Tonight he’s appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program, where his biography describes him as a “leading Canadian human rights activist” as well as other things.
But the ABC doesn’t mention that Steyn’s presence in Australia is entirely down to the Institute of Public Affairs – the “free market” thinktank that hides its funders but has made its views on human-caused climate change perfectly clear for the last 25 years or so.
They reckon it’s all bunk.
So anyway, Steyn’s ABC profile should really mention the IPA and it’s curious that it doesn’t.
So what might be engaging Mark Steyn during his trip down under? Well, as a free market evangelist, you’d think Steyn would frown upon the use of inefficient tax breaks.
Except, that is, when they’re helping to fund his libel defence back in the US. Steyn is being sued by Professor Michael Mann – of hockey stick fame – after describing his work as fraudulent and making comparisons to a pedophilia.
When the IPA was raising money to help publish its latest climate science denial book, it reminded potential supporters that any cash they handed over was tax deductible.
The IPA said the book would cost about $175,000 to produce. Mark Steyn authored a chapter.
As I wrote on DeSmogBlog, some months later, the book turned up for sale on Steyn’s website, where he flogs mugs, CDs and books to help him pay his legal bills.
The sale, Steyn wrote, would hep him “push back against the climate mullahs.”
Now the IPA’s book was being published by “Stockade Books” – a venture owned by Steyn. I hope Steyn remembers to thank the Australian Tax Office while he’s here.
In the book, Steyn attacks a group of researchers who got stuck in the Antarctic in Christmas 2013. He has claimed that the researchers thought the ice in the Antarctic was melting, which made for a beautiful irony when their ship got hemmed in by ice.
Except, the researchers did know the ice in Antarctica was growing as they had expressly pointed out before they left. In fact, the phenomena was part of their field of study.
In December 2015, Steyn gave “evidence” to a US Senate science subcommittee, chaired by climate science denier Ted Cruz. Cruz opened proceedings recounting the same Antarctic story – also getting it entirely wrong, as I wrote the other day on The Guardian.
In his testimony, Steyn complained that climate science deniers were being victimised and pushed out, forgetting for a minute that he is sometimes a host on Fox News, where of course climate science deniers are part of the furniture.
“In shoring up this cartoon climatology, the alarmism industry is now calling on courts and legislatures to torment their opponents,” wrote Steyn.
He gave the example of Swedish scientist Lennart Bengtsson, who got some push back a couple of years ago from colleagues after he fleetingly decided to affiliate himself with the Global Warming Policy Foundation – the contrarian think tank and now official lobbying organisation chaired by Lord Nigel Lawson, the chancellor of the exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s government.
Steyn also defended Dr Willie Soon, an aeronautical engineer based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Soon’s career over the last decade has been almost entirely funded by fossil fuel interests. Soon also claims CO2 from burning fossil fuels is good for the planet.
I’ve argued that Soon’s work is easier understood if you see it as PR fodder for the fossil fuel industry, rather than serious academic work.
Steyn wrote that after Soon had managed to get a paper published in a journal attacking climate models, the reaction of the “climate mullahs” was swift.
“The Big Climate heavies did not attempt to refute the paper, but instead embarked on a campaign to get him fired from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,” he wrote.
Steyn is spinning a false narrative here, because in fact Soon’s paper, which he co-authored with Lord Christopher Monckton, was refuted through the appropriate channel – a paper published in the same journal four months before Steyn’s testimony.
In a further attempt at painting climate scientists as reactionaries, he points to one group that had written to President Obama to encourage him to look at the country’s racketeering laws as an option to pursue oil giant Exxon for its years of funding climate science denial.
But here’s another part of the story that Steyn misses out. There’s a precedent for the use of these laws in the US.
They are the same laws that were used to pursue tobacco companies for that industries campaign to deny the science linking their deadly products to health concerns.
What’s more, the use of these laws was not even the idea of the scientists in question. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had been suggesting it months before in a widely reported series of statements.
Then to close his written testimony, Steyn referenced a paper written by scientists at the federally funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The paper concluded that a reported slowdown in warming at the Earth’s surface had actually been a data anomaly.
Steyn claimed that the scientists involved had been fiddling the data.
But after spending several breathless pages accusing the establishment of hounding poor old climate science deniers, he then forgot to mention how the NOAA scientists had then been hounded by Republican politicians with requests for correspondence and data (the data was already out there).
Not only did Republican politicians target the scientists, but a conservative group known as “Judicial Watch” also weighed in with legal action to try and force the release of internal NOAA documents.
So why is Mark Steyn appearing on Q&A again?
Well, hopefully it’s not for his singing.
Pic credit: Flickr/Mark Blevis
What difference does influential corporate cash make to the arguments that climate science denial groups make in public?
This was a question that Yale University’s Dr Justin Farrell tried to answer in an exhaustive piece of research published late last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Farrell’s paper – Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change – contained this remarkable chart, which I missed at the time but reckon it deserves a bit more daylight.
From previous academic papers and his own research, Farrell had compiled a list of 164 organisations that were part of the “climate counter-movement”.
The list includes US groups like the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Cato Institute, Heartland Institute, together with a few non-US groups including the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation and Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs.
Then Farrell looked at which of these organisations had received money from either oil giant Exxon Mobil or from groups linked to the Koch brothers – the billionaire owners of the oil, gas and petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries.
“Donations from these corporate benefactors signals entry into a powerful network of influence,” wrote Farrell.
Farrell found that 84 of those 164 organisations were part of that “powerful network” having taken funding from Exxon, the Kochs, or from both.
Then Farrell compiled a huge dataset of “every text about climate change produced by every organization between 1993 and 2013” – that’s 40,785 texts with more than 39 million words.
Thankfully Farrell didn’t have to read all that bilge. Instead, he used some clever and sophisticated algorithms and computer content analysis to do it for him.
With this dataset and method, Farrell looked at how often these 164 organisations covered particular issues.
Did the organisations that took cash from the Kochs or Exxon behave differently to those that were not funded as part of that “powerful network of influence”?
Two arguments in particular seemed to stand out. Organisations that took that influential funding were far more likely to use that disingenuous climate science denialist talking point that CO2 is good for the planet. That’s the chart above.
Another favourite contrarian talking point – that climate change was just part of a natural long term cycle rather than being driven by humans – was also more popular among the Exxon/Koch group. Here’s what that looked like.
Now of course, it’s possible that the corporate funding was not influencing the specific talking points that the organisations were using. Perhaps the fact that they liked to say “CO2 is good” simply made them attractive to funders like Exxon? That could be so, although Farrell tested other favourite subjects too.
For example, funding appeared to make no difference to the timing and frequency of attacks on former US vice president and climate change campaigner Al Gore. Nor did it make much of a difference to arguments about cap and trade laws.
In a separate study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Farrell looked at how the 164 different groups were networked together.
In that study – Network structure and influence of the climate change counter-movement – Farrell found that organisations were more powerful in the network if they had financial ties to Exxon and/or the Koch brothers.
In this chart below, the green dots are organisations with funding from at least one of those two corporate players. The red dots don’t get Koch or Exxon money.
Koch or Exxon cash seems to help place an organisation closer to the epicenter of the climate science denial movement.
But if you do take their money, then it seems you also have to be willing to deny the science linking carbon dioxide to dangerous climate change.
We’ve know for a long time that oil giant Exxon was a key funder of the climate science denial movement in the United States.
Not as widely known was how, in the 1970s and early 80s, Exxon’s own scientists were warning of the dangers of burning fossil fuels. They even carried out their own modeling and experiments.
Inside Climate News and the LA Times have both had major investigative stories on this.
Here’s an excellent YouTube primer on this story from Peter Sinclair.
One of the United States’ most visible climate science denialists, Marc Morano, has a new movie coming out that he claims will “rock the climate debate”. It won’t.
What it will do, though, is apparently rehash some old climate science denial talking points.
Hiding away on the website of the documentary’s producers was a segment destined for the film. The segment put some slick graphics to the old myth that because carbon dioxide is only a small part of the atmosphere, that it couldn’t have an effect on the climate.
So I asked some leading climate scientists to look at it, and then produced a bit of a critique of my own.
I’ve written a few pieces now about the documentary for DeSmog – how it’ll reheat old denialist tricks, how there’s a particular religious zeal behind the director and how the premiere was skilfully stage managed when even the red carpet was fake.
Anyway, here’s the vid. UPDATE: Marc Morano has contacted DeSmog to say the clip was not in the final version of the film. I’ve clarified this in the YouTube clip and the clarification also appears on the DeSmog story that went with it. I also apologise. The clip was on the public website of Climate Hustle’s production company, CDR Communications (screenshot here) , and was marked “Climate Hustle”. As of right now, 7 Jan 2016, the clip remains there. I should say also, that Mr Morano and CFACT executive director Craig Rucker both told me outside their Paris screening that they would have welcomed me to see the film, but that it was full. People in the screening later told myself and DeSmog editor Brendan DeMelle that the theatre was in fact only about 70 per cent full.
If you read The Australian newspaper the other day, you might be forgiven for thinking a new study into the amount of energy coming from the sun had found that the chances of the world experiencing another “little ice age” had gone up.
You might think that because that’s what the newspaper’s environment editor wrote.
Here are the first two paragraphs, under the headline “Chances of little ice age on the rise“.
The sun’s power is weakening at its fastest rate in 9300 years, doubling the odds of a return to little ice age conditions by mid-century, according to research by the British Met Office.
The chance of a repeat of conditions that last occurred between 1645 and 1715 when London’s Thames River regularly froze over and became the scene of winter fairs, was now rated at between 15 and 20 per cent, up from 10 per cent in 2010.
The big problem with these two sentences, is that the study did not look at the chances of the world, or even parts of the world, “returning to little ice age conditions”.
Rather, the study referred to the chances of the sun having a prolonged period of low solar activity similar to a period known as the Maunder Minimum, which coincided with the Little Ice Age but might not necessarily have actually caused it.
The study was published in Nature Communications and amazingly (or not surprisingly if you have followed much of Lloyd’s work over the years) it doesn’t even mention the Little Ice Age. So what does it say?
A climate science denialist rump within Australia’s Liberal Party is pushing for a parliamentary inquiry of some description on whether climate change might be caused by humans or not.
The party’s Federal Rural and Regional Committee, chaired by West Australian farmer Brian Mayfield, is pushing for the move ahead of Australia signing a new global deal in Paris in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Next week, the committee will push for similar inquiries into… oh shit I don’t know, let me think… the evidence linking the rise in drought conditions to the recent noted absence of fairies at the bottom of many farming paddocks.
What might an inquiry led by Liberals into the causes of climate change be like?
Maybe something like the Republican-led US House Science Committee’s hearing last year, when elected Republican representatives collected all the killer arguments from climate science deniers in an attempt to ping the White House Science Advisor Dr John Holdren. Here’s John Stewart’s review.
Nick Cater has written another of those climate science denialist columns that The Australian likes to print whenever anyone sends one in.
In his introduction, Cater writes: “Given our deference to experts in these technocratic times it’s troubling how often they get it wrong”.
With a hubris-soaked introduction like that, you’d better be sure you’re facts are spot on. You wouldn’t want to look foolish now, would you? Continue reading “Does climate science denialist Nick Cater know the difference between an ice sheet and sea ice?”
As you might know, I’ve written plenty about climate science contrarian Bjorn Lomborg.
A $4 million federal government grant to bring his dubious methodology to the University of Western Australia kicked off a storm with protests among academics, students and the broader academic community.
News just in though that UWA has cancelled Lomborg’s contract. In a statement from the university, Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson defended Lomborg, but said:
Whilst I respect the right of staff to express their views on this matter, as all universities should be places for open and honest sharing and discussion of ideas, in this case, it has placed the University in a difficult position.
Therefore, it is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks places the Centre in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed across the University and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.
I have today spoken to the Federal Government and Bjorn Lomborg advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the Centre and the University’s decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government.
Mr Johnson sent the same statement out in an email to staff this afternoon.
In the space of a two weeks, The Australian newspaper has published 10 stories attacking the Bureau of Meteorology with claims the government agency has been fiddling its temperature data to show more warming than actually exists.
BoM scientists have been doing this, according to the chief protagonist of the story climate sceptic Jennifer Marohasy, because it fits more neatly with the narrative that the world is warming.
It’s a conspiracy.
Now ten stories is a lot of reading, so allow me to summarise what’s been going on for you.
The Australian newspaper has published the claims of climate science sceptics that government scientists are fiddling temperature data with the express purpose of making things appear warmer than they are and that BoM is being secretive.
The Australian newspaper doesn’t tell readers that almost every single claim being made has been discussed at length in previous journal papers and technical reports, published or written by BoM, leaving only the thinly veiled suggestion of a conspiracy, which nobody has any evidence for because it’s not there.
As I’ve explained before, Marohasy is a former free market think tank researcher who is now at Central Queensland University with her work paid for by the foundation of a climate science sceptic.
None of the claims made by Marohasy have been published in a peer reviewed journal, despite the fact that since January she has found time to write repeatedly to government ministers, has spoken at the Sydney Institute and flown to a conference for climate sceptics in Las Vegas – all the while making the same accusations.
Lloyd’s reporting, some of it branded “Exclusive”, has been full of curiosities (I’ve documented a few in a previous post and on The Guardian) some of which give the reader the impression that there’s more to a particular aspect of the story than there actually is.
For example, he has used quotes and reported speech to suggest that BoM has not published particular details about methods used in its ACORN-SAT temperature series, when, as I demonstrated here, it clearly has.
In Lloyd’s first story on 23 August headlined Heat is on over weather bureau revising record, Lloyd wrote that: “In correspondence, Marohasy was told by NASA the Amberley data was adjusted to take account of historic temperature records at nearby stations.”
The idea that Marohasy has been communicating with NASA lends an air of credibility.
But it turns out that the extent of that “correspondence” was an exchange that Marohasy had on Twitter with Gavin Schmidt, who is the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies but who’s Twitter feed isn’t an official NASA account.
During the exchange, Schmidt told Marohasy: “Assuming change => ‘corruption’ w/o need to deal w/inhomogenieties is simply posturing”.
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) May 17, 2014
This part of the non-existent “NASA correspondence” didn’t make it into Lloyd’s story.
Much of Lloyd’s content appears to be being prompted by claims from climate sceptic bloggers. If this is The Australian’s modus operandi, then Graham Lloyd could publish an entire newspaper every day based on unfounded and repeated claims of climate sceptics that are made on denialist blogs.
One of those bloggers, Perth-based JoNova, even says as much in a blog post that appeared an hour after The Australian published its latest story. Nova wrote:
Behind the scenes emails are abuzz among the independent BOM audit team at the moment, and it’s remarkable how quickly they are being converted into the media stories.
Emails from climate science sceptics being converted into stories for the Murdoch-owned News Corp Australia’s flagship newspaper. Cutting edge stuff eh?
In the latest story – Bureau of Meteorology ‘adding mistakes’ with data modelling – Lloyd bases his article on quotes from David Stockwell, who we are told is a “widely published expert” who “has been recognised by the US government as ‘outstanding’ in his academic field.”
Lloyd doesn’t say that this acknowledgment, according to Stockwell’s LinkedIn profile, was given by the US Immigration Service, perhaps because then readers might wonder why this is relevant?
And “widely published” where, exactly? In some leading journals? Science perhaps? Nature maybe? And published about what?
Stockwell’s Google Scholar page lists many publications, but those relevant to temperature and climate change appear to have been mostly published either by Stockwell himself, or the journal Energy and Environment.
Energy and Environment is known as the go-to journal for climate science sceptics and has an editorial board that is stacked with contrarians.
One of those is Dr Benny Peiser, the head of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a UK-based climate science denialist group which recently restructured to enable it to engage in political lobbying after complaints about its activities were made to the UK’s Charities Commission. Peiser is a former co-editor of the journal.
There’s no mention either of Stockwell’s role, alongside Marohasy, as a contributing author and/or reviewer for a Heartland Institute project – the NIPCC report. Stockwell’s affiliation as an adjunct researcher at Central Queensland University, where Marohasy also works, is left out too.
Heartland, for those that don’t know, is a free market think tank in the US that once ran an infamous billboard campaign with a picture of terrorist and murder Ted “unabomber” Kaczynski beside the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do You?”. Heartland told us:
This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.that suggested people who accepted the science of global warming
Perhaps readers might heavily discount Stockwell if they knew this information?
In Lloyd’s article, Stockwell calls for an audit of the BoM’s temperature record. That’s not new either – Stockwell was saying practically the same thing back in 2012.
But what’s particularly interesting about Lloyd’s coverage is just how many of the complaints made by sceptics in his stories have already been addressed by BoM.
BoM has outlined in a technical report on its website how the homogenisation technique it employs has impacted on the observed warming since the beginning of the last century to the tune of about 0.2C. Overall, Australia has warmed by 0.9C since 1910.
If BoM is trying to hide things, it’s plainly not doing it very well.
Professor Neville Nicholls of Monash University, who worked at BoM for 35 years with responsibility for making the temperature records more robust, has pointed out that temperature stations historically move or the conditions around them change (vegetation grows, for example, or buildings go up or come down) and this can artificially change the temperature readings. He told me on Planet Oz:
Are we supposed to just ignore that? A scientist can’t ignore those effects. It’s not science to just go ahead and plot that raw data.
In a response of sorts, Nicholls has written a story for The Conversation where he points out how easy it is for anyone to take a look at the raw data because it is all still available on the BoM website.
A retired scientist Bill Johnstone entered the comments section of Nicholl’s story. Johnston was quoted in an earlier Lloyd that claimed one of the temperature sites – Rutherglen – had never moved, even though its data had been through a homogenisation process at BoM.
Marohasy called for “heads to roll” and claimed she had evidence that the temperature station there had “never been moved”. In The Australian, Johnston was quoted to support Marohasy’s claim because Johnston had worked at the place in question.
But on The Conversation, Johnstone wrote that in fact he only worked at Rutherglen on and off for a few years at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s. It seems he wasn’t even based there.
I’m aware that the bureau has documentary evidence that the Rutherglen site moved sometime before the 1970s. So Marohasy is calling for people to be sacked based partly on the word of a retired scientist who worked there four decades after the period in question.
Again in today’s story, BoM makes clear that it has a policy of not commenting on scientific claims made about its work that are published outside the peer reviewed literature.
Graham Lloyd and his happy band of climate denialist cheerleaders and content providers seem to want the science to be carried out on blogs instead.
Here, for the record, is the extent of the coverage so far.
August 23 – Heat is on over weather bureau revising records (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
August 26 – ‘Amateurs’ challenging Bureau of Meteorology climate figures (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
August 27 – Climate records contradict Bureau of Meteorology (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
August 29 – Bureau of Meteorology told to be more transparent (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
August 29 – Groupthink reigns in climate change research (Maurice Newman, The Australian)
August 30 – Weatherman’s records detail heat that ‘didn’t happen’ (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
August 30 – Distorting the data on our changeable climate (Adelaide Advertiser, The Australian’s Chris Kenny)
September 2 – Bureau of Meteorology defended over temperature records by climate scientists (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
September 3 – Heat off Bourke after Bureau of Meteorology revision (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
September 4 – ‘More time’ to find Rutherglen temperature record (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
September 5 – Bureau of Meteorology ‘adding mistakes’ with data modelling (Graham Lloyd, The Australian)
No doubt there’ll be more to come. I’ll try and keep the list updated.
UPDATE: BoM has released a second media statement in response to the attacks from The Australian. It includes the graph below that shows what happens when you overlay the “homegenised” data and “unhomogenised” data. It’s a graph that rips a considerable chunk of guts from the Marohasy’s central argument.