Naomi Oreskes’ Additional Oops on Gordon J.F. MacDonald Undercuts the “was no global cooling” Talking Point

Hat tip to Marc Morano / Patrick Moore for the alert about John Robson’s excellent Dec 21 video, “The 1970s Cooling Scare Was Real.” While I was already quite familiar with the existence of the global cooling craze of the 1970s (I mentioned my own personal experience with that craze in the 4th paragraph of my 2011 CEI guest post), I learned one very interesting new detail concerning the geophysicist Gordon James Fraser MacDonald, whose name comes up beginning at the 8:25 point. He was prominently quoted in a July 9, 1971 Washington Post article as saying he agreed with another scientist about the distinct possibility of the Earth cooling as much as six degrees. Since I’ve already knew that the name Gordon MacDonald was an integral part of one of “Merchants of Doubt” book author / documentary film star Naomi Oreskes’ tales of how she became involved in the global warming issue, I was prompted by what I just learned to look a little deeper into what Oreskes thought was so important about Dr MacDonald.

Hat tip also to blogger Brad Keyes for his November 2018 WUWT comment along with a key reply to him which was one search result for the combo of Oreskes’ and MacDonald’s names; their comments indicated that I could find more of what Oreskes’ said about Dr MacDonald.

Here’s a composite screencapture of Oreskes’ ‘paper.’ It’s actually one of many “Preprint Abstracts” written by presenters at the “History of Meteorology” July 2004 conference in Weilheim, Germany, which can be read in its entirety at this ScienceDocBox webpage, or at this Internet Archive page:

With regard to the first “oops” Oreskes made about Dr MacDonald, it was simply that she did not keep her mouth shut about giving a presentation about him in the first place.

Her mention of that is the central bit of evidence in my series of posts demonstrating that the meet-up with Conway could not have taken place as she describes it — he could not have possibly warned her of who the attacker was of her December 2004 Science paper at a July 2004 conference Q&A session. That wasn’t a one-time mistake on her part, she’s told variants of that narrative on several occasions. … when she isn’t telling the mutually exclusive narratives about Ben Santer.

Oreskes’ second big “oops” now about Dr MacDonald is what she said about him in her July 2004 German conference presentation, if the above Preprint Abstract accurately summarizes her spoken words. After she first undercuts — “not very long ago most earth scientists held the opposite view. They believed that Earth was cooling …” — the collective current talking points about how there never was any big scientific concern about global cooling, she doesn’t actually mention Dr MacDonald (despite the Preprint Abstract being titled with his name) until page 4. There, she simply states:

… A major concern of U.S. weather modification projects was unintended consequences, which led MacDonald (and others) to consider how various constituents, added to the atmosphere, might cause what they labeled inadvertent weather modification. Chief among these constitunents[sic] was carbon dioxide, which U.S. government scientific advisory committees acknowledged as early as 1965 might induce global warming.

Chief also among these constituents was “fuel dust,” as indisputably seen in his quote at that 1971 WashPo article, human-caused aerosol pollution that could bring on global cooling through blockage of sunlight. Oreskes added scant few words to her Preprint Abstract about MacDonald, with really vague references for her own words about “rising carbon dioxide levels causing global warming.” What did Dr MacDonald actually say in the references she cited?

It wouldn’t surprise me if those works of Dr MacDonald were about the unsettled discussions at those times of whether CO2-induced warming would be canceled out by larger amounts of particulate pollution blocking sunlight. One good clue is found in the still-online “Gordon James Fraser MacDonald, 1930–2002, A Biographical Memoir,” published by the National Academy of Sciences February 1, 2004, where Naomi Oreskes is one of the co-authors. From the PDF file’s page 13-14 (print pages 235-36, Dr MacDonald’s own words (circa no later than 1988, and including the same two 1971 & 1982 citations in Oreskes’ Preprint Abstract):

Like many earth scientists, my initial concern was the opposite of what concerns us today: global cooling. In a 1970 lecture … I said: ‘Apart from changing the character of the air, the vast quantities of material introduced into the atmosphere may be changing the climate of the planet. While we do not know whether the changes observed result from putting carbon dioxide and particulate matter into the atmosphere, or indicate basic natural changes, it is unmistakable that the atmosphere is cooling off and has been cooling for the past 30 years. …’ This perspective was consistent with the geological understanding of the time that we live in an inter-glacial period and are heading towards the next ice age. Our worry was that our actions might be accelerating that journey.

Yet, at the same time, we knew that carbon dioxide could have the opposite effect as particulates, and induce global warming. In same lecture I continued: ‘We do know that the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has increased by about 10 percent over the last 70 to 80 years, the period of the great industrial revolution.’ Elsewhere I suggested that the addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere had produced an increase in the average temperature of the lower atmosphere of a few tenths of a degree Fahrenheit—an increase that might have been greater were it not for the countervailing effects of urban and industrial pollution.we knew too little about the paradoxical effects of warming and cooling to tell what the net outcome might be.

See that? From his perspective, the science of ‘climate change’ was anything but settled.

If Naomi Oreskes omitted his viewpoints about weather modification via global cooling in her Weilheim Germany summer 2004 conference presentation like she did in her December 2007 UCSD presentation, that would arguably fall under the definition of disinformation. But the larger question regarding her presentation now is, what was she up to regarding Dr MacDonald, prior to making her big December 2004 ‘global warming scientific consensus’ splash in the public spotlight?

It goes to the bigger question, why is Oreskes – a geologist by training – so prominently involved in the global warming issue in any capacity whatsoever?

My own involvement in the issue, as I described in my October 18, 2019 blog post is as straightforward as it gets — back in late October 2009, upon comprehending the enormity of the accusation surrounding skeptic climate scientists who were supposedly engaging in disinformation efforts, where the ‘smoking gun evidence’ for this was the notorious “reposition global warming” leaked industry memos, I wanted to simply read those memos in their full context. I found the notorious tobacco industry “Doubt is our Product” memos they were compared to in less than a minute of internet searching. I absolutely could not find the “reposition” set anywhere. Days of searching turned into weeks. Sometime right around mid-December 2009, I found Naomi Oreskes’ April 2008 Powerpoint presentation, where she said outright that the memos were in the archives of the American Meteorological Society. Almost two years later, I narrowed the search after finding her book chapter contribution to “How Do Facts Travel?” where she said they were in the AMS Washington DC archives. It was a fruitless search; article writer / researcher Ron Arnold was able to get it confirmed that the memos were never there in the first place, despite her suggestion that “Scholars wishing to consult these materials should contact the AMS.”

Statements like that from her don’t bolster confidence in what she says, they invite more examination on whether her other various statements line up right — which brings me back to her “From Weather Modification to Climate Change: The Work of Gordon J.F. MacDonald” July 2004 presentation. At the time when I found that reference, I was operating under the assumption that she was still focused solely on geology, her main area of study, and thus she might have simply spoken about his studies showed how climate changing throughout the millennia affected geophysical conditions. Only later did I see that her global warming activism predated her big December 2004 Science ‘man-caused global warming consensus’ paper.

So, if the small vague bits about Dr MacDonald in her Preprint Abstract are hint that her July 2004 presentation leaned farther into political global warming advocacy, then these three bits are more indications of that likelihood, the first from Oreskes’ 2007 paper titled “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change”……

…In any scientific debate, past or present, one can always find intellectual outliersotherwise respected scientists, including Sir Harold Jeffreys, one of Britain’s leading geophysicists, and Gordon J. F.MacDonald, a one-time science adviser to Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon; they both continued to reject plate tectonics until their dying day, which for MacDonald was in 2002.

…… and the second bit from her October 2004 “Science and public policy: what’s proof got to do with it?” paper……

… imagine that continental drift had been relevant to a question of public policy. We can immediately see that defenders of the status quo could have insisted that the data were indirect and the theory was not proven. Moreover, they could have found prominent scientists to support this view. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, there were a few well-known outliers, such as the distinguished geophysicists Sir Harold Jeffreys and Gordon J.F. MacDonald, who rejected laterally mobile continents outright …

…… and the second bit from her “Merchants of Doubt” co-author Erik Conway’s description of how he met Oreskes at the July Weilheim Germany conference and what she was presenting there:

… Naomi and I met at a meeting in Germany, “The History of Meteorology” meeting in 2004, during the summer. She was working on J. Gordon MacDonald, who was an interesting geophysicist. He was an early adopter of anthropogenic climate change, but one of the very last rejectors of plate tectonics …

Science Consensus. Outliers. Contrarian scientists who reject an accepted science consensus. Sounds familiar?  Sounds familiar?  Sounds familiar?  Sounds familiar?

Sounds familiar?

So apparently Naomi Oreskes was not out to give a dry, pure science presentation about Dr MacDonald, she may full well have used him to advance the otherwise purely political notion that consensus opinion validates scientific conclusions; global cooling consensus evolved via greater insight into global warming no differently than immovable continents consensus evolved into all agreeing that plate tectonics is the settled science …….. which is ludicrous because consensus opinion only belongs in the realm of politics and it doesn’t say a thing about what’s behind the opinion or whether it is actually correct.

Prior to making her splash in the global warming issue, Oreskes prior claim to fame was her 1999 “The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science” book (no mention of Dr MacDonald in that one) about the ‘evolving consensus shift’ concerning plate tectonics. Considering how antithetical consensus opinion is in the pursuit of scientific understanding, and how Oreskes’ seemingly embraced the notion of ‘consensus validation’ years before she jumped into the global warming issue, there’s a key consideration that should be deeply examined if she ends up facing opposition inquiry at either some future global warming lawsuit action or at congressional hearings: What inspired her to hold that idea, and was she ever approached in any manner to apply it to the global warming issue?

After all, who was it who had an imperative need for a 100% science consensus before he could claim that a small handful of contrarians were on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry to spread climate disinformation?

Oh, one more thing, because there’s always more to these situations: why did Brad Keyes create his November 2018 screencapture of Oreskes’ Gordon MacDonald Preprint Abstract? Because he wrote about watching a hapless commenter – who was oblivious to how Oreskes was on the Al Gore side of the issue – try to post Oreskes’ words to John Cook’s “Skeptic Science” page about the abundance of scientists who didn’t dispute global cooling. John Cook, who essentially owes his 2016 PhD to Oreskes, apparently oversaw the deletion of the inconvenient truth of Oreskes’ words from her 2004 Preprint Abstract on Gordon MacDonald — now you see them / now you don’t.