latter quoted as saying he wants to “destroy these people”—i.e., people like the members of WSPA.

Then there’s a slide with all the different groups that WSPA has funded to make it seem as if there’s a broad group in three states opposing a series of initiatives to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels. The most clever of these is the “Stop the Hidden Gas Tax!” campaign. Who, after all, wants that?

“Let me be clear,” says Hull, the WSPA spokesman. “We did not oppose AB 32 when it passed. We believe it’s good to have the reduction of greenhouse gases as a goal. We support that goal.” In the years since, he says, “hundreds of pages of regulations have been added to what had been a page-and-a-half document, and we do object to many of the additions.” What’s more, Hull says, “we have a legitimate concern over what will happen when the cap-and-trade program goes into effect for gas and diesel.”

Koch brothers sought say in academic hiring in return for university donation (The Guardian)

Florida university receives $1.5m from rightwing billionaires

Kochs wanted appointment of ultra-rightwing economics faculty, Friday 12 September 2014 19.56 BST

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch in 2013.David Koch, above, and his brother Charles donated to 163 colleges and univerisites in 2012. Photograph: Phelan M Ebenhack/AP

The billionaire Koch brothers attempted to wield political influence over appointments and teaching at a major US university in exchange for donations, newly published documents reveal.

Internal emails and memos from the economics department of Florida State University (FSU) open a window into the kind of direct pressure the Kochs seek to exert over academic institutions in return for their largesse. The 16 pages of documents, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, show that the energy tycoons demanded through their grant-giving arm, the Charles Koch Foundation, a role in faculty appointments and an emphasis on teaching that was in tune with their radical political views.

Charles and David Koch are major funders of the Tea Party and other ultra-rightwing movements that oppose government intervention and advocate for an unregulated free market.

A memo drawn up by the then chair of the FSU economics department, Bruce Benson, set out the Kochs’ terms for funding, noting that “the proposal is … not to just give us money to hire anyone we want and fund any graduate student that we choose. There are constraints.”

A section of the memo headlined “Constrained hiring” says: “As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs. In this case, the money for faculty lines and graduate students is coming from a group of funding organisations with strong libertarian views. These organisations have an explicit agenda.

“They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide exposure and mentoring. If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”

The documents date back to 2007, when the Koch deal was first being negotiated with FSU. Among the other demands made by the foundation was that Benson, a free-market libertarian who shares many of the Kochs’ beliefs, must have his term as chair of the economics department extended for three years as a requirement of the donation.

Dave Levinthal, the centre’s senior political reporter, who broke the story, said: “The documents give a blueprint of what the Kochs wanted and if ultimately they didn’t get everything they demanded it still gives a rare view into their intentions. They were saying ‘We want this, this and that, and if you don’t do it, we are not going to give you any money’.”

The Koch’s financial gift was finalised in 2009 at the sum of $1.5m (£920,000) to be spread over six years – a drop in the ocean for the brothers who own the second largest privately owned company in the US and are valued at $36bn each. The university says that as of April this year it had received $1m.

Under the initial deal with the Kochs, they had direct input into the appointment of faculty members in the economics department through a three-person advisory board set up specifically to liaise with the Charles Koch Foundation over hiring. The terms of the donation have been a running sore within FSU, prompting considerable internal opposition.

In the face of widespread criticism, the university authorities in 2013 revised the terms of the Koch funding to weaken the brothers’ grip on appointments. A statement from the university released earlier this year said that “the decision was made to eliminate any role whatsoever of the advisory group in the hiring of tenure-track faculty members in the department of economics”.

Benson did not immediately reply to questions from the Guardian. But he told the Center for Public Integrity that the documents had been intended for internal use and were written at “early stages of discussion” over the Koch grant, well before it was finalised in 2008.

Florida State University is not the only academic institution that the Kochs have financial relationships with. According to the CPI, the brothers dispensed $13m in 2012 to 163 colleges and universities.

This Lawyer’s New Job Is Defending Climate Scientists From Political Attacks (Climate Progress)


This Lawyer’s New Job Is Defending Climate Scientists From Political Attacks

Lauren Kurtz, the new Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

Lauren Kurtz, the new Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. CREDIT: CLIMATE SCIENCE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND

Lauren Kurtz, a once-budding biologist turned accomplished attorney, is frustrated. She thinks it’s ridiculous that climate scientists have become targets of politically motivated attacks.

“I think science is very important, and I think the increased politicization of climate science is a really horrible turn of events,” Kurtz, the new Executive Director of theClimate Science Legal Defense Fund, told ThinkProgress. “I am really excited to be able to combat that.”

On Monday, Kurtz became the first-ever Executive Director of the CSLDF, a group that works to stem and prevent harassment of climate scientists. In her new position there, Kurtz says she hopes to expand the group’s network of attorneys who will volunteer to represent embattled climate scientists in court free of charge. The end goal, she said, is to help climate scientists do their jobs without fear of politically motivated retaliation.

“One of our main goals is educating scientists on their legal rights and what they’re up against,” Kurtz said. “If and when things arise, we want to move as quickly as possible.”

The problem Kurtz hopes to address is a real one. Scientists who perform climate-related research have increasingly been the subject of personal attacks — email hacking, copiousonline abuse, a dead rat left on a scientists’ doorstep. At least one prominent scientist has been the subject of a failed lawsuit by a right-wing policy group, alleging manipulation of data, and demanding copies of personal emails and other communications under the Freedom of Information Act.

Many climate scientists say these attacks are political, perpetrated by people who can’t accept the policy solutions to the problem of human-caused global warming.

“I firmly believe that I would now be leading a different life if my research suggested that there was no human effect on climate,” said climate scientist Benjamin D. Santer during a Congressional hearing in 2010. “We need to follow the research wherever it leads us, without fear of the consequences of speaking truth to power.”

The CSLDF was founded with that goal in mind. It was created in 2011 by Professors Scott Mandia and John Abraham, after they learned that climate scientist Michael Mann was using his personal funds to defend himself against the now-infamous lawsuitbrought by the American Tradition Institute. Mandia and Abraham formed the group, and in 24 hours raised $10,000 to allow Mann to continue his research while fighting the case.

Mann, who eventually won his case, told ThinkProgress he was happy to see Kurtz in the CSLDF’s new leadership position.

“From what I have seen, she is a premier litigator,” he said. “I’m sure she’ll serve CSLDF well as their new executive director.”

Kurtz does come from a prestigious background in law. To take the new job at CSLDF, she left her job of more than four years as a litigator for Dechert LLP, a high-ranking global law firm with more than 900 attorneys. Before that, she worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, first as a policy associate and then as a law clerk.

Though her career ended up in law, it began in science. It evolved, however, when she realized how difficult it was to get anything done with the scientific results of her studies. Kurtz, who received her undergraduate degree in biology from Bryn Mawr College, remembers specifically how she felt while working on a conservation biology study of population decline of native bee populations.

“I felt really frustrated at the time that I was studying this, that there was a well-documented decline [in bee populations], but politically it didn’t seem to be going anywhere,” she said.

The feeling of wanting to change the political environment drove her to study environmental law and policy. She eventually received her Masters degree in environmental policy from the University of Pennsylvania, then went on to receive her law degree there as well.

“I have an immense amount of respect for scientists and I think it’s an interesting area to study, but ultimately what I was more passionate about was promoting science in a policy area,” she said. “This position’s got a similar thread, which is making sure policy decisions reflect what the science says, and separating people’s thoughts on science from what their political agendas are.”