The blasphemy laws are dead and buried in Britain. Courtesy of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, which passed into law on 8 July 2008, it is no longer a common law offence to speak or publish any contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous words relating to God, Jesus Christ or the Bible. Thank Christ (or whoever) for that.
Yet just as religious blasphemy collapses under the weight of satirical operas featuring Jesus Christ in a nappy and shelf-hogging books about why God is dead, or a bastard, or both, so a new form of scientific blasphemy is emerging to take its place.
You can say what you like about Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but say anything reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous about a climate change scientist and you will be punished. You won't receive a literal lashing, but you will get a metaphorical one. Speak ill of a climate expert and you're likely to be stuck in the stocks of the public media and branded as a fact-denying, truth-distorting threat to public morals.
Increasingly in the climate change debate, no dissent can be brooked. I mean none. That is why, from the thousands and thousands of hours of TV programming devoted to climate change issues last year - from news reports on the threat of global warming to the lifestyle makeover shows imploring us to Go Green - only one has been singled out for censure. The one that questioned whether climate change is occurring. The Great Global Warming Swindle by maverick filmmaker Martin Durkin.
Today, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) has published a lengthy document censuring Channel 4 for showing Durkin's film on 8 March 2007. Yet what is striking about Ofcom's ruling is that it slaps Channel 4's wrists, not for any inaccuracies in Durkin's film (of which, it is claimed, there are many), but for its `unfair treatment' of climate change experts.
Ofcom rejected complaints that Durkin's film was factually inaccurate on the basis that it did not `materially mislead the audience so as to cause harm or offence' (1). Yet it upheld or partly upheld complaints by Sir David King (Britain's former chief scientific adviser), Professor Carl Wunsch (of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, all of whom say they were treated unfairly by the film.
Yet, as far as I can tell, King, Wunsch and the IPCC - an extremely powerful body which, come on, is surely robust enough to deal with one TV documentary having a pop at it - were simply submitted to the rough-and-tumble of testy journalistic debate.
Part of King's complaint is that during a lively interview in The Great Global Warming Swindle one of its contributors, Professor Frederick Singer, said we had now reached the mad situation where: `[T]he chief scientist of the UK [is] telling people that by the end of the century the only habitable place on the earth will be the Antarctic. And humanity may survive thanks to some breeding couples who moved to the Antarctic.'
King says he didn't say that. Well, not in so many words. What he actually said during a testimony to a House of Commons Select Committee in 2004 was this: `Fifty-five million years ago was a time when there was no ice on the earth; the Antarctic was the most habitable place for mammals, because it was the coolest place, and the rest of the earth was rather inhabitable because it was so hot. It is estimated that it [the carbon dioxide level] was roughly 1,000 parts per million then, and the important thing is that if we carry on business as usual we will hit 1,000 parts per million around the end of the century.'
In short? If we keep on driving, flying, building and consuming then the earth in 90 years' time will resemble the earth 55 million years ago - when the Antarctic was `the most habitable place for mammals'. Okay, King didn't say the Antarctic would become the `only habitable' place for humans but he did very strongly imply it would become the `most habitable' place.
And in a speech to the Climate Group in April 2004, he reportedly went a step farther. The Independent on Sunday of 2 May 2004 reported: `Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the government's chief scientist Sir David King said last week.' King never complained about that report.
As for the second sentence in Frederick Singer's contested interview - where he said `And humanity may survive thanks to some breeding couples who moved to the Antarctic' - this actually refers to a statement by James Lovelock, who said in 2006: `Before this century is over, billions of us will die, and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.'
Channel 4 says that, given that David King is on record as saying Antarctica could be the `only habitable place on earth' and `the rest of the globe could not sustain human life', it was not unreasonable to deduce that he, like Lovelock, was of the view that humanity could only survive if it started breeding in the Antarctic. Maybe. Maybe not. That point is up for debate. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that in Durkin's film, King was simply paraphrased - and, yes, ridiculed - as part of a provocative, polemical interview. That kind of thing happens all the time.
Professor Wunsch complained that he was not told beforehand that the film was a polemic against global warming theories. That is unfortunate, but again it is quite common in journalism. Reporters frequently do not divulge their entire motivation when setting up interviews, because they know that if they did some interviewees would tell them to get stuffed.
Part of the IPCC's complaint is that one of the film's interviewees - Professor Philip Stott - said: `The IPCC, like any UN body, is political. The final conclusions are politically driven.' I'm sorry, but that is simply legitimate political criticism, whether the IPCC likes it or not. Why is a UN body, which is staffed by hundreds of people and funded by millions of pounds and which has access to thousands of normally compliant journalists, complaining to Ofcom about a 90-minute documentary shown on Channel 4? What is it saying exactly? That no one may criticise it, ever?
Of course it is very serious when journalists wilfully or maliciously misrepresent people's views, and when they do they should be reprimanded. Yet paraphrasing, mocking, criticising and not giving the entire reason for your investigations. if all of these journalistic tactics were censured every time they occurred, there would be no TV reporting left. Certainly there would be no documentaries worth watching.
The Ofcom report sends a clear message: climate experts are off limits. You can get your facts wrong; you can even use questionable graphs - but you must not be `unfair' to The Experts. It is striking how similar the new Climate Blasphemy is to the old religious blasphemy. It, too, is based on protecting named individuals from `scurrilous' or `hurtful' words. Those who commit Climate Blasphemy are said to have been duped or had their palms greased by wicked oil companies - the contemporary equivalent of saying they are possessed by the devil. And their utterances are said to threaten the survival of mankind - by giving people a green light to continue acting in an eco-irresponsible fashion - just as the old blasphemers were accused of jeopardising the saving of mankind with their warped, wicked words.
You don't have to endorse Durkin's film, or the `alternative' climate-change theories that he and others have put forward (I, for one, do not), to be concerned about the censuring of anyone who challenges any part of the politics or science of climate change today. Rather, this is about upholding openness, scepticism and the right to question everything, in the world of journalism and in the world of science.
Given today's blasphemous atmosphere, it is not surprising that serious voices are now calling for a law of blasphemy on environmental matters. Earlier this year in Philosophy Now, Paul Keeling said it might be time to restrict the `mockery of nature', by which he means `an insincere, disrespectful or trivialising portrayal of nature'. Such mockery `implicitly excuse[s] and perpetuate[s] our abuse of the natural world', he said, and by reining it in we could get rid of car adverts and holiday adverts and presumably pesky TV documentaries, too.
We've only just been liberated, far too late, from England's archaic laws of religious blasphemy. Let us not submit so easily to the informal laws of Climate Blasphemy emerging all around us.
THE CLOWNS PLAY NANNY
The world's most feckless deliberative body, the New York City Council, is poised to pass an ordinance prohibiting large retailers from running in-store air-conditioning with their doors open - ostensibly to cut down on the city's "carbon footprint."
What's up with those losers, anyway? It's no idle question. Telling New Yorkers how to run their lives is just about the only thing council members seem interested in doing these days (at least when they're not busy trading taxpayer-funded pork projects for political chits). So it'd be of great interest whether they might fulfill the same carbon-cutting agenda simply by shutting their mouths once in a while.
That's unlikely, to put it mildly. Indeed, the sad fact is that Gotham's nannies-in-chief are already miles beyond parody. Just consider a measure recently introduced by Brooklyn's Domenic Recchia taking aim at what's apparently New York's next great health menace: Grapes. And peanuts.
No joke: Recchia's bill, if passed, would slap up to a $250 fine on merchants who fail to warn customers that certain products are a choking hazard for children under the age of 5. Which is about as close to a literal infantilization of ordinary New Yorkers as one's likely to see. Not to mention, an embarrassment to the city.
Ultimately, it reflects quite poorly on Council Speaker (and all-but-announced mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn. One wonders: If this is the kind of nonsense Quinn permits from the council, what are New Yorkers to expect if she ever gets to Gracie Mansion?
NORDHAUS'S LESS-THAN-OPTIMAL CLIMATE STATEGY
While Nordhaus's prescription may indeed be the most "optimal economic approach" to slow global warming, it isn't the optimal approach to addressing global warming. This is because it ignores adaptation. Some adaptations may reduce climate change damages more efficiently than mitigation... emission reductions that seem to be optimal [under Nordhaus's strategy] in the absence of adaptation may, once adaptation is thrown into the mix, no longer be optimal.
The Nordhaus analysis probably overestimates climate change damages. Nordhaus acknowledges to having "relatively little confidence in our projections beyond 2050" yet he stretches his analysis to 2200. Sometimes such long-range analyses are justified on the grounds that that's the best that can be done. But even if that's so, it misses the real issue, namely, whether even the best available analysis is good enough for making trillion-dollar decisions which, moreover, extend out centuries hence. At these temporal distances, Nostradamus may be just as credible as Nordhaus, or Nicholas Stern, for that matter. Believing such analyses demands, in Coleridge's words, "willing suspension of disbelief." Instead of suspending disbelief and succumbing to gullibility, I would recommend a somewhat different approach.
Small is not beautiful
A new report on the `way forward for agriculture' has been used to justify dragging farming backwards - to the detriment of the poor.
A report published last week by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) has been cited as evidence that industrialised food production is screwing up the planet and impoverishing much of the world. Commentators and reporters have leapt upon the report to argue that the answer to the world's food problems is to have more small-scale production in the developing world and to reject many of the trappings of modern agriculture, including genetically modified (GM) crops. Is this really true? Or is this simply a case of environmental and development campaigners looking to impose their ideas on the Third World.
According to its website, the IAASTD is an `intergovernmental process with multi-stakeholder bureau comprised of 30 representatives from government and 30 from civil society', and it is based on `multiple international agency co-sponsorship (FAO, GEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, World Bank, and WHO)'. Earlier this month, delegates met for a week in Johannesburg to put the finishing touches to the `synthesis report' of the project. And like many international reports these days, it is borderline unintelligible.
For example, consider the following extract from its `Statement from Governments', which opens the executive summary and is reminiscent of the worst verbal mangling of the People's Front of Judea in Monty Python's Life of Brian: `This Assessment is a constructive initiative and important contribution that all governments need to take forward to ensure that agricultural knowledge, science and technology fulfils its potential to meet the development and sustainability goals of the reduction of hunger and poverty, the improvement of rural livelihoods and human health, and facilitating equitable, socially, environmentally and economically sustainable development.'
A more comprehensible summation of the report was provided by IAASTD director, Bob Watson, at the launch in London last week: `We tried to assess the implications of agricultural knowledge, science and technology both past, present and future on a series of very critical issues. These issues are hunger and poverty; rural livelihoods; nutrition and human health. The key point is how do we address these issues in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable?'
Watson is right to point out that our current system of food production is failing to meet the needs of many people. `The price of food, in real terms, has gone down', he said. `Even today, many food commodities are comparable to the early 1990s; so what's the problem? Well, we still have over 800million people going to bed hungry every night. There have been some successes but if we look at it on a region-by-region basis, there have been uneven results.' He also noted the ecological downsides to current methods of food production. `We have lost some of our environmental sustainability. There have been adverse effects in some parts of the world on soils, water, biodiversity; our agricultural systems have contributed to human-induced climate change and, in turn, human-induced climate change threatens agricultural productivity.'
Greenpeace, which was heavily involved in producing the IAASTD report, was clearly cock-a-hoop at the outcome, declaring that the report `recommends small-scale farmers and agro-ecological methods are the way forward if the current food crisis is to be solved and to meet the needs of local communities, declaring indigenous and local knowledge play as important a role as formal science. A significant departure from the destructive chemical-dependent, one-size-fits-all model of industrial agriculture.'
In fact, this kind of response is at odds with reality. The expansion of agricultural productivity has been most dramatic in the developed world, where the full benefits of mechanisation, economies of scale, chemical inputs and greater agricultural education have been experienced by many people. Local knowledge may be useful in tweaking general lessons to particular circumstances, but what is required, surely, is the spread of well-established scientific understanding to the poor, not a celebration of mysticism.
If anything, farmers in the Third World need more agricultural productivity and mechanisation, not less. The productivity of agriculture in the developed world has risen far faster than in the developing world. As one writer notes: `The ratio of the productivity of the most advanced capitalist segment of the world's agriculture to the poorest, which was around 10-to-one before 1940, is now approaching 2,000-to-one! That means that productivity has progressed much more unequally in the area of agriculture and food production than in any other area. Simultaneously this evolution has led to the reduction of the relative prices of food products (in relation to other industrial and service products) to one fifth of what they were 50 years ago.'
Nor is it at all clear that Big Agriculture in the developed world, which has an interest in being able to continue to produce food into the future, is particularly destructive. For example, high agricultural productivity in the developed world has tended to mean low prices, leading to the retirement of land from production altogether - there simply hasn't been the need to continue growing on it. Big, professional agricultural organisations can afford to think about soil quality and sustainability more than poor farmers who live hand-to-mouth. It is people living on the edge that have to get by, come what may; that may mean planting crops on land with declining fertility, cutting down trees for fuel and myriad other desperate measures just to survive.
In one respect, the IAASTD report is right. A major part of the solution to the world's food problems will come from raising productivity. It's just that an emphasis on small-scale, organic agriculture that rejects GM crops is unlikely to achieve that. Notably, the USA and China both refused to support the IAASTD's summary on biotechnology, saying that they `do not believe this entire section is balanced and comprehensive'. Syngenta, a leading biotech company, walked out on the process altogether. Deborah Keith, a Syngenta worker involved in the process, noted in New Scientist that `there was blatant disregard for the benefits of existing technologies, and for technology's potential to support agriculture's efforts to meet future crop needs. I think this was in part because the differences between various participants' perceptions about these technologies, and the scientific facts, were not maintained and highlighted. Sadly, social science seems to have taken the place of scientific analysis.'
On the other hand, even the most basic inputs can make a big difference. In Malawi, after a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, the government started providing subsidies for fertiliser. Combined with better rains, the country's output increased dramatically, allowing it to become an exporter and greatly reduce its dependence on aid - and all against the advice of major Western donors who have tried to encourage the country to grow cash crops for the world market instead without subsidies. Even if there were no wider reform of agricultural production, a more complete application of the best available technology would at least allow producers to make the most of what they have.
Indeed, a recognition of the failure to invest in agriculture is central to the World Bank's World Development Report 2008. World Bank president Robert Zoellick noted at the launch of the report that investment in agriculture in the developing world has borne little relation to the importance of the sector, mainly due to the policies of Western donors.
Technical fixes alone will not be enough to really transform the situation of agriculture in the developing world; the various regimes of subsidies and trade barriers, for example, hurt farmers and consumers in the developing world by effectively denying them access to major markets while allowing subsidised crops from the West to undermine local markets. But to reject the best available technology in favour of a romanticised view of farming - one that reflects the prejudices of Western NGOs far more than the interests of poor farmers - is even worse.
NASA Climate Alarmist Attacks NewsBusters' Sheppard
Last Saturday, one of the nation's leading climate alarmists -- a government employee with a history of attacking people that don't agree with his views on anthropogenic global warming -- wrote rather disparagingly about a somewhat satirical NewsBusters piece. Despite claiming he typically doesn't comment on things "written about climate change in the more excitable parts of [sic] web," NASA's Gavin Schmidt took time out of his busy Saturday schedule to respond to something he described as "probably the most boneheaded article that I have seen in ages."
Was this an effort by one of the founding members of RealClimate - the world's leading website specializing in climate change hysteria - to correct errors he felt existed in my article? Or, was this a predictable attack on a popular conservative blog that not only regularly exposes the one-sided nature of media reports about global warming, but also frequently brings attention to studies that go counter to RealClimate's, and maybe more importantly, Schmidt's views?
After all, to climate alarmists like Schmidt, media shouldn't be reporting the realist (nee "skeptical") side of this issue as was made perfectly clear by Nobel Laureate Al Gore during an interview with NBC's Meredith Vieira during the November 5, 2007, installment of the "Today" show:
[P]art of the challenge the news media has had in covering this [global warming] story is the old habit of taking the "on the one hand, on the other hand" approach. There are still people who believe that the earth is flat. But when you're reporting on a story like the one you're covering today, where you have people all around the world, you don't take, you don't search out, for someone who still believes the earth is flat and give them equal time.
Ironically, even though Schmidt probably thinks NewsBusters and its readers believe the earth is flat, he did indeed search me out, and wrote:
I occasionally marvel at the amount of nonsense that is written about climate change in the more excitable parts of [sic] web, and most of the time, I don't bother to comment. But in relation to the issue of aerosols, chemistry and climate, I read yesterday (h/t Atmoz) probably the most boneheaded article that I have seen in ages (and that's saying a lot).
Schmidt then attacked my piece by employing a well-known albeit dishonest debate tactic of putting words in your opponent's mouth: "they confuse aerosols with photochemical smog." Did I? Well, not really. Although the word "aerosol" does appear in the NewScientist article I cited about cleaner air being responsible for rising temperatures in Europe, Reuters didn't mention "photochemical" in the piece I referenced concerning global warming increasing smog levels.and neither did I. This, of course, is why it's customary to cite, by direct quotation, when challenging a supposed mistake in another's work. I guess Schmidt is unaware of such journalistic etiquette.
It is also expected that when you suggest someone has misinterpreted articles written by others, you refer to and link to the same articles the author in question did. Schmidt didn't do this either:
The hook for this piece of foolishness were two interesting articles published this week by Ruckstuhl and colleagues and a draft EPA report on the impacts of climate on air quality.
No, not really, for the links inside "Ruckstuhl and colleagues" and "the impacts of climate on air quality" go to the American Geophysical Union and the National Center for Environmental Assessment respectively, the websites that published the studies in question. My piece linked to neither. Nice sleight of hand, wouldn't you agree?
Regardless of what was likely an innocent faux pas on Schmidt's part, assuming I had written about the relationship between aerosols and photochemical smog, it appears his concerns put him at odds with his beloved Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which defined the former:
A collection of airborne solid or liquid particles, with a typical size between 0.01 and 10 mm and residing in the atmosphere for at least several hours. Aerosols may be of either natural or anthropogenic origin. Aerosols may influence climate in two ways: directly through scattering and absorbing radiation, and indirectly through acting as condensation nuclei for cloud formation or modifying the optical properties and lifetime of clouds.
Embedded inside Schmidt's "photochemical smog" was a link that included the following (readers should take note that it goes to Wikipedia! Don't you love it when "scientists" use that website as a resource? We'll have more on that later.):
This forms when sunlight hits various pollutants in the air and forms a mix of inimical chemicals that can be very dangerous. A photochemical smog is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere, which leaves airborne particles (called particulate matter) and ground-level ozone.
Nitrogen oxides are released by nitrogen and oxygen in the air reacting together under high temperature such as in the exhaust of fossil fuel-burning engines in cars, trucks, coal power plants, and industrial manufacturing factories. VOCs are released from man-made sources such as gasoline, paints, solvents, pesticides, and biogenic sources, such as pine and citrus tree emissions.
It would be interesting to get Schmidt's opinion about whether or not the "various pollutants in the air" described by Wikipedia fit under the IPCC's definition of aerosols? If so, aren't aerosols, therefore, involved in photochemical smog?
Speaking of Wikipedia and its use by folks like Schmidt, Lawrence Solomon wrote on July 8 about how this website is used by climate alarmists to spread misinformation about global warming around the world:
Ever wonder how Al Gore, the United Nations, and company continue to get away with their claim of a "scientific consensus" confirming their doomsday view of global warming? Look no farther than Wikipedia for a stunning example of how the global-warming propaganda machine works.
Not surprisingly, RealClimate recommends Wikipedia as a resource "that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change." Nothing like indoctrinating folks by sending them to sources that almost completely and exclusively agree with your views, don't you think?
Moving forward, Schmidt was also displeased by the following in my piece:
The next error is to equate changes in temperatures in Europe to the globe. While it would be true that if global aerosol levels declined it would lead to increased global warming, aerosol trends in Asia are increasing strongly, even while those in the US and Europe are dropping. The net effect is possibly a slight drop, but the impact on global temperature is as yet unclear.
This represented either a lack of arithmetic acumen that is totally astounding for someone of Schmidt's stature, or another attempt to discredit NewsBusters by misrepresenting the truth: since global temperature is an average of data-points around the world, a temperature increase in Europe due to cleaner air DOES drive up the mean. Any suggestion to the contrary is totally devoid of logic.
Does that mean the average can't drop? Certainly not. But, it assures that such a declining average is still HIGHER than what it would be if that continent's numbers were not being positively skewed by cleaner air. Moving forward, along with irony and simple arithmetic calculations, it appears hypothetical questions also challenge Schmidt, for as part of my conclusion, I posed the following:
Wouldn't it be fascinating if such efforts [involved in complying with the Montreal Protocol] lead to cleaner air around the world which ended up warming the planet, and that additional warmth is now breaking down the very ozone we thought we could save?
Schmidt seemed to miss the importance of the question-mark in that suggestion:
Every part of this sentence is wrong. The Montreal Protocol had no impact on cleaning the air, it stopped the growth of CFCs which are powerful greenhouse gases (in addition to their role in depleting stratospheric ozone), therefore it slowed global warming, rather than increasing it, and we aren't trying to save ground-level ozone. Had any of this been true it would indeed have been fascinating.
"Had any of this been true it would indeed have been fascinating." And that, indeed, was the point - wouldn't it be fascinating if true, especially since it might be? For instance, since Schmidt loves Wikipedia as a scientific source, it defines the 1990 Clean Air Act as "a piece of United States environmental policy relating to the reduction of smog and air pollution."
Smog and air pollution. Taking this a step further, isn't it interesting that the Act directly discussed the Montreal Protocol, as well as ozone protection:
In June 1989 President Bush proposed sweeping revisions to the Clean Air Act. Building on Congressional proposals advanced during the 1980s, the President proposed legislation designed to curb three major threats to the nation's environment and to the health of millions of Americans: acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The proposal also called for establishing a national permits program to make the law more workable, and an improved enforcement program to help ensure better compliance with the Act.
By large votes, both the House of Representatives (401-21) and the Senate (89-11) passed Clean Air bills that contained the major components of the President's proposals. Both bills also added provisions requiring the phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals, roughly according to the schedule outlined in international negotiations (Revised Montreal Protocol). [...]
The most widespread and persistent urban pollution problem is ozone. The causes of this and the lesser problem of carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM-10) pollution in our urban areas are largely due to the diversity and number of urban air pollution sources. One component of urban smog - hydrocarbons - comes from automobile emissions, petroleum refineries, chemical plants, dry cleaners, gasoline stations, house painting and printing shops. Another key component - nitrogen oxides - comes from the combustion of fuel for transportation, utilities and industries.
Let's recap the history of this Act, shall we?
The Montreal Protocol went into effect January 1, 1989, with the first meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in May of that year. The following month, President George H. W. Bush proposed a new Clean Air Act, signed into law in 1990, which, along with addressing ozone depletion and meeting the requirements of this Protocol, allowed the EPA to establish limits on the quantity of any pollutant that can be present in the air anywhere in this nation.
As a result, as far as the U.S. is concerned, the program designed to comply with the Montreal Protocol did IN FACT result in cleaner air. I guess Schmidt hadn't heard about this; it makes one wonder how many other nations did the very same thing at the very same time thereby making my hypothetical question even more fascinating.
In the end, two articles were published last week -- by NewScientist and Reuters -- which provided an example of just how contradictory global warming information can be, and why the assertion "the debate is over" defies reason. Yet, folks like Schmidt want people to think there's actually a consensus concerning this matter.
It seems obvious from their behavior, and from this piece by Schmidt, that one way alarmists create the appearance of a consensus is by attacking anyone that doesn't agree with them.
Maybe it's because some of these folks demolished Schmidt and two of his fellow alarmists in a March 2007 debate in New York City. Representing the realists at that event was Richard Lindzen, who Schmidt attacked the very next month. In fact, attacking the opposition seems to be a prerequisite at RealClimate as Roger Pielke, Jr., wrote on January 14, 2005:
The site's focus has been exclusively on attacking those who invoke science as the basis for their opposition to action on climate change, folks such as George Will, Senator James Inhofe, Michael Crichton, McIntyre and McKitrick, Fox News, and Myron Ebell. Whether intended or not, the site has clearly aligned itself squarely with one political position on climate change.
I guess this puts me in good company. Yet, potentially more disturbing is the power RealClimate has within the mainstream media, as well as who appears to be funding and/or supporting this website. Press members love to cite RealClimate as the final word on global warming, and virtually always refer to it and its writers in nothing but glowing terms as this piece at Time.com demonstrates:
The Internet wasn't invented for RealClimate specifically, but it's hard to imagine a site more in line with the Web's original purpose: scientific communication. An assembly of climate researchers gives readers what's lacking virtually everywhere else - straightforward presentation of the physical evidence for global warming, discussed with patience, precision and rigor.
Yes, a straightforward presentation that gives readers only one side of this controversial issue, a fact that some believe is guided by those behind RealClimate. In a February 14, 2005, article about the debate concerning Michael Mann's "hockey stick" theory of global temperatures -- which alarmists like Gore and Schmidt base much of their hysteria on, and was thoroughly debunked by Steven McIntyre and Ross McKitrick - the Wall Street Journal reported:
On a Web site launched with the help of an environmental group (www.realclimate.org), [Mann] has sought to debunk the debunking, and counter what he calls a campaign by fossil-fuel interests to discredit his work.
The folks at RealClimate responded quickly to this accusation:
Readers of the Feb. 14th, 2005 Wall Street Journal may have gotten the impression that RealClimate is in some way affiliated with an environmental organisation. We wish to stress that although our domain is being hosted by Environmental Media Services, and our initial press release was organised for us by Fenton Communications, neither organization was in any way involved in the initial planning for RealClimate, and have never had any editorial or other control over content. Neither Fenton nor EMS has ever paid any contributor to RealClimate.org any money for any purpose at any time. Neither do they pay us expenses, buy our lunch or contract us to do research.
Maybe so, but ActivistCash.com wrote the following about EMS et al:
EMS is the communications arm of leftist public relations firm Fenton Communications. Based in Washington, in the same office suite as Fenton, EMS claims to be "providing journalists with the most current information on environmental issues." A more accurate assessment might be that it spoon-feeds the news media sensationalized stories, based on questionable science, and featuring activist "experts," all designed to promote and enrich David Fenton's paying clients, and build credibility for the nonprofit ones. It's a clever racket, and EMS & Fenton have been running it since 1994.
It's called "black marketing," and Environmental Media Services has become the principal reason Fenton Communications is so good at it. EMS lends an air of legitimacy to what might otherwise be dismissed (and rightly so) as fear-mongering from the lunatic fringe. In addition to pre-packaged "story ideas" for the mass media, EMS provides commentaries, briefing papers, and even a stable of experts, all carefully calculated to win points for paying clients. These "experts," though, are also part of the ruse. Over 70% of them earn their paychecks from current or past Fenton clients, all of which have a financial stake in seeing to it that the scare tactics prevail. It's a clever deception perpetrated on journalists who generally don't consider do-gooder environmentalists to be capable of such blatant and duplicitous "spin."
[W]hile Environmental Media Services was started, and is still run, by staffers of Fenton Communications, it was officially instituted as a "project" of the Tides Center in 1994. This gave Fenton some plausible deniability and initially shielded him from the suggestion that EMS was just a shill for his clients. It has also provided a ready-made funding mechanism for foundations, "progressive" companies, and other Fenton clients who don't want their contributions to EMS noted for the public record [Editor's note: despite the logistical roadblocks set up by Tides, our research still has been able to reverse-engineer several million dollars in foundation grants to EMS].
For those that have forgotten, Tides is the far-left organization Teresa Heinz-Kerry contributes millions of her former husband's fortune to. Making things more interesting, the founder of EMS, Arlie Schardt, has "moonlighted" as a project director for Tides:
Schardt's career connections have resulted in a collaboration that has made EMS much more influential than its small size would suggest. Schardt, moonlighting as a project director at the Tides Center, saw just a hair under $1 million directed from Tides to EMS in 1999.
Upping the ante, Schardt has ties to Al Gore and the environmental group Friends of the Earth which runs BushGreenwatch.org. This is significant, for the EMS employee that registered RealClimate's domain name, Betsy Ensley, "manages BushGreenwatch.org, a joint EMS-MoveOn.org public awareness website."
As for Fenton Communications, recent announcements at its website are sure to raise some eyebrows. For instance, "Fenton Communications Launches Green-Tech Division" from May 27:
Fenton Communications has been deeply involved in environmental issues since its founding in 1982. The firm publicized the first reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, helped environmental NGOs at the Kyoto Global Warming Summit, and worked with Vice-President Al Gore to publicize the issues.
Or how about "Ad Age: Fenton, MoveOn Form Democratic Advertising Network to Help Win 2008 Elections from May 6:
Fenton Communications and client MoveOn.org announced today that the still unnamed "network" would use mainstream advertising executives to help produce advertising to help change the playing field this year.
At the moment, the team has no clear candidate to support. So it will go after presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. Mr. Fenton said the first ads to come out of the group will be aimed at McCain, "telling the truth about John McCain and his policies, some about McCain's reputation and his turnabout on bunch of positions as he panders to the right."
While MoveOn isn't going to be the only group to use the team, MoveOn will get the first ads, which the team hopes to have ready within six weeks.
Add it all up, and although RealClimate's website is hosted and supported by an organization with ties to Al Gore, George Soros's MoveOn.org, Tides, Friends of the Earth, and Fenton Communications, I'm sure none of these entities has any involvement in its content or funding. If you believe that, you probably also think humans can control the temperature of the planet.
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