Big Oil Funding of Climate Denial – An Examination of the Thesis

It is a common them by those who most dogmatically support the climate change agenda that the opposition are funded by big oil and similarly evil companies. There are potentially a number of angles to this viewpoint.

  1. If money does influence outcomes then we should see that where money on one side is hundreds of times greater than a ragbag of critics, then the critics will be drowned out. This is clearly not the case.
  2. When political parties complain of a money bias, this often goes hand-in-hand of complaints of media bias. But in the global warming sceptics have the most grounds for complaint on the media front. For instance the policies of the BBC and Guardian Newspaper.
  3. Maybe then the sceptics are winning, despite the lack of funds and despite the strong media bias against them, because they are using inappropriate language. My belief is that it is the mainstream who are guilty of intolerant and misleading language.
  4. Maybe the outside money has led to sceptics having undue influence on decision-making, subverting the democratic process. Like the WWF has achieved with the IPCC process?
  5. Maybe the sceptics are guilty of campaigns to misrepresent the status of the science. Like the eco activists “cajoling” scientific organisations to make political proclamations?
  6. Maybe it is the source of funding that creates the greatest bias. In the case of big oil money, if they decided to fund both ways, there are two ways to go. Either, the credibility of both sides is forever tainted, or, if the money was loaded massively one way, then on one side is tainted far more than the other.
  7. Maybe it is because big oil funds climate denial that we should be most concerned. The alternative explanation is that public knowledge of the funding will lead to attacks by environmental groups. To support of attacks by environmental groups (and hence viewing the secrecy of “denial” funding) require two moral points to be maintained. The first is that the views supported are evil. Second, that character assassination, or blockading of premises, or physical attacks on opponents are legitimate ways of opposing those you disagree with.
  8. Maybe, big oil could be viewed by some as being immoral or evil. Others might view with suspicion funding from anyone who makes their money in the gambling industry (especially if they pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection to those activities). They may also view with suspicion currency market speculators, especially one who made over $1bn at the expense of UK taxpayers.
  9. Maybe it is only recent big oil funding that has tainted the policy outcomes. The alleged bad reputation of the oil industry was largely down to one individual in creating a virtual US monopoly in oil production in the late nineteenth century. I do not see a similar smearing of the activities of the foundation created with the ultimate in big oil money.

In short I can see no valid reason to base rejection of critical viewpoints on climate change simply because of unsubstantiated allegations of big oil funding.

I offer an alternative view of those who make these allegations. The belief in “evil funding” stems from a belief they are guardians of some fundamental and irrefutable truths. Furthermore, these truths are concerning a future apocalypse. By implication, those who have an unwillingness to accept that truth is due to out-right lying, or having being deceived by some evil entities, or because they are not right in the head. Historically, those who have maintained to be Truth Guardians, have never substantiated their arguments or allowed for error, or allowed the slightest deviation. Instead they have sought to discourage or prevent people exploring alternatives, knowing deep down that the process of questioning will lead to the understanding that their beliefs are either extreme or in many respects wrong.

Mr P’nHead pulls a face

I purchased this papier-mâché sculpture from an exhibition at Didsbury Library, South Manchester, in about 1990. I have lost the article from the South Manchester Reporter, which the name of the artist. If I remember rightly he was then around 20. Most of the artist’s other exhibits were black ink and pencil cartoons such as of Charlie Chaplin, Elvis Presley and Groucho Marx.

Does anyone know who the artist might be?

My reason for purchasing was the uniqueness of the work, along with being unable to unambiguously discern the expression. What do you think?

Scottish Sceptic on summarizing the sceptic position

I came across the blog Scottish Sceptic at the weekend. At the site, the owner has been compiling a non-polemical summary of the mainstream sceptic view of the science. Unlike here, the statement studiously avoids discussion of policy or politics. I made the following comment in the hope of furthering discussion.

I have had a look through the above, and it appears a fair summary the sceptic position of the science. In general it shows how magnitude and likelihood go in opposite directions. The best corroborated science has trivial implications. The most alarming predictions are basically of the form “If A then maybe B. If B then possibly C. If C happens in a certain way then it could be D. D is an extremely alarming situation” This then gives the headline like

Leading scientists are concerned we are heading for D“.

Having read quite widely on sceptic ideas, on the subject of climate models, sceptics view them as “black boxes“. This would not be concerning if they followed the normal scientific procedure of rigorously evaluating the predictions with the actual data, and adjusting accordingly. Instead, it appears to be past data that gets adjusted to the models, along with some very fuzzy analysis.

Another point is that sceptics tend to see a scientific approach as questioning, identifying anomalies, and getting ever more precise answers. Mainstream climate science is nearer to a definition of “science is what scientists do”.

That leads to another point. Sceptics tend to demand higher levels of evidence. The mainstream seems to accept levels of evidence that a criminal court of law would reject. “Scientists believe/agree”, or “Climate Models predict” or comments a court would reject such views as either hearsay or unsubstantiated. So in the wider world sceptics are not the ones with the marginal position.

Dinosaur Flatulence Caused Pre-historic Warming?

A lighter note on the global warming issue is to be found today’s Telegraph. (also at BBC, Foxnews, inhabitat, The Scotsman) Seems that methane emissions may have been a bigger problem pre-history.

”A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate,” said study leader Dr Dave Wilkinson, from Liverpool John Moores University.

It is speculative, but how far much warming was this? The article says

Scaling up, assuming a global vegetated area of 75 x 106km2 (equivalent to half the total land area), gives global methane production from sauropods of 520 Tg (520 million tonnes). This is comparable to the total modern-day methane emission. For comparison, total pre-industrial Holocene global methane emission was roughly 200 Tg per year, capable of sustaining an atmospheric methane mixing ratio of about 0.7 ppm, and the modern mixing ratio of about 1.8 ppm is supported by roughly 500–600 Tg of global emission.

The IPCC estimates that current methane levels produce (with feedbacks) about 0.4 degrees of warming. Using Idso 1998, this reduces to 0.05 degrees. Either way a quite trivial amount. What is noted is that the number of dinosaurs is huge, as the temperatures and CO2 levels were much higher than today. Without the icecaps there was more available land, and with more verdant vegetation (again both due to temperature and CO2) the animal mass supportable was much higher.

In other words, higher CO2 and temperatures are good for both flora and fauna.

Maybe Josh can to an appropriate dinosaur cartoon – like the recent one below!

IPCC’s 1990 Temperature Projections – David Evans against Mike Buckley

The following comments by Mike Buckley (referenced here) are more revealing about the state of climate science than any errors on Evan’s part.

  1. Surface Temperatures v lower tropospheric temperatures.

    As a beancounter (accountant) I like to reconcile figures. That is to account for the discrepancies. Jo Nova, Anthony Watts and others have found numerous reasons for the discrepancies. The surface temperature records have many “adjustments” that brings reality into line with the models. Whatever excuses you can conjure up, as an accountant I would say that they fail to offer a “true and fair view”.

  2. Trend lines should not start at the origin.

    So you disagree with standard forecasting? That is you start with the current position.

  3. Trend lines should be curved.

    Agreed. This is for simplicity. See next point.

  4. Trend lines should be further apart.

    Are you saying that the climate models have a wider predictive band of 0.75 celsius over 25 years? If they were straight lines, over a century they cannot get within 3 degrees. If Dr Evans had not simplified, the range would have been much greater.

There is a way of more precisely comparing the models with the actuals. The critical variable is CO2 levels. Therefore we should re-run the models from 1990 with actual CO2 data. By then explaining the variances, we can better achieve better understanding and adjust the models for the future. But there is plenty of evidence that this needs to be done by people who are independent. It will not happen, as the actual rise in CO2 was similar to the highest projections of the time.

The philosopher of science Karl Popper is remembered for the falsification principle. A less stringent criteria is that progressive science confronts the anomalies and gets predictions ever closer to the data. Pseudo-science closes ranks, makes up excuses, and “adjusts” perceptions of reality to fit the theory. Progressive science is highly competitive and open, whilst pseudo-science becomes ever more dogmatic, intolerant and insular.

“Fake Skeptics” – a term of intolerance

Tamino, the handle of blogger Grant Foster, uses the term “Fake Skeptic” to describe those he believes to be wrong. I believe Foster’s first use of the term was in his “Skeptics: Real or Fake?” article of 28th June 2011.

The term is “skeptic” is ambiguous. It is either John Cook’s definition of someone who “considers all the evidence in their search for the truth” or (following the Oxford English Dictionary) it is – more broadly – one who doubts or questions. This I discussed here, a few days ago. But either way, what it says to me is that anyone who dissents knows what the truth actually is, but they pretend otherwise. It is a roundabout way of saying “You are a liar, you know it and pretend otherwise“.

What evidence do I have for this extreme accusation?

  1. Lack of Substantiation by Tamino

    To quote from the article:-

    “I’ve often discussed Arctic sea ice, and specifically mentioned that it’s one of the strongest evidences of global warming. All by itself it’s not absolute proof, but as evidence goes it’s strong. Very strong. It’s also an excellent litmus test to separate real skeptics from fake ones.”

    This is evidence of past warming. The skeptics like Warren Meyer, Joanna Nova, Lord Monckton, Prof Richard Lindzen, Anthony Watts, Bishop Hill (Andrew Montford), Prof Bob Carter and Lord Nigel Lawson of the GWPF, do not deny that the earth has warmed in the last century or so, most of which is in the Northern Hemisphere. They do dispute whether the extreme summer minima of ice was entirely due to global warming (alternatively being due to an influx of warmer currents into the Arctic Ocean, like (maybe) in 1923). What they are all united on is that they deny a future catastrophe. That is, warming will accelerate, with catastrophic consequences for the planet. That is they accept that there was about 0.7 Celsius of warming in the twentieth century, but deny that this century there will be 3 to 6 degrees of warming, with severe climate disruption. Even if this were the case (as Lawson says), the current policies would be both ineffective to combatting the problem and would be economically disastrous.

  2. Tamino perverts the truth

    Grant Foster is highly intelligent and has great skill in statistical analysis. However, he is highly intolerant of those he disagrees with, fails to discourage intolerance in his blog comments and uses his considerable intellectual powers to turn invert empirical reality and defend corrupt science.

In short, Tamino is a climate bully-boy. He does not seek to advance understanding, but seeks to suppress it. He has once before deleted his blog. He should do so again, leaving only an apology.

The views expressed are my own. Tamino is not the only climate bully-boy, but a symbol of it. He is not the worst, but probably the most intelligent. I believe that the intolerance should be met with intolerance. This is simply an extension of the 21st Century British attitudes against discrimination, the older beliefs of fair play and that the best way to understand is to compare and contrast the arguments. Furthermore, modern history shows that those who keenest to suppress dissent have the weakest or most immoral case. I will shortly be inviting Tamino to reply by posting, unedited, on this blog.

Update – cross posted to Tamino’s blog. A sign of a climate bully-boy is that they are cowards underneath. They cannot cope when confronted with the reality of what they are doing. Like in George Orwell’s 1984, they edit reality to make it appear the opposite. The right of reply is yours Tamino. Do you believe in what you are doing, or are you just preaching to the converted and promoting intolerance?

manicbeancounter | May 3, 2012 at 12:13 am | Reply

The term “fake skeptic” is a term of intolerance. [edit]

[ResponseOn the contrary, the term is exactly correct.]

Richard Lindzen attacked for dissention

Rather than substantiating the weaknesses in their own case, the climate community is continuing their attack on the dissenters. The latest is in the New York Times on Prof Richard Lindzen of MIT. I have posted the following on Prof Roger Pielke Jnr’s blog

Having listened to some of Prof Lindzen’s speeches and read some of his more populist articles, this attack on him leaves out 2 things. First, it omits one of his favourite words “feedbacks”. Second it leaves out the scale of the difference. Lindzen claims agreement with mainstream scientists that a doubling of CO2, on its own, would raise temperatures by around 1.2 celsius. Whereas Lindzen claims evidence that cloud “feedbacks” more than halve the impact, the consensus of climate models such positive feedbacks of up to three times – with wide variation. The evidence supporting this is patchy, a message implicitly admitted in the article. The lack of substantiation in this key area is crucial. If makes the extreme warming claims uncertain. If one the looks at the expected economic costs of “doing nothing” (like the Stern Review) this uncertainty in the projections should carry a risk weighting.

As a comparison, I would direct readers to Prof Lindzen’s talk at the House of Commons in February of this year. On Youtube, a response here, and Lindzens rebuttal reply at the GWPF.

When the main effort is on silencing dissent, rather than substantiating their own case, it implies to me that the climate consensus has a weak case – and they know it.