Smokescreen

As I’ve said in the past, I’m tired of stoushes with global warming delusionists, and of blogwars more generally. I’ve adopted a policy of banning/deleting trolls here, and, as far as possible, ignoring them elsewhere. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel I could ignore Graham Young’s attack on me, Robyn Williams, Tim Lambert and others in Online Opinion of which he is Chief Editor. OLO has made a valuable contribution to Australian public debate, and has a well-justified reputation for serious discussion (despite Young’s propensity for publishing silly anti-science pieces on climate change). That reputation will be trashed if it becomes a platform for intemperate and partisan rants (violations of Godwin’s Law are a pretty good indication of this, in my view).

I did write to Young to attempt a resolution, and sent him a lot of links and documents trying to explain why (contrary to his claims) I thought it was appropriate to report Fred Singer’s close involvement with the tobacco industry, and its relationship to his role in the global warming debate (prominent now, but even more so in the 1990s when he and Fred Seitz got the organised delusionist movement going with the Leipzig Declaration and Oregon Petition)[1][2]. However, apart from the offer of a reply (if I want to say that I’m not a brownshirt, I can do so here in much less than 800 words, and have done), he wasn’t interested.

At this point, I’m going to let the documents speak for themselves. Over the fold, I’ve linked and quoted an article from the American Journal of Public Health, and two (of many) documents from tobacco company archives, released as part of a settlement of litigation against them by US state governments. If any readers feel that I’ve been unfairly selective here, I invite you, as I did Graham, to Google “Fred Singer” + tobacco, or search the archives yourself.

That’s it from me on this. If readers’ comments indicate general agreement that I’ve unfairly traduced Singer’s reputation, I’ll retract. Perhaps, if the evidence appears convincing to most, Young might respond appropriately.

American Journal of Public Health 2001, Junking Science to Promote Tobacco by Derek Yach, MBChB, MPH and Stella Aguinaga Bialous, DrPH, MScN, RN

In addition to creating front groups and contributing funds to groups that have a mission broad enough to carry some of the tobacco industry’s goals, the tobacco companies also use publications by allegedly independent think tanks, such as the Virginia based Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. This group’s 1994 report “Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examinationâ€? 35 criticizes the US Environmental Protection Agency’s risk assessment methods …although no direct financial link has been established, several members of the report’s academic advisory board have been involved with different tobacco companies’ activities.36 The report’s principal reviewer, Dr Fred Singer, was involved with the International Center for a Scientific Ecology, a group that was considered important in Philip Morris’ plans to create a group in Europe similar to The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), as discussed by Ong and Glantz.37,38 He was also on a tobacco industry list of people who could write op-ed pieces on “junk science,â€? defending the industry’s views.39

APCO Associates memo to Phillip Morris (this is the one cited by Yach and Bialous)

As you know, we have been working with Dr Fred Singer, and Dr Dwight Lee, who have authored articles on junk science and indoor air quality respectively… We discussed with Dr Singer Ellen’s[3] suggestion for the junk science article to have a more personal introduction, however he is adamant this would not be his style.

Most notable, since it shows how Singer used attacks on global warming to push the tobacco line, is this memo about Singer’s work for PR company Shandwick on behalf of tobacco company Brown and Williamson

SEPP initially was reluctant to publicly take the lead on a tobacco issue, so Shandwick recommended the concept of creating a “myths list .” Although the CRS report would be the focal point of publicity activities, SEPP packaged four other issues – global warming, radon, “zero risk” and stratospheric ozone. The publicity plan was launched January 10 with a national press release (attached). Dr. S . Fred Singer, SEPP president, agreed to an aggressive media interview schedule arranged by Shandwick.

[1] Young also objects to my statement that the late Theodor Landscheidt (who never held an academic or research appointment of any kind, let alone one in climatology) was an amateur climatologist. As ought to be clear from my paper with Dan Hunter, I have nothing against amateurs, and Landscheidt did get some papers published in academic journals. But that doesn’t make his eccentric theories a credible alternative to mainstream science. In any case, this is not a dispute worth pursuing further.

[2] A new version of the Oregon Petition has just come out.

[3] This is a reference Ellen Merlo, Vice President of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs department.

36 thoughts on “Smokescreen

  1. re: #21 Steve
    Yes, I’ve seen that paper, which is also useful, we’re thinking of the same Revelle episode.

    There’s no doubt that {Nierenberg, Jastrow, Seitz} were the first team, but Singer has generated much more material. And keep an eye out within a year for Naomi Oresekes’ forthcoming book on all this.

  2. SG, I understand where you’re coming from on both corn and palm oil. However you might need to view the corn outcome as the logical result of political response to ‘misguided exuberance’, whereas palm oil is simply the logical result of players continuiing with business as usual in the constitutional marketplace(CM)they find themselves in. Do you really think raising the price of fossil fuels via tax or cap and trade (C&T) will reduce the supply of palm oil diesel? Even more business as usual land clearing we’d all concur. So my take is AGW is not the be all and end all here, but rather the catalyst to look calmly and carefully at the serious shortcomings of our current CM, swirling all about us now. I’ll have more to say on my blueprint for that on Weekend Reflections for you to critique over the coming weeks. Feel free. However, that said, hot button CO2 emissions reduction has now largely boiled down to price (straight taxing) or quantity controls (C&T). Actually the latter is in the political ascendancy now, which I’ll claim right here, I believe is due to much ‘misguided exuberance’. To say that is apparently to be branded a denialist or delusionary skeptic. My answer to that(refer to the last few comments on John’s ‘Wind’ post) is to say- show this ghostbuster what you’ve got you spiritual lot, because all you really have now is a delusionary vision. Or as I put it-
    ‘You nail the problems I have with CO2 cap and trade pretty well Peter. In fact I don’t really know what form C&Tcan take to overcome the problems demanding its solution by that path. It’s not like water in the MD Basin where there is a fixed average flow available, albeit that might be falling over time somewhat if the science is right. That essentially means a fixed quantity available per year as a natural cap. OTOH we have a relatively fixed amount of CO2 emitted per year now(albeit that seems to be growing with demographics somewhat)and want to decrease that, presumably annually to our ideal. Let’s say by 60% by 2050, although 90% reductions are now being bandied about. In other words, presumably the cap needs to be shrinking by 1.5% pa to get that 60% over 40 years, the low hanging fruit argument for front end loading aside here. How on earth do you invent a cap and trade system to do that, other than auction a 1 tonne permit today, that the successful bidder understands is shrinking by 1.5% pa and can take ownership and trade same accordingly, presumably to gain the maxm benefits of C&T. Either that or you auction say some 3yr permits and they have to come back and bid for the next lower tranche. That negates the benefits of C&T and becomes a defacto tax. If so why not cut out all the admin/policing dramas and slap on a straight tax? The alternative one off auction of declining permits is fraught with the long term information problem, just like MD water rights all those years ago. It seems to me we’re really arguing about a C&T ghost here. These high priests need to how us the substance, rather than their incantations. Failing that, their ghost who walks is really an AGL flogging make believe carbon credits to banks. You can’t cover up rubbish tips and walk away from them without tapping the methane, or you’ll end up with a bigger bang than Chernobyl. The fact that AGL saw an opportunity to claim the necessary as an emission credit is as facile as Origin’s similar try-on when it took over Snowy Hydro.’

    Basically it’s like the bloody Republic all over again. Noone wants to tell you how the new HOS gets elected/appointed. ‘Don’t you worry about that now’ all you skeptical delusionists is their spiritual mantra, which we reckon we’ve heard somewhere before. Let’s all get down to tin tacks of what’s really going on here. Show us your C&T ghost now.

  3. “observa, if denialists think they need an example of ‘mis-guided exuberance’ then they should use the ‘palm oil to biodiesel’ one, as too many of us know that ‘corn to ethanol’ is as much about AGW as Iraq is about WMD.”

    Conaisering that the price of palm oil is now well above the price of diesel and palm-based biodiesel mahfactuters are shutting down as a result I’d say that one’s equally wonky.

  4. Ian, I suppose that’s good news. Now, if we can only get the stuff out of our food!

  5. I continue to use the “d word” in the following sense (from Wikpedia):

    “Denial is a defense mechanism’ postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

    “The subject may deny the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether (simple denial), admit the fact but deny its seriousness (minimisation) or admit both the fact and seriousness but deny responsibility (transference). The concept of denial is particularly important to the study of addiction. The theory of denial was first researched seriously by Anna Freud. She classified denial as a mechanism of the immature mind, because it conflicts with the ability to learn from and cope with reality.”

  6. I brushed into Origin’s little try-on via my 88 yr old father. He’s still in his own unit getting increasing Govt funded assistance to keep him out of the more expensive, higher care, log jam for as long as possible now. The working family does its bit too after hours. On one such drop in, there’s an Auspost ticket to say there’s a parcel for him at the local PO. Like many oldies now, he’s an easy prey for everyone from Readers Digest to the charities and cadgers which is an increasing problem. At Xmas I found eight, forty dollar tickets for one charity on the sideboard, which no doubt some doorknocker was more than happy to unload. Time for a ‘Do not Knock’ register methinks, but I digress. Turns out the package is not some ‘free gift’ from Readers Digest, but a box of goodies from Origin Energy consisting of a water saving shower head, some CF light globes and a green fluro Chinese mini footy with guess who’s name on it. Out of the frying pan and into the fire I thought, as I read the glossy brochure thanking Pops for signing on to Origin’s new version of green power. Oh and would he be so kind as to sign the attached claim to say he’s faithfully installed said appropriate goodies and send it back in the post paid envelope thanks. He can keep the footy as a bonus. Naturally, being a delusionary skeptic, I rang origin to express my skepticism among other things, like preying on the mentally failing and finacially less well off, to up their power bills. Well the gist of it was I don’t have to worry sir as the Govt has unfortunately not allowed our worthy scheme and there will be no increase in your father’s bills. As the follow up letter explained, seems they weren’t impressed with Origin claiming carbon credits when they took over Snowy hydro distribution. You don’t say? As for the shower head and CFs, who knows? Alls well that ends well because there was a great grandson for that utilitarian footy of theirs.

    So when I’m perusing Rupert’s kind business reporting I spot the greenies nirvana that corporate Oz has taken up the baton and practical C&T is off and running to everyone’s delight no doubt. But what’s this? My electricity provider AGL flogging carbon credits to my banking provider? Now my name’s not Manuel and I don’t hark from Barcelona so little alarm bells are immediately going off all over the neurons at that piece of news. So what’s the go I ask and JQ’s optimistic answer is ‘liquidity’ pointing to AGL’s sources. Hmmm… thinks I. Must be some of that same liquidity I comprehend so well, when State Govts offer 2 for 1 buyback of solar to the grid and the Feds hand out another $8000 subsidy plus $1500 in RECs to boot to make a risk free after tax return over 10% and don’t you ever let a chance go by old son, lest all that liquidity suddenly dries up, heh, heh! Now where’s AGL’s version of all this liquidity O meboy. So I scan down their list and wouldn’t you know it? There’s the mothballed Wingfield Tip on the list, and the penny drops, seeing as how the O has an intimate connection with all his forgone consumption in its mighty shadow and all that. So AGL are tapping the methane off the hill and flogging it to industry for a tidy profit, since someone has to or it will go bang sometime. They probably get some extra greeny points for covering it up and planting tree offsets on it too, just like all their other tips on the list. Then they neatly bundle all this profit making enterprise up and sell it off to Westpac so Westpac has all the liquidity to sell and they have none when those optimists in Canberra are asking who needs some liquidity come C&T time. Ah, liquidity, aint it grand?

  7. Would it be possible to have a word limit for regular threads? Observa is giving Jack Strocchi a run for his money in the long-winded stakes.

    Succinctness is a virtue in any form of writing.

  8. Your point’s valid Lord Dolly, but remember you’re paying these corporate high flyers to do exactly what I’m giving you a sample of here, which is why your cheap alternates in the public circus don’t stand a chance. That’s why you shouldn’t set them up to fail.

  9. I note it is getting lateish Satuday night.I read Observa’s story and found it useful.And my own story is,I was bored almost incoherently by the need for sulfur pumping.[Have I spelt that right!}I need a break from not being able to worry,because there really does seem too much to worry about! And specialising in self sometimes could be an over-reaction.I dont believe,Australia should be messing around with Cloud-Seeding,if the judgement on global dimming isn’t in yet.Hence I become incoherent,with all the great exponents of applied reason and scientific understanding,I guess I am being a bit dim-witted in thinking that! Although I read years ago from stuff gathered by The Planetary Association for Clean Energy Inc. Canada,and elsewhere,that,this was dubious science.Whereas Cloud-busting Wilhelm Reich mode wasn’t as risky,if my memory serves me correctly.He doesn’t get much approval as a thinker in Australia,but there are moments in reading his books that a wisdom drawn in its own peculiarities of definitions still can ring bells of insight.Sadly the pace of combatative Expertise seems to disallow,the more long-winded summaries cautions and extrapolations,borne of surviving as an individual rather than as intellect.Weird as that seems to me,it remains a serious provocation, whenever someone can claim their knowledge of weather is tantamount to complete understanding..and what will be the temperature on Shea’s Nob tomorrow at three am!?

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