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Friday, December 04, 2009

ClimateGate? What About ExxonGate?

Smokestacks pollutingIn 2007, oil giant ExxonMobil was caught with their pants down. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists report at the time, "...ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science." They documented how the corporation had turned to the same PR firms and scientists-for-sale that Big Tobacco had in the past to cast doubt on their own problem with reality.

"ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer," said USCS's Alden Meyer. "A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as Big Tobacco did for over 40 years."

Included in the report was a leaked internal memo that laid out everything; ExxonMobil had a plan to not only confuse the public on the issue of global warming, but also had a sophisticated strategy to track their progress toward that goal with market research polling and focus groups. In addition to lying to the public about the science behind climate change, they'd keep track of which lies worked best and which lies didn't, in order to determine which were most effective. It was a fullscale marketing campaign.

Of course, once the media got a whiff of this story, there was a huge firestorm. Talking heads freaked out. FOX's Neil Cavuto reassessed his entire belief system -- on live TV. The global warming skeptics and denialists folded up shop. The UN and the US held investigations.

Or, so you'd think from reading about the so-called "ClimateGate." After all, if climate scientists pulling a fast one is earth-shattering news, surely an oil corporation doing the same thing would be too.

But then we have the American media. Proportionality is a foreign concept here and when serious adults in boardrooms try to pull the wool over your eyes, that's business -- even a shrewd move. But when those tree-huggin' hippy scientists do it... Well, that's the worst thing ever.

But are they the same thing? In a word; no. Where the ExxonMobil scandal-that-should've-been was a case of turning blatant dishonesty into a science, the hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK are just a bunch of emails. There is no plan to deceive, laid out bare for all to see, no bullet points listing goals a campaign of BS should achieve, no detailed strategy to follow the public's receptiveness to the plan with market research surveys. It's just a handful of emails being interpreted by flatearthers who've already made up their minds.

Some of the "revelations" show only how badly the deniers are stretching to back up their assertions. For example, a scientist in one email refers to a "trick" of using one data set to "hide the decline" in another. Let me show you my trick of stirring pastry dough with two butter knives sometime -- my burger pasties are totally dishonest.

"As for the 'decline'," explains RealClimate, "it is well known that Keith Briffa’s maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens."

In any case, we can apply logic here; even if some researchers were dishonest in their work, it doesn't mean that global warming has been "debunked," as some are claiming. After all, Piltdown Man doesn't disprove evolution. You might as well argue that airplanes debunk gravity. Scientists stand by the science.

But the question to be asked here is why can ExxonMobil get away with something that is clearly a campaign of lies, while the Climatic Research Unit is under fire from every corner for something that may very well be nothing? This is especially frustrating when you consider the lopsidedness of it all; ExxonMobil's multi-million dollar campaign of lies is lesser than a scientist using questionable math how? On what scale is this measurement being made?

On climate, the scale and scope might as well be universal and the consequences of giving global warming deniers the time of day are too dark. "[I]t is not enough to argue that the science is uncertain," writes the Financial Times' Martin Wolf. "Given the risks, we have to be quite sure the science is wrong before following the sceptics. By the time we know it is not, it is likely to be too late to act effectively. We cannot repeat experiments with just one planet."


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Anonymous said...

Why should we be scandalized if Exxon Mobil cooks data in their favor? They work (they are paid) for their stockholders in the interests of their stock; all one has to say is, the research was funded by BIG OIL, and all credibility is lost in people's minds. The UN, on the other hand, is supposed to be for the benefit of mankind. So, are they lying for our benefit? We're being duped, folks. Climate Change is all about wealth redistribution. It's time to wake up and smell the communism. It's there and it's real, or did you think the communists just rolled over and died after 1990. YOU may even BE one.

Wisco said...

What a paranoid bunch of horseshit. Yeah, it's all a big commie plot.

It's hard for me to understand how you guys even take yourselves seriously.

sofa said...

Leftists lying to steal money, crash economies, redistriubute wealth, and set up global tyrannical enslavement.

It's the definition of Lefty.

Historically, they refuse to concede and will kill off any who refuse to go along. They are smarter than the people, and must be obeyed. In the 20th century, Lefties killed off about 149,469,610 of their own people.

Call it 150 million, give or take.

Yet the Left doesn't stop, and keeps trying.

The only method that works is fighting back with vigor, against the Tyrants and Czars and Quislings.

Or submit, and lick their boots.

vet said...

"lying to steal money, crash economies, redistriubute wealth, and set up global tyrannical enslavement" - sounds like what the CIA has been doing for decades in places like Ukraine, Cuba, Georgia, and it's doing today in Iran. Those commie bastards.

Tyrant: one who holds power in defiance of a state's constitution. A description that might most reasonably be applied to military occupiers.

Czar: title for the deeply conservative royal rulers of imperial Russia, the last of whom was murdered by Bolsheviks in 1918, after finding himself increasingly at odds with a Duma that wanted, among other things, radical property reform.

Quisling: after Vidkun Quisling, decorated military officer, theologian and fanatical anti-communist, who seized power in defiance of his own king.

It's the very definition of Lefty, all right.

sofa said...

Lefty is, as Lefty does.

Tyrant - against the will of the people

Czar - Tyrant who works through sychophants

Quisling - sychophant doing harm to his own people

Bozo - quisling enabler of lefty tyrants and czars, who ignores reality


Are you Gibbs, or Baghdad Bob? Let me help your muddled confusion:

'Czars' are totalitarian dictators surrounded by sychophants, classic Lefties. Statists.

'Conservatives' are salt of the earth decent hard working folk, like the American founding fathers, MLK, etc. Individualists, who want the government to get out of their affairs.

The GOP freed the slaves, as individuals. The libtards set up a group dependency that tries to keep folks in poverty and stuck in group-think communism.

Empowered individuals are conservative.

Dependent sychophants are lefties.

Producers and employers are conservatives.

Leeches and lawyers are lefties.

The Left's embrace of communism is repugnant to the Constitution and the American way of life.

Buckle your seat belts.
Stand by for heavy rolls.

SMG said...

I will start, as I usually do, with a disclaimer: I am in favor of clean energy and I think we can do a great deal to reduce “greenhouse gas” emissions. As responsible citizens of the planet this should be one of our top priorities. I do not think that “big business” can be trusted to police itself and the government should continue to pursue tougher and tougher standards.

That being said the question of “global warming” is not settled and I don’t think it will be for some time. We lack a gold standard and we do not have an agreed upon baseline. Tree ring data is a rough measure and we lack sufficient geographical diversity of true old growth trees. When researchers claim to know what the global average temperature was during the medieval warm period they are flat out guessing. Ice core samples do not correlate as cause and effect with regard to CO2 levels, if anything they are more effect than cause based on Ice history.

Logic dictates that if you start pumping shitloads of CO2 into the atmosphere it is going to have an impact, but it is not an “if then, there for” proposition. The planet has warmed and cooled dramatically over the centuries and will continue to do so long after humans are a distant memory.

Wisco, I think you might want to consider the possibility that researchers have an agenda and there funding is based on the continued acceptance of their Chicken Little scenarios. The inconvenient facts that don’t fit or further their cause will continue to disappear from the record.

vet said...

No, I'm not Gibbs or Baghdad Bob, whoever they may be. I'm someone who believes in communication, who cares about language and hates to see people simply dream up their own definitions of words, rather than bothering to look up what they actually mean to other people.

Because that's the point of words: to communicate with other people.

And you want to claim the legacy of Lincoln? Sorry, but as far as I can see, that GOP died with Eisenhower.

Wisco said...

Wisco, I think you might want to consider the possibility that researchers have an agenda and there funding is based on the continued acceptance of their Chicken Little scenarios. The inconvenient facts that don’t fit or further their cause will continue to disappear from the record.

This is incredibly lazy thinking and shows a shocking amount of gullibility on your part. No one's making up "Chicken Little scenarios" to get funding. If they were, you'd be able to prove conclusively that it's all horseshit.

Besides, you've got the whole funding thing bass-ackwards -- funding isn't a reward for research, funding enables research. The only way to get your argument to work is to get in a time machine and reverse cause and effect.

Further, researchers have budgets. If you get more funding for a project, that funding is spent on that project. It doesn't give you extra money to play around with for other stuff. You're basically arguing that scientists want to be paid to screw around doing nothing and discovering nothing. It's a ludicrous charge.

You need to apply logic to your thinking or you're just another mindless sheep like sofa here -- an empty vessel into which anyone can pour whatever BS they want and you'll buy it. Don't be a tabula rasa, be a brain.

SMG said...

You have predictably ignored my comments regarding some of the problems with the science and attacked me. According to your response I am a lazy, gullible empty vessel. Do you talk to people in the real world with such amazing disrespect or are you only a virtual tough guy? I wrote a very neutral response and was only suggesting that the motives of science are not as pure as you seem to think they are. From your comments I can tell that you know very little about the competitive environment of academic and government research. I could spend several paragraphs outlining the reasons a research scientist might “cook” the numbers, (tenure, publishing, long term funding, research grants, speaking fees and better jobs). Instead I think I will just call you names and claim victory, it always seems to work for you

Wisco said...


I've already addressed your ideas about the science in another comment thread and I don't see any reason to do it again. You keep saying the question "is not settled," but saying it doesn't make it so.

Once again; logic. If it's your contention that any disagreement with the consensus means that the question is totally up in the air, then what you're saying is that you have no idea whether or not people went to the moon. There are plenty of cranks who believe otherwise, so the whole thing must be one big unanswered question.

As to whether I talk to people this way offline goes, I don't suffer fools gladly. If someone start talking crazy horseshit, I'll point out that they're talking crazy horseshit.

And, on the subject of our mutual grasp of "competitive environment of academic and government research," I'd say that your conception of it puts every single scientific discovery of the last century or more into question. I mean, hey... Maybe Einstein was just making shit up to get a research grant and everyone else is just playing along. Who knows? In your world, it's certainly possible.

sofa said...

SMG - Emails prove they lied and made up data to get funding, notoriety, and to further their communist agendas.

When reality conflicts with data, many enablers resort to name calling. It's all they have ever been good at.

SMG said...

Einstein admitted when made mistakes and submitted his work for peer review.

Wisco said...

Einstein admitted when made mistakes and submitted his work for peer review.

Here's an interesting question; so what? Are you saying that there is no peer-reviewed research on global warming?

Because that wouldn't actually be right.

Wisco said...

And re: that link. Do you know who Steven F. Hayward is?

He's a professional shill for big oil.

SMG said...

Disagrees with Wisco = Corporate shill! Whatever, I need rest up for a long day of screwing the poor, raping the environment and clubbing baby seals.

Wisco said...

Disagrees with Wisco = Corporate shill! Whatever, I need rest up for a long day of screwing the poor, raping the environment and clubbing baby seals.

Dude, WTF? It's not like I just made a declaration, I gave you a link to prove it.

You might consider that you're doing exactly what you're accusing me of doing -- you're dismissing facts out of hand because you don't like them.