The free market in science denialism

You know…if you Google “american enterprise institute climate change” you get a lot of hits, useful relevant hits as opposed to ones that just have some but not all of the search terms. In other words there’s something there. The AEI does pay a lot of attention to climate change and it is the kind of attention you would expect – the kind that CEOs and lobbyists for oil companies want to hear and are willing to pay for. It’s one of their areas, and they take an interested position on it. They’re not disinterested scholars, they’re interested propagandists paid by corporations.

Here is Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, on the AEI’s chief climate-denier Benjamin Zycher.

Benjamin Zycher, the head of the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) energy studies criticizes an article I wrote earlier this week about the climate dangers of approving the Keystone Pipeline Project.

In that article, I said that the Earth’s climate is on a trajectory to raise the mean global temperature by at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century; that the world is experiencing a rapidly rising frequency of extreme climate events such as heat waves; and that keeping unconventional oil reserves like Canada’s oil sands in the ground is key to respecting the global climate budget.

Zycher accuses me of misrepresenting the scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has just issued its AR5 (Fifth Assessment Report) on climate science. Indeed, he calls my opposition to Keystone “fact free.” Yet it is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.

Read the article for the details.

The AEI tried to buy articles disputing a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.

That’s the lobby group that Christina Hoff Sommers works for. They pay her to bash feminism. (Because what? If feminism progresses further it will persuade people to stop driving cars and take the bus instead?) She’s accepted their offer. Mind you, I don’t think she’s changing her views in exchange for their money – but I do think she’s thrown away her own scholarly integrity and self-respect in exchange for their money.

Back to the Guardian article.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN’s panel as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work” and ask for essays that “thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.

I call that corruption. Frank, unabashed, shameless corruption.

The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.

“Right now, the whole debate is polarised,” he said. “One group says that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don’t think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy.”

I might almost believe that if it weren’t for that $1.6 million from ExxonMobil.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institute, said: “The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that ‘business as usual’ would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise.”

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: “The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration’s intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they’ve got left is a suitcase full of cash.”

And Christina Hoff Sommers, who is on the payroll of the AEI, has the fucking gall to announce that “today’s 3rd wave intersectional feminism” is “the intellectual equivalent of creationism.” She works for a highly partisan reactionary think tank that tries to bribe scientists to undermine a scientific report that they see as against their financial interests – yet she accuses feminists of being the intellectual equivalent of creationism.



  1. johnthedrunkard says

    Environmental lead ‘science,’ tobacco ‘science,’ vehicular safety ‘science,’ …. all churned out to order by whoever pays.

    Sorry to keep striking the same bell, but in recent news, ‘alcohol science’ produced to order for the alcohol lobby, shows up whenever drunken criminality is the subject.

  2. Al Dente says

    Probably Hoff Sommers works in the neo-con, anti-liberal division of AEI. Since AEI is a propaganda machine for the libertarian Koch brothers, having people doing general sneering at anyone to the left of Roger Ailes makes sense.

  3. Anthony K says

    thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs

    Yeah, there’s nothing creationist-like about that.

    She is a complete fucking sleaze.

  4. R Johnston says

    Jafafa Hots @3:

    Can we start calling Dawkins a right-winger now?


    Besides, given Dawkins’ bleatings of the last many years, better to call him a science-denier. Sure, he can talk the talk when it’s in his professional or financial interest, but whenever the results of empirical science disagree with Dawkins it’s science that’s wrong in his mind. Creationist, climate change denier, racist, anti-feminist; it’s all the same intellectual flaw. Dawkins believes that empirical reality matters less than Richard Dawkins’ feelings when it comes to the search for truth.

  5. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    IT really is a mistake to imagine that the AEI is the tool of big business. It is actually yet another front for the Koch brothers to garnish the extreme right wing ideology they inherited from their Bircher dad with some spurious academic credibility.

    These K-street ‘thunk tanks’ are all pay for pay operations. Give them the cash and they will find someone who will produce the intended result. They pretend to be the right wing equivalent of Brookings or MITRE but they are purely PR operations.

    At this point the only oil company that is in the climate denier camp is Exxon Mobil and thats due to their CEO being a wingnut loon, not due to any business interest. The smart oil companies diversified into renewables a decade ago.

  6. says

    Maybe Christina Hot Summers reckons she will be among the more intelligent animals that will climb up to the top of the mountains and be drowned last when the ice caps melt and we have a second Noah’s flood.

  7. John Morales says

    R Johnston @5:

    Dawkins believes that empirical reality matters less than Richard Dawkins’ feelings when it comes to the search for truth.

    A remarkable conclusion, but I don’t see how he’s denying “empirical reality”… and also, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think of himself thus.

    Feminism is a social movement (though sociology is a science) and I can’t deny that I think that he acts as if he thinks he knows what the proper version should be — and also feels duty-bound to pontificate upon it now he’s achieved Elder Statesman status.

  8. eveningperson says

    I think it’s highly likely that the “American” “Enterprise” Institute’s secretive donors include Middle Eastern, Russian and other international interests as well as the energy and energy-related industry, which is global and (I understand) represents something like a fifth of the world economy. So given the low status of women in many energy-producing countries, the AEI may well have a brief to undermine feminism as part of its overall anti-science work.

    John Mashey has published interesting information about the web of interconnections of the numerous right-wing pressure groups. A great many groups spend a lot of donor money, including from energy, mining and tobacco interests, but it usually seems to be the same relatively small number of people popping up again and again. It seems to take a singular lack of integrity (or naivety) to work for such organisations, and clearly not many people are suited to it.

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