Wednesday 12 August 2009

Frits Böttcher

Roots of Dutch climate skepticism series, part 5
Next in the history of Dutch climate skeptics series is a man with an extraordinary CV : Carl Johan Friedrich (Frits) Böttcher.

After WW2, Böttcher (1915-2008) was a professor at Leiden University where he was teaching the remarkable combination of Chemistry and Graphology.

He had to give up the latter though around 1960 because by then the pressure of the academic world, considering graphology to be pseudo-scientific nonsense, became too big.

Somewhere in the 50's Böttcher also found the time to become a part-time scientific advisor for Shell. A position he'd keep for the next 30 years.

European Science and Environement Forum Frits Böttcher
European Science and Environment Forum
The Club of Rome
In 1963 Böttcher, having professional contacts with the Dutch ministry of education, told them he was surprised there was so little interest in the forthcoming conference of the just found OECD. This ultimately resulted in the ministry asking him to lead the delegation.

By that time he also became the first president of the Dutch Advisory Board for Science-Policy. In this position, he and some delegation- leaders from other countries were invited by the OECD to a conference on the results of population growth.

As a result of this involvement, Böttcher would become one of the founding fathers of the resulting Club of Rome, which in 1972 would publish the famous Limiths to Growth report.

It's considered to be one of the world's first expressions of a serious ecological concerns towards the future. It would also be one of the first to be attacked by environmental skeptics :-)

The quote
When his membership of the Dutch scientific board ended (1976), Böttcher started The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources. The financial resources for the institute were Shell and the automobile industry.

In the beginning of the 90's, Böttcher became a vocal climate skeptic. After a TV-debate in which Böttcher declared there's no CO2-problem, Lucas Reijnders said to Frits Böttcher : "You know very well yourself what you said is incorrect" to which Böttcher gave the legendary answer "yeah i know, but i'm against nuclear energy"

Big Tobacco Lobby
In 1994 (at age 79 !) Böttcher started the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), together with Roger Bate and John Emsley. ESEF declared that, in order to remain independent, it would only accept funding from the sales of its publications. Two years later, Roger Bate would ask Philip Morris for a £50,000 grant.

ESEF is linked, via shared staff (Julian Morris and Roger Bate) and a shared web server, to the International Policy Network and the Sustainable Development Network.

ESEF can be considered as a European version of Steve Milloy's The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). The aim of the now defunct ESEF was to bring tobacco advocacy into a larger field of environmental issues, like the ban on growth hormone for livestock (in Europe, it's illegal), restrictions on pesticides, etc.

In 1998, the academic members of lobby tool ESEF contained a lot of well known climate skeptics. Read and weep : Sallie Baliunas, Robert C. Balling, Sherwood Idso, Patrick J. Michaels, Harry N.A. Priem, Michel Salomon (the author of the Heidelberg appeal), S. Fred Singer, Willie Soon, Gerd-Rainer Weber, while Richard S. Courtney was listed as a bussiness member.

Böttcher in his turn would become a member of the advisory board of S. Fred Singers Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Böittcher would publish two books on the subject of climate change :

  • Science and fiction of the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide, The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources, 1992,
  • CO2, Klimabedrohung oder Politik? (in English : CO2, climate fraud or politics?), samen met H. Metzner, Paul Haupt, 1994
Böttcher called global warming a conspiracy involving a few hundreds of scientists and politicians.

The Heidelberg Appeal
It is in this environment of Big Tobacco lobbygroups like ESEF & TASSC that the Heidelberg Appeal would arise. Which is material for the next episode in the series.

The Heidelberg Appeal would lead into a Dutch division called Stichting Heidelberg Appeal Nederland (stichting HAN) which would become one of Hollands prominent anti-environmental groups.

HAN soon start to coöperate with Böttchers aforementioned private tool The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources and in 1997 they would start the Science and Society Forum (SSF). In a 2007 interview Böttcher stated the global institute still existed on it's own with one employee.

Frits Böttcher passed away on november 23, 2008.

Sunday 9 August 2009

The Edmund Burke Foundation vs. Big Pharma.

Roots of Dutch climate skepticism series, part 4

As every sailorman knows, sometimes it is necessary to go sideways to move forward. Therefore, in my series on the roots of Dutch climate skepticism, i want to take a stop first at a conservative think thank called the Edmund Burke Foundation (EBF).

While being climate skeptics alright, the main reason for taking a closer look at it is that omerta was broken in Burke : due to fights between members within the foundation, some things came to surface which never were meant to.

Joshua Livestro Edmund Burke Stichting
Joshua Livestro
Having a stop at EBF will give us a much better insight in how think-thanks and can industry can help each other. Or break eachother.

The origine of the Edmund Burke Foundation
In 2000, the organsation was found by Andreas Kinneging, Bart Jan Spruyt and Joshua Livestro
Livestro would leave Burke in 2003 after a conflict and is working as a freelancer ever since. Until 2005, Bart-Jan Spruyt (see picture) would be the most important person in EBF.

The Edmund Burke foundation was set up with something like the Heritage Foundation in mind. Another early contact is the American Enterprise Institute.

About its activities, Wiki learns us that in first era, before 2005 :

the Burke Foundation regularly published reports and studies on a variety of topics, including the Dutch health care sector, privatization, wasteful government spending and conservative philosophy and thought.

Financial Resources. While getting some revenues from private donations, and getting a starting bonus from a Dutch company, the biggest resource would become multinationals.

The Burke Foundation has some political visions which suitd some companies, and this is how they became one the European groups receiving money from Microsoft (for the views on IP).

The jackpot though was hit with the cheques of Big Pharma company Pfizer, which would donate $431,000 between 2000 and 2005.

Geert Wilders
In 2005, president Bart-Jan Spruyt left the original mission of EBF to group conservaties from different Dutch directions. Spruyt openly flirted with the new movement of politician Geert Wilders who in that time was starting a new political party.

Not everyone of the board did share Spruyts' ideas, causing friction. Somewhere along the route, four of the five people of EBF's directive board resigned.
Wilders indeed is a man who is very controversial and who raises much resist by other people, even amongst other conservatives.

In 2006 Spruyt would ultimately end up joining Wilders Party, but only 6 months later he departed the party already, stating Wilders simply is too extremist.

On his weblog Bart-Jan spruyt wrote Wilders' party PVV is "the personification of conservatism based on fear", with "a natural tendency towards fascism"

For a commercial company, any association with Geert Wilders would cause bad publicity. The ties between Burke & Wilders were one of the reasons Pfizer in 2005 decided to stop funding EBF. The other reason is Pfizer started funding another thinkthank which pleased them better.

This left the Burke Foundation as the unbeloved ugly duckling. As said the majority of the Leading board resigned somewhere along the route. And started talking.

Pfizer explains its policy
In October 2005, the influential Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer ran an excellent article (in Dutch) on the events going on at Burke, and the magazine spoke with a lot of parties involved in this story.

One of the people the magazine spoke with is someone of the corporate affairs division of Pfizer, who had to say :
Indeed, last year we donated money to the Burke Foundation. But we haven't agreed on anything with them for the upcoming year. Nor did the Burke foundation approach us.
In every country where our company is active, we try to feed the public health debate and if the Burke Foundation for the next years has some more promising plans, we will have a serious look a them and take them into consideration.
As we would do with any plan of any thinkthank. But we do are aware of the current events at the Foundation [so funding for the moment isn't very likely].
Do notice the way this corporate man is talking : Pfizer is not just donating money to a thinkthank which has a view which suits them.

What their spokesman says cannot be misunderstood : if you have a plan to "feed the health debate" and tell us how much effort you will put into it, we can see how much money you get.

The story this man is telling is the industry is not just donating money to thinkthanks having a bias that suits them. What he describes is a nothing but an ordinary bussiness deal

You Loose
Pfizer ultimately stopped funding the Burke foundation, to fund a new thinkthank which suited them better than EBF. The consequences were dire :

  • Bart-Jan Spruyt's salary dropped from 75.000 € yearly to zero euro
  • His number of employees dropped to zero
  • thanks to the European Independent Institute (the Burke offshoot which Pfizer started funding after Burke) they were able to keep their office, which they could not offard to pay for themselves anymore.

It shows what every thinkthank accepting corporate money, and every skeptic entering the thinkthank world (which all the best known climate skeptics have done so) has to face: play the corporate game, or get kicked out, with all the consequences involved.

And while for some sort of backgrounds, getting kicked from a thinkthank isn't the end of you, for others it is, especially the scientists, it is more problematic : people like climate skeptics cannot return to regular science, that door is shot. I think that makes it very difficult to leave the lobbyworld.

About the influence of companies on thinkthanks, Bart-Jan Spruyt had the following to say :
Companies nowadays are only willing to donate if they are allowed to decide what our agenda is. An example is a pharmaceutical company which only wanted to support us if in return we'd attack the new plan of minister Hoogervorst of Public Health.
This way, the Burke Foundation would risk to loose its credibility and
independency. It is terrible. I had the choise : continue with this way of funding the foundation, or return to the basics EBF was set up for.

The Burke foundation took a restart and became a small unimportant group, without much media attention.

The bargain Pfizer did
But in the times before that restart, the influence of the corporate money on EBF was substancial : the Burke foundation was meant to be a conservative thinkthank where people thinking alike could gather and debate the big things in life.

The reality after five years accepting money from Pfizer : Nearly half of all the brochures Burke published were dealing with Health care related subjects, instead of dealing with theoretical conservatism.

Diplomat Jess L. Baily, at the time the number two in rank at the US-embassy in Amsterstam concluded :
Pfizer did a great bargain with that Spruyt-guy : for just a little bit of money they gave him, that man manifested himself excellently the way they wanted. The time it lasted, he was in the newspapers everywhere

The lesson we've learnt is clear : while a thinkthank itself may presume that, for a little favor in return, with corporate money they have the chance to promote their own political worldview; the reality is different : by accepting corporate money, a thinkthank automatically partially becomes a tool of its financers.

It's an important lesson for understanding the climate change debate, where nearly all climate skeptics seem to have close connections with free-market thinkthanks. Thinkthanks who in their turn depend on corporate money, like Exxon money.

And at the end, some climate skepticism before bedtime
Even though it never was their core bussiness, the Burke Foundation expressed climate skeptical views. And in 2003, the Dutch anti-environmentalism organisation De Groene Rekenkamer published a "greenbook" in which a lot of environmental issues were labelled 'non-existent' or 'exaggerated'.

Even though nearly everything involving the book was done by the Stichting-HAN (they will appear later in the series) and Kouffeld's Nuclear Energy Foundation, the Burke foundation is mentioned as one the four co-authoring organisations.

How they ended up being involved with a greenbook ? Nescio.

Friday 7 August 2009

It's a fact. A CFACT.

EIKE Klima CFACT Holger Thuss
Yesterday i pointed out that the EIKE-group which is behind the '60 German scientists dissent over global warming' open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel has a lot of ties with some well known astroturf groups.

It seems the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) deserves more attention than i gave it, hence this follow up post.

CFACT lobbying international
Like any normal organisation, CFACT needs some humble money to survive. Luckily for them, the organization did find some sponsors as sourcewatch discloses :

Media Transparency calculates that between 1991 and 2006 CFACT gained $1,280,000 from 18 grants from only two foundations -- the Carthage Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

The Carthage Foundation granted $1,105,000 to CFACT between 1991 - 2006, while the Sarah Scaife Foundation sent $175,000 to the group between 1996 - 2001.


Greenpeace's ExxonSecrets website adds that Exxon has contributed a further $577,000 between 2000 and 2007

While looking at climate skeptics, i often see numbers Exxon is spending on different astroturf groups. $577.000 to one and the same group is a lot. Even for Exxon.

So why is this humble organisation receiving all that money ? The website of CFACT says about how things started :
Holger J. Thuss EIKE CFACT director lobby
Holger Thuss
In 1985, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) was founded to promote a positive voice on environment and development issues. Its co-founders, David Rothbard and Craig Rucker, believed very strongly that the power of the market combined with the applications of safe technologies could offer humanity practical solutions to many of the world’s pressing concerns.

Actually CFACT is a free-market tool set up specifically to lobby for libertarian solutions for environmental issues. Therefore, it's not a surprise that the advisory board of CFACT is full of well known climate skeptics like Sallie Baliunas, Pat Michaels, Sherwood Idso & Robert C Balling, who all are connected to free-market thinkthanks.

The Good Dr Thuss
According to his own CV, in 2004 Holger Thuss, a master in history, law & politics founded and became executive director of CFACT-Europe.

As you can see from his CV, Thuss is a man who is in the middle of European politics, serving a.o. the former president of the European Union, Jacques Santer. This probably explains why wikipedia tells us CFACT-Europe "quickly garnered a strong reputation for its public policy work in Europe"

For CFACT, Holger Thuss did what a lobbyist for a free-market group has to do : attack climate science. Thuss, together with the Institute for Free Enterprise, was organising the 2007 Berlin Climate conference where G.E. Beck & lobbyist S. Fred Singer were allowed to present their views.

An event repeated in June 2009, where some more well known skeptics were invited to speak. Well, at least Thuss did what his job-description is telling him to do : try to spread and promote climate-skepticism as much as possible.

Now you probably all are wondering : why is Jules wining about CFACT all the time, while the '60+ scientists for Merkel' letter was sent by EIKE, not CFACT.

Well, here's the answer : the president of EIKE is noone else but CFACT-Europe's executive director Holger Thuss. Auch.

So in 2009, still the lobby is using fake grassroots organisations, like EIKE, to pollute the climate change debate.

On the open letter to Angela Merkel, EIKE & CFACT director Holger Thuss is signing as nothing but a "concerned citizen". Yarly

As a little bonus, try looking at lobby-tool EIKE's scientific council and see if you recognize any names of scientists.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Freedom of speech, Joshua Livestro style

Joshua Livestro censuur De Dagelijkse Standaard
As could be expected, the Rob Kouffeld video I commented on yesterday is spreading and was copied on right wing sites like Vrijspreker and on Joshua Livestro's site De Dagelijkse Standaard where Hans Labohm wrote a post about it.

As a reminder, it was on this DDS site where Hans Labohm lied when claiming he was unware S. Fred Singer received money from the industry.

The very first reaction on todays post of Labohm was a comment by someone named Marco, and whoms post contained a link to my blogpost.

Contained, in the past tense.

Livestro clearly says on DDS that links to my blog are unwanted & therefore he erased Marco's entire comment...

If you can't win an argument, censor the opponent.

Freedom of speech, Joshua Livestro style...

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Prof em. Rob Kouffeld on climate change

Purely coïncidental, two days after i was blogging about Rob Kouffeld, De Groene Rekenkamer on it's Klimatospoof website posted a video message from this very same man who, to refresh the minds, is the president of the Dutch Foundation Nuclear Energy.

The video is in Dutch, but i'll summarize below what Kouffeld has to say and show it's nothing but a bunch of red herrings and low brow misconceptions..

CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas

Kouffeld's arguments are old news and have been debunked so many times it is incredible people still use them. Kouffeld isn't really delivering new insights :
CO2 is considered to be the most important greenhouse gas (GHG). This is
incorrect, water vapor is.
Kouffeld immediately starts his video with a strawman argument : scientists don't consider CO2 to be the most important GHG as they are very well aware that water vapor accounts for most of the temperature rise due to GHG's.
In the light of the present discussion, this is rather irelevant though as by no means it implies CO2 is not a GHG.

After the invalid water vapor argument, Kouffeld continues to try to marginalise the role of anthropogenic CO2 even further by saying that methane is a GHG too.

Antropogenic rise of greenhouse gasses CO2 methane N2O
And he finishes by saying that the role of CO2 is minor, and from that CO2, only a limited part is antropogenic as volcanoes and forrest fires are emitting CO2 in the atmosphere too.
As most people know, of course it is true that methane is a GHG too. But Kouffeld fails to mention that in the previous century mankind caused the levels of methane to increase sharply...
The second part of his argument also isn't telling the complete story : while indeed there's natural CO2 in the air (duh), it isn't so that mankind did not alter the concentrations significantly : in pre-industrial time, CO2-levels were around 280 ppm.

At present they are around 390 ppm, and predictions say levels could rise to 600, 700 ppm or more. In other words : it is very well possible mankind will double the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. That is significant.

Emission of CO2 from volcanoes is less than 1% of what man pumps in the air annualy.
Temperatures aren't rising
Next, Kouffeld jumps on the train of using short time natural varation in
temperature trends to claim that while CO2 levels are rising, temperature isn't always following. Hence there's no 1:1 relation between CO2 and temperature.
The argument once again is a clear strawman : CO2 is not the only factor with an influence on climate, so naturally one simply does not expect to find a 1:1 relation. Antropogenic climate change comes on top of natural variation.
Kouffeld then continues using the well known claim 'the last ten years, earth hasn't been warming' which Coby Beck adresses here and is a clear cherry-pick as the period to be compared has been carefully selected to fit the conclusion.

Glaciers are meaningless
Kouffeld continues by saying glaciers were melting before man was emitting GHG's, but doens't mention earth was coming out of a little ice-age. And he correctly says the length of a glacier is an equilibrum that doesn't depend solemnly on temperature, but also on precipiation, and claims therefore it is possible to say if glaciers are melting due to a rise in temperature.

In other words, Kouffeld fails to notice we both have thermometers and snow gages, two devices which make it impossible to verify which of the two factors is dominant (temperature for the vast majority of the glaciers).

It's anything but man

Rob Kouffeld De Groene Rekenkamer klimaatverandering
He then continues by adressing the Svensmark cloud theory, which scientist never considered to be proven. Realclimate adresses Svensmark latest publication in their post : still not convincing.

Not very convincing either is his argument the present low activity of the sun is the cause of the present (cherry-picked) cooling period.

He ends his talk by mentioning Al Gore a couple of times. Which obliges me to say Cheers !

Did i mention Rob Kouffeld is part of the "scientific" advisory board of the climate skeptical group De Groene Rekenkamer ?

UPDATE : a reader mailed me Kouffeld is member of the International Climate Science Coalition. A group which received quite some attention lately because of its strong ties with the authors (McLean, de Freitas & Carter) of one of the most deeply flawed papers which appeared in a mighty long time.

Deepclimate has a nice post covering the biggest problems with the McLean, de Freitas & Carter paper and a follow up post which links the New Zealand division of the ICSC with a ... libertarian political party called ACT.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Roots of the Dutch climate denialists, part 3 : stichting kernvisie

The Stichting Kernvisie (or Foundation Nuclear Energy) was found in 2000 and the president is emeritus Rob Kouffeld, who was working on Energy Technology in the Technical University Delft.

In its newsletter, the Stichting Kernvisie's main focus of course seems to be promoting nuclear energy and it considers Nuclear Power to be one of the answers to the climate change problem.

Even though the reasoning is completely logical, there's something odd going on : De Groene Rekenkamer (DGR) is an organisation of climate skeptics claiming there's basically no man-made climate problem, while Stichting Kernvisie uses this same climate-subject as one of the reasons to be pro nuclear power. Apparantly Stichting Klimaat is satisfied by one side of DGR's story, being their applause for nuclear power.

But there's more going on, as is shown beneath the widget

Rob Kouffeld
On top of the apparant contradiction above, when having a closer look one sees Stichting Kernvisie's president Rob Kouffeld (who is member of the advisory board of DGR) is one of the people signing a letter published in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant saying man is not altering climate.

So while the Stichting Kernvisie's publications may be accepting manmade climate change, Kouffeld himself clearly does not. How he manages to rhyme those two opinions is something i cannot explain, it looks like the man is playing double game.

As can be seen often in an enviro-skeptical environment, what matters is not the arguments used (they can be excluding each other, it doesn't matter), but what matters is the conclusion. In Kouffeld's case : the promotion of Nuclear Power. And both Stichting Kernvisie and DGR do so.

The S. Fred Singer letter
The letter mentioned above, which has spread widely over the internet, is extremely important as it reads as a "who's who" in Holland. Yet the truly amazing thing with this letter is the appearance of a name of a person without direct connections to Holland. That man is S. Fred Singer, the man who built a career as a lobbyist for anyone who needed an anti-environmentalist viewpoint.

It's the first yet not the last time we'll see Singers name appear in the history of Dutch climate skepticism, as it seems to be S. Fred Singer who seems to have been their most important international contact, and this from the very beginning of the Dutch anti-environmentalism.

Sending letters signed by a bunch of (supposed) experts, as we see here, actually is a tactic which the international climate change denialists have used over and over again. Looks like Singer has been a good teacher to Hans Labohm, the author of the letter. Obviously, there's also a clear connection between the names on that letter and De Groene Rekenkamer, as we will see later on.