Does the UK Need Another Climate 'Unit'?

by | Aug 29, 2014

Imagine that you are a journalist — it’s not hard to do — in need of some information about climate change. Where would you turn to first?

You might start with the UK’s allegedly independent Committee on Climate Change, they are charged by the Climate Change Act 2008 with establishing the UK’s ‘carbon budgets’. Or, of course, for more policy-related matters, you could ring the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Both these organisations have media officers. But perhaps you want more of a science angle. In which case, you could have got in touch with the Met Office. The Met Office scientists do lots of research into climate change and its impacts — work that needs no introduction here — much of which comes out of its Hadley Centre. Or you could get in touch with some of the other academic research departments that have been created over the years: The Climate Research Unit at UAE, or al at UEA, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, which has branches at Cardiff University, Newcastle, Cambridge, Manchester, Oxford, Sussex, or Southampton Universities. Or you could get in touch with The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the LSE, or it’s sister, The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College, just down the road. There’s The Walker Institute for Climate Research at Reading, The National Centre for Atmospheric Science, which is part of the National Environmental Research Council, which funds and directs an array of research programmes across many research organisations, throughout the UK and beyond.

Perhaps you’re more interested in responses to climate change. In which case, there are the government-backed non-profit companies Carbon Trust, Energy Saving Trust, and The Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP). Or there are the departments, quangos, statutory bodies and non departmental public bodies, not already mentioned, like OFGEM, the Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Environment Agency, The Forestry Commission, and many others.

And of course, let us not forget the charities and NGOS!… Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The WWF, The RSPB, and those one-time development and relief charities, who prefer to concentrate on making the weather noce, rather than saving people’s lives, like Oxfam, Tearfund, and Save the Children. An even fuller list can be found on Wikpedia.

In other words, if you wanted to find out about the climate, there are, literally, thousands of people, in hundreds of organisations, with budgets totalling many, many £billions, that you could call on — and that’s before we’ve even considered other individual experts and organisations in other countries. Each of them has a view on climate change and probably wants to share it with you. Every organisation listed above has at least one media officer, if not an entire media team.

(In other words, if you are a journalist, and you’re unsure about where to go for a comment about climate change, you are doing the wrong job, and the discussions about mediocrity in the previous two posts on this blog apply to you absolutely.)

So why, then, has this week seen the birth of a new climate change organisation, the ominously-titled, Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit?

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit is a non-profit organisation that supports informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK.

We support journalists and other communicators with accurate and accessible briefings on key issues, and work with individuals and organisations that have interesting stories to tell, helping them connect to the national conversation.

But isn’t this is a job that was already being done by The Carbon Brief.

Carbon Brief reports on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK. We produce news coverage, analysis and factchecks, and publish a daily and weekly email briefing.

Carbon Brief are…

… grateful for the support of the European Climate Foundation, which provides our funding.

And The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit gladly tells us that,

All of our funding comes from philanthropic foundations. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the European Climate Foundation, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, and the Tellus Mater Foundation.

Tellus Mater are a mysterious organisation

Tellus Mater’s mission is to catalyze a shift to sustainable capitalism: to change the operating rules for capitalism so that finance can better fulfill it’s role in directing the flows of Financial Capital to production systems that preserve and enhance Natural Capital.

Furthering green capitalism strikes me as a categorically political objective. And yet here it seems to be presenting itself as a philanthropic organisation, pursuing indubitably noble, if not value-free objectives, while not listing its supporters, or saying much at all about where its own money comes from.

The Grantham Foundation, of course, is set up from the extraordinary wealth of the super-rich Jeremy Grantham — another mega capitalist, again, note.

And the European Climate Foundation…

was established in early 2008 as a major philanthropic initiative to promote climate and energy policies that greatly reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to help Europe play an even stronger international leadership role to mitigate climate change.

The group of philanthropists who founded the ECF were deeply concerned over the lack of political action and the lack of general public awareness around the devastating future consequences implied by climate change. They formed the ECF – a ‘foundation of foundations’ – to collaborate in ensuring the necessary transformation from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.


The ECF has an annual budget of roughly €25 million. The majority of our funds are re-granted to NGOs and think tanks engaged in bringing about meaningful policy change. Our programme staff collaborate with grantees and experts from the field and funders to design and fund strategies based on a thorough understanding of decision-makers, decision-making processes, and political context. In 2012, we made 181 grants to 102 organisations.

There seems to be a lot of ‘philanthropic’ activity aimed not as much at helping people, as managing the public’s perception of climate change and influencing policy makers. The alleged “lack of general public awareness around the devastating future consequences implied by climate change” is of course, what has concerned all three major political parties, and thus the government, its departments, The United Nations and its organisations, the European Union and its organisations, NGOs, charities, and of course, all manner of public organisations.

It is a puzzling thing… democratic governments, supranational political organisations and charities seem to be out of kilter with the public mood, yet each depend on the public to a greater or lesser extent, for legitimacy. Together, they seem to think it is their role to persuade the public rather than respond to them. It is hard to resist the idea that this gap in fact precedes the political establishment’s embrace of climate change, and that the possibility of the end of the world in fact comes as quite a relief to those who still have positions of power, in spite of that gap.

The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) demonstrated the need for itself by commissioning a survey. The poll, said the ECIU, “shows widespread misconceptions about energy and climate change”.

It shows that only one in nine (11 percent) of people are aware of the strength of the scientific consensus on man-made climate change, a finding that the ECIU said carries ‘uncomfortable echoes’ of the MMR controversy of 15 years ago.

In fact, the Comres survey asked,

What proportion of climate scientists do you think believe that climate change is mainly the result of human activities?

The answers were as follows:

Almost all 11%
A majority 43%
About half and half 35%
A minority 9%
Almost none 2%

It wasn’t good enough for ECIU that 43% of respondents only said ‘a majority’ — they were ignorant if they didn’t say ‘amost all’. ECIU continue,

Nearly half of the UK population (47 percent) think either that most climate scientists reject the idea that human activities such as fossil fuel burning are the main driver of climate change (11 percent), or that scientists are evenly split on the issue (35 percent). Several recent studies [ Cook et al, Tol, Verheggen et al] show that more than 90% of climate scientists agree that the main cause of climate change is human activity.

In spite of surveys such as Cook et al, the view that scientists are split on a proposition as ambiguously framed as the survey’s is not unreasonable.

For instance, even if one believes i) that climate change is a problem, and that ii) it is a problem caused by industrial emissions, and even that iii) most scientists believe i) and ii), there is the question of degree to which a) climate change is a problem, b) climate change is caused by man, which the proposition in the survey ducks. The problem of ill-defined propositions is rife in climate change science, as I pointed out last year:

Nuccitelli’s survey results are either the result of a comprehensive failure to understand the climate debate, or an attempt to divide it in such a way as to frame the result for political ends. The survey manifestly fails to capture arguments in the climate debate sufficient to define a consensus, much less to make a distinction between arguments within and without the consensus position. Nuccitelli’s survey seems to canvas scientific opinion, but it begins from entirely subjective categories: a cartoonish polarisation of positions within the climate debate.

No less a figure than climate scientist, Professor Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre, joined the debate.

Ben Pile is spot on. The “97% consensus” article is poorly conceived, poorly designed and poorly executed. It obscures the complexities of the climate issue and it is a sign of the desperately poor level of public and policy debate in this country that the energy minister should cite it. It offers a similar depiction of the world into categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to that adopted in Anderegg et al.’s 2010 equally poor study in PNAS: dividing publishing climate scientists into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. It seems to me that these people are still living (or wishing to live) in the pre-2009 world of climate change discourse. Haven’t they noticed that public understanding of the climate issue has moved on?

The informed member of the public would now know that respectable, consensus, mainstream position on climate change is that,

1. There are serious problems with the historical temperature record, especially as it has been constructed from proxies.
2. There are serious problems with projections of likely future temperature, especially as they have been produced from computer models.
3. There are no detectable signals, attributable to climate change, in statistical records of climate, or losses associate with them.

These are points which emerge from mainstream climate science. They are not the irrational beliefs held by anti-scientific ‘deniers’.

So the scientific understanding of the planet’s past and future climate, once regarded as an essential component of understanding climate change are in fact matters of debate. It might be reasonable for the public to regard the question posed by the survey as trivial. And as Judith Curry points out about the current climate, there are many problems with the claim that ‘more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together’ — far from speaking for itself, the statement needs unpacking and its premises interrogating. Meanwhile, the Cook et al study deviated from the consensus position in effect by including in its estimation of the ‘consensus’, studies which proceeded from the putative consensus a priori, rather than investigating it. The problem, as I have explained in the article linked to above, is one of a ‘consensus without an object’: most people agree with the consensus without identifying what the point or principle of agreement is, thus the ‘consensus’ is invented ad hoc, to suit whatever is needed from it, in any particular debate. New light has been shed on the study by Jose Duarte.

In the case of the ECIU’s attempt to construct foundations for itself out of the public’s ignorance of science, this new organisation does a good job of mangling its own survey, which aimed to measure the public’s memory of an earlier mangled survey — Cook et al. One can now imagine that someone in the future trying to understand the construction of successive organisations, each built on the failures of previous organisations. There will be some kind of archaeologist, peeling back through mangled surveys and studies, but never reaching the actual point of origin — a climate change big bang.

The problem that exists in the present for the likes of Cook et al’s 97% survey, is that it is not having the desired effect of rousing the masses from their climate science slumber. Yet it was transparently a PR exercise, rather than an attempt to inform the public. So too, for that matter, is the European Climate Foundation’s sister-project, The Climate Brief, a PR exercise. One might recall at this point, another PR exercise:

The Climate Science Rapid Response Team is a match-making service to connect climate scientists with lawmakers and the media. The group is committed to providing rapid, high-quality information to media and government officials.

Climate Science Rapid Response team member scientists are chosen to cover a wide array of topics related to Climate Science. They have been selected based upon their publications in professional peer-reviewed scientific journals.

There is a wide gap between what scientists know about climate change and what the public knows. The scientists of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team understand that better communication can narrow this gap. The media is in the best position to deliver accurate science information to the general public and to our elected leaders but only when they have access to that information. The Climate Science Rapid Response Team is committed to delivering that service. We are advocates for science education.

The climate change communication field now seems crowded with organisations claiming to be able to connect the public, via the media, with climate scientists.

The Climate Science Rapid Response Team seems to have been convened by Richard Hawkins of the Public Interest Research Centre(PIRC). And as we know, it’s all about funding…

PIRC was set up with grants from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable and Social Services Trust. One way or another, JRCT has supported every one of our major ventures over the years.

PIRC has also been core-funded for many years by the 1970 Trust, and grants for individual projects have in the past been given by other organisations including the Consumers Association, Social Science Research Council, Allen Lane Foundation, Artists Project Earth, Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, the Network for Social Change, Nuffield Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Sainsburys Family Trusts and Trocaire. In the past few years have also received support from civil society organisations, including WWF-UK, RSPB, and 10 other conservation organisations for Common Cause for Nature.

So now there are an entire ecosystem of philanthropic organisations, funding other organisations to ‘inform’ an apparently ignorant public for their own good. But each of them fail to alter the balance of public opinion. What has the ECIU got that The Climate Science Rapid Response Team not got? And what have they got that The Carbon Brief hasn’t got? And while we’re there, what have those organisations got that organisations like The Science Media Centre — which also aims to put scientists in front of cameras — have not got?

Paul Matthew in the comments below notes that we should remember the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), which is also funded by the ECF, amongst many others. And Responding To Climate Change (RTCC), which appears to be a project of a private company, Entico, which has substantial contracts with the United Nations. Then there’s the conglomeration of NGOs, ClimateCoalition, and CaCC (Campaign against Climate Change), too — each of which claims to be doing the same thing.

We should examine these claims to be informing the public and raising the level of debate. That is not the effect of any of these organisations. All such sound-byte mines do is encourage lazy, sloppy, cut-and-paste journalism. Churnalism. All the journalist needs to do, now, to write a piece about climate change, is ring up any of these organisations, ask for the officially-sanctioned and hygienic comment, without ever having had to go to the trouble of understanding the debate they are reporting on.

The founder of ECIU is Richard Black, a former BBC journalist, who became known for his palpable activism-cum-journalism — not something which is deserving of criticism in and of itself, but which under the pretence of i) scientific journalism, and ii) the BBC’s commitment to the environmental issue, is rather jarring. Just as there are plenty of ‘units’ established to ‘communicate’ science, and a surfeit of media organisations intent on burdening the public with ‘information’ about climate change, journalists like Black were ten-a-penny. That is the consequence of mediocrity’s ascendency, of course. There was speculation that Black’s notoriously one-sided hectoring became too much, even for the BBC. The notion that the public might not be getting the right messages might not be all that distinct to bitterness at being removed from an organisation which very rarely gets rid of anyone it has put in the public eye.

But journalists removed from such high profile institutions as the BBC’s World Service leave with the connections to the world intact. Hence, Black has been able to assemble quite a team, as Andrew Montford notes, over at Bishop Hill.

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green & Bow
Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury
The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, British Medical Journal
Professor Michael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy, UCL
Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
Marylyn Haines Evans, Public Affairs Chair, National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham
Lord Howard of Lympne
Robin Lustig, Journalist and Broadcaster
Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, Former Commander, UK Maritime Forces
Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool
Lord Puttnam of Queensgate
The Earl of Selborne
Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Head of Open Oceans, British Antarctic Survey
Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness
Sir Crispin Tickell, Former Ambassador to the United Nations
Dr Camilla Toulmin, Director, IIED
Lord Turner of Ecchinswell

I shall spare you the biographies. Andrew suggests that this ugly assembly represents ‘the goblin version of the GWPF’, which is certainly the most of it.

This puts me in mind of a recent post by Judith Curry on ‘Institutionalizing Dissent‘. Says Curry,

One of the norms of science is organized skepticism. Those working at the climate science – policy interface (including the IPCC) have worked hard to kill organized skepticism by manufacturing a consensus on climate change. The idea of a climate red team has been put forward by John Christy. Kantrowitz and Biddle have thought through how institutionalizing dissent might actually work. Particularly for climate science, implementing something like this wouldn’t be simple, and actually achieving the desired objectives would be quite difficult.

I’ve previously drawn a distinction between science as a process and science as an institution (or institutions). When institutional science is expected to produce a consensus, it seems to me, it is at the expense of the process of science, to the extent that the scientific process needs an institutional basis (at least for the resources, etc, that scientific research needs). The manufacture of consensus, it seems to me, is equivalent to the manufacture of consent, or at least equivalent to its circumnavigation: who needs a demos, when you have a mandate from the objectivity of science? But the demos doesn’t go away…

This seems to me to be the point of ‘units’, such as the ECIU. Although such organisations have been unsuccessful at reproducing their ideas in the public’s mind, climate institutions have nonetheless multiplied to occupy a great deal of public space. One can think of orthodoxies being established materially, rather than ‘ideologically’, so to speak, to achieve the same effect. This is the construction of consensus, as opposed to its mere manufacture.

When David Cameron was launching his ‘Big Society’ initiatives, I happened to be working with anti-wind farm campaigners, producing films and other research. It struck me how far removed these people were from the lofty heights of green NGOs. With their feet firmly planted in Brussels and Westminster, NGOs are based in huge office complexes, whereas wind farm campaigns really were launched from kitchen tables, by amateurs, who had zero experience of any kind of campaigning, and few contacts to ask for favours from. Although they are characterised — caricatured — as rural, moneyed and privileged (which I found only occasionally to be the case), wind farm campaigners lacked any resources save for what they had in their pockets. Whereas Greenpeace et al have legal teams to take development or planning issues to the High Court, it was beyond the means of most campaigners to apply for judicial review, and would do at huge personal cost and financial risk. There was never any hope of establishing any kind of institutional response to wind energy.

Whether it is in debates about science or energy policy, those debates have been won by the creation of institutions, in something like ‘astroturfing’. But “informing” the public, or claiming to speak for ordinary people isn’t as much the point as simply dominating the public sphere.

At the other end of the world to the wind farm campaigners — and it might as well be the other end of the universe — is the green lobbying and PR effort. Zombie ‘philanthropic’ organisations. The rotting corpses of dead billionaires infect the world of the living. Take, for instance, the words of the European Climate Foundation — funders of The Carbon Brief and The ECIU:

Adopting stricter standards and effective labels for appliances and equipment
All energy-using products made in or imported into the EU must meet minimum energy performance standards and product labels that encourage the production and purchase of more efficient models. The Ecodesign and Energy Labelling directives both established complex processes for designing and adopting new standards and labels. To counter industry efforts to weaken requirements and delay implementation, we support a network of technical experts and NGOs that monitor and participate in the regulatory process and arm policymakers with data and analyses to ensure adoption of the most ambitious, technically and economically feasible requirements. Our work in this arena has already led to notable successes, most recently on boilers and vacuum cleaners.

The ECF are congratulating themselves for having lobbied — spending 25 million Euros a year — the European Union to ban electronic appliances with energy consumption over a certain rating. That meant lightbulbs and washing machines, and just this week, it means vaccum cleaners, and in the future it will mean more and more appliances. It sounds somewhat trivial, but although it means that although washing machines now use less water and less electricity, it means they are less good at cleaning. Ditto, vacuum cleaners with less power are less able to produce a vacuum, and thus less able to clean floors. The policymaker’s conceit is that by setting a standard in law, innovation follows. But there was never a need to force competing manufacturers to find an edge over each other. Now, rather than meeting consumer need, manufacturers have to meet the needs of Europe’s technocrats, and the will of dead billionaires.

And although the consequences are for the consumer, and it seems like so much whinging about not having quite as good an electrical appliance as could be had, the means by which this transformation was acheived was political. The ECF, again:

Our primary geographic focus is on Brussels (the hub of EU policymaking), Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Poland – five venues that play a critical role determining Europe’s political leadership on climate and energy policy.

The institutions where policies are made should not be the plaything of philanthropic organisations and their benefactors. What business do the ECF, and for that matter Richard Black and the ECIU have in Brussels, Germany, the UK and Poland? They are not elected. They do not stand for public positions.

So don’t be fooled, The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit does not exist to inform the public, but to deny the public democratic expression. The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit is not about ‘science’, it is about transforming politics, to take power away from people, to put it in the hands of dead ‘philanthropists’.


  1. Barry Woods

    search the document for ‘appliances’

    and a quote from their 2013 annual report

    Standards and labelling wins
    2013 brought some big wins on the standards and
    labelling front. The most significant victory came
    in March, when after a seven-year process, the EU
    finally approved minimum energy efficiency regulations
    on boilers and water heaters. Projected savings
    for these two appliances alone will total 136 million
    tonnes of CO2 emissions annually in 2020.
    In addition, new standards and/or labels were
    adopted for networked standby, vacuum cleaners,
    computers and servers, printers and copiers, kitchen
    appliances, and coffee machines.

    and take a browse at the EU energy roadmap for Europe

    on the old ECF website, they listed all their grants per sector, and there were hundreds of grants to eco groups lobbying for EU policy,

    Foe, Greenpeace, wwf, sandbag, Globe, etc,etc,etc

  2. Paul Matthews

    Well Adam Corner thinks it’s a great idea.
    But he might be peeved that you didn’t mention his Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).
    Then there’s RTCC, and ClimateCoalition, and CaCC (Campaign against Climate Change).

    Anyway, I’m sure ECIU will make all the difference, and succeed in getting the climate message across to the public where the previous 99 organisations have failed.

  3. Andy West

    I suppose where a major gap exists between reality and belief, organisations will spring up to live off the difference between the two. ‘Intelligence Unit’ does indeed sound ominous though; one can imagine a raising of the alert level when Anthony visits in September, and skeptics being tailed by men in dark glasses…

  4. Barry Woods

    Richard Hawkins of the PIRC got a mention..

    Worth pointing out that Christian Hunt – editor of the Carbon Brief funded by European Climate Foundation is also a director of the PIRC

    and surprise. Dr Adam Corner is also a director of the PIRC…which runs, the Talking Climate blog, run by Adam Corner, Richard Hawkins and George Marshall.

  5. Richard Hawkins

    It’s a conspiracy! You guys should check my tax records, seriously, chocked full of dodgy money.

    Come visit some time:

    Barry, you’re particularly welcome.

    p.s. I made the website for the CSRRT, nothing more. #fact #check

  6. John Shade

    A superb post, a tour-de-force. Well done!

  7. Ben Pile

    Richard Hawkins – It’s a conspiracy! You guys should check my tax records, seriously, chocked full of dodgy money.

    You flatter yourself. Nobody is suggesting you are a witting ‘conspirator’, much less able to cash in on it (see previous posts on mediocrity in the public sphere). The fact of the accretion of power in undemocratic institutions is self-evident, and pointing it out is not a ‘conspiracy theory’.

  8. Mooloo

    It’s a conspiracy! You guys should check my tax records, seriously, chocked full of dodgy money.

    Some people only want enough to live on. They live for this sort of thing as their real payment:

    What’s interesting to those on the other side is how such people slowly morph into directors of this institute, and advisors to that institute, and before you know it, they’re being quite well paid for the life-style many would love to have — no 9 to 5 grind, being flown around the world to be feted, getting to say what you think without serious institutional criticism.

    David Suzuki is an example of how such activism pays.

    Bill McKibben is another treading that route. He recently got the Sophie Prize and the Gandhi Peace Prize, has fellowships here and there etc.

    Meanwhile, of course, they throw accusation of evil fossil fuel funding at anyone who opposes them. I hope you don’t tread that well-worn conspiracy theory route Richard.

  9. PaulM

    OMG! Richard Black is a director.

    He is an ex BBC environmental jounalist. An ‘ex’ one because he was too biased in favour of AGW even for the BBC!

  10. Barry Woods

    Richard unpaid motivated activists. With a tiny bit of foundation money to give them a job.. Is not very democratic..the pirc has sod all money, as do COIN, the CaCC..

    You need to take a leaf out of Christian’s book and work for the big boys. Greenpeace, ECF
    When young activist grow up they all need jobs. Thanks to all those foundations, they get careers.

    Ben’s point is not really the money, that just buys time. It allows people to have a career being an activist. The real issue is the undemocratic influence.

  11. Barry Woods

    Who said the money was ‘dodgy’.. Not me, not Ben.. All perfectly legal, that the rich and influential use their money to lobby and allow activist to play grown up have careers, move on into the NGO sector, become researchers, policy advisors, director,consultants and lobbyists.. All perfectly legal..

    Richard’s organisationseems to be a beefed up version of the Carbon Brief, but with more serious older people. Is run by former respected BCC correspondent.. Vs the Carbon Brief ex Greenpeace activist. ECIU has lots of influential people in the advisory board and no doubt will be taken more seriously than the CarbonBrief..

    I wonder if the ECF will drop funding the Carbon Brief, as the ECIU will be more ‘credible’

  12. geoff Chambers

    The name of Tellus Mater (one of the ECIU’s financers) is a bit of ghastly schoolboy howler latin got from feeding “Earth Mother” into GoogleTranslate.

    The ECIU’s survey (and their mangling of it) is clearly aimed at attaining the objective announced by Professor Lewandowsky in a recent paper in which he claimed to have demonstrated that the best way to persuade people of something is to first persuade them that everybody else believes that something. If everybody knew that 97% of scientists agree (the “thinking” goes) then they’d agree too.

    Soft brainwashing for soft brains, suitable for lemmings.

    The ECIU’s first blog article has just closed their comments thread. Go and see why. Their news page is all about news articles about the ECIU – a beautiful example of Ben Pile’s image of people with their heads firmly ensconced where the sun never shines.

    Please correct “vaccum” and “noce” and keep up the excellent work.

  13. Mooloo

    .the pirc has sod all money,

    Really, who knows? Until recently I thought Greenpeace was a shoestring outfit as well. Boy, was I wrong!

    The PIRC got £111,594 in 2012. Not a lot, but hardly “sod all”.

    Then there’s PIRC Ltd, which has £30,000 cash, but doesn’t seem to do anything.

    And some £100,000 more is spent by Common Cause (a bit of which comes from the above PIRC sum).

    Who knows what other money is around? Each one looks little enough, but there are quite a lot of them.

  14. geoff Chambers

    I went to the Tellus Mater website and found just one item on their front page:

    “The Sheila McKechnie Foundation Campaigner Awards recognise the outstanding contribution that a new generation of campaigners are making towards achieving social, environmental and economic justice here in the UK and abroad. Are you speaking out and taking action on issues that matter? Or, does this sound like someone you know? If so, please take a moment to apply or nominate for an SMK Campaigner Award.”

    I was going to nominate Ben, but then I noticed this:
    “Applications and nominations will soon close at 1pm on 17th June 2013.”

    Earth Mother has had nothing to say to us for over a year, apparently. She’s too busy writing cheques to communicate with human beings.

  15. Vinny Burgoo

    PIRC’s original purpose: ‘Our aim is to ask timely questions about the organisations whose decisions and actions shape public life. What, in social terms, do these organisations give to and take from the community, and how do they explain and justify what they do?’*

    Time for a new old-style PIRC to ask such questions about the current PIRC and its sister green lobbyist organizations? I have never seen any of them even attempt to justify their influence. (Even little PIRC has had the ear of government from time to time.) They appear to think that it’s just self-evidently correct that they should have a far greater say than ordinary voters in shaping public life, that having a website and a logo and a grant from Big Chocolate (h/t Geoff Chambers) should allow groups of monomaniacs to bypass representative democracy.

    This, alas, is a view shared by the government itself – and by the EU, which promotes it with great zeal and throws a lot of money at it. I know why the EU does that; bizarrely, the European Commission thinks that paying ‘civil society’ to lobby it boosts its democratic legitimacy. But how does our government explain and justify listening to (and sometimes subsidizing) green groups? And how do the groups themselves explain and justify their privileged access?

    So yes, we need a new old PIRC. The old old PIRC was all about interrogating (‘auditing’) Big Business – and particularly Big Pharma. Let the new old PIRC interrogate Big Chocolate with equal seriousness.

    I thenk you.

    (For the record, Ben, I don’t agree with your 1, 2 and 3 of problems that have emerged from mainstream climate science. 1 is overplayed, 2 is meaningless and 3 is wrong.)

  16. Ben Pile

    Vinny –I don’t agree with your 1, 2 and 3 of problems that have emerged from mainstream climate science. 1 is overplayed, 2 is meaningless and 3 is wrong.

    I would like to know more. The point I was trying to make — perhaps clumsily, in haste — is that attempts to understand the past, future and present climate and its drivers and consequences have given rise to debate, rather than unequivocal consensus. While the IPCC statement on warming in the second half of the C20 may seem unequivocal, it belies a number of assumptions, and as Judith Curry points out, its binary character is unhelpful.

  17. Andy West

    Vinny Burgoo says: August 30, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I thought projections from model output were a foundational pillar for policy. Since observations are dropping out of the bottom of those projections, policy is likely misaligned. This may be arguable, but how would it be meaningless?

    Assuming Ben meant anthropogenic climate change for 3, why is this wrong? Do we know of climate signals that unamiguously separate out global change due to anthropogenic CO2 (as opposed to more regional changes like land use)?

  18. Derek

    I guess there is no such funding stream for sceptic organisations. You would have thought that some wealthy right wing minded philanthropist would have set up something. I hear the Koch brothers do something in the USA, but what about the UK. Maybe we should start appealing to any suitable candidates. UKIP are doing quite well in the funding stakes I believe. Should we start encouraging them?

  19. Ben Pile

    Andy –I thought projections from model output were a foundational pillar for policy.

    I wonder if this might relate to recent discussions at Bishop Hill.

    It’s an interesting discussion, and especially interesting to note Richard Betts’ putting some distance between GCMs and policy as such. Andrew M then points out that it means nothing to talk about the ‘social cost of carbon’ without models. Richard then offers the following chain of thought:

    1. There is good evidence that Earth’s climate has undergone very large changes in the past, for a variety of reasons including changes in greenhouse gas concentrations
    2. We do not fully understand the reasons for all these changes
    3. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas
    4. We are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
    5. Hence we are pushing a system that is known to undergo large changes
    6. The climate is showing signs of responding already
    7. We don’t the actual size of the changes that we will instigate in the long term, hence we need to take a risk assessment approach.
    8. A responsible risk assessment usually involves some combination of minimising the risk and finding ways to live with the part of the risk that we can’t (or choose not to) avoid
    9. Hence we need to decide what we are going to do in terms of the appropriate balance of minimising the risk and living with it.

    I don’t want to be too critical of Richard, because it is to his credit that he takes part in debate. However, it seems to me that his schematic here privileges the precautionary principle, if it isn’t just a long-winded way of paraphrasing it.

    The implication, in my view, of eschewing numbers in favour of seemingly value-free ‘risk-management’ is that the precautionary principle never went away, and hte debate never really depended on the putative consensus anyway. We can’t ‘take a risk assessment approach’ because assessing risk involves comparing quantities. Thus any quantifiable risk weighs less in the ‘assessment’ than any theoretical risk — ‘unknowns’. This is of course the political basis on which the institutions discussed in the above post are founded/legitimised. The politics of risk need to be brought out before we can make sense of ‘the science’.

  20. Andy West

    Ben Pile says: August 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Yes, my comment does relate to the recent Richard Betts’ threads at BH, which were still on my mind. And I agree with all of your 5.56 . A ‘risk assessment’ is not meaningful until the ‘assessment’ part is meaningful, and so far the uncertainties are still too high for that to have occurred. After 25 years any sensible bounds on climate sensitivity seem only just to be starting to happen, and such bounds as are emerging seem to be in the direction of less alarming. Political positions based on imagined or at least exaggerated risk are hardly new, but (real) science ought to be diminishing not enhancing these. If the uncertainties that were apparent from the start had been communicated, the whole CAGW heiarchy as it exists now would never have gotten off the ground. Substituting a serious precautionary principle (mega spend and mega change) for every unquantifiable risk, does not seem like a policy to which the hard laws of evolution will grant reward.

  21. Ben Pile

    Derek, I was going to mention the GWPF a bit more, but the post was already rather long.

    UKIP and the GWPF are of course involved in the climate debate. Even if they punch well above their weight, they simply do not compare, in terms of institutional muscle and other resources, when seen against their counterparts.

    I don’t think it’s just a question of philanthropists turning up — though one has to wonder where all the generous oil dollars are that Greenpeace and co claimed were in circulation. The dynamic I think is interesting is the gap between the political establishment and the public, which dead-billionaire-funded ‘civil society’ seemingly fills.

  22. Vinny Burgoo

    Ben, I too wrote in haste. I was really just protecting my brand (ha!) as a True Believer in WG1’s summaries of mainstream best-guesstimates. Seeing ‘serious problems’ so close to ‘proxies’ and ‘climate models’ in #1 and #2 set off alarms: too similar to stuff written elsewhere that claims proxies and climate models are worthless. But if by ‘serious problems’ you meant ‘valid questions about the nitty-gritty’ rather than ‘it’s nonsense on stilts’ then we agree.

    For #3, it has just occurred to me that there’s probably a missing word – ‘disasters’ – after ‘records of climate’. If so, then the first part of #3 isn’t too far from the mainstream (there are detectable signals in North Atlantic hurricane records) and the part about losses is well within it – and might even be the current official consensus view on the subject. I haven’t read much of AR5 yet.

  23. Vinny Burgoo

    Andy, it was the ‘especially as they have been produced from computer models’ that prompted the ‘meaningless’. How else might future temperatures be predicted? By watching dried seaweed?

  24. Vinny Burgoo

    P.S. That 1985 New Scientist article discusses ‘blocking anticyclones’, which some climactivists suggest are a new phenomenon.

  25. Andy West

    Vinny Burgoo says: August 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    If buried dried seaweed formed a proxy going back a thousad years, it might indeed have some use in that regard ;) But your overly simple response to 3, even wrt to the part you highlight, gives the wrong impression, i.e. that you don’t think the models have issues that need addressing, or that such issues are not of import, ‘meaningless’. From your 7.25 I presume you don’t mean this, but one would have to be telepathic to divine this from your original response.

  26. Alex Cull

    The impression I get from these rapidly multiplying organisations is that of a body’s immune response to a perceived threat, flooding its systems with masses of antibodies, T-cells and whatnot.

    Why the urgency and why the compulsive need to boost levels of public compliance regarding “action on climate change”, though (aside from the obvious motivation of wanting people to agree with them, and also the desire to wield power)? It’s still not 100% clear to me what’s driving all this activity. Those who want CO2 mitigation have largely got what they want, in the UK at least – the three main political parties committed to it, the Climate Change Act ensconced in the law books, the EU committed to it, the United Nations committed to it, the majority of the media and NGOs and charitable foundations on side. What more could they reasonably expect to gain, even if a higher percentage of the public acknowledged the “strength of the scientific consensus”? What practical difference would it make?

    Is it perhaps insecurity, i.e., the fear that another cold winter or rising energy bills might cause the public to force the government of the day to reverse green policies and undo their gains? Is it a concern that higher levels of compliance might be required, if more draconian measures needed to be introduced, e.g., travel restrictions and carbon rationing? Is it self-doubt? A combination of these? Something else, entirely? A case of amoeba-like bureaucracy begetting more bureaucracy?

    An interesting question that could be put to the members of the ECIU and the others could be something like: “What do you think the consequences would be, if public acknowledgement of the strength of the scientific consensus on climate change never rose above its current level?” (Possibly better worded than that.)

    Maybe we should be turning the tables and surveying these people, find out what actually makes them tick! (A proper survey, need I add, not like the “Moon Landing” shenanigans.)

  27. Andy West

    Alex Cull says: August 30, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    High moral environmentalism still doesn’t own the souls of most folks yet; or get to wear colourful silken robes like the real priests ;)

    More seriously, your comparison to biology is fertile ground; it too has ingenious yet blindly driven progression. I would expect your survey, properly conducted, to find no conclusive prominent ‘reason’.

  28. Mooloo

    UKIP and the GWPF are of course involved in the climate debate. Even if they punch well above their weight, they simply do not compare, in terms of institutional muscle and other resources, when seen against their counterparts.

    It is useful to look at the actual figures.

    GWPF spend about £250,000 a year. They have large savings, but their income is erratic, so presumably they try to keep a reserve for lean years. There is also the Global Warming Policy Forum, a commercial arm.

    So for all Richard Hawkins’ bleating, PIRC/Common Cause isn’t that much smaller than the biggest of their opponents.

  29. hunter

    In the US a group of cliamte scientists formed a 501c3 to seek support for something called the National Climate Change Forum. It has overt caste system, with a comments section that is reserved for high caste ‘climate scientists’ comments only, and then a plebe section for low caste plain people. Nearly no one goes to the site, its posting rate is minuscule, yet they receive funding from donors…for what purpose?
    Climate science is one of the great money hunts of all time. One where the scientists do not have to engage the public even though the public has to fund them. One where their work product is utter crap: even they admit (Betts recent admission) that their models are not good for policy. Whose large work in rewriting hard data to fit their models is well documented. And get away with a level of self-dealing that would make a corrupt inside trader blush with shame.
    Your listing and calling out of the parasitic nature of the climate science is certainly not complete, but it is an excellent start.

  30. hunter

    Alex Cull,
    The AGW thought police organs multiply because they know deep inside they are pushing a lie. They know if they do not constantly raise the alarm and shout down that small quiet voices of truth and common sense that the victims of their lying will wake up. From fanatical religious groups to political extremists, immersion and noisy distraction from reflection and soul searching is vital. AGW/Climate obsession is no different. Plus it is extremely lucrative: Many of the wealthiest in the world are willing to toss away normal due diligence when it comes to an opportunity to fund climate parasites. Parasites, like bank robbers, go to where the money is.



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