Newsnight of the Living Dead

For those who missed Wednesday’s edition of BBC2’s Newsnight, we highly recommend that you watch it:

When you’re asked to adapt your lifestyle to combat climate change, what goes through your head? Do you embrace the challenge, switch off the lights and reach for the hair-shirt? Or do you shut your eyes, bury your head in a carbon-luxurious lifestyle and hope it will all go away? Tonight we ask what the green movement has really achieved. Yes, they’ve brought the issue to the national conscience. But are they now becoming part of the problem by rejecting so many potential solutions? They style themselves as radical, but are they actually too conservative? Tonight we put the great and the good of the green movement on trial.

It doesn’t quite live up to the promise, but it’s well worth it for the spectacle of Caroline Lucas, Zac Goldsmith, John Sauven, Franny Armstrong et al being lined up Weakest-Link-style for self-inflicted humiliation. Available on iPlayer here if you’re in the UK.

Forecast for Satire Worse Than Previously Thought

We find ourselves temporarily elsewhere and otherwise engaged. We’ll be back shortly. It has not escaped our notice that there has been a couple of interesting elections recently, and that a new report for the UK government proves beyond doubt that it’s very hard to make predictions about the future. We’ll come back to these. Meantime, a couple of other things…

First, Ben had an article on Spiked last week about the Guardian’s entirely credulous coverage of Greenpeace’s allegations that illegal deforestation in the Amazon Basin is linked to a number of giant UK food firms:

…the ‘smoking gun’ which Greenpeace claims links companies to illegal deforestation amounts to no more than an allegation that trade that has been ‘contaminated’ with some beef from farms that had extended into rainforest. The evidence of this global conspiracy produced by Greenpeace are documents representing the sale of less than 9,000 head of cattle – hardly a huge amount given Brazil’s estimated stock of 200million.

To put that into perspective, there are 10million cattle in the UK, a country with a surface area less than three per cent of Brazil’s and with less than a quarter of Brazil’s human population. If Brazilian cattle were reared as intensively as their British counterparts, 9,000 cattle would occupy an area roughly one-tenth the size of the county of Oxfordshire…

Second, staying with Greenpeace, here’s a funny thing. It’s just not funny in the way Greenpeace intend it:

In a front-page ad in today’s International Herald Tribune, the leaders of the European Union thank the European public for having engaged in months of civil disobedience leading up to the Copenhagen climate conference that will be held this December. “It was only thanks to your massive pressure over the past six months that we could so dramatically shift our climate-change policies…. To those who were arrested, we thank you.”

There was only one catch: the paper was fake.

Looking exactly like the real thing, but dated December 19th, 2009, a million copies of the fake paper were distributed worldwide by thousands of volunteers in order to show what could be achieved at the Copenhagen climate conference that is scheduled for Dec. 7-18, 2009.

…goes the email circular (H/T Andrew). And here‘s the spoof newspaper.

But governments have been quite open for a while now about the fact that they look to climate protesters for political direction. Here’s UK energy and climate change minister Ed Miliband, for example:

When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.

And here’s opposition leader David Cameron:

[youtube 8gr5rIK097E]

While the European Union goes as far as paying environmental groups to lobby them.

Greenpeace should be thanking the government. Where’s some proper satire when you need it?

Genetically Modified Climate 'Science'

Someone else who isn’t entirely wrong this week is Lord Bob May of Oxford. It’s quite refreshing to hear the former Royal Society president and government chief-scientific adviser having a go at Big Environment for a change instead of Big Oil:

Parts of the green movement have become hijacked by a political agenda and now operate like multinational corporations, according to two senior scientists and members of the House of Lords.

The peers, who were speaking at an event in parliament on science policy, said they felt that in some areas green campaign groups were a hindrance to environmental causes.

“Much of the green movement isn’t a green movement at all, it’s a political movement,” said Lord May

He’s certainly right that the green movement is a political movement. But it’s an observation from the realm of the startlingly obvious. It’s a movement. Take away the politics and it ceases to exist. May and his fellow peer Lord Krebs seem to be imagining some sort of ideal politics-free… erm… politics.

May [added] that he used to be involved with Greenpeace in the 1970s

What on Earth did they think the green movement was, back in the good-old days, before it got all ‘political’? They don’t say.

May might be a great scientist, but he’s a bad Scientist. As a Scientist – by which we mean, someone who practises Scientism – May is under the impression that his views are merely an extension of ‘the science’ – as if he were the vessel for pure scientific objectivity, and above mere politics. Politics by simultaneous equation. Trouble is, not only are May’s facts often spectacularly wrong, so too is his habit of hiding orthodox environmental politics behind them.

Through his criticism of his fellow Scientists, Greenpeace, May betrays the folly of Scientism. When Scientists disagree, they can only resort to accusing each other of politics. Because politics is what people who are wrong do. After all, you can’t have different views among people who are guided only by the science. And the way you show people are guilty of politics is to show they’ve got their facts wrong. Greenpeace went wrong, it seems, when they let their politics get in the way of May’s version of the facts.

May also criticised green groups who campaign against initiatives such as wind farms and the Severn tidal barrage scheme, while also proclaiming the need to tackle climate change. He said such groups were “failing to recognise the landscape is human-created”.

He might be right that greens harbour an aversion to anything ‘unnatural’. But he is wrong to think that, to see the light over alternative energy, they just need a few facts pointing out to them. After all, if the landscape is human-created, what could be wrong with a human-created atmosphere?

Moreover, the bulk of the opposition to alternative energy comes not from green groups, but from run-of-the-mill objections that just happen to make use of the very environmental language in currency – ‘ecosystems’, ‘biodiversity’, ‘sustainability’ – that May himself has been promoting. This language has, as we have pointed out here on Climate Resistance, been used to reorganise many and varied aspects of public life. Local government services and plans have all been adjusted to meet the demands of ‘sustainability’ and climate change anxiety. Property developers have painted themselves green. What’s left of British industry has been painted green. So it should be no surprise then that the objections to them are also framed in the same terms. They aren’t green enough. They aren’t sustainable. They will damage fragile ecosystems.

May complains that Greenpeace should be more honest about their political agenda:

“I wish they would wear the uniform of the army they are fighting [under],” said May

But May himself wears several layers of different uniform underneath his tightly-buttoned ‘senior-scientist’ regalia. As self-appointed custodian of the facts, May demands respect for them, and uses them as a stick to beat down insubordination, within and without the ranks, as this interview revealed:

We have to confront this threat,’ says May. ‘Unfortunately the media all too often does this in a way that relegates the most important issue facing our species as if it was a soccer match between two competing sides of equal strength. It’s not. If you want to compare it [the debate over the existence of global warming] to a football match, it is more like Manchester United taking on three primary school children. It is as ridiculous as that.

On one hand, you have the entire scientific community and on the other you have a handful of people, half of them crackpots. Nevertheless, this is still presented as an unresolved battle. That is simply not true. It has been resolved. Only the details of climatic change’s impact have still to be worked out.’

May has lost count of the players in his war/football fantasy. This isn’t a game of two sides, because, for a long time, May has been fighting his own war with deeper Greens. The battle line was drawn across England’s fields – not football fields, but fields where genetically modified crops were being trialled and trashed.

Before his stint as President of the Royal Society, May was appointed by the UK government to lead an investigation into the safety of GM food. But, according to the Guardian, he was also…

… being paid by a leading GM company, it emerged last night.

Bob May and Alan Dewar of the Institute of Arable Crops Research, an organisation subsidised by the government, were appointed in June to help lead a team of “world-class scientists” to look at the potential adverse impacts of the farm trials.

…Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace called for the scientists’ resignation and the winding up of the farm-scale trials, several of which have been partly destroyed by anti-GM activists and one of which was abandoned by the farmer.

Things got worse for May when scientists broke ranks:

… the British Medical Association (BMA) announced it believed gene foods were a potential danger to health, particularly those involving the use of antibiotic-resistant genes. ‘On the basis of no evidence any actual harm,’ as New Scientist noted, the BMA then called for a ban on such crops because they could increase antibiotic resistance in humans.

It was this notion that began Bob May’s lachrymous uncertainties. ‘Christ, we have rising antibiotic resistance because the bloody members of the BMA have been oversubcribing penicillin for every damn illness you can think of. It’s got nothing to do with GM food.’

This was a PR disaster, exacerbated by May’s anger and impatience.

In vain, do scientists such as Sir Robert point out that modified crops actually reduce [pesticide] use. ‘It is simple common sense. Modified seeds cost more than normal seeds. So why the fuck would farmers want to have them if they also used up more pesticides which also cost money?’

He had tried to sell the potential of GM positively, but failed comprehensively, telling MPs in 1999 that:

there are real social and environmental choices to be made… They are not about safety as such, but about much larger questions of what kind of world we want to live in…. There is a huge potential market for new GM ‘agrifood’ in Europe.

This kind of world, argued George Monbiot, was one in which scientists were instrumental in an an ‘economic war against the poor’ – good science wasn’t necessarily ‘good’.

The physics labs in which some of the best scientific brains in Britain design grenades which maim without killing, or bombs which destroy people but not the infrastructure, practice “good” science, subjected to peer review. They are also saturated with values. They place a higher value on their research grants than on the lives with which they toy. Precisely the same approach appears to govern many of the nation’s biology labs.

For the war now being waged across the planet is an economic one, as big corporations attempt to seize the resources upon which some of the poorest people on earth depend. And many of the best biologists in Britain are fighting on the wrong side.

But Monbiot’s distance from Scientism diminished substantially over the next decade, as Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill noted last year:

Some time during the past five years he went to bed an hysteric, the closest thing Britain had to a nutty Nostradamus, and awoke to find himself labelled a man of reason, a ‘defender of truth’ no less, who is praised on the dust-jacket of his latest book for possessing a ‘dazzling command of science’ (only by Naomi Klein, admittedly, but still).

May lost the battle over GM crops. But he learned a valuable lesson. The potential benefits that science offered weren’t persuasive in the face of the fear that the environmental movement was capable of generating. It was too easy to turn any argument about the potential of science into an argument that favoured business interests. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Science would assert its influence, not by constructing positive visions of the future, but by selling itself as the only insurance policy against certain doom. ‘The kind of world we want to live in’ ceased to be a matter of choice, or even about ‘safety as such’. There was now only one course – survival, and its terms were to be dictated by science. Monbiot and May seemed to agree.

Now, of course, even Greenpeace are likely to cite Bob May’s views on the climate debate:

Last year the UK’s prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, wrote to Exxon asking them to stop funding the groups who were “misinforming the public about the science of climate change”. Exxon indicated to the Royal Society that they had – and they would. In February this year Exxon did a big public relations round of the media, saying it had been “misunderstood” on climate change and gave the clear indication that it had dropped its funding of the climate sceptic industry.

And more curiously, May uses the very same argument about industry funding that Greenpeace was throwing at him in the late 1990s, citing their efforts to ‘expose Exxon’. Greenpeace quotes May quoting Greenpeace on Exxon.

The scientific establishment and grubby eco-warriors converged, speaking each others’ language: science gave plausibility to the environmental movement’s darkest fantasies, and the environmentalists’ nightmares gave science a legitimising raison d’etre. But as May’s confusion about which army’s colours Greenpeace are wearing reveal, the convenience of this entente is not lasting. The side/football team/army that May found himself on is itself at least two, with different interests, and different ambitions that no longer appear to be mutually expedient.

Catastrophism is not the only argumentative tack that Bob May, and the Royal Society in general, have borrowed from the greens. In the days of the GM Wars, when environmental groups were hailing Arpad Pusztai’s infamous study on toxic potatoes as proof that GM food was harmful to health, the Royal Society, under May’s leadership, was bending over backwards to dismiss it as a single, unreplicated piece of evidence. And it was. But ten years later, in his desperation to drive home the prospect of climate catastrophe to unbelievers, he cites single, unrepresentative, worst-case studies with abandon – re-framing them along the way in order to remove any suggestion that they might not be the last word on the matter. In fact, he cites with abandon Lord Stern citing with abandon a single, unrepresentative, worst-case study of climate-change threats to biodiversity. No, worse, he mis-cites Stern with abandon – surreptitiously and wholly dishonestly chopping the middle out of the quoted section to achieve the full effect.

The shifting positions of scientists and pressure groups in environmental debates is illustrated further by comments by May and Krebs in the parliamentary event we started with. Krebs, for example, is happy to denigrate Greenpeace as scaremongers:

Lord Krebs, the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency and current principal of Jesus College Oxford also criticised Greenpeace, saying that it had been set up to peddle fear on environmental issues. “Greenpeace is a multinational corporation just like Monsanto or Tesco. They have very effective marketing departments… Their product is worry because worry is what recruits members,” he said.

But some scaremongering is more equal than others:

He added that in some areas, such as warning about the effects of climate change, such an approach was justified, but that Greenpeace sometimes chose the wrong issues – for example, nuclear power and GM crops.

May echoes these sentiments:

May said parliamentarians had not done enough to prepare the public for the effect climate change would have on their lives in terms of efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate changes.

“I think there has been a problem of communication,” he said. “For some, I think it’s the desire not to confront the issue.” But, he said, the smoking ban had showed, for example, that public attitudes could change rapidly.

The smoking ban did not change attitudes. All it did was to prevent the expression of attitudes – there is no choice. It hasn’t made people less tolerant of smoking, it’s just made smoking illegal in public spaces. It is a deeply confused lawmaker who cannot tell the difference between a law and an attitude.

This confusion represents the heart of the problem of May’s scientism. If you merely view ‘attitudes’ as equivalent to holding so many wrong or right ‘facts’, then it stands to reason that winning the argument consists of no more than barking right facts at the wrong. This harks back to a prehistoric view of science communication that the Royal Society itself has played no small part in dispelling. It is a return to the deficit model, whereby the unenlightened masses just need to know more about the science in order to come to the ‘correct’ conclusions. The last couple of decades have seen a shift away from this unidirectional Public Understanding of Science to a more conversational Public Engagement with Science model. And yet it is striking that, while the Royal Society has embraced public engagement exercises over nanotechnology and, to an extent, genetic modification (although only after the horse had bolted), when it comes to climate change, conversations are conspicuous by their absence. The only conversations that the Royal Society takes part in on climate change are with those who already agree. It’s little surprise that there has been no formal attempt to engage the public in conversation when the majority of the electorate remain unconvinced by climate change rhetoric.

May attempts to side-step this particular pitfall by claiming that wrong facts about climate change are only held because they were put there by the wrong people – conspiracies of ‘an active and well-funded “denial lobby”‘, in May’s words.

‘Politics’ is thus reduced to the expression of wrong ‘facts’, resulting in the highly polarised battle between armies – or football teams – representing true (science) and false (politics). The whole business of politics is therefore a deviation from ‘the right facts’. Concomitant with such scientism is the view that being right is equivalent to being legitimate: the ‘consensus’/football team/truth-army legitimises the reorganisation of the world according to the demands of the environmentalists that are consistent with the Scientists’ own ambitions. What makes this necessary are the dire consequences of climate change, as dictated by ‘climate science’

Whatever the scientific truth of the claim, scientism’s argument amounts to an organising principle, the same as any other political ideology. Any normative proposition that demands that we change our lives must be treated as any other. That is to say, it needs to win its way to influence by persuasive and careful argument, and must endure hostile criticism. But that is not how the environmental movement has won its influence. Instead, men like May have captured the catastrophic drama that has been generated by the likes of Greenpeace and used it to legitimise new international and national political institutions and legal frameworks. Where political philosophies used to gain momentum – movement – through capturing the public’s imagination, and would assert ideas through such weight of numbers, today’s political players legitimise themselves with terrifying images.

Bob May might be unaware of his own contributions to the politicisation of science, but it is not lost on Patrick Moore, Director of Greenpeace International for seven years during the 1970s, the period of Bob May’s involvement with the group:

“It appears to be the policy of the Royal Society to stifle dissent and silence anyone who may have doubts about the connection between global warming and human activity,” said Dr. Moore, Chairman and Chief Scientist of Vancouver, Canada-based Greenspirit Strategies Ltd.

“That kind of repression seems more suited to the Inquisition than to a modern, respected scientific body,” said Moore.

May would no doubt argue that these shifting allegiances reflect no more than the ‘truth’ of ‘the science’ on offer from Greenpeace et al regarding these various areas.

Indeed, May’s erstwhile right-hand-man Bob Ward has argued just that:

during my early days at the Royal Society in 1999, the Society became involved in a major debate over GM foodstuffs, when it challenged a number of statements about their safety that were based on studies that had not been submitted to peer-reviewed journals. This made the Society the subject of much criticism from NGOs such as Greenpeace, which I think demonstrates that the Society is not partisan to particular interest groups.

That the Royal Society doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with businesses and Greenpeace may make it hard to identify the Royal Society’s sympathy with an existing interest group. But that doesn’t mean that interests and politics aren’t operating beneath the crusader-for-science costume. Even having the best scientific facts doesn’t guarantee the stainless moral fibre of their possessor. The curious thing about the last few decades’ eco-wars has been the way that all sides have attempted to portray themselves as being in possession of the best, least interested facts, and that the opposing viewpoints are tainted – perverted, even – by financial and political interest. But paradoxically, this has happened in an era characterised by a dearth of influence by political perspectives in debate. Since the late eighties, for example, it has been hard to identify the functioning of Left or Right arguments operating in the public sphere that owe anything to their traditions. Where once, such movements would have achieved prominence for their ideas precisely because they were political, and because they represented interests, today’s movements instead appeal to ‘science’ for legitimacy.

But as the GM wars showed, science hasn’t solved anything: the debate continues its descent. The arguments May produces, like Frankenstein’s own monster, escape his control. The interminable issue of funding, rather than demonstrating the purity of scientific objectivity, demonstrates the impossibility of such a perspective ever being achieved – even Lord May is ‘industry funded’. Scientific terminology – ‘sustainability’, ‘ecosystems’, ‘biodiversity’ – escape scientific context, to allow anyone to speculate what might happen ‘if trends continue’. The notion of ‘consensus’ becomes detached from its object, and allows anyone with a broadly sympathetic agenda to cite facts about opinion about facts as evidence of facts themselves.

This is no reflection on the usefulness of science itself. But that usefulness diminishes when it is puffed up for political purposes – ultimately to fill the void left by politics itself.

So, May might be giving a few sections of the green movement a bit of stick, but when it comes down to it, that Greenpeace et al have got their facts wrong has little to do with it. He pounces on them when their interests and politics diverge from his own. Which is why environmentalists can rest assured that they can keep on making up the facts about the climatastrophe as they go along without incurring the wrath of May or the Royal Society. In fact, the Royal Society gives out prizes for that sort of thing.

May has lost one battle against the forces of unreason. He doesn’t want to lose another one. He’s going to win on climate change, even if he has to lower himself and scientific institutions to the level of Greenpeace to do so. But in today’s world, neither are causes; they are both just symptoms.

Branding Environmentalism

Another day, another expensive advert from the environmental movement. Not Oxfam this time, but Greenpeace, who must spend a significant portion of the $hundreds of millions they make on their campaigns.

[youtube J8dLHZ6jKFc]

We have noted before that the environmental movement it incapable of turning its values and principles into an appealing vision. It cannot create a grass-roots movement. This is because people are not stupid, and Greenpeace, no matter how hard they try, cannot conceal the fact that they have nothing but contempt for ordinary people. This patronising film is no exception.

Lacking the means with which to connect to people, eco-poseurs have tried to give their ideas authenticity by turning them into pastiches of moments with genuine historical significance. For example, Caroline Lucas (it’s been a while since we mentioned her) aims to create a Green ‘New Deal’, which, in this post-modern vignette, casts her as Roosevelt, saving millions from the Great Depression. We have also noted attempts to apply the morality of abolition of slavery to the climate debate, to make ‘deniers’ today’s equivalent of yesterday’s slave-traders. Remakes of Kennedy’s moon-landing speech are a favourite for climate alarmists. Gore has used it. Former UK Chief Scientist, Sir David King has used it. Tony Blair has used it. It has had far too much air time. But now Greenpeace have tried to inject it with some life with CGI trickery.

There is no point examining what this puppet Kennedy is actually saying. All that needs to be said is that they are green clichés, every bit as tired as Kennedy’s image. Greenpeace just want you to know that it’s Kennedy saying them. Have they forgotten how close he took the world to atomic warfare? How environmentally friendly would that have been?

Adverts are rarely for things. They are for brands. You can buy non-branded generic non-prescription medicine far more cheaply than branded, but the adverts will tell you that their product is the fastest, and most effective. Whizzz. Bang. Woosh. It must be true. You can buy cleaning products containing exactly the same substances as branded equivalents, but for less money. You can get cheap car insurance from many different providers, but it’s the advert which stuck in your head that you try first. Adverts attempt to sell you something, not simply on the basis of the utility of the product, but that the particular product’s brand meets a deeper, more emotional need. Trust. Authenticity. Recognition.

And so it is with this advert. You don’t need what it’s selling. There are plenty of alternatives. This is not merely posthumous celebrity endorsement. This is an attempt to connect the environmental brand with nostalgia for the certainty of the past.

Fortunately, nobody is really buying it.  

The Blue/Green, Upside Down, Left/Right, Inside-Out, Three-Bags-Full Agenda

Leader of the UK’s Conservatives, David Cameron, is at it again… Here he is, unveiling the latest installment of the ‘resurrection’ of the Tory Party, by announcing his continued commitment to Environmentalism, in spite of the prospect of an economic downturn, and rising fuel costs, by mixing the Green Party Manifesto, and a nod at the market, and some straightforward opportunism.

The Labour Party are on their knees. The Lib-Dems are barely registering. Cameron could say whatever he liked, or nothing at all. Yet here he is, wrapping himself in green cloth, telling the UK that there is no alternative, ‘cos the ‘era of cheap oil is over’, so we have to go Green. Well, we do now. Thanks to Dave.

The new ‘Blue Green Charter’ aims to ‘reconfigure our whole economy’ with horse feathers, and ‘overturn our hydrocarbon dependency’ by powering the country with rocking-horse shit.

This biodegradable policy commits the country to taxes, and the construction ‘positive social norms’ (no, we’re not kidding) to ‘induce behavioural change’. With Labour’s position becoming increasingly limp, Cameron now seems to be recycling ideas from the Green Party, wrapped up in the ‘greatest challenge facing our generation’ rhetoric which screams far louder about Cameron’s inability to speak to the current generation than it defines any realities that it faces.

The Green NGOs seem to be loving it.

Keith Allott, WWF-UK’s climate change spokesman said it would “avoid the risk of locking the UK into a high-carbon future” and could boost investment in carbon capture technology.

John Sauven, of Greenpeace, said: “The Tories’ proposals should have been more ambitious given what today’s technologies can deliver but, by ruling out the proposed old-style coal plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, today’s announcement puts Cameron way ahead of Brown when it comes to cleaning up our energy system.”

There you have it… David Cameron, doing as unelected, undemocratic, self-appointed NGO puritans tell him, whilst making a promise to commit you to reducing your energy bills or face punishment, embarrassment and high prices, rather than him taking responsibility for the construction of a functioning energy infrastructure.

The Well Funded World Wide Fund for Fear

We reported earlier in the year how claims that a ‘denial lobby’ had influenced public opinion on climate change were totally at odds with reality.

The UK’s Royal Society, for example wrote an open letter to Exxon in 2006, accusing it of funding these sceptics. The image of oil barons distorting the truth for pure profit was appealing to an environmental movement desperate to account for its own lack of popular appeal. Through their site ‘Exxon Secrets’, Greenpeace ‘exposed’ the millions of dollars that had allegedly been given to think tanks and other deniers to brainwash an unthinking, gullible public.

But as we pointed out, the $22 million that Exxon allegedly gave away between 1998 and 2008 is peanuts compared to Greenpeace’s $2.2 billion income over a similar period.

Following our post yesterday about the WWF’s use of a rather dodgy scientific measure to secure headlines and public attention, we thought we’d have a quick scan of their accounts, too.

Year
Income ($US)
URL
2003 370,245,000 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwffinancialrpt2004.pdf
2004 468,889,000 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwfintar005.pdf
2005 499,629,000 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwfannualreport.pdf
2006 549,827,000 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_ar06_final_28feb.pdf
2007 663,193,000 http://assets.panda.org/downloads/wwf_annual_review_07.pdf
TOTAL
2,551,783,000

The accounts prior to 2003 aren’t available online. (If you have access to them, we would be grateful if you would let us have a look). But the point stands. The WWF has an enormous amount of money behind it – far more than any dirty ‘denialist’ organisation has been able to get its hands on.

Even more surprising is the source of their funding. One thing that might be said in Greenpeace’s defence is that it apparently doesn’t accept money from Governments. But a closer look at WWF’s regional sites shows that a significant amount of funding does come from the state. For example, WWF USA:

And in the UK:

It is curious that the WWF, who are so sharply critical of the US, UK and EU Government, should take such a large amount of money from them.

For example, a headline from the site on the 15th May tells us that “US government: climate change threatens polar bears” And today, the site urges that “The government must act to ensure that no new coal-fired power stations are built in the UK until carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology has been proven to work on a large scale and can be installed from the outset”.

This is especially curious, because the environmental movement has been telling us for somewhile that, apart from ‘manipulating’ public opinion with distorted science, the establishment is reluctant to act on climate change. Yet here we can see that the government is handing over cash to that same movement.

And it’s not just the WWF, which is just one of nine environmental NGOs that constitute a “Green Ten” that are beneficiaries of EU funding.

We work with the EU law-making institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers – to ensure that the environment is placed at the heart of policymaking. This includes working with our member organisations in the Member States to facilitate their input into the EU decision-making process.

Membership contributions are an important part of the finances of Green 10 organisations. We also receive core funding from the European Commission, except for Greenpeace. Furthermore, some member organisations of the Green 10 receive funding on a case-by-case basis for specific projects from governments and foundations. Some organisations also receive specific donations from industry. Greenpeace does not request or accept financial support from governments, the EU or industry. All Green 10 organisations are externally audited every year.

The members are:

What is stranger than Green lobby groups being happy to take significant wads of dosh from the very governments that they accuse of being climate criminals is that those governments should want to fund the enemy within to the tune of tens/hundreds/thousands of millions of dollars annually.

Could you imagine the fuss, if the sceptics had had nearly 5 billion dollars, to do ‘scientific research’, and were contracted by the government to ‘inform the public’?

Time and again, year after year, and in spite of the billions of dollars available to the environmental movement, polls show that US and UK publics are not interested in being eco-hectored. (And here’s another example courtesy of Philip Stott).

Governments, on the other hand, seem to enjoy being told what to do. Or, more accurately, to enjoy paying people to tell them what to tell other people to do – it saves them the trouble of having to work out for themselves what to tell people to do. Environmentalists might like to think they are part of some sort of grass-roots, popular, and radical movement. But what kind of grass roots movement needs such huge handouts to spend on PR? Environmentalism is rife at all levels of society except one – the electorate. It is anything but a popular, mass movement. The Environmentalist’s superficial radicalism, and the bogus urgency of calls to ‘save the planet’ have been attractive to politicians only because their endless and desperate search for popular policy ideas has consistently failed to engage the voters. But they are mistaken. Environmentalism is very much part of the establishment.

US Presidential Candidates in "Ties to Industry" Shock

Catherine Brahic, “New” “Scientist”‘s online environment reporter continues to reflect the magazine’s confusion between environmental science and environmental politics.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say “so much for the pulling power of oil money”. Reports suggested that it played a big role in George W Bush’s two terms in office, but according to this stunning online interactive graphic, it was powerless to save Rudolph Giuliani in the 2008 primaries.

The graphic is from OilChange International, who have made an online toy showing the relationships between past US presidential candidates and oil industry donors.

But what is the significance of oil money? Is it really surprising that corporations and businessmen donate to presidential candidates? Not a lot, and no. US presidential candidates are not going to have got to where they are by not taking donations and by refusing to be friends with rich people. You might find something equally scurrilous by looking at donations from any industry sector – toys, for example – and their donations. Even greener-than-though, pledge-making eco-warrior Al Gore took $142,014 in 2000, according to this silly database. (Only enough to pay his gas bills for just a couple of months though.) Rich people hang out with each other. It’s what they do. Companies (and individuals) make donations to US politicians. It’s how it is done.

Corruption? Hardly. Right or wrong? That’s a very different question. There are many discussions to be had about whether what goes on in Western democracies is ‘right’. But that it it ‘all about oil’ is an argument which comes up again and again, and again, in the climate debate. Why?

It reveals an awful lot about the Green movement (as well as a large part of the liberal left) that it can’t actually challenge its counterpart, or call for a new form of politics which doesn’t require such vast sums of capital. It’s easier to say, for example, that John Kerry ($184,037) lost the election to George Bush ($2,649,725) because of oil money, or because people are stupid, or like rats, and republicans appeal to stupid people. Instead of reflecting on why their ideas have failed to find a home in the public imagination, increasingly commentators have looked for other reasons to explain the failure of the self-proclaimed good guys. If politicians eager to identify with progressive movements were to try to challenge the politics by which powerful interests gain influence, they would undermine themselves. This is perhaps more evident in UK politics. We’ve linked to this video before… David Cameron, standing on top of Greenpeace’s HQ in London, showing off his ethical credentials, and announcing a new policy.

Is it any less dodgy to be in bed with Greenpeace (a multi-national player if ever there was one) than with an oil Baron? Who is Cameron trying to appeal to here? His plans for micro-generation will be appealing to about 0.001% of the UK population – mostly his landed school chums. Meanwhile, micro-generation is likely to serve only as a colossal pain in the arse to anyone who has to depend on it – everyone else. His policy has not emerged from a well-developed political philosophy that he wants to share, but just the immediate need to appear to be in bed with the “right people” in the mistaken belief that it will appeal to “the people”. Greenpeace are only too happy to be the powerful corporate interest in that relationship. All it has to complain about is that it’s own vast spending power hasn’t had the effect on the electorate that it imagines the oil money has.

If $2 million were enough to buy a US president, the US wouldn’t be quite the superpower it is. Like the shrill cries about ExxonMobil-funded sceptical scientists, the claim lacks any sense of proportion.

The oil argument is a big, black…er… red-herring tossed out by a movement that thrives on the exhaustion of political elites, but finds itself the object of just as much cynicism from the public. Naturally, then, the movement finds faults with both. The former is corrupt, and the latter is stupid. Tired politicians are turning to the environmental movement as a PR move for empty campaigns.

Back to the New Scientist blog… Brahic is, of course, not reporting science, but politics. We certainly don’t dissapprove of coverage of the politics of the environmental debate. But Brahic and the New Scientist’s agenda don’t actually bring a fresh perspective on the debate more than they epitomise it. You could hear the same old stories and tired rhetoric from any mouldy old hairshirt ecowarrior. Recycling internet innuendo, conspiracy theories and doom-mongery is not ‘news’. There is an interesting debate to be had about the relationship between science and politics, but New Scientist is not fuelling it.

The Well-Funded "Well-Funded Denial Machine" Denial Machine

One of the arguments which frequently emerge from the warmers in climate change debates is that the scientific expertise of sceptics has been bought – literally – by oil companies. We see this tired argument again wheeled out in the aftermath of the Inhofe 400 list. For example, James Wang of non-profit organisation Environmental Defense tells us,

The aim of the report is to refute that only a handful of scientists – mostly in the pocket of oil companies – still dispute that global warming is happening, and that it’s caused by human activities.

The logic of the “industry funded sceptics” argument seems to be that scientists can’t possibly have an honestly held position which contradicts the “consensus” because the consensus cannot possibly be mistaken, so their opinion must have been paid for. These scientists (and, for that matter, anyone with a public profile who has anything critical to say about global warming) are whores – “industry shills” , “corporate toadies”, or part of the “well funded denial machine – who not only prostitute themselves, but also sell us all out to an apocalypse for dirty, dirty dollars… Those who “deny” climate change are in fact, denying a “holocaust. As ecowarrior Mark Lynas puts it,

I wonder what sentences judges might hand down at future international criminal tribunals on those who will be partially but directly responsible for millions of deaths from starvation, famine and disease in decades ahead. I put this in a similar moral category to Holocaust denial – except that this time the Holocaust is yet to come, and we still have time to avoid it. Those who try to ensure we don’t will one day have to answer for their crimes.

It would be hard for the warmers to escalate the rhetoric against their detractors and for the tone to sink any lower. Yet still, the inclination of those using this argument is not to engage their sceptical counterparts in scientific discussion, or even to allow their political opinions on the best way to act on the available evidence to be challenged in an open and democratic way. Meanwhile, the scientific and political debates go unheard, and are overwhelmed or shut down by the shallow rhetoric of ‘consensus science versus industry-funded sceptics’.

This is not merely the language of hairshirt lunatics and fringe activists operating in the blogosphere and Internet forums, but even the “considered” opinion of “experts”. But far from lending the argument credibility, this expert opinion only reveals its own shallow, fragile and nervous claim to objectivity and the hollowness of the political environment that it thrives in. The truth of the matter appears to be that few people recognise environmentalism as a political ideology. We’ve reported before how the Royal Society – the UKs leading “science academy” – make bigger noises about “funding” than they shed any light on the science.

There are some individuals and organisations, some of which are funded by the US oil industry, that seek to undermine the science of climate change and the work of the IPCC. They appear motivated in their arguments by opposition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, which seek urgent action to tackle climate change through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions… Often all these individuals and organisations have in common is their opposition to the growing consensus of the scientific community that urgent action is required through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. But the opponents are well-organised and well-funded…

The Royal Society’s statements that sceptics aren’t interested in debate but seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of global warming” are unequivocal. According to them [PDF] (and pretty much any activist), at the centre of this conspiracy to pervert the course of science are “climate criminals” ExxonMobil, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. And at the centre of the attempt to expose this devious master plan, and dishing the dirt on the backroom negotiations is the website Exxonsecrets, a database of rumour, innuendo, and leaked documents, which sells itself as:

a Greenpeace research project highlighting the more than a decade-long campaign by Exxon-funded front groups – and the scientists they work with – to deny the urgency of the scientific consensus on global warming and delay action to fix the problem.

And the reason Greenpeace have targeted ExxonMobil is that,

For over a decade, it has tried to sabotage international climate change negotiations and block agreements that would lead to greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

A report by the campaign [PDF] in May last year concluded that

ExxonMobil’s campaign to fund “think tanks” and organizations that spread misinformation about the science and policies of global warming is now widely known. The company’s multimillion dollar campaign has undoubtedly contributed to public confusion and government inaction on global warming over the past decade.

and suggested that ExxonMobil should

Apologize to the world for the damage delay caused by the company’s actions to confuse the public understanding and slow political response to this global crisis.

And the sums we are talking about, which have been spent on comissioning these “climate criminals”…

TABLE 1. EXXONMOBIL’S “HANDFUL” OF 2006 FUNDING CUTS

Organization 2005
ExxonMobil
Funding
Total funding
1998-2005
Center for a New Europe USA $50,000 $170,000
Center for Defense of Free
Enterprise
$60,000 $230,000
Competitive Enterprise Institute
$270,000 $2,005,000
Environmental Literacy Council $50,000 $50,000
Free Enterprise Education Institute. $70,000 $130,000
TOTAL $500,000 $2,585,000

( page 5 http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/binaries/exxon-secrets-analysis-of-fun )

So, according to Greenpeace and co, the $2,005,000 given to the CEI between ’98 and ’05 was enough to stall worldwide action on climate change.

But hang on a minute. Don’t Greenpeace also seek to influence the debate by lobbying politicians, and making public statements to “inform” the public?

Gosh, looking back over some of our recent posts, it seems as they do. Just last month, we reported on how Conservative leader (and quite possibly the UK’s next Prime Minister) David Cameron was so impressed by Greenpeace’s views on micro-generation that he was virtually singing about it from the rooftops.

Here he is, actually on Greenpeace’s rooftop, at their expensive headquarters in London. Not quite singing, but policy-making and webcasting, nonetheless.

In a BBC article last year, a Greenpeace representative summed up the way they like to be perceived…

“But it is not enough for green campaigners just to be seen as “nice people”, argues Greenpeace’s Jean McSorely – they must also have the stronger arguments. The pro-nuclear lobby has been clever in using environmental arguments, on climate change, and the security of supply issue, to push its case, she says. She believes Greenpeace has a stronger scientific case, but, she argues, it does not always get a fair chance to make it. “The access industry gets is just phenomenal compared to green groups,” she tells the BBC News website. “Labour has often castigated the old boy network, the public school tie and so on, but they have a similar network. It depends who you know in the unions or ex-Labour ministers. “People may accept that as the way things are, but there needs to be more transparency.”

Greenpeace… Always the victim, the underdog, the oppressed. Never mind its access to teams of lawyers, opposition parties and its favourable media image as heroic planet savers, and their proximity to the old-boy, public school tie network in the forms of David Cameron, and the billionaire Goldsmiths, among many others.

But if it is true that poor little Greenpeace doesn’t always have a fair chance to make its case, (which is news to us) how much smaller is this David, than the Goliath? If it’s true, as Greenpeace say, that “You Get What You Pay For”, how much cash has it had to spent on PR, and to influence the global dialogue on climate change?

Year
Income (US$)
Income (Euros)
Source URL
1994 137,358,000
LINK
1995 152,805,000
LINK
1996 139,895,000
LINK
1997 125,648,000
LINK
1998 110,833,000
LINK
1999 126,023,000
LINK
2000 143,646,000
LINK
2001 157,730,000
LINK
2005 173,464,000
LINK
Total $418,348,000 E1,202,527,000

(Speaking very roughly, Euros 1,202,527,000 = US$1,772,404,550. @ todays exchange rate = $2,190,752,550 total)

That is a lot of money.

Let us recap. Of all the oil companies, according to Greenpeace, the Royal Society, and campaigning organisations, journalists, and scientists, ExxonMobil is the worst. And of all the wrong things it does, the worst has been to give $2 million to the CEI over the course of a decade. This funding has been sufficient to significantly stall international action on climate change on the global political agenda. Allegedly.

Yet as we can see, since 1994, Greenpeace have been the lucky recipients of well over $2 billion in roughly the same time. A difference of three orders of magnitude.

And what have they done with it? Lobbied. And pulled high-profile stunts to gain media attention. And lobbied. And run expensive PR and media campaigns. And lobbied. And interrupted democratic processes and the generation of electricity and sabotaged crops. And lobbied. And picketed the forecourts of privately run ESSO garages. And lobbied. And lobbied. And lobbied. And, of course, terrified the public about cancers, apocaplyses, armageddons, catastrophes, too often and too many to begin to list here. You can do a lot of lobbying and PR work with 2.2 billion dollars. And don’t forget that a vast amount of work done is done for Greenpeace for free by activists, journalists, campaigning celebrities, and politicians who are keen to appear to be up-to-speed with the climate bandwagon, and therefore ‘in-tune’ with today’s concerns. Nothing epitomises this state of affairs better than the image of an MP or prospective Prime Minister in bed with an NGO. Because politics is regarded as sinister, whereas NGOs, in today’s world, are seen to be above that kind of stuff – “ethical”, rather than political. By achieving the ethical seal-of-approval of vociferous and high-profile NGOs, politicians can claim to have a stainless character. Environmental NGOs foster suspicion of politics, which is corruptible, claiming that their vision of “the good life” isn’t subject to contest, criticism or influence because “the science is in”.

Greenpeace want to claim that the corrupting influence of money has distorted the public perception of climate science. Given the scale of their funding and the extent of their influence, shouldn’t we agree with them? Couldn’t we say that Greenpeace have been engaged in exactly the propaganda exercise they accuse ExxonMobil and the CEI of? It accuses other organisations of sabotage, yet sabotaging and interrupting legal and democratic processes and stopping industrial operations is precisely how Greenpeace has risen to prominence. It terrifies people into donating and believing, and in doing so, over the last few decades, Greenpeace has successfully influenced politics throughout the world. But it is right and proper that they have been able to do so. What is a terrible, terrible shame is that opposition to them has been insufficient, and that, their own shrill complaints have gone largely unchallenged. There have not been enough Exxon-funded CEIs. If Greenpeace really had “science” on its side, and really had our interests in mind, it would welcome challenge, and debate – like all good political campaigns, it would shout “BRING IT ON!“. It would be through this process that Greenpeace would influence the debate. Instead, Greenpeace, the scientists at the Royal Society, and anyone using the cheap language of rumour, conspiracy, and innuendo avoid debate. This argument has been successful only because of the mass withdrawal from politics, and the political elite’s desperate need to find ways to justify itself. The ‘scientific consensus’ is a stand-in for political legitimacy, and the terrifying images of Armageddon constructed by environmentalists are a surrogate ‘purpose’ or vision. To challenge the consensus is to undermine that legitimacy, and to challenge the terrifying images is to undermine that purpose. It is far easier to shift the debate away from such potential damaging and revealing matters, to focus on ‘interests’, and to say that such challenges are the obfuscations of profit-seeking oil-barons. The most peculiar thing about this is that in this strange way of thinking, those who claim to have the least interests get to have the loudest voice, and it is up to the sceptics to prove the argument false.

Greenpeace should be free to make its political arguments, as should the CEI – wherever they each get their money from. But if Greenpeace want to continue to appeal to victimhood, as the hard-done-by truth-seekers, oppressed by the nefarious influence of cash, they should consider that their billions of dollars make their claims look not too dissimilar to those of the old church, which preached the virtues of poverty while raking in a vast wealth, using it to expand its influence, and to coerce and harass disbelievers. Such is the nature of orthodoxies.

The only real value in pointing out Greenpeace’s billions is to show how exhausted the political environment has become. People who clothe themselves in terms such as “progressive” and “liberal” yet get behind Greenpeace’s arguments about “scientific consensus” and “industry funding” should therefore take stock of the fact that, if it is true that alternative voices are being funded by corporate interests, it is big business which has created a challenge to powerful, well-funded and well-connected quasi-corporate interests and orthodoxies. No doubt it is confusing for such liberals to learn that they are in fact, engaged in undemocratic, and elitist argument.

The irony of “the well-funded well-funded-denial-machine denial machine” is not simply that it is well funded, and denies critics of its political agenda, whilst complaining about funding and political distortion of science. But that the angry accusations thrown at sceptics – both scientists and ‘ideological’ sceptics – are the product of a deeply illiberal form of politics, which seeks to deny opposition its right to expression, avoids debate, and hides behind the distorted conception of science that comittees can determine scientific truth which politicians and individuals should obey, and damn anybody who disagrees.

The Treachery of Speeches

Surrealist politics from UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron:

The issue we’re discussing today, and the subject of the policy document we’re publishing, is decentralised energy – again an issue on which Greenpeace has a distinguished campaigning track record. 

But decentralised energy is just one component of a much bigger issue: man-made climate change and our response to it.

And our plans for a decentralised energy revolution in our country are just one component of our vision for Britain’s future.

So before outlining the plans we’re publishing today, I’d like to place them in the context of the big picture: our vision for the country, and the fight against climate change…

Decentralised energy provides a clear example of how this virtuous circle can work.

By enabling people to generate their own electricity, we are literally giving them more power over their own lives.

This really is power to the people.

Once people start generating their own electricity, they will become far more conscious of the way in which they use it – they will become more responsible about energy use and their own environmental impact.

And the overall effect of these changes will be to make Britain greener – to help reduce our carbon emissions and thereby contribute to a safer country and a safer world…

Our plans will help create a mass market for micro-generation.

The current framework inhibits innovation.

Today, anyone wanting government help to install micro-generators has to grapple with pages of regulations.

We need clear and simple rules to make it easier for households to generate electricity.

Supermarkets and other commercial enterprises with premises could also become generators and suppliers.

Schools, hospitals and community groups too.

This is not a pipe dream: it is tomorrow’s world.

Speaking of pipe dreams,

Magritte’s apparent contradiction in “The Treachery of Images” is not a contradiction if we take the view that the image is just an image, not the object it represents. Magritte’s pictures depicted ‘juxtaposed’ objects and statements in reality-defying configurations to reveal the superior reality of forgotten or repressed thoughts, unconstrained by the tyranny of false reason and morality. Cameron’s approach to policy making is little different, albeit unintentional. Indeed, it is not a pipe dream, because Cameron was not smoking a pipe as he uttered the words. He delivered the speech (we must assume) sober, sane, and after having thought about it. That makes it much, much worse. He was, nonetheless, as high as a bat on something which caused him to believe that the reality which governs power generation, distribution and use is somehow negotiable. As even George Monbiot observes, “Small Is Useless“:

Last year, the environmental architect Bill Dunster, who designed the famous BedZed zero-carbon development outside London, published a brochure claiming that “up to half of your annual electric needs can be met by a near silent micro wind turbine”. The turbine he specified has a diameter of 1.75 metres. A few months later Building for a Future magazine, which supports renewable energy, published an analysis of micro wind machines. At 4 metres per second – a high average wind speed for most parts of the UK – a 1.75 metre turbine produces about 5% of a household’s annual electricity. To provide the 50% Bill Dunster advertises, you would need a machine 4 metres in diameter. The lateral thrust it exerted would rip your house to bits. 

Micro-generation cannot produce the energy demands of even the most basic of contemporary lifestyles, let alone feed electricity into the grid. Cameron is running with this policy because he is more interested in demonstrating that he’s in tune with the anxieties that people suffer in today’s chaotic world than in developing an energy policy fit for the 21st century. In this way, he is more like an artist seeking to prove that he has captured an understanding of contemporary experience than he is a politician. And he’s not even any good at that. Because people are actually far more discriminating and sophisticated than Cameron, his new friends Greenpeace, and for that matter everyone else on the green bandwagon, give them credit for. Which is why they end up trying to make environmentalism cool rather than persuading us with careful argument. A case in point (and continuing with the pipes theme) is Greenpeace’s viral marketing campaign that they like to think will convince ‘lads’ (UK vernacular for young men whose thoughts are dominated by beer, football, scantily-clad women, and disregard for seriousness) to reduce their CO2 emissions:

Greenpeace and Cameron may not wish to claim that the sun shines out of their back pipes, but that doesn’t stop them speaking out of them. In fact, Cameron is the arse through which Greenpeace speak.