Klinger and the RICO debacle

Arrested for eating all the donuts

Climate skeptic arrested for eating all donuts (j/k click on link for full story)

To get a grip on the Jagadish Shukla Barbara Streisand Own-goal Backfire Effect, you should start with Paul Matthews’ summary. Briefly, a bunch of scientists headed by Shukla decided to jump on the climate-tobacco bandwagon with a letter (to none less the American president) seeking persecution of ‘corporations and other organizations’ under the US RICO Act. The bunch then hastily fled the field, taking the letter down, when it was shown Shukla’s own various organizations were less than squeaky clean with federal funding.

But Shukla’s colleague Barry Klinger still hangs on at the scene of the crime so to speak, as he pens thoughts on ‘why RICO’ and his ‘ambivalence’ about the letter (which he fully signed).

These show the contradictory mish-mash that climate scientists seem to pass off as their understanding of the climate debate. To a fault, none of it seems to extend beyond the latest New York Times or Washington Post article and faithfully incorporates every trope and cliché sold by climate activists and PR hacks.

The first underlying mythical assumption of Klinger et al is a common one: the work of climate scientists greatly threatens the fossil fuel industry, which is scared of them. Fossil fuel companies provide a convenient, cartoonish ‘evil corporation‘ target for climate activists, and those in climate science with a world-justifying fuzzy feeling from imagining themselves ranged against powerful, unbeatable opponents.

In sociologic terms, fossil fuel companies are the folk-devil. But beyond this, there is little substance to the fantasy. Fossil fuel companies and their products are tightly interwoven with the fabric of modern life. Writing bad things about them is no more a ‘threat’ to them than cataloguing the evils of water (drowning, sweating) is a threat to the local water board. At best you make what they sell expensive. Forcibly making coal more expensive hurts consumers of coal power more than it does coal companies.

Klinger is all innocent about the second point in the RICO letter: We didn’t want to shut down speech, he says, only bring a few ‘giant corporations’ to court for fraud. Even there he admits the ‘standard for finding fraud is quite high’, is not sure whether a case would clear the bar, all while hoping such a case would be ‘a relatively limited affair’. Furthermore, after signing the letter, Klinger is suddenly concerned that there might be ‘squelching’ of  ‘the free speech of scientists’ themselves.

As Paul Matthews notes, with this degree of confusion it is evident Klinger should not have signed the letter at all.

The tobacco master settlement agreement and the course of actions that led to it serve as an inspiration and a template to the climate movement. In anticapitalist discourse, advertising creates unnatural demand for nonessential goods (like the shiny Yellow Hummers whose sole purpose is to consume more of the oil industry products). When fighting against it, an activist can only rail against greed, consumerism and ‘consumption’ (and look foolish). In puritannical abolitionist discourse, ‘addiction’ serves in the same role. But ‘addiction’ has a special edge—you can ignore the buyer (he’s helpless, ‘addicted’) and go after the dealer, in a legal setting.

Second is the power of the ‘internal documents’. Tobacco executives appeared before the US Senate to declare openly they did not think nicotine was addictive. Internal tobacco company memos and documents were later used to show that executives ‘knew’ about the addicting properties of tobacco. This was one of the reasons behind the abolitionists’ ‘they knew!’ success.

Climate activists presently attempt to follow both templates: the world is ‘addicted’ to fossil fuel – meaning not that it wants, desires or craves oil (which it does) but that it is not responsible for its state. Who are responsible? Companies that sell these products. As for the ‘secret internal documents’, a couple of newly minted ‘science journalists’ from the Tom Levenson school of science journalism have attempted to establish Exxon ‘knew’ the dangers of CO2 but chose to keep mum about it, using a tranche of old typewritten documents.

For climate activist zealots, it is immaterial that the square peg of CO2 does not fit in the round hole of tobacco. Any new rhetorical toy is a welcome addition for the exhausted, intellectually threadbare lot of arguments so jam it in they will. All the better if the toy has a proven track record of ‘success’ in a morality play.

But what about climate scientists themselves? They should see through that people use oil and coal products not from ‘addiction’ but because they are indispensible to normal daily life. The type and nature of their benefits are unlike tobacco’s. What about the absurd argument that Exxon ‘knew’ how bad climate change would in 1977? One hates to admit it but yes, Wikipedia’s William Connelley is right—Exxon knew as much as anyone else about the climate and what they ‘knew’ internally is what they declared externally. There is no ‘gotcha’.

Nor can there be one either. The very question of what is ‘known’ vis a vis anthropogenic climate change, i.e, set beyond reasonable doubt, remains in contest to date. What can said to be known when the IPCC has yet to say what it truly ‘knows’ with any rigor beyond appeals to ‘consensus’ and ‘expert judgment’?

Klinger himself admits to the latter. He lays out, though not explicitly, how the case for the consensus is riddled with holes. To prove he’s no alarmist, he points out he and his boss Shukla wrote papers pointing out the contribution of natural factors in 20th century climate change. Klinger says the paper is an example of their scientific equanimity. It is absurd to think he and Shukla should be considered unbiased for publishing such papers whereas Exxon should be thrown in jail were they to have referenced it.

Though Klinger inadvertently admits several points and caveats he refuses to cave in fully. What he does insist is being allowed to score points against ‘corporations’ by bringing civil suits against them, even if only briefly and futilely, simply because they just deserve their day in court. This is extrarordinarily political, activist, and short-sighted. Surely this sort of bottled-up political yearning and frustation in scientists is … dangerous?

However, it doesn’t end there. In a last gasp, as he realises the turn the letter his signed has taken Klinger argues his critics, being the advocates for free speech that they are, ought not restrict his freedom to shut down his critics from speaking freely. A fitting colophon to the RICO debacle indeed.

VW and Ecomodernism

In the battle against global warming it is tradition that popular media outlets tiptoe around the unintended consequences of the battle. But with the rolling Volkswagen debacle the storyline has been so irresistible journalists and copy-writers have not been able to help explaining. How global warming caused CO2 to be a pollutant, led VW and European car manufacturers to turn to diesel, how diesel made other potent pollutants, and finally led Volkswagen to sell its soul.

But there is an undiscussed link: the train of thought behind the EU push for diesel is the same as the ecomodernists. Behind the thinking of both is the fiction that via a complex meshwork of regulation and ‘innovation’, the impossible would become possible. The logic of the EU in encouraging diesel was that it released less CO2 and that the resulting pollution could be cleaned up by technology. Except the cleanup leads to increased cost, reduced engine power, and as in the case of Volkswagen, cheating.

It is inescapable that if you take a hydrocarbon fuel internal combustion system and strangle the exhaust, either to control CO2 or pollutants, you will lose power. This loss of power will feed back in any number of different routes to defeat the original objective. In the words of Emerson, when it comes to energy use it is ‘best to pay scot and lot as you go along’.

If Volkswagen had put a fraction of the ingenuity that went into its supposed defeat devices into questioning the basis for the CO2 rule it tried to rigorously adhere to, it wouldn’t have found itself in the pickle it is currently in.

The Anderegg 97%

The nonsensical ‘97%’ number has became entrenched in climate propaganda. At one time, papers by William Anderegg and Peter Doran were employed to promote the figure. This may come as a surprise but neither paper can support it. What is incredible is that researchers like Bart Verheggen, who unlike John Cook and his associates, can reasonably be expected to be more balanced, promote and believe Anderegg et al 2010 supports the ‘97% consensus’ claim.

Take a look at this:

You conduct a study in which you classify people as ‘Convinced by the Evidence’ or ‘The Unconvinced’. According to your definition, ‘Convinced by the Evidence’ are those who wholly believe in the human effect on climate, as laid out in a certain intergovernmental report.

You fill most (~70%) of the ‘Convinced by the Evidence’ category, with names drawn from authors of the same intergovernmental report. Because after all, they were the ones who wrote the very report that forms your criteria.

You come up with the conclusion: ‘Almost all actively publishing climate researchers (~97%) believe in the human effect on climate.’

This type of reasoning is circular inference. The people in the CE category are in there, by virtue of fulfilling criteria attributed to material they themselves put together: you declare the IPCC to be ‘consensus’, you include IPCC authors into the consensus group for having written the IPCC report. Voila!

The authors place 619 climate researchers’ names in the CE category from the author lists of the IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment report; they add 284 from voluntarily-signed statements by scientists, bringing the total to 903. When researchers with less than 20 peer-reviewed papers were excluded, the total shrinks to 817. Even if one assumes all 86 who were removed were solely IPCC authors, one is left with 533 names. In other words, a substantial 65% of the final ‘Convinced of the Evidence’ is a result of flawed methodology. Names for the ‘Unconvinced’ (UE) were pulled together from signed statements indicating dissent with IPCC orthodoxy.

Does the flaw affect the authors’ conclusions? Prior to application of the chosen ‘expert credibility’ metric, i.e., ‘publication of >20 peer-reviewed papers’, the numbers in the two categories are: CE 903, and UE 472. After its application, these become CE 817 and UE 93. The CE category remains significantly undiminished (p<0.0001, chi-square) due to a high proportion of its members being IPCC WG1 authors. Scientists are chosen as IPCC authors by virtue of being academically active in their field of study – the very criterion evaluated by the ’20 publications’ cutoff.

Thus, contrary to the authors’ claim about publication cutoffs not ‘differentially favoring’ a group, their method does have such an effect. The first error lies in the preanalytic step – one category is topped up with active scientists, selected by non-independent means. The circularity persists in the analytic step – the groups are then tested to see which of them has more active scientists.

The authors apply numerical metrics to identify the category (CE vs UE) that has greater expertise — more scientists implies more expertise, and more publications implies more expertise. They study (a) number of total climate publications, (b) top 50 most-published researchers, and (c) average citation count of second through fourth most cited papers.

The circularity however renders such exercises essentially uninformative. All Andergegg et al can tell us, is that actively publishing scientists – like those who are invited to write IPCC reports – usually have >20 papers to their credit. One would hope this to be the case.


According to NYU journalism professor Charles Seife and Paul Thacker there is a ‘backlash’ against transparency in science. ‘Backlash’ implies reaction from a multitude of independent parties against an initial threat. However the basis for Seife and Thacker’s claims rests largely on one source: protests from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Their unfamiliarity with their subject leaves them at sea: UCS’s contradictory position on transparency in science is almost entirely a product of their support of Michael Mann’s actions. That does not constitute a ‘backlash’. One swallow does not a summer make. Seife and Thacker should realize this whole drama surrounds just one scientist’s attempts to withhold his email and data from disclosure.

H/T harkin1:

The entire blog has been removed:


L’affaire Hunt: Impressions of prejudice beget prejudice

Climate scientist and blogger James Annan pulled a Lubos/ATTP/Sou/Realclimate — i.e., turned on moderation and started deleting comments — on his blog on Tim Hunt’s speech. Annan made up his mind against Hunt with the one-sided and selective narrative that came first. There has been much written on biologist Tim Hunt and his speech. To me what is interesting is how Annan fails to understand what constitutes evidence or reporting in a situation like the Hunt affair.

initial tweet

From Connie St Louis’ original tweet

Is a hastily typed-out paragraph constructed with selected quotes from an unrecorded speech mixed with opinion, ‘evidence’?

From Deborah Blum's Storify post

From Deborah Blum’s Storify post

Is a recounting of a speech by an observer that is constituted almost entirely by paraphrasing of selective bits, ‘reporting’?

Regardless of what one thinks about Tim Hunt or sexism the answer is ‘no’. Evidence would have been a recording/video of Hunt’s complete speech or full shorthand notes. Reporting would have been an unbiased presentation of what he said, using verbatim quotes instead of paraphrases, or an account of his overall message not just parts that appear like sexism when pulled out of context. Reporting would gather opinions from those offended by his speech and those that saw nothing wrong.

By any standard Connie St Louis‘ original tweets that started the ball rolling on l’affaire Hunt and Deborah Blum’s Storify that provided additional context fail to clear the bar for evidence or reporting.

Perhaps Hunt made a bad joke but recovered in the second half, … perhaps he redeemed himself by self-deprecatingly mocking his own love troubles. Or maybe, he damned himself to sexism hell by speaking his prejudiced mind. How would one know?

As to the Hunt question itself, Annan thinks he can be removed from honorary positions and membership of the Royal Society because who needs an ‘old’, ‘entitled’, ‘washed-up’, ‘white man’ – all Annan’s chosen descriptors of Hunt.

Make up your mind Lubos

Not too long ago, climatic blogger Lubos Motl declared:

if done right, temperature adjustments are great

Lubos said people asking questions had an ‘adjustment-phobia’ that ‘unmask[ed] their anti-scientific credentials’. (He didn’t stop there, of course, calling the questioners ‘nutjobs’, deleting comments and retrospectively editing his words.)

Now, he writes a post questioning adjustments made by Karl et al 2015 in Science, the pause-destroying paper with the devastating conclusion that adding numbers to temperatures makes them go up.

The post is actually chock-full of sensible questions about the ‘hiatus-killer’, such as:

However, the shock is that the warming trend extracted from the marine vessels was copied to the buoys time series


The warming trend indicated by the buoys – a project that was specifically designed by scientists to measure the temperature of the ocean – was completely erased by Karl et al.


If you’re not dull, you will ask: Why didn’t they do just the opposite? They could have repaired the trend from the marine vessels for them to agree with the lower trend from the buoys

I think it is time to call Lubos Motl an anti-scientific nutjob.

Paris: Route to the soft exit

One of the oft-repeated words in climate negotiation-speak is ‘ambition’. Ambition refers to how much cutting of carbon emissions (and consequently economic damage) a country is willing to commit to in negotiations (the COPs). ‘Ambition’ for Paris appears to have prematurely gone flaccid, an indicator being the irrepressible Christiana Figueres‘ plans for 2030 for a CO2-cutting treaty to avert ‘2C’.

The climate negotiation troupe is made of a trifecta of nationally-selected bureaucrat representatives, non-governmental groups, and media agencies. A cardinal point in its structure lies in each thinking the others to be responsible for ‘ambition’. But this is fundamentally irreconcilable with the parties’ individual aims and motives. Countries and blocs participate to safeguard their self-interests, NGOs and media organs contribute to noise and propagation of the pantomime. In other words, in reality, there is no ambition within the UNFCCC system. Climate activists bide their time hoping for a perfect storm of circumstance, leadership failure and true belief to precipitate a dissolution of countries’ defenses.

With the above, the real dealing, maneuvering and re-positioning take place behind-the-scenes, well in advance of the conference of parties (COPs). To get a sense, I would recommend Benny Peiser’s excellent summation of the state-of-play. Briefly, there are key indicators to suggest no ambitious outcome can be expected from Paris.

First, China has its agreement with the United States as demonstration of its ‘commitment’. The United States itself, under President Barack Obama, will no doubt valiantly present its environmental agency rules as proof. Recognizing the fiasco of its own position within the Kyoto Protocol, the EU has walked back from its traditional unilateral commitment to emissions reduction to a conditional one. The EU’s requirement for emission-reduction is conditional on a legally binding international treaty, to which China, India and the US Senate present a near-insurmountable barrier. As ever, India has re-iterated its right to development via fossil-fuel use and questioned the lack of concrete steps about their own emissions from the US and EU. The end result: a hodge-podge of national measures that individual countries can hold up en-route to a defensibly failed Paris.

Peiser’s article makes clear the constant presence of the UNFCCC has acted as an evolutionary force in international negotiations. Countries have learned to accommodate and incorporate ‘climate’ into so-called business-as-usual functioning rather than the opposite.

Blowing smoke up asses: the Paris endgame

It was thought blowing smoke up the ass could save drowned people from death. Common enough a human affliction – carrying out an earnest if comical act in the face of calamity, in order to give the appearance of doing something.

With the dissolution of Neo-Malthusianism the underpinning ideologic elements merely mapped to different domains. Formerly, too many people meant wretched existences and eventual ‘collapse’. Drought, famine and disease would stalk the land. There were ‘limits to growth’. Now there is a climatic limit to growth.

David ‘ Climate Nuremberg’ Roberts of Grist.org, who now works for a different website, has written yet another article on the 2C conundrum and Paris. To get to its conclusion, recall the progression of the climate movement:

1. First, the concept of global change blossomed and with it the question of human-influenced global climate change. How sensitive was the climate to human influence? Climate models gave answers.

2. We got a bunch of numbers for sensitivity. The Schellnhuber School for priests of climate alarm astutely realised such figures alone were not enough. Limits were needed to make the woolly climate debate concrete. 2C was invented.  Surprise, surprise, climate modelers came up with the goods – the host of bad things that were to happen. 2C it was then – the limit for human civilization, the guardrail, the safe space.

3. The world (finally) had a problem to be solved — 2C. As solutions go, killing off people (communism, nazism) and preventing them from being born (malthusianism) had fallen out of favour. Carbon taxes, trade permits, solar panels, onshore windmills and emissions trading had not. Climate mitigation models came with the answers. Surprisingly it was the same every time: with a magical combination of the above it was possible! 2C could be avoided. All that was needed was ‘political will’.

4. 2C imposed limits on everyone but cruelly and ironically on climate activists first. There was a price for saying ‘all is needed is political will’ every 5 years. The amount of carbon to be cut kept increasing and time left to come up with a plan, decreasing. The solution? More smoke-blowing. REDD, negative emissionsBECCS … all cooked via integrated assessment models. It was still possible! All that was needed was suspension of disbelief.

So, in the end, two circles of blowing smoke up policymakers’ asses with models to get them to solve problems created by two circles of smoke-blowing with models. A whole lot of smoke and contact with reality is finally lost.

For a long time the climate story remained the same: A ‘target’ would be set. It would be high enough to demand significant ‘cuts’ in emissions, by far enough a deadline to appear possible, painful enough to bring tears to the eyes and joy to the hearts of activists, and fake enough to be called off each time. Throwing up your hands and pointing fingers – at Bush, Luntz, Exxon, Inhofe, the Koch Brothers, USA or the BRICS – was enough. The Paris endgame will have no scapegoats and it is time to deliver.  The joyride is coming to an end.

ATTP: Safe space from seepage


Richard Betts has written a long explanatory note to Stephan Lewandowsky’s ‘Seepage’. Seepage contends that invasive memes from skeptics have tricked scientists into framing the public debate their way.

Betts submitted the article to ATTP’s blog. At the surface his reasoning sounds plausible: it would be dismissed by consensusists if it were on a climate-skeptical blog:

Judith Curry evidently agrees:

It is no surprise scientists like Betts and Curry find themselves in a bind – if they speak to skeptics they are pilloried and the consensusists don’t engage. But from the perspective of the consensus, the problem is different and runs deeper. Have Betts and Curry thought about this?

In the politics of climate consensus, what is said is less important than who says it, where it is said and how it looks. The frame carries more weight than the picture. If climate activists and alarmists venture out to skeptical venues, they lay their claims open to challenge. They may be shown to be wrong, or fall to a better rhetorician. With either, they don’t come out looking good – something that is very important.

When you submit opinion you cede control. You have something the onlooker judges. When you debate, your opponent becomes your equal

A lot of the authority in consensus climate has been built by assiduous adherence to looking good, controlling the terms of the debate,  avoiding being subject to judgement and appearing beyond question. It uses climate science as a tool, and consequently hollows and fragilizes it.

ATTP bans skeptical commenters and provides a safe space for the consensusists, free from triggers. They need to be slowly drawn out and forced to engage, and not pandered to. Like Lewandowsky, ATTP has to learn – in the realm of ideas there are no safe spaces.

2C: ‘An ivory-tower view of life’

Oliver Geden‘s bold article on 2C in Nature continues in the line Richard Tol highlighted many months ago: the make-believe world of international climate negotiations is running headlong toward the terrain of the impossible.

As expected, scientivist and activist ‘communities’ wasted no time exploding in disbelief and Scientific American wasted no time collecting the reactions. Here is one of them:

Others, like Tom Burke, founding director of U.K.-based environmental group E3G, dismissed the Nature piece as “an ivory-tower view of life” that focuses on what is being said in academic literature rather than what is happening on the ground …

E3G is a climate activist organization founded by the physicist-turned-diplomat-turned-climate preacher John Ashton. (some of whose Yeats-influenced climate poetry can be seen here).

E3G celebrated its 10th anniversary in existence recently. Here are some pictures:

14640539664_99494c0f6d_k 14662595633_d1d956a18c_k


Here are their sponsors…


Here are their partners…


Here is a full listing of sponsors:

  1. Climateworks  Foundation
  2. The Energy Foundation
  3. Greenpeace
  4. Avaaz
  5. DECC UK
  6. Planet Heritage Foundation
  8. WWF
  9. EDF
  10. Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
  11. ECF
  12. Kudos
  13. NRDC
  14. Germanwatch
  15. Stiftung Mercator
  16. Rockefeller Brothers Fund
  17. Shell Foundation
  18. Zennstrom Philanthropies
  19. The Climate Group
  20. Norden
  21. Climate Strategies
  22. Arcadia
  23. Barrow Cadbury Trust
  24. RAP
  25. The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
  26. Ecofin Research Foundation
  27. IDDRI
  28. Doris Duke Foundation
  29. The Greens in the European Parliament
  30. Trust For London
  31. Foreign and Commonwealth Office UK
  32. Oak Foundation
  33. ADB
  34. Climate and Development Knowledge Network
  35. The European Commission

The mind reels at contemplating how Tom Burke of E3G could think anyone to be dwelling in ivory-towers. E3G produces no goods, provides no services and lives on donations – academics do much, much better.

Don’t underestimate E3G though – it has housed or churned out a steady stream of climate activists who are adept in applying pressure on individuals and countries. In their colourful brochures they take credit for everything from the Kyoto Protocol to banning coal-plants in the UK.

There you have it – 2C in a nutshell – people living ivory towers and rooftop champagne-party bubbles, fighting with each other to impose costs on the rest of the world.

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