by Judith Curry
So, like the tobacco companies before them, they have elected to muddy the waters by deliberately sowing misinformation to confuse and bamboozle the public understanding of what is happening with global climate.
The fossil fuel industries have been funding dedicated minions at the Heartland, Cato, and George C. Marshal Institutes (among others) to generate misinformation about global warming and global climate change. They have attempted to attack the climate science message (such attacks actually part and parcel of the scientific process), but without much success, since the foundations of climate science are more than strong enough to withstand such challenges. Having failed in discrediting the climate science message itself, they have resorted instead to attacking the climate science messengers with character assassination, political innuendo, stolen e-mails, etc.
Latimer Adler responds:
I’d have more sympathy with this view if I had actually ever heard of the George C Marshall Institute and the Heartland Corporation – who Andy Lacis casts as the villains of the piece. Whoever they are, they are not household names in UK.
So lets take a look. Books have been written on this topic:
Lets take a specific look at the Heartland, Cato, and Marshall Institutes. Each of these is a libertarian “think tank”. For background on libertarianism and the environment, see the previous thread.
Heartland hosts the International Conferences on Climate Change. Heartland also published the NIPCC Report. Total budget looks to be around $5M/yr, “common sense environmentalism” is one of 7 focus areas.
Climate change is a relatively minor focus area for Cato, with Pat Michaels essentially being their only spokesperson, primarily through his blog World Climate Report. Cato’s annual expenses are approximately $20M. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to Cato.
George P. Marshall Institute
As per Sourcewatch, on its 2006 annual return, the Institute states that its total revenue for the year was $969,923 with $308,819 spent on global warming work. Several people affiliated with GMI are also affiliated with the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), led by Fred Singer. Correction: Fred Singer emailed me with the following message: Since the death of Dr Fred Seitz, SEPP has no common links with the Marshall Institute. Also: Our budget is around $100,000 or less, thanks to the fact that we have no employees and pay no salaries.
David vs Goliath?
Well, who is David and who is Goliath here? My first reaction to all this is that those fossil fuel companies and the Koch brothers sure are stingy with all their $$billions in terms of spending it to refute climate change. With only a few scientists or other analysts on staff. Compared to 97% of climate scientists, that must number in the thousands. Compared to $$billions spent by governments on climate research, not to mention $$billions spent by enviro advocacy groups (many of whom have annual budgets exceeding $100M). Is Pat Michaels, Joe Bast, and whoever at GMI, with maybe a measley few $$million per year, really a match for the global climate establishment? Can somebody please explain this to me? Yes, I’ve read all of Joe Romm’s rants on this subject (well, as many as I could stand to read). It just doesn’t add up.
To my thinking, the climate establishment has been seriously misled into thinking that their biggest impediment is the fossil fuel industry and the libertarian think tanks. Bad politics, bad policy, overconfidence in the science and dismissal of skeptical perspectives,climategate, and misreading of economic and technical realities seem to be more likely explanations; its not an issue of the lack of public understanding of the science. In terms of overall effectiveness, I would say the academic skeptics such as Lindzen plus McIntyre and McKitrick have been more effective than the libertarian think tanks in terms of putting forth a skeptical view point.
The latest kerfuffle coming from one of these think tanks is this whopper described by Peter Gleick regarding the Heartland Institute, about sea ice in 2010 having the same extent as that in 1989. And here is what Heartland had to say. Heartland picked a really rotten cherry on this one. And somehow this kind of thing is destroying the public understanding of the science? If the public understanding of climate science is that fragile, well climate scientists have failed massively. And public understanding of science still won’t trump bad politics, bad policy, and misreading of economic and technical realities.
Joe Romm’s latest rant
With regards to the (forthcoming) new surface temperature data set, Joe Romm went on a tirade about the contribution of funds to this project by Charles Koch. Actually I thought the combination of Charles Koch and Bill Gates as co-funders of the project was rather brilliant in terms of representing diverse perspectives. Sounds like all of the contributors to the Berkeley project would like to see a more objectively and transparently produced surface temperature data set.