The Institute of Public Affairs has renewed its attack on climate science. Steve Bishop explains why it could suffer very serious injury in this conflict.
Well, they both issued publications about climate change just before Christmas. And that’s where the similarities end.
One has closed the door on debate about whether or not 97 per cent of scientists agree that global warming is largely man-made by stating categorically that it is a fact. It also says scientists are 'very confident' that Earth will warm further over the coming century.
The other is still trying to suggest the world’s foremost climate scientists and nearly 200 worldwide scientific organisations are boofheads.
One is an organisation respected throughout the world for its aims of finding the scientific facts.
The other seems to process views until it finds something compatible with its aims, which, when it comes to climate change, have been summed up by IPA executive director John Roskam in this way (reported in Fairfax Media):
''Of all the serious sceptics in Australia, we have helped and supported just about all of them in their work one way or another,'' he says, listing some prominent figures on the local circuit. ''Ian Plimer - we launched his book - Bob Carter, Jo Nova, William Kininmonth.''
'…in May The Sydney Morning Herald said that ‘Roskam has done more to fuel doubt about climate change than almost anyone in Australia.’ It would have been great if you had mentioned it.'
One of the organisations has a motto:
'Take nobody's word for it.'
The other seems to have a motto of
'Find someone who supports our biased view of climate change.'
So, the two publications bear no resemblance to one another.
As the world's oldest scientific organisation and with about 80 Nobel Laureates on its books, the Royal Society has enormous gravitas, so when it issued a Short Guide to Climate Science on December 11, the science community took it very seriously.
The Society states categorically:
'Scientists know that recent climate change is largely caused by human activities from an understanding of basic physics, comparing observations with models, and fingerprinting the detailed patterns of climate change caused by different human and natural influences.'
The Institute of Public Affairs, however, risks becoming a casualty in the climate wars, with its book published a week later under the misleading title:
'Climate Change: The Facts 2014, featuring 22 chapters on the science, politics and economics of the climate change debate ...[featuring] ... the world’s leading experts and commentators on climate change'.
The IPA does not include one expert from the Royal Society (full name: Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which is the National Academy of Sciences in the UK and the world’s pre-eminent assembly of brains from all aspects of science).
The IPA book’s authors are John Roskam’s "serious sceptics" rather than the promised 'world’s leading experts’, despite the fact that the IPA boasts on its website that it supports 'evidence-based public policy'.
How do its “world’s leading experts” measure up against the 12 professors who wrote the Royal Society’s publication?
Peter Jackson of the Canadian paper, The Telegram, summarised the debate:
'For Plimer, it was an unmitigated disaster. He fudged and distracted at every turn like a senile old goat. In the end, he refused to answer a single question put to him by Monbiot or the moderator. His credibility - and that of his book - withered away into oblivion.'
With delicious irony, in one of the IPA’s chapters:
'James Delingpole looks at the academic qualifications of the leading proponents of catastrophic climate change and finds many lack the credentials of so-called ‘sceptics'.'
Yet, Delingpole wrote in one of his columns for the Daily Telegraph about his credentials:
'I'm an English graduate and know NOTHING about science apart from, maybe, how to grow copper sulphate crystals.'
And still on the credentials of sceptics, DeSmogBlog, which examines the credibility of climate change commentators, says another of the IPA "experts" left school at the age of 18 and does not appear to have a college education or any background in climate science.
According to Sourcewatch another author, Joanne Nova, has no evident academic background in climate science; her degree (BSc) is in molecular biology.
Another contributor to the IPA book, Donna Laframboise, has a degree in women's studies and now works as a photographer, says DeSmogBlog.
Yet another of the IPA’s 'leading commentators on climate change' is a journalist who does not seem to have any scientific background and who, says Wikipedia, does not appear to have finished his arts degree — Andrew Bolt.
On a different tack, funding has been a controversial issue among climate change sceptics.
Some allege it is in the interests of climate scientists to manufacture statistics that support man-made global warming in order to receive generous grants from government organisations.
'The livelihood of many of the climate scientists within the CSIRO and elsewhere is now dependent on grants from that department. It is not a situation conducive to sceptical outlook and balanced advice. When a tendency toward postmodern science is mixed with a single, generous and undoubtedly biased source of money, it is not surprising that things can go very wrong very quickly.'
So where do some of the IPA’s authors obtain their funding?
Then there’s the Heartland Institute which, according to DeSmogBlog, has received at least $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998 but no longer discloses its funding sources. The Sydney Morning Herald says documents show it has spent more than $US20 million funding and co-ordinating the activities of climate sceptics and bloggers since 2007. Heartland bills itself as promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.
New Texas textbooks cite the Heartland Institute on climate change skepticism ugghhhhh http://t.co/8Pk01ISgi3— Owen Davis (@of_davis) September 18, 2014
Do any of the IPA's authors receive funding from Big Carbon?
'... high-profile individuals who regularly and publicly counter the alarmist [anthropogenic global warming] message.'
IPA author Joanne Nova does also. DeSmogBlog says in 2007, the Heartland Institute arranged for and funded a group of scientists, including Ms Nova, to be sent to Bali to challenge and protest the annual conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Then there's IPA author Patrick Michaels. Wikipedia says he acknowledged on CNN that 40 per cent of his funding came from the oil industry. A 2005 article in the Seattle Times reported that Michaels had received more than $165,000 in fuel-industry funding, including money from the coal industry to publish his own climate journal.
Another IPA author, Richard Lindzen, was a member of the Science, Health, and Economic Advisory Council of the Annapolis Center, a Maryland-based think tank which had been funded by corporations including ExxonMobil.
IPA author Nigel Lawson founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation which, says The Guardian, has received donations from two sources linked to a free-market thinktank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has admitted taking funding from fossil fuel companies and has also argued against climate change mitigation.
Exposing the climate denial machine. Nigel Lawson explained around 12.04 http://t.co/IAOfW7Kl3f— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) February 13, 2014
'... been set up to assist expert researchers in environmental science and related areas who are prepared to challenge orthodoxy on topics which are scientifically and politically controversial,” said Dr Bryant Macfie.
Morohasy told the ABC:
“I worked for the IPA as a salaried employee on contract from 2003 until 2009. During this time I attended a conference on climate change organized by the Heartland Institute."
Sourcewatch says about IPA author Stewart Franks that, despite repeatedly denying that he has received any funding from polluting industries, Franks in fact received $85,000 in 2006/7 from Macquarie Generation, a state-owned corporation selling electricity on the National Electricity Market in Australia and one of the largest CO2 emitters in Australia. He was forced to admit this funding when questioned by a parliamentary committee, but immediately claimed the money went to a "student" and not himself.
According to documents from the Heartland Institute, IPA author Anthony Watts was paid by the "think tank" $88,000 for a project.
It would be interesting to learn of Garth Paltridge’s views about scientists and others receiving money from sources associated with fossil fuel industries.
The IPA book costs $24.95. The Royal Society information is free.
Read more by Steven on his blog stevebishop.net.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License