There’s not a lot new to be said about the leak of documents from the Heartland Institute, revealing that the Institute was channeling funds from far-right billionaires and corporations to a large number of self-described sceptics, notably including our own Bob Carter, who’s apparently on a monthly retainer, despite his prior claims of independence. Carter is of course, linked to the IPA, which has a long history of rejecting science for cash, most notably in its decades of work (still continuing) for the tobacco industry.

A few points might be worth restating, though:

* As regards the way in which the documents came into the public domain (still unclear, but Heartland alleges they were tricked into emailing them to the wrong person), Heartland and most of their supporters have shown themselves, unsurprisingly, to be stinking hypocrites. Heartland was among the leaders in publicizing and promoting the use of misleading excerpts from private emails in what they and others called “Climategate”. Now they scream about “stolen” documents, backed up by lots of the usual suspects. There’s an amusing response, with which I agree entirely, from some of the scientists victimised by Heartland and its criminal allies in the past.

* There is no such thing as an honest climate sceptic. Those who reject mainstream science are either conscious frauds or gullible believers. I can confidently predict that of the thousands of “sceptics” who made great play of the CRU email hack, no more than a handful will change their views, either on the substantive issue or on the credibility of people like Carter and institutions like Heartland, over this. Those who aren’t, like Carter, on the payroll are credulous dupes. While many low-information “sceptics” have simply been misled by reading the wrong material on the Internet, or trusting the wrong sources, the great majority of active opponents of climate science are complicit in their own deception, preferring to believe obvious lies because it suits their cultural and political prejudices.

* It may be worth restating the absurdity of the claim that genuine scientists (unlike Carter) are motivated by money. Leaving aside the absurdity of the suggestion that the scientists make their career choice because they were after a highly-paid job, there’s the fact that mainstream climate science has the overwhelming endorsement of scientists in all fields. It’s certainly true that the global warming problem has meant more funding for climate science, but there’s only so much in the budget, and much of this money has come at the expense of other fields which are no longer given priority status.

100 thoughts on “Gullible-gate

  1. I reckon there’s a bit more to it than that, Mel.

    Greenpeace, the example you used, is transparent about its funding, doesn’t accept money from “companies, governments or political parties”, and gets a large amount of its budget from public donations, which it secures by explaining its goals and asking people to support it on principle.

    I’m sure I don’t need to explain how that’s pretty much the opposite of how Heartland operates.

    The other assumption implicit in the cynicism is that people who admired the Heartland Institute previously won’t care about the leaked documents, and most of them probably won’t.

    A minority, however, may have the wool lifted from their eyes. It’s impossible to overstate the extent to which right-wing politics thrives on fear and uncertainty, and Heartland’s role is to pretend that everything’s okay with the environment, and all you need to do is vote conservative to make the scary scientists go away.

    Some of the people who take comfort in Heartland’s “product” may now be more skeptical of the think tank’s statements.

  2. Well, no, Sancho, I think you’ll find nothing would change if Heartland shut up shop tomorrow. Conservative populists like Andrew Bolt in Oz and James Delingpole in the UK are much more important. If these types of characters came out and said “oops, I was wrong about climate change” we’d have a whole new ball game.

  3. In his admission Gleick says:-

    I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials; others have and are doing so. I only note that the scientific understanding of the reality and risks of climate change is strong, compelling, and increasingly disturbing, and a rational public debate is desperately needed. My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.

    I’m not sure why it is a sin to be well funded and coordinate but there you go. Of more amusement is the suggestion that we desperately need a debate.

  4. Terje:

    The suggestion in the quote is not, as you put it: “that we desperately need a debate”.

    It is that a “rational public debate is desperately needed”.

    Two entirely different things.


    The key difference in this is Heartland’s dishonest misrepresentation of what others have written (you did see, in your research, that I didn’t write the material you attempted to attribute to me didn’t you? If not, you are sloppy. If so, you are dishonest).

    Their role in the spurious “climategate” email charade contrasts poorly with their, now revealed, program of deception and ‘trolling’ on a range of topics, most interestingly climate change.

    To spell it out: They accuse others of lying about climate change. They lie about climate change.

  5. @Mel

    Heartland and its ilk, by astroturfing a controversy in the scientific community, provide intellectual cover to people like Bolt (and people who like Bolt).

    That intellectual cover disappears, they lose a whole lot of legitimacy and find it harder to make their case.

  6. @Dan
    I’m not quite so confident they would. Bolt always resorts back to the Barnaby Joyce argument about the trivial influence Australia has on Global emissions and that appears to resonate well with his viewers whether it’s correct or not. Let’s also not underestimate where the real power is – Murdoch! Rupert and his even more right wing son Lachlan.

  7. rog :
    Terje omits “rational” from the debate but there you go.

    Sure let’s be rational. Let’s go around saying it may never rain again and the sky is falling. Let’s put people on the public payroll to say this sort of “rational” stuff. Let’s doll out taxpayer cash to “brilliant” green ventures that pay penance for our guilt. Well this nonsense is “rational” to some people.

    Maybe the time for debate is over. Maybe it is time to simply stand back and let the public backlash against leftist wet dreams simply run it’s course. After all why let reason get in the way of a worthy cause? The left seems untroubled by reason or restraint.

  8. Hey Terje, did you ever apologise or ‘fess up when you got taken to the cleaners by JQ last time you talked climate change here? As I remember you just went quiet. If I’m wrong, can you please post a link?

  9. Out of curiosity, Terje, do you believe the arguments against climate change are fundamentally different from the arguments against evolution, the tobacco-cancer link and against the HIV-AIDS connection?

  10. @TerjeP

    I believe that you might have confused yourself over the people’s attitude towards climate change.

    First, climate change science is not created by the left but by the scientist society so by saying that the left should back away from debating about whether if climate change is real or it’s left’s wet dream does not make sense. The debate was supposed to be between the climate change scientists and the deniers (which holds no political interest in the beginning just pure scientific argument); also it is absurd to say that all climate change scientist are leftist (maybe not even half of them are before the evidence were gathered and the debate started). The scientist had supported the left’s view most likely because the left supports to act on climate change but not because the scientists are leftists to begin with. If that is the case why it is left’s wet dream?

    Secondly, the debate between climate change between the left and the right has changed over time. The arguments at first was how should people act on it based on scientific evidence, now it has become whether if it exist. Which the left happens to support to act on it before it’s too late and the right happens to deny it. The claims by the right recently has been completely non-sense such as “climate change is a leftist conspiracy” when the left has nothing to do with the research and establishment of the climate change science itself in the first place.

    I don’t know if you understand me or not, but I hope you can think about this.

  11. It’s not the argument I’m interested in so much as the apparent inability to recognise that climate change “skepticism” is a version of Intelligent Design, driven mostly by the same people and institutions who argued to the end that smoking is unrelated to lung cancer.

    PFAW has an excellent account of the way climate “skeptic” organisations are specifically recruiting creationists by appealing to their suspicion of evolutionary science:

    Here’s some wisdom from E. Calvin Beisner, member of the sensibly skeptical Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, speaking at a conference alongside Chris Monckton:

    “Raising the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration…is not going to cause catastrophic global warming.”

    “Our God is a more intelligent designer than to make a system so fragile, and a better judge to call such a system ‘very good’ after he made it,”.

  12. And that’s the approach some religious groups take, Dan. They regard themselves as stewards of the planet rather than exploiters.

    The evangelical view is tied up in the idea that when the earth is wrecked Jesus will have to come back to rescue the faithful. They actually want an environmental apocalypse, so it’s no surprise that groups like the Heartland Institute tailor their message to suit fundamentalist audiences.

  13. “Our God is a more intelligent designer than to make a system so fragile, and a better judge to call such a system ‘very good’ after he made it,”

    Wonder what they say about the God of Venus then?

  14. Dan :
    Ah – ‘redemptive reactionaries’ in Mark Lilla’s taxonomy.

    …”accept that the revolution occurred and can’t be undone, and so they want to trigger a second, counterrevolution, with the hopes of undoing the first set of changes, in a sort of political hard reset.”

    Exactly. Interestingly, libertarianism – or the the form of right-wing extremism that calls itself that – is the new communism, in that its believers appear to want to destroy everything achieved since the Enlightenment and start over again, with Ayn Rand replacing ancient philosophers for guidance.

  15. Interestingly, libertarianism – or the the form of right-wing extremism that calls itself that – is the new communism, in that its believers appear to want to destroy everything achieved since the Enlightenment and start over again, with Ayn Rand replacing ancient philosophers for guidance.

    I’ve always found ‘libertarians’, with their doctrinaire utopianism, their one-fit solution for all problems, and their ability to insist that reality confirms to their beliefs in the face of the obvious, to be more reminiscient of a student Trotskyist group than any other political tendency. It’s almost like libertarians and Trotskyists are mirror images of each other.

  16. I don’t want to derail this thread any further, but feel compelled to point out that Mel’s description of the Vic Greens position on fluoride is out of date. About two years ago that clause was removed from our policies, over the anguished screams of about five anti-fluridationists (some of whom promptly left the party). To do so required a 75% vote of state council, and from memory it passed fairly comfortably. No explicitly pro-flouride policy was inserted to replace it, but had anyone proposed one I think it would have passed.

    I have met a couple of anti-vaccinators in the party, but the fact is they’re a tiny minority. Cranks can get control of small branches, but I there’s no support on these issues from the party’s MPs. Rather different from the Republicans or Liberals on AGW.

  17. @TerjeP

    I’m not sure why it is a sin to be well funded and coordinate

    A bit like saying, I’m not sure why it is a sin for crime to be well funded and coordinated.

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