Crime of the century

by Gareth on November 2, 2010

Dealing with global warming is difficult, but it shouldn’t be impossible. What we need to do is well understood. Yet a campaign to prevent and delay emissions reductions, which began in the 1980s almost as soon as science began warning there might be a problem, has been so successful that two decades later it seems that substantive action, the sorts of cuts required to leave us with a planet we can recognise, are impossible to put in place.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the people who coordinate and run that campaign are morally and ethically bankrupt (I’m being polite), but are they also criminally liable for the damage their actions will undoubtedly cause? Donald Brown, Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law at Penn State University, discusses the issue in a recent article: A New Kind of Crime Against Humanity?: The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Disinformation Campaign On Climate Change. Brown points out that the issue is much more than just a matter of science, it has moral and ethical dimensions:


As long as there is any chance that climate change could create this type of destruction, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that these harms are not yet fully proven, disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible if it leads to non-action in reducing climate change’s threat when action is indispensable to preventing harm. In fact how to deal with uncertainty in climate change science is an ethical issue, not only a scientific matter, because in the case of climate change:

  • If you wait until all the uncertainties are resolved it is likely to be too late to prevent catastrophic climate change.
  • The longer one waits to take action, the more difficult it is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of climate change at safe levels.
  • Those most vulnerable to climate change include some of the poorest people in the world and they have not consented to be put at risk in the face of uncertainty.

Brown cites a New York Times article which concludes that:

…the oil, coal and utility industries have collectively spent $500 million just since the beginning of 2009 to lobby against legislation to address climate change and to defeat candidates who support actions to reduce the threat of climate change.

The extent to which this is a carefully coordinated campaign was underlined by a recent Think Progress report on a meeting of “titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives” held in Aspen last June, organised by the Koch brothers. Climate denial and its relevance to the US elections (underway as I write) was on the agenda (pdf):

Energy and Climate: What drives the regulatory assault on energy? What are the economic and political consequences of this? How discredited is the climate change argument? What effect does this have on the electorate, especially in key states. [my emphasis]

From the outside looking in, could I be forgiven for thinking that the Koch brothers and their friends have remade US conservatism in their own image, and made it serve their interests above all others? The self-interest of billionaires has shaped the catechism of the new right, put the tea in the parties, and it’s hard to see how any Republican leader can now advocate strong action on emissions — for purely domestic political reasons.

But this is not just a US domestic issue, as Brown explains.

It would be one thing for an American corporation to act irresponsibly in a way that leads to harm to Americans, but because of climate change’s global scope, American corporations have been involved in behaviour that likely will harm tens of millions of people around the world. Clearly this is a new type of crime against humanity.

I find it hard to disagree. At some point, when the damages from climate change are severe and undeniable, there will be a backlash against those who deliberately made matters worse. It might be purely a legal affair, with lawyers fattening themselves on cases seeking billions of dollars of damages, but it might equally be a more visceral matter, with US standing in the world suffering as countries bearing the brunt of climate change react against the people, companies and political system that sealed their fate. Global change has global repercussions, and the US will not be insulated from that.

Brown goes on to consider the role of skeptics:

Skepticism in science is not bad, but skeptics must play by the rules of science including publishing their conclusions in peer-reviewed scientific journals and not make claims that are not substantiated by the peer-reviewed literature. The need for responsible skepticism is particularly urgent if misinformation from skeptics could lead to great harm.

The idea of “responsible scepticism” is something I’ve considered before but have never attempted to define, but it’s clear from Brown’s view on how it should be conducted that it would be greatly different to the approach adopted by the Moncktons Plimers, Wisharts, Carters and Easterbrooks of this world.

Brown’s conclusion is straightforward enough:

…this disinformation campaign being funded by some American corporations is arguably some kind of new crime against humanity.

No doubt some will argue the billionaire’s corner, but it’s clear that the Koch and Scaife-funded attack on the science of climate is not “responsible scepticism”, it’s naked self-interest masquerading as policy. I have little doubt that the world will one day curse their names.

Note: Brown cites Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s Merchants of Doubt as one source for his piece. Oreskes is giving lectures in Australia later this month. Details at Deltoid.

[Supertramp]

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

Le Chat Noir November 3, 2010 at 12:35 am

So it’ll be Ximinez, Fang and Biggles for the prosecution, then.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

And comfy chairs. Don’t forget the comfy chairs.

Bob Bingham November 3, 2010 at 7:35 am

Of all the countries in the World the USA is least prepared to face the problems of the future.They have the greatest wealth and highest standard of living but ‘ their ‘dog eat dog’ structure of society means a lot of people are disadvantaged in a down turn. They need to blame someone for their problems and will listen to anyone who shouts loudest.
We can only hope that when the Republicans get into power they find that they still have the same problems as the Democrats and can only have the same solutions. Stop burning carbon energy,

David November 3, 2010 at 8:04 am

So the science about Feedbacks is settled is it?
Thought not. Oh well, carry on with your “what ifs” and “maybes”.

Richard C1 November 3, 2010 at 8:25 am

Ah! A fishing expedition.

Steve Wrathall November 3, 2010 at 8:31 am

“morally and ethically bankrupt “…”criminally liable “…”there will be a backlash “…”might equally be a more visceral matter”…”react against the people”…”will not be insulated from that.”…”curse their names”

Why not just cut to the chase and advocate blowing up the deniers? That would be “obviously effective” wouldn’t it?

Doug November 3, 2010 at 8:57 am

Blowing people up is what right wing and religious nutjobs do (ah la Oklahoma City and WTC). What reasonable people do, no matter how angry they get, is let the rule of law apply.

What I think that Gareth and/or Brown is suggesting is that in the future if delibrate intent can be proven then they may have to face the full weight of the law.

John D November 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

What constitutes the crime?
For example, blogging on a sceptic site – should this be this a crime in your view?

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

Of course not. Brown is clear that this is about the people and organizations who are funding and coordinating obfuscation and delay.

Dappledwater November 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

What constitutes the crime? For example, blogging on a sceptic site – should this be this a crime in your view?

Interesting question. I’d suggest that skeptic blog owners would definitely fall under the definition of being party to the offence. Aid and abet? – sure, counsel or procure? – some cases maybe.

The point will be probably moot anyway, when things start falling apart & people have empty bellies, justice will be meted out summarily I’d suggest. Just my observation of human behavior.

John D November 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Interesting question. I’d suggest that skeptic blog owners would definitely fall under the definition of being party to the offence

Interesting observation.

Would you extend this principle to all fields of human activity?

i.e if you express an opinion counter to the state one, it becomes an offence?

Dappledwater November 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

i.e if you express an opinion counter to the state one, it becomes an offence?

Strawman!!!!!!

John D November 3, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Strawman? Possibly, but worthy of discussion don’t you think?

If political institutions can create an atmosphere of fear where people are afraid to criticise the “consensus” view, then we are on a slippery slope.

.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:29 pm

The problem is not with any political consensus, but with the undermining of scientific knowledge for political purposes. Prominent sceptics are quite happy to lie about the science in order to promote their preferred policy. That’s reprehensible, and — as Brown argues above — likely to get them in to trouble in the future.

Macro November 3, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Well John, consider the case of the Radio personal in Rwanda and their incitement to violence. Is blogging any different? Especially if it is shown that they were cognisant of the implications.

Thomas November 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Climate change denial is an offense against an inconvenient truth. As such it is liable for the consequences it causes just as any other intentional lie might constitute a criminal liability or offense.
Equally so one could hold the Roman Catholic Church liable for preventable death from AIDS due to their propaganda against condoms.
Lying about the effects of tobacco and their knowledge about it caused the former pay clerks of many of the current climate denier henchmen a great deal of legal trouble……

John D November 3, 2010 at 9:11 am

Blowing people up is what right wing and religious nutjobs do

How about –

IRA, Red Brigade, Bader-Meinhof?

StephenR November 3, 2010 at 9:43 am

Blowing people up is what right wing and religious nutjobs do

Super, another one-eyed hyper-partisan.

nommopilot November 3, 2010 at 11:36 am

or how about crazy people of all political stripes. which we should do all commenters here the credit of extending at least the benefit of doubting they belong in this group.

the post above is discussing the possibility of future legal action. not blowing people up.

John D November 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Like the Nurenberg trials Monbiot was advocating in his 2006 book “Heat”?

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm

I’ve read Heat. I recall no Nuremberg reference. Please provide a page number so that I can check my copy.

The most recent call for trials was made by the ever-excitable James Delingpole, who wants a “global warming Nuremberg”.

John D November 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Maybe I am mistaken.
I saw the link on a Grist article

http://www.grist.org/article/the-denial-industry/

but I can’t find the quote in the Guardian article that Grist links too.

Maybe either Grist or myself are victims or perpetrators of this “disinformation” campaign.

Daveosaurus November 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm

The example of the IRA actually backs up Doug’s point, instead of rebutting it. And as for the other two groups you have cited, neither has done anything memorable for decades.

John D November 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

If there is a crime of the century, do you have an appropriate punishment in mind?

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 9:45 am

I’d advocate that these peoples descendants shall be stripped of 90% of their assets and wealth. Might seem a bit harsh, but the current inaction which they cause will cause considerable hardship for countless others.

John D November 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

I’d advocate that these peoples descendants shall be stripped of 90% of their assets and wealth.

Which people? And who would decide?

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 10:29 am

Corporations might find themselves legally liable, descendants of individuals clearly could not – that would be unjust. But I was trying to personalize the risk in terms that deniers understand (i.e., personal wealth). Besides, if the deniers are correct (which I’m confident they are not) – they have nothing to worry about.

adelady November 5, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Wealth. Those who insist on holding their ‘wealth’ in FF industry stocks will see it decline anyway. The money will, eventually, go where the newer more exciting technology and financial opportunities are. The value of FF stocks will fade.

In the meantime, the Chinese will be raking it in with the headstart they’ve got on manufacturing newer technology and selling it to the rest of the fossilised financial world.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

I expect that the international community will eventually derive a legal framework that could be used — but that’s a long way off.

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 10:20 am

Slighly off-thread but I point out a must-read article by M. Risbey in the November issue of Australsian science titled “The Straw Men of Climatology”. Access is by subscription, so you may have to go to your library.

bill November 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Being forced to listen to the Supertramp album for all eternity?

Richard T November 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm

It’s raining again – Oh no, my love’s at an end – Oh no, it’s raining again and you know it’s hard to pretend. Oh no, it’s raining again Too bad I’m losing a friend. … Too bad I’m losing a friend. No need to get uptighter. C’mon you little fighter …

I now have this going through my head. Thanks a million.

bill November 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Um, I checked and that’s ‘Famous Last Words’, apparently. I do apologise, but you could try lodging ‘Right, you’re bloody-well right’ or ‘Dreamer’ in your head in order to keep with the spirit of the earlier album.

And it could have been worse – I could have mentioned Breakfast in America! And that’s the first time I’ve noticed Gareth put a link to the eponymous song on the site…

Daveosaurus November 6, 2010 at 12:52 pm

“Dreamer” could just about be the denialists’ theme song.

Gavin's Pussycat November 11, 2010 at 1:00 am

Sterilization? Not as Robespierre would say, a punishment, but as a measure. We would be better off without their genes.

John D November 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

We would be better off without their genes.

Whose genes?

Or are you just trolling for an argument?

David November 3, 2010 at 9:51 am

Well one would hope that the worm turns the other way. I note that 70 billion dollars would ensure that every person in the world could have access to good quality drinking water.
Millions die every year because they dont.
Now if that money gets sucked up fighting what may turn out to be a non problem instead of being used to adapt and help the poor get water, will all you warmists be held to account for the millions who die now?
I note this was an arguement put forward by many of the African nations at Copenhagen.

StephenR November 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

I note this was an arguement put forward by many of the African nations at Copenhagen.

And so was this:

The desperation that poorer countries are feeling over climate change was dramatically displayed at Barcelona this week when the African bloc walked out of the official negotiations towards a Copenhagen agreement. Their complaint, reports the Guardian, was that the rich nations’ carbon cuts were far too small to avoid catastrophic climate change
http://hot-topic.co.nz/africa-says-do-what-science-requires/

adelady November 5, 2010 at 10:42 pm

70 billion dollars? While the world spends $500 billion dollars on FF subsidies. And quite a lot of those dollars (about 15 billion) are spent in places like India – purportedly to benefit the poor, but mostly to subsidise the petrol of the middle classes.

Carol Cowan November 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

It’s not an either/or situation, David.

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 10:02 am

Good point. There is nothing stopping wealthy countries doing this already. That $500 million the oil companies spent on the disinformation campaign could have saved quite a few lives.

Very little action on climate change has taken place to this point at all, it’s been mainly talk and reports.

John D November 3, 2010 at 10:07 am

$500 million on a disinformation campaign?
Where did you get that from?
I note that Oil companies are financing a good deal of the climate science these days, including the CRU.

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 10:13 am

From this very thread, “Brown cites a NY Times article”, the 500 million figure was just from 2009 onwards. Seems to me the oil companies could stump up with a signifcant chunk of the 70 billion themselves.

John D November 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

If the Oil companies are spending $500 million on a “disinformation” campaign, then it’s not very effective.

All the sceptic blogs that I read have tip jars and are guys working in their spare time, or retired.

I don’t see any media presence from Oil companies talking down climate change, period.

Where is this money going? Not in my direction, that’s for sure.

Anyway, even if $500 million had been spent on “disinformation”, it pales into insignificance compared with the billions spent in the climate change consensus industry.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 10:40 am

The evidence of a coordinated disinformation campaign is plentiful. For one example, read Oreskes Merchants of Doubt, linked in the post, or Hoggan’s Climate Cover-up.

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Ummm…. that is not definitive proof of a “dark conspiracy”.

It would be like stating that because the Sea Shepherd organisation is a well funded organisation then there is a conspiracy against Japanese Whaling.

People who disagree with the consensus are allowed to organise and protest. It is what Western Democracy is all about.

Your job is to counter them effectively.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Gosman: read the references, or at least the (many) posts at HT which have discussed the campaign to derail action on emissions. The “proof” is there for anyone who cares to read it.

Of course people are allowed to organise and protest about policy choices, but that’s not what’s been happening. A bunch of smart PR people, using techniques developed by the tobacco industry, have very effectively manipulated the US (and, increasingly, global) policy process in order to defend a very narrow definition of self-interest. You’ve been played for a sucker, and that ought to make you cross.

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Ummmm…. Gareth

Smart PR people use those sort of techniques for all sorts of campaigns. Including the ones I suspect you support. Greenpeace is a classic example of this as well as organisations like PETA.

As for narrow self-interest, that comes down to a matter of opinion. I happen to think anti-globalisation campaigns are motivated by narrow self-interest. Others have a differing opinion.

By the way I haven’t been suckered into anything so I’m not sure why I should be cross about that.

cindy November 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm

The Tea Party movement is one such spend by the Koch brothers, who set up American’s for Prosperity in 2008. David Koch denied anything to do with the Tea Party, but he has been caught out rather badly by a film team , praising the work of AFP in organising the Tea Party movement, and taking reports from Tea Party organisers from around the country.
Koch have spent $5.1m on AFP alone, never mind what Koch and the other oil and coal companies have spent on climate denial front groups and astroturf campaigns.

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Oooooh! The Koch brothers are supporting an organisation that supports less government. What a surprise.

There is a huge step from that point to claiming that the Tea Party movement wouldn’t exist without the Koch Brothers pulling the strings in the backgound or that the entire movement has no purpose other than to serve their aims.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Read the Think Progress post linked in the article. Whatever the genesis of the “Tea Party” movement, its growth and promotion — and much of what passes for policy in the TP — has been paid for by Koch money.

R2D2 November 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm

The $500 million was spent on lobbying. This is quite different. Any policy as big as an ETS is going to need analysis from the business community. Alternative policy that has less transition costs is likely to be put forward. Green groups will likely put alternative policy that results in sharper emissions reductions. This is not funding ‘climate deniel’.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

R2, you are being incredibly disingenuous. Koch, Scaife etc have been funding campaigns designed to mislead the public and politicians about the evidence, in order to fulfil their own business and ideological goals. Without their funding climate denial would almost certainly not exist — at least, not beyond a few crackpots and nutcases.

You’ve been referred to the evidence many times, but it appears you’re in denial. A bit too inconvenient, perhaps?

R2D2 November 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Koch et el may have funded ‘denial’ campaigns, I don’t really know (I didn’t mention them in my comment), but from reading your article it seemed the $500 million for lobbying purposes;

“the oil, coal and utility industries have collectively spent $500 million just since the beginning of 2009 to lobby against legislation to address climate”

I think what is disingenuous is to then imply that this is denial money (Richard T rather than Gareth who did this). Just as trade unions spent money lobbying against the 3 month trial period in NZ you can expect carbon emitters to lobby against policy that will damage their interests. Hopefully this lobbying aims to propose better policy etc. But it is not climate denial.

You perform a slight of hand. Take an article that shows money is spent on lobbying, and then try and imply it is spent on arguments that ‘deny’ global warming.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Sorry R@, but you’re the one conjuring with the facts here. Read the reference in the post to the Aspen agenda: How discredited is the climate change argument?
The campaign has been downplaying the need for action since day one, and has done that by misrepresenting the science. They have also set up and nurtured a web of think tanks, lobby groups and web sites to sustain that denial… And if you can’t see that, you’re wearing blinkers/blinders.

Watching the deniers November 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for this Gareth,

Recently I’ve put my own blog “Watching the deniers” on hold while I rebuild the site and it’s contents.

After almost a year of blogging I’d come to the conclusion that the best thing I could do was record the “crimes” of the Australian denial industry for future historians/generations.

By listing their names, their sources of funding, their associations with think tanks and their arguments against science I hope future generations damn them for their role is stalling action.

We had 20 years to act. They stalled that action. Thus…

I ACCUSE the following institutions of “crimes” against future generations, of running a deliberate campaign of disinformation and contempt for their well being of their fellow human beings:

– The Institute of Public Affairs, it’s staff and members: for playing a central role in organising the Australian denial movement
– Alan Moran: the IPA’s most visible front man
– Contrarian scientists: Ian Pilmer, Bob Carter et.al for betraying science and using their status to lend credibility to a fossil fuel funded campaign of disinformation. The science is settled, however they have helped confuse the public and politicians who trust their authority on scientific matters
– News Corporation: it is no secret that the Murdoch’s media empire is home to most “sceptical” journalists and the vile Fox News
– The editors of The Australian for their continuing “war on science”
– The editors of The Herald Sun for providing a regular platform for disinformation written by Andrew Bolt. In their single minded push to generate “controversy” to boast sales/hits of their paper/website they have betrayed the public who trust them to keep them informed
– Individual journalists such as Andrew Bolt, Janet Albrechtsen, Terry McCrann and Alan Jones for fueling the denial industry via their regular news columns/radio programs
– Industry funded “sceptics” Jo Nova, David Evans and the swarm of petty, ill informed hacks that seek to mislead the Australian public
– The Liberal Party of Australia: under the leadership of John Howard and Tony Abbott, they have rejected the science and stalled action at the political level. Under their stewardship, they left the people and economy of Australia vulnerable to climate change. Their failure is the most profound, as they failed to act in the national interest.
– Hugh Morgan: mining magnate, founder of climate sceptic think tanks
– Alan Oxley: former ambassador, uses his profile and contacts to publish in the media and run a lobby group in order to deny climate change.

There are of course many others. These individuals are some of the most prominent members of the Australian denial industry and have betrayed the publics trust.

We would do well to remember their names in the coming decades.

When we ask ourselves “why didn’t we act sooner”, we can partially explain our failure by the actions of the deniers.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm

This got caught up in the spam queue, WTD. Sorry.

John D November 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm

The science is settled, however they have helped confuse the public and politicians who trust their authority on scientific matters

“The science is settled”.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

We know enough to justify urgent action. That’s settled.

RW November 3, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Most of us will be beyond caring what you think.

RW November 4, 2010 at 8:59 am

I presume you’ve had a crack at Weatherzone, the Australian forum that’s crawling with deniers, liars and fundamentalist religious nutters?

The newspapers here give space to plenty of denialist opinion, and the reader feedbacks columns in both the online NZ Herald and Stuff have some resident denialist trollers who spring into action whenever warming is mentioned.

John D November 4, 2010 at 9:01 am

RW, to whom are you addressing your comment?

RW November 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

Don’t you understand the nesting system used for replies? I’m responding to Watching The Deniers. If you ever shut up for more than a few minutes, you might learn something at least as complex as the reply system. Fat chance.

John D November 4, 2010 at 9:40 am

RW,
If you wish to take your sociopathic comments offline to spare the readers of this blog your content-free venom, I am more than happy to contact you via your website.

bill November 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

John D, you’re taking a leaf out of Lank’s book here and using words whose meaning you clearly don’t understand. And I’d suggest you are scarcely in a position to be casting aspersions on the mental health of others…

RW November 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Watching The Deniers – please note my questions/comments above – I’m interested to know if you have ever checked out the websites and forums mentioned. A lot of harm is being perpetrated by those actively spreading disinformation on them. I’m referring to it again here because the flow of the thread was interrupted by an unwanted and irrelevant contribution. In my view it’s unfortunate the the scoring system is not in use at present – I don’t want to read the contributions of denialist trolls, and I’m sure there are others who feel the same way. Any chance of a reinstatement Gareth?

Gareth November 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Their disappearance had nothing to do with me! The plug-in just stopped working. Might be my fault – installation of some other thing perhaps – but I haven’t been able to debug the WP installation. I’ll have another go when I’ve got a spare hour or two.

John D November 4, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I’m referring to it again here because the flow of the thread was interrupted by an unwanted and irrelevant contribution.

Which one, specifically?

tomfarmer November 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm

WTD writes We would do well to remember their names in the coming decades.

Look forward to that, WTD.

Deny all they wish, the facts of indicative climatic reconstructions are in existence, ongoing and valuable.

AS the dynamics unfold so too will future indicatives. And actual results.. by which the thoroughly incompetant can also be seperated from the criminal. The badging hath been underway for some time.

And I note how the subheading to this blog relates to the future of New Zealand. For it is that future due for sustained change the like of which has never been experienced by humankind before.

So, for its unique territorial placement this country more than most northern hemisphere countries will suffer hugely according to what is already known in data-based reconstructions

Yes, kochtopii et als will need their billions to meet all damages claims both in and out-of-court actions. To come.

BTW: didn’t California deliver responsible democracy on the so-called AB32.

Such benchmarks of behavior have very relevant merit, too.

sailrick November 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm

David

Sure there are uncertainties about how much feedbacks will accelerate the warming, or slow it. Uncertainty cuts both ways. Skeptics don’t seem to understand this point. It could be much worse than scientists think. And their projections assumed humans were smart enough to start cutting back on emissions.

So far, the IPCC has proven to be too conservative in projections. Best case scenario with large cuts in CO2 is bad enough at about 2 C warming. Look at a chart of Arctic sea ice Volume at the University of Washington Polar Science Center website. What is happening already with 1 C warming is sobering enough.
What happens in the Arctic will effect climate changes elsewhere, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.

Richard C1

So how do you feel about the witch hunt against climate scientists by the likes of Cuccinelli in Virginia, or Joe (apologise to BP) Barton in the U.S. House. Fishing expedition indeed.

There is no mystery about whether these people are waging a disinformation campaign. They are. There are no two ways about it. Either they are dishonest or incredibly stupid. Take your pick. I don’t think they are stupid.

The Bush administration had a petroleum institute lawyer (Cooney) edit the federal climate study to water it down. This same lawyer was involved with the censoring of climate scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. This included trying to stop climatologist James Hansen from reporting on 2005 global avg temps, which were among the warmest on record.

David -your logic about risk management makes no sense. When 97% of the world’s climate scientists tell you there is over 90% chance of serious danger and damage from climate change, I think its time for insurance.

We insure against other threats that have a one in a million chance of happening, or one in 10,000 or even one in 100, or whatever. But climate change that could destroy civilization and maybe cause mass extinction, with odds of ‘very likely’, is nothing to worry about in your mind.

David November 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Ah Sailrick, then why do the IPCC models exlude all other types of feedback except CO2.
No clouds no PDO or AMO, no solar etc etc

“James Hansen from reporting on 2005 global avg temps, which were among the warmest on record”
Now thats funny.
Hansens fiddling has been well exposed and contradicted by satellite (UAH) measurement. This is the same Hansen who told us sea levels will rise 2 meters yet the actual is 3mm per annum (Jason/Topex)

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:08 pm

David, you’re quite wrong about how global climate models work. It appears you’ve been misinformed. And any more references to “fiddling” by Hansen will get your comments snipped.

RW November 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Absolute tripe.

Bob Bingham November 4, 2010 at 8:23 am

Although water in the atmosphere is the biggest warming gas it is neutral in its effect as clouds trap heat from underneath and reflect heat from the top. Its obvious really as the worlds temperature has been relatively stable for thousands of years with constant water and CO2. You don’t need to be a scientist to work that out.

John D November 4, 2010 at 8:53 am

You don’t need to be a scientist to work that out.

Bob, please.

Don’t show the side up.

Gavin's Pussycat November 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

> You don’t need to be a scientist to work that out.

Being a scientist might or might not help you understand that clouds are not made of water vapour.

sailrick November 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Exhibit A

” the Global Climate Coalition, which represented ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, the American Petroleum Institute and several big motor manufacturers. In 1995 the coalition’s own scientists reported that “the scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied.”(7)

The coalition hid this finding from the public, and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade people that the opposite was true.

These people haven’t fooled themselves, but they might have fooled you. Who, among those of you who claim that climate scientists are liars and environmentalists are stooges, has thought it through for himself?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th December 2009

http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2009/12/07/the-real-climate-scandal/

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Hang on a minute here.

If going against scientific consensus on a subject which might influence policy makers to make a decision which has negative consequences for a large number of people is now to be deemed a ‘Crime’ then I’d suggest you are opening yourself up for some serious unintended consequences.

By all means allow people and countries to sue for the impacts of AGW but I’d suggest anything else is just nonsense.

Try and win a Public policy debate using traditional methods rather than inventing silly ideas and concepts.

Speaking of which what do you think of my idea to slap a surcharge on the elderly to pay the intergenerational cost of climate change Gareth/Bryan?

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 1:46 pm

You don’t have the privilege of ignoring evidence that doesn’t suit your purpose.

Public policy debates that are conducted without reference to the underlying physical reality are seldom productive — and that’s what we’ve seen. “Have the courage to do nothing” says Monckton to Congress. It doesn’t take courage, it takes blind stupidity.

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

People can ignore whatever they like. It is called freedom of viewpoint.

The Greens ignore all the Scientific evidence backing GM crops and push the minority view that GM crops could be potentially harmful. That is their right.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

GM is off-topic, and irrelevant in any case. You are free to ignore any evidence you choose, but you are not free to advocate for policy that only works if you ignore that evidence. You don’t get to pick and choose the physical reality you live in.

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

First off I’m not doing anything of the sort regarding ignoring evidence or pushing policies.

Second off people pick and choose dodgy ideas all the time. That is why an awful lot of people think miricles happen and still believe in Religion.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

So you accept that the evidence that global warming is happening and dangerous is overwhelming? And you accept that there has been a carefully constructed PR campaign to misinform the public and politicians about that evidence?

Gosman November 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I accept the first part. The second part I disagree with. There has been an organised campaign against it. However noone sets out to misinform people. Even Creationists believe what they spout even though it flies in the face of the Scientific consensus.

Gareth November 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Good. We’re making progress. The evidence for a misinformation campaign is clear enough, laid out in considerable detail in the books I referenced above. Read the reviews here for a flavour of their content. As for “no-one sets out to misinform people” — how do you account for the willingness of people like Bob Carter and Monckton to tell straight-faced lies in public, and the promotion of their views by the likes of the Heartland Institute (see Sailrick’s references down thread)?

Gosman November 4, 2010 at 9:23 am

Gareth,

Do you think someone who wants to push Intelligent design in Science classes is deliberately misinforming people about the debate or do you think it is more likely they hold a genuine, if misplaced view, on the subject and are therefore just trying to get their view accepted, as everyone is entitled to?

Gareth November 4, 2010 at 9:32 am

ID is also off-topic. But yes, there are undoubtedly people who genuinely “believe” that global warming isn’t happening. There are people who believe the earth is flat, but that doesn’t mean we should give their views any credence when planning a trip to Australia. That people can be misguided about the facts about climate change is obvious enough, but the fact that the position flourishes in the face of the evidence is precisely because there has been a coordinated campaign to mislead. It’s the people running that campaign, and the corporations, trusts and people funding it that will be the target for future litigation.

Gosman November 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

No, the ID debate is a good example of how another area of public policy has an organised and coordinated campaign against what is regarded as the overwhelming Scientific consensus.

Yet noone talks about people deliberatly misinforming people on that one or of “dark forces” secretly controlling the opposition to mainstream science in that debate.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of people opposed to Evolution honestly hold their views that Evolution is not supported by the scientific evidence. Equally I think that without a shadow of a doubt the people railing againstthe concepts behind AGW believe in their view and are not doing so because they are being paid to do so or because they think the world is screwed and they might as well make a lot of money now.

The trick is to try and work out why they hold those beliefs and if you can sway them to your view. Failing that you need to look at ways of effectively countering it.

I’d suggest wringing your hands and moaning about how it is so unfair that the people without Science on their side are allowed to express their opinions and, (Goodness gracious!), get to participate in public policy formation is a rather ineffective option to take.

Gareth November 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

Actually, people do talk about the “strategy” to promote ID developed by some religious groups in the US, and it appears that they have borrowed techniques used in tobacco/climate denial…

I’d suggest wringing your hands and moaning about how it is so unfair that the people without Science on their side are allowed to express their opinions and, (Goodness gracious!), get to participate in public policy formation is a rather ineffective option to take.

Now this is really disingenuous. What I am complaining about is not the expression of dissent, but the organisation of that dissent to distort the policy making process. We could argue about the exact amount of delay that campaign has enabled (a good first stab would be when the US refused to sign up for Kyoto, despite having been involved in negotiating the substance of the deal), but delay there has been, and the end result will be worse climate change and more damage, and –probably — more litigation.

Since the worst of those damages are some way off (cf climate commitment, and we can argue about how long), I would guess that the key players have judged that they will not be around to face the music. The bad news for them (and us), is that we may not have long to wait…

Gavin's Pussycat November 11, 2010 at 1:20 am

About creationists, sure many of them genuinely believe their nonsense. As another data point, some quacks — proponents of whatever kind of ‘alternative’ medical treatment they happen to believe in — actually believe their treatment works. It will make no difference in the courts: they’ll go down for causation of death if any of their patients die, in some countries even if the death can be linked to failure to tell the patient to seek licenced medical treatment, and not to the treatment itself. And IMHO damn right.

It’s ‘knew of ought to have known’. Yes it’s a thin line. Legal scholars will find a place to draw it.

John D November 4, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Just a small point here.

ID and creationism are not the same thing.

Gareth November 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm

To a first approximation they are. The ID people claim it isn’t creationism, but that’s only a tactic.

[But: OT - no more please!]

laurence November 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Good idea Gosman, just as soon as you pay up for all the intergenerational advantages we have given you as a kick start we”ll get right on to it.

RW November 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

As a depressing example of the unmitigated tripe that the main newspapers print as reader comments in their opinion columns, consider some of the stuff here in response to Fitzsimon’s article:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10684627

Mind you, they’d be hard put to beat resident trolls here, like R2D2 & Wrathall.

sailrick November 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm

JohnD

“All the sceptic blogs that I read have tip jars and are guys working in their spare time, or retired.
I don’t see any media presence from Oil companies talking down climate change, period.
Where is this money going?”

How about the money being channeled through the following groups, which also help dispense the message. And there are more than in this list.
They are mostly industry front groups. Notice the Orwellian names. So benign, scientific or grassroots. Climate Coalition, for example is an anti environmental industry front group.

These 32 organizations have all been involved in the tobacco industry’s campaign to deny the science showing the dangers of tobacco.
They are all now involved in the campaign to deny the science of climate change.

1. Acton Institute
2. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
3. Alexis de Tocquerville Institute
4. American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
5. Americans for Prosperity
6. Atlas Economic Research Foundation
7. Burson-Marsteller (PR firm)
8. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)
9. Cato Institute
10. Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
11. Consumer Alert
12. DCI Group (PR firm)
13. European Science and Environment Forum
14. Fraser Institute
15. Frontiers of Freedom
16. George C. Marshall Institute
17. Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
18. Heartland Institute
19. Heritage Foundation
20. Independent Institute
21. International Center for a Scientific Ecology
22. International Policy Network
23. John Locke Foundation
24. Junk Science
25. National Center for Public Policy Research
26. National Journalism Center
27. National Legal Center for the Public Interest (NLCPI)
28. Pacific Research Institute
29. Reason Foundation
30. Small Business Survival Committee
31. The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)
32. Washington Legal Foundation

#5 and #9 are Koch creations
#24 is run by Steve Milloy, a paid fossil fuel lobbyist, and professional PR man, with no science background at all. He is one of FOX Noise favorite “climate experts”. He was also behind the recent Surpreme Court personhood for corporations issue. I forget the name – Citizens ……?

sailrick November 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm

And of course the public hears or reads quotes in the news by the Heritage Foundation for instance, and assume that “its a think tank, it must be unbiased knowledgeable information”. The Heritage Foundation always fights against environmental policy. Its just PR

I mean, who would not believe a group with a name like – The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition ?
or
International Center for a Scientific Ecology

John D November 3, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I have never ever heard a quote in any mainstream media outlet from any of these organisations.

In fact, I haven’t heard of most of them.

Richard T November 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm

You should get out more.

cindy November 3, 2010 at 3:56 pm

you probably haven’t seen them in NZ but they are rife elsewhere, especially in the US. For example Patrick Michaels is the Cato Institute’s “senior fellow in environmental studies” – heard of him?

RW November 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Thereby underlining your igorance – or faux naivete.

Thomas November 5, 2010 at 12:16 am

Oh Dear JD! Yet you regurgitate the very position that these folks have carefully crafted and keep on crafting. Wired how well PR works especially as 99% of the crap peddled on AGW denier websites can one way or the other be traced back to the list of institutions that sail has provided kindly here…..

Carol Cowan November 5, 2010 at 10:57 pm

That’s true, Thomas. I have researched that for myself. There’s a huge echo chamber on the web – one can find masses of blogs repeating the same thing, word for word but eventually one finds the original statement comes from one or more of the same few sources. Sometimes there is just a few minutes between the postings of those statements in numerous places – obviously there is an effecient distribution system in place.

R2D2 November 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm

“No doubt some will argue the billionaire’s corner”

Come on, don’t try and make this a rich vs poor argument now! (is good vs evil not enough for you?) There are plenty of billionaires in both corners!

(Soros and Gore to name just two)

Doug November 4, 2010 at 8:14 am

Gore is not a billionaire, just a millionaire. Its this sort of sloppy work that continues to undermine your position.

Come on R2 lift your game.

John D November 4, 2010 at 8:29 am

Gore is not a billionaire, just a millionaire.

Yes, but it’s only a matter of time.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/6491195/Al-Gore-could-become-worlds-first-carbon-billionaire.html

RW November 4, 2010 at 8:46 am

Do you ever manage to get a fact right?

John D November 4, 2010 at 8:50 am

Are you referring to me, RW? And if so, which fact?

RW November 4, 2010 at 9:24 am

I’m referring to the metallic-brained R2D2 and his “billionaire” Gore. I’m not interested in responding to your waffle, as previously remarked.

R2D2 November 4, 2010 at 11:13 am

Sorry, I take it back, its OK to make this a rich vs poor arguement because Gore is not a billionaire.

I made the mistake of converting his fortune to Galactic Currency, in which he was a billionaire at the time of the comment, but since QE2 his worth has slipped back a little.

nommopilot November 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

the big difference is that Gore is smartly investing in new technology which will benefit the world in terms of energy efficiency regardless of whether the climate is changing

the kochs are investing in obscuring the scientific evidence beneath an ocean of muck

one is “putting his money where his mouth is” the other is putting their money where it will enable business-as-usual for as long as possible.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: