… and maintain your status as ‘heroine-exposer-of-fossil-fuel-industry-disinformation’ if people interrupt your presentations to say, “wait a minute, what you said there isn’t supported by the actual reality of the situation”?
I’m referring to “Merchants of Doubt” documentary movie star/book author Naomi Oreskes, of course. She’s been described as a “conspiracy queen” (memorably enough to prompt that label to be entered into the US House Congressional Record a few years later). Does the title “Disinformation Queen” apply as well? You be the judge. As I noted in Part 1, I’ve referred to Oreskes’ 2008 “You Can Argue with the Facts” Powerpoint presentation slides numerous times here at GelbspanFiles, including video links to specific parts of that presentation. What follows now is a more or less line-by-significant-line dissection of that video, where specific details appear to contradict or hugely undercut what she asserts.
1. Starting barely 6 seconds into her presentation, she claims her work “evolved out of work I was doing in the history of Oceanography, trying to understand how scientists first came to realize that global warming might be a problem, and in doing this work and starting to communicate about it, I also started becoming a victim of attacks, hate mail, weird phone calls …..”
Completely and totally absent there is any mention that the alleged ‘hate’ was supposedly the result of her notorious 2004 Science piece about the 100% consensus for man-caused global warming, whether in connection to her narratives of Erik Conway telling her who the attackers of her were, or Ben Santer who told her that. This could arguably could be described as ‘disinformation by omission.’ However, hold that thought until the 3:01 point.
2. 32 second point: “… I started investigating the who denial phenomenon and this has turned into a book project of which I’m going to present a small piece of it today …”
First, there is no “denial phenomenon.” Lord Christopher Monckton pointed that out in quite comical fashion at a conference of several hundred so-called ‘denialists.’ Second, what book project?? Her own personal book project that also deals with other related topics? Why would it be a small piece of any book project? She never elaborates on what the project is during the remainder of the presentation. Funny thing is, not a single bit of this presentation ended up in the book she is her most famous for, “Merchants of Doubt,” but is instead solely in a book chapter contribution to a book of essentially literally unrelated topics that likely few people have heard of outside of my mentions of it here at GelbspanFiles.
3. 52 second point / 1:10 point: “… the American people now do accept the scientific fact or the fact of global warming … however, many Americans think that scientists are not convinced …”
The planet has warmed overall ever since the ice age, while slowing considerably during the Little Ice Age (1300-ish to the mid 1800s), and it would be an anti-intellectual notion to think that scientists are oblivious to that fact. Meanwhile, she doesn’t specify what kind of “warming.” As the late hurricane forecaster / anthropogenic global warming (AGW) skeptic William Gray pointed out in the New York Times, “I don’t think we’re arguing about whether there’s any global warming. The question is, ‘what is the cause of it?’”
4. 3:01 / 3:35: “… I wrote a paper that was published in Science a few years ago that summarized the scientific consensus on the reality of global warming and showed through an analysis of the scientific literature that actually this consensus about the the reality of an anthropogenic component of global warming was actually already established by the early to mid-1990s … None. None of the papers in our sample provided arguments to challenge or refute that [IPCC] conclusion …
A 100% scientific consensus. However, it’s been pointed out that consensus opinion – a show of hands – does not validate a science conclusion, period. But notice here that she does not mention at all that her paper is what drew “attacks, hate mail, weird phone calls” to her.
5. 5:22 / 5:34 / 6:01: “… nearly half of American people still think today that scientists are still arguing about this … one reason clearly has to do with press coverage of the issue. A study by Max & Jules Boykoff, which coincidentally came out at the same time as my study, and if you’ve seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” Vice President Gore juxtaposes my study with theirs and says, ‘well, look, here’s the problem, scientists agree but the press presents it as if they don’t’ … fully 50% of the articles that dealt with the question of global warming presented it as a debate in which there were essentially two equal and opposite sides.”
First, I detailed the origins of the unsupportable talking point about ‘skeptic scientists undeserved fair treatment’ in my June 26, 2014 blog post. When you read the actual media reports overall, those skeptics have never actually received anything remotely resembling unbiased equal treatment. In one television example from 1996 to the present day, they’ve been excluded entirely from AGW discussions. Second, the Boykoff brothers she cites are in an untenable circular citation situation when it comes to them citing Ross Gelbspan for this unsupportable talking point, since he cites them for it. Third, the Boykoffs paper was published fully 5 months before Oreskes’ December Science paper, minimally qualifying it as coming “out at the same time.”
6. 6:27: “… in my experience, the press may be lazy, but they’re not generally liars, they don’t make things up, right? So if they’re quoting sources, they usually are getting those sources somewhere …”
What does that even mean, “lazy”? It would be extremely lazy of a reporter to regurgitate a single side of a controversial issue while not making any effort to question what a source says or check the basic veracity of it, or if the source himself/herself is above reproach. The mere consideration whether there might be opposing viewpoints is mental work, and it involves more work to find out what the extent of the opposition is, if any at all, and where it can be found, along with recording and sifting through the opposing viewpoints. So what is the plausible source for Oreskes’ word choice of “lazy”? She may very well be channeling Ross Gelbspan (coincidentally ‘also from 2004’ if you want to be funny about it), who very famously said “For many years, the press accorded the same weight to the “skeptics” as it did to mainstream scientists. This was done in the name of journalistic balance. In fact, it was journalistic laziness.” Gelbspan may have been channeling a 1999 LA Times article written by Kevin Sweeney, chairman of the Ozone Action organization that I speak of so often here at GelbspanFiles — the same Ozone Action that, alongside Gelbspan, magically ‘obtained’ the “reposition global warming” memos that Oreskes will be drawing everyone’s attention later in her PPT presentation. Regardless of how often or where the “journalistic laziness” talking point is regurgitated, it is fundamentally illogical.
7. 7:17: “… why was the IPCC created in 1988? The answer is because various scientific reports in the 1970s, both here in the United States and in Europe, had already suggested – had predicted – that global warming would occur from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide due to burning of fossil fuels. And if you go back and read those reports for the 1970s, one of the interesting things you find is that actually in the 70s there was already a consensus that global warming certainly would occur …”
Science reports in the 1970s had climate scientist Dr Stephen Schneider worried that efforts to stop runaway global cooling (screencapture for posterity, since Big Tech deems such inconvenient truth videos worthy of regular deletions) would have unintended consequences. President Nixon was warned about runaway cooling in 1972, and the CIA was apprised about this “consensus” in 1974, and many climatologists saw the changes in weather as indicators of a cooling trend, reported both here in the U.S. and in Europe, regarding conclusions from international scientists.
8. 10:51 / 11:08: “… almost immediately within a year of the IPCC being created, various individuals and organizations begin to challenge the scientific conclusions … groups like the George C Marshall Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heartland Institute. What these groups have in common is they’re all politically conservative or libertarian groups that are committed to laissez-faire economics, to opposing government regulation, and to opposing what they consider to be excessive government interference in the private sector. What they also have in common is that all of them have followed what I call ‘the tobacco industry strategy,’ and the book that I’m working on really traces the evolution and origin of this strategy from the 1950s when the tobacco industry first began to challenge the scientific evidence of the harms of tobacco use.”
First – by way of example – if a person authoritatively states sea levels have not risen to any significant level, or says sea levels are rising catastrophically, their claim must stand on its own scientific proof, and whether they believe in Marxist economics or monopolistic capitalism is totally irrelevant to the validity of their claim. Oreskes’ insinuation is that “conservative ideology” implies people with greedy intentions, an otherwise disingenuous overgeneralization. Second, Oreskes displays needless redundancy there. Third, who cares what the ‘tobacco industry strategy’ was? Those industry executives knew full well that inhalation of large burning particulates laced with flame-retardant chemicals couldn’t possibly be healthy, but they feared their industry would be regulated out of existence, so they lied when saying they thought smoking was harmless. The Earth’s climate system / atmospherics is vastly more complicated than the simplistic illustration of CO2 acting like a literal blanket keeping the heat from radiating out to space. Fourth, what “book I’m working on“?? Was it the “book project” she mentioned in item barely over 30 seconds into this presentation? No, her 23 page book chapter contribution to the “How Well Do ‘Facts’ Travel?” book only contains the word “tobacco” four times, three of which are in footnotes, while the fourth explains what her other book is: “Merchants of Doubt.” So, back in 2008 for this Powerpoint presentation, her audience was led to believe what they were about to see was going to be “a small piece” of the “book I’m working on,” singular.
9. 12:40: “… So I call this ‘the tobacco road to global warming,’ and it’s not just that these organizations use the same strategies, it’s that in some cases some of the same individuals were actually involved in both …” (PPT slide 23: “Several of the same individuals who challenged knowledge of anthropogenic climate change also challenged evidence of hazards of tobacco smoke.”
She means the Heartland Institute, and she means the late Dr S Fred Singer. As I detailed in my May 11, 2017 blog post, neither challenged the actual hazards. The collective “pro-smoking” accusation boils down to an out-of-context remark by the Heartland president about a cigarette-or-two-per-day habit, and Dr Singer’s huge criticism of labeling second-hand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, which was ultimately overturned in a Federal court over a lack of scientific evidence to support that labeling. Once again, Oreskes’ claim only paints part of a much larger picture.
10. 12:54 / 14:17 / (PPT slide 24): “… So the arguments over the evidence of climate change paralleled the strategies that the tobacco industry had used … the most important of these is what people have referred to as the “No Proof Strategy” to say that the science remains uncertainty [sic] and that there hasn’t been proven that this is really a problem. A second strategy was to argue over the significance of the facts to say, well, maybe there will be global warming but ‘so what?’, we can adapt, and I actually have an article just published, it talks about this … A third strategy was to argue against the credibility of environmentalists, to say that they were hysterical and emotional and that they were “chicken littles.” I have a wonderful memo from the Reagan Administration Office of Science and Technology Policy to the National Academy of Sciences in which the OSTP says to Phillip [unintelligible] ‘we don’t want any chicken little reports.” Another strategy was to call environmentalists “communists” … A fourth strategy was to argue whether the facts actually are facts, to dispute the ‘fact-ticity’ of the facts or to supply alternative facts, and it’s these two latter strategies that I think are most interesting, both epistemologically and sociology, so that’s what I’m going to focus on today, and I’m going to focus particularly on one rather interesting group, the Western Fuels Association.”
Right. First, ask any skeptic climate scientist or related skeptic experts on the topic, and they will quite likely say their strategies parallel any other given legitimate criticism of authoritative assertions. Second, Oreskes’ portrayal of such skeptics’ alleged rebuttal of “Uncertain science about a non-problem / science accepted but we can adapt” looks to be little more than her channeling an oft-repeated talking point claim that such scientists inconsistently say “Global warming isn’t happening” / Global warming is happening, but it’s not so bad” — which traces back through Ross Gelbspan circa 2000. Third, regarding her “article just published,” she can only be referring to her “From Chicken Little to Dr. Pangloss: William Nierenberg, Global Warming, and the Social Deconstruction of Scientific Knowledge,” since the only other paper she had out in 2008 was published two months after this Powerpoint presentation. With regard to that “Chicken-Pangloss” paper aimed at the late Dr William Nierenberg, his son Nicolas stated rather succinctly in a rebuttal regarding Oreskes and the “Chicken” name (boldface emphasis is my own),
… Oreskes et al. use the following tactics: (1) they make claims without evidence; (2) they ignore the available evidence; (3) they paraphrase in ways that completely change the underlying meaning (4) and most importantly they completely mischaracterize “Changing Climate”3. A reader of the Oreskes et al. paper who later read the actual 1983 National Research Council (NRC) report would find much of that report unrecognizable.
… The quality of the reviewed effort is presaged by its title: we fail to pick up the reason for “Chicken Little” in the title …
In her Powerpoint presentation, notice how much child-like glee Oreskes displays immediately after mentioning the Reagan OSTP “chicken littles” report. Hold onto that thought until my next Part 3 blog post, “Chicken Little” will arise one more time. Meanwhile, fourth, Oreskes definitely takes exception to being called a communist, but apparently has difficulty substantiating whether that actually happened in one instance. And fifth, on her remark about “alternative facts” that statement alone led to outright disinformation repeated elsewhere that the Western Fuels Association itself had the sinister goal to concoct ‘alternative facts’ disinformation.
Wow. Just short of 15 minutes into a 58 minute presentation, Naomi Oreskes is seen in 10 separate instances where within each are between 1 to as many as 5 viewpoints arguably fitting a description of being incomplete and/or out-of-context, such that additional information actually significantly undercuts what she says. And we haven’t even gotten to her core accusations against the Western Fuels Association yet.
Anyone detect a trend here?
Coming up in Part 3: How much more can go awry for Oreskes after larger, relevant, but unmentioned details are examined?