Guilty Planet

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It’s no wonder that the most recent Pew report finds that belief in rising temperatures is down. As Jim Hoggan explains in his new book Climate Cover-Up, the media and the public it serves are awash in a corporate conspiracy to undermine the science of climate change, the corporate buyout of politicians, and corporate greenwashing.

Hoggan deals very well with the ‘controversy’ (i.e. there isn’t one) and also shows some of the problematic issues between how corporations and scientists communicate (many of Hoggan’s climate deniers are featured in Randy Olson’s Sizzle, too). Yes, the book has the quaint, conversational tone that betrays its blogosphere beginnings. But it equally makes you appreciate the blogosphere by showing how scientists writing blogs have had a voice and a hand in uncovering conspiracy after corporate conspiracy. With all of this intentionally misleading information to keep track of, it comes as no surprise we have become a bunch of confused frogs in boiling water.

It might sound odd, but I found a lot of hope in Climate Cover-Up. As Hoggan explains the machinery and enticing offers that have led to a coalition of climate deniers (who most often lack legitimate background in science), I wound up asking myself not about why scientists had been coerced into joining the corporate move to cloud the market with confusion over climate change, but why more had not joined. And I wound up feeling that, on the whole, climate scientists were a ferociously ethical lot with deep convictions about their research, even in the face of lucrative temptation.

As part of the solution to the climate confusion, Hoggan, toward the end of his book (p. 164), writes about how we should all be vigilant fact-checkers:

If someone tells you to be skeptical, be skeptical of them. For that matter, be skeptical of me. Search out credible corroboration for everything you read or hear, looking always to the credentials and the economic interests of those who are offering easy answers.

Taking this to heart, there was one part of Climate Cover-Up that left me uneasy. Early on (p. 9), Hoggan, unhappy with the stance scientist Freeman Dyson has taken as a “civil heretic“, wrote:

He has no background in climate science, having done no research whatever – ever – on atmospheric physics or on climate modeling. Even in theoretical physics, his area of expertise, his greatest contributions date to the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I had the great fortune of meeting Freeman Dyson when he gave a talk at Seattle Town Hall (I even wrote a little piece about it). I felt that based on what I knew of him (including reading his excellent book Disturbing the Universe) that Hoggan’s claim could not be true. In fact, if one puts into Google scholar the three words “Freeman Dyson carbon”, the first entry that pops up is his 1977 paper published in the journal Energy titled: “Can we control carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.

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In the 1970s, Dyson was writing on the use of trees to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions.

In a book that lauds accuracy so loudly, a misstep such as this so early on can be fatal. Hoggan is great at taking on the junk scientists. But Freeman Dyson is not one of them. I am not arguing that Dyson is necessarily right (or that he has handled the media well). I am merely arguing that Freeman Dyson does have a basis for joining in the discussion (and any claim to the contrary could have easily been fact-checked). For that reason, Dyson is probably a bad early target for Hoggan, who should have stuck to the corporations (worthy of his energy), rather than making false claims about a venerable scientist. Climate Cover-Up recovers from this slip up but, as the old African proverb goes, one falsehood can spoil a thousand truths.

Comments

  1. #1 MattK
    October 31, 2009

    I’m not too familiar with Dyson but the impression that he got was that he opposed drastic interventions on climate change because of humanistic ethical concerns not because he is totally in disagreement with the science.

  2. #2 David Marjanović
    November 1, 2009

    because of humanistic ethical concerns

    So he prefers evacuating Bangladesh…?

  3. #3 Kevin
    November 1, 2009

    Thanks for the thorough review Jennifer! Climate Cover Up has been getting huge attention on the blogs.

    If anyone’s interested in doing a review on their blog let me know and I’ll arrange for a review copy to be sent. Email me at: desmogblog@gmail.com

  4. #4 john lefebvre
    November 1, 2009

    I daresay the weight of Freeman’s article in the NY Times Weekly was far from venerable science, more like contrarian, which is much more his MO. Please ask his contemporary Murray Gell-Mann, 1969 Nobel Laureate re: sub-subatomic particles, who knows Dyson well.

  5. #5 FactoryWorker
    November 1, 2009

    Along the lines of attacking Freeman here, I’ve linked to an article that highlights the damage that’s been done by exaggerated claims regarding climate change.

    When people like Gore exaggerate, they get treated as crying wolves – and the lay public ends up doubting the entire field.

    Celebrities and science don’t mix.

  6. #6 llewelly
    November 1, 2009

    Please read this piece on what is wrong with Dyson’s views on global warming.

  7. #7 Sporty
    November 1, 2009

    Hoggan is great at taking on the junk scientists. But Freeman Dyson is not one of them

    Yep. Gonna take pot shots at the big guns, you better shoot straight the first time. Coz you will not get a second shot.

    (And I think is quite Dyson is wrong, but that is not the point here.)

  8. #8 Harry Eagar
    November 2, 2009

    Bu, bu, but we have consensus. All the scientists agree.

    Except, of course, the ones who don’t.

    I’ll take you guys seriously when you explain to me where you got your 1909 Antarctic surface temperature series that a 1) comprehensive and 2) accurate to within a tenth of a degree.

    Until then, you’re making it up.

  9. #9 silent surf
    November 2, 2009

    Sitting here drinking ‘Yogi Tea’ with Egyptian licorice, stunningly delicious and “filling”. So I’m calm, haven’t lit a smoke in three days, daily diet shifted from 3 hot trays & chburger to 1/2 tray. I didn’t stop eating seafoods, since I haven’t eaten them in decades.

    Global warming and cooling is normal, humans are the best adapting species.

  10. #10 Dale Husband
    November 2, 2009

    Thank you for your balanced treatment of the issue, Ms Jacquet. I also respect Freeman Dyson. But I do not respect most other global warming “skeptics”. Perhaps Hoggan can put out a second edition with the reference to Dyson omitted.

    I’d like to submit this blog entry for critical peer review:

    http://circleh.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/a-flawed-and-misleading-video-about-global-warming/

  11. #11 IanW
    November 2, 2009

    Good blog.

  12. #12 R.Danielo
    November 2, 2009

    Pure insanity.

    The problem with science today is that many of its “leading authorities” are treating it like a religion. They have certain beliefs that have become sacrosanct to them including human caused global climate change. Any science that indicates human activity has negligible if any affect on the global climate is immediately dismissed as faulty or fraudulent. After all the science is settled … right … isn’t it?

    Funny, the one thing I thought was never settled was science. At one time wasn’t it generally believed that the Earth was the center of the universe? All you had to do to prove is was look up the heavens rotated around the Earth … well they did if you ignored those certain wondering stars anyway. What are we ignoring today because we believe the current party line?

    Who exactly has determined that the current global temperature patterns are the optimum for our planet? What if a change in temperature would actually increase the gross acreage available for farming?

    Who exactly has determined that all of the species on the planet today are the apex of their particular genetic lines and are critical to the on going life of the planet? What if one of those species we are artificially keeping alive is preventing the rise of a new species that would be even better for the biosphere?

    Climate change is not an anomaly it is the norm as is extinction.

    You lot are the worst of the worst. Science today has fallen into a new dark age only this time instead of being driven by the Catholic Church it is being driven by the Science Elite. I fully expect that if we had not evolved somewhat, someone on this site would be looking to burn me at the stake as a Heretic.

    Pure insanity.

  13. #13 Thomas
    November 2, 2009

    This libel of frogs must end! Frogs have enough sense to jump out of too warm water.
    http://www.snopes.com/critters/wild/frogboil.asp

  14. #14 trevor
    November 2, 2009

    @12 There was a religious consensus on the earth being the center of the universe, not a scientific one.

    The “Science Elites” are not pulling their concern about global warming from holy scriptures and tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, they are pulling them from lots of research and evidence-based reasoning.

    You are right that science is never really settled, but there’s a big difference between legitimate disagreement among scientists and what we have here. The deniers are predominantly not people of Dyson’s caliber, but non-scientists driven by political or religious ideals. It is understandable for a physician to be pissed that Jenny McCarthy is swaying people from vaccination; and for a biologist to be pissed that evangelists are pushing creationism in schools; and for an environmental scientist to be pissed about this.

    Also I don’t believe the argument was ever that rising temperatures would be bad for ‘the planet’ (whatever that means), or for every species on earth, rather that they would be bad for human beings. And sure, change and extinction are the norm, but we needn’t hasten it for ourselves…

  15. #15 wolfwalker
    November 2, 2009

    The deniers are predominantly not people of Dyson’s caliber, but non-scientists driven by political or religious ideals.

    What is a “non-scientist?” Somebody without a degree? Somebody who doesn’t know the subject? Or is it anybody who doesn’t agree with your conclusions, no matter how well they know the subject?

    Is Anthony Watts a “non-scientist” because he’s a TV weatherman with no formal degree in meteorology or climatology? Does it matter that he studied on his own and really does appear to know quite a lot about weather and climate? Does it matter that he and some other volunteers inspected most of the weather stations all over the US and found many of them to fall short of the National Weather Service’s own standards for valid placement and maintenance?

    I think science is a frame of mind. Somebody who does good science is a scientist, regardless of how many years they went to school or how many diplomas they have on their office wall. Somebody who consistently doesn’t do good science is not a scientist. Frankly, I see a lot of bad science and bad scientists on both sides of the global climate change debate. At the moment, I can’t find any good reason to accept either side’s claims as true.

  16. #16 Edward Metcalfe
    November 3, 2009

    The only thing I can be sure of is that BEFORE this coming winter the Farmers Almanac predicted a cold one. NOAA predicted a warm one. After the northern winter I’ll know who the experts are.

  17. #17 Dale Husband
    November 3, 2009

    At one time wasn’t it generally believed that the Earth was the center of the universe?

    Yes, but not for scientific reasons. It was an assumption supported in some cases by religious dogma, but it was never really tested by science until the 1600s.

    What are we ignoring today because we believe the current party line?

    You should ask the denialists that. They do ignore a lot of evidence and they have a (Republican) party line.

    Who exactly has determined that the current global temperature patterns are the optimum for our planet? What if a change in temperature would actually increase the gross acreage available for farming?

    Please make and submit for peer review papers supporting your ideas.

    Science today has fallen into a new dark age only this time instead of being driven by the Catholic Church it is being driven by the Science Elite.

    What a nice insult to the legacy of Carl Sagan and others who have worked so hard to popularize science to the people! Their efforts were based on make science NOT elitist.

  18. #18 wolfwalker
    November 3, 2009

    What a nice insult to the legacy of Carl Sagan and others who have worked so hard to popularize science to the people! Their efforts were based on make science NOT elitist.

    A noble effort toward a worthy goal. Unfortunately, they failed because they made a mistake: they didn’t distinguish well enough between popularizing science and popularizing the political ideas they based on their science.

    The average human believes many things based on emotion and “what I learned when I was a kid,” rather than on facts, logic, or reason. When a person is told “X is true,” and then a plausible chain of reasoning based on X leads to a conclusion that is fundamentally contradictory to several of that person’s cherished beliefs, the normal reaction is not to throw away those beliefs. Rather, it is to distrust the reasoning based on X, and ultimately to distrust X itself.

    Forty years ago, the scientific community made the mistake of committing its prestige as scientists to supporting liberal political ideas. As some of those ideas have been proven wrong, and others have suffered from sloppy implementation, the perception of science itself as “objective, reliable, trustworthy, and worth listening to” has suffered. Thus, I do not believe the opposition to global climate change is based in “a corporate conspiracy to undermine the science of climate change, the corporate buyout of politicians, and corporate greenwashing”. I believe much of it is simply ordinary people looking at all these complicated papers and theories and chains of reasoning and (most important) global-government-run plans for responding to it and saying “Wait a minute, dammit! This doesn’t make sense to me. Your data has problems, your models are not trustworthy, and your suggested solutions are unworkable.” Demonizing the enemy may be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn’t do much for changing the minds of fence-sitters.

  19. #19 Reader5000
    November 3, 2009

    “supporting liberal political ideas”

    Name these forty-year-old liberal ideas that were proven wrong or sloppily implemented.

    And then name the climatologists who supported these ideas as climatologists.

    “global-government-run plans”

    Name the participants in the global government. What is the name of the man running it? Where is its capital?

    “This doesn’t make sense to me.”

    Arguing from personal incredulity does not make them right.

    “the political ideas they based on their science”

    What should we instead base political ideas on?

  20. #20 Jynx Evermore
    November 3, 2009

    I would be the first to admit that there is misinformation and unconvincing arguments perpetrated by those practicing “global warming denial”. In all fairness, this is occurring on both sides of the debate.

    As it stands, I must agree with wolfwalker in post #15.
    I see no truly convincing reason to believe either side as yet.

    As an aside (and this is in no way presented as a reason to side with critics of global warming) Penn and Teller have stated on their show that after investigating the matter themselves, they just don’t know. Their claim is that the data conflicts in some areas and there is simply so much personal bias by so many that it is difficult to sift through the mountain of information surrounding the debate. I thought that was interesting because they are atheists and as near as I can tell, most of us atheists are on board with the arguments for anthropocentric global warming.

  21. #21 wolfwalker
    November 3, 2009

    reader5000 asked:

    Name these forty-year-old liberal ideas that were proven wrong or sloppily implemented.

    Wrong: the need for immediate population control. The expectation of worldwide famine due to shortages of food. The opposition to nuclear and other radioactivity-based power sources.

    Sloppily implemented: the ban on DDT and other insecticides. Properly applied, DDT was and still is the most effective way of controlling malaria. It caused problems when it was improperly applied through mass, indiscriminate spraying. The complete ban was an over-reaction.

    Note that these are just examples. I could provide a number of others.

    I should also note that there are some cases which I specifically think were neither wrong nor sloppily implemented — for example, the ban on chlorofluorocarbon aerosols.

    And then name the climatologists who supported these ideas as climatologists.

    I said scientists, not climatologists. The choice of word was deliberate.

    Name the participants in the global government. What is the name of the man running it? Where is its capital?

    It doesn’t exist yet. But the draft treaty prepared for the Copenhagen conference this month lays the foundation for it: a non-governmental agency operating under the aegis of the United Nations with the authority to make and enforce rules for carbon emissions.

    What should we instead base political ideas on?

    Experience. History. Intelligent thought. And a thorough understanding of the facts and the issues. What you should not do, ever, is decide “X is the way I want things to be, therefore I will make laws to make sure X happens and to hell with any opposition.” After all, if X is not already the case, then there may be a very good reason why. If past cultures have attempted to achieve X and failed, then there’s probably a good reason for that too.

    Fifty years ago, it was right for scientists to be liberals because science let us look into the future and see how the then-current policies were leading us to disaster. Today, though … policies have changed, conditions have changed, in many ways we know more, in a few ways we know less. Yet the majority of politically-active scientists still talk and act like nothing’s changed at all. And that’s a mistake. A big mistake.

  22. #22 jim
    November 3, 2009

    Oh my God. I’m so stupid! I eat meat and drive a car because the corporations tricked me into doing it! Its the corporations that are making me a wasteful moron! We really have to do something about these corporations because, I as a grown adult apparently can’t control my own actions and must do what the corporations secretly want me to do!

    What a weak excuse for avoiding the fact that none of can live day to day without all the things that are causing global warming – This is the denial that scares me – not the denial of some fringe lunatics.

  23. #23 Jynx Evermore
    November 4, 2009

    “What a weak excuse for avoiding the fact that none of can live day to day without all the things that are causing global warming – This is the denial that scares me – not the denial of some fringe lunatics.”

    Well said, jim. One of my biggest problems with environmentalism as a movement is it’s evolution into an almost anti-human philosophy for some people and groups.

    If indeed there is a dangerous global situation generating harm for humankind, it is human ingenuity via continued technological/scientific growth that will defeat it…not reverting to the society of tree-dwellers and cavemen.

  24. #24 Reader5000
    November 4, 2009

    “I said scientists, not climatologists. The choice of word was deliberate.”

    This means that you are not accusing climatologists of supporting these allegedly discredited ideas from four decades ago. This takes away one of your reasons for not believing them about climate change now.

    By the way, we got population control. It’s a combination of then-new birth control technologies combined with the social changes that make it possible for women to use them, all around the world. World birthrates have been trending down toward the replacement rate, and women have more time to invest in the children they do have, and accomplish other worthwhile things.

    “It doesn’t exist yet.”

    No, the One World Government is always just around the corner. Maybe they are sitting on fusion technology secrets, too, waiting for their moment.

    “What you should not do, ever, is decide ‘X is the way I want things to be, therefore I will make laws to make sure X happens and to hell with any opposition.’

    Tell that to the people who are sponsoring the FUD campaign that is trying to discredit warnings about global climate change. They won’t appreciate you telling them that they are doing it wrong. (Actually, they’ll ignore you since you do not matter.)
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/climate-cover-up-a-brief-review/

    “After all, if X is not already the case, then there may be a very good reason why.”

    After all, if X is already the case, there may be a good reason why. And if there isn’t, someone will make up a reason, since the power of some very important people relies on protecting such “X” things as coal-generated electricity, mountain-top removal, oil extraction from tar sands, etcetera. To hell with any opposition.

    ——————–

    And Jim,

    Those corporations do constrain your choices. You cannot buy from them things that they do not make, even if those alternatives would have been better and more-attractive choices. And any attempt to persuade them to offer specific replacements, using means other than demand measured in purchases, is a violation of free-market principles.

  25. #25 jim
    November 4, 2009

    Reader5000 – Constraining my choices is different from claiming all of our complacency on a big secret corporate conspiracy. Also you have plenty of choice to use public transportation, go solar, be a vegetarian and none of these require corporations.

  26. #26 wolfwalker
    November 4, 2009

    Reader5000 wrote: This means that you are not accusing climatologists of supporting these allegedly discredited ideas from four decades ago.

    Incorrect. I meant that most of the ideas I was thinking of were not limited to climatology. You’re trying to redirect the thread, and I decline to play along.

    Tell that to the people who are sponsoring the FUD campaign that is trying to discredit warnings about global climate change.

    What makes you think I haven’t? [smirk]

    As a general thought: I’d say that this article from the UK today illustrates the problem faced by scientists today, including but not limited to climatologists and AGW, far more clearly than any argument I could ever devise. Global warming is now legally considered a religion. Think about that. Muse on its implications. Ponder the colossal irony. Marvel at how something that started as science became an example of the very thing many scientists bitterly oppose.

    Then go back and start figuring out where you went wrong, because it’s crystal-clear that you did.

  27. #27 Media Books
    August 24, 2010

    I think this book is a good read for anyone interested in the role of public relations firms in redefining the debate on climate change. After reading this book I spotted some of the people mentioned in subsequent ‘news’ stories on tv.

  28. #28 PEMBE MASKE
    June 15, 2011

    Özellikle son zamanların en popüler cilt yenileme ürünüdür. Pembe Maske bir çok ünlü isim tarafından da yoğun olarak kullanılmaktadır. Yüzdeki kırışıklıklar, sivilce ve sivilcelerin sebep olduğu deformasyonları gidermede kullanılan Pembe yüz maskesi ve inceltici, selülit giderici olarak kullanılan pembe vücut maskesi olmak üzere iki farklı ürün mevcuttur.

  29. #29 PEMBE MASKE
    June 15, 2011

    Özellikle son zamanların en popüler cilt yenileme ürünüdür. Pembe Maske bir çok ünlü isim tarafından da yoğun olarak kullanılmaktadır. Yüzdeki kırışıklıklar, sivilce ve sivilcelerin sebep olduğu deformasyonları gidermede kullanılan Pembe yüz maskesi ve inceltici, selülit giderici olarak kullanılan pembe vücut maskesi olmak üzere iki farklı ürün mevcuttur.

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