Friday, 29 May 2009

The wiki list of scientists opposing mainstream views on climate change

In an article which surprised me, Matthew C Bradford speaks in the NY times of a former position he was holding before his present day job :

I landed a job as executive director of a policy organization in Washington. This felt like a coup. But certain perversities became apparent as I settled into the job. It sometimes required me to reason backward, from desired conclusion to suitable premise.

The organization had taken certain positions, and there were some facts it was more fond of than others. As its figurehead, I was making arguments I didn’t fully buy myself. Further, my boss seemed intent on retraining me according to a certain cognitive style — that of the corporate world, from which he had recently come. This style demanded that I project an image of rationality but not indulge too much in actual reasoning.
The organisation he was working for was the notorious conservative George C. Marshall Institute (GcMI).

The quote demonstrates the GcMI isn't the most thrustworthy source in the world, which is no surprise for people familiar with the organisations behind climate change skepticism.

On their website, the GcMI introduces itself this way :
In every area of public policy, from national defense, to the environment, to the economy, decisions are shaped by developments in and arguments about science and technology. The need for accurate and impartial technical assessments has never been greater. However, even purely scientific appraisals are often politicized and misused by interest groups.
The Marshall Institute seeks to counter this trend by providing policymakers with rigorous, clearly written and unbiased technical analyses on a range of public policy issues. Through briefings to the press, publication programs, speaking tours and public forums, the Institute seeks to preserve the integrity of science and promote scientific literacy.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a rather critical view towards the institute :

ExxonMobil-funded organizations consist of an overlapping collection of individuals serving as staff, board members, and scientific advisors that publish and re-publish the works of a small group of climate change contrarians.

The George C. Marshall Institute, for instance, which has received $630,000 from ExxonMobil, recently touted a book edited by Patrick Michaels, a long-time climate change contrarian who is affiliated with at least 11 organizations funded by ExxonMobil.

Similarly, ExxonMobil funds a number of lesser-known groups such as the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy and Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Both groups promote the work of several climate change contrarians, including Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist who is affiliated with at least nine ExxonMobil-funded groups.

On a Belgian forum, someone asked if i am familiar with the names on the wikipedia page listing scientists opposing the mainstream vision.

If we have a look at the wiki-list, there are a lot of scientists on it who are/were affiliated with the George C. Marshall institute :

If we p.ex. have a look at this paper we see it is authored by Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, Sherwood Idso, Craig Idso & David Legates. All five of them appear on that wikipedia page as scientists opposing the mainstream vision on climate change.

All those authors seem to have close ties with the George C. Marshall Institute :
  • Craig Idso doesn't seem to be on their list, but his father Sherwood Idso is.

To give an example of fundings for these people, In 2008, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, home of Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, received $76,106 from Exxon for no apparant reason.

The piece from the Union of Concerned Scientists (see above) also mentions Patrick Michaels, who is a visiting scientist for the George C Marshall Institute and yet another name appearing on the wiki-page.

Last monday, Bob Burton wrote an excellent piece on the funding of a consultancy firm ran by Pat Michaels : The libertarian think thank Cato institute since 2006 paid $242.000 for "environmental policy" services. Bob Burton's piece gives a rare insight in what's going on behind the screen.

Pat Michaels, and another "wikipedia-scientist", S. Fred Singer, were co-authors on this book published by the GcMI. And there are even more sounding (wiki-) names affiliated with the GcMI, like John Christy & Roy W Spencer who co-authored this piece published by the George C. Marshall institute. Richard Lindzen from his side published this text.

It is amazing so many of the scientists on the wikipedia page are coming together in a small right-wing thinkthank.

On top of that, often the very same people also are appearing on the website of another free market organisation, being the Heartland Institute which i mentioned before on this blog (here & here) where they are listed as climate change experts (for the Dutch readers : hard to believe, but Hans Labohm is considered an expert by Heartland. A clear sign the list isn't about expertise at all).

Of the 38 names on the wikipedia list, no less than 21 appear on the Heartland Institute's list as global warming experts (and then GcMI-experts Michaels & Sherwood Idso even't aren't on their list).

Climate skepticism seems to be comprimised in a very small part of the world, being the tiny area of no more than a couple of right-wing thinkthanks.

(h/t to deltoid & Jonathan Chait)

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