It’s a simple narrative to grasp. You say ‘Skeptic scientists first claimed global warming is not happening, then they said it is happening but is not man-made, then they caved in and said it is man-made and is either good for plants, or too expensive and too late to fix’. This makes them look foolish, and you look like a really smart, reasoned person with full knowledge of the topic. Mention those skeptics are funded by ‘big coal & oil’, and you’ll gain more adoration as someone who exposes sinister hidden truths. However, you better hope nobody notices how the skeptics have consistently said this entire time that the IPCC has not conclusively proved human-induced CO2, an otherwise harmless greenhouse gas, is the main driver of what little global warming we’ve seen over the last century.
One ‘Skeptic-Trashing Environmental Sociologist’, Oklahoma State sociology professor Dr. Riley Dunlap, painted himself into this exact corner about ‘inconsistent skeptics’ at a 2010 AAAS symposium (Australian radio show reproduction transcript/audio here, click either the “Download audio” or “show transcript” tabs):
…the counter claims to the IPCC issued by climate change deniers, especially the contrarian scientists, have changed in response to growing evidence of global warming. ‘It’s not occurring, it’s naturally caused, it won’t be that harmful.’ …
Conservative think-tanks, obviously with corporate support … have greatly amplified the work of contrarian scientists.
Dunlap, however, is only one of many sociologists enslaved to citing Ross Gelbspan for that latter insinuation about industry funding tainting the work of skeptic climate scientists.
This ‘inconsistent skeptics’ situation gets more intriguing when we spot an ordinary blogger writing something very similar seven years before Dunlap (full text here):
Consider the evolution of the global warming debate. When scientists first proposed that human activity was warming up the earth, they said, “Global warming isn’t happening.” When more data confirmed the original hypothesis, they said, “OK, the earth is warming up, but for natural reasons, not because of pollution.” Still more data was brought forward. Now they say, “Yes, global warming is happening, and it’s being caused by us, but it’s not so bad.”
Wow. Dr Dunlap plagiarized words from some unknown blogger? Hardly. Rummage around among the repetitions of this narrative…..
John Holdren, International Herald Tribune, August 2008: Long-time observers of public debates about environmental threats know that skeptics about such matters tend to move, over time, through three stages. First, they tell you you’re wrong and they can prove it. (In this case, “Climate isn’t changing in unusual ways or, if it is, human activities are not the cause.”) Then they tell you you’re right but it doesn’t matter. (“OK, it’s changing and humans are playing a role, but it won’t do much harm.”) Finally, they tell you it matters but it’s too late to do anything about it. (source, full text here)
Kate Sheppard, The American Prospect, February 2008: First, they said global warming wasn’t happening. Then they acknowledged it was happening, but swore it wasn’t man-made. Then they conceded it was happening and manmade, but doing something about it was just “too costly.” (source, full text)
Sybille van den Hove, PowerPoint presentation, 2005: Climate change is not happening The science of climate change is uncertain Climate change is not human-induced Climate change will not necessarily be bad (source, full text at page 22)
Paul Epstein, Billings Gazette, 2000: … the company led the campaign against warming first saying it didn’t exist, then admitting it might but questioning the cause, then agreeing that the use of fossil fuels contributes a little but arguing that warming and more CO2 could be beneficial. (source, full text)
FAIR, Jim Gordon, 1999: … they may print the opinions of scientists on the payroll of fossil fuel interests who debunk the idea of climate change, asserting that global warming is not occurring or even that it is good for life on Earth. (source, full text)
…..and a common thread emerges: At the same 2010 AAAS symposium Riley Dunlap attended, his fellow sociologist the late Bill Freudenburg mentioned Gelbspan mere moments later; Holdren has ties to Ozone Action, the enviro-activist group that apparently operated in some kind of side-by-side association with Gelbspan; Sheppard links to Desmogblog in her article, the web site Gelbspan says he ‘sort of founded’, she interviewed him directly a year before, and she is currently Facebook Friends with him; van den Hove’s PowerPoint presentation about Exxon’s ‘shifting positions’ is taken from a page in her earlier 2001 schoolroom case studies, which is only one page after a citation of Gelbspan (full text here); Epstein, who supposedly was the catalyst sending Gelbspan into an investigation of skeptic climate scientists’ funding, is quoted in the Billings Gazette article right alongside Gelbspan, plus the article also links to Gelbspan’s web site at its conclusion; and, FAIR’s Gordon cites not only Gelbspan and Epstein, but also Ozone Action’s Brandon MacGillis.
Then we have Gelbspan himself, June 2000:
… people like Fred Singer, Pat Michaels and Dick Lindzen speak in sweeping absolutes. At first, there was absolutely no global warming. Then there was absolutely no connection between global warming and extreme weather. Most recently, it has become, yes there is a little global warming — but so little as to be negligible and, in fact, even beneficial… (source, full text,
page 10*) [*Author’s 11/30/16 edit – that link no longer works, but it does at the Internet Archive version here]
Seems like one small happy family there, repeating essentially the same narrative over the span of a decade.
This collective lot routinely insinuates collusion among skeptic climate scientists, conservative think tank organizations and ‘sinister’ industry officials. My impression of the skeptics is that they have no fear of anyone examining the insinuation. Can anyone guess how well the people promoting the accusation against skeptics would do under a tough examination of their own associations?