Gongos and Bongos

People have been trying to make me read Merchants of Doot for some time, but I still haven’t (go on, someone, send me a copy for Christmas, me c/o CSR St Johns House will reach me :-). But WTD (in the midst of “turning serious”) has a post on a particular tobacco-industry document apparently inspired by the GCC. Anyway, what *I* wanted to pick out(in some sort of law of conservation of silliness effect) was not the substance (off you go to WTD for that) but the wonderful terminology: see the doc, its page 17 for some wonderful acronyms, like Gongo and Bongo (Business-Orientated NGO, if you were wondering).

As far as I can see, they didn’t actually take up the offer to construct such an NGO, presumably for the obvious reason: it would too obviously be a transparent creature of the tobacco folks. And indeed the rather bland tone of the document itself supports that: they obviously don’t dare write what they really think down about how it would have to be funded and controlled, for fear of exposure.

Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)

Back in 2008, I examined the Oreskes vs Nierenberg affair and concluded that Nicolas Nierenberg was correct and Oreskes was wrong. And then NN capped that by actually writing stuff up into a paper, published in July of this year: Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate.

And (I missed this at the time I think), Nature published a letter from Nierenberg, Tschinkel & Tschinkel, titled “An independent thinker, willing to say what he thought”:

We object to the inaccurate and misleading characterization of William Nierenberg by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010). Their claim that the peer-review panel chaired by Nierenberg “played down the severity of acid rain” is a contradiction of the panel report itself…

which was a reply to Oreskes earlier opinion piece puffing her book. And so now Oreskes has a reply to the reply in which she says:

William Nierenberg’s relatives disagree with our description of his role in the acid-rain debate in the early 1980s (Nature 466, 435; 2010). But their supporting evidence is a quote from The New York Times that is based on an interim report on acid rain, not on the final one. We maintain that Nierenberg worked with the White House Office of Science and Technology to weaken the final report on acid rain (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010), despite the consensus of the peer-review panel — articulated in the interim report — that acid rain was a serious threat. Historical documents from the White House and from Nierenberg’s own papers in the archives of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (for details, see N. Oreskes and E. M. Conway Merchants of Doubt; Bloomsbury Press, 2010) show how this was accomplished, and reveal the concern of other panel members when they discovered what had happened.

Oh dear, it is all too compicated. Where does the truth lie? I can’t check Oreskes assertions at all, without tedious library searches. For myself, until the matter is clearly settled, I’m going to trust NN on this: because he has clearly demonstrated errors by Oreskes in the matter of Nierenberg before, where she has wilfully misrepresented reality to fit her agenda. He says (pers. comm.)

The final version of the report was largely irrelevant since the interim report published a year earlier already made headlines with the recommendation for immediate action… All of this was made further irrelevant by the fact that the completely unmodified version of the report was leaked prior to publication. Nierenberg was quoted on numerous occasions as calling for action on acid rain, and he never changed his view.


This story is all getting tangled, so here is an attempt to put at least my posts into order:

* [Sept 2008] Nierenberg
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part I: introduction
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part II: Future CO2
* [Sept 2008] JASON arrives
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, chapter 3 and 4
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, concluded: Oreskes is wrong
* [July 2010] Well write a bloody paper about it, then
* [Aug 2010] This post
* [Aug 2010] Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen

I find it hard enough to keep my own posts in order, let alone anyone else’s, but: if you think *your* post deserves to fit into the list above, please mail/comment and if I agree I’ll add it.

* Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues has what I’d regard as an unduly favourable “review” of Merchants of Doubt: the problem is that he has failed to pick up any of the problems I’ve noted above, and has clearly taken Oreskes word for stuff. For all I know she is good for everything but the above, but that doesn’t seem entirely likely.
* http://nierenbergobservations.blogspot.com/ is NN’s viewpoint.

And if you want to watch WN speaking, here he is (the content isn’t very interesting – std type of skeptic stuff around 1999 – calls Spencer and Christy’s stuff a “perfact thermometer” for example; spends a long time playing down the CO2 residence time; TOPEX/Poseidon sees no SLR).
Continue reading “Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)”