The denial twist

hansen.jpg James Hansen [CV], the most outspoken climate scientist in the world, has been stirring up something of a furore. Invited by the Democrats to speak in Washington on the 20th anniversary of his famous 1988 testimony to Congress on the dangers of global warming, he used to opportunity to complain about the funding of climate disinformation campaigns by fossil fuel companies [full text]:

Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming. CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children.

Prosecuted for “high crimes against humanity and nature”. That’s a pretty radical view and not surprisingly the climate disinformers have been hard at work trying to rubbish the idea – and Hansen and his work.

Andy Revkin at Dot Earth covers the talk, plus a rather ‘well they would say that, wouldn’t they” reply from big coal, while George Monbiot in The Guardian sympathises but doesn’t think it’ll happen any time soon. I was going to ignore this ruckus as primarily of relevance to the US, until I looked at this post by David Farrar at Kiwiblog. DPF feels free to indulge in some invective:

Frog blogs (?in support) of a James Hansen who is trying to prosecute CEOs of large oil companies for “crimes against humanity and nature”. And their crimes:

“Undermining public understanding about global warming”

Is that not the most scary thing you have read? This mad bastard wants to lock up or execute people (normal punishment for crimes against humanity) because they disagree with him on global warming. There are fanatics and there are eco-fascists.

David’s touring the UK at the moment, so perhaps an excess of Flowers fine ales prompted this outburst (although he isn’t averse to playing the “eco fascist” card from time to time), but this is the worst kind of tabloid blogging. Let’s make up stuff (the reference to execution) and whip up some anti-environmentalist fervour. He should be ashamed of himself.

But what motivated me to post on this subject was a comment by Owen McShane, one of the more voluble of the NZ C”S”C cranks:

The debate about Hansen may soon be resolved in the Courts. A group are proposing to present an open letter to the US Attorney General recommending that he be stripped of his office, required to repay the various environmental awards he’s been given, and prosecuted for conspiracy with Al Gore and others to perpetrate securities fraud. The process will be supported by many experts who will submit testimony.

“A group?” No prizes for guessing the names. Or the “experts”. But I wonder who will fund the case? The Heartland Institute, by any chance, since the first threats of court action were made at their crank conference earlier this year? Who exactly are the eco-fascists here?

But it makes Hansen’s point rather well, don’t you think?

(And if any case should come anywhere near court, I’ll be first in the line to donate to his defence fund).

PS: For the record, I doubt very much that any tobacco-style court action will be successful against fossil fuel companies – though have been some attempts already in the US. They are too big, and too powerful in political circles. But I do think that the last ten years of carefully orchestrated disinformation on the need for action will be viewed in a very poor light in years to come, particularly if the climate changes rapidly. And that might lead to some attempts at action. Society’s views on what constitutes acceptable behaviour can change pretty rapidly – particularly in the face of adversity. The links with tobacco clearly run deep…

23 thoughts on “The denial twist”

  1. A society under stress will be eager to place blame and will be unforgiving if deliberate misdirection by deniers can be shown beyond reasonable doubt.

    Do we need to find (and use) another John C Woods before it is too late?

  2. The reference to companies providing funds to help shape school text books casts National’s Private Public Partnership (PPP) policy proposals for education in an entirely new light.

    It’s looking like we are increasingly looking at a period of US Republican-style reality-redefinition according to business imperatives if National win the election.

    The NZ Herald’s greenwashing while at the same time rashing people who actually SUCCEED (Herald-lead CFL furore) in promoting green policies is another warning sign the Big media ia largely, if not entirely, in the bag.

  3. Unfortunately, to me it seems that it does not matter if Hansen is correct or not, he should be careful in the way he frames his language. Only because, many people still do not comprehend the extent of the climate change issue. The people who don’t understand the evidence, or who are blind to the blatantly obvious evidence, will be turned of to it, if it is framed in the wrong langauge.

    Part of me wishes that he is wrong, I don’t know if we will ever get back to 350 in the near future

  4. I think it’s worth remembering that Hansen is aiming his words at an American audience. The climate “debate” – such as it is – is markedly different there, and I think he’s looking for soundbites that will get his message into the mainstream media. He has long been vilified by the more rabid US denialists (paid or otherwise), so I suspect he plays them at their own game.

    As for 350ppm, we have no chance of getting back there any time soon. I really must get my thoughts on targets organised and posted…. but I have got paying work to do and truffles to harvest 😉

  5. Gareth:

    It’s working. The wheels of the crapmill are churning again, and we have two shiny brand new talking points from the High Respectable Inactionosphere:

    1. another ‘global cooling’ ‘result’ which makes a jab at Hansen
    2. an online poll by Anthony Watts

    By the way, be sure to crash the online poll! (I just did, hahah.) Let’s see how long they take to send the poll results to the US Senate if they turn out the wrong way…

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

  6. Well, Frank, their poll does seem to have become a little skewed, and Mr Watts is acting a little upset:

    A couple of Pro-Hansen sites have staged a “crash party” for this poll. This has accounted for a huge increase in the votes for the first question. This sometimes happens with online polls when agenda driven activists decide to skew it, which is the biggest weakness of online polls.

    Of course Mr Watts is not an “agenda driven activist”. Not at all. Ever.

    But he is very pompous. Apparently he seriously intended to send the results of his poll to the Senate!

    Forgive me a little chuckle…

  7. I’m surprised there were enough numbers to do it, given the nature of the climate blogosphere. Did it get plugged on one of the big non-climate sites?

    Pompous and none-too-bright.

  8. Face facts people, Hansen is nothing short of a delusional fanatic spouting nonsense about a ficticous AGW.

    Yes bring back capital punishment and string him up with his mate Al right next to him.

    Maybe then us sane people can get on with our lives peacefully basking in this CO2 saturated world.

    And 350, ah the good old days eh. A tad more chilly but not by much.

  9. I quite like the idea of the Inactivists taking Hansen to court. It would be an easier action to take than what Hansen proposes and would certainly lay the groundwork for that future case from the ‘society under stress’

    There would also be a some poetry to the justice if your donation (Gareth) came from your Arctic sea ice bet…


    PS. what price a portion of truffle Gareth, I’ve never tasted it and I am a fungi fan.

  10. Ah, bat, always guaranteed to make me smile. The sweet soft voice of (in)sanity.

    Andrew: Just about to eat some white truffle. The black will be gone later tonight… I’m sure we can do you a deal on a smallish truffle. It’s usually $3 – $3.50 per gram, but 10 – 15g is plenty to give you a good meal for two to four, depending what you cook. Try me again in a couple of weeks – if we’ve got some spare I’ll see what I can do…

  11. Andrew H:

    “I quite like the idea of the Inactivists taking Hansen to court.”

    Nice idea, but not going to happen. Last I heard, Monckton was still looking for someone other than himself to sue Hansen (and Gore). He probably can’t bear to dirty his own beautiful hands with this stuff.

    And on a related note, John Coleman admits that his phantom lawsuit against Gore is “a long way from the Court room”.

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

  12. Monckton said,

    “So I wrote to the administrator of NASA and I said […] I want it investigated and I think there are financial irregularities behind the conduct of your people in this matter and given that they have financial links with Al Gore. And so they are, in fact, now investigating it. […] And if they don’t come back to me very soon and say that they have disciplined this man […] then I am going to refer this case via diplomatic channels to the U.S. attorney general’s office because they are the only office who are allowed to refer investigations to the Securities & Exchange Commission.”

    That was in March.

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

  13. Steve Bloom:

    Watts is still evading the main problem: that the poll design and implementation are garbage.

    It seems that, despite the obvious problems with the poll, he’ll propose to using this bogus poll as a ‘basis’ for action. If someone ever tries to do that, it’s time to raise a really, really huge stink.(*) Whatever the poll ‘results’ may be.

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

  14. On living without regard to hard truths, matters of scale or limits to growth

    How freedom without responsibility destroys life as we know it.

    How do rich and famous people, who live large and have huge ecological footprints, as well as corporate ‘citizens’ that cast giant shadows over the Earth today, so easily get away with socially irresponsible behavior which could soon precipitate an ecological catastrophe?

    As everyone knows but few openly discuss, wealth and power buy freedom. What is all too obvious but often cloaked in silence is this: A small minority of individuals in the human family with great fortunes and virtually all large corporations exercise their great wealth and power in ways that allow all of these self-proclaimed masters of the universe to live lavishly as well as to willfully refuse assumption of the responsibilities which necessarily come with freedom.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

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