The Greenhouse Mafia

Four Corners has aired a story “The Greenhouse Mafia”. Guy Pearse relates how industry lobbyists boasted how they wrote ministerial briefings, costings and cabinet submissions for the government, even though this is an obvious conflict of interest. And several scientists told how they were forbidden from commenting on certain climate change issues. The Age has a summary here, the transcript of the show is here, and more transcripts and forums on the show are here. There is also discussion at Larvatus Prodeo. Guy Pearse’s full interview has this on our old friends, the Lavoisier Group:

Q. Can you tell me about the climate change sceptics, the scientists that put out messages very different to yours.

A. I think it’s an important part of the influence of this group that we’re talking about is that they have been able to capitalise on a relatively small number of scientists who really make a living of debating the fact whether climate change is a real phenomenon. There’s a very small number of them out there and their work is obviously seized upon by those with an interest in blocking greenhouse policy and ah delaying action.

Q. What’s the role of the Institute of Public Affairs as far as climate change goes?

A. I think the Institute of Public Affairs is one of a number of organisations which the group we’re talking about has used to underpin their arguments to government to give them more authority and the IPA has close links with the Liberal Party going back many years and they’re closely affiliated with other sceptic organisations such as the Lavoisier Institute for example.

Q. What is that institute?

A. You can take a look at their website but they’re a fairly small organisation of formerly quite senior people in government and industry who have decided that a part of their mission in retirement is to undermine ah Australia’s greenhouse policy and to delay efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions as long as they possibly can, I believe, and they spend a lot of time arguing the science.

Q. Even today?

A. Well and truly, yeah. They haven’t given up the fight and one thing I found interesting about looking at the Lavoisier Group is that they accused the green movement and those that want something done about climate change as acting as if it was a new religion, that environmentalism is some kind of religion and yet they pursue the debate over the science with a an almost religious zeal themselves.

Q. And these groups are inter-linked?

A. They are, in fact if you look at the Lavoisier Group for example, they have the same postal address as the HR Nichol Society, which is another association with close links to the IPA; you see these common threads permeating through this whole group.

Update: More comments from John Quiggin and David Roberts.

Comments

  1. #1 Kristjan Wager
    February 13, 2006

    you see these common threads permeating through this whole group

    While it is somewhat natural that groups of people who share the same opinions and goals have an overlap in membership, I think it can safely be said that right-winged/anti-science lobbyist groups takes this to the extreme.

    I haven’t looked into Australia, but at one time I started mapping the US organizations/lobbyists that were anti-immigrant, anti-Global science, anti choice, pro-Intelligent design, anti-feminist, Christian Identity, homophobic/-bigoted, right-winged Christian, neo-Conservative and far-right Republicians. It was interesting – these groups are very interconnected/overlapping, even though some of the people invovled are very far from each other politically.

    Of course, some of the big connection points were Regnery Press and the Scaife foundations

  2. #2 Dano
    February 13, 2006

    But, Tim, what is the R2 value for the initial step?

    Best,

    D

  3. #3 Steve Munn
    February 13, 2006

    The censorship of scientists is the issue that most concerns me. The CSIRO management had a very broad definition of what issues were “policy issues” and therefore off-limits to its scientist employees. This included proportions and targets for greenhouse emission abatement. Clearly these are very much scientific issues, yet the CSIRO management will not allow its scientists to publicly discuss these matters UNLESS they specifically endorse current government policy.

    My view is that scientists on the public payroll have a right and possibly even a duty to engage in public debate on the issues on which they have expertise. That includes debate on policy options.

    The public’s “right to know” is far more important than a Government’s desire not to embarrassed by scientists with inconvenient views.

  4. #4 nanny_govt_sucks
    February 13, 2006

    “Clearly these are very much scientific issues, yet the CSIRO management will not allow its scientists to publicly discuss these matters UNLESS they specifically endorse current government policy.”

    So what else is new with government?

    When you let politicians and bureaucrats get involved in science, then the science gets politicized and bureaucrat-ized. We get farther away from the scientific truth and closer to what someone in power wants to manipulate us into believing.

    And still we have people calling for politicians and bureaucrats to amass more power and control over our science, our economies and our lives. It makes no sense to me.

  5. #5 Sortition (what's that?)
    February 13, 2006

    And still we have people calling for politicians and bureaucrats to amass more power and control over our science, our economies and our lives. It makes no sense to me.

    Yes! Believe it or not, there are loonies out there who think that the government should use its violent force to assist, protect and promote polluters, loggers, mine operators and other creeps. They call this “protecting property rights”.

    Others think that the government should accumulate huge stockpiles of weapons, with politicians and bureaucrats deciding who to kill and what to destroy with them. They call this “security”.

    Truly amazing!

  6. #6 Jack Lacton
    February 14, 2006

    Kristjan,

    If you think the conservative groups are interlinked then you should also check out how incestuous the left groups are. There should be no surprise that birds of a feather flock together…until they all get Avian Flu, of course!

    Hopefully, in this case, the conservative view will cause the debate to be argued rationally and with real science. There are some people (such as Steve McIntyre) whose statistical analysis of the Hockey Stick team’s results are so compelling that it’s forcing them to be subject to closer scrutiny.

    Ciao,
    Jack

  7. #7 Jeff Harvey
    February 14, 2006

    Jack,

    You said, “There are some people (such as Steve McIntyre) whose statistical analysis of the Hockey Stick team’s results are so compelling that it’s forcing them to be subject to closer scrutiny”.

    Really? You’ve got to be kidding.

    The only reason McIntyre’s arguments are being seen as ‘compelling’ is that they are being given a lot of attention from those with a vested interest in denial. Thanks to industry, corporate funded think tanks, public relations lobbying groups and the like, these people are being given metaphoric megaphones to (as one pundit has said earlier) make mountains out of molehills. Among the vast majority of statured scientists the debate over anthropogenic climate change has moved on – but every last thread of doubt is being amplified by the corporate lobby to ensure that business-as-usual is the only business.

  8. #8 Dano
    February 14, 2006

    Jeff:

    good point. I notice that some comments sound like press releases rather than argument – for example, what is the commonality that links envirowhacknazi left groups? Not given here, but ‘real science’ is testable and repeatable, and so far we have only 1 guy’s results that haven’t been tested or repeated…or have they been tested? And where are the boreholes or tree cores that back our flashy rhetoric?

    Best,

    D

  9. #9 nanny_govt_sucks
    February 14, 2006

    “Yes! Believe it or not, there are loonies out there who think that the government should use its violent force to assist, protect and promote polluters, loggers, mine operators and other creeps. They call this “protecting property rights”.”

    Government is the biggest polluter. Those “public lands” that we’ve so wisely placed in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats have been logged, strip mined, drilled, leased out for over-grazing, and for a little campaign donation, polluted on while the politicians look the other way. Once again, why anyone wants to give politicians and bureaucrats more power and control over our environment, our economy, or our lives is beyond me.

  10. #11 Ian Gould
    February 14, 2006

    >Hopefully, in this case, the conservative view will cause the debate to be argued rationally and with real science.

    I’m sure the Intelligent Design proponents will make a particularly valuable contribution in this regard.

  11. #12 Sortition (what's that?)
    February 14, 2006

    Government is the biggest polluter. Those “public lands” that we’ve so wisely placed in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats have been logged, strip mined, drilled, leased out for over-grazing, and for a little campaign donation, polluted on while the politicians look the other way.

    Exactly! The government has done such a bad job keeping the land – foolishly setting aside huge tracts of land as nature preserves. At the same time it has forced – forced! I tell you – private companies to log, strip mine, drill and over-graze other lands. All this while, it has been the private lands which have been kept in their pristine state by their private owners.

    If only the ancients had the foresight to give away all the land to a few corporations (preferably oil, mining, beef and logging companies), or to Dick Cheney (the businessman, not the government official), everything would have been just great.

    Truly amazing!

  12. #13 nanny_govt_sucks
    February 15, 2006

    “If only the ancients had the foresight to give away all the land to a few corporations”

    It is the politicians and bureaucrats that are giving the land and its resources away to the corporations! When will you people start to get it? Look at the news today:

    Government may waive near $7 bln in oil, gas royalties: report
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060214/us_nm/energy_royalties_report_dc;_ylt=AkbGfyxRIGkaIQjCqoo8mdsDW7oF;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl
    “NEW YORK (Reuters) – The government may waive up to $7 billion in royalty payments from companies pumping oil and natural gas on federal territory in the next five years, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing administration officials and budget documents.
    The royalty relief would amount to one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in U.S. history …”

    That “federal territory” was the land given to the politicians and bureaucrats to “preserve”. Private land owners would have at least demanded the royalty due to them, and Big Oil wouldn’t have the free ride that politicians and bureaucrats are only too willing to hand out.

  13. #14 Kristjan Wager
    February 15, 2006

    If you think the conservative groups are interlinked then you should also check out how incestuous the left groups are.

    Can you provide any examples? Preferably groups with dissimilar stated goals and political power (politicians as members would been ever greater).

    There are some leftwinged group that can be considered in some kind of coalition, not only locally, but globally, However, they are to my knowledge nowhere as interlinked as the right-winged groups, and they are much more open about it.

  14. #15 Jack Lacton
    February 15, 2006

    Kristjan – look at the founders and leaders of Greenpeace, WWF etc etc and see how many times the same names pop up. They are very much more connected than right-wing groups. I don’t think that Greenpeace’s sales arm that sells organic products only (while Greenpeace actively promotes the ‘dangers’ of GM and chemical sprays etc) are very open about it…!

    Jeff – you need to get up to date with the arguments. They are seen as compelling because 1) they are unrefutable and 2) the arguments against them are not made in scientific terms. In fact, being a former believer in GW and, having looked at the issue more than superficially, I am surprised by the responses the Hockey Stick team is giving. I, for one, hold scientists in high regard and am really disappointed to watch what’s happened in recent years with the peer review process basically being ignored etc.

  15. #16 Nabakov
    February 15, 2006

    Shorter JacK L.: Who needs links to actual evidence when you can just have opinions instead?

  16. #17 John Cross
    February 15, 2006

    Jack: you stated:

    Kristjan – look at the founders and leaders of Greenpeace, WWF etc etc and see how many times the same names pop up.

    In fact they were founded in different times and at different places and even from different social circles.

    Essentially, the Greenpeace (and the Don’t make a wave committee) founders were a loose knit group of people on the West Coast of North America. A list of initial characters shows a wide and diverse group of people. The term Greenpeace was first used in 1971.

    The WWF (World Wildlife Fund as opposed to World Wrestling Federation) began in the UK almost 10 year earliers by Sir Julian Huxley and a group of businessmen and prominent scientists as shown in this link.

    I have done a check of the names and I can not find any duplication what so ever. I suspect that there would be an overlap in their membership, but that is not the issue.

    Regards,
    John

  17. #18 Kristjan Wager
    February 15, 2006

    Thanks John for doing the research, so I don’t have to.

  18. #19 Jack Lacton
    February 15, 2006

    Ppls.

    Sorry for confusion. I didn’t mean to imply that Greenpeace and WWF were started by the same people. I meant to say that the people who are the main parties in them are also significant players in other organisations.

    Some examples from Greenpeace: Charles Margulis, Genetic Engineering Campaign Manager, is also a Board member of the Organic Consumers’ Association. Mike Roselle, Forest Campaign Coordinator and former Board member, is the co-founder of the Ruckus Society, co-founder of Earth First!, co-founder of Rainforest Action Collective and Board member of the National Forest Protection Alliance. John Sellers is a Director of the Ruckus Society, organiser of Direct Action Network etc etc.

    No opinions there, just facts. I find it amusing that people think those involved with the environment groups do it ‘for the good of it’. Like any group these days they’re in it for the money and envionmentalism is their market.

  19. #20 guthrie
    February 15, 2006

    [quote]
    Government is the biggest polluter. Those “public lands” that we’ve so wisely placed in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats have been logged, strip mined, drilled, leased out for over-grazing, and for a little campaign donation, polluted on while the politicians look the other way. Once again, why anyone wants to give politicians and bureaucrats more power and control over our environment, our economy, or our lives is beyond me.[/quote]
    I guess thats why I am tending towards communism these days…

  20. #21 Dano
    February 15, 2006

    Like any group these days they’re in it for the money and envionmentalism is their market.

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    I should start numbering these constructed narratives so we can save bandwidth for Tim. We can just refer to the number, thus having only max 16 bits, rather than the (still pithy) sentence Jack uses, with maybe 400 bytes. That’s a lotta bandwidth savings over, say, a year.

    Maybe if I can get some greenie funding I can devote a few hours to this task. :o)

    Oh, and what Kristjan said about what John Cross said.

    Best,

    D

  21. #22 Bill O'Slatter
    February 15, 2006

    This little snippet from crikey is quite informative.
    http://crikey.com.au/articles/2006/02/10-1132-987.html
    The over infleunce of the coal industry on greenhouse matters , on other government policy and on political parties needs to be the subject of a royal commission : A royal commission into the Coal Industry.

  22. #23 Jeff Harvey
    February 16, 2006

    Jack said, “Like any group these days they’re in it for the money and envionmentalism is their market.”

    Jack, I suggest you compare the lobbying budgets of the environmental NGO’s and compare this with the lobbying budgets of corporations. In the book, “Trust Us, We’re Experts”, authors Stauber and Rampton cite 1998 statistics with respect to money spent lobbying members of the US Congress on different issues. That year, all lobbying groups – this would include those covering every possible contemporary issue – spent a combined total of 75 million dollars in lobbying Congress; the cumulative amount spent by environmental NGO’s was 4.7 million dollars. Considering how many of these NGO’s exist, it’s a pretty puny amount.

    The same year, corporations spent 1.29 billion dollars lobbying members of Congress; broken down, the agribusiness industries spent almost 130 million dollars and the fossil fuel lobby contributed 58 million dollars. These totals exclude other sources of funding such as ‘soft money’ spent on election contributions, etc. which, if included, would swell the kitty even more. It also excludes the money spent by a suite of corporate funded right wing think tanks that proliferate in Washington D.C. and the like in producing (dis)information that is disseminated directly to politicians thorough glossy flyers, documents, and non-peer-reviewed articles.

    I pose this question to Jack: which of the two examples above influence public policy decision-making processes more significantly? A veritable ocean of corporate money or the comparative puddle of NGO funds? And if you downplay the former, why then do they deem it necessary to pump such vast amounts of money int the political process? The fact is that they do it to gain and maintain influence. This is why the US political system, along with most of the political systems in Europe, and that of many of their ‘client states’ in the developeing world that are supposed to be ‘healthy democracies’ are in fact nothing more than plutocracies, sham polyarchal systems where elites rule and where public opinion is seen as a threat to the established order.

    To reiterate: the vast majority of statured scientists dismiss people like McIntyre on the grounds that the debate has moved on. The contrarians will continue to make mountains out of molehills and their opinions will continue to be promulgated by the corporate-owned media that also have a vested interest in denial. You’ll notice that there are so few prominent scientifically qualified contrarians that their names are perpetually dredged up in the media. We all know Baliunas, Soon, McKitrick, McIntyre, Lindzen, Michaels, Singer, Balling, the Idso clan and a few others because the media has no one else to fall back on. Heck, they even have to quote know-nothings like Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Ebell as no scientific qualifications whatsoever) because qualified AGW sceptics with pedigree in the field of climate science are so hard to find. By contrast, there are literally thousands of qualified climate scientists who advocate empirical evidence for AGW but whose opinions will never see the light of day.

  23. #24 Jack Lacton
    February 17, 2006

    Jeff,

    What’s wrong with industry lobbying government? Seriously? There’s no logical connection between industry lobbying and NGO public propaganda.

    Industry has to compete with other industry. It’s not competing with NGOs other than having to spend a pooload of money sometimes to knock lunatic ideas on the head.

    Going up a level – the role of government is to create an environment where the money can be made in order to meet the aspirations of the people (voters). That’s why capitalism works and socialism doesn’t – there’s no mechanism in the latter to truly value products or services. In my life I have spent too many years in socialist countries and seen the hopeless waste associated with that form of government to ever support it. (That’s not to say there’s not waste in all systems but at least in capitalist societies (which are the closest thing we have to the ideal democracy) the waste is mostly funded)

    When did the debate move on from McIntyre proving beyond any doubt at all that the statistics used in the Hockey Stick are false? Mann et al might like it to move on but unfortunately it won’t. Their poor methodology has finally been exposed and they’re responding with arrogant nonsense, to be frank.

    If there are ‘thousands of climate scientists’ then where are they? There isn’t that much research going on in the world to get into the thousands…I think you’re having a lend of me.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Cheers
    Jack

    PS – Nice work to play the man, not the issue, Dano.

  24. #25 Adam Hodson
    February 17, 2006

    We are all on Jacks case here, and want to argue his position on the topic, but Jack is turning up on boards all over the web working at debunking the climate change position of most thinking people.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/islandblogging/blogs/000045/0000000995.shtml

    http://timlambert.org/2005/12/ddt-ban-myth-bingo/

    My question to you Jack is what’s your vested interest? What’s going on for you? Healthy debate is fine, and you are articulate and willing to research to some degree to back up your position, but why? Do you think that triple bottom line methodologies are a bad thing? Pointless? What is your line of business? Who do you work for? What is your vested interest Jack?

    How about some cards on the table here?

    http://larvatusprodeo.net/2006/01/10/lancet-again/

    Jack, you make some really good points here on Africa and aid, but again put shit on people for trying to be humanist in their approach?

    Why so down on these types? What is the guts of what you want to say to people Jack?

    Quoting you here though jack:
    “rikey, people are ignorant and stupid on this topic and take no notice of what’s going on.
    Firstly, Australia is only a high CO2 country per head of population because we export coal and minerals to countries that (generally) don’t have their own. If the Kyoto Protocol had the least skerick of honesty about it then CO2 would be distributed across Australia (say, 2%) and the end user country (the balance, 98%). But no! That would negatively impact the Europeans who drew the treaty up in the first place. If we only dug up and used what we needed for us then we wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.”

    Christ mate. What is your beef? We export brown coal. We make that choice because we are, in my opinion too stupid to leave it in the ground and base our economy on something with a better bottom dollar, innovationi and research. We are good at these things. Coal mining is a past tense thing. It should stop tomorrow. There are baseload generation technologies like this:
    http://www.enviromission.com.au
    that replace it. 800 Million to build or thereabouts, and fuckall to run.
    The equivalent coal plant is closer to 3 billion to build and overall lifetime running costs (since you have to actually buy the coal) is closer to 9 billion.
    Here are a couple of reports:
    http://www.deus.nsw.gov.au/energydirections/Margaret%20McLean%2028-02-05.pdf

    http://www.cana.net.au/nomorepollutingpower/TrueCostofCoal_NSW_2706054.pdf

    And as for this Jack:

    “Secondly, those countries that have signed Kyoto are now coming to realise that the economic cost of MAYBE achieving a 0.2 degree temperature saving is unsustainable with the prediction that for economies like Spain it would push them into recession. The UK, Germany and others are re-evaluating their commitment to extending any treaty past 2010.”

    There is this:

    http://www.theage.com.au/text/articles/2006/02/10/1139542406209.html

    Spain chokes under ‘grey beret’
    Date: February 11 2006
    By Anthony Ham, Madrid
    SPAIN’S cities are so polluted that they cause 16,000 deaths every year.
    …”In the past 15 years, Spanish greenhouse gas emissions have risen three times the level agreed to by Spain under the Kyoto Protocol, a record worse than any other developed country.

    Spain is also Europe’s worst environmental offender, responsible for one in every five cases before the EU.”

    This whole argument should not be left and right. It should be common sense. Do you acknowledge there is a problem with the environment at all? Or are we back to the rocks argument?

    What about this?:
    http://www.whoi.edu/institutes/occi/currenttopics/climatechange_wef.html
    Is this enough science for you?

    Adam

  25. #26 Dano
    February 17, 2006

    Jack:

    I turned it back to the real issue, not the constructed issue, thanks. Why would I want to focus on atomistic quibbling designed to distract?

    Best,

    D

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