Guest post by Russell Cook
Lewandowsky et. al’s faulty methodology is just one of the paper’s problems; like many other ‘skeptic’ motivation analyses, its central premise is unproven and relies on a SINGLE highly questionable source.
Experts like Steve McIntyre pore over the manner in which the Lewandowsky paper’s survey was conducted. But there is another basic problem with this paper and others essentially similar to it, where a collective analysis proposes to explain why anyone would deny the settled science of global warming. Such papers operate under a false premise, namely that analysis is needed because the science is settled and skeptic scientists – who arguably are the only people qualified in this issue to offer science assessment opposition that might be valid – are corrupt.
No need to go any farther into the Lewandowsky paper than its first page to see this, where it says in the top paragraph that “More than 90% of climate scientists agree that the global climate is changing largely due to human CO2 emissions”, followed with a statement in the second paragraph that researchers “in history and sociology frequently cite the ‘manufacture of doubt’ by vested interests and political groups….”
This latter reference is in regard to the so-called ‘lies’ that skeptic scientists are said to be spreading via associations with right-wing think tanks. Immediately following each statement are citations from people who’ve made basically the same statements over many years: IPCC scientist Stephen Schneider and researchers William Freudenburg, Aaron McCright, Riley Dunlap, Chris Mooney, and Naomi Oreskes. A less evident but still troubling glimpse into this overall problem is the citation on pg 4 of Max Boykoff in regard to “the scientific consensus on climate change is often misrepresented in the media” and on pg 5 of Myanna Lahsen in support of the assertion that there is are “notions of a conspiracy among [skeptic] scientists.”
The core problem is the premise that skeptic scientists should be ignored because they are corrupt. The question is, who do these people rely on to prove this accusation? Rummage through any of the above individuals’ variety of writings and presentations, and a disturbing single source ultimately emerges:
- William R. Freudenburg, AAAS 2010 Annual Meeting, February 22, 2010, Organizer: Riley E. Dunlap, Discussants: Stephen H. Schneider, Naomi Oreskes, Speakers: Myanna Lahsen, Maxwell T. Boykoff, William R. Freudenburg,Understanding Climate-Change Skepticism: Its Sources and Strategies“(transcript here): “The Heartland Institute is one of the right-wing think-tanks that Riley [Dunlap] talked about, asking ‘can 19,000 scientists be wrong?’ Number one, that’s a very loose definition of ‘scientists’ that they use. And number two, a journalist Ross Gelbspan almost 15 years ago started saying ‘they sure can be’. What we’ve got here is a persistent and well funded campaign of denial.” (Note: At the above AAAS presentation, Naomi Oreskes said “the US coal industry launched a half million-dollar campaign … to challenge the scientific evidence regarding global warming….The number one point of this strategy was to reposition global warming as theory, not fact.”)
- Naomi Oreskes, 2007 PowerPoint Presentation “You Can Argue with the Facts: The Denial of Global Warming”, “Reposition global warming as theory not fact”, Ross Gelbspan, Boiling Point, 51-52
- Chris Mooney, “The Republican War on Science” 2007 book: “…climatologist Patrick Michaels, a recipient of substantial energy industry funding” … End note 62 “Michaels’s industry ties are documented in Gelbspan, The Heat is On”
- Chris Mooney, “Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?” Desmogblog, 1/19/11: “Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US…” (Note: Joe Romm stated in 2008, “Ross Gelbspan, whose defining books Boiling Point and The Heat is On were a big part of the inspiration for starting the DeSmogBlog…”)
- Riley E. Dunlap and Aaron M. McCright, Pg 144 Chapter 10, Organized Climate Change Denial 2011 book: “The blows have been struck by a well-funded, highly complex, and relatively coordinated ‘denial machine’ (Begley 2007)” (Note, this is the Sharon Begley Newsweek article in which she quoted without citation, “….the Information Council on the Environment. ICE’s game plan called for enlisting greenhouse doubters to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” ”)
- And; Dunlap / McCright, Pg 148: ” …the fossil fuels industry pioneered the charge against climate science and policy making. (Begley 2007; Gelbspan 1997; Goodell 2007)” (Note, the latter is Jeff Goodell’s book “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy” in which he said, “Western Fuels was one of the key backers of the Information Council on the Environment, a front group whose explicit purpose, according to Gelbspan, was to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact”)
- Jules Boykoff and Maxwell Boykoff, FAIR, November/December 2004 “Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias”: “In terms of the global warming story, “balance” may allow skeptics—many of them funded by carbon-based industry interests—to be frequently consulted and quoted in news reports on climate change. Ross Gelbspan … charges in his books The Heat Is On and Boiling Point that a failed application of the ethical standard of balanced reporting on issues of fact has contributed to inadequate U.S. press coverage of global warming”
- Jules Boykoff and Maxwell Boykoff, “Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the U.S. Prestige Press’ ”: …a small group of inﬂuential spokespeople and scientists emerged in the news to refute these [IPCC] ﬁndings (Gelbspan, 1998; Leggett, 2001; Schneider, 2001)” (Note, the Leggett citation is of Greenpeace’s Jeremy Leggett’s 2001 book “The carbon war: global warming and the end of the oil era” in which his acknowledgements section says, “to Ross Gelbspan for editorial assistance and for deploying his skills as an investigative journalist…” and where he says on pg 162, “Ross Gelbspan, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist… had been researching the carbon club’s dissidents for more than three years.”)
- Myanna Lahsen, “Chapter 5, The Detection and Attribution of Conspiracies: The Controversy Over Chapter 8” 1999, Pg 116: “Oil and coal companies have spent millions of dollars to hire public relations groups to orchestrate such efforts as well as aggressive media campaigns seeking to undermine public concern about global warming (Gelbspan 1995; 1997). An early example of such campaigns was the Information Council for the Environment (ICE)”
- Stephen Schneider (& Richard Wolfson), “Chapter 1, Understanding Climate Science”, 2002 PDF file, pdf’s pg 41, “A concerted effort by a handful of climate ‘contrarians’ or ‘greenhouse skeptics’—scientists who do not share the views of most climate scientists—has kept the ‘debate’ on global warming very much in public view.22” … End note 22 “Gelbspan, R., 2000: The Heat Is On”
- And; pdf’s pg 46: “The amplified influence of these “greenhouse skeptics,” and their close ties to the fossil-fuel industry, are well documented by journalist Ross Gelbspan in his book The Heat Is On.”
- Stephen Schneider, “Laboratory earth: the planetary gamble we can’t afford to lose” January 1997, pg 160: “For an exposé of a number of prime “contrarians” and their supporters, see R. Gelbspan, Dec. 1995. The heat is on. Harpers 35. Gelbspan is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.” (Note: Gelbspan never won a Pulitzer)
I could go on at length, and readers here are likely to find other connections I’ve missed, along with related problems which would take multiple articles to describe, such as the Boykoff situation I wrote about last June. But my point is the unmistakeable thread throughout all of this. It is eerily too easy to spot Ross Gelbspan’s associations with practically any given person who claims skeptic scientists are corrupt.
And Gelbspan, as I’ve pointed out earlier, has never proven he has any evidence to support his accusation that skeptic scientists are paid to manufacture doubt about man-caused global warming.
It certainly appears that what we have instead is around two decades of efforts by enviro-activists to manufacture doubt about the credibility of the skeptics. So, how many more attempts to smear skeptics can be thrown on this pile before the whole thing collapses?
Russell Cook’s collection of writings on this issue can be seen at “The ’96-to-present smear of skeptic scientists.” You may also follow him at Twitter via @questionAGW
[Duplicated text removed. Robt]