Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist

Sir John Houghton explains how the anti-science crowd operates

The Denier-Industrial Complex cranKs habitually fabricate quotes to smear climate scientists and climate hawks.  Their latest victim is NASA’s Gavin Schmidt — see my post here and Tamino’s “Not a Misquote. A Nonquote” and Deltoid’s “Pearcegate” (who notes that the source of the smear, “tallbloke,” is an “ether crank”).

For the cranKs, it doesn’t matter what a scientist actually said, it only matters what they say he really thinks.

All this reminded me of a February 2010 story in the UK’s Independent, “Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist,” that got buried in my backlog of 1,1oo draft posts.

But, as Abba says, “the history book on the shelf is always repeating itself.”  The story illuminates the simple modus operandi of the Complex, so here’s an extended excerpt:

For climate sceptics it was a key piece of evidence showing that the scientists behind global warming could not be trusted. A quotation by one of the world’s most eminent climate scientists was supposed to demonstrate the depths to which he and his ilk would stoop to create scare stories exaggerating the threat of global warming.

Sir John Houghton, who played a critical role in establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), was roundly condemned after it emerged that he was an apparent advocate of scary propaganda to frighten the public into believing the dangers of global warming

“Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen,” Sir John was supposed to have said in 1994.

The quotation has since become the iconic smoking gun of the climate sceptic community. The words are the very first to appear in the “manual” of climate denialism written by the journalist and arch-sceptic Christopher Booker. They get more than a 100,000 hits on Google, and are wheeled out almost every time a climate sceptic has a point to make, the last occasion being in a Sunday newspaper article last weekend written by the social anthropologist and climate sceptic Benny Peiser.

The trouble is, Sir John Houghton has never said what he is quoted as saying.

The words do not appear in his own book on global warming, first published in 1994, despite statements to the contrary. In fact, he denies emphatically that he ever said it at any time, either verbally or in writing.In fact, his view on the matter of generating scare stories to publicise climate change is quite the opposite. “There are those who will say ‘unless we announce disasters, no one will listen’, but I’m not one of them,” Sir John told The Independent.

“It’s not the sort of thing I would ever say. It’s quite the opposite of what I think and it pains me to see this quote being used repeatedly in this way. I would never say we should hype up the risk of climate disasters in order to get noticed,” he said.

Even though the quotation appears on about 130 thousand web pages, no one seems to know where it originated. On the few occasions a reference is cited, it is listed as coming from the first edition of Sir John’s book, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, published by Lion Books in 1994. But Sir John does not say it in this edition, nor in subsequent editions published by Cambridge University Press.

Christopher Booker, a newspaper columnist, considers the quotation so important that he lists it at the top of the first page of his most recent book on climate scepticism, The Real Global Warming Disaster, published last year. Mr Booker also cites the 1994 edition of Houghton’s own book on global warming as the source of the quotation, even though there is no mention of it there. Mr Booker did not respond yesterday to enquiries by The Independent.

Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, also cited the 1994 edition of Sir John’s book as the source of the quote, which he used last Sunday in an article denouncing the alarmism of climate scientists. Dr Peiser admitted to The Independent that he had not read the book recently and had only used the quote “from memory” because it is so widely cited in other books on climate scepticism.

“I’ve seen it printed in many books. He is well known for making these statements. I’ve used that quote on many occasions from one of the books on climate alarmism. If he makes the claim that he never said this then he has to clarify that,” Dr Peiser said.

“If he publicly says that he never made that statement then, of course, I wouldn’t use it, but this is the first time I’ve heard [his denial] and this has been going on for 15 years. This quote has been used for the past 15 years,” he said.

In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph. Akerman, a controversial right-wing columnist and global warming sceptic, appears to be the first person to use the quote verbatim in an opinion piece criticising the Stern Review, which looked at the economic effects of global warming.

“This alarmist approach reeked of stupidity, snake oil, and misguided gospel preaching but was in line with a formula adopted by the first chairman of the IPCC, Sir John Houghton, who produced the IPCC’s first three reports in 1990, 1995 and 2001 and wrote in his book Global Warming, The Complete Briefing, in 1994: ‘Unless we announce disasters no one will listen’,” Mr Akerman said.

Within three years of Akerman’s piece being published, climate sceptics had jumped on the supposed quotation, citing the source as Houghton’s 1994 book. Mr Akerman said that he could not remember where the quote came from but he will check his records.

Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, also cites the 1994 book as the source of the quote, which he uses extensively in his writings and lectures advocating climate scepticism. The quotation, he says, is a prime example of the alarmism and exaggeration of the climate change community and the IPCC.

After this article appeared (and one by the BBC), the Denier Industrial Complex cranKs dug up a version of the quote that they think vindicates their smear, but, as SheWonk explained at the time in a post titled, “One of these things is not like the other”¦” [her graphic]

Apparently someone dug up an old interview from 1995 in which Sir Houghton talks about religion and his beliefs in God as proof that while he may not have actually said the words attributed to him, he said similar things or things that could be twisted into meaning almost something similar “” if one plugs one’s ears and squints one’s eyes”¦

Not that I’m questioning the motives of these fine gentlemen, or their reading comprehension but seriously, they need to go back to play school and watch some Sesame Street.

Let’s play “One of these things is not like the other”

“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen”.

“If we want a good environmental policy in the future we’ll have to have a disaster. It’s like safety on public transport. The only way humans will act is if there’s been an accident.” [edited to add the rest of the quote in so that denialists the hard of reading comprehension won’t lie misunderstand]

The two are not the same.

The first one “” a false one “” has been used by deniers to charge that the IPCC knowingly exaggerates the risks of global warming in order to hype the issue and get attention.  The second states that its human nature to ignore problems until they reach critical mass. One need only look to how technology has changed in the wake of serious disasters. The Indian Ocean tsunami is a case in point. The year prior to it, scientists were talking about the possibility of the megathrust fault failing, causing a tsunami. It wasn’t until a quarter million died that a warning system was finally put in place.

It is painfully obvious, especially in this country — where the anti-science, pro-pollution disinformation campaign has captured an entire political movement and by extension an entire political party — that we are not going to act simply because scientists tell us multiple catastrophes await us on our current path of unrestricted emissions.  Scientific warnings might have been enough to save the ozone layer — just in the nick of time — but even that required seeing the unexpected ozone hole and a rational conservative, Ronald Reagan, rejecting the recommendations of his hard-core ideologue advisors.

We will be unlikely to act until climate change causes multiple climate “near-term climate Pearl Harbors” as I’ve said many times.  Indeed, we’re going to have to suffer through far more of these Pearl harbors than I had originally feared because the DICKs — combined with a largely compliant and complacent media — make it harder for the public and policymakers to connect the dots and identify many of the early warning signs that we have seen recently as climate Pearl Harbors (see Silence of the Lambs: Media herd’s coverage of climate change “fell off the map” in 2010).

37 Responses to Fabricated quote used to discredit climate scientist

  1. Artful Dodger says:

    This mirrors another big lie: “WMD’s are just so scary they justify any preemptive military force”. Two concoctions, both brewed to protect the interests of Corporations at great cost to People. “DICKS” indeed.

  2. Marco says:

    McIntyre has thrown Pearce back under the bus,supported by a new story of Tallbloke, in which it is claimed Pearce read the mail of Schmidt out loud to McIntyre and McKitrick. Beer is cited as the excuse…

  3. Mike says:

    “After this article appear (and one by the BBC). The Denier Industrial Complex cranKs dug up a …”

    There are grammatical errors in this line. You may want to fix it.

    While the article is good, I don’t think the “DICKs” acronym appropriate. It just lowers the level of the discussion.

    [JR: Gotta call ’em something, and this is mild humor — and exceedingly mild compared to what they have been trying to do to the reputation of professional climate scientists and what future generations will call these climate-destroying disinformers.]

  4. Deborah Stark says:

    …..Indeed, we’re going to have to suffer through far more of these Pearl Harbors than I had originally feared because the DICKs — combined with a largely compliant and complacent media — make it harder for the public and policymakers to connect the dots and identify many of the early warning signs…..

    Hard at work in every online venue from informal discussion forums to dedicated informational websites to major media outlets, the obstructionist contingent has, for decades now, been focusing its efforts primarily on one unfortunately very effective strategy: repeatedly disrupting continuity of information. This deliberate process of continual disruption has become increasingly subtle and insidious as the months and years go by.

    It is a constant challenge for even the best-informed of concerned individuals to “connect dots” when continuity of information on the issue-at-hand is being systematically interrupted, taken out of context, and outright misrepresented.

    Most of these people work in small groups. A lot of them are retired military. You can almost hear the high-fives all around when some of the more recognizable of them have had a particularly good day at their chosen work.

  5. Scrooge says:

    Well it seems we have found one “cycle” the deniers can use. When all else fails simply pick any statement, preferably an e-mail and lie about what it said. We like to think people are basically honest and we can forgive for mistakes, but by the time I was in the 7th grade I could read jump tip jump. So it boils down to fool me twice. We used to believe we could trust the news media but it seems like some of them have reading comprehension problems also. Or are they simply lying too.

  6. john atcheson says:

    Grammatical errors or not, the acronym fits — love it.

    And once again, it must be said, that the reason this “debate” goes on is that the lamestream media is too lazy, too co-opted, too ignorant, or some combination of the three to do even the most cursory examination of the facts.

    They’ll tell you it’s about “balance,” but of course, it’s not. Piling a ton of bull dung on one side of the balance beam, and a ton of gold on the other will achieve a balance, but which would you choose? The media takes the bull dung half the time.

    This is the problem, plain and simple.

    If these tin-foil hatters were laughed off the airwaves and pages of our media the way the flat earthers are, the “debate” would be long over.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    This intentional distortion of Sir John Houghton’s words appears to have the staying power of the misquote of the late Dr. Stephen Schneider’s “double ethical bind” statement. Dr. Schneider set the record straight on that in his memoir Science as a Contact Sport and I think I have a reasonable summary here:

    Over at Open Mind, Tallbloke is doubling down. But he is pretty much taken apart by other commenters. And the results of the Lisbon conference are thoroughly debunked as well. Timothy Chase points out that it was supported at least partly by the Gulbenkian Foundation, associated with fossil-fuel interests.

    A T-shirt showing climate science dropping into a trashcan???

  8. Anne van der Bom says:

    “arch-sceptic Christopher Booker.”

    Witness the degradation of the word ‘sceptic’ into something meaning exactly the opposite.

  9. I. Snarlalot Theisdaise says:

    “For the cranKs, it doesn’t matter what a scientist actually said, it only matters what they say he really thinks.”

    I’m glad you said that so concisely. Substitute ‘person’ for ‘scientist’, and it describes the modus operandi of all manner of far right wingnuts and their apologists for decades now, no matter what the issue. It’s a major vehicle of their politics and platforms, their delusions, and pretty much all of their so-called ‘humor’. Childish in the extreme.

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    If a man is willing to risk the future of the human race, than making up or repeating is a minor sin in service of the larger crime.

    Many of us have been immersed in this for a long time. After a while it becomes clear that it is evil we are dealing with here, and when it comes to the puppet masters there’s no point in excusing them with words like “politics”, “self interest”, “ignorance”, etc. This is also a point of view that will resonate with Americans, if slowly and painfully at first.

    As for the pervasive deniers on blogs, including those who succeeded in ruining Revkin’s Dot Earth, they are clearly organized, and operate with consistent talking points- as in the fake quote above. I don’t think they are retired military. My dad was an Army colonel, and he and his friends had more integrity than you’ll find almost anywhere. They would not lie because Koch gave them a few bucks and told them to.

    It would be helpful to study where evil flourished in human societies before. The patterns are not consistent- Germany, Rwanda, and Paraguay have little in common, except that each succumbed to insane and self destructive violence. I have my theories, but our knowledge here is rudimentary.

    We now confront far greater violence, and are on a path leading to a holocaust that makes all others before seem benign by comparison.

    Meanwhile, the media sticks microphones into the deniers’ faces, and seeks “balance”. They did it with Breitbart, who was surrounded by fascinated reporters while he was skating next to me last Sunday in Rancho Mirage. That Koch event was a good start, though- people were angry, and passersby in cars honked in approval.

    Clearly, it’s up to the American people now. Our institutions have failed us, and we need to rise above all the rot and remember what was once the spirit of a great and idealistic country. We can do it, but time is running out.

  11. Nick Palmer says:

    Even if Sir John had said exactly what he has been purported to have said:

    “Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen,” Sir John was supposed to have said in 1994.

    it still, as an isolated few words, is not a smoking gun. It could quite easily have meant that he was despairing of the true risks getting accurate publicity. I know some climate scientists are not always articulate in expressing their case, but the denialist/pathological sceptics often seem to have very poor comprehension of English, particularly about the ambiguities generated when phrases are taken out of context.

    As anyone who has been involved with the media knows, content sent to them which is not dramatic or otherwise newsworthy is unlikely to see the light of publication unless there is literally nothing interesting going on. The doctored Steven Schneider quote, which has been misused by the delusionosphere for ever, was actually talking about this aspect.

  12. Scrooge says:

    Just want to chime in on retired military, they are democrats, republicans, independent, or simply all of the above. I can’t speak for any that have gone through the horrors of combat, but the military does their job and they do it well. It is the political parties that are fighting over who cares most. The military does stress integrity though and a lot of jobs couldn’t be accomplished without integrity. What a person does as a normal citizen has nothing to do with the military. In fact one thing that sometimes happens is that if you travel the world you become a little more liberal. The reason is you find out that almost all people in this world want the same thing which is just to provide a good and safe life for their family.

  13. First it was heliocentrism – a fight lasting centuries, many killed. A religious issue mostly, but a crucial step in the advancement of science, astronomy, orbital mechanics. It just happened to disempower the church.

    Then evolution – more than a few condemned to real punishment beyond social opprobrium. Also took power from religion and put it into science. Without the foundation of life evolution, all biosciences would be severely crippled.

    Plate Tectonics was controversial in its day, and many a teaching career struggled against ignorance. Some climate deniers still will reject plate tectonics… curious because it is key to geology. Perhaps without this knowledge there would have been far less geological exploration, who knows.

    Now anthropogenic global warming is in the same fight against willful ignorance and aggressive delusion. Only this time the stakes are much higher. Worse, the timeline for learning this lesson is foreshortened by looming disasters – from likely to highly likely. As we react to disasters by learning, we also learn that it may be too late for much of the sensible responses.

    The greatest lesson yet to be learned is about human intelligence and willpower. I cannot well define the lesson, but it is a “change or die” event.

  14. Barry says:

    I agree with Mike about the acronym and want to raise this as a larger issue. I keep wanting to forward Climate Progress posts to my conservative, climate-skeptic friend — a genuine, open-minded skeptic whom I have been trying to persuade to join me in “climate hawk” activism, not a simple denier. More often than not, though, I refrain because I worry that the angry personal attacks would be counter-productive, risking confirming in his mind (logically or not) what he reads in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, etc. about how climate science is driven by personal interests and passions rather than dispassionate science. Don’t get me wrong: the frustration and anger are totally understandable — I share these sentiments. And passion has an important role, too. But if we want to reach out to undecided people in the political center or right, as I think we have to, it’s important to be careful in the ways we express our passion. Ultimately this is a question of rhetorical strategy, which I know you (Joe R.) have thought about more than I have, but that is my opinion.

    [JR: I have indeed I thought a great deal about not only rhetorical strategy but what is the best use of my time. Trying to persuade conservatives is — for almost anyone who isn’t actually a conservative pundit, journalist, politician or icon — almost a complete waste of time. First off it’s unlikely anyone could persuade them, but certainly not a progressive, science-based blogger. Indeed, even if they could abide the actual science, they simply can’t in general abide the solutions which are progressive in nature.

    My target audience is, first and foremost climate hawks (and would-be climate hawks) and, secondly, the persuadable middle. The continuing rapid growth of readership suggests the strategy is working. I leave the difficult and probably relatively small group of “persuadable conservatives” to others.]

  15. dhogaza says:

    Shewonk’s on this one, too, over at here “The Policy Lass” blog. The Gavin misquote important, but let’s not lose site of something even more insidious that was the rationale for the organizing and holding of the conference: baby steps towards replacing science with postmodernism-laden “post-normal science” thinking.

    Shewonk’s essay is excellent (and several of the follow-on comments are insightful, too)

    I highly recommend it. Joe, you might be interested in taking a look and posting about so-called post-normal science (which has more to do with removing of science from policymaking than science itself) yourself…

  16. David K says:

    Joe said: “We will be unlikely to act until climate change causes multiple climate “near-term climate Pearl Harbors” as I’ve said many times.”

    I agree that it will take some horrible disaster before the bulk of humanity comes to its senses. But I think that the hard-core deniers will still say “oh, climate’s changed before, it’s just a natural cycle” or some other nonsense.

  17. JonS says:

    In Tamino’s blog article ‘Not a Quote. A Nonquote’ there is an interesting response from one Tad Cook who writes:
    ‘For the past two decades I’ve been writing a weekly bulletin for amateur radio operators on sunspots, solar cycles, and how they affect shortwave radio propagation.

    One day a few years ago I got a boatload of email from readers, most were very upset, and all contained a URL pointing to an article in Investor’s Business Daily (which they have now removed) that claimed that global warming was caused by sunspot activity, scientists say we will have no more sunspots, therefore the problem in the future will be an ice age, not global warming. The “no sunspots” scenario is what threw them into a panic attack.

    I was also suspicious because the article, which contained no byline, quoted Dr. Tapping making all kinds of wild statements about climate (which he is not qualified to do) and sunspots which seemed uncharacteristic. I know him via email correspondence and the occasional phone call, because his observatory in Penticton, British Columbia provides the daily 2.8 GHz solar flux readings, which we use in addition to sunspot numbers as indicators for solar activity. He always seemed a sober sort, worthy of trust.

    I sent an email to Dr. Tapping asking if he was quoted correctly, and as I recall, the opening line in his response was, “This has been the worst two weeks of my life”.

    When the article appeared, the quotes from him were a total fabrication.

    I googled several phrases from the article, and got hundreds of results, most from the conservative blogosphere. Since then I have watched the misinformation spread.

    I then created a Google alert, in which I would receive a daily digest email of links to any new usage of the word ‘sunspot’ in blogs, web sites and news stories. What I found was all kinds of wild nonsense being presented as fact.

    As I watched the level of nonsense rise, I noticed a curious thing. I often felt I was seeing the same writing styles, similar prose, and the same already disproved arguments over and over again.

    Gradually I realized that there were others using similar Google tools to track stories about climate, but instead of adding comments that might clarify something in the article, purposeful obfuscation was going in, coupled with a sort of willful ignorance.

    And I began to sense that this might be the work of a few professionals posing as fellow citizens, using ad hominem attacks and discredited science in a barrage of nonsense that might look believable to people outside the field, and create a sort of false consensus. At the same time I sensed a shift in public opinion, following the same talking points that these commenters were driving home.

    Then I heard about the Koch brothers, and the millions of dollars financing a disinformation campaign using astroturf groups and even some of the same players that were in the tobacco wars a couple of decades back, creating doubt about climate science.

    I guess the final confirmation was when I talked to someone who had attended one of those Tea Party rallies, and sat in on a training session which I believe was operated by one of the Koch “citizens” groups. One of the methods being pushed was exactly what I was seeing online, and a trainer described the process that I had imagined, exactly. One thing that was emphasized over and over was how a tiny group of people could influence big changes in public opinion and policy, exactly what I saw happening online.’

  18. toby says:


    I thought Tad Cook’s input very insightful … a totally independent viewpoint, yet confirming the main trends we see in blogs.

    Even outside the US, the pattern is the same … a small group using ad hominem attacks, insults, the latest posts from Anthony Watts and other denier blogs, try to shout down anyone who posts factual data and invited discussion.

  19. Green Caboose says:

    The Media-War-Industrial complex succeeded with the “Al Gore said he invented the internet” lie in 2000. Even today more than half of Americans believe he actually did say this.

    Here’s a controlled study I’d like to see. First, come up with a list of 20 fantasy “facts” — 10 for the left wing and 10 for the right wing. You know, things like “Hummers are more environmental than Priuses” or “50% of starting college football players admit to having committed rape”. Something totally outrageous that should make everyone, regardless of their political bent, extremely skeptical.

    Then create false studies purporting to prove each of these 20 fantasy “facts” and publish them and see how far they actually get in the media. My hypothesis is that if you’d survey the American populace one year later you’d find that the 10 right wing fantasy “facts” would be considered gospel my most of the self-indentified conservatives, while far fewer self-identified liberals would have bought into any of the 10 left wing fantasy “facts.

    Why? Not sure. But I’ve seen it again and again. We’ve already seen John Lott’s faked gun-use study being treated as gospel by the entire right wing in the month since the Arizona shooting — even if he admitted he faked the data they’d still quote him. The infamous Hummer-more-eco-than-Prius study is known, and believed, throughout the right wing today. There are a few on the left wing, too, such as the “domestic violence peaks on super bowl Sunday” myth that I’ve heard again this year. But in terms of gullibility the right wing beats the left wing hand down.

  20. Michael T. says:

    Gavin Schmidt talks about the politics of climate change

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The mention of Piers Ackerman tells anyone who lives in Australia and reads his stodge that you are dealing with disinformation. I doubt that there could be any controversy over describing Ackerman as a far Right, ideological zealot, of a type that Murdoch employs in their scores. Being caught out concocting a false quotation would only gain Ackerman kudos amongst his peers and the Rightwing Dunning-Krugerite rabble that ingests his agit-prop like soma.
    The hardcore of anthropogenic climate denialism in this country are the very same MSM ideologues who are currently mounting an increasingly hysterical hate campaign against China. They are those who are denigrating the popular revolt in Egypt as a ‘new Iran’ and singing the kleptocrat Mubarak or the torturer chief Suleiman’s praises. They are the Islamophobes, the foetid, ferocious and vituperative enemies of any environmentalist and the deniers of every single ecological crisis. Their techniques are pure Rightwing agit-prop. The Big Lie, repeated relentlessly, no matter how many refutations. The appeal to the Dunning Krugerites’ fear, hatred and paranoia, now being stoked to truly scary levels as weather disaster after weather disaster afflict this country. Of course the total dominance of the MSM, the means of information for the masses, by mendacious, hatemongering ideologues is a sign of a society in moral and intellectual collapse. In a very few years, as chaos grips the planet, as starvation, revolt, war and increasing natural disasters begin to undermine global civilization, they will still be there, doing what they are paid to do, protect the money power and ideological dominance of their bosses, come what may.

  22. Mond from Oz says:

    Mulga, Mate.
    Been saying it for years. What must we do to win over Big Rupe?

  23. Ed Hummel says:

    Mulga #23, ditto completely in the USA.

  24. Mike says:

    International Deniers Insisting On Tainted Science

    Maybe we should have an acronym contest just to vent.

    @Barry #15: My attitude is similar to yours. But I understand that everyone needs to figure out the approach they want to take. Different blogs will reach different folks. I’ve live in a conservative leaning coal producing region. But I do find the information and ideas here helpful. I will often go to Joe’s source material and post links to that in local papers.

  25. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Mulga Mumblebrain | Post #23

    Your excellent description of the Australian obstructionist contingent sounds very familiar to us here in the U.S. I’ve been wondering for awhile now how they continue to get away with such frankly pathological behavior as Australia endures one extreme weather-related disaster after another. I read today that a wildfire (exacerbated by the recent excessive heat) destroyed around 40 homes near Sydney. And we are certainly acutely aware of the situation in Queensland. My heart goes out to you folks.

    Re: Mike Roddy | Post #11

    “…..As for the pervasive deniers on blogs, including those who succeeded in ruining Revkin’s Dot Earth, they are clearly organized, and operate with consistent talking points- as in the fake quote above. I don’t think they are retired military. My dad was an Army colonel, and he and his friends had more integrity than you’ll find almost anywhere. They would not lie because Koch gave them a few bucks and told them to…..”

    I didn’t mean to cause any offense or imply that all of the “pervasive deniers” are retired military. This was, however, my personal experience during a period of 4-5 years a few years back when I was doing a lot of informational posting on three climate change-related discussion forums. Several of the more persistent trolls in these venues openly indicated that they had been in the military, as if that fact alone conferred upon them the right to continually disrupt open public discussion of a problem that they clearly felt was non-existent. Some of these trolls were also chemical and mechanical engineers employed by oil companies and energy suppliers, and mostly in the south, for what it’s worth.

    I cannot imagine that any former military person in your immediate sphere would even remotely resemble the thugs to whom I am referring.

  26. spacermase says:

    @17 “I agree that it will take some horrible disaster before the bulk of humanity comes to its senses. But I think that the hard-core deniers will still say “oh, climate’s changed before, it’s just a natural cycle” or some other nonsense.”

    You know, this is true, but I actually think it will weaken their position.
    After all, who do you think most people will be willing to listen to-someone who tells them that this all part of nature and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it, or someone who says “We caused this- but we can also lower the chance of it happening again in the future.” The fact that we really do have that much effect on the environment, in a weird way, may be somewhat reassuring to people.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mond from Oz #24, nature will take care of Murdoch soon, unless he proves as durable as his mother. Winning him over is impossible and pointless. If he suddenly grew a moral conscience and turned his propaganda empire to truth-telling it would be the greatest volte-face in history, and it would not effect business propaganda as a whole. Murdoch, malign as he undoubtedly, in my opinion, is, is but a symptom of a deeper malignancy, the market capitalist system itself, which is inherently and irredeemably antithetical to life on this planet.

  28. Christopher Yaun says:

    18, 19 and 20

    My brother recently “developed” a political style and rhetoric that at first I attributed to Limbaugh and Beck. But then he kept mentioning that he was going to social events with his “boating” buddies. Recently he and his wife went on a cruise to Nova Scotia again with his boating buddies.

    I searched the web for cruises with political themes. The Weekly Standard hosted several cruises. But when I tried to find information about the cruises there was nothing to be had. I wondered if they had carefully erased their tracks?

    Now in every conversation he drops lines that seem fabricated, as if he had taken classes and learned how to be a political operative. In a recent email he closed a pleasant listing of current family events with the sentence:

    “Keeping eye on Egypt and Democrats. Both frightening.”

    He didn’t make that up….he heard it somewhere and is repeating it.

    It is truly sad to watch otherwise intelligent people work for a cause that will ultimately disenfranchise all common people.

  29. Dr Peiser admitted to The Independent that he had not read the book recently and had only used the quote “from memory” because it is so widely cited in other books on climate scepticism.

    I know Peiser is a lightweight amongst the delayers and deniers but this, if an accurate quote, displays, at best, astonishing selective amnesia. How can Peiser be unaware of the fact that the John Houghton mis-quote has been refuted time and time again? Peiser must have been aware of the exposures on Deltoid and elsewhere. Are we to believe that Peiser does not have his ‘ears to the ground’ with respect to the evolution of the various denier arguments and of their rebuttal.

    Peiser is another who should start feeling the heat because of his blatant propaganda.

  30. David Smith says:

    David @ 17 – The bulk of humanity has actually come to their senses on this issue. I assume that you are referring to all 6.5 billion of us and bulk is something more than a majority. The hold outs seem to be in certain English speaking countries and represent a powerful but extremely small minority. (Possibly considered an extreme minority as well.

    I share your opinion that core deniers, (or “burners” as I like to call them)will not accept AGW even if half the population is gone and they are clustered on their roof tops waiting for rescue.

  31. David Smith says:

    I don’t understand why the concept of “Alarmist” can be so effectively used by the opposition in this case when it has been the chief weapon of conservatives for as long as I have been aware of national politics (which unfortunately has been a long time. They have used the same arguments, which is quite frankly alarmist, on every major issue they have fought….Its going to kill jobs, wreck the economy, its part of a conspiracy, they are trying to take away our freedom, in the case of AGW it’s going to hurt everything and every one you love; tobacco & cancer, civil rights, acid rain, clean air and water, Medicare, SDI, immigration, ozone, gun control, adopting any standard of environmental justice, AGW, Healthcare reform etc….

    Why are they so effective at their form of alarmism and we, so bad at defending ourselves from it?

  32. I. Snarlalot Theisdaise says:

    “Why are they so effective at their form of alarmism and we, so bad at defending ourselves from it?”

    Perhaps because it’s about tone and about dog whistles, not content. As I see it, there’s an appeal to a set of cultural prejudices oddly masquerading as ideology; larded with all kinds of harmonics relating to sneering, smirking, exceptionalism, pomposity, and authoritarianism seasoned with a histrionic dash of whiney victimhood envy. They’re both winding up their choir and trying to ensnare innocent bystanders who may be naive enough to have their buttons pushed by this crap.

    Theirs is an intentionally constructed attractive nuisance. Think psyops, not discourse.

  33. Chris Winter says:

    David Smith asks why conservatives are so effective at smearing their opponents as “alarmists” when alarmism (fearmongering, scare tactics, call it what you will) has long been a mainstay of conservative tactics.

    The reason is that their opponents have a dislike, based on ethics, of using trumped-up fear to manipulate people. Convervatives — or at least the sort of “conservatives” who speak of “Obamacare” and derisively call anyone who accepts AGW a “warmist” or “alarmist” — do not.

    Thus the common response to well-founded warnings that America should start to control CO2 emissions is met by raising an alarm about “killing jobs” or “destroying the economy.”

    I’ve just read Lederer & Burdick’s The Ugly American (forty years late; but better late than never.) Although fiction, it’s based on real events, and is a very good lesson in how effective such techniques can be.

  34. David Smith says:

    So, If the costs of not being effective are potentially and likely dire, why handicap ourselves by excluding certain strategies which have been used successfully by our opponents? “We thought we were better than them, we would never stoop so low”, will sound hollow and pathetic 50 years from now when the point of no recovery has long passed. I am sure survivers at that time will wish we had done everything possible.

  35. I. Snarlalot Theisdaise says:

    “…excluding certain strategies…”

    Hey, if you can do better…

    One (perhaps rather cliched) way to look at it: It’s easier to be destructive than it is to be creative, and being destructive is precisely the problem. The end doesn’t justify the means, and anyway there is probably little that is unethical that would serve to change the status quo anyway.

    More to the point, indications are that the majority actually accept global warming. Getting too nasty will only add more distracting controversy and play into the delusions of the denialists. I blame much of the problem on the MSM which acts as a sort of bottleneck between timely action and the fantasies of the oligarchy. It is their bungling of the message (over which you have little control, no matter what rhetorical strategies you choose) and their lack of professionalism that is to a large extent responsible for keeping the body politic so complacent. On top of that, they’re more scared of the potential for wingnut violence than they are of your complaints, which they’re only inclined to view as rocking the boat.

    Patience will be required to win the day, though at this point there won’t be enough time to forestall as many undesirable outcomes as one would wish. That is the unpleasant reality that we all have to deal with. No point wasting time about it, which means

    No point just spitting in the wind.