Whack-a-mole climate denialism
August 26, 2010 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Investigative reporting continues to attack the credibility of the IPCC reports on climate change, as well as vicious personal attacks. These stories gain wide coverage in the denialist echo chamber, yet several months down the track, after thorough independent investigation, they are found to be false. Weak retractions are published in newspapers, but the damage is done.
posted by wilful (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a mash-up of three separate stories, which have a common thread.
1. CRU East Anglia emails hacked, nothing really found
2. IPCC accused of inventing Amazon Basin damage, statement found to be true
3. Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC Chair, accused of making millions from climate change, an offensively false claim.

It's quite remarkable how much attention these stories get when they blow up, and how little attention they get when found to be utterly without foundation.
posted by wilful at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is an old trick, only made easier with media conglomerates working hand in hand with powerful interests. Worked well for crippling America's best hope for a public healthcare option in the last several generations, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:58 PM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm getting pretty sick of rich liars with megaphones.
posted by DU at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Kochs have much to answer for.
posted by bonehead at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


And which side do you support? I couldn't tell.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:19 PM on August 26, 2010


Science, Brocktoon.
posted by wilful at 7:20 PM on August 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


If you count all the facts presented in the latest IPCC report, and compare it to the number of "mistakes" that have been found, you'd get about a 99% accuracy rate.

Imagine if we were to hold, say, financial advisers, or doctors, or journalists to that kind of standard, and call for their blood when they didn't live up to it.
posted by Jimbob at 7:22 PM on August 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


There's a thought.
posted by Trochanter at 7:24 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimbob, I think you're being conservative, particularly if you were to weight the relative importance of each fact and each 'error'.

I think the key errors in the IPCC reports relate to excessive conservatism. Unavoidable, due to the time lag between the science and final publication, and due to the dead hand of various governments trying not to scare anyone. But if you compare what the IPCC are saying with what James Hansen and many others are saying, it's beyond worrying. Meanwhile, these arseclowns are allowed to go around declaring that Pachauri is a millionaire, when he earns £45000 a year.
posted by wilful at 7:29 PM on August 26, 2010


Bravo to Carter Ruck for their excellent use of England's libel laws! [previously] and [previously]
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:32 PM on August 26, 2010


Well, you know, you have to teach the debate, even if one side is just a bunch of idiots making fart noises with their armpits.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:35 PM on August 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Scientists doing politics. The results are not pretty.
posted by delmoi at 7:44 PM on August 26, 2010


Politicians doing science. The results are not pretty.
posted by jz at 7:46 PM on August 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


The scientists seem to do about as good a job as the politicians when it comes to politics of climate change. Which isn't really setting the bar too high.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:48 PM on August 26, 2010


The scientists seem to do about as good a job as the politicians when it comes to politics of climate change. Which isn't really setting the bar too high.

I'm not sure what you mean. There are obviously some politicians who are interested in changing things, but they're obviously outnumbered (at least in the U.S.) I suppose in Europe things might be a little different.

But the politicians are mainly going to be reactive. Basing what they do on public opinion. They're not generally very courageous.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on August 26, 2010


And which side do you support? I couldn't tell.

And have you seen that thread about the Flat Earth Society? Full of editorialized opinions!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:58 PM on August 26, 2010


And have you seen that thread about the Flat Earth Society? Full of editorialized opinions!

You mean the "look at these idiots!" post? Next you'll tell me that calling myself a blogger makes me a journalist!
posted by Brocktoon at 8:03 PM on August 26, 2010


I would think if the lying denialists are calling one hardworking scientist a millionaire profiteer, it wouldn't take too much digging to find real numbers showing how obscenely well-paid they are, and by whom. You can't argue facts with a liar so consider the source and follow the money.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:21 PM on August 26, 2010


Everybody has a political agenda, either the Rabbit has a bow tie, or not.
Would you like a little more tea?
posted by Mblue at 8:38 PM on August 26, 2010


What? This is still happening? Well, I'll be a...

My favorite comment from a climate change "discussion" on the Globe & Mail's web site, after several attempts at rational explanation: Puzzled Denialist: "It's like ClimateGate never happened or something."
posted by sneebler at 8:45 PM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Onseswellfoop wrote: I would think if the lying denialists are calling one hardworking scientist a millionaire profiteer, it wouldn't take too much digging to find real numbers showing how obscenely well-paid they are, and by whom.

I am astonished that anyone thinks someone allegedly earning £45,000 per annum could or would embark on a libel suit in the UK. According to the linked EUReferendum website his costs in the action - which was settled with the weak apology referred to above - amounted to £100,000. Why do you think that a well-known law firm like Carter Ruck was willing to take the case on, and why do you think that they were willing to run up a bill exceeding twice his annual salary?

I don't know anything about Dr Pachauri's situation specifically but I have observed that there are other people whose position allows them live extraordinarily well on a very modest income. Think of heads of state, ambassadors, vice-chancellors of universities, as well as the heads of some NGOs - their official dwellings, their travel, their entertainment and so forth is not part of their salary per se. Nor should it be, of course: there is nothing inappropriate about this. They lose these things when they retire but by then they typically have built up a sort of social capital that lets them accept well-paid consultancies and directorships and so forth.

Some of these people are lucky enough to hold their jobs for life. There are no longer many monarchs, but there are probably quite a few people who own or control the NGO that employs them. Even if they don't control it directly they may be so associated with the NGO that they are effectively inseparable from it - think of former US President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center.

I would think that Dr Pachauri has a similar relationship with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), which he founded and of which he is Director General. As such, his real wealth isn't his official salary of £45,000. It's the power and the security and the official lifestyle (which is both a duty and a reward) that comes from the association. Whether TERI or some other body paid for this libel action isn't really important: the fact is that Dr Pachauri is effectively wealthy enough to mount something like this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:04 PM on August 26, 2010


Why do you think that a well-known law firm like Carter Ruck was willing to take the case on, and why do you think that they were willing to run up a bill exceeding twice his annual salary?

What the hell are you implying here? Really, I'm dying to know, I find your entire comment inscrutable. Something about scientists = monarchs = Jimmy Carter = secret aristocracy, but I'm easily confused.
posted by mek at 10:21 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


As such, his real wealth isn't his official salary of £45,000. It's the power and the security and the official lifestyle (which is both a duty and a reward) that comes from the association.

So, real "profiteering" then, huh? This story is really hard to follow, and the thread of contorted "logic" needed smear this guy is so tangled that it's pretty far into conspiracy theory territory.

Accomplished experts may not have much material wealth, but if their expertise does allow them the power to further their expertise and defend their reputations from scurrilous liars, big fucking deal. They deserve at least that.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:26 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry Joe I don't really get what you're saying either. Dr Pachauri is, according to KPMG, not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination. He receives a salary of precisely zero from the IPCC for his work. Which I imagine is an atrocious job. He sued for libel, and won with costs awarded, because he had an absolute open and shut case, he had absolutely nothing to risk.

if you want to criticise the guy, go right ahead, just tell me what the beef is.
posted by wilful at 10:35 PM on August 26, 2010


Wilful wrote: Sorry Joe I don't really get what you're saying either. Dr Pachauri is, according to KPMG, not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination.

Heh. Is that what you think the report says? I've actually read it and it doesn't even come close to commenting on it. The report simply says that based on the supplied records they have not found "unexplained receipts and disbursals" in Dr Pachauri's accounts, and that the honorariums relating to his advisory services went to TERI. In other words, he is not secretly taking funds out of TERI. Instead he gets a salary, and an annuity (presumably payments towards his pension) plus his medical, water and electricity expenses.

He sued for libel, and won with costs awarded ...

Argh. Are we even reading the same reports? He did not sue. He did not receive any compensation. He received a half-hearted apology that is as interesting for what it does not say as for what it says - and remember, it was probably his own law firm that drafted the apology; at any event it would have been his law firm that advised him to accept it. The apology says that the Sunday Telegraph had not "intended to suggest that Dr Pachauri was corrupt or abusing his position as head of the IPCC." I'm surprised that he settled for such a specific wording rather than something like "we accept that that Dr Pachauri is not corrupt and has not abused his position as head of the IPCC, TERI, or any other body."

The apology also says that the Sunday Telegraph accepts that "KPMG found Dr Pachauri had not made 'millions of dollars in recent years'". Once again, that's a very constrained apology given that they might have said "we accept that Dr Pachauri has not made 'millions of dollars in recent years".

Llama-Lime wrote: the thread of contorted "logic" needed smear this guy is so tangled that it's pretty far into conspiracy theory territory.

I don't wish to smear him. I don't have any reason to think he's corrupt. On the other hand, I am surprised that the same person would be the head of the IPCC and also the head of a business that has benefited enormously from the debate on climate change. It doesn't look good and it's something of a conflict of interest.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:37 AM on August 27, 2010


KPMG reviewed Pachauri's total income. He made £45,000 as his salary at TERI, and a maximum of £2,174 in outside earnings.

You're a crank, Joe.
posted by mek at 1:18 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, I am surprised that the same person would be the head of the IPCC and also the head of a business that has benefited enormously from the debate on climate change.

I know nothing about his case. However, I can tell you, as an academic, working in the field of environmental science, in a university, there is enormous pressure on us these days to make our research profitable, to work with industry, to make something sellable. By current metrics, a scientist who's making money in a business stemming from his research is regarded as a shining example of how Things Should Be Done.

* Goes and heats up some baked beans for dinner. *
posted by Jimbob at 1:28 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Total internal reflection.
posted by Astragalus at 2:39 AM on August 27, 2010


Joe in Australia, would you care to publish an audit of your personal accounts, like Dr. Prachauri did? Because, right now, I'm not sure whether you are with Team Idiot or with Team Evil.
(Also, this case highlights why I feel uneasy when I hear politicians campaigning for libel law reform, even when the libel laws are as draconian and often-abused as Britain's: without adequate legal protection from libel, we are all at the mercy of those who can afford the loudest megaphones.)
posted by Skeptic at 5:24 AM on August 27, 2010


> It's like ClimateGate never happened

If you search for that exact phrase, you get thousands upon thousands of hits. Seems to be received wisdom amongst that crowd.
posted by scruss at 5:39 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]




Mek wrote: KPMG reviewed Pachauri's total income. He made £45,000 as his salary at TERI, and a maximum of £2,174 in outside earnings.

You are quoting The Guardian's summary of the KPMG report. They link to the report. Why not read it yourself?

You're a crank, Joe.

And you are amazingly incapable of reading a financial report even when your attention is drawn to it and it's the very point of discussion. The report doesn't say what his salary is; it just says that his contract of employment and his pay slips correlates with the amount he received as his salary. As far as I can see the £45,000 figure comes from private information received by The Guardian, not KPMG, or perhaps from this earlier report.

Furthermore, the report itself says that he receives other sources of income outside his salary and so forth. It doesn't quantify them. In other words, The Guardian is wrong. But more importantly, KPMG says that it's only reporting on what he receives as money. It wasn't asked (and therefore doesn't say) how much his housing and domestic expenses are worth. Given that TERI pays his water and electricity bills I would be very surprised if he is not living in a house owned or leased by TERI.

Skeptic wrote: Joe in Australia, would you care to publish an audit of your personal accounts, like Dr. Prachauri did?

It wasn't an audit. KPMG was very careful to say that they their work constituted a "limited review" and that the scope of their work "was significantly different from that of an audit". But that being said, if you or anyone else is willing to pay for a professional audit of my personal accounts I suppose I'm willing to publish them. Do you think anyone is interested?

Because, right now, I'm not sure whether you are with Team Idiot or with Team Evil.

I'd rather be with Team Accurate and I think it's a great pity that nobody wishes to join me.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:37 AM on August 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


But you're not making any allegations whatsoever. You are just seeding doubt and making empty paranthetical statements. What the hell are you talking about? Either make allegations or move on.
posted by mek at 12:48 AM on August 31, 2010


Mek wrote: But you're not making any allegations whatsoever. You are just seeding doubt and making empty paranthetical statements.

Making allegations is the sort of thing cranks do. Other people do it as well, but it's the sort of thing that cranks are especially known for. So, no.

What the hell are you talking about?

The link to The Guardian's story in the FPP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:12 AM on August 31, 2010


So you agree that you are talking about nothing. Great, glad we got that out of the way.
posted by mek at 7:07 PM on August 31, 2010


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