# Heartland Institute email distorts American Meteorological Society study, admits it’s all about “spin”

Joseph Bast of The Heartland Institute

# Abstract: The Heartland Institute sent an email that inaccurately reported the results of a study into the scientific consensus about the nature of global warming. The American Meteorological Society objected to the deceptive nature of the email, and so Heartland’s President Joseph Bast defended the email. Instead of accurately reporting the study’s results, both the email and Bast chose instead to distort the study’s findings, quote mine, and ignore inconvenient results in the service of an admitted desire to fool the public into disbelieving that climate change is real, human caused, and likely to be harmful.

On November 26, the Heartland Institute sent a direct marketing email that distorted the results of a study investigating the level and strength of scientific consensus about industrial climate disruption among members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). In addition to the spam-like tracking features embedded in the email, it also prominently featured the seal of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and was only identified as coming from Heartland in the footer. Following a public complaint by Keith L. Seitter, the Executive Director of the AMS, Heartland President Joseph Bast published a defense of the email in which Bast claimed that everything in the email was true, that Heartland had done nothing wrong, and more or less told Seitter to quit complaining.

Given Heartland’s long history of deception, dishonesty, and hypocrisy with respect to industrial climate disruption, S&R compared the claims made in the email and by Bast in his defense with the actual study (“Meteorologists’s views about global warming: A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members,” hereafter Stenhouse et al 2013). S&R found that the email and Bast’s blog both fail to accurately describe the results of Stenhouse et al 2013 in multiple ways. Both distort the study’s finding on the scientific consensus among AMS members, both caricature the study’s findings on how political ideology is related to thinking that global warming is happening, the email excises a critical part of a quote and Bast defends the quote mining, and both fail to mention that Stenhouse et al 2013 replicates another study into the scientific consensus.

In addition, Bast’s defense of the email provided a peek behind the curtain and some new insight into Heartland’s long term goal with the email, with a Forbes blog published on November 20 by Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor, and with Heartland’s other industrial climate disruption-denying actions over the past few years – to fool the public into disbelieving that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that climate is changing, that human activity is the dominant cause of those changes, and that the changes will be disruptive to both global ecosystems and human society.

## Heartland sends deceptive marketing email

Screen capture of Heartland email using AMS logo.

S&R acquired a copy of the email that Heartland sent on November 26. The email is from “2013AMSsurvey@gmail.com” rather than from a Heartland Institute email address. According to Bast’s response, this is “a common practice in email marketing” used to “maximize the open rate.” In other words, it’s common for the sender to use spammer tactics in order to trick recipients into opening the emails they might otherwise leave unread.

The email also used the AMS seal, making the email appear as if it could be from the AMS or that it could be an “AMS approved email” rather than an email from the Heartland Institute. In fact, if the recipient doesn’t read the email’s footer, he or she wouldn’t know that the email had been sent from the Heartland Institute instead of the AMS. It’s this aspect of the email that most disturbed Seitter. Seitter wrote

A disturbing aspect of this e-mail is that it seems some effort was placed in making it appear to have been sent by AMS. It was sent from an e-mail account with AMS in the name (though not from the “ametsoc.org” domain) and featured the AMS logo prominently (used without permission from AMS). Only in the fine print at the bottom was it clear that this apparently came from the Heartland Institute.

Bast’s response to Sietter? That “There was no attempt to deceive recipients about who sent the message,” that using logos in email and on websites without permission is “common practice,” and that the AMS should stop complaining. However, Heartland has a history of impersonating others in order to gain access to information, so it’s possible that Bast is not being entirely truthful.

Bast also wrote that the Heartland email “quotes from the report and provides a link to the document on the AMS Web site.” When S&R looked at the email’s HTML code we discovered that link Bast mentions does not go directly to the AMS website (ametsoc.org). Instead, it goes through a third-party relay site, namely “icptrack.com.” Icptrack.com doesn’t have a website – typing it into a browser window will get a “Forbidden – You don’t have permission to access / on this server.” error. But a “whois” query reveals that icptrack.com is a domain owned by iConnect, the firm that Heartland paid to provide direct email marketing for this email.

This is a form of click tracking, and it permits iConnect (and through them the Heartland Institute) to track the IP addresses of every click on that email. This data enables Heartland to track where the individual clicking on the link works, lives, and how engaged the clicker is with the email (the more engaged the audience, the more clicks). And since every link is unique to the email, Heartland can track which emails were forwarded.

The HTML code also revealed a tracking pixel embedded in the email. It’s a 1×1 pixel that has the same color as the background and it also contains a unique identification number. This number permits iConnect (and through them the Heartland Institute) to track every single instance of that email being read in an HTML-enabled browser. This pixel provides similar information as click tracking does, but it also tells Heartland which emails were forwarded and opened and provides a measure of how much the email is being discussed – every time the email is replied to, the tracking pixel is re-downloaded from icptrack.com. All of this information is collected and put into a database that permits Heartland to tie every single discussion of the email performed in an HTML-enabled (as opposed to plain-text) email program.

The Heartland email likely doesn’t technically qualify as spam according to iConnect’s strict anti-spam policy (although no-one at S&R is a lawyer, so we can’t say for certain). But given all the tracking features concealed within the email, it’s fair to say that Heartland intended to gather a great deal of information about every recipient of this email.

## Heartland’s deception by the numbers

The first distortion S&R identified in Heartland’s email was the deceptive claim that the January 2012 AMS survey found “52 percent believe global warming is happening and is mostly human-caused, while 48 percent do not.” What makes this claim deceptive is that it is specifically correct, but ignores a couple of important and relevant facts.

Relevant fact #1: The 52% result is likely too low. The survey used a 150-year period and that likely biased the survey’s results. From Stenhouse et al 2013:

Six respondents sent emails to notify us that their answers would have been different if we had asked about the most recent 50-year time frame rather than the 150-year time frame; the time frame used in the question may have also influenced other respondents. Our results therefore may represent a more conservative estimate of the consensus on global warming than would have been obtained had we asked about a 50-year time frame. (emphasis added)

Bast also fails to mention this important caveat in his defense of the Heartland email. S&R demonstrated previously that Taylor knew about this caveat yet chose not to include any mention of it in his blog, and as such we called Taylor’s failure to mention it “dishonest.” S&R can’t say for certain that Bast has read Stenhouse et al 2013 well enough to understand this issue, so his repetition of the email’s deceptive claim may be ignorant rather than dishonest.

Relevant fact #2: Both the email and Bast fail to mention just how few respondents thought that global warming was either not occurring or thought the causes were mostly natural. Only 5% thought that the causes of global warming were mostly natural, and only 4% of respondents thought that global warming wasn’t happening at all.

In his defense of the email, Bast makes several additional numerical mistakes that, taken in combination, create an inaccurate perception of both Stenhouse et al 2013 and the 2012 survey upon which it’s based – “American Meteorological Society Member Survey on Global Warming: Preliminary Findings” (hereafter the Maibach et al survey). First, Bast incorrectly claims that the Maibach et al survey found that “76 percent of those who believe in man-made global warming also believe it is ‘very harmful’ or ‘somewhat harmful’ (emphasis added)” What the Maibach et al survey actually found was that 76% of those who think global warming is happening, regardless of the cause, also think it will be somewhat or very harmful. Question #4 of the Maibach et al survey asks about the harm/benefit of global warming, but it was only asked of respondents who answered “Yes” to whether or not global warming is happening.

Bast also neglects to mention the other responses to the harm/benefit question. Specifically, an additional 12% of respondents thought global warming would generate both harm and benefit roughly equally while only 2.4% thought that the global warming would be somewhat or very beneficial.

Bast’s more significant error, however, is his calculation that “39.5 percent of all AMS members say they believe man-made global warming is dangerous.” Bast asked readers to check his math, so S&R did.

Bast arrives by his 39.5% number by multiplying the following: 52% of AMS members who say global warming is mostly human-caused multiplied by 76% of AMS members who, according to Bast, say “man-made global warming” is very or somewhat harmful. 0.52 x 0.76 = 0.3952 or 39.5%. Pretty straightforward, except that it’s wrong.

First, if Bast is going to do the calculation, he needs to stick with using just numbers from Stenhouse et al 2013 or just numbers from the Maibach et al survey – he can’t mix and match them. Since Stenhouse et al 2013 doesn’t have calculations for the harm question, Bast should stick to using just the Maibach et al values. In this case, the updated calculation would be 59% x 76% = 44.8%. But even that calculation is still wrong.

To do the calculation properly, one must have a basic understanding of statistics, specifically statistical independence. In this case, the way that the survey questions were asked creates statistical dependence – Question #3 (human activity) was only asked if the answer to Question #1 (global warming is happening) was “yes.” Similarly, Question #4 (harm/benefit) was only asked if the answer to Question #1 was “yes.” But because the relationship of the two questions to each other has not been determined, it’s not possible to know exactly what percentage of AMS members believe that man-made global warming will be harmful without having access to the the raw data. S&R does not have the raw data and, so far as we can tell, neither does the Heartland Institute.

## Heartland caricatures the study’s findings about ideology

The second distortion identified by S&R in the Heartland email is dishonest, not merely deceptive. The email incorrectly claims that Stenhouse et al 2013 “found that scientists with professed liberal political views were far more likely to believe global warming is human-caused than others (emphasis added).” What Stenhouse et al 2013 does say is that political ideology is correlated with respondents’ views on global warming. But the correlation is simply with the statement that “global warming is happening,” not with “global warming is happening and it’s human caused” as Heartland’s email claims. All Stenhouse et al 2013 found was that liberals are more likely to acknowledge that global warming is occurring, while conservatives are more likely to deny it.

Not only did Bast repeat the dishonest claim in his defense of the email, he tried to take it one step further. Unfortunately for Bast, that one extra step turned a false claim into an example of equivocation (a logical fallacy where two different words are treated as if they mean the same thing). What Bast wrote is that, since Stenhouse et al 2013 “identifies political ideology as the strongest or second strongest factor in ,em>determining a scientist’s position” on global warming, that “one has to suspect” that “all or just nearly all of the AMS members who believe man-made global warming is dangerous self-identify as being liberals” Bast’s used the word “determining” to allege that liberal politics is “the cause of or reason for” accepting human-caused global warming. But what Stenhouse et al 2013 actually found is that liberal politics was a “predictor” of acceptance of human-caused global warming, not a “cause.” Essentially, Stenhouse et al 2013 said that liberal politics was correlated with acceptance global warming, it’s human causes, and it being harmful. But Stenhouse et al 2013 specifically pointed out that their data could not determine which factor was the cause and which was the effect. It’s theoretically possible that acceptance of human-caused global warming could lead to a more liberal political ideology rather than the other way around (or that it goes both ways), as Bast would have his readers believe.

Furthermore, Stenhouse et al 2013 points out that perception of consensus, perception of conflict, political ideology, and climate expertise – the four factors being analyzed – all combine to explain only 37% of the variation in whether or not global warming is happening and only 29% of the variation in whether or not global warming will be harmful. And their methodology didn’t permit them to estimate how much variation in human-caused vs. natural could be explained.

Simply put, the Heartland email and Bast distorted Stenhouse et al 2013‘s ideology findings in multiple ways.

## Heartland’s dishonest quote mining

The most flagrant distortion in the Heartland email is an extended quote of recommendations from the abstract of Stenhouse et al 2013. The following is the complete, unaltered list of recommendations:

We suggest that AMS should: attempt to convey the widespread scientific agreement about climate change; acknowledge and explore the uncomfortable fact that political ideology influences the climate change views of meteorology professionals; refute the idea that those who do hold non-majority views just need to be “educated” about climate change; continue to deal with the conflict among members of the meteorology community. (emphasis added)

The section that is emphasized above was not included in the Heartland email. Given that the purpose of the email was to point out that meteorologists supposedly don’t agree with the scientific consensus behind industrial climate disruption, having a recommendation that mentioned “widespread scientific agreement” about it would have diluted the message. In this case Heartland chose to be dishonest rather than accurately report the Stenhouse et al 2013 recommendations.

## Replicating the findings of Doran & Zimmerman 2009

from Doran & Zimmerman 2010

Finally, no-one associated with Heartland has acknowledged what is perhaps the most important finding of Stenhouse et al 2013 – the replication of a study by Peter T. Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman titled “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” (hereafter Doran & Zimmerman 2009). Doran & Zimmerman 2009 found that scientists with the greatest climate expertise were the most likely to acknowledge that global warming was happening and that human activity was a significant driver of global warming. Specifically, 90% of all respondents acknowledged that global warming was happening, but 96.2% of climate “super-experts” did, and 82% of all respondents thought human activity was a significant driver of global warming while 97.4% of climate “super-experts” did.

Stenhouse et al 2013 found that 93% of AMS members who could be identified as climate “super-experts” acknowledged that global warming was happening and that human activity was at least somewhat responsible (88% felt that human activity was at least 50% responsible). This compared to 73% of all AMS member respondents who acknowledged that global warming was happening and that human activity was at least somewhat responsible (62% felt that human activity was at least 50% responsible).

In general the percentages for AMS members in Stenhouse et al 2013 are somewhat lower than for the database used in Doran & Zimmerman 2009, but the trend is identical – the more knowledge about climate a particular expert has, the more likely he or she is to accept that global warming is both happening and driven by human activity.

This replication plays a key part in a response to Taylor’s Forbes blog by Stenhouse and his co-authors that was recently published on Climate Science Watch. In it, Stenhouse et al accuse Taylor of ignoring or distorting their findings “for ideological ends” and of creating a “caricature of the results.”

Table 1 from Stenhouse et al 2013 (click to enlarge)

In Bast’s defense of the Heartland email, he specifically points out that the results being distorted in the Heartland email are from Table 1 of Stenhouse et al 2013. But Bast fails to mention that Table 1 was specifically created to illustrate how Stenhouse et al 2013 replicated Doran & Zimmerman 2009. Given that Bast wrote an essay in 2012 titled “The Myth of the 98%” where he claims to disprove Doran & Zimmerman 2009, it’s not surprising that Bast wouldn’t want to admit that Doran & Zimmerman 2009 had been replicated. S&R reviewed Bast’s essay over the course of the Heartland Unabomber billboard debacle and proved that Bast’s criticisms were based on an erroneous understanding of the statistics involved.

## A peek behind Heartland’s curtain

The day after Heartland sent out their email, AMS Executive Director Keith L. Seitter wrote a post for the AMS blog in which he recommends that people read the Stenhouse et al 2013 study for themselves rather than relying on Heartland’s deceptive email. Seitter also wrote that he found it “disturbing” that Heartland had apparently tried to make the email “appear to have been sent by AMS.” As mentioned above, Bast in his defense of the email essentially told Seitter that Heartland hadn’t meant to imitate an AMS email and to quit whining about it regardless.

Seitter also wrote in his blog post that the Heartland email did not accurately report the results of Stenhouse et al 2013, suggesting that Heartland was trying to “spin” the results. Bast essentially agreed with Seitter, admitting that the purpose of Heartland’s email was to report Stenhouse et al 2013‘s results far differently than was reported in by the study itself. Bast also admitted that the email’s purpose was to attack the “belief” that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming.

Since 2004 at least five other independent studies have all looked specifically at whether or not there is a scientific consensus about industrial climate disruption – “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” by Naomi Oreskes, “Expert credibility in climate change” by Anderegg et al, the aforementioned Doran & Zimmerman 2009, “The Temporal Structure of Scientific Consensus Formation” by Shwed and Bearman, and “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” by Cook et al (which also replicated the Oreskes results). While each has faced some amount of criticism, the fact remains that multiple different studies, using different approaches, and performed by independent researchers have all come up with the same result – that scientists in general and climate experts in particular overwhelmingly agree that the Earth is heating up, that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the dominant driver of the heating, and that the changes will be disruptive to global ecosystems and human society. And that’s doesn’t even include the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which found that the warming since 1950 is “unequivocal” and that there is a > 95% probability that the dominant cause for that warming is greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s not often that someone in Bast’s position publicly admits that his organization is trying to convince people to believe something that is essentially untrue. But his admission provides an explanation for why the Heartland email was designed the way it was, for what Bast wrote in his defense of that email, for what Taylor wrote in his Forbes blog, and for the Heartland Institute’s entire approach to climate science.

Given that Heartland’s goal is to fool the public into believing that global warming isn’t happening, using a spoofed sender address on the email makes sense – the more people who open their email, the better. And if people are tricked by the presence of the AMS logo into believing that the AMS either sent or approved of the email, so much the better. And for those people who aren’t fooled by Heartland’s near-spammer tactics, Heartland still has an opportunity to build a database on both their allies and their opponents.

Heartland’s goal of fooling the public also explains the distortions. Of course Heartland wouldn’t mention that Stenhouse et al 2013 identified a possible conservative bias to their results. Of course Heartland would ignore the fact that only 2.4% of AMS members thought global warming would be beneficial, that only 5% of members thought that global warming was mostly natural, and that only 4% thought it wasn’t happening at all. Of course Heartland would caricature the correlation between liberal political ideology and acknowledgment that global warming is happening. Including any of those points would only dilute Heartland’s message and make it harder to fool people.

Heartland’s goal also explains why Bast didn’t mention that Stenhouse et al 2013 replicated Doran & Zimmerman 2009‘s results. Mentioning that replication would have meant admitting that a previous consensus study was right and that would run counter to to the goal.

Just like including the first recommendation from the AMS study – “attempt to convey the widespread scientific agreement about climate change” – would have run counter to Heartland’s goal of fooling people into disbelieving the very real consensus on global warming.

Bast’s admission essentially demonstrates that he and his associates at the Heartland Institute aren’t really interested in facts. They’re not even interested in the truth insofar as they know what is is so they can better distort it. The Heartland Institute’s global warming initiatives exist for purely political reasons – to convince people that industrial climate disruption isn’t real when all the available evidence says it is.

Bast wrote “This is all about ‘spin’ and not, as Seitter says later in his comment, ‘transparency and scientific integrity.’” Indeed.

# James Taylor of Heartland Institute twists new AMS study to cast doubt upon industrial climate disruption consensus

James M. Taylor (from Heartland Institute bio page)

# Abstract: James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute has published a Forbes blog in which he distorts the results of a new Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society study. Instead of accurately reporting the study’s results, Taylor chose to distort the study using logic errors, dishonest and misattributed quotes, and even lying about the study’s methodology. Taylor’s blog represents yet another example in a long history of twisting surveys and studies in a failed attempt to manufacture doubt the scientific consensus about global warming.

On November 20, 2013, James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute published a blog at Forbes where he discussed a new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society titled “Meteorologists’ views about global warming: A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members” by Neil Stenhouse and nine other co-authors (hereafter Stenhouse et al 2013). Stenhouse et al 2013 found, among other things, that 93% of the most knowledgeable climate experts think that climate disruption has occurred over the last 150 years and that human activity is part of the cause.

Rather than focusing on the main points of study, Taylor instead focused on a secondary conclusion (that only 52% of all respondents think that the last 150 years of climate disruption are “mostly” caused by human activity), failed to provide any of the study’s context for that conclusion, and in the process distorted the study’s results in an attempt to manufacture doubt about the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding industrial climate disruption1. Continue reading

# Michael Bastasch’s shallow and oversimplified reading of federal spending for climate disruption vs. border security misleads his audience.

An article in the Daily Caller on October 28 incorrectly claimed that the federal government was spending twice as much to address industrial climate disruption as it was spending on border security. In the process, the author of the article, Michael Bastasch, misrepresented both the 2014 Department of Homeland Security budget and the federal climate change expenditures for 2013. Continue reading

# IPCC physical science Summary for Policymakers: 95% certain that human activity is dominating climate disruption

[Update: several clarifications have been added in the best case scenario section.]

The complete, 2500 pages long Working Group One (WG1) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) has been published. While the devil is often in the details buried deep in those 2500 pages, the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) is a distillation of the key scientific findings that the WG1 authors and every national government agree upon. As such, the SPM is an inherently conservative1 summary of the science. Continue reading

# Climate Illogic: Sometimes arguing from authority is the logical thing to do

A common illogical claim among those individuals who deny industrial climate disruption is that any discussion of consensus or reference to a scientist’s expert opinion is an “appeal to authority.” Those who make this illogical claim are essentially trying to say that expert opinion doesn’t matter. This not only a misunderstanding of the logical fallacy, it’s also absurd given the realities of living in a complex world.

The actual fallacy is known as an “appeal to misleading authority.” In order for an authority to be “misleading,” it has to have at least one of the following:

• The person being referred to as an authority may not be an actual expert on the subject in question.
• The person being referred to as an authority may be biased.
• The person being referred to as an authority may hold opinions that are not representative of his/her fellow experts in the subject
• The reference to authority may be unnecessary.

With respect to climate disruption we find many examples of each of these types of misleading authorities. Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, and most of the NASA 49 are examples of individuals who have been identified as authorities on climate disruption but who are not actual climate experts. There is evidence that climate scientists Roy Spencer and Patrick Michaels are less than objective about climate disruption due to their religion, free market ideology, and/or fossil fuel industry funding. Richard Lindzen of MIT is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences due to his climate expertise, but his opinions about how the Earth supposedly cools itself (his “iris” hypothesis) are not representative of expert opinion on climate disruption, and so referring to Lindzen’s authority may be misleading. And at this point the increase in global temperature has been verified so often and independently that an appeal to any single scientist’s authority on the subject is unnecessary.

So long as these pitfalls are avoided, arguing from authority may be justified. This is especially true with respect to complicated subjects such as climate disruption and with respect to situations where people are forced to make decisions with incomplete information. We live in a complex world, and it’s not possible to rely exclusively on direct evidence from our own senses. Everyone must place their trust in the authority of someone else eventually.

One example of this fact is purchasing an automobile. People generally don’t purchase an automobile until after researching the vehicle, taking a test drive, etc. At each step of the process, however, the customer is forced to place his or her trust in the authority of someone else. When researching the automobile, the customer must decide whether or not to trust the reviewers, the crash reports. After all, its possible that the reports were fraudulent or the reviewers were paid to give positive reviews of a substandard vehicle. And the customer places his or her trust in the authority of the automobile’s engineers, manufacturers, and technicians to build and certify a safe automobile.

Given a proven track record of safety by the manufacturer, no major recalls on a given model, and safety testing monitored and certified by unbiased third parties, it’s not only reasonable to assume that the vehicle is safe, it’s justifiable. Essentially, the authority of the engineers et al is independently verified. And given that most people lack the ability to perform their own crash testing, relying on these types of authorities is not only reasonable, it’s also justified.

The process of verifying a person’s authority includes the person demonstrating a high level of understanding of key issues. In the example of an automobile that might be crash crumple zones, how wiring is routed in the engine in ways to prevent it from being melted by engine heat, or the effects of road grime on frame corrosion. In the case of industrial climate disruption the authority might need to understand how carbon isotopes prove that the excess carbon dioxide is due to burning fossil fuels, the physics of why carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation, and an understanding of blackbody radiation and how it interacts with greenhouse gases to create the greenhouse effect.

In addition, an authority is someone who has been verified to be an expert on a particular subject (automobiles above, or some aspect of climate science). The verification process is subject to some level of assumed trust, but is usually based upon independent, third party proxies such undergraduate and/or graduate degrees related to the subject, years of experience working with/in the subject area, a significant publication record of peer-reviewed studies on the subject, acknowledgment as an expert by multiple other experts on the same subject, and so on.

Finally, someone’s authority may be formally or informally revoked if there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the proxies got it wrong. In the case of an automobile, if a test technician was falsifying safety reports, he or she could be fired or even charged with crimes. Meteorologist Joe Bastardi has repeatedly made claims about climate disruption that were easily disproved both mathematically and empirically, and as such he no longer has any real authority on the subject of climate disruption.

Arguing from authority is rarely if ever as good as arguing from first principles. When information is available and can be understood, arguing from that information will nearly always be preferable to arguing from the expert opinion of someone else who understands the information. However, when the subject being argued (say, climate disruption or a criminal proceeding) is sufficiently complicated that arguing from first principles is unrealistic, arguing from authority is not only justified, it is the logical thing to do.

# National Review’s new motion to dismiss Mann’s defamation lawsuit contains false claims

On July 19, DC Court Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene rejected multiple motions to dismiss climate scientist Michael Mann’s defamation lawsuit against the National Review (NR), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), NR writer Mark Steyn, and CEI writer Rand Simberg. On July 24, NR and Steyn submitted a motion asking to reconsider her refusal to dismiss based on what NR and Steyn claim are “material mistakes of fact.” S&R has been investigating the accuracy of three of the claims made in the NR/Steyn motion to reconsider: that Judge Combs Greene had erroneously conflated actions of NR/Steyn with those of CEI/Simberg, that NR/Steyn had not been critical of Mann’s research over a period of years, and that these two claimed mistakes mean that NR/Steyn might not have been aware that they were making false claims against Mann. After reviewing the public record, S&R has found that while the first claim is likely false, the other two claims are clearly false.

# National Review has called for investigations into alleged misconduct by Mann

According to the the NR/Steyn motion for reconsideration, Judge Combs Greene supposedly misattributed requests by CEI/Simberg to investigate Mann’s research conduct to NR/Steyn.

the Order conflates the conduct of co-defendant [CEI] with that of National Review and Steyn, who never petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate or otherwise pressured the agency concerning [Mann's] research. (emphasis original)

The very specific language of the prior quote leaves open the possibility that either NR or Steyn could have called for investigations in general or other specific investigations such as those conducted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the National Science Foundation (NSF), or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) while still being factually true. Only the EPA investigation is excluded by this language, and as such it comes close to qualifying as an “equivocation” logical fallacy. As such, S&R’s investigation searched for examples of public investigation requests for both general and specific investigations by NR writers or Steyn himself. S&R was unable to find any examples calling for specific investigations, lending some support to this NR/Steyn claim.

However, while S&R did not discover any examples, Mann’s legal team did find several of varying strength, as seen in Mann’s response to the NR/Steyn motion to reconsider. The strongest example is in an NR article written by Candace de Russy titled “Your Stimulus Dollars Lavished on Climate-Alarmist Prof.” where de Russy writes about the Penn State investigation into Mann’s conduct. At the end of the article, de Russy writes:

In these crushing economic times, is it too much to ask that university authorities, our political leaders, and the press jump on this case with a bit more rigor?

While this is not a call for a specific body to investigate Mann’s research, it is a call for thorough investigations by “university authorities, our political leaders, and the press.” As such, it demonstrates that, while the specific claim vis a vis the EPA investigation may be true, NR/Steyn did, in fact, call for investigations of Michael Mann’s conduct.

# National Review and Mark Steyn have accused Mann of misconduct since 2009

The NR/Steyn motion for reconsideration also claims that Judge Combs Greene confused NR/Steyn with CEI/Simberg again when she took into account “all of the statements and accusations over the years” against Mann. NR/Steyn are essentially claiming that both CEI and Simberg have a history of attacking Mann, but that neither NR nor Steyn has a similar history. S&R’s investigation turned up 10 different NR articles and three Steyn articles going back to 2009 that disprove this claim. Note that most, if not all, of the allegations against Mann in the examples below have been investigated repeatedly and found to be without merit.

Examples of National Review criticisms of Mann

• Global Warming: Science or Religion by Sterling Burnett on July 21, 2009. This post makes a number of indirect criticisms of Mann, who is the only named scientist in the article, and implies that he and other climate scientists are “fanatics” who, by supposedly making unprovable claims, engage in “sly but abjectly dishonest” activities.
• Mann-made Warming Confirmed by Chris Horner on September 28, 2009. This post contains a brief history of Mann’s supposed errors and alleged cherry-picking to produce the MBH99 “hockey-stick.” “The conclusion is inescapable. The tree ring data was hand-picked to get the desired result. (emphasis added)”
• Climategate: Where Are We? by Iain Murray on November 30, 2009. Mann is explicitly mentioned as a “trickster” (a reference to a Climategate email that Penn State looked at specifically during their investigation) and is thus included in Murray’s “perpetrators.”

“There have been attempts to muddy the waters with assertions that data were publicly available all along (ha!) and the insinuation that anyone using “stolen” emails is somehow more immoral than the perpetrators of the three frauds outlined above. (emphasis added)”

• Peer Pressure by the NR Editors on December 1, 2009.

Phil Jones of CRU, Michael Mann of Penn State University, and other leaders of the climate cartel discussed statistical tricks they used to “hide the decline” of atmospheric temperatures. Other data were fudged to cover up warm periods that didn’t fit their theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). (emphasis added)

• Groupthink and the Global-Warming Industry by Jonah Goldberg on December 3, 2009.

CRU scientists discuss with friendly outside colleagues, including Penn State University’s Michael Mann, how to manipulate the data they want to show the world, and how to hide the often-flawed data they don’t. (emphasis added)

• Climategate: You should be steamed by Greg Pollowitz on January 4, 2010. “If only scientists had taken Dale Carnegie courses, the fraud and sloppy science of Climategate would never have happened. (emphasis added)”
• Liberals and the Scientific Method by Mona Charen on February 12, 2010. The reference to Penn State in the following quote implies Mann’s involvement.

The Climategate e-mails from Penn State and East Anglia University were not trivial revelations. They involved deception, intimidation, and manipulation of records by two of the leading research institutions whose data form the backbone of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (emphasis added)

• Liberty, Tyranny, and the Globe by Mark Levin on April 22, 2010. “The true believers used to cite Mann’s hockey-stick curve as conclusive evidence of man-made global warming. The graph has been demonstrated a fraud… (emphasis added)”
• Global Warming — RIP? by Victor Davis Hanson on October 27, 2011. While Mann is not mentioned specifically, he was at the time and remains one of the world’s top climate scientists and is one of the, if not the, most investigated climate scientist as a result of Climategate. Thus this passage refers to Mann indirectly.

Corruption within the climate-change industry explains some of the sudden turnoff. “Climategate” — the unauthorized 2009 release of private e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom — revealed that many of the world’s top climate scientists were knee-deep in manipulating scientific evidence to support preconceived conclusions and personal agendas.

• Scientists Behaving Badly by Jim Lacey on November 28, 2011.

Virtually the entire warmist edifice is built around a small, tightly knit coterie of persons (one hesitates to refer to folks with so little respect for the scientific method as scientists) willing to falsify data and manipulate findings; or, to put it bluntly, to lie in order to push a political agenda not supported by empirical evidence. (emphasis added)

In fact, McIntyre’s work was crucial in proving that Mann’s infamous “hockey stick graph” — the heart of the United Nations’ IPCC-3 report — was a fraud.

Examples of Mark Steyn criticisms of Mann

• Climate Science and the Peer-Review Consensus Forgery on November 30, 2009. Steyn criticizes Mann and Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) for allegedly manipulating peer review in order to keep poorly refereed papers out of the IPCC, and Steyn agreed with a Wall Street Journal headline about forgery.
• The science of global warming on December 3, 2009.

The Settled Scientists have wholly corrupted the process of “peer review.” (emphasis added)

Phil Jones, director of the CRU, writing to Michael Mann, creator (le mot juste) of the now discredited “hockey stick” graph… (emphasis original)

Phil Jones and Michael Mann are two of the most influential figures in the whole “climate change” racket.

• The emperor’s new carbon credits on December 17, 2009.

The famous hockey stick graph created by Dr. Michael Mann played a critical role in persuading millions of people we’re all gonna fry…. It took two dogged Canadians, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, to demolish the hockey-stick fraud (emphasis added)”

In addition to these various examples, there are many more that are similar to the second-to-last NR example above – where Mann is not mentioned specifically, but where the “hockey-stick” is used as a proxy for Mann, or where groups of which Mann would be a member are accused of scientific misconduct such as data manipulation. Whether such examples are sufficient for a court order to be based upon them is beyond the purview of S&R’s investigation.

These lists are by no means exhaustive – they stop in 2011 as the articles published in 2012 and 2013 are dominated by those related to Mann’s lawsuit and NR/Steyn’s responses. There are likely many other examples published by NR and Steyn that are not included above. Regardless, however, the public record demonstrates that both NR and Steyn both had at least a three-year history of criticizing Mann both directly and indirectly before publishing the article that provoked Mann’s defamation lawsuit.

# National Review and Mark Steyn were aware of Mann investigations’ results

The NR/Steyn motion for reconsideration also claimed that Judge Combs Greene’s logic was flawed. The motion to reconsider essentially argues that a) there is no evidence that NR/Steyn had ever called for an investigation, b) their awareness of the results of those investigations was not demonstrated in the Court Order, and thus c) there is no evidence of actual malice.

This line of argument is not only based on arguably false information, it’s also illogical. As mentioned above, Mann’s response to the NR/Steyn motion to reconsider provides five different examples, each of which could be interpreted as a call for an investigation into Mann’s conduct. But even if those examples are ultimately rejected by Judge Combs Greene, the NR/Steyn motion essentially argues that there is only one way that NR and Steyn could be aware of the details of the investigations’ results – if NR and Steyn had called for the investigations. Given the media coverage of each of the various investigations, this is an untenable claim to make for both NR and Steyn.

S&R investigated this claim as well and found that NR and Steyn were both aware of the investigations and were very likely aware of the investigations’ detailed results. As with above, the examples below include claims that have been investigated, in some cases repeatedly, and found to be without merit.

• Climategate and the Scientific Elite by Iain Murray on May 26, 2010. “Few members of the public have accepted the findings of the inquiries exonerating the scientists; most dismiss them as whitewashes. (emphasis added)”
• Climategate Continues by Andrew Montford and Harold Ambler on May 24, 2012.

the specific issue of the suppressed record appears to have largely been passed over by the panel, and Briffa’s explanation, like so many others given to the Climategate inquiries, appears to have been accepted without question. (emphasis added)

However, their machinations have only succeeded in bringing renewed attention to their questionable science and ugly behind-the-scenes shenanigans, reigniting hope that more complete and more independent investigations — on both sides of the Atlantic — will yet be performed. (emphasis added)

• Senator Inhofe Discusses His Call for a DOJ Climategate Investigation by Greg Pollowitz on February 24, 2010. This is an excerpt of an interview of Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) by Neil Cavuto, excerpted extensively, including the following:

[W]e have the minority report that we put together which shows that climate-gate, fixing the science, cooking the science, actually took place.

We have it all documented. And people are being investigated right now (emphasis added).

• ‘Climategate Inquiry Glosses Over the Facts’ by Greg Pollowitz on July 20, 2010. This is an excerpt from a commentary at the Washington Examiner by NR writer Iain Murray, and Murray’s quoted details, while arguably both cherry-picked and distorted, reveal that he was quite aware of the contents of all of the Climategate investigations:

Yet the [UK Parliament] hearings did not include testimony from the most severe critics of the hockey stick graphic, such as Canadians Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, who could have explained exactly why the e-mails did suggest impropriety.

Yet Lord Oxburgh’s panel handed down a short report which did not examine the quality of the science at all. The panel simply reviewed a selection of CRU papers — selected by the UEA itself — and pronounced itself satisfied that the scientific process was fair and proper.

The final review, conducted by former bureaucrat Sir Muir Russell, was compromised from the start. Its chief scientist, while purporting to be independent, was a former staff member of the CRU. Once again, it failed to interview the chief critics.This panel did not examine the other e-mails on the CRU server, as it was supposed to do.

• Climategate Whitewash by Iain Murray on April 1, 2010. “Unsurprisingly, the U.K.’s parliamentary investigation into Climategate whitewashed the implications for climate science, although they did wag a disapproving finger at the University of East Anglia for being naughty about the Freedom of Information Act.”
• The Climategate Graywash by Greg Pollowitz on July 12, 2010. This is a large excerpt from the Financial Post: “The third British investigation into the Climategate scandal — led by former civil servant Sir Muir Russell — amounts, at best, to a greywash.”
• by Greg Pollowitz on February 10, 2010. This is a press release from Sen. Inhofe’s office:

Penn State’s internal inquiry found further investigation is warranted to determine if Dr. Mann “engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities.”

“As the University moves to the next phase of its investigation, I believe the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation should also commence an investigation to examine possible violations of federal laws and policies governing taxpayer-funded research.”

• Lord Jones is Indisposed by Mark Steyn on December 2, 2009. “The reviled “skeptics” and “deniers” have forced Prof. Phil Jones in East Anglia to step down “temporarily” and prompted Penn State to investigate Prof. Michael Mann.”

These examples demonstrate that both NR and Steyn were aware of ongoing investigations, and that NR was certainly aware of the results of at least one of those investigations. Furthermore, it is not realistic to imagine that NR cultivated a culture where authors writing about the same subject (climate change/global warming) were so isolated from each other that they never discussed the results of the various investigations among themselves. As such, it is virtually certain that NR and Steyn were aware of the investigations’ results and thus cannot credibly claim ignorance of those same results.

S&R investigated three of the claims made in the National Review/Mark Steyn motion for reconsideration. Simple web searches demonstrated that two of the three claims investigated were clearly false, while a more in-depth investigation found that the third claim (that NR/Steyn had not called for investigations into Mann) was plausible. However, Mann’s legal response to the NR/Steyn motion for reconsideration addressed the third claim and argued that NR and Steyn had both called for investigations following the illegal publication of private emails known as Climategate. As would be expected, Mann’s legal response also addressed the various other claims that S&R did not investigate, such as NR/Steyn’s presentation of a new First Amendment-based argument for dismissal.

Generally speaking, judges react poorly to baldly stated and easily disproved false claims made in legal documents. While S&R’s reading of Judge Combs Greene’s original order finds no reason to believe that she will react any different to the NR/Steyn motion for reconsideration, only time will tell.

# DC Judge: Michael Mann’s defamation lawsuit against National Review, Competitive Enterprise Institute allowed to proceed

On October 22, 2012, climate scientist Michael Mann sued the National Review (NR), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), along with two writers, NR writer Mark Steyn and CEI writer Rand Simberg, for defamation. Mann’s lawsuit alleges that NR, CEI, Steyn, and Simberg’s (hereafter “the defendants”) allegations of scientific fraud and their comparisons of Mann to convicted Penn State child molester Jerry Sandusky were libelous. The defendants answered Mann’s lawsuit in court with motions to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that their claims of misconduct were protected opinion speech and not provably false, that Mann was a public figure, and that Mann’s lawsuit qualified as a SLAPP against their right to free speech. On July 19, 2013, DC Court Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene issued two orders that denied all the motions to dismiss the lawsuit and permitted Mann’s defamation lawsuit to proceed.

The first part of the motions to dismiss that Judge Combs Greene addressed was whether or not Mann would be able to reach the evidence standard required by the DC Anti-SLAPP Act. This law was created to protect defendants from what are known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuits, and the DC law requires that the plaintiff (Mann in this case) be able to demonstrate a “likelihood” of winning before the lawsuit is allowed to proceed1. The defendants argued that the “likelihood” standard required a high probability or even 100% certainty of winning in order to not dismiss the lawsuit, but Judge Combs Greene rejected those arguments. Quoting precedent from California (upon which DC based its Anti-SLAPP Act), Judge Combs Greene found that Mann need only meet a “likelihood to succeed on the merits” by way of “proof by a preponderance [majority] of evidence.”

In order to determine whether or not Mann reached the “preponderance of evidence” threshold Judge Combs Greene first had to address the defendants’ claim that their various accusations of fraud and academic misconduct against Mann were merely “rhetorical hyperbole” and opinions. However, according to Supreme Court opinions referenced by Judge Combs Greene, this argument requires that the defendants’ accusations not be based on factual information that could be proved wrong using available facts. Judge Combs Greene ruled that claims like “hockey-stick deceptions,” “data manipulation,” and “intellectually bogus” work were, in reality, based on facts, and specifically “provably false” facts at that. Judge Combs Greene wrote that the “hockey stick deceptions” statement

goes beyond harsh debate or “rhetorical hyperbole.” Rather the statement questions facts – it does not simply invite readers to “ask questions.”

She also wrote that the “data manipulation” statement “relies on the interpretation of facts (the [CRU/Climategate] emails).”

Lest there be any question about Judge Combs Greene’s dim view of the defendants’ claims with respect to their accusations against Mann, she also wrote that

Given the dictionary definition as well as the common readers’ thought about the use of these words (fraud and fraudulent) the Court finds that these statement (sic) taken in context must be viewed as more than honest commentary-particularly when investigations have found otherwise. Considering the numerous articles that characterize [Mann's] work as fraudulent, combined with the assertions of fraud and data manipulation, the [NR and CEI] Defendants have essentially made conclusions based on facts. Further, the assertions of fraud “rely upon facts that are provably false” particularly in light of the fact that [Mann] has been investigated by several bodies (including the EPA) and determined that [Mann's] research and conclusions are sound and not based on misleading information….

The content and context of the statements is not indicative of play and “imaginative expression” but rather aspersions of verifiable facts that [Mann] is a fraud. At this stage, the Court must find that these statements were not simply rhetorical hyperbole. (emphasis added)

The defendants also claimed to be acting as journalists offering “fair comment” and “supportable interpretation,” both of which are protected speech under DC law. However, Judge Combs Greene found that these claims were untenable since DC law required that the defendants’ reporting be “fair and accurate” in order to qualify. Judge Combs Greene wrote that

Having been investigated by almost one dozen bodies due to accusations of fraud, and none of those investigations having found [Mann's] work to be fraudulent, it must be concluded that the accusations are provably false. (emphasis added)

Claims that are provably false are, by definition, neither fair nor accurate.

Finally, the defendants asked Judge Combs Greene to dismiss Mann’s lawsuit because the First Amendment guaranteed them freedom of speech. However, as with all the rights defined in the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech is not without its limits even when dealing with a limited public figure like Mann2. Essentially, the Supreme Court has ruled that even public figures can sue for defamation when “actual malice” is involved. The examples of “actual malice” offered by Judge Combs Greene were making provably false accusations and making statements with reckless disregard for whether the statements are true or not.

Judge Combs Greene found that, while there was as yet sufficient evidence to demonstrate “actual malice,” there was a “strong probability” that the defendants “disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.” And so Judge Combs Greene found that there was sufficient evidence of “actual malice” to permit the lawsuit to proceed to the discovery process, where both Mann and the defendants must open up their emails and documents to the court and each other and where evidence of actual malice by the defendants might be uncovered.

After considering the arguments and reviewing the record, Judge Combs Greene denied the motions to dismiss Mann’s defamation lawsuit. She found that the CEI had lobbied for investigations into Mann’s scientific conduct yet continued to allege that his research was fraudulent even after a dozen independent investigations had cleared him of those allegations. She found that the NR had been aware of the results of the investigations and yet it too had continued to make provably false allegations. And while she didn’t find that the evidence presented had risen to the level of “actual malice,” she also said that it was entirely possible that the discovery process could turn up that evidence. By denying the motions to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Combs Greene essentially said that Mann had presented a preponderance (majority) of evidence that he had been defamed by the defendants, and thus the lawsuit should proceed.

Mann’s lawsuit is proceeding. So long as there are no additional motions to dismiss3 or appeals of Judge Combs Greene’s orders, the next step is legal discovery. S&R will bring you updates in this case as they become available.

_____

1 SLAPPs have historically been a way to force public citizens and small organizations from criticizing large and powerful interests, but in this case the larger and more powerful organizations (NR and CEI) were claiming that the Act protected them from Mann’s claims of defamation.

2 Mann became a limited public figure as a result of political opposition to the conclusions of his original hockey-stick papers in 1998 and 1999 – that human activity had raised North American temperatures to the highest level in ~2000 years. Essentially, groups like the CEI and various Congressional Republicans didn’t like the fact that his scientific conclusions indicated that industrial climate disruption was unprecedented in the last several thousand years. The free speech argument put forth by CEI and NR was viable only because Mann had become a public figure due to the actions of CEI and their allies.

3 The National Review and Mark Steyn have filed another motion to dismiss based on what they allege are errors of fact made by Judge Combs Greene. S&R is in the process of reviewing the new motion and will be reporting on it soon.

# Climate Illogic: industrial climate disruption is not a popularity contest

UPDATE: see updated definition in Footnote #1 below

from Doran & Zimmerman 2010

Appeal to consensus,” also known as the “bandwagon fallacy,” is an illogical argument that something must be right because it’s popular. For example, “2 + 2 = 4″ would still be mathematically true even if everyone believed that the right answer was 5. Other examples of the bandwagon fallacy are less obviously absurd. For example, there is a popular movement afoot these days which claims that vaccines are dangerous. But while the claim is popular, it’s just as illogical as “2 + 2 = 5″ – overwhelming scientific evidence has demonstrated that vaccines are far safer than the diseases prevented by the vaccines.

People who deny that industrial climate disruption often illogically claim that genuine climate realists (those who respect the scientific data demonstrating industrial climate disruption) are simply joining the climate bandwagon. The error is even more common in discussions about the overwhelming consensus of climate experts and peer-reviewed studies. The problem is that climate disruption deniers are fundamentally misunderstanding and misapplying the bandwagon fallacy.

If a large majority of people accept industrial climate disruption as true because of the evidence, then claiming that industrial climate disruption is true is similarly based on the evidence. The fact that industrial climate disruption is “popular” is inconsequential. The reasons for the consensus matter, as does the expertise of the people who make up the consensus.

In the case of industrial climate disruption there are good reasons to believe that the consensus position1 is correct . There is a massive body of empirical data that describes how the global climate has changed in the past. There are the physical properties of compounds like carbon dioxide and water vapor. There are the many accepted scientific theories that would have to be dramatically wrong for industrial climate disruption to be incorrect. And there are climate models that combine all of the above to project the most likely course of the rest of this century. There is a consensus on industrial climate disruption because the science demonstrates that industrial climate disruption is real. Referring to that consensus is simply a way to refer to the science by proxy.

The expertise of the people who make up a consensus matters too. If someone were to use popular opinion among veterinarians as support for a claim that industrial climate disruption is real, that might well qualify as a bandwagon fallacy. After all, vets in general have no more expertise on the subject of climate disruption than any other educated member of the public. But publishing climate scientists2 are understood to have expertise on the subject of industrial climate disruption simply because they are the people who know the empirical evidence, physical properties, and scientific theories supporting industrial climate disruption the best.

The actual argument would go something like this: “The most knowledgeable people in the world on the subject of climate have overwhelmingly concluded that industrial climate disruption is real, therefore you should too.” This argument is all about expertise, not popularity, and so it’s illogical to label this argument a bandwagon fallacy.

Evidence and expertise matter. And when genuine climate realists refer to the consensus on industrial climate disruption, they’re arguing by proxy that the body of evidence in support of industrial climate disruption is so strong that individuals, businesses, and governments should be factoring it into their decision making. Doing so is the only logically defensible position.

1 The consensus position is that the climate is changing, that the emission of greenhouse gases by human industry is the dominant driver of those changes, and that the changes will almost certainly be disruptive to human society and global ecology. [italicized section added following discussion in the comments below]
2 I include scientists who publish papers on climate-related fields of chemistry, geology, physics, optics, et al. For example, an oceanographer with expertise on the carbon cycle in the ocean and thus expert knowledge of the sources of ocean acidification would qualify as a “climate scientist” for the purposes of this discussion. Similarly, a physicist who studies carbon isotopes and publishes about the changing isotopic ratios due to the burning of fossil fuels would also qualify.

# Words Matter: Industrial climate disruption is not a religion

religion
a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices (source)

Some people falsely allege that industrial climate disruption is a religion. This allegation is blatantly flawed, as is the related allegation that industrial climate disruption is a cult. But that doesn’t prevent deniers of industrial climate disruption from making the false allegation in an attempt to render the underlying science moot.

As shown in the definition above, a religion is a set of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices, with the key word being “religious.” Religion requires the worship of some greater power or divinity. Scientific disciplines do not. In general, religion concerns itself with faith and adherence to established doctrine whether or not the doctrine make sense. Science, on the other hand, concerns itself with what is observable, what can be explained using logic and mathematics, and what can be tested with experiments or future observations.

Industrial climate disruption does not postulate any particular greater power or divinity. This fact alone disproves the claim that climate disruption is a religion. But for the sake of argument, what greater power or divinity could possibly be invoked by industrial climate disruption? The measured infrared properties of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane make poor deities, seeing as they’re not imbued with any intelligence. Climate models also make poor greater powers since they are merely simulations based on fundamental physics that respond blindly to their inputs. And the various fundamental laws of physics used in climate models are as unintelligent as a molecule of carbon dioxide is.

The only way to make industrial climate disruption into a religion is to redefine the entirety of science itself as a religion. And at that point we might as well say that the Babel Fish is the proof of the non-existence of God, prove that black is white, and avoid zebra crosswalks thereafter (ref.).

And for those industrial climate disruption deniers who go even further and call industrial climate disruption a “cult,” cults are a subset of religions. Specifically, a cult is “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious” (source). If industrial climate disruption can’t be a religion, than it can’t be a cult either.

So why do deniers of industrial climate disruption make a blatantly flawed allegation? Some truly are ignorant of the differences between religion and science. Some may be so opposed to policies they fear will result from accepting industrial climate disruption as real that they have unconsciously chosen to ignore the blatant flaw. But the rest know that the allegation is false, but they allege it anyway in an attempt to discredit industrial climate disruption as a whole.

Since the Renaissance, science has earned a privileged place in human culture. Individuals and organizations make decisions every day based on what the best available science tells them will happen. For example, scientists knew that Mount Saint Helens was going to erupt weeks before it ultimately did – the evacuations ordered by the Governor of Washington as a result of the work of geologists monitoring the volcano saved thousands of lives. Given the privileged place science holds, if the science underlying industrial climate disruption is accepted, then naturally individuals and organizations will start changing how the interact with each other and with the world as a result. Those changes would naturally create winners and losers, and many of the people and businesses on top today would sustain massive losses in the process.

If successful, branding industrial climate disruption as a religion is a shortcut. Instead of having to challenge the expertise of each and every climate scientist one by one, they can all be tarnished as “high priests.” Instead of having to demonstrate errors in thousands of peer-reviewed studies, all the studies can be dismissed as mere holy writ. And instead of having to disprove multiple well-established scientific laws and independent lines of evidence that all demonstrate the reality of industrial climate disruption, all that information can be conveniently swept under the rug with rhetoric

If industrial climate disruption can be branded as a religion, then it can essentially be ignored. The individuals and organizations (both businesses and governments) who stand to lose the most can dismiss industrial climate disruption by saying “We don’t have to change to satisfy the religious beliefs of Jews, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, or pagans, so we don’t need to change to satisfy climate disruption either.” Governments of countries where separation of church and state is codified can go even further, claiming that creating policies to address industrial climate disruption would be in breach of that very separation.

Industrial climate disruption has no greater power or deity and thus cannot be a religion. But that won’t stop deniers from misusing “religion” in an attempt to discredit industrial climate disruption.

Words matter – and sometimes they’re misused on purpose.

# Climate Illogic: the flat Earth consensus

Image Credit: Sinful Illusions

The fact that the Earth is round has been known for at least 2300 years, but not necessarily known by everyone. We know that the ancient Greeks knew that the Earth was round because several of them wrote discussed the evidence and mathematics underlying their conclusion and wrote it down. But at that point, the consensus position that the Earth was flat would have been held by a large majority minority that lacked sufficient knowledge and education to know any different.

And that’s the problem with the flat Earth analogy as used by climate disruption deniers:

At one point, the overwhelming consensus was that the Earth was flat, a point that only a few people knew at the time was wrong. Therefore we can ignore the fact that there is a scientific consensus on ICD, since consensus positions can be wrong.

When climate disruption deniers make this argument, they’re equating, intentionally or otherwise, the ignorance of ancient Greek citizens with the knowledge of the educated Greek elite. The same situation does not apply to climate science today.

Today, the consensus of climate scientists is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the strength of multiple scientific theories that would all have to be seriously flawed for industrial climate disruption to be wrong. And the scientists who hold the consensus position are well educated and knowledgeable about the science.

On the other hand, the small minority that denies that climate is changing, that the changes are largely due to human industry, and that the changes will cause significant disruptions (or one of those three characteristics) tends to be less well educated and less knowledgeable about climate science. Expert credibility in climate change by Anderegg, Prall, Harold, and Schneider (Anderegg et al 2010), found that scientists with the greatest knowledge and expertise (as measured by published peer-reviewed studies, citations, and study co-authors) almost exclusively agreed with the consensus position on industrial climate disruption, while scientists with fewer published studies, fewer citations, and fewer co-authors were more likely to deny industrial climate disruption.

I asked Jim Prall to analyze the paper’s data to see how many signatories to “skeptical” lists had zero climate publications. He found that the number was quite large – 35.8% of all signatories of “skeptical” lists had no climate publications. This compares to 0.6% of the signatories to “consensus” lists who had no climate publications.

It is not reasonable to believe that the climate disruption deniers are more knowledgeable than the genuine climate realists given these statistics.

By using the flat Earth analogy, climate disruption deniers equate, intentionally or not, an uneducated or ignorant mass of people with an educated or knowledgeable few. It essentially claims that an infinite number of monkeys pounding away on word processors is equal in artistic brilliance to Shakespeare. But in reality, it is the large number of consensus scientists that have greater knowledge and expertise than the scientists and citizens who deny the reality of industrial climate disruption.

# The Galileo Fallacy: introducing Climate Illogic, a new series unmasking illogical claims made against climate science

The topic of industrial climate disruption (aka climate change or global warming) invokes strong passion by many. Unfortunately, passionate people often fail to make logically sound arguments in the heat of the moment, such as on comment threads.

I’ve spent some time collecting some of the most illogical arguments and I’m starting a series of short posts today that will identify some of the worst offenders and explain why the arguments are illogical.

Let’s start with one of the most common illogical arguments out there.

# Climate Illogic: Galileo and denial of industrial climate disruption

Galileo facing the Roman Inquistion by Cristiano Banti (1857)

Galileo was one of the first, if not the first, modern scientist. He demonstrated, with keen observation and mathematics, that Copernicus’ heliocentric theory was correct. He concluded that the observed motions of the planets would all make much more sense if the Earth and planets orbited the Sun rather than having them orbiting the Earth. This claim, however, brought Galileo into conflict with the dominant European political entity of the time – the Catholic Church – which feared that Galileo’s ideas would somehow make the Earth seem less important and could threaten the Church. As a result the Church tried Galileo for heresy.

Galileo’s trial, recantation, and eventual substantiation is used by many to argue – incorrectly – that Galileo’s situation is analogous to that of climate disruption deniers (those who reject the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the reality of industrial climate disruption).

The Galileo analogy is illogical (specifically, it’s a weak analogy logical fallacy) for at least two reasons.

First, Galileo was one of the first scientists in the modern sense of the word. He was a professional who used the scientific method (hypothesis, experiment, and data analysis) to deduce the nature of reality and who, when his beliefs failed to conform to what science was telling him, changed his own beliefs to match the science. Contrary to what Galileo did, climate disruption deniers would rather reject the overwhelming scientific evidence than alter their own economic, political, or religious ideology to match the data – that the Earth’s climate is changing, that industrial sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) are the dominant source of the changes, and that the changes will cause significant disruptions to the natural world and human society by 2100.

Second, Galileo was not in conflict with other scientists over heliocentrism – the few other experimental scientists with whom Galileo could have been at odds over the issue (such as Kepler) were also Copernicans. Instead, Galileo was in conflict with the religious dogma of the Catholic Church. Modern climate scientists have been convinced by the scientific evidence since the early 1990s (see Figure 4e) that industrial climate disruption is real and a serious threat. In comparison, there was no scientific evidence to support the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe, only Catholic dogma. Climate disruption deniers who attempt to use Galileo to justify their rejection of scientific evidence place themselves more on the side of the Catholic Church than on Galileo’s side.

Invoking Galileo in an attempt to claim that the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists and climate “super-experts” as well as peer-reviewed climate papers are somehow dogmatic is both illogical and a distortion of Galileo’s actual history and vaunted position in the annals of scientific advancement.

There is, however, an alternative analogy that could be made while still invoking Galileo. Galileo’s situation – a scientist struggling to force a reluctant church to accept reality and change – is much closer to that of modern climate scientists struggling to force a reluctant public (in the US, anyway) to accept the reality that they need to change their industry and their behavior.

# Largest study of peer-reviewed literature to date finds overwhelming climate disruption consensus (UPDATED)

Public perception of the consensus among scientists on the human-driven nature of climate disruption vs. the measured consensus by Cook et al 2013

A new peer-reviewed study has confirmed again that there is an overwhelming consensus on the human-driven cause of climate disruption. The study, Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature by John Cook and a large number of contributors to the website Skeptical Science (Cook et al 2013), looked at 11,944 papers over a 21 year period and assigned each to one of three categories on the basis of the papers’ abstracts: endorse, reject, or take no position on the consensus. Of the papers that either endorsed or rejected the consensus, 97.1% of the papers and 98.4% of the papers’ authors endorsed the consensus. In addition, 1200 authors of the analyzed papers were contacted and asked to self-rate their own papers for level of endorsement. Of the self-rated papers that either endorsed or rejected the consensus, 97.2% of the papers and 96.4% of the authors endorsed the consensus.

Cook et al 2013 represents the largest study to date of the consensus among the scientific community regarding the industrial nature of climate disruption (where human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is the dominant cause of the observed global warming). Prior studies such as Doran and Zimmerman 2009 and Anderegg et al 2010 had found that approximately 97% of climate experts and “super-experts” agreed that climate disruption was caused by human activity. However, some critics had attacked the studies for small sample sizes (Doran and Zimmerman 2009) or for using Google Scholar (Anderegg et al 2010) instead of the “official” scientific database, the ISI Web of Science. Cook et al 2013 addresses both criticisms by using a large sample of 11,944 papers from 1980 different journals and by using only peer-reviewed papers identified in the ISI Web of Science.

Cook et al 2013 Figure 2b – Percentage of endorsement, rejection, and no position/undecided abstracts. Uncertain comprise 0.5% of no position abstracts.

Figure 1b from Cook et al 2013 shows how the percentage of abstracts rated as “no position,” “endorse,” and “reject” have changed during the study period of 1991 to 2012. Note that the number of abstracts rejecting the consensus has stayed flat at nearly 0% over the entire period while the number of papers endorsing has declined slightly and the number of papers expressing no opinion has increased. Overall, 32.6% of the abstracts endorsed the consensus, 66.4% took no position, 0.7% rejected the consensus, and 0.3% were uncertain.

Cook et al 2013 explains why this result is expected. Specifically, when a controversial subject has been accepted and is no longer controversial, scientists move on to other subjects and no longer feel the need to explicitly endorse the consensus position. For example, scientists no longer argue about the general accuracy of the law of gravity, so there’s no point in restating why they think that gravitation applies except in unusual cases. Add the fact that abstracts are usually strictly limited in length and adding a few extra words to explicitly endorse the scientific consensus on climate disruption is a luxury most abstracts can’t afford.

Cook et al 2013 Figure 2b – Percentage of self-rated endorsement, rejection, and no position papers.

In addition, Cook et al 2013 contacted 8547 authors of the papers and asked them to self-rate their own papers. 1200 authors responded, and Figure 2b from Cook et al 2013 shows how they rated their papers as endorsing, rejecting, or having no position on the consensus. Overall, 62.7% of the papers endorsed the consensus, 35.5% took no position, and 1.8% rejected the consensus.

The authors who responded to the request to self-rate their papers provide additional clarity to the abstract-only ratings performed by Cook et al 2013. First, the authors made their ratings based on the entire paper, not just the abstract, and so they are better positioned to claim whether or not their paper endorses the consensus or not. Second, the self-ratings also provide a way to measure how much effect just rating the abstract has on the results, and the impact is significant. Cook et al 2013 compared the self-rated papers directly with the abstract-rated papers and found that the number of endorsing papers increased from 36.9% in the abstract-only ratings to 62.7% in the author self-ratings (see Cook et al 2013 Table 5 for more information).

And third, the self-rated papers provides some evidence that the large number of papers categorized as “no position” are categorized that way because the consensus position is no longer controversial. If the position that human activity was the dominant driver of climate disruption was still controversial among scientists, then that would be more likely to be stated in the abstract.

There are a few main areas of uncertainty in Cook et al 2013. The first is the aforementioned issue with short abstracts, but as mentioned above, the self-rating process minimizes this concern. The second is that using a “crowdsourcing” methodology using predefined categories is still ultimately subjective and could be influenced by the biases of the reviewer. However, this effect was minimized through using multiple reviewers and through the self-rating scheme. Possible biases toward the consensus position are ruled out by the fact that self-rated papers were more likely, not less, to endorse the consensus. But a possible bias by the abstract reviewers toward the “no position” category was analyzed and found to have minimal effect on the final results.

The third and final uncertainty is whether or not the papers selected are representative of the overall sample. The large sample size (11,944 papers) is suggestive of representativeness (the larger the sample, the more likely it is to be representative), but doesn’t guarantee it. As Cook et al 2013 points out, there are nearly 130,000 papers with the keyword “climate” in the ISI Web of Science.

However, the highly skewed results of Cook et al 2013 strongly suggest that the results are broadly applicable. The more skewed the results are, the smaller the sample size needs to be in order to accurately deduce the opinions of a population. As I demonstrated in this response to Joe Bast, President of The Heartland Institute, the results of Doran & Zimmerman 2009 had a margin of error of only 3.5% (for a hypothetical sample size of 100,000 scientists). Alternatively, Doran & Zimmerman 2009 could have statistically deduced a 97% consensus using only 39 respondents, not the 79 they actually had.

The results of Cook et al 2013 are even stronger because the sample size is so much larger. Cook et al 2013 found that 98.4% of the authors of the 4,014 papers that endorsed or rejected the consensus. That’s 10,188 authors vs. 168. If we assume that there are 100,000 authors publishing on climate disruption topics globally, then the results of Cook et al 2013 have a confidence level of 99.9% and a margin of error of +/- 0.48%. Increasing the number of climate authors to 1 million results in a margin of error at 99.9% confidence level of +/- 0.51%.

Every serious survey of the expert opinion of climate scientists regarding the causes of climate disruption has found the same thing – that an overwhelming number of climate scientists agree that the causes of climate disruption is dominated by human causes. Cook et al 2013 won’t be the final word on the subject by any means, but if “it’s not over until the fat lady sings,” we can fairly say that Cook et al 2013 indicates that she’s started to inhale.

UPDATE

I’ve been thinking about this paper a bit more and I have a few more thoughts about it that I didn’t include above.

First, in the discussion about sources of uncertainty in the analysis, Cook et al 2013 discusses the representativeness of the sample size. But something that isn’t discussed or mentioned in the Supplementary Information that I can find is a discussion of the representativeness of the paper authors who responded to requests to self-rate their own papers. Generally speaking people who respond to polls are the most energized by the questions being asked, so we could reasonably expect that the scientists who responded would be most likely to either endorse or reject the consensus. But it’s a relatively minor point.

Second, I feel that there was insufficient explanation of the 66.2% of abstracts that were rated “no position.” I would have preferred a few more sentences explaining why scientists don’t explicitly endorse or reject a consensus position, or maybe some attempt on the part of the authors to estimate the degree of consensus among the “no position” abstracts. For example, an analysis could have been done to cross-reference authors of the “endorsing” abstracts with co-authors in the “no position” abstracts and in the process develop a subcategory of “endorsement via co-authorship.” Or a bit more time could have been spent on the Shwed and Bearman 2010 study, which Cook et al 2013 references but doesn’t explain in much detail.

Shwed and Bearman 2010 looked at five historical (20th century) cases, including industrial climate disruption, where a scientific consensus developed and analyzed citation networks among peer-reviewed studies over time. What they found was that, as a consensus developed more and more papers cited a common core of studies that formed the nucleus of the consensus. In addition, Shwed and Bearman 2010 found that consensus leads to a dramatic increase in the number of publications, even as the number of references to the seminal studies remains constant. They describe the rationale as follows:

If consensus was obtained with fragile evidence, it will likely dissolve with growing interest…. If consensus holds, it opens secondary questions for scrutiny.

Essentially, once a consensus on the “big questions” is reached, scientists are free to dive into the details and argue over those instead.

The Shwed and Bearman 2010 analysis found that industrial climate disruption hit this consensus point sometime around 1991, by the way.

There is a lot of work that could be done still with the Cook et al 2013 dataset. I look forward to reading more about it.

# Climate Science for Everyone: How much heat can the air and ocean store?

Let’s look at how much energy the oceans can store compared to the energy storage of the atmosphere.

One way to describe the amount of energy that something can store is called “specific heat.” This is essentially the amount of energy required to heat up a mass of a material by a certain temperature. In our case, we’ll use 1 kg heated by by 1 degree Celsius (1.8° F) because those are the international standards.

The specific heat of air is about 1158 J/(kg*C) while the specific heat of seawater is about 3850 J/(kg*C), where a Joule is a standard measurement of energy. We can see that air has a specific heat a little more than 3x smaller than that of water. But we know from our day-to-day experience that water is a lot denser than air is, and that will matter a great deal to our calculations. (For reference, one Joule is about the amount of energy you need to expend to lift one pound 9 inches.)

While we could go through a huge amount of geometry to estimate how much air and seawater there is on the Earth, but there’s an easier way – use the measurements of experts. for example, this paper calculated that the total mass of the atmosphere is about 5.14 x 1018 kg, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has calculated that the total volume of the world’s oceans is about 1.34 x 10^18 m3. In order to get the total mass of the world’s oceans we need an estimate of the density of seawater, which I found at this MIT link – 1027 kg/m3 (other sources have similar values).

Using this, we can multiply the mass of the atmosphere times the specific heat of the air to calculate what the total heat capacity of the atmosphere is:

$5.14\times 10^{18} kg\cdot 1158\frac{J}{kg*C} = 5.95\times 10^{21}\frac{J}{C}$ (Eqn. 1)

In other words, it takes about 5.95 x 1021 Joules to raise the temperature of the atmosphere one degree Celsius.

For ocean we need to add one step – multiplying the volume of the water by its density to get the total mass of the ocean

$1.3410^{18} m^3\cdot 1027\frac{kg}{m^3}\cdot 3850\frac{J}{kg*C} = 5.30\times 10^{24}\frac{J}{C}$ (Eqn. 2)

This shows that the heat capacity of the oceans is about 1000x larger than the heat capacity of the Earth’s atmosphere.

So why do we care? First, it helps to explain why we care about El Nino and La Nina cycles in the Pacific Ocean. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms, La Nina is a massive upwelling of cold water in the Pacific that, because ocean water has a much higher heat capacity than air, cools off the entire planet and affects weather patterns. El Nino is a massive pool of hot water in the Pacific that does the opposite – it dumps heat stored in the ocean back into the atmosphere, warming the globe and affecting weather patterns. Nearly all the energy absorbed by the Pacific Ocean during La Nina periods will eventually be emitted back into the atmosphere during El Nino periods.

Second, the heat capacity of the world’s oceans helps to explain why scientists are so interested in how much energy has been stored in the ocean. Since total ocean heat capacity is about 1000x greater than total atmosphere, it means that a barely measurable temperature increase in the ocean (1/1000th of a degree C) could drive a massive spike in global air temperature (1 degree C).

The difference between measured global surface temperature from various sources and the temperatures adjusted to remove the influence of El Nino, volcanoes, and the solar cycle. Note that the massive 1997/1998 El Nino spike is nearly completely the result of ocean El Nino dumping stored energy into the atmosphere. (Image Credit: Skeptical Science)

Lastly, we care because it demonstrates just why the average global temperature hasn’t been warming as fast over the last several years. We’ve had more La Nina cycles since 1998 than we’ve had El Nino cycles, and that means the Pacific ocean is storing more energy.

El Nino Southern Oscillation index.

The problem with this, however, is that it means that energy is going to come back OUT of the ocean again eventually. And when (not if) that happens next, the average global temperature will spike.

# A survey of climate science, crowdsourced

John Cook, editor of the climate website SkepticalScience.com and Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia, is conducting a crowd-sourced online survey of 12,000 climate papers. S&R was approached by Cook to participate by posting a link to the survey website at the University of Queensland.

According to Cook, anyone who volunteers to participate will be given 10 random abstracts and asked to rate each one according to whether it endorses, is neutral, or rejects the consensus position on global warming. According to his announcement at SkS on May 2, Cook has contacted 58 different climate blogs, half of which are “skeptic” blogs, in order to attract the widest variety of perspectives in the volunteers. Cook wrote the following in his email to S&R earlier today asking us to participate

The survey involves rating 10 randomly selected abstracts and is expected to take 15 minutes. Participants may sign up to receive the final results of the survey (de-individuated so no individual’s data will be published). No other personal information is required (and email is optional). Participants may elect to discontinue the survey at any point and results are only recorded if the survey is completed. Participant ratings are confidential and all data will be de-individuated in the final results so no individual ratings will be published.

S&R recommends that anyone who has a spare 15 minutes participates in the survey. Here’s the link:

http://survey.gci.uq.edu.au/survey.php?c=GGB5IS4BFOO0

On behalf of Cook and his co-authors, S&R thanks you for your time.

# Taylor attacks his critics instead of correcting his distortions of a peer-reviewed study

On February 13, James M. Taylor of The Heartland Institute published a deceptive and dishonest blog post at Forbes in which he falsely claimed that a new study rejected the overwhelming scientific consensus about the human causes of climate disruption. On February 20, Taylor dedicated a second Forbes blog to the same study, and instead of admitting his factual errors and correcting his original post, he chose to attack both his critics and the study’s authors. However, his second post was filled with yet more false claims that demonstrate yet again Taylor’s habit of deception and dishonesty.

# Taylor attacks a straw man

According to Taylor, climate disruption realists (those who accept the reality that human activity is the dominant driver of climate disruption) supposedly feel that “only atmospheric scientists are qualified” to comment on climate disruption and that geoscientists and engineers are not qualified. While having an understanding of atmospheric science certainly helps understand certain aspects of climate disruption, it is not true that only atmospheric scientists can be climate experts. Scientists who study glaciers and ice caps provide understanding of how the Earth’s glaciers will respond to climate disruption and how that may affect sea level rise. Chemists who are experts in geochemistry provide valuable information on how fast carbon dioxide is sequestered by chemical reactions with rocks. Biologists provide information on how plant and animals will respond to ocean acidification and higher temperatures. Some climate experts such as Ray Pierrehumbert were even engineers before they changed their focus and became climate researchers.

The problem with Taylor’s assertion (his “Argument #2″) and his related claims of hypocrisy by climate disruption realists is that they’re straw man logical fallacies. In this case, Taylor has falsely asserted that his critics are making a claim that they haven’t actually made, and he’s attacking the assertion instead of the real one because it’s easier and because it distracts his readers. In the process of creating his straw man, Taylor attacks both James Hansen and the head of the IPCC, Raj Pachauri

As Taylor says, Hansen is an astronomer by education. But Hansen’s original expertise, namely the atmosphere of Venus and how it’s resulted in Venus’ surface temperature being hot enough to melt lead, is directly relevant to climate disruption. Furthermore, Hansen has been publishing peer-reviewed studies about the greenhouse effect and the Earth’s climate since 1974. His publishing record and decades of work are what make Hansen an expert, not his original astronomy background.

And while Pachauri is a railroad engineer, he’s also an administrator, not a scientific expert. It doesn’t take a scientific expert to be a good administrator and manage scientists effectively. If it did, corporations run by MBAs without engineering backgrounds would fail because the managers and executives didn’t understand how to design a telephony circuit or an Ethernet switch. Whether or not Pachauri is a climate expert is immaterial – Taylor’s claim is a distraction either way.

S&R examined the nature of expertise in April 2012 when 49 former NASA employees wrote a letter insisting that NASA prevent its scientists from publishing their scientific conclusions about industrial climate disruption:

Expertise in the effects of high levels of carbon dioxide on astronauts doesn’t make one an expert on CO2‘s effect on ecosystems. Expertise in lunar geology doesn’t make one an expert in geochemical sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Expertise in heat transfer through space shuttle heat tiles doesn’t make one an expert in heat transfer between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. Even expertise in weather forecasting doesn’t make the forecaster an expert on climate.

No amount of expertise on one subject can magically bestow expertise on any other subject. Expertise must be earned through dedicated effort day in and day out, over the course of years.

Taylor’s attacks are against a straw man argument that his critics have not actually made, and he fails to tar his critics as hypocrites in the process.

# Taylor falsely claims government scientists are guilty by association

Taylor continues his deceptions by resorting to yet another logical fallacy, specifically guilt by association, when he falsely claims that the scientists surveyed for the Doran and Zimmerman 2010 study (D&Z2010) are biased simply because they work for or are funded by government grants. As S&R wrote in response to another of Taylor’s failed attempts to discredit scientists using guilt by association,

Is commentator David Brooks inherently biased because he writes for the New York Times? Is Richard Lindzen, the contrarian MIT climatologist, inherently biased because he teaches at MIT? In every case the answer is clearly “no” – any individual may well be biased, but simple association does not and can not prove bias.

If we applied Taylor’s own poor logic to Taylor himself we could automatically dismiss everything he writes on the subject of industrial climate disruption simply because he’s a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute. (emphasis original, links removed)

Furthermore, even if Taylor is correct that the source of money is corrupting, then by his own logic, scientists in the employ of fossil fuel-related industries are far more likely to have been corrupted than those scientists employed by the government. In 2010, S&R found that fossil-fuel related industries (those involved in the production, transportation, consumption, and refining of fossil fuels) were responsible for approximately $9 trillion, or 15%, of the entire global economy in 2008. In contrast, the entire global budget for climate research globally in 2008 is estimated to be about$3.8 billion, or 0.04% of the revenues of the fossil fuel-related industries.

Taylor can’t have it both ways. If Taylor wants to claim that scientists are automatically tainted by government money, then scientists are automatically tainted by industry money too. And there’s over 2,500 times more industry money than government money.

# Taylor dishonestly distorts yet another survey

from Doran & Zimmerman 2010

Taylor’s last deceptive claim borders on being dishonest. He falsely claims that “an often misrepresented survey claiming 97 percent of scientists agree that humans are causing a global warming crisis… (emphasis added),” a reference to the previously mentioned D&Z2010 survey. The problem is that D&Z2010 doesn’t say that 97% of scientists agree, it says that 97.4% of “climatologists who are active publishers on the subject of climate change” agree. The survey says that only 82% of all respondents (all scientists from various academic institutions and government research labs) agree that “human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.”

A related claim of Taylor’s, however, is dishonest. Taylor writes that D&Z2010 “asked merely whether some warming has occurred and whether humans are playing at least a partial role (emphasis added).” The actual question posed in D&Z2010 was “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures? (emphasis added)” Note the difference in significance between Taylor’s “at least a partial role” and D&Z2010′s “a significant contributing factor.” This is a dishonest attempt by Taylor to downplay the results of the D&Z2010 study.

# Taylor repeats his dishonest allegations about the Lefsrud and Meyer study

But most of Taylor’s dishonest claims are made in reference to the survey of professional engineers and geoscientists by Lianne Lefsrud and Renate Meyer. Taylor writes that Lefsrud and Meyer “claim their survey is not strong evidence against the mythical global warming consensus, therefore skeptics cannot cite the survey while debating the mythical consensus.” However, what Lefsrud and Meyer actually claim – three times just in their response to Taylor at his original Forbes blog – is that their results are not representative of all scientists.

First and foremost, our study is not a representative survey. Although our data set is large and diverse enough for our research questions, it cannot be used for generalizations such as “respondents believe …” or “scientists don’t believe …”

We do point this out several times in the paper, and it is important to highlight it again.

But once again: This is not a representative survey and should not be used as such! (emphasis added)

As S&R found last week, the authors correctly state that the study is not representative.

There is no mention [in Taylor's original Forbes blog] that all the study’s respondents were only in Alberta, Canada. There is no mention that they’re all members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). There is no mention that the membership of APEGA is predominantly employed by the Alberta petroleum industry and its regulators. And there is no mention that the authors repeatedly and specifically write in their study that their results are not applicable beyond the respondents and members of APEGA.

Furthermore, Taylor repeats the false claim he that he originally made with respect to Lefsrud and Meyer’s “[frequent] use terms such as “denier” to describe scientists who are skeptical of an asserted global warming crisis.” S&R identified this lie of Taylor’s previously, writing that

the word “denier” is used exactly twice in the body of the paper – in the conclusion on page 20 of a 24 page paper. Taken in context, the authors clearly differentiate between those who deny climate change (such as the 0.6% of survey respondents who reject that climate change is occurring at all) and those who are skeptical of it for some reason.

Taylor writes that climate disruption realists are “attacking the integrity of scientists” in an attempt to “minimize the damage” supposedly caused by Lefsrud and Meyer’s study. As demonstrated above and by Taylor’s critics previously, this claim is false for a couple of reasons. Since the study isn’t representative, there is no damage to be minimized. Similarly, Taylor’s critics aren’t questioning the integrity of the individuals who responded to the survey, only whether the respondents are a representative sample of all scientists like Taylor claims.

Ultimately, Taylor’s critics are not questioning scientists’ integrity, they’re questioning Taylor’s integrity.

# Heartland Institute’s James Taylor falsely claims a new study rejects climate consensus [Updated]

An update to this story has been included below.

James Taylor, managing editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News, recently wrote a Forbes blog post about a new study of professional engineers and geoscientists involved in Alberta, Canada’s petroleum industry. According to the authors of the study, however, Taylor got most of the details in his post wrong, and Taylor has not corrected or retracted the blog post even though his errors have been pointed out to him. Furthermore, Taylor republished his deceptive and dishonest post at The Heartland Institute this morning, three days after the study’s authors corrected Taylor. Taylor has a made a habit of distorting scientific studies in the past – his new blog post is no different.

Taylor claims in his post that a study of over a thousand professional geoscientists and engineers in Alberta is somehow representative of all scientists in the world. But the authors of the study, Lianne Lefsrud and Renate Meyer, wrote in a response at Forbes (full comment reproduced below) that

First and foremost, our study is not a representative survey. Although our data set is large and diverse enough for our research questions, it cannot be used for generalizations such as “respondents believe …” or “scientists don’t believe …” (emphasis added)

Taylor’s post is based almost entirely on the incorrect claim that the study’s results are representative. There is no mention that all the study’s respondents were only in Alberta, Canada. There is no mention that they’re all members of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA). There is no mention that the membership of APEGA is predominantly employed by the Alberta petroleum industry and its regulators. And there is no mention that the authors repeatedly and specifically write in their study that their results are not applicable beyond the respondents and members of APEGA. As the study’s authors say, their results are not representative of scientists in general.

Furthermore, Taylor fails to mention fact that 84% of respondents were actually engineers, not scientists. Yet Taylor incorrectly claims in the title itself that the survey applies to the “majority of scientists.” Engineers are only mentioned three times in the first four paragraphs and once more in the conclusion, yet Taylor generalizes “geoscientists and engineers” to just “scientists” 19 times. Given that Taylor quoted extensively from passages throughout the 24 page study, it is not realistic that he could have missed the authors’ repeated warnings about the non-representativeness of the study. As such, his failures to mention key points are not merely deceptive, they’re dishonest as well.

Taylor distorts the study in other ways too. He distorts the purpose of the study, implying that it’s a study of the beliefs of the respondents. According to the paper, the study is about the worldview(s) of the respondents, tactics and strategies they use when arguing with others, and how they justify their own claims to have expert opinions on climate science. Worldviews, tactics/strategies, and justifications are related to beliefs, but they are not the same.

Taylor also draws a line between “skeptics” and “believers” in a way that distorts the paper’s conclusions. The authors point out that Taylor got this wrong as well, writing in their comment at Forbes that

it is also not the case that all frames except “Support Kyoto” are against regulation – the “Regulation Activists” mobilize for a more encompassing and more strongly enforced regulation.

Given that four of the five groups identified by the authors believe that humans have some influence on climate disruption, it would be just as accurate (and just as distorted) to claim that 67% of respondents were “believers” in climate disruption.

In addition to his dishonesty about the representativeness of the APEGA study, Taylor also lies about a couple of other aspects of the study. First, he cherry-picks his quotes from the description of the “Regulation Activists” to make them appear more skeptical than they actually are. According to the paper, regulation activists “do not significantly vary from the mean in how they consider the magnitude, extent, or time scale of climate change.” Other quotes from the description of regulation activists demonstrate this point further:

Despite their seemingly ambivalent stance, they are most likely to believe that nature is our responsibility.”

“They believe that the Kyoto Protocol is doomed to failure, yet they motivate others most of all to create regulation”

“They also recommend that we define and enact sustainability/stewardship, reduce GHGs, and create incentives”

Taylor also dishonestly claims that the study’s authors are “unmistakably alarmist” and that they “frequently use terms such as ‘denier.’” The only problem with this is that the word “denier” is used exactly twice in the body of the paper – in the conclusion on page 20 of a 24 page paper. Taken in context, the authors clearly differentiate between those who deny climate change (such as the 0.6% of survey respondents who reject that climate change is occurring at all) and those who are skeptical of it for some reason.

We agree with Hoffman that in order to understand this defense and resistance and to move forward with international policies, organizational researchers must gain more in depth understanding of the subtleties of the contestation and unravel the whole spectrum of frames including those of climate change deniers and sceptics. However, given the polarized debate, gaining access to the reasoning of deniers and sceptics, let alone unraveling their framings, is far more difficult than analyzing supporters of regulatory measures. (citations removed)

Finally, Taylor refers to another study whose results he distorted in 2010. When we investigated Taylor’s claims, S&R discovered that Taylor had incorrectly claimed that the study was representative of all meteorologists (it wasn’t), that the study’s purpose was to test the existence of a consensus among meteorologists (it wasn’t), and that experts on weather are also experts on climate (they aren’t). And Taylor’s claims about the AMS study have gone over two years without correction. Taylor’s recent Forbes post follows an very similar pattern, including his refusal to correct the distortions.

0.17% of climate papers since1991 reject the reality of industrial climate disruption.

The reality is that, contrary to claims made by Taylor and others at Heartland, every serious attempt to measure the degree of consensus among scientists and climate experts has concluded that the overwhelming majority of experts agree that climate is changing rapidly, that humans are the dominant drivers of the changes, and that model projections indicate that the changes will be highly disruptive if they’re not planned for. And every attempt to disprove the reported consensus has been disproved or shown to be based on distortions. Just like this attempt by Taylor has been.

Taylor has been deceiving and lying to readers about scientific studies since at least 2010, when his distortions came to the attention of S&R. His recent blog post at Forbes represents a continuation of his habit of deception and dishonesty.

What follows is the full text of the authors’ response to Taylor as S&R received it in email and as it is posted at Forbes. As of publication Taylor has ignored the authors and has issued no corrections, has not retracted the post, and there is no evidence that he has attempted to correct the record at any of the other websites who have reproduced or reported on this post.

Dear Mr. Taylor

Thank you for the attention you are giving to our research and continuing the discussion about how professional engineers and geoscientists view climate change. We would like to emphasize a few points in order to avoid any confusion about the results.

First and foremost, our study is not a representative survey. Although our data set is large and diverse enough for our research questions, it cannot be used for generalizations such as “respondents believe …” or “scientists don’t believe …” Our research reconstructs the frames the members of a professional association hold about the issue and the argumentative patterns and legitimation strategies these professionals use when articulating their assumptions. Our research does not investigate the distribution of these frames and, thus, does not allow for any conclusions in this direction. We do point this out several times in the paper, and it is important to highlight it again.

In addition, even within the confines of our non-representative data set, the interpretation that a majority of the respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of global warming is simply not correct. To the contrary: the majority believes that humans do have their hands in climate change, even if many of them believe that humans are not the only cause. What is striking is how little support that the Kyoto Protocol had among our respondents. However, it is also not the case that all frames except “Support Kyoto” are against regulation –the “Regulation Activists” mobilize for a more encompassing and more strongly enforced regulation. Correct interpretations would be, for instance, that – among our respondents – more geoscientists are critical towards regulation (and especially the Kyoto Protocol) than non-geoscientists, or that more people in higher hierarchical positions in the industry oppose regulation than people in lower hierarchical positions.

All frequencies in our paper should only be used to get an idea of the potential influence of these frames – e.g. on policy responses. Surely the insight that those who oppose regulation tend to have more influence on policy-making than the supporters of the Kyoto Protocol should not come as a surprise after Canada dropped out of the protocol a year ago.

But once again: This is not a representative survey and should not be used as such!

We trust that this clarifies our findings. Thank you again for your attention.

Best regards
Lianne Lefsrud and Renate Meyer

# Venus’ surface temperature series updated

Venus terrain composite (NASA)

In early May, 2011 I posted a five-part series about the surface temperature of Venus. In it I demonstrated that the Venus’ surface temperature – hot enough to melt lead – was not a result of internal heating from Venus’ core. Instead, the greenhouse effect of Venus’ largely carbon dioxide atmosphere is the reason the surface is so much hotter than it would be without the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, I made a pretty significant error in my calculations and used the wrong value for a physical constant that made many of my calculations about 20% too high. While I acknowledged the error as soon as it was pointed out to me by an observant commenter, I had not taken the time to go back through all five posts and correct the calculations until last week. As I had pointed out as soon as my mistake was discovered, none of the conclusions changed as a result of the error, but I feel it’s important nonetheless to make admit mistakes and make corrections as required. I’m sorry it took so long to make the corrections.

Here are links to each of the Venus posts I made in one place. I hope you find them useful.

Venus’ climate I: How scientists know Venus’ surface is unusually hot (corrected)

Venus’ climate II: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature isn’t from internal heating (Corrected)

Venus’ climate III: How scientists know Venus isn’t geologically young (Corrected)

Venus’ climate IV: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature isn’t from a “recent” astronomical collision

Venus’ climate V: How scientists know Venus’ surface temperature is a result of greenhouse heating (corrected)

# Heartland’s Taylor fails to discredit authors of National Climate Assessment

On January 11, 2013, the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) published its draft National Climate Assessment for public comment. The first paragraph of the Executive Summary found that

Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.

Given these findings, it is not surprising that individuals and organizations who deny that global climate change is “primarily driven by human activity” would attack the report.

Yesterday James Taylor of The Heartland Institute wrote a blog at Forbes attacking the Assessment by questioning the objectivity of seven of the scientists involved in writing the report. However, Taylor’s entire argument is based on the false assertion that being associated with an environmental organization automatically biases the scientists’ judgement. This is known as the “guilt by association” logical fallacy and it’s an attempt by Taylor to defame the character of the scientists.

Taylor asserts, without proof, that scientists James Buizer, Jerry Melillo, Suzanne Moser, Richard Moss, Andrew Rosenberg, Donald J. Wubbles, and Gary Yohe are all supposedly “crooked” because they have current or former associations with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Second Nature. This assertion is absurd. Is Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, inherently biased simply because he works at Princeton? Is commentator David Brooks inherently biased because he writes for the New York Times? Is Richard Lindzen, the contrarian MIT climatologist, inherently biased because he teaches at MIT? Are all registered Democrats inherently biased against drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because most environmentalists are Democrats? In every case the answer is clearly “no” – any individual may well be biased, but simple association does not and can not prove bias.

If we applied Taylor’s own poor logic to Taylor himself we could automatically dismiss everything he writes on the subject of industrial climate disruption simply because he’s a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute.

When we look at the professional experience and scientific expertise of the seven scientists that Taylor names, the fact that Taylor is attempting to smear their reputations becomes clear.

And most of these seven scientists have also been asked to work on climate reports by the National Academy of Sciences and other expert panels just like the USGCRP itself. These seven scientists have nearly two centuries of cumulative experience in climate-related science and public policy. As such they can legitimately claim to be authorities in their climate-related fields.

Taylor, on the other hand, has a background in law and government, not science. There is no evidence that Taylor has written any peer-reviewed scientific papers or been intimately involved in crafting regulations relating to climate policy in the way that Moss and Rosenberg have. Taylor’s Forbes bio indicates that he “studied” atmospheric science while getting his government degree from Dartmouth, but he certainly hasn’t worked as a scientist or maintained any scientific expertise since.

More damning, however, is that Taylor has a habit of distorting scientific studies and taking other peoples’ words out of context. S&R found in early 2010 that Taylor had incorrectly applied the results of a small small self-selected poll of broadcast meteorologists to all scientists. In February 2011, S&R found that Taylor had incorrectly accused scientist Mark Boslough of lying and criticizing former astronaut Harrison Schmitt when Boslough did neither. S&R found in late 2011 that Taylor had dishonestly claimed that so-called “skeptics” merely question the source of industrial climate disruption – to not know that many of his fellow so-called “skeptics’ would require that Taylor be incompetent. In addition, S&R found in mid-2012 that Taylor deceptively took quotes out of context in ways that dramatically changed their meaning and implications.

Percentage of authors of the Assessment affected by Taylor’s fallacious criticism (Climate Nexus)

And Taylor continues his habit of distorting facts in this Forbes blog. While Taylor mentions that there are 13 senior scientists engaged in guiding the report (one chairman, two vice-chairmen, and 10 members of a “secretariat”), he fails to mention that the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee led by these 13 scientists was actually composed of 60 scientists and policy experts. And he fails to mention that the Committee “engaged more than 240 authors in the creation of the report.” As the graph shows, Taylor’s illogical and deceptive criticisms apply to only a small percentage of the report’s authors. Even if they had merit, Taylor’s criticisms would have insignificant impact on the Assessment’s science and data-based conclusions.

Taylor’s Forbes blog is a failed attempt to distract readers from the overwhelming data and objective facts documented in the Assessment. And those facts demonstrate the reality of industrial climate disruption, namely that it is “primarily driven by human activity” and that it is “already affecting the American people.”

# Media Trackers writer ignorant of academia and climate issues, hypocritical regarding ethics

On January 16, Alyssa Carducci published a story at Media Trackers-Florida in which she claimed that Michael Mann charges “$10,000 plus expenses for speaking fees.” Carducci went on to imply that greed was Mann’s reason for performing climate research and for speaking publicly about the reality of industrial climate disruption. However, Carducci’s reporting demonstrated that she lacks understanding of how much speaking engagements cost, how research grants actually operate, and of Steve Milloy’s well-documented history of being a “science denier for hire.” In addition, Carducci obtained her information by misrepresenting her affiliation when she contacted Mann’s agent to ask about Mann’s speaking fee, something that raises a number of questions about both Carducci and both Media Trackers – Florida and The Heartland Institute, where Carducci is an author for Environment & Climate News. Scientists who are experts in their field often get paid for speaking to the public, whether that’s businesses or universities or general audiences. The more famous the scientist is, the more he or she gets paid. According to an article from 1996 in The Scientist, a “typical” speaking fee was about$2,000, although that varied widely from industry to industry and audience to audience. The same article reported that clinical researchers presenting to pharmaceutical companies could command between $5,000 and$15,000. And “famous authorities on science and medicine” could demand fees of $25,000 per lecture. That was in 1996. If we adjust those values for inflation, that range changes to a typical fee of$3,000 to a maximum fee for “famous authorities” of about $37,000 per lecture. According to this article in Outside Magazine online from 2007, MIT scientist and National Academy of Sciences member Richard Lindzen (who is also someone who denies that human industry is predominantly responsible for climate disruption) asks between$1,000 and $2,000 from non-corporate groups and between$5,000 and $10,000 from corporate groups. Presumably this is because corporate groups have deeper pockets than universities or community groups. Mann is a famous scientist and a public figure. His name is arguably better known to the general public than Lindzen’s is, and as such he can command high speaking fees. And not incidentally, Carducci was claiming to be a representative of an industry group, not a university or community group. So the$10,000 she was quoted by Mann’s agent is not unreasonable given Mann’s fame and the expected audience.

Carducci also implied that Mann’s research grants were making him rich, writing that he brought about $7 million between 2006 and 2010 into Penn State’s research coffers. The problem is that no research grant, however large, makes scientists rich. There are rules in place at universities and imposed by the federal government (usually the National Science Foundation) that are designed specifically to prevent scientists from becoming rich with grant money (aka defrauding the grantor). Physical science professor Scott Mandia wrote two posts at his blog describing exactly how this works. Essentially, principal investigators have their salary reduced by some amount to account for the additional income from research grants. Furthermore, as two S&R investigations found, Mann’s contributions to the overall Penn State research budget was essentially negligible and that scientists who were primarily motivated by greed would fare better working for fossil fuel-related industries. Carducci also refers to science denier Steve Milloy as a “scientist” and implicitly rejects Mann’s claim that Milloy has been paid to manufacture doubt about the dangers of pesticides, second-hand smoke, etc. According to Sourcewatch, Milloy has a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences and Master of Health Sciences in Biostatistics from from Johns Hopkins University. However, simply having a general science degree does not confer upon anyone the “scientist” moniker – only working scientists or one-time working scientists get to make that claim. A search of Google Scholar turned up no peer-reviewed papers written by Steven J. Milloy, and there is no evidence that Milloy has ever worked as a scientist. There is a great deal of evidence that Milloy has been paid by the tobacco industry specifically to deny the dangers of second-hand smoke. According to Philip Morris documents stored by the Tobacco Legacy Project, Milloy’s group The Association for Sound Science Coalation (TASSC) was paid$480,000 in 1994 through Philip Morris PR company APCO International. TASSC was founded by Milloy in 1993 at the behest of APCO and Philip Morris. Before Milloy disbanded it, TASSC had a long history of denying the dangers of second-hand smoke.

And Milloy continues being paid to cast doubt upon scientific studies that identify risky products, most recently by pesticide maker Syngenta. In this case, the Center for Media and Democracy obtained court documents that showed Milloy had been paid $25,000 by Syngenta in 2008 to deny the risks of atrazine and that he’d asked for$15,000 in 2004. And one email clearly shows Milloy asking for Syngenta talking points that he can repeat in his weekly column.

After Mann posted his Facebook responses to her article, Carducci wrote that Mann was connected to Climategate along with several statements that implied he was guilty of misconduct. While everything she wrote was fastidiously factual, Carducci failed to mention that Mann was exonerated by two different Pennsylvania State University investigations and a subsequent National Science Foundation (NSF) investigation. So far as S&R was able to tell, Carducci has never before written about the details of Climategate or Michael Mann’s multiple exonerations, so it’s entirely possible that she is simply ignorant of the facts. However, writing about topics on which you know little is generally considered unwise in journalism.

As serious as her factual errors are, Carducci’s breach of journalistic ethics was much more serious. In order to obtain the \$10,000 figure she quoted in her Media Trackers – Florida article, Carducci misrepresented her affiliation to Mann’s agent, Jodi Solomon of Jodi Solomon Speakers. According to Mann’s account of what happened on his Facebook page, Jodi Solomon Speakers logs every call and email they receive and “there is no record that Media Trackers was ever in touch with us. If they claim otherwise, they did so by misrepresenting themselves to us.” An update by Mann reported that Jodi Solomon had found Carducci’s phone call and that Carducci had “said she was from the Association of Air Conditioning Distributors in the state of Florida and she was helping to plan their upcoming event for 300-500 people (emphasis added).”

S&R contacted Jodi Solomon in order to confirm that what Mann wrote on his Facebook page was correct. Solomon confirmed that Mann’s quotes were accurate of statements she had made with regard to Carducci and Media Trackers.

S&R also tried to ask Media Trackers-Florida for comment via their website, but there is no list of who is associated with the organization and no contact information. S&R asked for comment via the Media Trackers – Florida Facebook page but had received no response by publication time. However, given the behavior of the original Media Trackers organization as documented by PR Watch and Sourcewatch, it is not likely that S&R’s request for comment will be answered.

Carducci’s unethical misrepresentation of her affiliation with Media Trackers – Florida raises a number of other questions given that she is also associated with The Heartland Institute. While Carducci has been writing for Media Trackers – Florida since October, 2012, she’s been writing for Heartland’s Environment & Climate News (E&CN) periodical and the Heartlander zine since at least March 2009. Furthermore, she works with James M. Taylor, editor of E&CN, who has been with Heartland since 2002 and who has been one of Media Trackers – Florida’s most prolific posters since they started up in March 2012. In fact, since June 2012 there have essentially been only three authors responsible for all of Media Trackers – Florida’s content, and two of them are also associated with The Heartland Institute.

Heartland faced a similar situation last year when Peter Gleick misrepresented himself as a board member to gain access to confidential documents and then revealed that information. Carducci certainly knew about “Fakegate,” yet she still chose to misrepresent herself to Solomon and to publish what she acquired through unethical means. This indicates that Carducci represents another example of hypocrisy at The Heartland Institute, an organization that makes a habit of being hypocritical about a great many things. Just on the issue of misrepresenting one’s associations, someone from Heartland called Greenpeace activist Cindy Baxter during the 2007 Bali climate conference, and three days later Heartland later press release that contained the recorded audio of the phone call.

S&R contacted The Heartland Institute for comment but they had not responded by publication time.

While Carducci’s behavior is an example of The Heartland Institute’s habit of hypocrisy, misrepresenting herself is unethical regardless of her affiliations. But nearly as bad as her breach of ethics was the fact that she reported on topics that she clearly knew little or nothing about, such as speaking fees, research grants, and Climategate. Carducci would do well to apply the journalism adage “write what you know” to her own reporting.

# Words Matter: a “denier” is someone who denies, nothing more or less

The English language can be confusing, absurd, and infuriating all at the same time. Words Matter is a new occasional feature where S&R authors deconstruct how English words, phrases, and colloquialisms are used and misused.

deny
to refuse to accept the existence, truth, or validity of (Source)
denier
one who denies [deniers of the truth] (Source)

As part of my climate and environmental reporting, I come across the term “denier” all the time, as in “climate denier,” “climate change denier,” “global warming denier,” and “industrial climate disruption denier.” And there are a lot of people identified as deniers who claim that the term is an attempt to place them on the same moral level as those individuals who claim that the Holocaust didn’t occur, aka Holocaust deniers. While there are certainly some who intentionally make that implication, the implication has nothing to do with the word “denier” itself. “Denier” means nothing more than a person who refuses to accept the existence, truth, or validity of something.

The definition of a denier is completely neutral. The definition doesn’t include any guidance about the values, ethics, morals, psychology, beliefs, or experiences of anyone who qualifies as a denier, only that the person is denying something. The definition also doesn’t define whether the thing being denied actually exists, is true, or has validity, only that it’s existence, truth, or validity is being denied. What’s being denied can be literally anything – evolution, that Han shot first, the existence of God, vaccine safety, that Picard was the best Star Trek captain, HIV as the cause of AIDS, that Shakespeare authored his plays, or even 2 + 2 = 4.

Since the definition of “denier” offers no guidance as to motivations or moral equivalencies, any good or bad properties associated with the term are necessarily a function of the term’s context, not of the term itself. In the context of a Sunday church service at a fundamentalist Christian church, someone being an evolution denier is unimportant. But change the context to a high school biology classroom and suddenly that denial may matter greatly. Similarly, a vaccine safety denier may well be harmless if he or she refuses to get the annual flu vaccine, but put that same denier in the context of child immunizations and public health ramifications of a pertussis outbreak and his or her denial may well be a serious concern.

But even in the case of vaccine safety deniers, their denial doesn’t mean they are necessarily immoral. They may simply be so afraid of vaccine side effects that their usual rationality is clouded by their own biases. Or they may not have the mathematical skill to realize that they’re actually making their children (and others) less safe by refusing to vaccinate. Their denial doesn’t mean that they’re stupid, either – everyone’s rationality is occasionally clouded by biases, emotions, and/or ignorance. It’s when someone knows that vaccines are safe and yet claims they aren’t for some other reason that vaccine safety denial becomes immoral. Of course, we tend to use different terms for these kinds of people – terms like “liars.”

It’s true that sometimes cultural context can mean that value-neutral terms can develop values that are partially independent of the term itself. A good example of this is the difference between “ethics” and “morals.” In philosophy they mean the same thing, but in the United State we tend to use “ethics” when we’re talking about professional behavior and “morals” when we’re talking about personal behavior. It’s possible that “denier” did originally have the cultural context of morally repugnant Holocaust denial, but even if that was the case years ago, it’s not the case any more.

Google is an occasionally convenient way to gauge the culture of the United States – search for something and the things that people are most interested in show up in the first few pages of results. When I did a search strictly on the word “deniers” earlier this week (1/14/2013), I found the following:

• Links to definitions of “denier” were ranked #1, #6, and #17.
• The Wikipedia disambiguation page was ranked #2.
• A reference to the French denier coin came in at #27 and a reference to the denier as a unit of fiber measurement came in at #33.
• The first Holocaust denial link was ranked #56, on page 6 of the results.
• The first mention of Holocaust denial was in the “Searches related to deniers” options at the bottom of first page. The alternate search terms were “deniers definition,” “evolution deniers,” “climate change deniers,” “climate deniers,” “aids deniers,” “famous Holocaust deniers,” “Holocaust deniers claims,” and “Jewish Holocaust deniers.”

Every other link up to #56 was to a website or blog post or news article related to the denial of industrial climate disruption. It’s probably fair to say at this point that calling someone a “denier” is less likely to invoke Holocaust denial than it is to invoke climate disruption denial.

So why do people who deny one thing or another generally dislike being labeled as “deniers?” It’s probably not because of the spurious connection to Holocaust denial. Instead, people who take umbrage at the term do so because no-one likes being labeled negatively. We psychologically prefer to view ourselves in positive terms than in negative ones, and the term “denier” is a strongly negative term.

Furthermore, in most cases the term “denier” simply and accurately describes what the people so labeled are doing – they’re denying some aspect of objective reality. Vaccine safety deniers deny the reality that vaccines have repeatedly been demonstrated to be safe and that the risks of vaccination are much lower than the risks of going unvaccinated. HIV/AIDS deniers deny the reality that HIV causes AIDS. Evolution deniers deny the reality that species evolve and that God is not a necessary condition for the existence of humanity.

In my opinion, however, there is another aspect to the complaints about the word “denier,” one that goes to the heart of why so many industrial climate disruption deniers claim that “denier” is meant to imply Holocaust denial. I think that some deniers dislike that such a simple, value-neutral word as “denier” can be used to accurately describe them and would prefer that some other term be used instead (we’ll cover euphemisms and misnomers like “climate realist” and “climate change skeptic” another time).

There are over a dozen synonyms for the verb “deny.” Converting them from the verb form to a noun that describes the person doing the action generates the following list of alternate terms that could be used in place of “denier:”

contradictor, disaffirmer, disallower, disavower, disclaimer, disconfirmer, disowner, gainsayer, negator, negativer, refuter, rejecter, or repudiator.

With the possible exception of “rejecter,” however, each of the terms is more confusing than “denier.” How many people would know what you meant if you wrote “Holocaust gainsayer” or “HIV/AIDS disavower” or “industrial climate disruption disconfirmer?” Most people would become confused by the unknown word, lose track of the point you were trying to make, and then give up and move on.

The word “denier” is value neutral and it says nothing about the motivations or ethics of a person who is described as such. It’s only through context that “denier” can be given a moral or ethical dimension. While it’s possible that it was once culturally tied to Holocaust denial, that cultural connection is minimal now, and it probably has been ever since “denier” became so firmly attached to climate change/global warming/industrial climate disruption. Nowadays, “denier” merely means someone who rejects the existence, truth, or validity of something. Any other implications are strictly in the minds of the person calling someone a denier, and in the mind of the person being called one.

Words matter – use them carefully.