Here’s a piece by some angry bearded person at the Daily Beast which will annoy you.
It’s titillatingly headlined Armageddon For Climate Deniers, which leads you to expect that perhaps, at long last, the alarmist establishment and their media propagandists have finally stumbled upon the killer argument which routs their evil denialist enemies once and for all.
But no. Sadly not. It’s just another tragic, desperate and oh-so-wearisomely-familiar smear job on the lines of all the other tragic and desperate smear jobs: climate sceptics only say what they say because they’re in the pay of Big Oil (just like they were previously in the pay of Big Tobacco); the vast majority of experts – an impressive 99.83 per cent by this particular author’s account – agree that climate change is real; conservatives in particular reject “the science” because it conflicts with their ideology of selfishness, greed and small government; the reason that reputable, decent scientists – he doesn’t mention the saintly Michael Mann but I think that’s the kind of person he means – are having trouble persuading an increasingly sceptical public to believe in global warming is not because they have no credible arguments but because the denialist propaganda campaign is so incredibly slick and well-funded.
None of this stuff is true and some of it – under English law at least – is downright libelous.
Take the author’s claim that Willie Soon is one of the fossil fuel industry’s “leading pseudo-scientific voices” and has been “exposed as a liar and a fraud, having accepted millions of corporate dollars to pose as a climate-change skeptic.”
All right, the author of the piece Dr Jay Michaelson appears to be fairly new to this game – his specialities are gay activism and Judaism – and probably hasn’t had time to do much background reading. But seriously, how did his editors allow him to get away with such a poisonous assertion, which wouldn’t stand a moment’s scrutiny in a court of law?
Soon has not been exposed as a liar or a fraud. In order to prove that he were, Michaelson would have to do rather more than simply assert that Soon has, over the years, received grant money from fossil fuel companies. (As many sceptical scientists have been forced to do over the years: it’s not like they’re ever going to get any grants from the US government, the EU or the Rockefeller Foundation, is it?) He would have to demonstrate that this funding had suborned Soon’s research to the point where he told deliberate and conscious untruths to please his paymasters.
That phrase “to pose as a climate change skeptic” actively implies that Soon’s climate scepticism is not sincere but purely a mercenary position adopted for financial bribery.
This is low journalism. It’s inept journalism. It’s dishonest journalism.
And, depressingly, it’s entirely characteristic of the way the climate debate continues to be covered in the left-liberal media – not just by gay beardies you’ve never heard of at websites like the Daily Beast, but also by established professionals who really ought to know better at well known institutions like the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, Science, Nature and so on.
The inspiration for Michaelson’s terrible piece was, of course, this equally terrible piece by Justin Gillis and John Schwartz in the New York Times.
Why is it so terrible? Because, like Michaelson’s terrible piece, it fails to deliver what it promises to do. The reader is misled into thinking that a prominent member of the climate sceptical fraternity has been caught out doing something momentously awful.
But when you wade through the heavily insinuating prose what you realise is that the heavy insinuations are all it has to offer: it’s all desperate fluffing and no money shot.
Here’s a sample paragraph:
“What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a group funded by foundations seeking to limit the risks of climate change.
But no, actually, this is what it signally fails to show.
Had it showed what it was supposed to show there would have been no need to wheel on Davies, a Greenpeace activist – and also the guy whose FOI fishing expeditions generated this non-story in the first place – to provide this desperate exegesis.
It applies to journalism as much as it does to screenwriting or novel-writing: show not tell. Otherwise, as far as journalism goes, all you have is a collection of assertions unsupported by evidence. And while this may be enough to provoke cheers among your amen corner, it’s hardly going to be enough to carry your argument forward. All it’s going to do, essentially, is expose your argument’s poverty. Yet again.
I’ve just been in Florida giving a couple of talks on global warming, so I thought I’d do a bit of homework by re-reading my book Watermelons.
What I found surprising – and rather depressing – was to be reminded for how painfully long sceptics have been assailed by the same zombie arguments.
Here, for example, is Al Gore in his 2006 book An Inconvenient Truth.
The misconception that there is a serious disagreement among scientists about global warming is actually an illusion that has been deliberately fostered by a relatively small but extremely well-funded cadre of special interests, including ExxonMobil and a few other oil, coal and utilities companies. These companies want to prevent any policies that would interfere with their current business plans…
And here is a letter from 2003 from Michael Mann to Robert Matthews, then Science Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph:
These comments have not been made by scientists in the peer-reviewed literature, but, rather on a website that, according to published accounts, is run by individuals sponsored by Exxon Mobile [sic] corporation, hardly an objective source of information.
So for well over 15 years these shysters have been rehearsing the same tired old excuse for their failure to make a convincing case for their global warming scare story.
And after all that time it seems not unreasonable to ask them: “Guys, is this really the best you can do?”
I mean, if the case is so clear-cut – if, as successive IPCC Assessment Reports released in that period have told us, the evidence for catastrophic man-made climate change is stronger than ever – then what on earth are they doing wasting time on these half-baked smear jobs?
Surely, in the case of Willie Soon, for example, there’d be no need for all those guilt-by-association insinuations about the source of his funding.
Rather, all the alarmists would have to do would produce a detailed peer-reviewed critique of all the bits in Willie Soon’s papers where he gets things woefully, criminally, insanely wrong – and then get all their friends at the Guardian, the New York Times, Science, Nature and so on to turn it into a big newspaper expose.
After all, if the only reason people like Soon say the stuff they do is because they’re paid by fossil fuel interests to make it up, then it ought to be pretty easy to spot the flaws in their arguments, oughtn’t it?
Well you’d think. But in at least 15 years, despite all its resources – financial, political, scientific and journalistic – the alarmist establishment has failed to find these flaws.
Which is a point I made a couple of years ago at the end of the first chapter of Watermelons, when talking about the Climategate emails:
Suppose for a moment that there really is a strong consensus in favour of AGW; and suppose the scientific evidence for AGW theory is – as Mann, Jones et al. seem to think – so compellingly rock solid that it brooks no opposition. Then why is that throughout the Climategate emails the scientists pushing AGW emerge as being so utterly terrified of having their research, opinions and credibility exposed to the crucible of open public debate? What exactly are they trying to hide?
They won’t answer because they daren’t answer. What they are doing is a disgrace to science. And what their compliant friends in the media are doing is a disgrace to journalism.
A plague on all these scumbags’ houses!