Another expert slams Nisbet’s “illegitimate assumptions”
The data suggest opponents of the bill far outspent environmentalists during the climate bill debate of 2009 and 2010:
- 8-to-1 on lobbying in 2009
- 4-to 1 (or more) on advertising in 2009
- 8-to-1 in donations to candidates and Congress members in 2010 cycle
- 10-to-1 on independent election expenditures in 2010
I am basing those numbers on a reanalysis of data in Dr. Matthew Nisbet’s discredited Climate Shift report [big PDF here].
This reanalysis, which I’ll present below, was done with the help of Dr. Robert Brulle. Brulle is a leading social scientist whom Nisbet had specifically asked to review his financial analysis — and who ultimately withdrew his name from the study in large part because Nisbet’s claims that enviros held the spending edge were “contradicted by Nisbet’s own data.” Brulle’s withdrawal letter is here.
Yesterday, yet another expert, Thomas Webler, came forward to debunk Nisbet’s analysis. His email to me focused on Nisbet’s claim that enviro overall spending resources exceed that of bill opponents and concludes:
Nisbet acknowledges that the green groups do many more things than simply work on climate legislation, but by posing this huge $1.4 billion number against the $787 million of the brown NGOs, I feel Nisbet is attempting to convey an idea that is actually false. He seems to want to make the point that greens have more — and spend more — than browns. But, when one looks beyond the surface, it becomes clear that this can only be done by making illegitimate assumptions that end up bending the truth.
It’s sad to see such misleading social science come out into the public sphere, but particularly troubling to see this on Earth Day. I’m saddened to see such questionable scholarship acquire publicity it does not deserve. Questionable scholarship does harm to our entire profession. I only hope that readers of the report will put the time in that is necessary to read critically, not accept claims on face value, and come to their own conclusions.
Webler is a founding member and Research Fellow at the Social and Environmental Research Institute. He is on the Editorial Board of Environmental Communication, Society and Natural Resources and Human Ecology Review.
Since Nisbet’s debunked financial analysis is the big news hook for his study, and since this is a crucial area for understanding what happened to the climate bill, I’ll spend the rest of this post reanalyzing the data in great detail, to try to get a true picture of what happened.