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The New Climate War by Michael E. Mann - our reviews

Posted on 4 June 2021 by BaerbelW , timo, jg

Since its publication in January 2021, several members from our team have read Michael E. Mann's latest book "The New Climate War". This blog post contains our reviews as well as the recording of a book reading from a side event at the Leipzig Book Fair.

BookCover

Forewarned is forearmed - Bärbel Winkler

Michael Mann‘s book is essential reading for anybody who doesn‘t accidentally want to fall for the latest tricks utilized by the fossil fuel industry and other groups heavily invested in the status quo. He shines the spotlight on the various underhanded tactics with which these vested interests and inactivists try to drive a wedge into the climate movement or try to shift the blame for the climate crisis from them to us as consumers. Once you know what to be on the lookout for, you‘ll no longer fall prey to these methods and can also call them out when you see others falling for them, who haven‘t been made aware of the tactics yet. Forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes!

Michael Mann also offers hope as he sees outright climate science denial on the way out, basically fighting rearguard skirmishes as the evidence for human-caused global warming is more and more in front of everybodys eyes, making it ever harder to deny. Even though there‘s obviously urgency needed to tackle the climate crisis he‘s nonetheless hopeful that we can do it because we also have the agency to act, meaning that we already have most of the needed options in our toolbox with which we can set ourselves on a path to wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

What we have to make sure to not lose sight of that task however, is to all be aware of the tactics applied by the various breeds of inactivists like the downplayers, deflectors, delayers, dividers, and doomers. Michael Mann‘s book is a great help with that!

Review published on Amazon.de on May 22, 2021.

The book that is desperately needed in our times - Timo Lubitz

Mike Mann has done it again.

After having published splendid “The Madhouse Effect” in 2016, the renowned climate scientist again takes on the most pressing issue of our times: Climate Change!

“The New Climate War” draws a brutally honest picture of the state our planet is in. Wildfires, melting ice caps, heat waves, floods. This has been long foreseen by climate scientists, but politicians did rarely act on it in order to prevent the worsening situation.

Furthermore, the fossil fuel industry is fighting for its survival by leading attacks on climate science and scientists. They invest lots of money into think tanks, from where they spew misinformation on the topic. Leading politicians in turn try themselves in diversion: “What about the other countries? They should go first, before we have to act! And what about the consumers, they should consume less energy or emission producing goods. And what – in God's name - about the economy?”

These distraction tactics are versatile and effective. But if one knows how to spot and how to identify them, it becomes much easier to refute the attacks. Mike Mann's new book gives the reader a handy set of tools to identify misinformation and counter these attacks on climate science. And this is much needed... Because it’s not the time to give up. We are not doomed yet, as some people like to put it in order to not be required to act. There is still time to act against climate change, but we need to act now.

And reading this book can be a first step.

Review published on Amazon.de on January 12.

Recognize the new tactics from the old agenda - John Garrett

In the past few years, I fell under the impression that opposition to the message from climate science had waned. I was wrong. This book's greatest benefit to me was teaching me that climate inactivists had migrated rather than disappeared. As a result of reading the book, I now recognize in my own conversations the delay and distraction tactics Mann describes in The New Climate War. Here's an exercise I recommend: Read the book, and then make a thoughtful and respectful public comment on the merits of restraining our greenhouse gas emissions. Next, examine the backlash for tactics described in this book.

I made such a comment on my state senator's social media and got the gamut of accusations from wind-turbined bird killer to energy hypocrite. All of these hostile replies were textbook examples anticipated in Mann's book.

While The New Climate War is about organized tactics to delay action on regulating fossil fuel emissions, its lessons apply to other events. For example, I hadn't thought about deflection much till I read about it in The New Climate War. This tactic has been in use in public advertising for 60 years and is still in use today, especially after the incident at the US Capital on Jan. 6, 2021.

Much of this book's engaging quality comes from Mann's writing style, such as ending paragraphs with ironic one-liners. Admittedly, the irony appeals more to people who do follow main stream science on matters like climate change. Since I follow the science, I'm familiar with at least 2/3rds of the persons cited in the book. I wondered if others could benefit from a who's who glossary, to sort out all the names and affiliations, but as I kept reading, I realized the ideal target audience is someone like me who has followed climate science, is familiar with anti-science propaganda, and is willing to use the book's footnotes.

I read an online copy, and quickly bought the print version because I find print easier for examining the footnotes, which are excellent.

I had expected the book to return to one idea posed in the beginning, that the Russian support for Trump was all about protecting oil's value, but since this is speculative, I'm happy with that being left as an activity for the reader.

Review published on Amazon.com on May 29.

Book reading and discussion at "Leipzig liest extra"

On May 27, 2021 Michael Mann read from his book during a side event focused on climate topics of the Leipzig Book Fair which could only take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the reading the host Heike Wex from Scientists for Future discussed the book's contents with Michael Mann and then opened it up to the participants of the Zoom call. Here is the recording of the event:

Bottom line: we wholeheartedly recommend reading this book!

Have you read "The New Climate War"? Leave your review in the comments!

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 55:

  1. I'm really not happy about the direction Dr Mann has been going. Whilst obviously not doubting his extreme scientific credibility in the field of climate science, I think he is increasingly adopting the appearance of some of the more extreme campaigning activists by, in my view, misattributing dark motivations to and unfairly demonising the actions of governments, the fossil fuel industry etc.

    Dr Mann is speaking well ouside of his area of special competence when he dismisses CCS, afforestation, nuclear, soil regeneration etc as unworkable or as a Machiavellian poker play of the 'delayers, dismissives, inactivists' etc. It seems like he has seen a holy light that dictates that only 100% renewables can allowed in his vision and that any other possible solutions must have been manufactured by dark forces to muddy the waters and prevent this one-dimensional solution coming to pass. It's going to be hard enough decarbonisng fast enough using everything we can throw at it - Throwing out everything but Dr Mann's 'pure' solution will make it harder or even unachievable early enough.

    In recent months it has become increasingly common to see extremist activists more or less entirely blaming the fossil fuel industry for the situation. Probably the original root of this was Greenpeace's highly misleading report 'Exxon knew' which, in my opinion, uses every one of the deceptive rhetorical tricks that the denialosphere use to make their cases, including the wilful attribution of sinister motives where there are other more benign interpretations.

    Very recently, and this seems to be in Dr Mann's book now, the valid response that the consumers of fossil fuelled energy and products, services and materials manufactured and extracted with that energy - the great mass of the public - are at least as responsible as the sellers is being portrayed as a malignant tactic by the 'delayers, dismissives etc'. This is a seriously warped thing to assert. The public's choices every time time they go to the shops or buy a car or complain about their energy bill means that they must share at least some of the responsibility for those choices - in my view most of it - because there are alternatives available which the majority are still not choosing. Activists who are trying to portray the public as innocent fluffy bunnies manipulated by Evil Big Fossil Fuel are, frankly, away with the fairies (being kind) or more likely pursuing some hidden ideologically based poltical agenda which the public would not suport if they realised it.

    Knowledge of anthropogenic climate change has been widespread since James Hansen's 1988 speech to Congress - no-one can say that the public are still ignorant of the science and there has been a million articles, TV programmes and broadcasts delineating the risks. Whatever concerns the great mass of the ordinary public may have had and now have is clearly outranked by their desire to continue using the products and services more or less as usual.

    But, obviously, Dr Mann is still a leading light in 'our side' and his powerful arguments that the consequences of the use of fossil carbon based energy must be priced into the economy is, in my view, the single most important thing that can be done to turn the market away from greenhouse gas generating energy by enabling the public to, by simply voting with their wallets, favour the cleaner green alternatives.

    It's clear that many top economists favour the 'rising carbon fee and dividend' championed by that other prominent climate scientist/activist James Hansen. Excitingly, these economists come from all sides of the political spectrum and there seems to be acceptance from both the left and right wing of opinion that this relatively simple measure could be, if not a silver bullet, massively helpful at giving the market, and the great mass of the public who participate in that market, a strong signal which way to go without introducing authoritarian legislation and all the other heavy handed political tools which cause people to resist and fight back.

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  2. Nick Palmer @1

    We obviously don't quite agree about Michael Mann's new book, but I'm particularly wondering about your statement regarding "Exxon Knew". What do you make of the scholarly publications and presentations by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes which to me seem to make a clear case regarding what Exxon (and others) knew and what they did (like in the recently published "Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil's climate change communications"). Geoffrey Supran also explained Exxon's M.O. in a hearing in the European Parliament in 2019 - you can watch his presentation here starting at 11:53:01. I find this rather compelling and it fits well with what Michael Mann describes in his book.

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  3. Thanks for the links Baerbel - I'll try to make time to watch them carefully tomorrow. I'm not a great fan of Oreskes ever since her polemic 'Merchants of Doubt' which, to me, seemed chock full of leading assertions about what any particular act or cherry picked sentence meant - the (potential) misattribution/misinterpretation of motives to which I referred before.

    My position, to which I have come after more than 30 years trying to hold on to the truth, is that nowadays all sides - denialists, alarmists, activists and industry - have had their thinking, even their rationality, contaminated by political considerations which distort their vision, whether that is why they choose to doubt climate science or whether they believe those who go far beyond what the science says to spread excessive and counter-productive alarmism. In all cases, I think none have got a strangehold on honesty and integrity, and finding views, even those of many prominent figures, which represent a fair and objective summing up of the situation, undistorted by whichever political ideology motivates them, I think is as rare as hen's teeth.

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  4. Nick Palmer @1, yes its a little bit hard to know why Michael Mann is quite so dismissive of those things you list. Even if the people promoting them have agendas or ulterior motives it doesn't mean they are not useful things.

    However Michael Mann sounds like hes right about the two crucial things: Fossil fuel lobbies do promote reducing carbon footprints, and its obviously to deflect attention from the governmnets proposing things like carbon taxes and regulations. And hes right the main focus has to be on renewable energy etc. Imho this is because expecting people to make huge reductions to their carbon footprints is nonsensical. I'm talking big reductions in levels of consumption, stopping flying, going vegetarian, walking everywhere etc. Its incredibly unlikely people will do this and if we delay building a new energy grid on the assumption they will, we could end up in big trouble, because we have one chance to build a new energy grid, and it has to be done in the next couple of decades. 

    Clearly we could get a modest reduction in consumption levels, and  a carbon tax (as you mentioned) will  help with uptake of things like electric cars. 

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  5. @ Nick Palmer

    "My position, to which I have come after more than 30 years trying to hold on to the truth, is that nowadays all sides"

    What kind of political ideology motivated this statement of yours?

    I think it is only reasonable to ask that, because as you said, there is no undistorted summing. At least if I recall correctly, that no hen has teeth. Actually, my question is motivated by the fact, that such a general claim of ideological motivation is either a truism or bullshit. It is a truism insofar everybody has some political convictions, which are in some way connected to what they believe about how the world is. It is bullshit insofar it might asserts, that everybodys consideration of evicendence is equally distorted.

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  6. Michael Mann is correct in thinking that our information is totally controlled by media giants.
    Scientists are charged to read their own publications and “peer reviewers” stack the peers so that no new ideas can get through. Rarely if ever do you find references to key earlier work by retired or deceased scientists. I give a few examples.
    Microsoft Office still uses years beginning 1 January 1900. They charge for updates but still have a fatally flawed program. Why is he allowed to pose as a scientist and innovator?
    Even David Keeling was nearly prevented from continuing verification of CO2 infrared heat blankets by rigged peer review. He gives a vivid account in his autobiographical review:
    Keeling, C. D., 1998, Rewards and Penalties of Monitoring the Earth, Ann Rev. Energy Env, 23(1), 25-82, doi:10.1038/nature105981.
    Blair Kinsman had earlier shown how the misuse of statistics and inability to take daily validation data could mislead to wrong conclusion. Unlike in lab experiments geophysical data once not taken cannot be repeated at will. This has happened with our gross neglect of near surface ocean data where is located most anthropogenic heat.
    Kinsman, B. 1957, Proper and improper use of statistics in geophysics, Tellus 9(3), 408-418, doi:10.1111/j.2153-3490.1957.tb01897.x
    Free access sci-hub.do/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1957.tb01897.x
    "The dangers facing the earth's ecosystems are well known and the subject of great concern at all levels. Climate change is high on the list. But there is an underlying and associated cause. Overpopulation."
    Sir David Attenborough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRPmLWYbUqA
    "Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases in population, locally, nationally, or globally?"
    "The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race is our Inability to Understand the Exponential Function" Bartlett, Albert A., 1979
    www.youtube.com › watch › v=F8ZJCtL6bPs
    Wherever humans are involved we HAVE the Weimar greed equation. Better snap up fish stocks, or oil or whatever before someone else grabs it.
    Graham Hancock has beeN ridiculed for suggesting there was a great civilisation as early as 400,000 years ago. Yet there are pyramids dated 130,000 years old in the Mississippi basin. Genetics link Oceania to S America. The compact nature of the Antikythera Clock suggest it was used for navigation. Why else would one cram a complete astronomical clock into a case the size of a sextant? The clock could predict lunar eclipses 78 years ahead as well as their colour. Many wheels have prime number of gears to give highly accurate astronomical times. There were even wheels for the Olympic and other games. Silicon valley may think of it as a mechanism or computer. But it was a clock long before Harrison’s. Such sophistication suggests many years development. It clearly could not have sprung up 350BC, any more than modern printed circuits could have been envisioned in 1957.

    Sealevels averaged 50m below present in prehistory before 1750AD. There were many rich landmasses where merchant sailors could establish empires. They were wiped out by catastrophic sea level rise both cyclical and from asteroid impacts. We are at the top of earth’s remaining peaks.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAqqA3fMwI8
    Melting ice of Greenland and Antarctica is proceedING exponentially leading to rapidly rising sealevels, floods and storms as well depleted fish stocks.

    Waters around Faeroes does not get cold enough for cod and halibut to breed. They need to be at least 10 years old before they start. (netflix seaspiracy)
    The north sea herring disappeared before 1950s, the Newfoundland cod in the 1980s. Gunboat diplomacy could not save them.
    What do you think we should do? Perhaps include the equatorial undercurrent in climate models?
    There has been too much about hot air instead of hot water.
    I have not heard Dr Mann mention this. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
    There needs to be a real focus on what the great oceans are telling us.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  The remainder of your long comment is far too broad, and thus off-topic, for this post.  Other discussion threads exist on ocean heat content, sea level rise and land-based ice mass losses.

  7. Micawber @6, you seem unhappy with the quality of the peer review system and that it stops new ideas getting through. The Peer review process isn't perfect, perhaps because ultimately it relies on human beings making judgements and human beings are fallible. Its not clear what magic answer there is to that. But the peer review process hasn't stopped publication of the greenhouse effect, and a few crazy opposing theories like adiabatic heating. The point being the peer review system does work ok overall in terms of publishing new ideas and not surpressing things.

    I thought your comments on all the rest were interesting and I agree overpopulation is a problem. Bit its all off topic.

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  8. Nick, I don't think the whole world is taking sides in US cultural wars, nor are wrapped in the strange ideologies rooted there. I would also agree with libertador, that people abilities to do Bayes evaluation of evidence differs somewhat to put it mildly.

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  9. libertador @5

    I'm not sure I have a political ideology any more. I've settled on a rag bag of right and left wing concepts ending up somewhere 'in the middle'.  I think it's singleminded one-dimensional dogmatic political ideologies, and the activists that they spawn, which are now the major obstacle to humanity getting things moving. I've found that the proponents of all ideologies use misleading language and rhetoric etc to try to make the case that their way is 'the way' because, unfortunately, that is how politicians get elected and retain their support. Just you try getting elected by telling the people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth - I did and all I can say is 'good luck with that'!

    As I said, I've been active in engaging climate science denialism for over 30 years (and other forms of pseudoscience long before that). After a while, one gets to recognise when someone arguing a point is using certain rhetorical techniques to sway their audience to form certain conclusions. This applies whether whether the case they are arguing is true or fallacious and whether they are trying to deceive or genuinely believe what they are saying.

    It would be less than objective to not notice when the proponents of the 'side' that one's heart favours use the very same methods to sway their audience as those who try to, consciously or unconsciously, mislead their audience. Integrity is not best served by demonising one's opponents for deception whilst giving those supporting whatever 'cause' floats your boat a free pass for using exactly the same methods - it's a bad strategy to believe that 'the ends justify the means' - apart from anything else, using misleading facts and statements, because one believes it justified if it sways sufficient numbers of the general public to vote your way, is counter-productive because the opposition immediately seize on and amplify any 'divine deception' one might have used to smear the whole scientific case by proxy as can clearly be seen in how the denialosphere reacts to the ever more soldifying scientific postion on climate change by endlessly recycling unwise statements and 'forecasts' from yesteryear of top scientists and activists.

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  10. Nick Palmer @9 wow reading your comments was a bit like looking in a mirror. I am also towards the political centre and I have an eclectic mix of views. I think this is because I'm an individualist and not a group orintated sort of person. Not saying this is necessarily a superior thing but its how I'm built. Most people appear more group orientated and tribal (that dreadful word) and very reluctant to adopt any idea coming from the "other side". This is hard to change, and is probably why politics has cycles of progressive and conservative governments.

    I agree both sides of the climate debate misbehave. I've been labelled a luke warmer for suggesting some warmists get utterly carried away and feed the denialists or have confirmation bias etc. Its tough going taking a contrary view to your "group". However its important to avoid false equivalence. The denialists are clearly the worst offenders. Don't loose touch of that.

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  11. The questioning of Mann’s actions and statements, which would extend to others who express similar perspectives, has prompted me to develop a set of questions for everyone who is questioning Mann’s, or any other person’s, actions. The questions are apolitical. And they apply to any socioeconomic-political environment a person has developed in. And they apply to the full range of important considerations like the Sustainable Development Goals, not just the important Climate Change impact issue.

    As a lead in to the questions I will share how my perspective developed. I continue to develop my thinking on this issue. As a Canadian Registered Professional Engineer, my starting point is the things that make Engineering successful. The things that make Engineering successful, and also apply to many other situations, are:

    • not allowing harmful things to be done (Do No Harm, to the environment or any other people)
    • because there is always uncertainty, focus on reducing and limiting harm and risk of harm
    • constantly pursue increased awareness and understanding of the potential harm of things, especially for any new way of doing things before they are implemented, but also of already developed and built things
    • if something has been built and in service or is being built but is learned to be harmful or risky it is repaired or removed from use.

    The following are an incomplete set of questions, perhaps not in the best order or phrasing, that people questioning things, or thinking about or doing things, should consider (everyone should be curious and question and wonder about things):

    • Who is responsible when something develops popularity or profitability but is discovered to be harmful?
    • Are the developers of a new activity or institution (institution meaning: a developed cultural belief or formal aspect of social organization) responsible for thoroughly investigating the potential for harm?
    • Are the first consumers or beneficiaries of the activity or institution responsible for thoroughly investigating the potential for harm?
    • Is a person who benefits more from the activity or institution more responsible for thoroughly investigating the potential for harm?
    • Is a person of higher status (wealth, power, or influence) obliged to also provide a higher level of leadership regarding awareness and understanding of what is harmful and how to limit or stop harmful actions?
    • Are the higher status people obliged to help lower status people live better (live at least a basic decent life, not be harmful), including by setting a good example for others to aspire to?
    • What about Marketing or Educating? What is the Merit of marketing or education that does not pursue and promote increased awareness and improved understanding of how to be less harmful and more helpful to Others?
    • Should something that is understood to be harmful be allowed to continue until something more popular or more profitable is developed to displace it?
    • Who should be determining how harmful something is? Should people who benefit from the harmful activity or institution have a say regarding how harmful it is? Should people who would potentially benefit from something harmful be allowed to compromise the efforts to limit the harm done?
    • In what situations is it acceptable for an evaluation of benefit to be used to negate or counter an evaluation of harm being done?

    The perspective a person develops as they consider these questions can relate to their pathology. It is important to consider each question from a perspective of not knowing what position or role you would have in any situation. A responsible rational person would adopt the perspective of a person potentially being harmed. A harmfully selfish person, however, would adopt a perspective of hoping to benefit from harm done.

    I support the position that actions like CCS, afforestation, nuclear, soil regeneration etc are harmful actions if they are used to justify ‘more fossil fuel use’, or in the case of nuclear are considered to be a sustainable solution that future generations can continue to benefit from and face no risk of harm. In addition, it is undeniable that the energy consumption by the highest consuming people, the ways of living that less fortunate people would see as the example to aspire to, need to be reduced. And harmful risky unsustainable systems like nuclear used to prolong the over-consumption of energy by the more fortunate is unacceptable. These things are helpful as temporary actions in addition to rapidly ending fossil fuel and reducing the energy demands of the highest demanding people. Attempts to claim that curtailing fossil fuel use, especially by the more fortunate, can be slower if these action are employed are indeed misleading marketing games played by the likes of 'delayers, dismissives, inactivists'.

    A root of the socioeconomic-political problems that develop appears to be that harm done will often be ignored or excused, especially when there are potential benefits. Medical treatments where the potential benefit for the patient outweigh the potential harm are exceptions where benefits should be allowed to excuse harm. Another example would be a business investment where the person or group of people making a financial investment will be solely at risk for any financial loss. Things get problematic when there are personal differences in Benefit and Harm, when the person or group benefiting more is not the person or group harmed more. Particularly problematic are cases where the harmed people cannot effectively penalize those who harmed them such as: future generations, people in other legal jurisdictions, people with different degrees of legal power.

    Problems develop in Business and Social matters when the focus on “Do No Harm” that produces engineering success fails to be rigorously applied. The result can be the development of the unethical/immoral/unjustified belief the “Harm Done can be Justified by Benefits Obtained”.

    If something harmful or risky is allowed to compete for popularity or profit, the risk is that it will become popular or profitable. And something that has developed popularity or profitability becomes harder to correct or stop, especially with the power to abuse misleading marketing.

    An obvious conclusion is that misleading marketing is a serious part of the problem. What is required is significant penalties for participating in being misleading, with more serious penalties applied to wealthier and more influential people, including penalties for elected representatives who participate in being harmfully misleading or who fail to properly learn and educate others on important issues.

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  12. One of the basic principles I try to keep in mind is "what happens if I am wrong?".

    Unfortunately, the highly partisan, toxic environment that much of the 'debate" happens in includes a large number of people that absolutely refuse to consider the possibility that they are wrong. My impression is that this tendency is much stronger on the side of Authoritarians - a life view that is generally stronger on the right wing part of the political spectrum. I strongly recommend reading The Authoritarians, by Bob Altemeyer. (https://theauthoritarians.org/) The original eBook is long, but I see the web page has a recent commentary.

    Much open "debate" is geared towards shifting the Overton Window (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window). Make an extreme position look reasonable, whle trying to make a reasonable middle-of-the-road evaluation look as if it is extreme.

    ...and of course, there is always the aspect of tellng people what they want to hear, so you can manipulate them.

     

    An Inconvenient Truth

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  13. 3 very thought provoking comments from Nigel J, OPOF and Bob Loblaw. I'm still considering Supran/Oreskes' paper and Supran's presentation. So far I'm still seeing that a (possible) misattribution of motives for the actions of Exxon/Big Oil is at the root of the (possible) misrepresention to the public that these two, and in particular Greenpeace's prior 'Exxon knew' report, have created. I'm not attibuting sinister motives to the researchers, they're probably sincere in the beliefs and judgements that framed their interprations, but I can see other far more benign interpretations than the simplistic one we are presented that 'Big Oil is evil, knew the dangers they were subjecting the public to and didn't care as long as the dollars kept rolling in'.

    Perhaps people ought to remember that Big Fossil Fuel's executives and C.E.O.s have got children and grandchildren they worry about too...

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  14. Nick:

    I have been studying climatology for about 45 years - since I started my undergraduate program. I have seen all the attempts to discredit the science, even as I have seen the science develop. For me, the first IPCC reports represented a summary of what I had already learned about climatology over a period of 15 years - not a news story. The attacks on the science grew exponentially as the science grew stronger.

    I said above that I always keep in mind "what if I am wrong?", but I have very little doubt that that massive efforts were made by the fossil fuel industry to deflect risks to their business model. They did not develop the skills on their own - they had decades of tobacco industry activity as a guideline to what worked and what did not.

    Have you ever read Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science? It details how similar approaches have been taken by right wing politics and industry for a wide variety of topics. This did not start with climate science.

    Not all people want the same things for their children and grandchildren. Maybe try following the link I gave above to The Authoriarians - or go directly to the link on that page that has a more recent discussion of Bob Altemeyer's new book in the context of other books on Donald Trump. Read that, and ask, what does it suggest about the Trump family's desires for its children and grandchildren? I'm willing to bet that it is not the same as yours.

    https://theauthoritarians.org/updating-authoritarian-nightmare/

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  15. Of course Nick, they do.

    However, I'm sure that I don't have to remind you of the infinite ability of humans to rationalize any decision they make. It is entirely possible that these executives feel that their children will be shielded from adverse consequences because their parents have amassed a little fortune, which can afford one a lot of protection against a degrading world. It is possible that they find that to be enough.

    It is entirely possible that they estimated that every parent should do what they can to protect their own children and that if they fail, it's their fault, regardless of the obstacles these parents face.

    It is entirely possible that they have convinced themselves that it's natural cycles, or this, or that, and they sincerely believe it to be the case. Executives are good at finance and the human relations of power games, but they can very well suck at judging scientific information.

    It is entirely possible also that they made a risk/cost/benefit analysis that, somehow, placed profits at the top of the priority scale. Stranger things have happened. Look at the opiates crisis.

    It is possible that these executive have absolutely zero notion about ecosystem services, treshold events in biodiversity and all sorts of concepts that belong in areas of studies and activity other than the ones where they operate. Even if they do hear about, they will be much more likely to dismiss such seemingly "abstract" concepts in the face of hard financial targets.

    Anything is possible, we'll never know because we are not in their heads. What we do know is what Exxon's own research showed in the early 80s, and the direction the company took in the late 80s and 90s, SkS has actually looked at that:

    https://skepticalscience.com/1982-exxon-accurate-prediction.html

    One is free to draw any conclusion about the executives' motivations or thoght processes from the company's actions. I agree that it is indeed of little usefulness to do so. Fighting the disinformation put forth by the actors they supported and still support to this day is more useful. It does fit into that effort, however, to point attention toward the extreme dissonance between the serious research done by the company and the crackpottery they decided to promote instead, and continued to promote even after it failed to be confirmed by all the rest of the scientific litterature.

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  16. One of the links in the SkS post I linked is no longer working, but this one does:

    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24102019/exxon-scientists-climate-research-testify-congess-denial/

     

    The complete investigation by ICN is available on kindle, titled "The Road not Taken."

    Plenty of documents from inside Exxon available through the wayback machine:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20170701104611/http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/shareholder-archive/supporting-materials

     

    The Harvard paper perhaps says it best:

    "[A]ccounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80% of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81% instead expressing doubt. We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists’ academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public."

    https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa815f

    Is it of any interest to know why they misled? What is that going to change? It's not like any of these people will ever experience any serious consequence to their (possible, right Nick?) harmful actions.

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  17. Bob Loblaw,

    I will definitely check out The Authoritarians, reading the complete book. A shorter read on Authoritarianism is On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder.

    There are many other helpful references including How Fascism Works, by Jason Stanley. Jonathan Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind, also presents important understanding, however, I suggest being skeptical of his recommendations regarding how to deal with them. Harmful people should not be engaged by compromising efforts to limit harm done.

    I have read many books laying out reasons for the tragic ease of obtaining popular support for harmful Nationalism, Authoritarianism and Capitalism.

    The key is Governing to limit harm done based on the constant pursuit of increased awareness and improved understanding of what is harmful. Some people will responsibly self-govern that way. But many people develop temptations to not self-govern that way. And harmful wealthy people maintain and increase their status relative to others through misleading marketing and appealing beliefs in systems that are actually unjust and unfair, especially if awareness and understanding of what is harmful is not diligently pursued.

    Any socioeconomic-political system can be compromised by harmful pursuits of status "Winning". But misleading marketed Capitalism and Free Market Consumerism is potentially very harmful because the harmful stuff can become popular and profitable which makes it seem even more justified and excusable. And Capitalism has a fundamental need for constant expansion which is a serious problem on a finite planet. The Capitalist free market requires significant effort to identify and limit harm being done. And history proves that the participants in the system will not do that very well. A clears example is the stagnation of opportunity for the middle and lower classes in the USA since the 1970s in spite of massive increases in perceptions of total wealth. And very little of the economic activity that generated those perceptions of wealth are sustainable. And much of the activity is harmful.

    A nasty climate impact example of unjustified justification and excusing is the way some people try to compare "their evaluation of the Benefits that would be lost if the Harm to future generations was reduced" with "their evaluation of the Harm done to future generations, with the future harm done discounted because that is what you can do with future harm". Having an MBA, I appreciate the merits of net-present-value obtained by discounting future costs and revenue when comparing investment alternatives. But I understand that methodology should not be applied to cases where a person or group benefits at the expense of others, especially future generations. Even Stern's use of a low discount rate is likely inappropriate. Harm done is not justified by benefits obtained that way.

    An even nastier reality of those Benefit-Harm evaluations is that the people doing them claim that whatever Status Quo has developed has to be maintained and improved on, even though the wealthier people who benefit form harm done deserve a loss of status. And they over-state the Benefits that have to be given up, including ignoring the activity in the alternative economy. And they understate the harm that will be done. Then they discount that low-balled harm because it happens in the future they will likely not experience.

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  18. When activists try to bad mouth Exxon et al they speak from a 'post facto' appreciation of the science, as if today's relatively strong climate science existed back when the documents highlighted in 'Exxon knew' were created. Let me explain what I think is another interpretation other than Greenpeace/Oreskes'/Supran's narratives suggesting 'Exxon knew' that climate change was going to be bad because their scientists told them so as far back as the 70s and 80s. Let me first present Stephen Schneider's famous quote from 1988 (the whole quote, not the edited one used by denialists).

    "On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

    I submit that part of the apparently damning content of the documents was exactly caused by Exxon's scientists, Schneider-like, simplifying their message to initially present it to their corporate employers. In exactly the same way that the denialosphere combed though the Climategate emails to find apparently damning statements and then interpreted them through a filtered 'lens' to insinuate fraud and data manipulation, usually by editing out context etc and even previous and subsequent sentences which changed the meaning completely, I submit that Greenpeace's 'Exxon knew' team did that too. They knew that the majority of people who read their report would assume that the current science that projects the bad consequences that we are (fairly) sure about today was as rock solid back way back then as it is now and would therefore jump to their desired conclusion that Big Capitalist Oil was just being evil. I'm absolutely not suggesting that Greenpeace's team were consciously being deceptive, just that they allowed their zealotry to run away with them so they saw just what they wanted to see...

    Today's science, that projects bad outcomes, was by no means solid back then. I think that what Big Oil should be fairly accused of is the much less 'evil' culpability of not adequately informing the public about the full probabilities of the risks - which again is the 'Schneider' method of tailoring one's output for one's audience. Perhaps they didn't get "the right balance is between being effective and being honest" quite right. As denialists will endlessly tell us, the use of fossil fuels has been on balance a huge boon to humanity and I suspect that past one-dimensional calls by activists (including those I naively made!) to not use or explore for any more fossil fuels almost overnight, to a corporate mind, would require a public relations strategy to counter that extremist view while waiting for the science to get solid enough to start serious corporate planning for change should it be needed.

    'Ban all exploration for or use of fossil fuels today' is a frequent call of today's extremists and no doubt they are sincere that they think the risks are such that such draconian action must be justified, and that things such as new technology, carbon capture, Gen3/4 nukes, agricultural changes etc must be Machiavellian Big Industry just manouevring to do nothing now to protect their financial bottom lines - delaying tactics that must be resisted. I think Professor Mann too has fallen in to the trap of feeling 'certainty' about what he thinks the solutions should be and this has lead to his dismissal, even libellous characterisations, of those who offer up a more nuanced way forward. Activists who call for an immediate ban on fossil fuels and 100% renewables by next Tuesday do not seem to realise that they are thinking in a one-dimensional way. Their 'solution' might address climate change, but such a solution would instantly cause enormous global disruption and would likely spark off the mother of all global economic recessions, which would rapidly cause long lasting extreme global hardship much greater, at least in the short to medium term, than anything global warming is scheduled to do for several decades.

    So what were the 'uncertainties' back then? Some of the most important parameters plugged into climate models are those for climate sensitivity. While (widely varying) estimates existed before 2000 it only got well constrained and modelled within firm(ish) limits by papers published after then. Check out the links in this Skepsci article to see when the major papers were published.
    https://skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity.htm

    Here is Carbonbrief.org explaining the lack of certainty back then

    "From Carbon Brief https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-scientists-estimate-climate-sensitivity

    "In 1979, the Charney Report from the US National Academy of Sciences suggested that ECS was likely somewhere between 1.5C and 4.5C per doubling of CO2. Nearly 40 years later, the best estimate of sensitivity is largely the same.
    However, Prof Andrew Dessler at Texas A&M University pushes back on this suggestion. He tells Carbon Brief:

    I think that the idea that ‘uncertainty has remained the same since the late 1970s’ is wrong. If you look at the Charney report, it’s clear that there were a lot of things they didn’t know about the climate. So their estimate of uncertainty was, in my opinion, way, way too small"

    "Back in 1979, climate science was much less well understood than today. There were far fewer lines of evidence to use in assessing climate sensitivity. The Charney report range was based on physical intuition and results from only two early climate models.

    In contrast, modern sensitivity estimates are based on evidence from many different sources, including models, observations and palaeoclimate estimates. As Dessler suggests, one of the main advances in understanding of climate sensitivity over the past few decades is scientists’ ability to more confidently rule out very high or very low climate sensitivities.""

    Activists try to insinuate that the documents and memos show that Big Oil 'knew the scientific truth' back then and adopted a position of denial, or psychopathic deception for the sake of profits, in the face of noble environmental groups campaigning against them because they also 'knew the truth' too. Much though it pains me to admit it, I was part of the campaigning certainy of those groups back then. I used to coordinate a Friends of the Earth area group and all the material I saw did not mention any of the scientific doubts and the uncertainties which featured in the scientific literature. I trusted it - it was the same thing we see today when such as Extinction Rebellion go waay over the top with the certainty of their assertions and the cherry picked nature of the information they present to the public. This is why I think that all sides - denialist/alarmist/doomist/sceptic etc - use misleading rhetoric to spin their narratives. I realise that many of the environmental activist 'troops' in their crusades like to feel certain that they know the 'truth' that Evil Big Industry had psychopathically tried to hide but I think total honesty is necessary to enable the public to judge the situation properly, so that policy changes we need are not based on the shifting sand that the 'divine deception' of the rhetoric of extremist campaigners and political forces is. Noble cause corruption is not a good strategy whether it is that of the greens, the left or right.

    It's not as if even today's science is completely bulletproof, as a new paper about clouds shows. Consideration of it offers up an explanation as to why the new CMIP6 models are running too hot, and that is because observations show that some parameters plugged into current cloud models about longevity, warming and precipitation are wrong which mean that clouds cool more than previously thought. It doesn't,as it happens, change what we need to do but it does demonstrate that even today a fairly major part of the mechanics of climate changee can - uh hm - be changed.

    New paper on clouds
    https://www.carbonbrief.org/cooling-effect-of-clouds-underestimated-by-climate-models-says-new-study

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  19. Here's a live link to the skepsci article which I neglected to do in my previous long comment

    https://skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity.htm

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  20. Nick,

    You just reiterated the points you made earlier.

    Uncertainties have not been represented inadequately in the IPCC reports. Cloud feedbacks have always been at the top of the uncertainty ladder.

    You are sliding toward the very behavior you condemn by saying the CMIP5 models run "too hot." In reality they run slightly warmer than observations, and slightly is even generous. There is plenty of good posts on that RealClimate and even here showing how well within models' expectations the observations have been. The cloud feedback underestimation has not prevented actual temps of increasing beyond .15 degC/decade. Everything considered, the models have performed remarkably well, even the old ones. Describing it as "too hot" does exactly the same as what all the sides you accuse of taking liberties with the facts do.

    I'll add that over-emphasizing uncertainty is Judith Curry's preferred method of manipulation and it is every bit as bad than anything done by so-called alarmists. It is a free pass for do nothing or slowly do a little, neither of which are adequate.

    I can understand the pressures and imperatives that a business like Exxon has to reconcile. The state of their knowledge, and the remarkably reasonable tone in most of the old documents (see the wayback machine link) are so far removed from the propaganda they pushed that your excuse falls short. Why such an immense disconnect? Sure there was significant uncertainty in 1979. Less so in 1989. Much less in 1999. All the uncertainty that could justify not seriously starting a transition was gone in 2009. Exxon kept on pushing the same narrative, and still does, through the same actors. 

    I do not disagree that, if one wants to understand the science, the message coming from activist organizations is often not helpful. I do not disagree that some have a wholefully unrealistic perception of the difficulty of a full energy transition. The energy transition we are faced with is a major undertaking. Both the magnitude and urgency of it have been made far worse by the decades of inaction caused by the fossil fuel backed opinion campaigns.

    As for myself, I strive to be reality-based and firmly believe that no option should be off the table, except those whose range of consequences can not be well assessed )atmsopheric geo-engineering comes to mind). I am not opposed, in principle, to nuclear. I believe that existing dams that can produce electricity and allow to store water should be kept. I think that enhanced geothermal deserves more attention. I also know for sure that a world in which the pursuit of more profit at any cost all the time is the main driver is a world doomed to fail.

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  21. Nick Palmer @18, I think you are largely wrong about the fossil fuel companies, especially the view that their own internal scientists were outspoken alarmists who exaggerated things. Stephen Schneider's views that climate scientists exaggerate and use scare stories are the opinion of one person. All the material I've seen from the IPCC is conservatively worded and full of caveats, ifs and buts. Theres no reason to believe Exons own internal scientists were much different. At worse they may have said theres potentially a big problem here, and there would be nothing wrong with saying that. Yes climate activists do sometimes get carried away, but they are not the scientists.

    Exon knew there was a climate problem but told the public a different story. Theres no way of excusing this. Even if Exonn didnt really understand the true extent of the problem it doesn't change the utterly mixed messaging.

    Lets look at oil companies more generally. At least some oil companies have clearly been involved in spreading campaigns to create doubt, amply proven in books like Dark Money. I've seen polling studies showing most employees of oil companies are climate sceptics. This is probably not surprising because they are obviously worried about losing their jobs. But the fact remains oil companies have helped spread denialism and doubt. They may be worried about their kids and the climate problem but that doesnt mean they arent sceptics of one sort or another or oppose mitigation.

    However theres obviously another side to it. Its fair to say that expecting oil companies to just shut down their operations in a voluntary way is unrealistic. They aren't breaking any laws, and there is no society wide consensus that they should just shut down.  Companies exist to make profits and ignore environmental issues the "tragedy of the commons problem". People are rightly worried about their job security. Climate change is a complex costly sort of problem but doesn't fall into the same category as an immediate threat to people lives like an industrial toxin. If companies cover up issues like that they would be potentially legally liable. But I can still understand the anger of the climate activists.

    The issue is entirely about what society and its governments does about oil companies. This is about what laws, regulations and taxes it applies. Without that nothing much will change.  I notice that the Netherlands have recently imposed a law requiring Shell oil to cut emissions 40%. Other countries are imposing carbon taxes.

    Of course its also about individual carbon footprints. Another issue.

    Yes you are right theres hypocrisy and finger pointing etc on both sides of the debate, but theres a huge volume of people that are less vocal and strident in their views.

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  22. Micawber - I'm reminded of the quote (which may or may not be real, but still relevant):

    “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    ― Winston S. Churchill

    The same applies to peer review. There are occasional failures, biases, and downright foolishness (especially for off-topic or denier controlled venues) - but in the end it's the best system we have, and inherently (over time) self-correcting. 

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  23. Phillipe and NigelJ. I think you two have somewhat missed that I was referring to the definite and real uncertainty in the science BEFORE Hansen's 1988 speech and the formation of the IPCC. That is when the documents in 'Exxon Knew', which are now held up as evidnec of 'certain' knowledge and associated deceit, were created. It is less than honest of people to assert that our modern established science in any way is comparable to the nascent science back then, upon which it would have been simply wrong to base far-reaching, global economy affecting/dismantling policies. It is verging on deceit to cast aspersions at targets who are not guilty or, at least, very much less guilty than they are being accused of being, using sophisticated rhetoric, cherry picking, misattribution of motivation etc and all the liguistic techniques that such as John Cook has clarified the denialist 'side' as using.

    The uncertainty I was referring to (ordinary man-in-the-street definition, not the scientific one), at the relevant time, and what was not well understood then, was of such a magnitude (look again at the Dessler quote I gave) that it was entirely justified that Big Oil did not turn on a sixpence and shut down when the environmental organisations seized on this new way to attack Big Industry by using activist's frequent tendency to make unwarranted speculations on fragmentary evidence, then deciding that whatever unlikely speculative doomy result they came up with is almost certain to happen and then using that to justify calling for bans and authoritarian restrictions to avoid that end.

    There can be no doubt that Big Oil sponsored think tanks, Institutes and lobbying organisations that used actual denialist rhetoric as part of their portfolio of techniques to try to influence politicians and policy formulations but, and I think this is where a lot of people go wrong, this should not have caused people to jump to the conclusion that Big Oil was deliberately spreading denialism because they were actually in denial of climate science - pause for a lot of screaming and gnashing of teeth by the extremists! I submit that these tactics of Big Oil were just ordinary political manoeuvring to resist irrationally draconian 'green/red' calls until the science got strong enough. The primary function of such lobbying organisations is to help their clients fight back against what they see as heavy handed legislation or inappropriate policy making by government pandering to the views of misinformed activists and those members of the voting public whose views have been changed by them to the point where they would vote in such draconian and misconceived action.

    It is a matter of record that the fossil fuel industry increasingly deserted the early 'denialist' fossil fuel organisation - which was formed in 1989 - the 'Global Climate Coalition' - until by the early 2000s it was disbanded, and this was because the science had got strong enough.

    "The GCC dissolved in 2001 after membership declined in the face of improved understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in climate change and of public criticism" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Climate_Coalition

    Anyone who engages with denialists, the right wing or who defends the basic priciples behind environmentalism (which are, of course, still very valid) will pretty soon be accused of being a 'watermelon' - green on the outside, red on the inside, by which they mean that environmentalists have a superficial layer of concern for the environment masking a far left 'smash capitalism' ideology underneath. This is not a conspiracy theory! It is clear that many recent significant spokespersons indeed do have a very deep seated antipathy towards the capitalism system, upon which they lay the blame for all sorts of mankind's woes and they have an ideological zeal that only their pet version of international socialism will save us all - which goal, to them, justifies the deceit and propaganda they use as they try to 'socially engineer' the masses.

    It is these 'fifth columnists' who created the Patrick Moore's, the Patrick Michael's, the Bjorn Lomborg's and who gave such as the Heartland Institute such large amounts of ammunition to doubt the integrity of the genuine, reasonable scientifically based policies. Bear in mind that one of the very earliest politicians to warn about the dangers of potential climate change in public and political circles was the rather far right Margaret Thatcher

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnAzoDtwCBg&t=30s

    and it was the far left who more or less started denialism off by insinuating that it was all fake science to justify shutting coal mines down, to handicap the development of the Third World and to accelerate the expansion of nuclear power. It was only afterwards that the left realised that if they became anti-global warming they could have a powerful stick to hit Big Industry, the international monetary system etc and slip their desired political outcomes in by the back door. That change in outlook in turn created the right wing/libertarian opposition - first to the 'solutions' the left claimed were mandatory and then their political 'chess moves'  generated out and out deceitful-but-plausible-sounding denialism to undermine the legitimate science by appealing to the U.S.'s conservative blue collar population that it was actually a reds-under-the-bed attempt to undermine their freedoms.

    Here is the very rational Zion Lights explaining why she disavowed her earlier extreme, ideology based, environmental beliefs and how she sees those beliefs as counter-productive these days.

    https://quillette.com/2021/05/31/the-sad-truth-about-traditional-environmentalism/

    Whether activists like it or not, I believe it was the environmental organisations excessive and unwarranted views, and the political engineering of (some) of their leaders, which led them to make simplistic and ill thought out (or craftily planned) demands for policy changes which would have been disastrous. A far more likely explanation of Big Fossil Fuel's stance and acts is not that their execs were real denialists possessed of a psychopathic disregard for humanity but that their adverts and public facing statements were their attempt to resist politicians moving against them and implementing the type of draconian policies called for by those with fallacious, or at least well over-the-top, views in some cases motivated by an underlying 'closet' political ideology - Smash Capitalism! - that the public would never actually vote for if it was expressed out loud.

    BTW, are there are any links to Big Oil documents which actually deny the science in the way that deniers do - it's the Sun - it's cooling - it's cosmic rays - the temperature record was tampered with - it's all fraud etc? I've never seen any actual full-on denialism in them. That's why I made my point that the words in the documents have likely been mischaracterised by Oreskes and Supran et al to insinuate and attribute motives which really weren't there.

    I think you really shouldn't characterise Stephen Schneider's views as "the opinion of one person". He was a very well regarded early climate scientist, who was also acknowledged as a brilliant communicator of that science to the public. His (unedited by denialists) quote which I gave is still a very accurate statement on the science and its communication and comprehension by the public. Unfortunately, in this area, he is almost peerless these days. Richard Alley, Katharine Hayhoe, Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann are really good but, in my opinion, they are not quite at the same level. Schneider could take on a hostile audience of denialists and either defeat them or make their apparently plausible views look as irrational as they really are.

    BTW, Phillipe, I actually referred to the CMIP6 models (not the CMP5 ones, as you incorrectly stated I did) running (considerably) too hot. This is not contentious. Ask Gavin Schmidt or any other similarly credentialled scientist...

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  24. Nick Palmer @18 and 23,
    I have the following perspective to add to the responses provided by Philippe and Nigel.

    Be careful. You may be presenting a defence similar to claims that atrocious things, like slavery and racism, unjustly prolonged by previous generations were done "at a time when people did not know better".

    Reading evidence based presentations like "A People's History of the United States", by Howard Zinn, exposes that what people today often fail to understand is that better understanding did exist but failed to be "Beneficial to the wealthy and powerful" and as a result it failed to be "Popular".

    Also, claims of the Boon to humanity from fossil fuel use is misleading. There is very little lasting benefit for humanity from this burst of harmful unsustainable human activity. Many technological developments did not occur because of the use of fossil fuels. In fact, a focus on benefiting from fossil fuel use significantly distracted effort from other potentially less harmful and more sustainable developments. And the easy access to power has allowed far more harm to be done by humans than the harmful climate change impacts. Any perceptions of advancement that depends on cheaper higher artificial energy use is destined to fail to continue in the future. The perception so ending poverty are a particularly galling case. Any part of that perception that relies on fossil fuel use or comparably cheap energy use has no future. Sustainable development limits the need for artificial energy and requires all the artificially generated energy to be obtained sustainably, which include not using up non-renewable resources and requires no lasting accumulating harm to be done by the energy production, distribution or use.

    In spite of global wealth rising far faster than global population there continues to be horrid inequity and injustice. Getting richer and more powerful clearly does not mean getting better. Note that at the time of slavery there was a very long period of time where the unacceptability of slavery was understood, but popularity of profit and other benefits traumatically prolonged the activity. And the worst part of the end of slavery in Europe was that in the end the rich people decided that their peers who were wealthier because of slavery would be financially compensated when the forced end of slavery happened, with no compensation give to those who had been enslaved and were now disadvantaged by the socioeconomic-political system and on their own.

    I strongly urge everyone to be better informed about what is harmful and what is sustainably helpful.

    • Read "The Age of Sustainable Development", by Jeffrey D. Sacks, or take the MOOC of the same name. It is not new. It is the result of continued pursuit of increased awareness of the harm being done by human development.
    • Read the first global recognition of the harmful unsustainability of human actions that was recognized globally as early as 1972 at the Stockholm Conference.

    Claiming "Exxon didn't know better" fails to admit that they were not "responsibly thoughtfully doing what the most responsible and thoughtful people were aware of and doing at the time".

    The “Fog of misleading marketing compromised democracy, consumerism and capitalism” is like the Fog of War, a lousy excuse for horrible things being done.

    Exxon had been on a more helpful leadership track in the 1970s. But something changed in the 1980s (Reagan/Thatcherism was a significant result of that change). And Exxon's approach to climate science appears to have changed at that time as well. The timing of Reagan/Thatcherism looks like a reaction to the growing awareness and understanding of harmful human developments that needed to be corrected, a fearful aggressive misleading marketing response to the increasing awareness and improving understanding that things needed to change and government action was required to make it happen. It was a reaction to the realization that the Free Competition for superiority in systems like Capitalism causes problems it resists correcting (popular and profitable things are hard to correct). And that realization meant that some wealthy powerful people would not maintain their developed sense of status. And the required corrections and potential for wealthy people to be losers would be in many industries like chemical and food companies, not just fossil fuels.

    More than a decade ago, the understanding developed that a rapidly increasing Price on Carbon along with other Government actions to curtail fossil fuel use, including actions to encourage renewable energy system implementation and development of improved renewable energy systems.

    The questions become things like:

    • Was Exxon's messaging leading the promotion of that helpful understanding?
    • Or was Exxon pushing misleading marketing like claiming that corrective action to limit harm should not happen until there was "More certainty" regarding the need for the corrections? That is the way the current system has developed so harmfully and so harmfully resists correction.
    • Did Exxon promote a significant and rapidly increasing Price on Carbon along with other Government actions to more rapidly end the use of fossil fuels? Or did they promote the idea that a fixed certain "Price on Carbon" could be determined by an economic evaluation comparing benefits that would have to be given up today to reduce the harm done to future generations, with the future harm discounted (see my comment @17)?
    • Did Exxon executives do what the law of the USA regarding Publicly Traded corporations requires them to do - “whatever they can get away with to maximize shareholder wealth”? Exxon could have been sued by shareholders if they acted to educate about the need to reduce fossil fuel use. That is an example of the harmful flaws that have developed in the Freer competition for superiority that so many wealthy people, and people who want to be like that, will excuse and defend.

    Raising awareness and improving understanding regarding harmful activity and how to limit harm done should not be done by misleading marketing. But misleading marketing that achieves that objective is helpful in spite of perceptions of harm done. Without “Dramatic attention getting” the issue would be something people are less aware of and less understanding of. As for “getting more people to support the actions” ... Leadership compromising awareness and understanding and delaying required corrections in order to appeal to more people is Harmful Unsustainable Leadership. The sooner that type of Leadership fails to be influential the better the future for humanity will be.

    Perceptions of success and progress based on unsustainable activity, especially harmful activity, are delusions no matter how popular or profitable they are at the time. And undeserving wealthy powerful people have been masters of harmful delusion, misleading marketing, throughout history. That is what needs to change. And that means a deserved loss of status for many high status people rather than “excuses, appeasement and delays trying to maintain undeserved perceptions of superiority” that compromise what is understood to be required to limit harm done so that humanity can have a sustainable improving future on this one amazing planet that may be the only planet that humans can be certain of being able to sustainably live on for many millions of years into the future.

    The unjustified lack of leadership through the past few decades by the wealthiest and most powerful on the transition to rapidly ending the accumulating harm done by fossil fuel use is a travesty. The wealthy and powerful cannot claim they were “unaware”. They also have little ability to claim uncertainty about the magnitude of impact. The fact that fossil fuel use was unsustainable needed no research. Burning up non-renewable resource has no potential in the future of humanity. It was only ever a temporary ability for some to benefit in ways others never would be able to. Even now people try to argue that the less developed portion of the human population should not be allowed to use fossil fuel energy at the level that the Supposedly more Advanced, higher status, portion of the population still do (30 years after clear indications of the need to end fossil fuel use). And using Bob Loblaw’s concern “what if I am wrong?”, the 1.0C of warming already experienced is producing harmful climate changes impacting many people, especially the poorest. And that warming is less than the low end of the 1.5C to 4.5C warming due to a doubling of CO2.

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  25. Nick Palmer:

    I agree with what Phillip and NigelJ have said to a much larger extent than I agree with what you have said. I will focus on a few points in your latest comment.

    "I was referring to the definite and real uncertainty in the science BEFORE Hansen's 1988 speech"

    Give me a break. I was studying climatology for 10 years before Hansen's speech, and a dozen years before the 1990 IPCC report. I did not need Greenpeace or any other media reports to know what was going on - I was reading the primary literature. I found about papers like Manabe and Wetherald (1967) by reading them when they were still <20 years old.

    "It is less than honest of people to assert that our modern established science in any way is comparable to the nascent science back then,"

    It is less than honest for people to assert that there was not a lot that we knew back then, either. We knew in the mid 1980s that Sherwood Idso's arguments for negligible warming were wrong. That did not stop special interests from funding him for decades afterwards. That funding was not intended to pursue a legitimate sicentific goal - it was to sow doubt.

    Climatology was not "nascent" in the 1980s. It was "nascent" in the 1880s.

    "I submit that these tactics of Big Oil were just ordinary political manoeuvring to resist irrationally draconian 'green/red' calls until the science got strong enough. "

    I submit that if this were the case, then Big Oil would have tried to argue the real science and legitimate uncertainty, instead of funding positions that were already known to be bunk.

    "...government pandering to the views of misinformed activists ..."

    You mean like the denial industry that was created specifically to maximize the extent to which politicians and the public were provided with misinformation? As you point out, right-wing politicians like Margaret Thatcher had a reasonably realistic view of the science several decades ago. Something - someone - managed to convince them otherwise.

    "It is a matter of record that the fossil fuel industry increasingly deserted the early 'denialist' fossil fuel organisation - which was formed in 1989 - the 'Global Climate Coalition' - until by the early 2000s it was disbanded, and this was because the science had got strong enough."

    Alternate explanation: as early denial organizations lost credibility, it was easier to let them die and fund new organizations that could spout the same misinformation under a new name. Until that organization loses it credibility. Or don't even wait - just create a whole bunch of them and make it look as if there is widespread doubt.

    Much of the rest of your comment dives into "the mean lefties made them do it". I heard the same kind of arguments being made about general environmental issues when I worked in the oil patch in the early 1980s. It was not a reaction to climate isuses - it was a standard rhetorical tactic long before then.

    "BTW, are there are any links to Big Oil documents which actually deny the science in the way that deniers do - it's the Sun - it's cooling - it's cosmic rays - the temperature record was tampered with - it's all fraud etc? I've never seen any actual full-on denialism in them. "

    Because they learned from the problems the tobacco industry ran into over their internal documents? And funneled the money through shell corporations or institutes to hide the source, letting the denial groups do this for them? People that don't want to get cuaght doing what they are doing usually figure out eventually to not keep records.

    It doesn't matter if Big Oil believed the denialism or not - they sure funded it. Out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they thought it made good business sense?

     

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  26. Nick Palmer @23

    I didn't say Exon had clear and certain knowledge of the dangers of climate change way back then. I think the oil companies knew there was a problem, but not the full extent, like anyone else at the time. Remember I  said this "Exon knew there was a climate problem but told the public a different story. Theres no way of excusing this. Even if Exonn didnt really understand the true extent of the problem it doesn't change the utterly mixed messaging."

    While you're right that companies use lobbying organisations to fend off government regulation, its very hard to believe that big oil funded these lobby groups but didnt realise they were promoting denialism, or didn't fund them to assist in promoting denialism . The most I would concede is that not all fossil fuel companies would be the same.

    Yes many of the very active environmentalists lean very left politically and want to smash capitalism. Michael Moore's film Planet of the Humans perhaps falls into that category. It was a very frustrating film full of inaccurate information and anti renewables rhetroic. I fall into the camp that thinks capitalism needs some reforms, but I don't think anyone has come up with a completely new alternative thats workable or ever will. I find the far left almost as annoying as the far right. But environmental activists will do what they do and believe what they beleive just as libertarians do the same.

    However its not tenable to claim these far left environmentalist somehow triggered right wing climate denialism. If you look at the history of denialism of science in general its driven by a variety of things from vested interests, political views, religion, human psychology and some of these are politically neutral things. The far left environmentalists might have added a bit to the polarisation of the climate issue. But so have the far right denialists! Hugely so. 

    Of course big oil won't have its own internal documents talking about denialist myths like solar forcing and cosmic rays. They are not stupid. They outsource this to the lobby groups. But like I said in my previous comment, demonising the oil industry on and on seems ultimately a bit pointless.

    Ok maybe I was too dismissive of Stephen Schneider. However the point I'm trying to make is the number of climate scientists that come across as serious, over the top  alarmists is in a minority. In my admittedly anecdotal experience most seem pretty measured in their comments. The IPCC reports are very measured. So its unfair to accuse the scientific community of over stating the nature of this climate problem. One or two scientists go crazy, claiming climate change will kill billions of people in a decade, etc,etc. I find this rather frustrating because it feeds the denialists, but they are in a small minority.

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  27. Clarification to my comment at 26: However its not tenable to claim these far left environmentalist somehow triggered any of the climate denialism. 

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  28. Nick Palmer,

    I can not agree that your characterization of CMIP6 as running "too hot" accurately reflects the performance of the models involved in the exercise. Some of the models have a higher ECS than any found in CMIP5 and thus pulled up the average ECS for the ensemble. They may be wrong, and the Zelinka paper suggests a possible reason, but that is no reason to discount the rest of them, and not even a reason to consider their high ECS as impossible. Everyone would love to see a low ECS materialize, especially so-called skeptics, but AFAIK nobody has shown that any ECS significantly lower than the most common 3degC estimate has a higher probability of being real than one that is much higher. The high ECS models tend to perform lower at hindcast, but that also says only so much.

    I did not find at Real Climate anything that would remotely confirm the blunt language you used, which is awefully similar to the types you condemn.  When inputting CMIP6 in the RC search box, I found these posts:

    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2019/11/sensitive-but-unclassified/

    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2020/06/sensitive-but-unclassified-part-ii/

    Both are good reads for anyone truly interested in understanding what goes on in the CMIP6 exercise. Zeke Hausfather has a great take on the CMIP6 issue, which I suspect was posted before publication of the Zelinka paper:

    https://thebreakthrough.org/issues/energy/cold-water-hot-models

    Forgive me if I misinterpreted, but the overall tone of your remarks on models seem to suggest that their performance has been poor, in general, and that they can't be trusted. This couldn't be further from the truth, as shown by Gavin Schmidt in the latest update at RC on the subject:

    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2021/01/update-day-2021/

    I don't really know what the Oreskes and others' message is, as I don't read much from advocacy groups. It seems you have a beef with the idea that accusing Exxon, among others, of wrongdoing back in the pre-1990 times is misleading. That may be so. However, that would leave one wondering why they continued to support the bullshit factories churning out propaganda favorable to their short-term financial interests in the following 30 years, as uncertainty dwindled away.

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  29. nigelj,

    I agree that it is irrational to claim that the extreme presentations from the climate-action side of this faux-debate cause climate science denial or the many other efforts to delay the undeniable required rapid ending of the many harms produced by attempts to benefit from fossil fuel use and the related loss of status by people whose perceptions of status are tied to benefiting from fossil fuel use.

    As an engineer, to limit harm done any potentially harmful uncertainty is addressed by designing a solution that will deal with very extreme requirements for the uncertainties (see my comment @11). That means:

    • conservatively limiting the potential for harmful results. People wanting to benefit from the harm done would call that extremely over-doing the avoidance of harm. They would want to compromise those understandings and actions.
    • conservatively identifying the harm and risk impact levels of concern. People wanting to benefit from the harm done would call that extremely over-stating the identified potential harm.
    • conservatively implement the means to address the conservatively established concerns of harmful outcomes. People wanting to benefit from the harm done would call that extremely over-reacting to limit the potential for harm.

    It is important, not harmful, for very severe harmful climate impact outcomes based on uncertainty to be presented.

    Leadership should be striving to limit harm done by human activity. It is faulty logic, actually unethical, to try to argue that it is harmful to restrict economic activity that is potentially or actually harmful. It does not matter how popular or profitable an activity has become, or how much poorer and less powerful some supposedly superior people would become.

    Harmful activity needs to be kept out of economic and political competition for popularity and profit or potentially helpful things like Capitalism and Democracy (which are being proven to be potentially very harmful due to the competitive advantage of selfishness and misleading marketing) will suffer failures that unjustly discredit their potential for being sustainably helpful.

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  30. OPOF @29 yes the engineering design philosophy and its approach to harm minimsation and being generally cautious is very useful. I used to work in achitectural design and we had much the same things. Unfortunately the related building codes were relaxed in the mid 1990s by a neoliberal leaning Ronald Reagon loving government to "minimise costs and regulation" . The end result was a leaky homes nightmare of massive proportions that has cost the country billions of dollars, and a lot of hidden psychological stress.

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  31. Well, there's too much to address there! Just a couple of points.
    Phillipe@28 wrote: " However, that would leave one wondering why they continued to support the bullshit factories churning out propaganda favorable to their short-term financial interests in the following 30 years, as uncertainty dwindled away."

    I thought I'd already addressed that. The short answer is that Big Oil continued to support the "B.S. factories" because they were effective at trying to protect those corporations against unwarranted attack.  Pharmacological/vaccine corporations are currently coming under similar COVID19 propaganda type attacks to their detriment - they have less of a need to use 'B.S. factories' because most of the population have been familiar with vaccination most of their lives, so they know that the attacks are mostly baseless. The general voting public have no such familiarity with climate change, and the effectivess or otherwise of the many and various solutions put forward out there, so they are vulnerable to political manipulation by ideologically motivated types who think 'the answer' to the whole (not just climate change but biodiversity loss, inequality, 'white supremacy', LBTQ+ gender inequality etc etc) situation is to change 'the system' to end up with a world where we all live in some sort of vaguely defined harmony with nature and everybody is equal and all the wealth is redistributed to achieve their faith-based dreams of a socialist paradise. Part of that playbook is undermining established big industry and 'decentralisng'.

    Anyone who regularly takes on the really incorrigible denialists, as I do - I don't mean the brainwashed rank and file Hicksville idiots, but the much smarter ones - soon discovers that beneath all the high sounding 'alternative science' of the 1000frollyphds, the B.S. factories, Heartland's James Taylor, Quora's James Matkin etc are people who are almost always actually motivated by just a couple of things, of which by far the most common is extreme ideological antipathy to the 'big government' solutions promoted by extremist activists - the deep green environmentalists, the 'Smash Capitalism' closet reds and the 'System Change, not Climate Change' demonstrators.

    I really don't know if these 'denialist/lobbyist' people truly believe all the propaganda they put out, in which case they would have been driven to delusion to protect their favoured clients and industries to sabotage the 'stop all fossil fuel use today and indict the corporations types' or if they cynically know that they are deliberately spreading deceit and misdirection to achieve the same end.

    The 'Greenpeace knew' report and the recent Oreskes/Supran paper really are not evidence showing which way the truth lies being, as I've suggested before, chock full of cherry picking and insinuation and, in my view, the leading-the-reader attribution of malignant motives to innocent(ish) behaviour because of the underlying ideology of the authors. Oreskes is known to be significantly left wing and long ago Greenpeace's leaders adopted similar, or stronger, politics and I find their campaigning and assertions have got increasingly slanted and deceptive too.

    BTW, when I refer to left wing I am not referring to centre'ish politics like that of the US Democrats but more towards the sort of Utopian student revolutionary type beliefs.

    Blowing my own trumpet, I am one of the very few climate science denier fighters who can actually beat them to the point where they shut up (the smarter ones) or else (the dumber/madder ones) they resort to increasingly irrational conspiracy theory ideology to respond (not 'the scientists are all faking it for grant money' conspiracy but full-on Rothschilds, Bilderbergers, Illuminati, New World Order - even the shape shifting lizards!) which lets the reading/listening audiences see 'what lies beneath'. What is noticeable is that no matter how convincingly one may have demolished their case, give them several weeks, or a couple of months, and one will often find them using exactly the same flawed logic, cherry picked facts and deceptive framing as before. This could mean either they have some sort of mental condition where their mind edits out their defeat so, like psychics who forget all their wrong predictions and only remember any correct ones, they maintain a spurious sense of their own abilities or they don't care much if you demolish their case in public because their only goal is to sway the public mind to their desired end and they know that the public has a very short memory and that the short denialist memes 'it's the Sun, it's cooling, it's cold now in Hicksville, it's cosmic rays etc have a very powerful ability to fool, or at least induce doubt and uncertainty in, the public's minds.

    A clear example of the second type is Marc 'Climate Depot' Morano who is so confident of the validity of his position that he even proudly described it on camera to greenman3610 (Pete Sinclair).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFnhTo6Wd80

    He still appears to believe in his 'in denial of mainstream climate science' position but he does admit here to using misleading rhetoric etc to achieve his ends, which are to sway the views of the public. He more or less admits to using 'the game' to propagandise. Even this is not necessarily smoking gun evidence of 'evil' if he truly believes his own rhetoric is accurate, it's just yet another example of what I call 'non-clinically diagnosable insanity' of which the online world is now suffering a tsunami!

    My main point is still this. I'm just about certain that the underlying motivations and beliefs of all major figures in the climate change wars are far more nuanced, and often hidden, than the simplistic 'they knew', 'they're evil', 'they're stupid' etc epithets flung at them by their opponents, whose motivations are similarly complex.

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  32. I realise I've got an uphill struggle with you lot because you are unlikely to have heard anyone arguing this position before - most seem to have been happy to accept Greenpeace et al's interpretation of events as gospel without deconstructing it enough. When one has been deconstructing the deceit, delusion and/or dumbness from the various denialist factions for decades, as I have, one can't help it if one sometimes notices the very same methods being used by our 'side'. I personally think that demonising Big Oil's past activities and misrepresenting them as if they were real denialism is very counter-productive. Apart from anything else, one of the most powerful arguments I use against tricksy denialist rhetoric is that these days even Big Fossil Fuel fully accepts mainstream climate science and they acknowledge that something serious needs to be done to avoid the very unacceptable risks. I point that if there was a trace of reality in the arguments that have sucked them in, Big Oil's scientists would have noticed and their corporate execs would have then beaten a wide path to the doors of the sceptic/contrarian/denialists with wheelbarrows full of cash to learn about their magic get-out-of-jail-free cards. When I challenge denialists to explain, if they are so sure of their beliefs, why this is not happening, and never did happen, they either shut up or go off into the lala land of conspiracies I list later on. In either case, the wider audience sees they have nothing real...

    Bob Loblaw@25 wrote:

    "Give me a break. I was studying climatology for 10 years before Hansen's speech, and a dozen years before the 1990 IPCC report"

    I refer you again (3rd time) to my quote of Carbonbrief's article and the words of top climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M Uni.

    C.B.: "In 1979, the Charney Report from the US National Academy of Sciences suggested that ECS was likely somewhere between 1.5C and 4.5C per doubling of CO2. Nearly 40 years later, the best estimate of sensitivity is largely the same.
    However, Prof Andrew Dessler at Texas A&M University pushes back on this suggestion. He tells Carbon Brief:

    I think that the idea that ‘uncertainty has remained the same since the late 1970s’ is wrong. If you look at the Charney report, it’s clear that there were a lot of things they didn’t know about the climate. So their estimate of uncertainty was, in my opinion, way, way too small"

    "Back in 1979, climate science was much less well understood than today. There were far fewer lines of evidence to use in assessing climate sensitivity. The Charney report range was based on physical intuition and results from only two early climate models.

    In contrast, modern sensitivity estimates are based on evidence from many different sources, including models, observations and palaeoclimate estimates. As Dessler suggests, one of the main advances in understanding of climate sensitivity over the past few decades is scientists’ ability to more confidently rule out very high or very low climate sensitivities."

    I'm not disputing that the basic science of radiative physics and the simple climate modelling of ECS of 'how many degrees per doubling' has been around a long time. As a matter of fact, as a science geek, I knew about some of the scientific views in my later teens (early 70s) - about the time I stopped buying aerosols (apart from WD40...) to protect the ozone layer. The uncertainty of outcome referred to by Dessler is to the 'known unknowns' and 'unknown unknowns' at the time and these were very significant. The (some of) CMIP6 model problems were mentioned just to show that even today some crucial feedback mechanisms affecting ECS are still being nailed down 40 years later.

    It is the solidarity or otherwise of the climate sensitivity figures AT THE TIME of the memos and documents cherry picked in 'Exxon Knew' which is at the very nub of whether, as the populist environmentalist narrative goes, Exxon were evil or, as I am convinced, just cautious because the views of sensitivity at the time were just not solid enough to mandate massive corporation change without a lot more scientific work to more reliably figure out what ECS was (not to mention the Transient and Earth system sensitivities too). If Exxon's scientists told their bosses that, as Dessler wrote, Charney's figures were waay more uncertain than Charney thought they were, that is not evidence of psychopathic evil, it's just evidence of good scientists offering a very valid criticism of another scientist's work.

    Sure, at the time, Exxon's own scientists acknowledged the basic 'settled' science but of course they would also acknowledge the great uncertainties which the 'anti's turned a blind eye to. There was nothing sinister about that and it is the attribution of malignant motives to Big Oil by Greenpeace et al that I have a serious issue with. There is so much deceit, deception, propaganda, selective and misleading information from all sides out there that I think our 'side' should clean up its act and disavow all that stuff and just stick to the best peer reviewed science, the best risk analysis and not indulge in dubiously demonising (probably) innocent'ish corporate behaviour that has been, in my view, massively misrepresented or rule out many solutions, as Mann has done, which have great potential thus making 'the answers' much harder to achieve.

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  33. Oh, Nick. You're repeating yourself, and it does not stand you in good stead.

    "The short answer is that Big Oil continued to support the "B.S. factories" because they were effective at trying to protect those corporations against unwarranted attack."

    I really hope that you do not consider sound science (even with uncertainties) to be "an unwarranted attack".

    If you are referring to non-scientific organizations such as Greenpeace, then I hope that you are not saying that unwarranted attacks justify B.S., simply because it is "effective".

    "...most seem to have been happy to accept Greenpeace et al's interpretation of events as gospel..."

    A strawman position...

    "I refer you again (3rd time) to my quote of Carbonbrief's article and the words of top climate scientist Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M Uni."

    Repeating the quote is certainly not necessary. Using phrases such as "top climate scientist" represent an argument from authority. I was already teaching undergraduate and graduate climatology courses when Andrew Dessler was still a grad student. I had and have direct knowledge of the primary peer-reviewed scientific literature from that time.

    I hope that you do not think that the 1.5C to 4.5 C sensitivity range is a complete summary of climate science.

    I hope that you do not think that there was a huge amount of uncertainty regarding the lower limit back in the 1980s. There was lots of uncertainty of regional effects. Lots of uncertainty about cloud feedback effects (but unlikely to be strongly negative).

    From the 1990 IPCC sumamry for policy makers:

    There are many uncertainties in our predictions particularly with regard to the timing, magnitude and regional patterns of climate change, due to our incomplete understanding of:


    • sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, which affect predictions of future concentrations
    • clouds, which strongly influence the magnitude of climate change
    • oceans, which influence the timing and patterns of climate change
    • polar ice sheets which affect predictions of sea level rise


    These processes are already partially understood, and we
    are confident that the uncertainties can be reduced by
    further research However, the complexity of the system
    means that we cannot rule out surprises

    THe 1990 IPCC report includes quite a bit of discussion about these uncertainties, and what needs to be done to sort them out.

    One of the very few sources of a realistic argument for low sensitivity was Lindzen's "Iris effect". As Lindzhen had a good reputation as a meteorologist, this hypothesis was taken seriously. It did not pan out.

    Most of the rest of the "sensitivity is low" arguments were B.S. Many were clearly B.S. in the 1980s - and are still B.S. now, even though they keep getting repeated..

    Dessler may feel that the uncertainty was underestimated. Do you have any evidence of an actual number that he would put on it?

    Did Exxon choose to push the known uncertainties and realistic scientifically-supportable possibitiies? No. As you admit, they chose the Baffle Them With B.S. option.

    You seem to feel that was justified on their part. I do not.

    "...the views of sensitivity at the time were just not solid enough to mandate massive corporation change..."

    ...but they were solid enough to start to invest considerable money (albeit probably peanuts for Big Oil) in the B.S. factories, in an attempt to preserve and maximize corporate profits for as long as possible.

    If Big OIl's approach was so honorable, then why did they try to hide the path of the money and keep their name off it?

    If you were to argue that Big Oil's corporate responsibility is to maximize shareholder value regardless of ethics, then I would concede the point.

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  34. One additional point, related to timing.

    The Heartland institute, a major player in the climate science denial industry, was founded in 1984. According to the Wikipedia entry linked above, it moved into tobacco industry work in the 1990s, and into climate change lobbying in the 2000s.

    To say this was justified by uncertainties in climate science as known in the 1970s seems a stretch.

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  35. Nick Palmer @31, I do understand where you are coming from but I have a couple of disagreements.

    "I thought I'd already addressed that. The short answer is that Big Oil continued to support the "B.S. factories" because they were effective at trying to protect those corporations against unwarranted attack."

    That doesn't mean the corporations don't also use lobby groups to help spread denial. You seem a little bit stuck in an either / or mindset.

    "Anyone who regularly takes on the really incorrigible denialists, as I do - I don't mean the brainwashed rank and file Hicksville idiots, but the much smarter ones - soon discovers that beneath all the high sounding 'alternative science' of the 1000frollyphds, the B.S. factories, Heartland's James Taylor, Quora's James Matkin etc are people who are almost always actually motivated by just a couple of things, of which by far the most common is extreme ideological antipathy to the 'big government' solutions promoted by extremist activists - the deep green environmentalists, the 'Smash Capitalism' closet reds and the 'System Change, not Climate Change' demonstrators."

    This extreme ideological antipathy to big government is indeed common thing with the denialists, a libertarian and conservative leaning thing, but you need to understand many of these people define big government as anything beyond military and policing! They are opposed to anything that isn't very small government. So to say climate denlialism is the fault of a few extreme political activists proposing very big government is flawed logic.

    "The 'Greenpeace knew' report and the recent Oreskes/Supran paper really are not evidence showing which way the truth lies being, as I've suggested before, chock full of cherry picking and insinuation and, in my view, the leading-the-reader attribution of malignant motives to innocent(ish) behaviour because of the underlying ideology of the authors. Oreskes is known to be significantly left wing and long ago Greenpeace's leaders adopted similar, or stronger, politics and I find their campaigning and assertions have got increasingly slanted and deceptive too."

    I thought Orekses book was actually quite good if a bit too general, but there is plenty of hard evidence tying oil companies to spreading denialism of you look around. Read the book Dark Money for a start.

    "What is noticeable is that no matter how convincingly one may have demolished their case, give them several weeks, or a couple of months, and one will often find them using exactly the same flawed logic, cherry picked facts and deceptive framing as before. This could mean either they have some sort of mental condition where their mind edits out their defeat so, like psychics who forget all their wrong predictions and only remember any correct ones, they maintain a spurious sense of their own abilities or they don't care much if you demolish their case in public because their only goal is to sway the public mind to their desired end and they know that the public has a very short memory and that the short denialist memes 'it's the Sun, it's cooling, it's cold now in Hicksville, it's cosmic rays etc have a very powerful ability to fool, or at least induce doubt and uncertainty in, the public's minds."

    Yes its some sort of mental condition of a sort. Some people have difficulty admitting to themselves they are wrong or have been sucked in, so they hang onto beliefs. They become stubborn and entrenched. We probably all do a bit at times. With others the stubborness and arrogance is more extreme. Google narcissistic personality disorder. Combine this with small government leanings and a smart mind and a  reasonable knowledge of science and you have a nuclear powered denialist, and the internet gives them the whole world to preach to. It's really frustrating to say the least.

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  36. Nick,

    I have been at this for a number of years, so I am well aware of your contribution in fighting misinformation. That is why I find it kind of puzzling that you would make excuses for the promoters of such disinformation.

    What constitue an unwarranted attack? If you want to argue that accusations of nefarious intent back in the days of high uncertainty were unwarranted, I can't disagree with that. If you want to argue that calling for efforts toward a real energy transition in the more recent times of much more limited uncertainty constitute unwarranted attacks, I can not agree.

    So the activist you mentioned take liberties with the scientific information, they exaggerate and distort. Nonetheless, the direction in which they are pushing is indeed the one called for in view of what the science actually shows, whereas the inaction promoted by the fossil fuel supported outlets, that exaggerate and distort in other ways, can not be justified.

    Is it warranted to work our way to doubling of pre-industrial concentration just to see what happens? If it really goes to hell, will the very rich individuals who profited from the extended status-quo pitch in to help? In view of the threat, and the magnitude of the task, what is truly unwarranted?

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  37. Phillippe wrote: "That is why I find it kind of puzzling that you would make excuses for the promoters of such disinformation"

    It's not excuses, it's an alternative explanation to the insinuative narrative that just about everyone seems to have accepted. I think that narrative is fundamentally flawed and was constructed by people with a strong ideological bias as a way to socially engineer the public towards a position that public otherwise might reject. This was originated largely by Greenpeace and is now aided and abetted by Oreskes/Supran and similar who get quoted in articles/programmes in major media where the mass of the voting public can be influenced by them.

    Perhaps it might help if you and the other two knew three things which might help you to realise that I'm not just making this up. First,  I was at a conference of the environmental organisation I was a part of at the time in the 80s. It was late night in the corridors and the top directors were 'relaxedly' discussing the way Greenpeace were going down a slippery slope precisely because they were abandoning a focus on reasonably presented peer-reviewed science in favour of 'scare stories' to gee up their followers and recruit more by 'empowering people' - in short they were going political to get more power and the direction was not to the right or centre.

    Like it or not, even those of the public who don't support the tactics of Greenpeace mostly trust them to be 'telling truth to power' and so industry and commerce have respect for what the public believes if it might impact on their bottom lines. Greenpeace's rhetoric on climate change has swung sharply towards the draconian 'stop all fossil fuel use now' extremity and has been taken up by street activists and social media influencers and warriors. Their top guys have got brains so, considering that if the world actually did this it would almost overnight be immediately thrown into the mother of all global economic crashes which would cause far more devastation, hunger, death and destruction than anything climate change is projected to do for many decades, one has to speculate on hidden motivations for an explanation.

    Second, a couple of childhood friends of mine, who came from a long time 'oil industry' family, ended up pretty high in the executive hierarchies of the major international oil corporations, so I have had quite an insight into their company's corporate attitudes over the years, so that's why I think the waay exagerrated (or wrong) insinuations of corporate 'evil' by those trying to push a political ideology which, in their case, appears to outrank whatever environmental ideology they may still have, stink. That's why I said that "they have kids and grandkids they worry about too". There are obviously some psychopaths in top board rooms who actually are in denial but despite anti-corporate propaganda, they really are not anywhere near being in the majority.

    The G7 meeting, which is just down the road from me, has just finished. The White House has just issued this, to my mind, very good document.

    FACT SHEET: G7 to Announce Joint Actions to End Public Support for Overseas Unabated Coal Generation by End of 2021

    Just watch the 'usual suspects' jump on the word 'unabated' and loudly denounce it as 'weasel words', because the development and use of carbon capture and sequestration technology is a direct threat to what they appear to want to happen, which is the destruction of Big Fossil Fuel as some sort of 'punishment' for what they believe, or choose to pretend to believe, the corporations did and as a means of bringing in their almost certainly unworkable pie in the sky vision, that the majority would reject voting for, as to how the world should live.

    Much though I regretted it, about 50% of the US voted for Trump both at the start and the finish of his term. Greenpeace's headline socialism-heavy hippy-dippy harmony - Nature! - vision is a non-starter for huge numbers of people and not just in the US. I'm pretty sure that explains why most of the major environmental organisations are still virulently against nuclear power even though the majority of studies show that it will be an essential part of the future energy portfolio of the world. One has to wonder why they are still so against it, even though their arguments against it have become increasingly thin, outdated or invalid. I submit this is because their underlying plans are making them reject anything which promises to rescue the world's use of so much energy and this bias is based on their ideological drive to have a low energy use world.

    Third. One incident which cemented my views as to the naked political undercurrents beneath the superficially 'green' stance of some top environmental organisations, was round about 1989. This was when two  electrochemists in the U.S thought they had discovered a brand new form of nuclear energy - cold fusion - which created no nuclear waste or ionising radiation and offered no potential for 'nuclear proliferation' or misuse by terrorists. In short, it promised a world where everyone could have a pollution free megawatt unit in their garage. I was associated with some of the people who checked out and ran experiments to validate (or not) the findings and I took it upon myself to contact Greenpeace U.S. (by phone! wasn't cheap!) to suggest they should throw their weight behind getting public acceptance and investment for this new miracle 'save the world, not just the whales' technology. They went very quiet and the temperature metaphorically dropped below freezing. You'll just have to believe my assessment of  what was happening as I can't prove it, but it seemed very clear that they were very hostile to the possibility that this new energy source could keep our current society going, decarbonise cement, steel and industry, enable 'indefinite range' electric cars, give abundant cheap energy to the Third World etc and many other 'good' things that, on the face of it, they should have been for.

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  38. Bob wrote "I really hope that you do not consider sound science (even with uncertainties) to be "an unwarranted attack".

    and "If you are referring to non-scientific organizations such as Greenpeace, then I hope that you are not saying that unwarranted attacks justify B.S., simply because it is "effective"."

    I am stating that the science was not strong enough back then for the world to have any real confidence that the balance of negative and positive outcomes projected for various amounts of global temperature rise from the rudimentary knowledge of the various sensitivities would be bad, good or neutral.

    Bob wrote "Using phrases such as "top climate scientist" represent an argument from authority. I was already teaching undergraduate and graduate climatology courses when Andrew Dessler was still a grad student."

    You sound like a denialist! They don't like anyone quoting the statements of top climate scientists either and often accuse one of using the argument from authority 'logical fallacy'. The thing is, quoting an actual 'go to' authority in the field of climate science is not really invalidated by dismissing it as a logical fallacy. I'll take Dessler's viewd over yours any day, particulary as I have interacted with him a little in the past. Sorry...

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  39. All this is getting way off topic as far as Michael Mann's book is concerned.

    Nick: you are sounding here like a  fossil fuel apologist, Lefties, Greenpeace, socialism, accusing others of following a "gospel", etc.

    You seem to feel that it was OK for Big OIl to fund B.S. I do not. Let's leave it at that.

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  40. Incidentally, I'm going to re-link to the video of greenman3610 - Pete Sinclair - interviewing Marc Morano because I spotted many contributions by me to the comments below it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFnhTo6Wd80

    My screen name back then (8 years ago) was aylesmerep. Most of the denier/sceptics myself and my tag team partner yubedude (who I never knew the real name of - anyone know who they were?) took on deleted their comments because we 'whupped their arses', so it's very difficult to follow the threads nowadays but I remember their content. Realoldone2 was a cracker! I think Robert '1000frollyphd' Holmes was there too.

    I find it fascinating to see how arguments in the climate science wars have changed so much in such a short period. Back then many denier comments to such videos were really smart and they always argued the science and nothing but the science. It's only really the last few years that the 'reds under the bed' hypothesis to explain why climate science was, they assert, faked up has taken off like wildfire in the general and conservative media. It doesn't help that some well known climate science media 'go to' figures, such as Professor Kevin Anderson, who is one of Greta Thunberg's support team, is nakedly left in his politics and his choices of solutions he thinks appropriate.

    I think what has happened is that the 'debate' has become rapidly polarised recently on political ideology grounds and the various political stances of major figures are now being increasingly blatantly paraded. I wish the political biases of the various protagonists could be stripped out of the public arena, as this development is wholly counter-productive in my view

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  41. OK, I understand what you're saying. You're still not addressing some of Bob's and my points. There is a big disconnect in your discourse. Clarify a few things for me:

    At what point in time did the science become strong enough to demand action?

    For one principled as you are on communicating the science, at what point does denial rethoric become unacceptable?

    As of now, only baby steps have been made, in large part because vested interests have been successful at delaying significant action over the past 20 years, way beyond the 80s or 90s. Was this justified?

    As much as activist organizations can ask for ending fossil fuel use now, it has a zero probability of happening and even a zero probability of being attempted. You contradict yourself by stating on one hand that corporations are worried that the public would buy into that extreme activist threat, and on the other that their view is "non-starter" for at least half the population.

    Your argument appears to boil down to this: it's ok to support false/misleading denial rethoric because, if it's not out there, these activist groups will convince the world of ending all fossil fuel use from one day to the next. That's a stretch reaching the breaking point. In fact, it is not believable at all. 

    Was it ever desirable for denial rethoric to be so successful as to prevent any effort at a transition, even one that did not present the existential threat you mentioned?

    Since you have spent so much effort combating misinformation, would you say it was ever desirable to have such a large proportion of the public buying into all the myths this site debunks?

    Is BAU and a never ending status-quo desirable?

    Can we honestly say that nothing between the extremes of status-quo and end-it-all now could possibly be worked out?

    Is it realistic to consider that, if fossil fuel companies accepted the conclusions of the science, they would instantly disappear, in view of how ingrained fossil fuel use is to our economies and all aspects of our lives?

    As for nuclear, as I have said earlier, I am not opposed, at least in principle. They just need to get their sh*t together and stop being over budget and behind schedule.

    Fusion sounds great, but is unrealistic as short or even mid-term solution. Cold fusion has not been beyond the pipe dream level. The best hot fusion to date is the recent 101 seconds at 120million deg at EAST. Nowhere close to breaking even, let alone produce anything. ITER is supposed to be complete in 2025, I doubt they'll see plasma before 2026.

    Meantime, the multiple wedges approach that we could have adopted 20 years ago (a very reasonable approach completely removed from extreme views) has not happened on any significant scale and we sailed passed 400ppm. 

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  42. Oh, I"m addicted. Phillippe asks Nick:

    "At what point in time did the science become strong enough to demand action?"

    I'd like to ask Nick a slightly different question:

    At what point in time did the science become strong enough that arguing that "it is all wrong and global warming is not going to happen" became an unwarranted attack?

     

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  43. I am always of the view that long passages of argument are a sign of a poor understanding. This big long comment interchange, now 18,000 words long, provides a good example of the phenomenon.

     

    Nick Palmer @37,

    You write "Perhaps it might help if you and the other two knew three things which might help you to realise that I'm not just making this up." [**My emphasis]

    You then set out these "three things." First there is some anonymous late-night conversation overheard back in the 1980s discussing "Greenpeace ... going down a slippery slope."  Second, a couple of your school chums now work for big oil and they aren't evil people. (I'm not sure where your G7 comments and GreenPeace=AntiNuclear comments fit in with this.) Third GreenPeace were not enthusiastic about supporting Cold Fusion.

    ** The "this" you insist you are "not just making up" concerns what you term "the insinuative narrative that just about everyone seems to have accepted." I would have thought the existence of such an "insinuative narrative that just about everyone seems to have accepted" could be demonstrated easily enough without all this massive wordage. And apart from your "three things" setting out the notion that GreenPeace is evil or something, and that you tell us this "insinuative narrative" was "originated largely by GreenPeace," I fail to see any reason for sharing these "three things."

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  44. I have to agree with MAR that Nick Palmers evidence regarding Greenpeace and fossil fuel companies is rather anecdotal and unreliable looking ( I think thats what MAR is saying). Same thought occured to me but I had given up on this discussion. However out of curiosity I just did a five minute google seach "fossil fuel companies promoting climate scepticism, doubt and denial" , and literally about the first four hits showed that people have researched this in depth, and come up with utterly compelling hard evidence, company documents etc,etc that shows fossil fuel companies have promoted climate denial, doubts etc. I dont know how Nick can deny this. The examples:

    www.bbc.com/news/stories-53640382

    www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-denial-machine-how-fossil-fuel-industry-blocks-climate-action

    influencemap.org/report/How-Big-Oil-Continues-to-Oppose-the-Paris-Agreement-38212275958aa21196dae3b76220bddc

    www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/10/how-fossil-fuel-industry-got-media-think-climate-change-was-debatable/

    www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/10/vested-interests-public-against-climate-science-fossil-fuel-lobby

     

     

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  45. Nigelj @44:

    I did not get the impression that NIck denies this - I was more under the impression that he thought it was a reasonable reaction to what he considers an "unwarranted attack".

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  46. Bob Loblow @45

    "I did not get the impression that NIck denies this (my note: oil companies knowingly engaged in climate denialism from the early days onwards) - I was more under the impression that he thought it was a reasonable reaction to what he considers an "unwarranted attack"."

    I got the impression Nick thought the oil companies didn't knowingly and deliberately spread denialism because he was so critical of Orekses book (at comment 3) which apparently linked oil companies to denialism. Maybe I interpreted it all wrong. Apologies to Nick if I did. Its really easy for Nick to clarify the issue.

    And if he was just saying the oil companies were reacting to unfair attacks on them at that time, the science has firmed up in recent years yet at least some of the fossil fuel companies still seem to be linked to denialism. So whats their excuse now?

    I tend to actually agree with quite a few of Nicks views which I hope I've made clear. So this is a tricky thing for me to comment on. There seems to be an element of truth that some peolpe scapegoat oil companies to shift responsibility away from their own lifestyles, just as oil companies blame individuals to shift responsibility away from themselves. But the idea that denialists are denialists because Greenpeace's occasional bouts of craziness seems untenable. It might be a factor hardening some peoples attitudes but the denialism has other more fundamental roots.

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  47. I'll try and get back to the latest comments. You lot are STILL not understanding my main point and are jumping to fundamentally fallacious conclusions about my position. Some are indulging in exactly the same type of mental gymnastics that denialists do to avoid an inconvenient truth and maintain their biases. Clearly the battalions of strawmen above show I have shaken up the dogma...

    In the meantime here, from todays 'Heated' report by Emily Atkins, which is apparently well respected, which is all about the 'three big wins' for the climate reported recently comes a snippet which shows that the idea that the left is cheering the result against the oil corporations and 'the right' is bemoaning it is common currency, which rather confirms the extreme political polarisation in climate news.

    "But this analysis illustrates a fairly common phenomenon. News outlets routinely favor a political framing over an existential framing when it comes to climate stories. In general, the push-and-pull between industry and activists is given greater attention than the fight over everyone’s health and economic well-being.

    This framing is preferred in part because it sells. The Left sees a “bad day for Big Oil” and celebrates. The fossil fuel-backed Right sees the same and freaks out. Both result in great click-and-share rates—way better than the rates for “A good day for life on Earth.” (Believe me, I know.)

    But this framing is also preferred in part because it’s safe. Though the news industry has made great strides in climate truth-telling, there is still one basic fact many outlets remain unwilling to state plainly: that stabilizing the climate requires an end to oil and gas extraction."

    Note that the left wing Atkins repeats the activist mantra that all oil and gas extraction use must stop, which I have aleady pointed out would cause colossal damage almost overnight. She turns a blind eye to the use of carbon ca[pture and sequestration technologies which are far more advanced than types like her will admit

    It's only a small jump from that to understanding how it was the political opportunism of the left which created the situation that led to Big Oil using lobbyists and think tanks etc to counter that opportunism in the minds of the public by using public relations techniques. It seems that people need to open their minds a little to maybe consider that the oil corporations were not really against solving climate change all along, as they have been relentlessly libelled, just the brain-dead and destructive 'solutions' that the anti-capitalist left wing embraced and wished to impose on them.

    Heated June 14th

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  48. Perhaps a little "light relief" is needed amidst the current navel-gazing.

    The connection?  That deepest abyss of denialistic blogginess ~ WattsUpWithThat  (where I often monitor things).   At WUWT , there is no name which causes spittle froth to rise to the lips of WattsUpites . . . faster than the name Michael Mann.

    The SkS connection?   In recent weeks and a number of threads (but only the science-discussing threads, not the multiple lunatic-political ones) one can see frequent comments by an old friend of SkS :  Dikran Marsupial .   (NB he hasn't posted at SkS in latter years.)

    Along with the usual Nick Stokes, one sees Dikran Marsupial smiting the heathen , quite superbly.   ( If one wishes some light relief!! )

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  49. Nick Palmer:

    Suggesting that Greenpeace and Exxon Mobile are equivalent is really not valid at all.  For decades the oil companies have received hundreds of billions of dollars subsidies to pollute our air.  It is very rare for Greenpeace to be invited to teh table.  Politicians are only moving now because renewable energy is cheaper than oil and climate change is causing catastrophies worldwide.  Your suggestion that oil companies were responding to a few environmentalists is beyond reason.

    Please provide a reference for a single power plant anywhere in the world that captures its CO2 and sequesters it permanently.  There are a few operations that separate CO2 from natural gas and then pump the CO2 back into the ground to get out more oil and gas.  Provide a reference for three full size industrial sites that pump CO2 into the ground permanently.  Carbon capture and storage is completely uneconomic, there is no product to sell.  Putting CCS on a power plant immediately makes it lose money. 

    You are simply spouting fossil propaganda.

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  50. Nick Palmers theory appears to be the fossil fuel companies were defensive and spread denialism because they were under attack by extremist environmentalists and never offered the option of carbon capture because environmentalists allegedly hate it. The real reason for the fossil fuel companies defensive response and spreading denialism and doubt is far more likely to be vested interests, fear of job losses, dislike of government regulation / taxes, all the usual things. Just apply Occams Razor. This is far more likely than the complicated, fantastical movie like drama that is rather lacking in hard evidence, painted by Nick Palmer. This Greenpeace stuff would be a bit player in the whole affair.

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