Remarkable chart shows how “carbon dioxide is good” if you take cash from Exxon or the Kochs

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.

CO2 is good So what’s it all about?

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.

Climate chnage is just long term cycle 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.

ncc farrell

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.

 

Share

Climate change conspiracy theories and the ABC radio interview with John Cook that never was

a radio
A radio yesterday, which didn’t broadcast an interview with University of Queensland climate change communication fellow John Cook

In the space of six days, The Australian newspaper has published five news stories and an opinion piece attacking the credibility of the Australian government’s weather and climate agency, the Bureau of Meteorology.

I’ve covered the guts of the early stories over on my Planet Oz blog for The Guardian.

But the core of it is that Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a former Institute of Public Affairs free market think tankerer, is claiming that the BoM has, in her words, “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.

Marohasy is a researcher at Central Queensland University with her work funded by another climate change “sceptic”.

She has has not published her analysis in any journal, yet The Australian’s Graham Lloyd has deemed the claims of a climate science sceptic on blogs worthy enough of five news pieces.

I just want to deal with his latest story, that comments on the BoM’s process of transparency.  The story includes this bit:

The bureau has been under fire for not making publicly available the methodology used for homogenisation.

Michael Asten from the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University said confidence in BOM’s data would increase “if and when BOM publishes or supplies its homogenisation algorithms, a step which would be quite consistent with existing ­requirements of the better peer-reviewed journals.’’

BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.

This claim is – oh what’s the word – bollocks (sorry kids).

algo bom
Click to engorge this algorithm

Here is a page on the BoM’s website which goes to great lengths to provide information on how the agency deals with the data from its hundreds of temperature stations.

What’s more, it appears neither Lloyd or Asten are prepared to actually look at the peer reviewed literature where the “homogenisation algorithms” are hidden away in plain sight – or at least in the sight of anyone interested enough to want to look for it.

Here, in the peer reviewed journal International Journal of Climatology, is a paper from BoM’s Blair Trewin discussing the methodology and the mathematical tools (algorithms) that the bureau has used as part of their method to construct their high quality data set, the ACORN-SAT.

If you really don’t believe me, here is grab passage on the right from the actual paper in question.. you likely won’t understand it, but this matters not. It’s the details of the algorithm in a journal, linked to from the BoM website, that some people apparently can’t see.

I argued in my Guardian post that Marohasy and, by extension, Graham Lloyd were spreading little more than a conspiracy theory.

I say this because what’s necessary for Marohasy’s claim that “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming” is important to dwell on.

For her claim to be true, she needs evidence that lots of scientists have got together – perhaps under a tree or in a secret bunker somewhere – and hatched a plan to throw away all of their scientific integrity and just fiddle the numbers.

Marohasy has no evidence for this happening whatsoever and so is left with innuendo.

Marohasy gave an interview with ABC Goulburn Murray where she discussed her claims. But part way through the interview the line goes dead. She called back and continued the interview, continuing her claims of a “cover up”.

Marohasy has written about this on her blog.

I was cut-off, before I got to explain too much.

I waited, assuming the line had dropped out. But after no one phoned me back I rang back myself. I phoned ABC Goulburn Murray and was put on hold. Guess whom Bronwen (O’Shea) was now interviewing?

Answer: the infamous John Cook, a faux sceptic from the University of Queensland.

Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.

Now for those that don’t know, John Cook is the founder of the Skeptical Science website and the Climate Communication Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.

Another sceptic blogger JoNova also commented on the ABC interview with Cook.

“We’re looking forward to seeing John Cook explain that on his blog,” she wrote.

One commenter said:

The plug would have been pulled by the Producer (the person who sits in the glass box and fiddles with the knobs and sliders), who obviously panicked when the interview, based on the Producer’s questions, did not go according to plan.

Making the second mistake, of asking John Cook to say anything sensible, was the icing on the cake, that hopefully will cost the Producer their job (although I doubt it).

On Marohasy’s blog, another commenter wondered:

John Cook gets media dispensation everywhere. One can’t imagine why; his consensus paper is drivel; and did he really say this:

“Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.”

One can only hope it is different from everywhere else; that’s the point; even the AGW scientists [sic] admit to great regional variation; or at least they use to; who knows what they are saying.

One also wonders whether Cook rang in and Jennifer was shunted to give way to this VIP [sic] or whether the ABC rang him?

Well, I was keen to know if John Cook had been looking at the issue of temperature records. I called John to ask him about his ABC interview.

The conversation went something like this.

Me: How was the interview on ABC Goulburn Murray?

John: What interview…?

That’s right. John Cook was not interviewed by ABC Goulburn Murray and he has apparently never met or spoken to the host in question, Bronwen O’Shea.

John even offered an alibi! He was with his mum and before anyone asks, no I’ve not called John Cook’s mum to verify that the person she was with that morning was actually John Cook, her son.

Just to be doubly sure, I asked the ABC for a response.

I was told that they did not interview John Cook, but did have a talkback caller who came on the line after the phone dropped out and this was “David from Sandy Creek” which… well… sort of sounds like John Cook… but not much!

Cook is the bête noire of climate sceptics due to his research showing 97 per cent of climate science papers agree it’s caused by humans. Cook apparently looms so large in the minds of some sceptics that they hear him when he’s not even there.

The sixth story in The Australian comes from Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister’s top business advisor, headlined Groupthink reigns in climate research.

Newman’s piece is the usual bilge but it does include this specific claim about the United States, where Newman hints that the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also fiddles its temperature data.

Now, 1998 is the hottest on record in the US.

Actually no.  The hottest year for continental United States was 2012, smashing the previous hottest year – 1998 – by a whole degree fahrenheit.

You’re shocked by these errors aren’t you? Shocked I say.

Share

Questionnaire for wannabe science minister Dennis Jensen – which of these Lord Monckton statements do you actually agree with?

DENNIS Jensen, recently re-elected Liberal member for Tangney, wants to be Australia’s new science minister, telling Fairfax Media that he has some “unique attributes” that he can bring to the new but not-yet-announced Tony Abbott ministry.

One of those attributes is that he doesn’t accept the position of the world’s science academies and Australia’s CSIRO that climate change is caused mainly by humans burning fossil fuels and chopping down trees and that this might be bad.

Jensen told interviewer Jonathan Swan that just because 97 per cent of  research papers published in scientific journals agree that humans are causing climate change, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right.

“The argument of consensus is a flawed argument,” Jensen said.

When fellow climate science denier James Delingpole tried to make this very same argument to Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, it didn’t turn out too well for Delingpole. Let’s watch.

Anyway, in Dr Jensen’s pitch to be science minister, he also spoke in approving terms of climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton, saying that most of the things which Lord Monckton has said are “entirely reasonable”.

“Some of it I don’t agree with but on the whole a lot of what he says is in my view correct,” Jensen said.  Now I’m curious. Which of the things that Lord Monckton has said, does Dr Jensen agree with?

Monckton sketch image courtesy of Greenpeace

So here is an open invitation going out to Dr Jensen (hi Dennis – this is just for you) to answer this little questionnaire I’ve put together. These questions are all things which Lord Monckton has said in recent years. Which of these do you agree with, Dr Jensen?

  1. Science should only be practised by people who adhere to a religion, preferably of the Christian variety – yes or no?
  2. The former ABC chairman Maurice Newman is “shrimp-like” – yes or no?
  3. The “expert reviewers” for the IPCC are “appointed” to carry out that role by someone other than the person themselves – yes or no?
  4. The world’s climate scientists and advocates for action are just trying to “stamp out democracy” – yes or no?
  5. The cleanest form of energy is “coal” – yes or no?
  6. Lord Monckton is a Nobel Peace Laureate – yes or no?
  7. The BBC once had an Argentinian service and Lord Monckton used this to help the UK win the Falklands War – yes or no?
  8. Some “super rich” sceptics should be encouraged to buy into media organisations so that climate sceptics can get more coverage – yes or no?
  9. The number of people being killed by a misplaced belief in climate change is, if anything, greater than the number of people killed by Hitler – yes or no?
  10. President Barack Obama’s birth certificate published on the White House website is a fake – yes or no?
  11. The chances of Barack Obama being born in the United States are “no better than 1 in 62,500,000,000,000,000,000” – yes or no?
  12. Hospital staff who perform abortions are “butchers” – yes or no?
  13. Young climate change campaigners are like the “Hitler youth” – yes or no?
  14. Professor Ross Garnaut’s views on climate change are “fascist” – yes or no?
  15. Climate change scientists should be prosecuted and locked up – yes or no?
  16. (added this one an hour after publishing) NASA blew up their own emissions-monitoring satellite – yes or no

I could have asked you a few more questions, Dr Jensen, but I think these will suffice.

I do find it puzzling that you would choose to endorse Lord Monckton in some way, given you once wrote to the Chief Scientist complaining about the state and tone of the climate change debate.

It would be great if you found time to answer these questions. I know that Lord Monckton has said much more on the science of climate chnage, even though he doesn’t bother to put his “theories” to the test through proper peer-review. Skeptical Science has a good summary of Lord Monckton’s science “myths” which you might want to take a look at.

Oh, and congratulations on your re-election.

Share

Australia’s new energy minister Gary Gray – a brief climate history

Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray on ABC’s Lateline

AUSTRALIA has a new energy and resources minister in the form of Gary Gray, who was elected to the Federal Parliament in 2007 after six years as an adviser and corporate affairs director for gas company Woodside.

This is a piece of Gary Gray’s history which is uncontested, given that it appears on his biography on his ALP home page.

But one aspect of Gray’s history which has been contested, are his views on climate change and an apparent association with a climate science denial organisation.

Just minutes after Prime Minister Julie Gillard announced Gray’s appointment, a handful of people I follow on Twitter were pointing to claims that Gray had been a founder member of the Lavoisier Group.

On Climate Spectator, Tristan Edis also reported that Gray was a founder member of the “Lavoisier Institute [sic]”.

But after looking into the Lavoisier archives and reviewing some documents sent to me by journalist Bob Burton, it’s pretty clear that Gray wasn’t even a member, never mind a founder member

Continue reading “Australia’s new energy minister Gary Gray – a brief climate history”

Share