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The upside of disinformation — unintentional humor

By Joe Romm

"The upside of disinformation — unintentional humor"


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hall-of-fame.jpgOkay, so at the recent Heartless Heartland skeptic/denier/disinformer/climate-destroyer conference [I promise to propose a better term this week], one of the few attendees who was a non-non-believer in science emailed me the following:

Marc Morano, Sen. Inhofe’s press secretary, just cited your post on the dangers of consensus as an example of how deniers are forcing climate action proponents to retreat.We’re making them afraid of using the term ‘consensus’!

Now that is humor! After all, my article is titled “The cold truth about climate change: Deniers say there’s no consensus about global warming. Well, there’s not. There’s well-tested science and real-world observations [that are much more worrisome],” and it explains that

  1. ‘Consensus’ is far too weak a word to describe the collective scientific understanding of the dangers of human-caused global warming
  2. The reality of climate change is almost certainly going to be much worse than the ‘consensus’ as that term is normally used (to describe the IPCC reports)
  3. The deniers are peddling pseudoscience.

I confess that RealClimate’s Gavin Schmidt did warn me that the disinformers might do this, and I was skeptical they would contemplate such Orwellian rhetoric [I am a skeptic at heart]. Silly me. Sillier Morano. Silliest Inhofe.

As the WSJ environmental blog noted, the Heartland disinfomer conference ended with more unintentional humor — a “Manhattan Declaration” whose first recommendation was:

Now, therefore, we recommend: That world leaders reject the views expressed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as popular, but misguided works such as “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The WSJ thinks it’s funny they would start with an attack on Gore — and it is. But I think what’s even funnier is that the disinformers urged world leaders to reject the IPCC even though the leaders’ representatives already signed off on a line-by-line edit/review of all the IPCC summaries.

The second recommendation is much less funny:

That all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith.

Wait … that sounds strangely familiar…. My Dante is a bit rusty, but I believe it was … La Divina Commedia … yes, now it’s coming to me … Canto III.9:

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.

My mediaeval Tuscan is even rustier, but I think the line translates something like:

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

‹ How high must oil go before we end subsidies?

Is it still disinformation if the speaker believes it’s true? ›

13 Responses to The upside of disinformation — unintentional humor

  1. Peak oil is rapidly taking care of the skeptics argument that we don’t need to do anything about energy. I not prefer to argue with the skeptics on the basis of peak oil, and the rapidly rising prices of natural gas and coal. Then I focus on health care costs associated with the use of fossil fuels, and ask the skeptics if private insurance companies and private individuals should be made to pay part of the cost of dumping toxic waste from cars into the environment. This is an alternative justification for mandating post-carbon energy sources. Skeptics who are often Libertarians, often agree with this line of argument.

    But Climate Progress has little reason to point the finger at global warming skeptics for disinformation. Climate Progress engages in its own pseudoscientific disinformation campaign against nuclear power. Rather than sticking with facts, putting information into context, and rationally evaluating the benefits and weaknesses of all post carbon power sources, you all too frequently overhype renewables, and launch overly emotional, factually inaccurate, and illogical attacks on nuclear power. Climate Progress is not really interested in preventing global warming. Climate Progress is all about proving the moral superiority of “Greens” over any other point of view on post carbon energy. This is no more about science than global warming skepticism is.

  2. Joe says:

    Charles Barton:

    Please identify the “pseudoscientific disinformation campaign against nuclear power.” If I “all too frequently overhype renewables, and launch overly emotional, factually inaccurate, and illogical attacks on nuclear power” — you should easily be able to find 5 examples.

    In fact, I’ve made clear that nuclear power will be part of the solution, albeit much less than most advocates conceive (read my book some day). It would take a miracle for it to be more than 10% of the solution. Indeed I just had a long conversation with one of the top advocate for nuclear power in the country — and he largely agrees with my analysis.

    Renewables have been underhyped, underfunded, and under-supported for so long by this administration (and conservatives/libertarians in general), I hardly think my moderate advocacy is doing anything more than setting the record straight.

    I am not a “Green” nor have I ever been one. Indeed, I am not an environmentalist, nor have I ever been one. You must have me confused with somebody else. The primary purpose of Climate Progress is preventing catastrophic global warming.

    BTW, I’ve never met a libertarian who supports government mandates, especially not those of the kind needed to avoid catastrophic warming. If You can directly me to any on the Internet, I’d be interested in looking at their blogs.

  3. Ronald says:

    Great comeback to Marc Morano. I am not worthy.

    But I can’t help but think that you knew they would use your article in the way that they did and that you had some idea of what you would write about it. If these people are willing to put the earth’s future at risk with what they do, how low a level will they stoop in what they say.

    Charles Barton,
    Joe Romm has written in his book ‘Hell or High Water’ that we need to “Build 700 new large nuclear power plants while shutting down no old ones.” One of the wedges written on by other authors. I think you should separate management of this website from some of those who post on it.

  4. Joe says:


    Yes, that is a quote from my book. One environmental group actually retracted a speaking invitation to me when one of their members pointed that out.

    If you’ve read the book you know that I’m not a big fan of nuclear power — and in particular I think the United States could make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions without new nukes, but that I doubt the rest of the world could, especially the rapidly developing countries like China and India.

    My 700 nukes figure is not so much an endorsement of nukes, as a reflection of the enormous scale of the necessary climate solution. We need all the energy efficiency and renewable energy we can build, cogeneration, highly fuel-efficient plug-and hybrid flexible fuel vehicles cars, carbon capture and storage if it proves practical on a large scale, and an end to deforestation, also. As I say in the book, “other strategies exist, but I consider them more challenging and improbable than any of these.”

    I will be updating my list this year, since I now take a slightly different view of what is needed (more wedges, more solar). I still see how it is hard to avoid new nukes, even if they are the “root canal” of climate solutions.

  5. danny bloom says:


    Speaking of humor: I am using this space, if your moderators will allow me, to announce just one more time, thanks, to your readers and whoever else surfs on by, the start of the international Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards here:


    They honor (sic) people who say stupid things about the climate crisis. The awards are satire. Then again, maybe they aren’t satire. The page is up now and running and we are accepting nominations via the comment section throught the year, anytime you spot a good quote, send it in.

    I have contacted the Czech media in Prague about these awards, too. Humor helps. The first three winners are listed on the front page of the blogsite.

    Now what exactly are the Vaclav Klaus Climate Joke Awards, you want to know? Or who is Vaclav Klaus and why is he being singled out here and so honored with his name on these satirical yet serious awards?

    Aha, you see, Václav Klaus [pronounced 'va : tslaf 'klaus] is the honorable and distinguished president of the Czech Republic who is currently into his second 5-year term, so this awards blog has a long shelf life, at least for the next 5 years. But this awards blog is not about the good country of the Czech Republic, who citizens are good honest people who know a thing or two about global warming and climate change. No, this awards blog is named after Vaclav Klaus because he recently told a reporter for the Associated Press in New York City during the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change (sic) sponsored by the Heartland Insitute (sic) funded in part by the oil industry (no sic here), and this man, this human being, this leader of a country in Europe, he told the AP reporter and we quote his now infamous words:

    “Climate is just a joke”, he told the AP. Instead of worrying about global warming, he went on, people should just go about their business and realize that any warming is just part of the natural process. [Associated Press report, March 5, 2008]

    There’s more of the quote here: “I am afraid that global warming alarmists are tyring to kill the freedom of people and prosperity,” Klaus reportedly told the reporter in the report reported in newspapers worldwide that day.

  6. Joe, read my book is not a very good argument. Your claim that “it would take a miracle for it to be more than 10% of the solution.” has no support. You further claim that “one of the top advocate for nuclear power in the country”, who you don’t name, “largely agrees with my analysis.” You have of course not shared with us your analysis, and you do not specified in detail the points which the unnamed expert agreed with.

    This is the black box method of argument, and it rests on your own claim to authority. Joe, I don’t think you are a bad guy, but your views on nuclear power suck from the viewpoint of rational argument. Even the global warming skeptics ground their arguments in representations which they claim to be factual. You should note that my original complaint about Climate Progress included references to factually inaccurate attacks, perhaps I should amend that to factually inaccurate and inadequate attacks.

  7. Joe says:


    I asked you to identify several specific posts. You have not done so. That is because they simply do not exist and your accusations are false.

    I have shared my analysis on nuclear power many times — it would take you under a minute to find it on this website or Salon’s or Grist’s. I do not have to repeat the entire argument every time I post just because some commenter who has not bothered to search my blog or the web (or read my book) thinks he can just toss out unjustified and false claims.

    As I have explained it many times, for nuclear to be even 10% of the solution (assuming the solution is stabilization at below 500 ppm), would require the world build 1000 nuclear power plants over the next four decades along with 10 Yucca mountains. Could it happen? Maybe — but it would be very very tough. Could we do significantly more than that. Not without a miracle [and let me define miracle to be the United States and the nations of the world agreeing 1) to adopt a World War II-scale effort for four decades to build and develop and deploy carbon-free technologies and 2) that they will do everything possible to ensure that nuclear power will be more than one wedge.]

    Before you go making accusations that demonstrate you don’t know what you’re talking about, read the Keystone report — I blogged on that too.

  8. Dennis says:

    Following the Heartland “conference” in NYC has been amusing. I read through the information of who was attending and found a grand total of 5 (that’s FIVE) actual climate scientists in attendance. The vast majority of attendees have no scientific credentials at all. As I told the skeptics I work with (actually, most have moved from skeptical to “we can’t do anything about it” defeatists), the actual science on the conference could take place in the corner of the local Starbucks.

  9. Joe, You want me to identify anti-nuclear posts. Lets start with “The Achilles Heel of Nuclear Power.” Fist yuo give us a stereotypical anti-nuk icon, a picture of Mr. Burns.

    You then announce the problem of water shortages:
    Climate change means water shortages in many places and hotter water everywhere. Both are big problems for nukes.
    But no where in your peace is there a systematic analysis of the water shortage problem as they might effect nuks, only blanket propagandistic statements that this problem is so awful that nothing can be done about it. No where is there even a hint of drawing cooling water from the sea would be a solution, as would chilling coolant water in dry cooling towers, and storing it and then recycling it through the reactor. Another solution, one which I personally favor, is building reactors which greater thermal efficiency. Light Water Reactors represent very antiquated technology, far more efficient reactors could be built. Newer reactor concepts have efficiencies as high as 60%.

    In “Nuclear Power No Climate Cure-All” you make very negative and factually questionable assumptions about nuclear reactors. You quote a press story that claims:
    “Specifically, that would require adding on average 3 nuclear plants each week for the next 50 years, all the while building an average of 7.4 plants to replace those that will be retired, the report by environmental leaders, industry executives and academics said.”

    In fact, the construction of hundreds of nuclear plants is possible if it is required. Reactors can be mass produced in factories, rather than custom built as they are now. We just have to stop doing business as usual in the face of the global warming crisis. You you about shutting old reactors down, but if you followed trends in nuclear technology, you would be aware that research directed to extending the lives of old reactors to 80 years or more is now underway.

    You talk of “some 100 Yucca Mountains to store the waste.” In fact no long term waste storage in required. 95% of so called nuclear waste can be recycled in reactors, and it would be foolish to not recycle the stored “spent” nuclear fuel, that is currently awating disposal.

    I commented on that post:
    “Actually this essay simply states the case of the mass production of breeder reactors. Only breeder technology would provide the nuclear fuel for all the reactors imagined here. The only way that such a large number of reactors could be built is on an assembly line basis. Since we are going to be recycling so called “reactor waste”, there will ne little need for long term repositories for spent reactor fuel. Assembly line production of reactors, which then can be shipped to on ships and barges to the power production sites around the world, will enable reactors to be manufactured for a fraction of their present costs.”

    As you can see I offered quite a different interpretation of the information upon which you based your anti-nuclear arguments. You ignored my response, and continue to parade the same flawed arguments as if they were undeniable truth.

    Joe you are not above making mistakes.

  10. Joe says:

    Charles, no one is above making mistakes, including the operators of nuclear power plants.

    You for instance make a variety of mistakes in your last comment. My post “Nuclear Power No Climate Cure-All” could only be labeled an anti-nuclear post by the few people who still believe nuclear power could be the entire or even most of the climate solution. In fact, one wedge of nuclear would, by most reasonable people, Be viewed as incredibly pro-nuke.

    If you think we’re going to go to breeders on a large scale, I think you have drunk the radioactive Kool-Aid.

    As for the first post you cite, it has a number of hyperlinks to expand on the discussion. Colbert says reality has a well-known liberal bias. If the truth can be anti-nuke, then I suppose the post is anti-nuke.

    One last point, your website opens with the quote from Wigner, “”The full meaning of life, the collective meaning of all human desires, is fundamentally a mystery beyond our grasp.” I don’t think it’s a big mystery at all. “The collective meaning of all human desires” is “please don’t destroy the livability of the planet for the next 50 generations” or words to that effect.

  11. Paul T. says:

    Hey Joe,

    Being mentioned by them isn’t so bad. I think it’s clear who is feeling the heat, and who has reason to feel on edge (global cooling notwithstanding lol)

    And now Singer is using the straw man they’ve used consistently by claiming the science is settled. Just as they are now using one of their other old tricks (scientists and the 70′s ice age scare) as more grand hand waving. Everyone, watch the other hand, and not where they’re leading with their other hand and eyes.

    Maybe they aren’t so bad after all… they appear to favour recycling, even finding new uses for old rubbish!

  12. David B. Benson says:


    (A comment on the comments, not the main topic.)

  13. danny bloom says:

    RE Dennis’ comment above: if only 5 climate scientists were attending the Heart Land Con, then why did the AP reporter John Heilprin report that there were 100+ scientists attending? Isn’t that a bit of AP disinformation?
    Mr Heilprin?

    Maybe AP should be nominated for one of these awards?