There now seems to be a trenchcoat war brewing between journalists over the Climategate whitewashes and the recent “blacklist”. For example, the WSJ recently ran a story on the folly of the Muir-Russell inquiry, and is being lambasted for taking a stand on the skeptical side. One journalistic camp accepts the blacklist and inquiry decision without question, the other camp sees through it and questions why such basic things as why the inquiries never talked to the plaintiffs (skeptics) and why climate activists need such a list at all except to isolate people.
One such war of words is taking place in an unlikely place ; on the pages of the Financial Post in Canada.
Two columns, two opinions. One in my opinion, ugly, the other matter of fact. You be the judge for yourselves which is which.
First excerpts from Jonathan Kay, titled “Bad Science: Global Warming Deniers are a Liability to the Conservative Cause.”
Followed by excerpts from Terrence Corcoran: Bad politics The politicization of climate science reaches new low with the development of a deniers blacklist
Let me be clear: Climate-change denialism does not comprise a conspiracy theory, per se: Those aforementioned 2% of eminent scientists prove as much. I personally know several denialists whom I generally consider to be intelligent and thoughtful. But the most militant denialists do share with conspiracists many of the same habits of mind. Oxford University scholar Steve Clarke and Brian Keeley of Washington University have defined conspiracy theories as those worldviews that trace important events to a secretive, nefarious cabal; and whose proponents consistently respond to contrary facts not by modifying their hypothesis, but instead by insisting on the existence of ever-wider circles of high-level conspirators controlling most or all parts of society. This describes, more or less, how radicalized warming deniers treat the subject of their obsession: They see global warming as a Luddite plot hatched by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Al Gore to destroy industrial society. And whenever some politician, celebrity or international organization expresses support for the all-but-unanimous view of the world’s scientific community, they inevitably will respond with a variation of “Ah, so they’ve gotten to them, too.”
In support of this paranoid approach, the denialists typically will rely on stray bits of discordant information — an incorrect reference in a UN report, a suspicious-seeming “climategate” email, some hypocrisy or other from a bien-pensant NGO type — to argue that the whole theory is an intellectual house of cards. In these cases, one can’t help but be reminded of the folks who point out the fluttering American flag in the moon-landing photos, or the “umbrella man” from the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination.
In part, blame for all this lies with the Internet, whose blog-from-the-hip ethos has convinced legions of pundits that their view on highly technical matters counts as much as peer-reviewed scientific literature. But there is something deeper at play, too — a basic psychological instinct that public-policy scholars refer to as the “cultural cognition thesis,” described in a recently published academic paper as the observed principle that “individuals tend to form perceptions of risk that reflect and reinforce one or another idealized vision of how society should be organized … Thus, generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings.”
The reason for noting all this is that “Expert Credibility in Climate Change” was the spring board for a piece in yesterday’s National Post by Jonathan Kay, titled “Bad Science: Global Warming Deniers are a Liability to the Conservative Cause.” The paper, he said, shows that only a tiny sliver of fringe opinion held skeptical views of climate science, and that fringe smacks of right-wing conspiratorial craziness. “One can’t help but be reminded of the folks who point out the fluttering American flag in the moon landing photos, or the ‘umbrella man’ from the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination.”
One of the first principles of good science and even in life is that before you start jumping up and down on the diving board to do a cannonball into the pool, it is best to first make sure there is water in the pool. This is especially true if the pool is maintained by the scientific mop-and-pail crew that produced “Expert Credibility in Climate Change.”
The paper was cited on Green blogs such as desmogblog as the work of “Stanford University researchers” and by Mr. Kay as “scholars” from Stanford University and the University of Toronto.
Let me introduce the scholars.
James W. Prall, a system administrator and tech support contact for all research computing at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at the University of Toronto. That’s his day job. When not doing that, Mr. Prall spends his free time developing and maintaining a list of some 2,100 climate scientists and ranking them according to whether or not they are climate deniers. Mr. Prall’s academic background is unclear, although his blog site informs he is a Virgo. His views of climate issues are clear, however. He is “all too familiar with the tiny minority of ‘climate skeptics’ or ‘deniers’ who try to minimize the problem, absolve humans of any major impact, or suggest there is no need to take any action. I’ve gotten pretty fed up with the undue weight given to the skeptics in the media and online.”
William R. L. Anderegg, the lead author of the paper, is a biology student at Stanford who did his honours thesis on wetland bird populations. He is a climate activist and a member of Students for a Sustainable Stanford. His picture suggests a free spirit. Astrological sign not readily available.
Jacob Harold, who holds an MBA from Stanford’s business school, makes his main living as a program officer in the philanthropy program at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, set up by one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard and now a giant $7-billion cash machine for green activism and research all over North America, including Canada’s anti-fish farm movement. Mr. Harold’s staff bio at Hewlett says he spent a year “as a grassroots organizer with Green Corps, where he led campaigns on climate change, forest protection and tobacco control.” There is nothing in the postings to indicate whether the Hewlett Foundation funded the black list paper or Mr. Prall’s research. Nor is it clear what role Mr. Harold played in the research.
Stephen H. Schneider is the only member of the four co-authors who can claim status as a scholar. He is Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University, author of 450 scientific papers, and a genuine climate scientist, including a lead author on the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Without Prof. Schneider as a co-author, it seems doubtful the prestigious National Academy of Sciences would have published “Expert Credibility in Climate Change.”
Prof. Schneider is also notorious for his views on how climate science should be conducted. Climate scientists, he once said, are like most people. “We’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. “
That’s the scholarly science team that’s maintaining the pool that Jonathan Kay is jumping into, the only scholar being a man who believes in scary scenarios and avoiding doubts.
UPDATE:While both articles are presented here for readers, over at Climate Progress, Joe Romm doesn’t have the integrity to put up excerpts and links to both sides of what’s going on at that newspaper, only the side he likes, while at the same time bashing WUWT saying it has reached “peak traffic”. Heh. Will he post excerpts or links to Corcoran’s essay to give CP even a thin residue of balance? Doubtful.