Monday, July 11, 2011

Nine Out of Ten Climate Denying Scientists Have Ties to Exxon Mobil Money

From Good courtesy of Digg:

Recently, you've also almost definitely seen links to this website—"900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of "Man-Made" Global Warming (AGW) Alarm"—created by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The problem is, of the top ten contributors of articles to that list, nine are financially linked to Exxon Mobil. Carbon Brief, which examined the list in detail, explains:

Once you crunch the numbers, however, you find a good proportion of this new list is made up of a small network of individuals who co-author papers and share funding ties to the oil industry. There are numerous other names on the list with links to oil-industry funded climate sceptic think-tanks, including more from the International Policy Network (IPN) and the Marshall Institute.

Compiling these lists is dramatically different to the process of producing IPCC reports, which reference thousands of scientific papers. The reports are thoroughly reviewed to make sure that the scientific work included is relevant and diverse.
It's well worth reading the rest of the Carbon Brief analysis. According to the GWPF, the purpose of the post is to "provide a resource for peer-reviewed papers that support skepticism of AGW or AGW Alarm and to prove that these papers exist contrary to widely held beliefs." It's true that supporters of real climate science too often trot out the "peer-review" argument. While an essential cornerstone of science, peer-review "is not foolproof," as the founders of Real Climate explained a long while back.

More here.

Facebook, amazingly enough, is good for something. After I found this article on Digg, I immediately posted it on fb, and quickly got into some rousing debate with my older brother on the topic--here's the link if you're already "friends" with me there. Generally, I really like arguments because you learn more about your own position if it's not just mud slinging and being an asshole. My older brother is really sharp. I mean, I disagree with him on many issues, but discussing this article with him forced me to refine my point of view:

It's not that oil industry funded research somehow biases the scientific work. Rather, it's that the oil industry finds scientists who are already on the fringe and then uses its vast resources to magnify what is decidedly such a minority position that it might as well be incorrect into something that looks like it's worth using in the public discourse. That is, scientists who are global warming skeptics are a tiny minority, and, even though they pursue their research in good faith, the debate is over--they lost. But the oil industry, and plenty of like-minded conservatives, cannot possibly accept this outcome, so they keep on fighting for a lost cause. Because public debate is much more slippery than scientific research, bringing in scientific views which have been rejected by the vast majority of climatologists, and then calling these views "peer reviewed" even though it's not really "peers" doing the reviewing, confuses the political discussion just enough to make a dangerous point of view seem somehow reasonable.

I mean, science isn't nearly as messy as political debate, but then it's not as tidy and neat as people want it to be. Remember from grade school how science works at its most philosophical level: observe, hypothesize, experiment, repeat ad nauseum until you're ready to submit your findings to the greater scientific community; then everybody else does the same thing a billion times until you've achieved such massive consensus that the vast majority of scientists is ready to call your findings a fact. And that's essentially what we have with the notion of man made global warming. The vast majority of climatologists regard it as a fact, but there are still a few holdouts--these holdouts aren't fucking around; they just disagree with pretty much all their peers. Indeed, there are still some scientists who doubt evolution for whatever reasons, but that doesn't stop evolution from being the organizing principle behind all of biology.

So there are a few tiny "holes" that come with science, a minuscule little bit of uncertainty always there that's just part of how science functions as a philosophy for understanding physical reality. This is no big deal to scientists. It's just how things work. But this aspect of science, that there's always a very small bit of doubt, has, for the science of climate change, been taken and blown up into an enormous political fiction by forces that have a major interest in the science being proven wrong. And because most Americans don't remember their grade school lessons on the scientific method, or, at least, are unable to apply such knowledge to the world in which they live as adults, people get genuinely confused.

But make no mistake: man made global warming is a fact. There is no real debate on this issue. Not now. Not for at least a decade, if not more. What debate exists in the public realm is nothing but an exercise in rhetoric that serves to delay action until it is too late.

Actually, I think they've succeeded in doing just that. I think it's too late. I think we're fucked.