James Hoggan's blog

Koch-funded Prop 23 Campaign Manufacturing Science

In the latest example of polluter attempts to exert influence over science, the Koch-funded Pacific Research Institute was paid to manufacture another junk science “study” designed to lend credibility to California’s disastrous Proposition 23 ballot measure, an oil industry-backed effort to derail the state’s landmark AB 32 law to fight global warming.

The Yes on 23 campaign, a group launched and funded primarily by three oil companies – Valero Energy, Tesoro Corporation and Koch Industries’ subsidiary Flint Hills Resources - has been meddling in science, much to the liking of its oil industry bankrollers.  Recent financial reports reveal the Yes on 23 campaign has raised more than $5.2 million in the past three months, mostly from the oil companies.

The funding reports reveal payments of tens of thousands of dollars going to researchers at an industry front group well known for ginning up misleading research suggesting that California’s clean energy efforts would kill jobs. 

According to the financial disclosures, the oil-backed campaign paid Pacific Research Institute $40,000, no doubt intended to bolster its efforts to attack California’s AB 32 law. 

Climate Scientists React to Bizarre Climate Commentary by Robert Laughlin

Andy Revkin has posted several reactions from climate scientists to Nobel physicist Robert Laughlin’s essay in The American Scholar in which he asserts that the climate system is “beyond our power to control,” and humanity cannot and should not do anything to respond to climate change.  

Needless to say, Laughlin’s piece - and George Will’s Newsweek commentary about it - have drawn swift and severe criticism from scientists who specialize in studying climate change.

For example, Matthew Huber of Purdue University’s Climate Dynamics Prediction Laboratory takes Laughlin to task, suggesting that:

He needs to take some courses in paleoclimate — I suggest he start at the undergraduate level. I hear there might be something appropriate being taught on his campus. His know-nothing approach hearkens back to the pre-scientific era of the flat earth, vapors and phlogiston.”

Huber points out that the fundamentals of climate change are sound:

…raise greenhouse gases and the climate will warm substantially. There is no great mystery here, other than perhaps why a Nobel prize winner is either ignorant of the major results of the field of paleoclimatology over the past two decades or simply chooses to ignore the science for the sake of some sound bytes.

“Our understanding of the climate system is still rudimentary but ultimately we know what the big knobs are that turn up the heat and those are the same knobs we are cranking on right now. We know this absolutely and have known at least since Arrhenius and he got the Nobel (in 1903)!”

Check out the rest of the scientists’ reactions over at Revkin’s Dot Earth blog.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Climate Confusionist Spin Is Never Ending

Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg is in the spin business, plain and simple.  In his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, the Danish game theorist pretends to be so surprised that people were confused by his ‘change of heart’ last month – when he suddenly recognised that climate change is “one of the chief concerns facing the world today” and advocated for a $100 billion annual investment and a carbon tax – after years spent arguing that the world shouldn’t spend a penny on the problem. 

Hardly surprising to anyone who has followed Lomborg’s long trail of disingenuous spin, the ‘change of heart’ was nothing more than a ploy manufactured to tease his forthcoming book. 

Spinning like a top, Lomborg starts off his oddly defensive opinion piece with this twister:

After years of being accused of believing something I didn’t believe—or, more accurately, not believing something I really did—I made headlines last month for changing my mind even though I hadn’t.”

Dizzy yet? Well let’s review Lomborg’s history of spin.

On Factual Literacy and Media Responsibility In The Age Of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh

This New York Times online editorial last week by Tim Egan, “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings,” says a lot about the need for literacy, respect for facts and rational thought all being important building blocks for democracy.  

Egan notes the “astonishing level of willful ignorance” evident among the public, thanks to the lies and distortions put forward “largely by design” by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, “aided by a press afraid to call out the primary architects of the lies.”

Egan correctly points out that this pattern is all too often seen on the subject of global warming:

“Climate-change denial is a special category all its own. Once on the fringe, dismissal of scientific consensus is now an article of faith among leading Republicans, again taking their cue from Limbaugh and Fox.” 

Read “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings” on The New York Times website. 

International Scientists Confirm Climate Change is "Undeniable"

An international team of climate scientists led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that climate change is “undeniable” and clearly driven by the “human fingerprints” of greenhouse gas emissions.  The findings are based on new data that was not reviewed during the most recent 2007 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Financial Times reported today that the NOAA study drew on 11 different indicators of climate, and “found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases.”

The scientists confirmed that seven of the indicators are rising, including air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four other indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

The Financial Times quotes Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK Met Office, stating:

“The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases. The fingerprints are clear. The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.”

Glaringly obvious, unless you are a climate skeptic who denies the facts in favor of touting manufactured scandals like “Climategate” - a mythical tale ginned up by the climate denial machine to further confuse the public about the real dangers of climate change. 

IPCC Fumbles Media Relations Strategy, Must Review Basic Principles of Public Relations

Andy Revkin’s revelations over the weekend about the botched media relations strategy deployed by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, demonstrate that the IPCC has failed to learn from its recent missteps in managing public communications.

If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t act as if you do.

Being thrust into the media spotlight and subjected to sudden intense scrutiny can rattle any organization, and the IPCC is hardly the first institution to be accused of resorting to a “bunker mentality” and evading media inquiries. But, as Revkin points out correctly, sheltering yourself from the press is bound to backfire, creating more skepticism about your activities when you should really focus on explaining your work more clearly and operating with greater transparency.

For an organization like the IPCC - which has been accused of holding information too closely to its chest - to send an open letter advising its lead authors and editors to “keep a distance from the media” demonstrates PR mismanagement at its worst. It reinforces the perception that IPCC leadership doesn’t really know what it is doing.

That’s unfortunate because the IPCC has reportedly been spending a lot of time internally reviewing its operations to increase transparency. But this memo doesn’t help demonstrate that fact, by a long shot.

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