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.

 

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The Australian Newspaper’s War On The Bureau of Meteorology

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”.

This part of the non-existent “NASA correspondence” didn’t make it into Lloyd’s story.

Few are following Lloyd’s story, although there was some support from the cat whisperer Ken Ring with a post on his Yahoo NZ blog.

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.

Average temperatures in Australia from 1910 through 2013 using temperature readings that have been both homogenised (red) and unhomogenised (blue).
Average temperatures in Australia from 1910 through 2013 using temperature readings that have been both homogenised (red) and unhomogenised (blue).
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The undiscerning climate bookshelf

Book shelf displaying climate change books at Dymocks book store
Climate sceptic book Taxing Air coming to an undiscerning book store near you

SHELVES in popular book stores can be undiscerning little buggers, as can the book stores themselves.

For example, I recently had cause to wander through the tightly-bound and bulging aisles of my local Dymocks book store. They have some really quite “special” offerings both online and in-store.

Even though we essentially know that astrology is, for all intents and purposes, basically b******s, I can report that the paperback version of “Practical Astrology” is “in stock”.

Failing that, there’s also “Homeopathy for your Cat” within the pages of which you can find out how magic water can cure your ginger’s urinary tract issue.

Are you a book shopping parent who has “wished for a handbook on each child”? Well tough, because Dymocks has sold out of “Homeopathy and Your Child” so you’ll have to work out your kid’s “physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs” some other way (by the way, I’m not singling out Dymocks here – most of the big high street book sellers also hawk similar enlightenment-crushing garbage).

And there are the books on climate change.

Without any prior knowledge, it’s easy to see how the average punter might be easily fooled by the line-up of  books cosying-up in Dymocks and elsewhere. As you can see by the image above, there’s some excellent stuff on offer from well credentialed authors and scientists.

There’s What We Know About Climate Change by MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel. Just beneath, is The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the front lines from Professor Michael Mann, director of Earth System Science at Penn State University, also in the US.

And sharing the same shelf space, is Taxing Air written by Dr Bob Carter, an Australian geologist and advisor to about a dozen climate science denial organisations around the world, and John Spooner, a cartoonist for The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.

Bob Carter’s fringe views on climate change (it’s all natural) make him a favourite of fossil fuel-funded propaganda unit the Heartland Institute and many, many other groups with similarly dismissive views on human-caused climate change and its risks.

Carter was recently let go by James Cook University in Queensland, where he had been an unpaid adjunct professor for over a decade, because he wasn’t pulling his weight.

Carter hinted – and his supporters screamed – that he had been booted out because he was a climate sceptic. I covered that case for DeSmogBlog and also summarised this and other recent goings on for the ABC Science Show.

But back to Taxing Air, which is yet another climate sceptic book with strong links to a conservative “think tank” – in this case, the Institute for Public Affairs, where Dr Carter is the Science Policy Advisor.

The IPA paid for copies to be sent out to Australian members of parliament and has also hosted a launch event for the book. Research has found that almost four out of five climate sceptic books published since the early 80s have links to conservative think tanks.

Dr Carter, it should be noted, has only written one scientific paper on atmospheric climate change, which claimed – wrongly as it turned out – to have found that recent global warming was down to natural cycles of water temperatures in the Pacific. One group of leading climate scientists who analysed carter’s paper concluded that the conclusions he and his co-authors drew were “not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in their paper”.

But is Taxing Air any good? Well, I have a copy which I’m still trudging through (I may not get to the end). But one academic who has finished it is Australian Ian Enting, and he is none too impressed. Mathematical physicist Enting (author of the Australian Mathematical Scences Institute book Twisted: The distorted mathematics of greenhouse denialworked at Australia’s leading science agency, the CSIRO, for 24 years in atmospheric research and modelling of the global carbon cycle.

Enting has analysed the book, describing it as a “polemic” characterised by “half-truths and slanted misrepresentation” and “appalling hypocrisy”.

At one point, Enting’s document notes how one chart  in Taxing Air is taken from a leaked draft of the not-yet-published United Nations IPCC Assessment Report 5 (due out in two weeks).

The chart has been altered, Enting’s document notes, removing a shaded area that shows the uncertainty range which, had it been left in, s

Cover of Killing the Earth to Save It by James Delingpole

hows how climate models agree with the observations within the range of uncertainty. Enting finds dozens of other examples like this.

But my real reason for going into the Brisbane Dymocks store was to hunt out a copy of Killing the Earth To Save It, written by UK-based climate science denialist and wind-farm hater James Delingpole.

In the UK, it was published under the name Watermelons. There was something remarkable about the book which I had read and was keen to confirm.

The book was published by Connor Court, which has published several other climate sceptic books. The editorial board of Connor Court also includes the IPA executive director John Roskam.

The IPA also paid for Delingpole to tour Australia to promote his book in September 2012 – a favour which he returned by running a public appeal for people to donate cash to the Melbourne-based group, which doesn’t reveal its funders but has run a long campaign of climate misinformation.

But none of these are the “remarkable thing” I referred to earlier.

The remarkable thing was an entry in Chapter 8 – “Welcome To The New World Order”. Delingpole continues to spruik on his Daily Telegraph blog, most recently earlier this week. Here’s what Delingpole says on page 174 of my newly purchased copy:

Probably the best analysis of the Club of Rome’s tangible effects on global environmental policy comes courtesy of a website called “The Green Agenda”:

While researching […] and during my academic studies, I have come across many references to the Club of Rome (CoR), and reports produced by them. Initially I assumed that they were just another high-level environmental think-tank and dismissed the conspiracy theories found on many website claiming that the CoR is a group of global elitists attempting to impose some kind of one world government. I am not a conspiratorial person by nature and was faced with a dilemma when I first read their reports. But it’s all there – in black and white.

Indeed

So what exactly is “The Green Agenda” which Delingpole tells his readers is offering this leading analysis? Here’s the source of the quote, on the website “The Green Agenda”. And who runs “The Green Agenda”? It is a sister site of The Watchman’s Post – which describes itself as a “Christian/ Messianic  End Time Messenger!” based in New Zealand.

That’s right. Delingpole’s “analysis” of a jumped-up conspiracy theory about plans for a one world government come direct from a group of Christian fundamentalists who preach about second comings and “end times”. The watchman’s website details the coming of an “anti-Christ”, “times of distress and tribulation” and “Triads of evil”.

Here’s a taster:

True Christians will be seen at best as ‘insane’ and at worst as worthy of elimination. However, note; the period being introduced at that time and rightly called the ‘Time of Tribulation’ will quickly degenerate into a terrible time of trouble for almost everyone in the whole world, not just believers in Jesus. [We will explain more, later!] We can add with conviction, that we believe the ‘Time of God’s judgmental anger’ is a separate period of time as indicated by the pouring out of the ‘Bowls of Wrath’ when all true Believers will be sovereignly protected! [We will explain later.]

Perhaps it might be worth checking a few more of Delingpole’s sources in “Killing the earth to Save It” which is described by News Corp. columnist Andrew Bolt on the back cover as “wonderful” with “devastating facts and lacerating anecdotes”.

Not just devastating and lacerating, but potentially world ending – apparently – just not in the way Bolt and Delingpole might have expected.

Oh, did I say that Killing the World To Save It and Taxing Air are available in “all good bookshops”?

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Heartland Institute climate sceptic author has “no status” with Australian university

Bob Carter, formerly an adjunct professor at James Cook University, appearing on Andrew Bolt’s Channel Ten television show

The Heartland Institute, a climate science denying fossil fuel-funded free market think-tank in the US, recently put the noses of the Chinese Academy of Sciences firmly out of joint with a spectacular piece of overreach.

Get the full and sorry tale over at my DeSmogBlog post, but the short story is that a library service of the academy took two of Heartland’s climate publications produced by its Non-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) project and translated them into one tome.

Ahead of time, the translators pointed out to Heartland that this didn’t mean that they in any way endorsed what the reports said, but was simply a translation exercise.

This message didn’t register prominently enough with Heartland, who made a right old song and dance about the affair quoting its President Joseph Bast as saying this was a “a historic moment in the global debate about global warming”.

The academy and its library division, which carried out the translation, both issued strongly-worded statements.

Heartland’s implication that CAS was endorsing their report was groundless, misleading and “went way beyond acceptable academic integrity”.  An apology followed and much deleting of Heartland web pages ensued.

One of the NIPCC co-authors is Australian scientist Bob Carter. When Heartland announced the “news” about the Chinese translation, it described Bob Carter thus:

Robert M. Carter, Ph.D., a marine geologist and research professor at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia and author of Climate: the Counter Consensus

Now this description of Bob Carter’s affiliation with James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, might have been in the ball-park of being accurate back when he co-authored the reports in question, but it certainly isn’t now.  Bob Carter had been an adjunct professor at James Cook for at least two years. Adjunct means he isn’t paid.

Professor Paul Dirks, head of school at JCU’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences where Bob Carter’s affiliation was held, has told me that since 1 January 2013, Bob Carter has had “no official status” at JCU. He said Bob Carter’s previous adjunct status ceased on that date.

When  internal Heartland documents were released in 2012, they showed that Heartland was intending to pay Bob Carter about $1667 per month for his work on the NIPCC project. He told me at the time:

Heartland is one of a number of think-tanks and institutions that I work with. Sometimes I’m paid an honorarium, sometimes expenses and sometimes I do it pro-bono.

As well as working with Heartland, Bob Carter has a long string of affiliations with think tanks and organisations which promote climate science denial or advocate a “do nothing” position on climate change. Some also promote sceptism and scare campaigns against renewable energy. Some have been set up or have accepted cash from fossil fuel corporations.

For example, Bob Carter is the Science Policy Advisor at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, the chief science advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition, a director at the Australian Environment Foundation, a member of the academic advisory council of the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, an adviser to the Australia-based Galileo Movement, science adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute, a patron of the UK’s anti-climate legislation group Repeal The Act, an advisor to the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), an advisor to the Australian Climate Science Coalition and an inaugural founder of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.

Perhaps there’s more, but these 10 groups – all with pretty similar positions on climate change –  will do for now.

Several of these groups still describe Bob Carter as having an affiliation with James Cook University, which, as I’ve just clarified, ended six months ago. I’m sure they will all be diligently edited to reflect Bob Carter’s actual non-status with James Cook University.

I mean, we wouldn’t want anyone being misled now would we?

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The Australians backing Heartland’s climate science misinformation

A version of this blog originally appeared at DeSmogBlog.

ANY conference worth its salt needs a nice long list of sponsors to give the impression of widespread diverse support for whatever the conference organisers are advocating.

In the case of the Heartland Institute and their advocacy for the denial of the risks of human-caused climate change, their just-started conference for climate science misinformers in Chicago can boast official supporters from as far and wide as India, England, Austria and New Zealand.

But one of the most devoted and long-standing group of supporters for their climate change denial conferences over the years has come from Australia. This year there are four Australia-based groups listed as “co-sponsors” and over the history of the seven conferences no less than nine different Australian groups have been happy to have their organisation’s name hitched to Heartland’s colors.

A mistaken impression could be that there’s widespread support for Heartland’s extremist views in Australia. The word “co-sponsor” gives the impression that these organisations are willing to actually give up money to support.

Yet in at least one case, and probably several others, being a co-sponsor is as easy as contacting Heartland and saying that you agree with them. The reality is that those supporting Heartland from Australia come from a small circle of active and loud free-market idealogues.
Take for example a first-time sponsor, the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, an organisation launched in May this year by its executive director Tim Andrews. Mr Andrews has spent recent years in Washington being taught how to build a “grassroots” movement of free-market idealism in Australia similar to that of America’s Tea Party movement.
Andrews is a graduate of the Koch Associate Program, a scheme funded by the same oil billionaire Koch brothers who have been pumping millions into America’s climate denial campaign under the umbrella of a “grassroots” Tea Party movement. Andrews also worked for Americans for Tax Reform, which has also sponsored Heartland’s conferences. It’s a “grassroots” movement being created in the narrow interests of the likes of the Koch brothers. Continue reading “The Australians backing Heartland’s climate science misinformation”
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Climate misinformation coming to a school near you?

CAMPAIGNS to inject ideologically-driven climate science denial into schools are moving up a notch or two.

In Australia, we’ve had mining entrepreneur and geologist Professor Ian Plimer’s book released late last year, supported by free-market think-tank The Institute for Public Affairs and targeting school children and teachers.

In the US, the recent unauthorised release of fundraising documents from the free-market think tank The Heartland Institute revealed a plan to spend at least $100,000 to design a climate science curriculum for schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12 which would focus on the “controversy” of climate science.

On the back of this revelation, the Climate Reality project has released a one-minute video that imagines what school students might say about climate science if plans such as Heartland’s (or Professor Plimer’s for that matter) were to come to fruition.

Yet in reality, it’s a campaign which has already started.

Continue reading “Climate misinformation coming to a school near you?”

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