The Intersection

Off to Exeter

On my last weekday here in England, I’m heading to the UK Met Office to interview some of their scientists. Then, I head back to the US Monday morning. I doubt I will blog again before then, although I suppose it’s possible. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit deSmogBlog, which broke the latest news about apparent industry efforts to influence the climate debate. ABC News has more. Ok, I’m outta here….

Comments

  1. #1 Lance harting
    July 28, 2006

    More conspiracy theory hoo ha from Ross Gelbspan. The usual ad hominem smears (“laughingstocks” and “ideologues”) of any scientist that doesn’t toe the party line on climate change catastrophe.

    I like his last paragraph.

    “But given the warnings of the world’s leading climate scientists — that humanity has 10 years or less to avoid passing a ‘point of no return’ — they are displaying a truly sinister disregard for us and our children. Unchecked, global warming will trash our planet and truncate our future — all because of the truly sinister and truly unconscionable pursuit of profit. This, in short, represents the triumph of greed over the most basic human instinct — that of survival.

    Nothing alarmist there. I like how he used the word “sinister” twice to really show how evil global warming “denialists” are. Thank god we have paragons of virtue like Gelbspan to save our children. I know he must donate all the money from his alarmist books to UNICEF and his unnamed Canadian benefactor must have a pure heart as well. Who really needs to know his/her name? I trust old Ross.

    After discussing the science and politics of the situation with the people on this site I find most of you to be reasonable and decent people, with whom I just happen to disagree on some of those scientific and political issues.

    Don’t any of you have a problem with Gelbspan’s over-blown hyperbole and rhetorically dishonest attacks?

    If I were new to the subject of climate change I would be very suspicious of anyone that made such scurrilous attacks on those that hold different scientific views. Also wild claims of a “truncated future”, “trashing the planet” and our very “survival” would raise a red flag or two. I especially despise the good old appeal to the welfare of children as the cheapest of emotional tricks.

    This is political propaganda not discourse.

  2. #2 Kevin Grandia
    July 28, 2006

    Political propaganda, hmmmm… Propaganda involves falsehoods. Where is the falsehood in a memo outlining an energy sector attack to mislead the public on climate change. Notice anywhere in the memo where they talk about paying Pat Michaels to do any actual science? The majority of these “skeptic” scientists spend way more time in the grey pages than they ever do in a lab and that is propaganda and the politicization of science.

    Conspiracy theory, really…. a conspiracy “theory” is no longer a theory when you a have a hard copy of a document outlining a PR campaign led by the energy sector to attack the scientific consensus on climate change — this is what we like to call “fact” back up by “evidence.”

    I just love how Ross is the conspiracy theorist, yet the right wing and the climate change skeptic lobby are always the first to cry out against a so-called conspiracy theory being perpetrated by governments and scientists around the world in order to secure new research grants.

    Seriously, who wins the whack-job conspiracy theory argument here?

    As far as funding for Ross, it is right on the DeSmogBlog website. He, and we, is funded by the Lefebvre Foundation, led by John Lefevbre, the former CEO of the online service NeTeller, look it up…. sorry nothing but good intentions here. Might be hard to understand though that some people do things for the common good and not to fleece their own pockets.

  3. #3 Lance Harting
    July 28, 2006

    Hey Kevin,

    I appreciate that you didn’t call me any names or impute my motives. Gelbspan recently stated that he was receiving a large grant from a source that wished to remain anonymous. Now unlike Ross I really don’t care who is funding his alarmfest. I can read the available science on climate change and make up my own mind with out making illogical personal attacks based on an appeal to authority.

    I notice you didn’t address my criticism of Gelbspan’s smear tactics or outrageous doomsday claims. Now that doesn’t mean you agree with this dishonest propaganda but your silence is curious.

    You try to make the point that global warming supporters are somehow altruistically doing “things for the common good and not to fleece their own pockets”. This ignores the huge amounts of money taken in by the groups that support many of these wolf criers, not to mention that they are making quite comfortable livings themselves.

    Now I don’t think that invalidates their arguments but it doesn’t somehow morally separate them from the scientists and writers that disagree with them.

    Although I don’t agree with some of James Hansen’s conclusions he is no doubt a fine scientist. The fact that he accepted a $250,000 grant from John Kerry’s wife’s Heinz Foundation does not change that fact. It does however place him in the same position as many of the scientists that Gelbspan smears. With the exception that he is getting a whole lot more than most of the “skeptics” have received.

    Gelbspan, for one, advocates sweeping worldwide changes to energy use and indeed our very way of life. He envisions a “World Energy Modernization Plan”. The ultimate goal being “the beginning of the end of the stale nationalism that has divided humanity for so many war-torn and tragic generations.”

    Now having big socialist dreams is just fine and dandy, but trying to force it on the rest of us on the premise of an impending global climate catastrophe is a big lie. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. Last time I checked we were a sovereign country and most of us like it that way.

    Ross and many others are eager to paint the current situation as a clarion call to socialist world governance something I fear a damn site more than record profits for Exxon Mobile or a highly speculative, computer model predicted, five degree warming over the next century.

    The founders of the Soviet Union had grand moral goals for humanity and made similar smears on capitalists corporations. We all know how that little experiment turned out.

    So be careful when using arguments smearing the motives and funding of others. They add little of substance to the real debate and can easily lead to mud coming back your own way.

  4. #4 Kevin Grandia
    July 29, 2006

    And when they don’t use the conspiracy theory argument, they turn to the “socialism/communist” argument, best practiced by ABC’s John Stossel — international cooperation = socialism, I’ve never understood that one. Collectively pooling world government funds and resources is okay for Iraq, but when it comes to global warming, it is now all of a sudden “socialism.” Tell me how this is socialism. Define it for me.

  5. #5 Jon Winsor
    July 29, 2006

    Ross Gelbspan is not anticapitalist. He just doesn’t think the energy interests and their billions should manhandle the public discussion of climate change.

    Do you think they should, Lance?

    Mr. Gelbspan was one of the first to uncover the disinformation campaigns of organizations like Western Fuels, who grossly misrepresented the science to the public, following the example of big tobacco. In fact some of the operatives who are working to discredit climate change science are the same ones who worked for the tobacco companies’ disinformation campaigns.

    When I first got interested in this issue if I hadn’t have read The Heat is On, I wouldn’t have known not to take people like Fred Singer seriously. I wouldn’t have known that Patrick Michael’s statements are littered with errors, and that he’s energy industry funded instead of scientific meritocracy funded, if I weren’t told so by Ross Gelbspan. Gelbspan’s reporting didn’t win a Pulizer for nothing.

    And the other thing is that Ross Gelbspan has been right. Gelbspan had Richard Lindzen pegged way before Dr. Lindzen went around the bend with his Wall Street Journal Op-eds. As far as I can see The Heat is On has held up as good, prescient reporting. And he continues to do good work (although admittedly, I haven’t read Boiling Point yet).

    Now sometimes I’ve disagreed with Gelbspan’s approach. I thought his statements about “Katrina’s real name” were hyperbolic. I wouldn’t have put it that way. As Chris has mentioned on this blog, this sort of thing suggests a causal link that does not exist.

    But Ross Gelbspan’s voice has been a very valuable one. And Gelbspan isn’t unique in offering up ideas to tackle this problem. A number of people have been suggesting ideas on this lately, if nothing else to get peoples’ imaginations going. And Gelbspan’s ideas are market-based. I don’t get the sense that he’s wedded to any particular solution, just one that works.

    And those advocacy organizations you’re talking about– no one goes into causes like that to make money. That’s just absurd.

  6. #6 Lance Harting
    July 29, 2006

    Hey Kevin, Jon,

    I think that multinational corporation have been buying unfair advantages from campaign money addicted politicians of both major parties for years. Corporate welfare is a scandalous abuse of our tax money and I don’t see the oil companies as true free market players.

    I am not one for claiming that there is a worldwide commie conspiracy driving climate change politics. However it is used by some of that persuasion and I hate to tell you boys but Gelbspan is definitely one of them.

    Here is a quote from Gelbspan in a February 2005 interview by the fabulously name environmental writer Kelpie Wilson. Paranthetically she claims to live in a “solar powered cabin in the Oregon woods”.

    “I think the environmental establishment is inherently incapable of truly addressing the climate challenge in all its magnitude because we cannot achieve a rapid, world-wide transition to clean energy within our current market-based economic structure. If one honestly acknowledges the scale and urgency of the problem, it becomes clear that it cannot be effectively addressed without major structural changes to global economic dynamics.”

    Now a clearer anti-market, anti-capitalist statement there never was!

    Gelbspan goes on to give his vision of a one-world eco-utopia realized to combat the evils of global warming.

    “At the very least, this kind of effort would make this world much more habitable, much less threatening, and much more prosperous. It might be the beginning of the end of the stale nationalism that has divided humanity for so many war-torn and tragic generations. If nothing else, it might provide a new sense of purpose and a rediscovery of community for a very alienating and discouraging period of history. Most wildly, it just might augur a new era of peace – peace among people and peace between people and nature.”

    As I said I’m not one for conspiracy theories but Gelbspan clearly sees the issue as a wedge to bring on a socialist, one world, eco-utopia.

    Now I’d like to see you spin his words as being consistent with market based solutions. They clearly are quite the opposite.

    Oh, Jon you have to know by now that Gelbspan did NOT win a Pulitzer.

    Here is a clarification from skepticism.net

    “This is a meme that just won’t die despite it having been debunked years ago. A Google and Lexis search, for example, finds numerous articles about Gelbspan in which he is referred to as winning a 1984 Pulitzer Prize.

    First, Gelbspan did not write any of the articles in the series that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. He was apparently involved in editing and conceiving at least some of the stories.

    Second, Gelbspan was not among seven Boston Globe employees who were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for that series.

    So why do so many people think he did? Because “The Heat Is On” — in which Gelbspan complains about how global warming critics distort the truth — touted Gelbspan as a “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist” and Gelbspan has apparently done little in the intervening years to dissuade people of this falsehood despite being called on it on a number of occasions.

    Perhaps Gelbspan could take the time to add this little nugget to the disinformation section of his web site.”

    The fact that this hoary old chestnut is still circulating shows that disinformation is alive and well. It would be akin to an associate editor of a movie claiming to be an “academy award winning writer” when the movie won the award and he did not. Why do you suppose this false claim is continually used to prop up Gelbspan?

  7. #7 Jon Winsor
    July 29, 2006

    I was wondering if you were going to mention the flap about the Pulitzer. I guess the mayor of Boston was fooled too, in this official letter congratulating him. And I guess the Boston Globe’s staff were also fooled into thinking that he won, and they wrote it in his bio. The Globe’s board of directors were fooled too, as well as the lead reporter for the series.

    I mean, come on. The things that make their way around the conservative rumor mill. You would think that someone somewhere would do some homework. (For some people, that seems to stop when grade grubbing is over and there’s money or power to be had instead.)

    I don’t think Gelbspan meant to say that we need to go to a non-market-based economy. He’s not saying that governments need to own everything. Just that people need to have incentives not to produce CO2 and that we need to make some changes to make that happen. And those changes might produce good things, in addition to stopping CO2 production. I think that’s a reasonable thing to say, even if you disagree with him.

    And I’m sorry that you disagree with Kelpie Wilson’s lifestyle choices. You should give us a link to the story so we can see for ourselves whether she did a good job reporting…

  8. #8 Lance Harting
    July 29, 2006

    Jon,

    Here is the address of the Kelpie Wilson interview http://www.dickrussell.org/articles/kelpie.htm. I have no problem with her lifestyle. I would love to live in a cabin in the Oregon woods. I just thought it was amusing that an “environmental writer” would have a name with kelp in it and live in a “solar powered cabin”. You don’t see the humor in that?

    As for Gelbspan winning a Pulitzer, did you read your links? It is clear that he worked, as one of the editors, on the series of articles that won the Pulitzer but he was NOT awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his work. You can dance around that fact all you like but it is still a fact. The letter of congratulations, in your “board of directors” link, says, “We congratulate the winners and their editors”. Note that the editors were NOT the winners. The nasty missive to the WSJ from the lead journalist states that Gelbspan’s work was important to the series. Again this does not change the fact that he was not one of the seven people who were awarded the Pulitzer for the articles.

    No one has claimed that he wasn’t involved in the articles. Hell, he may have been the most damn important guy on the whole team for all I know. What I do know is that he was NOT awarded the Pulitzer.

    Don’t you see how unreasonable it is to refuse to acknowledge a simple fact and continue to obfuscate the truth on this relatively insignificant point?

    Then you say, “I don’t think Gelbspan meant to say we need to go to a non-market based economy” when that is clearly what he DID say.

    Now I’m not trying to be contentious for it own sake here, but if we can’t agree on these obvious points then there is almost no hope that we will ever be able to constructively discuss the larger issues.

    I regret that the topic of climate change has become such a battleground. Whether or not Gelbspan has exaggerated his writing credentials or whether he favors socialist economic policies is not central to the debate. Being able to agree to open and honest discussion is.

  9. #9 Jon Winsor
    July 30, 2006

    This has been my understanding of Gelbspan’s Pulitzer issue: From what I’ve read, it’s not unusual for newspaper editors and publishers to consider a team of reporters Pulitzer prize winners, even if not all of them are specifically named in an award.

    I’m suprised at how quickly you jump to the conclusion that his work didn’t play a major role in earning the Pulitzer Prize (that’s what you’re saying, right?) Having some experience in professional writing myself, I’ve had at least one situation where an editor I worked with deserved at least as much credit as me, the writer. It can be like the relationship between directors and actors (although without the glamor).

    And Gelbspan did play a major part in the series of stories. He “conceived the project, selected a team of reporters, directed the reporters and edited the resulting series of articles.”

    You omitted a critical word in the Globe’s board’s letter: “We congratulate the individual winners and their editors.” The Globe obviously considered the Pulitzer awarded to the team, not just the individuals who had the bylines.

    The Globe considered Gelbspan one of the prize winners and he appeared in all the publicity about it. It wasn’t a dishonest ploy on anyone’s part– especially not on Gelbspan’s.

    Here’s a link to the page in Gelbspan’s book where he explains the situation:

    http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN046502761X&id=u_vid=ISBN046502761X&id=u_zUtBc9ExUCzUtBc9ExUC&pg=PR13
    &lpg=PR13&vq=pulitzer&dq=boiling+point&sig=AJCPcYhSupKGQzcWaoHaQt8-04A

    I find Gelbspan’s conclusion that this was a result of an industry character assassination attempt believable. Industry tried to do something similar to Ralph Nader after he wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. This seems to be a predictable industry practice.

    And about his politics: Again, I have not read Boiling Point. It seems to be more about political and institutional solutions. It may lean left more than The Heat is On. I don’t know. I’ll take a look at the full context of the interview you sent. But even if it did lean left, I think people should overcome their market fundamentalism and consider a broad range of solutions. The best solution in the end would probably involve legislation, market solutions, and international treaties. Knowing the issue as he does, maybe Mr. Gelbspan has some good ideas.

    Gelbspan did a great service by uncovering all of the industry shenanigans surrounding this issue. And also the nature of the consensus that existed even back then. Again, Gelbspan was right, and this was way before the rest of the media had looked into the issue too deeply.

    And I do have a sense of humor, but I try not to laugh at people’s names in public. Usually that sort of thing is at their expense, which tends to make me feel uncomfortable in a public space like the internet…

  10. #10 Lance Harting
    July 30, 2006

    Jon, I’ll try to be concise and friendly, the two most import qualities of any blog post IMO.

    You said, “I’m surprised at how quickly you jump to the conclusion that his work didn’t play a major role in earning the Pulitzer Prize (that’s what you’re saying, right?)” No that isn’t what I said at all.

    Here is what I did say, “Hell, he may have been the most damn important guy on the whole team for all I know.” Forgive the H… E… double hockey sticks (pun intended). Followed by, “What I do know is that he was NOT awarded the Pulitzer.”

    If Gelbspan wishes to say that his editing was instrumental to the series of Boston Globe articles winning the Pulitzer Prize I would not object. It would be a matter of opinion for which he apparently has plenty of support for claiming.

    What he does not have legitimate support for claiming is being awarded the prize himself. Seven other individuals have exclusive right to that claim.

    As for Gelbspan’s ideas for solutions to climate change I believe his remarks in the Kelpie Wilson interview speak for themselves. I also have not read “Boiling Point” and can’t comment on his political views as expressed in that book. I can read the article I referenced and he clearly says that it will take a move away from a market-based economy to effectively address global warming.

    As for amusement with Kelpie’s name I meant no serious harm. I just thought it was funny. My name rhymes with Ants, Pants, Dance, Romance and France. Have a ball. You probably can’t top anything I heard in grade school.

  11. #11 Jon Winsor
    July 30, 2006

    If Gelbspan wishes to say that his editing was instrumental to the series of Boston Globe articles winning the Pulitzer Prize I would not object.

    Well, this is what it says in his website bio these days:

    As special projects editor of The Boston Globe, he conceived, directed and edited a series of articles that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

    http://www.heatisonline.org/ContentServer/objecthandlers/index.cfm?ID=3219&method=full

    I seriously think this was a case of certain people looking for a way to make trouble for him and finding what amounts to an innocent situation that they could make hay out of…

    Yeah my comments have been running long lately… Always have been kinda long winded.

  12. #12 Lance Harting
    July 30, 2006

    Well it looks like we may have been dueling out a debate that has already been settled. Funny that his wording is almost the same as my suggestion.

    We were both homing in on the points used by both “sides” in apparently resolving the issue. That’s the problem with searching the Internet; you can be out of phase with current information.

    Oh, and no one has ever accused me of being taciturn either.

  13. #13 Jon Winsor
    July 31, 2006

    These U.K. CEO’s must be socialist too:

    Heads of some of Britain’s biggest companies are meeting Tony Blair today to demand tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,1791534,00.html

  14. #14 Lsnce Harting
    July 31, 2006

    I have already acknowledged that plenty of corporations have jumped on the global warming bandwagon.

    You need to decide if corporations are evil and therefore what they endorse is inherently corrupt or that they are reasonable and benign entities whose choices reflect sound public policy. When they question climate change you portray them as greedy and insidious, when they endorse it they suddenly become enlightened and commendable. You can’t have it both ways.

    If you read my posts above you will see that my remarks about grand socialist plans of dismantling the world economy were limited to Mr. Gelbspan.

    Oh and Jon, you’re not going to pretend that the Guardian is an unbiased source are you?

  15. #15 Jon Winsor
    August 1, 2006

    You need to decide if corporations are evil…

    People just need to be reasonably good citizens and play nicely with others, whether they’re corporate or not.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    Well, we have it both ways with people. Some people are good citizens, others need accountability to the other members of the species, because they act as if they only have their own short term gains in mind.

    You will see that my remarks about grand socialist plans of dismantling the world economy were limited to Mr. Gelbspan.

    My point was that even corporations like legislation sometimes. It levels the playing field so that the good sportsmen are rewarded.

    You’re not going to pretend that the Guardian is an unbiased source are you?

    If Fox News reported it, I would have linked to that. It’s a pretty straightforward story.

  16. #16 Lance Harting
    August 1, 2006

    “My point was that even corporations like legislation sometimes. It levels the playing field so that the good sportsmen are rewarded.”

    Jon, I’m not an anarchist. We obviously need a legal framework that protects the rights of citizens. I just want to make sure that there are valid reasons for legislation.

    We live in a representative democracy. If enough people are in favor of legislation then it will become law and I will abide by it, unless I feel that it violates my, or others, fundamental human rights.

    The question is whether compelling scientific reasons exist to enact drastic and costly measures to limit fossil fuel use, and other mitigating steps that will have profound and costly effects on the lives of millions, if not billions, of people.

    I hope we both agree that this question should be approached on a reasonable and honest basis.

  17. #17 Eduardo Ferreyra
    November 28, 2006

    Hey, Lance and Jon,

    You could have gone to the Pulitzer webpage: http://www.pulitzer.org/ and find a list of 1984 winners:

      LOCAL INVESTIGATIVE SPECIALIZED REPORTING:

    Kenneth Cooper, Joan Fitz Gerald, Jonathan Kaufman, Norman Lockman, Gary Mc Millan, Kirk Scharfenberg and David Wessel of Boston Globe

    For their series examining race relations in Boston, a notable exercise in public service that turned a searching gaze on some the city’s most honored institutions including the Globe itself.

    There is no mention of Ross Gelbspan

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