Our last post concerned the New York Times article by Andrew Revkin, about allegations of a ‘tobacco strategy’ conspiracy to distort the climate debate in the interests of energy companies.
The story was used by Al Gore in testimony to congress, in which he accuses the group of a fraud larger than that committed by Bernie Madoff, as Think Progress reports. They also upload a video and transcript of Gore’s speech, which makes this post much easier to write.
The largest corporate carbon polluters in America, 14 years ago, asked their own people to conduct a review of all of this science. And their own people told them, “What the international scientific community is saying is correct, there is no legitimate basis for denying it.” Then, these large polluters committed a massive fraud far larger than Bernie Madoff’s fraud. They are the Bernie Madoffs of global warming. They ordered the censoring and removal of the scientific review that they themselves conducted, and like Bernie Madoff, they lied to the people who trusted them in order to make money.
But as we point out, this is just wrong. Here’s a quick recap of why.
- The review took place in 1995, but the information it allegedly contradicts was circulated in the early 1990’s, according to the evidence. Logically, therefore, no contradiction emerges from the evidence.
- The documents only contradict each other when quoted from selectively. (See below for quotes).
- The claim of fraud can only be made
- by blurring distinctions between logically distinct categories of knowledge
- by ignoring the order of events
- by reducing matters of degree to binary true/false axioms
- by exaggerating the influence of the alleged conspiracy.
The allegation made in the NYT article focuses on two quotes, one in the material published by the group, the other is from the review.
[Published, early 1990s] “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.
[Review, 1995] “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
But the full paragraph from the review reveals that no contradiction exists in the evidence given.
The potential for a human impact on climate is based on well-established scientific fact, and should not be denied. While, in theory, human activities have the potential to result in net cooling, a concern about 25 years ago, the current balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions of particulates and particulate-formers is such that essentially all of today’s concern is about net warming. However, as will be discussed below, it is still not possible to accurately predict the magnitude (if any), timing or impact of climate change as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, because of the complex, possibly chaotic, nature of the climate system, it may never be possible to accurately predict future climate or to estimate the impact of increased greenhouse gas concentrations.
Read the links in the previous post for more background.
But here’s the most absurd thing. Gore begins his account of the alleged fraud with these words:
I believe it is important to look at the sources of the science that we rely on. With all due respect, I believe that you have relied on people you have trusted who have given you bad information. I do not blame the investors who trusted Bernie Madoff, but he gave them bad information.
If it needs pointing out: 1) Gore has bad information from the NYT article. 2) Gore has not ‘looked at the sources of the science’ to check their reliability. (Neither did Revkin).
Let’s put this into perspective. Rumour-mongering about special-interests paying to distort the debate began on the Internet as the site exxonsecrets.org – a petty rumour-mill operated by Greenpeace. This inconsequential muck-raking has been given superficial journalistic and academic credibility by activists such as George Monbiot and academic activists such as Naomi Oreskes, and lastly by Andrew Revkin. Through a process that owes more to the party game ‘Chinese whispers’ than academic or scientific rigour, unfounded rumour and innuendo has been regurgitated onto the floor of perhaps the most influential democratic institution in the world.
This is climate politics. It pretends to be about saving the planet. But in reality, it is crass, petty, and self-interested.
Climate sceptics ought to take two messages from this.
First, it is clear that environmentalists are clutching at straws to make their case.
Second, that climate politics of this kind has achieved this level of prominence therefore cannot be blamed solely on climate activists. It cannot be argued that environmentalism has risen under its own steam. It’s momentum has been generated by a vacuum of ideas that all political parties suffer from. This is the issue that needs addressing.