Ron Arnold: “Naomi Oreskes Warps Climate Skeptic History”

First, the setup for Ron’s article: Back late 2009, in my efforts to figure out where the infamous reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” phrase came from – the line spelled out in Al Gore’s movie and in Ross Gelbspan’s book “The Heat is On”, which they portray as a sinister top-down industry directive that skeptic climate scientists are paid to follow – I ran across Naomi Oreskes’ widely repeated Powerpoint presentation from 2008 where she said the leaked memo set containing that phrase was in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Problem is, you may not view them there.

Oreskes later made the following reference to the “reposition global warming” in her book chapter for the 2011 Howlett / Morgan “How Well do Facts Travel?” book, on page 139:

Acting on behalf of the Western Fuels Association, Palmer retained the services of Bracy, Williams, and Co., a government-relations firm based in Washington D.C.11 Their mission was articulated in a series of strategy documents, one of which enumerated ten specific goals and the means to achieve them. Number one was to “reposition global warming as theory (not fact).”12 … The tactics included ensuring that the entire electric utility spoke with a unified voice and had scientists to speak on their behalf.13

[footnote]12 ICE, Mission Statement 1991, copy in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).  Most of the materials on the Greening Earth Society were found in the archives of the AMS headquarters in Washington, D.C. …

13 ICE, Mission Statement – Strategies: Reposition Global Warming as Theory (Not fact). AMS Archives

Yes indeed, Oreskes circled the #1 ‘reposition global warming’ strategy on her PowerPoint copy of that old leaked memo, the bit about the “entire electric utility” is the #3 goal, and the ‘scientists to speak’ bit was the 9th. Nine goals, not ten.

Incorrectly counting the number of goals is a forgivable error. However, Oreskes made a far larger error in her “How Well do Facts Travel?” book chapter.

In unmistakable fashion on pages 159-60, Oreskes repeated part of her footnote on page 139, and added to it this way:

Many of the materials on the Greening Earth Society were found in the archives of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) headquarters in Washington, D.C. These archives consist simply of a set of filing cabinets, thus explaining the absence of the normally expected box-and-folder numbers for citations to these materials. Scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.

Back in January 2010, it was my initial guess that AMS archives were not accessible to private citizens like me, so began emailing AMS members to see if they knew how to access them. In April 2010, I tried to directly inquire through AMS’ official archivist Jinny Nathans, but received no answer, so I continued my inquiries with various other AMS members, including such prominent ones as AMS Fellows Dr Richard Lindzen and Dr Judith Curry. In a nutshell, I failed to find anybody who knew about the AMS archives Oreskes spoke of.

Fact is, getting to the bottom of this particular situation was a bit beyond my common citizen reach. Book author / journalist Ron Arnold has what it takes to get answers. He got answers within the last month from AMS people, first that many others had asked the archivist about those documents at AMS, but those inquiries had to be turned away. More important, however, was this absolute answer:  “The AMS archivist in Boston verified no such documents ever existed in the society’s archives.”

That’s a critical problem. Not one of the accusers who say skeptic climate scientists are ‘paid industry shills’ readily show us the evidence to prove it. The only ‘publicly seen’ collection of the documents Oreskes speaks of are partial and out-of-context scans at Greenpeace, and the only way I was able to find them was through my own connection of the old Ozone Action organization to Greenpeace USA. They are not otherwise easily found, and they certainly have not been freely cited by enviro-activists over the years.

Ron’s article details more problems:  “Naomi Oreskes Warps Climate Skeptic History.”**

**[Author’s 7/8/17 update: the link to Ron’s article is broken, either from when Heartland reworked some of their website, or when they revised the article with additional information. The link for the archived original is here, the lengthened article containing two clickable links is here, and alternatively here with numerous clickable links. One more thing: as I showed in my June 7, 2016 post, Oreskes said she still has those memos which never were in AMS archives.]