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Exxon: We believe in global warming, so we shouldn’t be criticised for funding global warming denialists

October 21st, 2006

As everyone knows (or ought to know by now), one of main reason controversy over climate change is continuing in the face of overwhelming evidence is the fact that ExxonMobil has the cash spigot open to fund anyone willing to deny the evidence – the Competitive Enterprise Insitute, George Marshall Institute and the old tobacco industry network run by Steven Milloy, Fred Seitz and Fred Singer have been among the main beneficiaries. The Royal Society wrote to them recently, asking them to turn off the money tap.

Exxon’s response

The Royal Society’s letter and public statements to the media inaccurately and unfairly described our company.”

It went on: “We know that carbon emissions are one of the factors that contribute to climate change – we don’t debate or dispute this.”

So, they know the groups they are funding are lying, but they need to promote the idea that there is so much uncertainty that we should do nothing. The best way to do this is to create as much Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt as possible.

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  1. Simonjm
    October 28th, 2006 at 10:36 | #1

    Tackle climate change or face deep recession, world’s leaders warned
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1931685,00.html

    FAQ The Stern review
    What is the Stern review?

    Gordon Brown asked Sir Nicholas Stern last July to analyse the financial implications of climate change.

    What will it say?

    Climate change poses a threat to the world economy and it will be cheaper to address the problem than to deal with the consequences.

    Why does it matter?

    The global warming argument seemed a straight fight between the scientific case to act and the economic case not to. Now, economists are urging action.

    What next?

    International action beyond 2012 is debated in Nairobi next month.

    What about the US?

    The great sticking point. Some believe only a change of president will bring serious action.

    Chew on that little Jonny H.

  2. wilful
    October 28th, 2006 at 11:19 | #2

    Good to see Will Alexander came back with his ‘abundant evidence’ of no scientific consensus on climate change.

    And Proust, relying on the WSJ op-ed page. Oh dear.

  3. proust
    October 28th, 2006 at 13:21 | #3

    The opinion piece in the WSJ I referred to was written by Richard Lindzen. He’s no slouch. Look him up.

    Ender, the hockeystick is just one example of poor statistical analysis by climate scientists. Read climateaudit.org if you want to see hundreds more. And climateaudit.org barely touches all the problems with the Global Circulation Models.

    How many of those who accuse me of bias have ever read and fully understood the statistical issues behind just a single, serious climate paper?

  4. jquiggin
    October 28th, 2006 at 13:36 | #4

    We’ve covered Lindzen here many times, Proust. He’s about the only working climate scientist left on the denialist side. Unfortunately, he’s an obstinate contrarian – for example, he thinks the risks of smoking have been much overstated.

    As regards the statistical issues, why don’t we start with McKitrick and Michaels (2004)?

  5. proust
    October 28th, 2006 at 14:17 | #5

    “for example, he thinks the risks of smoking have been much overstated.

    Reference?

    In the current climate (no pun intended) anyone who maintains an honest objective position on the science will be labeled an obstinate contrarian.

    “why don’t we start with McKitrick and Michaels (2004)?”
    Interesting choice. Not written by climate scientists. Not a paper about climate science as such. But some fundamental errors were made in that paper by opponents of AGW.

    A very good place to start if you want to present a biased view of the state of the opposition.

  6. jquiggin
    October 28th, 2006 at 14:33 | #6

    Newsweek, 23 July 2001. Relevant quote

    Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full, impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with thoughtful drags on a cigarette.

    Elsewhere in the article (which presents Lindzen’s views very sympathetically) he’s described as a contrarian and “remaining steadfastly on the fringe”.

    As far as I know, Lindzen did not take exception to any of these characterisations, which exactly match those I gave (except for the standard conjugation from “I am steadfast” to “you are obstinate”).

  7. jquiggin
    October 28th, 2006 at 14:36 | #7

    BTW, while I agree that Michaels can’t be regarded as a climate scientist any more, he might take exception to this characterisation.

  8. Seeker
    October 28th, 2006 at 14:48 | #8

    “The opinion piece in the WSJ I referred to was written by Richard Lindzen. He’s no slouch.” Proust

    He’s no frickin genius either.

    Here’s the real problem, Proust.

    If Lindzen and his fellow travellers, such as yourself, are wrong, AND we do not take any preventative or remedial action, then the cost to humans is extremely high.

    However, the reverse is not true. If you guys are right, AND we do take unnecessary preventative and remedial action, then the cost is (relatively) low and still has some considerable benefits (greater energy efficiency, for example, is never a bad thing).

    That is the logic we have to deal with now, not in 100 years when the science will be settled one way or the other.

    We can’t afford to wait any longer. It is decision time. (Actually, it was decision time a decade or so ago, but it is still not too late.)

    And, please, you are going to have to do a lot better than simply labelling scientists as lefties, if you wish to properly rebut their claims. That ain’t how science works. If it is, then you have to explain why science done by lefties is hopelessly compromised by their political allegiance, but why the science done by righties is not thus compromised. I think you can see where this is going.

  9. October 28th, 2006 at 17:48 | #9

    proust – “Ender, the hockeystick is just one example of poor statistical analysis by climate scientists. Read climateaudit.org if you want to see hundreds more. And climateaudit.org barely touches all the problems with the Global Circulation Models.”

    Do you often go to the dentist when you have a broken arm that needs setting? I prefer to get my statistical infomation from people who at least have paid their dues in the field that they are working on. I would not go to a mining engineer and an economist for climate science no matter how shrill they are.

  10. proust
    October 28th, 2006 at 18:24 | #10

    “Newsweek, 23 July 2001.”
    So because a journalist from Newsweek wrote in 2001 “He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking.” that means “he thinks the risks of smoking have been much overstated.”

    Is that the best you’ve got?

    Respectfully, I suggest that relying on second-hand reports of Lindzen’s opinion on an unrelated topic in order to discount his entire AGW position on zero says a lot more about your bias than it does Lindzen’s.

    I have an idea: why don’t you write to Lindzen and ask him what he thinks about smoking?

  11. Tam o’Shanter
    October 28th, 2006 at 18:26 | #11

    The announcements this week of federal and state funding for solar and wind power in Victoria will have Exxon laughing up its sleeve. Even with a carbon tax of A$25 per MWh gas power remains highly profitable, while solar assuming it produces at full capacity for as much as 12 hrs a day 365 days a year never produces a positive internal rate of return (30 years life, finance at 8% repayable over 15 years) unless interest free funding reaches half the touted capex of A$420 million instead of just 35% so far. The wind turbines don’t look as good if windspeed does not average 50km/hour for as many hours a year. By contrast, the cited carbon tax would make nuclear fully competitive with black coal. Another facet of the reports on Victoria’s taxpayers’ heroism is that the demands on surface area are far from negligible, at 800 treefree ha for the solar (to match output from a 1600 MW nuclear, multiply that to 16,600 ha; the wind farm will require tree free land of 27,500 ha on the same basis. The turbines can coexist with other land use except forestry; not so the solar. The costings for both solar and wind as presented ignore the cost of idle backup conventional power for when there is neither wind nor sun, downtime on the backup is seriously costly and would require subsidies to those generators. Me, I will stick with my oil shares, and leave wind and sun equities to the heroic Melburnians.

  12. proust
    October 28th, 2006 at 18:30 | #12

    Seeker, your argument can be applied to most potential threats. So as not to jump at shadows, we need to decide which threats are credible. When climate science is riddled with poor statistics, it very much calls into question the crediblity of the threat posed by AGW.

  13. jquiggin
    October 28th, 2006 at 18:31 | #13

    Umm, this is a direct report of an interview with Lindzen. The fact that he’s willing to take an obviously wrong position, in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus, but in support of his personal preferences on one scientific issue gives a plausible explanation of why he, alone among serious climate scientists, is willing to do the same on another.

    Respectfully, I suggest you don’t know when to give up.

  14. proust
    October 28th, 2006 at 19:07 | #14

    Ok, we’re clear. One second-hand report of an unrelated position, 5 years ago, is enough for you to discount him to zero.

    Fine. I’ll apply the same logic to your arguments. There have been plenty of slipups here recently. You are henceforth discounted to zero.

  15. October 28th, 2006 at 20:46 | #15

    Tam oShanter – “Even with a carbon tax of A$25 per MWh gas power remains highly profitable”

    While the gas lasts.

    “The wind turbines don’t look as good if windspeed does not average 50km/hour for as many hours a year.”

    Just like a coal plant doesn’t look good 100km from a coal mine

    “at 800 treefree ha for the solar (to match output from a 1600 MW nuclear, multiply that to 16,600 ha; the wind farm will require tree free land of 27,500 ha on the same basis.”

    How many hectares do you think the roofs of Australia would be? How many hectares of covered carparks? The beauty of solar PV is that it works just as well at the 1Kw level as 1 MW. A nuclear or coal thermal only works at 100MW or larger. Coal and nuclear are only cheap if you ignore externialities like waste disposal, decommissioning and health costs from particulates.

  16. Simonjm
    October 29th, 2006 at 10:34 | #16

    Will Alexander some seem to think GW is having an affect on Africa

    Climate change ‘hitting Africa’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6092564.stm

  17. Will Alexander
    October 29th, 2006 at 11:58 | #17

    Here is what I actually said: “…the climate alarmists maintain that Africa is already experiencing natural disasters – principally floods, droughts, malaria and other diseases, arising from unnatural global warming, and that these are causing increases in poverty, malnutrition, disease and environmental damage. IF TRUE, then it must follow that the cause is directly due to the high level of industrial activity in the EU nations. It then further follows that the African nations that are experiencing these climate-related disasters have a good claim for compensation from the EU nations, who by their own admission are the cause of the disasters”. (emphasis added) Of course it is not true re natural disasters being any more frequent now or atributable to GW; otherwise why have there been no Katrinas at all this year in the USA, but that will not stop Sir Nicholas Stern repeating yet again on Tuesday his claim last March that Katrinas will become ever more common year by year as CO@ keeps rising.

  18. Seeker
    October 29th, 2006 at 17:18 | #18

    “otherwise why have there been no Katrinas at all this year in the USA,” WA

    The degree of ignorance in that single (rhetorical) question is stunning.

  19. Chris O’Neill
    November 1st, 2006 at 17:04 | #19

    “How many of those who accuse me of bias have ever read and fully understood the statistical issues behind just a single, serious climate paper? ”

    Papers such as Wahl and Ammann 2006?

    “Read climateaudit.org”

    By Steve McIntyre who hasn’t come up with an explanation for why his supposedly diabolical Bristlecone proxies don’t have any significant effect on Temperature reconstructions using the 1450 proxy network as shown by Wahl and Ammann in their figure 5c. According to McIntyre these Bristlecone proxies produce an enormous hockeystick bias but somehow this bias just doesn’t show up between reconstructions with and without the Bristlecone proxies using the 1450 proxy network. This is just one in a series of bogus arguments put up by McIntyre over the years. Before making a decision about the credibility of McIntyre and his website keep in mind the incompetence of his past arguments such as the above.

  20. proust
    November 2nd, 2006 at 18:53 | #20

    After you read Wahl and Ammann, read this.

    And before making a decision about the credibility of McIntyre, keep in mind the mendaciousness of Mann in refusing for years (ie, forever) to supply data showing his reconstructions failed a basic R2 test.

    Now Wahl and Ammann want to argue that RE is the test of choice, not R2.

  21. November 2nd, 2006 at 19:47 | #21

    proust – “And before making a decision about the credibility of McIntyre, keep in mind the mendaciousness of Mann in refusing for years (ie, forever) to supply data showing his reconstructions failed a basic R2 test.”

    Repeat after me I will not feed the trolls I will not feed the trolls.

    biting and possibly witty retort deleted – JQ

  22. November 2nd, 2006 at 19:49 | #22

    BTW – I did actually write the previous post – JQ did not censor it. I wrote it to JQ to show I can control myself occasionally.

    Sorry if anyone got the wrong idea.

  23. proust
    November 2nd, 2006 at 20:08 | #23

    Chris O’Neill,

    this is what McIntyre has to say on the W&A interpretation of his Bristlecone results:

    Once again, in MM05b[EE], we presented an MBH98-type reconstruction without bristlecones or with reduced bristlecone weight, which yielded high 15th century values. In MM05b {E&E], we interpreted this result as only demonstrating the falseness of MBH claims of robustness to presence/absence of all dendroclimatic indicators, not as an alternative reconstruction. W&A stated that an MBH98-type reconstruction with reduced bristlecone weights (which they called an “MM� reconstruction) was without “statistical or climatological merit�. We agree that an MBH98-type reconstruction with reduced bristlecone weights is without “statistical merit�, but this does not mean that an MBH98 reconstruction with high bristlecone weights has “statistical merit�.

    In fact, this is a similar argument to the one I made on the Browning Australia thread: if by omission of one data “point” – one proxy in this case, one year’s rainfall in the Browning Australia thread – you drastically change the conclusion, then your method cannot be robust.

  24. Chris O’Neill
    November 3rd, 2006 at 02:00 | #24

    A lot of people have a great deal of difficulty understanding the results in Wahl and Ammann 2006, Steve McIntyre and proust among them. Probably partly because they don’t read it carefully. If you’d read my comment carefully you would have noticed I was referring to the 1450 proxy network rather than the 1400 network. For the 1400 network, leaving out the Bristlecone proxies DOES make a significant difference to the Temperature reconstuction and that is why they must be used to get a valid reconstruction before 1450. However, leaving them out of the 1450 MBH98 proxy network gives a reconstruction which is not significantly different from keeping them in. This contradicts what McIntyre says the Bristlecone proxies do, which is to put in a hockeystick bias when they are included in the proxy network. Thus when the opportunity presents itself to objectively test whether Bristlecone proxies cause a bias or not, the test result is that there is no bias. McIntyre has no explanation for this.

    I notice proust also repeats McIntyre’s lie about what MBH98 is referring to where MBH98 says:

    “On the other hand, the long-term trend in NH is relatively robust to the inclusion of dendroclimatic indicators in the network, suggesting that potential tree growth trend biases are not influential in the multiproxy climate reconstructions.”

    and a similar sentence later in MBH98.

    What MBH98 is actually referring to are tests described here that show that leaving out all the dendroclimatic indicators makes very little difference to the low frequency signal in a reconstruction that is valid without them. i.e. including the dendroclimatic indicators has no adverse effect on the reconstruction and as the example shows it can be expected to reduce the noise in the reconstruction.

    I haven’t been through all the detail of every one of McIntyre’s arguments but whenever I have, I have come to a fundamental defect in his argument.

  25. proust
    November 3rd, 2006 at 07:39 | #25

    Chris O’Neil: I can’t reconcile your comments with McIntyre’s analysis. What am I missing?

  26. Chris O’Neill
    November 4th, 2006 at 04:07 | #26

    Before commenting on the content of McIntyre, I’ll say that I think it’s amazing that he was carefully reading Wahl and Ammann for that comment more than a year after he sent in his review of the paper to the journal concerned. Doesn’t say too much for how carefully he read the paper when he reviewed it.

    Anyway, regarding his comment, McIntyre comes perilously close to understanding Wahl and Ammann’s point about Bristlecone proxies but then suddenly recalls that the NAS panel said that Bristlecone proxies ‘should be “avoided” in temperature reconstructions’. Phew, that was a close one for McIntyre. Thank heaven for the NAS panel. Makes careful thinking unnecessary. The point is, McIntyre is clinging desperately to the notion that it’s impossible to make a valid Temperature reconstruction that depends on Bristlecone proxies and he’ll latch on to anything, such as the NAS panel statement, that provides any sort of support for his belief. His belief is based on the well-known fact that the Bristlecone proxies have a growth bias caused by increasing CO2 levels since 1850. But there’s no law of Physics that says it’s impossible to use these proxies, biased as they are in nature, to determine a valid Temperature reconstruction. There are obvious ways to avoid the problem such as only calibrating the proxy before 1850 or determining the degree of bias by comparing with other proxies since 1850 and removing the bias. The latter is done in MBH99. The proof that this works is the consistency of reconstructions obtainable during the time that there are plenty of proxies to choose from (as I have already pointed to in this paper. This issue has been dealt with but all McIntyre can do is dismiss it out of hand. So in spite of McIntyre’s wishy washy objections, valid Temperature reconstructions can be made using Bristlecone proxies. Wahl and Ammann’s paper is simply another example of proof that Bristlecone proxies can be used to produce valid reconstructions, in their case they have the ability to prove, based on checking against independent proxies, that a Bristlecone proxy-dependent reconstruction is valid from 1900 back to 1450. If such a proxy is valid all the way back to 1450 there is no objective reason why it should suddenly become invalid before that. McIntyre just doesn’t get the logic but I’d agree that Wahl and Ammann don’t put it very well.

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