Sanity from the Royal Society proves unpopular

Yesterday I noted with approval a letter from the Royal Society asking Exxon to stop funding climate change denial. RP Jr, bizarrely, finds this inconsistent with the open and free exchange of ideas. Its bizarre because Exxons funding of these dubious organistaions has nothing to do open exchange – its all about misinformation and slipping Exxons desired world view in from the side.

There is also a rumour of another letter – though we haven’t seen it, only the Torygraph report on it calling for “the UK media to be vigilant against attempts to present a distorted view of the scientific evidence about climate change” – in other words, to avoid being taken in by disinformation. This, too, is a bad idea if you live in Pielke-land.

[Update: a transcript of a BBC R4 interview is available via RP (thanks) via BP (thanks). First of all, this clarifies the origin of the RS letter: in a meeting I had in July that they were making statements that misrepresented the science and that they were funding groups that were similarly misrepresenting the science. They then offered themselves to stop funding these groups. But let me make a distinction here… What happened is, after I’d explained why the Royal Society felt that the statements Exxon Mobile had made in a report in February, when I explained to them that they were wrong in our opinion, they then send me a report in the summer, a new report, which repeated all of the statements which I complained about in the first place. Then we have David Whitehouse (who he?): Different views, contrary positions, are essential to the progress of science (ad nauseam; plus various irrelevant comments about free speach). Exxon aren’t funding science: they are funding lobbying groups. If they *were* funding climate science that would be splendid (they pay well, I understand…). And: My point is not an argument about the science. The science is irrelevant in this context. You can go to your own website and read scientists talk about the uncertainties of global warming. No, the science isn’t irrelevant, which is why he can’t resist trying to bring it up. -W]

15 thoughts on “Sanity from the Royal Society proves unpopular”

  1. RP seems to have pretty much imploded in recent days. Not a pretty sight. Shame, because he’s usually quite interesting.

    [You wouldn’t be referring to the Bush CO2 plan oddness, would you? -W]


  2. RPjr. has officially jumped the shark.

    [I think its “trying to have an opinion thats interesting” taken too far. He is also getting rather ratty with commentators who oppose his line… both Coby and I have been asked to be nice or to leave… -W]


  3. I’ve been banned from there and his dad’s place, altho of course I’m over the top when pointing out the FUD the commenters purvey. RP Jr just didn’t like me harping on him to stop harrumphing about what’s wrong and point out stuff that’s right. But, nothing is right to him is it?




  4. Were it jus the one occasion, I’d let it slide. The bizarre way in which he couldn’t bring himself to admit a trivial error over CO2, the misrepresentation of the law concerning the amicus curiae, and now the misrepresentation of the Royal Soc letter…it all adds up to a clear pattern.


  5. Why in the world would anyone have problems with this letter from the Royal Society>

    I have difficulty finding parity between a decade long, multi-million dollar disinformation campaign and a single letter from a respected science society cautioning journalists.

    Does this make me weird?


  6. Do y’all recall how the tobacco companies bought the American Civil Liberties Union for several decades? They were using the same methods now being used by the energy companies, for the same reason — to keep their freedom to emit — second hand smoke and other combustion products.

    They’re spinning consumer protection as censorship — that’s the common thread in all these industry attacks on public health measures, going way, way back.

    Lead industry examples posted elsewhere, for example

    Tobacco: classic article here:
    The ACLU and the Tobacco Companies, By Morton Mintz
    Originally published in Nieman Reports, Harvard University V. 52, No. 1 (Spring 1998). Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College

    “The justification that the money is used to support workplace rights is a sham. There is no constitutional right to pollute the atmosphere and threaten the health of others. The revelations…support the conclusion that the ACLU’s mission is being corrupted by the attraction of easy money from an industry whose ethical values are themselves notoriously corrupt and which is responsible for the death annually of 350,000 to 400,000 persons in the U.S. alone.”

    Also in the press kit were internal documents “proving the ACLU’s quid pro quo–direct work for funding–relationship with Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds,” as Fahs described them, and a Cherner statement contrasting the positions on tobacco taken by the ACLU before and after it began to solicit and accept industry money. For example, he said, the Union did not oppose banning cigarette advertising from the airwaves, health warnings on cigarette packs and ads and laws to create smoke-free workplaces; but in 1987 the ACLU began to oppose legislation to curb tobacco advertising and its tax deductibility, to require new, large warning labels on cigarette packs, to require smoke-free public places and workplaces and to denigrate evidence that cigarette advertising increases the incidence of smoking.

    In 1966, faced with mounting scientific evidence incriminating environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) as harmful and even lethal, the tobacco industry commissioned the Roper Organization to do six secret biennial polls. At the end, Roper concluded that rising public concern over ETS was “the most dangerous development to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred.”

    The industry reacted with fierce campaigns–some of them covert–to block laws banning indoor smoking. The efforts included the launching of a nominally independent international magazine for which Philip Morris, as I reported in March 1996 in The Washington Post Magazine, passed more than $1 million through Covington & Burling, a prestigious Washington law firm, to Healthy Buildings International, a small indoor-air-quality firm in nearby Virginia. The magazine’s central, recurring and false argument was that banning indoor smoking was unnecessary because the concentrations of ETS were so low as to be harmless.

    [The ACLU’s] Glasser warned in his 1987 article in The Nation that banning tobacco ads is censorship, and “censorship is a contagious disease.” On Capitol Hill, similarly, [ACL]Union spokesmen have warned that a ban on tobacco ads for tobacco is a “slippery slope” that could lead to bans on ads of other necessities susceptible to abuse, including automobiles. …., the government cannot be allowed “to start picking and choosing targets for exceptions to the First Amendment.” Yet the Union’s own 1975 policy statement affirmatively validates consumer-protection laws– never overturned by the Supreme Court–that authorize government agencies effectively to censor advertising by recognizing “the need for the regulation of selling practices to minimize fraud, deception and misrepresentations.”


    Google will find you more. Example search*:

    Healthy Buildings International : Healthy Buildings, Healthy People
    Healthy Buildings International have a philosophy of healthy buildings, healthy people. We offer a complete range of environmental monitoring and advice …
    *[NOTE — hbiamerica is the first hit — and they caused a cookie to be set when Google showed a link to their page in a search, without actually going to their site. Curious?]

    Tobacco Scam: Smokefree Restaurants: Ventilation Hoax – Hired Guns …
    Healthy Buildings International originally did business as ACVA Atlantic Inc. … Healthy Buildings International helps Big Tobacco spin secondhand smoke …

    Healthy Buildings International Inc. TI-Modified Five Year Plan. Date: 04 Oct 1989

    Healthy Buildings International. (industry-funded ventillation experts) Worked closely with the industry to encourage corporations not to ban smoking …

    –> This is just illustrative — pick any of the front organizations tobacco funded, compare to the organizations the fossil fuel companies use. Look up the addresses and zip codes and personnel.


  7. The various “skeptic think-tanks” are one step removed from the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” sort of disinformation. Any defense of their pseudo-science should be viewed with similar disdain. All of their money & connections and the best thing they collectively have is McIntyre’s one-trick “hockey stick.”


  8. Get this PDF for the same tactics, that were used by the fuel industry for _fifty_years_ successfully, to keep lead in gasoline.

    This went on for decades after lead was known to be a cumulative poison — one that affects mostly poor and minority children.

    Forgive the long excerpt, this remains hard info to find online. I don’t know how long it will be available.

    The Science of the Total Environment, 92 (1990) 1~28 Elsevier 13
    (Received June 6th, 1989; accepted July 10th, 1989)

    PDF found here:

    [A proponent of adding lead to gasoline commented]:
    “… a serious outbreak of poisoning cases resulting from the manufacture of tetraethyllead was seized upon by labor agitators and publicity seekers in an attempt to convince the public that tetraethyllead was a major threat to public health. Ethyl gasoline was therefore temporarily withdrawn from the market pending a thorough investigation by a distinguished committee appointed by the Surgeon General”.

    Among the agitators alluded to above was Dr Yandell Henderson, Yale Physiologist, who made the following anticipative and rather disconcerting observation about the possible public health consequences of exposing the general population to automotive lead:

    “I find two diametrically opposed conceptions. The men engaged in industry, chemists, and engineers, take it as a matter of course that a little thing like industrial poisoning should not be allowed to stand in the way of a great industrial advance. On the other hand, the sanitary experts take it as a matter of course that the first consideration is the health of the people …. Lead poisoning … is cumulative. It is already common. ….”
    (ref. 7, p. 62).

    In a private letter to R.R. Sayers of the United States Public Health Service, Dr Henderson noted poignantly that “in the past, the position taken by the authorities has been that nothing could be prohibited until it was proved to have killed a number of people. I trust that in future, especially in matters of this sort, the position will be that a substance like tetraethyllead cannot be introduced for general use until it is proved harmless”
    [17]. ….

    The so-called “scandal” simply demonstrates how difficult it is for science to resolve an issue with strong economic and social overtones. The contrasting strong opinion held by people on the opposing sides of the lead-in-gasoline debate is best illustrated using the following two excerpts:

    “…, the issues remain much what they were in the beginning. The search for a solid, factual, scientific basis for claims against lead has produced nothing of substance… Scientific evidence does not support the premise that lead in gasoline poses a health hazard to the public, either now or in the foreseeable future. …”
    (J.F. Cole, ref. 29, p. 1).

    “From a vast mass of evidence the Administrator (of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has concluded that the emission products of lead additives will endanger the public health … we affirm his determination that lead emissions present a significant risk of harm to the health of urban populations, particularly to the health of city children”
    (U.S. Court of Appeals ruling against … industries who wanted to overturn the reduction in lead content of gasoline; cited in ref. 28, p. 3).
    7 U.S. Public Health Service, Public Health Bulletin No. 158,
    Proceedings of a Conference to Determine Whether or Not there is a Public Health Question in the Manufacture, Distribution, or Use of Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline, GPO, Washington, DC, 1925.

    17 D. Rosner and G. Markowitz, Am. J. Public Health, 75 (1985) 34~352.

    28 D. Wilson, The Lead Scandal, Heinemann, London, 1983.
    29 J.F. Cole, T.B. Griffin and J.H. Knelson, (Eds), Lead, Georg Thieme Publishers, Stuttgart, 1975, pp. 1-5.


  9. It is the ‘fence of censorship’ that the ‘greenhouse platform’ attempts to raise that is at issue. There is not any actual validity in the use of a descriptive like ‘corporate pundit for hire’ or ‘denialist &/or sceptic’, with these terms used by the ‘greenhouse Platformer’ to vilify those presenting those points otherwise wanted to remain ‘unnoticed’. It is ALSO the Political play of the ‘greenhouse Platformer’ made obvious with these terms, NOT any deficiency in the points made by those so targeted for vilification. The ‘greenhouse platform’ efforts to discuss ‘paleo-periods’ & fabricated ‘future scenarios’ (from behind a ‘censorship fence’) rather than ‘Now’ with this ‘attitude’ well noticed by the public. ‘NOW’ is however what IS relevant in ‘Politics’ and the ‘greenhouse platform’ is only playing ‘scientists’ in the Political Arena…

    It is that the general public would seem to hold greater ‘climate knowledge’ that the ‘few’ being platformed as ‘experts’ (far too often) as there are isn’t such a ‘climate’ formed as these ‘few experts’ would opinion on with the materials within the Environment NOT presenting properties & behaviours consistent with these ‘experts’ opinions ON ‘Climate’ process. The public are not convinced by the ‘doom and woe’ propaganda either, as it is commonly seen for what it is, lobby propaganda & no number of politicians, actors or musicians will make any Movie to the ‘general betterment’ of ‘greenhouse opinion’ or ‘climate doom as reality’ to the public. NOR is there ‘deflection’ of public interest by ‘dark forces’, so often given as allusion and excuse

    The ‘greenhouse platform’ efforts to ‘discuss from behind a censorship fence’, this is WHAT the ‘RS’ ploy is about being not ‘so to validate’ what ‘is mentioned’ but only effort to control WHO should ‘speak’. Seems being a ‘greenhouse expert’ is very lucrative…in the attempt to gain ‘influence and power’ often dangled as a ‘carrot’ to ‘students’ also. Should it not also then be seen as to WHO benefits from persistent platforming of ‘greenhouse opinion’, all those BOOK and MOVIE deals.

    The supposed ‘greenhouse climate remediations’ formed from ‘greenhouse supposition’ can’t have any REAL & beneficial effect. The ‘greenhouse remediations’ can only be seen as potentially DETRIMENTAL to the NATURAL course & persistence of ‘Climate events’. The ‘greenhouse focus’ seems anywhere except ‘Now’ also, with this ‘attitude’ well noticed by the public. With ‘NOW’ being what IS relevant in ‘Politics’ and the ‘greenhouse platform’ only playing ‘scientists’ in the Political Arena it is little wonder that people mention that, as example, the UK Public remains sceptical of climate danger.

    It is that the ‘greenhouse few’ attempt to hide from notice the ‘IS’ of ‘NOW’, but successfully it seems only from themselves. There has not been seen as such ‘action’, this is commonly mentioned in discussion with ‘Kyoto targets’ not even being noticed it seems, so ‘policy action’ is to date near non existent thus one would ask “What ‘success’ then is being ‘negated’ by the supposed ‘dark-force denialists”? The answer commonly realised would appear to be NONE… Politics IS about NOW it seems, you see.

    Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)


  10. The Royal Society, which styles itself “independent” on its home page, reports it is 67% funded by “Parliament.” Should one, in the case of the RS, conclude that it is less “bought” by the government than the CEI is by Exxon?

    Perhaps we should conclude that the government has no agenda besides something like the welfare of “all the people,” or – this one is better by a lot – that the government has not in the past employed sophisticated, long-term campaigns of disinformation.

    The best disinformation campaigns, of course, are those in which the disinformers themselves believe what they’re saying. THOSE are REALLY expensive – in fact, they generally can be afforded only by governments, which have the power of taxation and so, get their money from . . . Exxon, among others, and Exxon’s customers, of course.


  11. “The Royal Society, which styles itself “independent” on its home page, reports it is 67% funded by “Parliament.” Should one, in the case of the RS, conclude that it is less “bought” by the government than the CEI is by Exxon?”

    This is exactly right. While they are on the good science side of AGW, they persistently side with the British Labour Government in their support of genetically modified foods, despite increasing numbers of papers and articles showing that GMO’s have been a disaster in most parts of the world (the USA is an exception because of the huge subsidies given to farmers there).

    Ian Forrester


  12. I hope the “good” side of AGW science still seems good after the government gets done using its for its own purposes (governing more).

    Good (that is to say, valid) science led to the atomic bomb, happily not used since 1945, but in the possession of the very worst people everywhere, and ready as ever for use.

    It wouldn’t be the first time a good thing got hijacked for evil outcomes – intentional and (just as often) uninentional. Just as evil either way.

    And the government, nobody may deny, paid for it. It’s theirs, and I would advise not arguing with them about it.


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