Climate

Anti-science disinformers step up efforts to intimidate and harass climate scientists

Latest attack is aimed at Michael Mann, Richard Alley, Penn State

[Note:  People looking for a useful way to respond might consider writing a letter of support to the university, as suggested in the comments (click here for addresses).]

As I said yesterday, one of our jobs this year is to wipe the complacent smiles off the smug faces of the lobbyists, “experts”, “scientists”, politicians and activists pushing AGW.

I must apologize for the U.S.-centrism in my 2009 “Citizen Kane” awards for non-excellence in climate journalism.  I left out James Delingpole and his “paper,” the UK’s Telegraph.

Delingpole makes George Will look like Walter Cronkite, and the Telegraph makes the Washington Post of the 2000s look like … the Washington Post of the 1970s.   Delingpole is a self-described “libertarian conservative” who likes “recreational drugs” and Ronald Reagan — though he apparently hasn’t figured out that those two don’t actually go together.  He says he dislikes “big government” but is in fact a stereotypical big-government conservative.

He’s the Glenn Beck of climate writers who puts out stuff like, “Build-a-bear: the sinister green plot to turn our kids into eco-fascist Manchurian candidates.”  Seriously (see “Right wing bullies Build-A-Bear into removing videos about manmade climate change“).

Delingpole just published his latest screed, “Climategate: Michael Mann’s very unhappy New Year,” with the above lede.  Evincing the glee of a middle-school bully, he describes the latest effort by the anti-science crowd to intimidate and harass climate scientists.

As science historian Spencer Weart said in November of Swifthack: “We’ve never before seen a set of people accuse an entire community of scientists of deliberate deception and other professional malfeasance. Even the tobacco companies never tried to slander legitimate cancer researchers.”

But they’ve gone beyond slander to outright harassment — see Competitive Enterprise Institute to sue RealClimate blogger over moderation policy and here where our top climatologist, NASA’s James Hansen, explains part of the strategy:

“I am now inundated with broad FOIA requests for my correspondence, with substantial impact on my time and on others in my office. I believe these to be fishing expeditions, aimed at finding some statement(s), likely to be taken out of context, which they would attempt to use to discredit climate science…. The input data for global temperature analyses are widely available, on our web site and elsewhere. If those input data could be made to yield a significantly different global temperature change, contrarians would certainly have done that — but they have not.”

Delingpole actually brags about the latest intimidation strategy:

This is why I am so glad to report that Michael Mann – creator of the incredible Hockey Stick curve and one of the scientists most heavily implicated in the Climategate scandal – is about to get a very nasty shock. When he turns up to work on Monday, he’ll find that all 27 of his colleagues at the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University have received a rather tempting email inviting them to blow the whistle on anyone they know who may have been fraudulently misusing federal grant funds for climate research.

Under US law, regardless of whether or not a prosecution results, the whistleblower stands to make very large sums of money: it is based on a percentage of the total  government funds  which have been misused, in this case perhaps as much as $50 million.

No, there isn’t going to be any “very nasty shock” by Mann or any of his colleagues, including the great Richard Alley, since they are all already more than aware of the inane tactics of the disinformers (see Alley explains “The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Climate History”).  And no, there aren’t any “whistleblowers” who will make a nickel off this intimidation strategy, but then that isn’t really the point of this email:

Hi,

Greetings and best wishes for a prosperous New Year.

National Search
After the recent whistleblower revelations of emails between climate researchers and data from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, there are on-going investigations into potential fraudulent use of grant funds in Climate Research in the US.  I am assisting interested parties who may have details of fraud in climate research to make contact with the proper authorities, and to share in the rewards paid when the funds are recovered.

Whistleblower Rewards Program
The federal government has established vigorous programs to identify and prosecute fraudulent grant applications and administration.  The US Department of Justice (DOJ) administers the False Claims Act.  It allows rewards for those who come forward with details of grant fraud to share in the recovery of federal funds.  This reward can be as much as 30% of the total amount reclaimed.  The program is almost completely reliant on insiders to report their knowledge of the fraud in their institutions.

Attorney Literally “Wrote the Book” on Fraud Recovery Lawsuits
Joel Hesch, Esq., of Hesch and Associates, literally wrote the book on how to report federal fraud.  He has an extensive background in representing whistleblowers in all types of federal funding fraud cases, including Educational/ Research Grant Fraud.  According to Mr Hesch: “Many institutions receive grants, whether for research or educational purposes. When they lie to get the grant or keep the grant or if they use the funds for purposes outside the grant, they are liable under the DOJ program. There have been many grant cases brought by whistleblowers. ”

If you know of anyone who might have details about fraudulent statements or actions by recipients of federal grant funds for climate research, please have them contact me immediately at the below email or cell phone.  Alternatively, they may also contact Mr Hersch directly,  and let him know that they were referred by me.  All communications are completely confidential.  They may want to consider using a third party email service (Yahoo, Hotmail, or other) instead of work email to communicate.

30% of $50 million is more than $12 million.  Ask your friends to do the right thing, and be rewarded for doing it.
Our country, and in fact, the entire world is counting on someone to stand up and tell the truth about climate research. The effects of moving forward with taxes and policies based on fraudulent science could potentially cripple the US economy and cost lives and jobs for generations.

Look forward to hearing from you.

All the best

Kent Clizbe

Academic scientific research ain’t defense contracting — everybody is seriously underpaid and overworked, typically 60 to 80 hour weeks.  What little money there is spread over many people and many years of research and doesn’t get spent in ways that come even close to the kind of fraud the laws were designed to uncover.  The University is itself doing a review, but the highly-regarded work of Earth System Science Center is of course published in science journals — and open to anybody to critique.  The federal government knows precisely what it is funding, and the reporting required of such scientific contracts is scrupulous to a fault.

The point of the email is harassment and intimidation, nothing more.  Just how absurd this all is can be seen by the fact that Delingpole and his anti-scientific buddies think the Hockey Stick is itself fraudulent, when in fact it was essentially vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences (see NAS Report and here).

Yet even more important than the fact that the original analysis was defensibly correct, is that the conclusions were correct [which could be true even if the analysis had flaws in it].  Is the planet now as hot (or hotter) than it has been in a millenium?  Try two millennia (see “Sorry deniers, hockey stick gets longer, stronger: Earth hotter now than in past 2,000 years“).  See also “Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, ‘seminal’ study finds.”  That’s why climatologist and one-time darling of the contrarians Ken Caldeira said last month, “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.”

Delingpole is almost my age, so he’ll probably live to see just how tragically wrong he has been.  I was given the book My Paper Chase for Christmas, the memoir of the great British journalist Harold Evans, who opens his story with his pre-WWII childhood.  The closest analogue I can see for Delingpole is those journalists who attacked Churchill for trying to warn of the coming storm, attacks that were made easier by the fact that Churchill was quite flawed (like all people) and had made many mistakes in his career.

But even more than was the case in the 1930s, the warning of what is to come has been issued clearly and repeatedly by top scientists and governments around the world for all to hear.   Those who refuse to do so are nothing more than polluter appeasers who can’t stop the catastrophic impacts of unrestricted GHG emissions but can stop the world from acting in time.  Indeed, right after the email scandal erupted, the Met Office (the UK’s National Weather Service, within the Ministry of Defence), the Natural Environment Research Council, and the UK’s Royal Society (the UK’s national academy of science, “the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence,” founded in 1660) released a long must-read statement reiterating the nature of the threat, with this summary:

The 2007 IPCC Assessment, the most comprehensive and respected analysis of climate change to date, states clearly that without substantial global reductions of greenhouse gas emissions we can likely expect a world of increasing droughts, floods and species loss, of rising seas and displaced human populations. However even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened. The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong. Without co-ordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts on climate and civilisation could be severe.

Then the most prestigious UK science journal published a long must-read editorial, see Nature editorial: “Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real “” or that human activities are almost certainly the cause.” The journal called the right-wing conspiracy theories surrounding the emails, which the Delingpoles of the world have been pushing, a “paranoid interpretation” that “would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country’s much needed climate bill.”

Then 1700 UK scientists came forward to reaffirm climate science:

We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. The evidence and the science are deep and extensive.

So only an anti-science anti-journalist like Delingpole would make it his mission this year

to wipe the complacent smiles off the smug faces of the lobbyists, “experts”, “scientists”, politicians and activists pushing AGW.

It is Delingpole who is smug and, more dangerously, complacent.  The scientists and world leaders and experts who are trying to warn the public about the threat of anthropogenic global warming are the exact opposite of complacent and smug, hence their increasingly dire and desperate warnings (see Uncharacteristically Blunt Scientists).

28 Responses to Anti-science disinformers step up efforts to intimidate and harass climate scientists

  1. I have a letter in the mailbox today addressed to Dr. Graham Spanier, President of Penn State University defending Dr. Michael Mann. I also cc: Dr. Easterling and Dr. Mann. Perhaps some of you could also send letters of support. Contact info below:

    Dr. Graham Spanier, President
    201 Old Main
    The Pennsylvania State University
    University Park, PA 16802

    Dr. William E. Easterling, Jr., Dean
    College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
    The Pennsylvania State University
    116 Deike Building
    University Park, PA 16802

    Dr. Michael E. Mann
    Professor of Meteorology
    Director, Earth System Science Center
    523 Walker Building
    University Park, PA 16802

    P.S. Thanks to John Mashey for this idea.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Who the h**l is Kent Clizbe?

  3. jrshipley says:

    Delingpole’s asshattery aside, I’d like to see more climate scientists less complacent about the attacks. Mann’s fellow scientists, with notable exceptions of course, have largely left him to fend for himself. More scientists need to enter the fray and do more to communicate their understanding to the public. The risk associated with being targeted by the asshat crowd is less than the risk posed by public ignorance and the organised propaganda by which it has been engendered.

  4. Berbalang says:

    The deniers are getting desperate and desperate people will do anything, that includes destruction of data and equipment. Dealing with people like that takes a totally different mindset in order to spot just what they are planning. In this case a strong streak of paranoia is a good thing. Consider what the worst thing they could do is and be ready for when they do it.

  5. ken levenson says:

    David #2 – that’s exactly what i was thinking!

    And while the scientists are getting blunter, as discussed in earlier thread today, the scientists need to get blunter still, and louder, and more organized.

    It seems to me that the one irreducible fact that must be repeated again and again – a million more times than the deniers’ lies – is the simple statement:

    Business-as-usual is suicide, bringing unimaginable world-wide catastrophe in our lifetimes. (this isn’t about Bangladesh!)

    This is the fundamental truth and the deniers/skeptics must be completely marginalized on this matter – if we are to really move the ball.

    The fact that someone like Andy Revkin can be quoted as saying “Our coverage, looked at in toto, has never bought the catastrophe conclusion…” is simply shocking and beyond the pale – and shows just how much work must be done to deal with the mainstream, let alone the likes of the Telegraph. Discouraging.

    We need to drown-out the deniers/skeptics so that the rational debate of how we stop at 450ppm and how fast we can get back below 350ppm….

    One last thought on the idea of something like a National Climate Change Information Clearinghouse – a core mission should be ongoing seminars to teach the nonspecialist journalist about the basics of climate change. All journalists, not just “science writers”, should have a working knowledge of the subject…as the subject is going to be pervasive….

  6. Doesn’t this oddly resemble the plot to the series “V?”

  7. Shame on media outlets that present and nurture such toxic thinking.

    The escalation does not have far to go… already the message is constrained in mass media – where TV weather reporters are forbidden to discuss climate or climate change (unless they deny it). Denialists have succeeded in removing the message from children’s educational content. The next step would be to forbid discussion of climate predictions. And forbid labeling any weather event as representative of a warming climate… oh wait.. that is happening now.

  8. Steve Bloom says:

    David, apparently Clizbe is an ex-CIA agent who’s taken on climate change denial as a hobby. His main inspiration seems to be the Idsos (“CO2 is plant food”), which is to say he’s unlikely to gain many adherents outside the paranoid fringe.

  9. Leif says:

    Have you guys read “1984” lately? Are corporations the robot that has a license to kill as long as it is not too obvious about it? Apparently backed by the rule of law? Military on the edges or middle, depending on your point of view? Does society have to take “it” in the shorts while the earth red lines? Where is the justice? Our gasping breath watches a computer happily counting money! I’m here to tell you that I’m not going to play that game!

  10. dhogaza says:

    Yes, Steve Bloom is correct as to who Kent Clizbe is.

    Here’s his home page.

    Here is a blog post he’s written.

    Somewhat humorously, in his blog post he says:

    “Meanwhile, we experience the coldest year in decades.”

    “we” is not the world, and the world actually just had one of the warmest years on record.

    “Record cold blankets the country.”

    “the country” is not the world (though, admittedly, it’s the kind of mistake the CIA makes all the time), nor is weather climate (though, admittedly, it’s the kind of mistake the CIA makes all the time).

    “North pole ice expands to a record amount.”

    He posted this on November 10th, and on this date, NSIDC showed north pole ice at a RECORD MINIMUM. That’s funny.

    We’re just about at a record minimum again today …

    Anyway, this should give you some idea of his understanding of climate science. I’ve never had much respect for the CIA, he’s certainly not elevating it.

  11. Steve Bloom says:

    Actually, a better way to describe his views would be as a marriage of Idso “science” and teabagging. I don’t know under what circumstances he departed the CIA other than that it doesn’t appear to have been a retirement, but it appears he saw the email scandal as an opportunity for fame.

  12. WAG says:

    Wait, so there’s potentially $15 million out there for anyone with evidence of fraud in climate science, and no one’s been able to come up with anything? Surely that’s about the best evidence I’ve heard that there’s NO conspiracy! Delingpole must have his basic logic backwards.

  13. T Lehman says:

    2010 will be an interesting year. Not the year that was predicted 1 year ago.

  14. mike roddy says:

    Ken Levenson, I like your ideas about setting up a serious information clearinghouse about climate change. I hope you continue to press this notion.

    We need to go on offense. It’s pretty unbelievable that obvious frauds like Mark Morano reach a wide audience, or that journalists like George Will and John Tierney have not been thoroughly disgraced by the few in the media who are paying attention. They really should police their own, including repeat offenders such as Fox.

    It’s time to expose them for what they are, as Hoggan’s book did so well, and as Romm and Monbiot have continued to do. What I have learned in my articles and blogs is that experts who are put forward by far right and fossil fuel interests are embarrassing, really. Corrupt connections are standard (many also shill for tobacco and pesticides), and nonsensical logic and fabricated data are routine.

    A large segment of the public doesn’t have any idea how weak the scientific positions of the deniers actually is. This is not due to failures in human cognition or other nonsense promoted by Revkin’s favorite sociologist, Dr. Brulle. Other countries’ people get it, and not just Europeans, but South Americans and Asians, too. Our predicament is a result of systematic corruption and cowardice.

    This actually represents an opportunity for bloggers, scientific organizations, and articulate individuals such as Hansen and Schneider. It’s not enought to soberly state the evidence. All of us who have studied and understood the science need to become a lot more aggressive, and call these clowns for what they are.

  15. PurpleOzone says:

    The campaign to discredit researchers is having an effect. An acquaintance informed me that there was a “University of Pennsylvania professor is in trouble”. He explained “something about statistics”. I said mildly that statistics is always a good way to attack somebody, as most people confuse easily when confronted with a statistical argument. He could see that. This guy is a meteorological fan and follows the weather models on-line and forecasts for his friends.

    So the slander campaign is reaching the general public.

    [by the way, the tobacco industry did attack individual researchers. They weren’t as effective as the fossil fuel industry. I know of a case where a researcher who worked on his own evenings had a visit at his day job from the FBI, sicced on by a Congressman. The FBI quickly determine he was not working on tobacco research at his job.]

  16. TrueSceptic says:

    Joe,

    If Delingpole is new to you, you might also be unaware of barking mad filth merchants Christopher Booker and Melanie Phillips. There is also Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, which publishes a lot of this wingnut tripe.

  17. TrueSceptic says:

    “30% of $50 million is more than $12 million”

    It seems that simple arithmetic is a bit hard for some. Most children could tell you that 30% of 50 is exactly 15.

    [JR: Yes, that line seemed particularly inane.]

  18. Turboblocke says:

    ” Name: Kent Clizbe on Dec 2, 2009
    Comments: We are fed up with the arrogant hubris of the elite “scientists” determined to destroy our way of life and economy while enhancing their own power and income. Al Gore and his minions, Michael Mann, Jones, et al, would be well advised to contact their legal counsel. Criminal and civil proceedings should identify, process and punish the evil-doers.
    Country: ”

    Taken from this site: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/noc_now/signatures

  19. TrueSceptic says:

    7 Richard,

    Where is that happening? In the USA? How could extremists get that much power?

  20. Dano says:

    This is the new phase of the strategy. There will be more in these last days of letting polluters get away with it. Expect much nastier stuff than this relatively simple-minded tactic. It is low-wattage nincompoopery.

    Some group, somewhere, with access needs to get motivated and send thousands of FOIA requests to CEI, AEI, FF, Heritage, Scaife, Koch, Limbaugh, et al to give them a taste of their own medicine, following their same script, then smack these bullies back, hard, when they complain about harassment. Kick them hard when they complain. That is how you treat these people.

    Best,

    D

  21. @ #6 (Scott) “Doesn’t this oddly resemble the plot to the series “V?””

    …or more worryingly, McCarthyism. A lot of brilliant people were prevented from working in the fields they were expert in by McCarthy’s witch hunt. Is that now what we can expect in (climate) science?

  22. TrueSceptic says:

    20 Steve,

    That seems to be the aim: hinder the real science and the bogus stuff will automatically get more prominence. We already know that (lack of) real peer review makes no difference to the ASS crowd; if anything they see peer review as part of the great leftist conspiracy.

  23. Scatter says:

    Delingpole is a tedious attention seeker who was a non-entity before this kerfuffle ( http://www.google.com/trends?q=james+delingpole ) but is now pandering to the lunatic fringe:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100020304/climategate-peak-oil-the-cru-and-the-oman-connection/

  24. Anarchist606 says:

    I had been told by climate change denialists that the email hack, Swifthack, had blown open the whole global warming hoax and it was all over now… except that it didn’t and it’s isn’t because what the denial approach to science misses it that you still need evidence – emails showing a conspiracy rather than the to-and-fro of everyday science. This was confirmed by an AP analysis of every single email.

    Now the denialists have gone and admitted (in a round about way) that the email hack was not the solution to the email – by sniffing around for dirt it is a tacit admission that the email hack failed to provide the conspiracy they claimed exists.
    http://anarchist606.blogspot.com/2010/01/errrr-what-happened-to-conspiracy.html

  25. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The denialists are getting desperate, this is proof of their desperation.
    Ultimately there is little to fear from the threat of legal action but it very distracting, time consuming and must be taken seriously.

  26. Dan B says:

    Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” (hopefully I’ve got the punctuation right..)

    In addition there are many people getting excited about the solutions: renewable energy, efficiency, zero energy homes, electric vehicles, walkable cities, etc. etc. These solutions appeal to conservatives looking to ride the next economic wave. They appeal to security freaks and neo-nationalists. They appeal to people who want to create family wage jobs in this country and worldwide.

    Every time these denier attacks arise it’s an opportunity for us to point out the wave of the future.

    And if you have time read Ken Johnson’s proposal to fund new clean energy sources with a fee exchange modeled on Sweden’s astonishingly successful fee-bate program to reduce nitrous oxide pollution. It’s far better than our Cap and Trade approach to acid rain. And it appeals to people across the political divide.

    The proposal is dense and academic – and available under the title: A Decarbonization Strategy for the Electricity Sector; New-Source Subsidies

  27. Dave says:

    I can sort of understand people who own coal mines or refineries funding climate change denial – unethical – but I can see the motivation.

    But I just can’t understand these right wing nutbags. They’ll be the first to be thrown under bus as the earth melts, and it looks like they’re doing their best to make that happen.