Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Well Disarmed Skeptic - How Climate Change Denialists Use Front Groups to Lie About the Science

Climate denialists like to argue that they are "well armed" to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. And in some respects they are, because these non-science free market lobbying groups have a long history of setting up fake front organizations and now blogger networks to saturate the public domain with intentional misinformation. They did it to deny that smoking caused cancer, that CFCs affected the ozone hole, that smokestacks in Ohio caused acid rain in New England, and that killer smogs were the result of pollution. In all cases the denialists were wrong, the scientists were right, and policy-makers finally made decisions that helped to fix the problems. In fact, some of the current climate change denialists are the very same people and lobbying groups that denied the earlier science.

Some of the recent articles here on Gather have suggested the following as sources of denialist misinformation. Too bad they aren't scientific at all. For example:

The Climate Skeptics Handbook: This is a comic book written by Joanna Nova, a performance artist in Australia, who has a deal with Heartland Institute to produce and distribute this comical presentation of false information. One of the handy tips is to whine of "personal attacks" whenever a real scientist rebuts the shoddy "science." So demonstrations that they are wrong are somehow made into "dismiss and demean" (which is a transparent attempt to deflect from the fact that they are wrong). Besides not being a scientist, Nova is hooked up with David Evans, an electrical engineer who also writes for the Australian version of Heartland Institute and yet has done no science research. The two of them sell software designed to speculate in gold. No climate science research or experience at all for either of them.

Climate Depot
: This is a blog run by Marc Morano for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, a non-science free market lobbying group. This is the same Marc Morano who was James Inhofe's hit man when Inhofe was Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate (before the Democrats got the majority). Morano has zero science training of any kind. For Inhofe he compiled through Google searching a "list" of "climate skeptics" that consisted solely of blog clips, which he helped orchestrate. Besides his scam with Inhofe, Morano was the Washington attack dog for his old boss Rush Limbaugh. Morano also was the one who distributed and pushed the Swiftboating of both Senator John Kerry and Representative John Murtha, disparaging both war veterans for their service. Morano never served in the military. Despite having no science training at all, Morano is one of several hired writers listed as a "global warming expert" by Heartland Institute.

Icecap: Icecap is a blog that takes stories from other blogs and online news sources and disseminates them to their network of denialist bloggers and willing lackeys like those on Gather who further plagiarize their posts. It is run by Joseph D'Aleo, a retired TV meteorologist and the first director of meteorology at the weather channel. While he was a meteorologist and businessman, he never did any climate research (TV weather is not climate science). D'Aleo is also associated with the Heartland Institute. Icecap intentionally sets up its web page to blur the lines between stories so that it can discount anything that is actual climate science by attaching a denialist story to it. It even writes fake headlines to dismiss stories that don't support their view.

CO2 Science: This blog is basically the same disinformation blog series that keeps changing to keep ahead of its discredited stories and founders. It's run by Sherwood and Craig Idso (and another Idso or two), who are well-known for setting up fake front groups for such organizations as ExxonMobil and the Western Fuels Association. The goal of the blog is to distribute disinformation on carbon dioxide like "carbon dioxide is taken up by plants so it can't be bad in the upper atmosphere" [how many plants do you see growing in the upper atmosphere] and "global warming is good for us" [unless you live along the coasts that will be flooded, the interior areas that will become dust bowls, etc.]. Not surprisingly, Craig Idso is also associated with the Heartland Institute.

SPPI: Another front group for industry free market lobbyists. Started by Robert Ferguson, a non-scientist (with a BA in history and MA in legislative affairs) who set up SPPI after also serving as director of another front group CSSP. Both are heavily funded by ExxonMobil and associated with free market lobbying groups. Ferguson was a speaker at Heartland Institute's denialist marketing event in 2009, but is mostly known for his 26 years working for Republican congressmen on the hill. The site relies mostly on the rantings of another non-scientist, Lord Monckton, who was a former journalist and adviser to the conservative party in Britain. He has zero science background.

So, some common themes arise from these sites denialists and their lackeys like to cite as sources for "climate science."

- Most are run by people with no scientific training at all, and none by anyone who has ever done any climate research

- Most have some connection to the conservative party (conservative = like the status quo)

- All are associated with the Heartland Institute or the Australian counterpart to the Heartland Institute, the non-science free market lobbying group whose mandate is to protect their industry membership from regulations (the kind of regulations that the science says are needed)

- All are not even close to being valid sources for science

Keep in mind that these are the "experts" that denialists and their lackeys put forth. This is the best they can do - free market associated front groups.

In the end, it comes down to whether we should listen to the scientists who study the science, or the non-science free market lobbying groups whose mission and long history is to deny any science that might lead to policies they don't like.

The answer is pretty clear.


Anna Haynes said...

FYI, I just ran across an awfully handy single webpage with synopses of front groups linked to contributors to the The Great Global Warming Swindle. For ex:

"Frontiers of Freedom Institute and Foundation: A lobby group set up to fight environmental regulations, particularly the Endangered Species Act and any law seen as infringing on “property rights.” It has received $1,182,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998 (see ExxonSecrets:"

The Dake Page said...

Thanks for the information, Anna. So many front groups, so little time.

Mr Pinco Nico said...

This time around the Denialists have honed their skills. Having learned their skills from similar campaigns such as the smoking one you mentioned. My understanding it was tobacco firms being sued that ultimately stopped their misinformation campaign. I've noticed the Trump administration has put in legal protection now for fossil fuel companies. Thaks for your blog I've found it a great source in my own online campaigning against these misinformers.

The Dake Page said...

The fossil fuel lobbyists learned from the tobacco lobbyists how to delay action by "manufacturing doubt" when the science was clear. This bought them decades of multibillion dollar profits at the cost of killing Americans. With climate change, the actions by the fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists are affecting the lives of millions of people all over the globe. Unlike with smoking and second-hand smoke, people who are nowhere near fossil fuel use are caught in the web of effects.

I will have additional relevant posts shortly. If you have any topic ideas, feel free to suggest them.