The Coyote blog picks on ‘The Pattern’ here. He calls it “the Global Warming Hype Process’:
1.Identify a 2 or 3 sigma weather event. Since there are 365 days in the year and hundreds of different regions in the world, the laws of probability say that some event in the tail of the normal distribution (local high, local low, local flood, local drought, local snow, local tornado, local hurricane, etc) should be regularly occurring somewhere.
2.Play weather event all over press, closely linked as often as possible with supposition that this is due to manmade CO2. If the connection to global warming is too outlandish to make with a straight face (e.g. cold weather) use term “climate change” or “climate disruption” instead of global warming.
3.Skeptics will point to actual data that this event is not part of a long term trend, e.g. there is no rise in tornado activity correlated with 20th century rise in temperatures so blaming one year of high tornadoes on global warming makes no sense. Ignore this.
4.Peer reviewed literature will emerge 6-12 months later demonstrating that the event was not likely due to man-made global warming. Ignore this as well. Never, ever go back and revisit failed catastrophic predictions.
Indeed, the pattern—of ‘linking’ natural disasters and ‘extreme events’ to climate change— has simply reached a point, where its proponents now speak openly about it and actively advocate for its perpetuation. You find John Beddington, chief scientist of the UK advocating linking natural disasters to global warming and activist former US president Gore readying to link ‘extreme weather’ to global warming.
This is exactly as per advice offered by marketing and public relations campaigners.
It would be sheer coincidence otherwise, that Gore’s ‘Climate Reality’ project is being directed by one Alex Bogusky, a public relations and marketing professional who’s Crispin Porter+Bogusky was behind such ad campaigns as Domino’s Pizza, Windows 7 and Burger King. Bogusky who suffered a corporate mid-life crisis is a part of the Gore effort to link ‘global warming’ to disasters, as is evident from this post on his blog
The Bogusky-founded fearlessrevolution.com, a blog farm,hosts marketing and other professionals’ writings about ‘sustainability’ and such things. One such post, I found, was titled ‘Wanted: PR for Science’ and featured the omnipresent fake polar bear picture (Urus bogus) that Science magazine popularized.
Coincidentally, New York journalist Keith Kloor attempted a few days back to paint a positive portrait of Edward Maibach, a social sciences researcher working on climate communication. As reported here, Maibach was listed a willing participant at the Stonehouse Standing Circle conference where public relations professionals pre-decided to carry out active linking between ‘global warming’ and natural disasters.
It is always very interesting to note at what juncture blog owners decide to cross the line and start censoring posts. In my case, Kloor decided to stop discussion when it turned adverse to his post’s mission.
More interestingly, we learn from Bishop Hill that the University of East Anglia had employed the services of a public relations firm Outside Organization, in managing its public image after the Climategate debacle. From the details, it only follows that the skeptics have been spending their time fighting the ghostly shadow-punches thrown by marketeers in the wake of Climategate. From its website (emphasis mine):
From the Beckhams alleged kidnap plot, to Jerry Hall’s incarceration in the Caribbean on trumped up drugs charges, the So Solid Crew gun charges to Naomi Campbell’s evidence at The Hague and Climategate – we’ve seen it all, and more importantly, we’ve dealt with them. We have enormous experience in the field of media and privacy issues and have managed some of the most delicate ‘crises’ imaginable.
‘The Climategate scandal does not affect the science’, ‘scientists have been harassed by a deluge of FOI requests’, ‘scientists have come under death threats’, ‘we have clear evidence that there was a hack, and not a leak at the CRU’, ‘all the old temperature records from the 1980s have been lost’… — how is one now to know which of these were concerns voiced by geniune scientists and which, red herrings spun by public relation professionals to garner sympathy and protect the University of East Anglia’s ‘image’?
If you remember, Climategate revealed CRU scientists in posessesion of advocacy documents from UK public relations firm: Futerra.
Going back a bit in time, one recalls researcher Simon Lewis of Amazongate fame who acted on the advice of his friends who were in marketing, to go into media activism mode.
After advice from a friend in public relations and press officers at scientific organizations, I filed an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, the UK media watchdog.
A crisis in any scientific issue has very specific, fairly limited options as solutions. These may, or may not be effective, but they are the only legitimate approaches. Scientists, as opposed to celebrities, are not free to try ‘dirty tricks’ and ‘communication strategies’ to work around a problem. The extensive involvement of public relations professionals in the climate change debate—entities that are completely extraneous to this process—explains, at least partly , why the public image of climate science continues to go down.
Minor edits: Jul 17th 2011