Goliath’s Panic Begins

The higher-ups of the AGW movement, aka Goliath, sense that something is amiss.

A new editorial in Nature is startling for what it reveals, especially the fact Paul Ehrlich is a go-to figure about how hard scientists have it when it comes to media access. Ehrlich is an individual who became an international celebrity by spinning one frightening story after another (about the death of the oceans, for one thing) who maintains, with a straight face, that he and his fellow scientists have an unfair disadvantage in communicating their side of the climate debate. He is quoted by Nature as saying, regarding the aftermath of Climategate and the fact that skeptic scientists are finally getting a hearing, “Everyone is scared shitless, but they don’t know what to do.” People often forget: Goliath, right before the end, sensed that something was amiss.

For, ironically, among the most pervasive myths attending global warming is the one pitching David against Goliath, in which those touting the risks of damaging climate change are cast as David and Big Oil is Goliath. The story requires observers to ignore the facts: Media, most scientists, and governments the world over have spent and received so much money on their version of events that they have collectively become Goliath. Observers must ignore, too, the reality that skeptic scientists maintain their intellectual freedom at significant risk. Funding routinely dries up; tenure is denied them; ad hominem attacks of the most vicious variety are launched against them from the Ivory Tower of academia, from the studios of multi-billion dollar news organizations, and from the bully pulpit of government.

The myth that relatively simple, un-media-savvy scientists are being undone by oil-funded think-tanks is absurd on its face. Let’s first take the case of the U.K. For more than 25 years, all forms of the mainstream media in Britain (radio, television, film, and print), the AGW crowd veritably owned the means of production. People who bother to look will find tens of thousands of stories trumpeting impending doom related to unprecedented warming. The U.K. became, during this time, one of the twin towers of warmist philosophy. (The other being the U.S.) And skeptics were simply not abided at all.

Only when Climategate broke, for the first time in a generation, could a skeptic scientist (or commentator) get an airing in the United Kingdom. By that point, though, the AGW scientists, members of the media, and politicians had been putting forth alarmist fantasies for decades, without cessation. They were not sad little children being bullied around the playground by clever think-tank bullies. They were the bullies. Again, it is all about the means of production, and the environmentalist movement piggybacked on AGW took over the means of production in the U.K. long ago.

In the United States, the same applies. There is a reason that people in the center and the right object to National Public Radio, with public funds, reliably touting leftist causes, notably AGW. When commentators go on NPR and complain about the slick campaign to control the media run by oil-funded think tanks, there is more than enough irony to go around. This blame-the-oil-funded-think-tank theme is quite simply Al Gore-generated boilerplate. Ask the scientists, politicians, and celebrities touting the conspiracy to identify their imagined adversary by name, and they clam up.

Again, until November 2009, skeptic climate scientists couldn’t buy an interview in this country. Not with the New York Times, not with NPR, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, not to mention thousands of local papers, not with CNN, Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, CBS News, NBC News, or ABC News. Even Fox, for all its vaunted right-wing values, very seldom put an actual skeptic scientist on the air prior to Climategate.

What if I, as a concerned citizen who had learned that when it came to the understanding of climate in my country up was down, black was white, and good was bad, and I wanted to go to Hollywood to get funding for a skeptical documentary about it? How do you think I would fare? Laughed out of town? If I was lucky!

Again, it is all about the means of production. The left/pro-AGW forces have owned the media in all but name on this issue, for decades. That is why there are such incredibly disproportionate numbers of interviews in the media with Stephen Schneider, Michael Mann, James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, Ben Santer, Al Gore, Ed Begley Jr., etc. Joining this crew requires following one ironclad rule: You have to say during during your 200th interview in the last two years that a dark and dangerous cabal exists to silence you.

If the best that Nature can do to promote the idea of this dangerous oil-funded conspiracy is to quote Paul Ehrlich, who has a 40-year history of failed attempts to manipulate people with the most transparent fear-mongering, then that is not a good sign for the side of fear. One thing that you can believe believe Ehrlich about (unlike the idea that Malthus was really onto something): He and his ilk are running scared. That’s despite the fact that the skeptic side has now reached something like a 1 to 10 ratio of parity when it comes to media coverage. See, when you’re Goliath, that kind of trend seems disturbing.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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17 Responses to Goliath’s Panic Begins

  1. FINN says:

    Very good one!

  2. Mike J says:

    I wonder if we could tabulate the press article numbers – for and against AGW – over the last 10 years. That would be the sort of empirical evidence that might shut up the conspiracy protagonists.

  3. Nice one Harold. Here are my five stones:
    (1) faulty surface station records
    (2) UHI covered-up
    (3) bad choice of bad proxies
    (4) Goliath gaming the whole system
    (5) bad ice core CO2 measurements (too low).

    I’ve yet to see a good skeptics’ piece on (5) yet this leg of AGW is as important as losing the MWP – IMHO. I did an introduction to Jaworowski’s little-known but IMO best paper. Surely John Daly would have pursued this one had he still been alive.

    • Miller says:

      Proxies don’t matter, the Achilles Heel Of this hypothesis has always been the feedbacks. They’re complete speculation.

      Proponents only needed to exaggerate the temperature record, extreme weather events etc because there was nothing to support the positive feedback
      attributes to WMGGs. And without them, 0.7C to 1C of increased warmth does not justify the changes to industrial policy and lifestyle they demand of us.

      Lindzen is your man.

  4. j ferguson says:

    I marveled that Al Gore identified with Winston Churchill during Churchill’s efforts to ring the alert on the impending threat in Europe. I thought Al as confused about this as he is about everything else.

    • Jim Brock says:

      Lemme see. That would have been 1938-39 or so. Say 71 years ago. Little Al would have been…six or seven years old?

  5. Roger Knights says:

    “I wonder if we could tabulate the press article numbers – for and against AGW – over the last 10 years.”

    In the US, “The Reader’s Guide to periodical Literature” would give a good estimate, although it covers only 50 publications (I think). There is also an online pay site that scans many newspapers, http://www.newspaperarchive.com . And there is another pay site, whose name I forget, that carries articles from numerous mid-size magazines.

  6. hunter says:

    Good insights, clearly presented.

  7. Jim Berkise says:

    To Mike J and Roger Knights (and anyone else thinking along similar lines)

    If you want to do meaningful bibliometrics (that’s what we call it when we try to extract meaningful information from counting bibliographic citations) you have to give some thought to how you’re going to define your sample space (what database(s) are you going to search, and what is their defined universe of coverage) and how you’re going to draw your sample. I’ve been searching bibliographic databases since the days of packet switched networks and 300 baud modems, and through library or university alumni connections can get free access to any of the pay sites we might wish to use (especially since all we want is a count, not actual article copies). Do you want to try to search/sample as many titles as possible? How shall we determine the bias of an article i.e. what instructions would you give an intelligent clerk with no prior knowledge of the issue for making a determination.

    • JonDon says:

      Well, we could decide on an outcome, and then adjust the ratio of articles, (without reading them.)

  8. JonDon says:

    Gale (InfoTrac) General Science Collection 1,711,145 articles since 1980.

    I have access as a Minnesota citizen to this database online.

    It has 437 articles on the subject of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. They are published by Nature magazine, Science, Scientific American and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. Here is how the topic is broken out into sub-topics.

    • Analysis 23
    • Care and Treatment 1
    • Causes of 4
    • Chemical Properties 5
    • Composition 2
    • Conferences, Meetings and Seminars 1
    • Contracts 1
    • Control 41
    • Distribution 5
    • Economic Aspects 2
    • Environmental Aspects 117
    • Evaluation 2
    • Forecasts and Trends 9
    • Growth 1
    • Health Aspects 3
    • History 1
    • Influence 13
    • International Aspects 3
    • Laws, Regulations and Rules 12
    • Management 3
    • Measurement 33
    • Models 13
    • Natural History 1
    • Observations 9
    • Physiological Aspects 3
    • Political Aspects 2
    • Prevention 4
    • Properties 6
    • Reports 3
    • Research 144
    • Standards 2
    • Statistics 4
    • Storage 2
    • Tax Policy 1
    • Taxation 1
    • Testing 1
    • Usage 1
    • Waste Management 1

    If you click on Political Aspects you get this:
    Response to global warming. (includes sidebars on international aspects to problem) (The Changing Atmosphere) Pub:Chemical & Engineering News Detail:Lois R. Ember, Patricia L. Layman, Wil Lepkowski and Pamela S. Zurer. 64.(Nov 24, 1986): pp56(9).

    Note the date.

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  10. Scott Fox says:

    Top-notch skepticism. More please!

  11. peterr says:

    I think it is a mistake to cast this debate in left/right terms, especially in the American context. It plays into the meme of Big Oil funded attack groups and the evil hidden hand of corporate power (Right) vs. Academia and the “liberal” media on the other. Lining up with Fox News and Senator Inhofe makes the AGW slams on skeptics a lot more resonant with non brain dead crowd.

    It detracts from the appropriate casting of who is David and who is Goliath. The reality is that the vast bulk of the Establishment: political, corporate, media, academic is stridently and unquestioningly pro-AGW. People can go on believing the (nutty) idea that ABC, CBS, NBC, the Washington Post, TIME magazine are left wing, but don’t give them the ammunition that skeptics are just the Fox News mouth breather crowd.

    Senator Inhofe is a buffoon. Fox News is a joke. These are not the bedfellows you want, even if you subscribe to their ideals. They have no interest in the reality of the issue, and would play the Anti role even without evidence. The shakey foundation of C02 induced AGW is merely a convenience for them. For real skeptics this is the intellectual basis for questioning why we should go back to the stone age based on a tiny sample of proxies and lies.

    NPR may have a higher than I would like Recommended Daily Allowance of granola, but as media outlets go they are pretty good. Al Gore is wooden, self important, and has about $500,000,000 conflict of interest reasons for promoting AGW but he is a towering intellect and beacon of integrity compared to the likes of Inhofe.

    I am representative of a demographic that overwhelmingly believes in AGW, but almost none of them has ever looked at the actual case for AGW most of whom fall into two groups:
    1. Those who assume it is true because academia and establishment media say so
    2. Those who want it to be true because of their bias that man is destroying the natural world

    There may not be a hope for the second group, but the former are the ones who have to get the message. When you show an engineer the astonishing lack of evidence, or show a computer scientist the data manipulation and undocumented code, or a lawyer the sophistry of the arguments, or a physicist the absurd weighting of man made C02, or a mathematician or statistician the contortions the data is put through to prove the AGW point they will see.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the world is warming. But even if it was there is just no compelling evidence that we are seeing something extraordinary, or that it is man made or that C02 is the overwhelming villain. And anybody with half a brain can see this if they see the actual case put forward, rather than the alarmist consensus supported by ad hominem attacks lumping skeptics into the camp of creationists, Holocaust Deniers, and Glenn Beck viewers.

    Just saying leave the tinfoil hats at home.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      No tinfoil hats necessary: It is a fact that American and British media went for the AGW narrative in uncritical fashion, for decades. Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News whom you have some need to paint with the broad brush that you see in others’ hands, subscribes wholeheartedly to the idea that humanity is to blame for “climate change.” Also, the most popular Fox News host by far, Bill O’Reilly, was staunchly in the AGW camp until just recently. Overall, Fox News has probably come down closer to the middle than any other American network. Fair and balanced? Maybe so, in this case, if you believe that alarmism deserves a high percentage of airtime (which I myself do not).

      When NPR gives one skeptical scientist a full hearing, then I will grant it a modicum of the objectivity on the subject that you are willing to grant for nothing.

      As for Inhofe, I suspect he knows more about paleoclimatology, and climate generally, than any other senator. And it is his knowledge and views of climate that are relevant to this discussion.

      • peterr says:

        I think you miss my point.

        I expect that NPR gives little to no time to alternatives to the AGW mantra. Where I live even Center/Right media outlets are all AGW, all the time. Yes, Rupert Murdoch is pro AGW even though he owns NewsCorp which publicizes anti-AGW perspectives through its outlets because their audiences want to hear it. The difference between what the customers want and the owners are selling varies, but it doesn’t change the self interest shared by virtually the entire owning class outside the narrow spectrum of oil and gas companies that have no interest in becoming “energy” companies.

        I work for one of the largest multinationals (a Dow 30 component) and our leaders are all about the opportunity of selling to people panicked by the AGW fear. I don’t know if our Execs believe it. I doubt they care whether it’s true. If everybody believes it, we can sell them solutions.

        We agree that an astonishingly cohesive majority of the entire establishment – political, media, business, academic – has lined up behind the AGW meme, for a variety of different reasons that form a nearly impenetrable web. You can’t take it down by breaking one strand. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

        It requires no conspiracy or even consciousness. They have a collective incentive to dismiss all dissent by portraying as ignorant “deniers” anyone who dissents. These are loaded terms that draw on the (correct) perception of the idiocy of holocaust deniers, creationists etc.

        There are two perfectly reasonable streams of skepticism of the AGW religion:
        1. Examining the weakness of the scientific basis of the AGW theory. (McIntyre, Montford, Watts, Mosher etc)
        2. Questioning the wisdom of the policy proposals pushed by the AGW crowd. (Lomborg, Dyson etc)
        Neither of these requires denying anything scientific or reasonable.

        But Fox News would be screaming about AGW even if it were blindingly obviously true. They would just be demonizing it as socialist. Having actual reasons to question both the factual basis of and the proposed response to AGW is merely a convenience to them. The Megan Kelleys and Glenn Becks would still be sneering and dismissive of AGW even if it were undeniably true. Senator Inhofe would still be trying to drill for oil in every National Park and nursery school playground even if fossil fuels were proven to be 100% behind everything bad, ever. Inhofe has voted in favour of torture, against human rights, is anti-immigrant, and his state has a small population and a large oil industry. He is a Christianist bigot who bases his mid-east policies on the Book of Genesis. None of these things will make him a poster boy for rational objection to the AGW agenda. He is the very image of how the AGW crowd unfairly paint all skeptics.

        Encouraging or linking to the people who actually are the reactionary deniers only enables the AGW proponents, sloppy scientists, government boondogglers and Wall Street thieves to label the real scientists and economists who simply request that AGW be proven scientifically and if so that any extreme countermeasures be analyzed rationally.

        The great majority of people- even scientists outside the Climate Science field – have been cowed by the mantra that the science is settled. The biggest news the public – and especially other scientists – have to hear is how incredibly thin the foundation is for virtually every element of the AGW theory. It is not just the Hockey stick (although the fraud and laughably small and mixed cherry picked proxies comprising it need to be exposed) but the adjustments to the temperature record, the processing of the data, the asumptions of models (and their demonstrated lack of ability to predict anything), the unsupportable leap of faith to conclude that man made CO2 is the culprit and the insane and destructive policy proposals to address CO2 that would kill millions of people and reduce quality of life for billions need to be exposed.

        I really believe that our salvation lies in getting applied scientists: engineers, statisticians, epidemiologists and the like to look at the house of cards this whole thing is founded on.

        It is not helpful in any way to have Fox News onside. The brim of the tinfoil hat they represent does no good extending over our heads. It just serves as a lightning rod.

    • John Wright says:

      I assume that by “a demographic” (never seen that word used in the singular as a noun before) you mean a social category.

      I suppose I would fall into your category 2, I do think that human industry and the by-products thereof often have a negative effect on nature and the environment. That’s not a bias, there is plenty of evidence around us that such is so – we are sawing through the branch we are sitting on. All the same there may be more hope than you think for those of my category, at least in a case like mine: these last few years I have been sceptical of what seemed to me the preposterous notion that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant and I am now beginning to have my doubts on global warming. Immediately my position began to clarify in this respect, I began looking round the web. At first, around 2007, it was hard to find sites of my persuasion and when I did, I was somewhat dismayed to find myself in among the rednecks or at least conservatives with unshakeable faith (no less unshakeable than that of the AGW religion) that the free market will provide all the answers; and talking of categories, Glenn Beck and Senator Inhofe seem to fall into this last one.

      Whether the alternative to the free-for-all, every-man-for-himself market (nothing in common with the real market we bought our food at this morning and which the pseudo-market does all it can to crush) entails large-scale government action or bureaucratic tyranny, or on the other hand a certain degree of limited state responsibility to be determined, is a moot point, but some sort of middle way obviously has to be sought.

      So yes I agree, we would do well to stop casting this debate in left/right terms and start to look at the problems in their own terms.

      Where to begin?

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