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Mar 17 2012

Why am I not surprised?

James Inhofe, the ridiculous climate change denier, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and made a series of ridiculous claims. Among them was the claim that those wacky environmentalists were greatly outspending the entire energy industry on propaganda. Wait, what? The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2011 through 2011, and somehow the Sierra Club and George Soros and Michael Moore are able to outspend them? Where did such a patently absurd claim come from?

Inhofe revealed his source: the “very liberal publication”, Nature (yes, reality really does have a liberal bias) which cited a researcher who found that the environmental movement was filthy rich.

Propelled by an ultra wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents.

One problem: that study has been thoroughly debunked and shown to be the work of a very sloppy researcher. Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

And who was that sloppy shill for the denialists? Why, none other than snake oil salesman Matt Nisbet, who Greg Laden and I debated in 2007, and who butchers puppies for fun (←framing).

I admit to chortling with glee at seeing Nisbet exposed yet again as a tool of the status quo.

If you’re really interested, Nisbet has posted his list of excuses for his misleading report. The gist: he picked 45 environmentalist groups and 42 denialist groups (I think we already see a problem in his analysis). The environmental groups were open and revealed all of their expenditures, and were also capped in how much they could spend. The industry groups and right-wing think-tanks were shadier and did not provide figures, so Nisbet “estimated”. Industry associations have no caps on how much they can spend in direct lobbying.

I do regret the effort I spent arguing with this sleazeball in the past.

(Also on Sb)


Adam, David (2011) Money not the problem in US climate debate. Nature 19 April 2011.

36 comments

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  1. 1
    Glen Davidson

    We’d really need to know how pushing a AGW scam would benefit anybody, no matter who was funding it. You can’t short oil stocks long-range, so what’s the idea, that people owning solar stocks are responsible for the fraud?

    Basically, it’s so much flailing about for the conspiracy theorists. The benefit for them is that just turning it into a “controversy” has served, and continues to serve, their own purposes.

    Glen Davidson

  2. 2
    raven

    I admit to chortling with glee at seeing Nisbet exposed yet again as a tool of the status quo.

    Oh c’mon, we all have to eat. Don’t be so hard on Nisbet.

    Hmmm, well almost all of us manage to do so by honest employment in real jobs. And shilling for environmental wreckers and science deniers is way outside our morality envelopes.

    I wonder what the going rate is these days? Judas got 30 peaces of silver. With inflation and general increases in societal wealth, I suspect it is much higher.

  3. 3
    llewelly

    In the global warming debate, science has been framed as the perpetrator.

  4. 4
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2011 through 2011, and somehow the Sierra Club and George Soros and Michael Moore are able to outspend them? Where did such a patently absurd claim come from?

    ‘Cos Al Gore is fat?

    Seriously, that’s the best answer I can come up with.

  5. 5
    raven

    Just going to repost how I see global warming play out. For fun.

    I thought this, global warming, would happen in the 1980′s when I saw a chart of CO2 increases. Based on the law of cause and effect.

    1. We aren’t going to do anything. That is now blindingly obvious. A coal burning power plant has a lifetime of 40 to 60 years. The lead time for a carbon sequestering plant is estimated at 20 years and 1/4 of its energy is used to sequester the CO2. I use the word estimate because the number of planned CO2 capturing coal plants is around zero.

    A year or two ago, the EPA (or some agency) said we had 4 years left to start to do something about CO2. Well nothing happened.

    2. It’s dubious if we could do anything anyway. It’s a world problem and no one wants to hobble their (creeping along right now) economies when the rest of the world doesn’t.

    Plus our entire civilization runs on fossil fuels. There really isn’t any easy way to convert it to other forms of power.

    I don’t pay much attention anymore. This is a war the stop CO2 groups have lost. Not sure why the fossil fuel industry keeps beating their drums either. No one is going to stop buying their coal, natural gas, and oil products. In fact, we just fought a war in Iraq partly (unsuccessfully) to make the world safe for cheap unleaded gasoline.

    The new word is “adapt”. That is all we can or will do.

  6. 6
    kantalope

    Given Raven’s gloomy conclusions. How do I get me one of these climatedenier jobs? Easier research…ummm just make shit up, I guess. Looks like they pay pretty good.

    Do I just start a blog or do ya have to apply straight out with those Koch guys? Is there a careers page?

  7. 7
    raven

    How do I get me one of these climatedenier jobs?

    One problem. You have to find your conscience, if you have one, and toss it in the trash. And sure it is easy. Just make stuff up.

    The other easy job is scamming money from fundy xians. Anti-gay, anti-women, anti-Moslem, creationism, faith healing, Rapture mongering. Pat Robertson made over a billion dollars doing this.

    Harold Camping collected millions predicting the End of the World. He was wrong three times. This is getting to be a crowded field. The next prediction is May 27th, 2012. Do make sure to empty the wine cellar before then.

  8. 8
    garybridges

    #5, I think the memory of the CFC “debacle” is still floating around in their heads. We actually did turn an industry on its head to avoid destroying the ozone layer, and it pretty much worked.

    Best for the energy industry to press on and not take the risk that could happen again with carbon.

  9. 9
    cag

    from 2011 through 2011

    I think you meant 2001 through 2011

  10. 10
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    The fossil-fuel companies don’t want to be saddled with the cost of building in mitigating technologies nor reined in from encouraging consumption of a limited resource.

    Ironically, some people have calculated that only Exxon has the capital and ability to implement truly renewable energy technologies.

  11. 11
    ikesolem

    Ironically, some people have calculated that only Exxon has the capital and ability to implement truly renewable energy technologies.

    What? There’s this country called China, you know – whose budget for renewable energy initiatives is similar in size to the U.S. budget for the military-industrial complex. That’s why they’re the world leader in renewable energy development and production. Exxon is a dinosaur – they abandoned renewable energy in the late 1970s and instead went with Middle Eastern oil. They don’t own the leading renewable technology, and the only outcome of the spread of renewables is the elimination of their profit margins and the loss of value of their petroleum reserves – and the banks, hedge funds and other fossil fuel investors know this also, as do their partially owned corporate media outfits.

    Nevertheless, the countries that have tied themselves to the 20th century fossil fuel economic platform are set to the economic losers (and yes, you count uranium as a one-use fossil resource). The only truly renewable energy resources are the ones the biosphere relies on – sunlight and very limited geothermal energy (wind is driven by the sun, too).

    However, it’s still not possible to halt global warming this century. Even a complete elimination of fossil fuels overnight wouldn’t do it – you have 50 years (at least) of warming from the current atmosphere-ocean condition in the pipeline, and that’s not counting the potential of CO2 release from warming shallow seas and permafrost, which could be fairly large. No, we’re in the funnel now – there’s no going back. Nevertheless, eliminating fossil fuel use as soon as possible will slow eventual warming – even though we’ll all be long dead by then.

    That’s the human problem, apparently – no ability to contend with the long-term effects of short-term decision making. Our ability to foresee the consequences of the technology we’ve created is very limited – and we’re going to pay the price for that.

  12. 12
    Reginald Selkirk

    What is Nature‘s excuse for publishing such crap in the first place? They turn down quality articles all the time.

  13. 13
    David Marjanović

    yes, reality really does have a liberal bias

    *headdesk* How stupid not to have thought of this myself when I read of Inhofe’s nonsense yesterday!!!

    And who was that sloppy shill for the denialists? Why, none other than snake oil salesman Matt Nisbet

    HULK SMASH

    The industry groups and right-wing think-tanks were shadier and did not provide figures, so Nisbet “estimated”.

    WHAT HULK JUST SAID

    There’s this country called China, you know – whose budget for renewable energy initiatives is similar in size to the U.S. budget for the military-industrial complex.

    …That would be… a bit… much. Show me the numbers.

    What is Nature’s excuse for publishing such crap in the first place?

    Good question. Failure of peer review?

  14. 14
    sadunlap

    @ Glen Davidson #1

    We’d really need to know how pushing a AGW scam would benefit anybody, no matter who was funding it.

    Unfortunately, I have read the verbiage by some of the liberal do-gooder types who crow over how the “actions we must take to avert disaster from global warming” are policies that they have advocated for years: environmental protection, sustainable development, etc. I’m all in favor of that too. But the way some activists, lefty pundits, etc. mixed carbon abatement with with their other causes gave lots of ammunition to the Inhofe side. I watched the interview this morning on my computer. Inhofe has sunk his teeth into the “lying librils have dummied up phony science to put forward their anti-business agenda” conspiracy theory. (And he couldn’t shut up about “cap and trade” as a radical lefty attack on hardworking businesspeople despite the fact that republicans originated the idea). The right has so painted the science into the lefty radical corner of their mind that I see little hope of retrieving it from there.

  15. 15
    Nick Gotts

    I don’t pay much attention anymore. This is a war the stop CO2 groups have lost. – raven

    I utterly reject such counsels of despair. While it is probably true that we cannot now avoid a dangerous amount of warming and ocean acidification, the sooner and faster we cut greenhouse gas emissions, the better the chance that biodiversity, humanity, and if we’re really lucky even civilisation, might survive.

    There’s this country called China, you know – whose budget for renewable energy initiatives is similar in size to the U.S. budget for the military-industrial complex. That’s why they’re the world leader in renewable energy development and production. – ikesolem

    China is also building coal-fired power stations at quite a clip (about one a week a few years ago IIRC), and around 3/4 of its electricity generating capacity is coal-fired. We’ll see whether they really decide to push renewables (andor nuclear) hard enough to make a real dent in their emissions, and if so whether they are capable of carrying the programme through to success – it would be an immense undertaking.

  16. 16
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach
    What is Nature’s excuse for publishing such crap in the first place?

    Good question. Failure of peer review?

    Peer review will only work well if the choice of peers is well made. If your group of reviewers are all YEC types then a paper of total insanity will get published – PZ has recently pointed to some examples. ‘Nature’ is supposed to be better than that but they seem to have screwed up a few times recently. Perhaps there is a place for some input from a wider pool of reviewers, something easy to handle technologically nowadays, but how you’d establish which members are serious and capable and which are loons is an interesting problem. Probably not a good idea to start with 4chan or slashdot as a pool… oh, I know – get those nice people at conservapedia to review things and then everything they like, you reject.

  17. 17
    mudpuddles

    @Reginald Selkirk

    What is Nature‘s excuse for publishing such crap in the first place?

    This.

  18. 18
    rogerfirth

    The Maddow/Inhofe interview reminded me of thunderf00t interviewing Margie and Megan Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church.

    How can people that out of touch with reality operate a pair of lungs and a heart?

  19. 19
    sadunlap

    Nature the peer-reviewed journal, did not publish this. The Nature news online not-the-peer-review-journal-but-the-web-magazine did.

  20. 20
    dobbshead

    Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

    Does anybody have a good citation to back this up? I found this from this thread, but I’m having a harder time getting good numbers for the “pro”-climate change lobby.

  21. 21
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Via slacktivist linkage there’s a great item here :

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/13/a-77-year-old-man-from-oklahoma-cannot-deny-human-caused-climate-change/

    Pointing out amusingly and powerfully how someone from Oaklahoma – home to the 1930′s Dustbowl – really doesn’t have any business denying the reality of disasterous human impacts on the climate.

  22. 22
    Daniel Schealler

    Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

    Can I get a link/reference for that?

    I wants it for my bookmarks.

  23. 23
    WharGarbl

    Hmmm, well almost all of us manage to do so by honest employment in real jobs. And shilling for environmental wreckers and science deniers is way outside our morality envelopes.

    Would designing targeting system for drones considered “honest employment”?

  24. 24
    Ingdigo Jump

    Unfortunately, I have read the verbiage by some of the liberal do-gooder types who crow over how the “actions we must take to avert disaster from global warming” are policies that they have advocated for years: environmental protection, sustainable development, etc. I’m all in favor of that too. But the way some activists, lefty pundits, etc. mixed carbon abatement with with their other causes gave lots of ammunition to the Inhofe side.

    FFS no they did not. Inhofe used it as ammunition. They were fucking correct.

  25. 25
    dobbshead

    Would designing targeting system for drones considered “honest employment”?

    You mean GPS?

  26. 26
    WharGarbl

    @dobbshead
    #25

    You mean GPS?

    That would be navigation. The system, effectively, does the following.
    1. Determine target’s distance and relative location/velocity (plus some weather conditions).
    2. Rotate/elevate turrets to correct elevation.
    3. Fire.

    In short, he’s designing a system that allow drone operator (or gun-ship operators) to basically destroy/kill things through a point and click interface.

    “Just point cross-hair at things, and click to make it go boom.”

  27. 27
    WharGarbl

    Extension to #26
    According to him, there’s a system in development that automates the “pointing” part. So, bascially, it just boils down to.

    “Make target go boom (Y/N)?”

  28. 28
    dobbshead

    In short, he’s designing a system that allow drone operator (or gun-ship operators) to basically destroy/kill things through a point and click interface.

    I’m just saying that the Global Positioning System was intended for similar purposes, (the military cares about navigation because it helps them kill people), and has resulted in a lot of good worldwide. A lot of defense R&D has major civilian implications that aren’t apparent when in development. ARPANET, autonomous vehicles, and exoskeletons are other examples that come to mind.

  29. 29
    dobbshead

    Can you guys seriously not see civilian applications for an auto range and vector finding system? Better flight automation, autonomous vehicles, law enforcement tag and tracking all pop into my head. A more talented engineer than myself could probably think of more. And this stuff does work its way into civilian devices. Nylon, for example, was originally a replacement for silk in parachutes. Hell, the whole polymer industry was developed for war, but has caused so much good in the civilian sphere afterward.

  30. 30
    viggen111

    Nature (yes, reality really does have a liberal bias)

    Um, no, actually reality has a realist bent. I’ve met too many anti-vaccinationists, raw food dieters, and generalized bong-smoking Chopra woo and Loose Change believers who vote liberal to think that the far left is any less wing-nut batshit insane than the far right. You just happen to a have a particular filter that aligns based on religion and even though I often agree with it, I won’t overlook the Bill Mahers and Tom Harkins. Reality has no political bias and I can’t in good conscience let that comment pass.

  31. 31
    WharGarbl

    Can you guys seriously not see civilian applications for an auto range and vector finding system?

    So far, no one else had weighed in except for you. So I can’t presume what other think about this.

    My comment was more a question to whether individuals working in some… unsavory industry can still be considered “honest employment in real jobs”.

    For example:
    Designing/building weapons/tools of war.
    Designing/building equipments to exploit the environment.

  32. 32
    dobbshead

    My comment was more a question to whether individuals working in some… unsavory industry can still be considered “honest employment in real jobs”.

    And my point was that view is short-sighted from a technological standpoint. It’s also very privileged and self-righteous to try and condemn others for gainful employment you find distasteful, especially when it is so easy to point out that it is both necessary and beneficial to work in said industry.

  33. 33
    dobbshead

    Designing/building equipments to exploit the environment.

    Oh, you mean like equipment to mine Neodymium (for windmills)? What about mining and processing to create iron and quicklime (which both produce CO2 as a co-product)? Or getting oil and coal tar for pharmaceuticals and plastics? Every one of these processes “exploits the environment”, and every one is necessary to maintain our quality of life.

  34. 34
    slc1

    I wonder what PZ”s old pal Chris Mooney thinks about his asshole buddy Matt Nesbit these days?

  35. 35
    llewelly

    dobbshead
    18 March 2012 at 1:02 am:

    Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

    Does anybody have a good citation to back this up?

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/04/19/207910/climate-shift-data-reanalysis/

  36. 36
    Daniel Schealler

    llewelly

    <3

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