John Mashey lecture tour: The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science

[Update, April 9-12: John Mashey's presentation, entitled The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science, is now available at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) website. The recorded video of Mashey's presentation is also now available from PICS.

PICS is a multidiscplinary institute headed up by Executive Director Tom Pedersen, and is well worth checking out. You can start with the PICS Home Page and PICS at a glance. ]

As some of you know, computer scientist and tireless climate contrarian debunker John Mashey has been on a short lecture tour of B.C. (on the west coast of Canada). The tour culminates with a lecture tonight (Thursday, April 7) for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria.

Best of all (and the reason I wanted to post this), I’ve just found out the lecture will be streamed on the internet.The lecture starts at 7:30 PDT   (10:30 EDT). Go to:

http://www.pics.uvic.ca/broadcast.php

I’ll also post a link to John’s presentation when it’s available.  Here are the event details (which contain  a nod to yours truly).

The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science

The battle of truth versus disinformation is nowhere better demonstrated than in the distortion of climate science. More than 97 percent of practicing climate scientists support the fact that global warming is happening and caused by humans, yet the public often thinks that scientists are seriously divided on this issue.

In this special public lecture, Silicon Valley computer scientist and technology expert Dr. John Mashey will expose the underhanded, but effective PR/lobbying tactics of the anti-science campaign. It has included Internet-propagated disinformation, personal attacks, threats of violence and hate mail, including the manufactured non-event “Climategate.” His talk will examine the organization and activities of anti-science funders, think tanks, and spokespeople over the last 20 years, including recent developments and initiatives to counter their efforts.

  • What: Dr. John Mashey on “The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science”
  • When: 7:30 pm – 9 pm | Thursday, April 7, 2011
  • Where: Flury Hall (Room B150), Bob Wright Centre University of Victoria
  • Live Web Stream: http://www.pics.uvic.ca/broadcast.php

Dr. Mashey has over 30 years experience in the computing industry. He has worked with a wide variety of scientists, many of whom use software or hardware he helped create. In recent years, he has been involved in the study of climate science and anti-science – his reports often being posted at Vancouver-based DeSmogBlog. In 2009, Canadian blogger “Deep Climate” found plagiarism in a key anti-science document, the 2006 Wegman Report for US Congress, inspiring Mashey to restudy it and find more problems. His resulting 250-page report led to articles in USA Today. Much of the Wegman Report’s key disinformation originated in Canada and was then promoted by American thinktanks and politicians. Fittingly, exposure of the truth also started in Canada and has since progressed with close Canadian – American cooperation.

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32 responses to “John Mashey lecture tour: The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science

  1. I went and saw John’s lecture last night in Vancouver. Lots of good information. A difficult topic to present to a lay audience. I got the feeling that you had to follow this stuff a bit to find it easy to follow the detail in the slides. (Also, although he mentioned that a he indicated that there isn’t a partisan political bent to his approach, he had red highlighting bad guys and blue highlighting good guys — I would recommend he change that in the future.)
    I went up and thanked John for his efforts — he has more energy and tenacity for digging up connections than I do, and in his writings he shares it very effectively. I hope to also one day meet and give thanks to DC.

  2. Pingback: John Mashey seminar live on web : Deltoid

  3. Sigh. I missed the presentation in Prince George. Just want to add that I really appreciate the efforts of both John and DC. Thanks.

  4. I hope to catch the seminar when it appears as a recording here.

  5. BTW, I think somebody complained about the red/blue color scheme used in these slides (which is generally consistent with my past reports.)

    Without going into gory detail, and without attempting to do really serious graphic design, the generally simple color scheme and choice of red/blue (rather than red/green) is to give people with various kinds of color-blindness a fighting chance. BTW, the blue/yellow text highlighting scheme that DC and I use always is generally OK, albeit hampered by the paucity of choices in the MS Word color palette.

    For those interested, among the tools for color blindness, I’ve found Fujitsu Color Doctor useful.

    Download it, then enter a URL, select filters for various common color blindness, click on image convert, and it shows what it would look like.

    Serious people work very hard on this, but even a simple test is useful in weeding out horrific color choices.

    [DC: The red-blue comment was the first one above, so I've shifted the comment over here. ]

  6. It’s worth noting that the red-blue dichotomy is reversed in Canada, where the two major parties offer a choice between Liberal red or Conservative blue. But we also have the New Democratic Party (orange) and a Green Party that gets a respectable 8% of the popular vote, but has yet to get a seat in parliament.

    Anyway, my suggestion was dark gray vs green.

    Switching to more substantive aspects of the presentation, the admittedly complicated flow chart introduced at p. 11 is worth studying. The blow-up at p. 14 showing the feedback loop between the media and the blogosphere is very germane, and represents a 21st century extension of the “traditional” disinformation PR described by Oreskes and Conway in Merchants of Doubt.

    My suggestion for a future iteration might be to find a way to show the key role of PR professionals (notably Marc Morano) even down in this corner – something I described in my post on the Jones-no-significant-warming-since-1995 kerfuffle.

    • And here: red is Communist or Socialist, blue is Conservative. But didn’t Americans talk about “Reds under the bed” during the McCarthy era? How come that wasn’t ambiguous?

  7. On colors: of course, in China, Red is the luck color.
    I will experiment; it’s is difficult to get this stuff to work for everyone.
    re: Morano & cop: yes, probably needs more, although I thought “hack” sort of covered that :-)

  8. More on colors/colours.
    a) I’ve visited 50 countries, and color/politics varies wildly.
    In the USA, some states are heavily red or blue, but many are mixtures of fairly red counties and fairly blue counties, with a few purple ones. The usual red/blue state maps are quite misleading, counties are better, albeit not perfect, given that county populations vary greatly.

    b) Again, red/blue was picked to use standard colors with good contrast.
    With green vs dark gray, the dark gray doesn’t look much different from black, and with some color-vision problems, they don’t look too much different.
    Ideally, I’d have some combination that looked good in color, but still even worked when printed greyscale.

    c) Some of this is taste, some is choice of tradeoffs.

    • I think that red & blue are good choices. My colour vision is poor but these work very well. Red & green would be the worst possible choice as red/green is the most common form of colour blindness.

      I’d like to add that I’ve just caught up with your Strange Enquiries, a brilliant summary of the DC/Wegman/Rapp/Bradley plagiarism story. In particular, the quoted emails tell us a lot about how unpleasant some people can be.

  9. What a terrific presentation. The MSM should see this so that they can be at least skeptical when they see the machinery in action.

    I hope to be able to see the presentation. The slides are great, but no substitute for the real thing.

    BTW, by *actionable* errors or *actionable* issues, does John always mean legal action, as in defamation lawsuits, or other action such as more research and publicity?

  10. Thanks! but of course the existing presentation is an Alpha version, assembled the week before at our ski condo in Big White. I’ve only done it 3 times, in 4 days, with frenzied running around so there hasn’t been much time for tuning. The slide density really wants a fullscreen slideshow with voiceover, we’ll see how the video comes out.
    I would rate the existing talk as maybe 90%, it will take ~3 more times with varied audiences to get to 95-99%, then should be mostly stable, modulo changes in events in the external world.

  11. Oops:
    *Actionable* includes more than defamation.

    1) Let me try some that aren’t actionable:
    X writes on a blog that the moon is made of green cheese.
    One can debunk that, and sometimes that is worth doing, but often there are no particular consequences, and the next week, it is said that the moon is made of bleu cheese. [Followers of Wallace and Gromit certainly know the moon is made of some kind of cheese.]

    A huge amount of the chitchat on the net is not actionable.

    2) Of course, “the moon is made of green cheese, and Neil Armstrong is a liar, blah blah” might be (defamation) actionable.

    3) But likely-actionable might include:
    a) Defamation [can be expensive, more complicated in some places].

    b) Academic misconduct cases (FFP – falsification, fabrication, plagiarism), of which plagiarism is the easiest to prove, although some falsification/fabrication issues have appeared.

    Such can go to:
    - universities who employ someone who does this
    - journal publishers who print something found to be FFP
    - book publishers who print such

    and
    - copyright holders of material plagiarized

    Such can also go to:
    - Office of Research Integrity
    - Funding agencies, for funds mis-use.

    c) Maybe
    - Perhaps investigation of dodgy 501(c)3 taxfree folks.
    - In a few cases, things like perjury and/or misleading Congress.
    - Selective use of FOIAs (i.e., sometimes one thing opens up a plausible reason to FOIA something else.)

    d) And as noted, sometimes publicity is something people don’t want…
    [ALEC/other attack on Bill Cronon was a *bad* idea, almost as bad as stirring up Naomi Oreskes years ago.]

  12. John -

    Thanks for the exposition on “actionable”. We certainly want the right actions to be taken.

    In the meantime I’d settle for the press taking the right action and watching or reading your presentation, along with Naomi Oreskes’ video or book. They would at least have a chance at more informed reporting. Some of your slides might be too densely packed with data for them (your computer background is showing!) but it is a great resource for the MSM.

    On to 99%!

  13. I think you’ve put together a valuable resource and it could prove very valuable when climate related lawsuits begin making their way through various legal systems. For those engaged in serious advocacy for action on climate and emissions it’s a resource that’s probably essential, not only to know the enemy but to successfully counter their dangerously irresponsible efforts. Yet, for those taking advocacy into the mainstream media, particularly Radio and Television I suspect the ability to counter the gish gallop – or to convincingly deliver a counter version (of verifiably true statements) could be of more direct value. ie it’s media skills not science skills that are needed.

    Where that line between communicating what science reveals about climate and advocacy for policies and actions gets drawn is probably something for individuals to decide but, given the world changing consequences, I expect more scientists, confident in the validity and importance of their work, to become advocates and activists. Do we need them to retire from active research positions before they do? How many have those media skills – not just to enter into advocacy but expect to battling opponents that play dirty? Having to fight for acceptance and legitimacy of science over popular manufactured opinion may not have been a fight present day scientist thought they’d have to take up but it looks to be needed.

    Here in Australia, with a minority Labor Gov’t attempting (not very convincingly) to push through an interim Carbon tax all the same arguments that have been debunked a hundred times are getting greater airing than ever and still appear to gain ready audiences and surprising acceptance. They are pushed with persistent consistency and great effectiveness. I fear the best we’ll get is a watered down Carbon pricing scheme that will end up criticised as much by proponents as by it’s increasingly well organised opponents. Your efforts in identifying those opponents and their methods is, unfortunately, looking to be essential.

  14. Oops. The ‘you’ and ‘your’ in previous comment was for John Mashey. Good job John

  15. re: Dense
    Actually that’s not exactly computer background.
    Some of them are dense because I just grabbed some items from elsewhere, since this round of talks was Alpha. I’ll likely diddle p.11-15 a bit, since the slides that explained the codings got moved from the main talk to Backup after Prince George.

    Some of them are dense, but explained verbally.
    Some (like p.16) need a few highlights & some annotations.

    Some need a few more intro slides to explain what’s going on.
    I may well put p.17 and 18 back together.
    pp.17-26, p.34 need a few highlights, and an intro to explain that these are “forest” slides, not “tree” slides :
    - no sensible person can read all these, but they aren’t supposed to.
    - the overall *patterns* are the important things, but for a slide-set alone without voice-over, the patterns need to be articulated. (see below)
    - the individual details usually are not.
    - the international flavor is important.
    - They are supposed to show the pattern, but to be convincing that there was a fairly thorough research job underneath. p.34 might drop out.
    pp.35-36 is far and away the hardest one to get right, just as it was in SSWR, and I’ll experiment with that.
    - They are supposed to lead readers to the underlying reports.

    Fortunately, I’ve been through this before, having done 500+ public talks and 1000+ sales pitches over the years. These always start very dense, then get a bit simplified, while retaining the high density of information.
    Marketing sometimes hassled at me for breaking the rules for simple slides (but there, I am in accord with Tufte, whose favored example of bad use is Gettysburg Address in Powerpoint.
    Hassles tended to stop when I reminded them that:
    - My slide-sets were usually the most-requested by customers as leave-behinds (because people studied them, and used them to convince others).
    - I was pretty high on the list of speakers requested by the salesforce.

    Of course, some talks were *way* denser than this, and some much less so, depending on the intended audiences. [Speaking to the supercomputer folks at a US National Lab differs from speaking to a CA Red Cross meeting or to a bunch of financial analysts.]

    ===Forest & trees:
    p.16: it is an error to think everyone paid by fossil companies, many combinations of reasons appear plausible. Highlight/annotate
    FIN1, FIN2, IDE1, IDE2. Annotate PSY* and TEC* as groups.

    pp.17-18:
    A few people have been doing climate-anti-science for 2 decades, but hte pace picked up in 1998, and really picked up i~2006 with Wegman Report.

    pp.19-21
    ExxonMobil, a few family foundations fund a wide variety of thinktanks and fronts, most of whom have also been involved with tobacco. Richard Mellon Scaife and the Koch brothers are involved in most.

    pp.23-24
    Climate anti-science activities appear chronologically across the top.
    Some key people have participated in many of them.
    Singer has been involved in most activities, and most have at least some connection with Heartland activities.
    Such activities may be claimed as grassroots, but they are mostly astroturf.

    pp.25-26
    These busy people are clearly well-entangled with the organzations.

    The social network is really pretty tight: there are a bunch of people and organizations, but the people often work together on activities and form interlocking directorates or advisorships.

    Now, the reason for the matrices is to show that, with verifiable details (in the reports). The rhetorical question is: if one happened to get the email histories of these folks, how well-connected with others in this list would they be?

  16. Ken:
    As part of this tour in BC, I did ~4 radio shows, including one with some call-ins, who of course Gish Galluped.
    I had your Aussie John Cook’s Skeptical Science Arguments open, and when I could find them quickly, just called out the numbers. If I ever do this again, I’ll spend more time refreshing myself on the list and maybe print out a dense list.
    Ideally, with a longer session, I’d explain the idea of Gish Gallup, and keep score.

  17. Those would be interesting radio shows to listen to – they should have a limit of 3 climate myths per call-in just to keep things manageable :-)

    BTW, John, if you ever need to give people a short, easy-to-remember reference of a Skeptical Science rebuttal, I have another option – short URLs like http://sks.to/sun (debunking “the sun is causing global warming”) or http://sks.to/past (debunking “climate’s changed in the past so it must be natural now) – they’re all listed at:
    http://sks.to/url

  18. Argh. ONE CANNOT EVEN GO ON A SKI TRIP AND LECTURE TOUR FOR A FEW WEEKS…

    See: Climate Science FOIA, April 3: an end-run around Cuccinelli’s request.
    ATI = yet another astroturf, Paul Chesser, Chris Horner (CEI), etc.

    Apparently, Cuccinellii’s suit is too slow.

  19. As some of you know, computer scientist and tireless climate contrarian debunker John Mashey has been on a short lecture tour of B.C.

    Computer scientist? You mean his climate science background is similar to that of Christopher Monckton?

    Maybe while we’re at it we can get James Hansen to give a talk on NP-completeness, or Michael Mann can present on elliptic curve cryptography.

    Of course, if Mashey was on the other side of the debate, all of you zealots would be screaming from the masthead that , “HE’S NOT A CLIMATE SCIENTIST!! HE’S NOT A CLIMATE SCIENTIST!!!”

    [DC: Sounds like you haven't actually read any of Mashey's presentation. And zealots shouting in capital letters are found at WUWT and CA, not here.

    Try to keep focused on the topic at hand. Thanks! ]

  20. Well, I’m reassured by the silliness level of attacks from anonymous folks, I was starting to get worried that I wasn’t being clear :-)
    DBtH may have missed the fact that my talk was about climate *anti-science*, not about climate science.

    Although I do know a little about climate science (~4 on scale of 10, somewhat whimsical, logarithmic, see scale, I tell people to get their climate science from climate scientists, of whom I often do talk to people at the 9-10 level.
    Of course, back when I was studying to be a physicist, they key material was covered in sophomore physics.

    In addition, (H/T WMC) I find:
    Wikipedia.

    I infer some Australian isn’t happy. I have been wondering when someone would next try to hack that page. Thank you, 124.191.73.156.

  21. Be skeptical to scoffing of the idea of the “MSM”. Rupert Murdoch and Jack Welch scuttled the economic model which promoted independent television news. There’s nobody out there in a position of influence who is honestly struggling with this issue. There’s no cavalry to come to the rescue here. There’s damn few congressmen who will vote rationally on this. Change has to come from convincing people that their economic interests lie in controlling AGW rather than enriching the troglodytes of the carbon industries.

  22. The video of John Mashey’s presentation is now available:

    http://www.pics.uvic.ca/webstream.php#mashey

  23. Daniel J. Andrews

    Thanks for posting the link to the talk. I’ll watch it. We were vacationing in Victoria when John gave his talk. We were going to see it, but we’d been hiking/walking since the early morning and by evening we were both footsore, hungry, and tired. We ended up just going to one of the parks by the ocean and sitting there and eating supper with our feet propped up on some driftwood. It was a gorgeous day and evening–pretty hard for any speaker to compete with that although afterward I kept thinking, “Should have at least gone for the mingling and personally thanked John for all his work.” (So, Thank you, John, for all your work). :)

  24. John and DC, many thanks for your detective work and unravelling the web of deceit. I hope the usual suspects are going to get what they deserve.

  25. Pingback: The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science « Greenfyre’s

  26. I don’t understand why George Mason is giving awards to people who communicate the science of climate change when they still haven’t ruled on the Wegman case.

  27. Snapple:
    GMU is not one monolithic entity and various faculties do not necessarily agree with the administration. I know of various interesting stories, not mine to tell, but they may come out sooner or later.

    It has quite reasonable folks, like Ed Maibach and his team, one of whom I’ve met @ AGU.

    It has other folks/entities (like Mercatus, funded by Kochs and run by one of their execs).

    Ed doesn’t rule on the Wegman issues, that’s the administration’s turf.

  28. I see that Dr. Maibach worked on AIDS prevention. I know for a fact that the KGB spread the lie in the international media that US scientists made AIDS to kill blacks–the KGB finally admitted they did it. Pretty many people actually believe this lie. Even President Obama’s minister believed this lie. The lie made many people distrust the government and ignore medical advice.

    The CIA has an article on the Internet about this called “Operation Infektion.” It is good to read if you want to understand campaigns of defamation against scientists.

    When Climategate happened, I assumed it was the Russians, because they often spread defamatory allegations about our scientists. Maybe it is also what the operatives for Western fossil-fuel companies do, too. How shameful that all these American and Canadian enialist operatives are like the KGB. Now they even try to get people like Dr. Mann in trouble with the law. That’s exactly the KGB does.

    Cuccinelli even cites the lies the Russian business daily Kommersant wrote about the climate scientists in his EPA suit. I read his suit and went to the link. However, his legal brief even mischaracterized what the Russians actually wrote! I think Cuccinelli had to “fix” what the Russians wrote because the Russian author got some basic facts about the British Hadley Centre and CRU wrong. Russian climate scientists would not have made these mistakes.

    Kommersant is owned by a Gazprom billionaire, Alisher Usmanov. He reportedly does sensitive foreign operations for Gazprom. The article smearing the British scientists reportedly appeared the very day that the EPA made its ruling about CO2. Cuccinelli’s brief actually announces this fact, but doesn’t seem to appreciate the hideous irony of this scandalous admission.

    Alisher Usmanov has an education and career that suggest he is KGB.

    Usmanov’s Kommersant quoted Andrei Illarionov, an economist, not a scientist. Illarionov used to work for Putin and for the late Victor Chernomyrdin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and its post-Soviet reincarnation Gazprom.

    Gazprom is owned by the Russian government. Illarionov also worked for the Cato Institute on climate change. It seems to me that the Cato Institute acts as an outpost for the Russian propaganda. I seven saw that Pat Michaels on Russia Today, the Kremlin-financed satellite English-language channel. It’s on Utube.

    I know a bit about Russian campaigns against scientists. I had a friend who got sick with AIDS in China in 1987 and had to be flown home by the Air Force because no airline would take him home. The Russians said that he was a CIA agent who was a biological weapon against Russia. It was claimed that he had been sent to China because China has a long border with the Soviet Union. I read this moronic article myself in a Soviet newspaper. I think Ukrainian or Russian.

    About that time (1987), Russian scientists denounced this lie. I think this was able to happen because George Schultz told the Russians to cut it out.

    One really famous Russian physicist named Roald Sagdeev even denounced this lie in Izvestia on behalf of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The great Russian scientists didn’t collaborate with this lie. They stood up for science. Only some hacks were willing to put their names to the defamatory allegations about our scientists. Russian scientists were embarrassed, and they also really wanted the scientific contacts and help with AIDS research and treatment.

    That same Dr. Sagdeev signed the letter in defense of the climate scientists sent by members of the Academy of Sciences. I knew he would be on the list, and he was! He is in the Russian, American, and Pontifical Academy of Sciences (Vatican).

    In 1992, the KGB finally came clean and admitted their role in this anti-science campaign. The Russian newspaper Izvestiya (3-19-92) reported on March 19, 1992:

    “[KGB chief Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists’ ‘crafty’ plots were fabricated in KGB offices.”

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/03/soviet-academy-of-sciences-distances.html

    The Russians eventually denounce their anti-science campaigns because they have to deal with reality. They denounced the Doctors’ Plot , Lysenkoism, and the AIDS lie. They throw their former collaborators right under the bus. Publically.

    I wonder if the criminals who stole the CRU emails will admit their error? They called themselves “honest men.” I think they are liars and cowards like the KGB propagandists.

    I saw that Kommersant article posted on SPPI (the mailbox “science” insitite”) and on the Heartland. Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant is not a reliable source of information on climate science. It is the mouthpiece of the Kremlin and Gazprom.

  29. [DC: This and following comment transferred to Open Thread # 9]

  30. I have some articles in moderation here.

    [DC: See new thread. ]

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