Hello World!

Welcome to Deep Climate, an exploration of the climate science “skeptic” movement in Canada. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be looking at the organizations that propagate climate science disinformation and the public relations professionals who have worked behind the scenes to ensure maximum impact of that disinformation. I intend both to “follow the money” (flowing primarily from special interests opposed to regulation or taxation of greenhouse gas emissions) and to “follow the science” (by exposing the most egregious flaws in the “evidence” against the attribution of contemporary climate change primarily to human causes). From time to time, I’ll also “follow the politics” and examine the various ties between the “skeptic” movement and the Conservative Party of Canada.

The four most prominent climate science disinformation organizations in Canada are:

  • Friends of Science Society
  • Natural Resources Stewardship Project
  • The Fraser Institute
  • The Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By far, the most active PR professional in climate science disinformation has been Tom Harris (ex-APCO Worldwide, NRSP co-founder and now head of the International Climate Science Coalition). Morten Paulsen, now of Fleishman-Hillard, was also active in 2005-2006.

It has long been assumed that oil and gas companies have provided financial backing and other support for the various initiatives. Of course, Exxon-Mobil’s support of controversial “skeptic” organizations, including the Fraser Institute, is well known. Evidence is also emerging about the role of Canadian companies in support of climate disinformation campaigns.

So there’s much to cover, even if I limit myself to the Canadian dimension. For now, I leave you with following information about myself.

I am a Canadian citizen residing in Canada. For private and professional reasons, I prefer to remain anonymous to the general public, at least for now.

The following facts may be relevant, however:

  • I am a volunteer contributor to SourceWatch.org, an online encyclopedia.
  • I have no affiliation or membership in any political party.
  • I have received no financial or other consideration for writing this blog or related activities, all of which were done on my own time.
  • I have identified myself at all times in dealing with all correspondents, who include many of the principals involved in the various topics presented here.
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12 responses to “Hello World!

  1. I thought your blog tagline was good until I saw that you’re only looking at disinformation from the skeptics.
    Well at least it’ll keep you less busy than the other way round.

    If you want to follow the money, try this for a start:
    climate-resistance.org/2008/01/well-funded-well-funded-denial-machine.html

    DC: Here are two of the more interesting links from this web page that some readers may want to explore (that way you don’t have to wade through the poorly reasoned arguments of the Climate Resistance website).

    The Denial Machine (CBC Fifth Estate), a documentary on the “skeptic” public relations efforts in Canada.

    ExxonSecrets.org, Greenpeace’s database of the myriad skeptic organizations and commentators funded by ExxonMobil and other special interests.

    The argument of the “Climate Resistance” duo appears to be that Greenpeace’s total budget of $120M per year dwarfs one of ExxonMobil’s many yearly climate disinformation “grants” (i.e. $250K in 2006 to the Competitive Enterprise Institute). Do I really have to bother to point out the many obvious fallacies in that reasoning?

  2. I accept that G’peace has overheads and other campaigns running, but when you add its core climate campaigning to the efforts of FoE, Christian Aid, Tear Fund, World Wide Fund For Nature, Oxfam and the myriad other campaigning groups and NGOs, the UN, national government schemes etc then we are talking very substantial numbers mounted in favour (and frequently dependent on) the existence of climate change.

    I’m an apostate not a skeptic so I’ve been in your shoes. It’s by no means as clear cut as is suggested.

    My main point was and still is, disinformation is disinformation – doesn’t matter which side pushes it – focus on that and you’ll find a much clearer truth re climate change.

    Start with William Connolley’s investigation of the Orsekes smears:
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2008/11/nierneberg_concluded_oreskes_i.php

    Since he’s been slated by so many skeptics you can at least trust his views.

    [DC: The percentage allocated specifically for public awareness or lobbying on climate change is relatively low for all these organizations, when you consider all their activities. As well, for the most part, the information rests on the mainstream scientifc consensus and is not “disinformation” by any reasonable definition. And, in Canada, I can assure you the current Conservative government is spending very little on climate change information. Like the Bush administration, the Conservatives have soft-pedaled it as much as they can.

    On the other hand, ExxonMobil’s activities are not limited to the funding (to the tune of $2M per year) of questionable think tanks and other climate disinformation groups. The company has also slathered complaisant US politicians with funding, and has enjoyed high-level access and influence with policymakers for the last eight years. And that’s just one corporation. The “clean coal” ads aired on CNN during the presidential candidates’ debates, for example, were a clear example of fossil fuel funded disinformation. Total government and corporate spending on climate science disinformation should be measured in the tens of millions.

    As for Oreskes, it’s true that Connelly criticized her position on Niernberg and the supposed consensus on climate science in the early 1980s. But he certainly does not question her basic thesis about the broad scientific consensus regarding anthropogenic global warming, as he contributed to (and defended) the Wikipedia article on her.

  3. “Do I really have to bother to point out the many obvious fallacies in that reasoning?”

    Seems like a good point to me. So, yes, you do.

    [DC: See above for some of the fallacies.]

  4. LOL. You told us who you are not supporting. Now, tell us who you ARE supporting. I smell ultra-green-something…

    [DC: I support the scientists. But if you're referring to political affiliation, I'm not a member or committed supporter of any particular party.]

  5. Will J. Richardson

    Dear DeepClimate,

    I got here from the link provided by Climate Audit.

    It is too bad you are limiting yourself to finding only the sponsors of climate “skeptic” organizations and blogs.

    In the interest of fairness you might want to disclose that the primary climate “warmer” blog, RealClimate is hosted and owned by Environmental Media Services, and Betsy Ensley is the registrant. EMS is a well know environmentalist publicist organization associated with MoveOn.org.

    You can find verify this by searching for realclimate.org at WhoIs.

    Regards,

    WJR

    p.s. By the way, I appreciate admitting you were wrong to criticize Steve McIntyre on today’s ClimateAudit.org thread.

    [DC: The Realclimate.org domain name may be registered by EMS. And it seems they may have provided hosting services free of charge. But I would say that Realclimate itself is "owned" by the scientists who write and control the blog content. It's also important to "disclose" that they do this on their own time and are not paid for their work. That's more than you can say for at least some of the skeptics.

    Crow is not particularly tasty, but sometimes feeds the soul.]

  6. Dear DC

    I feel fairly sure from what you write that you have /personally/ made extensive analyses of many of the multitudinous climate time series that are available in the public domain.

    If I am wrong in this belief I would be pleased to be told, so that I can apply appropriate weighting to your opinions.

    If I am right I’d appreciate a clear statement to the effect that you are indeed a climate analyst (who uses numerical and statistical techniques) and something to indicate what these are.

    It would greatly enhance my beliefs in what you write.

    Thanks in advance.

    Robin

    [Response: I have analyzed seasonal trends in satellite temperature data sets in some detail and will be posting those soon. I have also done some analysis at climateaudit.org, correcting various analyses from Steve McIntyre and his team. Examples include the correlations used in Mann et al 2008 [PNAS], as well as analysis of speleothems.

    See this comment and this one (and read forward from there)]

  7. DC, how many of the scientists who write and control the blog content depend on man made global warming to be a very real and immediate threat in order to get (or continue getting) money for their climate science research? I am always curious what conflicts of interest may exist, but remain undisclosed.

    [DC: My understanding is that the vast majority of climate science research is funded by governments, either directly through various agencies and departments, or through various research grants.

    Everyone agrees that "man made global warming" is at least a potential threat, and obviously its study is worthy of support.

    However, there have been some serious conflicts of interest at the non-scientific political appointee level, especially in the U.S. For example, Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality from 2001 to 2005, was accused of altering official reports on climate change. Cooney had been a lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute and apparently now works for ExxonMobil. Here are more details on Cooney.]

  8. ” It’s also important to “disclose” that they do this on their own time and are not paid for their work. That’s more than you can say for at least some of the skeptics.”

    This is a real howler. Pot calling the kettle . . . ?

    [DC: I have seen much innuendo, but no actual evidence, that RC bloggers and moderators are paid for realclimate.org activities. To the contrary, I've posted a few times and have noticed that my comments appear to be delayed until lunch hour or after work.

    Contrast that with the fount of misinformation, the website of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition. I think it's fair to say that executive director Tom Harris is paid for his efforts. He's been making a good living from climate science disinformation for ten years.]

  9. DC, you didn’t answer kgs’ question.

    Do you see the inherent conflict of interest, when scientists’ continued funding is dependent on their compliance with the “consensus” view?

    Do you see the inherent conflict of interest, when scientists have been coopted into becoming part of what is literally documented as a vast PR campaign to convince the public of AGW, no matter whether we know it is true or not?

    I am not just speaking off the top of my head here. Consider the following document, which is widely known.

    Warm Words

    (Today there are many many more similar documents available.)

    Here’s a sample quote from the above PR strategy report:

    …we need to work in a more shrewd and contemporary way, using subtle techniques of engagement. To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective. The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken…Ultimately, positive climate behaviours need to be approached in the same way as marketeers approach acts of buying and consuming. This is the relevant context for climate change communications… (Executive Summary, page 8, IPPR report “Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better?” August 2006)

    And now, I am truly curious: please show me any similar / equivalent “denialist” agenda. Where are “denialists” explicitly recommending that their experts should act as if the issue is settled, no matter what the truth?

    You appreciate good science. So do I. RealClimate and so many more are not really about good science. If they were, they’d welcome discourse. Instead, they are 100% in line with the above quoted PR agenda. That’s not science.

    Deep Climate, you’re investigating disinformation. I humbly suggest you are searching for the thimble while ignoring the ocean.

    {DC: In Canada, until very recently, grants for basic research were based on peer review and scientific excellence, not “compliance” with a particular result. So I don’t accept the premise of your question.

    To the contrary, funding of basic research has been put into question by new Conservative government priorities favouring applied science and technology projects co-funded by business. To the extent that basic climate research does not adhere to “compliance” with this new thrust, it may well be in danger.

    I have no problem with scientific facts, as outlined in the IPCC AR4 for example, being presented as such. It is the skeptic camp that presents as “fact” assertions that are not supported in the scientific literature. For example, I’ve seen many references in the right-wing press and blogosphere that the “hockey stick” has been “proven” wrong. Or that there has been “global cooling” for the last ten years, and that IPCC near term projections have therefore been falsified. These assertions are not just highly dubious, to say the least, they are simply plain wrong.]

  10. As an alternative to “study of man-made global warming is obviously worthy of support.”

    How about “study of climate change is obviously worthy of support.”

    Japan’s science “establishment” has apparently concluded that natural variation is the most likely cause. Does that mean they’ll stop studying climate change? No way! If it is natural, possibly we cannot significantly impact global climate without making things even worse (people do have a tendency to cause more trouble…) If so, then investigation into how to cope with natural change would be high on my priority list.

    [DC: If you are going to quote me, please do it properly. I was quoting the previous commenter; the pharase was not mine. Here's the right way: "study of 'man-made global warming' is obviously worthy of support."

    The rest of your comment is quite vague. However, it is worth noting the the Science Council of Japan signed the “2007 Joint science academies’ statement on growth and responsibility: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection”, along with twelve other leading national academies.

  11. DC, please, don’t ignore the main point of my comments by focusing on minutiae such as missing punctuation, etc.

    1) What is your comment on the level of dubious PR spin on the part of the extremists? What counter example can you provide? You’re claiming the skeptics are pumping out disinformation, yet what evidence is there that this is anything other than a systemic problem? If anything, isn’t it the extremists who are following a PR agenda, as demonstrated by my link?

    [DC: Your link has demonstrated nothing of the sort. As I've already said, I see no problem in a communication strategy that insists on known facts as supported in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. On the other hand, I do categorically condemn bogus "research" prepared by PR firms and paid for by secret corporate donations, as occurred in the case of the Friends of Science.]

    2) Why do you think it is the “man made” part that so obviously needs study, rather than the basic “climate change” aspect? Would it not be prudent to impartially examine the evidence for climate change no matter what the cause?

    [DC: The evidence is overwhelming that contemporary climate change is primarily human caused, so it is impossible to separate the two so-called "aspects". But of course further research is required in a number of areas - for example, to refine regional projections and support mitigation and adaptation planning]


    Those are my questions.

    Now you have added additional topics, which are also worthy of discussion.

    These [following] assertions are not just highly dubious, to say the least, they are simply plain wrong.

    I suppose we may need to agree to disagree on your “simply plain wrong.”

    Here’s a couple of tidbits, food for thought, for your two “highly dubious…simply plain wrong” examples:

    I’ve seen many references in the right-wing press and blogosphere that the “hockey stick” has been “proven” wrong…

    Note that the key to the hockey stick is the straight shaft, not the upswing. The whole question was not “is it getting warmer?” but rather “is this unusual?”

    There are two peer-reviewed outcomes that say it is not unusual:

    1) Craig Loehle’s paper demonstrates that temperature proxies show a very pronounced MWP. Not “highly dubious,” not “simply plain wrong.”

    [DC: The Loehle paper was published in Energy and Environment, a minor social science journal with an explicitly biased editorial policy. And the paper contained so many data and analysis errors that it had to be completely revised after publication.]

    2) Although a few scientists want to muddy the waters and claim the network of “hockey stick” graphs are independent of tree rings, it simply is not true. Properly done analysis shows the hockey stick is present when “bad” tree ring data is present, and the hockey stick disappears when the same data is removed.

    [DC: This appears to be a reference to the work of McIntyre and McKitrick. Again, none of this so-called "properly done analysis" has appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.]

    Even more, my own citizen science work helped demonstrate that the data we’re talking about, strip-bark BCP’s, is highly dubious, and for obvious reasons. Those trees have intra-tree growth that varies not by just a small amount but by several hundred percent, over the span of a few inches of surface. You may want to ignore what we found because it has not made it into the peer-review cycle yet, but that doesn’t change the facts.
    [DC: When and if it does, then it will be given consideration - but make sure it's in an actual science journal.]

    Bottom line: tree rings make poor temp proxies; without that data, the proxies show that today’s climate change is well within natural variation. Not “highly dubious”, not “simply plain wrong.”

    Or that there has been “global cooling” for the last ten years, and that IPCC near term projections have therefore been falsified.

    AFAIK, you’re misquoting here. The person who initiated that particular idea was Lucia of The Blackboard fame.

    [Numerous skeptics (e.g. Robert Carter or ) have stated that there has been "global cooling". Others (like Lucia or Roger Pielke Jr) claim that global warming "has stopped" as of 1998. The two claims are not precisely identical, but both are wrong.]

    Her claim is that the growing record of non-warming in the 21st century is inconsistent with IPCC long term (not “near term”) projections. In many ways, that’s even more significant. It took less than a decade to falsify the IPCC 21st century projection.

    In other words (and see the link I gave above), the temperature record is inconsistent with AR4′s 2C/century modeled trends for a large and growing number of the models. 73% fail in comparison with the Hadley data, and 36% fail even with GIStemp data (which is the “warmest” same-period data by far.)

    [DC: The .2 deg C per decade projection for global surface temperature is from Chapter 10 of the IPCC AR4 WG1 Report (see the Executive Summary). The projection is for the twenty-year period from 2011-2030, relative to a baseline of 1980-1999. Lucia's analysis fails to use proper averaging for the baseline and projections. That's the short answer, but I agree that a post on this whole issue is probably in order.]

    Bottom line: when a third of models are statistically too-warm for even the data with the warmest bias, that’s not “highly dubious” or “simply plain wrong.”

    That’s not disinformation.

    That’s something well worth investigating.

    AFAIK, what it comes down to is: natural variation is larger than many are willing to admit, and CI’s for change itself, and man’s impact, are much larger than we’re willing to admit. We simply don’t know as much as we think we do.

    (Oh, and don’t be so slow, DC! Why did you bother referencing Japan’s 2007 perspective? That’s old school. To read up on the new Japanese break with IPCC, see [link to UK Register removed per comment policy]. Clearly, they’ve “moved on” since 2007. Personally, I’m looking to seeing more translations of the work done by this group. Sadly, the language barrier appears to be pretty significant.)

    [DC: I assume you thought that I wouldn't notice that the report you reference was produced by the Japan Society of Energy and Resources, not Japan's Science Academy. What a crock!

    I've been very patient up until now. But don't expect much forbearance in the future.]

  12. DC, I appreciate your perspective that there is something to be said for papers that have run the gauntlet of peer review, and are published in leading science journals.

    Now that Nature’s cover paper has been shot full of holes by the Jeff’s, how does that impact your confidence in stated perspective?

    In my lifetime, the only unassailable paper I’ve ever seen or heard of is Shannon (1948).

    Personally, I’m more impressed by a humble and truth-oriented response when errors are found, than by people who defend papers as if they were error free.

    [DC: To be clear, publication in the peer-reviewed scientific literature is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being taken seriously. And it doesn't have to be in a "leading" journal, just a recoginized one (not a bogus journal like Energy and Enivronment). Of course the true worth of a publication comes in its evaluation by other publishing scientists.

    I'm not aware that the Steig et al article has been "shot full of holes" by the Jeffs. In the CA threads, I have seen a lot of false starts, snarky comments, backtracking after programming errors etc. But is impossible to tell if any critique of substance has been achieved.

    My experience is that most CA critiques do not hold up under scrutiny. That makes me unwilling to invest time into following all these rabbit holes. Let them publish a coherent article, or at least commentary, and then I'll look at it.

    None of this means that published science is above criticism (for example the narrower question of the non-standard PCA application in MBH98, as I've already mentioned). And occasionally something slips through with major errors - the most egregious recent example being the Douglass et al paper analyzing climate model and observations in the tropical troposphere.]

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