A Cabal of Bankers and Sister Souljah

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 9 September 2012
Filed under Culture

One of the many adverse consequences of knee-jerk science rejection is the voluminous noise generated in response to certain events, such as the recent publication of my paper on rejection of science and conspiracist ideation. Whenever baseless accusations are launched, whether against me or other scientists, this detracts attention from other potentially substantive issues.

My inbox has been overflowing with messages relating to my paper, to the point where I can no longer guarantee a personal response to each message. Some emails raise good points and substantive scientific issues. Likewise, the comment stream on my earlier posts contain some interesting points, and I apologize for not being able to engage with the comments to the extent that I would like—I am however monitoring them so I can make a note of important insights.

I will endeavour to take up those substantive issues here as time permits. I consider the following points to be particularly worthy of discussion in connection with my forthcoming paper:

  • The distinction between conspiracist ideation and meritorious criticism.
  • Outlier detection and interpretation of extreme responses.
  • The role of structural equation modelling and how it differs from Excel cross-tabulation.
  • Details of the methodology and the supplementary online material.

I look forward to posting on those issues (roughly in the above order) in the near future.

I would do so sooner if my time weren’t also occupied with other, comparatively trivial matters, such as the identity of those “skeptic” bloggers whom I contacted for my study. I have several phone conversations scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, W.A. time, with the ethics committee at my university. I will report on the outcome as soon as a decision has been finalized.

I want to offer some further thoughts on the crucial notion of “triage”, that is, the separation of an intellectual signal from the noise of the echo chambers:

  • One must differentiate between the organized purveyors and pushers of science denial on the one hand, and the “consumers” of such denial on the other. While the former legitimately attract moral scorn because their conduct causes much human pain, the latter are in a very different category. This distinction can be brought into sharp focus by considering AIDS denial: The purveyors of pseudo-scientific nonsense who convinced South Africa’s President Mbeki that antiretroviral drugs were “racist” medicine deserve little other than moral contempt. Their actions have killed—330,000 people in South Africa alone, based on the peer-reviewed literature—and their actions continue to kill.

    The sick and desperate people who turn to the purveyors of denial to deal with their tragic illness, by contrast, deserve not contempt but compassion, however ill-informed and counter-productive their actions may have been. The triage between the perpetrators and the victims of science denial is, alas, frequently very difficult and I can only highlight that dilemma without being able to resolve it.

    In this context, it is of interest that my forthcoming paper on the rejection of science found a stronger link between conspiracist ideation and the rejection of sciences other than climate science (including rejection of the link between HIV and AIDS). To date, however, this fact has been overshadowed by the eager self-immolation of the climate-denial community, who has seen fit to respond to my paper with more conspiracist ideation than my modest survey could have ever uncovered.
  • There are subtle indications that even among climate “skeptics” a penny has dropped. Ardent “skeptics” suddenly recognize the need to address their own fringe. This is best illustrated by the moves of Mr. Andrew Bolt, a right-wing blogger and Murdoch columnist, who commands a large audience in Australia despite his high-profile conviction for racial vilification.

    Mr. Bolt has referred to me variously as a global warming evangelist or smearer. Despite those obvious failings, Mr. Bolt publicly distanced himself from the “Galileo Movement.” The Galileo Movement is an Australian climate-denial outfit that variously reminds me of Monty Python and Fox News.

    Although initially listed as one of their "advisors", together with other practicing scientists such as  Australia's most famous shock jock, Mr. Bolt discovered that the Movement's views about climate science comprise an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory involving a “cabal” of bankers who strive to dominate the world via carbon trading (or something like that, I apologize if I have not penetrated the full nuances of this theory).

    If even Mr. Bolt is concerned about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, then we have arrived at a Sister Souljah moment for climate denial.

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151 Comments


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Comments 51 to 100 out of 153:

  1. But can you comment on the materials above? I believe I have responded to your reasonable request for clarification.

    There is a lot of stuff in your materials which makes me simplify it to save time I’m afraid. I primarily see a funnelling through Monckton; so a simple answer is I have no identification with Monckton at any level. As Ben Pile has more ably said on a previous thread, Monckton seems to be more of a *need* of one side of the climate debate - a person about whom sceptics are all supposed to be regularly polled to see if they agree with anything he may have said lately.

    I find this surprising but not in a way you may have noticed. I think there is cultural/national issue that may get overlooked. In Australia it seems there is a very visceral debate about carbon taxation and climate is higher on the agenda, making Monckton more of a figure there. This is like finding out Jerry Lewis is worshipped in France and then being forced to answers questions about Jerry Lewis by Frenchmen :)

    On a more serious point I would hypothesise that conspiracy ideation based on a detestation of bankers and latent anti-Semitism could be a common trait across many shades of political and climate policy beliefs.

    Again I would iterate I think there could easily be a better designed study that better tests these hypotheses.
  2. I totally agree with Lewandowsky on this:

    The purveyors of pseudo-scientific nonsense who convinced South Africa’s President Mbeki that antiretroviral drugs were “racist” medicine deserve little other than moral contempt. Their actions have killed—330,000 people in South Africa alone, based on the peer-reviewed literature—and their actions continue to kill.

    Would Lewandowsky also agree that in the same group deserving moral contempt, we also need to put most environmental groups prior to 2001, for pushing the complete non-use of DDT in malaria control? Plus the World Bank, UNEP, and USAID and most western governments. Mortality - 500,000 to 2,000,000 per year, mostly children and pregnant women.

    Also in the same group would again be enviros, for opposing the use of Golden rice, for Vitamin A deficiency. This kills about 600,000 per year, and blinds another 250,000.

    If one is to criticize the use of suspect science that kills people, one needs to include these two examples.
  3. Watching the Deniers at 20:27 PM on 10 September, 2012
    @ tlitb1 at 19:57 PM on 10 September, 2012

    I agree, there are far broader issues here. I believe culture plays an enormous part, so if you have any reading to recommend would be keen to see. The debate will have its own nuances in each country or region. Climate skepticism is more prelevant in the Anglo-sphere than elsewhere.

    Note this, in the US nearly every Republican Presidential candidate rejected the science in some way or another implying the scientists where not only wrong but perhaps faking it.

    @ Barry Wood and tlitb1....

    So I take it we are all in agreement about Evans and Monckton, that these are the extreme views of a fringe and have no place in policy debate about climate change? I fully accept that their is a spectrum in the climate sceptic community, and that no two sceptics are the same. Just like us warmists ya know ;)

    We agree - their claims have no basis in reality?

    A simple yes/no would suffice.

    Many thanks!

    BTW Barry, great poll!

    Really fascinating! I'm also amazed by such statistics. Which proves a point: our culture is awash with conspiracy ideation, which may provide fertile ground for scepticism of climate change.

    I'd recommend "Counterknowledge" by Damian Thomson as a short introduction:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterknowledge

    "Thompson argues that we are experiencing a "pandemic of credulous thinking".[1] People are increasingly surrendering the values of the Enlightenment to accept a barrage of "counterknowledge", which he defines as "misinformation packaged to look like fact".[2] This concept embodies both theories for which there is no supporting evidence, and theories against which there is already evidence that directly contradicts them..."


    Re culture... I'm exploring the issue of right wing popularism and how it may have influenced the climate debate, primarily in the US and then washing over into other regions via the Internet and mainstream media, parts of whom have embraced conspiracist claims as popular entertainment (ie. the Glen Becks of the world). The Internet has been a powerful tool for the dissemination of conspiracy culture and it's motifs.

    This is a worthy area of research and discussion :)

    Keen to hear both your thoughts.
  4. "Climate skepticism is more prelevant in the Anglo-sphere than elsewhere."

    This sort of claim always needs interrogating before taking at face value. Sure, it would very much seem that scepticism is more prevalent in English-speaking countries. But guess what... Climate change alarmism is a particularly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon too.

    Climate scepticism does not exist in a vacuum. It's a response *to* something. So while you're 'watching the deniers', there is an extent to which you are watching yourself, mirrored in their actions, so to speak. And this is one reason why it's hard to take SL's claims to have developed an objective view of the debate at all seriously -- the reduction of sceptics by psychologists forgets the role that environmentalism has had in the formation of climate sceptics and scepticism. After all, if climate change alarmism didn't exist, climate change sceptics would not exist.
  5. Watching the Deniers at 20:48 PM on 10 September, 2012
    @ Ben Pile

    So do we blame evolution and scientists for creationism?

    Yes, let's tell all those alarming biologist to not upset the young earth creationists eh? Dont publish don't tell!

    Being in opposition to accepted scientific theories is just that. Opposition. Care to comment on the theories of Evans and Monkton?
  6. 56# how about a trade, lets ditch Evans and Monckton, for Romm and Gore ;-) all very polarising.
  7. "So do we blame evolution and scientists for creationism?"

    Well, that depends on one's view of the debate and its development. Evolution and creationism as 'ideas' don't make policies, and it's not the ideas which respond to policies because they annoy them. One could obviously go back for a long time with that debate, but it is certainly true that both sides of that very, very boring debate politicise the issue, which really serves as a proxy for a greater conflict -- i.e. the Culture Wars. Again, the important thing is to keep an eye on context and history to understand why it is happening. It's not simply an intellectual battle between ideas all by themselves.

    You can clearly see the shape of science in later forms of creationism, however, in the transformation of literal accounts of Biblical stories, to seemingly scientific forms such as ID, irreducible complexity, etc. Nonsense, of course, but a concession to science nonetheless.

    "Being in opposition to accepted scientific theories is just that. Opposition."

    But it's not just that. It's not quite as simple as claiming that sceptics are opposed to 'accepted scientific theories', because the putative consequences of 'scientific theories' aren't purely scientific matters; they are sensitive to many of things we believe about our relationship and dependence on natural processes, as well as more categorically 'ideological' claims.

    For example, the mistake the survey makes is its hasty attempt to reduce scepticism to radical free-market 'ideology'. No doubt free marketeers have something to say about this, but it might be that the survey, and many other perspectives on the debate, overstate the radicalism of pro-market perspectives in the debate by failing to take a measure of its own 'ideology'. It does seem to be the case that many of those seemingly 'scientific' theories have a lot to say against markets, yet there is no way one can move safely from any 'accepted scientific theory' to an anti-market position. Remember, the desire to control all productive activity on the planet through carbon rationing/budgeting/taxing/etc is actually a very radical move in and of itself, whether or not science identifies the moral imperative to do so. You don't actually have to be 'pro market' to think it's not a sensible move, though that is the way the debate has been framed. Thus, to argue against such things because they are poorly conceived is seen as being pro 'free market'.

    And here is an epitome of such lumping together of different ideas:

    "are to comment on the theories of Evans and Monkton?"

    Not really. Care to comment on the works of Engelbert Humperdinck?
  8. @53

    20 crank points for the 'environmentalists-banned-DDT-for malaria-control'.

    You'd have got 50 pts if you'd said Rachel Carson is a mass-murderer.
  9. Watching the Deniers at 23:14 PM on 10 September, 2012
    @ Ben Pile at 21:15 PM on 10 September, 2012

    Hey Ben, you noted:

    "So do we blame evolution and scientists for creationism?"

    "Well, that depends on one's view of the debate and its development. Evolution and creationism as 'ideas' don't make policies..."

    I totally agree with exploring context and the origins of modern scientific disciplines: the antecedents for chemistry can be seen in alchemy.

    But discussions on alchemy, while interesting for historians of science, don't inform the work of today's chemists. I'm deeply interested in evolution, and the emergence of our understanding of the science: from Lamarck, to Darwin, the modern synthesis and epigenetics. Really fascinating stuff.

    Evolution can be policy relevant if we consider emergent diseases such as AIDs/HIV or even SIV, H1N1, H1N2 .

    Consider how the interaction between evolutionary forces and the over prescription of antibiotics can lead to drug resistant strains of super bugs. So, if I may suggest evolution can be of vital relevance to public policy.

    As does our understanding of genetics when it comes to our discussion on genetic engineering.

    Biology today is deeply entwined with policy discussions on a host of issues. Thus the views of young earth creationists, who oppose the idea of the science remain in opposition to not only the science, but it can negative effects on public understanding and public policy.

    Also consider the issue of ant-vaccination, in which herd immunity is compromised as less people vaccinate children. Evolution at play.

    I hope the point is respectfully made.

    The central question that is being explored in this post is the role of conspiracies and conspiracy ideation.

    If I may quote you Ben:

    "And here is an epitome of such lumping together of different ideas:

    "are to comment on the theories of Evans and Monkton?"

    Not really. Care to comment on the works of Engelbert Humperdinck?"

    I like Engelbert, in particular Les Bicyclettes de Belsize.

    The reason I raise the issue of Monckton/Evans is that they seem pertinent to the discussion, especially in light of the statements made by the Galileo Movement and Andrew Bolt's repudiation.

    It relates to the topic raised by the original post that banking families or international bankers are somehow behind the climate change "hoax".

    I cite these works as they would seem very much related to the content of the original post: I simply suggested that both sceptics and others reflect upon their content.

    If you are dismissive of them, then I think it is easy to state you do not share these views.

    Can I ask why you don't care to comment?

    Is it because you see no relevance of their writings on the "cabal" of bankers (see title of post) to the discussion? Or do you reject their ideas outright, as fringe views that have no place in the climate change discussion?

    Sorry, but I would like some clarification.

    Re you last points: public debate on responding to climate change is sadly lacking.

    Cheers
  10. Watching the Deniers at 23:19 PM on 10 September, 2012
    @ Barry Woods at 21:12 PM on 10 September, 2012

    56# how about a trade, lets ditch Evans and Monckton, for Romm and Gore ;-) all very polarising.

    So we agree on Evans/Monckton? Seems like that is a "yes".

    Cheers
  11. Michael: you get the full 50 points for believing that environmental groups did not oppose DDT for malaria control.

    malaria.org/tren.html


    Or,Prof. Amir Attaran, criticizing green groups in Nature Magazine:

    "Environmentalists in rich, developed countries gain nothing from DDT, and thus small risks felt at home loom larger than health benefits for the poor tropics. More than 200 environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the World Wildlife Fund, actively condemn DDT."


    From an African, in an open letter to Paul Wolfowitz, of the World Bank:

    africanexecutive.com/modules/magazine/articles.php?article=752



    From Skeptoid, hardly a flaming conservative conspiracy freak:

    skeptoid.com/episodes/4230

    Still want to play, Micheal? Or do you want to take the points you have and go home? We have some nice parting gifts....
  12. Note that after massive humanitarian pressure, most green groups now support the 2001 Stockholm accord, which allows DDT to be used for malaria control.
  13. Les,

    You get crank points because DDT has always been available for malaria control. Always.
  14. WTD: "I totally agree with exploring context and the origins of modern scientific disciplines: the antecedents for chemistry can be seen in alchemy."

    'Disciplines' have got nothing (or very little) to do with it. The debate between evolutionists and creationists is in the cultural sphere, not between obscure academic departments. And it is a problem if 'debates about policy decisions' are confined to the academy, or between experts. You missed the point, perhaps -- it's not the ideas that are having the debate. The debate doesn't exist in a vacuum. It would be a total mistake to believe that the debate between creationists and evolutionists began with, and was simply a disagreement about origins.

    "I hope the point is respectfully made."

    Perfectly respectfully, but I have no idea why you offered it. Being scientifically 'right' doesn't make a policy legitimate. What makes this or that policy legitimate is the process which creates it.

    "The reason I raise the issue of Monckton/Evans is that they seem pertinent to the discussion, especially in light of the statements made by the Galileo Movement and Andrew Bolt's repudiation."

    But I already made my feelings about the Galileo Movement's comment clear -- it looks like a clumsy comment, but it isn't the mark of an anti-Semitic organisation. Moreover, the hectoring that comes with the claim that GM are anti-Semitic insults the intelligence. It's a cheap shot -- it borrows from something that's already established as an unspeakable evil, rather than takes issue with the substance of the Galileo movement. In fact, it's a conspiracy theory, suggesting that there's something else beneath the GM's public facing agenda.

    It is odd that I'm being asked to comment on Monckton because of a discussion about the Galileo Movement, because I'm critical of Lewandowsky's study. Clearly there are some linkages in your thought processes which groups these things together. You divide the debate into two before it's happened, I would suggest, and you put people you're arguing with in the same box as Monckton before you've really had a chance to understand their argument, which reveals much more about you than it does about them or him. This is the problem with Lewandowsky's study. That kind of categorisation only really applies to the things in his head, not in the real world.

    If you want to know what sceptics think, and why they think it, you have to ask them, you can't just design surveys that force people to conform to your prejudices and discover... Ta Daaaaa!... that sceptics conform to your prejudices. You can't just assume that everyone you disagree with is Christopher Monckton -- the cartoon baddy. in other words, if you want to know what sceptics think, and why, you have to test your own ideas. I think perhaps people like having fixed ideas about sceptics.
  15. " Moreover, the hectoring that comes with the claim that GM are anti-Semitic insults the intelligence. It's a cheap shot -- it borrows from something that's already established as an unspeakable evil, rather than takes issue with the substance of the Galileo movement. In fact, it's a conspiracy theory, suggesting that there's something else beneath the GM's public facing agenda."

    No, it's just another example of the 'skeptics' tendency to resort to conspiracy theories.
  16. Watching the Deniers at 00:47 AM on 11 September, 2012
    @ Ben Pile

    Having read thousands of posts, spoken to deniers, read dozens of books and watched their fillms, videos and YouTube videos I believe I have an understanding of the sceptic community and the broad spectrum of views. I do not view it as monolithic. It is diverse, with lots of voices. Agreed we are.

    I believe I have a sophisticated understanding of the GM and work of Evans, and place it the category of producerism:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Producerism

    "Producerism sees society's strength being "drained from both ends"—from the top by the machinations of globalized financial capital and the large, politically connected corporations that together conspire to restrict free enterprise, avoid taxes and destroy the fortunes of the honest businessman, and from the bottom by members of the underclass and illegal immigrants whose reliance on welfare and government benefits drains the strength of the nation. Consequently, nativist rhetoric is central to modern producerism..."

    It has many influences, expressions and nuances. However, scholars of conspiracy culture have noted the parallels to classical antisemitism: if you want a rich history with context start here:

    http://www.publiceye.org/tooclose/producerism.html

    Every conspiracy theorist is unique, offering their own very personal interpretation of facts and events. Indeed, that is the very nature of the almost entrepreneurial style of fashioning these unique world views. Personally, I am fascinated by them and enjoy both reading and attempting to understand their work.

    With all due respect, you have not answered my question. I am not suggesting all climate sceptics fall into the same category as Monckton and Evans: I'm asking your personal opinion on the materials.

    It is a question for you Ben: as an obviously articulate, informed individual what is your response the claims?

    I believe it is a reasonable ask of you.

    Re creation/evolution you said it has no policy relevance. I suggested it does, perhaps we crossed wires. Or not.

    I belive I am appreciative of the cultural divides or culture wars which impede not merely policy but education and an informed population. There is a complex interplay, and I believe I have stated the nuances cannot be under estimated.

    Creationism as an idea makes a policy. It informs attempts to inject its teaching into public schools. It informs the broader objectives of conservative evangelical movements. I'm fully appreciative of its broader cultural and sociological drivers. In addition to denying climate change, the GOP Presidential candidates denied evolution. Every year in US the conservative politicians try to introduce "teach the controversy" legislation at the state level. I suspect you know this.

    Do you not think policy implications flow from this? Agreed we are there are broader issues at play.

    By turning science into a culture war issue, we inhibit policy that by necessity must be informed by science.

    My point is, which I think are both trying to articulate, values and culture wars can distort policy debate. Is that a fair enough assessment?

    Do my values inform my world view? Of course! But in order to avoid cognititive dissonance or rejecting vital knowledge that seems to challenge my values, I endeavor to practice a kind of mindfulness.
  17. Paul in Sweden at 00:55 AM on 11 September, 2012
    It is a constant source of irritation that the deaths caused by the belief in creation almost exceeds the deaths caused by Climate Change policy through the burning of food in rich people's cars and the increases in food prices that affect the poor the most or the cost of energy that causes the elderly to freeze during these troubled global warming times. Gee, if just a few people would stop believing in creation the world would be such a better place. What can we do to stop this insanity?
  18. Monckton might be a failed politician but what the "skeptics" here are not telling people is that Monckton has been openly embraced (and defended) by the largest "skeptic" site on the internet run by Mr. Anthony Watts. Mr. Watts has allowed Mr. Monckton to post on his site multiple times, and Republicans in the USA have even used Monckton to testify before Congress on climate science. Interestingly, Mr. Watts and authors on his page are not immune themselves for perpetuating conspiracy theories. Just go and read the blog.

    Aaah, Les ries to play the old DDT/malaria canard/conspiracy/myth. (Snip)

    "Skeptics" when will you learn that by keeping on posting you keep on providing evidence that supports Dr. Lewandowsky's thesis?! We don't even need a survey. Heck these threads here are providing ample evidence in support of Stephan's thesis.

    Maybe Dr. Lewandowsky can help us understand this bizarre phenomenon?
    Moderator Response: Inflammatory snipped.
  19. Michael: you get crank points for not reading the references I gave. The problem was that World Bank funds, and Foreign aid, were given contingent that DDT was not used. While DDT was available, it was not used, under threat of losing funding.

    As my references show, the environmental groups enthusiastically supported this.
  20. Tyger: read my refernces on DDT. Then give me yours.

    Waiting patiently.
  21. Paul of Sweden, your irony mix is too large for your carrier wave; you're clipping and generating conceptual harmonics causing faithful demodulation of your intended communication to be impossible.

    Put another way, your last remark was unintelligible. What are you trying to say, in plainer terms?
  22. WTD: "With all due respect, you have not answered my question."

    I have. You asked if I cared to comment about Monckton/Evans. I said no. I'm not interested in them, nor in the GM's alleged anti-Semitism. My view of Monckton is that environmentalists make him. http://www.climate-resistance.org/2011/02/mythologising-monckton.html there's not more to add.

    "... scholars of conspiracy culture have noted the parallels to classical antisemitism..."

    (-Snip-).

    But there's a big difference between the conspiracy theories that develop within alienated groups, and those that get deployed by the establishment. UK government ministers, and presidents of the Royal Society can be found expounding conspiracy theories about climate change denial. That is far more interesting than all the deniers' conspiracy theories multiplied. Perhaps the establishment and alienated groups shared something, after all.

    "Creationism as an idea makes a policy."

    It doesn't. It is not an agent. Ideas are not agents, except in some fundamentalist reading of Dawkins' TSG.

    "In addition to denying climate change, the GOP Presidential candidates denied evolution."

    You see, you just overstate it. In fact at the last election, McCain had declared that the 'climate debate is over' long before the polls - "I am convinced that we have reached the tipping point and that the Congress of the United States will act, with the agreement of the administration" - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6364663.stm . Even Bob Barr was on message - http://www.climate-resistance.org/2008/07/barr-barr-green-sheep.html and went as far as congratulating Al Gore on his film. One reason the GOP hasn't take an overtly sceptical position, in spite of claims to the contrary is that it is the liberal left who have tried to turn it into a wedge issue. Mysteriously, it has been much harder to demonstrate the conspiracy theory that big oil dominates the political agenda, and that conservatives are 'motivated' to reason against the environment.
    Moderator Response: Inflammatory snipped.
  23. " Monckton has been openly embraced (and defended) by the largest "skeptic" site on the internet run by Mr. Anthony Watts. Mr. Watts has allowed Mr. Monckton to post on his site multiple times, and Republicans in the USA have even used Monckton to testify before Congress on climate science. "

    So what?

    If there are 'sides' to the debate, you're still only talking about one side which has only individuals and blogs, versus huge supranational organisations, with enormous resources, NGOs and charities, governments and departments etc, on the other.

    To read this stuff, it's as if Monckton and Watts almost single-handedly stopped the UNFCCC finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

    That's not a conspiracy theory, of course, but it is sheer fantasy.
  24. No conspiracy per se on the part of "big oil," Ben, just public relations. These outfits are simply obeying their fiduciary duty to shareholders, but at the same time when the amount of money available for serving shareholder interests scales against several trillion dollars/year of revenue it may well have an effect on public policy. See this, for instance:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/lobbyists.jpg

    I'm fairly sure there's some kind of cost/benefit analysis applied to PR expenditures of this kind; again, fiduciary duty requires due diligence.
  25. "http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/lobbyists.jpg"

    Another case of seeing what you want to see in the picture. You see 'climate change lobbying' as only amounting to for/against.

    But it ain't necessarily so. For instance, the two biggest sectors are manufacturing and utilities, followed by oil and gas, which is not quite what we'd expect. After all, utilities companies don't care too much what form of electricity you buy, as long as you buy it from them. And manufacturers just want to keep their production lines moving, whether they're powered by green or brown energy. And many oil and gas companies have interests in 'renewables' anyway. The graphic is highly misleading. But it serves a purpose.

    "just PR" is the green conspiracy theorists get-out-of-jail-free card.

    Just because it's PR doesn't mean it's not a conspiracy theory.
  26. So the final (?) tally of 5 “skeptic” (or “skeptic”-leaning) [Lewandowsky's characterization] sites is
    Climate Depot (Morano) – no response
    Climate Audit (McIntyre) – no response
    Pielke Jr – correspondence, declined to post
    Junk Science (Milloy) – posted poll
    Spencer – no response

    Is that correct? If so, then Lewandowsky can stop inquiring about whether he can release the names of the sites to which hehis assistant sent the link.

    Although why the presumed confidentiality of email *replies*, is relevant to whether he could release this information, has always been beyond me.
  27. Ben: "The graphic is highly misleading."

    Not getting your gist. Do you feel the spending figures the graphic depicts are incorrect? The sorting order? That oil, gas and coal firms are lobbying to destroy their own markets?

    I imagine electric as well as natural gas utilities do care about what form of energy they're employing, for generation in the case of electricity or selling in the case of natural gas. Enthusiastically recapitalizing plant or destroying one's market seem unlikely choices for these concerns.

    I also imagine we won't agree on this matter but our agreement does not really matter. The "invisible hand of the market" will find its own form of agreement quite independently of the two of us. :-)
  28. I will bet that Roger Pielke was surprised to discover he was a skeptic.
  29. Doug Bostrom #74
    No conspiracy per se on the part of "big oil," just public relations ... I'm fairly sure there's some kind of cost/benefit analysis applied to PR expenditures of this kind
    Of course there is. That’s why Exxon, Shell, BP and co finance the climate change department at MIT which regularly rolls out their roulette wheel demonstrating how temperatures will rise by maybe 6, 8, 10 degrees if we continue to use the products of Exxon, Shell, and BP. It’s like Macdonalds telling us to cut down on fat and eat our greens. Too banal to even comment on.
    Except that every activist who goes on about Big Oil is apparently unaware that it’s happening. And when I pointed it out to George Monbiot the Guardian dropped MIT from their Environment Network, and George started a campaign against astroturfers.

    People find themselves campaigning alonside someone who once said something offensive about a cabal; people don’t loudly condemn everyone they come in contact with just because they don’t agree with them. What is it about environmentalists that they think we have to do what they think we should? Why should we even be interested in what they think we should do? It’s not as if they’ve got themselves elected in large enough numbers to change anything.
    Moderator Response: Please provide a link to support your assertion about MIT's funding. Or your comment will be removed.
  30. (-Moderation Complaints snipped-)
    Moderator Response: Please stay on-topic and in compliance with the Comments Policy. Further conduct in this vein will lead to a revocation of posting rights.
  31. Let me answer, if I may be so bold.

    Its hard to keep track all of the money Oil gives to universities for climate change projects.

    Stanford- 225 million (100 million Exxon)

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/february25/exxon-022509.html




    Maybe it was Berkely and BP for 500 million?

    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2007/02/01_ebi.shtml



    Perhaps it was BP and Princeton, for nearly 20 million?

    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S22/40/40G69/index.xml?section=topstories



    Maybe BP and the Nature Conservancy for 10 million?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052302164.html


    Perhaps it was Shell, when they helped found the WWF?



    Or perhaps Cheasepeake when they funded the Sierra Club for 26 million?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/science/earth/after-disclosure-of-sierra-clubs-gifts-from-gas-driller-a-roiling-debate.html

    Perhaps it was various power, energy and pipeline companies found to be donors to the Suzuki Foundation, after he stated that corporatiosn did not seem interested in donating to the Suzuki Foundation?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH9Rj0NQvOQ




    Nope. Alas, I can find no mention of MIT and Exxon, except for scholarships and bursaries.

    I suspect that Geof meant Stanford....
  32. I suspect that Geof meant Stanford....

    No it was MIT -- the MIT Joint Program on Global Change, to be precise:

    http://globalchange.mit.edu/sponsors/all

    Quite a few oil companies in there. But that's forgotten when doing the tally for the who-sponsors-who conspiracy theory.
  33. Ben: Thanks. I am adding that to my database. I used "donation" to search, not "sponsor".

    So, whats the talley then? I get over 600 million from oil companies, in our two posts, just to US universities to research climate change.

    Odd I never see this at Exxonsecrets....
  34. Les I think Greenpeace gave up updating Exxonsexcrets when they realised that they didn't need to back up their conspiracy theories, and that trying to do so undermines them as conspiracy theories -- it just shows that the money and relationships that were said to exist simply didn't.
  35. Watching the Deniers at 13:26 PM on 11 September, 2012
    Having stopped to simply observe the evolution of this conversation - and reflect upon the interactions - I can't help but come away with the thinking multiple issues are being discussed and flowing into each other.

    There are two issues:

    1/ the NASA paper, its methodology and relevance
    2/ discussion around the conspiratorial claims made by some - not all - segments of the sceptic community

    In regards to the second point, and I hope I don't test the patience of readers and the moderator, I feel as though the "sceptics" are struggling to absorb or even address the issue.

    I have politely asked Ben to respond to the claims. He is under no compulsion to answer: well within his rights. But he has definitively stated "he will not".

    The question is why not, because to my eyes that looks like a refusal to examine evidence. I gather from Bob's posts he is both literate and informed. Indeed, I've appreciated the points he makes and have attempted to reply to his questions.

    Thus it is only reasonable in any debate or discussion to:

    a) respond to questions to clarify ones position
    b) when making claims about the world, provide evidence to back it up
    c) to answer clearly without dissembling the truth or hiding answers.

    Regarding the "Big Oil Conspiracy" I've not put that argument forward. I believe the issue is complex and nuanced, indeed many others have stated so. So in effect it is a straw man argument. I am happy to respond and discuss, and provide evidence to back my claims. I do not view it as the simple "BIG OIL = SCEPTICISM" argument. There are complex historical and sociological forces at play. I acknowledge that, and seek edification from fellow posters.

    But - I've asked Ben, Barry and others to comment on the conspiracy theories outlined by Evans and Monckton.

    I have very politely, and respectively, requested a simple yes/no answer: do you (Barry, Ben, Les) accept the arguments put forward, or reject them as too belonging to the fringe.

    Or, if you reject such strong epistemological dichotomies, explain your views.

    Otherwise if very much looks like you can't, or refuse. One may imply a form of denial from such refusal to discuss evidence.
  36. Thanks Les Johnson and Ben Pile for confirming my comment at #79. it was indeed the MIT Joint Program on Global Change, as linked by Ben at #82. Being a very amateur conspirator, I don’t keep confirmatory references to hand, and had gone to bed before the moderator’s warning came up.
    For students of Big Oil funding conspiracies, this illustrates a point that has been well ilustrated a number of times in the Lewandowsky affair. We are not a well organised bunch of conspirators; but when we reach a critical mass - in numbers and in effective arguments - we can dominate a blog thread and drive our opponents into an apopleptic rage of conspiratorial thinking.
    When I made the same point in comments to a Monbiot article in the Guardian a few years ago, there was a murmur of assent from a couple of commenters, and Monbiot changed the subject and went on to write articles about astroturfing and the need for censorship on Guardian articles. Soon after I was banned from commenting at the Guardian.
    On a blog like this, with little passing traffic, the commenters are far more committed and knowledgeable, leading to the echo chamber effect noted by Lewandowsky above. (Though the echoes have been few and far between until this week, it seems). Each one of Stephan’s articles is now signalled as it comes up in comments at Bishop Hill or Joanna’s, and the dozen or so readers who come here are sufficient to dominate the discussion.
    It’s possible to exlplain this phenomenon as an organised conspiracy. But the simpler explanantion is that the blogosphere is a chaotic system, and all it needs is for the number and quality of deniers to reach a certain critical mass, and we have a tipping point, where defenders of Lewandowsky retire defeated, and Stephan has no recourse but to write a new article.
  37. Watching the Deniers at 16:01 PM on 11 September, 2012
    Geoff, care to comment on the Evans/Monckton statements?

    I've not called you any of the above. It is a polite request, or will you refuse to review the evidence?
  38. Watchingthe deniers: your


    I have very politely, and respectively, requested a simple yes/no answer: do you (Barry, Ben, Les) accept the arguments put forward, or reject them as too belonging to the fringe.



    1. You have not asked me any questions. Please free, though.
    2. As I see it, you are asking for yes/no black/white answer to a question with 50 shades of grey (yes, a literary allusion to pop porn). You need to be more specific.
  39. @ 69

    Yes, I've read them.

    Your crank points remain in place for your simplistic reflexive environment group bashing.
  40. 45 Barry Woods -- "Unless someone can point me to a specifi response to what happened to the JunkScience data?"

    JunkScience positively discouraged any of their readers from taking the survey. Why would you think there's any data at all?
  41. Michael: your

    Your crank points remain in place for your simplistic reflexive environment group bashing.


    I supply references to support my viewpoint.

    You supply ad hominems.

    See the difference?

    Until you can supply references, all I can do is comment on the quality of your ad homs. Which, quite frankly, are old, tired and very cliché.
  42. @91

    Crank theories supported by crank 'references'.

    Awesome.
  43. Heck, one more Michael.

    The WWF, in 1998, calling for the complete elimination of DDT by 2007.

    www.panda.org/toxics/downloads/resolving_ddt_summ_english.pdf
  44. Michael: So, is the WWF a crank? Is malaria.org crank? Is Skeptoid crank?

    But, thanks for immediately proving the veracity of my statement, on the quality of your ad homs.
  45. I'm sorry you feel put out, WTD.

    "I have politely asked Ben to respond to the claims."

    Which claims? You asked me to comment on Monckton and Evans. I don't know anything about Evans. And my views on Monckton are in the blog post I linked to -- that he is in many senses 'made' by the actions of his detractors, who search for a baddy. But curiously, the joke is not on the bombastic English eccentric.

    "The question is why not, because to my eyes that looks like a refusal to examine evidence."

    What refusal? What evidence? A refusal to comment is not a "refusal to examine evidence". I'm not sure what it is you want a comment about?

    I'm not particularly interested in a discussion about Monckton because i) I don't tend to agree with him. ii) I don't think his ideas are particularly influential. Moreover, as discussed, I think there is iii) a tendency to see all 'scepticism' as equivalent to Monckton's ideas, if not owed directly to him. and iv) there is a tendency to overstate the influence of individuals like Monckton. Points iii and iv are much more interesting phenomena, I would argue, than i and ii.

    As I've point out to you above, if you keep too close an eye on The Deniers -- as per your moniker, which you should reconsider if you want to be taken seriously-- you lose a sense of perspective. Which is to say you begin to see 'The Deniers' as the reason why environmentalism has failed. In this respect, Monckton has become absorbed into environmental mythology, to explain their political failures -- the failure to build a popular movement, and the failure to sustain global agreements, etc. The intentions of the NASA paper are the same. Psychologists wouldn't normally have an interest in social subgroups, or marginal political movements, except where there is a desire to intervene in a broader debate.

    But if environmentalists were to really reflect on their failure, they might find Lewandowsky's paper interesting for another reason. Perhaps the failure of the environmental movement is owed to their treatment of people in this way. Perhaps the contempt for people's intelligence and views of the world as demonstrated in the NASA paper speaks unwittingly about environmental ideology. That's much more interesting than Monckton, because rather than being just one man, it's a scientist, seemingly with the authority and respectability that gives him -- in a publicly-funded role. The NASA paper begins to reflect a much broader phenomenon than one larger-than-life denier. There is institutional apparatus behind SL. There is significance in the paper being peer reviewed, and considered for publication, in spite of its empirical and conceptual flaws. And it was received by waiting colleagues in the media before it had even been published. That's so much more interesting that what an outspoken posh bloke has to say.
  46. More cranks, according to Michael:

    Pan American Health Organisation
    WHO
    UNEP
    Commission for Environmental Cooperation
    South African Department of Health

    Plus dozens of papers with authors from Alonso to Wilkins.

    I would suggest that this time, you actually open some of those references I gave you, and read them. Then research the references they give.
  47. Is Greenpeace a crank?

    http://www.commondreams.org/pressreleases/Dec98/120198b.htm
  48. Re. 45 Les Johnson

    The BP $2m to Conservation International ($10m was from numerous sources) included projects such as examination of oil extraction methods. The $250m to Stanford was actually to 24 institutions worlwide to research new technologies, and the $500m to Berkeley was to 3 universities to research biofuel technology. Laudable, but not entirely altruistic, either ;) Compare to how much small fry Cairn Energy spent on failed exploratory drilling in the Arctic in one single season, and it might put some persepctive on the amounts.
  49. Lets put more perspective on the amounts, J Bowers.

    How much did Exxon give to conservative think tanks?

    How much did they give to Stanford to study climate change?

    Which is the larger amount?
  50. Les @ 97

    You're a crank because your references don't say what you claim they say, or they are wrong.

    Last link on Greenpeace - was about cleaning up the industrial pollution at plants that manufacture POPs.

    The WWFs official position on DDT was that should be "the pesticide of last resort" - ie. use it, but only when nothing else is suitable.

    Are you trying to single-handedly prove Prof L's theory??

    Everything is far more nuanced and complicated than the simplistic anti-environmental conspiracy that you wish to believe is true.

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