Naomi Oreskes, the Golden Opportunity

Reposted from Gelbspan files

Naomi Oreskes can do no wrong in the eyes of her supporters with her Merchants of Doubt book / documentary movie efforts that supposedly exposed the corporate-bought corruption of climate scientists skeptical about the idea of catastrophic man-caused global warming. In the eyes of people she accuses and people who see through her smear tactics and clumsy science pronouncements, she can’t seem to do anything right. Mere discussion of her antics accomplishes very little — she is emboldened to continue her accusations in the most reckless way because she’s met with practically no significant public opposition. The golden opportunity to hold her accountable, however, is arguably in the hands of the public hearing officials she faces, who might be able to do something about this problem. Making false statements in congressional hearings is actually a crime.

Oreskes’ faulty narratives are a never-ending gift. I’ve covered her seriously faulty narratives in two different series of blog posts, one 3-part set starting with her claim about a particular newspaper contacting her, and the other set concentrating on her apparently fabricated story of discovering who her main critic was. To make these particular dissections easier to find at GelbspanFiles, I’ve just re-tagged them as “Oreskes’ faulty narratives” or “Oreskes’ discovery odyssey.” Her Merchants of Doubt co-author “Erik Conway” also factors into her ‘discovery odyssey,’ of course.

But wait, there’s more. Consider her response to what U.S. House Rep Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said about the notorious American Petroleum Institute “Victory will be achieved …” leaked memos during her October 2019 U.S. House hearing appearance (full hearing transcript here):

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. And in 1998, API ‘s global science communications team action plan, which involved Exxon, Chevron, Southern Company, and more, laid out the industry’s denial campaign. They knew that they were going to dump unknown at that time amounts of money, but a large investment in a climate denial and doubt campaign in the United States and around the world, correct?
Mr. Hoffert. To the best of my knowledge, that’s true. But I didn’t know of that personally.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. They said victory would be achieved when, quote, “average citizens,” quote/unquote, understand uncertainties in climate science. Dr. Garvey, would you say these goals accurately represent the mission of Exxon in the past and today?
Mr. Garvey. Not in the past. Certainly not when I was there.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Would you say that currently the current environment that is fostered around doubt on scientific consensus could be a result of lobbying from the fossil fuel industry?
Mr. Garvey. I would say so, but I should let my cohort–you should answer that.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Sure. Dr. Oreskes?
Ms. Oreskes: Three hundred and 50 pages on that in my book “Merchants of Doubt.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Thank you very much.

The overall insinuation here was unmistakable: the mission of Exxon and other fossil fuel companies is to carry out high-dollar disinformation campaigns, proven by all 350 pages of Naomi Oreskes’ “Merchants of Doubt” book, and by the leaked API “Victory will be achieved” memo.

Watch the video for this specific hearing passage, though. Oreskes’ overly smug satisfaction with her reply most likely stems from her expectation that nobody would question it.

The Republican committee members not only missed a golden opportunity to skewer Rep Ocasio-Cortez on her ignorance regarding the unsolicited, never implemented, and otherwise valueless-as-evidence API memos, they missed the opportunity to completely reframe public perception about Naomi Oreskes’ credibility.

To their credit, Republicans Carol Miller and Chip Roy at least made Oreskes look slightly uncomfortable by asking her about an apparent oversight in her study of ExxonMobil, and about her obvious bias against Exxon. If they or the other Republican members had been fully prepped on everything there is to know about Oreskes, they would have viewed her self-congratulatory response about her 350 pages as a gift from heaven. Even a Democrat representative expressing simple curiosity about the matter could have asked this:

Rep. from either political party: Ms Oreskes, I see one of the two books you brought with you is your “Merchants of Doubt.” I have a copy of my own and may have missed where the passage is – could you tell me which specific page tells the details of the leaked API “Victory will be achieved” memo?

Deer-in-the-headlights look on Oreskes’ face. Her book doesn’t mention that memo at all, in any form, and only references the American Petroleum Institute twice in ways so cursory that they don’t even appear in the book’s index list.

It could have gone downhill at an exponential rate after that.

Rep. from either political party: Ms Oreskes, could you point out where the specific evidence is within your book, meaning leaked documents or devastating interview responses? For example, within the 40 pages for your chapter 3 on “Sowing the Seeds of Doubt: Acid Rain,” regarding claims that Exxon hired supposedly skeptic climate scientists to knowingly put out misinformation designed to undercut the IPCC reports about human-induced global warming?

The problem for Oreskes is, even within the 46 pages of her book’s chapter 6 solely on global warming, she provides exactly zero evidence of any pay-for-performance arrangement between any fossil fuel entity and skeptic climate scientists. But the book was praised as exposing exactly that situation, as was Oreskes’ documentary film of the same name, something eco-zealots widely spread and never questioned:

Well, set the book and movie aside. What about her own Prepared Written Testimony mentioning the “Informed Citizens for the Environment” disinformation campaign? As I already showed in extensive detail in my dissection of her appearance at the October House hearing, her incorrect naming of a very minor pilot project public relations campaign only makes the situation exponentially worse for her credibility, potentially opening a Pandora’s Box on the consideration that the only real disinformation campaign existing in the global warming issue may be one where enviro-activists orchestrated efforts to smear the reputation of skeptic climate scientists.

Right now, there’s no end in sight of efforts to keep the global warming issue alive via character assassination against skeptical critics because none of the major leaders of these efforts have ever faced withering examination by political committee members or mainstream media reporters. House Reps Carol Miller and Chip Roy demonstrated last October how just the barest of tough questioning makes Naomi Oreskes nervous. She faced no such questioning at a subsequent one-sided Senate “Special Group” discussion, and openly laughed at a similar 2016 joint Congressional Progressive Caucus / Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition forum discussion about her pleasure to speak to a “friendly committee chairman” (EiD’s Spencer Walrath described the session as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for future genuine congressional hearings).

Of course, nobody would seriously say Naomi Oreskes should be indicted for perjury when she said all 350 pages of her book is evidence of a skeptic scientists / industry executives disinformation conspiracy. She could have been reminded that she was under oath, that her declaration was not really remotely accurate, and that making corruption accusations devoid of evidence to back them up is a far more serious offense.

Therein lies the golden opportunity to stop the smear of skeptic climate scientists. Going on the offense to hold Oreskes accountable for her claims might prompt Democrats to seriously think twice before following her advice of subpoenaing alleged disinformation campaign ‘participants,’ when that could backfire in the most spectacular way imaginable.

Imagine the potential line questioning from a representative or Senator who is fully aware of myriad problems connecting Oreskes to Al Gore and the worthless “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” memo that Gore spelled out in his 2006 movie as evidence of the industry paid corruption of skeptic climate scientists. Imagine how the questioning could connect to the old Ozone Action environmentalist group that gave that leaked memo its first major media traction, the same place headed by John Passacantando and Kert Davies, the same pair who were more recently seen in a 2016 leaked email that detailed efforts to portray Exxon as a corrupt institution, the same pair who seem to be swimming in dark money, of which a large amount may be earmarked for Davies efforts at his Climate Investigations Center (CIC) to accuse fossil fuel companies of conspiring with skeptic climate scientists in disinformation campaigns.

That Kert Davies, the man I showed in my previous blog post, the man who stood in the doorway of the hearing room for Oreskes’ CPC / SEEC forum presentation, displaying glowing nodding approval.

 Imagine the discomfort in the hearing room if we all heard the following:

Fully knowledgeable Rep. / Senator: Ms Oreskes, have a look at this photo from your 2016 CPC / SEEC forum presentation – is the witness seated right next to you today the same man circled in that image? Can you tell us if it was a coincidence that he attended your presentation?

This can actually happen, and the possibilities for devastating questioning are endless. But it can only happen if members of oversight committees and their staffers are alerted by prominent influential people to the importance of this golden opportunity. It isn’t Earth in the balance here, it’s ultimately Al Gore’s legacy if it turns out he needed Oreskes’ 100% global warming consensus paper reference in his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” movie as leverage for the accusation within it that skeptic climate scientists are paid fossil fuel money to undercut the settled science of man-caused global warming.

62 thoughts on “Naomi Oreskes, the Golden Opportunity

  1. A very dangerous woman.
    One among many.
    UN’s Christiana Figueres
    Greta’s Mother & Greta
    Dame Bryony Worthington
    Angela Merkel
    A.O.C
    Katharine Hayhoe

    • Sorry bud. I can understand you (and i really do) but I don’t like these kind of lists at all, at least with that title. Their opinion is to be heard and our paper is to rebute. I once entered into Jim Prall’s list of “dangerous climate deniers” and I cannot distinguish such a list from the one you are proposing. People, even those whom we not agree with, are to be heard, as pathetic as their opinions can be. If you put in the top “Women with controversial opinions” or “Women with dumb opinions about climate” I could not agree more.
      Best regards

  2. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Dr. Oreskes have invented a seat for themselves on the Gravy Train and they’re going to ride it to the end of the tracks. The hysterical level of disinformation coming out of the fake news media is rising higher on a daily basis with the opportunity the Chicom Virus presents, and the temptation to blend the two themes (CAGW and Pandemic) together, in a Grand Unified Theory of Trump is Bad, has overwhelmed these trolls. Stay sane and safe.

  3. Michael Moore’s documentary shows that the environmental movement are vandals.
    Renewable energy is anything but environmentally friendly.
    Also, big oil makes a lot of money out of renewables, so they have no incentive to close it down.
    Renewable energy is not friendly to endangered species or any other species.
    It assumes that supporting technology appears out of nowhere with zero environmental impact.
    Where do copper, silicon chips, concrete and iron and steel come from?
    Where does plastic come from?

  4. AOC: “Have you ever been kidnapped by aliens?”
    Tom in Florida: “Yes, it’s in my book “A Truth Revealed”.”
    That proves it is true.

  5. reductio ad tabacum

    I posted this before, worth repeating, as I have been critical of Sigma Xi getting into policy, but these were out of that context as the organization’s administration has been pushing “climate change”. It was not clear where that came from but logical errors, 97% fallacy and Feynman were discussed– “https://www.americanscientist.org/article/reasonable-versus-unreasonable-doubt”
    “Loose comparisons with tobacco companies have become so common that the tactic has earned its own sobriquet: reductio ad tabacum.” Discusses this quote from Oresekes and Conway but does not get into the connection and the works other details–“Doubt-mongering also works because we think science is about facts—cold, hard, definite facts. If someone tells us that things are uncertain, we think that means that the science is muddled. This is a mistake. There are always uncertainties in any live science, because science is a process of discovery…”.

    Also– “For all the answers that theoretical models provide, they are a little bit like fables.”
    https://www.americanscientist.org/blog/macroscope/covid-19-models-demand-an-abundance-of-caution

  6. If I were a climate scientist who could be bought, I’d go where the real money is; government grants.

  7. The problem is where are you going to find a “Fully knowledgable Rep/Senator” not to mention MP or MSM writer or presenter?
    And even if you find one, nearly all of them have painted themselves into the AGW corner and don’t have any idea how to get out of it without wrecking their careers.

    • That is exactly the current problem – we don’t find such influential people. But the ones who do at least know of a couple of her major faults can be significantly better educated about the rest of her seemingly unending faults, to the extent where they know they can put her into a deer-in-the-headlights situation she’s not in the least prepared to deal with.

  8. Note the continued slide of the usage of the word “skeptic“, normally a valuable trait of a scientific mind, now connotatively associated with the word “denier”. Maybe we have to become “fact critics” to take advantage of the “alternative facts” meme. The agenda slide of common usage language, say a 100 years to go from “office girl“ to “secretary” to “administrative assistant“ can now take place in a 2 year tweet storm, and bigly.

  9. Perhaps this will help.

    Climate deniers – the Oreskes and Cortezs of this world – deal in emotional, qualitative narratives, whereas real; scientists who are of course skeptical, deal in unemotional , quantitative analysis.

    ‘Could’ and ‘might’, versus ‘estimated probability’ with ‘error bands’.. Emotional, qualitative narratives are the tools of those modern day black magicians, aka ‘marketing executives’.
    Those who seek to cause changes in people’s consciousnesses based on false assumptions.

  10. 350 pages of lies? Wow, that’s impressive, even for an ubergigunda super-liar like Orestes. Wonder how many pages she had to pad it to get to the magic 350.

    • Be thankful if someone like Nick Stokes had got involved that would have just been the introduction and redefinitions.

  11. There’s another serious problem with greens: they don’t distinguish between a peer reviewed scientific paper and any sort of pseudo-science article in a magazine. The people who write the latter are even considered to be “experts” in the field. For them both types of articles are “publications” of equal value. To consider that something written somewhere is acceptable as “proof” goes exactly along those lines.

    • The Hockey (Stick) Team redefined a “peer review”, so today there is really nothing to distinguish.

  12. An opportunity may have been lost, but all is not lost. Someone just needs to orchestrate another Congressional hearing and see to it the she is there and that there will be well prepared questioners.

  13. Is there some sort of Institute of Professional Science Sceptics that could prosecute this sort of thing?

    There seems to be a lot of us grumbling on sites such as WUWT, but the other side seems to have a lot of four letter acronyms propagating their disinformation.

    I should happily donate, if there were.

  14. From the article: “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. And in 1998, API ‘s global science communications team action plan, which involved Exxon, Chevron, Southern Company, and more, laid out the industry’s denial campaign. They knew that they were going to dump unknown at that time amounts of money, but a large investment in a climate denial and doubt campaign in the United States and around the world, correct?
    Mr. Hoffert. To the best of my knowledge, that’s true. But I didn’t know of that personally.
    Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. They said victory would be achieved when, quote, “average citizens,” quote/unquote, understand uncertainties in climate science. Dr. Garvey, would you say these goals accurately represent the mission of Exxon in the past and today?
    Mr. Garvey. Not in the past. Certainly not when I was there.
    Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Would you say that currently the current environment that is fostered around doubt on scientific consensus could be a result of lobbying from the fossil fuel industry?
    Mr. Garvey. I would say so, but I should let my cohort–you should answer that.
    Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. Sure. Dr. Oreskes?
    Ms. Oreskes: Three hundred and 50 pages on that in my book “Merchants of Doubt.”

    A quote from the quote above: “They [oil companies] said victory would be achieved when, quote, “average citizens,” quote/unquote, understand uncertainties in climate science.”

    That sounds like a victory for science to me. We *should* want the average citizen to know about the uncertainties in human-caused climate change science, because the uncertainties are great enough to cast doubt on the whole propostiion that humans are causing the climate to change from the burning of fossil fuels.

    The oil companies have a laudable goal.

    The goal of the Alarmists is to pretend there are no uncertainties in human-caused climate change science. The Alarmists say raising the case for uncertainties in climate science is denial. It is the Alarmists who are in denial of the truth. They can’t show any evidence for human-caused climate change, yet they pretend it is established fact. That’s what they are doing here and everywhere.

  15. Hard times create strong men;
    Strong men create good times;
    Good times create weak men;
    Weak men create hard times.

    USA had Obama, now has Trump.

    Canada had Harper, now has Trudeau.

    180 degrees out–of-phase.

    USA wins.

  16. This just shows how woefully unprepared the Climate Realist side of the equation is. This would have been a golden opportunity to expose those cheats. And it was wasted? What are the big institutes and lobbying organizations good for? This blunder is the best proof that if fossil fuel companies use the money to spin information on the Climate, they really suck at it. How could they have missed such an opportunity? But I think this is all bollocks. Most fossil fuel companies actually play balls with the Alarmists hoping they will eat them last. Their future is not important to them as the current set of managers hopes that they can end their terms without having to do any actual work on this count and if their companies go down the dumper after their term is out is not their problem anymore. And shareholders seem to be complicit. Politicians, bureaucrats, managers of public companies – one crappy bunch.

    • That was what I was getting at with my question above.

      It seems like we need a properly coordinated response.

      I realise that any scientist sticking his head over the parapet is taking a big risk, but not if there is enough gravitas behind him.

  17. I haven’t read Merchants of Doubt but the Wiki page mentions “key players, above all Bill Nierenberg, Fred Seitz, and Fred Singer”, presumably the chief ‘merchants of doubt’, all distinguished scientists.
    Nierenberg’s sin apparently was to dissent from the ‘consensus’ policy prescriptions, Fred Seitz’s for organizing the “infamous Oregon Petition”* (Wiki) and Fred Singer’s was to argue that CO2 should in principle have an effect “the atmosphere is very complicated and one cannot simply argue that just because CO2 is a greenhouse gas it causes warming” and radical environmentalists are exaggerating the danger.

    * Twenty years later the wording of the petition is still perfectly reasonable:
    “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.
    There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth” (Wiki).

      • Nice review, Brad. I suspect that your writing style, which I like, probably doesn’t work too well on a subject characterised by extreme polarisation of views. Most people in the US don’t seem to understand the difference between irony and sarcasm but are immune to self-criticism for the failing since they don’t recognise either. And irony fails completely when people hold views which are beyond parody. I used to occasionally post comments on climate activist sites which were so outrageous that no intelligent individual could possibly view them as anything other than ironic. They always received a large number of upvotes.
        Given that you enjoyed the book so much, I don’t understand why you only gave it one star.

  18. Let’s cut the crap. The AGW hypothesis is junk science.

    The “heat” in the cooler atmosphere cannot be absorbed by the warmer oceans. There is no evidence that far IR can penetrate more than a few microns of the ocean skin.

    The heat capacity of the warmer oceans is 1000 times that of the cooler atmosphere. The energy needed to melt ice at 0C to 1C is 80 times more than to raise the temperature of sea water by 1C so no arctic melting by CO2.

    CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere. Anthropogenic CO2 is only 3% of that 0.04%.

    About 98% of the atmospheric warming is due to conduction and convection, not radiation.

    Atmospheric CO2 in the 15 micron band can only absorb 8% of the earth’s emission spectrum. Water vapour which is up to 100 times more abundant also operates in the 15 micron band. CO2 absorbs all its permissible radiation from the earth’s surface in the first 10m (saturation). Adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere just reduces that 10m figure and does not further warm the atmosphere.

    If you transferred all the energy in the atmosphere to the oceans you would not be able to measure the change in temperature.

    This should be your opening argument in trashing the fraudulent AGW hypothesis.

    Obviously, one would need a platform to present this viewpoint. 🙂

  19. nothing burger with a side of curly fries please.

    OMG guy in the doorway!

    https://youtu.be/sGzpNmKuw30?t=1454

    There must be a pizza connection!

    and the crowd LAUGHED!.

    if only there was a red team that could deliver the killer questions to unravel the centuries of science.

    • Oi vey . . . can you get with Brad Keyes and see if he’ll submit to having you in for a lesson in non-maladroit satire?

      Seriously dood, even I can do it better than you can, and I’m a moron of the highest order . . .

    • SM: “if only there was a red team that could deliver the killer questions to unravel the centuries of science.

      What are the physical uncertainty bars on that air temperature projection, Dr. Hayhoe?

      Answer here.

      Centuries of science” from a guy who doesn’t understand any of it, in defense of people who knowingly betray it.

      • Technically speaking – YES. the other half of his cognitive dissonance though which, apparently, can’t type ……

        ooooh errrrr

        • > the other half of his cognitive dissonance though which, apparently, can’t type

          Maybe a corpus callosotomy would do the trick. Paging Dr Gazzaniga..

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