US mens magazine Esquire has published an excellent profile of of Marc Morano — formerly James Inhofe’s chief of staff, the man who started the Swiftboat attack on John Kerry, now running the climate denial news hub Climate Depot (funded by Richard Mellon Scaife). Author John H Richardson runs through Morano’s role in promoting the CRU email hack (a useful addition to DeSmogBlogs “Climategate” autopsy), and then describes the trip he took with Morano to Copenhagen. It’s a fascinating insight into the operations of the tight little cabal of inactivists that run the denial campaign. At one evening event he encounters the cream of the crop: Steven Milloy (“the godfather” according to Morano), Tom Harris and (how could he miss him), serial fabulist Christopher Monckton:
Morano drifts over to Monckton, who is telling a story about a trip to the University of Rochester. “I was there to give a speech on the application of probabilistic computronics to the identification and quantification of phase transitions and bifurcations in a chaotic object, as one does… .”
After a TV interview in which Morano outfoxes a climate scientist, Richardson describes the tactics being used in this information war:
So that’s how it’s done, Morano says later. He’s the turd in the punch bowl, that’s all he is and all he can be. But that might be enough. If they can use the echo chamber to reach enough people, they can confuse them enough to change the narrative. It’s asymmetrical warfare updated for the age of the Internet.
That’s what reality is up against: a happy little band of people skilled in the new techniques for derailing debates and delaying effective action, and unashamed of using them to their utmost extent. It’s a chilling article, required reading for anyone who wants to understand who is framing “debate” in this field.
Science historian Naomi Oreskes, well known for her work on consensus in science (and climate science in particular) has a new book, Merchants of Doubt, due out in a couple of months. Helpfully sub-titled How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, it digs deep into the historical roots of the campaign to create doubt abut the need for action on a host of environmental issues. The video above is of a talk she gave at Brown University recently, outlining the material in the book. If you’re interested in the roots of the campaign against action on climate, this is an excellent overview. We’ll have a review of the book soon after it’s available.
A few months ago I posted about a presentation by science historian Naomi Oreskes, discussing the roots of denial. John Mashey (in comments at Deltoid, since promoted to a post) draws attention to another Oreskes talk – You CAN Argue With The Facts – which looks in some detail at how the Western Fuels Association test marketed climate dissent. Oreskes is typically incisive, but I found her calm dissection of the cynical application of professional marketing techniques to create an illusion (and later, the fact) of dissent truly shocking. If you were wondering where Hansen got his “prosecute the CEOs” call from, this is the context. Required viewing for all pol sci and mass comms students (you know who you are 😉 )…
In Hot Topic, I relegated discussion of climate cranks and their arguments to an appendix. In that section I look at the roots of denial, the influence of politics on scientific debate (or not-so-scientific debate, in most cases), and tried to highlight the irrelevance of sceptical views to our predicament today. UC San Diego historian of science Naomi Oreskes – already well known in climate circles for her paper testing the reality of consensus amongst climate scientists – gave a lecture titled The American Denial of Global Warming back in December last year, and it is well worth 58 minutes of anyone’s time. The first half deals with the history of climate science, and just how much agreement existed by the ’60s. In the second half she looks at how the George C Marshall institute developed the tactics of denial to defend Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, and then applied it to tobacco, the ozone hole, and, eventually, climate science. The roots of all the sceptic tropes used by our tame NZ CSC are laid out for all to see. Highly recommended.
Hat tip: dbeck in comments at RealClimate, John Mashey and Tim Lambert at Deltoid.