The Big Ben Santer Problem, Pt 5: “Santer didn’t tell anybody …”

I’ve said it before elsewhere, it bears repeating here: I’m jealous how the collective 30 years of the global warming issue still boils down to the simplest set of talking points: “settled science” / “industry-paid shill skeptic scientists” / “reporters, policymakers, and basically everybody may ignore those skeptics because of points 1 & 2.” Meanwhile, in order to provide bulletproof evidence that the central talking point implodes under hard, impartial scrutiny, it takes me multi-thousands of words to detail how each angle of that central point falls apart, including details within the narratives of the core promulgators of that central talking point.

“Merchants of Doubt” book author / documentary movie star Naomi Oreskes is one of those central promulgators, a heroine receiving massive praise for exposing ‘liars-for-hire’ skeptic climate scientists, after having it revealed to her by Erik Conway (…. oh, wait, that’s a different / a different / a different story) revealed to her by Ben Santer that people attacking her for her paper on 100% settled global warming science consensus were the same people who attacked him (as opposed to her different story of her attacker being the same person who ‘attacked’ chemistry scientist Sherwood Rowland).

As it concerns her ‘Santer story versions,’ Oreskes arguably would never have seen her new career path of exposing who those “merchants of climate doubt’ were without being first advised to talk to Dr Santer. However, what she says about that specific situation aren’t clear-cut narratives, the problems within them prompt more questions about them than answers regarding the skeptic climate scientists’ so-called ‘corruption.’

Let’s review what the problems are so far surrounding her portrayal of Ben Santer, as it relates to her comparison of being ‘similarly attacked.’

  • Part 1: after supposedly being attacked for her ‘100% consensus’ paper, Oreskes was recommended by either ‘one colleague’ (at two separate universities)’ or ‘several scientific colleagues’ that she should talk to Santer about his ‘attack’ experience. Well, which is it, one of those two individuals, or the group of people, where she could provide the names of each?
  • Part 2: Oreskes basically insinuates that the same people who attacked her global warming paper – people with connections to the fossil fuel industry – are the same people who attacked Ben Santer. How does it end up that Ross Gelbspan – already established a year before the 1996 ‘attack on Santer’ as accusing climate scientists of being ‘interchangeable ornament liars-for-hire on the hood of a high-powered engine of disinformation‘ on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry – personally witnessed the alleged attack on Ben Santer, and how does it work out that Gelbspan’s accusation about skeptic climate scientists is seen in more than one prominent publication mere sentences away from descriptions of the alleged attack on Santer? (note: I have a red-highlighted author’s addition to that Part 2 post four paragraphs from the end on yet another Gelbspan / Santer connection)
  • Part 3: Oreskes said Santer was attacked, personally attacked, when he was merely doing his science job. But after detailed examination of specific details surrounding actions to significantly change the wording of an already accepted draft chapter, it looks like the ‘attacks’ were no more than justifiable inquiries that had no personal element to them.
  • Part 4: regarding Santer’s alteration of an IPCC chapter’s wording of which he says everybody already agreed about what an IPCC Summary summarized for the chapter, why would there then be any need to alter the chapter to match wording in the Summary?

And now, one more problem in Naomi Oreskes’ narratives about Ben Santer’s victimhood that she used as a way to contrast how she reacted to being a victim of an attack by ‘fossil fuel industry operatives.’ In particular, the narrative version (47:37 point here) in which she describes how the ‘attack’ against her led to a single colleague suggesting a meeting with Santer:

I mentioned it to a colleague, oh you must know Inez Fung .. I was at some meeting with Inez, and I just mentioned that this was happening, and she said to me “you need to call Ben Santer,” and I didn’t know who Ben Santer was at the time … so I called him up and said .. Inez Fung said I should talk to you about what’s happening to me, and Ben, it was like the floodgates opened, he started telling this whole story about how he had been attacked by Fred Seitz and how it was just like the tobacco industry .. that he had never talked to anybody about .. nobody cared, it was like this terrible thing he had suffered through in silence.

In silence? All the way from the summer of 1996 to some vague point in time after the December 2004 publication date of her paper? He never told anybody about what experienced that whole time?

Except for Inez Fung …. unless she read about it via Ross Gelbspan’s first-hand account in his 1997 “The Heat is On” book. And except for the other unnamed colleague at Scripps where Dr Fung has no association. Except also for the other several colleagues who knew of Dr Santer’s plight. Maybe all of them read Gelbspan’s account, too, thus Oreskes would still be safe in saying she was the first person he ever confided to regarding the ‘1996 attack against him.’

Slightly plausible as that scenario may be of Gelbspan as the lone source of the ‘Santer attack,’ it is undermined by this account which describes Santer telling his story to at least 82 other people on the same day the June 1996 Wall Street Journal ‘attack’ op-ed appeared, a year before Gelbspan published his account.

Dr Santer didn’t stop there. In August of 1996, he likely informed an even wider scientist audience by telling his story at Physics Today. He didn’t stop with just alerts to his fellow scientists, either. That same month, he told America his story, or at least the very sizable reading audience of the New York Times.

Perhaps the better question to ask is how many people did Dr Santer not tell his story to prior to whatever the time was when Naomi Oreskes prompted him to tell her the story of something “he had never talked to anybody about.” Then there’s the question of when exactly Oreskes approached Dr Santer, and whether the answer she provides isn’t also plagued with a time-travel conundrum.

Larger than that, the question could be asked regarding why Oreskes, a historian who should be fully capable of objective history research, would portray herself as the first to learn how Dr Santer suffered for years in silence about an alleged ‘attack,’ when that narrative is demonstrably not accurate.